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the rant held the place of the sublime and pathetic: and indeed constituted the very essence of their tragical farces. Thus Bale in his Acts of English Votaries, Part II, says,-grennyng like termaguantes in a play.
In the old comedy of the Roaring Girl, 1611, there is a character called Tear-cat, who says, called, by those who have seen my valour, Tearcat.” In an anonymous piece called Histriomastir, or the Player whipt, 1610, in six Acts, a parcel of soldiers drag a company of players on the stage, and the captain says, “ Sirrah, this is you that would rend and tear a cat upon a stage," &c. Again,
In The Isle of Gulls, a Comedy by J. Day, 1606. “ I had rather hear two such jests, than a whole play of such Tear-cat thunderclaps.”
13-you may speak as small as you will.] This passage shews how the want of women on the old stage was supplied. If they had not a young man who could perform the part with a face that might pass for feminine, the character was acted in a mask, which was, at that time, a part of a lady's dress so much in use, that it did not give any unusual appearance to the scene: and he that could modulate his voice in a female tone might play the woman very successfully. It is observed in Down's Memoirs of the Playhouse, that one of these counterfeit heroines moved the passions more strongly than the women that have since been brought upon the stage. Some of the catastrophes of the old comedies, which make
lovers marry the wrong women, are, by recollection of the common use of masks, brought nearer to probability.
JOHNSON. 14 you must play Thisky's mother.] There seems a double forgetfulness of our poet, in relation to the characters of this interlude. The father and mother of Thisby, and the father of Pyramus, are here mentioned, who do not appear at all in the interlude; but Wall and Moonshine are both employed in it, of whom there is not the least notice taken here.
15-1 will discharge it in either your strawcoloured beard, &c.] Johnson, who remarks in a note at the beginning of the scene, that Shakspeare takes advantage of his knowledge of the stage to ridicule the competitions and prejudices of the players, adds here that Bottom discovers a true genius for the stage by his solicitude for propriety of dress, and his deliberation, which beard to choose among many beards, all unnatural.
16 Some of your French-crowns have no hair at all—] That is, a head from which the hair has fallen in one of the last stages of the lues venera, called the carona veneris. To this our poet has fre
" hold, or cut low-strings.] This proverbial phrase came originally from the camp. When a ren. dezvous was appointed, the militia soldiers would frequently make excuse for not keeping word, that their low-strings were broke, i.e. their arms unser
viceable. Hence when one would give another absolute assurance of meeting him, he would say proverbially-hold or cut bow-strings-i. e. whether the bow-string held or broke; for cut is used as a neuter verb like frets. As when we say, the string frets, the silk frets, for the passive, it is cut or fretted.
18 To dew her orbs upon the green.] The orl's here meant, are the circles supposed to be made by the fairies on the ground, whose verdure proceeds from the fairy's care to water them. JOHNSON.
19 The cowslips tall her pensioners be.] The cowslip was a favourite among the fairies.
20 – changeling.] Changeling is commonly used for the child supposed to be left by the fairies, but here for a child taken away.
JOHNSON 21 - or spangled star-light sheen.] Sheen is shining, bright, gay.
22 But they do square;] to square here is to quarrel. The French word contrecarrer has the same import.
JOHNSON. 23 Robin Good fellow.] This account of Robin Good-fellow corresponds, in every article, with that given of him in Harsenet's Declaration, chap. XX. p. 134: “And if that the bowle of curds and creame were not duly set out for Robin Good-fellow, the Fricr, and Sisse the dairy-maid, why then either the pottage was burnt to next day in the poi, or the cbeeses would not curdle, or the butter would not come, or the ale in the fat never would have good head. But if a Peeter penny, or an housle-egge were beturned, or a patch of tythe unpaid, then 'ware of bull-beggars, spirits,” &c. He is mentioned by Cartwright as a spirit particularly fond of disconcerting and disturbing domestic peace and economy.
T. WARTON. 24 Skim milk, and sometimes labour in the
quern, And bootless make the breathless housewife churn:] The sense of these lines is confused. Are not you he, says the fairy, that fright the country girls, that skim the milk, work in the hand-mill, and make the tired dairy woman churn without effect? The mention of the mill seems out of place, for she is not now telling the good, but the evil he does. I would regulate the lines thus : “ And sometimes make the breathless housewifechurn
“ Skim milk, and bootless labour in the quern." or by a simple transposition of the lines:
“ And bootless make the lireathless housewife churn “ Skim milk, and sometimes labour in the quern." Yet there is no necessity of alteration. Johnson.
-no barm:) Barm is a name for yeast, yet used in our midland counties, and universally in Ireland. So in Mother Bombie, a Comedy, 1594: “ It behoved my wits to work like barme, alias yeast." Again in The Humorous Lieutenant of Beaumont and Fletcher: “I think my brains will work yet without barms."
26 And tailor cries-) He that slips beside his chair falls as a tailor squats upon his board; hence the custom of crying tailor at a sudden fall backwards.
27 And never since the middle summer's spring.] That is the beginning of the middle summer, or Midsummer. Spring for beginning he again uses. iid Part Hen. IV.
“As flaws congealed in the spring of day." 28 pelting river-] Without any reasonable etymology, our author uses pelting for mean, despicable, petty. In Measure for Measure, he says, petty, pelt. ing officer.
JOHNSON 29 The nine men's morris is filled up with mud:] The nine men's morris was a game something like draughts; played by rusticks on a square cut in the ground or turf. See Cotgrave's Dictionary, at the word Merelles.
30 The human mortals want their winter here;] should we not read, ' wants their winter here?' Sbakspeare says the fold stands empty, the nine men's morris is filled up, the quaint mazes lack their usual tread, these are all a description of depopulation which is completed in the next lines: “ winter here,” (i. e. in the country near Athens, for all the actors are from Athens itself,)“ wants his mortals to bless the night with hymn and carol.” It appears to me that, by using this construction, and recurring at each therefore, to the fairies' quarrel as the cause of these disorders, Titania's speech becomes much more intelligible than it is in the common reading.