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I would have been a breakfast to the beast,
Sil. When Proteus cannot love where he's belov'd.
All men but Proteus.
Sil. O heaven!
I'll force thee yield to my desire.
and still approv'd,] Approv'd is felt, experienced..
(For such is a friend now,) treacherous man!
Pro. My shame and guilt confound me.
Then I am paid;
? The private wound, &c.] Deepest, highest, and other similar words, were sometimes used by the poets of Shakspeare's age as monosyllables.
8 All that was mine in Silvia, I give thee.] This passage either hath been much sophisticated, or is one great proof that the main parts of this play did not proceed from Shakspeare; for it is impossible he could make Valentine act and speak so much out of character, or give to Silvia so unnatural a behaviour, as to take no notice of this strange concession, if it had been made. HANMER.
Valentine from seeing Silvia in the company of Proteus, might conceive she had escaped with him from her father's court, for purposes of love, though she could not foresee the violence which his villainy might offer, after he had seduced her under the pretence of an honest passion. If Valentine, however, be supposed to hear all that passeth between them in this scene, I am afraid I have only to subscribe to the opinions of my predecessors.
STEEVENS. I give thec,] Transfer these two lines to the end of Thu
* Merry WIVES OF Windsor.] A few of the incidents in this comedy might have been taken from an old translation of Il Pecorone by Giovanni Fiorentino. I have lately met with the same story in a very contemptible performance, intitled, The fortunate, the deceived, and the unfortunate Lovers. Of this book, as I am told, there are several impressions; but that in which I read it was published in 1632, quarto. A somewhat similar story occurs in Piacevoli Notti di Straparola, Nott. 4". Fav. 4".
This comedy was first entered at Stationers' Hall, Jan. 18, 1601, by John Busby. STEEVENS.
This play should be read between K. Henry IV. and K. Henry V. in Johnson's opinion. But Mr. Malone says, it ought rather to be read between The First and The Second Part of King Hen. ту IV. in the latter of which young Henry becomes king. In the Jast act, Falstaff says:
“ Herne the hunter, quoth you? am I a ghost ?
“ Is stealing his father's deare.” and in this play, as it now appears, Mr. Page discountenances the addresses of Fenton to his daughter, because “ he keeps company with the wild prince, and with Poins.”
The Fishwife's Tale of Brainford in WESTWARD FOR SMELTS, a book which Shakspeare seems to have read, (having borrowed from it a part of the fable of Cymbeline,) probably led him to lay the scene of Falstaff's love adventures at Windsor. It begins thus : “In Windsor not long agoe dwelt a sumpterman, who had to wife a very faire but wanton creature, over whom, not without cause, he was something jealous ; yet had he never any proof of her inconstancy." MALONE.
The adventures of Falstaff in this play seem to have been taken from the story of The Lovers of Pisa, in an old piece, called Tar. leton's Newes out of Purgatorie. Mr. Warton observes, in a note to the last Oxford edition, that the play was probably not written as we now have it, before 1607, at the earliest. I agree with my very ingenious friend in this supposition, but yet the argument here produced for it may not be conclusive. Slender observes to master Page, that his greyhound was out-run at Cotsale [CotswoldHills in Gloucestershire ;] and Mr. Warton thinks, that the games, established there by Captain Dover in the beginning of K. James's reign, are alluded to. But, perhaps, though the Captain be celebrated in the Annalia Dubrensia as the founder of them, he might be the reviver only, or some way contribute to make them more famous; for in The Second Part of Henry IV.
1600, Justice Shallow reckons among the Swinge-bucklers, “ Will Squeele, a Cotsole man.”
In the first edition of the imperfect play, Sir Hugh Evans is called on the title-page, the Welch Knight; and yet there are some persons who still affect to believe, that all our author's plays were originally published by himself. FARMER.
Queen Elizabeth was so well pleased with the admirable character of Falstaff in The Two Parts of Henry IV. that, as Mr. Rowe informs us, she commanded Shakspeare to continue it for one play more, and show him in love. To this command we owe The Merry Wives of Windsor ; which, Mr. Gildon says, [Remarks on Shakspeare's Plays, 8vo. 1710,] he was very well assured our author finished in a fortnight. He quotes no authority. The circumstance was first mentioned by Mr. Dennis. “ This comedy," says he, in his Epistle Dedicatory to The Comical Gallant (an alteration of the present play,) 1702, "was written at her (Queen Elizabeth's] command, and by her direction, and she was so eager to see it acted, that she commanded it to be finished in fourteen days ; and was afterwards, as tradition tells us, very well pleased at the representation.” The information, it is probable, came originally from Dryden, who from his intimacy with Sir William Davenant, had an opportunity of learning many particulars concerning our author.
At what period Shakspeare new-modelled The Merry Wives of Windsor is unknown. I believe it was enlarged in 1603.
MALONE. It is not generally known, that the first edition of The Merry Wives of Windsor, in its present state, is in the valuable folio, printed 1623, from whence the quarto of the same play, dated 1630, was evidently copied. The two earlier quartos, 1602, and 1619, only exhibit this comedy as it was originally written, and are so far curious as they contain Shakspeare's first conceptions in forming a drama, which is the most complete specimen of his comick powers. T. Warton.