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Flu. Here, Peter Quince.
I have a beard coming.
Quin. That's all one; you shall play it in a mask; and you may speak as small as you will.' Bot. An I may
face, let me play Thisby too: I'll speak in a monstrous little voice; — Thisne, Thisne, – Ah, Pyramus, my lover dear; thy Thisby dear! and lady dear!
Quin. No, no; you must play Pyramus, and, Flute, you Thilby.
Bot. Well, proceed.
as small, &c.] This paffage shows how the want of wo. men on the old ftage was supplied. If they had not a young man who could perform the part with a face that might pass for feminine, the chara&er 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 Downes's Rofcius Anglicanus, that Kynason, one of these counterfeit heroines moved the passions more ftraugly than the women that have Gince been brought upon the fage. 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. : Dr. Johnson here seems to have quoted from memory. Downes does not speak of Kynaston's performance in such unqualified terms. His words are
" it has fince been disputable among the judicious, whether any woman that succeeded him, (Kynaston,) lo sensibly touched the audience as he." REED.
Prynne, in his Hiftriomastix, exclaims with great vehemence through several pages, because a woman aded' a part in a play at Blackfryars in the year 1628. STELVENS.
Star. Here, Peter Quince.
Quin. Robin Starveling, you must play Thisby's mother. * — Tom Snout, the tinker.
SNOUT. Here, Peter Quince.
Quin. You, Pyramus's father; myself, Thisby's father; --- Snug, the joiner, you, the lion's part:and, I hope, here is a play fitted.
Snug. Have you the lion's part written? pray you, if it be, give it me, for I am flow of study. Quin. You
may do it extempore, for it is nothing but roaring.
Bot. Let me play the lion to: I will roar, that I will do any man's heart good to hear me; I will roar, that I will make the duke fay, Let him roar again, let him roar again.
QUIN. An you should do it too terribly, you would fright the duchess and the ladies, that they would shriek; and that were enough to hang us all.
All. That would hang us every mother's fon.
Bor. I grant you, friends, if that you should fright the ladies out of their wits, they would have no more discretion but to hang us : but I will
- you must play Thisby's mother,] There seems a double for. getfulness of our poet, in relation to the chara&ers 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. · THEOBALD.
Theobald is wrong as 10 this last particular. The introdu&ion of Wall and Moonshine was an after-thought. See A& III. sc. i. It may be observed, however, that no part of what is rehearsed is afterwards repeated, wlien the piece is aded before Theseus.
STEEVENS. s Now of. study.] Study is ftill the cant term used in a theatre for getting any nonsense by rote. Hamlet asks the player if
tudy a speech. STLEVENS.
aggravate my voice so, that I will roar you as gently as any fucking dove; I will roar you an 'twere any nightingale.
Quin. You can play no part but Pyramus: for Pyramus is a sweet-faced man; a proper man, as one fhall see in a summer's day; a most lovely, gentleman-like man; therefore you must needs play Pyramus.
Bot. Well, I will undertake it. What beard were I best to play it in?
Quin. Why, what you will.
Bot. I will discharge it in either your strawcoloured beard, your orange-tawny beard, your purple-in-grain beard, or your French-crown-colour beard, your perfect yellow.?
QUIN. Some of your French crowns bave no hair at all
, and then you will play bare-faced. S — But masters, here are your parts: and I am to entreat you, request you, and desire you, 'to con them by ļo-morrow night; and meet me in the palace wood,
- an 'twere any nightingale.] An means as if. So, in Troilus and Crefjida :
" He will weep you, an 'iwere a man born in April.' STEEVENS.
your perfe&t yellow.) Here Bottom again discovers a
ss What colour'd beard comes next by the window ?
56 I think, a red : for that is most in fashion."
French crowns, &¢.] That is, a head from which the hair las fallen in one of the lalt fages of the lues.venerea, called the corona veneris. To this our poei lias too frequent allusions.
a mile without the town, by moon-light; there will we rehearse; for if we meet in the city, we shall be dog'd with company, and our devices known. In the mean time, I will draw a bill of properties,' such as our play wants.
I pray you, fail me not.
Bot. We will meet; and there we may rehearse more obscenely, and courageously. Take pains; be perfect; adieu.
QUIN. At the duke's oak we meet.
- properties,] Properties are whatever little articles are wanted in a play for the actors, according to their respeđive parts, dresses and scenes excepted. The person who delivers them out is to this day called the property-man. In The Bassingbourne Roll, 1511, we find 16
garnemenis and propyrts." See Warion's History of Englija Poetry,' Vol. IIl. p. 326. Again, in Albu mazar,. 1615 :
" Furbo, our beards,
" Black patches for our eyes, and other properties." Again, in Wefward-Hoe, 1607 :
" I'll go make ready my rustical properties.” Steevens. 2 At the duke's Oak we meet.
Hold, or cut bow-strings.] This proverbial phrase came originally from the camp. When a rendezvous was appointed, the militia soldiers would' frequently make excuse for not keeping word, that their bowstrings were broke; i. e. their arms unserviceable. Hence when one would give another absolute affurance of meeting him, he would say proverbially hold or cut bow-ftrings i. e. whether the bow-strings held or broke. For cut is used as a neuter, like the verb fret. As when we say, the string frets, the filk frets, for the passive, it is cut or fretted. WARBURTON.
This interpretation is very ingenious, but somewhat disputable. The excuse made by the militia soldiers is a mere supposition, without proof; and it is well known that while bows were in use, no archer ever entered the field without a supply of strings in his pocket; whence originated the proverb, to have two firings to one's bow. In The Country Girl, a comedy by T. B. 1647, is the following threat to a fiddler :
Enter a Fairy at one door, and Puck at another.
Puck. How now, fpirit! whither wander you?"
Thorouglı bush, thorough briar,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
fiddler, strike; " I'll frike you, else, and cut your begging bowfrings.” Again, in The Ball, by Chapman and Shirley, 1639 :
have you devices to jeer the rest ? “ Luc. All the regiment of 'em, or I'll break ing bowstrir.gs." The bow strings in both these instances may only mean the strings which make part of the bow with which musical instruments of several kiads are struck. The propriety of the allusion
I cannot fatisfa&orily explain. STEEVENS. To ineet, whether bow-firings hold or are cut, is to meet in all
To cut the bowstring, when bows were in use, was pro. bably a common pra&ice of those who bore enmity to the archer, " He hath twice or thrice cut Cupid's bow ftring, (says Don Pedro in Much ado about nothing.) and the little hangman dare not shoot at him.” MALONE.
Hold, or cut cod piece point, is a proverb to be found in Ray's Colleđion, p. 57. edit. 1737. COLLINS.
3 Over hill, over dale, &c.] So Drayton in his Nymphidia, or Court of Fairy :
“ Thorough trake, thorough brier,
Thorough muck, thorough mire,
the moones sphere ;] Unless we suppose this to be the Saxon genitive case, (as it is here printed,) the metre will be defeâive.