Page images

Flu. Here, Peter Quince.
Quin. You must take Thisby on you.
Flu. What is Thisby? a wandering knight?
Quin. It is the lady that Pyramus inust love.
Flu. Nay, faith, let me not play a woman;

I have a beard coming. Quin. That's all onc; you shall play it in a mask,

; and you may speak as small as you will.'

Bot. An I may hide my 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.
Quin. Robin Starveling, the tailor.


mas small, &c.] This passage shows how the want of wo. men 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 chara&er was aded in a malk, which was at Ithat 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 fecale 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 strougly than the women that have since been brought upon the fage. Some of the catastrophes of the old comedies, which make lovers marry the wrong women, are, by recolleâion 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

L"it has fince been disputable among the judicious, whether any woman that succeeded him, (Kynafton,) fo sensibly touched the audience as he." REED.

Prynne, in his Histriomajtix, exclaims with great vchemence through several pages, because a woman aded a part in a play at Blackfryars in the year 1628. STELVENS,

[ocr errors]

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 inake 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 son. Bot. 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 Thilby, 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.

Tlieobald is wrong as to this last particular. The introduâion 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, when the piece is aaed before Theseus.

STEEVENS. now of, study.] Study is ftill the cant term used in a theatre for getting any nonsense by rote. Hamlet asks the player if

Audy" a speech. STLEVENS.

[ocr errors]

he can

[ocr errors]

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 en treat you, request you, and desire you, 'to con them by {o-morrow night; and meet me in the palace wood,



an 'twere any nightingale.) An means as if. So, in Troilus and Creffida :

• He will weep you, an 'iwere a man born in April." STEEVENS.

- your perfe&t yellow.) Here Bottom again 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 uu-
natural. JOHNSON.
So, in the old comedy of Ram-Alley, 161 :

" What colour'd beard comes next by the window ?
" A black man's, I think ;

5 I think, a red : for that is most in fashion."
This custom of wearing coloured beards, the reader will find
more amply explained in Measure for Measure, Ad IV. fi. ii.

STEEVENS. French crowns, &c.] That is, a head from which the hair lias fallen in one of the latt ftages of the lues.venerea, called the cetona veneris. To this our poet lias too frequent allusions.


[ocr errors]

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 thie duke's oak we meet.
Bot. Enough; Hold, or cut bow-strings.


Properties,] Proferties are whatever little articles are wanted in a play for the adors, according to their respe&ive 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 " garneinenis and propyrts." See Warton's History of Englisla Poetry,' Vol. III.


326. Again, in Albumazar, 1615 :

" Furbo, our beards,

" Black patches for our eyes, and other properties." Again, in Westward-Hoe, 1607 :

" I'll go make ready my rustical properties." STEEVENS. 2 At the duke's oak we meet.

Hold, or cut bow-ftrings.] 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-ftrings held or broke. For cut is used as a neuter, like the verb frit. As when we say, the string frets, the silk 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. 1947, is the following threat to a fiddler :

[blocks in formation]

Enter a Fairy at one door, and Puck at another.


Puck. How now, fpirit! whither wander you?
Fal. Over hill, over dale,

Thoroughi bush, thorough briar,
Over park, over pale.

Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander every where,
Swifter than the moones sphere;

[ocr errors]

fiddler, ftrike; " I'll strike you, else, and cut your begging bowlrings.” 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 my" The bow firings in both these instances may only mean the frings 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. STEEVEN3.

To meet, whether bow-frings hold or are cut, is to meet in all events. 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 bowstring, (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
Colle&ion, p. 57. edit. 1737. COLLINS.
3 Over hill, over dale, &c.] So Drayton in his Nymthidia, or
Court of Fairy :

" Thorough trake, thorough brier,

Thorough muck, thorough mire,
" Thorough water, thorough fire." JOHNSON.

the moones Sphere ;] Unless we suppose this to be the Saxon genitive case, (as it is here printed, the metre will be defc&ive.


« PreviousContinue »