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P. Hen. Instruct us, boy; What dream, boy?
Page. Marry, my lord, Althea dreamed she was delivered of a fire-brand ;l and therefore I call him her dream.
P. Hen. A crown's worth of good interpretation.There it is, boy.
[Gives him money. Poins. O, that this good blossom could be kept from cankers! - Well, there is sixpence to preserve thee.
Bard. An you do not make him be hanged among you, the gallows shall have wrong.
P. Hen. And how doth thy master, Bardolph?
Bard. Well, my lord. He heard of your grace's coming to town; there 's a letter for you.
Poins. Delivered with good respect.-And how doth the martlemas, your master?2
Bard. In bodily health, sir.
Poins. Marry, the immortal part needs a physician: but that moves not him; though that be sick, it dies not.
P. Hen. I do allow this wens to be as familiar with me as my dog: and he holds his place; for, look you, how he writes.
Poins. [reads] John Falstaff, knight Every man must know that, as oft as he has occasion to name himself. Even like those that are kin to the king; for they never prick their finger, but they say, There is some of the king's blood spilt: How comes that? says he, that takes upon him not to conceive: the answer is as ready as a borrower's cap;“ I am the king's poor cousin, sir.
Althea dreamed &c.] Shakspeare is here mistaken in his mythology, and has confounded Althea's firebrand with Hecuba's. The firebrand of Althea was real: but Hecuba, when she was big with Paris, dreamed that she was delivered of a firebrand that consumed the kingdom. Johnson.
the martlemas, your master?] That is, the autumn, or rather the latter spring. The old fellow with juvenile passions.
Fohnson. In The First Part of King Henry IV, the Prince calls Falstaff the latter spring, --all-hallown summer.” Malone.
Martleinas is corrupted from Martinmas, the feast of St. Mar. tin, the eleventh of November. The corruption is general in the old plays. So, in The Pinner of Wakefield, 1599:
“ A piece of beef hung up since Martlemas." Steevens. this wen —) This swoln excrescence of a man. Johnson..
P. Hen. Nay, they will be kin to us, or they will fetch it from Japhet. But the letter:
Poins. Sir John Falstaff, knight, to the son of the king, nearest his father, Harry prince of Wales, greeting.–Why, this is a certificate.
P. Hen.5 Peace!
Poins. I will imitate the honourable Roman in brevity: 6 -he sure means brevity in breath; short-winded.-I commend me to thee, I commend thee, and I leave thee. Be not too familiar with Poins; for he misuses thy favours so much, that he swears, thou art to marry his sister Nell. Repent at idle times as thou may’st, and so farewel.
Thine, by yea and no, (which is as much
as to say, as thou usest him,) Jack Falstaff, with my familiars; John, with my brothers and sisters; and sir John with all Europe.
- the answer is as ready as a borrower's cap:] Old copy-a borrowed cap. Steevens.
But how is a borrowed cap so ready? Read, a borrower's cap, and then there is some humour in it: for a man that goes to bor row money, is of all others the most complaisani; is cap is always at hand.
Warburton. Falstaff's followers, when they stole any thing, called it a purchase. A borrowed cap, in the same dialect, might be a stolen one; which is sufficiently ready, being as Falstaff says, “to be found on every hedge.” Malone.
Such caps as were worn by men in our author's age, were made of silk, velvet, or woollen; not of linen; and consequently would not be hung out to dry on hedges. Steevens'.
I think Dr. Warburton's correction is right. A cap is not a thing likely to be borrowed, in the common sense of the word : and in the sense of stealing, the sense should be a cap to be borrow, ed. Besides, conveying was the cant phrase for stealing. Farmer.
5 P. Hen.] All the editors, except Sir Thomas Hanmer, have left this letter in confusion, making the Prince read part, and Poins part. I have followed his correction. Fohnson.
6 I will imitate the honourable Roman in brevity:] The old copy reads Romans, which Dr. Warburton very properly corrected, though he is wrong when he appropriates the character to M. Brutus, who affected great brevity of style. I suppose by the honourable Roman is intended Julius Cæsar, whose veni, vidi, vici, seems to be alluded to in the beginning of the letter. I commend mne to thee, I commend thee, and I leave thee. The very words of Cæsar are afterwards quoted by Falstaff. Heath.
My lord, I will steep this letter in sack, and make him eat it.
P. Hen. That's to make him eat twenty of his words.? But do you use me thus, Ned? must I marry your sister?
Poins. May the wench have no worse fortune! but I never said so.
P. Hen. Well, thus we play the fools with the time; and the spirits of the wise sit in the clouds, and mock us. Is your master here in London?
Bard. Yes, my lord.
P. Hen. Where sups he? doth the old boar feed in the old frank? 8
Bard. At the old place, my lord; in Eastcheap. P. Hen. What company? Page. Ephesians, my lord; of the old church. P. Hen. Sup any women with him? Page. None, my lord, but old mistress Quickly, and mistress Doll Tear-sheet.?
? That is to make him eat twenty of his words.] Why just twenty, when the letter contained above eight times twenty? We should read plenty; and in this word the joke, as slender as it is, consists. Warburton.
It is not surely uncommon to put a certain number for an un. certain one. Thus, in The Tempest, Miranda talks of playing " for a score of kingdoms." Busby, in King Richard II, observes, that “ each substance of a grief has twenty shadows." In Julius Cæsar, Cæsar says that the slave's band “did burn like twenty torches." In King Lear we meet with "twenty silly ducking observants,” and, “not a nose among twenty:
Robert Green, the pamphleteer, indeed, obliged an apparitor to eat his citation, wax and all. In the play of Sir John Oldcastle, the Sumner is compelled to do the like; and says on the occasion, " I'll eat my word.” Harpoole replies, “I meane you shall eat more than your own word, I'll make you eate all the words in the processe.” Steevens.
-frank?] Frank is sty. Pope. 9 Ephesians,] Ephesian was a term in the cant of these times, of which I know not the precise notion: it was, perhaps, a toper. So, the Host, in The Merry Wives of Windsor : “ It is thine host, thine Ephesian calls.” Johnson.
Doll Tear-sheet.] Shakspeare might have taken the hint for this name from the following passage in The Playe of Robyn Hoode, very proper to be played in Maye Games, bl. 1. no date :
“She is a trul of trust, to serve a frier at his lust,
P. Hen. What pagan may that be?2 Page. A proper gentlewoman, sir, and a kinswoman of my master's.
P. Hen. Even such kin, as the parish heifers are to the town bull.-Shall we steal upon them, Ned, at supper?
Poins. I am your shadow, my lord; I 'll follow you.
P. Hen. Sirrah, you boy,—and Bardolph ;-no word to your master, that I am yet come to town: There's for your silence.
Bard. I have no tongue, sir.
P. Hen. Fare ye well; go. (Exeunt BARD. and Page.] -This Doll Tear-sheet should be some road.
Poins. I warrant you, as common as the way. between Saint Alban's and London.
P. Hen. How might we see Falstaff bestow himself to-night in his true colours, and not ourselves be seen?
Poins. Put on two leather jerkins, 3 and aprons, and wait upon him at his table as drawers.
2 What pagan may that be?] Pagan seems to have been a cant term, implying irregularity either of birth or manners. So, in The Captain, a comedy, by Beaumont and Fletcher:
“ Three little children, one of them was mine;
“Upon my conscience the other two were pagans." In The City Madam of Massinger it is used (as here) for a prostitute:
in all these places “ I've had my several Pagans billeted.” Steevens. 3 Put on two leather jerkins, This was a plot very unlikely to succeed where the Prince and the drawers were all known; but it produces merriment, which our author found more useful than probability. Fohnson.
Johnson forgets that all the family were in the secret, except Falstaff; and that the Prince and Poins were disguised.
M. Mason. But how does this circumstance meet with Dr. Johnson's objection? The improbability arises from Falstaff's being perfectly well acquainted with all the waiters in the house; and however disguised the Prince and Poins might be, or whatever aid they might derive from the landlord and his servants, they could not in fact pass for the old attendants, with whose person, voice, and manner, Falstaff was well acquainted. Accordingly he discovers the Prince as soon as ever he speaks. However, Shakspeare's chief object was to gain an opportunity for Falstaff to abuse the
P. Hen. From a god to a bull? a heavy descension ! it was Jove's case. From a prince to a prentice? a low transformation! that shall be mine: for, in every thing, the purpose must weigh with the folly. Follow me, Ned.
Warkworth. Before the Castle. Enter NORTHUMBERLAND, Lady NORTHUMBERLAND,
and Lady PERCY. North. I pray thee, loving wife, and gentle daughter, Give even way unto my rough affairs: Put not you on the visage of the times, And be, like them, to Percy troublesome.
Lady N. I have given over, I will speak no more: Do what you will; your wisdom be your guide.
North. Alas, sweet wife, my honour is at pawn; And, but my going, nothing can redeem it.
Lady P. O, yet, for God's sake, go not to these wars! The time was, father, that you broke your word, When you were more endear'd to it than now; When your own Percy, when my heart's dear Harry, Threw many a northward look, to see his father Bring up his powers; but he did long in vain.5
Prince and Poins, while they remain at the back part of the stage in their disguises: a jeu de theatre which he practised in other plays, and which always gains applause. Malone.
4 a heavy descension!] Descension is the reading of the first edition.
Mr. Upton proposes that we should read thus by transposition: From a god to a bull? a low transformation! from a prince to a prentice? a heavy declension! This reading is elegant, and perhaps right. Johnson. 3 Threw many a northward look to see his father
Bring up his powers; but he did long in vain.] Mr. Theobald very elegantly conjectures that the poet wrote,
but he did look in vain. Statius, in the tenth Book of his Thebaid, has the same thought:
frustra de colle Lycæi