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« Thus to the wall
“ I may condole." Again, in the Three Merry Coblers, another old song:
« Poore weather beaten soles,
“ Whose case the body condoles." STEEVENS. 285. -I could play Ercles rarely, or a part to tear a cat in,-] In the old comedy of the Roaring Girl, 1611, there is a character called Tear-cat, who says: “ I am called, by those who have seen my valour, Tear-cat." In an anonymous piece called Histriomastix, 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 thunder-claps.”
-tó make all split.] This is to be connected with the previous part of the speech; not with the subsequent rhymes. It was the description of a bully. In the second act of the Scornful Lady, we meet with “ two roaring boys of Rome, that made all split.”
FARMER. I meet with the same expression in the Widow's Tears, by Chapman, 1619: “ Her wit I must employ upon this business to prepare my next encounter, but in such a fashion as shall make all split." MALONE.
288. and shivering shocks,] Dr. Farmer rightly wished to read with.
306. -as small, &c.] 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 Downes's Roscius Anglicanus, that Kynaston, 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. Prynne, in his Histriomastix, exclaims with great vehemence through several pages, because a woman acted a part in a play at Black-Friars in the year 1628.
STĘEVENS. 316. you must play Thisby's motker.] 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.
THEOBALD. Theobald is wrong as to this last particular. The introduction of Wall and Moonshine was an after
time d not
how thought. See act jii. sc. 1. It may be observed,
li however, that no part of what is rehearsed is after. the wards repeated, when the piece is acted before The
Steevens. 321. there is a play fitted.] Both the quartos read here.
STEEVENS. 323. -slow of study.] Study is still the cant term used in a theatre for getting any nonsense by rote. Hamlet asks the player if he can study" a speech.
STEEVENS. 337. —you] Omitted in the first folio. Malone.
351. - 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 unnatural.
JOHNSON. This custom of wearing coloured beards, the reader will find more amply explained in Measure for Measure, act iv. line 267.
Steevens. - French crowns, &c.] See Measure for Measure, act i. line 140.
" Furbo, our peards,
Again, in Westward-Hoe, 1606:
STEEVENS. 365. At the dukes oak we meet-hold, or cut bowstrings.] 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, in e their arms linserviceable. Hence, when one would give another absolute assurance of meeting him, he would say proverbially--hold, or cut bow-stringsi. e. whether the bow-strings held or broke. For cut is used as a neuter, like the verb frets. 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 strings to one's bow. In The Country Girl, a comedy by T. B. 1647, is the following threat to a fiddler:
-fiddler, strike, "I'll strike you, else, and cut your begging bow
strings." So, in The Ball, by Chapman and Shirley, 1639 :
-have you devices to jeer the rest ? « Luc. All the regiment on 'em, or I'll break my bowstrings."
The bowstrings in both these instances may only mean the strings which make part of the bow with which musical instruments of several kinds are struck. The propriety of the allusion I cannot satisfactorily explain.
Line 2. OVER kill, over dale, &c] So Drayton in
Thorough brake, thorough brier,
Thorough water, thorough fire. JOHNSON. 7.
-the moones sphere] Unless we suppose this to be the Saxon genitive case (as it is here printed), the metre will be defective. So, in Spenser's Faery Queen, B. III. c. 1. st. 15. “ And eke through feare as white as whales
bone." So, in a letter from Gabriel Harvey to Spenser, 1580: “ Have we not God kys wrath, for Goddes wrath, and a thousand of the same stampe, wherein the corrupte orthography in the moste, has been the sole or prina cipal cause of corrupte prosodye in over-many ?"
STEEVENS. 9. To dew her orbs upon the green :] For orbs Dr. Grey is inclined to substitute herbs. The orbs here mentioned are the circles supposed to be made by the