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Sir John Falstaff.
two gentlemen dwelling at Windsor,
Servants to Page, Ford, Sc.
ACT I....SCENE I.
Windsor. Before Page's House.
Enter Justice Shallow, SLENDER, and Sir Hugh Evans.
Shal. Sir Hugh,' persuade me not; I will make a Starchamber matter of it:? if he were twenty sir John Falstaff's, he shall not abuse Robert Shallow, esquire.
Slen. In the county of Gloster, justice of peace, and coram.
1 Sir Hugh,] This is the first, of sundry instances in our poet, where a parson is called Sir. Upon which it may be observed, that anciently it was the common designation both of one in holy orders and a knight. Fuller somewhere in his Church History says, that anciently there were in England more sirs than knights, and so lately as temp. W. & Mar. in a deposition in the Exchequer in a case of tythes, the witness speaking of the curate, whom he remembered, styles him, Sir Giles. Vide Gibson's View of the State of the Churches of Door, Home-Lacy, &c.
Sir 7. Hawkins. Sir is the designation of a Bachelor of Arts in the Universities of Cambridge and Dublin; but is there always annexed to the surname;—Sir Evans, &c. In consequence, however, of this, all the inferior Clergy in England were distinguished by this title affixed to their Christian names for many centuries. Hence our author's Sir Hugh in the present play, Sir Topas in Twelfth Night, Sir Oliver in As you like it, &c. Malore.
2 — a Star-chamber matter of it:] Ben Jonson intimates, that the Star-chamber had a right to take cognizance of such matters. See the Magnetic Lady, Act III, sc. iv:
“ There is a court above, of the Star-chamber,
Cust-alorum.] This is, I suppose, intended for a corruption of Custos Rotulorum. The mistake was hardly designed by the author, who, though he gives Shallow folly enough, makes him rather pedantic than illiterate. If we read:
“Shal. Ay, cousin Slender, and Custos Rotulorum." It follows naturally: “ Slen. Ay, and Ratolorum too." Johnson.
master parson; who writes himself armigero;4 in any bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation, armigero.
Shal. Ay, that we do ;5 and have done 6 any time these three hundred years.
Slen. All his successors, gone before him, have done’t; and all his ancestors, that come after him, may: they may give the dozen white luces in their coat.
Shal, It is an old coat.
Eva. The dozen white louses do become an old coat well;7 it agrees well, passant: it is a familiar beast to man, and signifies-love.
Shal. The luce is the fresh fish; the salt fish is an old coat. 8
who writes himself armigero;] Slender had seen the Justice's attestations, signed “-jurat coram me, Roberto Shallow, Armigero ;" and therefore takes the ablative for the nominative case of Armiger. Steevens.
5 Ay, that we do;] The old copy reads—“ that I do." The present emendation was suggested to me by Dr. Farmer.
Steevens. and have done -] i. e. all the Shallows have done. Shakspeare has many expressions equally licentious. Malone.
7 The dozen white louses do become an old coat well; &c.] So, in The Peiniless Parliament of thread-bare. Poets, 1608: “But amongst all other decrees and statutes by us here set downe, wee ordaine and commaund, that three thinges (if they be not parted) ever to continue in perpetuall amitie, that is, a Louse in an olde doublet, a painted cloth in a painter's shop, and a foole and his bable.” Steevens.
8 The luce is the fresh fish; the salt fish is an old coat.] That is, the fresh fish is the coat of an ancient family, and the salt fish is the coat of a merchant grown rich by trading over the sea.
Johnson. I am not satisfied with any thing that has been offered on this difficult passage. All that Mr. Smith told us was a mere gratis dictum. *[His note, being worthless, is here omitted.] I cannot find that salt fish were ever really borne in heraldry. I fancy the latter part of the speech should be given to Sir Hugh, who is at cross purposes with the Justice. Shallow had said just before, the coat is an old one; and now, that it is the luce, the fresh fish. No, replies the parson, it cannot be old and fresh too" the salt fish is an old coat." I give this with rather the more confidence, as a similar mistake has happened a little lower in the scene,—“ Slice, I say!” cries out Corporal Nym, “ Pauca, pauca: Slice! that's my humour." There can be no doubt, but pauci, pauca, should be spoken by Evans.
Slen. I may quarter, coz?
Again, a little before this, the copies give us :
• Shallow. That he will not—'tis your fault, 'tis your fault:-'tis a good dog."
Surely it should be thus:
This fugitive scrap of Latin, pauca, &c. is used in several old pieces, by characters who have no more of literature about them than Nym. So, Skinke, in Look about you, 1600:
“ But pauca verba, Skinke." Again, in Every Man in his Humour, where it is called the benchers' phrase. Steevens.
Shakspeare seems to frolic here in his heraldry, with a design not to be easily understood. In Leland's Collectanea, Vol. I, P. II, p. 615, the arms of Geffrey de Lucy are “ de goules poudre a croisil dor a tyeis luz dor.” Can the poet mean to quibble upon the word poudré, that is, powdered, which signifies salted; or strewed and sprinkled with any thing? In Measure for Measure, Lucio says—“Ever your fresh whore and your powder'd bawd.” Tollet.
The luce is a pike or jack: So, in Chaucer's Prol. of the Cant. Tales, Mr. Tyrwhitt's edit. pp. 351, 352:
“Full màny a fair partrich hadde he in mewe,
“ And many a breme, and many a luce in stewe.” In Ferne’s Blazon of Gentry, 1586, quarto, the arms of the Lucy family are represented as an instance, that “ signs of the coat should something agree with the name. It is the coat of Geffray Lord Lucy. He did bear gules, three lucies hariant, argent.”
Mr. William Oldys, (Norroy King at Arms, and well known from the share he had in compiling the Biographia Britannica, among the collections which he left for a Life of Shakspeare) observes that—" there was a very aged gentleman living in the neighbourhood of Stratford, (where he died fifty years since) who had not only heard, from several old people in that town, of Shakspeare's transgression, but could remember the first stanza of the bitter ballad, which, repeating to one of his acquaintance, he preserved it in writing ; and here it is, neither better nor worse, but faithfully transcribed from the copy which his relation very courteously communicated to me.”
" A parliement member, a justice of peace,
“ He thinks himself greate,
" Yet an asse in his state,
Eva. It is marring, indeed, if he quarter it.
Eva. Yes, py'r-lady; if he has a quarter of your coat, there is but three skirts for yourself, in my simple conjectures; but this is all one: If sir John Falstaff have committed disparagements unto you, I am of the church, and will be glad to do my benevolence, to make atonements and compromises between you.
“ If Lucy is lowsie, as some volke miscalle it,
Sing lowsie Lucy, whatever befall it.” “ Contemptible as this performance must now appear, at the time when it was written it might have had sufficient power to ir. ritate a vain, weak, and vindictive magistrate ; especially as it was affixed to several of his park-gates, and consequently published among his neighbours. It may be remarked likewise, that the jingle on which it turns, occurs in the first scene of The Merry Wives of Windsor.”
I may add, that the veracity of the late Mr. Oldys has never yet been impeached; and it is not very probable that a ballad should be forged, from which an undiscovered wag could derive no triumph over antiquarian credulity. Steevens.
The luce is the fresh fish; the salt fish is an old coat.] Our author here alludes to the arms of Sir Thomas Lucy, who is said to have prosecuted him in the younger part of his life for a misdemesnor, and who is supposed to be pointed at under the character of Justice Shallow. The text, however, by some carelessness of the printer or transcriber, has been so corrupted, that the passage, as it stands at present, seems inexplicable. Dr. Farmer's regulation appears to me highly probable; and in further support of it, it may be observed, that some other speeches, be. side those he has mentioned, are misplaced in a subsequent part of this scene, as exhibited in the first folio. Malone.
Perhaps we have not yet conceived the humour of Master Shallow. Slender has observed, that the family might give a dozen white Luces in their coat; to which the Justice adds, “ It is an old one.” This produces the Parson's blunder, and Shallow's correction. “ The Luce is not the Louse but the Pike, the fresh fish of that name. Indeed our Coat is old, as I said, and the fish cannot be fresh; and therefore we bear the white, i. e. the pickled or salt fish."
In the Northumberland Household Book, we meet with “nine barrels of white herringe for a hole yere, 4. 10. 0:” and Mr. Pennant, in the additions to his Londor, says, "By the very high price of the Pike, it is probable that this fish had not yet been introduced into our ponds, but was imported as a luxury, pickled.” It will be still clearer if we read~"tho'salt fish in an old coat."