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Davis's "Annals") with which Shakespeare was specially familiar, and might naturally be expected to select for an up-to-date performance. Again, was it not at Windsor that he found that sombre and picturesque legend of "Herne the Hunter," haunting the ancient oak by Queen Elizabeth's walk upon which he had hanged himself, and so secured an unexpected immortality? Apart from its solution of the Anne Page courtship, the fairy scene in the final act is the most charming of them all — full," says one writer, "of the aromatic wood scents of Windsor Park by night," and we should be thankful that the author of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" took the trouble to invent it himself.

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From the very nature of the case, many of the characters of the play, in addition to Falstaff, are revivals of personages whom the author had already staged. Justice Shallow, with Lucy's "dozen white luces" in his coat, is our old friend from the Second Part of "Henry IV.," who discoursed so admirably of Old Double's death. "He shot a fine shoot: John of Gaunt loved him well, and betted much money on his head." One can almost hear the weak, piping voice. He still brags of his wild "swinge buckler days," when he was called "lusty Shallow," for all that he looked, according to Falstaff, like "a man made after supper of a cheese-paring". forked radish, with a head fantastically carved." have seen the time," he says in the "Merry Wives," "with my long sword, I would have made you four tall fellows skip like rats.' But he has lived fourscore years, and upward," which makes one wonder how old

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he was when he lent Sir John the thousand pounds. From the Second Part of "Henry IV.," too, comes Ancient Pistol with his "red lattice phrases" and "cata-mountain looks," enriching the language with the memorable "Convey, the wise it call," and his immortal “The world's mine oyster, Which I with sword will open"; and Mrs. Quickly, not yet his wife, nor easily to be identified with the worthy Hostess of the Boar's Head in Eastcheap, whom Falstaff had once sworn to marry " upon a parcel-gilt goblet, sitting in her Dolphin chamber, at the round table, by a sea-coal fire, upon Wednesday in Whitsun-week," when the prince had broken his head for liking his father to a singing man of Windsor. In the "Merry Wives" she does not even know Falstaff; she is, apparently, an unmarried woman-of-all-work to Caius, and has, so far, baffled the commentators. Bardolph, the" withered serving-man" turned tapster, with the bottle nose, and the face that was such bad security, is also in the earlier plays. Nym comes from "Henry V." alone, a circumstance which goes to confirm the conclusion that the "Merry Wives" was composed after that play; and if his "humours" be in any way connected with Ben Jonson's comedy, can hardly have come into existence until after 1596. Indeed, in 1598, Shakespeare himself acted in "Every Man in his Humour," although the part he took is not known.

Dr. Brandes is probably right in assuming that the Welch priest, Sir Hugh Evans, and the French doctor, Caius, were concessions to the mirth-making of a purist court which prided itself on its parts of speech, and must have been hugely diverted by what Mrs. Quickly calls

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the abusing, on either side, of the King's English. "Good worts! good cabbage," says Falstaff of Sir Hugh; and he flames out again even in the height of his own discomfiture. "Seese and putter! have I lived to stand at the taunt of one that makes fritters of English?" It is possible, also, as has indeed been suggested, that Evans with his "hung, hang, hog," and the "Jenny's case which has furnished a motto to Rossetti, is a memory of the old days of Stratford school and the Sententiæ Pueriles, in which case we may see in little William Page the earlier William Shakespeare. Of the remaining characters, the handsome, hearty, buxom English wives, the jovial Host, the jealous Ford, "sweet Anne Page" and her pleasant lover, Master Fenton, whom we respect too much to believe that he really companied "with the wild Prince and Poins," - there is not much to say, or rather there is not much that need be said, beyond the fact that they come straight from contemporary life, and represent, as the characters of none other of Shakespeare's comedies represent, the types their creator found about him, in the last years of the reign of Elizabeth, when, in plain prose, and a fortnight's space, he sat down to perform the difficult task which that "radiant" but arbitrary monarch had imposed upon him, of exhibiting Falstaff in love.

The "Merry Wives" bears everywhere about it the traces of its origin. Rapid, animated, full of invention and movement, it is also packed with anachronisms, minor lapses, omissions, and discrepancies, which the piety of commentators has striven hopelessly to straighten out and reconcile, without success. And the hero is like the great

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piece, a Falstaff to order, a Falstaff of farce, a Falstaff playing a part, in whom it is scarcely possible to recognise the old ironical, cynical, resourceful, quick-witted, inimitable Falstaff of "Henry IV." Admit that the apparent ready response of the "Merry Wives" to his addresses had so befooled him as to make him lose all his knowledge of human nature and all his native shrewdness, it is scarcely possible to imagine him blundering into the simple traps that are laid for him, without suspicion. And a Falstaff that believes in fairies is not conceivable. Indeed, he says as much himself. It was the "sudden surprise of his powers" that "drove the grossness of the foppery into a received belief, in despite of the teeth of all rhyme and reason." "Have I laid my brain in the sun, and dried it," -he says again, -"that it wants matter to prevent such gross o'er-reaching as this?" Yet Shakespeare, placing him in a false position and a forced environment, could not entirely divest him of his former attributes. It is the old Falstaff who brags to "Master Brook" of the conquest he has never made; who consoles himself that his "admirable dexterity of wit" in counterfeiting the action of an old woman had saved him from discovery under the cudgel of Ford; it is the old Falstaff who gives that unrivalled description of his experiences in the buck-basket, “compassed, like a good bilbo in the circumference of a peck, hilt to point, heel to head";-who tells Mrs. Ford, with such a martial manliness, that "he cannot cog, and say she is this and that, like a many of those lisping hawthorn buds, that come like women in men's apparel, and smell like Bucklersbury in

simple time";-who fears when the court hear how he has been transformed and cudgelled, they will melt him out of his fat, drop by drop, to liquor fishermen's boots with, and who has never prospered since he foreswore himself at primero. It is the old Falstaff with whom no one can ever be angry, and who is never angry with any one; who will be the life and soul of the party at Page's after the play, and will never pay that twenty pounds which he owes to "Master Brook."

AUSTIN DOBSON.

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