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* MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.] A few of the incidents in this comedy might have been taken from fome old translation of Il Pecorone by Giovanni Fiorentino. I have lately met with the fame ftory in a very contemptible performance, intitled, The fortunate, the deceived, and the unfortunate Lovers. Of this book, as I am told, there are feveral impreffions; but that in which I read it, was published in 1632, quarto. A fomewhat fimilar story occurs in Piacevoli Notti di Straparola, Nott. 4a. Fav. 4a.

This comedy was firft entered at Stationers' Hall, Jan. 18, 1601, by John Busby. STEEVENS.

This play should be read between K. Henry IV. and K. Henry V. JOHNSON.

A paffage in the first Iketch of The Merry Wives of Windfor fhews, think, that it ought rather to be read between the First and the Second Part of King Henry IV. in the latter of which young Henry becomes king. In the laft act, Falstaff says:

"Herne the hunter, quoth you? am I a ghost?

'Sblood, the fairies hath made a ghoft of me.

"What, hunting at this time of night!

I'le lay my life the mad prince of Wales "Is ftealing his father's deare. "

and in this play, as it now appears, Mr. Page difcountenances the addreffes of Fenton to his daughter, because he keeps company with the wild prince, and with Poins."

The Fishwife's Tale of Brainford in WESTWARD FOR SMELTS a book which Shakspeare appears to have read, (having borrowed from it part of the fable of Cymbeline,) probably led him to lay the scene of Falstaff's love-adventures at Windfor. It begins thus: "In Windfor not long agoe dwelt a fumpterman, who had to wife a very faire but wanton creature, over whom, not without caufe,, he was fomething jealous; yet had he never any proof of her inconftancy."

The reader who is curious in fuch matters, may find the ftory of The Lovers of Pifa, mentioned by Dr. Farmer in the following note, at the end of this play. MALONE.

The adventures of Falstaff in this play seem to have been taken from the ftory of The Lovers of Pifa, in an old piece, called "Tarleton's Newes out of Purgatorie. Mr. Capell pretended to much knowledge of this fort; and I am forry that it proved to be only pretenfion.

Mr. Warton obferves, in à note to the last Oxford edition, that the play was probably not written, as we now have it, before 1607, at the earliest. agree with my very ingenious friend in this fuppofition, but yet the argument here produced for it may not be conclufive. Slender obferves to mafter Page, that his greyhound

was out-run on Coifale Cotswold-Hills in Gloucestershire ]; and Mr. Warton thinks, that the games, established there by Captain Dover in the beginning of K. James's reign, are alluded to. But perhaps, though the Captain be celebrated in the Annalia Dubrenfia as the founder of them, he might be the reviver only, or fome way contribute to make them more famous; for in The Second Part of Henry IV. 1600, Juftice Shallow reckons among the Swinge-bucklers, Will Squeele, a Cotfole man.

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In the first edition of the imperfect play, fir Hugh Evans is called on the title page, the Welch Knight; and yet there are some perfons who ftill affect to believe, that all our author's plays were originally published by himfelf. FARMER.

Dr. Farmer's opinion is well fupported by "An eclogue on the noble affemblies revived on Cotfwold Hills, by Mr. Robert Dover. See Randolph's Poems, printed at Oxford, 4to. 1638, p. 114. The hills of Cotswold, in Gloucestershire, are mentioned in K. Richard II. A&t II. fc. iii. and by Drayton, in his Polyolbion, fong 14. STEEVENS.

Queen Elizabeth was fo well pleased with the admirable charac ter of Falftaff in The Two Parts of Henry IV. that, as Mr. Rowe informs us, the commanded Shakspeare to continue it for one play more, and to fhew him in love. To this command we owe The Merry Wives of Windfor; which, Mr. Gildon fays, [Remarks on Shakspeare's plays, 8vo. 1710,] he was very well affured our author finished in a fortnight. But this must be meant only of the first imperfect sketch of this comedy. An old quarto edition which I have feen, printed in 1602, fays, in the title-page, As it hath been divers times acted before her majesty, and elsewhere. This which we have here, was altered and improved by the author almost in every fpeech. POPE. THEOBALD.

that our author's houfe at and that he wrote the But neither for this, or

Mr. Gildon has likewife told us, Stratford bordered on the Church-yard, fcene of the Ghoft in Hamlet there. the affertion that the play before us was written in a fortnight, does he quote any authority. The latter circumflance was first mentioned by Mr. Dennis. "This comedy," fays he, in his Epiftle Dedicatory to The Comical Gallant, (an alteration of the prefent play, 1702, "was written at her [Queen Elizabeth's] command, and by her direction, and fhe was fo eager to fee it acted, that she commanded it to be finished in fourteen days ; and was afterwards, as tradition tells us, very well pleased at the representation. The information, it is probable, came ori ginally from Dryden, who from his intimacy with Sir William Davenant had an opportunity of learning many particulars concerning our author.

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At what period Shakspeare new-modelled The Merry Wives of Windfor is unknown. I believe it was enlarged in 1603. See fome conjectures on the fubje& in the Attempt to afcertain the order of his plays, Vol. II.

MALONE.

It is not generally known, that the firft edition of The Merry Wives of Windfor, in its prefent ftate, is in the valuable folio, printed 1623, from whence the quarto of the fame play, dated 1630, was evidently copied. The two earlier quartos, 1602, and 1619, only exhibit this comedy as it was originally written, and are fo far curious, as they contain Shakspeare's firft conceptions in forming a drama, which is the most complete fpecimen of his comick powers. T. WARTON,

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PERSONS reprefented,

Sir John Falstaff.
Fenton.

Shallow, a country Justice.
Slender, cousin to Shallow.

Mr. Ford, two gentlemen dwelling at Windfor.
Mr. Page,}

William Page, a boy, fon to Mr. Page.

Sir Hugh Evans, a Welch parfon.

Dr. Caius, a French phyfician.

Hoft of the Garter Inn.

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Mrs. Ford.

Mrs. Page.

Mrs. Anne Page, her daughter, in love with

Fenton.

Mrs. Quickly, fervant to Dr. Caius.

Servants to Page, Ford, &c.

SCENE, Windfor; and the parts adjacent.

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