Imagens das páginas

conceive, into a meaning that I believe was not in his thoughts. If the most spirited interpretation that can be imagined happens to be inconsistent with his general manner, and the phraseology both of him and his contemporaries, or to be founded on a custom which did not exist in his age, most assuredly it is a false interpretation. Of the latter kind is Mr. Guthrie's explanation of the passage before us.

The military exercise of the quintaine is as ancient as the time of the Romans; and we find from Matthew Paris, that it subsisted in England in the thirteenth century: “ Tentoria variis ornamentorum generibus venustantur; terræ infixis, sudibus scuta apponuntur, quibus in crastinum quintana ludus, scilicet equestris, exerceretur.”. M. Paris, ad ann. 1253. These probably were the very words that Mr. Guthrie had in contemplation. But Matthew Paris made no part of Shakspeare's library ; nor is it at all material to our present point what were the customs of any century preceding that in which he lived. In his time, without any doubt, the quintaine was not a military exercise of tilting, but a mere rustic sport. So Minshieu, in his Dict. 1617: “A quintaine or quintelle, a game in request at marriages, when Jac and Tom, Dick, Hob and Will, strive for the gay garland." So also, Randolph at somewhat a later period (Poems, 1642] : “ Foot-ball with us may be with them (the Spaniards] bal

loone; “ As they at tilts, so we at quintaine runne; “ And those old pastimes relish best with me, “ That have least art, and most simplicitie.”

But old Stowe has put this matter beyond a doubt; for in his Survey of London, printed only two years before this play appeared, he has given us the figure of a quintaine, as here represented.


[ocr errors]

“I have seen (says he) a quinten set up on Cornehill, by the Leaden Hall, where the attendants on the lords of merry disports have runne, and made greate pastime; for hee that hit not


the broad end of the quinten was of all men laughed to scorne; and hee that hit it full, if he rid not the faster, had a sound blow in his necke with a bagge full of sand hanged on the other end.". Here we see were no shields hung, no trophies of war to to be thrown down. “ The great design of the sport, (says Dr. Plott, in his History of Oxfordshire), is to try both man and horse, and to break the board ; which whoever does, is for the time Princeps juventutis." Shakspeare's similes seldom correspond on both sides. “My better parts being all thrown down, my youthful spirit being subdued by the power of beauty, I am now (says Orlando) as inanimate as a wooden quintaine is (not when its better parts are thrown down, but as that lifeless block is at all times)." Such, perhaps, is the meaning. If, however, the words“ better parts,” are to be applied to the quintaine, as well as to the speaker, the board above-mentioned, and not any shield or trophy, must have been alluded to.

Our author has, in Macbeth, used “my better part of man" for manly spirit.

Accursed be the tongue that tells me so,

“ For it has cow'd my better part of man.” Malone. The explanations of this passage, as well as the accounts of the quintain, are by no means satisfactory; nor have the labours of the critick or the antiquary been exhausted. The whole of Orlando's speech should seem to refer to the quintain, but not to such a one as has been described in any of the preceding notes. Mr. Guthrie is accused of having borrowed his account from Matthew Paris, an author with whom, as it has been already observed, Shakspeare was undoubtedly not acquainted; but this charge is erroneous, for no such passage as that above cited is to be found in M. Paris. This writer does indeed speak of the quintain under the year 1253, but in very different words. “ Eodem tempore juvenes Londinenses statuto pavone pro bravio ad stadium quod quintena vulgariter dicitur, vires proprias et equorum cursus sunt experti.” He then proceeds to state that some of the King's pages, and others belonging to the household, being offended at these sports, abused the Londoners with foul language, calling them scurvy clowns and greasy rascals, and ventured to dispute the prize with them; the consequence of which was, that the Londoners received them very briskly, and so belaboured their backs with the broken lances, that they were either put to flight, or tumbled from their horses and most terribly bruised. They afterwards went before the King, the tears still trickling from their eyes, and complained of their treatment, beseeching that he would not suffer so great an offence to remain unpunished; and the King, with his usual spirit of revenge,

extorted from the citizens a very large fine. So far M. Paris ; but Mr. Malone has through some mistake cited Robertus Monachus, who wrote before M. Paris, and has left an extremely curious account of the Crusades. He is describing the arrival of some messengers from Babylon, who, upon entering the Christian camp, find to their great astonishment (for they had heard that the Christians were perishing with fear and hunger) the tents curiously ornamented, and the young men practising themselves and their horses in tilting against shields hung upon poles. In the oldest edition of this writer, instead of “quintanæ ludus," it is “ ludus equestris.” However, this is certainly not the quintain that is here wanted, and therefore Mr. Malone has substituted another, copied indeed from a contemporary writer, but still not illustrative of the passage in question. I shall beg leave then to present the reader with some others, from which it will appear, that the quintain was a military exercise in Shakspeare's time, and not a mere rustic sport, as Mr. Malone imagines.


No. 1, is copied from an initial letter in an Italian book, printed in 1560. Here is the figure of a man placed upon the trunk of a tree, holding in one hand a shield, in the other a bag

of sand. No. 2, is the Saracen quintain from Pluvinel, Instruction du Roi Louis XIII. dans l'Exercice de monter à Cheval. This sort of quintain, according to Menestrier, was invented by the Germans, who, from their frequent wars with the Turks, accustomed their soldiers to point their lances against the figure of their enemy. The skill consisted in shivering the lance to pieces, by striking it against the head of the man, for if it touched the shield, the figure turned round and generally struck the horseman a violent blow with his sword. No. 3, is the Flemish quintain, copied from a print after Wouvermans ; it is called La bague Flamande, from the ring which the figure holds in his left hand ; and here the object was to take away the ring with the point of the lance, for if it struck any other part, the man turned round and hit the rider with his sand-bag. This is a mixture of the quintain and running at the ring, which two sports have been some how or other in like manner confounded by the Italians, who sometimes express the running at the ring by correre alla quins tana. The principle of all these was the same, viz. to avoid the blow of the sword or sand-bag, by striking the quintain in a particular place.

It might have been expected that some instance had been given of the use of these quintains in England; and for want of it an objection may be taken to this method of illustrating the present subject : but let it be remembered, that Shakspeare has indiscriminately blended the usages of all nations ; that he has oftentimes availed himself of hearsay evidence; and again, that as our manners and customs have at all times been borrowed from the French and other nations, there is every reason to infer that this species of the quintain had found its way into England. It is hardly needful to add, that a knowledge of very many of our ancient sports and domestic employments is not now to be attained. Historians have contented themselves to record the vices of kings and princes, and the minutiæ of battles and sieges ; and, with very few exceptions, they hare considered the discussion of private manners (a theme perhaps equally interesting to posterity) as beneath their notice, and of little or no import

As a military sport or exercise, the use of the quintain is very ancient, and may be traced even among the Romans. It is mentioned in Justinian's Code, lib. iii. tit. 43; and its most probable etymology is from“ Quintus," the name of its inventor. In the days of chivalry it was the substitute or rehearsal of tilts and tournaments, and was at length adopted, though in a ruder way, by the common people, becoming amongst them a very favourite amusement. Many instances occur of its use in several parts of France, particularly as a seignorial right exacted from



millers, watermen, new-married men, and others; when the party was obliged, under some penalty, to run at the quintain upon Whitsunday and other particular times, at the lord's castle, for his diversion. Sometimes it was practised upon the water, and then the quintain was either placed in a boat, or erected in the middle of the river, Something of this kind is described from Fitzstephen by Stowe in his Survey, p. 143, edit. 1618, 4to. and still continues to be practised upon the Seine at Paris. Froissart mentions, that the shield quintain was used in Ireland in the reign of Richard II. In Wales it is still practised at weddings,

. and at the village of Offham, near Town Malling in Kent, there is now standing a quintain, resembling that copied from Stowe, opposite the dwelling house of a family that is obliged under some tenure to support it: but I do not find that any use has been ever made of it within the recollection of the inhabitants.

Shakspeare then has most probably alluded to that sort of quintain which resembled the human figure; and if this be the case, the speech of Orlando may be thus explained : “ I am unable to thank you ; for, surprized and subdued by love, my intellectual powers, which are my better parts, fail me; and I resemble the quintain, whose human or active part being thrown down, there remains nothing but the lifeless trunk or block which once upheld it.”

Or, if better parts do not refer to the quintain, “ that which here stands up" means the human part of the quintain, which may be also not unaptly called a lifeless block. Douce.

“His acts being seven ages." P. 408. Dr. Warburton observes, that this was no unusual division of a play before our author's time ;" but forbears to offer any one example in support of his assertion. I have carefully perused almost every dramatick piece antecedent to Shakspeare, or contemporary with him; but so far from being divided into acts, they are almost all printed in an unbroken continuity of scenes. Í should add, that there is one play of six acts to be met with, and another of twenty-one; but the second of these is a translation from the Spanish, and never could have been designed for the stage. In God's Promises, 1577, A Tragedie or Enterlude," (or rather a Mystery,) by John Bale, seven acts may indeed be found.

It should, however, be observed, that the intervals in the Greek Tragedy are known to have varied from three acts to seven. STEEVENS.

Dr. Warburton boldly asserts that this was “no unusual division of a play before our author's time.” One of Chapman's plays (Two Wise Men and All the Rest Fools) is indeed in seven acts. This, however, is the only dramatick piece that I have found so divided. But surely it is not necessary to suppose that our au


« AnteriorContinuar »