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(2) SOFNE I.—OBERON. II met by moonlight, proud brought him a present; and so soone as she was aboord, Titania.} 'The names of Oberon and Titania were, no doubt, he hoysed his saile, and so carried her away."-NORTH'S familiar in connexion with the race of Faëry before the Plutarch (Life of Theseus). time of Shakespeare. Oberon, the “dwarfe king of fayryes,” is introduced into the popular romance of Huon (4) SCENE I.--The nine men's morris is filled up with de Bordeaux, translated by Lord Berners, probably earlier mud.] Nine men's morris, or nine men's merrils, as it was than 1558. The older part of Huon de Bordeaux, Mr. sometimes called, from merelles, an old French word for the Keightley has shown to have been taken from the story of counters with which it was originally conducted, is a rustic Otnit in the Heldenbuch, where the dwarf king Elberich sport, played on a diagram cut out of the turf of which performs nearly the same services to Otnit that Oberon, the figure consists of three squares, one within another. does to Huon. The name of Oberon, in fact, according to Sometimes the largest square is not more than a foot Grimm, is only Elberich slightly altered. From the usual in diameter, at others it is four or five yards. These change of l into u (as al, au, col, cou, &c.), in the French squares are united by cross lines, which extend from language, Elberich or Albrich (derived from Alp, Alf)
the middle of each line of the innermost square to the becomes Auberich; and ich not being a French termination, middle of the outermost line. The stations or houses for the dominative on was substituted, and thus the name the men (usually represented by stones or pieces of tile) are became Auberon, or Oberon. The elf queen's name, Titania, at the corners of the squares, and at the junctures of the was an appellation of Diana. “It was the belief, in those intersecting lines, and number in all twenty-four. The game days, that the fairies were the
same as the classic nymphs, is played by two persons, each of whom has nine men, or the attendants of Diana. That fourth kind of sprites,' counters, which they begin by playing alternately, one at says King James, 'guhilk be the gentiles was called Diana, a time, to any of the stations they may select. When the and her wandering court, and amongst us called the men are all deposited in the places chosen, each party, Phairỡe.” The Fairy-queen was therefore the same as moving
alternately, as in chess or draughts, aims to place Diana, whom Ovid styles Titania.”—KEIGHTLEY.
three of them on a line; and every time he achieves this
object he is entitled to remove one of the adversary's men (3) SCENE'.
from the field. Of course his opponent, if he foresee the Didst thou not lead him through the glimmering night
scheme, endeavours to frustrate it by playing a man of his From Perigenia, whom he ravished |
own on to the line. When one player succeeds in removing And make him with fair Æglé break his faith,
all his antagonist's men from the board, he wins the game. With Ariadne, and Antiopa ?]
The original game, called Jeu de Merelles, was probably
played on a board or table like chess, with men made for Shakespeare's authority for all this was bis diligently-read the purpose. It is supposed to have come from France, Plutarch:
and is undoubtedly very ancient. Douce speaks of a reprePerigenia.]“This Sinnis had a goodly faire daughter called sentation of two monkeys engaged at it in a German edition Perigouna, which fled away when she saw her father slaine of Petrarch “de remedio utriusque fortunæ," b. 1, ch. 26,
but Theseus finding her, called her, and sware by the cuts of which were executed in 1520; but in the Bibliohis faith he would use her gently, and do her no hurt, nor thèque of Paris there is a beautiful manuscript on parchdispleasure her at all."
ment (7391) by Nicholas de St. Nicolai, of the 12th century, Ariadne. Æglé.] “They report many other things also containing some hundred of illuminated diagrams of retouching this matter, and specially of Ariadne : but there markable positions in Chess and in Merelles. Whether the is no troth nor certaintie in it. For some say that Ariadne game is now obsolete in France, I am unable to say ; but it hung herselfe for sorow, when she saw that Theseus had is still practised, though rarely, in this country, both on the cast her off. Other write, that she was transported by turf and on the table, its old title having undergone another mariners into the Ile of Naxos, where she was married mutation, and become “Mill." unto Enarus, the priest of Bacchus: and they think that In Cotgrave's Dictionary, 1611, under the article Merelles, Theseus left her, because he was in love with another, as the following explanation is given : "Le Ieu des merelles. by these verses should appeare :
The boyish game called Merills, or five-pennie Morris ; • Ægles the nymph was loved of Theseus,
played here most commonly with stones, but in France with Who was the daughter of Panopeus.'
pawnes, or men made of purpose, and tearmed Merelles.” From this passage Shakespeare evidently got his “faire (5) SCENE I.-I am invisible.) Theobald remarks that Eagles," as the lady's name is spelt in all the old editions. as Oberon and Puck may be frequently observed to speak,
Antiopa.) “ Touching the voyage he made by the sea when there is no mention of their entering, they are deMaior, Philochurus, and some other hold opinion, that he signed by the poet to be supposed on the stage during the went thither with Hercules against the Amazons : and that greatest part of the remainder of the play; and so mix, to honour his valiantness, Hercules gave him Antiopa the as they please, as spirits, with the other actors, and embroil Amazone. But the more part of the other Historiographers the plot without being seen or heard but when they choose. do write that Theseus went thither alone, after Hercules' Among the stage properties mentioned in Henslowe's Diary voyage, and that he tooke this Amazone prisoner, which is is “a robe for to go invisible." It is not improbable that likeliest to be true * * * Bion also the Historiographer a similar robe was worn by supernatural beings, such as saith that he brought her away by deceit and stealth Oberon, Ariel, &c. ; who, when so habited, were
understood and that Theseus enticed her to come into his shippe, who by the audience to be invisible to the other characters.
(1) SCENE II.-An ass's now I fixed on his head.] Bottom's transformation might have been suggested, as Steevens observes, by a passage in the.“ History of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Dr. John Faustus,” chap. xliii. :"The guests having sat, and well eat and drank, Dr. Faustus made that every one had an ass's head on, with great and long ears, so they fell to dancing, and to drive away the time until it was midnight, and then every one departed home, and as soon as they were out of the house, each one was in his natural shape, and so they ended and went to sleep."
A receipt for this metamorphosis is given in Albertus Magnus de Secretis :—“Si vis quod caput hominis assimiletur capiti asini, sume de segimine aselli, et unge hominem in capite, et sic apparebit.” And another, in Scott's “Discoverie of Witchcraft,” b. 13, chap. xix. : “Cutt off the head of a horsse or an asse (before they be dead), otherwise the vertue or strength thereof will be lesse effectuall, and make an earthern vessell of fit capacitie to containe the same, and let it be filled with the oile and fat thereof: cover it close, and daube it over with lome : let it boile over a soft fier three daies continuallie, that the flesh boiled may run into oile, so as the bare bones may be seene : beate the haire into powder, and mingle the same with the oile; and annoint the heads of the standers by, and they shall seem to have horsses or asses heads."
In all likelihood, however, the trick was familiar to play. goers long before Shakespeare's time; and Mr. Halliwell quotes a stage direction in the “Chester Mysteries," as proof of this :-"Tunc percutiet Balaham asinam suam, et nota quod hic oportet aliquis transformari in speciem asine, et quando Balaham percutiet dicat asina—;" which we take the liberty of rendering into befitting English :-Then Balaham shall smyte his asse, and note that here it is fittyng that one shoulde bee dysguysed into the lykenesse of an asse, and when Balaham smyteth the asse shall sayem But it is not easy to see in what way this direction illustrates the passage of the text. (2) SCENE II.
So we grew together,
Due but to one, and crowned with one crest. ] An important step towards the comprehension of this difficult passage was made by Martin Folkes, when he pointed out to Theobald that "life coats," the reading of the old copies, was a misprint for « like coats." After the aid of this emendation, however, the commentators appear to have shown more ingenuity than sagacity in their endeavours to elucidate the sense. The plain heraldical
allusion is to the simple impalements of two armorial ensigns, as they are marshalled side by side to represent a marriage ; and the expression “Two of the First," is to that particular form of dividing the shield, being the first in order of the nine ordinary partitions of the Escutcheor. These principles were familiarly understood in the time of Shakespeare by all the readers of the many very popular heraldical works of the period, and an extract from one of these will probably render the meaning of the passage clear. In “ The Accedence of Armorie," published by Gerard Leigh, in 1597, he says, “Now will I declare to you of IX sundrie Partitions the First whereof is a partition from the highest part of the Escocheon to the lowest. And though it must be blazed so, yet is it a joining together. It is also as a mariage, that is to say, two cotes ; the man's on the right side, and the woman's on the left: as it might be said that Argent had maried with Gules." In different words, this is nothing else than an amplification of Helena's own expression,
" — seeming parted;
But yet a union in partition.” The shield bearing the arms of two married persons would of course be surmounted by one crest only, as the text properly remarks, that of the husband. In Shakespeare's day, the only pleas for bearing two crests were ancient usage, or a special grant. The modern practice of introducing a second crest by an heiress has been most improperly adopted from the German heraldical system ; for it should be remembered, that as a female cannot wear a helmet, so neither can she bear a crest.
(3) SCENE II.-Ho, ho, ho!] There is an ancient Norfolk proverb, “To laugh like Robin Goodfellow," which means, we presume, to laugh in mockery or scorn. This derision was always expressed by the exclamation in the text, which is as old as the Devil of the early mysteries, whose "ho, ho, ho!" was habitual upon the stage long before the introduction of Robin Goodfellow. In “Histriomastix" (quoted by Steevens) a roaring devil enters, with the Vice on his back, Iniquity in one hand, and Juventus in the other, crying ;
"Ho, ho, ho! these babes mine are all." In "Gammer Gurton's Needle,” the same form of cachinnation is attributed to the Evil One :
“But Diccon, Diccon, did not the devil cry, ho, ho, ho ?" It seems with our ancestors always to have conveyed the idea of something fiendish or supernatural, and is the established burden to the songs which describe the frolics of Robin Goodfellow. See the curious tract before mentioned, called “The Mad Pranks and Merry Jests of Robin Goodfellow."
were introduced in Bonnell Thornton's burlesque “Ode on St. Cecilia's Day, adapted to the Ancient British Musick." Ten years afterwards, this poem was recomposed by Dr. Burney, and performed at Ranelagh, on which occasion cleavers were cast in bell-metal to accompany the verses wherein they are mentioned.
(1) SCENE I.-1 have a reasonable good ear in music; let us have the tongs and the bones.] If the employment of unusual instruments to produce a barbarous kind of music were ingeniously traced backward to extreme antiquity, the origin of it might perhaps be found when “Pyctagoras passed som tyme by a symythes' hous, and herde a swete sowne, accordynge to the mystynge of foure hamers upon an anvelt ;” as Higden relates the story. The practice of performing rustic or burlesque music is, however, really ancient; and Strutt attributes the invention of it to the minstrels and joculators, who appear to have converted every species of amusement into a vehicle for mirth. He has engraved some parts of two illuminations of the fourteenth century, in one of which a youth is playing to a tumbler, by beating on a metal basin held on a staff; and in the other, an individual is depicted "holding a pair of bellows by way of fiddle, and
using the tongs as the substitute for the bow.” Mr. Halliwell has illustrated the passage which forms the subject of this note, by a reference to two figures in the original sketches of actors in the court masques, executed by Inigo Jones: one of which represents a performer with tongs and key; and the other a player on knackers
of bone or wood, clacked together between the fingers. These instruments must be regarded as the immediate precursors of the more musical marrow-bones and cleavers, the introduction of which may, with great probability, be referred to the establishment of Clare Market, in the middle of the seventeenth century; since the butchers of that place were particularly celebrated for their performances. In Addison's description of John Dentry's remarkable “kitchen music" (Spectator, No. 570, 1714), the marrow-bones and cleavers form no part of thé Captain's harmonious apparatus, but the tongs and key are represented to have become a little unfashionable some years before. By the year 1749, however, the former had obtained a considerable degree of vulgar popularity, and
(2) SCENE I.
My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind,
Each under each.] The hounds of Sparta and Crete are classically celebrated :" Tenet ora levis clamosa Molossi, Spartanos, Cretasque, ligat."--Lucani Phars, IV. 440 : and the peculiarities of form and colour indicated, are those which were considered to mark the highest quality of the bloodhound breed. The flews are the large hanging chaps, which, with long thin pendant ears, were a peculiar recommendation in these animals. Thus, Golding, 1567 :
with other twaine that had a syre of Crete, And dam of Sparta : tone of them called Jollyboy a greate,
And large-flew'd hound."
the fierce Thessalian hounds,
Brazen Age, 1613. For “80 sanded" some commentator proposed to read, “so sounded ;" but Steevens correctly explains sanded to mean of a sandy colour," one of the true denotements of a blood-hound."-See The Gentleman's Recreation.
I find another specimen in a MS. collection of short poems, epigrams, &c., written evidently in the early part of the seventeenth century, which belonged to Dr. Percy.
(1) SCENE I.
What masks, what dances shall we have,
Between our after-supper and bed-time ?] The accepted explanation of an after-supper conveys but an imperfect idea of what this refection really was. “A rere-supper,” Nares says, seems to have been a late or second supper." Not exactly. The rere-supper was to the supper itself what the rere-banquet was to the dinner-a dessert. On ordinary occasions, the gentlemen of Shakespeare's age appear to have dined about eleven o'clock, and then to have retired either to a garden-house, or other suitable apartment, and enjoyed their rere-banquet or dessert. Supper was usually served between five and six ; and this, like the dinner, was frequently followed by, a collation consisting of fruits and sweetmeats, called, in this country, the rere-supper; in Italy, Pocenio, from the Latin Poconium.
" The Feminine kinde is counted ill,
And is I sweare: the Contrary,
(2) SCENE I.--You shall know all, &c.] The humour of distorting the meaning of a passage by mispunctuation was a favourite one formerly. There is a good example in Roister Doister's letter to Dame Custance, beginning, "Sweete mistresse, where as I love you nothing at all, Regarding your substance and richesse chiefe of all,” &c.
See Ralph Roister Doister, Act III. Sc. 4.
Read thus, the lines are anything but complimentary; are three legends connected with the Man in the Moon. but, by transposing the colons and commas, they become The first, that this personage was Isaac, carrying a bundle highly eulogistic. Taylor, the water poet, in his * Address of sticks for his own sacrifice; the second, that he was to Nobody," prefixed to Sir Gregory Nonsense, alludes to Cain; and the other, which is taken from the history of the Prologue in the text :-"So ending at the beginning, I the Sabbath-breaker, as related in the Book of Numbers, say as it is applawsefully written and commended to pos- Chaucer, in Troilus and Creseide,' I. 147, refers to the terity in the Midsummer Night's Dream, If we offend, it chorle' in the moon; and in the poem entitled the 'Tesis with our good will, we came with no intent, but to tament of Creseide,' printed in Chaucer's works, there is offend and shew our simple skill."
an allusion to the same legend :
Next after him came lady Cynthia,
The laste of al, and swiftest in her sphere, (3) SCENE I.
of colour blake buskid with hornis twa Whereat with blade, with bloody blameful blade,
And in the night she listith best t'appere, He bravely broach'd his boiling bloody breast.]
Hawe as the leed, of colour nothing clere, The classical reader will remember the examples of alliter
For al the light she borowed at her brother
Titan, for of herselfe she hath non other. ative trifling in Ennius, and his well-known
Her gite was gray and ful of spottis blake,
And on her brest a chorle painted ful even,
Bering a bush of thornis on his bake,
Whiche for his thest might clime no ner the heren.' Perhaps the most famous of these puerilities, in later times, is the “ Pugna Porcorum" of Leo Placentius,
“From Manningham's diary (Harl. MS. 5353) we learn wherein every word begins with P. There is also the poem that, among the devises at Whitehall, in 1601, was 'the written by Hugald, in honour of Charles the Bold, in which man in the moone with thornes on his backe looking the initial of each word is C; and a long poem, written in
downeward.' Ben Jonson, in one of his Masques, fol. ed., 1576, called “Christus Crucifixus,” every word beginning p. 41, expressly alludes to the man in the moon having with C also. Langland, the author of “The Vision of been introduced upon the English stage :-Fac. Where Piers Ploughman," and Norton, who wrote “Gorboduc,"
which is he? I must see his dog at his girdle, and the both "affected the letter;" and Tusser's “Husbandry"
bushe of thornes at his backe, ere I beleeve it. i Her. contains a poem in which all the words begin with T. Doe not trouble your faith then, for if that bush of In this country, the foppery appears to have reached its thornes should prove a goodly grove of okes, in what case culminating point in the reign of Henry VIII., if we were you and your expectation ? 2 Her. Those are stale may judge from the following exquisite specimen in a pro
ensignes o' the stages, man i' th moone, delivered doune duction by Wilfride Holme, on “The Fall and evil Success to you by musty antiquitie, and are of as doubtfull credit of Rebellion :"
as the makers.'"-HALLIWELL. “Loe, leprous lurdeins, lubricke in loquacitie,
(5) SCENE I.—This passion, and the death of a dear Vah, vaporous villeins, with venim vulnerate, Proh, prating parenticides, plexious to pennositie,
friend, would go near to make a man look sad.] Mr. Collier's Fie, frantike fabulators, furibund and fatuate,
annotator reads, “ This passion on the death of a dear Out, oblatrant, oblict, obstacle, and obsecate,
friend," &c. ;-one proof among many of his inability to Ah addict algoes, in acerbitie acclamant,
appreciate anything like subtle humour. Had he never Magnall in mischief, malicious to mugilate,
heard the old proverbial saying, “He that loseth his wife Repriving your Roy so renowned and radiant."
and sixpence, hath lost a tester ?”. (4) SCENE I.-Myself the man r' th' moon doth seem to be.] (6) SCENE II.“Although the legend of the man in the moon is perhaps
To the best bride-bed will we, one of the most singular and popular superstitions known,
Which by us shall blessed be.] yet it is almost impossible to discover early materials for The ceremony of blessing the bridal-bed was observed, à connected account of its progress; nor have the re- Douce says, at all marriages; and we are indebted to him searches of former writers been extended to this curious for the formula, copied from the “Manual,” of the use of subject. It is very probable that the natural appearance Salisbury :-“Nocte vero sequente cum sponsus et sponsa of the moon, and those delineations on its disc, which ad lectum pervenerint, accedat sacerdos et benedicat modern philosophers have considered to belong to the thalamum, dicens : Benedic, Domine, thalamum istum et geographical divisions of that body, may originally have omnes habitantes in eo; ut in tua pace consistant, et in suggested the similarity vulgarly supposed to exist between tua voluntate permaneant: et in amore tuo vivant et these outlines and a man 'pycchynde stake.' In fact, it senescant et multiplicentur in longitudine dierum. Per is hardly possible to account for the universality of the Dominum.-Item benedictio super lectum. Benedic, Dolegend by any other conjecture.
mine, hoc cubiculum, respice, qui non dormis neque “A manuscript of about the fourteenth century, preserved dormitas. Qui custodis Israel, custodi famulos tuos in hoc in the British Museum (Harl. MS. 2253), contains an ex- lecto quiescentes ab omnibus fantasmaticis demonum illuceedingly curious early English poem on the Man in the sionibus : custodi eos vigilantes ut in preceptis tuis medi. Moon, beginning,
tentur dormientes, et te per soporem sentiant: ut hic et
ubique defensionis tuæ muniantur auxilio. Per Dominum. Mon in the mone stond and strit, On his bot forke is burthen he bereth
-Deinde fiat benedictio super eos in lecto tantum cum Hit is muche wonder that he na doun slyt,
Oremus. Benedicat Deus corpora vestra et animas yesPor doute leste he valle he shoddreth aut shereth.' tras; et det super vos benedictionem sicut benedixit
Abraham, Isaac et Jacob, Amen.—His peractis aspergat “Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie, p. 412, asserts that there aqua eos benedicta, et sic discedat et dimittat eos in pace."
MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.
“ IN “The Midsummer Night's Dream,' there flows a luxuriant vein of the boldest and most fantastical invention; the most extraordinary combination of the most dissimilar ingredients seems to have been brought about without effort, by some ingenious and lucky accident, and the colours are of such clear transparency, that we think the whole of the variegated fabric may be blown away with a breath. The fairy world here described, resembles those elegant pieces of arabesque, where little genii with butterfly wings rise, half-embodied, above the flower-cups. Twilight, moonshine, dew, and spring perfumes, are the elements of these tender spirits ; they assist Nature in embroidering her carpet with green leaves, many-coloured flowers, and glittering insects; in the human world they do but make sport childishly and waywardly with their beneficent or noxious influences. Their most violent rage dissolves in good-natured raillery ; their passions, stripped of all earthly matter, are merely an ideal dream. To correspond with this, the loves of mortals are painted as a poetical enchantment, which, by a contrary enchantment, may be immediately suspended, and then renewed again. The different parts of the plot; the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, Oberon and Titania's quarrel, the flight of the two pair of lovers, and the theatrical maneuvres of the mechanics, are so lightly and happily interwoven, that they seem necessary to each other for the formation of a whole. Oberon is desirous of relieving the lovers from their perplexities, but greatly adds to them through the mistakes of his minister, till he at last comes really to the aid of their fruitless amorous pain, their inconstancy and jealousy, and restores fidelity to its old rights. The extremes of fanciful and vulgar are united, when the enchanted Titania awakes and falls in love with a coarse mechanic with an ass's head, who represents, or rather disfigures, the part of a tragical lover. The droll wonder of Bottom's transformation is merely the translation of a metaphor in its literal sense ; but in his behaviour during the tender homage of the Fairy Queen, we have an amusing proof how much the consciousness of such a head-dress heightens the effect of his usual folly. Theseus and Hippolyta are, as it were, a splendid frame for the picture; they take no part in the action, but surround it with a stately pomp. The discourse of the hero and his Amazon, as they course through the forest with their noisy hunting-train, works upon the imagination like the fresh breath of morning, before which the shades of night disappear. Pyramus and Thisbe is not unmeaningly chosen as the grotesque play within the play: it is exactly like the pathetic part of the piece, a secret meeting of two lovers in the forest, and their separation by an unfortunate accident, and closes the whole with the most amusing parody.”—SCHLEGEL.
“ The Midsummer Night's Dream' is the first play which exhibits the imagination of Shakspeare in all its fervid and creative power ; for though, as mentioned in Meres's Catalogue, as having numerous scenes of continued rhyme, as being barren in fable, and defective in strength of character-it may be pronounced the offspring of youth and inexperience-it will ever, in point of fancy, be considered as equal to any subsequent drama of the poet.
“In a piece where the imagery of the most wild and fantastic dream is actually embodied before our eyes—where the principal agency is carried on by beings lighter than the gossamer, and smaller than the cowslip's bell, whose elements are the moonbeams and the odoriferous atmosphere of flowers, and whose sport it is
"To dance in ringlets to the whistling winds,' it was necessary, in order to give a filmy and assistant legerity to every part of the play, that the human agents should partake of the same evanescent and visionary character; accordingly both the