Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

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 quintana. 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 minutiae of battles and sieges; and, with very few exceptions, they have considered the discussion of private manners (a theme perhaps equally interesting to posterity) as beneath their notice, and of little or no import

ance.

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.

[ocr errors]

"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. I 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

thor alluded here to any such precise division of the drama. His comparisons seldom run on four feet. It was sufficient for him that a play was distributed into several acts, and that human life, long before his time, had been divided into seven periods. In The Treasury of Ancient and Modern Times, 1613, Proclus, a Greek author, is said to have divided the lifetime of man into seven ages; over each of which one of the seven planets was supposed to rule. "The first age is called Infancy, containing the space of foure yeares.-The second age continueth ten yeares, until he attaine to the yeares of fourteene: this age is called Childhood. -The third age consisteth of eight yeares, being named by our auncients Adolescencie or Youthhood; and it lasteth from fourteene, till two and twenty yeares be fully compleate.-The fourth age paceth on, till a man have accomplished two and forty yeares, and is tearmed Young Manhood.-The fifth age, named Mature Manhood, hath (according to the said authour) fifteene yeares of continuance, and therefore makes his progress so far as six and fifty yeares.-Afterwards, in adding twelve to fifty-sixe, you shall make up sixty-eight yeares, which reach to the end of the sixt age, and is called Old Age.-The seaventh and last of these seven ages is limited from sixty-eight yeares, so far as four-score and eight, being called weak, declining, and Decrepite Age.-If any man chance to goe beyond this age, (which is more admired than noted in many,) you shall evidently perceive that he will returne to his first condition of Infancy againe."

[ocr errors]

Hippocrates likewise divided the life of man into seven ages, but differs from Proclus in the number of years allotted to each period. See Brown's Vulgar Errors, folio, 1686, p. 173.

So also in The Diamant of Devotion, Cut and Squared into Six Severall Points; by Abraham Fleming, 4to, 1586, Part I.

"Wee are not placed in this world as continuers; for the scripture saith that we have no abiding citie heere, but as travellers and soiourners, whose custome it is to take up a new inne, and to change their lodging, sometimes here, sometimes there, during the time of their travell. Heere we walke like plaiers uppon a stage, one representing the person of a king, another of a lorde, the third of a plowman, the fourth of an artificer, and so foorth, as the course and order of the enterlude requireth; everie acte whereof beeing plaide, there is no more to doe, but open the gates and dismisse the assemblie.

"Even so fareth it with us: for what other thing is the compasse of this world, beautified with varietie of creatures, reasonable and unreasonable, but an ample and large theatre, wherein all things are appointed to play their pageants, which when they have done, they die, and their glorie ceaseth." MALONE.

I have seen, more than once, an old print, entitled, The Stage

of Man's Life, divided into seven ages. As emblematical representations of this sort were formerly stuck up, both for ornament and instruction, in the generality of houses, it is more probable that Shakspeare took his hint from thence, than from Hippocrates or Proclus. HENLEY.

[ocr errors]

One of the representations to which Mr. Henley alludes, was formerly in my possession; and considering the use it is of in explaining the passage before us, "I could have better spared a better print." I well remember that it exhibited the school-boy with his satchell hanging over his shoulder. STEEVENS.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »