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“ Pewter.”—Act II. Sc. 1. We may suppose that pewter was, even in the reign of Elizabeth, too costly to be used in common. It appears from the regulations and establishment of the household of Henry Algernon Percy, the fifth earl of Northumberland; that vessels of pewter were hired by the year. This household book was begun in the year 1512.-STEEVENS.
" Quaffed off the muscadel.”—Act III. Sc. 2. The fashion of introducing a bowl of wine at church at a wedding, to be drunk by the bride and bridegroom and persons present, was very anciently a constant ceremony; nor was it abolished in the poet's time. We find it practised at the magnificent marriage of Queen Mary and Philip, in Winchester Cathedral, 1554. “ The trumpets sounded, and they both returned to their traverses in the quire, and there remayned untill masse was done, at which tyme, wyne and sopes were hallowed and delyvered to them both.”—T. WARTON.
“An old hat, and the humour of forty fancies prick'd in't for a feather."-Act III. Sc. 2.
Fancy appears to have been some ornament worn formerly in the bat. So, Peacham, in his Worth of a Penny, describing “an indigent and discontented soldat," says, “ he walks with his arms folded, his belt without a sword or rapier, that perhaps being somewhere in trouble; a hat without a band, hanging over his eyes, only it wears a weather-beaten fancy for fashion sake."--MALONE.
“ Their blue coats brush'd."-Act IV. Sc. 1. Blue was commonly worn by servants at the time. So in Decker's Bellman :-" The other act their parts in blew coales, as they were their serving men, though indeed they be all fellows;" and in The Curtain Drawer of the World :-“Not a serving man dare appeare in a blew coat, not because it is the livery of charity, but lest he should be thought a retainer to their enemy."-REED.
The carpet's laid."-Act IV. Sc. 1. In our author's time, it was customary to cover tables with carpets. Floors were commonly strewed with rushes.-MALONE.
“Ay, but the mustard is too hot, a little."-Act IV. Sc. 3. This is agreeable to the doctrine of the times. In The Glass of Humours, it is said :-“But note here, that the first diet is not only in avoiding superfluity of meats, and surfeits of drinks, but also in eschewing such as are most obnoxious, and least agreeable with our happy temperate state; as for a cholerick man to abstain from all salt, scorched, dry meats, from mustard, and such like things as will aggravate his malignant humours.”—REED.
“ Come, tailor, let us see these ornaments.”—Act IV. Sc. 3. Formerly women's gowns were made by men. So in The Epistle to ine Ladies, prefixed to Euphues and his England, by John Lyly, 1580:“If a laylor make your gown too little, you cover his fault with a broad stomacher: if too great, with a number of pleights: if too short, with a fair guard: if too long, with a false gathering. '-_MALONE.
“ Custard-coffin.”—Act IV. Sc. 3. A coffin was the ancient culinary term for the raised crust of a pie or custard.—STEEVENS.
“ Censer.”—Act IV. Sc. 3. We learn from an old print that these censers resembled in shape our modern brasieres. They had pierced convex covers, and stood on feet. They not only served to sweeten a barber's shop, but to keep his water warm, and dry his clothes on.-STEEVENS.
“ My banquet."—Act V. Sc. 2. A banquet, or an afterpast, was a slight refection, like our modern desert, consisting of cakes, sweetmeats, and fruit.--STEEVENS.
“ Happy man be his dole.”—Act I. Sc. 2. The alms immemorially given to the poor by the archbishops of Canterbury, is still called the dole.-NICHOLS.
“Lower messes.”—Act I. Sc. 2. Formerly, at the tables of the great, a large salt-cellar was placed in the middle, the noble guests sat above it; the retainers and persons of low rank, below it. At the upper end of the board, the viands were delicate and costly; at the lower, plain and substantial. Wine was drank above the salt; beer only, below it. An allusion is made to this custom in The Honest Whore, by Decker, 1604. “Plague him, set him beneath the salt, and let him not touch a bit till every one has had his full cut."
.“ Still virginalling.”-Act I. Sc. 2. A virginal is a very small kind of spinnet. Queen Elizabeth's vir. ginal book is still in being, and many of the lessons in it have proved so difficult, as to batlle our most expert players on the harpsichord.
STEEVENS “ Like his medal."-Act I. Sc. 2. It should be remembered, that it was customary for gentlemen, in our author's age, to wear jewels appended to a ribbon round the neck. · So in Honour in Perfection, or a Treatise in Commendation of Henrie, Earl of Oxenforde, Henrie, Earl of Southampton, &c., by Gervais Nashham 1624 :-"He hath hung about the neck of his noble kinsman, Sir Horace Vere, like a rich jewel.” The knights of the garter wore the George, in this manner, till the time of Charles I.-MALONE.
"- There may be in the cup
A spider steep'd, and one may drink.”—Act II. Sc. 1. That spiders were thought venomous appears by the evidence of a person who was examined in Sir Thomas Overbury's affair. “The Countesse wished me to get the strongest poyson I could; accordingly, I bought seven great spiders, and cantharides."-HENDERSON.
“ A boy, or a child.”—Act III. Sc. 3.
In some of our inland counties, a female infant, in contradistinction to a male one, is still termed, among the peasantry, a child.-STEEVENS.
“With trol-my-dames.”—Act IV. Sc. 2. In Dr. Jones's old treatise on Buckslone Bathes, he says, “ The ladyes, gentle-woomen, wyves, maydes, if the weather be not agreeable, may have in the ende of a benche, eleven holes made, intoo the which to troule pummits, either wyolent or softe, after their own discretion; the pastime troule in madame is termed.”—FARMER.
“ Fadings."—Act IV. Sc. 3. A rural Irish dance. This dance is still practised on rejoicing occasions in many parts of Ireland. A king and queen are chosen from amongst the young persons who dance best; the queen carries a garland, composed of two hoops placed at right angles, and fastened to a handle; the hoops are covered with flowers and ribbons. Frequently, in the course of the dance, the king and queen lift up their joined hands as high as they can, she still holding the garland in the other. The most remote couple from the king and queen first pass under; all the rest of the line, linked together, follow in succession; when the last has passed, the king and queen suddenly face about and front their companions; this is often repeated in the course of the dance, and the various undulations are pretty enough, resembling the movements of a serpent. The dancers, on the first of May, visit such newly-wedded pairs of a certain rank, as have been married since last May-day in the neighbourhood, who commonly bestow on them a stuffed ball, richly decked with gold and silver lace, and accompanied with a present of money to regale themselves after the dance. This dance is practised when the bonfires are lighted up, the queen hailing the return of summer, in a popular Irish song, beginning:“ We lead on Summer-see! she follows in our train."
. BOSWELL. “ Luwn as white as driven snow, fc.”—Act IV. Sc. 3. Autolycus here enumerates, in his assumed character of a pedlar, such articles as being on sale as were likely to attract customers. What these were we can only guess at. He has “ unbraided wares." This probably means of the best manufacture undamaged. “Points more than all the lawyers in Bohemia, can learnedly handle." These were laces with metal tags to them. “Caddises:" Caddis, according to Malone, is a narrow worsted ferret. “Inkle:" Inkle, as we learn from the same authority, is a kind of tape. “Poking sticks of steel:"-Stowe informs us, that "about the sixteenthe yeare of the Queen Elizabeth, began the making of steel poking sticks, and until that time all laundresses used setting sticks made of wood or bone." These poking sticks were heated in the fire, and made use of to adjust the plaits of ruffs. “Pomander:" a Pomander was a little ball made of perfumes, and worn in the pocket, or about the neck, to prevent infection when the plague was prevalent.
“ A pair of sweet gloves."—Act IV. Sc. 3. Stowes' continuator, Edmund Howes, informs us, that the English could not “make any costly washe or perfume, until aboute the fourteenth or fifteenth of the Queene Elizabeth, the Right Honourable Edward Vere, Earl of Oxforde, came from Italy, and brought with him gloves, sweet bagges, a perfumed leather jerkin, and other pleasant things, and that the Queene had a payre of perfumed gloves trimmed onlie with foure tufts or roses of cullered silke. The Queene tooke such pleasure in those gloves, that she was pictured with those gloves upon her hands; and for many years after it was called the Erle of Oxfordes perfume.”
WARTON. “ Here's another ballad; Of a fish."—Act IV. Sc. 3. Whoever was hunged or burnt, a merry or lamentable ballad was immediately entered on the books of the Stationers' Company; among the entries for 1604, we find the following, to which, no doubt, Autolycus alludes: -“A strange reporte of a monstrous fish that appeared in the shape of a woman, from her waiste upward, seene in the sea."
“ All men of hair."—Act IV. Sc. 3. Men of hair, are hairy men, or satyrs. A dance of satyrs was no unusual entertainment in the middle ages. At a great festival celebrated in France, the king and some of the nobles personated satyrs dressed in close habits, tufted or shagged all over, to imitate hair. They began a wild dance; and in the tumult of their merriment, one of them went too near a candle and set fire to his satyr's garb, the flame ran instantly over the loose tufts, and spread itself to the dress of those who were next to him; a great number of the dancers were cruelly scorched, being neither able to throw off their coats, nor extinguish them. The king had set himself in the lap of the duchess of Burgundy, who threw her robe over him and saved him.-JOHNSON.
COMEDY OF ERRORS.
“ Carkanet." —Act III. Sc. 1. A carkanet seems to have been a necklace set with stones, or strung with pearls. Thus, in Partheneia Sacra, 1633 : “Seeke not vermillion or ceruse in the face, bracelets of oriental pearls on the wrists, rubie car. kanets on the neck, and a most exquisite fan of feathers in the hand.”
“An everlasting garment."—Act IV. Sc. 2. The serjeants' or sheriffs' officers, in Shakspeare's time, were clad in buff. Buff is also a cant expression for a man's skin, a covering which lasts him as long as his life.-Mason. “ One that before the judgment carries poor souls to hell.”—Act IV. Sc. 2
Before judgment; that is, on what is called mesne process: when a man is arrested after judgment, he is said to be taken in execution. Hell was the cant name for an obscure dungeon in any of our prisons.
MALONE. “ What, have you got the picture of old Adanı new apparell’d?"-Act IV. Sc. 3.
Here seems to be an allusion to some well-known contemporary painting, perhaps of a sign. “Adam, whom God dyd fyrst create, made the fyrs lether coates for himselfe and his wyfe Eve, our old mother; leavyng thereby a patron to al his posteritie of that crafte." Polydore Virgit, translated by Langley.--Douce.
" Thou peevish officer."-Act IV. Sc. 4. Peevish, as here used, is synonymous to foolish, and the word was frequently so employed by our old writers; so in The Curse of Corn-Holders, by Charles Fitz-Geoffrey, 1633: “ The Egyptians relieved the Israelites in the famine, though it were an abomination to the Egyptians, in their peevish superstition, to eate breade with the Hebrewes."
“ His man with scissors nicks him like a fool.”—Act V. Sc. 1. There is a penalty of ten shillings in one of King Alfred's ecclesiastical laws if one opprobriously shave a common man like a fool. Fools were certainly shaved or nicked in a peculiar manner in Shakspeare's time, as we learn from The Choice of Change, 1598. “Three things used by monks, which provoke other men to laugh at their follies: 1. They are shaven and notched on the head like fooles.—TOLLET, and MALONE.
“ Kernes and Gallowglasses.”—Act I. Sc. 2. We have the following account of Kernes and Gallouglasses, in Barnaby Riche's new Irish Prognostication : -" The Galloglas succeedeth the horseman, and he is commonly armed with a scull; a shirt of maile, and a Galloglas axe. His service in the field is neither good against horsemen, nor able to endure an encounter of pikes; yet the Irish do make great account of them. The Kerne of Ireland are next in request, the very dross and scum of the country, a generation of villaines not fit to live: these be they that live by robbing and spoyling the poor countreyman, that maketh him many times to buye bread to give unto them, thoughe he want for himselte and his poore children. These are they that are ready to run out with everie rebell, and these are the verie hags of hell, fit for nothing but for the gallows.”—BOSWELL.
“ Saint Colmes' Inch.”—Act I. Sc. 2. Colmes' Inch, now called Inchcomb, is a small island in the Firth of Edinburgh, with an abbey upon it, dedicated to Saint Colomb, called by Camden Inch Colm, or the Isle of St. Columba. Holinshed thus relates the circumstance alluded to in the play: “The Danes that escaped, and got once to their ships, obtained of Makbeth for a great summe of gold, that such of their friends as were slaine, might be buried in Saint Colmes' inch. In memorie whereof many old sepultures are yet in the said inch, there to be seene, graven with the armes of the Danes."
“ The rump-fed ronyon.”—Act I. Sc. 3. The chief cooks, in noblemen's families, colleges, and hospitals, anciently claimed the emoluments or kitchen fees of kidneys, fat trotters, rumps, &c., which they sold to the poor. The weird sister, in this scene, us an insult on the poverty of the woman who had called her witch, reproaches her poor abject state, as not being able to procure better provision than offals.-COLEPEPER.