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Ros. It is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue ; but it is no more unhandsome, than to see the lord the prologue. If it be true, that good wine needs no bush, 'tis true that a good play needs no epilogue : yet to good wine they do use good bushes; and good plays prove the better by, the help of good epilogues. What a case am I in, then, that am neither a good epilogue, nor cannot insinuate with you in the behalf of a good play? I am not furnished? like a beggar; therefore to beg will not become me. My way is, to conjure you; and I'll begin with the women. 1 charge you, o women, for the love you bear to men, to like as much of this play as please you : 3 and I charge you, O men, for the love you bear to women, (as I perceive, by your simpering, none of you hate them,) that between you and the women the play may please. If I were a woman,' I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased me, complexions that liked me, and breaths that I defied not; and I am sure, as many as have good beards, or good faces, or sweet breaths, will, for my kind offer, when I make courtesy, bid me farewell.
i It was formerly the general custom in England, as it is still in France and the Netherlands, to hang a bush of ivy at the door of a vintner.
2 Furnished, dressed.
3 This is the reading of the old copy, which has been altered to “as much of this play as please them,” but surely without necessity. It is only the omission of the s at the end of please, which gives it a quaint appearance; but it was the practice of the Poet's age.
4 The parts of women were performed by men or boys in Shakspeare's time.
5 i. e. that I liked.
Of this play the fable is wild and pleasing. I know not how the ladies will approve the facility with which both Rosalind and Celia give away their hearts. To Celia much may be forgiven for the heroism of her friendship. The character of Jaques is natural and well preserved. The comic dialogue is very sprightly, with less mixture of low buffoonery than in some other plays; and the graver part is elegant and harmonious. By hastening to the end of this work, Shakspeare suppressed the dialogue between the usurper and the hermit, and lost an opportunity of exhibiting a moral lesson, in which he might have found matter worthy of his highest powers.