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Dum. Will you vouchsafe with me to change a word?
Say you so? Fair lord,
Please it you,
[They converse apart. Kath. What, was your visor made without a tongue? Long. I know the reason, lady, why you ask. Kath. O, for your reason! quickly, sir; I long.
Long. You have a double tongue within your mask,
Kath. Veal, quoth the Dutchman;4_Is not veal a calf?
No, a fair lord calf.
No, I'll not be your half: -
Kath. Then die a calf, before your horns do grow.
[They converse apart. Boyet. The tongues of mocking wenches are as keen
As is the razor's edge invisible, Cutting a smaller hair than may be seen;
Above the sense of sense: so sensible Seemeth their conference; their conceits have wings, Fleeter than arrows, bullets, wind, thought, swifter
things.5 Ros. Not one word more, my maids; break off, break off. Biron. By heaven, all dry-beaten with pure scoff!
4 Veal, quoth the Dutchman;] I suppose by veal she means well, sounded as foreigners usually pronounce that word; and intro. duced merely for the sake of the subsequent question. Malone.
5 Fleeter than arrows, bullets, wind, thought, swifter things.] Mr. Ritson observes, that, for the sake of measure, the word bullets should be omitted. Steevens.
King. Farewel, mad wenches; you have simple wits.
[Exeunt King, Lords, Moth, Musick, and Attendants. Prin. Twenty adieus, my frozen Muscovites. Are these the breed of wits so wonder'd at? Boyet. Tapers they are, with your sweet breaths puff'd
out. Ros. Well-liking wits6 they have; gross, gross; fat, fat.
Prin. O poverty in wit, kingly-poor flout! Will they not, think you, hang themselves to night?
Or ever, but in visors, show their faces ? This pert Birón was out of countenance quite.
Ros. O! they were all? in lamentable cases ! The king was weeping-ripe for a good word.
Prin. Birón did swear himself out of all suit.
Mar. Dumain was at my service, and his sword: No point, quoth I;8 my servant straight was mute.
Kath. Lord Longaville said, I came o'er his heart; And trow you, what he call'd me? Prin.
Qualm, perhaps. Kath. Yes, in good faith.. Prin.
Go, sickness as thou art! Ros. Well, better wits have worn plain statute-caps.9
o Well-liking wits-] Well-liking is the same as embonpoint. So, in Fob, xxxix, 4: “ Their young ones are in good liking.”
Steevens. 70! they were all &c.] 0, which is not found in the first quarto or folio, was added by the editor of the second folio. Malone.
8 Na point, quoth 1;] Point in French is an adverb of negation; but, if properly spoken, is not sounded like the point of a sword. A quibble, however, is intended. From this and the other passages it appears, that either our author was not well acquainted with the pronunciation of the French language, or it was different formerly from what it is at present.
The former supposition appears to me much the more probable of the two.
In The Return from Parnassus, 1606, Philomusus says-Tit, tit, tit, non poynte ; non debet fieri,” &c. See also Florio's Italian Dict. 1598, in v. “Punto.--never a whit;-no point, as the Frenchmen say." Malone.
9- better wits have worn plain statute-caps.] This line is not universally understood, because every reader does not know that a statute-cap is part of the academical habit. Lady Rosaline declares that her expectation was disappointed by these courtly stu. dents, and that better wits might be found in the common places of education. Johnson.
But will you hear? the king is my love sworn.
Prin. And quick Birón hath plighted faith to me.
Woollen caps were enjoined by act of parliament, in the year 1571, the 13th of Queen Elizabeth. “Besides the bills passed into acts this parliament, there was one which I judge not amiss to be taken notice of—it concerned the Queen's care for employ. ment for her poor sort of subjects. It was for continuance of making and wearing woollen caps, in behalf of the trade of cappers; providing, that all above the age of six years, (except the nobility and some others) should on sabbath days and holy days, wear caps of wool, knit, thicked, and drest in England, upon penalty of ten groats.” Strype's Annals of Queen Elizabeth, Vol. II, p. 74. Grey.
This act may account for the distinguishing mark of Mother Red-cap. I have observed that mention is made of this sign by some of our ancient pamphleteers and playwriters, as far back as the date of the act referred to by Dr. Grey. If that your cap be wool-became a proverbial saying. So, in Hans Beerpot, a comedy, 1618:
“ You shall not finch; if that your cap be wool,
" You shall along." Steevens. I think my own interpretation of this passage is right.
Johnson. Probably the meaning ism-better wits may be found among the citizens, who are not in general remarkable for sallies of imagina. tion. In Marston's Dutch Courtezan, 1605, Mrs. Mulligrub says : “ – though my husband be a citizen, and his cap's made of wool, yet I have wit.” Again, in The Family of Love, 1608: “'Tis a law enacted by the common-council of statute-caps.” Again, in Newes from Hell, brought by the Devil's Carrier, 1606:
"- in a bowling alley in a flat cap like a shop-keeper." That these sumptuary laws, which dictated the form and materials of caps, the dimensions of ruffs, and the length of swords, were executed with great exactness but little discretion, by a set of people placed at the principal avenues of the city, may be known from the following curious passage in a letter from Lord Talbot to the Earl of Shrewsbury, June, 1580 : “ The French Imbasidore, Mounswer Mouiser, Mauvisiere, or, rather, Malvoisier) ridinge to take the ayer, in his returne cam thowrowe Smithfield; and ther, at the bars, was steayed by thos officers that sitteth to cut sourds, by reason his raper was longer than the statute: He was in a great feaurie, and dreawe his raper. In the meane season my Lord Henry Seamore cam, and so steayed the matt.r Hir Matie is greatlie ofended wth the ofisers, in that they wanted jugement.” See Lodge's Illustrations of British History, Yol. II, p. 228. Steevens.
Boyet. Madam, and pretty mistresses, give ear:
They will, they will, God knows; And leap for joy, though they are lame with blows: Therefore, change favours; and, when they repair, Blow like sweet roses in this summer air.
Prin. How blow ? how blow? speak to be understood.
Boyet. Fair ladies, mask'd, are roses in their bud : Dismask'd, their damask sweet commixture shown, Are angels vailing clouds, or roses blown."
The statute mentioned by Dr. Grey was repealed in the year 1597. The epithet by which these statute caps are described, “plain statute caps,” induces me to believe the interpretation given in the preceding note by Mr. Steevens, the true one. The king and his lords probably wore hats adorned with feathers. So they are represented in the print prefixed to this play in Mr. Rowe's edition, probably from some stage tradition. Malone. 1 Fair ladies, mask'd, are roses in their bud; Dismask'd, their damask sweet commixture shown,
Are angels vailing clouds or roses blown.] This strange nonsense, made worse by the jumbling together and transposing the lines, I directed Mr. Theobald to read thus :
Fair ladies mask'd are roses in their bud:
Dismask'd their damask sweet commixture shown. But he, willing to show how well he could improve a thought, would print it:
Or angel-veiling clouds i.e. clouds which veil angels: and by this means gave us, as the old proverb says, a cloud for a Funo. It was Shakspeare's purpose to compare a fine lady to an angel; it was Mr. Theobald's chance to compare her to a cloud : and perhaps the ill-bred reader will say a lucky one. However, I supposed the poet could never be so nonsensical as to compare a masked lady to a cloud, though he might compare her mask to one. The Oxford editor, who had the advantage both of this emendation and criticism, is a great deal more subtile and refined, and says it should not be
_ angels veil'd in clouds. but
angels vailing clouds. i. e. capping the sun as they go by him, just as a man vails his bonnet. Warburton.
I know not why Sir T. Hanmer's explanation should be treated with so much contempt, or why vailing clouds should be capping
Prin. Avaunt, perplexity! What shall we do,
Ros. Good madam, if by me you 'll be advis'd,
Boyet. Ladies, withdraw; the gallants are at hand.
[Exeunt Princess, 3 Ros. Kath. and MAR. Enter the King, BIRON, LONGAVILLE, and Dumain, in
their proper habits. King. Fair sir, God save you! Where is the princess?
Boyet. Gone to her tent: Please it your majesty, Command me any service to her thither?
King. That she vouchsafe me audience for one word. Boyet. I will; and so will she, I know, my lord. [Exit.
Biron. This fellow pecks up wit, as pigeons peas;* And utters it again when God doth please.
the sun. Ladies unmask'd, says Boyet, are like angels vailing clouds, or letting those clouds which obscured their brightness, sink from before them. What is there in this absurd or contemptible?
Fohnson. Holinshed's History of Scotland, p. 91, says: “ The Britains began to avale the hills where they had lodged." i. e. they began to descend the hills, or come down from them to meet their enemies. If Shakspeare uses the word vailing in this sense, the meaning is-Angels descending from clouds which concealed their beauties; but Dr. Johnson's exposition may be better. Tollet.
To avale comes from the Fr. aval (Terme de batelier] Down, downward, down the stream. So, in the French Romant de la Rose, v. 1415:
" Leaue aloit aoal enfaisant
“Son melodieux et plaisant." Again, in Laneham's Narrative of Queen Elizabeth's Entertainment at Kenelworth Castle, 1575: " as on a sea-shore when the water is availd.” Steevens.
2_ sbapeless gear;] Shapeless, for uncouth, or what Shak. speare elsewhere calls diffused. Warburton. 3 Exeunt Princess, &c.] Mr. Theobald ends the fourth Act here.