will hack,” II, i, 55), and similar internal evidence, point to the reign of James I; these scholars therefore date the Folio version about 1605. On the other hand, Mr. Daniel (Introduction to his editions maintains that "the character of the publishers of the Quarto, its proved omissions, its recomposed passages (i. e. passages actually the work not of Shakespeare, but of the note-taker), its retention of (essential) passages omitted in the Folio, the complication in both of the time-plot . ... lead almost ineyitably to the conclusion that there was but one original for both Quarto and Folio.” He points out further that the alleged internal evidence of later revision is of little real value, but it is somewhat difficult to get rid of these minutiæ, and some slight revision after 1603 is not inconsistent with this latter theory.


The comedy o. contemporary manners probably owed very little to older plays or novels, but it contains incidents not uncommon in Italian and other stories. In the following tales a suspicious husband is baffled much in the same way as Master Ford :-(1) The tale from Il Pecorone di Ser Giovanni Fiorentino; (2) The old English version of this story in The Fortunate, the Deceived, and the Unfortunate Lovers, 1632, reprinted in 1685; (3) The Tale in Straparola similar to that in Il Pecorone; (4) The Tales of the Two Lovers of Pisa, from Tarlton's Neves out of Pergatoriè, 1590; (5) The second tale from Straparola, in which the youth makes love to three ladies at once (cp. Hazlitt's Shakespeare's Library, Part I, vol. ii).


It would seem that there existed in Shakespeare's day a tradition at Windsor that Herne was one of the keepers of the Park, who, having committed an offense for which he feared to be disgraced, hung himself upon an oak, which was ever afterwards haunted by his ghost.


The difference between the Quarto and Folio reference to the story is noteworthy; the former reads :

“Oft have you heard since Horne the hunter dyed The Folio makes the tale a more ancient one (cp. IV. iv. 37-39).

The earliest notice of “Herne's oak” is in a Plan of the Town and Castle of Windsor and Little Park (Eton, 1742); in the map a tree marked “Sir John Falstaff's oak” is represented as being on the edge of a pit just on the outside of an avenue which was formed in the seventeenth century, and known as Queen Elizabeth's Walk. Halliwell first printed, in his edition of the Quarto, a set of verses Upon Herne's Oak being cut down in the spring of 1796. Antiquarian research has demonstrated the exactness, of Shakespeare's knowledge of Old Windsor (cp. Tighe and Davis' Annals of Windsor, Vol. 1, pp. 673– 686).


As the play stands in the Quartos and Folios it is impossible to arrange the time consistently, owing to the confusion as regards Falstaff's interviews with the Merry Wives in Act III, sc. v; the errors are probably due to compression of the play for stage purposes. The first part of the scene, according to Mr. Daniel (Translations of New Shakespeare Society, 1878-9), is inseparably connected with the day of Falstaff's first interview with Mrs. Ford; the second part is as inseparably connected with the day of the second interview. The first part clearly shows us Falstaff in the afternoon, just escaped from his ducking in the Thames; the second part as clearly shows him in the early morning about to keep his second appointment with Mrs. Ford. He proposes to make Ford's portion of the scene commence the 4th Act, changing good morrow into good even (Act III, v, 29) and this morning into to-morrow morning (Act III, v, 47). According to this arrangement the following time analysis would result:-Day 1, Act I, sc. i to iv; Day 2, Act II, sc. i to iii, Act III, sc. i to iv, and the Quickly portion of scene v; Day 3, the Ford portion of Act III, sc. v, to end of the play.

If this suggestion is carried out, a further change is necessary in Act V, i, 14, where this morning should be read in place of yesterday.


Though the play was in all probability composed after Henry V, the action may be supposed to take place after the events recorded at the end of II Henry IV; the further degradation of the character of Falstaff in The Merry Wives belongs to the early years of “the madcap prince's" reign, when he had already renounced "the tutor and the feeder of his riot.” The characters intimately associated with Falstaff were transferred with him from II Henry IV, with the exception of “Nym,” who appears for the first time in Henry V; Shallow's “cousin,” Slender, of The Merry Wives, takes the place of “Silence” of II Henry IV; Mistress Quickly is identical only in name with the Hostess Quickly of Henry IV, and Henry V.



The Merry Wives of Windsor, as we have it, was first printed in the folio of 1623, where it occupies the third place in the list of Comedies. An imperfect and probably fraudulent edition, however, came out in 1602, and was reprinted in 1619. In this edition the play is but about half as long as in the authentic copy of 1623; the scenes following each other in the same order, except in one instance; and some prose parts being printed in the manner of verse. Much question has been made, whether the impression of 1602 were from a correct copy of an unfinished play, or from a report stolen at the theater and mangled in the stealing.

Of course every reader of Shakespeare has heard the tradition that Queen Elizabeth, upon witnessing the performance of Henry IV, was so taken with Falstaff that she forthwith requested the Poet to represent him in the quality of a lover; in compliance with which request he wrote The Merry Wives of Windsor. ueen Elizabeth was indeed a great woman, and did some great things: but if it were certain that she was thus the occasion of this play, there are many who would not scruple to set it down as the best thing she had any agency in bringing to pass; and another many who might regard it as the best

If this be wrong, there is no help for it; for such, assuredly, will always be the case so long as men can “laugh and grow fat."

But there is much diversity of judgment touching the amount of credit due to this tradition. Mr. Collier says: “When traced to its source, it can be carried back no

but one.


further than 1702: John Dennis in that year printed his Comical Gallant, founded upon The Merry Wives of Windsor, and in the dedication he states that the comedy was written at the command of Queen Elizabeth, and by her direction; and she was so eager to see it acted, that she commanded it to be finished in fourteen days.' Dennis gives no authority for any part of this assertion: but because he knew Dryden, it is supposed to have come from

and because Dryden was acquainted with Davenant, it has been conjectured that the latter communicated it to the former. We own that we place little or no reliance on the story, especially recollecting that Dennis had to make out a case in favor of his alterations, by showing that Shakespeare had composed the comedy in an incredibly short period, and consequently that it was capable of improvement.”

All which is clever and spirited enough, but strikes us as a rather too summary disposing of the matter; the tradition not being incredible in itself, nor the immediate sources of it unentitled to confidence: for, granting that “Dennis had to make out a case in favor of his alterations,” would he not be more likely to avail himself of something generally received, than to get up so questionable a fabrication? The date of his statement was but eighty-six years after the Poet's death ;-a time when much traditionary matter, handed down from the reign of Elizabeth, was doubtless in circulation, that had not yet got into print: Dennis moved more or less in the literary circle of which Dryden was the center; and that circle, however degenerate, was the lineal successor of the glorious constellation gathered about Shakespeare. It is considerable that Dennis gave no reason for the Queen's alleged request; which reason Rowe a few years later stated to be the pleasure she had from Falstaff in Henry II'; -a difference of statement that rather goes to accredit the substance of the tradition, because it looks as if both drew from a common source, not one from the other; each using such and so much of the traditionary matter

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