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FAL. Well, thou haft call'd her to a reckoning, many a time and oft.
Fuller alludes in his Church History, 1656, when he says, “ Stage poets have themselves been very bold with, and others very merry at, the memory of Sir John Oldcaftle, whom they have fancied a boon companion, a jovial royster, and a coward to boot.” Speed in his History, which was first published in 1611, alludes both to this “ boon companion” of the anonymous K. Henry V. and to the Sir John Oldcastle exhibited in a play of the same name, which was printed in 1600: “ The author of The Three Conversions hath made Oldcastle a ruffian, a robber, and a rebel, and his authority taken from the stage players.” Oldcastle is represented as a rebel in the play last mentioned alone; in the former play as “ a ruffian and a robber.”
Shakspeare probably never intended to ridicule the real Sir John Oldcafle, Lord Cobham, in any respect; but thought proper to make Falstaff, in imitation of his proto-type, the Oldcastle of the old K. Henry V. a mad round knave also. From the first appearance of our author's King Henry IV. the old play in which Sir John Oldcastle had been exhibited, (which was printed in 1598,) was probably never performed. Hence, I conceive, it is, that Fuller says, Sir John Falstaff has relieved the memory of Sir John Oldcastle, and of late is substituted buffoon in his place;" which being misunderstood, probably gave rise to the story, that Shakspeare changed the name of his character.
A passage in his Worthies, folio, 1662, p. 253, shows his meaning still more clearly; and will serve at the same time to point out the source of the mistakes on this subject.—“ Sir John Faftolfe, knight, was a native of this county [Norfolk]. To avouch him by many arguments valiant, is to maintain that the sun is bright; though, fince, the stage has been over-bold with his memory, making him a Thrasonical puff, and emblem of mock-valour.—True it is, Sir John Oldcastle did first bear the brunt of the one, being made the makesport in all plays for a coward. It is easily known out of what purse this black penny came. The papists railing on him for a heretick; and therefore he must be also a coward : though indeed he was a man of arms, every inch of him, and as valiant as any of his
“ Now as I am glad that Sir John Oldcastle is put out, so I am sorry that Sir John Fastolfe is put in, to relieve his memory in this base service; to be the anvil for every dull wit to trike upon. Nor is our comedian excusable by some alteration of his name, writing him Sir John Falstafe, (and making him the property and
P. Hen. Did I ever call for thee to pay thy part ?
Fal. No; I'll give thee thy due, thou hast paid all there.
pleasure of King Henry V. to abuse,) seeing the vicinity of sounds intrench on the memory of that worthy knight.”
Here we see the assertion is, not that Sir John Oldcafile did firff bear the brunt in Shakspeare's play, but in all plays, that is, on the stage in general, before Shakspeare's character had appeared; owing to the malevolence of papists, of which religion it is plain Fuller supposed the writers of those plays in which Oldcastle was exhibited, to have been; nor does he complain of Shakspeare's altering the name of his character from Oldcafle to Falstaff, but of the metathesis of Faftolfe to Falstaff. Yet I have no doubt that the words above cited, “ put out” and “
put in,” and
by some alteration of his name,” that these words alone, misunderstood, gave rise to the misapprehenfion that has prevailed since the time of Mr. Rowe, relative to this matter. For what is the plain meaning of Fuller's words? “ Sir John Fastolfe was in truth a very brave man, though he is now represented on the stage as a cowardly braggart. Before he was thus ridiculed, Sir John Oldcastle, being hated by the papifts, was exhibited by popish writers, in all plays, as a coward. Since the new character of Falstaff has appeared, Oldcastle has no longer borne the brunt, has no longer been the object of ridicule: but, as on the one hand I am glad that his memory has been relieved that the plays in which he was represented have been expelled from the scene, so on the other, I am sorry that so respectable a character as Sir John Fastolfe has been brought on it, and substituted buffoon in his place;' for however our comick poet (Shakspeare] may have hoped to escape censure by aliering the name from Faftolfe to Falstaff, he is certainly culpable, lince some imputation must necessarily fall on the brave knight of Norfolk from the fimilitude of the sounds."
Falstaff having thus grown out of, and immediately succeeding, the other character, (the Oldcastle of the old K. Henry V.) having one or two features in common with him, and being probably represented in the same dress, and with the fame fictitious belly, as his predecessor, the two names might have been indiscriminately used by Field and others, without any mistake, or intention to deceive. Perhaps, behind the scenes, in confequence of the circumstances already mentioned, Oldcastle might have been a cant appellation for Falstaff, for a long time. Hence the name might have been prefixed inadvertently, in some play-house copy, to one of the speeches in The Second Part of K. Henry IV.
P. Hen. Yea, and elsewhere, so far as my coin would stretch; and, where it would not, I have used my credit.
Fal. Yea, and so used it, that, were it not here apparent that thou art heir apparent,-But, I pr’ythee, sweet wag, shall there be gallows standing in England when thou art king? and resolution thus fobb’d as it is, with the rusty curb of old father
If the verses be examined, in which the name of Falstaff occurs, it will be found, that Oldcastle could not have stood in those places. The only answer that can be given to this, is, that Shakspeare newwrote each verse in which Falstaff's name occurred;-a labour which those only who are entirely unacquainted with our author's history and works, can suppose him to have undergone.—A passage in the Epilogue to The Second Part of K. Henry IV. rightly underftood, appears to me strongly to confirm what has been now suggested. See the note there. Malone.
? And is not a buff jerkin a mof sweet robe of durance ?] To understand the propriety of the Prince's answer, it must be remarked that the sheriff's officers were formerly clad in buff.
So that when Falstaff alks, whether his hostess is not a sweet wench, the Prince asks in return whether it will not be a sweet thing to go to prifon by running in debt to this sweet wench. JOHNSON.
The following passage from the old play of Ram-Alley, may serve to confirm Dr. Johnson's observation:
“ Look, I have certain goblins in buf jerkins,
[Enter Serjeants. Again, in The Comedy of Errors, Act iv:
“ A devil in an everlasting garment hath him,
“ A fellow all in buff.” Durance, however, might also have signified some lasting kind of stuff, such as we call at present, everlasiing. So, in Westward Hoe, by Decker and Webster, 1607; • Where did'st thou buy this buff? Let me not live but I will give thee a good suit of durance. Wilt thou take my bond?”' &c.
Again, in The Devil's Charter, 1607: “ Varlet of velvet, my moccado villain, old heart of durance, my ftrip'd canvas shoulders, and my perpetuana pander.” Again, in The Three Ladies of London, 1584:
“ As the taylor that out of seven yards, itole one and a half of durance." STEEVENS.
antick the law? Do not thou, when thou art king, hang a thief.
P. Hen. No; thou shalt.
Fal. Shall I? O rare! By the Lord, I'll be a brave judge.
P. Hen. Thou judgest false already; I mean, thou shalt have the hanging of the thieves, and so become a rare hangman.
Fal. Well, Hal, well; and in some fort it jumps with my humour, as well as waiting in the court, I can tell you.
P. Hen. For obtaining of suits?
Fal. Yea, for obtaining of suits : whereof the hangman hath no lean wardrobe. Sblood, I am as melancholy as a gib cat,' or a lugg'd bear.
I'll be a brave judge.] This thought, like many others, is taken from the old play of Henry V:
“ Hen. V. Ned, so soon as I am king, the first thing I will do shall be to put my lord chief justice out of office; and thou shalt be my lord chief justice of England.
“ Ned. Shall I be lord chief justice? By gogs wounds, I'll be the bravest lord chief justice that ever was in England.”
STEEVENS. s For obtaining of suits?] Suit, spoken of one that attends at court, means a petition; used with respect to the hangman, means the clothes of the offender. JOHNSON. So, in an ancient Medley, bl. 1:
“ The broker hath gay cloaths to sell
“ Which from the hangman's budgett fell." STEEVENS. See Vol. IV. p. 325, n. 5. The fame quibble occurs in Hoffman's Tragedy, 1631: “ A poor maiden, mistress, has a suit to you; and 'tis a good fuit,very good apparel.” MALONE.
a gib cat,] A gib cat means, I know not why, an old cat. Johnson.
A gib cat is the common term in Northamptonshire, and all adjacent counties, to express a he cat. PERCY.
" As melancholy as a gib'd cat" is a proverb cnumerated among others in Ray's Collection. In A Match at Midnight, 1633,
P. Hen. Or an old lion; or a lover's lute.?
Fal. Yea, or the drone of a Lincolnshire bagpipe.
P. Hen. What say'st thou to a hare,' or the melancholy of Moor-ditch ?
'is the following passage: “ They swell like a couple of gib'd cats, met both by chance in the dark in an old garret.” So, in Bulwer's Artificial Changeling, 1653: “Some in mania or melancholy madness have attempted the fame, not without success, although they have remained somewhat melancholy like gib'd cats.” I believe after all, a gib'd cat is a cat who has been qualified for the seraglio; for all animals so mutilated, become drowsy and melancholy. To glib has certainly that meaning. So, in The Winter's Tale, Act II. fc.i:
“ And I had rather glib myself than they
“ Should not produce fair issue.” In Sidney's Arcadia, however, the same quality in a cat is mentioned, without any reference to the consequences of caftration: “ The hare, her fleights; the cat, bis melancholy."
Steevens. Sherwood's English Dictionary at the end of Cotgrave's French one, says: “ Gibbe is an old he cat." Aged animals are not so playful as those which are young; and glib'd or gelded ones are duller than others. So we might read: as melancholy as a gib cat, or a glib’d cat. TOLLET.
or a lover's lute.] See Vol. IV. p. 472, n. 9. MALONE.
Lincolnshire bagpipe.] “Lincolnshire bagpipes” is a proverbial saying. Fuller has not attempted to explain it; and Ray only conjectures that the Lincolnshire people may be fonder of this instrument than others. Douce.
I fufpect, that by the drone of a Lincolnshire bagpipe, is meant the