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MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR. ] A few of the iocidenta in this comedy might have been taken from some old translation of Il Pecorone by Giovanni Fiorentino. I have lately met with the same story in a very contemptible performance, intitled, The fortunate, the deceived, and the unfortunate Lovers. of this book, as I am told, there are several impreflions; but that in which I read it, was published in 1632, quarto. A somewhat similar story occurs in Piacevoli Notti di Straparola, Nott. 4a. Fav. 4a.
This comedy was firft entered at Stationers' Hall, Jan. 18, 1601, by John Busby. STEEVENS. This play should be read between K. Henry IV. and K. Henry V.
JOHNSON. A passage in the first Iketch of The Merry Wives of Windsor shews, think, that it ought rather to be read between the First and the Second Part of King Henry IV. in the latter of which young Henry becomes king. In the last act , Falllaff says:
6. Herne the hunter , quoth you ? am I a ghost?
«. Is stealing his father's deare. ;, and in this play, as it now appears, Mr. Page discountenances the addresses of Fenton to his daughter, because “ he keeps company with the wild prince, and with Poins.
The Fishwife's Tole of Brainford in WESTWARD FOR SMELTS, a book which Shakspeare appears to have read, (having borrowed from it part of the fable of Cymbeline, ) probably led him to lay the fcene of Falstaff's love adventures at Windsor. It begins thus: “ In Windsor not long agoe dwelt a sumpterman, who had to wife a very faire but wanton creature, over whom, not without cause,, he was something jealous ; yet had he never any proof of her in. constancy."
The reader who is curious in such matters, may find the story of The Lovers of Pifa, mentioned by Dr. Farmer in the following note, at the end of this play. MALONE.
The adventures of Falstaff in this play seem to have been taken from the story of The Lovers of Pisa, in an old piece, called " Tarleton's Newes out of Purgatorie. Mr. Capell pretended to much knowledge of this fort; and I am sorry that it proved to be only pretension.
Mr. Warton observes, in a note to the last Oxford edition, that the play was probably not written, as we now have it, befoie 1607, at the earliest, 1
with my very ingenious friend in this fupposition, but yet the argument here produced for it may not be conclusive. Slender obferves to master Page, that his greyhound
was out-run on Colfale [ Cotswold-Hills in Gloucestershire and Mt. Warton thinks, that the games, established there by Captain Dover in the beginning of K. James's reign, are alluded to. But perhaps, though the Captain be celebrated in the Annalia Dubrensa as the founder of them, he might be the reviver only, or some way contribute to make them more famous; for in The Second part of Henry IV: 1600, Justice Shallow reckons among the Swinge-bucklers,'". Will Squeele, a Cotsole man.
In the first edition of the imperfe& play , fir Hugh Evans is called on the title page, the Welch Knight; and yet there are some persons who still affect to believe, that all our author's plays were originally published by himself. FARMER.
Dr. Farmer's opinion is well supported by " An eclogue on the noble assemblies revived on Cotswold Hills, by Mr. Robert Dover. See Randolph's Poems, printed at Oxford, 4to. 1638, p. 114. The hills of Cotswold, in Gloucestershire, are mentioned in K. Richard II. A& II. sc. iii. and by Drayton, in his Polyolbion, song 14. STEEVENS.
Queen Elizabeth was so well pleased with the admirable characo ter of Falstaff in The Two Parts of Henry IV. that, as Mr. Rowe informs us,
the commanded Shakspeare to continue it for one play more, and to sew him in love. To this command we owe The Merry Wives of Windsor; which, Mr. Gildon says, [Remarks on Shakspeare's plays , 8vo. 1710,] he was very well assured our author finished in a fortnight. But this must be meant only of the first imperfect sketch of this comedy. An old quarto edition which I have seen, printed in 1602, says, in the title-page, As it hath been divers times acted before her majesty, and elsewhere. This which we liave here, was altered and improved by the author almost in every fpeech. Pope. THEOBALD.
Mr. Gildon has likewise told us., 66 that our author's house at Stratford bordered on the Church-yard, and that he wrote the scene of the Ghost in Hamlet there. But neither for this, or the affertion that the play before us was written in a fortnight, does he quote any authority. The latter circumstance was first mentioned by Mr. Dennis. 5. This comedy,” says he , in his Epistle Dedicatory to The Cornical Gallani , (an alteration of the present play, ) 1702, “ was wiitten at her [ Queen Elizabeth's ] command, and by her dire&tion, and she was so eager to see it aded, that the commanded it to be finished in fourteen days ; and was afterwards, as tradition tells us, very well pleased at the representation. The information, it is probable, came originally from Dryden, wlio from his intimacy with Sir William Davenant had an opportunity of learning many particulars cono cerniag our author.
At what period Shakspeare new-modelled The Merry Wives of Wind for is unknown. I believe it was enlarged in 1603. See some conje&ures on the subje& in the Attempt to afcertain the order of his plays, Vol. II. MALONE.
It is not generally known, that the first edition of The Merry Wives of Windsor, in its present state, is in the valuable folio, printed 1623, from whence the quarto of the same play, dated 1630, was evidently copied. The two earlier quartos, 1602, and 1619, only exhibit this comedy as it was originally written, and are so far curious, as they contain Shakspeare's first conceptions in forming a drama, which is the most complete specimen of his comick powers.
Sir John Falstaff.
} two gentlemen dwelling at Windsor.
followers of Falstaff.
Servants to Page, Ford, br.