Page images
PDF
EPUB

the head, and three times was his nose discharged against me; he stands there, like a mortar-piece, to blow us. There was a haberdasher's wife of small wit' near him, that railed upon me till her pink'd porringer fell off her head, for kindling such a combustion in the state. I miss'd the meteor once, and hit that woman, who cried out, clubs !3

keepeth some treasure hid; but philosophers affirme it to be a great unequal exhalation, inflamed betweene two clouds, the one hot, the other cold, which is the reason that it also smoketh; the middle part whereof, according to the proportion of the hot cloud, being greater than the rest, maketh it seeme like a bellie, and both ends like unto a head and taile.” MALONE.

to blow us.] Read—to blow us up. M. MASON. I believe the old reading is the true one. So, in Othello :

the cannon,

MALONE.

1

" When it hath blown his ranks into the air-." In another of our author's plays (if my memory does not deceive me) we have“ - and blow them to the moon."

STEEVENS. There was a haberdasher's wife of small wit-] Ben Jonson, whose hand Dr. Farmer thinks may be traced in different parts of this play, uses this expression in his Induction to The Magnetick Lady: “ And all haberdashers of small wit, I presume.'

till her pink'd porringer fell off her head,] Her pink'd porringer is her pink'd cap, which looked as if it had been moulded on a porringer. So, in The Taming of the Shrew :

Hab. Here is the cap your worship did bespeak.
Pet. Why this was moulded on a porringer."

MALONE. the meteor -] The fire-drake, the brazier.

JOHNSON. who cried out, clubs !] Clubs ! was the outcry for assistance, upon any quarrel or tumult in the streets. So, in The Renegado :

if he were
“ In London among the clubs, up went his heels
“ For striking of a prentice."

“ Can save you

when I might see from far some forty truncheoneers draw to her succour, which were the hope of the Strand, where she was quartered. They fell on; I made good my place; at length they came to the broomstaff with me, I defied them still; when sud. denly a file of boys behind them, loose shot, delivered such a shower of pebbles, that I was fain to draw mine honour in, and let them win the work:? The devil was amongst them, I think, surely.

Port. These are the youths that thunder at a play-house, and fight for bitten apples; 8 that no Again, in Greene's Tu Quoque :

" — Go, y'are a prating jack;
“ Nor is't your hopes of crying out for clubs,

from my chastisement.” WHALLEY. So, in the third Act of The Puritan, when Oath and Skirmish are going to fight, Simon cries, “ Clubs, clubs !". and Aaron does the like in Titus Andronicus, when Chiron and Demetrius are about to quarrel.

Nor did this practice obtain merely amongst the lower class of people : for in The First Part of Henry VI. when the Mayor of London endeavours to interpose between the factions of the Duke of Glocester, and the Cardinal of Winchester, he says: “ I'll call for clubs, if you will not away.

M. Mason. the hope of the Strand,] Sir T. Hanmer reads—the forlorn hope. Johnson.

to the broomstaff with me,] The old copy has—to Corrected by Mr. Pope. MALONE.

loose shot,] i. e. loose or random shooters. See Vol. XII. p. 143, n. 3. MALONE.

the work:] A term of fortification. STEEVENS.

that thunder at a play-house, and fight for bitten apples;] The prices of seats for the vulgar in our ancient theatres were so very low, that we cannot wonder if they were filled with the tumultuous company described by Shakspeare in

So, in The Gul's Hornbook, by Decker, 1609: “ Your groundling and gallery commoner buys his sport by the penny."

5

me.

7

8

this scene.

audience, but the Tribulation of Tower-hill, or the limbs of Limehouse, their dear brothers, are able

In Wit without Money, by Beaumont and Fletcher, is the following mention of them: “-break in at plays like prentices, for three a groat, and crack nuts with the scholars in

penny rooms again.”

Again, in The Black Book, 1604, sixpenny rooms in playhouses are spoken of.

Again, in The Bellman's Night Walks, by Decker, 1616: “ Pay thy twopence to a player in this gallery, thou may'st sit by a harsot.”

Again, in the Prologue to Beaumont and Fletcher's Mad Lover :

“ How many twopences you've stow'd to-day!" The prices of the boxes indeed were greater.

So, in The Gul's Hornbook, by Decker, 1609 : “ At a new playe you

take

up the twelvepenny room next the stage, because the lords and you may seeme to be haile fellow well met,” &c. Again, in Wit without Money:

And who extolld you in the half-crown boxes,

“ Where you might sit and muster all the beauties." And lastly, it appears from the Induction to Bartholomew Fair, by Ben Jonson, that tobacco was smoked in the same place: 6. He looks like a fellow that I have seen accommodate gentlemen with tobacco at our theatres.” And from Beaumont and Fletcher's Woman Hater, 1607, it should seem that beer was sold there: “ There is no poet acquainted with more shakings and quakings towards the latter end of his new play, when he's in that case that he stands peeping between the curtains so fearfully, that a bottle of ale cannot be opened, but he thinks somebody hisses.” STEEVENS. See the Account of our old Theatres, Vol. III. MALONE.

the Tribulation of Tower-hill, or the limbs of Limehouse,] I suspect the Tribulation to have been a puritanical meeting-house. The limbs of Limehouse I do not understand.

JOHNSON. Dr. Johnson's conjecture may be countenanced by the following passage in “ Magnificence, a goodly Interlude and a mery, devised and made by Mayster Skelton, Poete Laureate, lately deceasyd.” Printed by John Rastell, fol. no date :

“ Some fall to foly them selfe for to spyll,
“ And some fall prechynge on toure hyll." STEEVENS.

9

to endure. I have some of them in Limbo Patrum,! and there they are like to dance these three days;

Alliteration has given rise to many cant expressions, consisting of words paired together. Here we have cant names for the inhabitants of those places, who were notorious puritans, coined for the humour of the alliteration. In the mean time it must not be forgotten, that “precious limbswas a common phrase of contempt for the puritans. T. WARTON.

Limehouse was, before the time of Shakspeare, and has continued to be ever since, the residence of those who furnish stores, sails, &c. for shipping. A great number of foreigners having been constantly employed in these manufactures (many of which were introduced from other countries) they assembled themselves under their several pastors, and a number of places of different worship were built in consequence of their respective associations. As they clashed in principles they had frequent quarrels, and the place has ever since been famous for the variety of its sects, and the turbulence of its inhabitants. It is not improbable that Shakspeare wrote the lambs of Limehouse.

A limb of the devil, is, however, a common vulgarism; and in A new Trick to cheat the Devil, 1639, the same kind of expression occurs :

I am a puritan; one that will eat no pork,
“ Doth use to shut his shop on Saturdays,
“ And open them on Sunday: a familist,

" And one of the arch limbs of Belzebub." Again, in Every Man out of his Humour: “ I cannot abide these limbs of sattin, or rather Satan,"

&c. STEEVENS. The word limb, in the sense of an impudently vicious person, is not uncommon in London at this day. In the north it is pronounced limp, and means a mischievous boy. The alteration suggested by Mr. Steevens is, however, sufficiently countenanced by the word tribulation, if in fact the allusion be to the puritans.

Ritson. It

appears from Stowe's Survey that the inhabitants of Towerhill were remarkably turbulent.

It may, however, be doubted, whether this passage was levelled at the spectators assembled in any of the theatres in our author's time. It may have been pointed at some apprentices and inferior citizens, who used occasionally to appear on the

besides the running banquet of two beadles, o that is to come.

[ocr errors]

stage, in his time, for their amusement. The Palsgrave, or Hector of Germany, was acted in 1615, by a company of citizens at the Red Bull ; and The Hog hath lost his Pearle, a comedy, 1614, is said, in the title-page, to have been publickly acted by certain London 'prentices.

The fighting for bitten apples, which were then, as at present, thrown on the stage, (See the Induction to Bartholomew Fair : “ Your judgment, rascal; for what ?-Sweeping the stage? or, gathering up the broken apples?”-) and the words

which no audience can endure,” might lead us to suppose that these thunderers at the play-house were actors, and not spectators.

The limbs of Limehouse, their dear brothers, were, perhaps, young citizens, who went to see their friends wear the buskin. A passage in The Staple of News, by Ben Jonson, Act III. sc. Iast, may throw some light on that now before us : I had it from my maid Joan Hearsay, and she had it from a limb of the school, she says, a little limb of nine years old. An there were no wiser than I, I would have ne'er a cunning school-master in England.—They make all their scholars playboys. Is’t not a fine sight, to see all ur children made interluders? Do we pay our money for this ? We send them to learn their grammar and their Terence, and they learn their play-books." _School-boys, apprentices, the students in the inns of court, and the members of the universities, all, at this time, wore occasionally the sock or the buskin.-However, I am by no means confident that this is the true interpretation of the passage before us.

MALONE. It is evident that The Tribulation, from its site, must have been a place of entertainment for the rabble of its precincts, and the limbs of Limehouse such performers as furnished out the show. HENLEY.

The Tribulation does not sound in my ears like the name of any place of entertainment, unless it were particularly designed for the use of Religion's prudes, the Puritans. Mercutio or Truewit would not have been attracted by such an appellation, though it might operate forcibly on the saint-like organs of Ebenezer or Ananias.

Shakspeare, I believe, meant to describe an audience familiar. ized to excess of noise ; and why should we suppose the Tribulation was not a puritanical meeting-house because it was noisy?

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »