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MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.
A Few of the incidents of this comedy might have been taken from an old translation of Il Pecorone di Giovanni Fiorentino. The same story is to be met with in “ The Fortunate, the Deceived, and the Unfortunate Lovers, 1632.” A somewhat similar one occurs in the Piacevoli Notti di Straparola. Notte iv. Favola iv.
The adventures of Falstaff seem to have been taken from the story of the lovers of Pisa in “ Tarleton's Newes out of Purgatorie,” bl. l. no date, but entered on the Stationers' books in 1590. The fishwife's tale, in “ Westward for Smelts,” a book from which Shakspeare borrowed part of the fable of Cymbeline, probably led him to lay the scene at Windsor.
Mr. Malone thinks that the following line in the earliest edition of this comedy, • Sail like my pinnace to those golden shores,' shows that it was written after Sir Walter Raleigh's return from Guiana in 1596.
The first edition of the Merry Wives of Windsor was printed in 1602, and it was probably written in 1601, after the two parts of King Henry IV., being, as it is said, composed at the desire of Queen Elizabeth, * in order to exhibit Falstaff in love, when all the pleasantry which he could afford in any other situation was exhausted.
It may not be thought so clear that it was written after King Henry V.
* This story seems to have been first mentioned by Dennis in the Dedication to his alteration of this play, under the title of “ The Comical Gallant.” “ This comedy," says he,“ was written at Queen Elizabeth's command, and by her direction, and she was so eager to see it acted, that she commanded it to be finished in fourteen days; and was afterwards, as tradition tells us, very well pleased at the representation.” The information probably came originally from Dryden, who, from his intimacy with Sir W. Davenant, had opportunities of learning many particulars concerning Shakspeare. VOL. 1.