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Bast. O, let us pay the time but needful woe,

Since it hath been beforehand with our griefs.
This England never did, nor never shall,
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror,
But when it first did help to wound itself.
Now these her princes are come home again, 115
Come the three corners of the world in arms,
And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us

rue, If England to itself do rest but true. [Exeunt. 110. time but] Rowe ; time : but Ff.

110. let us pay ... woe] let us to Steenie and Baby Charles, who not give way to needless grief. came back from Madrid in the year

115. princes] “princes” evidently that the first edition of King John refers to the nobles returning to their was published, and thrust in by the allegiance. The Cambridge edition editors, or perhaps by the actors, in prints Mr. Lloyd's suggestion that place of a line of similar purport, the line is spurious-“A compliment but less applicable."



in his Discove describes two scribed by

King John, Act III. sc. i. l. 242: “Play fast and loose ..." Various differing accounts of the “cheating game” known as “fast and loose” have been given. In the New English Dictionary we find Halliwell (1847) quoted: "a cheating game played with a stick and a belt or string so arranged that a spectator would think that he could make the latter fast by placing a stick through its intricate folds, whereas the operator could detach it at once."

Reginald Scot in his Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584) (Nicholson's Reprint, p. 276) describes two sleight-ofhand tricks which differ entirely from that described by Halliwell. They consist in making the looker-on believe that a knot in a handkerchief in the one case, and a bead on a string in the other, are “fast” when they are really “loose."

Sir John Hawkins (quoted in Phin's Shakespeare Cyclopædia, p. 112) speaks of the game as follows: “A leathern belt was made up into a number of intricate folds and placed edgewise upon a table. One of the folds was made to resemble the middle of the girdle, so that whoever could thrust a skewer into it would think he held it fast to the table; whereas when he had so done, the person with whom he plays may take hold of both ends, and draw it away." This is also quoted in the


Dyce-Littledale Glossary sub voce, with the addition, “This trick is now known to the common people by the name of pricking at the belt or girdle, and perhaps was practised by gypsies in the time of Shakespeare.”

This evidently is the kind of game alluded to in Drayton's Mooncalf :

He like a gypsy oftentimes would go,
All kinds of gibberish he hath learned to know :
And with a stick, a short string, and a noose

Would show the people tricks at fast and loose. This game is still played at country fairs and on racecourses, and the trick is worked as follows :

A doubled belt is wound up upon itself with the middle, i.e. the doubled end, in the centre. It is then laid edgewise on a flat surface and the gull is asked to

thrust a skewer or a knife through the central fold. This in the diagram is obviously A. If now the holder of the belt slips the end D round into the position D I, and then pulls at C and D together, B becomes the central fold and the skewer or knife does not hold the belt "fast" as the gull expects. If the gull next time chooses B as the central fold, C and D are of course pulled off at once together. Hence the belt can be made “ fast” or “loose” at the will of the player of the game.

This trick was evidently well known in Elizabethan times, for we find many mentions of it, e.g. Antony and Cleopatra, IV. X. 41, 42: “Like a right gipsy, hath, at fast and loose, Beguild me”; and the first part of Promos and Cassandra, ii. 5: “At fast and loose, my gyptian, I mean to have a cast.”

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