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A LIFE OF THE POET, EXPLANATORY FOOT-NOTES, CRITICAL
NOTES, AND A GLOSSARIAL INDEX.
Rev. HENRY N. HUDSON, LL.D.
IN TWENTY VOLUMES.
PUBLISHED BY GINN, HEATH, & CO.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1880, by
HENRY N. HUDSON, in the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
GINN & HEATH:
THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.
EGISTERED at the Stationers', January 18, 1602, as “an
excellent and pleasant-conceited comedy of Sir John Falstaff and the Merry Wives of Windsor.” In pursuance of this entry, an imperfect and probably fraudulent edition was published in the course of the same year, and was reprinted in 1619. In this quarto edition, the play is but about half as long as in the authentic copy of 1623, and some of the prose parts are printed so as to look like verse. It is in doubt whether the issue of 1602 was a fair reproduction of the play as originally written, or whether it was printed from a defective and mutilated transcript stealthily taken down by unskilful reporters at the theatre. On the former supposal, of course the play must have been rewritten and greatly improved, - a thing known to have been repeatedly done by the Poet; so that it is nowise unlikely in this
But, as the question hardly has interest enough to pay the time and labour of discussing it, I shall dismiss it without further remark.
It is to be presumed that every reader of Shakespeare is familiar with the tradition which makes this comedy to have been written at the instance of Queen Elizabeth; who, upon witnessing the performance of King Henry the Fourth, was so taken with Falstaff, that she requested the Poet to continue the character through another play, and to represent him in love. This tradition is first heard of in 1702, eighty-six years after the Poet's death; but it was accepted by the candid and careful Rowe; Pope, also, Theobald, and others, made no scruple of receiving it, — men who would not be very apt to let such a matter pass unsifted, or help to give it currency, unless they thought there was good ground for it. Besides, the thing is not at all incredible in itself, either from the alleged circumstances of the case,