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Dauphin, i. e. Dolphin (so called and spelt at those times), to the trial, is represented as wishing to restrain him from any attempt to establish an opinion of his courage on an adversary who wears the least appearance of strength; and at last assists in propping up a dead body against a tree for him to try his manhood upon. Therefore, as different champions are supposed crossing the field, the king always discovers some objection to his attacking each of them, and repeats these two lines as every fresh one is introduced :
Dolphin, my boy, my boy, &c. The
song I have never seen, but had this account from an old gentleman, who was only able to repeat part of it, and died before I could have supposed the discovery would have been of the least use to me.As for the words, says suum, mun, they are only to be found in the first folio, and were probably added by the players, who, together with the press-setters, were likely enough to corrupt what they did not understand, or to add more of their own to what they already concluded to be nonsense.
-Flibbertigibbet:] We are not much acquainted with this fiend. Latimer in his sermons mentions him; and Heywood, among his sixte hundred of Epigrams, edit. 1576, has the following, Of calling one Flebergibet : “Thou Flebergibet, Flebergibet, thou wretch! “ Wottest thou whereto last part of that word doth
“ Leave that word, or I'll bast thee with a libet; “ Of all woords I hate woords that end with gibet.”
STEEVENS. -the web and the pin,] Diseases of the eye. 61 the wall-newt, and the water;] i. e. the waternewt.
Modo he's call’d, and Mahu.] These names are all taken from Harsenet's Declaration, &c. as are Hopdance, Fratterretto, Purre, Haberdicut or Obidicut, Smolkin, &c. These last were the devils that possessed Sarah Williams.-Harsenet, page 181.
STEEVENS. 63 Child Rowland-] In the old times of chivalry, the noble youth who were candidates for knighthood, during the season of their probation, were called Infuns, Varlets, Damoysels, Bacheliers. The most noble of the youth particularly, Infans. Here a story is told, in some old ballad, of the famous hero and giant-killer Roland, before he was knighted, who is, therefore, called Infans; which the ballad-maker translated, Child Roland.
WARBURTON. -a horse's health,] Without doubt we should read heels, i. e. to stand behind him. WARBURTON.
Shakspeare is here speaking not of things maliciously treacherous, but of things uncertain and not durable. A horse is above all other animals subject to diseases.
JOHNSON. 65 Wantest thou eyes at trial, madam?] I am not confident that I understand the meaning of this desultory speech. When Edgar says, Look where he
stands and glares ! he seems to be speaking in the character of a mad-man, who thinks he sees the fiend. Wantest thou eyes at trial, madam? is a question which appears to be addressed to the visionary Gonerill, and may signify, Do you want to attract admiration, even while you stand at the bar of justice? · At trial, madam?] It may be observed that Edgar, being supposed to be found by chance, and therefore to have no knowledge of the rest, connects not his ideas with those of Lear, but pursues his own train of delirious or fantastic thought. To these words, At trial, madam? I think, therefore, that the name of Lear should be put. The process of the dialogue will support this conjecture.
JOHNSON. -Hopdance cries in Tom's belly for two white herring.] Sarah Williams confessed (see Harsenet's book, p. 195) that when she was troubled with a croaking in her stomach from emptiness, the priests persuaded her it was the fiend within her.
67 brach, or lym;] A limmer or leamer, a dog of the chace, was so called from the leam or leash in which he was held till he was let slip.
Caius de Canibus Britannicis. 68 Poor Tom, thy horn is dry.] Men that begged under pretence of lunacy used formerly to carry a horn, and blow it through the streets.
JOHNSON. 69 my lord of Gloster.) Meaning Edmund, newly invested with his father's titles. The steward, speaking immediately after, mentions the old duke by the same title.
70 -his corky arms.] Dry, withered, husky arms.
JOHNSON. 71 Our mean securcs us;] i. e. Moderate, mediocre condition. 72 I cannot daub it further.) i. e. Disguise. WARB.
-possesses chamber-maids and waiting-women.] Shakspeare has made Edgar, in his feigned distraction, frequently allude to a vile imposture of some English jesuits, at that time much the subject of conversation; the history of it having been just then composed with great art and vigour of stile and composition by Dr. S. Harsenet, afterwards archbishop of York, by order of the privy-council, in a work intitled, A Declaration of egregious Popish Impostures to withdraw her Majesty's Subjects from their Allegiance, &c. practised by Edmunds, alias Weston, a Jesuit, and divers Romish Priests his wicked Associates: printed 1603. The imposture was in substance this.
While the Spaniards were preparing their armada against England, the jesuits were here busy at work to promote it, by making converts: one method they employed was to dispossess pretended demoniacs, by which artifice they made several hundred converts amongst the common people. The principal scene of this farce was laid in the family of one Mr. Edmund Peckham, a Roman-catholic, where Marwood, a servant of Antony Babington's (who was afterwards executed for treason), Trayford, an attendant
upon Mr. Peckham, and Sarah and Friswood Williams, and Anne Smith, three chamber-maids in that family, came into the priest's hands for cure.
But the discipline of the patients was so long and severe, and the priests so elate and careless with their success, that the plot was discovered on the confession of the parties concerned, and the contrivers of it deservedly punished. The five devils here mentioned are the names of five of those who were made to act in this farce upon the chamber-maids and waitingwomen; and they were generally so ridiculously nicknamed, that Harsenet has one chapter on the strange names of their devils; lest, says he, meeting them otherwise by chance, you mistake them for the name of tapsters or jugglers.
-I marvel, our mild husband Not met us on the way:] It must be remembered that Albany, the husband of Gonerill, disliked, in the end of the first act, the scheme of oppression and ingratitude.
75 I have been worth the whistle.] This expression is a reproach to Albany for having neglected her; though you disregard me thus, I have been worth the whistle, I have found one that thinks me worth calling.
JOHNSON. This expression is a proverbial one. Heywood in one of his dialogues, consisting entirely of proverbs, says, “ It is a poor dog that is not worth the whistling."
STEEVENS. 76 Thou changed and self-cover'd thing, for shame,] Of these lines there is but one copy, and the editors