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Folk-lore of Shakespeare, by T.F. Thiselton Dyer, [1883], at

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In years gone by the anniversaries connected with the calendar were kept up with an amount of enthusiasm and merrymaking quite unknown at the present day. Thus, for instance, Shakespeare tells us, with regard to the May-day observance, that it was looked forward to so eagerly as to render it impossible to make the people sleep on this festive occasion. During the present century the popular celebrations of the festivals have been gradually on the decline, and nearly every year marks the disuse of some local custom. Shakespeare has not omitted to give a good many scattered allusions to the old superstitions and popular usages associated with the festivals of the year, some of which still survive in our midst.

   Alluding to the revels, there can be no doubt that Shakespeare was indebted to the revel-books for some of his plots. Thus, in the "Tempest" (iv. 1), Prospero remarks to Ferdinand and Miranda, after Iris, Ceres, and Juno have appeared, and the dance of the nymphs is over:—

"You look, my son, in a moved sort,
 As if you were dismay’d; be cheerful, sir,
 Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
 As I foretold you, were all spirits and
 Are melted into air, into thin air,
 And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
 The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
 The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
 Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
 And like this insubstantial pageant faded,
 Leave not a rack behind."

   It has been inferred that Shakespeare was present at Kenilworth, in 1575, when Elizabeth was so grandly entertained

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there. Lakes and seas are represented in the mask. Triton, in the likeness of a mermaid, came towards the queen, says George Goscoyne, and "Arion appeared sitting on a dolphin's back." In the dialogue in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" between Oberon and Puck (ii. 1), there seems a direct allusion to this event:—

"Oberon. My gentle Puck, come hither. Thou rememberst
 Since once I sat upon a promontory,
 And heard a mermaid on a dolphin's back
 Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath
 That the rude sea grew civil at her song
 And certain stars shot madly from their spheres,
 To hear the sea-maid's music.
 Puck.                                I remember," etc.

   Then, too, there were the "Children of the Revels," a company who performed at Blackfriars Theatre. In "Hamlet" (ii. 2), Shakespeare alludes to these "children-players." 1 Rosencrantz says, in the conversation preceding the entry of the players, in reply to Hamlet's inquiry whether the actors have suffered through the result of the late inhibition, evidently referring to the plague, "Nay, their endeavour keeps in the wonted pace; but there is, sir, an aery of children, little eyases, that cry out on the top of question, and are most tyrannically clapped for ’t; these are now the fashion, and, so berattle the common stages—so they call them—that many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose-quills, and dare scarce come hither."

   Twelfth-Day.—There can be no doubt that the title of Shakespeare's play, "Twelfth-Night," took its origin in the festivities associated with this festival. The season has from time immemorial been one of merriment, "the more decided from being the proper close of the festivities of Christmas, when games of chance were traditionally rife, and the sport of sudden and casual elevation gave the tone of the time. Of like tone is the play, and to this," says Mr Lloyd, 2 "it apparently owes its title." The play, it appears, was probably originally acted at the barristers’ feast at the Middle Temple,

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on February 2, 1601–2, as Manningham tells us in his "Diary" (Camden Society, 1868, ed. J. Bruce, p. 18). It is worthy of note that the festive doings of the Inns of Court, in days gone by at Christmas-tide, were conducted on the most extravagant scale. 1 In addition to the merry disports of the Lord of Misrule, there were various revels. The Christmas masque at Gray's Inn, in 1594, was on a magnificent scale.

   St Valentine's Day (Feb. 14).—Whatever may be the historical origin of this festival, whether heathen or Christian, there can be no doubt of its antiquity. According to an old tradition, to which Chaucer refers, birds choose their mates on this day; and hence, in the "Midsummer Night's Dream" (iv. 1) Theseus asks—

"Good morrow, friends. St Valentine is past;
 Begin these wood-birds but to couple now?"

From this notion, it has been suggested, arose the once popular practice of choosing valentines, and also the common belief that the first two single persons who meet in the morning of St Valentine's day have a great chance of becoming to each other. This superstition is alluded to in Ophelia's song in "Hamlet" (iv. 5):—

"To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
   All in the morning betime,
 And I a maid at your window,
   To be your valentine."

   There seems every probability that St Valentine's day, with its many customs, has come down to us from the Romans, but was fathered upon St Valentine in the earlier ages of the Church in order to Christianise it. 2 In France the Valentine was a moveable feast, celebrated on the first Sunday in Lent, which was called the jour des brandons, because the boys carried about lighted torches on that day.

   Shrove-Tuesday.—This day was formerly devoted to feasting and merriment of every kind, but whence originated the custom of eating pancakes is still a matter of uncertainty. The practice is alluded to in "All's Well that Ends Well" (ii. 1),

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where the clown speaks of "a pancake for Shrove-Tuesday." 1 In "Pericles" (ii. 1) they are termed "flap-jacks," a term used by Taylor, the water-poet, in his "Jacke-a-Lent Workes" (1630, i. 115): "Until at last by the skill of the cooke it is transformed into the form of a flap-jack, which in our translation is called a pancake." Shrovetide was in times gone by a season of such mirth that shroving, or to shrove, signified to be merry. Hence in "2 Henry IV." (v. 3) Justice Silence says—

"Be merry, he merry, my wife has all;
 For women are shrews, both short and tall;
 ’Tis merry in hall, when beards wag all,
   And welcome merry shrove-tide,
 Be merry, be merry."

It was a day of holiday and licence, for apprentices, labouring persons, and others. 2

   Lent—This season was at one time marked by a custom now fallen into disuse. A figure made up of straw and castoff clothes, was drawn or carried through the streets amid much noise and merriment; after which it was either burnt, shot at, or thrown down a chimney. This image was called a "Jack-a-Lent," and was, according to some, intended to represent Judas Iscariot. It occurs twice in the "Merry Wives of Windsor;" once merely as a jocular appellation (iii. 3), where Mrs Page says to Robin, "you little Jack-a-Lent, have you been true to us;" and once (v. 5) as a butt, or object of satire and attack, Falstaff remarking, "how wit may be made a Jack-a-Lent, when ’tis upon ill employment!" It is alluded to by Ben Jonson in his "Tale of a Tub" (iv. 2)—

"Thou cam’st but half a thing into the world,
 And wast made up of patches, parings, shreds;
 Thou, that when last thou wert put out of service,
 Travell’d to Hamstead Heath on an Ash Wednesday,
 Where thou didst stand six weeks the Jack of Lent,
 For boys to hurl three throws a penny at thee,
 To make thee a purse."

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   Elderton, in a ballad called "Lenton Stuff," in a MS. in the Ashmolean Museum, thus concludes his account of Lent 1

"When Jakke a’ Lent comes justlynge in,
   With the hedpeece of a herynge,
 And saythe, repent yowe of yower syn,
   For shame, syrs, leve yowre swerynge:
 And to Palme Sonday doethe he ryde,
   With sprots and herryngs by his syde,
 And makes an end of Lenton tyde!" 2

   In the reign of Elizabeth, butchers were strictly enjoined not to sell flesh meat in Lent, not with a religious view, but for the double purpose 3 of diminishing the consumption of flesh meat during that period, and so making it more plentiful during the rest of the year, and of encouraging the fisheries and augmenting the number of seamen. Butchers, however, who had an interest at court, frequently obtained a dispensation to kill a certain number of beasts a week during Lent; of which indulgence the wants of invalids, who could not subsist without animal food, was made the pretence. It is to this practice that Cade refers in "2 Henry VI." (iv. 3), where he tells Dick, the butcher of Ashford—"Therefore, thus will I reward thee, the Lent shall be as long again as it is; and thou shalt have a license to kill for a hundred lacking one."

   In "2 Henry IV." (ii. 4), Falstaff mentions an indictment against Hostess Quickly, "for suffering flesh to be eaten in thy house, contrary to the law, for the which I think thou wilt howl." Whereupon she replies, "all victuallers do so: what's a joint of mutton or two in a whole Lent?"

   The sparing fare in olden days, during Lent, is indirectly referred to by Rosencrantz in "Hamlet" (ii. 2)—"To think, my lord, if you delight not in man, what lenten entertainment the players shall receive." We may compare, too, Maria's

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words in "Twelfth Night" (i. 5), where she speaks of a good lenten answer, i.e., short.

   By a scrap of proverbial rhyme quoted by Mercutio in "Romeo and Juliet" (ii. 4), and the speech introducing it, it appears that a stale hare might be used to make a pie in Lent; he says—

"No hare, sir; unless a hare, sir, in a lenten pie, that is something stale and hoar ere it be spent.

   An old hare hoar,
   And an old hare hoar,
 Is very good meat in Lent," &c.

   Scambling days.—The days so called were Mondays and Saturdays in Lent, when no regular meals were provided, and our great families scambled. There may possibly be an indirect allusion to this custom in "Henry V." (v. 2), where Shakespeare makes King Henry say—"If ever thou beest mine, as I have a saving faith within me tells me thou shalt, I get thee with scambling." In the old household book of the fifth Earl of Northumberland, there is a particular section appointing the order of service for these days, and so regulating the licentious contentions of them. We may also compare another passage in the same play (i. 1), where the Archbishop of Canterbury speaks of "the scambling and unquiet time."

   Good Friday.—Beyond the bare allusion to this day, Shakespeare makes no reference to the many observances formerly associated with it. In "King John" (i. 1), he makes Philip the bastard say to Lady Faulconbridge:—

"Madam, I was not old Sir Robert's son:
 Sir Robert might have eat his part in me
 Upon Good Friday and ne’er broke his fast."

And in "1 Henry IV." (i. 2), Poins enquires:—"Jack! how agrees the devil and thee about thy soul, that thou soldest him on Good Friday last for a cup of Madeira and a cold capon's leg."

   Easter.—According to a popular superstition it is considered unlucky to omit wearing new clothes on Easter Day, to which Shakespeare no doubt alludes in "Romeo and Juliet" (iii. 1), when he makes Mercutio ask Benvolio whether he did "not fall out with a tailor for wearing his

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new doublet before Easter." In East Yorkshire, on Easter Eve, young folks go to the nearest market-town to buy some new article of dress or personal ornament, to wear for the first time on Easter Day, as otherwise they believe that birds—notably rooks or "crakes"—will spoil their clothes. 1 In "Poor Robin's Almanac" we are told:—

"At Easter let your clothes be new
 Or else be sure you will it rue."

Some think that the custom of "clacking" at Easter—which is not quite obsolete in some counties—is incidentally alluded to in "Measure for Measure" (iii. 2), by Lucio:—

"His use was to put a ducat in her clack-dish." 2

   The clack or clap-dish was a wooden dish, with a moveable cover, formerly carried by beggars, which they clacked and clattered to show that it was empty. In this they received the alms. Lepers and other paupers deemed infectious originally used it, that the sound might give warning not to approach too near, and alms be given without touching the person.

   A popular name for Easter-Monday was Black Monday, so called, says Stow, because "in the 34th of Edward III. (1360), the 14th of April, and the morrow after Easter-Day, King Edward, with his host, lay before the city of Paris; which day was full dark of mist and hail, and so bitter cold, that many men died on their horses’ backs with the cold. Wherefore unto this day it hath been call’d the Blacke Monday." Thus in the "Merchant of Venice" (ii. 5); Launcelot says "it was not for nothing that my nose fell a-bleeding on Black Monday last at six o'clock i’ the morning."

   St David's Day (March 1st).—This day is observed by the Welsh in honour of St David, their Patron Saint, when, as a sign of their patriotism, they wear a leek. Much doubt exists as to the origin of this custom. According to the Welsh, it is because St David ordered his Britons to place leeks in their caps, that they might be distinguished from their Saxon foes. Shakespeare introduces the custom into

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his play of "Henry V." (iv. 6), where Fluellen addressing the Monarch says:—

"Your grandfather of famous memory, an ’t please your majesty, and your great uncle Edward the Plack Prince of Wales, as I have read in the chronicles, fought a most prave pattle here in France.
 K. Hen. They did, Fluellen.
 Flu. Your majesty says very true: if your majesties is remembered of it, the Welshmen did good service in a garden where leeks did grow, wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps; which, your majesty know, to this hour is an honourable badge of the service; and, I do believe your majesty takes no scorn to wear the leek upon St Tavy's day."

   It has been justly pointed out, however, that this allusion by Fluellen to the Welsh having worn the leek in battle under the Black Prince, is not, as some writers suppose, wholly decisive of its having originated in the fields of Cressy, but rather shows that when Shakespeare wrote Welshmen wore leeks. In the same play, too (iv. 1), the well-remembered Fluellen's enforcement of Pistol, to eat the leek he had ridiculed, further establishes the wearing as a usage. 1 Pistol says:—

"Tell him, I'll knock his leek about his pate
 Upon St Davy's day."

   In days gone by, this day was observed by Royalty; and in 1695, we read how William III. wore a leek on St David's Day, "presented to him by his sergeant, Porter, who hath as perquisites all the wearing apparel his majestie had on that day, even to his sword." It appears that formerly, amongst other customs, a Welshman was burnt in effigy upon "St Tavy's Day," an allusion to which occurs in "Poor Robin's Almanack" for 1757:—

"But it would make a stranger laugh,
 To see th’ English hang poor Taff:
 A pair of breeches and a coat,
 Hat, shoes, and stockings, and what not,
 And stuffed with hay, to represent
 The Cambrian hero thereby meant."

   St Patrick's Day (March 17th).—Shakespeare, in "Hamlet" (i. 5), makes the Danish prince swear by St Patrick, on which

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[paragraph continues] Warburton remarks that the whole northern world had their learning from Ireland. 1 As Mr Singer 2 observes, however, it is more probable that the poet seized the first popular imprecation that came to his mind, without regarding whether it suited the country or character of the person to whom he gave it. Some, again, have supposed that there is a reference here to St Patrick's purgatory, but this does not seem probable.

   St George's Day (April 23rd).—St George, the guardian saint of England, is often alluded to by Shakespeare. His festival, which was formerly celebrated by feasts of cities and corporations, is now almost passed over without notice. Thus Bedford, in "1 Henry VI." (i. 1), speaks of keeping "our great Saint George's feast withal." "God and St George," was once a common battle cry, several references to which occur in Shakespeare's plays. Thus, in "Henry V." (iii. 1), the king says to his soldiers 3

"Cry, God for Harry, England and Saint George."

Again, in "1 Henry VI." (iv. 2), Talbot says—

"God and Saint George, Talbot and England's right,
 Prosper our colours in this dangerous fight."

   The following injunction, from an old act of war, concerning the use of St George's name in onsets, is curious—"Item, that all souldiers entering into battaile, assault, skirmish, or other faction of armes, shall have for their common crye and word, St George, forward, or upon them St George, whereby the soldier is much comforted, and the enemie dismaied, by calling to minde the ancient valour of England, with which that name has so often been victorious." 4

   The combat of this saint on horseback with a dragon has been very long established as a subject for sign painting. In "King John" (ii. 1), Philip says—

"Saint George, that swinged the dragon, and e’er since
 Sits on his horse back at mine hostess’ door."

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[paragraph continues] It is still a very favourite sign. In London alone 1 there are said to be no less than sixty-six public houses and taverns with the sign of "St George and the Dragon," not counting beer-houses and coffee-houses.

   May day.—The festival of May day has, from the earliest times, been most popular in this country, on account of its association with the joyous season of spring. It was formerly celebrated with far greater enthusiasm than now-a-days, for Bourne tells us how the young people were in the habit of rising a little after midnight and walking to some neighbouring wood, accompanied with music and the blowing of horns, where they broke down branches from the trees, which, decorated with nosegays and garlands of flowers, were brought home soon after sunrise, and placed at their doors and windows. Shakespeare, alluding to this practice, informs us how eagerly it was looked forward to, and that it was impossible to make the people sleep on May morning. Thus, in "Henry VIII." (v. 4), it is said—

"Pray, sir, be patient: ’tis as much impossible—
 Unless we sweep ’em from the door with cannons
 To scatter ’em, as ’tis to make ’em sleep
 On May-day morning."

   Again, in the "Midsummer Night's Dream" (i. 1), Lysander, speaking of these May-day observances says to Hermia—

                   "If thou lovest me then,
Steal forth thy father's house to-morrow night;
And in the wood, a league without the town,
Where I did meet thee once with Helena,
To do observance to a morn of May,
There will I stay for thee."

And Thersites says (iv. 1)—

"No doubt they rose up early to observe
 The rite of May." 2

   In the "Two Noble Kinsmen" (i. 2), one of the four countrymen asks—"Do we all hold against the maying?"

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   In Chaucer's "Court of Love," we read that early on May-day "Fourth goth al the Court, both most and lest, to fetche the flowris fresh and blome." In the reign of Henry the Eighth, it is on record that the heads of the Corporation of London went out into the high grounds of Kent to gather the May, and were met on Shooter's Hill by the king and his queen, Catherine of Arragon, as they were coming from the palace of Greenwich. Until within a comparatively recent period this custom still lingered in some of the counties. Thus, at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the following doggerel was sung:—

"Rise up, maidens, fie for shame!
For I've been four long miles from hame,
I've been gathering my garlands gay,
Rise up, fair maidens, and take in your May."

   Many of the ballads sung now-a-days in country places by the village children on May morning, as they carry their garlands from door to door, undoubtedly refer to the old practice of going-a-Maying, although fallen into disuse.

   In olden times nearly every village had its May-pole, around which, decorated with wreaths of flowers, ribbons, and flags, our merry ancestors danced from morning till night. The earliest representation of an English May-pole is that published in the Variorum "Shakespeare," and depicted on a window at Betley, in Staffordshire, then the property of Mr Tollet, and which he was disposed to think as old as the time of Henry VIII. The pole is planted in a mound of earth, and has affixed to it St George's red-cross banner, and a white pennon or streamer with a forked end. The shaft of the pole is painted in a diagonal line of black colours upon a yellow ground, a characteristic decoration of all these ancient maypoles, as alluded to by Shakespeare in his "Midsummer Night's Dream" (iii. 2), where it gives point to Hermia's allusion to her rival Helena, as "a painted maypole." 1 The popularity of the maypole in former centuries is shown by the fact that one of our London parishes, St Andrew Undershaft, derives its name from the maypole

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which overhung its steeple, a reference to which we find made by Geoffrey Chaucer, who, speaking of a vain boaster, says—

"Right well aloft, and high ye bear your head,
 As ye would bear the great shaft of Cornhill."

   London, indeed, had several maypoles, one of which stood in Basing Lane, near St Paul's Cathedral. It was a large fir pole, forty feet high and fifteen inches in diameter, and fabled to be the justing staff of Gerard the Giant. Only a few, however, of the old maypoles remain scattered here and there throughout the country. One still supports a weather-cock in the churchyard at Pendleton, Manchester; and in Derbyshire, a few years ago, several were to be seen standing on some of the village greens. The rhymes made use of as the people danced round the maypole varied according to the locality, and oftentimes combined a curious mixture of the jocose and sacred.

   Another feature of the May-day festivities was the Morris dance, the principal characters of which generally were Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Scarlet, Stokesley, Little John, the Hobby Horse, the Bavian or Fool, Tom the Piper, with his pipe and tabor. The number of characters varied much at different times and places. In "All's Well That Ends Well" (ii. 2), the Clown says—"As fit as ten groats for the hand of an attorney,—a Morris for May-day." 1

   In "2 Henry VI." (iii. 2) the Duke of York says of Cade—

                         "I have seen
Him caper upright like a wild Morisco,
Shaking the bloody darts as he his bells."

   In the "Two Noble Kinsmen" (iii. 5) Gerrold, the schoolmaster, thus describes to King Theseus the morris dance:—

"If you but favour, our country pastime made is.
 We are a few of those collected here,
 That rude tongues distinguish villagers; And, to say verity and not to fable,
 We are a merry rout, or else a rabble,
 Or company, or, by a figure, choris,

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 [paragraph continues] That ’fore thy dignity, will dance a morris.
 And I, that am the rectifier of all,
 By title Pædagogus, that let fall
 The birch upon the breeches of the small ones,
 And humble with a ferula the tall ones,
 Do here present this machine, or this frame;
 And, dainty duke, whose doughty dismal fame,
 From Dis to Dædalus, from post to pillar,
 Is blown abroad, help me, thy poor well wilier,
 And, with thy twinkling eyes, look right and straight
 Upon this mighty morr—of mickle weight—
 Is—now comes in, which being glu’d together
 Makes morris, and the cause that we came hither,
 The body of our sport, of no small study.
 I first appear, though rude, and raw, and muddy,
 To speak, before thy noble grace, this tenner;
 At whose great feet I offer up my penner:
 The next, the Lord of May and Lady bright,
 The chambermaid and serving-man, by night
 That seek out silent hanging; then mine host
 And his fat spouse, that welcome to his cost
 The galled traveller, and with a beck’ning.
 Inform the tapster to inflame the reck’ning,
 Then the beast-eating clown, and next the fool,
 The bavian, with long tail and eke long tool;
 Cum multis aliis that make a dance:
 Say 'ay,' and all shall presently advance."

   Amongst the scattered allusions to the characters of this dance may be noticed that in "1 Henry IV." (iii. 3):—"And for woman-hood, Maid Marian may be the deputy's wife of the ward to thee,"—the allusion being to "the degraded Maid Marian of the later morris dance, more male than female." 1

   The "hobby-horse," another personage of the morris dance on May-day, was occasionally omitted, and appears to have given rise to a popular ballad, a line of which is given by Hamlet (iii. 2):—

"For O, for O, the hobby-horse is forgot."

This is quoted again in "Love's Labour's Lost" (iii. 1). The hobby horse was formed by a pasteboard horse's head, and a light frame made of wicker-work to join the hinder parts. This was fastened round the body of a man, and covered with a foot-cloth which nearly reached the ground and concealed the

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legs of the performer, who displayed his antic equestrian skill, and performed various juggling tricks to the amusement of the bystanders. In Sir Walter Scott's "Monastery" there is a spirited description of the "hobby horse."

   The term "hobby horse" was applied to a loose woman, and in the "Winter's Tale" (i. 2) it is so used by Leontes, who says to Camillo:—

                               "Then say
My wife's a hobby-horse, deserves a name
As rank as any flax-wench that puts to
Before her troth-plight."

   In "Othello" (iv. 1), Bianca, speaking of Desdemona's handkerchief, says to Cassio:—"This is some minx's token, and I must take out the work? There; give it your hobbyhorse."

   It seems also to have denoted a silly fellow, as in "Much Ado about Nothing" (iii. 2), where it is so used by Benedick.

   Another character was Friar Tuck, the chaplain of Robin Hood, and as such is noticed in the "Two Gentlemen of Verona" (iv. 1), where one of the outlaws swears—

"By the bare scalp of Robin Hood's fat friar."

   He is also represented by Tollet as a Franciscan friar in the full clerical tonsure, for, as he adds, "When the parish priests were inhibited by the diocesan to assist in the May games, the Franciscans might give attendance, as being exempted from Episcopal jurisdiction." 1

   It was no uncommon occurrence, for metrical interludes of a comic species, and founded on the achievements of the outlaw Robin Hood, to be performed after the Morris, on the Maypole green. Mr Drake thinks that these interludes are alluded to in "Twelfth Night" (iii. 4), where Fabian exclaims on the approach of Sir Andrew Aguecheek with his challenge, "More matter for May morning."

   Whitsuntide.—Apart from its observance as a religious festival, Whitsuntide was, in times past, celebrated with much ceremony. In the Catholic times of England, it was usual to dramatise the descent of the Holy Ghost, which this

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festival commemorates. A custom which we find alluded to in Barnaby Googe's translation of Naogeorgus;

"On Whit-Sunday white pigeons tame in strings from heaven flie,
And one that framed is of wood still hangeth in the skie,
Thou seest how they with idols play, and teach the people too:
None otherwise than little girls with puppets used to do."

   This custom appears to have been carried to an extravagant height in Spain, for Mr Fosbroke 1 tells us that the gift of the Holy Ghost was represented by "thunder from engines which did much damage." Water, oak leaves, burning torches, wafers, and cakes, were thrown down from the church roof; pigeons and small birds with cakes tied to their legs were let loose; and a long censor was swung up and down. In our own country, many costly pageants were exhibited at this season. Thus, at Chester, the Whitsun Mysteries were acted during the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in Whitsun week. The performers were carried from one place to another by means of a scaffold—a huge and ponderous machine mounted on wheels, gaily decorated with flags, and divided into two compartments—the upper of which formed the stage, and the lower, defended from vulgar curiosity by coarse canvas draperies, answered the purposes of a green room. To each craft in the city, a separate mystery was allotted. Thus, the drapers exhibited the "Creation," the tanners took the Fall of Lucifer, the water-carriers of the Dee acted the Deluge, etc. The production, too, of these pageants was extremely costly; indeed, each one has been set down at fifteen or twenty pounds sterling. An allusion to this custom is made in the "Two Gentlemen of Verona" (iv. 4), where Julia says:—

                    "—At Pentecost,
When all our pageants of delight were play’d,
Our youth got me to play the woman's part,
And I was trimm’d in Madam Julia's gown."

   The Morris dance, too, was formerly a common accompaniment to the Whitsun ales, a practice which is still kept

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up in many parts of the country. In "Henry V." (ii. 4), the Dauphin thus alludes to it:—

             "I say ’tis meet we all go forth
To view the sick and feeble parts of France
And let us do it with no show of fear;
No, with no more than if we heard that England
Were busied with a Whitsun Morris dance."

And once more in the "Winter's Tale" (iv. 4), Perdita says to Florizel:—

"Methinks I play as I have seen them do
 In Whitsun pastorals."

   A custom formerly kept up in connection with Whitsuntide was the "Whitsun ale." Ale was so prevalent a drink amongst us in olden times as to become a part of the name of various festal meetings, as Leet ale, Lamb ale, Bride ale (bridal), and, as we see, Whitsun ale. Thus our ancestors were in the habit of holding parochial meetings every Whitsuntide, usually in some barn near the church, consisting of a kind of pic-nic, as each parishioner brought what victuals he could spare. The ale, which had been brewed pretty strong for the occasion, was sold by the churchwardens, and from its profits a fund arose for the repair of the church. 1 These meetings are referred to by Shakespeare in "Pericles" (i. 1)—

"It hath been sung at festivals,
 On ember-eves and holy ales"

   In "Two Gentlemen of Verona" (ii. 5), when Launce tells Speed, "Thou hast not so much charity in thee as to go to the ale with a Christian," these words have been explained to mean the rural festival so named, though, as Mr Dyce remarks ("Glossary," p. 10), the previous words of Launce, "go with me to the ale-house," shows this explanation to be wrong.

   In the old miracle-plays performed at this and other seasons Herod was a favourite personage, and was generally represented as a tyrant of a very overbearing, violent character. Thus Hamlet says (iii. 2)—

   "O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings,

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who, for the most part, are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise: I would have such a fellow whipped for o’er-doing Termagant: it out-herods Herod."

On this account Alexas mentions him as the most daring character when he tells Cleopatra (iii. 3)—

                  "Good majesty,
Herod of Jewry dare not look upon you
But when you are well pleased."

   In the "Merry Wives of Windsor" (ii. 1), Mrs Page speaks of him in the same signification—

"What a Herod of Jewry is this!"

   Mr Dyce in his "Glossary" (p. 207) has this note:—"If the reader wishes to know what a swaggering, uproarious tyrant Herod was represented to be in those old dramatic performances let him turn to 'Magnus Herodes' in 'The Towneley Mysteries,' p. 140, ed. Surtees Society; to 'King Herod' in the 'Coventry Mysteries,' p. 188, ed. Shakespeare Society; and to 'The Slaughter of the Innocents' in 'The Chester Plays,' vol. i., p. 172, ed. Shakespeare Society.'"

   Like Herod, Termagant 1 was a hectoring tyrant of the miracle plays, and as such is mentioned by Hamlet in the passage quoted above. Hence in course of time the word was used as an adjective, in the sense of violent, as in "1 Henry IV." (v. 4), "this hot Termagant Scot." Hall mentions him in his first satire—

"Nor fright the reader with the Pagan vaunt
 Of mighty Mahound and great Termagaunt."

   Whilst speaking of the old mysteries or miracle-plays we may also here refer to the moralities, a class of religious plays in which allegorical personifications of the virtues, and vices were introduced as dramatis personæ. These personages at first only took part in the play along with the Scriptural or legendary characters, but afterwards entirely superseded them. They continued in fashion till the time of Queen Elizabeth. Several allusions are given by Shakespeare to

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these moral plays. Thus, in "Twelfth Night" (iv. 1), the Clown sings—

  "I am gone, sir,
   And anon, sir,
 I'll be with you again
   In a trice,
   Like to the old Vice,
 Your need to sustain;

 Who, with dagger of lath,
 In his rage and his wrath,
   Cries, ah, ha! to the devil," etc.

   Again, in "1 Henry IV." (ii. 4), Prince Henry speaks of that "reverend vice, that grey iniquity;" and ill "2 Henry IV." (iii. 2), Falstaff says, "Now is this vice's dagger become a squire."

   Again, further allusions occur in "King Richard III.," (iii. 1). Gloucester says,—

"Thus, like the formal vice, Iniquity,
 I moralize two meanings in one word."

   And once more, Hamlet (iii. 4), speaks of "a Vice of kings," "a king of shreds and patches."

   According to Nares, "vice" had the name sometimes of one vice, sometimes of another, but most commonly of Iniquity, or Vice itself. He was grotesquely dressed in a cap with ass's ears, a long coat, and a dagger of lath. One of his chief employments was to make sport with the devil, leaping on his back, and belabouring him with his dagger of lath, till he made him roar. The devil, however, always carried him off in the end. He was, in short, the buffoon of the morality, and was succeeded in his office by the clown, whom we see in Shakespeare and others. 1

   Again, there may be a further allusion to the "moralities in "King Lear," (ii. 2), where Kent says to Oswald, "Take vanity, the puppet's part against the royalty of her father."

   Then, too, there were the "pageants,"—shows which were usually performed in the highways of our towns, and assimilated in some degree to the miracle plays, but were of a more

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mixed character, being partly drawn from profane history. According to Strutt they were more frequent in London, being required at stated periods, such as the setting of the Midsummer Watch, and the Lord Mayor's show. 1 Among the allusions to these shows given by Shakespeare, we may quote one in "Richard III.," (iv. 4), where Queen Margaret speaks of—

"The flattering index of a direful pageant"

—the pageants displayed on public occasions being generally preceded by a brief account of the order in which the characters were to walk. These indexes were distributed among the spectators, that they might understand the meaning of such allegorical representations as were usually exhibited. In the "Merchant of Venice," (i. 1), Salarino calls argosies "the pageants of the sea," in allusion, says Douce, 2 "to those enormous machines, in the shapes of castles, dragons, ships, giants, etc., that were drawn about the streets in the ancient shows or pageants, and which often constituted the most important part of them." Again, in "As You Like It," (iii. 4), Corin says:—

"If you will see a pageant truly play’d,
 Between the pale complexion of true love
 And the red glow of scorn and proud disdain,
 Go hence a little and I shall conduct you,
 If you will mark it."

   And in "Antony and Cleopatra," (iv. 14), Antony speaks of "black vesper's pageants."

   The nine worthies, originally comprising Joshua, David, Judas Maccabeus, Hector, Alexander, Julius Cæsar, Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bulloigne, appear from a very, early period to have been introduced occasionally in the shows and pageants of our ancestors. Thus, in "Love's Labour's Lost," (v. 2), the "pageant of the nine worthies" is introduced. As Shakespeare, however, introduces Hercules

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and Pompey among his presence of worthies, we may infer that the characters were sometimes varied to suit the circumstances of the period, or the taste of the auditory. A MS. preserved in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, mentions the "Six Worthies" having been played before the Lord Deputy Sussex in 1557. 1

   Another feature of the Whitsun merrymakings were the Cotswold games, which were generally on the Thursday in Whitsun week, in the vicinity of Chipping Campden. They were instituted by an attorney of Burton-on-the-Heath, in Warwickshire, named Robert Dover, and like the Olympic games of the ancients, consisted of most kinds of manly sports, such as wrestling, leaping, pitching the bar, handling the pike, dancing, and hunting. Ben Jonson, Drayton, and other poets of that age wrote verses on this festivity, which in 1636 were collected into one volume, and published under the name of "Annalia Dubrensia." 2 In the "Merry Wives of Windsor" (i. 1), Slender asks Page, "How does your fallow greyhound, sir? I heard say he was outrun on Cotsall?" And in "2 Henry IV." 3 (iii. 1), Shallow, by distinguishing Will Squele as "a Cotswold man," meant to imply that he was well versed in manly exercises, and consequently of a daring spirit and athletic constitution. A sheep was jocularly called a "Cotsold," or "Cotswold lion," from the extensive pastures in that part of Gloucestershire.

   Whilst speaking of Whitsuntide festivities, we may refer to the "roasted Manningtree ox with the pudding in his belly," to which Prince Henry alludes in "1 Henry IV." (ii. 4). 4* It appears that Manningtree, in Essex, formerly enjoyed the privilege of fairs, by the tenure of exhibiting a certain number of Stage Plays yearly. There were, also, great festivities there, and much good eating, at Whitsun ales and other times. Hence, it seems that roasting an ox whole was not uncommon on such occasions. The pudding spoken of

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by Prince Henry often accompanied the ox, as we find in a ballad written in 1658 1

"Just so the people stare
 At an ox in the fair
 Roasted whole with a pudding in ’s belly."

   Sheep-shearing Time commences as soon as the warm weather is so far settled that the sheep may, without danger, lay aside their winter clothing; the following tokens being laid down by Dyer in his "Fleece" (book i.), to mark out the proper time 2

             "If verdant elder spreads
Her silver flowers; if humble daisies yield
To yellow crowfoot and luxuriant grass
Gay shearing time approaches."

Our ancestors, who took advantage of every natural holiday, to keep it long and gladly, celebrated the time of sheep-shearing by a feast exclusively rural. Drayton,' the countryman of Shakespeare, has graphically described this festive scene, the Vale of Evesham being the locality of the sheep-shearing which he has pictured so pleasantly—

                                "The shepherd king,
Whose flock hath chanc’d that year the earliest lamb to bring,
In his gay baldric sits at his low grassy board.
With flawns, curds, clouted cream, and country dainties stored;
And whilst the bag-pipe plays, each lusty jocund swain
Quaffs syllabubs in cans, to all upon the plain,
And to their country girls, whose nosegays they do wear;
Some roundelays do sing; the rest the burthen bear." 3

In the "Winter's Tale," one of the most delicious scenes (iv. 4), is that of the sheep-shearing, in which we have the more poetical "shepherd-queen." Mr Furnivall, 4 in his introduction to this play justly remarks: "How happily it brings Shakespeare before us, mixing with his Stratford neighbours at their sheep-shearing and country sports,

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enjoying the vagabond pedlar's gammon and talk, delighting in the sweet Warwickshire maidens, and buying them 'fairings,' telling goblin stories to the boys, 'There was a man dwelt in a churchyard,' opening his heart afresh to all the innocent mirth, and the beauty of nature around him." The expense attaching to these festivities appears to have afforded matter of complaint. Thus the Clown asks, "What am I to buy for our sheep-shearing feast?" and then proceeds to enumerate various things which he will have to purchase. In Tusser's "Five Hundred Points of Husbandry," this festival is described under "The Ploughman's Feast-days."

"Wife, make us a dinner, spare flesh neither corne,
 Make wafers and cakes, for our sheep must be shorne;
 At sheepe-shearing, neighbours none other things crave,
 But good cheere and welcome like neighbours to have."

   Midsummer Eve appears to have been regarded as a period when the imagination ran riot, and many a curious superstition was associated with this season. Thus people gathered on this night the rose, St John's wort, vervain, trefoil and rue, all of which were supposed to have magical properties. They set the orpine in clay upon pieces of slate or potsherd in their houses, calling it a "Midsummer man." As the stalk was found next morning to incline to the right or left, the anxious maiden knew whether her lover would prove true to her or not. Young men sought also for pieces of coal, but in reality certain hard, black, dead roots, often found under the living mug-wort, designing to place these under their pillows, that they might dream of themselves. 1 It was also supposed that any person fasting on Mid-summer eve, and sitting in the church porch, would at midnight see the spirits of those persons of that parish who would die that year, come and knock at the church door, in the order and succession in which they would die. Midsummer was formerly thought to be a season productive of

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madness. Thus Malvolio's strange conduct is described by Olivia in "Twelfth Night" (iii. 4) as "a very midsummer madness." And hence, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is no inappropriate title for "the series of wild incongruities of which the play consists." 1 The Low Dutch have a proverb that when men have passed a troublesome night's rest, and could not sleep, "they have passed St John Baptist's night"—that is, they have not taken any sleep, but watched all night. Heywood seems to allude to a similar notion when he says—

"As mad as a March hare: where madness compares,
 Are not midsummer hares as mad as March hares?"

   A proverbial phrase, too, to signify that a person was mad was, "’Tis midsummer moon with you"—hot weather being supposed to affect the brain.

   Dog-days.—A popular superstition—in all probability derived from the Egyptians—referred to the rising and setting of Sirius, or the Dog-star, as infusing madness into the canine race. Consequently the name of "Dog-days" was given by the Romans to the period between the 3d July and nth August, to which Shakespeare alludes in "Henry VIII." (v. 4), "the dog-days now reign." It is obvious that the notion is utterly groundless, for not only does the star vary in its rising, but is later and later every year. According to the Roman belief, "at the rising of the dog-star, the seas boil, the wines ferment in the cellars, and standing waters are set in motion; the dogs also go mad, and the sturgeon is blasted." The term dog-days is still a common phrase, and it is difficult to say whether it is from superstitious adherence to old custom, or from a belief of the injurious effect of heat upon the canine race that the magistrates often unwisely at this season of the year, order them to be muzzled or tied up.

   Lammas Day (August 1).—According to some antiquarians, Lammas is a corruption of loaf-mass, as our ancestors made an offering of bread from new wheat on this day. Others derive it from lamb-masse, because the tenants who held lands under the Cathedral Church of York, were bound by

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their tenure to bring a live lamb into the church at high mass. 1 It appears to have been a popular day in times past; and is mentioned in the following dialogue in "Romeo and Juliet" (i. 3), where the Nurse enquires—

                           "How long is it now
To Lammas-tide?
   La. Capulet. A fortnight, and odd days
   Nurse. Even or odd, of all days in the year,
Come Lammas-eve at night, shall she be fourteen."

   In Neale's "Essays on Liturgiology" (2nd ed., p. 526), the Welsh equivalent for Lammas Day is given as "dydd degwm wyn," lamb-tithing day.

   St Charity (August 1).—This saint is found in the Martyrology on the first of August—"Romæ passio Sanctarum Virginum Fidei, Spei, et Charitatis, quæ sub Hadriano principe martyriæ coronam adeptæ sunt." 2 She is alluded to by Ophelia in her song in "Hamlet" (iv. 5)—

"By Gis, 3 and by Saint Charity,
 Alack, and fie for shame," &c.

   In the "Faire Maide of Bristowe," 1605, we find a similar allusion—

"Now by Saint Charity, if I were iudge,
 A halter were the least should hamper him."

   St Bartholomew's Day (August 24).—The anniversary of this festival was formerly signalized by the holding of the great Smithfield Fair—the only real fair held within the city of London. One of the chief attractions of Bartholomew Fair were roasted pigs. They were sold "piping hot, in booths and on stalls, and ostentatiously displayed to excite the appetite of passengers." Hence a "Bartholomew pig," became a popular subject of allusion. Falstaff, in "2 Henry IV." (ii. 4), in coaxing ridicule of his enormous figure, is playfully called by his favourite Doll—

"Thou whoreson, little, tidy Bartholomew boar-pig."

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   Dr Johnson, however, thought that paste pigs were meant in this passage, but this is improbable, as the true Bartholomew pigs were real roasted pigs, as may be seen from Ben Jonson's play of "Bartholomew Fair," (i. 6), where Ursula, the pigwoman, is an important personage. 1 Gay, too, speaks of the pig-dressers:—"Like Bartholomew fair pig-dressers, who look like the dams, as well as the cooks of what they roasted." A further allusion to this season is found in "Henry V.," (v. 2), where Burgundy tells how "maids, well-summered, and warm kept, are like flies at Bartholomew-tide, blind, though they have eyes; and then they will endure handling, which before would not abide looking on."

   Harvest Home.—The ceremonies which graced the in-gathering of the harvest in byegone times have gradually disappeared, and at the present day only remnants of the old usages which once prevailed are still preserved. Shakespeare, who has chronicled so many of our old customs, and seems to have had a special delight in illustrating his writings with these characteristics of our social life, has given several interesting allusions to the observances which in his day graced the harvest field. Thus, in Warwickshire, the labourers at their harvest home appointed a judge to try misdemeanours committed during harvest, and those who were sentenced to punishment were placed on a bench and beaten with a pair of boots. Hence the ceremony was called "giving them the boots." It has been suggested that this custom is alluded to in the "Two Gentlemen of Verona," (i. 1), where he makes Proteus, parrying Valentine's raillery, say, "Nay, give me not the boots."

   In Northamptonshire, when anyone misconducted himself in the field during harvest, he was subjected to a mock trial at the harvest-home feast, and condemned to be booted, a description of which we find in the introduction to Clare's "Village Minstrel":—"A long form is placed in the kitchen, upon which the boys who have worked well sit, as a terror and disgrace to the rest, in a bent posture, with their hands laid on each other's backs, forming a bridge for the

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[paragraph continues] "hogs," (as the truant boys are called), to pass over; while a strong chap stands on each side with a boot-legging, soundly strapping them as they scuffle over the bridge, which is done as fast as their ingenuity can carry them." Some, however, think the allusion in the "Two Gentlemen of Verona" is to the diabolical torture of the boot. Not a great while before this play was written, it had been inflicted, says Douce, 1 in the presence of King James on one Dr Fian, a supposed wizard, who was charged with raising the storms that the king encountered in his return from Denmark. The unfortunate man was afterwards burned. This horrible torture, we are told, 2 consisted in the leg and knee of the criminal being enclosed within a tight iron boot or case, wedges of iron being then driven in with a mallet between the knee and the iron boot. Sir Walter Scott, in "Old Mortality," has given a description of Macbriar undergoing this punishment. At a later period "the boot" signified, according to Nares, 3 an instrument for tightening the leg or hand, and was used as a cure for the gout, and called a "bootikins." The phrase "to give the boots" seems to have been a proverbial expression, signifying "don't make a laughing stock of me; don't play upon me."

   Again, in the "Merchant of Venice" (v. 1), where Lorenzo says—

"Come, ho! and wake Diana with a hymn:
 With sweetest touches pierce your mistress’ ear,
 And draw her home with music"

we have, doubtless, an allusion to the "Hock Cart" of the old harvest-home. This was the cart which carried the last corn away from the harvest field; 4 and was generally profusely decorated and accompanied by music, old and young

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shouting at the top of their voices a doggerel after the following fashion—

"We have ploughed, we have sowed,
 We have reaped, we have mowed,
 We have brought home every load,
     Hip, hip, hip! harvest home." 1

In "Poor Robin's Almanack" for August 1676, we read—

"Hoacky is brought home with hallowing,
 Boys with plumb-cake the cart following,"

   Holyrood-Day (September 14).—This festival, 2 called also Holy-Cross-day, was instituted by the Romish Church on account of the recovery of a large piece of the supposed cross by the Emperor Heraclius, after it had been taken away, on the plundering of Jerusalem, by Chosroes, king of Persia. Among the customs associated with this day was one of going-a-nutting, alluded to in the old play of "Grim the Collier of Croydon" (ii. 1)—

"To-morrow is Holy-rood-day,
 When all a-nutting take their way."

Shakespeare mentions this festival in "1 Henry IV." (i. 1), where he represents the Earl of Westmoreland relating how—

"On Holyrood day, the gallant Hotspur there,
 Young Harry Percy and brave Archibald,
 That ever-valiant and approved Scot,
 At Holmedon met."

   St Lambert's-Day (September 17).—This saint, whose original name was Landebert, but contracted into Lambert, was a native of Maestricht, in the seventh century, and was assassinated early in the eighth. 3 His festival is alluded to in "Richard II." (i. 1), where the king says—

"Be ready, as your lives shall answer it,
 At Coventry, upon St Lambert's day."

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   Michaelmas.—In the "Merry Wives of Windsor" (i. 1), this festival is alluded to by Simple, who, in answer to Slender, whether he had "The Book of Riddles" about him, replies—"Why, did you not lend it to Alice Shortcake upon All-hallowmas last, a fortnight afore Michaelmas." This doubtless being an intended blunder.

   In "1 Henry IV." (ii. 4), Francis says—"Let me see—about Michaelmas I shall be—"

   St Etheldredra, or Audry, commemorated in the Romish Calendar on the 23d of June, but in the English Calendar on the 17th of October, was daughter of Annas, king of the East Angles. She founded the convent and Church of Ely on the spot where the cathedral was subsequently erected. Formerly, at Ely, a fair was annually held, called in her memory St Audry's Fair, at which much cheap lace was sold to the poorer classes, which at first went by the name of St Audry's lace, but in time was corrupted into "tawdry lace." Shakespeare makes an allusion to this lace in the "Winter's Tale," (iv. 4), where Mopsa says,—

"Come, you promised me a tawdry lace, and a pair of sweet gloves"

although in his time the expression rather meant a rustic necklace. 1 An old English historian makes St Audry die of a swelling in her throat, which she considered as a particular judgment for having been in her youth addicted to wearing fine necklaces. 2

   St Crispin's Day (October 25th), has for centuries been a red-letter day in the calendar of the shoemakers, being the festival of their patron saint. According to tradition, the brothers Crispin and Crispinian, natives of Rome, having become converted to Christianity, travelled to Soissons, in France, in order to preach the Gospel. Being desirous, however, of rendering themselves independent, they earned their daily bread by making shoes, with which, it is said, they furnished the poor at an extremely low price. When the governor of the town discovered that they maintained the Christian faith, and also tried to make proselytes of the inhabitants, he ordered them to be beheaded. From this time

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the shoemakers have chosen them for their tutelary saints. Shakespeare has perpetuated the memory of this festival by the speech which he has given to Henry V., before the battle of Agincourt (iv. 3),—

"This day is call’d the feast of Crispian:
 He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
 Will stand a-tip-toe when this day is named,
 And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
 He that shall live this day, and see old age,
 Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
 And say, 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian!'"

   St Dennis has been adopted as the patron saint of France (October 9th), in the same manner as the English have chosen St George. The guardianship of the two countries is thus expressed in the chorus to the old ballad,—

"St George he was for England,
      St Denis was France,
 Singing, Honi soit qui mal y pense."

   King Henry ("Henry V.," v. 2), says to Kate, "Shall not thou and I, between St Dennis and St George, compound a boy, half French, half English," etc. In "1 Henry VI.," (iii. 2), Charles says,—

"St Dennis bless this happy stratagem,
 And once again we'll sleep secure in Rouen."

   Hallowmas (November i) is one of the names for the feast of All-hallows, that is All Saints. Shakespeare alludes to a custom relative to this day, some traces of which are still to be found in Staffordshire, Cheshire, and other counties. The poor people go from parish to parish a-souling, as they term it, that is, begging, in a certain lamentable tone, for soul-cakes, at the same time singing a song which they call the souler's song. This practice is no doubt a remnant of the Popish ceremony of praying for departed souls, especially those of friends, on the ensuing day, November 2nd, the feast of All Souls. 1 The following is a specimen of the doggerel sung on these occasions—

"Soul! soul! for a soul cake;
 Pray, good mistress, for a soul cake.

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 [paragraph continues] One for Peter, and two for Paul,
 Three for them who made us all.
 Soul! soul! for an apple or two;
 If you've got no apples, pears will do.
 Up with your kettle, and down with your pan,
 Give me a good big one, and I'll be gone.
     Soul! soul! for a soul cake, &c.

 An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
 Is a very good thing to make us merry."

In the "Two Gentlemen of Verona" (ii. 1), Speed thus speaks of this practice—"To watch, like one that fears robbing; to speak puling, 1 like a beggar at Hallowmas."

   The season of Hallowmas having been frequently mild has been, from time immemorial, proverbially called "All-hallown Summer," i.e., late summer. Thus, 2 in "1 Henry IV." (i. 2), Prince Henry, likening Falstaff, with his old age and young passions to this November summer, addresses him:—"Farewell, thou latter spring; farewell, thou All Hallown summer." In some parts of Germany there is a proverb, "All Saints’ Day brings the second summer; "and in Sweden there is often about this time a continuance of warm still weather, which is called "the All Saints’ rest."

   There is another reference to this festival in "Richard II." (v. 1), where the king says of his wife—

"She came adorned hither like sweet May,
 Sent back like Hallowmas or short’st of day."

   All Souls’ Day (November 2d.),—which is set apart by the Roman Catholic Church for a solemn service for the repose of the dead, was formerly observed in this country, and among the many customs celebrated in its honour were ringing the passing bell, making soul-cakes, blessing beans, &c. 3 In "Richard III." (v. 1), Buckingham, when led to execution, says—

"This is All Souls’ Day, fellows, is it not?"

to which the sheriff replies—

"It is, my lord"

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whereupon Buckingham says—

"Why, then, All Souls’ Day is my body's doomsday."

   Lord Mayor's Day (November 9th). A custom which was in days gone by observed at the inauguration dinner was that of the Lord Mayor's fool leaping, clothes and all, into a large bowl of custard. It is alluded to in "All's Well that Ends Well," (ii. 5), by Lafeu,—"You have made shift to run int ’t, boots and spurs and all, like him that leaped into the custard." Ben Jonson, in his "Devil's an Ass" (i. 1), thus refers to it:—

"He may, perchance, in tail of a sheriff's dinner,
 Skip with a rime o’ the table, from new nothing,
 And take his almain leap into a custard,
 Shall make my lady mayoress and her sisters,
 Laugh all their hoods over their shoulders."

   St Martin's Day (November 11th).—The mild weather about this time has given rise to numerous proverbs; one of the well-known ones being, "St Martin's little summer," an allusion to which we find in "1 Henry VI." (i. 2), where Joan of Arc says—

"Expect St Martin's summer, halcyon days"

which Johnson paraphrases thus—"Expect prosperity after misfortune, like fair weather at Martlemas, after winter has begun." As an illustration, too, of this passage, we may quote from the "Times," October 6, 1864—"It was one of those rare but lovely exceptions to a cold season, called in the Mediterranean St Martin's summer."

   A corruption of Martinmas is Martlemas. Falstaff is jocularly so called by Poins, in "2 Henry IV." (ii. 2), as being in the decline, as the year is at this season—

"And how doth the martlemas, your master."

   This was the customary time for hanging up provisions to dry, which had been salted for winter provision.

   St Nicholas (December 6th).—This saint was deemed the patron of children in general, but more particularly of all schoolboys, amongst whom his festival used to be a very

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great holiday. Various reasons have been assigned for his having been chosen as the patron of children,—either because the legend makes him to have been a bishop while yet a boy, or from his having restored three young scholars to life who had been cruelly murdered, 1 or again, on account of his early abstinence when a boy. In the "Two Gentlemen of Verona," (iii. 1), he is alluded to in this capacity,—

"Seed. Come, fool, come; try me in thy paper,
 Launce. There: and Saint Nicholas be thy speed."

   Nicholas’ clerks was, and still is, a cant term for highwaymen and robbers; but though the expression is very common, its origin is a matter of uncertainty. In "1 Henry IV.," (ii. 1), it is thus alluded to,—

"Gadshill. Sirrah, if they meet not with Saint Nicholas’ clerks, I'll give thee this neck.
 Chamb. No, I'll none of it: I pray thee, keep that for the hangman: for I know thou worshippest Saint Nicholas as truly as a man of falsehood may."

   Christmas.—Among the observances associated with this season to which Shakespeare alludes, we may mention the Christmas Carol, a reference to which is probably made in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," (ii. 1), by Titania,—"No night is now with hymn or carol blest." Hamlet (ii. 2) quotes two lines from a popular ballad, entitled the "Song of Jephtha's Daughter," and adds,—

"The first row of the pious chanson will show you more." 2

   In days gone by, the custom of carol-singing was most popular, and Warton, in his "History of English Poetry," notices a licence granted in 1562 to John Tysdale for printing "Certayne goodly carowles to be songe to the glory of God;" and again "Crestenmas Carowles auctorisshed by my lord of London." 3

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   In the "Taming of the Shrew," (ind., sc. 2), Sly asks whether "a comonty 1 is not a Christmas gambol." Formerly the sports and merry-makings at this season were on a most extensive scale, being presided over by the "Lord of Misrule." 2 Again, in "Love's Labour's Lost," (v. 2), Biron speaks of "A Christmas Comedy."

   As we have noticed, too, in our chapter on plants, a gilt nutmeg was formerly a common gift at Christmas, and on other festive occasions, to which an allusion is probably made in the same scene. Formerly, at this season, the head of the house assembled his family around a bowl of spiced ale, from which he drank their healths, then passed it to the rest, that they might drink too. The word that passed amongst them was the ancient Saxon phrase wass hael, i.e., to your health. Hence this came to be recognised as the wassail or wassel-bowl; and was the accompaniment to festivity of every kind throughout the year. Thus Hamlet (i. 4) says—

"The king doth wake to-night, and takes his rouse, 3
 Keeps wassail."

And in "Love's Labour's Lost" (v. 2), Biron speaks of—

"Wakes and wassails, meetings, markets, fairs."

In "Macbeth" (i. 7), it is used by Lady Macbeth in the sense of intemperance, who, speaking of Duncan's two chamberlains, says—

"Will I with wine and wassel so convince,
 That memory, the warder of the brain,
 Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason
 A limbeck only."

   In "Antony and Cleopatra" (i. 4), Cæsar advises Antony to live more temperately, and to leave his "lascivious wassails." 4

   In the same way a "wassail candle" denoted a large

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candle lighted up at a festival, a reference to which occurs in "2 Henry IV." (i. 2)—

"Ch. Jus. You are as a candle, the better part burnt out.
 Falstaff. A wassail candle, my lord, all tallow."

   A custom which formerly prevailed at Christmas, and has not yet died out, was for mummers to go from house to house attired in grotesque attire, performing all kind of odd antics. 1 Their performances, however, were not confined to this season. Thus, in "Coriolanus" (ii. 1) Menenius speaks of making "faces like mummers."

   Cakes and Ale.—It was formerly customary on holidays and saints’ days to make cakes in honour of the day. In "Twelfth Night" (ii. 3), Sir Toby says—"Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?" To which the Clown replies—"Yes, by St Anne; and ginger shall be hot i’ the mouth too."

   Wakes.—In days gone by, the church wake was an important institution, and was made the occasion for a thorough holiday. Each church, when consecrated, was dedicated to a saint, and on the anniversary of that day was kept the wake. In many places there was a second wake on the birthday of the saint. At such seasons, the floor of the church was strewed with rushes and flowers, and in the churchyard tents were erected to supply cakes and ale for the use of the merrymakers on the following day, which was kept as a holiday. They are still kept up in many parishes, but in a very different manner. 2 In "King Lear" (iii. 6), Edgar says—"Come, march to wakes and fairs, and market towns." We may also compare "Love's Labour's Lost" (v. 2), and "Winter's Tale" (iv. 2). In "Hamlet" (i. 4), it is used in the sense of revel.


279:1 The "England of Shakespeare," E. Goadby, 1881, p. 153.

279:2 "Critical Essays on the Plays of Shakespeare," 1875, p. 145; see Singer's "Shakespeare" iii. pp 347, 348.

280:1 See "British Popular Customs," p. 473.

280:2 "Notes and Queries," 6th S. i. p. 129.

281:1 Cf. "As you Like It" (i. 2). Touchstone alludes to a "certain knight that swore by his honour they were good pancakes."

281:2 See Hone's "Every Day Book," 1836, i. p. 258; "Book of Days," i. p. 239; see also Dekker's "Seven Deadly Sins," 1606, p. 35; "British Popular Customs," pp. 62–91.

282:1 "Notes and Queries," 1st Series, xii. p. 297.

282:2 See Nares’ "Glossary," i. p. 443; Brand's "Pop. Antiq.," 1849, i. p. 101. Taylor, the Water-Poet, has a tract entitled "Jack-a-Lent, his Beginning and Entertainment, with the mad Prankes of Gentlemen-Usher, Shrove Tuesday."

282:3 Singer's "Shakespeare," v i. p. 219.

284:1 "Notes and Queries," 4th S., v. p. 595.

284:2 See Singer's "Shakespeare," i. p. 362. Nares’ "Glossary," i. p. 164. Brand's "Pop. Antiq." 1849, iii. p. 94.

285:1 See Hone's "Every Day Book" i. p. 318; "British Popular Customs" pp. 110–113.

286:1 St Patrick rids Ireland of snakes, see p. 242.

286:2 Singer's "Shakespeare," 1870, ix. p. 168.

286:3 Cf. "Henry V.," v. 2; "3 Henry VI.," ii. i, 2; "Taming of the Shrew," ii. i; "Richard II.," i. 3.

286:4 Cited by Warton in a note on "Richard III.," v. 3.

287:1 Hotten's "History of Sign Boards," 1866, 3rd edition, p. 287.

287:2 Cf. "Twelfth Night" (iii. 4)—"More matter for a May morning."

288:1 "Book of Days," i. p. 575; see "British Popular Customs," pp. 228–230, 249.

289:1 See Brand's "Pop. Antiq.," i. pp. 247–270; "Book of Days," i. pp. 630–633.

290:1 Nares’ "Glossary," ii. p. 550.

291:1 See Drake's "Shakspeare and his Times," 1817, i. p. 163.

292:1 "Encyclopædia of Antiquities," 1843, ii. p. 653.

293:1 See "British Popular Customs," p. 278; Brand's "Popular Antiquities," 1849, i. p. 276.

294:1 According to the crusaders and the old romance writers a Saracen deity.—See Singer's "Shakespeare," ix. p. 214.

295:1 See Dyce's "Glossary," p. 482.

296:1 "Sports and Pastimes," 1876, pp. 25–28; see Warton's "History of English Poetry," ii. p. 202.

296:2 "Illustrations of Shakespeare," p. 154.

297:1 Staunton's "Shakespeare," 1864, i. pp. 147, 148.

297:2 See "Book of Days," i. p. 712.

297:3 See Singer's "Shakespeare," v. p. 206.

297:4 See Nares’ "Glossary," ii. p. 506.

298:1 See Nichol's "Collection of Poems," 1780, iii. p. 204.

298:2 See Knight's "Life of Shakespeare," 1845, p. 71; Howitt's "Pictorial Calendar of the Seasons," 1854, pp. 254–267.

298:3 "Polyolbion," song 14, see Brand's "Popular Antiquities," 1849, ii. p. 34; Timbs’ "A Garland for the Year," pp. 74, 75.

298:4 Introduction to the "Leopold Shakspere," p. xci.

299:1 "Book of Days," i. p. 816. See Brand's "Pop. Antiq.," i. p. 314; Soane's "Book of the Months."

300:1 See Brand's "Pop. Antiq.," 1849, 1. pp. 336–337

301:1 See "British Popular Customs," pp. 347–351.

301:2 Douglas's "Criterion," p. 68, cited by Ritson. See Douce's "Illustrations of Shakespeare," p. 475.

301:3 This is perhaps a corrupt abbreviation of "By Jesus." Some would read "By Cis," and understand by it "St Cicely."

302:1 See Nares’ "Glossary," i. p. 57; Morley's "Memoirs of Bartholomew Fair," 1859.

303:1 "Illustrations of Shakespeare," p. 21.

303:2 Dyce's "Glossary," p. 47; Douce has given a representation of this instrument of torture from Millceus's "Praxis Criminis Persequendi," Paris, 1541.

303:3 "Glossary," i. p. 95.

303:4 Cf., "1 Henry IV." (i. 3)—

"His chin, new reap’d,
 Show’d like a stubble-land at harvest-home."

304:1 See Brand's "Pop. Antiq.," 1849, ii. pp. 16–33.

304:2 See "British Pop. Customs," pp. 372, 373. In Lincolnshire this day is called "Hally-Loo-Day."

304:3 See Butler's "Lives of the Saints."

305:1 See Nares's "Glossary," ii. p. 868; Brady's "Clavis Calendaria."

305:2 Nich Harpsfield, "Hist. Eccl. Anglicana," p. 86.

306:1 See "British Popular Customs," p. 404.

307:1 Puling, or singing small, as Bailey explains the word.

307:2 See Swainson's "Weather Lore," 1873, pp. 141–143.

307:3 See "British Popular Customs," p. 409.

309:1 See Douce's "Illustrations of Shakspeare," p. 25; "The Church of Our Fathers," by D. Rock, 1853, iii. p. 215; "Gent. Mag.," 1777, xliii. p. 158; see Nares's "Glossary," ii. pp. 601–2; Brady's "Clavis Calendaria."

309:2 Drake's "Shakspeare and his Times," i. p. 198.

309:3 See Sandy's "Christmastide, its History, Festivities, and Carols;" also "Athenæum," Dec. 20, 1856.

310:1 His blunder for Comedy.

310:2 See "British Popular Customs," 1876, pp. 459, 463; Nares's "Glossary," ii. p. 943; "Antiquarian Repertory," i. p. 218.

310:3 This was a deep draught to the health of anyone, in which it was customary to empty the glass or vessel.

310:4 See Douce's "Illustrations of Shakspeare," 1839, pp. 441–449.

311:1 See "British Popular Customs," pp. 461, 469, 478, 480.

311:2 See Brand's "Pop. Antiq.," 1849, i. pp. 1–15.

Next: Chapter XII. Birth and Baptism