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

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As in the case of the birds, considered in the previous chapter, Shakespeare has also interwoven throughout his plays an immense deal of curious folk-lore connected with animals. Not only does he allude with the accuracy of a naturalist to the peculiarities and habits of certain animals, but so true to nature is he in his graphic descriptions of them that it is evident his knowledge was in a great measure acquired from his own observation. It is interesting, also, to note how carefully he has, here and there, worked into his narrative some old proverb, or superstition, thereby adding a freshness to the picture which has, if possible, imbued it with an additional lustre. In speaking of the dog, he has introduced many an old hunting custom; and his references to the tears of the deer are full of sweet pathos, as, for instance, where Hamlet says (iii. 2), "Let the stricken deer go weep." It is not necessary, however, to add further illustrations, as these will be found in the following pages.

   Ape.—In addition to Shakespeare's mention of this animal as a common term of contempt, there are several other allusions to it. There is the well known phrase, "to lead apes in hell," applied to old maids mentioned in the "Taming of the Shrew" (ii. 1)—the meaning of this term not having been yet satisfactorily explained. 1 (It is further discussed in the chapter on Marriage.)

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   In "2 Henry IV." (ii. 4), it is used as a term of endearment—"Alas, poor ape, how thou sweat’st."

   Ass.—Beyond the proverbial use of this much ill-treated animal to denote a silly, foolish person, Shakespeare has said little about it. In "Troilus and Cressida" (ii. 1), Thersites uses the word "assinego," a Portuguese expression for a young ass—"Thou hast no more brain than I have in my elbows; an assinego may tutor thee." It is used by Beaumont and Fletcher in the "Scornful Lady" (v. 4)—"All this would be forsworn, and I again an assinego, as your sister left me." 1 Dyce 2 would spell the word "Asinico," because it is so spelt in the old editions of Shakespeare, and is more in accordance with the Spanish word. 3 In "King Lear" (i. 4), the Fool alludes to Æsop's celebrated fable of the old man and his ass—

"Thou borest thine ass on thy back o’er the dirt."

   Bat.—The bat, immortalised by Shakespeare ("Tempest," v. I) as the "delicate Ariel's" steed—

"On the bat's back I do fly."

has generally been an object of superstitious dread, and proved to the poet and painter a fertile source of images of gloom and terror. 4 In Scotland 5 it is still connected with witchcraft, and if, while flying, it rise and then descend again earthwards, it is a sign that the witches’ hour is come—the hour in which they are supposed to have power over every human being who is not specially shielded from their influence. Thus in "Macbeth" (iv. 1) the "wool of bat" forms an ingredient in the witches’ cauldron. One of its popular names is "rere-mouse," which occurs in a "Midsummer Night's Dream" (ii. 2), where Titania says—

"Some war with rere-mice for their leathern wings,
 To make my small elves coats."

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[paragraph continues] This term is equivalent to the Anglo-Saxon, hrére-mús, from hreran, to stir, agitate, and so the same as the old name "flitter-mouse." 1 The early copies spell the word reremise2 It occurs in the Wicliffite versions of Lev. xi. 19, and the plural in the form "reremees" or "rere-myis" is found in Isaiah ii. 20. At Polperro, Cornwall, 3 the village boys call it "airy-mouse," and address it in the following rhyme:—

"Airy mouse, airy mouse! fly over my head,
 And you shall have a crust of bread;
 And when I brew, and when I bake,
 You shall have a piece of my wedding cake."

In Scotland 4 it is known as the Backe or Bakie bird. An immense deal of curious folk-lore has clustered round this curious little animal. 5

   Bear.—According to an old idea, the bear brings forth unformed lumps of animated flesh, and then licks them into shape—a vulgar error, referred to in "3 Henry VI." (iii. 2), where Gloucester, bemoaning his deformity, says of his mother—

"She did corrupt frail nature with some bribe,
   .        .        .        .        .        .
 To disproportion me in every part,
 Like to a chaos, or an unlick’d bear-whelp,
 That carries no impression like the dam."

This erroneous notion, however, was long ago confuted by Sir Thomas Browne. 6 Alexander Ross, in his "Arcana Microcosmi," nevertheless affirms that bears bring forth their young deformed and mis-shapen, by reason of the thick membrane in which they are wrapped, that is covered over

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with a mucous matter. This, he says, the dam contracts in the winter-time, by lying in hollow caves without motion, so that to the eye the cub appears like an unformed lump. The above mucilage is afterwards licked away by the dam, and the membrane broken, whereby that which before seemed to be unformed appears now in its right shape. This he contends is all that the ancients meant. 1 Ovid (Metam. xv. 379) thus describes this once popular fancy—

"Nec Catulus partu quem reddidit ursa recenti,
 Sed male viva caro est. Lambendo mater in artus
 Fingit, et in formam quantam capit ipsa, reducit."

   Bears, in days gone by, are reported to have been surprised by means of a mirror, which they could gaze on, affording their pursuers an opportunity of taking the surer aim. 2 In "Julius Cæsar" (ii. 1), this practice is mentioned by Decius—

             "Unicorns may be betray’d with trees,
And bears with glasses."

   Batman, "Upon Bartholome" (1582), speaking of the bear, says, "And when he is taken he is made blinde with a bright basin, and bound with chaynes, and compelled to playe." This, however, says Mr Aldis Wright, 3 probably refers to the actual blinding of the bear.

   A favourite amusement with our ancestors was bear-baiting. As early as the reign of Henry II. the baiting of bears by dogs was a popular game in London, 4 whilst at a later period "a royal bear-ward" was an officer regularly attached to the royal household. In "2 Henry VI." (v. 1), this personage is alluded to by Clifford, who says—

"Are these thy bears? We'll bait thy bears to death,
 And manacle the bear-ward in their chains,
 If thou darest bring them to the baiting place."

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[paragraph continues] And again, in "Much Ado about Nothing" (ii. 1), Beatrice says, "I will even take sixpence in earnest of the bear-ward, and lead his apes into hell." The synonymous term, "bear-herd," occurs in "Taming of the Shrew" (Introduction, scene 2), where Sly speaks of himself as "by transmutation a bear-herd;" and in "2 Henry IV." (i. 2), Sir John Falstaff remarks how "true valour is turned bear-herd." Among the Harleian MSS. 1 is preserved the original warrant of Richard III. appointing John Brown to this office, and which recites "the diligent service he had done the king" as the ground for granting him the privilege of wandering about the country with his bears and apes, and receiving the "loving benevolence and favours of the people." 2 In the time of Queen Elizabeth, bear-baiting was still a favourite pastime, being considered a fashionable entertainment for the ladies of the highest rank. 3 James I. encouraged this sport. Nichols 4 informs us that on one occasion the king, accompanied by his court, took the Queen, the Princess Elizabeth, and the two young Princes to the Tower to witness a fight between a lion and a bear, and by the king's command, the bear (which had killed a child that had been negligently left in the bear-house), was afterwards "baited to death upon a stage in the presence of many spectators." Popular, says Mr Kelly, as bear-baiting was in the metropolis and at court, it was equally so among all classes of the people. 5 It is on record that at Congleton, in Cheshire, "the town-bear having died, the corporation in 1601 gave orders to sell their Bible, in order to purchase another, which was done, and the town no longer without a bear." This event is kept up in a popular rhyme—

"Congleton rare, Congleton rare,
 Sold the Bible to pay for a bear."

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[paragraph continues] The same legend attaches to Clifton, a village near Rugby:—

"Clifton-upon-Dunsmore, in Warwickshire,
 Sold the Church Bible to buy a bear."

   In Pulleyn's "Etymological Compendium," 1 we are told that "this cruel amusement is of African origin, and was introduced into Europe by the Romans. It is further alluded to by Shakespeare in "Twelfth Night" (i. 3), "dancing and bear-baiting;" and further on in the same play (ii. 5) Fabian says, "he brought me out o’ favour with my lady about a bear-baiting here;" and Macbeth (v. 7) relates:—

"They have tied me to a stake; I cannot fly,
 But, bear-like, I must fight the course." 2

and in "Julius Cæsar"(iv. 1), Octavius says:—

                  "—We are at the stake
And bay’d about with many enemies."

   Boar.—It appears that in former times boar-hunting was a favourite recreation; many allusions to which we find in old writers. Indeed, in the middle ages, the destruction of a wild boar ranked among the deeds of chivalry, 3 and "won for a warrior almost as much renown as the slaying an enemy in the open field." So dangerous too, was boar-hunting considered, that Shakespeare represents Venus as dissuading Adonis from the perilous practice:—

"O, be advised! thou know’st not what it is,
 With javelin's point a churlish swine to gore,
 Whose tushes never sheathed he whetteth still,
 Like to a mortal butcher, bent to kill.
        *        *        *        *        *
 His brawny sides, with hairy bristles arm’d,
 Are better proof than thy spear's point can enter;
 His short thick neck cannot be easily harm'd;
 Being ireful, on the lion he will venture."

   Such hunting expeditions were generally fatal to some of the dogs, and occasionally to one or more of the hunters.

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[paragraph continues] An old tradition of Grimsby, in Lincolnshire, 1 asserts that every burgess at his admission to the freedom of the borough, anciently presented to the mayor a boar's head, or an equivalent in money, when the animal could not be procured. The old seal of the mayor of Grimsby represents a boar hunt. The lord, too, of the adjacent manor of Bradley, was obliged by his tenure to keep a supply of these animals in his wood, for the entertainment of the mayor and burgesses. 2 A curious triennial custom called the "Rhyne Toll," is observed at Chetwode, a small village about five miles from Buckingham. 3 According to tradition, it originated in the destruction of an enormous wild boar—the terror of the surrounding county—by one of the lords of Chetwode; who, after fighting with it for four hours on a hot summer's day, eventually killed it.

"Then Sir Ryalas he drawed his broad sword with might,
   Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
 And he fairly cut the boar's head off quite,
   For he was a jovial hunter."

As a reward, it is said, the king "granted to him and to his heirs for ever, among other immunities and privileges, the full right to levy every year the Rhyne Toll." This is still kept up, and consists of a yearly tax, on all cattle found within the manor of Chetwode between the 30th October and the 7th November, inclusive. In "Antony and Cleopatra" (iv. 13) Cleopatra alludes to the famous boar killed by Meleager—"The boar of Thessaly was never so emboss’d." 4

   Bull.—Once upon a time there was scarcely a town or village of any magnitude which had not its bull-ring. 5 Indeed, it was not until the year 1835 that baiting was finally

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put down by an act of Parliament, "forbidding the keeping of any house, pit, or other place for baiting or fighting any bull, bear, dog, or other animal;" and after an existence of at least seven centuries, this ceased to rank among the amusements of the English people. 1 This sport is alluded to in "Merry Wives of Windsor" (v. 5), "Remember, Jove, thou wast a bull for thy Europa." We may too compare the expressions in "Troilus and Cressida" (v. 7)—"Now, bull, now, dog!—the bull has the game." 2

   Cat.—Few animals, in times past, have been more esteemed than the cat, or been honoured with a wider folk-lore. Indeed, among the Egyptians this favoured animal was held sacred to Isis or the moon, and worshipped with great ceremony. In the mythology of all the Indo European nations, the cat holds a prominent place; and its connection with witches is well known. "The picture of a witch," says Mr Henderson, 3 "is incomplete without her cat, by rights a black one." In "Macbeth" (iv. i) the First Witch says—"Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d,"—it being a common superstition that the form most generally assumed by the familiar spirits of witches was the cat. Thus in another passage of the same play (i. 1), the First Witch says:—"I come, Graymalkin,"—the word otherwise spelt Grimalkin, 4 meaning a grey cat. Numerous stories are on record of witches having disguised themselves as cats, in order to carry out their fiendish designs. A woodman out working in the forest has his dinner every day stolen by a cat. Exasperated at the continued repetition of the theft, he lies in wait for the aggressor, and succeeds in cutting off her paw, when lo! on his return home he finds his wife minus a hand. 5 An honest Yorkshireman, 6 who bred pigs, often lost the young

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ones. On applying to a certain wise man of Stokesley, he was informed that they were bewitched by an old woman who lived near. The owner of the pigs calling to mind that he had often seen a cat prowling about his yard, decided that this was the old woman in disguise. He watched for her, and, as soon as she made her appearance, flung at her a poker with all his might. The cat disappeared, and curiously enough the poor old woman in question, that night fell and broke her leg. This was considered as conclusive, that she was the witch that had simulated the form of a cat. This notion is very prevalent on the Continent. It is said that witch-cats 1 have a great hankering after beer. Witches are adepts in the art of brewing, and therefore fond of tasting what their neighbours brew. On these occasions they always masquerade as cats, and what they steal they consume on the spot. There was a countryman whose beer was all drunk up by night whenever he brewed, so that at last he resolved for once to sit up all night and watch. As he was standing by his brewing pan, a number of cats made their appearance, and calling to them, he said; "Come, puss, puss, come, warm you a bit." So in a ring they all sat round the fire as if to warm themselves. After a time, he asked them "if the water was hot." "Just on the boil," said they, and, as he spoke he dipped his long-handled pail in the wort, and soused the whole company with it. They all vanished at once, but on the following day his wife had a terribly scalded face, and then he knew who it was that had always drunk his beer. This story is widely prevalent, and is current among the Flemish-speaking natives of Belgium. Again, a North German tradition 2 tells us of a peasant who had three beautiful large cats. A neighbour begged to have one of them, and obtained it. To accustom it to the place, he shut it up in the loft. At night, the cat, popping its head through the window, said, "What shall I bring to-night?" "Thou shalt bring mice," answered the man. The cat then set to work, and cast all it caught on the floor. Next morning the place was so full of dead mice that it was hardly possible to open

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the door, and the man was employed the whole day in throwing them away by bushels. At night the cat again asked, 'what shall I bring to night?' 'Thou shalt bring rye,' answered the peasant. The cat was now busily employed in shooting down rye, so that in the morning the door could not be opened. The man then discovered that the cat was a witch, and carried it back to his neighbour." A similar tradition occurs in Scandinavian mythology. 1 Spranger 2 relates that a labourer, on one occasion, was attacked by three young ladies in the form of cats, and that they were wounded by him. On the following day they were found bleeding in their beds. In Vernon, 3 about the year 1566, "the witches and warlocks gathered in great multitudes under the shape of cats. Four or five men were attacked in a lone place by a number of these beasts. The men stood their ground, and succeeded in slaying one cat, and wounding many others. Next day a number of wounded women were found in the town, and they gave the judge an accurate account of all the circumstances connected with their wounding." It is only natural, then, that Shakespeare in his description of the witches in "Macbeth," should have associated them with the popular superstition which represents the cat as their agent—a notion that no doubt originated in the classic story of Galanthis being turned into a cat, and becoming, through the compassion of Hecate, her priestess. From their supposed connection with witchcraft, cats were formerly often tormented by the ignorant vulgar. Thus it appears 4 that, in days gone by, they (occasionally fictitious ones) were hung up in baskets and shot at with arrows. In some counties, too, they were enclosed, with a quantity of soot, in wooden bottles suspended on a line, and he who could beat out the bottom of the bottle as he ran under it, and yet escape its contents, was the hero of the sport. 5 Shakespeare

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alludes to this practice in "Much Ado about Nothing" (i. 1), where Benedick says—

"Hang me in a bottle like a cat and shoot at me."

   Percy, in his "Reliques of Ancient English Poetry" (1794, i. p. 155), says—"It is still a diversion in Scotland to hang up a cat in a small cask or firkin, half filled with soot; and then a parcel of clowns on horseback try to beat out the ends of it, in order to show their dexterity in escaping before the contents fall upon them."

   This practice was once kept up at Kelso in Scotland, according to Ebenezer Lazarus, who, in his "Description of Kelso" (1789, p. 144), has given a graphic description of the whole ceremony. He says—"This is a sport which was common in the last century at Kelso on the Tweed. A large concourse of men, women, and children assembled in a field about half a mile from the town, and a cat having been put into a barrel stuffed full of soot, was suspended on a crossbeam between two high poles. A certain number of the whipmen, or husbandmen, who took part in this savage and unmanly amusement, then kept striking, as they rode to and fro on horseback, the barrel in which the unfortunate animal was confined, until at last, under the heavy blows of their clubs and mallets, it broke, and allowed the cat to drop. The victim was then seized and tortured to death." He justly stigmatizes it, saying

"The cat in the barrel exhibits such a farce,
 That he who can relish it is worse than an ass."

Cats, from their great powers of resistance, are said to have nine lives; 1 hence Mercutio, in "Romeo and Juliet" (iii. 1), says—"Good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives." Ben Jonson, in "Every Man in His Humour" (iii. 2), makes Edward Knowell say to Bobadill—"’Twas pity you had not ten; a cat's and your own." And in Gay's fable of the "Old Woman and her Cats," one of these animals is introduced, upbraiding the witch

"’Tis infamy to serve a hag,
 Cats are thought imps, her broom a nag;
 And boys against our lives combine,
 Because ’tis said, your cats have nine."

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   In Marston's "Dutch Courtezan," we read—

"Why, then, thou hast nine lives like a cat."

And in Dekker's "Strange Horse-Race" (1613)—"When the grand Helcat had gotten these two furies with nine lives." This notion, it may be noted, is quite the reverse of the well-known saying—"Care will kill a cat," mentioned in "Much Ado About Nothing" (v. 1), where Claudio says" What though care killed a cat."

   For some undiscovered reason a cat was formerly called Tybert or Tybalt; 1 hence some of the insulting remarks of Mercutio, in "Romeo and Juliet" (iii. 1), who calls Tybalt "rat catcher" and "king of cats." In the old romance of "Hystorye of Reynard the Foxe" (chap. vi.), we are told how "the king called for Sir Tibert, the cat, and said to him, Sir Tibert, you shall go to Reynard, and summon him the second time." 2 A popular term for a wild cat was "cat-o’-mountain," an expression 3 borrowed from the Spaniards, who call the wild cat "gato-montes." In the "Merry Wives of Windsor" (ii. 2), Falstaff says of Pistol—"Your cat-a-mountain looks."

   The word cat was used as a term of contempt, as in "Tempest" (ii. 1), and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (iii. 2), where Lysander says, "Hang off, thou cat." Once more, too, in "Coriolanus" (iv, 2), we find it in the same sense

         "’Twas you incensed the rabble;
Cats, that can judge as fitly of his worth,
As 1 can of those mysteries which heaven
Will not have earth to know."

A gib, or a gib cat, is an old male cat 4—gib being the contraction of Gilbert, 5 and is, says Nares, an expression exactly analogous to that of a jack-ass. 6 Tom-cat is now the

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usual term. The word was certainly not bestowed upon a cat early in life, as is evident from the melancholy character ascribed to it in Shakespeare's allusion in "1 Henry IV." (i. 2)" I am as melancholy as a gib cat." Ray gives "as melancholy as a gib’d [a corruption of gib] cat." The term occurs again in "Hamlet" (iii. 4). It is improperly applied to a female by Beaumont and Fletcher in the "Scornful Lady" (v. 1)—"Bring out the cat-hounds! I'll make you take a tree, whore; then with my tiller bring down your gib-ship, and then have you cased and hung up in the warren."

   Chameleon.—This animal was popularly believed to feed on air, a notion which Sir Thomas Browne 1 has carefully discussed. He has assigned, among other grounds for this vulgar opinion, its power of abstinence and its faculty of self-inflation. It lives on insects, which it catches by its long gluey tongue, and crushes between its jaws. It has been ascertained by careful experiment that the chameleon can live without eating for four months. It can inflate not only its lungs but its whole body, including even the feet and tail. In allusion to this supposed characteristic, Shakespeare makes Hamlet say (iii. 2)—"Of the chameleon's dish: I eat the air, promise-crammed; you cannot feed capons so;" and in the "Two Gentlemen of Verona" (ii. 1) Speed says" Though the chameleon, Love, can feed on the air, I am one that am nourished by my victuals, and would fain have meat." There is, too, a popular notion that this animal undergoes frequent changes of colour, according to that of the bodies near it. This, however, depends on the volition of the animal, or the state of its feelings, on its good or bad health, and is subordinate to climate, age, and sex. 2 In "3 Henry VI." (iii. 2), Gloucester boasts—

"I can add colours to the chameleon,
 Change shapes with Proteus for advantages."

   Cockatrice.—This imaginary creature, also called a basilisk, has been the subject of extraordinary prejudice. It was absurdly said to proceed from the eggs of old cocks. It has

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been represented as having eight feet, a crown on the head, and a hooked and recurved beak. 1 Pliny asserts that the basilisk had a voice so terrible that it struck terror into all other species. Sir Thomas Browne, 2 however, distinguishes the cockatrice from the ancient basilisk. He says—"This of ours is generally described with legs, wings, a serpentine and winding tail, and a crest or comb somewhat like a cock. But the basilisk of elder times was a proper kind of serpent, not above three palms long, as some account; and different from other serpents by advancing his head and some white marks, or coronary spots upon the crown, as all authentic writers have delivered." No other animal, perhaps, has given rise to so many fabulous notions. Thus, it was supposed to have so deadly an eye as to kill by its very look, to which Shakespeare very often alludes. In "Romeo and Juliet" (iii. 2), the latter says—

                     "Say thou but 'I,'
And that bare vowel 'I' shall poison more
Than the death-darting eye of cockatrice."

In "Richard III." (iv. 1) the Duchess exclaims"—

"O my accursed womb, the bed of death!
 A cockatrice has thou hatch’d to the world,
 Whose unavoided eye is murderous."

In "Lucreece" (1. 540), we read:—

"Here with a cockatrice's dead-killing-eye
 He rouseth up himself and makes a pause."

Once more, 3 in "Twelfth Night" (iii. 4), Sir Toby Belch affirms—"This will so fright them both that they will kill one another by the look, like cockatrices." It has also been affirmed that this animal could not exercise this faculty, unless it first perceived the object of its vengeance before it was itself seen by it—if first seen, it died. Dryden has alluded to this superstition—

"Mischiefs are like the cockatrice's eye,
 If they see first they kill, if seen they die."

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   Cockatrice was a popular phrase for a loose woman, probably from the fascination of the eye. 1 It appears, too, that Basilisk 2 was the name of a huge piece of ordnance carrying a ball of very great weight. In the following passage in "Henry V." (v. 2), there is no doubt a double allusion—to pieces of ordnance, and to the fabulous creature already described:—"the fatal balls of murdering basilisks."

   Colt.—From its wild tricks, the colt was formerly used to designate, according to Johnson, "a witless, heady, gay youngster." Portia mentions it with a quibble in "The Merchant of Venice" (i. 2), referring to the Neapolitan prince:—"Ay, that's a colt indeed." The term "to colt," meant to trick, or befool; as in the phrase in "1 Henry IV." (ii. 2):—"What a plague mean ye to colt me thus?" Mr Halliwell-Phillipps 3 explains the expression, in "Henry VIII." (i. 2), "Your colt's tooth is not cast yet," to denote a love of youthful pleasure. In "Cymbeline" (ii. 4), it is used in a coarser sense:—"She hath been colted by him."

   Crocodile.—According to fabulous accounts, the crocodile was the most deceitful of animals; its tears being proverbially fallacious. Thus, Othello (iv. 1) says:—

                          "O devil, devil!
If that the earth could teem with woman's tears,
Each drop she falls would prove a crocodile:
Out of my sight!"

We may also compare the words of the queen in "2 Henry VI." (iii. 1):—

"Henry my lord is cold in great affairs
 Too full of foolish pity, and Gloucester's show
 Beguiles him as the mournful crocodile
 With sorrow snares relenting passengers."

   It is said that this treacherous animal weeps over a man's head when it hath devoured the body, and will then eat up the head too. In "Bullokar's Expositor," i616, we read:—

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[paragraph continues] "Crocodile lachrymæ, crocodiles teares, do signify such teares as are feigned, and spent only with intent to deceive or do harm." In Quarles's "Emblems," there is the following allusion:—

"O what a crocodilian world is this,
   Compos’d of treachries and ensnaring wiles!
 She cloaths destruction in a formal kiss,
   And lodges death in her deceitful smiles."

In the above passage from "Othello," Singer says, there is, no doubt, a reference to the doctrine of equivocal generation by which new animals were supposed to be producible by new combinations of matter. 1

   Deer.—In "King Lear" (iii. 4), Edgar uses deer for wild animals in general:—

"But mice and rats, and such small deer,
 Have been Tom's food for seven long year."

Shakespeare frequently refers to the popular sport of hunting the deer; 2 and by his apt allusions shows how thoroughly familiar he was with the various amusements of his day. 3 In "Winter's Tale" (i. 2), Leontes speaks of "the mort o’ the deer;" certain notes played on the horn at the death of the deer, and requiring a deep drawn breath. 4 It was anciently, too, one of the customs of the chase, for all to stain their hands in the blood of the deer as a trophy. Thus, in "King John" (ii. 1), the English herald declares to the men of Angiers how—

"Like a jolly troop of huntsmen, come
 Our lusty English, all with purpled hands,
 Dyed in the dying slaughter of their foes."

The practice is again alluded to in "Julius Cæsar" (iii. 1)—

                     "Here thy hunters stand,
Sign’d in thy spoil, and crimson’d in thy lethe."

   Old Tuberville gives us the details of this custom—"Our

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order is, that the prince, or chief, if so please them, do alight, and take assay of the deer, with a sharp knife, the which is done in this manner—the deer being laid upon his back, the prince, chief, or such as they do appoint, comes to it, and the chief huntsman, kneeling if it be a prince, doth hold the deer by the forefoot, whilst the prince, or chief, do cut a slit drawn along the brisket of the deer."

   In "Antony and Cleopatra" (v. 2), where Cæsar, speaking of Cleopatra's death, says—

                        "Bravest at the last,
She levell’d at our purposes, and, being royal,
Took her own way,"

there is possibly an allusion to the hart royal which had the privilege of roaming unmolested, and of taking its own way to its lair.

   Shooting with the cross-bow at deer was an amusement of great ladies. Buildings with flat roofs, called stands, partly concealed by bushes, were erected in the parks for the purpose. Hence the following dialogue in "Love's Labour's Lost" (iv. 1)—

"Princess. Then forester, my friend, where is the bush
 That we must stand and play the murderer in?
 Forester. Hereby, upon the edge of yonder coppice;
 A stand where you may make the fairest shoot."

   Amongst the hunting terms to which Shakespeare refers may be mentioned the following:—

   "To draw," meant to trace the steps of the game, as in "Comedy of Errors" (iv. 2)—

"A hound that runs counter and yet draws dry-foot well."

   The term “to run counter” was to mistake the course of the game, or to turn and pursue the backward trail.”

   The "recheat" denoted certain notes sounded on the horn, properly and more usually employed to recall the dogs from a wrong scent. It is used in "Much ado about Nothing" (i. 1)—

"I will have a recheat winded on my forehead."

We may compare Drayton's "Polyolbion" (xiii.):—

"Recheating with his horn, which then the hunter cheers."

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   "The phrase 'to recover the wind of me' used by Hamlet (iii. 2) is borrowed from hunting, and means to get the animal pursued to run with the wind that it may not scent the toil or its pursuers." Again, when Falstaff in "2 Henry IV." (ii. 4) speaks of "fat rascals," he alludes to the phrase of the forest—"rascall," says Puttenham, "being properly the hunting term given to a young deer leane and out of season."

   The phrase "a hunt's up" implied any song intended to arouse in the morning,—even a love song—the name having been derived from a tune or song employed by early hunters. 1 The term occurs in "Romeo and Juliet" (iii. 5) where Juliet says to Romeo, speaking of the lark—

"Since arm from arm that voice doth us affray,
 Hunting thee hence with hunt's up to the day."

In Drayton's "Polyolbion" (xiii.) it is used—

"No sooner doth the earth her flowery bosom brave,
 At such time as the year brings on the pleasant spring,
 But hunt's-up to the morn the feather’d sylvans sing."

In Shakespeare's day it was customary to hunt as well after dinner as before, hence in "Timon of Athens" (ii. 2) Timon says—

"So soon as dinner's done, we'll forth again."

   The word "embossed" was applied to a deer when foaming at the mouth from fatigue. In "Taming of the Shrew" (i. ind.) we read—"the poor club is embossed," and in "Antony and Cleopatra" (iv. 13)—"the boar of Thessaly was never so emboss’d."

   It was usual to call a pack of hounds "a cry," from the French meute de chiens. The term is humorously applied to any troop or company of players by Hamlet (iii. 2), who speaks of "a fellowship in a cry of players." In "Coriolanus," Menenius says (iv. 6)—"You have made good work, you and your cry."

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   Antony in "Julius Cæsar" (iii. i) alludes to the technical phrase to "let slip a dog," employed in hunting the hart. This consisted in releasing the hounds from the leash or slip of leather by which they were held in hand until it was judged proper to let them pursue the animal chased. 1 In 1 Henry IV." (i. 3) Northumberland tells Hotspur—

"Before the game is afoot, thou still let's slip."

In "Taming of the Shrew" (v. 2) Tranio says—

"O, sir, Lucentio slipp’d me like his greyhound,
 Which runs himself and catches for his master."

   A sportsman's saying, applied to hounds, occurs in "2 Henry IV." (v. 3); "a’ will not out; he is true bred," serving to expound Gadshill's expression, "such as can hold in," "1 Henry IV." (ii. 1).

   The severity of the game laws under our early monarchs was very stringent; and a clause in the "Forest Charter" 2 grants "to an archbishop, bishop, earl, or baron, when travelling through the royal forests, at the king's command, the privilege to kill one deer or two in the sight of the forester, if he was at hand; if not, they were commanded to cause a horn to be sounded, that it might not appear as if they had intended to steal the game." In "Merry Wives of Windsor" (v. 5), Falstaff, using the terms of the forest, alludes to the perquisites of the keeper. Thus he speaks of the "shoulders for the fellow of this walk," i.e., the keeper.

   Shakespeare has several pretty allusions to the tears of the deer, this animal being said to possess a very large secretion of tears. Thus Hamlet (iii. 2) says—"Let the stricken deer go weep;" and in "As You Like It" (ii. 1), we read of the "sobbing deer," and in the same scene, the First Lord narrates how, at a certain spot,

                   "A poor sequester’d stag
That from the hunter's aim hath ta’en a hurt
Did come to languish.    .    .    .    .
.    .    .    .    And the big round tears
Coursed one another down his innocent nose
In piteous chase."

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   Bartholomœus 1 says, that "when the hart is arered, he fleethe to a ryver or ponde, and roreth cryeth and wepeth when he is take." 2 It appears that there were various superstitions connected with the tears of the deer. Batman 3 tells us that "when the hart is sick, and hath eaten many serpents for his recoverie, he is brought unto so great a heate, that he hasteth to the water, and there covereth his body unto the very eares and eyes, at which time distilleth many tears from which the [Bezoar] stone is gendered." 4 Douce 5 quotes the following passage from the "Noble Art of Venerie," in which the hart thus addresses the hunter:—

"O cruel!, be content, to take in worth my tears,
 Which growe to gumme, and fall from me: content thee with my heares,
 Content thee with my homes, which every year I new,
 Since all these three make medicines, some sickness to eschew.
 My tears congeal’d to gumme, by peeces from me fall,
 And thee preserve from pestilence, in pomander or ball.
 Such wholesome tears shedde I, when thou pursewest me so."

   Dog.—As the favourite of our domestic animals, the dog not unnaturally possesses an extensive history, besides entering largely into those superstitions which, more or less, are associated with every stage of human life. It is not surprising, therefore, that Shakespeare frequently speaks of the dog, making it the subject of many of his illustrations. Thus he has not omitted to mention the fatal significance of its howl; which is supposed either to foretell death or misfortune. In "2 Henry VI." (i. 4), he makes Bolingbroke say—

"The time when screech-owls cry and ban dogs howl 6
 And spirits walk and ghosts break up their graves."

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[paragraph continues] And again, in "3 Henry VI." (v. 6), King Henry, speaking of Gloucester, says—

"The owl shriek’d at thy birth,—an evil sign;
 The night-crow cried, aboding luckless time;
 Dogs howl’d, and hideous tempests shook down trees."

The same superstition prevails in France and Germany, 1 and various charms are resorted to for averting the ill-consequences supposed to attach to this sign of ill-omen. Several of these, too, are practised in our own country. Thus, in Staffordshire, when a dog howls, the following advice is given—"Take off your shoe from the left foot, and spit upon the sole, place it on the ground bottom upwards, and your foot upon the place you sat upon, which will not only preserve you from harm, but stop the howling of the dog." 2 A similar remedy is recommended in Norfolk 3—"Pull off your left shoe, and turn it, and it will quiet him. A dog won't howl three times after." We are indebted to antiquity for this superstition; some of the earliest writers referring to it. Thus, Pausanias relates how, previous to the destruction of the Messenians, the dogs pierced the air by raising a louder barking than usual; and it is on record how, before the sedition in Rome, about the dictatorship of Pompey, there was an extraordinary howling of dogs. Virgil, 4 (Georgic i. 470), speaking of the Roman misfortunes, says—

"Obscœnique canes, importunæque volucres
 Signa dabant."

Capitolinus narrates, too, how the dogs by their howling presaged the death of Maximinus. The idea which associates the dog's howl with the approach of death is probably derived from a conception in Aryan mythology, which represents a dog as summoning the departing soul. Indeed, as Mr Fiske 5 remarks, "Throughout all Aryan mythology, the souls of the dead are supposed to ride on the night-wind, with their

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howling dogs, gathering into their throng the souls of those just dying as they pass by their houses."

   Another popular superstition—in all probability derived from the Egyptians—refers to the setting and rising of Sirius or the dog-star, as infusing madness into the canine race. Hence the name of the "Dog-days" was given by the Romans to the period between the 3rd July and the 11th August, to which Shakespeare alludes in "Henry VIII." (v. 3)—"The dog-days now reign." We may, too, compare the words of Benvolio in "Romeo and Juliet" (iii. 1)—"For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring." It is obvious, however, that this superstition is utterly groundless, for not only does the star vary in its rising, but is later and later every year. The term "dog-day" is still a common phrase, and it is difficult to say whether it is from superstitious adherence to old custom, or from a belief in the injurious effect of heat upon dogs, that the magistrates, often unwisely, at this season of the year order them to be muzzled or tied up. It was the practice to put them to death; and Ben Jonson, in his "Bartholomew Fair," speaks of "the dog-killer" in this month of August. Lord Bacon, too, in his "Sylva Sylvarum," tells us that "it is a common experience that dogs know the dog-killer, when, as in times of infection, some petty fellow is sent out to kill them. Although they have never seen him before, yet they will all come forth and bark and fly at him."

   A "curtal dog," to which allusion is made in "Merry Wives of Windsor" (ii. 1), by Pistol—

"Hope is a curtal dog in some affairs,"

denoted "originally the dog of an unqualified person, which, by the forest laws, must have its tail cut short, partly as a mark, and partly from a notion that the tail of a dog is necessary to him in running." In later usage, curtail dog means either a common dog, not meant for sport, or a dog that missed the game, which latter sense it has in the passage above. 1

   Dragon.—As the type and embodiment of the spirit of evil, the dragon has been made the subject of an extensive

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legendary lore. The well-known myth of "St George and the Dragon," which may be regarded as a grand allegory representing the hideous and powerful monster against whom the Christian soldier is called to fight, has exercised a remarkable influence for good in times past, over half-instructed people. It has been truly remarked that "the dullest mind and hardest heart could not fail to learn from it something of the hatefulness of evil, the beauty of self-sacrifice, and the all-conquering might of truth." This graceful conception is alluded to by Shakespeare in his "King John" (ii. 1), where, according to a long established custom, it is made a subject for sign-painting 1

"St George that swinged the dragon, and e’er since,
 Sits on his horseback at mine hostess’ door,
 Teach us some fence."

In ancient mythology the task of drawing the chariot of night was assigned to dragons, on account of their supposed watchfulness. In "Cymbeline" (ii. 2), Iachimo addressing them says—

"Swift, swift, you dragons of the night! that dawning
 May bare the raven's eye." 2

   Milton, in his "Il Penseroso," mentions the dragon yoke of night, and in his "Comus" (l. 130)

                  "The dragon womb
Of Stygian darkness."

   It may be noticed that the whole tribe of serpents sleep with their eyes open, and so appear to exert a constant watchfulness. 3

   In devising loathsome ingredients for the witches’ mess, Shakespeare "Macbeth" (iv. 1), speaks of "the scale of dragon," alluding to the horror in which this mythical being was held. Referring, also, to the numerous legends associated with its dread form, he mentions "the spleen of fiery dragons" ("Richard III." v. 3); "dragon's wings," "1 Henry VI." (i. 1),

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and in "Pericles" (i. 1), "death-like dragons." Mr Conway 1 has admirably summed up the general views respecting this imaginary source of terror:—"Nearly all the dragon forms, whatever their original types and their region, are represented in the conventional monster of the European stage, which meets the popular conception. The dragon is a masterpiece of the popular imagination, and it required many generations to give it artistic shape. Every Christmas he appears in some London pantomime, with aspect similar to that which he has worn for many ages. His body is partly green, with the memories of the sea and of slime, and partly brown or dark, with lingering shadow of storm clouds. The lightning flames still in his red eyes, and flashes from his fire-breathing mouth. The thunderbolt of Jove, the spear of Wodan, are in the barbed point of his tail. His huge wings—bat-like, spiked, sum up all the mythical life of extinct harpies and vampires. Spine of crocodile is on his neck, tail of the serpent, and all the jagged ridges of rocks and sharp thorns of jungles bristle around him, while the ice of glaciers and brassy glitter of sunstrokes are in his scales. He is ideal of all that is hard, obstructive, perilous, loathe-some, horrible in nature; every detail of him has been seen through and vanquished by man, here or there, but in selection and combination they rise again as principles, and conspire to form one great generalisation of the forms of Pain—the sum of every creature's worst." 2

   Elephant.—According to a vulgar error current in bygone times, the elephant was supposed to have no joints—a notion which is said to have been first recorded from tradition by Ctesias the Cnidian. 3 Sir Thomas Browne has entered largely into this superstition, arguing from reason, anatomy, and general analogy with other animals, the absurdity of the error. In "Troilus and Cressida" (ii. 3), Ulysses says:—"the elephant hath joints, but none for courtesy: his legs are legs for necessity, not for flexure." Steevens quotes from "the Dialogues of Creatures Moralized"—a curious specimen

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of our early natural history—the following:—"the olefawnte that bowyth not the kneys." In the play of "All Fools," 1605, we read:—"I hope you are no elephant—you have joints." In a note to "Sir Thomas Browne's Works," 1 we are told, "it has long been the custom for the exhibitors of itinerant collections of wild animals, when showing the elephant, to mention the story of its having no joints, and its consequent inability to kneel; and they never fail to think it necessary to demonstrate its untruth by causing the animal to bend one of its fore-legs, and to kneel also."

   In "Julius Cæsar" (ii. 1), the custom of seducing elephants into pitfalls, lightly covered with hurdles and turf, on which a proper bait to tempt them was exposed, is alluded to. 2 Decius speaks of elephants being betrayed "with holes."

   Fox.—It appears that the term fox was a common expression for the old English weapon, the broad sword of Jonson's days, as distinguished from the small (foreign) sword. The name was given from the circumstance that Andrea Ferrara adopted a fox as the blade mark of his weapons—a practice, since his time, adopted by other foreign sword-cutlers. Swords with a running fox rudely engraved on the blades, are still occasionally to be met with in the old curiosity shops of London. 3 Thus, in "Henry V." (iv. 4), Pistol says:—

"O Signieur Dew, thou diest on point of fox,
 Except, O Signieur, thou do give to me
 Egregious ransom."

In Ben Jonson's "Bartholomew Fair" (ii. 6), the expression occurs:—"What would you have, sister, of a fellow that knows nothing but a basket-hilt, and an old fox in it?"

   The tricks and artifices of a hunted fox were supposed to be very extraordinary, hence Falstaff makes use of this expression in"1 Henry IV." (iii. 3):—

"No more truth in thee than in a drawn fox."

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   Goat.—It is curious that the harmless goat should have had an evil name, and been associated with devil-lore. Thus, there is a common superstition in England and Scotland that it is never seen for twenty-four hours together; and that once in this space, it pays a visit to the devil in order to have its beard combed. It was, formerly, too, a popular notion that the devil appeared frequently in the shape of a goat, which accounted for his horns and tail. Sir Thomas Browne observes that the goat was the emblem of the sin offering, and is the emblem of sinful men at the day of judgment. This may, perhaps, account for Shakespeare's enumerating the "gall of goat" ("Macbeth" iv. 1), among the ingredients of the witches’ cauldron. His object seems to have been to include the most distasteful and ill-omened things imaginable—a practice shared, indeed, by other poets, contemporary with him.

   Hare.—This was formerly esteemed a melancholy animal, and its flesh was supposed to engender melancholy in those who ate it. This idea was not confined to our own country, but is mentioned by La Fontaine in one of his "Fables" (Liv. ii. Fab. 14)—

"Dans un profond ennui ce lievre se plongeoit,
 Cet animal est triste, et la crainte le rounge."

and later on 'he says—"Le melancolique animal." Hence, in "1 Henry IV." (i. 2), Falstaff is told by Prince Henry, that he is as melancholy as a hare. This notion was not quite forgotten in Swift's time; for in his "Polite Conversation," Lady Answerall, being asked to eat hare, replies: "no madam; they say ’tis melancholy meat." Mr Staunton quotes the following extract from Tuberville's book on "Hunting and Falconry:"—"The hare first taught us the use of the hearbe called wyld succory, which is very excellent for those which are disposed to be melancholicke. She herself is one of the most melancholicke beasts that is, and to heale her own infirmitie, she goeth commonly to sit under that hearbe."

   The old Greek epigram relating to the hare—

"Strike ye my body, now that life is fled:
 So hares insult the lion when he's dead"

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is alluded to by the Bastard in "King John" (ii. 1)—

"You are the hare of whom the proverb goes,
 Whose valour plucks dead lions by the beard."

A familiar expression amongst sportsmen for a hare is "wat," so called perhaps from its long ears or wattles. In "Venus and Adonis" the term occurs—

"By this, poor wat, far off upon a hill,
 Stands on his hinder legs, with listening ear."

In Drayton's "Polyolbion" (xxiii.), we read—

"The man whose vacant mind prepares him to the sport,
 The finder sendeth out, to seek out nimble Wat,
 Which crosseth in the field, each furlong, every flat,
 Till he this pretty beast upon the form hath found."

   Hedgehog.—The urchin or hedgehog, like the toad, for its solitariness, the ugliness of its appearance, and from a popular belief that it sucked or poisoned the udders of cows, was adopted into the demonologic system; and its shape was sometimes supposed to be assumed by mischievous elves. 1 Hence in the "Tempest" (i. 2), Prospero says—

Shall, for that vast of night that they may work,
All exercise on thee."

and later on in the same play (ii. 2), Caliban speaks of being frighted with "urchin shows." In the witch scene in "Macbeth" (iv. 1), the hedgepig is represented as one of the witches’ familiars; and in the "Midsummer Night's Dream" (ii. 2), in the incantation of the fairies, "thorny hedgehogs are exorcised. For the use of urchins in similar associations we may quote "Merry Wives of Windsor" (iv. 4), "like urchins, ouphes, and fairies;" and "Titus Andronicus" (ii. 3), "ten thousand swelling toads, as many urchins." 2 In the phrase still current of "little urchins" for a child, the idea of the fairy also remains. In various legends we find this animal holding a prominent place. Thus, for example, it was in the form of a hedgehog, 3 that the devil is said to have

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made his attempt to let the sea in through the Brighton Downs, which was prevented by a light being brought, though the seriousness of the scheme is still attested in the Devil's Dyke. There is an ancient tradition that when the devil had smuggled himself into Noah's Ark, he tried to sink it by boring a hole; but this scheme was defeated, and the human race saved, by the hedgehog stuffing himself into a hole. In the Brighton story, as Mr Conway points out, the devil would appear to have remembered his former failure in drowning people, and to have appropriated the form which defeated him. In "Richard III." (i. 2), the hedgehog is used as a term of reproach by Lady Anne, when addressing Gloucester.

   Horse.—Although Shakespeare's allusions to the horse are most extensive, yet he has said little of the many widespread superstitions, legends, and traditional tales that have been associated from the earliest times with this brave and intellectual animal. Indeed, even now-a-days, both in our own country and abroad, many a fairy tale is told and credited by the peasantry, in which the horse occupies a prominent place. It seems to have been a common notion that, at night time, fairies in their nocturnal revels played various pranks with horses, often entangling in a thousand knots their hair—a superstition to which we referred in our chapter on Fairies, where Mercutio, in "Romeo and Juliet," says, (i. 4):—

              "This is that very Mab
That plats the manes of horses in the night,
And bakes the elf-locks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once entangled much misfortune bodes."

   In "King Lear" (ii. 3), Edgar says:—"I'll elf all my hair in knots." Mr Hunt, in his "Popular Romances of the West of England" (1871, p. 87), tells us that when a boy, he was on a visit at a farmhouse near Fowey River, and well remembers the farmer with much sorrow, telling the party one morning at breakfast how "the piskie people had been riding Tom again." The mane was said to be knotted into fairy stirrups, and the farmer said he had no doubt that at least twenty small people had sat upon the horse's neck. Warburton 1 considers that this superstition may have originated from the

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disease called "Plica Polonica." Witches, too, have generally been supposed to harass the horse, using it in various ways for their fiendish purposes. Thus, there are numerous local traditions in which the horse at night-time has been ridden by the witches, and found in the morning in an almost prostrate condition, bathed in sweat.

   It was a current notion that a horse hair dropped into corrupted water would soon become an animal. The fact, however, is that the hair moves like a living thing, because a number of animalculæ cling to it. 1 This ancient vulgar error is mentioned in ("Antony and Cleopatra," i. 2):—

"Much is breeding,
 Which, like the courser's hair hath yet but life,
 And not a serpent's poison."

   Steevens quotes from Churchyard's "Discourse of Rebellion," 1570,—

"Hit is of kinde much worse than horses heare,
 That lyes in donge, where on vyle serpents brede."

   Dr Lister, in the "Philosophical Transactions," says, that these animated horse-hairs are real thread worms. It was asserted that these worms moved like serpents, and were poisonous to swallow. Coleridge tells us it was a common experiment with boys in Cumberland and Westmoreland, to lay a horse-hair in water, which, when removed after a time, would twirl round the finger and sensibly compress it—having become the supporter of an immense number of small slimy water lice.

   A horse is said to have a "cloud in his face," when he has a dark coloured spot in his forehead between his eyes. This gives him a sour look, and, being supposed to indicate an ill-temper, is generally considered a great blemish. This notion is alluded to in "Antony and Cleopatra" (iii. 2), where Agrippa speaking of Cæsar says:—

"He has a cloud in’s face,"

whereupon Enobarbus adds:—

"He were the worse for that, were he a horse;
 So is he, being a man."

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   Burton in his "Anatomy of Melancholy," uses the phrase for the look of a woman:—"Every lover admires his mistress, though she be very deformed of herselfe—thin, leane, chitty face, have clouds in her face," etc.

"To mose in the chine," a phrase we find in "Taming of the Shrew" (iii. 2):—

"Passened with the glanders, like to mose in the chine"

refers to a disorder in horses, also known as "mourning in the chine."

   Alluding to the custom associated with horses, we may note that a stalking-horse, or stale, was either a real or artificial one, under cover of which the fowler approached towards and shot at his game. It is alluded to in "As You Like It" (v. 4), by the Duke, who says of Touchstone:—"He uses his folly like a stalking-horse and under the presentation of that he shoots his wit." In "Much Ado About Nothing" (ii. 3), Claudio says:—"Stalk on, stalk on; the fowl sits." 1 In "Comedy of Errors" (ii. 1), Adriana says:—"I am but his stale," upon which Malone remarks:—"Adriana undoubtedly means to compare herself to a stalking-horse, behind whom Antipholus shoots at such game as he selects." In "Taming of the Shrew," Katharine says to her father (i. 1):—"Is it your will to make a stale of me amongst these mates?" which, says Singer, means "make an object of mockery." So in "3 Henry VI." (iii. 3), Warwick says:—"Had he none else to make a stale but me?"

   That it was also a hunting term might be shown, adds Dyce, 2 by quotations from various old writers. In the inventories of the wardrobe belonging to King Henry VIII., we frequently find the allowance of certain quantities of stuff for the purpose of making "stalking coats and stalking hose for the use of his Majesty." 3

   Again, the forehorse of a team was generally gaily ornamented with tufts, and ribbons, and bells. Hence in "All's

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[paragraph continues] Well that Ends Well" (ii. 1), Bertram complains that bedizened like one of these animals, he will have to squire ladies at the court, instead of achieving honour in the wars."

"I shall stay here the forehorse to a smock,
 Creaking my shoes on the plain masonry,
 Till honour be bought up and no sword worn
 But one to dance with."

   A familiar name for a common horse was "Cut,"—either from its being docked or gelded—a name occasionally applied to a man as a term of contempt. In "Twelfth Night" (ii. 3), Sir Toby Belch says:—"Send for money, knight; if thou hast her not i’ the end, call me cut." In "1 Henry IV." (ii. 1), the carrier says:—"I prithee, Tom, beat Cut's saddle." We may compare, too, what Falstaff says further on in the same play (ii. 4), "I tell thee what, Hal, if I tell thee a lie, spit in my face, call me horse." Hence, call me Cut is the same as call me horse—both expressions having been used.

In Shakespeare's day, a race of horses was the term for what is now called a stud. So in "Macbeth" (ii. 4), Rosse says:—

"And Duncan's horses—a thing most strange and certain,
 Beauteous and swift, the minions of their race,
 Turn’d wild in nature."

The words "minions of the race," according to Steevens, mean the favourite horses on the race-ground.

   Lion.—The traditions and stories of the darker ages abounded with examples of the lion's generosity. "Upon the supposition that these acts of clemency were true, Troilus, in the passage below, reasons not improperly ("Troilus and Cressida," v. 3) that to spare against reason, by mere instinct and pity, became rather a generous beast than a wise man." 1

"Brother, you have a vice of mercy in you,
 Which better fits a lion, than a man."

   It is recorded by Pliny 2 that "the lion alone of all wild animals is gentle to those that humble themselves before him,

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and will not touch any such upon their submission, but spareth what creature soever lieth prostrate before him." Hence Spenser's Una, attended by a lion; and Perceval's Lion, in "Morte Arthur," (b. xiv. c. 6). Bartholomæus says the lion's "mercie is known by many and oft ensamples: for they spare them that lie on the ground." Shakespeare again alludes to this notion in "As you Like It" (iv. 3)—

                                 "For ’tis
The royal disposition of that beast
To prey on nothing that doth seem as dead."

   It was also supposed that the lion would not injure a royal prince. Hence in "1 Henry IV." (ii. 4) the Prince says—"You are lions too, you ran away upon instinct, you will not touch the true prince; no, fie!" 1* The same notion is alluded to by Beaumont and Fletcher in "The Mad Lover" (iv. 5)—

"Fetch the Numidian lion I brought over;
 If she be sprung from royal blood, the lion
 He'll do you reverence, else—
   .       .       .       .       .
 He'll tear her all to pieces."

According to some commentators there is an allusion in "3 Henry VI." (i. 3) to the practice of confining lions and keeping them without food that they may devour criminals exposed to them—

"So looks the pent-up lion o’er the wretch
 That trembles under his devouring paws."

   Mole.—The eyes of the mole are so extremely minute, and so perfectly hid in its hair, that our ancestors considered it blind—a vulgar error to which reference is made by Caliban in the "Tempest" (iv. 1)—"Pray you tread softly that the blind mole may not hear a foot fall." And again by Pericles (i. 1)—"The blind mole casts copp’d hills towards heaven." Hence the expression "blind as a mole." Alexander Ross 2 absurdly speaks of the mole's eyes as only the "forms of eyes," given by nature "rather for ornament than for use; as wings are given to the ostrich which never flies, and a long tail to the rat, which serves for no other purpose but to be catched sometimes by it." Sir Thomas Browne, however,

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in his "Vulgar Errors" (Bk. iii. xviii.) 1 has, with his usual minuteness, disproved this idea, remarking "that they have eyes in their head is manifested unto any that wants them not in his own." A popular term for the mole was the "Moldwarp" or "Mouldiwarp," 2 so called from the Anglo-Saxon, denoting turning the mould. Thus in "1 Henry IV." (iii. 1) Hotspur says—

                  "Sometime he angers me
With telling me of the moldwarp and the ant."

   Mouse.—This word was formerly used as a term of endearment, from either sex to the other. In this sense it is used by Rosaline in "Love's Labour's Lost" (v. 2)—

"What's your dark meaning, mouse, of this light word."

And again in "Hamlet" (iii. 4).

   Some doubt exists as to the exact meaning of "Mouse-hunt," by Lady Capulet, in "Romeo and Juliet" (iv. 4)—

"Ay, you have been a mouse-hunt in your time,
 But I will watch you from such watching now."

According to some, the expression implies "a hunter of gay-women," mouse having been used in this signification. 3 Others are of opinion that the stoat 4 is meant, the smallest of the weasel tribe, and others again the pole-cat. Mr Staunton 5 tells us that the mouse-hunt is the marten, an animal of the weasel tribe which prowls about for its prey at night, and is applied to any one of rakish propensities.

   Holinshed in his "History of Scotland" (1577, p. 181) quotes from the laws of Kenneth II., King of Scotland—"If a sowe eate her pigges, let hyr be stoned to death and buried, that no man eate of hyr fleshe." This offence is probably alluded to by Shakespeare in "Macbeth" (iv. 1) where the witch says—

"Pour in sow's blood, that hath eaten
 Her nine farrow."

p. 185

   Pole-Cat, or Fitchew.—This animal is supposed to be very amorous; and hence its name, Mr Steevens says, was often applied to ladies of easy or no virtue. In "Othello" (iv. 1) Cassio calls Bianca a "fitchew," and in "Troilus and Cressida" (v. 1) Thersites alludes to it. 1

   Porcupine.—Another name for this animal was the porpentine, which spelling occurs in "Hamlet" (i. 5). "Like quills upon the fretful porpentine." And again in "2 Henry IV." (iii. 2) York speaks of "a sharp-quill’d porpentine." Ajax, too, in "Troilus and Cressida" (ii. 1) applies the term to Thersites, "do not, porpentine." In the above passages, however, and elsewhere, the word has been altered by editors to porcupine. According to a popular error, the porcupine could dart his quills. They are easily detached, very sharp, and slightly barbed, and may easily stick to a person's legs, when he is not aware that he is near enough to touch them. 2

   Rabbit.—In "2 Henry IV." (ii. 2), this animal is used as a term of reproach, a sense in which it was known in Shakespeare's day. The phrase "Cony-catch," which occurs in "Taming of the Shrew" (v. 1)—"Take heed, Signior Baptista, lest you be cony-catched in this business," implied the act of deceiving or cheating a simple person—the cony or rabbit being considered a foolish animal. 3 It has been shown from Dekker's "English Villanies," that the system of cheating was carried to a great length in the early part of the seventeenth century, that a collective society of sharpers was called "a warren," and their dupes, "rabbit-suckers," i.e., young rabbit or conies. 4 Shakespeare has once used the term to express harmless roguery, in the "Taming of Shrew" (iv. 1). When Grumio, will not answer his fellow-servants, except in a jesting way, Curtis says to him:—"Come, you are so full of cony-catching."

   Rat.—The fanciful idea, that rats were commonly rhymed to death, in Ireland, is said to have arisen from some metrical charm or incantation, used there for that purpose—to which

p. 186

there are constant allusions in old writers. In the "Merchant of Venice" (iv. 1), Shylock says—

"What if my house be troubled with a rat
 And I be pleased to give ten thousand ducats
 To have it baned?"

And in "As You Like It" (iii. 2), Rosaline says:—"I was never so be-rhymed since Pythagoras’ time, that I was an Irish rat, which I can hardly remember." We find it mentioned by Ben Jonson, in the "Poetaster," (v. 1)—

"Rhime them to death, as they do Irish rats,
 In drumming tunes."

"The reference, however, is generally referred in Ireland," says Mr Mackay, "to the supposed potency of the verses pronounced by the professional rhymers of Ireland, which according to popular superstition, could not only drive rats to destruction, but could absolutely turn a man's face to the rack of his head." 1

Sir W. Temple, in his "Essay on Poetry," seems to derive the idea from the Runic incantations, for, after speaking of them in various ways, he adds, "and the proverb of rhyming rats to death, came, I suppose, from the same root."

According to a superstitious notion of considerable antiquity, rats leaving a ship are considered indicative of misfortune to a vessel, probably from the same idea that crows will not build upon trees that are likely to fall. This idea is noticed by Shakespeare in the "Tempest" (i. 2), where Prospero, describing the vessel in which himself and daughter had

p. 187

been placed, with the view to their certain destruction at sea, says—

             "They hurried us aboard a bark,
Bore us some leagues to sea; where they prepared
A rotten carcass of a boat; not rigg’d,
Nor tackle, sail, nor mast; the very rats
Instinctively had quit it."

   The Shipping Gazette of April 1869 contained a communication entitled, "A Sailor's Notion About Rats," in which the following passage occurs—"It is a well-authenticated fact that rats have often been known to leave ships in the harbour previous to their being lost at sea. Some of those wiseacres who want to convince us against the evidence of our senses will call this superstition. As neither I have time, nor you space, to cavil with such at present, I shall leave them alone in their glory." The fact, however, as Mr Hardwick has pointed out in his "Traditions, Superstitions, and Folk-lore" (1872, p. 251), that rats do sometimes migrate from one ship to another, or from one barn or corn-stack to another, from various causes, ought to be quite sufficient to explain such a superstition. Indeed, a story is told of a cunning Welsh captain who wanted to get rid of rats that infested his ship, then lying in the Mersey, at Liverpool. Having found out that there was a vessel laden with cheese in the basin, and getting alongside of her about dusk, he left all his hatches open, and waited till all the rats were in his neighbour's ship, and then moved off.

   Snail.—A common amusement among children consists in charming snails, in order to induce them to put out their horns—a couplet, such as the following, being repeated on the occasion—

"Peer out, peer out, peer out of your hole,
 Or else I'll beat you as black as a coal."

In Scotland, it is regarded as a token of fine weather if the snail obey the command and put out its horn 1

"Snaffle, snailie, shoot out your horn,
 And tell us if it will be a bonnie day the morn."

p. 188

   Shakespeare alludes to snail-charming in the "Merry Wives of Windsor" (iv. 2), where Mrs Page says of Mrs Ford's husband, he "so buffets himself on the forehead, crying, Peer out! peer out! that any madness I ever yet beheld seemed but tameness, civility, and patience, to this his distemper he is in now." In "Comedy of Errors" (ii. 2), the snail is used to denote a lazy person.

   Tiger.—It was an ancient belief that this animal roared and raged most furiously in stormy and high winds—a piece of folk-lore alluded to in "Troilus and Cressida" (i. 3), by Nestor, who says—

"The herd hath more annoyance by the breese
 Than by the tiger: but when the splitting wind
 Makes flexible the knees of knotted oaks,
 And flies fled under shade, why, then, the thing of courage,
 As roused with rage, with rage doth sympathise."

   Unicorn.—In "Julius Caesar" (ii. 1), Decius tells how "unicorns may be betray’d with trees," alluding to their traditionary mode of capture. They are reported to have been taken by one, who, running behind a tree, eluded the violent push the animal was making at him, so that his horn spent its force on the trunk, and stuck fast, detaining the animal till he was despatched by the hunter. 1 In Topsell's "History of Beasts" (1658, p. 557), we read of the unicorn—"He is an enemy to the lions, wherefore, as soon as ever a lion seeth a unicorn, he runneth to a tree for succour, that so when the unicorn maketh force at him, he may not only avoid his horn, but also destroy him; for the unicorn, in the swiftness of his course, runneth against the tree, wherein his sharp horn sticketh fast, that when the lion seeth the unicorn fastened by the horn, without all danger he falleth upon him and killeth him." With this passage we may compare the following from Spenser's "Fairy Queen" (Bk. ii. canto 5)—

"Like as a lyon, whose imperiall power
 A prowd rebellious unicorn defyes,
 T’ avoide the rash assault and wrathful stowre
 Of his fiers foe, him to a tree applyes,

p. 189

[paragraph continues] And when him ronning in full course he spyes,
 He slips aside: the whiles that furious beast
 His precious home, sought of his enimyes
 Strikes in the stocke, ne thence can be releast,
 But to the mighty victor yields a bounteous feast."

   Weasel.—To meet a weasel was formerly considered a bad omen. 1 That may be a tacit allusion to this superstition in "Lucrece" (p. 307)—

"Night wandering weasels shriek to see him there;
 They fright him, yet he still pursues his fear."

It appears that weasels were kept in houses, instead of cats, for the purpose of killing vermin. Phædrus notices this their feline office in the first and fourth fables of his fourth book. The supposed quarrelsomeness of this animal is spoken of by Pisanio in "Cymbeline" (iii. 4), who tells Imogen that she must be "as quarrelous as the weasel;" and in "2 Henry IV." (ii. 3), Lady Percy says to Hotspur—

"A weasel hath not such a deal of spleen
 As you are toss’d with."

   This character of the weasel is not, however, generally mentioned by naturalists.


152:1 See page 156.

153:1 Nares’ "Glossary," i. p. 38.

153:2 "Glossary to Shakespeare," 1876, p. 20.

153:3 "Asinico, a little ass," Connelly's "Spanish and English Dict.," Madrid, 4to.

153:4 "English Folk-lore," p. 115; cf. "Macbeth," iii. 2.

153:5 Henderson's "Folk-lore of Northern Counties," 1879, pp. 125, 126.

154:1 It has been speciously derived from the English word to rear, in the sense of being able to raise itself in the air, but this is erroneous. Nares's "Glossary," ii. 726.

154:2 Aldis Wright's "Notes to a 'Midsummer Night's Dream,'" 1877, p. 101.

154:3 "Folk-lore Record," 1879, p. 201.

154:4 Jamieson's "Scottish Dictionary," 1879, i. p. 106.

154:5 See Brand's "Pop. Antiq.," 1849, iii. p. 189; Harting's "Ornithology of Shakespeare," 1871, pp. 13, 14.

154:6 "Vulgar Errors," 1852, i. p. 247.

155:1 See Bartholomæus "De Proprietate Rerum," lib. xviii. c. 112; Aristotle, "History of Animals," lib. vi. c. 31; Pliny's "Natural History," viii. c. 54.

155:2 Steevens on this passage.

155:3 Notes on "Julius Cæsar," 1878, p. 134.

155:4 "Notices Illustrative of the Drama and other Popular Amusements," incidentally illustrating Shakespeare and his contemporaries, extracted from the MSS. of Leicester, by W. Kelly, 1865, p. 152.

156:1 No. 433. The document is given at length in Collier's "Annals of the Stage," i. 35, Note.

156:2 Kelly's "Notices of Leicester," p. 152.

156:3 Wright's "Domestic Manners," p. 304.

156:4 "Progresses and Processions," ii. p. 259.

156:5 About 1760 it was customary to have a bear baited at the election of the mayor.—Corry, "History of Liverpool," 1810, p. 93.

157:1 Edited by M. A. Thoms, 1853, p. 170.

157:2 For further information on this subject consult "Strutt's Sports and Pastimes," 1876: Kelly's "Notices of Leicester," pp. 152–159.

157:3 Chambers’ "Book of Days," 1864, vol. ii., pp. 518, 519.

158:1 Hampson's "Œvi Medii Kalendarium," i. p. 96.

158:2 See "Gent. Mag.," xcviii. pp. 401, 402.

158:3 See "Book of Days," ii. pp. 517–519.

158:4 "Emboss’d" is a hunting term, properly applied to a deer when foaming at the mouth from fatigue, see p. 169; also Dyce's "Glossary to Shakespeare," p. 142. See Nares's "Glossary," i. p. 275.

158:5 Wright's "Domestic Manners," p. 304. See Strutt's "Sports and Pastimes;" Smith's "Festivals, Games, and Amusements," 1831, pp. 192–229.

159:1 "Book of Days," ii. p. 59.

159:2 Cf. "2 Henry IV.," ii. 2, "the town-bull."

159:3 "Folk-Lore of Northern Counties," p. 267. Brand's "Pop. Antiq.," 1849, iii. p. 7.

159:4 Malkin is a diminutive of "Mary," "Maukin," the same word is still used in Scotland for a hare. Notes to "Macbeth" by Clarke and Wright, 1877. p. 75.

159:5 Sternberg's "Dialect and Folk Lore of Northamptonshire," 1851, p. 148.

159:6 Henderson's "Folk Lore of Northern Counties," 1879, p. 206.

160:1 Kelly's "Indo-European Folk Lore," 1863, p. 238.

160:2 Thorpe's "Northern Mythology," 1851, iii. p. 32.

161:1 See Thorpe's "Northern Mythology," 1851, ii. p. 32; iii. pp. 26–236.

161:2 See Baring Gould's "Book of Werewolves," 1869, p. 65.

161:3 Ibid., p. 66.

161:4 Dyce's "Glossary to Shakespeare," p. 70.

161:5 See Brand's "Pop. Antiq.," 1849, iii. p. 39, also "Wright's Essays on the Superstitions of the Middle Ages," 1846.

162:1 See Brand's "Pop. Antiq.," iii. p. 42.

163:1 Dyce, "Glossary to Shakespeare," p. 466.

163:2 From Tibert, Tib was also a common name for a cat.

163:3 Douce's "Illustrations of Shakespeare," 1839, p. 41.

163:4 Dyce's "Glossary," p. 183.

163:5 A gibbe (an old male cat), Macou, Cotgrave's "French and English Dict."

163:6 "Glossary," i. p. 360.

164:1 "Vulgar Errors," Bk. iii. 21, 1852, i. p. 321—Note.

164:2 Ovid ("Metam." xv. 1. 411), speaks of its changes of colour.

165:1 Cuvier's "Animal Kingdom," 1831, ix. p. 226.

165:2 "Vulgar Errors," iii. p. 7.

165:3 See "Cymbeline," ii. 4.; "Winter's Tale," i. 2.

166:1 Nares’ "Glossary," i. p. 173.

166:2 Dyce's "Glossary," p. 29; see "1 Henry IV.," ii. 3, "of basilisks, of cannon, culvern."

166:3 "Handbook Index to Shakespeare."

167:1 Singer's "Shakespeare," 1875, x. p. 118.

167:2 See Strutt's "Sport and Pastimes," 1876, pp. 66, 75, 79, 80, 113, 117.

167:3 See "As You Like It," iv. 2; "All's Well," v. 2; "Macbeth," iv. 3; "1 Henry IV.," v. 4; "1 Henry VI.," iv. 2; "2 Henry VI." v. 2; "Titus Andronicus," iii. 1., &c.

167:4 Singer's "Shakespeare," viii. p. 421.

169:1 Chappell's "Pop. Music of the Olden Time," 2nd Ed., i. p. 61. See Douce's "Illustrations of Shakespeare," p. 432. See, too, Nares’ Glossary," i, p. 440.

170:1 See Dyce's "Glossary," p. 401.

170:2 See Strutt's "Sports and Pastimes," 1876, p. 65.

171:1 "De Proprietate Rerum," 1. xviii. c. 30.

171:2 Cf. Virgil's description of the wounded stag in "Æneid," Bk. vii.

171:3 Commentary on Bartholomœus's "De Proprietate Rerum."

171:4 The drops which fall from their eyes are not tears from the lachrymal glands, but an oily secretion from the inner angle of the eye close to the nose. Brewer's "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable," p. 217.

171:5 "Illustrations of Shakespeare," p. 183.

171:6 These dogs were kept for baiting bears, when that amusement was in vogue, and "from their terrific howling they are occasionally introduced to heighten the horror of the picture." Nares’ "Glossary," i. p. 50.

172:1 See Kelly's "Indo-European Folk-Lore," p. 109.

172:2 See Henderson's "Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties," p. 48.

172:3 "English Folk-Lore," p. 101.

172:4 See Hardwick's "Traditions, Superstitions, and Folk-Lore," p. 171.

172:5" Myths and Mythmakers," 1873, p. 36.

173:1 Nares’ "Glossary," i. p. 218.

174:1 For the various versions of this myth consult Baring Gould's "Curious Myths of the Middle Ages," 1877, pp. 266–316.

174:2 Cf. "Troilus and Cressida," v. 8; "Midsummer Night's Dream," iii. 2.

174:3 Singer's "Shakespeare," x. p. 363.

175:1 "Demonology and Devil Lore," 1880, i. p. 383.

175:2 The dragon formerly constituted a part of the Morris dance.

175:3 See Sir Thomas Browne's Works, 1852, i. pp. 220–232.

176:1 Edited by Simon Wilkin, 3852, i. p. 226.

176:2 See Pliny's "Nat. His.," Bk. viii.

176:3 Staunton's "Shakespeare," 3864, ii. p. 367; Nares’ "Glossary," i. p. 331.

178:1 Singer's "Shakespeare," ix. p. 75.

178:2 See Wright's Notes to the "Tempest," 1875, p. 94.

178:3 Conway's "Demonology and Devil Lore," 1880, i. p. 122.

179:1 Warburton on "Romeo and Juliet," i. 4.

180:1 Dyce's "Glossary," p. 104.

181:1 See Douce's "Illustrations of Shakespeare," p. 106; Nares’ "Glossary," ii. p. 830.

181:2 "Glossary," p. 412.

181:3 See Strutt's "Sports and Pastimes," p. 48.

182:1 Singer's "Shakespeare," 1875, vii. p. 277.

182:2 "Nat. History," book viii. chap. 19.

183:1 See Douce's "Illustrations of Shakespeare," 2839, pp. 189, 190.

183:2 "Arcana Microcosmi," p. 151.

184:1 1852, i. pp. 312–315.

184:2 See Nares’ "Glossary," ii. p. 577; Singer's "Shakespeare," v. p. 97.

184:3 Halliwell-Phillipps’s "Handbook Index to Shakespeare," 1866, p. 331.

184:4 Forby's "Vocabulary of East Anglia," ii. p. 222.

184:5 See Staunton's "Shakespeare," i. p. 278.

185:1 Cf. "King Lear" (iv. 6).

185:2 See Nares’ "Glossary," ii. p. 673.

185:3 Ibid., ii. p. 189.

185:4 See D’Israeli's "Curiosities of Literature," iii. p. 78.

186:1 The strange phrase and the superstition that arose out of it, seem to have been produced by a mistranslation by the English-speaking population of a considerable portion of Ireland, of two Celtic or Gaelic words, ran, to roar, to shriek, to bellow, to make a great noise on a wind instrument; and rann, to versify, to rhyme. It is well-known that rats are scared by any great and persistent noise in the house which they infest. The Saxon English, as well as Saxon Irish, of Shakespeare's time, confounding rann, a rhyme, with ran a roar, fell into the error which led to the English phrase as used by Shakespeare." "Antiquarian Magazine and Bibliographer," 1882, ii. p. 9. "On Some Obscure Words and Celtic Phrases in "Shakespeare" by Charles Mackay.

187:1 See "English Folk-lore," 1878, p. 120.

188:1 See Brewer's "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable," p. 922.

189:1 See Brand's "Pop. Antiq.," 1849, iii. p. 283.

Next: Chapter VIII. Plants