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As I have done the rest of my misleaders,
[Exeunt King, &c. FAL. Master Shallow, I owe you a thousand pound. SHAL. Yea, marry, Sir John; which I beseech you to let me have home with me.
FAL. That can hardly be, Master Shallow. Do not you grieve at this; I shall be sent for in private to him: look you, he must seem thus to the world: fear not your advancements; I will be the man yet that 80 shall make you great.
SHAL. I cannot well perceive how unless you should give me your doublet, and stuff me out with straw. I beseech you, good Sir John, let me have five hundred of my thousand.
FAL. Sir, I will be as good as my word: this that you heard was but a colour.
SHAL. A colour that I fear you will die in, Sir John. FAL. Fear no colours, go with me to dinner: come, Lieutenant Pistol; come, Bardolph: I shall be sent for 90 soon at night.
87 but a colour] only a pretext, blind, make-believe.
89 Fear no colours] Fear nothing: a proverbial expression. Cf. Tw. Night, I, v, 9.
91 soon at night] as soon as it is night.
Re-enter PRINCE JOHN, and the LORD CHIEF JUSTICE;
CH. JUST. Go, carry Sir John Falstaff to the Fleet: Take all his company along with him.
FAL. My lord, my lord,
CH. JUST. I cannot now speak: I will hear you soon. Take them away.
PIST. Si fortuna me tormenta, spero contenta.
[Exeunt all but Prince John and the Chief Justice. LAN. I like this fair proceeding of the king's: He hath intent his wonted followers
Shall be all very well provided for;
But all are banish'd till their conversations
LAN. The king hath call'd his parliament, my lord.
LAN. I will lay odds that, ere this year expire,
As far as France: I heard a bird so sing,
92 the Fleet] one of the chief prisons in the centre of London. 97 Si fortuna... contenta] Falstaff has already quoted this Italian proverb. See II, iv, 171, supra, and note.
101 conversations] manners, modes of life.
108 I heard a bird so sing] a familiar reference to the proverbially prophetic powers of the "little bird.”
Spoken by a Dancer
First my fear; then my courtesy; last my speech. My fear is, your displeasure; my courtesy, my duty; and my speech, to beg your pardons. If you look for a good speech now, you undo me: for what I have to say is of mine own making; and what indeed I should say will, I doubt, prove mine own marring. But to the purpose, and so to the venture. Be it known to you, as it is very well, I was lately here in the end of a displeasing play, to pray your patience for it and to promise you a better. I meant indeed to pay you with this; 10 which, if like an ill venture it come unluckily home, I break, and you, my gentle creditors, lose. Here I promised you I would be, and here I commit my body to your mercies: bate me some, and I will pay you some, and, as most debtors do, promise you infinitely.
If my tongue cannot entreat you to acquit me, will you command me to use my legs? and yet that were but light payment, to dance out of your debt. But a good conscience will make any possible satisfaction, and so would I. All the gentlewomen here have forgiven me: 20
(stage direction) Spoken by a Dancer] These words were added by Pope. 6 I doubt] I fear.
12 I break] I become bankrupt.
15 infinitely] The Quarto here inserts the words, and so I kneele dorone before you; but indeed, to pray for the Queene, which the Folio places at the end of the epilogue.
if the gentlemen will not, then the gentlemen do not agree with the gentlewomen, which was never seen before in such an assembly.
One word more, I beseech you. If you be not too much cloyed with fat meat, our humble author will continue the story, with Sir John in it, and make you merry with fair Katharine of France: where, for any thing I know, Falstaff shall die of a sweat, unless already a' be killed with your hard opinions; for Oldcastle died a martyr, and this is not the man. My tongue is weary; 30 when my legs are too, I will bid you good night: and so kneel down before you; but, indeed, to pray for the
25-26 our humble author... with Sir John in it] This promise was not fulfilled in the sequel to this play, Henry V, from which Falstaff is excluded. But Falstaff plays an important part in M. Wives, though hardly one that accords with the expressions used in this place.
28 Falstaff shall die of a sweat] an allusion either to the sweating sickness or to venereal disease. Cf. Meas. for Meas., I, ii, 79, and III, ii, 53. 29-30 Oldcastle died a martyr... man] In his first draft of the piece
Shakespeare bestowed on his fat humourist the name of Sir John Oldcastle, the Lollard leader, who was executed in 1417. In deference to protests, Shakespeare changed the name before the piece was printed to Falstaff, and here, somewhat lightly, calls attention to the alteration. Cf. 1 Hen. IV, I, ii, 40; and I, ii, 114, and III, ii, 24-25, supra, and notes.
32-33 pray for the queen] It was the custom on the Elizabethan stage for the actors at the end of a performance to kneel down and recite a prayer for the queen.