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THE fool in this play is a very obscure and insignificant character. Dr. Johnson's conjecture that he belongs to one of Alcibiades's mistresses is extremely probable. Many ancient prints conduce to show that women of this description were attended by buffoons; and there is good reason for supposing, partly from the same kind of evidence, that in most brothels such characters were maintained to amuse the guests by their broad jokes and seasonable antics. In Measure for measure we have such a person, who is also a tapster; and in Antony and Cleopatra, Act i. Sc. I, we hear of a strumpet's fool.
The dress, in the present instance, should be a party-coloured garment, with a hood and asses' ears, and a cock's comb. He might also carry a bauble.
Scene 1. Page 12.
MEN. Even to the court, the heart,-to the seat o' the
MR. MALONE has most ingeniously shown that the heart here signifies the seat of the brain, that is, of the understanding; and this is conformable to the old philosophy. Thus our English Pliny, Bartholomew Glanville, informs us, from Aristotle, that the substance of the brain being cold, it is placed before the well of heat, which is, the heart; and that small veins proceed from the heart, of which is made a marvellous caul wherein the brain is wrapped. De propr. rerum, lib. v. c. 3. On this ground, the heart has been very appositely made the seat of reason; and accordingly in another place, Glanville tells us that in the heart is "all business and knowing."
If the above able commentator be right in his chronology of this play, and there appears to be
no reason for doubing that he is so, so, the sent lines must have been imitated by a contemporary writer of great ability and poetical talents, though undeservedly obscure. This is W. Parkes, who calls himself a student of Barnard's inn. In his work entitled The curtainedrawer of the world, 1612, 4to, he has two passages which bear so strong a resemblance, that a mere coincidence of thought is entirely out of the question. This is the first, in p. 6. "If any vice arise from the court, as from the head, it immediately discends to the cittie, as the heart, from thence drawes downe to the country, as the heele: and so like an endlesse issue or theame, runs through the whole land." The other is in p. 13. "For whereas that member was ordained for a light and window, and as a true interpreter to expresse and expound the consultations, and councels, and purposes of that hidden dumbe and secret privy-councellour that sits within the throne and breast and bosome of every living man, it many times doth belye, and forge, and flatter, and speaks then most faire when the deepest deceit and treachery is intended: not the foot, nor the finger, nor the whole hand: no not the whole body, nor all the members thereof, either severally, by themselves, or joyntly together (this one
onely excepted) that doth so stretch, and draw, and finger, and fold and unfold this curtaine or canopy to the daily use and deceit of itselfe and others, as it alone doth.”
It is rather extraordinary that none of Shakspeare's commentators should have noticed the skilful manner in which he has diversified and expanded the well known apologue of the belly and the members, the origin of which it may be neither unentertaining nor unprofitable to investigate, as well as the manner in which it has been used, and by whom.
The composition has been generally ascribed to Menenius Agrippa; but as it occurs in a very ancient collection of sopian fables, there may be as much reason for supposing it the invention. of sop as there is for making him the parent of many others. The first person who has introduced Menenius as reciting this fable is Dionysius of Halicarnassus, book 6, Then follow Livy, lib. 2; Plutarch, in the life of Coriolanus; Florus, lib. 1. cap. 23; each of whom gives it in his own manner. During the middle ages there appeared a collection of Latin fables in hexameter verse, that has agitated the opinions of the learned to little purpose in their endeavours to ascertain the real name of the compiler or versifier. He has been
Nor is the
called Romulus, Accius and Salo. time when he lived at all known. These fables are sometimes called anonymous, and have been published in various forms. An excellent edition by Nilant appeared in 1709, 12mo. Many of them were translated into French verse in the eleventh century by a French lady who calls herself Marie de France, in which form they have been happily preserved with many others extremely curious composed by the same ingenious person, on whose life and writings a most valuable memoir has been communicated to the Society of Antiquaries, by the author's truly learned and amiable friend the Abbé Gervase de la Rue, professor of history in the university of Caen. William Herman of Gouda, in Holland, reduced them into Latin prose about the year 1500, omitting some, and adding others. The works of Romulus and Herman of Gouda, have been published in a great variety of forms and languages, and constitute the set of Esopian fables which commences with that of the cock and the precious stone; in all which the apologue of the belly and the members is to be found, and sometimes with considerable variation. What Camden has given is from John of Salisbury, who wrote in the reign of Henry the Second, and professes to have received it