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THE

DEVIL IS AN ASS.

ACT I. SCENE I.5

Enter SATAN and PUG.

Sat. Hoн, hoh, hoh, hoh, hoh, hoh, hoh, hoh!"To earth! and why to earth, thou foolish spirit? What wouldst thou do on earth?

Pug. For that, great chief,

As time shall work. I do but ask my month
Which every petty, puisne devil has ;
Within that term, the court of hell will hear
Something may gain a longer grant, perhaps.

Sat. For what? the laming a poor cow or two,
Entering a sow, to make her cast her farrow,
Or crossing of a market-woman's mare

5 This first scene must be laid "e'en where the reader pleases." Satan and Pug, probably, make their entrance on the stage from a trap-door, (some rude representation, perhaps, of Hell-mouth), and the dialogue may be supposed to take place in their journey from the infernal regions. For these, and a thousand other incongruities, the absolute poverty and nakedness of the old stage furnished a ready apology.

Hoh, hoh, &c.] "The devil," Whalley says, in the old Mysteries and Moralities, "generally came roaring upon the stage with a cry of Ho, ho, ho!" This, with a great deal more, which he has taken from the commentators on Shakspeare, is all out of place here. It is not the roar of terror; but the boisterous expression of sarcastic merriment at the absurd petition of Pug, with which Satan makes his first appearance.

"Twixt this and Tottenham? these were wont to be Your main achievements, Pug: You have some plot now,

Upon a tunning of ale, to stale the yeast,
Or keep the churn so, that the butter come not,
Spite of the housewife's cord, or her hot spit:
Or some good ribibe,' about Kentish Town
Or Hogsden, you would hang now for a witch,
Because she will not let you play round Robin.
And you'll go sour the citizens' cream 'gainst
Sunday,

That she may be accused for't, and condemn'd,
By a Middlesex jury, to the satisfaction,
Of their offended friends, the Londoners wives,

7 Or some good ribibe.] Bawd, or mistress of a brothel.
"This Sompnour, wayting evir on his pray,
"Rode to summon an old wife, a ribibe."

Frere's Tale. WHAL.

Whalley, like Steevens, is too fond of licentious explanations. Ribibe, together with its synonym rebeck, is merely a cant expression for an old woman. A ribibe, the reader knows, is a rude kind of fiddle, and the allusion is probably to the inharmonious nature of its sounds. The word is used in a similar sense by Skelton:

"There came an olde rybibe;
"She halted of a kybe," &c.

That she may be accused for't, and condemn'd

By a Middlesex jury, &c.] A reproof no less severe than merited. It appears from the records of those times, that many unfortunate creatures were condemned and executed on charges of the ridiculous nature here enumerated. In many instances, the judge was well convinced of the innocence of the accused, and laboured to save them; but such were the gross and barbarous prejudices of the juries, that they would seldom listen to his recommendations; and he was deterred from shewing mercy, in th last place, by the brutal ferociousness of the people, whose teeth were set on edge with't, and who clamoured tumultuously for the murder of the accused.

Whose teeth were set on edge with't. Foolish fiend!

Stay in your place, know your own strength, and put not

Beyond the sphere of your activity:
You are too dull a devil to be trusted
Forth in those parts, Pug, upon any affair
That may concern our name on earth. It is not
Every one's work. The state of hell must care
Whom it employs, in point of reputation,
Here about London. You would make, I think,
An agent to be sent for Lancashire,'

Proper enough; or some parts of Northum

berland,

So you had good instructions, Pug.

Pug. O chief,

You do not know, dear chief, what there is in me!.

Prove me but for a fortnight, for a week,
And lend me but a Vice,' to carry with me,
To practise there with any play-fellow,

9 An agent to be sent for Lancashire.] This was the very hotbed of witches. Not long before this play was written, fifteen of them had been indicted at one time, of whom twelve were condemned. Lancashire is still famous for its witches: they are said to frequent balls and music meetings, and, being in possession of spells and charms far more potent than those of their antiquated predecessors, to do a great deal of mischief to such as venture within the sphere of their influence,

And lend me but a Vice.] The buffoon of the old Mysteries and Moralities. He appears to have been a perfect counterpart of the Harlequin of the modern stage, and had a two-fold office, -to instigate the hero of the piece to wickedness, and, at the same time, to protect him from the devil, whom he was permitted to buffet and baffle with his wooden sword, till the process of the story required that both the protector and the protected should be carried off by the fiend; or the latter driven roaring from the stage by some miraculous interposition in favour of the repentant offender.

And you will see, there will come more upon't,
Than you'll imagine, precious chief.
Sat. What Vice?

What kind wouldst thou have it of?

Pug. Why any: Fraud,

Or Covetousness, or lady Vanity,
Or old Iniquity.

Sat. I'll call him hither.

Enter INIQUITY.

Iniq. What is he calls upon me, and would seem to lack a Vice?

Ere his words be half spoken, I am with him in a trice;

Here, there, and every where, as the cat is with the mice:

True Vetus Iniquitas. Lack'st thou cards, friend, or dice ?

I will teach thee [to] cheat, child, to cog, lie and

swagger,

And ever and anon to be drawing forth thy dagger:

To swear by Gogs-nowns, like a Lusty Juventus," In a cloak to thy heel, and a hat like a penthouse.

Thy breeches of three fingers, and thy doublet all belly,

With a wench that shall feed thee with cockstones and jelly.

like a Lusty Juventus.] This is an allusion to the chief personage in the Morality of that name, written so early as the reign of Edward VI. by one Wever. The language which Iniquity gives to Juventus, is taken from his licentious conversation, after he had been perverted by Hypocrisie, the Vice of the piece. It has a serious cast, and was professedly written to favour the Reformation.

2

Pug. Is it not excellent, chief? how nimble he is !3

Iniq. Child of hell, this is nothing! I will fetch thee a leap

From the top of Paul's steeple to the standard in Cheap:

And lead thee a dance thro' the streets, without fail,

Like a needle of Spain, with a thread at my tail.

How nimble he is!] A perfect idea of his activity may be formed, as I have already observed, from the incessant skipping of the modern Harlequin. In saying, however, that he would take a leap from the top of Paul's steeple, Iniquity boasts of a feat which he could not perform, inasmuch, as St. Paul's had no steeple. It was burnt, together with the tower, and a great part of the roof of the church, in 1561, and though the latter was speedily repaired, all attempts to rebuild the former came to nought. "Concerning the steeple (Stow says) divers models were devised and made, but little was done, through whose default God knoweth." 1598. In 1632, Lupton writes, "The head of St. Paul's hath been twice troubled with a burning ever, and so the city, to keep it from a third danger, lets it stand without a head." London Carbonadoed. In this state it was found by the great fire. The Puritans took a malignant pleasure in this mutilated state of the cathedral, for which they are frequently reprimanded by the dramatic poets, who appear to have been the most clear-sighted politicians of those troublous times. One example may suffice:

Mic. I am church-warden, and we are this year

To build our steeple up; now, to save charges,
I'll get a high-crown'd hat with five low-bells
To make a peal shall serve as well as Bow.
Col. "Tis wisely cast,

And like a careful steward of the church,
Of which the steeple is no part, at least,
No necessary.

Bird. Verily, 'tis true.

They are but wicked synagogues where those instrument:
Of superstition and idolatry ring

Warning to sin, and chime all in to the devil."

Muses Looking Glass 4 Like a needle of Spain.] Randolph, in his Amyntas, tells us

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