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Which every petty, puisne devil has;
Upon a tunning of ale, to stale the yeast,
8 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.
9 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 the last place, by the brutal ferociousness of the people, whose teeth were
Of their offended friends, the Londoners' wives, Whose teeth were set on edge with't. Foolish fiend! Stay in your place, know your own strength, and put
Beyond the sphere of your activity :
Pug. O chief,
You do not know, dear chief, what there is in me!
To practise there with any play-fellow,
set on edge with't, and who clamoured tumultuously for the murder of the accused.
10 An agent to be sent for Lancashire.] This was the very hot-bed 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.
1 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 twofold 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.
Than you'll imagine, precious chief.
What kind wouldst thou have it of?
Sat. I'll call him hither.
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
True Vetus Iniquitas.
Lack'st thou cards, friend, or
I will teach thee [to] cheat, child, to cog, lie and
And ever and anon to be drawing forth thy dagger :
Pug. Is it not excellent, chief? how nimble he is!3
2 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.
3 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
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.
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 fever, 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,
And like a careful steward of the church,
Bird. Verily, 'tis true.
They are but wicked synagogues where those instruments
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 that "the spits of the fairies are made of Spanish needles," but, indeed, the expression is too common for notice. In the Sun's Darling, by Ford, Folly says of one of the characters, "He is a French gentleman that trails a Spanish pike, a taylor." Upon which the editor observes, "I cannot discover the force of this allusion, except it be to the thinness of the taylor's legs!" The editor is not fortunate in his guesses. The allusion is to the taylor's needle, which, in cant language, was commonly termed a Spanish pike. In the satirical catalogue of books by Sir John Birkenhead is, "The Sting of Conscience, a tract written with the sharp end of Arise Evans's
We will survey the suburbs, and make forth our sallies
From thence, we will put in at Custom-house key there, And see how the factors and prentices play there False with their masters, and geld many a full pack, To spend it in pies, at the Dagger and the Woolsack. Pug. Brave, brave, Iniquity! will not this do, chief? Iniq. Nay, boy, I will bring thee to the bawds and
At Billinsgate, feasting with claret-wine and oysters; From thence shoot the Bridge, child, to the Cranes in the Vintry,
And see there the gimblets, how they make their entry!
Or if thou hadst rather to the Strand down to fall, 'Gainst the lawyers come dabbled from Westminster hall,
And mark how they cling, with their clients together, Like ivy to oak, so velvet to leather :
Ha, boy, I wou'd shew thee
Pug. Rare, rare!
Sat. Peace, dotard,
And thou, more ignorant thing, that so admir'st;
Now, as vice stands this present year? Remember What number it is, six hundred and sixteen.
Spanish pike. Arise Evans was a tailor. Mr. Weber had not discovered that the best needles, as well as other sharp instruments, were, in that age, and indeed long before and after it, imported from Spain: if he had ever looked into Jonson, whom he is so forward to revile, he might have seen the "force of the allusion," and, probably, discovered, in addition to it, that the name of this great poet might be cited for better purposes than the gratification of wanton malice, or the sport of incorrigible folly.