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MERRY WIVES of WINDSOR.
Printed Complete from the TEXT of
SAM. JOHNSON and GEO. STEEVENS,
And revised from the last Editions,
When Learning's triumph o'er her barb'rous foes
DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
Printed for, and under the direction of,
OBSERVATIONS ON THE Fable And Composition OF THE MERRY WIVES of WINDSOR.
F this play there is a tradition preserved by Mr. Rowe, that it was written at the command of queen Elizabeth, who was so delighted with the character of Falstaff, that she wished it to be diffused through more plays ; but suspecting that it "might pall by continued uniformity, directed the poet to dia versify his manner, by shewing him in love. No task is harder than that of writing to the ideas of another. Shak. spere knew what the queen, if the story be true, seems not to have known, that by any real passion of tenderness, the selfish craft, the careless jollity, and the lazy luxury of Falstaff must have suffered so much abatement, that little of his former cast would have remained. Falstaff could not love, but by ceasing. to be Falstaff. He could only counterfeit love, and his professions could be prompted, not by the hope of pleasure, but of money. Thus the poet approached as near as he could to the work enjoined him; yet having perhaps in the former plays completed his own idea, seems not to have been able to give Falstaff all his former power of entertainment.
This comedy is remarkable for the variety and number of the personages, who exhibit more characters appropriated and discriminated, than perhaps can be found in any other play.
Whether Shakspere was the first that produced upon the. English stage the effect of language distorted and depraved by provincial or foreign pronunciation, I cannot certainly der cide. This mode of forming ridiculous characters can confer praise only on him, who originally discovered it, for it reAij