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mitted a student in Christ College, Cambridge, where he took his degree of Master of Arts. He afterwards became Rector of Hadleigh, in the county of Suffolk, and was finally appointed Bishop of Bath and Wells, on the death of Bishop Godwin, in 1607.
The story of this play, which is written in the metres, and extended into five regular acts, is as follows:-Gammer Gurton has lost his needle ; and in order to make a general search for it about the house, his boy is sent to hold a candle; but when he goes towards the chimney, he spies a witch in the grate, with two fiery eyes staring on him; whereupon he cries out," the devil's in the fire; for when I puff it, it goes out, and when I do not, it is lit."-" Stir it,” cries Gammer Gurton.—The boy does as he is bidden, when, behold, the witch flies out amongst a pile of wood, and all hands are at work to prevent the house being set on fire. The witch, however, is at last discovered, by a priest, who seems to have a little more cunning than the rest, to be no more than a cat.
The catastrophe is equally good : Gammer Gurton, it seems, had, the day before, been mending his man Hodge's breeches; when Hódge, in some game of merriment, was to be punished with three slaps on a certain part, by the brawny open hand of one of his fellow bumpkins : his head is laid down, for this purpose, in Gammer Gurton's lap, when, at the first slap, he bellows out, in great pain. A search is made, to find out the cause of it, when, behold, the needle is found almost buried up to the eye in the Alesh of poor Hodge. Great rejoicing is made by all the parties for this discovery, and so ends this excellent comedy.
ORIGIN OF THE STORY OF
The two principal incidents of this play are to be found, separately, in a collection of old stories, which were very popular, at least five hundred years ago, under the title of “ Gesta Romanorum." In the first of these, a knight borrows money of a merchant, upon condition of forfeiting all his flesh for non-payment. When the penalty is enacted before the judge, the knight's mistress, disguised as a man, comes into court, and, by permission of the judge, endeavours to soften the merchant. She first offers him his money, and then the double of it, to all
which his answer is, “I will have my
bond." The lady then addresses the judge, as follows: “My Lord, I demand a just judgment on what I am about to offer. You know that this knight never bound himself to any thing but that the merchant should have the power to cut his flesh from his bones, without effusion of blood, of which nothing was said. Now let him lay hands upon him; but if he shed blood, he is answerable for it to the king.” When the merchant heard this, he said, “ Give me my money, and I discharge him from the action.” But the damsel said, “ Verily, I say unto you, that you shall not have a penny—therefore, lay hands upon him, but shed no blood.” The merchant, seeing himself confounded, departed; and thus was the life of the knight saved, without payment money.
In the other story, which contains the incident of the caskets, a king of Apulia sends his daughter to be married to the son of an emperor of Rome. After some adventures, (which are nothing to the present purpose,) she is brought before the emperor, who says to her, " Maiden, thou hast sustained many adversities for the love of my son; but I will speedily prove whether
thou art worthy to be his wife ;" and he commanded three vases to be made. The first was of the purest gold, and adorned with precious stones, but full of dead men's bones; on the outside was this inscription, "Whoever shall choose me, will find that which he deserves." The second was of pure silver, and ornamented with jewels, but full of earth; on the outside was inscribed, "Whoever shall choose me, will find what nature desires." The third was of lead, and full of precious stones and the most noble gems; on the outside was the inscription; " Whoever shall choose me, will find what God hath appointed." These three he shewed to the maiden, saying, "If you choose from among these that which is proper and profitable, you shall have my son; but if you choose that which is neither fit for you, nor others, you shall not have him." The young lady fixed upon the leaden, and the emperor says, "Good maiden, thou hast chosen well-therefore, shalt thou have my son."
SHAKSPEARE's bench, and the half-pint mug out of which he used to take very copious
draughts of ale, either in Stratford-upon-Avon, or in the neighbourhood of that town, are well known to all our English Antiquaries, from their having been long in the possession of the late Mr. James West, by whose descendants, we have no doubt, they are carefully preserved, and will long be transmitted as heir looms in the family: but with Shakspeare's crab-tree, the Antiquarian Society, it is possible, are not so well acquainted.
There is a tradition, in Warwickshire, that our great dramatic bard was a very boon companion; and the fame of two illustrious bands of good fellows, who were distinguished by the denominations of the Topers and Sippers, is not yet forgotten in that county. The Topers, who were the stouter fellows of the two, challenged all England, it is said, to contest with them in deep potations of the good old English beverage, a challenge which Shakspeare, and a party of his young friends at Stratford, readily accepted; but going, on a Whitsunday, to meet them at Bidford, a village about seven miles distant, they were much mortified to find that the Topers had, that very day, (owing to some misunderstanding about the