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A Select Collection of Old English Plays, Volume 8

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Enter WILL SUMMER,[17] in his fool's coat but half on, coming out.

Noctem peccatis et fraudibus objice nubem.[18] There is no such fine time to play the knave in as the night. I am a goose or a ghost, at least; for what with turmoil of getting my fool's apparel, and care of being perfect, I am sure I have not yet supp'd to-night. Will Summer's ghost I should be, come to present you with "Summer's Last Will and Testament." Be it so; if my cousin Ned will lend me his chain and his fiddle. Other stately-pac'd Prologues use to attire themselves within: I that have a toy in my head more than ordinary, and use to go without money, without garters, without girdle, without hat-band, without points to my hose, without a knife to my dinner, and make so much use of this word without in everything, will here dress me without. Dick Huntley[19] cries, Begin, begin: and all the whole house, For shame, come away; when I had my things but now brought me out of the laundry. God forgive me, I did not see my Lord before! I'll set a good face on it, as though what I had talk'd idly all this while were my part. So it is, boni viri, that one fool presents another; and I, a fool by nature and by art, do speak to you in the person of the idiot of our play-maker. He, like a fop and an ass, must be making himself a public laughingstock, and have no thank for his labour; where other Magisterii, whose invention is far more exquisite, are content to sit still and do nothing. I'll show you what a scurvy Prologue he had made me, in an old vein of similitudes: if you be good fellows, give it the hearing, that you may judge of him thereafter.


At a solemn feast of the Triumviri in Rome, it was seen and observed that the birds ceased to sing, and sat solitary on the housetops, by reason of the sight of a painted serpent set openly to view. So fares it with us novices, that here betray our imperfections: we, afraid to look on the imaginary serpent of envy, painted in men's affections, have ceased to tune any music of mirth to your ears this twelvemonth, thinking that, as it is the nature of the serpent to hiss, so childhood and ignorance would play the gosling, contemning and condemning what they understood not. Their censures we weigh not, whose senses are not yet unswaddled. The little minutes will be continually striking, though no man regard them: whelps will bark before they can see, and strive to bite before they have teeth. Politianus speaketh of a beast who, while he is cut on the table, drinketh and represents the motions and voices of a living creature. Such like foolish beasts are we who, whilst we are cut, mocked, and flouted at, in every man's common talk, will notwithstanding proceed to shame ourselves to make sport. No man pleaseth all: we seek to please one. Didymus wrote four thousand books, or (as some say) six-thousand, on the art of grammar. Our author hopes it may be as lawful for him to write a thousand lines of as light a subject. Socrates (whom the oracle pronounced the wisest man of Greece) sometimes danced: Scipio and Laslius, by the sea-side, played at peeble-stone: Semel insanivimus omnes....