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Shakespeare's Fairies

From Folk-lore of Shakespeare by T. F. Thiselton Dyer: New York, Harper.

The wealth of Shakespeare's luxuriant imagination and glowing language seems to have been poured forth in the graphic accounts which he has given us of the fairy tribe. Indeed, the profusion of poetic imagery with which he has so richly clad his fairy characters is unrivalled, and the "Midsummer Night's Dream" holds a unique position in so far as it contains the finest modern artistic realisation of the fairy kingdom. Mr. Dowden in his Shakespeare Primer (1877, pp. 71,72) justly remarks: "As the two extremes of exquisite delicacy, of dainty elegance, and, on the other hand, of thick-witted grossness and clumsiness, stand the fairy tribe, and the group of Athenian handicraftsmen. The world of the poet's dream includes the two -- a Titania, and a Bottom the weaver -- and can bring them into grotesque conjunction. No such fairy poetry existed anywhere in English literature before Shakespeare. The tiny elves, to whom a cowslip is tall, for whom the third part of a minute is an important division of time, have a miniature perfection which is charming. They delight in all beautiful and dainty things, and war with things that creep and things that fly, if they be uncomely; their lives are gay with fine frolic and delicate revelry." Puck, the jester of fairyland, stands apart from the rest, the recognisable "lob of spirits," a rough, "fawn-faced, shock-pated little fellow, dainty-limbed shapes around him." Judging, then, from the elaborate account which the poet has bequeathed us of the fairies, it is evident that the subject was one in which he took a special interest. Indeed, the graphic pictures he has handed down to us of
"Elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves;
And ye, that on the sands with printless foot,
Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him
When he comes back; you demy-puppets that
By moonshine do the green-sour ringlets make
Whereof the ewe not bites," &c.,
show how intimately he was acquainted with the history of these little people, and what a complete knowledge he possessed of the superstitious fancies which had clustered round them. In Shakespeare's day, too, it must be remembered, fairies were much in fashion; and, as Johnson remarks, common tradition had made them familiar. It has also been observed that well acquainted, from the rural habits of his early life, with the notions of the peasantry respecting these beings, he saw that they were capable of being applied to a production of a species of the wonderful. Hence, as Mr. Halliwell Phillipps1 has so aptly written, "he founded his elfin world on the prettiest of the people's traditions, and has clothed it in the ever-living flowers of his own exuberant fancy." Referring to the fairy mythology in the "Midsummer Night's Dream," it is described by Mr. Keightley2 as an attempt to blend "the elves of the village with the fays of romance. His fairies agree with the former in their diminutive stature -- diminished, indeed, to dimensions inappreciable by village gossips -- in their fondness for dancing, their love of cleanliness, and their child-abstracting propensities. Like the fays, they form a community, ruled over by the princely Oberon and the fair Titania. There is a court and chivalry; Oberon would have the queen's sweet changeling to be a "knight of his train to trace the forest wild." Like earthly monarchs, he has his jester, "the shrewd and knavish sprite called Robin Goodfellow."

Of the fairy characters mentioned by Shakespeare may be mentioned Oberon, king of fairyland, and Titania his queen. They are represented as keeping rival courts in consequence of a quarrel, the cause of which is thus told by Puck ("Midsummer Night's Dream," ii. i):

"The king doth keep his revels here to-night:
Take heed the queen come not within his sight;
For Oberon is passing fell and wrath,
Because that she as her attendant hath
A lovely boy, stolen from an Indian king;
She never had so sweet a changeling;
And jealous Oberon would have the child
Knight of his train, to trace the forests wild;
But she perforce withholds the loved boy,
Crowns him with flowers and makes him all her joy;
And now they never meet in grove or green,
By fountain clear, or spangled starlight sheen," &c.
Oberon first appears in the old French romance of "Huon de Bourdeaux," and is identical with Elberich, the dwarf king of the German story of Otnit in the Heldenbuch. The name Elberich, or, as it appears in the "Nibelungenlied," Albrich, was changed, in passing into French, first into Auberich, then into Auberon, and finally became our Oberon. He is introduced by Spenser in the "Fairy Queen" (Book ii., cant, i., st. 6), where he describes Sir Guyon:
"Well could he tournay, and in lists debate,
And knighthood tooke of good Sir Huon's hand,
When with King Oberon he came to faery land."
And in the 10th canto of the same book (stanza 75) he is the allegorical representative of Henry VIII. The wise Elficleos left two sons,
"of which faire Elferon,
The eldest brother, did untimely dy;
Whose emptie place the mightie Oberon
Doubly supplide, in spousall and dominion."
"Oboram, King of Fayeries," is one of the characters in Greene's "James the Fourth."3

The name Titania for the queen of the fairies appears to have been the invention of Shakespeare, for, as Mr. Ritson4 remarks, she is not "so called by any other writer." Why, however, the poet designated her by this title, presents, according to Mr. Keightley,5 no difficulty: "It was," he says, "the belief of those days that the fairies were the same as the classic nymphs, the attendants of Diana. The Fairy Queen was therefore the same as Diana whom Ovid (Met. iii. 173) styles Titania." In Chaucer's "Merchant's Tale," Pluto is the King of Faerie, and his queen, Proserpina, "who danced and sang about the well under the laurel in January's garden."6

In "Romeo and Juliet" (i. 4) she is known by the more familiar appellation, Queen Mab. "I dream'd a dream to-night," says Romeo, whereupon Mercutio replies, in that well-known famous passage

"O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you"
-- this being the earliest instance in whicch Mab is used to designate the fairy queen. Mr. Thorns7 thinks that the origin of this name is to be found in the Celtic, and that it contains a distinct allusion to the diminutive form of the elfin sovereign. Mab, both in Welsh and in the kindred dialects of Brittany, signifies a child or infant, and hence it is a befitting epithet to one who
"Comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman."
Mr. Keightley suggests that Mab may be a contraction of Habundia, who, Hey wood says, ruled over the fairies; and another derivation is from Mabel, of which Mab is an abbreviation.

Amongst the references to Queen Mab, we may mention Drayton's "Nymphidia"

"Hence Oberon, him sport to make,
(Their rest when weary mortals take,
And none but only fairies wake),
Descendeth for his pleasure:
And Mab, his merry queen, by night
Bestrides young folks that lie upright," etc.
Ben Jonson, in his "Entertainment of the Queen and Prince at Althrope," in 1603, describes as "tripping up the lawn a bevy of fairies, attending on Mab, their queen, who, falling into an artificial ring that there was cut in the path, began to dance around." In the same masque the queen is thus characterized by a satyr:
"This is Mab, the mistress fairy,
That doth nightly rob the dairy,
And can help or hurt the cherning
As she please, without discerning," etc.
Like Puck, Shakespeare has invested Queen Mab with mischievous properties, Which "identify her with the night hag of popular superstition," and she is represented as
"Platting the manes of horses in the night."


The merry Puck, who is so prominent an actor in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," is the mischief-loving sprite, the jester of the fairy court, whose characteristics are roguery and sportiveness. In his description of him, Shakespeare, as Mr. Thoms points out, "has embodied almost every attribute with which the imagination of the people has invested the fairy race; and has neither omitted one trait necessary to give brilliancy and distinctness to the likeness, nor sought to heighten its effect by the slightest exaggeration. For, carefully and elaborately as he has finished the picture, he has not in it invested the 'lob of spirits' with one gift or quality which the popular voice of the age was not unanimous in bestowing upon him." Thus (ii. i) the fairy says:
"Either I mistake your shape and making quite,
Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite,
Call'd Robin Goodfellow: are you not he
That frights the maidens of the villagery;
Skim milk; and sometimes labour in the quern,
And bootless make the breathless housewife churn;
And sometime make the drink to bear no barm;
Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?
Those that Hobgoblin call you, and sweet Puck,
You do their work, and they shall have good luck:
Are not you he?"
The name "Puck" was formerly applied to the whole race of fairies, and not to any individual sprite puck, or pouke, being an old word for devil, in which sense it is used in the "Vision of Piers Plowman:"
"Out of the poukes pondfold
No maynprise may us feeche."
The Icelandic puki is the same word, and in Friesland and Jutland the domestic spirit is called Puk by the peasantry. In Devonshire, Piskey is the name for a fairy, with which we may compare the Cornish Pixey. In Worcestershire, too, we read how the peasantry are occasionally "poake-ledden," that is, misled by a mischievous spirit called poake. And, according to Grose's "Provincial Glossary," in Hampshire they give the name of Colt-pixey to a supposed spirit or fairy, which, in the shape of a horse, neighs, and misleads horses into bogs. The Irish, again, have their Pooka,8 and the Welsh their Pwcca both words derived from Pouke or Puck. Mr. Keightley9 thinks, also, that the Scottish pawkey, sly, knowing, may belong to the same list of words. It is evident, then, that the term Puck was in bygone years extensively applied to the fairy race, an appellation still found in the west of England. Referring to its use in Wales, "there is a Welsh tradition to the effect that Shakespeare received his knowledge of the Cambrian fairies from his friend Richard Price, son of Sir John Price, of the Priory of Brecon." It is even claimed that Cwm Pwcca, or Puck Valley, a part of the romantic glen of the Clydach, in Breconshire, is the original scene of the "Midsummer Night's Dream."10

Another of Puck's names was Robin Goodfellow, and one of the most valuable illustrations we have of the "Midsummer-Night's Dream" is a black-letter tract published in London, 1628, under the title of "Robin Goodfellow: His Mad Pranks, and Merry Jests, full of honest mirth, and is a fit medicine for melancholy."11 Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps,12 speaking of Robin Goodfellow, says, "there can be no doubt that in the time of Shakespeare the fairies held a more prominent position in our popular literature than can be now concluded from the pieces on the subject that have descended to us." The author of "Tarlton's News out of Purgatory," printed in 1590, assures us that Robin Goodfellow was "famosed in every old wives chronicle for his mad merry pranks;" and we learn from "Henslowe's Diary" that Chettle was the writer of a drama on the adventures of that "merry wanderer of the night." These have disappeared; and time has dealt so harshly with the memory of poor Robin that we might almost imagine his spirit was still leading us astray over massive volumes of antiquity, in a delusive search after documents forever lost; or, rather, perhaps, it is his punishment for the useless journeys he has given our ancestors, misleading night-wanderers, "and laughing at their harm."13 He is mentioned by Drayton in his "Nymphidia:"

"He meeteth Puck, which most men call
Hob-goblin, and on him doth fall," etc.,
"hob being the familiar or diminutive form of Robert and Robin, so that Hobgoblin is equivalent to Robin the Goblin, i.e., Robin Goodfellow."14 Burton, in his "Anatomy of Melancholy," alludes to him thus: "A bigger kinde there is of them, called with us hobgoblins and Robin Goodfellows, that would, in superstitious times, grinde corne for a mess of milk, cut wood, or do any manner of drudgery work." Under his name of Robin Goodfellow, Puck is well characterized in Jonson's masque of "Love Restored."

Another epithet applied to Puck is "Lob," as in the "Midsummer-Night's Dream" (ii. i), where he is addressed by the fairy as

"Thou lob of spirits."15
With this we may compare the "lubber-fiend" of Milton, and the following in Beaumont and Fletcher's "Knight of the Burning Pestle" (iii. 4): "There is a pretty tale of a witch that had the devil's mark about her, that had a giant to be her son, that was called Lob-lye-by-the-Fire." Grimm16 mentions a spirit, named the "Good Lubber," to whom the bones of animals used to be offered at Manseld, in Germany. Once more, the phrase of "being in," or "getting into Lob's pound," is easy of explanation, presuming Lob to be a fairy epithet the term being equivalent to Poake-ledden or Pixy-led. In "Hudibras" this term is employed as a name for the stocks in which the knight puts Crowdero:
"Crowdero, whom in irons bound,
Thou basely threw'st into Lob' s pound."
It occurs, also, in Massinger's "Duke of Milan" (iii. 2), where it means "behind the arras:"
"Who forc'd the gentleman, to save her credit,
To marry her, and say he was the party
Found in Lob's pound."
The allusion by Shakespeare to the "Will-o'-the-Wisp," where he speaks of Puck as "sometime a fire," is noticed elsewhere, this being one of the forms under which this fairy was supposed to play his midnight pranks.

Referring, in the next place, to the several names of Shakespeare's fairies, we may quote from "The Merry Wives of Windsor" (iv. 3), where Mrs. Page speaks of "urchins, ouphes, and fairies" -- urchin having been an appellation for one class of fairies. In the "Maydes Metamorphosis" of Lyiy (1600), we find fairies, elves, and urchins separately accommodated with dances for their use. The following is the urchins dance:

"By the moone we sport and play,
With the night begins our day;
As we frisk the dew doth fall, Trip it, little urchins all,
Lightly as the little bee.
Two by two, and three by three.
And about goe wee, goe wee."
In "The Tempest" (i. 2) their actions are also limited to the night:
"Urchins
Shall, for that vast of night that they may work,
All exercise on thee."
The children employed to torment Falstaff, in "The Merry Wives of Windsor" (iv. 4), were to be dressed in these fairy shapes.

Mr. Douce regards the word urchin, when used to designate a fairy, as of Celtic origin, with which view Mr. Thoms compares the urisks of Highland fairies.

The term ouphe, according to Grimm, is only another form of the cognate elf, which corresponds with the Middle High-German ulf, in the plural ulve. He further proves the identity of this ulf with alp, and with our English elf, from a Swedish song published by Asdwiddson, in his "Collection of Swedish Ballads," in one version of which the elfin king is called Herr Elfver, and in the second Herr Ulfver.

The name elf, which is frequently used by Shakespeare, is the same as the Anglo-Saxon alf, the Old High-German and the Middle High-German ulf. "Fairies and elvs," says Toilet, "are frequently mentioned together in the poets without any distinction of character that I can recollect."

The other fairies, Peas-blossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed probably owe their appellations to the poet himself.

How fully Shakespeare has described the characteristics of the fairy tribe, besides giving a detailed account of their habits and doings, may be gathered from the following pages, in which we have briefly enumerated the various items of fairy lore as scattered through the poet's writings.

Beauty, then, united with power, was one of the popular characteristics of the fairy tribe. Such was that of the "Fairy Queen" of Spenser, and of Titania in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." In "Antony and Cleopatra" (iv. 8), Antony, on seeing Cleopatra enter, says to Scarus:

"To this great fairy I'll commend thy acts,
Make her thanks bless thee."
In "Cymbeline" (iii. 6), when the two brothers find Imogen in their cave, Belarius exclaims:
"But that it eats our victuals, I should think
Here were a fairy."17
And he then adds:
"By Jupiter, an angel! or, if not,
An earthly paragon! behold divineness
No elder than a boy."
The fairies, as represented in many of our old legends and folk-tales, are generally noticeable for their beauty, the same being the case with all their surroundings. As Sir Walter Scott,18 too, says, "Their pageants and court entertainments comprehended all that the imagination could conceive of what were accounted gallant and splendid. At their processions they paraded more beautiful steeds than those of mere earthly parentage. The hawks and hounds which they employed in their chase were of the first race. At their daily banquets, the board was set forth with a splendor which the proudest kings of the earth dared not aspire to, and the hall of their dancers echoed to the most exquisite music."

Mr. Douce quotes from the romance "Lancelot of the Lake," where the author, speaking of the days of King Arthur, says, "En celui temps estoient appellees faees selles qui sentre-mettoient denchantemens et de charmes, et moult en estoit pour lors principalement en la Grande Bretaigne, et savoient la force et la vertu des paroles, des pierres, et des herbes, parquoy elles estoient tenues et jeunesse et en beaulte, et en grandes richesses comme elles devisoient."

"This perpetual youth and beauty," he adds, "cannot well be separated from a state of immortality;" another characteristic ascribed to the fairy race. It is probably alluded to by Titania in "A Midsummer Night's Dream' (ii.i):

"The human mortals want their winter here."
And further on (ii. i), when speaking of the changeling's mother, she says:
"But she, being mortal, of that boy did die."
Again, a fairy addresses Bottom the weaver (iii. i)
"Hail, mortal!"
an indication that she was not so herself. The very fact, indeed, that fairies "call themselves spirits, ghosts, or shadows, seems to be a proof of their immortality." Thus Puck styles Oberon "king of shadows," and this monarch asserts of himself and his subjects
"But we are spirits of another sort."
Fletcher, in the "Faithful Shepherdess," describes (i. 2)
"A virtuous well, about whose flow'ry banks
The nimble-footed fairies dance their rounds,
By the pale moonshine, dipping oftentimes
Their stolen children, so to make them free
From dying fllesh, and dull mortality."
Ariosto, in his "Orlando Furioso" (book xliii. stanza 98) says:
"I am a fayrie, and to make you know,
To be a fayrie what it doth import.
We cannot dye, how old so e'er we grow.
Of paines and harmes of ev'rie other sort
We taste, onelie no death we nature ow."
An important feature of the fairy race was their power of vanishing at will, and of assuming various forms. In "A Midsummer Night's Dream" Oberon says:
"I am invisible
And I will overhear their conference."
Puck relates how he was in the habit of taking all kinds of outlandish forms; and in the "Tempest," Shakespeare has bequeathed to us a graphic account of Ariel's eccentricities. "Besides," says Mr. Spalding,20 "appearing in his natural shape, and dividing into flames, and behaving in such a manner as to cause young Ferdinand to leap into the sea, crying, 'Hell is empty, and all the devils are here!' he assumes the forms of a water nymph (i. 2), a harpy (iii. 3), and also the Goddess Ceres (iv. i), while the strange shapes, masquers, and even the hounds that hunt and worry the would-be king and viceroys of the island, are Ariel's 'meaner fellows.'" Poor Caliban complains of Prospero's spirits (ii. 2):
"For every trifle are they set upon me;
Sometimes like apes, that mow and chatter at me.
And after bite me: then like hedgehogs which
Lie tumbling in my bare-foot way, and mount
Their pricks at my footfall; sometime am I
All wound with adders, who, with cloven tongues
Do hiss me into madness."
That fairies are sometimes exceedingly diminutive is fully shown by Shakespeare, who gives several instances of this peculiarity. Thus Queen Mab, in "Romeo and Juliet," to which passage we have already had occasion to allude (i. 4), is said to come
"In shape no bigger than an agate stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman."19
And Puck tells us, in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (ii. i), that when Oberon and Titania meet,
"they do square, that all their elves, for fear,
Creep into acorn cups, and hide them there."
Further on (ii. 3) the duties imposed by Titania upon her train point to their tiny character:
"Come, now a roundel and a fairy song;
Then, for the third part of a minute, hence;
Some to kill cankers in the musk-rose buds,
Some war with rere-mice for their leathern wings,
To make my small elves coats."
And when enamoured of Bottom, she directs her elves that they should
"Hop in his walks and gambol in his eyes;
Feed him with apricocks and dewberries.
With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries;
The honey bags steal from the humble-bees.
And for night tapers crop their waxen thighs
And light them at the fiery glow-worm's eyes.
To have my love to bed, and to arise;
And pluck the wings from painted butterflies
To fan the moonbeams from his sleeping eyes."
We may compare, too, Ariel's well-known song in "The Tempest" (v. i):
"Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
In a cowslip's bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry,
On the bat's back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough."
Again, from the following passage in "The Merry Wives of Windsor" (iv. 4) where Mrs. Page, after conferring with her husband, suggests that
"Nan Page my daughter, and my little son,
And three or four more of their growth, we'll dress
Like urchins, ouphes, and fairies, green and white.
With rounds of waxen tapers on their heads.
And rattles in their hands."
it is evident that in Shakespeare's day fairies were supposed to be of the size of children. The notion of their diminutiveness, too, it appears was not confined to this country,20 but existed in Denmark," for in the ballad of "Eline of Villenskov" we read:
"Out then spake the smallest Trold;
No bigger than an ant;
Oh! here is come a Christian man,
His schemes I'll sure prevent."
Again, various stories are current in Germany descriptive of the fairy dwarfs; one of the most noted being that relating to Elberich, who aided the Emperor Otnit to gain the daughter of the Paynim Soldan of Syria.21

The haunts of the fairies on earth are generally supposed to be the most romantic and rural that can be selected; such a spot being the place of Titania's repose described by Oberon in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (ii. i):22

"a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania some time of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell'd skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in."
Titania also tells how the fairy race meet
"on hill, in dale, forest, or mead,
By paved fountain, or by rushy brook.
Or in the beached margent of the sea."
In "The Tempest" (v. i), we have the following beautiful invocation by Prospero:
"Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves;
And ye, that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him
When he comes back "
Their haunts, however, varied in different localities, but their favorite abode was in the interior of conical green hills, on the slopes of which they danced by moonlight. Milton, in the "Paradise Lost" (book I.), speaks of
"fairy elves,
Whose midnight revels, by a forest side
Or fountain, some belated peasant sees,
Or dreams he sees, while overhead the moon
Sits arbitress, and nearer to the earth
Wheels her pale course, they, on their mirth and dance
Intent, with jocund music charm his ear;
At once with joy and fear his heart rebounds."
The Irish fairies occasionally inhabited the ancient burial places known as tumuli or barrows, while some of the Scottish fairies took up their abode under the "door-stane" or threshold of some particular house, to the inmates of which they administered good offices.23

The so-called fairy-rings in old pastures24 little circles of a brighter green, within which it was supposed the fairies dance by night are now known to result from the outspreading propagation of a particular mushroom, the fairy-ringed fungus, by which the ground is manured for a richer following vegetation. An immense deal of legendary lore, however, has clustered round this curious phenomenon, popular superstition attributing it to the merry roundelays of the moonlight fairies.25 In "The Tempest" (v. i) Prospero invokes the fairies as the "demy-puppets" that

"By moonshine do the green-sour ringlets make,
Whereof the ewe not bites ; and you, whose pastime Is to make midnight-mushrooms."
....As Mr. Thoms says, in his "Three Notelets on Shakespeare" (1865, pp. 40, 41), "the writings of Shakespeare abound in graphic notices of these fairy revels, couched in the highest strains of poetry; and a comparison of these with some of the popular legends which the industry of Continental antiquaries has preserved will show us clearly that these delightful sketches of elfin enjoyment have been drawn by a hand as faithful as it is masterly."

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Footnote 1: "Illustrations of the Fairy Mythology of ' A Midsummer Night's Dream,'" 1845.

Footnote 2: "Fairy Mythology," p. 325.

Footnote 3: Aldis Wright's "Midsummer Night's Dream," 1877, Preface, pp. xv., xvi.; Ritson's "Fairy Mythology," 1875, pp. 22, 23.

Footnote 4: Essay on Fairies in "Fairy Mythology of Shakespeare," p. 23.

Footnote 5: "Fairy Mythology," 1878, p. 325.

Footnote 6: Notes to "A Midsummer Night's Dream," by Aldis Wright, 1877. Preface, p. xvi.

Footnote 7: "Three Notelets on Shakespeare," pp. 100-107.

Footnote 8: See Croker's "Fairy Legends of South of Ireland," 1862, p. 135.

Footnote 9: "Fairy Mythology," 1878, p. 316.

Footnote 10: Wirt Sikes's "British Goblins," 1880, p. 20.

Footnote 11: This is reprinted in Hazlitt's "Fairy Tales, Legends, and Romances, illustrating Shakespeare and other English Writers," 1875, p. 173.

Footnote 12: "Illustrations of the Fairy Mythology of the Midsummer-Night's Dream," printed 'for the Shakespeare Society, p. viii.

Footnote 13: Thoms's "Three Notelets on Shakespeare," p. 88.

Footnote 14: Mr. Dyce considers that Lob is descriptive of the contrast between Puck's square figure and the airy shapes of the other fairies.

Footnote 15: "Deutsche Mythologie," p. 492.

Footnote 16: See Keightley's "Fairy Mythology," pp. 318, 319.

Footnote 17: Showing, as Mr. Ritson says, that they never ate.

Footnote 18: "Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft," 1831, p. 121.

Footnote 19: Agate was used metaphorically for a very diminutive person, in allusion to the small figures cut in agate for rings. In "2 Henry IV" (i. 2), Falstaff says: "I was never manned with an agate till now; but I will inset you neither in gold nor silver, but in vile apparel, and send you back again to your master, for a jewel." In "Much Ado About Nothing" (iii. i) Hero speaks of a man as being "low, an agate very vilely cut."

Footnote 20: See Grimm's " Deutsche Mythologie."

Footnote 21: Thoms's "Three Notelets on Shakespeare," 1865, pp. 38, 39.

Footnote 22: See Keightley's "Fairy Mythology," 1878, p. 208.

Footnote 23: Gunyon's "Illustrations of Scottish History, Life, and Superstitions," p. 299.

Footnote 24: Among the various conjectures as to the cause of these verdant circles, some have ascribed them to lightning; others maintained that they are occasioned by ants. See Miss Baker's "Northamptonshire Glossary," vol. i. p. 218 ; Brand's "Pop. Antiq.," 1849, vol. ii. pp. 480- 483; and also the " Phytologist," 1862, pp. 236-238.

How to cite this article:

Dyer, T. F. Thiselton. Folk-lore of Shakespeare. New York: Harper, 1884. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/fairiesshakespeare.html >.
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