Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 1
From King Henry the Fourth, second part. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
1. entered the action, set in motion the legal process against Falstaff; though the Hostess's language is of doubtful accuracy.
As in 1. 27 below, the Hostess uses the corruption "exion," Dyce substitutes that form here.
3. yeoman, bailiff's follower, tipstaff.
3, 4. will a' ... it? will he boldly execute the arrest?
9, 10. I have entered . . . all, I have taken all the necessary
steps for the action against him.
13. Alas the day! sorrow on the day! though the words the
day add little to the force of the exclamation; alas is from the
"O. F. a, ah! and las, wretched (that I am)" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).
The commoner form of the expression was "Alackaday," or
"Alack the day."
15. foin, thrust, lunge, with his sword; O. F. fouine, an eel-spear.
19, 20. An I but fist ... vice, — if I can only lay my grasp upon
him, if only he comes within reach of my vice-like clutch.
21. I am ... going, if he once gets away, I shall be undone, for
there will be no further hope of recovering what he owes me.
21, 2. an infinitive ... score, he is infinitely in my debt.
23. continuantly, continually, constantly: Pie-corner, near
Giltspur Street, afterwards famous as the point at which the
Great Fire ended.
24. saving your manhoods. An apologetic expression, as though
she had said something that she ought not.
25. indited, invited: Lubber's-head, the Hostess's corruption
of "Libbard's (i.e. leopard's) head." In former days houses were
not numbered, but in place of numbers they had over their doors
some sign or emblem, a custom still prevailing in inns in country
towns and villages.
26. Lumbert street, Lombard Street, which derived its name
from the Lombardy merchants who frequented it in early times.
27. exion, the Hostess's corruption of action.
28. 9. A hundred mark ... one, a hundred marks is a long score,
debt, to run up; with a play on the word mark in the sense of a
coin of that name and of a mark made as a reckoning. For one,
Theobald conjectured loan; Collier, score; Grant White, own'n,
i.e. owing: lone, solitary, single; Steevens points out that in
Pt. I. Mistress Quickly had a husband alive.
30. fubbed off, put off with excuses; cp. Cor. i. 1. 97, "to fob
off our disgrace with a tale"; the two forms being only varieties
of spelling. Halliwell, Arch. and. Prov. Dict., gives to "fub, to
put off, deceive. At marbles, an irregular mode of projecting the
taw by an effort of the whole hand, instead of the thumb only."
33, 4. unless a woman . . . wrong, unless women are to be made
mere beasts of burden to be treated in any shameful way that
knaves may choose.
35. malmsey-nose knave, red -nosed villain; the redness being
due to the amount of malmsey wine he had drunk: malmsey, a
strong sweet wine, from Malvasia, a town on the east coast of
35, 6. your offices, the duty of arresting Falstaff.
37. do me, i. e. in my behalf.
38. whose mare's dead? What, is all this fuss about nothing?
So, in Jonson's Every Man in His Humour, iv. I, Wellbred,
entering upon a dispute, exclaims "How now! who's cow has
40. cut me, as above, 1. 37, "Do me."
41. quean, hussy, jade, vile woman; originally the same word
as queen, the sense being "woman": channel, gutter of the street,
kennel. In former days these "channels" with running water
in them commonly fringed the kerb of the pathway at the sides
of streets, and they are still to be seen in old towns.
44. honey-suckle, the Hostess's corruption of "homicidal," as
honey-seed is of "homicide."
46. a man-queller, a man-slayer, homicide; the old verb to
"quell" meaning to kill, subdue; A.S. cwellan.
48. A rescue! a rescue! the usual cry for assistance when the
king's officers were resisted by force; the phrase was originally
"at rescue," i.e. "to the rescue!" The Hostess takes the word
to be some weapon that the officer called for. To "make a
rescue" was to deliver a captured man from the custody of an
officer, as in C. E. iv. 4. 114, "Thou, gaoler, thou, I am thy
prisoner: wilt thou suffer them To make a rescue."
51. hemp-seed! generally taken as another of the Hostess's
corruptions of 'homicide,' which seems unlikely. More probably,
it seems to me, she means 'you rascal born for a halter,' halters
being woven out of hemp. Cp. ii. H. VI. iv. 7. 95, "Ye shall
have a hempen caudle then and the help of hatchet"; H. V. iii. 6.
45, "And let not hemp his wind-pipe suffocate."
52. scullion, properly one of the lowest menials in a household
who wiped out the pots and dishes; here merely a term of abuse:
rampallian, a term of abuse common in the old dramatists, and
more commonly spelled "rampallion," possibly with some connection in the mind of the speaker with a ramping lion, one who
springs upon a person as a bailiff might. Cp. the more modern term "rapscallion": fustilarian, apparently a coinage of Falstaff's
mint, and possibly from Lat. fustis, a cudgel, or one who carries
a cudgel, as a bailiff's follower did.
59. Stand from him, let go of him.
63. some, the Hostess does not understand the Chief-Justice's
67. the mare, the night-mare; an incubus to whose agency
horrible dreams, accompanied by oppression of the breast, were
supposed to be due; the word in this sense is, says Skeat, from
the root mar, to pound, crush.
68, 9. what man ... exclamation? how could any man of a
noble nature so wrong a woman as to provoke her to such a
tempest of reproaches as those with which she justly assails you?
71. to come by her own, to recover what is due to her.
73, 4. thyself ... too, you would admit that you owe me not
only the money I claim but yourself in marriage: Steevens says
that in articles parcel-gilt, i,e. partly gilt, the gilding was upon
those parts only that were embossed, i.e. in relief.
75. Dolphin-chamber. It was customary to give particular
names to each room in an inn; cp. Ft. I. ii. 4. 30, "Score a pint
of bastard in the Half- Moon"; 1. 42, "look down into the
76. Wheeson, Whitsun; the week beginning with Whit-Sunday, i.e. white Sunday, seven weeks after Easter. The origin of
the term is supposed to be from that season being specially appointed for christenings and ordinations, at which ceremonies
white garments were worn. For the minute prolixity of the Hostess's speech here compare that of the garrulous old Nurse
in R. J. i. 2. 16 et seqq.
77. broke this head, cracked the skin of your head, so that the
blood flowed from it; cp. R. J. i. 3. 38, "she broke her BROW,"
i.e. bruised her forehead: liking, likening; cp. i. H. VI. iv. 6.
48, "like me to the peasant boys of France."
79. my lady. As a knight, Falstaff could bring that title to the
woman he married; cp. K. J. i. 1. 184, "Well, now can I make
any Joan a lady," said by the newly knighted Faulconbridge.
80. goodwife Keech, my gossip Keech; the word Keech means
the fat of an ox or a cow, rolled up by the butcher in a round
lump, and so is appropriately given here to the wife of a butcher,
as in H. VIII. i. 1. 55, it is applied to Wolsey, a butcher's son.
81. gossip, literally 'related in God,' i.e. one who stands
sponsor in baptism for a child. "Gossips, then," says Trench,
Eng. Past and Present, "are first the sponsors, brought by the act
of a common sponsorship into affinity and near familiarity with one another; secondly, these sponsors, who being thus brought
together, allow themselves with one another in familiar, and then in trivial and idle, talk; thirdly, they are any who allow
themselves in this trivial and idle talk" ... so cronies, intimate friends; nowadays the word is used only of the idle talk of such
82. a mess of vinegar, a portion, small quantity of vinegar;
properly that which is set on the table, from O. F. mes, Low Lat.
mittere, to place; Malone compares the Scriptural phrase "a
mess of pottage."
83. whereby, whereupon.
84. a green wound, a fresh, not yet healed, wound.
85. 6. to be ... people, not to allow such low people to be on
such familiar terms with me as to call me "gossip Quickly" and
borrow trifles of me in this way.
87. call me madam, call me "my lady," use terms of respect
88. I put thee ... book-oath, I call upon you to answer, taking
your Bible-oath to the truth of your words.
90, 1. up and down the town, publicly, wherever she goes.
92. in good case, comfortably off, not the poor woman she now
is: distracted her, driven her out of her senses.
93, 4. I may ... against them, I may be set free and they be
punished for having dared to arrest me.
98. such more ... sauciness, such impudence as deserves a
stronger term than sauciness.
98, 9. can thrust ... consideration, can deter me from taking a
fair view of the case and seeing justice done to the poor woman.
105, 6. with sterling ... repentance. The Chief-Justice puns
upon the words sterling and current, which are used of coin
that passes as of good, full, recognised, value; sterling, a
shortened form of "easterling," the Easterlings or North German merchants being the first moneyers in England.
107. sneap, rebuke, reprimand; to "sneap" = to pinch, check,
is connected with to "snub"; for its literal sense, cp. L. L. L.
i. 1. 100, "Biron is like an envious sneaping frost That bites the
first-born infants of the spring"; W. T. i. 2. 13, "that may blow
No sneaping winds at home, to make us say 'This is put forth
109. make courtesy, show deference, humility; the 'courtesy,'
modern 'curtsy,' was formerly used of men as well as of women;
nowadays the word is used of women only, and especially of
those of humbler rank showing deference to their superiors,
the word "bow" having taken its place for a salutation between
110. my humble ... remembered, be it said with all mindfulness
of the respect due to your position: I will ... suitor, I do not ask
it with the humility of a suitor, but claim it as the right of one
now acting in the king's behalf in a matter of urgent importance.
"Falstaff," observes Knight, "claimed the protection legally
called quia profecturus," i.e. as being about to set forth (on the
113. You speak ... wrong, you talk as though your commission
on the king's business justified you in robbing a poor woman.
114. answer ... reputation, "act up to what your reputation
promises" (Schmidt); effect, tenour, import; cp. H. V. v. 2. 72,
"our just demands; Whose tenours and particular effects You
have enscheduled briefly in your hands": satisfy, pay her what
120. As I am a gentleman, I promise you on my faith as a
gentleman; said aside to the Hostess.
122. no more ... it, let's have no more discussion of the matter.
123. By this ... on. Mrs. Quickly mixes up two forms of oath, "by heaven," and "by this ground": I must be fain to, I shall
have to bring myself to, I shall be obliged to consent to; fain,
glad, eager; "the sense," says Skeat, "seems to have been
originally 'fixed'; hence 'suited,' 'satisfied,' 'content.'"In
modern usage, in which however the word is somewhat rare,
there is almost always a sense of constraint implied.
124. tapestry, with which walls were formerly hung. The
finest tapestry came from Arras, a town in Artois, France, and
was often called "arras."
126. Glasses ... drinking, don't bother yourself with regrets about your plate, there is nothing so pleasant to drink out of as
127. drollery, "a picture or sketch of some scene of low
humour" (Dyce, Gloss.). In the Tempest, iii. 3. 21, the word is
used of a puppet-show: the Prodigal, i.e. of the parable of the
prodigal son in Scripture.
128. the German ... water-work, "the representation of a German boar-hunt, — perhaps some particular boar-hunt, ... executed
in water-colour (or distemper?) on cloth" (Dyce, Gloss).
129. these bed-hangings, said contemptuously of her tapestries
as being fit for bed curtains only: fly-bitten, fly-blown, mouldy.
129, 30. Let it be ... canst, make up the sum (which she is to
lend him) to ten pounds, if you can.
131. humours, fits of ill temper.
132. draw, withdraw.
134. set on, instigated; one so generous as you are could not
have thought of such a thing of your own accord.
135. let it be ... nobles, be satisfied with twenty nobles; "noble," a coin worth 6s. 8d.
137, 8, Let it alone ... still, never mind, don't trouble yourself
in the matter, I'll manage to get the money in some other
quarter; you will be a fool to the end of your life, and never know what is to your own advantage; i.e. you will lose the
chance of having me for a husband for the sake of a few pounds.
142. hook on, go with her and do not leave her till she has
pawned her goods and got the money.
144. No more words, as you like; do anything you please.
145. I have ... news, this is not as good news as it might be.
148. Basingstoke, in Hampshire, about fifty miles from
151. Come ... back? are all his troops returning with him?
156. of me, from me.
160. shall I entreat ... dinner? will you let me persuade you to
dine with me?
163, 4. being you are to, ... go, it being your commission to
enlist soldiers on your way to join Prince John. For "being
that," = since, cp. M. A. iv. 1. 251, "Being that I flow in
168, 9. he was ... me, hinting that he had learnt his politeness
from the Chief-Justice: the right ... grace, the perfection of art
in fencing, the highest skill in logical combat; cp. A. Y. L. iii.
2. 127, "that 's the right virtue of a medlar."
170. tap ... fair, hit for hit, and so to separate in all good
feeling, without any soreness at getting the worst of the encounter.
171. lighten, with a pun on 'enlighten' and on 'make lighter,' i.e. less of a fool.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. King Henry IV, second part. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1911. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/2kh4_2_1.html >.