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Sports and Pastimes in Popular Use in Shakespeare's Day

Part 1: [A-L]

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

Very many of the old sports and pastimes in popular use in Shakespeare's day have long ago not only been laid aside, but, in the course of years, have become entirely forgotten. This is to be regretted, as a great number of these capital diversions were admirably suited both for in and out of doors, the simplicity which marked them being one of their distinguishing charms. That Shakespeare, too, took an interest in these good old sources of recreation, may be gathered from the frequent reference which he has, made to them; his mention of some childish game even serving occasionally as an illustration in a passage characterized by its force and vigor.

Archery. In Shakespeare's day this was a very popular diversion, and the "Knights of Prince Arthur's Round Table" was a society of archers instituted by Henry VIII, and encouraged in the reign of Elizabeth1. Fitzstephen, who wrote in the reign of Henry II, notices it among the summer pastimes of the London youth; and the repeated statutes, from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, enforcing the use of the bow, generally ordered the leisure time upon holidays to be passed in its exercise.2 Shakespeare seems to have been intimately acquainted with the numerous terms connected with archery, many of which we find scattered throughout his plays. Thus, in "Love's Labour's Lost " (iv. i), Maria uses the expression, "Wide o' the bow hand," a term which signified a good deal to the left of the mark.

The "clout" was the nail or pin of the target, and "from the passages," says Dyce,3 "which I happen to recollect in our early writers, I should say that the clout, or pin, stood in the centre of the inner circle ofthe butts, which circle, being painted white, was called the white; that, to 'hit the white' was a considerable feat, but that to 'hit or cleave the clout or pin' was a much greater one, though, no doubt, the expressions were occasionally used to signify the same thing, viz., to hit the mark." In "Love's Labour's Lost" (iv. i), Costard says of Boyet:

"Indeed, a' must shoot nearer, or he'll ne'er hit the clout;"
and, in " 2 Henry IV" (iii. 2), Shallow says of old Double: "He would have clapped i' the clout at twelve score" — that is, he would have hit the clout at twelve-score yards. And "King Lear" (iv. 6) employs the phrase "i' the clout, i' the clout: hewgh!"

In "Romeo and Juliet" (ii. 4), where Mercutio relates how Romeo is "shot thorough the ear with a love-song; the very pin of his heart cleft with the blind bow-boy's butt-shaft," the metaphor, of course, is from archery.

The term "loose" was the technical one for the discharging of an arrow, and occurs in "Love's Labour's Lost" (v. 2). According to Capell4, "the words of Bottom, in "A Midsummer-Night's Dream" (i. 2), "hold, or cut bow-strings," were a proverbial phrase, and alluded to archery. "When a party was made at butts, assurance of meeting was given in the words of that phrase, the sense of the person using them being that he would 'hold' or keep promise, or they might 'cut his bow-strings,' demolish him for an archer." Whether, adds Dyce, "this be the true explanation of the phrase, I am unable to determine."

All hid, all hid. Biron, in "Love's Labour's Lost" (iv. 3), no doubt means the game well-known as hide-and-seek, "All hid, all hid; an old infant play." The following note, however, in Cotgrave's "French and English Dictionary," has been adduced to show that he may possibly mean blindman's-buff: "Clignemasset. The childish play called Hodman-blind [i.e., blind-man's-buff], Harrie-racket, or Are you all hid."

Backgammon. The old name for this game was "Tables," as in "Love's Labour's Lost" (v. 2):

"This is the ape of form, monsieur the nice
That, when he plays at tables, chides the dice."
An interesting history of this game will be found in Strutt's "Sports and Pastimes" (1876, pp. 419-421).

Barley-break. This game, called also the "Last Couple in Hell," which is alluded to in the "Two Noble Kinsmen," (iv. 3), was played by six people, three of each sex, who were coupled by lot.5 A piece of ground was then chosen, and divided into three compartments, of which the middle one was called hell. It was the object of the couple condemned to this division to catch the others, who advanced from the two extremities; in which case a change of situation took place, and hell was filled by the couple who were excluded by preoccupation from the other places. This catching, however, was not so easy, as, by the rules of the game, the middle couple were not to separate before they had succeeded, while the others might break hands whenever they found themselves hard pressed. When all had been taken in turn, the last couple were said "to be in hell," and the game ended.

The game was frequently mentioned by old writers, and appears to have been very popular. From Herrick's Poems, it is seen that the couples in their confinement occasionally solaced themselves by kisses:

Barley-break; or, Last in Hell.
"We two are last in hell; what may we fear,
To be tormented, or kept pris'ners here?
Alas, if kissing be of plagues the worst,
We'll wish in hell we had been last and first."
In Scotland it was called barla-breikis, and was, says Jamieson, "generally played by young people in a cornyard, hence its name, barla-bracks, about the stacks."6 The term "hell," says Nares,7 "was indiscreet, and must have produced many profane allusions, besides familiarizing what ought always to preserve its due effect of awe upon the mind." Both its names are alluded to in the following passage in Shirley's "Bird in a Cage:"
"Shall's to barlibreak?
I was in hell last; 'tis little less to be in a petticoat sometimes."
Base. This was a rustic game, known also as "Prison base" or "Prison bars." It is mentioned in "Cymbeline" (v. 3) by Posthumus:
"Lads more like to run
The country base, than to commit such slaughter."
And in "Two Gentlemen of Verona" (i. 2) by Lucetta:
"Indeed, I bid the base for Proteus."8
The success of this pastime depended upon the agility of the candidates, and their skill in running. Early in the reign of Edward III it is spoken of as a childish amusement, and was prohibited to be played in the avenues of the palace at Westminster during the session of Parliament, because of the interruption it occasioned to the members and others in passing to and fro as their business required. It was also played by men, and especially in Cheshire and other adjoining counties, where it seems to have been in high repute among all classes. Strutt thus describes the game: "The performance of this pastime requires two parties of equal number, each of them having a base or home to themselves, at the distance of about twenty or thirty yards. The players then on either side, taking hold of hands, extend themselves in length, and opposite to each other, as far as they conveniently can, always remembering that one of them must touch the base. When any one of them quits the hand of his fellow and runs into the field, which is called giving the chase, he is immediately followed by one of his opponents. He is again followed by a second from the former side, and he by a second opponent, and so on alternately until as many are out as choose to run, every one pursuing the man he first followed, and no other; and if he overtake him near enough to touch him, his party claims one towards their, game, and both return home. They then run forth again and again in like manner until the number is completed that decides the victory. This number is optional, and rarely exceeds twenty."

The phrase to "bid the base," means to run fast, challenging another to pursue. It occurs again in "Venus and Adonis:"

"To bid the wind a base he now prepares."
In Spenser's "Fairy Queen" (bk. v. canto 8), we read:
"So ran they all as they had been at base,
They being chased that did others chase."
Bat-fowling. This sport, which is noticed in "The Tempest" (ii. i) by Sebastian, was common in days gone by. It is minutely described in Markham's "Hunger's Prevention" (1600), which is quoted by Dyce. The term "bat-fowling," however, had another signification, says Mr. Harting,9 "in Shakespeare's day, and it may have been in this secondary sense that it is used in "The Tempest," being a slang word for a particular mode of cheating. Bat-fowling was practised about dusk, when the rogue pretended to have dropped a ring or a jewel at the door of some well-furnished shop, and, going in, asked the apprentice of the house to light his candle to look for it. After some peering about the bat-fowler would drop the candle as if by accident. "Now, I pray you, good young man," he would say, "do so much as light the candle again." While the boy was away the rogue plundered the shop, and having stolen everything he could find stole himself away.

Billiards. Shakespeare is guilty of an anachronism in "Antony and Cleopatra" (ii. 5), where he makes Cleopatra say: "Let's to billiards" — the game being unknown to the ancients. The modern manner of playing at billiards differs from that formerly in use. At the commencement of the last century the billiard-table was square, having only three pockets for the balls to run in, situated on one of the sides — that is, at each corner, and the third between them. About the middle of the table a small arch of iron was placed, and at a little distance from it an upright cone called a king. At certain periods of the game it was necessary for the balls to be driven through the one and round the other, without knocking either of them down, which was not easily effected, because they were not fastened to the table.

Bone-ace. This old game, popularly called "One-and-Thirty," is alluded to by Grumio in "Taming of the Shrew" (i. 2): "Well, was it fit for a servant to use his master so; being, perhaps, for aught I see, two-and-thirty — a pip out."10 It was very like the French game of "Vingt-un," only a longer reckoning. Strutt11 says that "perhaps Bone-ace is the same as the game called Ace of Hearts, prohibited with all lotteries by cards and dice. An. 12 Geor. II., Cap. 38, sect. 2." It is mentioned in Massinger's "Fatal Dowry" (ii. 2): "You think, because you served my lady's mother, [you] are thirty-two years old, which is a pip out, you know." The phrase "to be two-and-thirty," a pip out, was an old cant term applied to a person who was intoxicated.

Bo-peep. This nursery amusement, which consisted in peeping from behind something, and crying "Bo!" is referred to by the Fool in "King Lear" (i. 4): " That such a king should play bo-peep." In Sherwood's Dictionary it is defined, "Jeu d'enfant; ou (plustost) des nourrices aux petits enfans; se cachans le visage et puis se monstrant." Minsheu's derivation of bo-peep, from the noise which chickens make when they come out of the shell, is, says Douce,' more whimsical than just.

Bowls. Frequent allusions occur to this game, which seems to have been a popular pastime in olden times. The small ball, now called the jack, at which the players aim, was sometimes termed the "mistress." In "Troilus and Cressida " (iii. 2), Pandarus says: "So, so; rub12 on, and kiss the mistress." A bowl that kisses the jack, or mistress, is in the most advantageous position; hence "to kiss the jack" served to denote a state of great advantage. Thus, in "Cymbeline" (ii. i), Cloten exclaims, "Was there ever man had such luck! when I kissed the jack, upon an up-cast to be hit away! I had a hundred pound on't." There is another allusion to this game, according to Staunton, in "King John" (ii. i): "on the outward eye of fickle France " — the aperture on one side which contains the bias or weight that inclines the bowl in running from a direct course, being sometimes called the eye.

A further reference to this game occurs in the following dialogue in " Richard II" (iii. 4):

"Queen. What sport shall we devise here in this garden,
To drive away the heavy thought of care .
I Lady. Madam, we'll play at bowls.
Queen. 'Twill make me think the world is full of nibs,
And that my fortune runs against the bias"
— the bias, as stated above, being a weight inserted in one side of a bowl, in order to give it a particular inclination in bowling. "To run against the bias," therefore, became a proverb. Thus, to quote another instance, in the "Taming of the Shrew" (iv. 5) Petruchio says:
"Well, forward, forward! thus the bowl should run,
And not unluckily against the bias."
And in "Troilus and Cressida" (iv. 5), the term " bias-cheek" is used to denote a cheek swelling out like the bias of a bowl.13

Cards. Some of the old terms connected with card-playing are curious, a few of which are alluded to by Shakespeare. Thus, in "King Lear" (v. i), Edmund says: "And hardly shall I carry out my side," alluding to the card table, where to carry out a side meant to carry out the game with your partner successfully. So, "to set up a side" was to become partners in the game; "to pull or pluck down a side" was to lose it." Elizabethan playing cards. From Strutt's 'Sports and Pastimes' A lurch at cards denoted an easy victory. So, in "Coriolanus" (ii. 2), Cominius says: "he lurch'd all swords of the garland," meaning, as Malone says, that Coriolanus gained from all other warriors the wreath of victory, with ease, and incontestable superiority.

A pack of cards was formerly termed "a deck of cards," as in "3 Henry VI" (v. i) :

"The king was slily finger'd from the deck."
Again, "to vie" was also a term at cards, and meant particularly to increase the stakes, and generally to challenge any one to a contention, bet, wager, etc. So, Cleopatra (v. 2), says:
"nature wants stuff
To vie strange forms with fancy."
Cherry-pit. This consisted in throwing cherry stones into a little hole — a game, says Nares, still practised with dumps or money. In "Twelfth Night" (iii. 4), Sir Toby alludes to it: "What, man! 'tis not for gravity to play at cherry-pit with Satan." Nash, in his "Pierce Pennilesse," speaking of the disfigurement of ladies' faces by painting, says: "You may play at cherry-pit in the dint of their cheeks."

Chess. As might be expected, several allusions occur in Shakespeare's plays to this popular game. In "The Tempest" (v. i), Ferdinand and Miranda are represented playing at it; and in "King John" (ii. i), Elinor says:

"That thou mayst be a queen, and check the world!"
In the "Taming of the Shrew" (i. i), Katharina asks:
"I pray you, sir, is it your will
To make a stale14 of me amongst these mates?"
alluding, as Douce15 suggests, to the chess term of stale-mate, which is used when the game is ended by the king being alone and unchecked, and then forced into a situation from which he is unable to move without going into check. This is a dishonorable termination to the adversary, who thereby loses the game. Thus, in Bacon's Twelfth Essay: "They stand still like a stale at chess, where it is no mate, but yet the game cannot stir."

Dice. Among the notices of this game, may be quoted that in "Henry V" (iv. prologue):

"The confident and over-lusty French
Do the low-rated English play at dice."
Edgar, in "King Lear" (iii. 4), says: "Wine loved I deeply, dice dearly." Pistol, in "Merry Wives of Windsor" (i. 3) gives a double allusion:
"Let vultures gripe thy guts! — for gourd and fullam holds,
And high and low beguiles the rich and poor."
"Gourds" were false dice, with a secret cavity scooped out like a gourd. "Fullams" were also false dice, "loaded with metal on one side, so as better to produce high throws, or to turn up low numbers, as was required, and were hence named 'high men' or 'low men,' also 'high fullams' and 'low fullams.'"16 It has been suggested that dice were termed fullams either because Fulham was the resort of sharpers, or because they were principally manufactured there.

Dun is in the mire. This is a Christmas sport, which Gifford describes as follows: "A log of wood is brought into the midst of the room; this is Dun (the cart-horse), and a cry is raised that he is stuck in the mire. Two of the company advance, either with or without ropes, to draw him out. After repeated attempts, they find themselves unable to do it, and call for more assistance. The game continues till all the company take part in it, when Dun is extricated. Much merriment is occasioned from the awkward efforts of the rustics to lift the log, and from sundry arch contrivances to let the ends of it fall on one another's toes." Thus, in "Romeo and Juliet" (1.4), Mercutio says:

"If thou art dun, we'll draw thee from the mire."
Beaumont and Fletcher, also, in the "Woman Hater" (iv. 3), allude to this game:
"Dun's in the mire, get out again how he can."
Fast and Loose. This was a cheating game, much practised in Shakespeare's day, whereby gypsies and other vagrants beguiled the common people of their money; and hence was very often to be seen at fairs. Its other name was "pricking at the belt or girdle;" and it is thus described by Sir J. Hawkins: "A leathern belt was made up into a number of intricate folds, and placed edgewise upon a table. One of the folds was made to resemble the middle of the girdle, so that whoever could thrust a skewer into it would think he held it fast to the' table; whereas, when he has so done, the person with whom he plays may take hold of both ends, and draw it away." In "Antony and Cleopatra" (iv. 12), Antony says:
"Like a right gypsy, hath, at fast and loose,
Beguil'd me to the very heart of loss."
The drift of this game seems to have been to encourage wagers whether the belt was fast or loose, which the juggler could easily make it at his option. It is constantly alluded to by old writers, and is thus described in Drayton's "Mooncalf:"
"He like a gypsy oftentimes would go,
All kinds of gibberish he hath learn'd to know.
And with a stick, a short string, and a noose.
Would show the people tricks at fast and loose."
Fencing. In years gone by, there were three degrees in fencing, a master's, a provost's, and a scholar's.' To each of these a prize was played, with various weapons, in some open place or square. In "Titus Andronicus" (i. i), this practice is alluded to by Saturninus: "So, Bassianus, you have play'd your prize."

In the "Merry Wives of Windsor" (i. i), Slender says: "I bruised my shin th' other day with playing at sword and dagger with a master of fence," i. e., with one who had taken his master's degree in the science.

Among the numerous allusions to fencing quoted by Shakespeare may be mentioned the following: "Venue or veney " was a fencing term, meaning an attack or hit. It is used in the "Merry Wives of Windsor" (i. i), by Slender, who relates how he bruised his shin "with playing at sword and dagger with a master of fence; three veneys for a dish of stewed prunes." It is used metaphorically in "Love's Labour's Lost" (v. i), for a brisk attack, by Armado: "A sweet touch, a quick venue of wit! snip, snap, quick and home!" The Italian term "Stoccado" or "Stoccata," abbreviated also into "Stock," seems to have had a similar signification. In "Romeo and Juliet" (iii. i), Mercutio, drawing his sword, says:

"Alia stoccata carries it away."
In the "Merry Wives of Windsor" (ii. i), it is used by Shallow: "In these times you stand on distance, your passes, stoccadoes, and I know not what." Again, " Montant," an abbreviation of Montanto, denoted an upright blow or thrust, and occurs also in the "Merry Wives of Windsor" (ii. 3), where the Host tells Caius that he, with the others, has come — "to see thee pass thy punto, thy stock, thy reverse, thy distance, thy montant." Hence, in "Much Ado About Nothing" (i. i), Beatrice jocularly calls Benedick "Signior Montanto," meaning to imply that he was a great fencer. Of the other old fencing terms quoted in the passage above, it appears that "passado" implied a pass or motion forwards. It occurs in "Romeo and Juliet" (ii. 4), where Mercutio speaks of the "immortal passado! the punto reverse!" Again, in "Love's Labour's Lost" (i. 2), Armado says of Cupid that "The passado he respects not, the duello he regards not." The "punto reverso" was a backhanded thrust or stroke, and the term "distance" was the space between the antagonists.

Shakespeare has also alluded to other fencing terms, such as the "foin," a thrust, which is used by the Host in the "Merry Wives of Windsor" (iii. 2), and in "Much Ado About Nothing" (v. i), where Antonio says, in his heated conversation with Leonato:

"Sir boy, I'll whip you from your foining fence;
Nay, as I am a gentleman, I will."
The term "traverse" denoted a posture of opposition, and is used by the Host in the "Merry Wives of Windsor" (ii. 3). A "bout," too, is another fencing term, to which the King refers in "Hamlet" (iv. 7):
"When in your motion you are hot and dry —
As make your bouts more violent to that end."
Filliping the Toad. This is a common and cruel diversion of boys. They lay a board, two or three feet long, at right angles over a transverse piece two or three inches thick, then, placing the toad at one end of the board, the other end is struck by a bat or large stick, which throws the poor toad forty or fifty feet perpendicularly from the earth; and the fall generally kills it. In "2 Henry IV" (i. 2), Falstaff says: "If I do, fillip me with a three-man beetle."17

Flap-dragon18 This pastime was much in use in days gone by. A small combustible body was set on fire, and put afloat in a glass of liquor. The courage of the toper was tried in the attempt to toss off the glass in such a manner as to prevent the flap-dragon doing mischief — raisins in hot brandy being the usual flap-dragons. Shakespeare several times mentions this custom, as in "Love's Labour's Lost" (v. i) where Costard says: "Thou art easier swallowed than a flap-dragon." And in "2 Henry IV" (ii. 4), he makes Falstaff say: "and drinks off candles' ends for flap-dragons." 18

It appears that formerly gallants used to vie with each other in drinking off flap-dragons to the health of their mistresses — which were sometimes even candles' ends, swimming in brandy or other strong spirits, whence, when on fire, they were snatched by the mouth and swallowed; "an allusion to which occurs in the passage above. As candles' ends made the most formidable flap-dragon, the greatest merit was ascribed to the heroism of swallowing them. Ben Jonson, in "The Masque of the Moon " (1838, p. 616, ed. Gifford), says: "But none that will hang themselves for love, or eat candles' ends, etc., as the sublunary lovers do."

Football. An allusion to this once highly popular game occurs in "Comedy of Errors" (ii. i). Dromio of Ephesus asks:

"Am I so round with you as you with me,
That like a football you do spurn me thus?
If I last in this service, you must case me in leather."
In "King Lear" (i. 4), Kent calls Oswald "a base football player."

According to Strutt19, it does not appear among the popular exercises before the reign of Edward III; and then, in 1349, it was prohibited by a piablic edict because it impeded the progress of archery. The danger, however, attending this pastime occasioned James I to say: "From this Court I debarre all rough and violent exercises, as the football, meeter for laming than making able the users thereof."

Occasionally the rustic boys made use of a blown bladder, without the covering of leather, by way of a football, putting beans and horse-beans inside, which made a rattling noise as it was kicked about. Barclay, in his "Ship of Fools" (1508) thus graphically describes it:

"Howe in the winter, when men kill the fat swine,
They get the bladder and blow it great and thin,
With many beans or peason put within:
It ratleth, soundeth, and shineth clere and fayre,
While it is thrown and caste up in the ayre,
Eche one contendeth and hath a great delite
With foote and with hande the bladder for to smite;
If it fall to grounde, they lifte it up agayne.
This wise to labour they count it for no payne."
Shrovetide was the great season for football matches;20 and at a comparatively recent period it was played in Derby, Nottingham, Kingston-upon-Thames, etc.

Gleek. According to Drake," this game is alluded to twice by Shakespeare — in "A Midsummer-Night's Dream " (iii. i):

"Nay, I can gleek upon occasion."

And in "Romeo and Juliet" (iv. 5):

"I Musician. What will you give us ?
Peter. No money, on my faith, but the gleek."

Douce, however, considers that the word gleek was simply used to express a stronger sort of joke, a scoffing; and that the phrase "to give the gleek" merely denoted to pass a jest upon, or to make a person appear ridiculous.

Handy-dandy. A very old game among children. A child hides something in his hand, and makes his playfellow guess in which hand it is. If the latter guess rightly, he wins the article, if wrongly, he loses an equivalent. "Sometimes," says Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps, "the game is played by a sort of sleight-of-hand, changing the article rapidly from one hand into the other, so that the looker-on is often deceived, and induced to name the hand into which it is apparently thrown." This is what Shakespeare alludes to by "change places" in "King Lear" (iv. 6): "see how yond justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark, in thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief?"21

Hide-fox and all after. A children's game, considered by many to be identical with hide-and-seek. It is mentioned by Hamlet (iv. 2). Some commentators think that the term "kid-fox," in "Much Ado About Nothing" (ii. 3), may have been a technical term in the game of "hide-fox." Some editions have printed it "hid-fox." Claudio says:

"O, very well, my lord: the music ended
We'll fit the kid-fox with a pennyworth."
Hoodman-blind. The childish sport now called blind-man's buff was known by various names, such as hood-wink, blind-hob, etc. It was termed "hoodman-blind," because the players formerly were blinded with their hoods,22 and under this designation it is mentioned by Hamlet (iii. 4):
"What devil was't
That thus hath cozen'd you at hoodman-blind?"
In Scotland this game was called "belly-blind;" and Gay, in his "Shepherd's Week" (i. 96), says, concerning it:
"As once I play'd at blindman's buff, it hapt
About my eyes the towel thick was wrapt,
I miss'd the swains, and seiz'd on Blouzelind.
True speaks that ancient proverb, 'Love is blind."
The term "hoodman" occurs in "All's Well that Ends Well" (iv. 3). The First Lord says: "Hoodman comes!" and no doubt there is an allusion to the game in the same play (iii. 6), "we will bind and hoodwink him;" and in "Macbeth" (iv. 3) Macduff" says: "the time you may so hoodwink." There may also have been a reference to falconry - the hawks being hooded in the intervals of sport. Thus, in Latham's "Falconry" (1615), "to hood" is the term used for the blinding, "to unhood" for the unblinding.

Horse-racing. That this diversion was in Shakespeare's day occasionally practised in the spirit of the modern turf is evident from "Cymbeline" (iii. 2):

"I have heard of riding wagers,
Where horses have been nimbler than the sands
That run i' the clock's behalf."
Burton,23 too, who wrote at the close of the Shakespearian era, mentions the ruinous consequences of this recreation: "Horse races are desports of great men, and good in themselves, though many gentlemen by such means gallop quite out of their fortunes."

Leap-frog. One boy stoops down with his hands upon his knees, and others leap over him, every one of them running forward and stooping in his turn. It is mentioned by Shakespeare in "Henry V" (v. 2), where he makes the king say, "If I could win a lady at leap-frog, or by vaulting into my saddle with my armour on my back, ... I should quickly leap into a wife." Ben Jonson, in his comedy of "Bartholomew Fair," speaks of "a leappe frogge chance note."

Laugh-and-lie-down (more properly laugh-and-lay-down ) was a game at cards, to which there is an allusion in the "Two Noble Kinsmen" (ii. 1):

"Emilia. I could laugh now.
Waiting-woman. I could lie down, I'm sure."
Loggat. The game so called resembles bowls, but with notable differences24. First, it is played, not on a green, but on a floor strewed with ashes. The jack is a wheel of lignum vita, or other hard wood, nine inches in diameter, and three or four inches thick. The loggat, made of applewood, is a truncated cone, twenty-six or twenty-seven inches in length, tapering from a girth of eight and a half to nine inches at one end to three and a half or four inches at the other. Each player has three loggats, which he throws, holding lightly the thin end. The object is to lie as near the jack as possible. Hamlet speaks of this game (v. i): "Did these bones cost no more the breeding, but to play at loggats with 'em ?" comparing, perhaps, the skull to the jack at which the bones were thrown. In Ben Jonson's "Tale of a Tub" (iv. 5) we read:
"Now are they tossing of his legs and arms,
Like loggets at a pear-tree."
Sir Thomas Hanmer makes the game the same as ninepins or skittles. He says: "It is one of the unlawful games enumerated in the Thirty-third statute of Henry VIII;25" it is the same which is now called kittle-pins, in which the boys often make use of bones instead of wooden pins, throwing at them with another bone instead of bowling."


Continue to Sports and Pastimes Part 2 [M-Z]


Footnote 1: See Drake's "Shakespeare and His Times," vol. ii. pp. 178-181.

Footnote 2: Brand's "Pop. Antiq.," 1870, vol. ii. p. 290.

Footnote 3: "Glossary," p. 84.

Footnote 4: "Glossary," p. 210.

Footnote 5: From Gilford's Note on Massinger's Works, 181 3, vol. i. p. 104.

Footnote 6: See Jamieson's "Scottish Dictionary," 1879, vol. i. p. 122.

Footnote 7: Glossary," vol. i. p. 57. ' Ibid. vol. i. p. 58.

Footnote 8: "Sports and Pastimes," 1876, p. 143.

Footnote 9: See Harting's "Ornithology of Shakespeare," p. 156; Strutt's "Sports and Pastimes," 1876, p. 98. A simple mode of bat-fowling,' by means of a large clap-net and a lantern, and called bird-batting, is alluded to in Fielding's " Joseph Andrews" (bk. ii. chap. x.). Drake thinks that it is to a stratagem of this kind Shakespeare alludes when he paints Buckingham exclaiming (" Henry VIII" i. i):

"The net has fall'n upon me ; I shall perish
Under device and practice."
Footnote 10: A pip is a spot upon a card.

Footnote 11: "Sports and Pastimes," 1876, p. 436.

Footnote 12: Rub is still a term at the game, expressive of the movement of the balls. Cf. "King Lear" (ii. 2), and "Love's Labour's Lost" (iv. i), where Boyet, speaking of the game, says: "I fear too much rubbing."

Footnote 13: Halliwell-Phillipps "Handbook Index to Shakespeare," p. 43.

Footnote 14: She means, "Do you intend to make a mockery of me among these companions."

Footnote 15: "Illustrations of Shakspeare," p. 20.

Footnote 16: Gifford's note on Jonson's Works, vol. ii. p. 3.

Footnote 17: A three-man beetle is a heavy implement, with three handles, used in driving piles, etc., which required three men to lift it.

Footnote 18: A correspondent of "Notes and Queries," 2d series, vol. vii. p. 277, suggests as a derivation the German schnapps, spirit, and drache, dragon, and that it is equivalent to spirit-fire.

Footnote 19: "Sports and Pastimes," pp. 168, 169.

Footnote 20: See "British Popular Customs," 1876, pp. 78, 83, 87, 401.

Footnote 21: See Brand's "Pop. Antiq.," 1849, vol. ii. p. 420.

Footnote 22: See Strutt's "Sports and Pastimes," pp. 499, 500 ; Brand's "Pop. Antiq.," 1849, vol. ii. pp. 397, 398.

Footnote 23: "Anatomy of Melancholy;" Drake's "Shakespeare and His Times," vol. ii. p. 298.

Footnote 24: Clark and Wright's "Notes to Hamlet," 1876, pp. 212, 213.

Footnote 25: See Strutt's "Sports and Pastimes," p. 365; Nares's "Glossary," vol. ii. p. 522.

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) < >.

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