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TIMON OF ATHENS.
"In a wide sea of wax."—Act I. Sc. 1.
Anciently, they wrote upon waxen tables with an iron style.-HANMER.
"Methinks they should invite them without knives.”—Act I. Sc. 2.
It was the custom in our author's time for every guest to bring his own knife, which he occasionally whetted on a stone that hung behind the door. One of these whetstones may be seen in Parkinson's Museum. They were strangers, at that period, to the use of forks.-RITSON.
"So soon as dinner's done we'll forth again.”—Act II. Sc. 2.
It may be here noticed, that in Shakspeare's day, it was usual to hunt as well after dinner, as before. Thus, in Laneham's Account of the Entertainment at Kenelworth Castle, we find that Queen Elizabeth always, while there, hunted in the afternoon :-" Monday was hot, and therefore her highness kept in till five o'clock in the evening, what time it pleased her to ryd forth into the chase; to hunt the harte of fors; which found anone, and after sore chased, &c.-REED.
“I dreamt of a silver bason and ewer to-night."—Act III. Sc. 1.
A basin and ewer were things of importance formerly. They were usually of silver, and probably very costly workmanship was bestowed upon them, as they were exhibited to the guests before and after dinner, it being the fashion to wash at both those times. In The Returne from Parnassus, we have the following passage:-"Immerito his gifts have appeared in as many colours as the raynbow; first, to maister Amoretto, in colours of the sattine suit he weares; to my lady, in the similitude of a loose gowne; to my maister in the likeness of a silver bason and ewer.” MALONE.
"Let molten coin be thy damnation."-Act III. Sc. 1.
In The Shepherd's Calendar, Lazarus declares himself to have seen in hell "a great number of wide cauldrons and kettles, full of boyling lead and oyle, with other hot metals molten, in the which were plunged and dipped the covetous men and women, for to fulfill and replenish them of their insatiate covetise."-STEEVENS.
Phrynia was an Athenian courtezan, so exquisitely beautiful, that when her judges were proceeding to condemn her for numerous and enormous offences, a sight of her bosom (which, as we learn from Quintillian, had been artfully denuded by her advocate) disarmed the court of its severity, and secured her life from the sentence of the law.-STEEVENS.
"The unicorn."-Act IV. Sc. 3.
The account of the unicorn is this:-That he and the lion being enemies by nature, as soon as the lion sees the unicorn, he betakes himself to a tree; the unicorn in his fury, and with all the swiftness of his course, running at him, sticks his horn fast in the tree, and then the lion falls upon him and kills him.-GESNER'S HISTORY OF ANIMALS.
"Brows bound with oak."-Act I. Sc. 3.
The crown given by the Romans to him who saved the life of a citizen, which was accounted more honourable than any other, was composed of oak leaves.-JOHNSON.
"Those centuries."-Act I. Sc. 7.
Centuries were companies, each consisting of a hundred men.
“Towards the napes of your necks.”—Act II. Sc. 1.
In allusion to the fable, which says, that every man has a bag hanging before him, in which he puts his neighbour's faults, and another behind him, in which he stows his own.-JOHNSON.
"The kitchen malkin.”—Act II. Sc. 1.
A maukin, or malkin, is a kind of mop made of clouts for the use of sweeping ovens; thence a frightful figure of clouts dressed up; thence a dirty wench.-HANMER.
"The breath of garlick-eaters."-Act IV. Sc. 6.
The smell of garlick was once such a brand of vulgarity, that garlick was a food forbidden to an ancient order of Spanish knights, mentioned by Guevara.-Johnson.
"As is the osprey."-Act IV. Sc. 7.
The osprey is a rare, large, blackish hawk, with a long neck and blue legs. It commonly feeds on fish.-STEEVENS.
"To have a temple built you.”—Act V. Sc. 3.
Plutarch informs us, that a temple dedicated to the Fortune of the Ladies, was built on this occasion by order of the senate.-STEEVENS.
"That unicorns may be betrayed with trees,
And bears with glasses, elephants with holes."—Act II. Sc. 1. Unicorns are said to have been taken by one, who, running behind a tree, eluded the violent push the animal was making at him, so that his horn spent its force on the trunk, and stuck fast, detaining the beast till he was despatched by the hunter. Bears were surprised by means of a mirror, which they would gaze on, affording their pursuers an opportunity of taking a surer aim. Elephants were seduced into pitfalls, lightly covered with hurdles and turf, on which a proper bait to tempt them was exposed.-STEEVENS.
"When beggars die, there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.
Act II. Sc. 2.
This might have been suggested by what Suetonius says of the blazing star, which appeared for seven days together, during the celebration of games instituted by Augustus in honour of Julius. The common people believed that the comet indicated his reception among the gods.-DOUCE.