ElizabethanDrama.org

presents

the Annotated Popular Edition of

The SCORNFUL LADY

 

by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher

Performed c. 1609-1610
First published 1616

 

Featuring complete and easy-to-read annotations.

 

Annotations and notes © Copyright ElizabethanDrama.org, 2018
This annotated play may be freely copied and distributed.

 

 


 

Persons Represented in the Play.

INTRODUCTION TO THE PLAY

Elder Loveless, a Suitor to the Lady.

The Scornful Lady is a "City Comedy", its scene London;

Young Loveless, a Prodigal, and brother to Elder

thus, its characters are neither royalty nor nobility, but

          Loveless.

"regular" citizens. Almost plotless, our play examines the

     Savil, Steward to Elder Loveless.

need some people have to manipulate their admirers. A very

funny play, The Scornful Lady is notable for its extensive

Lady, target of Elder Loveless’ suit.

use of animal-related insults and imagery. The lecherous old

Martha, the Lady’s sister.

servant Abigail in particular is the target of a great deal of

     Abigail Younglove, a waiting Gentlewoman of

entertaining abuse.

          the Lady.

NOTES ON THE TEXT

Welford, a Suitor to the Lady.

Sir Roger, Curate to the Lady.

     The text of The Scornful Lady is taken from Warwick

Bond's edition of the play, as it appears in Volume I of The

Hangers-on of Young Loveless:

Works of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, cited at

Captain.

#3 below.

Traveller. 

     The Scornful Lady was published multiple times in the

Poet.  

17th century, the first time in 1616; as is the normal practice

Tobacco-man.

on this website, our edition remains faithful to the original

1616 quarto to the greatest degree possible.

Morecraft, an Usurer.

Widow, a Rich Widow.

NOTES ON THE ANNOTATIONS

Wenches, Fiddlers, Attendants.

     Mention of Bond, Dyce, Colman and Weber in the

annotations refers to the notes provided by each of these

The Scene: London

editors in their respective editions of this play, each cited

fully below.

     The most commonly cited sources are listed in the

footnotes immediately below. The complete list of footnotes

appears at the end of this play.

     Footnotes in the text correspond as follows:

     1. OED online.

     2. Crystal, David and Ben. Shakespeare's Words.

London; New York: Penguin, 2002.

     3. Bond, R. Warwick, ed. The Works of Francis

Beaumont and John Fletcher, Volume I. London: George

Bell & Sons and A. H. Bullen, 1904.

     4. Dyce, Alexander. The Works of Beaumont and

Fletcher. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1879.

     7. Colman, George. The Dramatic Works of Beaumont

and Fletcher. London: Printed for John Stockdale, 1811.

     9. Weber, Henry. The Works of Beaumont and Fletcher.

Edinburgh: James Ballantyne and Company, 1812.


 

NOTE on the IAMBIC PENTAMETER

     Most of The Scornful Lady was originally published in prose; early editors, however, recognized that much of this prose was clearly written in iambs, and many of the speeches could easily be broken up into iambic, or near iambic, pentameter.

     As a result, many early editors, such as Alexander Dyce and Warwick Bond, did exactly that. And while they did not always agree on exactly how every speech should be divided, their decision to do so was the correct one. The edition you have in front of you employ's Bond's divisions.

     The concerned reader, however, may still wonder why it is that so many of the lines in The Scornful Lady are irregular; after all, both Beaumont and Fletcher were perfectly capable of writing in strict iambic pentameter when they wanted to. So why do so many lines contain extra syllables, or slip momentarily into meters other than iambic? One may rightfully ask whether these speeches should really be presented in verse at all.

     Editor R. Warwick Bond presents in his notes to B&F's A King and No King a solid argument for printing the questionable speeches as verse: recognizing that the lines contain too much "metrical suggestion" to believe the authors intended them to be presented as prose, Bond argues that the verse is really a hybrid of prose and pure, strict iambic pentameter, so as to make the speech less stylized than that which might be given to nobles and other higher-ranked members of society; the verse was therefore intentionally made less regular by our authors to make the speeches more fitting for the more earthy members of "ordinary" society who populate the play.

     As a result, it is suggested that you generally not concern yourself terribly with following the iambic pentameter as you read The Scornful Lady. There are plenty of other challenges with respect to the play's language, numerous literary and topical allusions, and dense metaphors to keep your intellect occupied.

 

AUTHORSHIP.

     E.H.C. Oliphant (The Plays of Beaumont and Fletcher.

New Haven: Yale University Press, 1927), in his study of

the collaborations of Beaumont and Fletcher, assigns to 

our two authors the following scenes:

     Beaumont: Act I.i; Act II.i; first part of Act IV.i; Act V.ii.

     Fletcher: Act I,ii; Act II.ii and iii; Act III; second part of Act IV.i, and all of Act IV.ii; Act V.i, iii and iv.

 

The OBSSESIVE USE of the WORD CAST.

     Wordsmiths will be interested to pay attention to the recurring use of the word cast, with so many of its meanings, throughout the play - a total of 17 appearances. It is employed by our authors as a verb, a noun, and an adjective, as well as in various phrases.

     By itself, cast is used to mean
     (1) to bestow; to scheme or contrive; to toss (present tense verbs); and schemed  (past tense verb);
     (2) pair; and analysis (nouns); and
     (3) dismissed (adjective).

     In addition, cast appears in the following expressions:
     cast off (meaning to cast off; thrown away; and dismissed);
     cast a fortune (to diagram the arrangement of the planets as part of an astrological forecast);
     bridling cast (a parting drink);
     cast up (to vomit);
     cast up a reckoning (to make a calculation); and
     cast one's eyes upon (to look or glance upon).

 

SETTINGS, SCENE BREAKS
and STAGE DIRECTIONS.

     The original editions of The Scornful Lady did not identify scene settings, nor were there any scene breaks; we have adopted those suggested by Bond.
     As is our normal practice, some stage directions have been added, and some modified, for purposes of clarity. Most of these minor changes are adopted from Bond and Dyce.


 

THE SCORNFUL LADY

By Francis Beaumont

and John Fletcher

c. 1609-1610

ACT I.

SCENE I.

A Room in Lady’s House.

Enter the two Lovelesses, Savil the Steward, and a Page.

Entering Characters: the two Lovelesses are brothers;

Elder Loveless is courting the unnamed Lady, whose house they have entered; Savil, an elderly man dressed in old-fashioned livery, is the steward of Elder.
     Lady, the title character, and an obnoxious and selfish woman, has decided that if Elder wants to continue to woo her, he must travel to France for a year.

     Elder's younger brother, Young Loveless, is a spendthrift, who, by failing to make payments on his mortgage, has forfeited all of his property to the money-lender Morecraft.

1

Elder.  Brother, is your last hope past to mollify

2

Morecraft’s heart about your mortgage?

= Morecraft is a money-lender, typically referred to in
          Elizabethan drama as a usurer.

4

Young.   Hopelessly past. I have presented the usurer

4-7: Young uses an extended drinking metaphor to describe Morecraft's taking possession of all of his property, and thus his wealth, thanks to his defaulting on the loan Morecraft has made to him; in this era, a failure to make a single payment could lead to the loss of one's entire security, hence Young's allusion in line 7 to Morecraft receiving more than he paid for.
 

with a richer draught than ever Cleopatra swallowed; he

5: richer draught = more powerful drink or potion. 
   Cleopatra = Plutarch wrote in his Lives that Cleopatra enjoyed testing the effects of various poisons on condemned prisoners; she herself died by the bite of an asp, to avoid being taken prisoner by Octavian.
 

6

hath sucked in ten thousand pounds worth of my land,

= drawn or drunk in.

more than he paid for, at a gulp, without trumpets.

= without a flourish of trumpets as would normally

8

     accompany the drinking of healths at public functions.3

Elder.  I have as hard a task to perform in this house.

10

Young.  Faith, mine was to make an usurer honest, or

12

to lose my land.

14

Elder.  And mine is to persuade a passionate woman,

or to leave the land. – Savil, make the boat stay.

15: leave the land = these words parallel Young's lose
           my land
in form and alliteration.
      stay = wait.

16

[Exit Page.]

17: Savil passes the instruction on to the Page, who leaves

18

     to carry it out.

I fear I shall begin my unfortunate journey this night,

20

though the darkness of the night, and the roughness of

the waters, might easily dissuade an unwilling man.

22

Sav.  Sir, your father’s old friends hold it the sounder

23f: Savil tries to dissuade his master from taking this
     foolish trip to France.
         hold it = "maintain that it is".
         the sounder = meaning both more (1) healthy in body, 
     and (2) financially secure, describing Elder's body and
     estate
respectively in the next line (24).
 

24

course for your body and estate to stay at home, and

= fortune, property.

marry and propagate − and govern in your country −

26

than to travel for disease, and return following the court

26: for disease = ie. to treat or to pick up some disease, perhaps referring specifically to venereal disease, which was often associated with France, where Elder must travel; the terms French pox and French measles appear frequently in literature of the time to refer to syphilis.1
       
following the court = when a once-wealthy man's own property has been consumed, he might become a follower of the court.3
 

in a night-cap, and die without issue.

27: night-cap = worn because of the chronic disease he
     has picked up.3
         issue = children.

28

Elder.  Savil, you shall gain the opinion of a better

= reputation for being.

30

servant in seeking to execute, not alter, my will,

howsoever my intents succeed.

32

Young.  Yonder's Mistress Younglove, brother, the

= a little confusingly, Lady's servant, Abigail Younglove,
     is sometimes referred to by her last name, sometimes her
     first.

34

grave rubber of your mistress’ toes.

= Young appears to pun on "grave robber".

36

Enter Abigail Younglove, the waiting woman.

Entering Character: Abigail Younglove is Lady's

     servant; the OED conjectures that the word abigail
     came to mean "female servant" because of its use in
     this play.

38

Elder.  Mistress Younglove −

40

Abig.  Master Loveless, truly we thought your sails

40-41: your sails…hoist = ie. "you had already set sail."

had been hoist: my mistress is persuaded you are

42

sea-sick ere this.

= "before this time", ie. "by now."

44

Elder.  Loves she her ill-taken-up resolution so

dearly? Didst thou move her for me?

= "try to persuade her on my behalf?"

46

Abig. By this light that shines, there's no removing

47: By this…shines = typical Elizabethan oath affirming the truth of something.
      47-48: there's no…the end = "there's no dissuading her once she stubbornly adheres to a position";1 but there is a double entendre here - Abigail is prone, in the best tradition of the dirty-minded female servant, to be bawdy: according to Partridge, end could be used to refer to a man's member, so that with stiff the line takes on an entirely different - and rather indelicate - meaning.
 

48

her, if she get a stiff opinion by the end. I attempted her

= ie. "tried to persuade".

to-day when they say a woman can deny nothing.

= ie. at the moment.

50

Elder.  What critical minute was that?

52

Abig.  When her smock was over her ears: but she

= ie. "she was undressing"; smock = undergarment.

54

was no more pliant than if it hung about her heels.

= perhaps meaning "when Lady was using the water closet."

56

Elder.  I prithee, deliver my service, and say, I desire

= "I pray thee", ie. please.  = "commend me to her".

to see the dear cause of my banishment; and then

= ie. Lady.

58

France.

= "I'll be off to France."

60

Abig.  I’ll do't. Hark hither; is that your brother?

= "listen here".

62

Elder.  Yes: have you lost your memory?

64

Abig.  As I live, he's a pretty fellow.   

64: Abigail will readily admit her attraction to the two main

     young male characters of the play.

66

 [Exit Abigail.]

68

Young.  Oh, this is a sweet brach!

= bitch hound;1 many of the characters will be quite open

     in their abuse of Abigail.

70

Elder.  Why she knows not you.

72

Young.  No, but she offered me once to know her.

= Young plays on the word know, which was a common
     term for "having sexual relations with."

To this day she loves youth of eighteen. She heard a tale

73: youth = ie. young men.
         heard = as Dyce suggests, perhaps this should be
     had, meaning "knew" or "told".
 

74

how Cupid struck her in love with a great lord in the

= ie. Cupid, the god of love, caused a maiden to fall in love
     by shooting her with one of his arrows.

Tilt-yard, but he never saw her; yet she in kindness,

= arena for a jousting tournament.
 

76

would needs wear a willow-garland at his wedding. She

76: woulds need = felt obliged to.
         willow = a symbol for rejected love.
         She = ie. Abigail.
 

loved all the players in the last queen’s time once over;

77: ie. "fell in love with each of the actors (players) she saw
     on stage during the reign of Elizabeth I." Our play was
     written during the reign of James I - Elizabeth had died
     in 1603.
 

78

she was struck when they acted lovers, and forsook

78-79: she was…murtherers = she particularly fell for
     those actors when they played lovers, but abandoned
     them when they played villains.

some when they played murtherers. She has nine

= murderers.
 

80

spur-royals, and the servants say she hoards old gold;

= relatively new gold coins struck during the reign of
     James I, worth 15 shillings; they were called spur royals
     because of the resemblance of the star or sun, which was
     pictured with its rays on the reverse side, to the rowel
     (revolving wheel) of a spur.1,3
 

and she herself pronounces angerly that the farmer’s

= alternate word for angrily; angerly generally went out of
     fashion in the 17th century.1
 

82

eldest son (or her mistress’ husband’s clerk that shall

81-82: her mistress'…shall be = Abigail expects to marry the clergyman (clerk) of Lady's now-deceased husband; the reference is to Roger, a parson who seems to live in Lady's household, and a character whom we will soon meet. As will become clear, Roger and Abigail have an "understanding".
 

be) that marries her, shall make her a jointure of

= a marriage settlement made by a groom to provide for his

84

fourscore pounds a year. She tells tales of the serving-

     bride, should he predecease her; Abigail intends to marry

men −

     a reasonably wealthy man, whose land can provide 80
     pounds a year in rent.

86

Elder.  Enough, I know her, brother. I shall entreat you

87: Elder interrupts; he can hear no more.
     entreat = ask.

88

only to salute my mistress, and take leave: we’ll part

= greet.

at the stairs.

90

Enter Lady and Abigail.

92

Lady.  Now, sir, this first part of your will is performed:

93-94: Lady's obnoxious personality is apparent from her

94

what's the rest?

     first line: "ok, I performed the first thing you asked for -
     which was to see me; now what?"

96

Elder.  First, let me beg your notice for this gentleman,

= ie. "ask you to greet or acknowledge".

my brother: I shall take it as a favour done to me.

= the original editions print this clause as the first line of
     Lady's speech immediately below, but we follow Bond
     and Dyce in giving it to Elder.

98

Lady.  Though the gentleman hath received but an

99-100: Though…from you = ie. "although this is not the
     right time for you to be introducing me to your brother."
         untimely = at an improper time, unseasonable.1
 

100

untimely grace from you, yet my charitable disposition

100-3: yet my…commendations = "yet thanks to my

would have been ready to have done him freer

     naturally generous character, I would gladly give him the

102

courtesies as a stranger, than upon those cold

     warm welcome that he, as a stranger, deserves, and one

commendations.

     that is more magnanimous than your ineffective intro-

104

     duction would suggest he should receive." Lady is highly
     unpleasant!

Young.  Lady, my salutations crave acquaintance and

106

leave at once.

= permission to be excused; the lines exchanged by Lady
     and Young are courteously formulaic.

108

Lady.  Sir, I hope you are the master of your own

108-9: ie. "sir, I expect you may do as you wish."

occasions.

= circumstances.

110

      [Exit Younglove and Savil.]

112

Elder.  Would I were so! Mistress, for me to praise

113: Would I were so = ie. "I wish I had control over my 

114

over again that worth, which all the world and you

     own circumstances!" Perhaps an aside.

yourself can see −

         113ff: Elder's flattery and formal language of courting 
     is painfully trite and ineffective.

116

Lady.  It's a cold room this; servant.

117ff: Lady ignores Elder's wooing.

118

         servant = common term for a professed or authorized
     lover or wooer; used here as a vocative expression for
     Elder.

Elder.  Mistress −

120

Lady.  What think you if I have a chimney for't, out

122

here?

124

Elder.  Mistress, another in my place, that were not

124-6: another…wronged = "if you had treated anyone else
     the way you treat me, he would feel insulted."

tied to believe all your actions just, would apprehend

126

himself wronged: but I, whose virtues are constancy

= loyalty.

and obedience −

128

Lady.  Younglove, make a good fire above, to warm me

130

after my servant’s exordiums.

= (long-winded) introductory remarks.1

132

Elder.  I have heard and seen your affability to be

132-3: Lady's affability is such that she allows her servants

such, that the servants you give wages to may speak.

     to speak their minds.

134

Lady.  'Tis true, 'tis true; but they speak to the purpose.

= "to the point (unlike you)".

136

Elder.  Mistress, your will leads my speeches from the

138

purpose. But as a man −

140

Lady.  A simile, servant? This room was built for honest

meaners, that deliver themselves hastily and plainly,

= ie. people who have something substantive to say.1

142

and are gone. Is this a time or place for exordiums, and

similes and metaphors? If you have aught to say, break

= anything.

144

into 't: my answers shall very reasonably meet you.

= "respond to what you say."

146

Elder.  Mistress, I came to see you.

148

Lady.  That's happily dispatched; the next?

148: "great, that objective has been met; what's next?"

150

Elder.  To take leave of you.

152

Lady.  To be gone?

154

Elder.  Yes.

156

Lady.  You need not have despaired of that, nor have

used so many circumstances to win me to give you

= so much unnecessary verbiage.2

158

leave to perform my command; is there a third?

158: "permission to follow my instructions; is there a third
     thing you want from me?"

160

Elder.  Yes, I had a third, had you been apt to hear it.

= disposed.1

162

Lady.  I! never apter. Fast, good servant, fast.

= "speak quickly" or "get to the point".  = wooer or lover.

164

Elder.  'Twas to entreat you to hear reason.

166

Lady.  Most willingly: have you brought one can speak

= anyone who can.

it?

168

Elder.  Lastly, it is to kindle in that barren heart love

170

and forgiveness.

172

Lady.  You would stay at home?

= would prefer to.

174

Elder.  Yes, lady.

176

Lady.  Why, you may, and doubtlessly will, when you

have debated that your commander is but your mistress,

= instructor, ie. Lady herself.

178

a woman, a weak one, wildly overborne with passions;

178: Lady is highly sarcastic.
     overborne = overcome.1
 

but the thing by her commanded is, to see Dover’s

179-182: Lady teases Elder regarding the supposedly dan-

180

dreadful cliff; passing, in a poor water-house, the

     gerous trip across the Channel to France.8

dangers of the merciless channel 'twixt that and Calais,

         179-180: to see...cliff = ie. to sail to France; the

182

five long hours sail, with three poor weeks’ victuals.

     famous white cliffs of Dover would be visible from a

     boat sailing to Calais on the French shore.
         dreadful (line 180) = formidable.1
         water-house (line 180) = ie. boat.1

184

Elder.  You wrong me.

186

Lady.  Then to land dumb, unable to enquire for an

= metaphorically unable to speak, since Elder does not
     speak French; even at this remote time, the English were
     well known for their lack of foreign language skills.

English host, to remove from city to city by most

= ie. move.
 

188

chargeable post-horse, like one that rode in quest of his

= expensive rented horses.1

mother tongue.

= the phrase mother tongue has been in use at least as far

190

     back as 1425.1

Elder.  You wrong me much.

192

Lady.  And all these (almost invincible) labours

= impossible to perform;1 Lady remains sarcastic.
 

194

performed for your mistress, to be in danger to forsake

194-7: to be…laughter = Lady gives Elder additional

her, and to put on new allegiance to some French

     instructions: "to risk abandoning me by taking up 

196

lady, who is content to change language with you for

     a relationship with some French lady, who for her 
     own great amusement will teach you to speak French
     (change language)."3
         By your mistress (line 194) and her (line 195), Lady
     means herself.

laughter; and after your whole year spent in tennis and

198

broken speech, to stand to the hazard of being laughed

= risk; Lady puns on hazard, which refers to the receiving
     side of a tennis serve.1

at, on your return, and have tales made on you by the

= told about.

200

chamber-maids.

202

Elder.  You wrong me much.

204

Lady.  Louder yet.

204: ie. "speak up;" Elder may be mumbling.

206

Elder.  You know your least word is of force to make

me seek out dangers; move me not with toys. But in this

= ie. spur on or anger.  = trifles, mocking speech.1

208

banishment, I must take leave to say you are unjust.

Was one kiss forced from you in public by me so

209-211: Elder suggests Lady is sending him to France as

210

unpardonable? Why, all the hours of day and night have

     penance for his sin of taking liberties with her in public.

seen us kiss.

212

Lady.  'Tis true, and so you satisfied the company that

213-4: Lady apparently reproached Elder for kissing her in

214

heard me chide.

     front of his friends, but his attempts to justify the act,

     heard by his friends, only compounded his offense.
         satisfied = convinced, persuaded.9

216

Elder.  Your own eyes were not dearer to you than I.

218

Lady.  And so you told 'em.

220

Elder.  I did, yet no sign of disgrace need to have

stained your cheek: you yourself knew your pure and

222

simple heart to be most unspotted, and free from the

= free from disgrace or moral stain.

least baseness.

224

Lady.  I did; But if a maid’s heart doth but once think

226

that she is suspected, her own face will write her guilty.

228

Elder.  But where lay this disgrace? The world that

228f: Elder pleads his case: since everyone knew of their
     intimate relationship, where was the harm in what he
     had done?
 

knew us, knew our resolutions well: and could it be

229-231: could it…kissed = "can you expect (hoped =
     expected) that I would tie myself to you - and thus deny
     myself forever-after the company of other women - when
     you refuse to kiss me?"

230

hoped that I should give away my freedom, and venture

a perpetual bondage with one I never kissed? or could I,

= ie. "is it possible for me to".

232

in strict wisdom, take too much love upon me from her

= true.1

that chose me for her husband?

234

Lady. Believe me, if my wedding-smock were on;

235-243: Believe me...wed that year = a very long, typical Elizabethan stage sentence; the sense is, no matter how far the preparations for her hypothetical wedding have gotten, if her fiancé had bragged once that she had shown him any partiality (line 242), she would call the whole thing off.
     Lady's numerous examples of such wedding preparations are separated by semi-colons; the bulk of the sentence, then, is made up of premises ["were (ie. if) this and were that"], ending with the conclusion (I would not wed that year) all the way down in line 243.
     wedding smock = smock normally refers to a woman's undergarment, so perhaps Lady is referring to a special undergarment worn for one's wedding night.
     Lines 236-241 are frequently cited for their examples of some of the wedding customs of the early 17th century.
 

236

Were the gloves bought and given, the license come;

= were in this line, and in lines 237, 239, and 241, means
     "even if".

Were the rosemary-branches dipt, and all

= rosemary, representing remembrance, commonly
     decorated weddings and funerals.

238

The hippocras and cakes eat and drunk off;

= a type of spiced wine that has been strained through a
     flannel filter.3

Were these two arms encompassed with the hands

240

Of bachelors, to lead me to the church;

= bachelor normally referred to an unmarried man, but it
     seems likely that "unmarried women" is meant here; Ben 
     Jonson, in his 1632 comedy The Magnetic Lady, uses
     bachelor clearly to refer to a female.
 

Were my feet in the door; were “I John” said;

= likely an assenting phrase, "ay, John", like "I do"; John

242

If John should boast a favour done by me,

     was used as a generic name for any man.1

I would not wed that year. And you, I hope,

244

When you have spent this year commodiously,

= profitably.1

In achieving languages, will, at your return,

246

Acknowledge me more coy of parting with mine eyes,

246: "be a little more reserved in bragging about my regard
     for you".

Than such a friend. More talk I hold not now:

= lover.

248

If you dare, go.

250

Elder.            I dare, you know. First let me kiss.

252

Lady.  Farewell sweet servant. Your task performed,

252: although not stated explicitly in a stage direction, Lady
     likely gives Elder a modest parting kiss.

On a new ground, as a beginning suitor,

= ie. Lady will require Elder, on his return from France after

254

I shall be apt to hear you.

     a year's absence, to start his courtship all over again!

256

Elder.                           Farewell cruèl mistress. 

258

[Exeunt Lady and Abigail.]

260

Enter Young Loveless and Savil.

262

Young.  Brother, you'll hazard the losing your tide

= risk.

to Gravesend; you have a long half mile by land to

= a town east of London and on the Thames, Gravesend
     was the normal embarkation point for boats to France.6

264

Greenwich.

= once the site of a great royal palace, Greenwich, on the
     Thames, would have been from where Elder would have
     sailed down to Gravesend.

266

Elder.  I go. But, brother, what yet-unheard-of course

266-8: "how do you expect to live while I am gone? You

to live doth imagination flatter you with? your

     have no money left."

268

ordinary means are devoured.

270

Young.  Course! Why, horse-coursing, I think.

= Young puns on course.
     The editors understand horse-coursing to mean horse-dealing, ie. the buying and selling of horses for profit, though Bond suggests that horse coursing is properly horse scorsing (the two phrases would sound the same), scorsing meaning trading or exchanging; we may note that coursing also meant "racing".1
 

Consume no time in this: I have no state to be mended

271-2: Consume…meditation = "don't spend a moment

272

by meditation: he that busies himself about my fortunes

     worrying about me; my situation won't improve by

may properly be said to busy himself about nothing.

     thinking about it."

274

Elder.  Yet some course you must take, which, for my

276

satisfaction, resolve and open; if you will shape none, I

= determine on and declare.9  = fashion.1

must inform you, that that man but persuades himself

= "is only fooling himself".

278

he means to live, that imagines not the means.

= ie. "who does actually have a plan for how to do so."
     Elder handsomely puns on means.

280

Young.  Why, live upon others, as others have lived

= ie. "I will live off the generosity of others".

upon me.

282

Elder.  I apprehend not that. You have fed others, and

= understand.

284

consequently disposed of 'em; and the same measure

= subsequently.3
         284-6: the same…to bear = "you should expect that

must you expect from your maintainers, which will be

     those who support you for a while will eventually cease

286

too heavy an alteration for you to bear.

     to do so; when this happens, you will not be able to
     handle it."

288

Young.  Why, I'll purse; if that raise me not, I’ll bet at

288-9: I'll purse…whores = Young itemizes, in Colman's
     delightful words, "three of the most despicable modes of
     acquiring subsistence to which mankind can be reduced"
     (p. 112).
         purse = ie. steal purses.3
         raise me not = ie. "fails to raise my fortunes".
         bet = ie. gamble.
 

bowling-alleys, or man whores; I would fain live by

289: bowling alleys = bowling alley describes the green on which to play the oft referred-to game of bowls; bowls may be thought of as an old English version of bocce, in which larger, heavier balls are rolled to get as near as possible to a smaller ball; an interesting variation in bowls is that the larger balls were unevenly weighted, allowing a skilled bowler to take advantage of the balls' tendency to curve (a quality known as "bias").
     The term bowling alley itself goes back at least to 1412.1
     man whores = be an escort or attendant for prostitutes.3,7 
     fain = be happy to, prefer to.
 

290

others. But I’ll live whilst I am unhanged, and after the

= "so long as I have not been hanged".

thought's taken.

         290-1: after the thought's taken = "according to the

292

     thought that first strikes me", or "by any means I can
     think of" (Weber, p. 148), or "after sentence of hanging
     has been passed" (Bond, who says Weber is wrong, p.
     370).

Elder.  I see you are tied to no particular employment,

294

then!

296

Young.  Faith, I may choose my course: they say

Nature brings forth none but she provides for them;

297: nature produces nothing that it is not able to supply
     provisions for.

298

I’ll try her liberality.

= test Nature's generosity.

300

Elder.  Well, to keep your feet out of base and

dangerous paths, I have resolved you shall live as

302

master of my house. − It shall be your care, Savil, to

302-4: It shall…fortunes = Savil should supply money to

see him fed and clothed, not according to his present

     and generally provide for Young in a manner suitable for

304

estate, but to his birth and former fortunes.

     his rank (a gentleman) and his former wealth, and not as
     would only be fitting for a poor man, which describes
     Young's present condition.
         Note that the dash in line 302 signals that the speaker
     will next address a different character.

306

Young.  If it be referred to him, if I be not found in

306-9: if Young is forced to depend on Savil for his
        provisioning, then he can expect to be very poorly
        provided for indeed.
 

carnation Jersey-stockings, blue devils’ breeches, with

307: carnation = flesh-coloured or pink.1 
         Jersey-stockings = stockings made of wool, and hence
     inferior.3
         blue devils' breeches = close-fitting hose, as would
     have been worn by the character of the devil in the old
     morality plays;3 such tight-fitting stockings were out of
     fashion by the early 17th century.
 

308

three guards down, and my pocket i'th' sleeves, I’ll ne'er

308: guards = ornamental trimmings or embroidered bor-

look you i'th' face again.

     ders;1,3 Weber suggests that "waistband" is meant here.
         pocket i'th' sleeves = pockets could not be fitted
     onto the tight-fitting breeches, so they would have to be
     situated elsewhere.3

310

Sav.  A comelier wear, I wus, it is than those dangling

= more agreeable.  = indeed or truly; usually written iwis.1

312

slops.

311-2: dangling slops = the more fashionable loose-fitting

     hose of the early 17th century, which Young is wearing.3

314

Elder.  To keep you ready to do him all service

peaceably, and him to command you reasonably, I leave

= Young, as the temporary master of Elder's home, may

316

these further directions in writing, which at your best

     give reasonable instructions to the steward.

leisure, together open and read.

318

Re-enter Abigail to them with a jewel.

320

Abig.  Sir, my mistress commends her love to you in

322

this token and these words: it is a jewel, she says,

= symbol of affection.

which, as a favour from her, she would request you to

324

wear till your year’s travel be performed; which, once

expired, she will hastily expect your happy return.

= impatiently.7
         Is this last clause intended to be ambiguous, suggesting

326

     that it is the jewel Lady expects to be returned to her, and
     not Elder?

Elder.  Return my service, with such thanks, as she

328

may imagine the heart of a suddenly over-joyed man

would willingly utter: and you, I hope, I shall, with

329-330: and you…diamond = Elder gives Abigail a jewel
     as well to wear in return for her doing a favour for him.

330

slender arguments, persuade to wear this diamond; that

= "slight or trifling means of persuasion" (OED),1 ie. Elder
     expects he will not have to twist Abigail's arm to get her
     to accept the diamond.
 

when my mistress shall, through my long absence and

331-4: when my…speak of me = "if Lady seems interested

332

the approach of new suitors, offer to forget me, you

     in another man, then seeing this diamond will prompt you
     to defend my interest in Lady's affection."

may call your eye down to your finger, and remember

334

and speak of me. She will hear thee better than those

334-335: She will…birth to her = a common notion, that
     one's servants are one's most trustworthy confidants.

allied by birth to her; as we see many men much

336

swayed by the grooms of their chambers, − not that

336: swayed = ie. more influenced.

they have a greater part of their love or opinion on them

         grooms = servants.

338

as on others, but for that they know their secrets.

         336-8: not that...secrets = a cynical conclusion to

     the previous thought: servants are more persuasive in
     influencing their masters' and mistresses' actions because
     they are aware of, and therefore in a position to reveal,
     their employers' secrets!
         as (line 338) = than; later editions print than here.

340

Abig.  O' my credit, I swear I think 'twas made for me.

Fear no other suitors.

342

Elder.  I shall not need to teach you how to discredit

343-6: Elder suggests ways Abigail can make a prospective
     suitor of Lady's appear less attractive to her.
 

344

their beginnings: you know how to take exception at

344: beginnings = origins, ie. their social backgrounds.
         344-5: take exception…washing = Abigail should,

their shirts at washing, or to make the maids swear they

     when doing the wash, find reason to criticize the shirts,
     and thus all the clothing, of any suitors which may be
     staying at the house.
 

346

found plasters in their beds.

= curatives applied to the skin;1 the appearance of such

     medical supplies would suggest a suitor is suffering from
     some loathsome disease.

348

Abig.  I know, I know, and do not you fear the suitors.

350

Elder.  Farewell; be mindful, and be happy; the night

calls me.

352

  [Exeunt omnes praeter Abigail.]

353: all exit but for Abigail.

354

Abig.  The gods of the winds befriend you, sir!

355: Abigail wishes Elder a safe crossing over the Channel,
     whose contrary winds frequently interrupted travel plans.
 

356

a constant and a liberal lover thou art: more such

= loyal and generous.

God send us.

358

Enter Welford.

Entering Character: it has not taken long for Lady's first
     suitor, Welford, a good-natured fellow, to arrive.

360

Wel.  [To servant without] Let 'em not stand still, we

= offstage.  = ie. his horses, which need to be walked to

362

have rid hard.

     cool off after some hard riding.

364

Abig.  [Aside] A suitor, I know, by his riding hard: I’ll

not be seen.

= Abigail momentarily hides from the entering Welford.

366

Wel. A pretty hall this: no servant in't? I would look

367-8: it was a convention of Elizabethan drama for

368

freshly.

     characters to express their thoughts out loud, even when
     they are alone, to the benefit of those who are eaves-
     dropping nearby.

370

Abig.  [Aside] You have delivered your errand to me,

370-2: Welford's speech confirms to Abigail that he has

then: there's no danger in a handsome young fellow; I’ll

     indeed arrived to woo Lady; but we will not be surprised

372

show myself. [Advances.]

     to find Abigail willing to make herself available to him.

374

Wel.  Lady, may it please you to bestow upon a stranger

the ordinary grace of salutation? are you the lady of this

= ie. a kiss; it was the custom in England for even strangers

376

house?

     to kiss upon greeting each other; but Welford is mis-

     taken as to Abigail's identity.

378

Abig.  Sir, I am worthily proud to be a servant of hers.

380

Wel.  Lady, I should be as proud to be a servant of

= devotee or lover; in this speech, Welford is courteously

yours, did not my so late acquaintance make me

     flattering: he expects other men to already have claims

382

despair.

     on Abigail.

384

Abig.  Sir, it is not so hard to achieve, but nature may

384: Abigail flirts more directly with Welford, taking

bring it about.

     servant to mean "lover".

386

Wel.  For these comfortable words, I remain your glad

= encouraging.1

388

debtor. Is your lady at home?

390

Abig.  She is no straggler, sir.

= vagabond, one who wanders about aimlessly.1

392

Wel.  May her occasions admit me to speak with her?

= circumstances.

394

Abig.  If you come in the way of a suitor, no.

396

Wel.  I know your affable virtue will be moved to

= induced.

persuade her, that a gentleman, benighted and strayed,

= ie. finding himself without a place to stay at night;1 there
     may also be a pun with "beknighted."

398

offers to be bound to her for a night’s lodging.

398: "asks from her a place to spend the night, a favour for

     which I will be indebted to her."

400

Abig.  I will commend this message to her; but if you

aim at her body, you will be deluded. Other women the

401: at her body = ie. "to see her in person", but of course
     suggestive as well.
         401-2: Other women the house holds = "there are
     other women in this house"; Abigail is hinting at her own
     availability.
 

402

house holds, of good carriage and government; upon

= good bearing (in her case, possibly) and good conduct or
     behaviour (less likely).

any of which if you can cast your affection, they will

404

perhaps be found as faithful, and not so coy. 

= ie. not as modest (as other women in the house might be).

406

[Exit.]

408

Wel.  What a skin full of lust is this! I thought I had

come a-wooing, and I am the courted party. This is

409-410: This is…all woo = typical comment of the era on
     the loose morals of English court-life under James I.
 

410

right court-fashion: men, women, and all, woo; catch

410-1: catch that catch may = an early version of catch

that catch may. If this soft hearted woman have infused

     as catch can, a phrase which goes as far back as the
     14th century, meaning "get a hold of something any 
     way one can" (OED).1
 

412

any of her tenderness into her lady, there is hope she

412: tenderness = compassion or considerateness.1

will be pliant. But who's here?

     lady = ie. mistress.
     she = ie. Lady.

414

Enter Sir Roger the Curate.

Entering Character: Roger is the household cleric; he is

416

     wearing a night-cap on his head. Sir was a common title
     for clergymen.

Roger.  God save you sir. My lady lets you know, she

418

desires to be acquainted with your name, before she

confer with you.

420

Wel.  Sir, my name calls me Welford.

422

Roger.  Sir, you are a gentleman of a good name.

424

[Aside] I’ll try his wit.

= a common motif in Elizabethan drama: a clever person
     decides to test (try) the ability of another to engage in
     witty conversation.

426

Wel.  I will uphold it as good as any of my ancestors

= ie. "my name".

had this two hundred years, sir.

428

Roger.  I knew a worshipful and a religious gentleman

430

of your name in the bishopric of Durham: call you him

= diocese: Roger only means that he knew a man with the

cousin?

     name Welford who lived in Durham.

432

Wel.  I am only allied to his virtues, sir.

433: a right witty response!

434

Roger.  It is modestly said: I should carry the badge of

435-6: I should…me too = Roger means he would like to

436

your Christianity with me too.

     know his visitor's name, but this is unclear to Welford
     at the moment: Roger is being playfully enigmatic, but
     he will explain his joke at lines 440-1.

438

Wel.  What's that, a cross? There's a tester.

= a slang term for a coin known as a teston, which first

     appeared under Henry VII, and bore the image of a
     cross on one face.1,3 Welford is up to meeting Roger
     pun for pun!

440

Roger.  I mean the name which your godfathers and

godmothers gave you at the font.

= ie. the baptismal font.

442

Wel.  'Tis Harry. But you cannot proceed orderly now

443-5: the catechism is a series of questions and answers

444

in your catechism; for you have told me who gave me

used to instruct those converting to or being confirmed

that name. Shall I beg your name?

in the Christian faith. In the English Book of Common

446

Prayer, first published in 1549, the first two questions and answers of the catechism are as follows:
     (1) Q - "What is your name?" A - (name);
     (2) Q - "Who gave you this name?" A - "The Godfathers and Godmothers at my Baptism, etc."
     So, Welford is humorously pointing out how Roger has asked him the second question without having yet received an answer to the first!

Roger.  Roger.

448

Wel.  What room fill you in this house?

= position, office.

450

Roger.  More rooms than one.

452

Wel.  The more the merrier. But may my boldness know

= this proverbial sentiment first appeared around 1400.1

454

why your lady hath sent you to decipher my name?

= discover.1

456

Roger.  Her own words were these: to know whether

you were a formerly-denied suitor, disguised in this

458

message; for I can assure you she delights not  

in thalamo; Hymen and she are at variance. I shall

459: in thalamo = Latin for "in the bedroom", or "in the

460

return with much haste.    

marriage bed"; as an educated man, Roger will sprinkle his

dialogue with Latin.
     Hymen = the god of marriage; Roger is, in his indirect way, explains that Lady is not interested in being courted, or in marriage, at this time.

462

[Exit.]

464

Wel.  And much speed, sir, I hope. Certainly I am

= success, but also punning on haste.

arrived amongst a nation of new-found fools, on a land

466

where no navigator has yet planted wit. If I had

= Welford perhaps alludes to the colonies England had

foreseen it, I would have laded my breeches with bells,

     planted recently in Virginia, and he goes on to suggest
     the kinds of trinkets he should have brought with him to
     sell to the natives in exchange for access to their women.

468

knives, copper, and glasses, to trade with the women

for their virginities; yet, I fear, I should have betrayed

469-470: I should…charge then = ie. "I would have spent
     all that money for nothing."

470

myself to a needless charge then. Here's the walking

night-cap again.

= Roger is wearing a night-cap, which suggests he is

472

     unwell in some way.

Re-enter Roger.

474

Roger.  Sir, my lady’s pleasure is to see you; who

475-8: ie. as the host, Lady acknowledges her bad manners

476

hath commanded me to acknowledge her sorrow

     in making Welford come upstairs to visit her, instead of

that you must take the pains to come up for so bad

     her greeting him downstairs.

478

entertainment.

480

Wel.  I shall obey your lady that sent it, and

acknowledge you that brought it to be your art’s master.

= Welford puns on the Master of Arts degree he expects
     Roger would have attained.

482

Roger.  I am but a bachelor of art, sir; and I have the

= Roger presumably puns on bachelor, referring to his
     unmarried status.

484

mending of all under this roof, from my lady on her

= ie. Roger, as a cleric, is responsible for the care of the
     souls and morals of those who live in Lady's house.
 

down-bed to the maid in the pease-straw.

= ie. a bed stuffed with the straw of the pea plant; the
     original name for pea was pease; that is, pease was
     singular, and only later dropped the "s" to indicate a
     single pea;1 Abigail, as a servant, would of course sleep
     on a coarser bed than her mistress.

486

Wel.  A cobbler, sir?

487: Welford puns on Roger's use of the word mending.

488

Roger.  No, sir; I inculcate divine service within these

490

walls.

492

Wel.  But the inhabitants of this house do often employ

you on errands, without any scruple of conscience?

= ie. other than religious errands.

494

Roger.  Yes, I do take the air many mornings on foot,

496

three or four miles, for eggs. But why move you that?

= ie. ask.

498

Wel.  To know whether it might become your function

498-500: Welford is considerate: he does not want to

to bid my man to neglect his horse a little, to attend on

     offend Roger by asking him to fetch his (Welford's)

500

me.

     servant (his man), who is walking the horses.

502

Roger.  Most properly, sir.

504

Wel.  I pray you do so, then, and whilst I will attend

= meanwhile.

your lady. You direct all this house in the true way?

= ie. the proper spiritual journey through life.1

506

Roger.  I do, sir.

508

Wel.  And this door, I hope, conducts to your lady?

= leads.

510

Roger.  Your understanding is ingenious.    

512

[Exeunt severally.]

= ie. through separate exits.

ACT I, SCENE II.

A Room in the House of the Elder Loveless.

Scene ii: we may note that while the original editions broke

     up the play into its individual Acts, scene breaks - as well
     as scene settings - were added by later editors.

Enter Young Loveless and Savil, with a writing.

= written document.

1

Sav.  By your favour sir, you shall pardon me.

2

Young.  I shall beat your favour, sir. Cross me no more:

3: beat = the first quarto has beat; the later editions print

4

I say they shall come in.

     bear, which lose the dark the humour of the line.
         your favour, sir = Young mockingly repeats Savil's
     words; Young will of course normally use thee to address
     his social inferior, while the steward will always use the
     formal you in addressing his superiors.
         cross = thwart.

6

Sav.  Sir, you forget me, who I am.

= the earliest editions print one here.

8

Young.  Sir, I do not; thou art my brother’s steward,

his cast off mill-money, his kitchen arithmetic.

9: Young alludes to Savil's job, as steward, to act as the

10

household bookkeeper; Young puns on cast off, meaning both (1) "to reckon up an account", and (2) "thrown-away",1,3 while mill-money refers to coins minted in a press, rather than struck individually with a hammer.1

Sav.  Sir, I hope you will not make so little of me?

12

Young.  I make thee not so little as thou art: for

13: a biting insult.

14

indeed there goes no more to the making of a steward

but a fair imprimis, and then a reasonable item infused

15: Young continues his bookkeeping humor: imprimis

16

into him, and the thing is done.

     refers to the first item on a list, and an item was any
     entry in an account book1 (these words are italicized in
     the original text).

18

Sav.  Nay, then, you stir my duty, and I must tell you −

= "force me to do my job", referring to his instructions from
     Elder regarding Young.

20

Young.  What wouldst thou tell me? how hops go?

= sell.4

or hold some rotten discourse of sheep, or when

22

Lady-day falls? Prithee, fare well, and entertain my

22: Lady-day = March 25, a festival day celebrating the
     Virgin Mary.1
         fare well = "live freely";3 Young demands Savil allow
     him to carouse with his friends, and even encourages him
     to join them in their debauchery.
 

friends; be drunk and burn thy table-books: and my

= notebooks or memorandum books.1,4

24

dear spark of velvet, thou and I −

= a reference to the fine livery worn by servants.

26

Sav.  Good sir, remember.

28

Young.  I do remember thee a foolish fellow; one that

did put his trust in almanacs and horse-fairs, and rose

= ie. rose in status.

30

by honey and pot-butter. Shall they come in yet?

= salted butter.1  = ie. Young's friends and comrades.

32

Sav.  Nay, then, I must unfold your brother's pleasure.

= ie. "reveal to you".

These be the lessons, sir, he left behind him.

33: Savil indicates the written instructions left him by Elder.

34

Young.  Prithee, expound the first.

36

Sav.  [Reads] I leave, to keep my house, three 

= maintain.

38

hundred pounds a-year, and my brother to dispose

38-39: dispose of it = ie. spend as he wishes.

of it −

40

Young.  Mark that, my wicked steward, − and I

42

dispose of it.

44

Sav.  [Reads] Whilst he bears himself like a 

44-45: Savil finishes his sentence; Whilst = so long as.

gentleman, and my credit falls not in him. −

= reputation, name.2  = ie. because of.

46

Mark that, my good young sir, mark that.

= Savil mockingly repeats Young's own words.

48

Young.  Nay, if it be no more, I shall fulfill it: whilst

my legs will carry me, I’ll bear myself gentleman-like,

50

but when I am drunk, let them bear me that can.

= who.

Forward, dear steward.

= "go on".

52

Sav.<