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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

The Tinker’s Dream

From “The Taming of the Shrew” (Prologue)

Before an Ale-house on a Heath.


Sly.I’ll pheese you, in faith.

Host.A pair of stocks, you rogue!

Sly.Y’re a baggage: the Slys are no rogues. Look in the chronicles; we came in with Richard Conqueror. Therefore, paucas pallabris; let the world slide. Sessa!

Host.You will not pay for the glasses you have burst?

Sly.No, not a denier. Go by, Saint Jeronimy: go to thy cold bed, and warm thee.

Host.I know my remedy, I must go fetch the third-borough.(Exit.)

Sly.Third, or fourth, or fifth borough, I’ll answer him by law. I’ll not budge an inch, boy; let him come, and kindly.(Lies down on the ground, and falls asleep.)

Enter a LORD, with HUNTSMEN.
Lord.Huntsman, I charge thee, tender well my hounds:

Brach Merriman, the poor cur, is embossed;

And couple Clowder with the deep-mouthed brach.

Saw’st thou not, boy, how Silver made it good

At the hedge-corner, in the coldest fault?

I would not lose the dog for twenty pound.

1st Hun.Why, Belman is as good as he, my lord;

He cried upon it at the merest loss,

And twice to-day picked out the dullest scent:

Trust me, I take him for the better dog.

Lord.Thou art a fool! if Echo were as fleet,

I would esteem him worth a dozen such.

But sup them well, and look unto them all;

To-morrow I intend to hunt again.

1st Hun.I will, my lord.

Lord.What’s here? One dead, or drunk? See, doth he breathe?

2d Hun.He breathes, my lord. Were he not warmed with ale,

This were a bed but cold to sleep so soundly.

Lord.O monstrous beast, how like a swine he lies!

Grim death, how foul and loathsome is thine image!

Sirs, I will practise on this drunken man.

What think you, if he were conveyed to bed,

Wrapped in sweet clothes, rings put upon his fingers,

A most delicious banquet by his bed,

And brave attendants near him when he wakes,

Would not the beggar then forget himself?

1st Hun.Believe me, lord, I think he cannot choose.

2d Hun.It would seem strange unto him when he waked.

Lord.Even as a flattering dream, or worthless fancy.

Then take him up, and manage well the jest.


A Bed-chamber in the LORD’S House.

SLY, in a rich night-gown; SERVANTS; LORD, disguised as an attendant.

Sly.For God’s sake, a pot of small ale!

1st Serv.Will’t please your lordship drink a cup of sack?

2d Serv.Will’t please your honour taste of these conserves?

3d Serv.What raiment will your honour wear to-day?

Sly.I am Christophero Sly; call not me “honour,” nor “lordship”; I ne’er drank sack in my life; and if you give me any conserves, give me conserves of beef. Ne’er ask me what raiment I’ll wear, for I have no more doublets than backs, no more stockings than legs, nor no more shoes than feet; nay, sometime, more feet than shoes, or such shoes as my toes look through the over-leather.

Lord.Heaven cease this idle humour in your honour!

Oh, that a mighty man of such descent,

Of such possessions, and so high esteem,

Should be infuséd with so foul a spirit!

Sly.What! Would you make me mad? Am not I Christopher Sly, old Sly’s son, of Burton Heath; by birth a pedlar, by education a card-maker, by transmutation a bearherd, and now by present profession a tinker? Ask Marian Hacket, the fat ale-wife of Wincot, if she know me not: if she say I am not fourteen pence on the score for sheer ale, score me up for the lyingest knave in Christendom. What! I am not bestraught. Here’s—

1st Serv.Oh, this it is that makes your lady mourn!

2d Serv.Oh, this it is that makes your servants droop!

Lord.Hence comes it that your kindred shun your house,

As beaten hence by your strange lunacy.

O noble lord, bethink thee of thy birth;

Call home thy ancient thoughts from banishment,

And banish hence these abject, lowly dreams.

Look how thy servants do attend on thee,

Each in his office ready at thy beck.

Wilt thou have music? Hark! Apollo plays,(Music.)

And twenty cagéd nightingales do sing.

Or wilt thou sleep? We’ll have thee to a couch

Softer and sweeter than the lustful bed

On purpose trimmed up for Semiramis.

Say thou wilt walk, we will bestrew the ground;

Or wilt thou ride? Thy horses shall be trapped,

Their harness studded all with gold and pearl.

Dost thou love hawking? Thou hast hawks will soar

Above the morning lark. Or wilt thou hunt?

Thy hounds shall make the welkin answer them,

And fetch shrill echoes from the hollow earth.

1st Serv.Say thou wilt course; thy greyhounds are as swift

As breathéd stags, ay, fleeter than the roe.

2d Serv.Dost thou love pictures? We will fetch thee straight

Adonis paintéd by a running brook;

And Cytherea all in sedges hid,

Which seem to move and wanton with her breath,

Even as the waving sedges play with wind.

Lord.We’ll show thee Io, as she was a maid,

And how she was beguiléd and surprised,

As lively painted as the deed was done.

3d Serv.Or Daphne, roaming through a thorny wood,

Scratching her legs, that one shall swear she bleeds;

And at that sight shall sad Apollo weep,

So workmanly the blood and tears are drawn.

Lord.Thou art a lord, and nothing but a lord:

Thou hast a lady far more beautiful

Than any woman in this waning age.

1st Serv.And, till the tears that she hath shed for thee

Like envious floods o’erran her lovely face,

She was the fairest creature in the world;

And yet she is inferior to none.

Sly.Am I a lord? and have I such a lady?

Or do I dream? Or have I dreamed till now?

I do not sleep; I see, I hear, I speak;

I smell sweet savours, and I feel soft things.

Upon my life, I am a lord indeed,

And not a tinker, nor Christopher Sly.

Well, bring our lady hither to our sight;

And, once again a pot o’ the smallest ale.

2d Serv.Will’t please your mightiness to wash your hands?

(SERVANTS present a ewer, basin, and napkin.)

Oh, how we joy to see your wit restored!

Oh, that once more you knew but what you are!

These fifteen years you have been in a dream,

Or, when you waked, so waked as if you slept.

Sly.These fifteen years! By my fay, a goodly nap!

But did I never speak of all that time?

1st Serv.O, yes, my lord, but very idle words;

For though you lay here in this goodly chamber,

Yet would you say ye were beaten out of door,

And rail upon the hostess of the house,

And say you would present her at the leet,

Because she brought stone jugs and no sealed quarts.

Sometimes you would call out for Cicely Hacket.

Sly.Ay, the woman’s maid of the house.

3d Serv.Why, sir, you know no house, nor no such maid,

Nor no such men, as you have reckoned up—

As Stephen Sly, and old John Naps of Greece,

And Peter Turf, and Henry Pimpernell,

And twenty more such names and men as these,

Which never were, nor no man ever saw.

Sly.Now, Lord be thankéd for my good amends!


Sly.I thank thee; thou shalt not lose by it.

Enter PAGE, as a lady.

Page.How fares my noble lord?

Sly.Marry, I fare well, for here is cheer enough.

Where is my wife?

Page.Here, noble lord. What is thy will with her?

Sly.Are you my wife, and will not call me husband?

My men should call me lord; I am your goodman.

Page.My husband and my lord, my lord and husband;

I am your wife in all obedience.

Sly.I know it well.—What must I call her?


Sly.Al’ce madam, or Joan madam?

Lord.Madam, and nothing else: so lords call ladies.

Sly.Madam wife, they say that I have dreamed,

And slept above some fifteen year or more.

Page.Ay, and the time seems thirty unto me,

Being all this time abandoned from your bed.

Sly.’Tis much.—Servants, leave me and her alone.—

Madam, undress you, and come now to bed.

Page.Thrice noble lord, let me entreat of you

To pardon me yet for a night or two;

Or, if not so, until the sun be set:

For your physicians have expressly charged,

In peril to incur your former malady,

That I should yet absent me from your bed.

I hope this reason stands for my excuse.

Sly.Ay, it stands so, that I may hardly tarry so long; but I would be loth to fall into my dreams again. I will therefore tarry, in despite of the flesh and the blood.