This extraordinary catalogue of undsoundnesses

From The Taming of the Shrew (3.2), Petruccio’s arrival at his wedding:

BIONDELLO
Why, Petruccio is coming in a new hat and an old
jerkin, a pair of old breeches thrice turned, a pair
of boots that have been candle-cases, one buckled,
another laced, an old rusty sword ta’en out of the
town-armory, with a broken hilt, and chapeless;
with two broken points: his horse hipped with an
old mothy saddle and stirrups of no kindred;
besides, possessed with the glanders and like to mose
in the chine; troubled with the lampass, infected
with the fashions, full of wingdalls, sped with
spavins, rayed with yellows, past cure of the fives,
stark spoiled with the staggers, begnawn with the
bots, swayed in the back and shoulder-shotten;
near-legged before and with, a half-chequed bit
and a head-stall of sheeps leather which, being
restrained to keep him from stumbling, hath been
often burst and now repaired with knots; one girth
six time pieced and a woman’s crupper of velure,
which hath two letters for her name fairly set down
in studs, and here and there pieced with packthread.

It is a virtuoso description but one filled with textual issues since many of the terms were already rare at the time and nearly all the rest have fallen out of the language since. As an example – using the famous difficulty with the form/meaning of ‘mose’ the editor of the second Arden edition opens with ‘No one knows what this means’ and the editor of the third edition concludes with ‘whether the text or Biondello is at fault hardly matters, for OED cites both terms as obscure.’ Below are all the notes on this section (minus Petruccio’s entrance) from the older (second) Arden edition – the more recent editor either didn’t get into the spirit of the thing or assumed (probably correctly) most readers wouldn’t care for the details. But appreciation of the minutia leads to appreciation of the marvel of Shakespeare’s having so deep a vocabulary in so specific a realm. At least one critic (Madden, cited below, who also provided my title) took this line of thinking so far as to fall into biographizing speculation (294-96).

The standard works on horsemanship and farriery in Shakespeare’s day were Thomas Blundeville’s The Fowerchiefyst offices belongyng to Horsemanshippe (1565-6) [online here], and the many works of Gervase Markham. Almost all the diseases mentioned in this passage are discussed in Markham’s A discource of horsmanshippe (1593), and later editions; see also his Cauelarice (1607), and Maister-peece (1610). Petruchio’s horse receives detailed consideration in Madden, Diary, pp. 304-6 [online here], and Shakespeare’s England, 11. 423-6. Bond’s notes on this passage [in the first Arden edition], also, are detailed and extensive.

46-8. his . . . besides] F reads ‘his horse hip’d with an olde mothy saddle, and stirrops of no kindred: besides’,

which is nonsense. NCS transposes ‘with an old mothy saddle, and stirrups of no kindred’ to follow after ‘two broken points’, on the hypothesis that the transcriber omitted the line accidentally, added it later in the margin, and the compositor inserted it incorrectly. Subsequent editors have preferred Sisson’s solution (New Readings, 1. 165), which simply involves repunctuating the F text so that everything between ‘with’ and ‘kindred’ is a parenthesis.

46 hipped] ‘A horse was said to be hipped when his hip-bone was dislocated so that he halted much and trailed his legs’ (Shakespeare’s England, 424). See OED, Hipped, a.1.3

47 of no kindred] that do not match.

48 the glanders] ‘a contagious disease in horses, the chief symptoms of which are swellings beneath the jaw and discharge of mucous matter from the nostrils’ (OED, Glander, 2, quoting Dekker, Witch of Edmonton, iv. i, ‘My Horse this morning runs most pitiously of the glaunders’). Markham (quoted in Shakespeare’s England, 11. 424) disagreed, and called such inflammation the strangle, and the glanders he defined as ‘a Running Imposthume, ingendred either by cold of by Famine.’

48-9. mose in the chine] No one knows what this means. The verb ‘mose’ is not known outside this passage, and OED suggests that it is a corruption of ‘Mourn’. Under Mourn, v.2, OED gives ‘A perversion of the French name for glanders’, noting that it occurs only in phrases like ‘Mourn of the chine’. Markham’s Maister-peece (ch. 42) connects the two complaints as successive stages of one disease: ‘this consumption proceeds from a cold, which afterwards grows to a poze, then to a glaunders, and lastly to this mourning of the chine.’ He confines the symptoms of this last stage to a discharge from the nostrils, ‘dark, thinne, reddish, with little streakes of blood in it’. Thus, Biondello seems to be saying that the horse is suffering from the glanders, and is likely soon to display that disease’s terminal symptom. Madden {Diary, pp. 305-6) suggests that many of the words in this ‘catalogue of unsoundnesses’ differ from the accepted terms of farriery because Shakespeare did not, like Jonson, learn them from books, but from blacksmiths and in the stables. Hence, ‘mose’ might be a local, unrecorded, variant of ‘mourn’. It might equally be a misprint. All the possible meanings of ‘chine’ are discussed by Hilda M. Hulme {Explorations, pp. 126-30). Here, it is probably an alternative name for the disease {OED, sb.2 5), which has become fossilized in the ‘mourning’ phrase.

49. lampass] ‘a disease incident to horses, consisting in a swelling of the fleshy lining of the roof of the mouth behind the front teeth’ (OED, sb.1).

fashions] farcy, or farcin, ‘a disease of animals, especially of horses, closely allied to glanders’ (OED, Farcy, sb.). Cf. Greene, Looking Glasse {Plays and Poems, ed. Collins, 1. 152), 1. ii. 230 ff. : ‘For let a Horse take a cold, or be troubled with the bots, and we straight giue him a potion or a purgation, in such phisicall maner that he mends straight : if he haue outward diseases, as the spauin, splent, ring-bone, wind-gall or fashion, or, sir, a galled backe, we let him blood and clap a plaister to him with a pestilence.’
windgalls] ‘a soft tumour on either side of a horse’s leg just above the fetlock, caused by distension of the synovial bursa’ {OED).

50-1. sped with spavins] ruined by swellings of the leg-joints. There is a wet and a dry spavin. Cf. H8, 1. iii.12-13.

51 rayed] soiled, defiled; a variant form of Berayed {OED, v.2 5). Cf.iv. i. 3.
the yellows] jaundice {OED, Yellows, 1. 1). The symptoms in horses are a yellow colouring of the eyes, lips and nostrils, with sweating of ears and flank, faintness, and refusal to eat.

52. fives] a swelling of the parotid glands in horses; the strangles. The full form of the word is ‘avives’, which came into English through French or Spanish from an Arabic original (see OED, Avives, and Fives). The aphetic English form ‘vives’ seems to have been the normal use in Elizabethan farriery. Madden {Diary, p. 306) writes ‘No one but an ignorant smith, or one bred in a stable, would speak of “the fives”. If he had even a smattering of the book-learning of farriery, he would have known that the “vives” are “certaine kernels growing under the horse’s eare. . . . The Italians call them vivole.’
stark spoiled] completely ruined.
the staggers] ‘a name for various diseases affecting domestic animals, of which a staggering gait is a symptom’ (OED, sb.1.2). Markham’s Maisterpeece (quoted by Bond) describes it as ‘a dizzy madnesse of the braine . . . from surfeit of meat, surfeit of trauell, or from corruption of blood’, accompanied by ‘staggering and reeling of the horse, and beating of his head against the walles’.
begnawn with] gnawed at by. Cf. R3,I. iii. 222.

53. the bots] A bot, or bott, is, strictly speaking, the name of a parasitical worm or maggot; now restricted to the larvae of flies of the genus Oestrus. But the phrase ‘the botts’ came to be used for the disease caused by these parasites. Cf. 1H4,II. i. 9-10, ‘that is the next way to give poor jades the bots’.
swayed. . . back] ‘Of a horse: Having a depression in the spinal column, caused by strain’ (OED, Swayed, ppl.a. 1). Bond quotes Markham (Maisterpeece, ii. c. 46) : ‘A Horse is said to be swayed in the backe, when .. . he hath taken an extreame wrinch in the lower part of his backe below his short ribbes . . . whereof are a continuall reeling and rowling of the horses hinder parts in his going.’ F reads ‘Waid’, but the existence, well attested, of the phrase ‘swayed in the back’ makes Hanmer’s emendation universally acceptable. shoulder-shotten] ‘having a strained or dislocated shoulder’ (OED, Shoulder, sb. 9. c).

54. near-legged before] ‘knock-kneed in the front legs’ is Hibbard’s gloss, and it is probably the best available. OED (Near-legged) gives ‘Going near with the (fore) legs’, but quotes only this line from Shr. in support. By his ‘nere’ Madden (Diary, p. 305) understands ‘never’, suggesting that nearlegged’ conveys no distinct meaning, while ‘ne’er-legged’ plainly signifies what would be called in stable language ‘gone before’: ‘the “ne’erlegged” horse is bound to stumble, even without the additional infirmities enumerated in the text.’ NCS intends, by ‘near-legged’, the sense of standing with the fore-legs close together, and adds (p. 157), ‘As this is a virtue in a horse, it is clear that what the author intended to write was “near-legged behind” ‘. This is a lame solution.
half-cheeked] ‘applied to a bit in which the bridle is attached halfway up the cheek or side-piece, thus giving insufficient control over the horse’s mouth’ (Onions). See also Shakespeare’s England, 11. 421, for a slightly different interpretation (with illustrations). Madden (Diary, p. 308, n. 1) finds the term obscure.

55. headstall] ‘the part of a bridle or halter that fits round the head’ (OED).
sheep’s leather] less strong than the pigskin or cowhide which was normally used.

56. restrained] drawn tightly (OED,v. 6). Cf. 2H4, 1. i. 176.

57. new-repaired] Bond and others accept F’s text, arguing that ‘hath been’ is construed with both ‘burst’ and ‘repaired’. This is perfectly possible, and receives some support from the syntax of 11. 55-7, where ‘being restrained’ and ‘hath been’ are both dependent on the relative pronoun ‘which’. But Walker’s emendation (Crit. Exam., 11. 214) gives a less contorted sense, makes clearer the fact that the ‘repairing’ has been done not once but many times, and could easily be explained as a misreading of the manuscript copy, since o and e can be much alike in Secretary hand.
girth] the band of leather or cloth going round a horse’s belly and tightened to hold the saddle in place (OED^b.1 1).

58. pieced] mended, repaired. Cf.Ant., 1. v. 45-6, ‘I will piece/Her opulent throne with kingdoms’.
crupper] leather strap which passes in a loop from the saddle round the horse’s tail to prevent the saddle from slipping. Cf. iv. i. 73.
velure] velvet. In the heavy ridinggear used in Shakespeare’s day, a lady’s crupper might be covered with velvet and mounted with her initials in silver or brass studs.

60. pieced] The piecing, or mending, with pack-thread would apply to the velvet of the crupper, not to the lettering.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s