Anon, anon, Sir!

In Hal’s long speech below, he alters the well known phrase Tom, Dick and Harry by substituting Francis for Harry.  Apparently the common version hasn’t been found in print earlier than the 18th century, but it’s unlikely that Shakespeare would have used it had not it been standard in his time, and it couldn’t have been, as he used it, “Tom, Dick and Francis.”  Tom, Dick and Harry (Thomas, Richard, and Henry) are such common names that the phrase makes a point––the OED defines it:  “any men taken from the common run”––a point that’s lost as Shakespeare uses it, since Francis, though not unusual, was nowhere near as common as Harry.

The only possible reason that Shakespeare changes it here is to tease someone named Francis, someone perhaps who sees himself as anything but common.  It can’t be Francis Walsingham, his patron, for him he wouldn’t wish, or dare, to tease in this fashion.  Who, then, is the Francis that he treats so roughly, and what does he mean by having him say, over and over, “Anon, anon, Sir”?  Who can it be but Francis Bacon who can be teased about his tendency to get distracted, his fear of being identified as the author of entertaining “toys,” and his need to serve as many clients as he can––though not with beer?  And who is the “lad of mettle” who can “drink with any tinker in his own language”?

The word anon is interesting.  According to the OED, to begin with
it was Old English for “in one” or “together,” which by the 16th century was “misused” as “soon” or “as soon as,” the surface meaning of the word as used by Francis the Drawer.  The OED ignores its present use as a short form of anonymous, an entirely different word stemming from Greek dnonimos or Latin anonymus.  Nor does it acknowledge it’s use as a legal term (see Andrews, Law versus Equity in the Merchant of Venice #38: “Justice Spigurnel in the case of Anon. vs. Anon.” from 1314 [53]).  Although the OED gives 1601 as its first use in English, considering how often a word comes into common use long before it appears in print, and how often words were condensed in those days in typescript, it’s hard not to see its use here as a purposeful pun, one intended perhaps to tease a member of the West End legal community.

*******************************************************

ACT II: Henry IV Part One

SCENE IV. The Boar’s-Head Tavern, Eastcheap 

Enter Prince Hal and Poins

PRINCE HAL:
Ned, prithee, come out of that back room, and lend me thy hand to laugh a little.

NED POINS:
Where hast been, Hal?

PRINCE HAL
With three or four loggerheads amongst three or four score hogsheads.  I have sounded the very base-string of humility.  Sirrah, I am sworn brother to a leash [group] of drawers [servants who "draw" beverages out of casks]; and can call them all by their Christian names, as Tom, Dick, and Francis.  They take it already upon their salvation, that though I be but the prince of Wales, yet I am king of courtesy; and tell me flatly I am no proud Jack, like Falstaff, but a Corinthian, a lad of mettle, a good boy, by the Lord, so they call me, and when I am king of England, I shall command all the good lads in Eastcheap [Bishopsgate/Gracious Street near London Bridge]. . . . To conclude, I am so good a proficient in one quarter of an hour, that I can drink with any tinker in his own language during my life.  I tell thee, Ned, thou hast lost much honour, that thou wert not with me in this sweet action.  But, sweet Ned [Edward Manners, Earl of Rutland], to sweeten which name of Ned, I give thee this pennyworth of sugar, clapped  even now into my hand by an under-skinker [tapster’s assistant] one that never spake other English in his life than “Eight shillings and sixpence” and “You are welcome,” with this shrill addition, “Anon, anon, sir!  Score a pint of bastard in the Half-Moon,” or so.  But, Ned, to drive away the time till Falstaff come, I prithee, do thou stand in some by-room, while I question my puny drawer [junior barkeep––the undergraduate law students were known as punies] to what end he gave me the sugar; and do thou never leave calling “Francis,” that his tale to me may be nothing but “Anon.” [Anonymous] Step aside, and I’ll show thee a precedent.

POINS [calls out]
Francis!

PRINCE HAL
Thou art perfect.

POINS
Francis!

Exit Poins

Enter Francis

FRANCIS
Anon, anon, sir.  Look down into the Pomgarnet, Ralph!

PRINCE HAL
Come hither, Francis.

FRANCIS
My lord?

PRINCE HAL
How long hast thou to serve, Francis?

FRANCIS
Forsooth, five years, and as much as to . . .

POINS [Within]
Francis!

FRANCIS
Anon, anon, sir.

PRINCE HAL
Five year!  by’r lady, a long lease for the clinking of pewter.  But, Francis, darest thou be so valiant as to play the coward with thy indenture and show it a fair pair of heels and run from it?

FRANCIS
O Lord, sir, I’ll be sworn upon all the books in England, [if] I could find [it] in my heart.

POINS [Within]
Francis!

FRANCIS
Anon, sir.

PRINCE HAL
How old art thou, Francis?

FRANCIS
Let me see–about Michaelmas next I shall be . . .

POINS [Within]
Francis!

FRANCIS
Anon, sir.  Pray stay a little, my lord.

PRINCE HAL
Nay, but hark you, Francis: for the sugar thou gavest me,’twas a pennyworth, was’t not?

FRANCIS
O Lord, I would it had been two!

PRINCE HAL
I will give thee for it a thousand pound: ask me when thou wilt, and thou shalt have it.

POINS [Within]
Francis!

FRANCIS
Anon, anon.

PRINCE HAL
Anon, Francis?  No, Francis; but to-morrow, Francis; or, Francis, o’ Thursday; or indeed, Francis, when thou wilt.  But, Francis!

FRANCIS
My lord?

PRINCE HAL
Wilt thou rob this leathern jerkin, crystal-button, knot-pated, agate-ring, puke-stocking, caddis-garter, smooth-tongue, Spanish-pouch?

FRANCIS
O Lord, sir, who do you mean?

PRINCE HAL
Why, then, your brown bastard is your only drink; for look you, Francis, your white canvas doublet will sully: in Barbary, sir, it cannot come to so much.

[What we wouldn’t give to understand this sally!]

FRANCIS
What, sir?

POINS [Within]
Francis!

PRINCE HAL
Away, you rogue!  Dost thou not hear them call?

Here they both call him; the drawer stands amazed, not knowing which way to go

Enter Vintner

VINTNER

What, standest thou still, and hearest such a calling?  Look to the guests within.

Exit Francis

My lord, old Sir John, with half-a-dozen more, are at the door.  Shall I let them in?

PRINCE HAL
Let them alone awhile, and then open the door.

Exit Vintner

Poins!

Reenter Poins

POINS [laughing]
Anon, anon, sir.

PRINCE HAL
Sirrah, Falstaff and the rest of the thieves are at the door.  Shall we be merry?

POINS
As merry as crickets, my lad. But hark ye; what cunning match have you made with this jest of the drawer?  Come, what’s the issue?

PRINCE HAL
I am now of all humours that have showed themselves humours since the old days of goodman Adam to the pupil age of this present twelve o’clock at midnight.

Reenter Francis

What’s o’clock, Francis?

FRANCIS
Anon, anon, sir.

Exit all.

***************************************************

As merry as crickets indeed!  Francis put up with it, of course.  He had no choice.

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