The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.
§ 10. Course of Part
As the pair ride forth, the true romantic method is followed, beginning with a comic invocation of the muse, who
As, in Rabelais and Don Quixote, it is the conversations that bring into relief the convictions and prejudices of the interlocutors, so, in Hudibras, the altercations between the knight and squire, which often degenerate into recriminations, are intended to unmask the hypocritical contentions of both parties. In the very first canto, the suspicion that was rife between the presbyterian knight and the independent squire is brought out, and the warmth of religious partisanship is heightened on every subsequent occasion.
The description of the warriors on the other side, that is, the bear-baiters, is humorous in the extreme. They consist of a one-legged fiddler, Crowdero (from crowd, an old word for a fiddle), a bear-ward, a butcher, a tinker, Magnano (the Italian equivalent for locksmith), a virago named Trulla, a cobbler and an ostler. These have been identified by Sir Roger l’Estrange, who was a contemporary, with men who obtained posts in Cromwell’s army and gained subsequent distinction. The wit and humour lavished on the description of these worthies is extraordinary, and may be exemplified in one or two cases. Talgol, the butcher, had made many orphans and widows, and, like Guy of Warwick, had slain many a dun cow; he had fought more flocks of sheep than Ajax or Don Quixote, and slain many serpents in the shape of wasps.
Cerdon, the cobbler, is compared to Hercules in the repair of wrong (in shoes):
Colon, the ostler, is compared to a centaur for his riding, and
Butler’s peculiar trick of giving the characteristics of each person by parallels of similar accomplishments in some noted hero, but in ludicrous travesty, is, doubtless, imitated from Scarron. Rabelais delights in finding in ancient history and literature parallels to his modern instances, but does not go further, except where the general tone of the speaker dramatically requires it; but, with Butler’s mocking humour, the method is reversed, and it is only for the purpose of debasing it in the application that a striking instance is found.
In order to bring Hudibras into contempt from the first, he is represented as anxious to put down bear-baiting, one of the most popular amusements of the time, and substituting for it the cult of the solemn league and covenant, which was thrust upon the English by the Scottish presbyterians. The knight feels bound, “in conscience and commission too,” “to keep the peace twixt dog and bear,” and dubs the whole proceeding “pagan and idolatrous.” The squire consents to this, but, from his point of view as an independent, insists that, if there is no scriptural warrant for bear-baiting, neither is there warrant for
The description of the battle is rendered more absurd by the high-flown epic vein in which it is set forth. The metrical devices of pauses in particular places are duly observed, as well as the repetitions of emphatic words, such as
The bear having been badly mauled in the battle, the retreat is saved by the cobbler Cerdon aad by Trulla, who leads
Hudibras had been victorious in the first battle and, with the help of the squire, had put Crowdero in the stocks; but, in a second encounter, after the combatants have rallied their forces, he is worsted, and, with Ralpho, takes the place of Crowdero. Even here, while Hudibras