George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Thu Sep 24 15:24:25 UTC 2009

Warning:  an offering from an English major here.

This is what Dogberry and the other nightwatchmen are supposed to do, in Much Ado About Nothing.

Dogberry: This is your charge, you shall comprehend all vagrom men, you are to bid any man stand, in the prince's name.
Seacoal: How if a will not stand?
Dogberry: Why then take no note of him. but let him go, . . . and thank God you are rid of a knave.
Verger:  If he will not stand when he is bidden, he is none of the prince's subjects.

Act 3, scene 3, from the New Cambridge edition


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
Date: Wednesday, September 23, 2009 4:34 pm
Subject: nightwalking

> The earliest law in Massachusetts against "nightwalking" that I've
> found is from 1652, an addition to an act governing the
> watch.  Records of the Governor and Company, vol. 3 (I believe!), page
> 282:
> The constables are ordered to direct their watches that "they duely
> examine all nightwalkers after ten of the clocke in the night, unles
> they be knowne to be peaceable inhabitants, to inquire whither they
> are goeinge,& what theire busines is; & in case of not giving
> rationall satisfaction to the watchmen or constable, then the
> constable forthwith to secure them till the morninge, & then the
> constable to carry such person or persons before the next magistrate
> or commissionere, or three men, who shall in this case have power, as
> the commissionors have, to give satisfaction for theire being abroade
> at that tyme of night; & if the said watchmen shall find any
> inhabitant or straunger after ten of the clocke at night behaveing
> themselves in any way *deboyst, or that giveth not a reasonable
> ground to the cunstable or watchmen, or shalbe in drinke, to secure
> them by committment, or otherwise, till the law be
> satisfyed."  [Abbreviations expanded and u -> v.]
> [* "deboyst" from "deboise, v." = "2. trans. To corrupt morally; to
> deprave by sensuality; = DEBAUCH v."]
> Under the second charter, in 1700 a similar law was enacted; it says
> about behavior, giving up on "deboise"  (Acts and Resolves, vol. 1,
> page 382):
> "... or are persons of ill behavior or justly suspected to have any
> unlawful intention or design".
>   In Boston -- In some court cases, when breaking and entering could
> not be proved the defendant was convicted of nightwalking instead
> (e.g., a case in 1673).  In a 1679 case, the charge was being abroad
> at unreasonable hours at night and drinking at a house after nine
> o"clock.  In another case, two men were outdoors in the company of
> two women at night; they were convicted for refusing to identify the
> women.  (One can speculate what the four were doing, but there is
> nothing in the court record.)
> Joel
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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