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Wit, subst. 1) mental faculty, intellectual power of any kind; understanding, judgment, imagination (the proverbial five --s being defined: common wit, imagination, fantasy, estimation, memory): “my five --s nor my five senses can dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee,” Sonn. 141, 9. “four of his five --s went halting off,” Ado I, 1, 66. “how fell you besides your five --s?” Tw. IV, 2, 93. our judgment sits five times in that (our good meaning) “ere once in our five --s,” Rom. I, 4, 47. “thou hast more of the wild goose in one of thy --s than I have in my whole five,” II, 4, 77. “bless thy five --s,” Lr. III, 4, 59. III, 6, 60. Hence the frequent use of the plural in speaking of the activity of the mind: “useless barns the harvest of his --s,” Lucr. 859. “love inhabits in the finest --s,” Gent. I, 1, 44. “his --s are not so blunt,” Ado III, 5, 11. “dainty bits make rich the ribs, but bankrupt quite the --s,” LLL I, 1, 27. “bend thoughts and --s to achieve her,” Shr. I, 1, 184. “with all my --s, my pains and strong endeavours,” H5 V, 2, 25. “did my brother Bedford toil his --s,” H6B I, 1, 83. “our --s are so diversely coloured,” Cor. II, 3, 21. Cor. II, 3, 21 Cor. II, 3, 21 Cor. II, 3, 21 “with witchcraft of his --s,” Hml. I, 5, 43 (M. Edd. unnecessarily wit). “a young maid's --s should be as mortal as an old man's life,” IV, 5, 159. The safety and soundness of the --s constituting the wise or reasonable man, their loss the fool or madman: “being mad before, how doth she now for --s?” Ven. 249. “here's a fellow frights English out of his --s,” Wiv. II, 1, 143. “I will stare him out of his --s,” II, 2, 291. “I am as well in my --s as thou,” Tw. IV, 2, 95. Tw. IV, 2, 95 “holp madmen to their --s,” R2 V, 5, 62. “in his right --s,” H5 IV, 7, 49. Tp. III, 2, 86. Meas. V, 33. Err. V, 42. Err. V, 42 Mids. I, 2, 82. Tw. III, 4, 14. H6A V, 3, 195. Cor. IV, 2, 44. Oth. IV, 1, 280 etc. etc.
Used with the same latitude in the singular, so as to come near, sometimes, to the sense of mind: “by love the young and tender w. is turned to folly,” Gent. I, 1, 47. “made w. with musing weak,” Gent. I, 1, 47 “my w. untrained in any kind of art,” H6A I, 2, 73; cf. Gent. I, 1, 2. “with what his valour did enrich his w., his w. set down to make his valour live,” R3 III, 1, 85. “the moral of my w. is 'plain and true',” Troil. IV, 4, 109. “she hath Dian's w.” Rom. I, 1, 215 (== sentiments). Sometimes == imaginative and inventive faculty: “fair fall the w. that can so well defend her,” Ven. 472. “danger deviseth shifts, w. waits on fear,” Ven. 472 “conceit and grief an eager combat fight: what w. sets down is blotted straight with will,” Lucr. 1299. “each several stone, with w. well blazoned, smiled or made some moan,” Compl. 217. “my admirable dexterity of w.” Wiv. IV, 5, 121. “thousand escapes of w. make thee the father of their idle dreams,” Meas. IV, 1, 63. “hast thou or word or w. or impudence that yet can do thee office?” V, 368. “devise, w.; write, pen,” LLL I, 2, 191. “past the w. of man to say what dream it was,” Mids. IV, 1, 211. “the man hath no w. that cannot . . . vary deserved praise on my palfrey,” H5 III, 7, 33 etc. At other times == common sense, understanding, judgment: “a folly bought with w., or else a w. by folly vanquished,” Gent. I, 1, 34. “he wants w. that wants resolved will to learn his w. to exchange the bad for better,” II, 6, 12. “I have the w. to think my master is a kind of a knave,” III, 1, 262. “if I had not had more w. than he,” IV, 4, 15. “see now how w. may be made a Jack-a-lent,” Wiv. V, 5, 134. “few of any w. in such matters,” Meas. II, 1, 282. Wiv. I, 3, 102. Err. II, 2, 39. Err. II, 2, 39 Ado I, 2, 17. V, 1, 128. LLL I, 2, 93. LLL I, 2, 93 John III, 4, 102. Lr. II, 4, 42 etc. etc.
Not seldom equivalent to wisdom: “so then we do neglect the thing we have, and all for want of w., make something nothing by neglecting it,” Lucr. 153. “Brutus . . . began to clothe his w. in state and pride,” Lucr. 153 “if I might teach thee w., better it were, though not to love, yet, love, to tell me so,” Sonn. 140, 5. “one that hath taught me more w. than ever I learned before,” Wiv. IV, 5, 61. “'tis wisdom to conceal our meaning. Away with scrupulous w., now arms must rule,” H6C IV, 7, 61. cf. LLL V, 2, 70. LLL V, 2, 70 Tw. V, 218. Wint. II, 2, 52. R2 II, 1, 28. H6B III, 1, 232. Oth. II, 1, 130 etc.
Often denoting the faculty of associating ideas in a new and ingenious, and at the same time natural and pleasing way, which is at present its principal signification: Tp. II, 1, 13. IV, 242. Gent. I, 1, 132. II, 4, 38. Wiv. IV, 5, 102. Meas. II, 2, 127. Err. II, 1, 91. II, 2, 86. II, 2, 86 Ado I, 1, 64. II, 1, 127. II, 1, 127 II, 1, 127 II, 1, 127 V, 1, 124. LLL I, 2, 100 “(my father's w. and my mother's tongue assist me).” Mids. III, 1, 137. As I, 2, 48. As I, 2, 48 As I, 2, 48 Tw. I, 5, 35. R3 I, 2, 115. Troil. II, 1, 94 etc.
Proverbial expressions: “more hair than w.” Gent. III, 1, 361. Gent. III, 1, 361 Gent. III, 1, 361 Gent. III, 1, 361 Err. II, 2, 82. Err. II, 2, 82 “w. enough to keep himself warm,” Ado I, 1, 68; cf. Shr. II, 268. “when the age is in, the w. is out,” Ado III, 5, 37. “w., whither wilt?” As IV, 1, 168; cf. I, 2, 59.
2) a) as a vox media, == a person of any degree of mental capacity: “parasites . . . soothing the humour of fantastic --s,” Ven. 850. “--s of no higher breeding,” H4B II, 2, 38. “among foaming bottles and ale-washed --s,” H5 III, 6, 83. b) a man of fancy or wit: “the --s of former days to subjects worse have given admiring praise,” Sonn. 59, 13. “good --s will be jangling,” LLL II, 225. “are these the breed of --s so wondered at?” V, 2, 266. “better --s have worn plain statute-caps,” V, 2, 266 “the dulness of the fool is the whetstone of the --s. How now, w., whither wander you?” As I, 2, 59. those --s that think they have thee (viz wit) “do very oft prove fools,” Tw. I, 5, 36. “shallow jesters and rash bavin --s,” H4A III, 2, 61.
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