I thought I’d mark Shakespeare’s 450th birthday (assuming he was born on 23 April 1564) with some of his references to paths and commons. As a countryman and a walker, he knew the highways and byways.
I am indebted to the Concordance to Shakespeare by John Bartlett, Macmillan 1894 (2,000 pages of small print—how on earth did he do it without a computer?)
Many of the references are metaphorical of course.
‘Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads’ (Hamlet i-3-50)
‘that go the primrose way to the everlasting bonfire’ (Macbeth ii-3-22)
‘And he is bred out of that bloody strain
That haunted us in our familiar paths’ (Henry V ii-4-52)
But others are not:
Gloucester: ‘Know’st thou the way to Dover?’
Edgar: ‘Both stile and gate, horse-way and foot-path.’ (King Lear iv-1-58)
And for commons, there is reference to a petition ‘against the Duke of Suffolk, for enclosing the commons of Melford’ (2 Henry VI i-3-24)
Finally, there’s a jolly song:
‘Jog on, jog on, the foot-path way,
And merrily hent the stile-a:
A merry heart goes all the day,
Your sad tires in a mile-a.’ (A Winter’s Tale iv-3-133)