"Half Seas Over"
Context: Henry Fielding, certainly one of the great comic writers of all time, is probably best known for Tom Jones, but before he was a novelist he was a dramatist. Most of his dramas are farces, several containing biting satire of contemporary political figures. Tom Thumb, however, is a parody of the absurdly bombastic heroic tragedy of the Restoration and early eighteenth century. Here Fielding burlesques not only hundreds of verbal absurdities from serious tragedies, but he also appends a set of comic footnotes by "H. Scriblerus Secundus," extending the burlesque to criticism as well. The play concerns the doings at the court of King Arthur and his queen, Dollallolla, "a woman entirely faultless, saving that she is a little given to drink, a little too much a virago towards her husband, and in love with Tom Thumb." Thumb, the miniature hero, loves the princess Huncamunca, who loves both him and Lord Grizzle. The play opens with a celebration because Thumb is returning from defeating the giants and brings as a captive their queen, Glumdalca, who has fallen in love with Tom and with whom the king immediately falls in love. In the second scene the king is proclaiming the celebration when the courtier, Doodle, brings a petition:
KINGPetition me no petitions, Sir, to-day;Let other hours be set apart for business.To-day it is our pleasure to be drunk,And this our queen shall be as drunk as we.QUEEN(Though I already half seas over am)If the capacious goblet overflowWith arrack punch–'fore George! I'll see it out:Of rum, and brandy, I'll not taste a drop.KINGThough rack, in punch, eight shillings be a quart,And rum and brandy be no more than six,Rather than quarrel you shall have your will.