underwit

underwit

(ˈʌndəˌwɪt)
n
1. a halfwit or a fool
2. a simple mind
References in periodicals archive ?
Remarkably, the "warlike accoutrements" that Underwit acquires are books--including a copy of a Shakespeare folio--all of which include some kind of militaristic pun (the folio is thought to be particularly apt for pikemen, the soldiers who would shake spears in battle).
Cited in OED as Captain Underwit, attributed to Shirley
(89) As in The Country Captaine (probably by the duke of Newcastle), in which Captain Underwit ordered his servant to buy "all the bookes [that] can bee bought, of martial!
Underwit reports that he has been newly "made a Captain of the traind band" (9).
Underwit's musing on the etymology of accomodo is a clear allusion to an exchange at the muster that begins when Justice Shallow inquires after Falstaff's (nonexistent) wife.
Like his Shakespearean predecessor, Underwit orders a "Buff coat, and a pair of breeches" (51-52) and a "london dutch felt ...
Underwit's new title also demands that he acquire additional titles, albeit ones of a different sort; to further "accommodate" himself with "warlike accoutrements" he sends Thomas to procure "all the bookes that can be bought of warlike discipline, which the learned call Tackticks" (64-65).
While Underwit does not bother to correct his servant for the purchases that precede the folio on the list, he cannot help but intervene when he notices "Shakespeares workes." He repeats the title with apparent incredulity, and responds to the selection with obvious exasperation.
Indeed, Epicoene's Jack Daw "buys titles" but has "nothing else of books in him" (1.2.72-73), a description that resonates with Thomas's blunders as well as Underwit's lack of martial knowledge.
While Underwit's need to perform his own legitimacy prevents him from taking the premise of Thomas's joke seriously, we are free from such fictional constraints and may entertain the possibility that "Shakespeares workes" might indeed have something to offer a country captain and his pikemen in 1639.
The "sum[m]a totalis" of "three and twenty poundes, Nynteene shillings and Seuen pence" (640-41) that Underwit reads on the receipt no doubt elicited laughter from contemporary audiences, since the total is more than what consumers spent on books over the course of several years.
In asking for the works "which the learned call Tackticks" (64, 65), Underwit not only invokes a broad category of manuals on military strategy and proficiency in using weapons, but also a set of works identified specifically by that name, Aelians Tacticks, which circulated in two parts in at least five editions between 1616 and 1631.