Enter the Players
You are welcome, masters; welcome, all. I am glad
to see thee well. Welcome, good friends. O, my old
friend! thy face is valenced since I saw thee last:
comest thou to beard me in Denmark? What, my young
lady and mistress! By'r lady, your ladyship is
nearer to heaven than when I saw you last, by the
altitude of a chopine. Pray God, your voice, like
apiece of uncurrent gold, be not cracked within the
ring. Masters, you are all welcome. We'll e'en
to't like French falconers, fly at any thing we see:
we'll have a speech straight: come, give us a taste
of your quality; come, a passionate speech.
What speech, my lord?
I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it was
never acted; or, if it was, not above once; for the
play, I remember, pleased not the million; 'twas
caviare to the general: but it was--as I received
it, and others, whose judgments in such matters
cried in the top of mine--an excellent play, well
digested in the scenes, set down with as much
modesty as cunning. I remember, one said there
were no sallets in the lines to make the matter
savoury, nor no matter in the phrase that might
indict the author of affectation; but called it an
honest method, as wholesome as sweet, and by very
much more handsome than fine.
I’ve found a rather detailed description of falconry and its place in medieval life, which you can read by clicking here.
Unsurprisingly, this is the only instance of this word in all of Shakespeare. A chopine was a rather tall platform shoe, particularly associated with Venice. Perhaps Shakespeare is conflating two ideas - the received wisdom was that actors in ancient Greek tragedy wore tall platforms called kothurnoi, and maybe Shakespeare is being clever and linking theatre and fashion. In both realms, the taller the shoe, the more important the wearer. Of course there’s no guarantee that Shakespeare had any idea of what ancient actors would have worn. Regardless, he’s definitely making a nice flourish for the performer he’s speaking to, commenting that the youngster has grown at least as much taller as one of his fancy (female) costume shoes would make him.
Here are images of a pair of chopines, and a figurine of an ancient actor in his platform shoes.