Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the Paphlagonian unkinde King, and his kind fonne, first related by the son, then by the blind father.(Arcadia, p. 142, edit. 1590, 4to.) of which epifode there are no traces in either chronicle, poem, , or play, wherein this history is handl’d.

Love's Labour's Loft.

The fable of this play does not seem to be a work entirely of invention; and I am apt to believe, that it owes its birth to some novel or other, which may one day be discover'd. The character of Armado has some resemblance to Don Quixote; but the play is older than that work of Cervantes : of Holofernes, another singular character, there are some faint traces in a masque of Sir Philip Sydney's that was presented before Queen Elizabetin at Wansted: this masque call'd in catalogues The Lady of May, is at the end of that author's works, edit. 1627, folio,

Measure for Measure.

In the year 1578, was publish'd in a black-letter quarto a miserable dramatick performance, in two parts, intitld-Promos and Casandra'; written by one George Whetstone, author likewise of the Heptameron, and much other poetry of the same stamp, printed about that time. These plays their author perhaps, might forin upon a novel of Cinthio's; (v. Dec. 8, Nov. 5,) which Shakspeare went not to, but took up with Whetstone's fable, as is evident from the argumentofit; which, though it be somewhat of the longest, yet take it in his own words.

The Argument of the whole

Historye.

" In the Cyttie of Julio (sometimes under the dominion of Corvinus Kinge of Hungarie and Boemia) there was a law, that what man so ever committed adultery, should lose his head, & the woman offender, should weare some disguised apparel, during her life, to make her infamouslye noted. This severe lawe, by the favour of some mercifull magistrate, became little regarded, untill the time of Lord Promos auctority: who convicting a young gentleman nam'd Andrugio of incontinency, condemned, both him, and his minion to the execution of this statute. Andrugio had a very vertuous, and beawtiful gentlewoman to his sister, named Cassandra: Cassandra to enlarge her brothers life, submitted an humble petition to the Lord Promos: Promos regarded her good behaviours, and fantasying her great beawtie, was much delighted with the sweete, order of her talke: and doying good, that evill might come thereof: for a time he repryw'd her brother: but wicked man, tourning his liking unto unlawful lust, he set downe the spoile of her honour, raunsome for her Brothers life: Chafte Cassandra, abhorring both him and his fuite, by no perswafion would yeald to this raunfome. But in fine, wonne with the importunitye of hir brother (pleading for life :) upon these conditions, she agreed to Promos. First that he should pardon her brother, and after marry her. Promos as fearles in Promisse, as carelesse in performance, with sollemne vowe, sygned her conditions: but worse than any infydel, his will

[ocr errors]

fatisfyed, he performed neither the one nor the other: for to keepe his au&thoritye, unspotted with favour, and to prevent Cassandraes claniors, he commaunded the Gayler secretly, to present Cafsandra with her brothers head. The Gayler, with the outcryes of Andrugio, (abhorring Promos lewdnes,) by the providence of God, provided thus for his fafety. He presented Cassandra with a felons head newlie executed, who (being mangled, knew it not from her brothers, by the Gayler, who was set at libertie) was so agreeved at this trecherye, that at the pointe to kyl her selfe, she spared that stroke, to be avenged of Promos.

And devysing a way, she concluded, to make her fortunes knowne unto the kinge. She (executing this resolution) was so highly favoured of the king, that forthwith he hafted to do justice on Promos: whose judgement was, to marrye Cassandra, to repaire her crased Honour: which donne, for his hainous offence he should lose his head. This

marryage solempnised, Cassandra tyed in the greatest bondes of affection to her husband, became an earnest futer for his life: the Kinge (tendringe the generall benefit of the common weale, before her special ease, although he favoured her much) would not graunt her fute. Andrugio (disguised a monge the company) sorrowing the griefe of his fifter, bewrayde his safety, and craved pardon. The Kinge, to renowne the vertues of Cassandra, pardoned both him, and Promos. The circumstances of this rare Historye, in action livelye foloweth."

The play itselfe opens thus:

[blocks in formation]

" A aus I. Scona I.

6 Promos, Mayor, Shirife, Sworde bearer: One with a bunche of

keyes: Phallax, Promos man.

16 You Officers which now in Julio staye.
Know you our leadge, the Kinge of Hungarie:
66. Sent mé Promos, to joyne with you in sway:
" That still we may to Justice have an eye.
And now to how, my rule to power at lardge,
"Attentivelie, his Letters Pattents heare:
" Phallax, reade out my Soveraines chardge,
“ Phal. As you commande, I wyll: give heedful eare.

Phallax readeth the Kings Letters Patents, whick must be fayre written in parchment, with some great counterfeat zeale.

“ Pro. Loe, here, you see what is our Soveraignes wyl,
" Loe, heare his wish, that right, not might, beare swaye:
" Loe, heare his care, to weed from good the yll,
" To scourge the wights, good Lawes that disobay."

And thus it proceeds; without one word in it, that Shakspeare could make use of, or can be read with patience by any man living: and yet, besides the characters appearing in the argument, his Bawd, Clown, Lucio, Juliet, and the Provost, nay, and even his Barnardine, are created out of hints which this play gave him;

and the lines too that are quoted, bad as they are, suggested to him the manner in which his own play opens.

Merchant of Venice.

The Jew of Venice, was a story exceedingly well known in Shakspeare's time; celebrated in ballads; and taken (perhaps) originally from an Italian book, intitl'd--Il Pecorone: the author of which calls himself, - Ser Giovanni Fiorentino and writ his book, as he tells you in fome humourous verses at the beginning of it, in 1378, three. years after the death of Boccace: it is divided into giornata's, and the story we are speaking of is in the first novel of the giornata quarta ; edit. 1565, octavo, in Vinegia. This novel Shakspeare certainly read; either in the original, or (which I rather think) in some translation that is not now

to be met with, and form'd his play upon it. translated a-new, and made publick in 1955, in a small octavo pamphlet, printed for M. Cooper : and, at the end of it, à novel of Boccace: (the first of day the tenth) which, as the translator rightly judges, 'might possibly produce the scene of the caskets, substituted by the poet in place of one in the other novel, that was not proper for the stage.

It was

Merry Wives of Windsor. Queen Elizabeth,” says a writer of Shakspeare's life, “ was so well pleas'd with that adinirable character of Falstaff, in the two parts of Henry the Fourth, that she commanded him to continue it for one play more, and to shew him in love. This is said to be the occasion of his writing The Merry Wives of Windsor.As there is no proof brought for the truth of this story, we may conclude — that it is either some playhouse tradition, or had its rise from Sir William D'Avenant, whose authority the writer quotes for another fingular anecdote, relating to lord Southampton. Be this as it may; Shak

Za

« ZurückWeiter »