Abbildungen der Seite

Our peace we'll ratify; feal it with feasts.-
Set on there :-Never was a war did ceafe,
Ere bloody hands were wafh'd, with fuch a peace.


This play has many juft fentiments, fome natural dialogues, and fome pleafing fcenes, but they are obtained at the expence of much incongruity. To remark the folly of the fiction, the abfurdity of the conduct, the confufion of the names, and manners of different times, and the impoffibility of the events in.any fyftem of life, were to waste criticism upon unrefifting imbecility, upon faults too evident for detection, and too gross for aggravation. JOHNSON.

A book entitled Westward for Smelts, or the Waterman's Fare of mad Merry Western Wenches, whofe Tongues albeit, like Bell-clappers, they never leave ringing, yet their Tales are fweet, and will much content you: Written by kinde Kitt of Kingfione,-was published at London in 1603; and again, in 1620. To the fecond tale in that volume Shakspeare feems to have been indebted for two or three of the circumftances of Cymbeline. [See p. 400.] It is told by the Fishwife of Stand on the Green, and is as follows:

"In the troublesome raigne of king Henry the Sixt, there dwelt in Waltam (not farre from London) a gentleman, which had to wife a creature most beautifull, fo that in her time there were few found that matched her, none at all that excelled her; fo excellent were the gifts that nature had bestowed on her. In body was the not onely fo rare and unparaleled, but also in her gifts of minde, fo that in this creature it seemed that Grace and Nature ftrove who fhould excell each other in their gifts toward her. The gentleman, her husband, thought himfelfe fo happy in his choife, that he believed, in choofing her, he had tooke holde of that bleffing which Heaven proffereth every man once in his life. Long did not this opinion hold for currant ; for in his height of love he began fo to hate her, that he fought her death the cause I will tell you.



Having bufineffe one day to London, he tooke his leave very kindly of his wife, and, accompanied with one man, he rode to London: being toward night, he tooke up his inne, and to be


briefe, he went to fupper amongst other gentlemen. Among other talke at table, one tooke occafion to fpeake of women, and what excellent creatures they were, fo long as they continued loyal to man. To whom anfwered one, faying, This is truth, fir; fo is the divell good fo long as he doth no harme, which is meaner his goodness and women's loyaltie will come both in one yeere; but it is fo farre off, that none in this age fhall live to fee it.

"This gentleman loving his wife dearely, and knowing her to be free from this uncivill generall taxation of women, in her behalf, faid, Sir, you are too bitter against the fexe of women, and doe ill, for fome one's fake that hath proved false to you, to taxe the generalitie of women-kinde with lightneffe; and but I would not be counted uncivill amongst these gentlemen, I would give you the reply that approved untruth deferveth :-you know my meaning, fir; conftrue my words as you please. Excufe me, gentlemen, if I be uncivil; I anfwere in the behalfe of one who is as free from difloyaltie as is the funne from darknes, or the fire from cold. Pray, fir, faid the other, fince wee are oppofite in opinions, let us rather talke like lawyers, that wee may be quickly friends againe, than like fouldiers, which end their words with blowes. Perhaps this woman that you answere for, is chafte, but yet againft her will; for many women are honeft, 'cause they have not the meanes and opportunitie to be dishonest; so is a thief true in prison, because he bath nothing to fteale. Had I but opportunitie and knew this fame faint you fo adore, I would pawne my life and whole eftate, in a fhort while to bring you fome manifeft token of her difloyaltie. Sir, you are yong in the knowledge of women's flights; your want of experience makes you too credulous: therefore be not abused. This speech of his made the gentleman more out of patience than before, so that with much adoe he held himselfe from offering violence; but his anger being a little over, he faid,-Sir, I doe verily beleeve that this vaine fpeech of yours proceedeth rather from a loose and illmanner'd minde, than of any experience you have had of women's loofenefs and fince you think yourfelfe fo cunning in that divelifh art of corrupting women's chaftitie, I will lay down heere a hundred pounds, againft which you fhall lay fifty pounds, and before thefe gentlemen I promife you, if that within a month's space you bring me any token of this gentlewoman's difloyaltie, (for whofe fake I have fpoken in the behalfe of all women,) I doe freely give you leave to injoy the fame; conditionally, you not performing it, I may enjoy your money. If that it be a match, fpeake, and I will acquaint you where the dwelleth and befides I vow, as I am a gentleman, not to give her notice of any fuch intent that is toward her. Sir, quoth the man, your proffer is faire, and I accept the fame. So the money

was delivered in the oaft of the house his hands, and the fitters by were witnesses; fo drinking together like friends, they went every man to his chamber. The next day this man, having knowledge of the place, rid thither, leaving the gentleman at the inne, who being affured of his wife's chattitie, made no other account but to winne the wager; but it fell out otherwife: for the other vowed either by force, policie, or free will, to get fome jewell or other toy from her, which was enough to persuade the gentleman that he was a cuckold, and win the wager he had laid. This villaine (for he deserved no better stile) lay at Waltam a whole day before he came at the fight of her; at last he efpied her in the fields, to whom he went, and kiffed her (a thing no modeft woman can deny); after his falutation, he faid, Gentlewoman, I pray, pardon me, if I have beene too bold: I was intreated by your hufband, which is at London, (I riding this way) to come and fee you; by me he hath fent his commends to you, with a kind intreat that you would not be difcontented for his long abfence, it being ferious bufinefs that keepes him from your fight. The gentlewoman very modestlie bade him welcome, thanking him for his kindnes; withall telling him that her husband might command her patience fo long as he pleafed. Then intreated thee him to walke homeward, where the gave him fuch entertainment as was fit for a gentleman, and her husband's friend.

"In the time of his abiding at her house, he oft would have fingled her in private talke, but the perceiving the fame, (knowing it to be a thing not fitting a modeft woman,) would never come to his fight but at meales, and then were there fo many at boord, that it was no time for to talke of love-matters: therefore he faw he muft accomplish his defire fome other way; which he did in this manner. He having laine two nights at her houfe, and perceiving her to be free from luftful defires, the third night he fained himself to bee fomething ill, and so went to bed timelier than he was wont. When he was alone in his chamber, he began to thinke with himselfe that it was now time to do that which he determined: for if he tarried any longer, they might have caufe to think that he came for fome ill intent, and waited opportunity to execute the fame. With this refolution he went to her chambre, which was but a paire of ftaires from his, and finding the doore open, he went in, placing himfelf under the bed. Long had he not lyne there, but in came the gentlewoman with her maiden; who, having been at prayers with her houthold, was going to bed. She preparing herself to bedward, laid her head-tyre and thofe jewels the wore, on a little table thereby at length he perceived her to put off a little crucifix of gold, which daily fhe wore next to her heart; this jewell he thought fitteft for his turne, and therefore obferved where the did lay the fame.

"At length the gentlewoman, being untyred her felfe, went to bed; her maid then bolting of the doore, took the candle, and went to bed in a withdrawing roome, onely separated with arras. This villaine lay still under the bed, liftening if hee could heare that the gentlewoman flept: at length he might hear her draw her breath long; then thought he all fure, and like a cunning villaine rofe without noife, going ftraight to the table, where finding of the crucifix, he lightly went to the doore, which he cunningly unbolted: all this performed he with fo little noife, that neither the mistress nor the maid heard him. Having gotten into his chamber, he wished for day that he might carry this jewell to her husband, as figne of his wife's difloyaltie; but feeing his wifhes but in vaine, he laid him downe to fleepe: happy had the beene, had his bed proved his grave.

"In the morning fo foon as the folkes were ftirring, he rose and went to the horse-keeper, praying him to helpe him to his horfe, telling him that he had tooke his leave of his miftris the last night. Mounting his horse, away rode he to London, leaving the gentlewoman in bed; who, when the rose, attiring herself haftily, ('cause one tarried to speak with her,) missed not her crucifix. So, paffed the the time away, as the was wont other dayes to doe, no whit troubled in minde, though much forrow was toward her; onely fhe feemed a little difcontented that her gheft went away fo unmannerly, the ufing him fo kindely. So leaving her, I will speake of him, who the next morning was betimes at London; and coming to the inne, he asked for the gentleman who was then in bed, but he quickly came downe to him; who feeing him returned fo fuddenly, hee thought hee came to have leave to releafe himfelfe of his wager; but this chanced otherwife, for having faluted him, he said in this manner:-Sir, did not I tell you that you were too young in experience of woman's fubtilties, and that no woman was longer good than till he had caufe, or time to do ill? This you beJieved not; and thought it a thing fo unlikely, that you have given me a hundred pounds for the knowledge of it. In brief, know, your wife is a woman, and therefore a wanton, a changeling:-to confirm that I fpeake, fee heere (fhewing him the crucifix;) know you this? If this be not fufficient proofe, I will fetch you more.

"At the fight of this, his bloud left his face, running to comfort his faint heart, which was ready to breake at the fight of this crucifix, which he knew he alwayes wore next her heart; and therefore he muft (as he thought) goe fomething neere, which ftole fo private a jewell. But remembering himselfe, he cheeres his fpirits, feeing that was fufficient proofe, and he had wonne the wager, which he commanded should be given to him.

Thus was the poore gentleman abused, who went into his chamber and being weary of this world, (feeing where he had put his only truft he was deceived,) he was minded to fall upon his fword, and fo end all his miseries at once: but his better genius perfuaded him contrary, and not fo, by laying violent hand on himfelfe, to leap into the divel's mouth. Thus being in many mindes, but refolving no one thing, at laft he concluded to punish her with death, which had deceived his truft, and himfelfe utterly to forfake his house and lands, and follow the fortunes of king Henry. To this intent, he called his man, to whom he said,-George, thou knoweft I have ever held thee deare, making more account of thee than thy other fellowes; and thou haft often told me that thou diddeft owe thy life to me, which at any time thou wouldest be ready to render up to doe me good. True, fir, answered his man, I faid no more then, than I will now at any time, whenfoever you please, performe. I believe thee, George, replyed he; but there is no fuch need: I onely would have thee do a thing for me, in which is no great danger; yet the profit which thou thalt have thereby thall amount to my wealth. For the love that thou beareft to me, and for thy own good, wilt thou do this? Sir, anfwered George, more for your love than any reward, I will doe it, (and yet money makes men valiant,) pray tell me what it is? George, faid his mafter, this it is; thou must goe home, praying thy miftress to meet me halfe the way to London; but having her by the way, in fome private place kill her; I mean as I fpeake, kill her, I fay this is my command, which thou haft promised to performe; which if thou performeft not, I vow to kill thee the next time thou comeft in my fight. Now for thy reward, it fhall be this-Take my ring, and when thou haft done my command, by virtue of it, doe thou affume my place till my returne, at which time thou fhalt know what my reward is; till then govern my whole eftate, and for thy miftrefs' absence and my own, make what excufe thou pleafe; fo be gone. Well, fir, faid George, fince it is your will, though unwilling I am to do it, yet I will perform it. So went he his way toward Waltam; and his mafter prefently rid to the court, where hee abode with king Henry, who a little before was inlarged by the earl of Warwicke, and placed in the throne again.

"George being come to Waltam, did his duty to his miftris, who wondered to fee him, and not her hutband, for whom the demanded of George; he anfwered her, that he was at Enfield, and did request her to meet him there. To which thee willingly agreed, and prefently rode with him toward Enfield. At length, they being come into a by-way, George began to fpeake to her in this manner: Miftris, I pray you tell me, what that wife de

« ZurückWeiter »