« ZurückWeiter »
Lichfield; by the aid of which, it is now given complete, and with which it has been carefully collated. That this poem was the basis of Shakspeare's play, I believe every reader will allow, who has compared the extracts given of it in the notes with the corresponding passages in our author's drama. Mr. Steevens, indeed, without expressly controverting this opinion, has endeavoured to throw a doubt upon it by his repeated quotations from Painter's Palace of Pleasure; but the numerous circumstances introduced from the poem with which the novellist would not have supplied him, and even the identity of expression, which not unfrequently occurs, are sufficient to settle the question. In two passages, it is true, he has quoted Painter, where Brooke is silent, (see p. 143, and p. 186;] but very little weight belongs to either of them. In the one, there is no very striking resemblance to Shakspeare; and in the other, although the number of hours during which Juliet was to remain entranced are not specified in the poem, yet enough is said to make it easily inferred, when we are told that two nights after, the Friar and Romeo were to repair to the sepulchre.
As to the origin of this interesting story, Mr. Douce has observed that its material incidents are to be found in the Ephesiacs of Xenophon of Ephesus, a romance of the middle ages; he admits, indeed, that this work was not published nor translated in the time of Luigi Porto ; but suggests that he might have seen a copy of the original in manuscript. Mr. Dunlop, in his History of Fiction, has traced it to the thirty-third novel of Masuccio di Salerno, whose collection of tales appeared first in 1476. Whatever was its source, the story has at all times been eminently popular in all parts of Europe. A play was formed upon it by Lopez de Vega, entitled Los Castelvies y Monteses; and another in the same language, by Don Francisco de Roxas, under the name of Los Vandos de Verona. In Italy, as may well be supposed, it has not been neglected. The modern productions on this subject are too numerous to be specified; but as early as 1578, Luigi Groto produced a drama upon the subject, called Hadriana, of which an analysis may be found in Mr. Walker's Historical Memoir on Italian Tragedy. Groto, as Mr. Walker observes, has stated in his prologue that the story is drawn from the ancient history of Adria, his native place; yet Girolomo de la Corte has given it in his history of Verona, as a fact that actually took place in that city in the year 1303. If either of these statements should be supposed to have any foundation in truth, the resemblance pointed out between Romeo and Juliet, and Xenophon's Ephesiacs, must be a mere coincidence ; but if the whole should be considered as a fiction, we may perhaps carry it back to a much greater antiquity, and doubt whether, after all, it is not the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe enlarged and varied by the luxuriant imagination of the later novellist ? We have there the outlines of the modern narrative; the repugnance of the parents on either side ; the meeting of the lovers at the tomb, and Pyramus like Romeo drawn to self-destruction by a false opinion of the death of his mistress.
In the preface to Arthur Brooke's translation, there is a very curious passage, in which he informs us of a play upon the subject prior to his poem ; but as he has not stated in what country it was represented, the rude state of our drama prior to 1562 renders it improbable that it was in England. Yet I cannot but be of opinion that Romeo and Juliet may be added to the list, already numerous, of our author's plays that had appeared in a dramatick shape before his performance, and that some slight remains of his predecessor are still to be traced in the earliest quarto. If the reader will turn back to the account which Benvolio gives of the rencontre between Romeo and Tybalt, which he will find in the notes to p. 130, I apprehend he will find, both in the rhythm and construction of that speech, a much greater resemblance to the style of some of Shakspeare's predecessors than to his own. See specimens of some of the earlier dramatists at the end of the Dissertation on the three parts of Henry the Sixth. BOSWELL. THE TRAGICALL HIS torye of Romeus and Juliet writ. ten first in Italian by Bandell And nowe in Englishe by
THE God of all glorye created vniuersallye all creatures, to sette forth his prayse, both those whiche we esteme profitable in vse and pleasure, and also those, whiche we accompte noysome, and lothsome. But principally, he hath appointed man, the chiefest instrument of his honour, not onely, for ministryng matter thereof in man himselfe: but aswell in gatheryng out of other, the occasions of publishing Gods goodnes, wisdome, & power. And in like sort, euerye dooyng of man hath by Goddes dyspensacion some thynge, whereby God may, and ought to be honored. So the good doynges of the good, & the euill actes of the wicked, the happy successe of the blessed, and the wofull procedinges of the miserable, doe in diuers sorte sound one prayse of God. And as eche flower yeldeth hony to the bee, so euery exaumple ministreth good lessons to the well disposed mynde. The glorious triumphe of the continent man vpon the lustes of wanton fleshe, incourageth men to honest restraynt of wyld affections, the shamefull and wretched endes of such, as haue velded their libertie thrall to fowle desires, teache men to withholde them selues from the hedlong fall of loose dishonestie. So, to lyke effect, by sundry meanes, the good mans exaumple byddeth men to be good, and the euill mans mischefe, warneth men not to be euyll. To this good ende, serue all ill endes, of yll begynnynges. And to this ende (good Reader) is this tragicall matter written, to describe vnto thee a coople of vnfortunate louers, thralling themselues to vnhonest desire, neglecting the authoritie and aduise of parents and frendes, conferring their principall counsels with dronken gossyppes, and superstitious friers (the naturally fitte instrumentes of vnchastitie) attempty ng all aduentures of peryll, for thattaynyng of their wished lust, vsyng auriculer confession (the kay of whoredome, and treason) for furtheraunce of theyr purpose, abusyng the honorable name of lawefull mariage to cloke the shame of stolne contractes, finallye, by all meanes of vnhonest lyfe, hastyng to most vnhappye deathe. This president (good Reader) shalbe to thee, as the slaues of Lacedemon, oppressed with excesse of drinke, deformed and altered from likenes of men, both in mynde, and vse of body, were to the free borne children, so shewed to them by their parentes, to thintent to rayse in them an hatefull lothyng of so filthy beastly
Hereunto if you applye it, ye shall deliver my dooing from offence, and profit yourselues. Though I saw the same argument lately set foorth on stage with more commendation, then I can looke for : (being there much better set forth then I haue or can dooe) yet the same matter penned as it is, may serue to lyke good effect, if the readers do brynge with them lyke good myndes, to consider it, which hath the more incouraged me to publishe it, suche as it is. Ar. Br.