« ZurückWeiter »
THE FABLE AND COMPOSITION
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA.
story was originally written by Lollius, an old Lombard author, and since by Chaucer.
Pope, Mr. Pope (after Dryden) informs us, that the story of Troilus and Cressida was originally the work of one Lollius, a Lombard ; (of whom Gascoigne speaks in Dan Bartholmewe his first Triumph: ~ Since Lollius and Chaucer both, make doubt upon
that glose,") but Dryden goes yet further. He declares it to have been written in Latin verse, and that Chaucer translated it. Lollius was an historiographer of Urbino in Italy.' Shakspeare received the greatest part of his materials for the structure of this play from the Troye Boke of Lydgate. Lydgate was not much more than a translator of Guido of Columpna, who was of Messina in Sicily, and wrote his History of Troy in Latin, after Dictys Cretensis, and Dares Phrygius, in 1287. On these, as Mr. Warton observes, he engrafted many new romantic inventions, which the taste of his age dictated, and which the connection between Grecian and Gothic fiction easily admitted ; at the same time comprehending in his plan the Theban and Argonautic stories from Ovid, Statius, and Valerius Flaccus. Guido's work was published at Cologne in 1477, again 1480 : at Strasburgh, 1486, and ibidem, 1489. It appears to have been translated by Raouel le Feure, at Cologne, into French, from whom Caxton rendered it into English in 1471, under the title of his Recuyel, &c, so that there must VOL. VI.
have been yet some earlier edition of Guido's performance than I have hitherto seen or heard of, unless his first translator had recourse to a manuscript.
Guido of Columpna is referred to as an authority by our own chronicler Grafton. Chaucer had made the loves of Troilus and Cressida famous, which very probably might have been Shakspeare's inducement to try their fortune on the stage.-Lydgate's Troye Boke was printed by Pynson, 1513.
Steevens. The entry in 1608-9 was made by the booksellers for whom this play was published in 1609. It was written, I conceive, in 1602. See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays, vol. ix.
MALONE. Before this play of Troilus and Cressida, printed in 1609, is a bookseller's preface, showing that first impression to have been before the play had been acted, and that it was published without Shakspeare's knowledge, from a copy that had fallen into the bookseller's hands. Mr. Dryden thinks this one of the first of our author's plays : but, on the contrary, it may be judged, from the fore-mentioned preface, that it was one of his last ; and the great number of observations, both moral and politic, with which this piece is crowded more than any other of his, seems to confirm my opinion.
Pope. We may learn from this preface, that the original proprietors of Shakspeare's plays thought it their interest to keep them unprinted. The author of it adds, at the conclusion, these words : “ Thank fortune for the 'scape it hath made among you, since, by the grand possessors wills, I believe you should rather have prayed for them, than have been prayed,” &c. By the grand possessors,
STEEVENS. This play is more correctly written than most of Shakspeare's compositions, but it is not one of those in which either the extent of his views or elevation of his fancy is fully displayed. As the story abounded with materials, he has exerted little invention ; but he has diversified his characters with great variety, and preserved them with great exactness. His vicious characters sometimes disgust, but cannot corrupt, for both Cressida and Pandarus are detested and contemned. The comic characters seem to have been
the favourites of the writer; they are of the superficial kind, an exhibit more of manners than nature ; but they are copiously filled and powerfully impressed. Shakspeare has in his story followed, for the greater part, the old book of Caxton, which was then very popular ; but the character of Thersites, of which it makes no mention, is a proof that this play was written after Chapman had published his version of Homer.
JOHNSON. The first seven books of Chapman's Homer were published in the year 1596, and again in 1598. They were dedicated as follows: To the most honoured now living instance of the Achilleian virtues eternized by divine Homere, the Earle of Essere, Earle Marshall, &c.
THE FABLE AND COMPOSITION
TIMON OF ATHENS.
The story of the Misanthrope is told in almost every collection of the time, and particularly in two books, with which Shakspeare was intimately acquainted; the Palace of Pleasure, and the English Plutarch. Indeed from a passage in an old play, called Juck Drum’s Entertainment, I conjecture that he had before made his appearance on the stage.
FARMER. Shakspeare undoubtedly formed this play on the passage in Plutarch's Life of Antony relative to Timon, and not on the twenty-eighth novel of the first volume of Painter's Palace of Pleasure ; because he is there merely described as a man-hater, of a strange and beastly nature," without any cause assigned ; whereas Plutarch furnished our author with the following hint to
“ Antonius forsook the citie, and companie of his friendes,--saying, that he would lead Timon's life, because he had the like wrong offered unto him that was offered unto Timon; and for the unthankfulness of those he had done good unto, and whom he tooke to be his friendes, he was angry with all men, and would trust no man."
To a manuscript play mentioned by Mr. Steevens, in the possession of Mr. Streett, our author, I have no doubt, was also indebted for some other circumstances. Here he found the faithful stew. ard, the banquet-scene, and the story of Timon's being possessed VOL. VI.