« AnteriorContinuar »
That it may be seen whether what I have now suggested be well founded, it will be necessary to review the principal circumstances that occur in The Tempest, of which the story is shortly this:
Prospero, Duke of Milan, being fond of study and retirement, delegates his power in a great measure to his younger brother, Antonio, who confederates with Alonso, King of Naples, in order to deprive his elder brother of his dukedom, and to obtain it absolutely for himself; and to induce that King to assist him in effectuating this unjust and wicked scheme, he promises to pay tribute, and to do homage, to Naples, or, in other words, to make Milan a fief to that crown, Alonso having agreed to assist him on that condition, by their joint efforts: Prospero, who was extremely popular, and whom therefore they could not venture to kill, was hurried away with his daughter Miranda, the heir of his dukedom, and at three years old first put on board a bark, and finally into an old and rotten boat without sail or hulling, with only some fresh water and a scanty supply of provisions, together with a few books and some of his more costly and splendid garments, with which he was furnished by the humanity of Gonzalo, an old courtier. By the Divine mercy they arrived safely on a desert island, about twelve years before the commencement of the play. Miranda being at that time an infant, had no recollection of ever having seen a man. On this island, on which they found no human creature but a savage named Caliban, their mansion was only a poor cell, where Prospero amused his solitary hours with educating and instructing his daughter.
Alonso, who had been his inveterate enemy, having agreed to marry his daughter Claribel to the King of Tunis, for that purpose goes thither by sea, accompanied by his brother Sebastian, his son Ferdinand, his daughter already mentioned, and some of his courtiers; together with Antonio, the usurping Duke of Milan. Having left the lady with her husband at Tunis, they embarked again in several ships, intending to return to Naples; and after sailing for some time, they came near the island on which the banished Duke of Milan and his daughter lived. Prospero, who had studied the necromantick art, and therefore could at his pleasure command the elements, finding his enemies now in his power, raises a great tempest, that wrecks the King's ship only, which is safely lodged in a deep nook of the isle, so that none of the passengers are lost. The rest of the fleet, after having been dispersed by the storm, meet in consort, and return in great grief to Naples, supposing that the vessel which carried the King was lost, and, consequently, that he had perished.
Ferdinand, the King's son, by the management of Prospero, being separated from his father, and landed on a different part of the island, Alonso, supposing him drowned, is plunged in extreme
grief for his loss. Ferdinand, however, being preserved, is by Prospero's art brought to the same part of the island where he and Miranda reside; and on seeing the lady falls at once in love with her. She is no less struck with him; and after some little difficulty, Prospero consents to their marriage.
In the mean while he confines Alonso, and those who had landed with him, in a lime-grove near his cell, under the charge of one of his spirits named Ariel. After having for some time, punished his brother Antonio, and his confederate the King of Naples, together with their followers, who, being terrified by demons, become distracted, his generous nature inclines him to pardon them all; which he accordingly does, extending the same mercy to Caliban and his accomplices, who had conspired to murder him; and after having shown them his power by an airy charm," he resolves to break his staff, to drown his book, and to abjure the necromantick art for ever. He then gives Alonso the pleasing intelligence of the safety of his son, and his marriage to Miranda, and introduces them to their father; and having informed the King that he would accompany him to Naples, to be present at the solemnization of the marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda, and afterwards resume his dukedom at Milan, he concludes the play by an Epilogue soliciting the favour of the audience.
Independent of the magick of this comedy, and all that concerns Miranda, Ariel, and Caliban, the plot, as appears from this slight sketch of it, is very simple; and, as far as relates to the marriage of Clanvil, at Tunis, was, I imagine, suggested by one of Turberville's tales; the rest, independent of the tempest (the origin of which has been given elsewhere) was, I conceive, suggested by a play written by Robert Green, and entitled "The comical history of Alphonsus, King of Arragon," which was printed in 1599, but must have been written several years before, the author having died in the year 1592.
In the first scene of Greene's play, which, though denominated a comedy, has no claim whatsoever to that title, being in truth a most sad dramatick history, Carinus, the father of Alphonsus, informs him, that he (Carinus) is the rightful heir to the crown of Arragon; but that his father, Ferdinandus, was several years ago put to death by his (Ferdinandus') younger brother, in consequence of which cruel act, Flaminius, the son of that brother, at that moment possessed the crown of Arragon. On this information, Alphonsus, in spite of his father's entreaties, vows he will endeavour to recover the crown; and for that purpose, having left his father, he tenders his services to Belinus, King of Naples, then at war with the usurping King of Arragon, on condition that, if he should be victorious, he shall have whatever he demands, even the crown of Arragon itself. Belinus agrees to this con
dition, and Alphonsus engages in the battle, which had at this time commenced and having killed his kinsman, Flaminius, the usurper of Arragon, he claims the crown, and obtains it; but on his insisting that the King of Naples should do him homage, they quarrel, and Alphonsus turns his arms against Belinus; who, in spite of the support which he derived from his ally the Duke of Milan, and a considerable body of forces which that Prince had brought with him to the combat, is completely routed, and obliged to fly for succour to Amurach, Emperor of the Turks.
The Duke of Milan having been a principal agent in assisting the younger brother of Ferdinandus, the grandfather of Alphonsus, to deprive Ferdinandus of his life, to banish Carinus and himself, the rightful heirs of Arragon, and to transmit the crown wrongfully to Flaminius. Alphonsus, now invested with regal power, had particular pleasure in depriving him of his dukedom: a feeling which he indulges immediately after the battle, by creating Miles, one of his followers, Duke of Milan, in his room: Lelius, another follower, he makes King of Naples, in the room of the fugitive Belinus; and to Albinius, one of the generals of the routed king, he gives the crown of Arragon; intending himself to pursue Belinus, even to the foot of Amurach's throne.
The deposed Duke of Milan, having escaped from the battle with life, flies, we are not told whither, and is afterwards introduced in great distress, having wandered about without food for three days. In this unhappy state (like Antonio in The Tempest) he meets Carinus, the man whom he had so grievously wronged, near the cell in which that unfortunate prince had lived for twenty years. Carinus soon recognizes his old enemy, and, after some conversation, stabs him; and having previously learned from him that Alphonsus had overcome the King of Naples and recovered the crown of Arragon, he determines to go immediately to Naples, to witness his son's elevation to his new dignity. With the remainder of this play-the war of Alphonsus against Belinus and Amurach, and his final marriage with Iphigena, Amurach's daughter, we have no concern.
Undoubtedly Shakspeare was induced to place a magician in his desert island, by the accounts of the Bermudas, recently published before he wrote this play. This magician he has named Prospero; and it seems to me in the highest degree probable that the thought of making Prospero Duke of Milan-of deposing him by the artifice of a younger brother, in confederacy with the King of Naples, and of banishing the Duke, together with his daughter, the rightful and sole heir of the dukedom,―was suggested by the circumstance of the King of Arragon's being deprived of his crown and life by his younger brother, with the aid of the Duke of Milan, an active agent in effectuating that measure, and in banishing Carinus and his son, Alphonsus, the rightful heirs of the
crown of Arragon, who fly to a remote country, and fix their residence in the woods, in a miserable cell. Shakspeare, according to his usual course, twisted the story to his own purpose. In Greene's play, the Duke of Milan, instead of being the principal personage, being a subordinate coadjutor with the younger brother of Ferdinandus, in depriving his elder brother of a crown; in Shakspeare's comedy, the King of Naples being confederate with the younger brother of the Duke of Milan in depriving his elder brother of his dukedom. The circumstances,-that Shakspeare's king is king of Naples; and that a king of Naples is also introduced in Greene's play; that a requisition of homage, though not in the same form, nor for the same end, occurs in each of these pieces-that the name of Ferdinand is found in both, though in the Tempest he is the son, and in the history of Alphonsus the father :—and that Greene's Duke is Duke of Milan, and in the hour of distress is brought to the cell of the man whom he had highly injured aud contributed to banish; all these circumstances, I say, appear to me to add great probability to what has been now suggested. The hints, however, furnished by Greene, are so slight, that their adoption detracts no more from the merit of Shakspeare than his having formed The Winter's Tale on the same writer's Dorastus and Faunia.
And still slighter is that supplied by the sixth tragical tale of Turberville, which merely, I imagine, induced our author to marry the daughter of Alonso to a king of Tunis. The argument of that tale is as follows:
William, King of Sicily, had a grandson named Gerbino, a very accomplished knight, the fame of whose deserts had reached the daughter of the King of Tunis, who at that time paid tribute to the King of Sicily. The beauty and accomplishments of this lady had also reached Gerbino, and so strongly excited his curiosity, that he sent some merchants under the pretence of selling his jewels, &c. to present his respects to her, and to bring him a more particular description of her person. In consequence of their report a correspondence took place between them, and they plighted their troth to each other.
In the mean while the King of Granate (Granada) had heard of the great beauty of the daughter of the King of Tunis, and made proposals of marriage to her in due form, and her father consented to the match, to the great distress of the lady.
The King of Tunis having had some intimation that his daughter (whose name is not given) was attached to Gerbino, was apprehensive that he might molest her in her passage by sea to the King of Granada, to whom she was to be espoused; and therefore sent an embassy to the King of Sicily, the grandfather of Gerbino, to secure his friendship, and to obtain his promise that none of his subjects should attack the vessel which was to carry his daughter to Granada: which the Sicilian King knowing nothing
of his grandson's passion, faithfully promises, and sends his gauntlet as a pledge of his good faith, to be carried with the lady in a new ship which her father ordered to be built at Carthage for her conveyance.
The lady having heard how she was to be disposed of, immediately sent a messenger to Gerbino at Palermo, to inform him of this event, and that now was his time to give a proof of his courage, and to save her from being made the wife of another. On this intelligence, having provided two gallies well furnished with rowers, he remained in Sardinia till his beloved mistress should pass by. On observing her vessel approach, he embarked. The Saracens on board her ship, showed him the gauntlet; which was to be their passport; but to little purpose. Gerbino having seen the lady on the poop of the ship for the first time, became still more enamoured of her beauty; and tauntingly observed on the production of the gauntlet, that having not brought his falcon with him, he had no need of a glove, and that unless they resigned the lady to him, he would destroy their ship and them. As this requisition could not be complied with, the fight commences, and after some time, the Saracens bring the lady on deck, and having killed her, throw her limbs into the sea, telling Gerbino he might thus possess her. In revenge for this insult, Gerbino destroyed their ship; and having collected the fragments of the body of his mistress, returns to Sicily, where his grandfather, for his not having paid due respect to his gauntlet, orders him to be executed. Such is Turberville's tale*, formed on the fourth novel of the fourth day of Boccace.
Here too, I conceive Shakspeare twisted the story to his own purpose; for in this tale we find the daughter of the King of Tunis carried by sea to be married to the heir of Granada, and before she arrives at her husband's court, destroyed and thrown into the deep: In The Tempest, the King of Naples proceeds with his daughter to Tunis, where she arrives in safety, and is married to the King; and her father and brother are afterwards shipwrecked in their return to Naples. There is, it must be acknowledged, nothing uncommon between the two stories, except a passage by sea for the purpose of marriage at Tunis, and a disaster attending that event; in the one case preceding the marriage, in the other following it; in one the bride sets out from Naples, arrives safe at Tunis, and is married there; but her friends who accompany her are afterwards
* 66 Tragical tales, translated by Turberville in time of his troubles, out of sundrie Italians, with the argument and l'envoye of each tale." 8vo. 1587. There was a former edition in 1576. On one of this author's comick tales, a work mentioned by Sir John Harrington, there is reason to believe Shakspeare founded his Much Ado About Nothing.