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of his name?) hath been fortunate enough to procure from the collection of the Duke of Newcastle, a complete copy of the Hystorie of Hamblet, which proves to be a translation from the French of Belleforest; and he tells me, that “all the chief incidents of the play, and all the capital characters are there in embryo, after a rude and barbarous manner : sentiments indeed there are none, that Shakspeare could borrow; nor any expression.but one, which is, where Hamlet kills Polonius behind the arras: in doing which he is made to cry out as in the play, “a rat, a rat!"--So much for Saxo Grammaticus!
It is scarcely conceivable, how industriously the puritanical zeal of the last age exerted itself in destroying, amongst better things, the innocent amusements of the former. Numberlefs Tales and Poems are alluded to in old books, which are now perhaps no where to be found. Mr. Capell informs me, (and he is in these matters, the most able of all men to give information,) that our author appears to have been beholden to some novels, which he hath yet only seen in French or Italian: but he adds, "to say they are not in some English dress, prosaic or metrical, and perhaps with circumstances nearer to his stories, is what I will not take upon me to do: nor indeed is what I believe; but rather the contrary, and that time and accident will bring some of them to light, if not all.”.
W. Painter, at the conclusion of the second Tome of his Palace of Pleasure, 1567. advertises the reader, “ bicause fodaynly (contrary to expectation) this volume is risen to a greater heape of leaues, I doe omit for this present time fundry nouels of mery
deuise, reseruing the same to be joyned with the rest of an other part, wherein shall succeede the remnant of Bandello, specially futch (suffrable) as the learned French man François de Belleforest hath selected, and the choysest done in the Italian. Some allo out of Erizzo, Ser Giouanni Florentino, Parabosco, Cynthio, Straparole, Sanfouino, and the best liked out of the Queene of Navarre, and other authors. Take these in good part, with those that haue and shall come forth."-But I am not able to find that a third Tome was ever published: and it is very probable, that the interest of his booksellers, and more especially the prevailing mode of the time, might lead him afterward to print his sundry novels separately. If this were the case, it is no wonder, that such fugitive pieces are recovered with difficulty; when the two Tomes, which Tom. Rawlinson would have called.jusia volumina, are almost annihilated. Mr. Ames, who searched after books of this sort with the utmost avidity, most certainly had not seen them, when he published his Typographical Antiquities; as appears from his blunders about them : and possibly I myself might have remained in the same predicament, had I not been favoured with a copy by my generous friend, Mr. Lort.
Mr. Colman, in the Preface to his elegant translation of Terence, hath offered some arguments for the learning of Shakspeare, which have been retailed with much confidence, since the appearance of Mr. Johnson's edition.
" Besides the releinblance of particular passages scattered up and down in different plays, it is well known, that the Comedy of Errors is in great
measure founded on the Menaechmi of Plautus; but I do not recollect ever to have seen it observed, that the disguise of the Pedant in The Taming of the Shrew, and his assuming the name and character of Vincentio, seem to be evidently taken from the disguise of the Sycophanta in the Trinummus of the faid author; and there is a quotation from the
8 This obfervation of Mr. Colman is quoted by his very ingenious colleague, Mr. Thornton, in his translation of this play: who further remarks, in another part of it, that a passage in Romeo and Juliet, where Shakspeare speaks of the contradi&tion in the nature of love, is very much in the manner of his author : 66 Amor
mores hominum moros & morofos efficit. “ Minus placet quod fuadetur, quod dissuadetur placet. Quom inopia'st, cupias, quando ejus copia'st, tum non
velis. &c. Which he translates with ease and elegance,
Love makes a man a fool, “ Hard to be pleas'd. - What you'd persuade him to, • He likes not, and embraces that, from which 56 You would dissuade him. What there is a lack of, 56. That will he covet;
when 'tis in his power, " He'll none on't.
A&. III. sc.iii.
“ – O brawling love! O loving hate! -
Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms !
Still-waking sleep! that is not what it is !” Shakspeare, I am fure, in the opinion of Mr. Thornton, did not want a Plautus to teach him the workings of nature ; nor are his parallelisms produced with any such implication : but, I suppose, a peculiarity appears here in the manner of expreffion, which however was extremely the humour of the age. Every sonnetteer characterises love by contrarieties. Watson begins one of his canzonets,
" Love is a fowre delight, a fugred griefe,
Eunuch of Terence also, fo familiarly introduced into the dialogue of The Taming of the Shrew, that I think it puts the question of Shakspeare's having read the Roman comick poets in the original lan. guage out of all doubt,
Redime te captum, quam queas, minimo.” With respect to resemblances, I shall not trouble you any further. That the Comedy of Errors is founded on the Menachmi, it is notorious ; nor is it less so, that a translation of it by W. W. perhaps William Warner, the author of Albion's England,
Turberville makes Reafon harangue against it in the same
" A fierie frost, a flame that frozen is with ife !
- Loue it is an hatefull pees
" Rest that trauaileth night and daie,” &c. This kind of antithesis was very much the taste of the Provençal and Italian Poets ; perhaps it might be hinted by the Ode of Sappho, preserved by Longinus : Petrarch is full of it:
" Pace non trovo, e non ho da far guerra,
Sonetto 105. Sir Thomas Wyat gives a translation of this sonnet, without any notice of the original, under the title of “Description of the contrarious passions in a Louer," amongst the Songes and Sonettes, by the Earle of Surrey, and Others, 1574.
was extant in the time of Shakspeare ; 9 though Mr. Upton, and some other advocates for his learning, have cautiously dropt the mention of it. Besides this, (if indeed it were different,) in the Gesta Grayorum, the Christmas Revels of the GraysInn Gentlemen, 1594, “a Comedy of Errors like to Plautus his Menachmus was played by the Players.” And the same hath been suspected to be the subject of the goodlie Comedy of Plautus, acted at Greenwich before the King and Queen in 1520; as we learn from Hall and Holinshed:-Riccoboni highly compliments the English on opening their stage so well; but unfortunately, Cavendish in his Life of Wolfey, calls it, an excellent Interlude in Latine. About the same time it was exhibited in German at Nuremburgh, by the celebrated Hans Sachs, the Jhocmaker.
“ But a character in The Taming of the Shrew is borrowed from the Trinummus, and no translation of that was extant."
Mr. Colman indeed hath been better employed : but if he had met with an old comedy, called Supposes, translated from Ariosto by George Gascoigne;' he certainly would not have appealed to
? It was published in 4to. 1595. The printer of Langbaine, p. 524, hath accidentally given the date, 1515. which hath been copied implicitly by Gildon, Theobald, Cooke, and several others. Warner is now almost forgotten, yet the old criticks esteemed him one of " our chiefe heroical makers.". Meres informs us, that he had heard him termed of the best wits of both our Universities, our English Homer."
2 His works were first collected under the fingular title of " A hundredth sundrie Flowres bounde up in one small Poefic. Gathered partly by translation) in the fyne outlandish gardins of Euripides, Ouid, Petrarke, Ariosto, and others :