Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

in manner nor style has it the least resemblance to any of the other tragedies of that time: most of them rise now and then, and are poetical; but this creeps in one dull tenour, from beginning to end, after the specimen here inserted: it should seem he was a Latinist, by the translation following:

"Feare not, my lord, the perfit good indeed,
"Can never be corrupted by the bad:

"A new fresh vessell still retaynes the taste

"Of that which first is powr'd into the same:" [sign. H.

But whoever he was, Shakspeare has done him the honour to follow him in a stroke or two: one has been observ'd upon above; and the reader, who is acquainted with Shakspeare's Lear,will perceive another in the second line of the concluding speech: and here is a third; "Knowest thou these letters?" says Leir to Ragan, (sign. I. 3b.) shewing her hers and her sister's letters commanding his death; upon which, she snatches at the letters, and tears them: (v. Lear, p. 590, 591,) another, and that a most signal one upon one account, occurs at sig. nature C 3b:

"But he, the myrrour of mild patience,
"Puts up all wrongs, and never gives reply:"

Perillus says this of Leir; comprizing therein his character, as drawn by this author: how opposite to that which Shakspeare has given him, all know; and yet he has found means to put nearly the same words into the very mouth of his Lear,

"No, I will be the pattern of all patience,
"I will say nothing.”

Lastly, two of Shakspeare's personages, Kent, and the Steward, seem to owe their existence to the above-mention'd "shag-hair'd wretch," and the Perillus of this Leir.

The episode of Gloster and his two sons is taken from the Arcadia: in which romance there is a chapter thus intitl'd;-" The pitifull state, and storie of the Paphlagonian unkinde King, and his kind sonne, first related by the son, then by the blind father." (Arcadia, p. 142, edit. 1590, 4to.) of which episode there are no traces in either chronicle, poem, or play, wherein this history is handl'd.

Love's Labour's Lost.

The fable of this play does not seem to be a work entirely of invention; and I am apt to believe, that it owes its birth to some novel or other, which may one day be discover'd. The character of Armado has some resemblance to Don Quixote; but the play is older than that work of Cervantes: of Holofernes, another singular character, there are some faint traces in a masque of Sir Philip Sidney's that was presented before Queen Elizabeth at Wansted: this masque, call'd in catalogues-The Lady of May, is at the end of that author's works, edit. 1627. folio.

Measure for Measure.

In the year 1578, was publish'd in a black-letter quarto a miserable dramatick performance, in two parts, intitl'd-Promos and Cassandra; written by one George Whetstone, author likewise of the Heptameron, and much other poetry of the same

stamp, printed about that time. These plays their author, perhaps, might form upon a novel of Cinthio's; (v. Dec. 8, Nov. 5,) which Shakspeare went not to, but took up with Whetstone's fable, as is evident from the argument of it; which, though it be somewhat of the longest, yet take it in his own words.

"The Argument of the whole
Historye.

"In the Cyttie of Julio (sometimes under the dominion of Corvinus Kinge of Hungarie and Boemia) there was a law, that what man so ever committed adultery, should lose his head, & the woman offender, should weare some disguised apparel, during her life, to make her infamouslye noted. This severe lawe, by the favour of some mercifull magistrate, became little regarded, untill the time of Lord Promos auctority: who convicting, a yong gentleman named Andrugio of incontinency, condemned, both him, and his minion to the execution of this statute. Andrugio had a very vertuous, and beawtiful gentlewoman to his sister, named Cassandra: Cassandra to enlarge her brothers life, submitted an humble petition to the Lord Promos: Promos regarding her good behaviours, and fantasying her great beawtie, was much delighted with the sweete order of her talke: and doyng good, that evill might come thereof: for a time, he repryv'd her brother: but wicked man, tourning his liking unto unlawfull lust, he set downe the spoile of her honour, raunsome for her Brothers life: Chaste Cassandra, abhorring both him and his sute, by no perswasion would yeald to

this raunsome. But in fine, wonne with the importunitye of hir brother (pleading for life :) upon these conditions she agreed to Promos. First that he should pardon her brother, and after marry her. Promos as fearles in promisse, as carelesse in performance, with sollemne vowe, sygned her conditions: but worse than any Infydel, his will satisfyed, he performed neither the one nor the other: for to keepe his aucthoritye, unspotted with favour, and to prevent Cassandraes clamors, he commaunded the Gayler secretly, to present Cassandra with her brother's head. The Gayler, with the outcryes of Andrugio, (abhorryng Promos lewdnes,) by the providence of God, provided thus for his safety. He presented Cassandra with a felons head newlie executed, who, (being mangled, knew it not from her brothers, by the Gayler, who wasset at libertie) was so agreeved at this trecherye, that at the pointe to kyl her selfe, she spared that stroke, to be avenged of Promos. And devysing a way, she concluded, to make her fortunes knowne unto the kinge. She (executing this resolution) was so highly favoured of the King, that forthwith he hasted to do justice on Promos: whose judgement was, to marrye Cassandra, to repaire her crased Honour: which donne, for his hainous of fence he should lose his head. This maryage solempnised, Cassandra tyed in the greatest bondes of affection to her husband, became an earnest suter for his life: the Kinge (tendringe the generall benefit of the cōmon weale, before her special case, although he favoured her much) would not graunt her sute. Andrugio (disguised amonge the company) sorrowing the griefe of his sister, bewrayde his safety, and craved pardon. The Kinge, to renowne the vertues of Cassandra, pardoned both

him, and Promos. The circumstances of this rare Historye, in action livelye foloweth." The play itself opens thus:

"Actus I. Scena 1.

Promos, Mayor, Shirife, Sworde bearer: One with a bunche of keyes: Phallax, Promos man.

"You Dfficers which now in Julio age,
“Knowe you our leadge, the Kinge of Hungarie:
"Sent me Promos, to ioyne with you in sway :
"That fill we may to Justice have an eye.
"And now to whow, my rule & power at lardge,
"Attentivelie, his Letters Pattents heare :
"Phallax reade out my Soveraines chardge,

« Phal. As you commande, I wyll: give heedful eare.
"Phallax readeth the Kinges Letters Patents, which
must be fayre written in parchment, with some
great counterfeat zeale.

"Pro. Loe, here you see what is our Soveraignes wyl,
"Loe, heare his with, that right, not might, beare swaye :
"Loe, heare his care, to weed from good the yll,

"To scourge the wights, good Lawes that disobay.”

And thus it proceeds; without one word in it, that Shakspeare could make use of, or can be read with patience by any man living: and yet, besides the characters appearing in the argument, his Bawd Clown, Lucio, Juliet, and the Provost, nay, and even his Barnardine, are created out of hints which this play gave him; and the lines too that are quoted, bad as they are, suggested to him the manner in which his own play opens.

Merchant of Venice.

The Jew of Venice was a story exceedingly well known in Shakspeare's time; celebrated in ballads; and taken (perhaps) originally from an Italian book

« AnteriorContinuar »