« AnteriorContinuar »
THE story on which this play is formed, is of great antiquity. It is found in a book, once very popular, entitled Gesta Romanorum, which is supposed by Mr. Tyrwhitt, the learned editor of The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer, 1775, to have been written five hundred years ago. The earliest impression of that work (which I have seen) was printed in 1488 * ; in that edition the history of Appolonius King of Tyre makes the 153d chapter. It is likewise related by Gower in his Confessio Amantis, lib. viii. p. 175—185, edit. 1554. The Rev. Dr. Farmer has in his possession a fragment of a MS. poem on the same subject, which appears, from the handwriting and the metre, to be more ancient than Gower. The reader will find an extract from it at the end of the play. There is also an ancient romance on this subject, called Kyng Appolyn of Thyre, translated from the French by Robert Copland, and printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1510. In 1576 William Howe had a licence for printing The most excellent, pleasant, and variable Historie of the strange Adventures of Prince Appolonius, Lucine his Wyfe, and Tharsa his Daughter. The author of Pericles having introduced Gower in his piece, it is reasonable to suppose that he chiefly followed the work of that poet. It is observable that the hero of this tale is, in Gower's poem, as in the present play, called Prince of Tyre; in the Gesta Romanorum, and Copland's prose Romance, he is entitled King. Most of the incidents of the play are found in the Confessio Amantis, and a few of Gower's expressions are occasionally borrowed. However, I think it is not unlikely, that there may have been (though I have not met with it) an early prose translation of this popular story, from the Gesta Romanorum, in which the name of Appolonius was changed to Pericles; to which, likewise, the author of this drama may have been indebted. In 1607 was published at London, by Valentine Sims, “The Patterne of painful Adventures, containing the most excellent, pleasant, and variable Historie of the strange Accidents that befell unto Prince Appolonius, the Lady Lucina his Wife, and Tharsia his Daughter, wherein the Uncertaintie of this world and the fickle State of Man's Life are lively described. Translated into English by T. Twine, Gent.” I have never seen the book, but it was without doubt a re-publication of that published by W. Howe in 1576.
* There are several editions of the Gesta Roinanorum before 1488. Douce.
Pericles was entered on the Stationers' books, May 2, 1608, by Edward Blount, one of the printers of the first folio edition of Shakspeare's plays ; but it did not appear in print till the following year, and then it was published not by Blount, but by Henry Gosson ; who had probably anticipated the other, by getting a hasty transcript from a playhouse copy. There is, I believe, no play of our author's, perhaps I might say, in the English language, so incorrect as this. The most corrupt of Shakspeare's other dramas, compared with Pericles, is purity itself. The metre is seldom attended to; verse is frequently printed as prose, and the grossest errors abound in almost every page. I mention these circumstances, only as an apology to the reader for having taken somewhat more licence with this drama than would have been justifiable, if the copies of it now extant had been less disfigured by the negligence and ignorance of the printer or transcriber. The numerous corruptions that are found in the original edition in 1609, which have been carefully preserved and augmented in all the subsequent impressions, probably arose from its having been frequently exhibited on the stage. In the four quarto editions it is called "the much admired" play of Pericles, Prince of Tyre ; and it is mentioned by many ancient writers as a very popular performance ; particularly, by the author of a metrical pamphlet, entitled Pymlico, or Run Redcap, in which the following lines are found :
“ Amaz'd I stood, to see a crowd
“ Came to see Shore or Pericles." In a former edition of this play I said, on the authority of another person, that this pamphlet had appeared in 1596 ; but I have since met with the piece itself, and find that Pymlico, &c. was published in 1609. It might, however, have been a republication.
The prologue to an old comedy called The Hog has lost his Pearl, 1614, likewise exhibits a proof of this play's uncommon sucThe poet, speaking of his piece, says :
if it prove so happy as to please, “ We'll say, 'tis fortunate, like Pericles.” By fortunate, I understand highly successful. The writer can hardly be supposed to have meant that Pericles was popular rather from accident than merit; for that would have been but a poor eulogy on his own performance.
An obscure poet, however, in 1652, insinuates that this drama was ill received, or at least that it added nothing to the reputation of its author :