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Art XIII.-Imitation of Shakespeare by Shelley, in his Tra

gedy of The Cenci."

I cannot think it foreign to the purpose of the Shakespeare Society, especially on the publication of its “ Papers,” to point out authors, even in modern times, who have borrowed from Shakespeare without acknowledgment. I shall do so very briefly, in reference to two or three passages in “ The Cenci,” by Percy B. Shelley, originally printed at Leghorn in 1819, and recently reprinted in the collection of his Works, the editorship of which was undertaken in 1839 by Mrs. Shelley. I was induced to read “ The Cenci” again, from the wish of a modern manager of a theatre to produce it, if possible, on the Stage ; but I had marked the plagiarisms in my copy of the Leghorn edition more than twenty years ago.

Shelley himself was anxious that it should be performed, and that the parts of Cenci and of his daughter Beatrice should be acted by Kean and Miss O'Neill ; but the repulsive nature of the story, a difficulty which the author vainly fancied he had overcome, rendered it then out of the question ; and in truth the objection never can be overcome.

It is rather strange that the palpable imitations I am about to mention, from three of Shakespeare's most popular plays, never have been pointed out; but I have looked back to the reviews and notices of “ The Cenci,” printed soon after its first appearance, and I find no remark upon them. One line I have seen quoted more than once, as a noble proof of Shelley's original powers :

“I see, as from a tower, the end of all."

The Cenci, act ii., sc. 2.

What is this but a line from Shakespeare's “ Richard III.," with the alteration of a word or two?

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is the exclamation of Queen Elizabeth, in act ii., sc. 4 ; and
yet Shelley not only makes no confession of his obligation, but
actually claims a merit in his preface for having borrowed no-
thing but in one place from Calderon's El Purgatorio di San
Patricio. It may be that he unconsciously fell into the mistake
of supposing the line his own. In act iii., sc. 2, of “The
Cenci," we meet with a copy of a well-remembered passage
in “Othello.” Shelley makes Giacomo thus contemplate the
murder of his father, likening the flame of life to the flame
of a lamp burning near him :-

“ And yet, once quenchd, I cannot thus relume
My father's life."

So Othello (act v., sc. 2), meditating the murder of Desdemona, and contemplating her by the light of a lamp, says :

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“ If I quench thee, thou flaming minister,
I can again thy former light restore,
Should I repent me; but once put out thy light,
Thou cunning'st pattern of excelling nature,
I know not where is that Promethean heat
That can thy light relume."


Shelley was fond of the figure ; for just before, looking at the lamp, Giacomo exclaims :

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“But that no power can fill with vital oil
That broken lamp of flesh.”

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Just afterwards, in the same scene, we have a passage which could not have been written, or at all events not so worded,

but for some lines in “Hamlet,” so well known that they need
not be quoted;

“nor all the taunts
Which from the prosperous weak misfortune takes."

The Cenci, act iï., sc. 2.


In the first scene of the same act we meet with a thought and an expression decidedly borrowed from Shakespeare's Sonnets. Orsino is supposing that Beatrice, by permitting crime, may in the end become criminal :

“subdued even to the hue Of that which thou permittest."

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Here we have an imitation, or, more strictly, a copy couplet in Shakespeare's 91st Sonnet, where he is reflecting upon his own mode of life as a player, then looked down upon as most degraded, and to the colour it may give to his whole existence. I transcribe the opening of the Sonnet, in order to make the point more intelligible, but only the two last lines are closely applicable, for Shelley omits the familiar image by which Shakespeare so admirably illustrates his meaning.

“()! for my sake do you with fortune chide, ,

The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,
That did not better for my life provide,

Than public means, which public manners breeds :
Thence comes it that my name receives a brand;

And almost thence my nature is subdued
To what it works in-like the dyer's hand.”

J. B. B.

ART. XIV.-Albion, Knight ; a Moral Play.

The following is a fragment of an early dramatic performance, which, as far as is at present known, has no parallel in our language. It is part of a political play, and the only part that has been preserved : not merely no perfect copy

perfect copy has come down to us, but no portion of a copy but that which we have been permitted to use, and which is in the library of His Grace the Duke of Devonshire.

It consists of twelve closely printed pages in black letter, and seems to have been considerably less than half of the entire production. I noticed it in “ The History of English Dramatic Poetry and the Stage," ii., 369 ; but I could only there insert some brief specimens of it, and it seems to me to deserve reprinting exactly in the form in which it has reached us, in order that those who are curious respecting the productions of our early stage may have an opportunity of judging for themselves of the singular nature and character of the performance.

Whether it was ever acted, and where, are questions it is impossible to answer. In Cotton MS. Vitellius, F. v. (now printing by the Camden Society, under the superintendence of Mr. J. G. Nichols) we find the following memorandum applicable to Christmas, 1559 : “ The same day at nyght, at the Quene's court, there was a play afore her Grace, the which the plaers plade, shuche matter that they wher commandyd to leyff off, and continently the maske cam in dansing.” The MS. consists of notes of singular events, many of them witnessed by the writer, in the reigns of Edward VI, and Mary, and in the beginning of that of Elizabeth ; but he does not say that he was present at the time the players were commanded to leave off on account of the objectionable nature of the drama they were representing ; neither have we the smallest hint as to the title of the play, but we may perhaps infer that it was political, and, going one step farther, (a considerable step, I admit) we may

suppose that it was the moral play of “ Albion, Knight: those who read what follows will see abundant ground for believing that, if it were exhibited at court, or indeed any where else, in the very outset of the reign of Elizabeth, it could not be acceptable.

It seems not improbable, from the fact that only this fragment has reached us, that after it was printed the piece was suppressed.

According to the registers of the Stationers' Company, 1565 to 1566, Thomas Colwell entered for publication “A mery Playe, botho pythy and pleasaunt, of Albyon Knight;" and there can be little doubt that what follows is a fragment of the

* merry play” which Colwell had printed, and which, very possibly, never was published on account of the offence it had given. It does not touch any points of religious faith, like some of the extant ancient dramas of that period, but it is purely politically didactic. I give it in the words, orthography, and even punctuation, of the original.


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Nay I will taste of other assayes
And spare our dame for holy daies
So that for very neede shee must use her feate
With other of her house, and such as she can geate,
Yet is she not much to blame
Though she increase her husbandes name
Such chyldren to brynge as now yeo see mee
Tall men as I am unworthie though I bee.

Thou spekest lyke a Lorell full larg & full lewdly Tustice.
And not lyke a childe gotten of true matrymony
And yet though thy person enduce no lykelyhode
That in thee shuld be any manhode
Yet besyde that thou scemost of manhode frayle
Because so abused is thy lyght apparaile.

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