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! S. Gimmt noch
beabsichtigt haben konnte, erhellt schon aus den fehlgeschlagenen Bemühungen einzelner Kritiker, das Lustspiel irgendwo in die Reihenfolge der historischen Dramen Shakspere's einzufügen und die Widersprüche zu beseitigen, welche sich jedem derartigen Versuche entgegenstellen. – Mit der Zeitbestimmung, welche sich für die Merry Wives of Windsor aus der unleugbaren Priorität des King Henry IV. ergiebt, stimmt auch der Umstand überein, dass Francis Meres in seiner Palladis Tamia (1598) dies Lustspiel unter den Comedies unseres Dichters nicht erwähnt - ein Stillschweigen, das sich gerade bei diesem von Shakspere's sonstiger Dichtart so durchaus abweichenden, rein komischen Werke füglich nicht anders als durch dessen damaliges Nichtvorhandensein erklären lässt.
Als Quellen, die Shakspere benutzt haben könnte, hat man, da eine bestimmte Quelle sich nicht wohl nachweisen liess, auf verschiedene italienische und aus dem Italienischen in's Englische übersetzte Novellen hingedeutet, von denen indess jede nur einzelne Umstände mit dem Drama und noch dazu nirgends in sehr auffallender Verwandtschaft gemein hat. Am nächsten der Art, wie Falstaff sich um die Frau Ford bewirbt, deren Gatten zu seinem Vertrauten macht und dessen Nachstellungen doch immer glücklich entgeht, kommt noch eine Novelle aus Le tredeci piacevoli Notti del S. Gio. Fr. Straparola, welche in Englischer Bearbeitung sich in Tarlton's Newes out of Purgatorie, 1590, unter dem Titel The Two Lovers of Pisa findet. Wir lassen die erste grössere Hälfte hier folgen:
In Pisa, a famous cittie of Italye, there lived a gentleman of good linage and landes, feared as well for his wealth, as honoured for his vertue; but, indeed, well thought on for both: yet the better for his riches. This gentleman had one onelye daughter, called Margaret, who for her beauty was liked of all, and desired of many: but neither might their sutes, nor her owne pervaile about her fathers resolution, who was determyned not to marrye her, but to such a man as should be able in abundance to maintain the excellency of her beauty. Divers yong gentlemen proffered large feoffments, but in vaine; a maide shee must bee still: till at last an olde doctor in the towne, that professed physicke, became a sutor to her, who was a welcome man to her father, in that he was one of the welthiest men in all Pisa. A tall strippling he was, and a proper youth, his age about fourescore; his heade as white as milke, wherein, for offence sake, there was left never a tooth: but it is no matter; what he wanted in person he had in the pursė; which the poore gentlewoman little regarded, wishing rather to tie herselfe to one that might fit her content, though they lived meanely, then to him with all the wealth in Italye. But shee was yong, and forest to follow her father's direction, who, upon large covenants, was content his daughter should marry with the doctor; and whether she likte him or no, the match was made up, and in short time she was married.
The poore wench was bound to the stake, and had not onely an olde impotent man, but one that was so jealous as none might enter into his house without suspition, nor shee do any thing without blame: the least glance, the smallest countenance, any smile, was a manifest instance to him, that shee thought of others better then himselfe; thus he himselfe lived in a hell, and tormented his wife in as ill perplexitie. As last it chaunced, that a young gentleman of the citie comming by her house, and seeing her look out at her window, noting her rare and excellent proportion, fell in love with her, and that so extreamelye, as his passions had no meanes till her favour might mittigate his heartsicke discontent. The yong man that was ignorant in amorous matters, and had never beene used to courte anye gentlewoman, thought to reveale his passions to some one freend that might give him counsaile for the winning of her love; and thinking cxperience was the surest maister, on a daye seeing the olde doctor walking in the churchethat was Margaret's husband – little knowing who he was, he thought this was the fittest man to whom he might discover his passions, for that hee was olde and kenewe much, and was a physition that with his drugges might helpe him forward in his purposes : so that, seeing the old man walke solitary, he joinde unto him; and, after a curteous salute, tolde him that he was to inpart a matter of great import unto him; wherein, if hee would not onely be secrete, but indevour to pleasure him, his pains should bee every way to the full considered. You must imagine, gentleman, quoth Mutio -- for so was the doctor's name — that men of our profession are no blabs, but hold their secrets in their hearts' bottome; and therefore reveale that you please, it shall not onely be concealed, but cured, if either my heart or counsaile may doo it. Upon this Lionell – 80 was the young gentleman called — told and discourst unto him, from point to point, how he was falne in love with a gentlewoman that was maried to one of his profession; discovered her dwelling and the house; and for that he was unacquainted with the woman, and a man little experienced in love matters, he required his favour to further him with his advise. Mutio, at this motion, was stung to the hart, knowing it was his wife hee was fallen in love withall; yet to conceale the matter, and to experience his wive's chastity, and that if she plaide false, he might be revengde on them both, he dissembled the matter, and answered, that he knewe the woman very well, and commended her highly; but saide she had a churle to her husband, and therefore he thought shee would bee the more tractable. Trie her, man, quoth hee; fainte hart never woone faire lady; and if shee will not be brought to the bent of your bowe, I will provide such a potion as shall dispatch all to your owne content; and to give you further instructions for oportunitie, knowe that her husband is foorth every afternoone from three till size. Thus farre I have advised you, because I pitty your passions, as myselfe being once a lover; but I now charge thee, reveale it to none whomsoever, least it doo
disparage my credit to meddle in amorous matters. The yong gentleman not onely promised all carefull secrecy, but gave him harty thanks for his good counsell, promising to meete him there the next day, and tell him what newes. Then hee left the old man, who was almost mad for feare his wife any way should play false. He saw, by experience, brave men came to besiege the castle; and seeing it was in a woman's custodie, and had so weake a governor as himselfe, he doubted it would in time be delivered up; which feare made him almost franticke, yet he drivde of the time in great torment, till he might heare from his rival. Lionello, he hastes him home, and sutes him in his braverye, and goes downe towards the house of Mutio, where he sees her at her windowe, whome he courted with a passionate looke, with such an humble salute, as shee might perceive how the gentleman was affectionate. Margaretta , looking earnestlye upon him, and noting the perfection of his proportion, accounted him, in her eye, the flower of all Pisa; thinkte herselfe fortunate if shee might have him for her freend, to supply those defaultes that she found in Mutio. Sundry times that afternoone he past by her window, and he cast not up more loving lookes than he received gratious favours: which did so incourage him, that the next daye, betweene three and sixe, hee went to the house, and, knocking at the doore, desired to speake with the mistris of the house, who, hearing by her maid's description what he was, commaunded him to come in, where she interteined him with all courtesie.
The youth that never before had given the attempt to covet a ladye, began his exordium with a blushe; and yet went forward so well, that hee discourst unto her howe hee loved her, and that if it might please her 80 to accept of his service, as of a freende ever vowde in all dutye to bee at her commaunde, the care of her honour should bee deerer to him then this life, and hee would bee ready to prise her discontent with his bloud at all times.
The gentlewoman was a little coye, but before they part they concluded that the next day, at foure of the clock, hee should come thither and eate a pound of cherries, which was resolved on with a succado des labras, and so, with a loath to depart, they tooke their leaves. Lionello, as joyfull a man as might be, hyed him to the church to meete his olde doctor, where hee found him in his olde walke. What newes, syr? quoth Mutio. How have you sped? Even as I can wishe, quoth Lionello; for I have been with my mistrisse, and have found her so tractable, that I hope to make the. olde peasant, her husband, looke broad-headded by a paire of browantlers. How deepe this strooke into Mutio’s hart, let them imagine that can conjecture what jelousie is; insomuch that the olde doctor askte when should be the time. Mary, quoth Lionello, to-morrow at foure of the clocke in the afternoone; and then, maister doctor, quoth hee, will I dub the olde squire konight of the forked order.
Thus they passed on in chat, till it grew late; and then Lyonello went home to his lodging, and Mutio to his house, covering all his sorrowes with a merrye countenance, with full resolution to revenge them both the next day with extremitie. He past the night as patiently as he could, and the next daye after dinner awaye hee went, watching when it should bee four of the cocke. At the houre justly came Lyonello, and was intertained with all curtesie: but scarse had they kist, ere the maide cried out to her mistresse that her maister was at the doore; for he hasted, knowing that a horne was but a litle while in grafting. Margaret, at this alarum, was amazed; and yet, for a shifte, chopt Lyonello into a great drie-fatte full of feathers, and sat her downe close to her woorke. By that came Mutio in blowing; and, as though hee came to looke somewhat in haste, called for the keyes of his chambers, and looked in everye place, searching so narrowlye in everye corner of the house, that he left not the very privie unsearcht. Seeing he could not fade him, heè saide nothing; but, fayning himselfe not well at ease, staide at home, so that poor Lyonello was faine to 'staye in the drifatte till the olde churle was in bed with his wife; and then the maide let him out at a backe doore, who went home with a flea in his eare to his lodging.
Well, the next day he went againe to meete his doctor, whome hee found in his woonted walke. What newes, quoth Mutio? Howe have you sped? A pose of the olde slave, quoth Lyonello; I was no sooner in, and had given my mistrisse one kisse, but the jealous asse was at the doore: the maide spied him, and cryed, her maister! so that the poore gentlewoman, for very shifte, was faine to put me in a driefatte of feathers that stoode in an olde chamber, and there I was faine to tarrie while he was in bed and asleepe, and then the maide let me out, and I departed.
But it is no matter; 'was but a chaunce, and I hope to crye quittance with him ere it be long. As how, quoth Mutio? Marry thus, quoth Lionello: she sent me woord by her maide this daye, that upon Thursday next the olde churle suppeth with a patient of his a mile out of Pisa, and then I feare not but to quitte him for all. It is well, quoth Mutio; fortune bee your freende. I thanke you, quoth Lionello; and so after a little more prattle they departed.
To bee shorte, Thursdaye came; and about sixe of the clocke foorth goes Mutio no further then a freendes house of his, from whence hee might descrye who went into his house. Straight hee sawe Lionello enter in; and after goes hee, insomuche that hee was scarcelye sitten downe before the mayde cryed out againe, my maister comes. The good-wife that before had provided for afterclaps, had found out a privie place between two seelings of a plauncher, and there she thrust Lionello; and her husband came sweting. What news, quoth shee, drives you home againe so soone, husband? Marry, sweete wife, quoth he, a fearefull dreame that I had this night, which came to my remembrance, and that was this: Methought
This night, Marry, suoneros, gruttere she
there was a villeine that came secretly into my house with a naked poinard in his hand, and hid himselfe; but I could not finde the place: with that mine nose bled, and I came backe; and by the grace of God, I will seeke every corner in the house for the quiet of my minde. Marry, I pray you doo, husband, quoth she. With that he lockt in all the doors and began to search every chamber, every hole, every chest, every tub, the very well; he stabd every featherbed through, and made havocke, like a mad man, which made him thinke all was in vaine, and hee began to blame his eies that thought they saw that which they did not. Upon this he rest halfe lunaticke, and all night he was very wakefull; that towarde the morning he fell into a dead sleepe, and then was Lionello conveighed away.