Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

But it had been easy to have checked Mr. Upton's exultation, by obferving, that Bargulus does not appear in the quarto.-Which alfo is the case with some fragments of Latin verses, in the different parts of this doubtful performance.

It is fcarcely worth mentioning, that two or three more Latin paffages, which are met with in our author, are immediately transcribed from the story or chronicle before him. Thus, in Henry V. whofe right to the kingdom of France is copiously demonftrated by the Archbishop:

There is no bar

To make against your highness' claim to France,
But this which they produce from Pharamond:
In terram Salicam mulieres nè fuccedant ;
No woman fhall fucceed in Salike land:
Which Salike land the French unjustly gloze
To be the realm of France, and Pharamond
The founder of this law and female bar.
Yet their own authors faithfully affirm,
That the land Salike lies in Germany,

Between the floods of Sala and of Elve, &c.

Archbishop Chichelie, fays Holinfhed, "did much inueie against the surmised and false fained law Salike, which the Frenchmen alledge euer against the kings of England in barre of their just title to the crowne of France. The very words of that fuppofed law are these, In terram Salicam mulieres ne fuccedant, that is to faie, Into the Salike land let not women fucceed; which the French gloffers expound to be the realm of France, and that this law was made by king Pharamond: whereas yet their owne authors affirme, that the land Salike is in Germanie, betweene the rivers of Elbe and Sala," &c. P. 545.

It hath lately been repeated from Mr. Guthrie's Effay upon English Tragedy, that the portrait of Macbeth's wife is copied from Buchanan, "whose spirit, as well as words, is translated into the play of Shakspeare: and it had signified nothing to have pored only on Holinshed for facts.”

"Animus etiam, per fe ferox, prope quotidianis conviciis uxoris (quæ omnium confiliorum ei erat confcia) ftimulabatur."-This is the whole, that Buchanan fays of the lady; and truly I fee no more spirit in the Scotch, than in the English chronicler. "The wordes of the three weird fifters also greatly encouraged him, [to the murder of Duncan] but specially his wife, lay fore upon him to attempt the thing, as fhe that was very ambitious, brenning in unquenchable defire to beare the name of a queene." Edit. 1577, P. 244.

This part of Holinshed is an abridgment of Johne Bellenden's tranflation of the noble clerk, Hector Boece, imprinted at Edinburgh, in fol. 1541. I will give the pasfage as it is found there. "His wyfe impacient of lang tary (as all wemen are) specially quhare they ar defirus of ony purpos, gaif hym gret artation to pursew the thrid weird, that fche micht be ane quene, calland hym oft tymis febyl cowart and nocht defyrus of honouris, fen he durft not affailze the thing with manheid and curage, quhilk is offerit to hym be beniuolence of fortoun. Howbeit findry otheris hes affailziet fic thinges afore with maist terribyl jeopardyis, quhen they had not fic sickernes to fucceid in the end of thair lauboris as he had." P. 773.

But we can demonftrate, that Shakspeare had not the story from Buchanan. According to him, the weïrdfifters falute Macbeth, "Una Angufiæ Thamum, altera Moraviæ, tertia regem."--Thane of Angus, and of Murray, &c. but according to Holinfhed, immediately

from

from Bellenden, as it ftands in Shakspeare: "The first of them spake and fayde, All hayle Makbeth, thane of Glammis, the fecond of them faid, Hayle Makbeth, thane of Cawder; but the third fayde, All hayle Makbeth, that hereafter shall be king of Scotland." P. 243.

1 Witch. All hail, Macbeth] Hail to thee, thane of Glamis ! 2 Witch. All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Cawdor! 3 Witch. All hail, Macbeth! that fhalt be king hereafter !

Here too our poet found the equivocal predictions, on which his hero fo fatally depended. "He had learned of certain wyfards, how that he ought to take heede of Macduffe ;——and furely hereupon had he put Macduffe to death, but a certaine witch whom he had in great trust, had tolde, that he fhould neuer be flain with man born of any woman, nor vanquished till the wood of Bernane came to the caftell of Dunfinane." P. 244. And the scene between Malcolm and Macduff in the fourth act is almost literally taken from the Chronicle.

Macbeth was certainly one of Shakspeare's latest productions, and it might poffibly have been suggested to him by a little performance on the fame fubject at Oxford, before king James, 1605. I will tranfcribe my notice of it from Wake's Rex Platonicus: "Fabulæ anfam dedit antiqua de Regiâ profapiâ hiftoriola apud ScotoBritannos celebrata, quæ narrat tres olim Sibyllas occurriffe duobus Scotia proceribus, Macbetho & Banchoni, & illum prædixiffe Regem futurum, fed Regem nullum geniturum; hunc Regem non futurum, fed Reges geniturum multos. Vaticinii veritatem rerum eventus comprobavit. Banchonis enim è ftirpe potentiffimus Jacobus oriundus." P. 29.

A ftronger argument hath been brought from the plot of Hamlet. Dr. Grey and Mr. Whalley affure us, that for

I 4

for this, Shakspeare must have read Saxo Grammaticus in Latin, for no translation hath been made into any modern language. But the truth is, he did not take it from Saxo at all; a novel called The Hyftorie of Hamblet, was his original: a fragment of which, in black letter, I have been favoured with by a very curious and intelligent gentleman, to whom the lovers of Shakspeare will fome time or other owe great obligations.

It hath indeed been faid, that "IF fuch an history exists, it is almost impoffible that any poet unacquainted with the Latin language (fuppofing his perceptive faculties to have been ever fo acute,) could have caught the characteristical madnefs of Hamlet, defcribed by Saxe Grammaticus, fo happily as it is delineated by Shakspeare."

Very luckily, our fragment gives us a part of Hamlet's fpeech to his mother, which fufficiently replies to this obfervation:" It was not without caufe, and jufte occa fion, that my geftures, countenances and words feeme to proceed from a madman, and that I defire to haue all men esteeme mee wholy depriued of fence and reasonable understanding, bycause I am well affured, that he that hath made no confcience to kill his owne brother, (accustomed to murthers, and allured with defire of gouernement without controll in his treafons,) will not fpare to faue himfélfe with the like crueltie, in the blood, and flesh of the loyns of his brother, by him maffacred: and therefore it is better for me to fayne madneffe then to use my right fences as nature hath beftowed them upon me, The bright fhining clearnes therof I am forced to hide vnder this fhadow of diffimulation, as the fun doth hir beams vnder fome great cloud, when the wether in fummer time ouercafteth: the face of a mad man, ferueth to couer my gallant countenance, and the gestures of a fool are fit for me, to the end that guiding my felf wifely ther

in

in I may preferue my life for the Danes and the memory of my late deceased father, for that the defire of reuenging his death is fo ingrauen in my heart, that if I dye not shortly, I hope to take fuch and so great vengeance, that thefe countryes fhall for euer speake thereof. Neuertheless I must stay the time, meanes, and occafion, left by making ouer great haft, I be now the cause of mine own sodaine ruine and ouerthrow, and by that meanes, end, before I beginne to effect my hearts defire: hee that hath to doe with a wicked, difloyall, cruell, and discourteous man, must vse craft, and politike inuentions, such as fine witte can best imagine, not to discouer his interprise: for feeing that by force I cannot affect my defire, reason alloweth me by diffimulation, fubtiltie, and fecret practifes to proceed therein."

But to put the matter out of all question, my communicative friend above mentioned, Mr. Capell, (for why fhould I not give myself the credit of his name?) hạth been fortunate enough to procure from the collection of the duke of Newcastle, a complete copy of the Hyftorie of Hamblet, which proves to be a tranflation from the French of Belleforeft; 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 : fentiments 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 fcarcely conceivable, how industriously the puritanical zeal of the laft age exerted itself in destroying, amongst better things, the innocent amusements of the former. Numberless Tales and Poems are alluded to in old books, which are now perhaps no where to be found.

Mr.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »