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The play therefore, as well as the metrical history of Broke, must have departed, in its catastrophe, from the story of Luigi da Porta, in which Juliet awakens from her trance before the death of Romeo. It is probable also that the play misled the English translator, and both Shakspeare; for it is remarkable that Broke, who pretends to translate from Bandello, has deserted his supposed original, which, with regard to the denouement, as in every thing else, precisely copies Da Porta, who, it would seeem, had the honour of improving on a preceding writer by the introduction of this novel and affecting incident.
"The origin of Shakspeare's Romeo and Juliet," observes Mr. Dunlop, "has generally been referred to the Giuletta of Luigi da Porta. Of this tale Mr. Douce has attempted to trace the origin as far back as the Greek romance by Xenophon Ephesius; but when it is considered that this work was not published in the lifetime of Luigi da Porta, I do not think the resemblance so strong as to induce us to believe that it was seen by that novelist. His Giuletta is evidently borrowed from the thirty-second novel of Massucio, which must unquestionably be regarded as the ultimate origin of the celebrated drama of Shakspeare, though it has escaped, as far as I know, the notice of his numerous commentators. In the story of Massucio, a young gentleman, who resided in Sienna, is privately married by a friar to a lady of the same place, of whom he was deeply enamoured. Mariotto, the husband, is forced to fly from his country, on account of having killed one of his fellow-citizens in a squabble in the streets. An interview takes place between him and his wife before the separation. After the departure of Mariotto, Gianozza, the bride, is pressed by her friends to marry: she discloses her perplexing situation to the friar, by whom the nuptial ceremony had been performed. He gives her a soporific powder, which she drinks dissolved in water; and the effect of this narcotic is so strong that she is believed to be dead by her friends, and interred according to custom. The accounts of her death reach her husband in Alexandria, whither he had fled before the arrival of a special messenger, who had been dispatched by the friar to acquaint him with the real posture of affairs. Mariotto forthwith returns in despair to his own country, and proceeds to lament over the tomb of his bride. Before this time she had recovered trom her lethargy, and had set out for Alexandria in quest of her husband, who meanwhile is apprehended and executed for the murder he had formerly committed. Giannozza, finding he was not in Egypt, returns to Sienna, and, learning his unhappy fate, retires to a convent, where she soon after dies. The catastrophe here is different from the novel of Luigi da Porta and the drama of Shakspeare, but there is a perfect correspondence in the preliminary incidents. The tale of Massucio was written about 1470, which was long prior to the age of Luigi da Porta, who died in 1531, or of Cardinal Bembo, to whom some have attributed the greater part of the composition."
With the exception of the incident which distinguishes the close of the story as related by Luigi da Porta, Shakspeare has worked up the materials which preceded his drama with the most astonishing effect; and by the beauty of his sentiments, the justness of his delineation, and the felicity of his language, he has
true a play founded on the story of Romeo and Juliet, appearing on the stage with commendation,' anterior to the time of Shakspeare, is a new discovery for the commentators."
To the notices afforded us by the Commentators on Shakspeare, of the popularity of the story of Romes and Juliet, may be added the following, collected by the industry of Mr. Haslewood. The first is from "The Pleasant fable of Hermaphroditus and Salmacis, by T. Peend, Gent. With a morall in Egish Verse. Anno Domini 1565, Mense Decembris. (Col.) Imprinted at London in Flete streat beneath the Conduyt, at the sygne of S. John Euangeliste, by Thomas Colwell. Oct. 24 leaves."
"And Juliet, Romeus yonge,
for bewty did embrace,
On which lines occurs the following note, at the end of the poem :- Juliet. A noble maiden of the extre Verona in Italye, whyche loued Romeus, eldest soune of the Lorde Montesche, and beinge pryuely moryed together he at last poysoned hymselfe for loue of her. She for sorowe of his deathe, slewe her selfe the same tombe, with hys dagger."-Brit. Bibliographer, vol, ii. p. 344, 347, 349.
The second instance is from a work entitled "Philotimus. The Warre betwixt Nature and Fortune Compiled by Brian Melbancke Student in Graies Inne. Palladi virtutis famula. Imprinted at London by Roger Warde, dwelling neere unto Holborne Conduit at the signe of the Talbot, 1583.” 4to. p. 226
Nowe Priams sone give place, thy Helen's hew is stainde. O Troylus, weepe no more, faire Cressed thyne is lothlye fowle. Nor Hercules thou haste cause to vaunt for thy swete Omphale: nor Romes them hast cause to weepe for Juliets losse." &c.-Brit. Bibliographer, vol. ii. p. 438, 444.
The History of Fiction, vol. ii. p. 339-341 1st edit
drawn the most glowing, pathetic, and interesting picture of disastrous love which the world has yet contemplated.
We perceive the highest tone of enthusiasm, combined with the utmost purity, fidelity, and tenderness, pervading every stage of the intercourse between Romeo and Juliet and, elevated as they are, to an almost perfect ideal representation of the influence of love, so much of actual nature is interwoven with every expression of their feelings, that our sympathy irresistibly augments with the progress of the fable, and becomes at length almost overwhelming. Indeed, such is the force of the appeal which the poet makes to the heart in this bewitching drama, that, were it not relieved by the occasional intervention of lighter emotions, the effect would be truly painful; but, with his wonted fertility of resource, our author has effected this purpose in a manner, which, while it heightens by the power of contrast, at the same time diversifies the picture, and exhilarates the mind. Every hue of many-coloured life, the effervescence of hope, and the hushed repose of disappointment, the bloom of youth, and the withered aspect of age, the intoxication of rapture, and the bitterness of grief, the scintillations of wit, and the speechless agonies of despair, tears and smiles, groans and laughter, are so blended in the texture of this piece, as to produce the necessary relief, without disturbing the union and harmony of the whole, or impairing, in the smallest degree, the gradually augmenting interest which accompanies the hapless lovers to their tomb. What, for instance, can be more opposed to each other, and to the youthful victims of the drama, than the characters of Mercutio, Friar Lawrence, and the Nurse; yet the brilliancy and gaiety of the first, the philosophic dignity of the second, and the humorous garrulity of the third, while they afford a welcome repose to our feelings, are essential to the development of the plot, and to the full display of those scenes of terror and distress which alternately freeze and melt the heart, to the last syllable of this sweet and mournful tale.
Numerous as have been its relators, who has told it like our matchless bard?
"It was reserved for Shakspeare," remarks Schlegel, in a tone of the finest enthusiasm, "to unite purity of heart and the glow of imagination, sweetness and dignity of manners and passionate violence, 'in one ideal picture. By the manner in which he has handled it, it has become a glorious song of praise on that inexpressible feeling which ennobles the soul, and gives to it its bigbest sublimity, and which elevates even the senses themselves into soul, and at the same time is a melancholy elegy on its frailty, from its own nature, and external circumstances; at once the deification and the burial of love. It appears here like a heavenly spark that, descending to the
earth, is converted into a flash of lightning, by which mortal creatures are almost in the same moment set on fire and consumed. Whatever is most intoxicating in the odour of a southern spring, languishing in the song of the nightingale, or voluptuous in the first opening of the rose, is breathed into this poem. But even more rapidly than the earliest blossoms of youth and beauty decay, it hurries on from the first timidly-bold declaration of love and modest return, to the most unlimited passion, to an irrevocable union; then, amidst alternating storms of rapture and despair, to the death of the two lovers, who still appear enviable as their love survives them, and as by their death they have obtained a triumph over every separating power. The sweetest and The bitterest, love and hatred, festivity and dark forebodings, tender embraces and sepulchres, the fulness of life and self-annihilation, are all here brought close to each other; and all these contrasts are so blended in the harmonious and wonderful work, into a unity of impressions, that the echo which the whole leaves behind in the mind, resembles a single but endless sigh."
8. THE TAMING of the Shrew: 1594. Nothing appearing to invalidate the conclusion of Mr. Malone, that this was one of our author's earliest plays, we have adhered to his chronology; for the lines quoted by Mr. Chalmers, in order to establish a posterior date,
"Tis death for any one in Mantua
To come to Padua," &c.
A Course of Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature. By Augustus William Schlegel. Translated from the original German, by John Black. 8vo. 2 vols 1815, vol. i. p. 187, 188.
would, if there be any weight in this instance, procure a similar assignment, as to time, for the Comedy of Errors, where we find a like prohibition of intercourse:"If any Syracusan born
yet no one, in consequence of such a passage, has entertained an idea of ascribing this comedy to the year 1598.
The outline of the induction to this drama may be traced, as Mr. Douce observes, through many intermediate copies, to the "Sleeper Awakened" of the Arabian Nights; but it is most probable, that the immediate source of this prelude, both to the anonymous author of the old Taming of a Shrew, and to Shakspeare himself, was the story-book said by Warton to have been once in the possession of Collins the poet, a collection of short comic tales, "set forth by mayster Richard Edwards, mayster of her Majesties revels," in the year 1570.
From whatever source, however, this apologue may have been directly taken, we cannot but feel highly indebted to Shakspeare for its conversion into a lesson of exquisite moral irony, while, at the same time, it unfolds his wonted richness of humor, and minute delineation of character. The whole, indeed, is conducted with such lightness and frolic spirit, with so many happy touches of risible simplicity, yet chastised by so constant an adherence to nature and verisimilitude, as to form one of the most delightful and instructive sketches.
So admirably drawn is the character of Sly, that we regret to find the interlocution of the group before whom the piece is supposed to be performed, has been dropped by our author after the close of the first scene of the play. Here we behold the jolly tinker nodding, and, at length, honestly exclaiming, "Would't were done!" and, though the integrity of the representation require that he should finally return to his former state, the transformation, as before, being effected during his sleep, yet we hear no more of this truly comic pr sonage; whereas in the spurious play, he is frequently introduced commenting on the scene, is carried off the stage fast asleep, and, on the termination of the drama, undergoes the necessary metamorphosis.
It would appear, therefore, either that our bard's continuation of the induction has been unaccountably lost, or that he trusted the remainder of Sly's part to the improvisatory ingenuity of the performers; or, what is more likely, that they were instructed to copy a certain portion of what had been written, for this subordinate division of the tinker's character, by the author of the elder play. Some of the observations, indeed, of Sly, as given by the writer of this previous comedy, are incompatible with the fable and dramatis persona of Shakspeare's production; and have, consequently, been very injudiciously introduced by Mr. Pope; but there are two passages which, with the exception of but two names, are not only accordant with our poet's prelude, but absolutely necessary to its completion. Shakspeare, as we have seen, represents Sly as nodding at the end of the first scene; and the parts of the anonymous play to which we allude, are those where the nobleman orders the sleeping tinker to be put into his own apparel again, and where he awakens in this garb, and believes the whole to have been a dream; the only alterations required in this finale, being the omission of the Christian appellative Sim, and the conversion of Tapster into Hostess. These few lines were, most probably, those which Shakspeare selected as a necessary accompani ment to his piece, from the old drama supposed to have been written in 1590;" and these lines should be withdrawn from the notes in all the modern editions, and, though distinguished as borrowed property, should be immediately connected with the text. †
"I suspect," says Mr. Malone, "that the anonymous Taming of a Shrew was written about the year 1590, either by George Peele or Robert Greene."
"A very droll print of village society," observes Mr. Felton, "might be taken" from this interinde. "It might represent this worthy tinker, at Marian Hacket's of Wincot, with Stephen Sly, Old John Naps o' th' Green, Peter Turf, and Henry Pimpernell, not as smoking their pipes, (as scarce at that day ta
As to the play itself, the rapidity and variety of its action, the skilful connection of its double plot, and the strength and vivacity of its principal characters, must for ever ensure its popularity. There is, indeed, a depth and breadth of colouring in its execution, a boldness and prominency of relief, which may be thought to border upon coarseness; but the result has been an effect equally powerful and interesting, though occasionally, as the subject demanded, somewhat glaring and grotesque.
Petruchio, Katharina, and Grumio, the most important personages of the play, are consistently supported throughout, and their peculiar features touched and brought forward with singular sharpness and spirit; the wild, fantastic humour of the first, the wayward and insolent demeanour of the second, contrasted with the meek, modest, and retired disposition of her sister, together with the inextinguishable wit and drollery of the third, form a picture, at once rich, varied, and pre-eminently diverting.
9. THE TWO Gentlemen of VERONA: 1595. There can be little doubt that the episode of Felismena, in the "Diana of George of Montemayor," was the source whence the principal part of the plot of this play has been taken; for, though the Translation of Bartholomew Yong was not published until 1598, it appears from the translator's "Preface to divers learned Gentlemen," that it had been completed in the year 1582; "it hath lyen by me finished," he says, "Horace's ten and six yeeres more," a declaration which renders it very probable, that the manuscript may have been circulated among his friends, and the more striking parts impressed upon their memory. But we are further informed, in this very preface, that a partial but excellent version of the Diana had preceded bis labours:
Well might 1," says Yong, "have excused these paines, if onely Edward Paston, Esquier, who heere and there for his own pleasure, as I understand, hath aptly turned out of Spanish into Euglish some leaves that liked him best, had also made an absolute and complete Translation of all the Parts of Diana: the which, for his travell in that countrey, and great knowledge in that language, accompanied with other learned and good parts in him, had of all others, that ever I heard translate these Bookes, prooved the rarest and worthiest to be embraced." We also learn from Dr. Farmer, that the Diana was translated two or three years before 1598, by one Thomas Wilson; but, he adds, "this work, I am persuaded, was never published entirely; perhaps some parts of it were, or the tale might have been translated by others."
These intimations sufficiently warrant the conclusion, that Shakspeare may have become familiar with this portion of the Spanish romance, anterior to the publication of Yong's version in 1598; indeed so closely does the story of Proteus and Julia correspond with the episode of Montemayor, that Shakspeare's obligations cannot be mistaken.
He has copied the original," as Mr. Dunlop observes, "in some minute particulars, which clearly evince the source from which the drama has been derived. As for example, in the letter which Proteus addresses to Julia, her rejection of it when offered by her waiting-maid, and the device by which she afterwards attempts to procure a persual. (Act. i. sc. 2.) In several passages, indeed, the dramatist has copied the language of the pastoral.'
This play, though betraying marks of negligence and haste, especially towards its termination, is yet a most pleasing and instructive composition. There is scarcely a page of it, indeed, that is not pregnant with some just and useful. maxim, and we stand amazed at the blind and tasteless decisions of Hanmer, Theobald, and Upton, who not only disputed the authenticity of this drama, but condemned it as a very inferior production.
So far are these opinions, however, from having any just foundation, that we may safely assert the peculiar style of Shakspeare to be vividly impressed on all
troduced), but drinking their ale in stone-jugs."-Imperfect Hints towards a New Edition of Shakspeare, fart i p. 21. History of Fiction, Ist. edit. vol. iii. p. 131.
the parts of this drama, whether serious or comic; and as to its aphoristic wealth, it may be truly said, with Dr. Johnson, that "it abounds with grou beyond most of his plays, and few have more lines or passages, which, singly considered, are eminently beautiful."
But besides this, justice requires of us to remark, that there is a romantic and pathetic cast, both of sentiment and character, throughout the more elevated parts of this production, which has given to them a peculiar charm. The delineation of Julia in particular, from the gentleness and modesty of her disposition, the ill requital of her attachment, and the hazardous disguise which she assumes, must be confessed to excite the tenderest emotions of sympathy. This is a character, indeed, which Shakspeare has delighted to embody, and which he has further developed in the lovely and fascinating portraits of Viola and Imogen, who, like Julia, forsaken or despised, are driven to the same expedients, and, deserting their native roof, perform their adventurous pilgrimages under similar modes of concealment." A portion also of this romantic enthusiasm has thrown an interest over the characters of Sir Eglamour and Silvia, and evanescent as the part of the former is, we see enough of him to regret that he has not been brought more forward on the canvas. He is represented as a gentleman
“Valiant, wise, remorseful, well accomplished,"
and when Silvia, on the eve of her elopement, solicits his assistance, she thus addresses him:
66 Thyself hast loved; and I have heard thee say,
Act iv. sc. 3.
Nor are the ludicrous scenes less indicative of the hand of Shakspeare, the part of Launce, which forms the chief source of mirth in this play, being supported throughout with undeviating wit and humour, and with an effect greatly superior to that of the comic dialogue of Love's Labour's Lost and The Comedy of Errors. Nor must we forget to remark, that the versification of the Two Gentlemen of Verona is peculiarly sweet and harmonious, and very happily corresponds with the delicacy, simplicity, and tenderness of feeling which have so powerfully shed their never-failing fascination over many of its serious scenes. How exquisitely, for instance, does the rhythm of the following lines coalesce with and expand their sentiment and imagery:—
"Julia. Counsel, Lucetta; gentle girl, assist me!
How, with my honour, I may undertake
A journey to my loving Proteus," &c.
Act ii. sc. 7.
10. KING RICHARd the Third: 1595. It is the conjecture of Mr. Malone, and by which he has been guided in his chronological arrangement, that this play, and King Richard the Second, were written, acted, registered and printed in the year 1597. That they were registered and published during this year, we have indisputable authority; † but that they were written and acted within the same period, is a supposition without any proof, and, to say the least of it, highly improbable.
Mr. Chalmers, struck by this incautious assertion, of two such plays being
*It is remarkable, that a great poet of the present day has exhibited, in his poetical romances, an equal attachment to this mode of disguise. I will here also add, that the compass of English poetry does not, in point of interest, afford any thing more stimulating and attractive than the Dramas of Shakspeare, the Romauces of Scott, and the Tales of Byron.
+ Richard the Second was entered on the Stationers' books, on August 29, 1597; and Richard the Third pn October 20, 1597; and both printed the same year.