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PERICLES, PRINCE OF TYRE.
MR. Douce observes that the very great popularity of this play in former times may be supposed to have originated from the interest which the story must have excited. To tracc the fable beyond the period in which the favourite romance of Apollonius Tyrius was composed, would be a vain attempt: that was the probable original; but its author nothing decisive has been discovered. Some have maintained that it was originally written in Greek, and translated into Latin by a Christian about the time of the decline of the Roman empire; others have given it to Symposius, a writer whom they place in the eighth century, because the riddles which occur in the story are to be found in a work entitled Symposii Ænigmata. It occurs in that storehouse of popular fiction the Gesta Romanorum, and its antiquity is sufficienily evinced by the existence of an Anglo Saxon version, mentioned in Wanley's list, and now in Bene't College, Cambridge. One Constantine is said to have translated it into modern Greek verse, about the year 1500, (this is probably the MS. mentioned by Dufresne in the index of authors appended to bis Greek Glossary), and afterwards printed at Venice in 1563. It had been printed in Latin prose at Augsburg in 1471, which is probably as early as the first dateless impression of the Gesta Romanorom.*)
A very curious fragment of an old metrical romance subject was in the collection of the late Dr. Farmer, and is now in my possession. This we have the authority of Mr. Tyrwhitt for placing at an earlier period than the time of Gower. The fragment consists of two leaves of parchment, which had been converted into the cover of a book, for which purpose its edges were cut off, some words entirely lost, and the whole has suffered so much by time as to be scarcely legible. Yet I have considered it 80 curious a relic of our early poetry and language that I have
*) Towards the latter end of the twelfth century Godfrey of Viterbo, in his Pantheon, or Universal Chronicle, inserted this
as part of the history of the third Antiochus, about two hundred years before Christ. It begins thus (MS Reg. '14, c. xi.] :
Filia Seleuci stat clara decore
Res habet effectum, pressa puella dolet. The rest is in the same meire, with one pentameter only to two hexameters.'— Tyrwhitt.
bestowed some pains in deciphering what remains, and have given a specimen or iwo in the notes toward the close of the play. I will here exhibit a further portion, comprising the name of the writer, who appears to have been Thomas Vicary, of Winborn Minster, in Dorsetsbire. The portion 1 have given will continue the story of Appolonius (the Pericles of the play):
Wit hys wyf in gret solas
-the kyodom of Antioche
--that he louede dure,
- hys soule to God al myght
Amen pr Charite.
This story is also related by Gower in bis Confessio Amantis, lib. vii. p. 175–185, edit. 1554. Most of the incidents of the play are found in his narration, and a few of his expressions are occasionally borrowed. Gower, by his own acknowledgment, took bis story froin the Pantheon of Godfrey of Viterbo; and the author of Pericles professes to have followed Gower.
Chaucer also refers to the story in The Man of Lawe'r Prologue:
• Or elles of Tyrius Appolonius,
That is so horrible a tale for to rede,' &c. A French translation from the Latin prose, evidently of the fifteenth century, is among the Royal MSS. in the British Museum, 20, c. ii. There are several more recent French translations of the story: one under the title of “La Chronique d'Appolin Roi de Thyr, 4to. Geneva, blk. 1. no date. Another by Gilles Corrozet, Paris, 1530, 8vo. It is also printed in the seventh vol. of the Histoires Tragiques de Belleforest, 12mo. 160+; and, modernized by M. Le Brun, was printed at Amsterdam in 1710 and Paris in 1711. 120. There is an abstract of the story in the Mélanges tirées d'une grande Bibliothèque, vol. Ixiv. p. 265.
The first English prose version of the story, translated by Robert Coplaud, was printed by Wynkyn de Worde, 1510. It was again translated by T. Twine, and originally published by W. Howe, 1576. of this there was a second impression in 1607, under the title of The Patterne of painful Adventures, containing the most excellent, pleasant, aud variable Historie of the strange Accidents that befel unto Prince Appolonius, the Lady Lucina his Wife, and Tharsia his Daughter, &c. translated into English by T. Twine, Gent. The poet seems to have made use of this prose narration as well as of Gower.
“That the greater part, if not the whole, of this drama, was the composition of Shakspeare, and that it is to be considered as his earliest dramatic effort, are positions, of which the first bas been rendered highly probable by the elaborate disquisitions of Messrs. Steevens and Malone, and may possibly be placed in a clearer point of view by a more condensed and lucid arrangement of the testimony already produced, and by a further discussion of the merits and peculiarities of the play itself; while the second will, we trust, receive additional support by inferences legitimately deduced from a comprehensive survey of scattered and hitherto insulated premises.'
The evidence required for the establishment of a high degree of probability under the first of these positions, necessarily divides itself into two parts; the external and the internal evidence. The former commences with the original edition of Pericles, which was entered on the Stationer's books by Edward Blount, one of the printers of the first folio edition of Shakspeare's plays, on the 20th of May, 1608, but did not pass the press until the subsequent year, when it was published, not, as inight have been expected, by Blount, but by one Henry Gosson, who placed Shakspeare's name at full length in the title page. It is worihy of remark, also, that this edition was entered at Stationers' hall, together with Antony and Cleopatra, and that it (and the three following editions, which were also in quarto ) was styled in the title-page the much admired play of Pericles. As the eniry, however, was by Blount, and the edition by Gosson, it is probable that the former had been anticipated by the latter, through the procurance of a playhouse copy. it may also be added, that Pericles was performed at Shakspeare's own theatre, The Globe. The next ascription of this play to our author is in a poem entitled The Times Displayed, in Six Sestyads,