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TWELFTH NIGHT, OR WHAT YOU WILL.
TWELFTH Night, Or What You Will, originally appeared in the folio of 1623, being the thirteenth in the list of Comedies. We keep to the order of the Chiswick edition, not so much because of any reason for it, as because we can discover no good reason for departing from it. The arrangement of the first edition seems preferable, simply as being the first; but the change, though made capriciously, may as well stand, till something better than caprice plead for restoration.
In default of positive information, Twelfth Night was for a long time set down as among the last-written of our author's plays. This opinion was based upon such slight indications gathered from the work itself, as could have no weight but in the absence of other proofs. For example, the word undertaker occurs in the play ; therefore Tyrwhitt dated the writing of it in 1614, because the term was that year applied to certain men who undertook to carry matters in Parliament according to the King's liking; their arts and methods probably being much the same as are used by the lobby members of American legislatures : from which Mr. Verplanck very naturally infers that some of the Anglo-Saxon blood still runs in the veins of our republic. Chalmers, however, supposing that reference was had to the undertakers for colonizing Ulster in 1613, assigned the play to that year; and was confirmed therein by the Poet's use of the term Sophy, because the same year Sir Anthony Shirley published his Travels, wherein something was said about the Sophy of Persia. Perhaps it did not occur to either of these men that Shakespeare might have taken up the former word from its general use and meaning, not from any special ap. plications of it; these being apt to infer that it was already understood. Malone at first fixed upon 1614, but afterwards changed it to 1607, because the play contains the expression, “ westwardhoe!” and Dekker's comedy entitled Westward-Hoe came out that year; thus assuming that the play gave currency to the phrase, instead of being so named because the phrase was already common. Several other arguments of like sort were urged in favour of this or that date, - arguments for which the best apology is, that the authors had nothing better to build conjecture upon.
All these inferences have been set aside, and their weakness shown, by a recent discovery. In 1828 Mr. Collier, while delving in the “ musty records of antiquity” stored away in the Museum, – a work not more toilsome to him than gratifying to us, - met with the following memorandum in a Diary preserved among the Harleian Manuscripts :
Feb. 2, 1602. At our feast we had a play called Twelve night or what you will, much like the Comedy of Errors, or Menechmi in Plautus, but most like and near to that in Italian called Inganni. A good practice in it to make the steward believe his lady widow was in love with him, by counterfeiting a letter, as from his lady, in general terms telling him what she liked best in him, and prescribing his gestures, his apparel, &c., and then when he came to practise, making him believe they took him to be mad.”
The authorship of the Diary containing this precious item was unknown to Mr. Collier, till the Rev. Joseph Hunter ascertained it to be the work of John Manningham, a barrister who was entered at the Middle Temple in 1797. The occasion of the performance thus noted down by Manningham was the feast of the Purification, anciently called Candlemas; - an important link in the course of festivities that used to continue from Christmas to Shrovetide. It would seem that the benchers and members of the several Inns were wont to enrich their convivialities with a course of wit and poetry. And the glorious old Temple is yet standing, where one of Shakespeare's sweetest plays was enjoyed by his contemporaries, at a time when this annual jubilee had rendered their minds congenial and apt, and when Christians have so much cause to be happy and gentle and kind, and therefore to cherish the convivial delectations whence kindness and happiness naturally grow. It scarce need be said that a new grace is added to that ancient and venerable structure by this relic of John Manningham, whom a few strokes of the pen have rendered immortal so long after all other memorials of him had been swept away.
Twelfth Night, therefore, was unquestionably written before 1602. That it was not written before 1598, is probable from its not being spoken of in Meres' Palladis Tamia, which came out that year. This probability is heightened almost to certainty by what Maria says of Malvolio in his ludicrous beatitude : « He does smile his face into more lines than are in the new map, with the augmentation of the Indies;” which is evidently an allusion to some contemporary matter, and was so regarded before the date of any such multilineal map was known. It is now ascertained that an English version of Linschoten's Discourse of Voyages, containing a map exactly answering to Maria's description, was published in 1598. The allusion can hardly be to any thing else; and the words new map would seem to infer that the passage was written not long after the appearance of the map in question. Dr. Ulrici and other German critics, thinking Twelfth Night to be glanced at in Ben Jonson's Every Man out of His Humour, which was first acted in 1599, of course conclude the former play to have been made before that date. But we can discover nothing in Jonson's play, that may be fairly construed as an allusion to Twelfth Night.
On the other hand, there is good reason for thinking that the play was not made before 1600. For on the 22d of June that year the Privy Council issued an order laying very severe restrictions upon stage performances. After prescribing “ that there shall be about the city two houses and no more, allowed to serve for the use of common stage plays; of the which houses, one shall be in Surrey, in the place commonly called The Bankside, or thereabouts, and the other in Middlesex;” the order runs thus : « Forasmuch as these stage plays, by the multitude of houses and company of players, have been so frequent, not serving for recreation, but inviting and calling the people daily from their trade and work to misspend their time; it is likewise ordered, that the two several companies of players, assigned unto the two houses allowed, may play each of them in their several houses twice a week, and no oftener : and especially they shall refrain to play on the Sabbath day, upon pain of imprisonment and further penalty. And they shall forbear altogether in the time of Lent, and likewise at such time and times as any extraordinary sickness, or infection of disease, shall appear to be in or about the city.” This paper was directed to the Lord Mayor and the Justices of Middlesex and Surrey, “ strictly charging them to see to the execution of the same;" and it is plain, that if rigidly enforced it would have amounted almost to a total suppression of play-houses, as the expenses of such establishments could hardly have been met, in the face of so great drawbacks.
In Twelfth Night, Act iii. sc. 1, the Clown says to Viola, « But, indeed, words are very rascals, since bonds disgraced them;" which strikes us as a probable allusion to the forecited order. Moreover, the Puritans were especially forward and zealous in urging the complaints which put the Privy Council upon issuing this stringent process; and it will hardly be disputed that the character of Malvolio was meant as a satire upon the virtues of that extraordinary people. That the Poet should be somewhat provoked by their instrumentality in bringing about such tight restraints upon the freedom of his art, was certainly natural enough. And surely it is no slight addition to their many claims on our gratitude, that their characteristic violence against the liberty of
others, and their innate aptness to think, “ because they were vir. tuous, there should be no more cakes and ale," called forth so rich and withal so good-natured a piece of retaliation. And it is a considerable instance of the Poet's equanimity, that he dealt so fairly by them notwithstanding their vexatious assaults, being content merely to play off upon them the divine witchcraft of his genius. Perhaps it should be remarked, that the order in question, though solicited by the authorities of the city, was not enforced; for even at this early date those righteous magistrates had hit upon the method, which they afterwards plied with such fatal success, of stimulating the complaints of discontented citizens, till orders were taken to remove the alleged grievances, and then letting such orders sleep, lest the enforcing thereof should hush those complaints, and thus lose them their cherished opportunities of annoying the Government.
The critics all agree that some outlines of the serious portion of Twelfth Night were drawn, directly or indirectly, from the Italian of Bandello. Several intermediate sources have been pointed out, to which the Poet may have gone ; and among them the English of Barnabe Rich, and the French of Belleforest, either of which might well enough have been the true one. Besides these, two Italian plays have lately been discovered, severally entitled Gľ Inganni and Gl’Ingannati, both also founded upon Bandello, though differing considerably from each other. From the way Manningham speaks. it would seem that Gl Inganni was generally regarded at the time as the original of so much of Twelfth Night as was borrowed : yet the play has less of resemblance to this than to any of the other sources mentioned. The point, however, where they all agree, is in having a brother and sister so much alike in person and habit as to be indistinguishable ; upon which some of the main incidents are made to turn. In Gľ Ingannati there is the further resemblance that Lelia, the heroine, in the disguise of a page serves Flamminio, with whom she is in love, but who is in love with a lady named Isabella ; and that Flamminio employs Lelia to plead his cause with Isabella. Mr. Collier thinks it cannot be said with any certainty, that Shakespeare resorted to either of the Italian plays, though he may have read both while considering the best mode of adapting to the stage the incidents of Bandello's novel. As the leading points which they have in common with Shakespeare are much the same in all the authors in question, perhaps we cannot do better than to give an outline or brief abstract of the tale as told by Barnabe Rich; from which a pretty fair estimate of the Poet's obligations may be easily made out. The events of the story, as will be seen, are supposed to have taken place before Constantinople fell into the hands of the Turks.
A certain duke, named Apolonius, had served a year in the wars against the Turk. Returning homewards by sea, he was
driven by stress of weather to the isle of Cyprus, where he was well received by Pontus the governor, whose daughter Silla fell so deeply in love with him, that after his departure to Constantinople she forsook home in pursuit of him, having persuaded her man Pedro to go along with her. For security against such perils and injuries as are apt to befall young ladies in her situation, she assumed the dress and name of her brother Silvio, who was absent from home when she left. Coming to Constantinople she inquired out the residence of Apolonius, and presented herself before him, craving to be his servant; and he, being well disposed towards strangers and liking her appearance, took her into his service. Her smooth and gentle behaviour soon won his confidence, and her happy diligence in waiting upon him caused her to be advanced above all the rest of his servants in credit and trust.
At this time there dwelt in the city a lady widow named Julina, whose husband had lately died, leaving her large possessions and rich livings, and who, moreover, surpassed all the ladies of Constantinople in beauty. Her attractions of course proved too much for the Duke: he became an earnest suitor to the lady, and employed his new servant to carry his love-tokens and forward his suit. Thus, besides her other aflictions, this piece of disguised sweetness had to endure the greater one of being the instrument to work her own mishap, and of playing the attorney in a cause that made against herself : nevertheless, being altogether desirous to please her master, and caring nothing at all to offend herself, she urged his suit with as much zeal as if it had been her own
her disguise right into the heart of the lady Julina, who at length got so entangled with the often sight of this sweet temptation, that she fell as much in love with the servant as the master was with herself. Thus things went on, till one day Silla, being sent with a message to the lady, began to solicit very warmly for the Duke, when Julina interrupted her, saying, – Silvio, it is enough that you have said for your master : henceforth either speak for yourself, or say nothing at all.
Meanwhile Silla's brother, the right Silvio indeed, had returned home to Cyprus ; and was much grieved to find her missing, whom he loved the more tenderly for that, besides being his own sister, she was so like him in person and feature that no one could distinguish them, save by their apparel. Learning how she had disappeared, and supposing that Pedro had seduced and stolen her away, he vowed to his father that he would not only scek out his sister, but take revenge on the servant. In this mind he departed, and, after seeking through many towns and cities in vain, arrived at Constantinople. One evening, as he was walking for recreation on a pleasant green without the walls of the city, he chanced to meet the lady Julina, who had also gone forth to take the air. Casting her eyes upon Silvio, and thinking him to