« ZurückWeiter »
lation from the French of Belleforest; 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: sentiments 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 scarcely conceivable, how industriously the puritanical zeal of the last 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. Capell informs me, (and he is, in these matters, the most able of all men to give information,) that our author appears to have been beholden to some novels, which he hath yet only seen in French or Italian: but he adds, “to say they are not in some English dress, prosaic or metri. cal, and perhaps with circumstances nearer to his stories, is what I will not take upon me to do: nor indeed is what I be. lieve; but rather the contrary, and that time and accident will bring some of them to light, if not all.”—
W. Painter, at the conclusion of the second Tome of his Pa. lace of Pleasure, 1567, advertises the reader, “bicause sodaynly (contrary to expectation) this volume is risen to a greater heape of leaues, I doe omit for this present time sundry nouels of mery deuise, reseruing the same to be joyned with the rest of an other part, wherein shall succeede the remnant of Bandello, specially sutch (suffrable) as the learned French man Fsançois de Belleforest hath selected, and the choysest done in the Italian. Some also out of Erizzo, Ser Giouanni Florentino, Parabosco, Cynthio, Straparole, Sansouino, and the best liked out of the Queene of Nauarre, and other authors. Take these in good part, with those that haue and shall come forth."-But I am not able to find that a third Tome was ever published: and it is very probable, that the interest of his booksellers, and more especially the prevailing mode of the time, might lead him afterward to print his sundry novels separately. If this were the case, it is no wonder, that such fugitive pieces are recovered with difficulty; when the two Tomes, which Tom. Rawlinson would have called justa volumina, are almost annihilated. Mr. Ames, who searched after books of this sort with the utmost avidity, most certainly had not seen them, when he published his Typographical Antiquities, as appears from his blunders about them: and possibly I myself might have remained in the same predicament, had I not been favoured with a copy by my generous friend, Mr. Lort.
Mr. Colman, in the Preface to his elegant translation of Te. rence, hath offered some arguments for the learning of Shakspeare, which have been retailed with much confidence, since the appearance of Mr. Johnson's edition.
“Besides the resemblance of particular passages scattered up and down in different plays, it is well known, that the Comedy of Errors-is in great measure founded on the Menechmi of Plautus; but I do not recollect ever to have seen it observed, that the disguise of the Pedant in The Taming of the Shrew, and his assuming the name and character of Vincentio, seem to be evi. dently taken from the disguise of the Sycophanta in the Trinummus of the said author;* and there is a quotation from the Eu
* This observation of Mr. Colman is quoted by his very ingenious colleague, Mr. Thornton, in his translation of this play: who further remarks, in another part of it, that a passage in Romeo and Juliet, where Shakspeare speaks of the contradiction in the nature of love, is very much in the manner of his author:
“ Amor-mores hominum moros & morosos efficit.
Love makes a man a fool, “ Hard to be pleas’d.- What you'd persuade him to, “He likes not, and embraces that, from which “ You would dissuade him.-What there is a lack of, “ That will he covet; when 'tis in his power,
“ He 'll none on 't.-"Act III, sc. iii. Let us now turn to the passage in Shakspeare:
O brawling love! O loving hate! “O heavy lightness! serious vanity!
Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms! “Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!
Still-waking sleep! that is not what it is!" Shakspeare, I am sure, in the opinion of Mr. Thornton, did not want à Plautus to teach him the workings of nature; nor are his parallelisms produced with any such implication: but, I suppose, a peculiarity appears here in the manner of expression, which however was extremely the humour of the age. Every sonnetteer characterises love by contrarieties. Watson begins one of his canzonets,
“Love is a sowre delight, a sugred griefe,
“A living death, an euer-dying life,” &c. Turberville makes Reason harangue against it in the same man
“A fierie frost, a flame that frozen is with ise!
“ Loue it is an hatefull pees
nuch of Terence also, so familiarly introduced into the dialogue of The Taming of the Shrew, that I think it puts the question of Shakspeare's having read the Roman comick poets in the original language out of all doubt,
“Redime te captum, quam queas, minimo.' With respect to resemblances, I shall not trouble you any further.—That the Comedy of Errors is founded on the Menechmi, it is notorious: nor is it less so, that a translation of it by W.W. perbaps William Warner, the author of Albion's England, was extant in the time of Shakspeare;* though Mr. Upton, and some other advocates for his learning, have cautiously dropt the mention of it. Besides this, (if indeed it were different) in the Gesta Grayorum, the Christmas Revels of the Grays-Inn Gentlemen, 1594, “a Comedy of Errors like to Plautus his Menechmus was played by the Players.” And the same hath been suspected to be the subject of the goodlie Comedie of Plautus, acted at Greenwich before the King and Queen in 1520; as we learn from Hall and Holinshed:-Riccoboni highly compliments the English on opening their stage so well; but unfortunately, Cavendish in his Life of Wolsey, calls it, an excellent Interlude in Latine. About the same time it was exhibited in German at Nuremburgh, by the celebrated Hanssach, the shoemaker.
“But a character in The Taming of the Shrew is borrowed from the Trinummus, and no translation of that was extant."
Mr. Colman indeed hath been better employed: but if he had met with an old comedy, called Supposes, translated from Ariosto
“ And health full of maladie
“Rest that trauaileth night and daie,” &c. This kind of antithesis was very much the taste of the Provençal and Italian poets; perhaps it might be hinted by the Ode of Sappho, preserved by Longinus: Petrarch is full of it:
“ Pace non trovo, & non hò da far guerra,
Sonetto 105. Sir Thomas Wyat gives a translation of this Sonnet, without any notice of the original, under the title of “ Description of the contrarious passions in a Louer,” amongst the Songes and Sonettes, by the Earle of Surrey, and Others, 1574.
It was published in 4to. 1595. The printer of Langbaine, p. 524, hath accidentally given the date, 1515, which hath been copied implicitly by Gildon, Theobald, Cooke, and several others. Warner is now almost forgotten, yet the old criticks esteemed him one of “ our chiefe heroical makers.”-Meres informs us, that he had “heard him termed of the best wits of both our Universities, our English Homer.”
by George Gascoigne;* he certainly would not have appealed to Plautus. Thence Shakspeare borrowed this part of the plot, (as well as some of the phraseology) though Theobald pronounces it his own invention: there likewise he found the quaint name of Petruchio. My young master and his man exchange habits and characters, and persuade a Scenæse, as he is called, to personate the father, exactly as in the Taming of the Shrew, by the pretended danger of his coming from Sienna to Ferrara, contrary to the order of the government.
Still, Shakspeare quotes a line from the Eunuch of Terence: by memory too, and what is more, “purposely alters it, in order to bring the sense within the compass of one line." -This remark was previous to Mr. Johnson's; or indisputably it would not have been made at all.- “Our author had this line from Lilly; which I mention that it may not be brought as an argument of his learning." “But how,” cries an unprovoked antagonist,
can you take upon you to say, that he had it from Lilly, and not from Te. rence?”f I will answer for Mr. Johnson, who is above answering for himself.—Because it is quoted as it appears in the grammarian, and not as it appears in the poet.—And thus we have done with the purposed alteration. Udall likewise in his Floures for Latin speaking, gathered out of Terence, 1560, reduces the passage to a single line, and subjoins a translation.
We have hitherto supposed Shakspeare the author of the Taming of the Shrew, but his property in it is extremely disputable. I will give you my opinion, and the reasons on which it is founded. I suppose then the present play not originally the work of Shakspeare, but restored by him to the stage, with the whole Induction of the Tinker, and some other occasional improvements; especially in the character of Petruchio. It is very obvious, that the induction and the play were either the works of different hands, or written at a great interval of time: the former is in our author's best manner, and the greater part of the latter in his worst, or even below it. Dr. Warburton declares it to be certainly spurious: and without doubt, supposing it to have been written by Shakspeare, it must have been one of his earliest productions; yet it is not mentioned in the list of his works by Meres in 1598.
I have met with a facetious piece of Sir John Harrington,
* His works were first collected under the singular title of “ A hundredth sindrie Flowres bounde up in one small Poesie. Gathered partly (by translation) in the fyne outlandish gardins of Euripides, Ouid, Petrarke, Ariosto, and others: and partly by inuention, out of our own fruitefull orchardes in Englande: yelding sundrie sweet sauors of tragical, comical, and morall discourses, bothe pleasaunt and profitable to the well smellyng noses of learned readers.” Black letter, 4to. no date.
† W. Kenrick’s Review of Dr. Johnson's edit. of Shakspeare, 1765, 8vo. p. 105.
printed in 1596, (and possibly there may be an earlier edition) called, The Metamorphosis of Ajax, where I suspect an allusion to the old play: “Reade the booke of Taming a Shrew, which hath made a number of us so perfect, that now every one can rule a shrew in our countrey, save he that hath hir.” —I am aware, a modern linguist may object, that the word book does not at present seem dramatick, but it was once almost technically so: Gosson, in his Schoole of Abuse, "contayning a pleasaunt inuective against Poets, Pipers, Players, Jesters, and such like Caterpillars of a common-wealth," 1579, mentions “twoo prose bookes plaied at the Belsauage;" and Hearne tells us in a note at the end of William of Worcester, that he had seen a MS. in the nature of a play or interlude, intitled, The Booke of Sir Thoinas Moore."'*
* I know indeed, there is extant a very old poem, in black letter, to which it might have been supposed Sir John Harrington alluded, had he not spoken of the discovery as a new one, and recommended it as worthy the notice of his countrymen: I am persuaded the method in the old bard will not be thought either. At the end of the sixth volume of Leland's Itinerary, we are fuvoured by Mr. Hearne with a Macaronick poem on a battle at Oxford between the scholars and the townsmen: on a line of which,
“Invadunt aulas bycheson cum forth geminantes," our commentator very wisely and gravely remarks: “ Bychesoni, id est, son of a byche, ut è codice Rawlinsoniano edidi. Eo nempe modo quo et olim whorson dixerunt pro son of a whore. Exempla habemus cum alibi tum in libello quodam lepido & antiquo (inter codices Seldenianos in Bibl. Bodl.) qui inscribitur: The wife lapped in Morelos Skin: or the Taming of the Shrew. Ubi pag. 36, sic legimus:
“They wrestled togyther thus they two
“So long that the clothes asunder went. “And to the ground he threwe her tho,
“ That cleane from the backe her smock he rent. “ In every hand a rod he gate,
“And layd upon her a right good pace: “ Asking of her what game was that,
“ And she cried out, Horeson, alas, alas." Et pag. 42:
“Come downe now in this seller so deepe,
“ And morels skin there shall you see:
“ When the blood ranne downe fast by my knee.
“ And ran out of the seller as she had been wood. “She came to the table where the company was,
“And say'd out, horeson, I will see thy harte blood."