Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

give you many cases of this kind. We are sent for instance to Cinthio for the plot of Measure for Measure, and Shakspeare's judgment hath been attacked for some deviations from him in the conduct of it: when probably all he knew of the matter was from madam Isabella in the Heptameron of Whetstone*. Ariosto is continually quoted for the fable of Much Ado about Nothing: but I suspect our poet to have been satisfied with the Geneura of Turberville +. As you Like It was certainly borrowed, if we believe Dr. Grey, and Mr. Upton, from the Coke's Tale of Gamelyn; which by the way was not printed till a century afterward when in truth the old bard, who was no hunter of MSS. contented himself solely with Lodge's Rosalynd, or Euphues' Golden Legacye, quarto, 1590. The story of All's Well that End's Well, or, as I suppose it to have been sometimes called, Love's Labour Wonnet, is origin ally indeed the property of Boccace §, but it came im mediately to Shakspeare from Painter's Giletta of Narbon Mr. Langbaine could not conceive, whence the story of

$

Lond, 4to. 1582. She reports in the fourth dayes exercise, the rare Historie of Promos and Cassandra, A marginal note informs us, that Whetstone was the author of the Commedie that subject; which likewise might have fallen into the hands of Shakspeare.

on

†The tale is a pretie comicall matter, and hath bin written in English verse some few years past, learnedly and with good grace by M. George Turberuil." Harrington's Ariosto, fol. 1591, p. 39.

See Meres's Wits Treasury, 1598, p. 282.

Our ancient poets are under greater obligations to Boccace, than is generally imagined. Who would suspect, that Chaucer hath borrowed from an Italian the facetious tale of the Miller of Trumpington?

Mr. Dryden observes on the epick performance, Palamon and Arcite, a poem little inferior in his opinion to the Iliad or the Æneid, that the name of its author is wholly lost, and Chaucer is now become the original. But he is mistaken; this too was the work of Boccace, and printed at Ferrara in folio, con il commento di Andrea Bassi, 1475. I have seen a copy of it, and a translation into modern Greek, in the noble library of the very learned and communicative Dr. Askew.

It is likewise to be met with in old French, under the title of La Theseide de Jean Boccace, contenant les belles & chastes amours de deux jeunes Chevaliers Thebains Arcite & Palemon. In the first Vol. of the Palace of Pleasure, 4to. 1566.

Pericles could be taken, not meeting in history with any such Prince of Tyre;" yet his legend may be found at flarge in old Gower, under the name of Appolynus*.

Pericles is one of the plays omitted in the latter editions, as well as the early folios: and not improperly: though it was published many years before the death of Shakspeare, with his name in the title-page. Aulus Gellius informs us, that some plays are ascribed absolutely to Plautus, which he only re-touched and polished; and this is undoubtedly the case with our author likewise. The revival of this performance, which Ben Jonson calls stale and mouldy, was probably his earliest attempt in the drama. I know, that another of these discarded pieces, The Yorkshire Tragedy, hath been frequently called so; but most certainly it was not written by our poet at all: nor indeed was it printed in his life-time. The fact on which it is built, was perpetrated no sooner than 1604+: much too late for so mean a performance from the hand of Shakspeare.

Sometimes a very little matter detects a forgery. You may remember a play called The Double Falsehood, which Mr. Theobald was desirous of palming upon the world for a posthumous one of Shakspeare and I see it is classed as such in the last edition of the Bodleian catalogue. Mr. Pope himself, after all the strictures of Scriblerus, in a letter to Aaron Hill, supposes it of that age; but a mistaken accent determines it to have been written since the middle of the last century:

* Confessio Amantis, printed by T. Berthelet, folio, 1532, p. 175, &c.

"William Caluerly, of Caluerly in Yorkshire, Esquire, murdered two of his owne children in his owne house, then stabde his wife into the body with full intent to haue killed her, and then instantlie with like fury went from his house, to haue slaine his yongest childe at nurse, but was preuented. Hee was prest to death in Yorke the 5 of August, 1604." Edm. Howes' Continuation of John Stowe's Summarie, 8vo. 1607, p. 574. The story appeared before in a 4to pamphlet, 1605. It is omitted in the folio chronicle, 1631.

These, however, he assures Mr. Hill, were the property of Dr. Arbuthnot.

[ocr errors]

This late example

"Of base Henriquez, bleeding in me now,
"From each good aspect takes away my trust."

And in another place,

You have an aspect, sir, of wondrous wisdom."

The word aspect, you perceive, is here accented on the first syllable, which, I am confident, in any sense of it, was never the case in the time of Shakspeare; though it may sometimes appear to be so, when we do not observe a preceding elision.*

Some of the professed imitators of our old poets have not attended to this and many other minutia; I could point out to you several performances in the respective styles of Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare, which the imitated bard could not possibly have either read or construed.

This very accent has troubled the annotators on Milton. Dr. Bentley observes it to be "a tone different from the present use." Mr. Manwaring, in his Treatise of Harmony and Numbers, very solemnly informs us, that "this verse is defective both in accent and quantity, B. III. v. 266:

"His words here ended, but his meek aspect
"Silent yet spake.

[ocr errors]

Here (says he) a syllable is acuted and long, whereas it should be short and graved!"

[ocr errors]

And a still more extraordinary gentleman, one Green, who published a specimen of a new version of the Paradise Lost, into blank verse, by which that amazing work is brought somewhat nearer the summit of perfection," begins with correcting a blunder in the fourth Book, v. 540:

The setting sun

Slowly descended, and with right aspect—

Toitus Levell❜d his evening rays.

stu eit no boll

Not so in the new version:

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

*Thus a line in Hamlet's description of the Player, should

be printed as in the old folios:

"Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspéct." agreeably to the accent in a hundred other places. 2719 bioul » 156day

[ocr errors]

"Meanwhile the setting sun descending slow-
"Level'd with aspect right his ev'ning rays."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Enough of such commentators*.-The celebrated Dr. Dee had a spirit, who would sometimes condescend to correct him, when peccant in quantity: and it had been kind of him to have a little assisted the wights abovementioned. Milton affected the antique; but it may seem more extraordinary, that the old accent should be adopted in Hudibras.

After all, The Double Falshood is superior to Theobald One passage, and one only in the whole play, he pres tended to have written:

Strike up, my masters;

"But touch the with a

[ocr errors]

"Teach sound to languish through the night's dull ear,
"Till melancholy start from her lazy couch,
"And carelessness grow convert to attention."

[ocr errors]

I

These lines were particularly admired; and his vanity could not resist the opportunity of claiming them; but his claim had been more easily allowed to any other part of the performance.

To whom then shall we ascribe it? Somebody hath told us, who should seem to be a nostrum-monger by his argument, that, let accents be how they will, it is called an original play of William Shakspeare in the King's Patent prefixed to Mr. Theobald's edition, 1728, and consequently there could be no fraud in the matter. Whilst, on the contrary, the Irish laureat, Mr. Victor, remarks, (and were it true, it would certainly be decisive) that the plot is borrowed from a novel of Cervantes, not published till the year after Shakspeare's death. But unluckily the same novel appears in a part of Don Quixote, which was printed in Spanish, 1605, and in English by Shelton, 1612-The same reasoning however, which exculpated our author from The Yorkshire Tragedy, may be applied on the present occasion.

[ocr errors]

But you want my opinion:-and from every mark of Atbull m sail & T *

[ocr errors]

* See also a wrong accentuation of the word aspect in Mr. Ireland's unmetrical, ungrammatical, harum-scarum Vortigern, which was damned at Drury Lane theatre, April 1796 the performance of a madman without a lucid interval.

style and manner, I make no doubt of ascribing it to Shirley. Mr. Langbaine informs us that he left some plays in MS.-These were written about the time of the Restoration, when the accent in question was more generally altered.

Perhaps the mistake arose from an abbreviation of the name. Mr. Dodsley knew not that the tragedy of Andromana was Shirley's, from the very same cause. Thus a whole stream of Biographers tells us, that Marston's plays were printed at London, 1633, "by the care of William Shakespeare, the famous comedian."-Here again I suppose, in some transcript, the real publisher's name, William Sheares, was abbreviated. No one hath protracted the life of Shakspeare beyond 1616, except Mr. Hume; who is pleased to add a year to it, in contradiction to all manner of evidence.

Shirley is spoken of with contempt in Mac Flecknoe; but his imagination is sometimes fine to an extraordinary degree. I recollect a passage in the fourth Book of the Paradise Lost, which hath been suspected of imitation, as a prettiness below the genius of Milton: I mean, where Uriel glides backward and forward to heaven on a sun-beam. Dr. Newton informs us, that this might possibly be hinted by a picture of Annibal Caracci in the King of France's cabinet; but I am apt to believe that Milton had been struck with a portrait in Shirley. Fernando, in the comedy of The Brothers, 1652, describes Jacinta at vespers: "Her eye did seem to labour with a tear,

"Which suddenly took birth, but overweigh'd
"With its own swelling, drop'd upon her bosome;
"Which by reflexion of her light, appear'd

As nature meant her sorrow for an ornament:
"After, her looks grew cheerfull, and I saw
"A smile shoot gracefull upward from her eyes,
"As if they had gain'd a victory o'er grief,
"And with it many beams twisted themselves,

[ocr errors]

Upon whose golden threads the angels walk "To and again from heaven.*

* Middleton, in an obscure play called A Game at Chesse, hath some very pleasing lines on a similar occasion:

.66

[ocr errors]

Upon those lips, the sweete fresh buds of youth,

"The holy dewe of prayer lies like pearle,

Dropt from the opening eye-lids of the morne "Upon the bashfulf rose.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »