« PreviousContinue »
intitl'd-Il Pecorone: the author of which calls himself,-Ser Giovanni Fiorentino; and writ his book, as he tells you in fome humorous verses at the beginning of it, in 1378, three years after the death of Boccace; it is divided into giornata's, and the story we are speaking of is in the firft novel of the giornata quarta; edit. 1565, octavo, in Vinegia. This novel Shakspeare certainly read; either in the original, or (which I rather think) in some tranflation that is not now to be met with, and form'd his play upon it. It was tranflated anew, and made publick in 1755, in a fmall octavo pamphlet, printed for M. Cooper: and, at the end of it, a novel of Boccace; (the firft of day the tenth) which, as the tranflator rightly judges, might poffibly produce the scene of the caskets, fubftituted by the poet in place of one in the other novel, that was not proper for the stage.
Merry Wives of Windfor.
"Queen Elizabeth," fays a writer of Shakspeare's life," was fo well pleas'd with that admirable character of Falstaff, in the two parts of Henry the Fourth, that fhe commanded him to continue it for one play more, and to fhew him in love. This is faid to be the occafion of his writing The Merry Wives of Windfor." As there is no proof brought for the truth of this ftory, we may conclude that it is either fome playhouse tradition, or had its rise from Sir William D'Avenant, whofe authority the writer quotes for another fingular anecdote, relating to lord Southampton. Be this as it may; Shakfpeare, in the conduct of Falstaff's love-adventures, made use of fome incidents in a book that has been mention'd before, call'd-Il Pecorone; they are in
the fecond novel of that book. It is highly probable, that this novel likewife is in an old English dress fomewhere or other; and from thence tranfplanted into a foolish book, call'd-The fortunate, the deceiv'd, and the unfortunate Lovers; printed in , 1685, octavo, for William Whittwood; where the reader may fee it, at p. 1. Let me add too, that there is a like ftory in the " Piacevoli Notti, di Straparola, libro primo; at Notte quarta, Favola quarta; edit. 1567, octavo, in Vinegia.
The hiftory of our old poets is fo little known, and the firft editions of their works become fo very scarce, that it is hard pronouncing any thing certain about them: but, if that pretty fantastical poem of Drayton's, call'd-Nymphidia, or The Court of Fairy, be early enough in time, (as, I believe, it is; for I have feen an edition of that author's paftorals, printed in 1593, quarto,) it is not improbable, that Shakspeare took from thence the hint of his fairies: a line of that poem, "Thorough bush, thorough briar," occurs alfo in his play. The rest of the play is, doubtless, invention the names only of Thefeus, Hippolita, and Thefeus' former loves, Antiopa and others, being hiftorical; and taken from the translated Plutarch, in the article-Thefeus.
Much Ado about Nothing.
"Timbree de Cardone deviēt amoureux à Meffine de Fenicie Leonati, & des divers & efträges accidens qui advindrēt avat qu'il l' efpoufaft."-is the title of another novel in the Hiftoires Tragiques of Belle
foreft; Tom. 3. Hift. 18: it is taken from one of Bandello's, which you may see in his first tome, at p. 150, of the London edition in quarto, a copy from that of Lucca in 1554. This French novel comes the nearest to the fable of Much Ado about Nothing, of any thing that has yet been discovered, and is (perhaps) the foundation of it. There is a story something like it in the fifth book of Orlando Furiofo: (v. Sir John Harrington's translation of it, edit. 1591, folio) and another in Spencer's Fairy Queen.
Cinthio, the best of the Italian writers next to Boccace, has a novel thus intitl'd:-" Un Capitano Moro piglia per mogliera una cittadina venetiana, un fuo Alfieri l'accufa de adulterio al [read, il, with a colon after-adulterio] Marito, cerca, che l'Alfieri uccida colui, ch'egli credea l'Adultero, il Capitano uccide la Moglie, è accufato dallo Alfieri, non confeffa il Moro, ma effendovi chiari inditii, è bandito, Et lo fcelerato Alfieri, credendo nuocere ad altri, procaccia à sè la morte miferamente.' Hecatommithi, Dec. 3, Nov. 7; edit. 1565, two tomes, octavo. If there was no tranflation of this novel, French or English; nor any thing built upon it, either in profe or verse, near enough in time for Shakspeare to take his Othello from them; we muft, I think, conclude that he had it from the Italian; for the ftory (at least, in all it's main circumftances) is apparently the fame.
Romeo and Juliet.
This very affecting story is likewise a true one; it made a great noife at the time it happen'd, and
was foon taken up by poets and novel-writers. Bandello has one; it is the ninth of tome the fecond and there is another, and much better, left us by fome anonymous writer; of which I have an edition, printed in 1553 at Venice, one year before Bandello, which yet was not the firft. Some fmall time after, Pierre Boifteau, a French writer, put out one upon the fame fubject, taken from thefe Italians, but much alter'd and enlarg'd: this novel, together with five others of Boifteau's penning, Belleforeft took; and they now ftand at the beginning of his Hiftoires Tragiques, edition beforemention'd. But it had fome prior edition; which falling into the hands of a countryman of ours, he converted it into a poem; altering, and adding many things to it of his own, and publifh'd it in 1562, without a name, in a fmall octavo volume, printed by Richard Tottill; and this poem, which is call'd-The Tragical Hiftorie of Romeus and Juliet, is the origin of Shakspeare's play: who not only follows it even minutely in the conduct of his fable, and that in those places where it differs from the other writers; but has alfo borrow'd from it fome few thoughts, and expreffions. At the end of a fmall poetical mifcellany, publifh'd by one George Turberville in 1570, there is a poem-" On the death of Maifter Arthur Brooke drownde in paffing to New-haven;" in which it appears, that this gentleman, (who, it is likely, was a military man,) was the writer of Romeus and Juliet. In the fecond tome of The Palace of Pleafure, (Nov. 25.) there is a profe tranflation of Boifteau's novel; but Shakspeare made no ufe of it.
Taming of the Shrew.
Nothing has yet been produc'd that is likely to have given the poet occafion for writing this play, neither has it (in truth) the air of a novel, fo that we may reasonably fuppofe it a work of invention; that part of it, I mean, which gives it it's title. For one of it's underwalks, or plots,-to wit, the ftory of Lucentio, in almost all it's branches, (his love-affair, and the artificial conduct of it; the pleasant incident of the Pedant; and the characters of Vincentio, Tranio, Gremio, and Biondello,) is form'd upon a comedy of George Gafcoigne's, call'd-Suppofes, a tranflation from Ariofto's I Suppofiti: which comedy was acted by the gentlemen of Grey's Inn in 1566; and may be feen in the tranflator's works, of which there are feveral old editions and the odd induction of this play is taken from Goulart's Hiftoires admirables de notre Temps; who relates it as a real fact, practis'd upon a mean artifan at Bruffels by Philip the good, duke of Burgundy. Goulart was tranflated into English, by one Edw. Grimefton: the edition I have of it, was printed in 1607, quarto, by George Eld; where this ftory may be found, at p. 587 : but, for any thing that there appears to the contrary, the book might have been printed before.
The Tempeft has rather more of the novel in it than the play that was last spoken of: but no one has yet pretended to have met with fuch a novel; nor any thing elfe, that can be fuppos'd to have furnish'd Shakspeare with materials for writing