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immediately from Boccace, but from a Frenchtranflator of him: as the original is in every body's hands, it may there be feen-that nothing is taken from it by Shakspeare, but fome leading incidents of the serious part of his play.
Antony and Cleopatra.
This play, together with Coriolanus, Julius Cæfar, and fome part of Timon of Athens, are form'd upon Plutarch's Lives, in the articles-Coriolanus, Brutus, Julius Cæfar, and Antony of which lives there is a French tranflation, of great fame, made by Amiot, Bishop of Auxerre and great almoner of France; which, fome few years after it's firft appearance, was put into an English drefs by our countryman Sir Thomas North, and publifh'd in the year 1579, in folio. As the language of this tranflation is pretty good, for the time; and the fentiments, which are Plutarch's, breathe the genuine spirit of the feveral hiftorical perfonages; Shakspeare has, with much judgment, introduc'd no small number of speeches into thefe plays, in the very words of that tranflator, turning them into verfe: which he has fo well wrought up, and incorporated with his plays, that, what he has introduc'd, cannot be discover'd by any reader, 'till it is pointed out for him.
As you like it.
A novel, or (rather) paftoral romance, intitl'dEuphues's Golden Legacy, written in a very fantaftical style by Dr. Thomas Lodge, and by him first publish'd in the year 1590, in quarto, is the foun
dation of As you like it: befides the fable, which is pretty exactly follow'd, the outlines of certain principal characters may be obferv'd in the novel : and fome expreffions of the novelift (few, indeed, and of no great moment,) feem to have taken poffeffion of Shakspeare's memory, and from thence crept into his play.
Comedy of Errors.
Of this play, the Menæchmi of Plautus is most certainly the original: yet the poet went not to the Latin for it; but took up with an English Menæchmi, put out by one W. W. in 1595, quarto. This tranflation,-in which the writer profeffes to have us'd fome liberties, which he has diftinguish'd by a particular mark,—is in profe, and a very good one for the time: it furnish'd Shakspeare with nothing but his principal incident; as you may in part fee by the tranflator's argument, which is in verfe, and runs thus:
"Two twinborne fonnes, a Sicill marchant had,
"The grandfire namde the latter like his brother :
"Where th' other dwelt inricht, and him fo like,
It is probable, that the last of these verfes fuggefted the title of Shakspeare's play.
Boccace's ftory of Bernardo da Ambrogivola, (Day 2, Nov. 9,) is generally fuppos'd to have furnish'd Shakspeare with the fable of Cymbeline: but the embracers of this opinion feem not to have been aware, that many of that author's novels (tranflated, or imitated,) are to be found in English books, prior to, or contemporary with, Shakspeare and of this novel in particular, there is an imitation extant in a story-book of that time, intitl'd-Westward for Smelts: it is the fecond tale in the book: the fcene, and the actors of it are different from Boccace, as Shakspeare's are from both; but the main of the story is the fame in all. We may venture to pronounce it a book of those times, and that early enough to have been us'd by Shakspeare, as I am perfuaded it was; though the copy that I have of it, is no older than 1620; it is a quarto pamphlet of only five sheets and a half, printed in a black letter: fome reafons for my opinion are given in another place; (y. Winter's Tale) though perhaps they are not neceffary, as it may one day better be made appear a true one, by the difcovery of fome more ancient edition.
About the middle of the fixteenth century, Francis de Belleforest, a French gentleman, entertain'd his countrymen with a collection of novels, which he intitles-Hiftoires Tragiques; they are in part originals, part tranflations, and chiefly from Bandello: he began to publish them in the year
1564; and continu'd his publication fucceffively in feveral tomes, how many I know not; the dedication to his fifth tome is dated fix years after. In that tome, the troifieme Hiftoire has this title; "Avec quelle rufe Amleth, qui depuis fut roy de Dannemarch, vengea la mort de fon pere Horvuendille, occis par Fengon fon frere, & autre occurrence de fon hiftoire." Painter, who has been mention'd before, compil'd his Palace of Pleafure almoft entirely from Belleforeft, taking here and there a novel as pleas'd him, but he did not tranflate the whole other novels, it is probable, were tranflated by different people, and publifh'd fingly; this, at leaft, that we are fpeaking of, was fo, and is intitl'd-The Hiftorie of Hamblet; it is in quarto, and black letter: there can be no doubt made, by perfons who are acquainted with these things, that the translation is not much younger than the French original; though the only edition of it, that is yet come to my knowledge, is no earlier than 1608: that Shakspeare took his play from it, there can likewise be very little doubt.
1 Henry IV.
In the eleven plays that follow,-Macbeth, King John, Richard II. Henry IV. two parts, Henry V. Henry VI. three parts, Richard III. and Henry VIII. -the hiftorians of that time, Hall, Holinfhed, Stow, and others, (and, in particular, Holinfhed,) are pretty closely follow'd; and that not only for their matter, but even fometimes in their expreffions: the harangue of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Henry V. that of Queen Catharine in Henry VIII. at her trial, and the king's reply to it, are taken from thofe chroniclers, and put into
verse other leffer matters are borrow'd from them; and fo largely scatter'd up and down in these plays, that whoever would rightly judge of the poet, must acquaint himself with thofe authors, and his character will not fuffer in the enquiry.
Richard III. was preceded by other plays written upon the same subject; concerning which, fee the conclufion of a note in this Introduction, at p. 332. And as to Henry V.-it may not be improper to obferve in this place, that there is extant another old play, call'd The famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, printed in 1617, quarto; perhaps by fome tricking bookfeller, who meant to impofe it upon the world for Shakspeare's, who dy'd the year before. This play, which opens with that prince's wildness and robberies before he came to the crown, and fo comprehends fomething of the ftory of both parts of Henry IV. as well as of Henry V.-is a very medley of nonfenfe and ribaldry; and, it is my firm belief, was prior to Shakspeare's Henries; and the identical "difpleafing play" mention'd in the epilogue to 2 Henry IV.; for that such a play fhould be written after his, or receiv'd upon any stage, has no face of probability. There is a character in it, call'd-Sir John Oldcastle; who holds there the place of Sir John Falstaff, but his very antipodes in every other particular, for it is all dullness and it is to this character that Shakspeare alludes, in those much-disputed paffages; one in his Henry IV. p. 194, and the other in the epilogue to his fecond part; where the words "for Oldcastle dy'd a martyr" hint at this miferable performance, and it's fate, which was--damnation.