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stamp, printed about that time. These plays their author, perhaps, might form upon a novel of Cinthio's; (v. Dec. 8, Nov. 5,) which Shakspeare went not to, but took up with Whetstone's fable, as is evident from the argument of it; which, though it be somewhat of the longeft, yet take it in his own words.
"The Argument of the whole
"In the Cyttie of Julio (fometimes under the dominion of Corvinus Kinge of Hungarie and Boemia) there was a law, that what man fo ever committed adultery, fhould lofe his head, & the woman offender, fhould weare fome difguifed apparel, during her life, to make her infamouflye noted. This fevere lawe, by the favour of fome mercifull magiftrate, became little regarded, untill the time of Lord Promos auctority: who convicting, a yong gentleman named Andrugio of incontinency, condemned, both him, and his minion to the execution of this ftatute. Andrugio had a very vertuous, and beawtiful gentlewoman to his fifter, named Caffandra: Caffandra to enlarge her brothers life, fubmitted an humble petition to the Lord Promos: Promos regarding her good behaviours, and fantasying her great beawtie, was much delighted with the fweete order of her talke: and doyng good, that evill might come thereof: for a time, he repryv'd her brother: but wicked man, tourning his liking unto unlawfull luft, he set downe the spoile of her honour, raunfome for her Brothers life: Chafte Caffandra, abhorring both him and his fute, by no perfwafion would yeald to
this raunfome. But in fine, wonne with the importunitye of hir brother (pleading for life:) upon thefe conditions the agreed to Promos. Firft that he should pardon her brother, and after marry her. Promos as fearles in promiffe, as careleffe in performance, with follemne vowe, fygned her conditions but worse than any Infydel, his will fatisfyed, he performed neither the one nor the other for to keepe his authoritye, unfpotted with favour, and to prevent Caffandraes clamors, he commaunded the Gayler fecretly, to present Caffandra with her brother's head. The Gayler, with the outcryes of Andrugio, (abhorryng Promos lewdnes,) by the providence of God, provided thus for his fafety. He prefented Caffandra with a felons head newlie executed, who, (being mangled, knew it not from her brothers, by the Gayler, who was set at libertie) was fo agreeved at this trecherye, that at the pointe to kyl her felfe, the spared that ftroke, to be avenged of Promos. And devyfing a way, the concluded, to make her fortunes knowne unto the kinge. She (executing this refolution) was fo highly favoured of the King, that forthwith he hafted to do juftice on Promos: whofe judgement was, to marrye Caffandra, to repaire her crafed Honour: which donne, for his hainous offence he should lofe his head. This maryage folempnifed, Caffandra tyed in the greatest bondes of affection to her husband, became an earnest suter for his life: the Kinge (tendringe the generall benefit of the cōmon weale, before her special case, although he favoured her much) would not graunt her fute. Andrugio (difguifed amonge the company) forrowing the griefe of his fifter, bewrayde his fafety, and craved pardon. The Kinge, to renowne the vertues of Caffandra, pardoned both
him, and Promos. The circumftances of this rare Historye, in action livelye foloweth.' The play itself opens thus:
"Actus I. Scena 1.
Promos, Mayor, Shirife, Sworde bearer: One with a bunche of keyes: Phallax, Promos man.
“ You Dfficers which now in Julio ftaye,
"Phallax readeth the Kinges Letters Patents, which must be fayre written in parchment, with fome great counterfeat zeale.
"Pro. Loe, here you see what is our Soveraignes wyl,
And thus it proceeds; without one word in it, that Shakspeare could make use of, or can be read with patience by any man living and yet, befides the characters appearing in the argument, his Bawd Clown, Lucio, Juliet, and the Provoft, nay, and even his Barnardine, are created out of hints which this play gave him; and the lines too that are quoted, bad as they are, fuggefted to him the manner in which his own play opens.
Merchant of Venice.
The Jew of Venice was a story exceedingly well known in Shakspeare's time; celebrated in ballads; and taken (perhaps) originally from an Italian book
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 first 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 small 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 translator rightly judges, might poffibly produce the scene of the cafkets, 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 the 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; Shakspeare, in the conduct of Falftaff's love-adventures, made ufe 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 drefs 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 story 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 reft 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 tranflated 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