« PreviousContinue »
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 ftory fomething like it in the fifth book of Orlando Furiofo: (v. Sir John Harrington's tranflation 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 verfe, 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 circumstances) is apparently the fame.
Romeo and Juliet.
This very affecting ftory 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 Maister 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 use 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 suppose 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 Gascoigne'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 several 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 Tempest 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 else, that can be fuppos'd to have furnish'd Shakspeare with materials for writing
this play the fable of which must therefore pafs for entirely his own production, 'till the contrary can be made appear by any future discovery. One of the poet's editors, after obferving that-the perfons of the drama are all Italians; and the unities all regularly obferv'd in it, a cuftom likewife of the Italians; concludes his note with the mention of two of their plays,-Il Negromante di L. Ariosto, and Il Negromante Palliato di Gio. Angelo Petrucci; one or other of which, he seems to think, may have given rife to the Tempest: but he is mistaken in both of them; and the last must needs be out of the question, being later than Shakspeare's time,
An old ballad, whofe date and time of writing can not be ascertain'd, is the ground work of Titus Andronicus; the names of the perfons acting, and almoft every incident of the play are there in miniature it is, indeed, fo like,-that one might be tempted to fufpect, that the ballad was form'd upon the play, and not that upon the ballad; were it not fufficiently known, that almost all the compofitions of that fort are prior to even the infancy of Shakspeare.
Troilus and Cressida.
The loves of Troilus and Creffida are celebrated by Chaucer whofe poem might, perhaps, induce Shakspeare to work them up into a play. The other matters of that play (hiftorical, or fabulous, call them which you will,) he had out of an ancient book, written and printed firft by Caxton, call'd
-The Deftruction of Troy, in three parts: in the third part of it, are many strange particulars, occurring no where elfe, which Shakspeare has admitted into his play.
Another of Belleforeft's novels is thus intitl'd:"Comme une fille Romaine se vestant en page fervist long temps un fien amy fans eftre cogneue, & depuis l'eut a mary avec autres divers difcours." Hiftoires Tragiques; Tom. 4, Hift. 7. This novel, which is itself taken from one of Bandello's (v. Tom. 2, Nov. 36,) is, to all appearance, the foundation of the serious part of Twelfth-Night: and must be so accounted; 'till fome English novel appears, built (perhaps) upon that French one, but approaching nearer to Shakspeare's comedy.
Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Julia's love-adventures being in fome refpects the fame with thofe of Viola in Twelfth Night, the fame novel might give rife to them both; and Valentine's falling amongst out-laws, and becoming their captain, is an incident that has fome refemblance to one in the Arcadia, (Book I, chap. 6.) where Pyrocles heads the Helots: all the other circumstances which conftitute the fable of this play, are, probably of the poet's own invention.
To the ftory-book, or Pleafant Hiftory (as it is call'd) of Doraftus and Fawnia, written by Robert