« PreviousContinue »
MR. POPE supposed the story of this play to have been borrowed from a novel of Boccace; but he was mistaken, as an imitation of it is found in an old story-book entitled Westward for Smelts. This imitation differs in as many particulars from the Italian novelist, as from Shakspeare, though they concur in some material parts of the fable. It was published in a quarto pamphlet 1603. This is the only copy of it which I have hitherto seen.
There is a late entry of it in the books of the Stationers' Company, Jan. 1619, where it is said to have been written by Kitt of Kingston. Steevens.
The tale in Westward for Smelts, which I published some years ago, I shall subjoin to this play. The only part of the fable, however, which can be pronounced with certainty to be drawn from thence, is, Imogen's wandering about after Pisanio has left her in the forest; her being almost famished; and being taken at a subsequent period, into the service of the Roman General as a page. The general scheme of Cymbeline is, in my opinion, formed on Boccace's novel (Day 2, Nov. 9,) and Shakspeare has taken a circumstance from it, that is not mentioned in the other tale. See Act II, sc. ii. It appears from the preface to the old translation of the Decamerone, printed in 1620, that many of the novels had before received an English dress, and had been printed separately: "I know, most worthy lord, (says the printer in his Epistle Dedicatory) that many of them [the novels of Boccace] have long since been published before, as stolen from the original author, and yet not beautified with his sweet style and elocution of phrase, neither savouring of his singular morall applications."
Cymbeline, I imagine, was written in the year 1605. The king from whom the play takes its title began his reign, according to Holinshed, in the 19th year of the reign of Augustus Cæsar; and the play commences in or about the twenty-fourth year of Cymbeline's reign, which was the forty-second year of the reign of Augustus, and the 16th of the Christian era: notwithstanding which, Shakspeare has peopled Rome with modern Italians; Philario, Iachimo, &c. Cymbeline is said to have reigned thirty-five years, leaving at his death two sons, Guiderius and Arviragus.
An ancient translation, or rather a deformed and interpolated imitation, of the ninth novel of the second day of the Decameron of Boccacio, has recently occurred. The title and colophon of this rare piece, are as follows:
"This mater treateth of a merchautes wyfe that afterwarde went lyke a ma and becam a great lorde and was called Frederyke of Jennen afterwarde."
"Thus endeth this lytell story of torde Frederyke. Imprỹted i Anwarpe by me John Dusborowhge, dwellynge besyde ye Camer porte in the yere of our lorde god a. M.CCCCC. and xviij."
This novel exhibits the material features of its original; though the names of the characters are changed, their sentiments debased, and their conduct rendered still more improbable than in the scenes before us. John of Florence is the Ambrogiulo, Ambrosius of Jennens the Bernabo of the story. Of the translator's elegance of imagination, and felicity of expression, the two following instances may be sufficient. He has converted the picturesque mole under the left breast of the lady, into a black wart on her left arm; and when at last, in a male habit, she discovers her sex, instead of displaying her bosom only, he obliges her to appear before the King and his whole court completely "naked, save that she had a karcher of sylke before hyr members."-The whole work is illustrated with wooden cuts representing every scene throughout the narrative.
I know not that any advantage is gained by the discovery of this antiquated piece, unless it serves to strengthen our belief that some more faithful translation had furnished Shakspeare with incidents which, in their original Italian, to him at least were inaccessible. Steevens.
Cymbeline, king of Britain.
Cloten, son to the queen by a former husband.
sons to Cymbeline, disguised under the names
Philario, friend to Posthumus, 2
A French gentleman, friend to Philario.
Caius Lucius, general of the Roman forces.
Cornelius, a physician.
Queen, wife to Cymbeline.
Imogen, daughter to Cymbeline by a former queen.
Helen, woman to Imogen.
Lords, ladies, Roman senators, tribunes, apparitions, a soothsayer, a Dutch gentleman, a Spanish gentleman musicians, officers, captains, soldiers, messengers, and
Sometimes in Britain; sometimes in Italy.
ACT I.....SCENE I.
Britain. The Garden behind Cymbeline's Palace.
1 Gent. You do not meet a man, but frowns: our bloods
No more obey the heavens, than our courtiers;
1 You do not meet a man, but frowns: our bloods No more obey the heavens than our courtiers;
Still seem, as does the king's.] The thought is this: we are not now (as we were wont) influenced by the weather, but by the king's looks. We no more obey the heavens [the sky] than our courtiers obey the heavens [God]. By which it appears that the reading-our bloods, is wrong. For though the blood may be affected with the weather, yet that affection is discovered not by change of colour, but by change of countenance. And it is the outward not
the inward change that is here talked of, as appears from the word We should read therefore:
No more obey the heavens, &c.
which is evident from the precedent words:
You do not meet a man but frowns.
And from the following:
"Although they wear their faces to the bent
The Oxford editor improves upon this emendation, and reads: our looks
No more obey the heart, ev'n than our courtiers.
But by venturing too far, at a second emendation, he has stript it of all thought and sentiment. Warburton
This passage is so difficult, that commentators may differ concerning it without animosity or shame. Of the two emendations proposed, Sir Thomas Hanmer's is the most licentious; but he makes the sense clear, and leaves the reader an easy passage Dr. Warburton has corrected with more caution, but less improvement: his reasoning upon his own reading is so obscure and perplexed, that I suspect some injury of the press. I am now to tell my opinion, which is, that the lines stand as they were origi nally written, and that a paraphrase, such as the licentious and
But what 's the matter?
1 Gent. His daughter, and the heir of his kingdom,
abrupt expressions of our author too frequently require, will make emendation unnecessary. We do not meet a man but frowns; our bloods -our countenances, which, in popular speech, are said to be regulated by the temper of the blood,-no more obey the laws of heaven,-which direct us to appear what we really are,—than our courtiers-that is than the bloods of our courtiers; but our bloods, like theirs,-still seem as doth the king's. Johnson.
In The Yorkshire Tragedy, 1608, which has been attributed to Shakspeare, blood appears to be used for inclination:
"For 'tis our blood to love what we are forbidden." Again, in King Lear, Act IV, sc. ii:
"To let these hands obey my blood."
In King Henry VIII, Act III, sc. iv, is the same thought:
subject to your countenance, glad, or sorry,
"As I saw it inclin'd."
I would propose to make this passage clear by a very slight alteration, only leaving out the last letter:
You do not meet a man but frowns: our bloods
No more obey the heavens, than our courtiers
That is, Still look as the king does; or, as he expresses it a little differently afterwards:
wear their faces to the bent
"Of the king's look." Tyrwhitt.
The only error that I can find in this passage is, the mark of the genitive case annexed to the word courtiers, which appears to be a modern innovation, and ought to be corrected. The meaning of it is this:-"Our dispositions no more obey the heavens than our courtiers do; they still seem as the king's does." The obscurity arises from the omission of the pronoun they, by a common poetical licence. M. Mason.
Blood is so frequently used by Shakspeare for natural disposition, that there can be no doubt concerning the meaning here. So, in All's Well that Ends Well:
"Now his important blood will nought deny
See also Timon of Athens, Act IV, sc. ii, Vol. XV.
I have followed the regulation of the old copy, in separating the word courtiers from what follows, by placing a semicolon after it. "Still seem," for "they still seem," or "our bloods still seem," is common in Shakspeare. The mark of the genitive case, which has been affixed in the late editions to the word courtiers, does not appear to me necessary, as the poet might intend to say"than our courtiers obey the heavens:" though, it must be owned, the modern regulation derives some support from what follows: