Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and his Culex. Noble and great authors demand all our veneration : where their wills can be difcover'd, they ought sacredly to be comply'd with; and that editor ill discharges his duty, whọ prefumes to load them with things they have renounc'd: it happens but too often, that we have other ways to Thew our regard to them ; their own great want of care in their copies, and the still greater want of it that is commonly in their impressions, will find sufficient exercise for any one's friendship, who may wish to see their works set forth in that perfection which was intended by the author. And this friendship we have endeavour'd to shew to Shakspeare in the present edition: the plan of it has been lay'd before the reader; upon whom it refts to judge finally of its goodness, as well as how it is executed: but as several matters have interven'd that may have driven it from his memory; and we are desirous above all things to leave a strong impression upon himn of one merit which it may certainly pretend to, that is it's fidelity; we shall take leave to remind him, at parting, that Throughout all this work, what is added without the authority of some ancient edition, is printed in a black letter : what alter'd, and what thrown out, constantly taken notice of; fome few times in a note, where the matter was long, or of a complex nature ;4 but, more generally, at the bottom of the page; where what is put out of the text, how minute and insignificant foever, is always to be met with; what alter'd, as constantly set down, and in the proper words of that edition upon which the alteration is form’d: and, even in authoriz'd readings, whoever is desirous of knowing further, what edition is follow'd preferably to the others, may be gratify'd too in that, by consulting the Various Readings; which are now finish'd; and will be publish'd, together with the Notes, in some other volumes, with all the speed that is convenient.

4 The particulars that could not well be pointed out below, according to the general method, or otherwise than by a note, are of three sorts ;-omissions, any thing large ; transpositions ; and such differences of punctuation as produce great changes in the sense of a passage: instances of the first occur in Love's Labour's Lost; p. 54, and in Troilus and Crelida, p. 109 and 117; of the second, in The Comedy of Errors, p. 62, and in Richhard III. p. 92, and 102 ; and The Tempest, p. 69, and King

ORIGIN OF SHAKSPEARE'S FABLES.

All's well that ends well. The fable of this play is taken from a novel, of which Boccace is the original author; in whose Decameron it may be seen at p. 97.b of the Giunti edition, reprinted at London. But it is more than probable, that Shakspeare read it in a book, call'd The Palace of Pleasure: which is a collection of novels translated from other authors, made by one William Painter, and by him first publish'd in the years 1565 and 67, in two tomes, quarto; the novel now spoken of, is the thirty-eighth of tome the first. This novel is a meagre translation, not (perhaps)

Lear, p. 53, afford instances of the last; as may be seen by looking into any modern edition, where all those passages ftand nearly as in the old ones.

[All these references are to Mr. Capell's own edition of our author.]

immediately from Boccace, but from a French translator of him : as the original is in every body's hands, it may there be seen that nothing is taken from it by Shakspeare, but some leading incidents of the serious part of his play.

Antony and Cleopatra.

This play, together with Coriolanus, Julius far, and some 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, some few years after it's first appearance, was put into an English dress by our countryman Sir Thomas North, and publish'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 several historical personages; Shakspeare has, with much judgment, introduc'd no small number of speeches into these plays, in the very words of that translator, turning them into verse : which he has so 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) pastoral romance, intitl'da Euphues'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 foundation of As you like it : besides the fable, which is pretty exactly follow'd, the outlines of certain principal characters may be observ'd in the novel : and some expressions of the novelist (few, indeed, and of no great moment,) seem to have taken possession 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 translation,-in which the writer professes to have us’d some liberties, which he has distinguish'd by a particular mark,-is in prose, and a very good one for the time : it furnish'd Shakspeare with nothing but his principal incident; as you may in part see by the translator's argument, which is in verse, and runs thus :

“ Two twinborne sonnes, a Sicill marchant had,
“ Menechmus one, and Soficles the other ;
« The first his father lost a little lad,
• The grandfire namde the latter like his brother :
" This (growne a man) long travell tooke to seeke,
“ His brother, and to Epidamnum came,
“ Where th' other dwelt inricht, and him so like,
“ That citizens there take him for the same;
“ Father, wife, neighbours, each mistaking either,
“ Much pleasant error, ere they meete togither."

It is probable, that the last of these verses suggested the title of Shakspeare's play.

Cymbeline.

Boccace's story of Bernardo da Ambrogivolo, (Day 2, Nov. 9,) is generally suppos'd to have furnith'd Shakspeare with the fable of Cymbeline : but the embracers of this opinion seem not to have been aware that many of that author's novels (translated, 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 second tale in the book : the scene, and the actors of it are different from Boccace, as Shakspeare's are from both; but the main of the story is the same 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 persuaded 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: some reasons for my opinion are given in another place; (v. Winter's Tale) though perhaps they are not necessary, as it may one day better be made appear a true one, by the discovery of some more ancient edition.

Hamlet.

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-Histoires Tragiques; they are in part originals, part translations, and chiefly from Bandello : he began to publish them in the year

« AnteriorContinuar »