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incidents, but is defective in two or three points important to the student of Shakespeare:
In the Cytie of Julio (sometime under the dominion of Corvinus, King of Hungarie and Boemia) there was a law, that what man so ever committed Adultery, should lose his head, and the woman offender should weare some disguised apparell, during her life, to make her infamouslye noted. This severe lawe, by the favour of some mercifull magistrate, 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 statute. Andrugio had a very vertuous and beawtiful Gentlewoman to his Sister, named Cassandra: Cassandra, to enlarge her brothers life, submitted an humble petition to the Lord Promos : Promos regarding her good behaviours, and fantasying her great beawtie, was much delighted with the sweete order of her talke: and doying good, that evil might come thereof, for a time he repryved her brother : but, wicked man, tourning his liking unto unlawfull lust, he set downe the spoile of her honour raunsome for her Brothers life : chaste Cassandra, abhorring both him and his sute, by no persuasion would yeald to this raunsome. But, in fine, wonne with the importunitye of her Brother, (pleading for life,) upon these conditions she agreede to Promos. First that he should pardon her brother, and after marry her. Promos as feareless in promisse, as carelesse in performance, with sollemne vowe, sygned her conditions : but worse then any Infydel, his will satisfyed, he performed neither the one nor the other: for to keepe his aucthoritye, unspotted with favour, and to prevent Cassandrae's clamors, he commaunded the Gayler secretly to present Cassandra with her brother's head. The Gayler, (touched] with the outcryes of Andrugio, abhorrying Promos lewdenes, by the providence of God, provyded thus for his safety. He presented Cassandra with a felons head newlie executed, who (being mangled, knew it not from her brother's, by the Gaylor, who was set at libertie) was so agreeved at this trecherye, that at the pointe to kyl herselfe, she spared that stroke to be avenged of Promos. And, devisyng a way, she concluded to make her fortunes knowne unto the kynge. She (executinge this resolution) was so highly favoured of the king, that forthwith he
abuse of a lewdo Magistrate, the vertuous behaviours of a chaste Ladye, the uncontrowled leawdeness of a favoured Curtisan, and the undeserved Estimation of a pernicious Parasyte: In the second parte is discoursed the perfect Magnanimitye of a noble Kinge, in checking Vice and favouringe Vertue: Wherein is showpe the Ruyne and Overthrowe of dishonest Practises, with the Advauncement of upright Dealing."
Both Whetstone's tale and Cinthio's are printed in Collier's Shakespeare's Library.
hasted to do justice on Promos : whose judgment was, to marrye Cassandra, to repaire her crased honour : which donne, for his hainous offence he should lose his head. This marryage solempnised, Cassandra, 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 common weale, before her special case, although he favoured her much) would not graunt her sute. Andrugio (disguised amonge the company) sorrowing the griefe of his sister, bewrayde his safetye, and craved pardon. The kinge, to renowne the vertues of Cassandra, pardoned both him and Pro
The circumstances of this rare Historye, in action lyvelye followeth."
By this it will be seen that Whetstone improved greatly upon the plot of Cinthio's tale, for dramatic purposes, by causing the brother to be condemned for a far more venial fault than that laid to his charge by the Italian author, and by substituting another prisoner as the victim of the governor's faithless cruelty. Upon Whetstone's plot, Shakespeare again improved by still further mitigating the brother's error, by making the monarch himself the principal agent in working out the denouement, and, above all, by the introduction of another female character, betrothed (which in early times was about the same as married) to the deputy, and whose intervention saves his intended victim from compliance with his conditions, while he is yet made answerable for the same crimes of which he is guilty even in the original Italian story. But Shakespeare not only adopted, with these great improvements, Whetstone's variations from Cinthio's novel : he found in Promos and Cassandra another set of characters, the Bawd, the Fantastic, the Clown, and the Constable, which he also introduced but re-created. He followed, too, in some measure, the arrangement of Whetstone's Scenes, and in certain passages of the earlier play we find the germs of others in the later. Thus, for instance, in these lines,
“ Justice wyll say thou dost no cryme commit,
For in forst faultes is no intent of yll," is the origin of these,
“ Our compell’d sins Stand more for number than accompt.”
So this passage, in a soliloquy by Promos, after Cassandra has yielded to him,
“ No force for that my might commaundeth right;
Hir privie maime hir open cryes will staye,
Or if not so, my frowning will hir fright:
And thus shall rule conceale my filthy deed," is plainly but the counterpart of the following, in Angelo's soliloquy, when he supposes himself to be in a similar position with regard to Isabella :
" But that her tender shame
One of Whetstone's comic characters, too, says,
" A holie hood makes not a frier devoute,” which is but a slight metrical paraphrase of the Latin saw, “ Cucullus non facit monachum,” which Shakespeare puts in Lucio's mouth. These are but a few out of many similar instances; and from all that has gone before, the reader can form his own opinion as to the sort of obligation under which Shakespeare was to Whetstone. He will probably not agree with Mr. Collier, that “Shakespeare was not indebted to Whetstone for a single thought, nor for a casual expression, excepting as far as similarity of situation may be said to have necessarily occasioned corresponding states of feeling and employment of language,” but he may safely rest assured that Promos and Cassandra is about as much like Measure for Measure, as heaps of unshaped clay and pits of sand and lime are like an Elizabethan mansion.
The text of this play is generally well printed in the folio; but it contains several passages which give more trouble to the editor and the reader than any others which occur in that volume. To those not disciplined in the construction of language, and unaccustomed to trace the logical connection of thoughts apparently remote, the style of all the serious parts of Measure for Measure is involved and therefore more or less obscure; and hence the necessity for the explanation of passages which are not in any way corrupted, as well as the difficulty which has been found in restoring those that are, and the supposition by many intelligent editors and commentators that corruption existed in many passages, which, upon a closer and more analytical examination, have been found pure. The versification is rugged and irregular ; but it seems to be so from design, not carelessness. Conjectural emendation is
thrown entirely upon its own resources in restoring some extremely difficult and unquestionably corrupted passages in this play; for it receives no aid from any earlier copy than that of the first folio.
We have no means of determining with great approach to accuracy the time when Measure for Measure was written. That it was written in Shakespeare's maturity, its own profound philosophy, strikingly akin to that of Hamlet, is sufficient evidence: that it had not been produced in 1597, we may feel quite confident, from the omission of it from the enumeration of its author's works in Meres' Palladis Tamia : that it was produced before 1604, we know, from an entry in the accounts of the Revels at Court from October, 1604, to October, 1605, in the following words:
“By his Matis Plaiers. On St. Stivens night in the Hall, a Play caled Mesur for Mesur.”
In a column of the account devoted to " The Poets which mayd the Plaies,” the name of a Mr. “Shaxberd,” apparently not so well known then as it is now, is entered. The passage in the first Scene, which contains a flattering allusion to the disposition of King James to deny his subjects access to his person, has been, with some reason, supposed to fix the date of the production of this play after the accession of that monarch; and although it might have been inserted for the special occasion of the performance at court in 1604, and afterward retained, the supposition jumps so well with the character of the play itself and with our knowledge as to the date of the production of other plays, that we may safely conclude, with Mr. Collier, that Measure for Measure was written either at the close of 1603, or in the beginning of 1604.
The period of the action of this play, which has been hitherto considered, and even pronounced, to be undeterminable, is clearly defined by the first few lines of the second Scene of the first Act, and by our knowledge of the source of the plot. Whetstone tells us, as we have seen, that the incidents took place “in the city of Julio, sometime under the dominion of Corvinus, King of Hungary and Bohemia,” and in his Heptameron the tale begins, “ At what time Corvinus, the scourge of the Turks, rayned as Kinge of Bohemia, for to well governe the free cities of his realme, he sent divers worthy magistrates,” &c.: in the Scene mentioned, Lucio says, “If the Duke, with the other dukes, come not to composition with the King of Hungary, why then all the dukes fall upon the King :” to which the reply is, “ Heaven grant us its peace, but not the King of Hungary's.” Now Corvinus, King of Hungary, was declared King of Bohemia in 1473, and reigned until his death in 1490. He was almost continually at war with the Duke of Austria, Frederic III. (whose court was at Vienna,) and with the Turks. His expeditions were almost always successful against both; and he usually “ conquered a peace” by a very bloody victory, so that his enemies might well pray for Heav. en's peace, “but not the King of Hungary's.” As he marched on Vienna and took it in 1485, the apprehensions expressed by Lucio and his acquaintance enable us to determine almost the very year of the supposed action, an accuracy unattainable with regard to any other of these dramas not founded upon a historical subject. Shakespeare, with his usual tact in adapting his plays to the understanding of his audience, changed Whetstone's unknown city, Julio, to Vienna, a place almost or quite as well known in England then as now. With the place he also changed, of course, the prince whose delegated authority is abused; but he scrupulously retained the costume and all the traits and incidents which marked the period of the story on which he built his comedy, and added two or three allusions not to be found in Whetstone's play or story, as if for the very purpose of giving a local habitation and a time, as well as an air of reality, to this wonderful and admirable creation. * The costume of the characters is
* The reader who is disposed to examine closely the points considered in this Introduction will find them discussed with much greater particularity in Shakespeare's Scholar. Mr. Verplanck's excellent Introduction to the play should also receive his thoughtful attention. The following lines are the principal part of what passes between the brother and sister in Promos and Cassandra, in the interview corresponding to that between Claudio and Isabella in Measure for Measure, Act III. Sc. 1. By comparing them, a correct idea may be formed of the likeness and the difference between the two plays.
“ Cassandra. If thou dost live, I must my honor lose.
Andrugio. And may it be a judge of his account