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dation 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,
His brother, and to Epidamnum came,
It is probable, that the last of these verses suggested the title of Shakspeare's play.
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.
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 1564; and continu'd his publication successively in several tomes, how many I know not; the dedication to his fifth tome is dated six years after. In that tome, the troiseme Histoire has this title; “ Avec quelle rufe Amleth, qui depuis fut roy de Dannemarch, vengea la mort de son pere Horvuendille, occis par Fengon son frere, & autre occurrence de son histoire." Painter, who has been mention'd before, compil'd his Palace of Pleasure almost entirely from Belleforest, taking here and there a novel as pleas'd him, but he did not translate the whole: other novels, it is probable, were translated by different people, and publish'd singly; this, at least, that we are speaking of, was so, and is intitld-The Historie of Hamblet; it is in quarto, and black letter : there can be no doubt made, by perfons who are acquainted with these things, that the translation is not much younger than the French original ; though the only edition of it, that is yet come to my knowledge, is no earlier than 1608 : that Shakspeare took his play from it, there can likewise be very little doubt.
1 Henry IV.
In the eleven plays that follow --Macbeth, King John, Richard II, Henry IV. two parts, Henry V. Henry VI. three parts, Richard III. and Henry VIII. -the historians of that time, Hall, Holinshed, Stow, and others, and, in particular, Holinshed,) are pretty closely follow'd; and that not only for their matter, but even sometimes in their expreffions : the harangue of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Henry V. that of Queen Catharine in Henry VIII. at her trial, and the king's reply to it, are taken from those chroniclers, and put into
verse : other leffer matters are borrow'd from them; and so largely scatter'd up and down in these plays, that whoever would rightly judge of the poet, must acquaint himself with those authors, and his character will not suffer in the enquiry.
Richard III. was preceded by other plays written upon the same subject; concerning which, see the conclusion of a note in this Introduction, at p. 332. And as to Henry V.-it may not be improper to observe in this place, that there is extant another old play, call's The famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, printed in 1617, quarto ; perhaps by some tricking bookseller, who meant to impose it upon the world for Shakspeare's, who dy'd the year before. This play, which opens with that prince's wildness and robberies before he came to the crown, and so comprehends something of the story of both parts of Henry IV. as well as of Henry V.—is a very medley of nonsense and ribaldry; and, it is my firm belief, was prior to Shakspeare's Henries ; and the identical “ displeasing play” mention'd in the epilogue to 2 Henry IV. ; for that such a play should be written after his, or receiv'd upon any stage, has no face of probability. There is a character in it, call'd—Sir John Oldcaftle; who holds there the place of Sir John Falstaff, but his very antipodes in every other particular, for it is all dullness : and it is to this character that Shakspeare alludes, in those much-disputed passages; one in his Henry IV. p. 194, and the other in the epilogue to his second part ; where the words “ for Oldcastle dy'd a martyr” hint at this miserable performance, and it's fate, which was--damnation.
Lear's distressful story has been often told in poems, ballads, and chronicles : but to none of these are we indebted for Shakspeare's Lear; but to a filly old play which first made its appearance in 1605, the title of which is as follows:-“ The True Chronicle Hi- ftory of King Leir, and his three | daughters, Gonorill, Ragan, / and Cordella. As it hath bene divers and sundry | times lately acted. | LONDON, | Printed by Simon Stafford for John Wright, and are to bee sold at his shop at / Christes Church dore, next Newgate- | Market. 1605. (4o 1. 4b.)—As it is a great curiosity, and very scarce, the title is here inserted at large: and for the same reason, and also to shew the use that Shakspeare made of it, some extracts will now be added.
The author of this Leir has kept him close to the chronicles ; for he ends his play with the reinstating King Leir in his throne, by the aid of Cordella and her husband. But take the entire fable in his own words. Towards the end of the play, at signature H 3, you find Leir in France : upon whose coast he and his friend Perillus are landed in so necessitous a condition, that, having nothing to pay their passage, the mariners take their cloaks, leaving them their jerkins in exchange: thus attir'd, they go up further into the country; and there, when they are at the point to perish by famine, infomuch that Perillus offers Leir his arm to feed upon, they light upon Gallia and his queen, whom the author has brought down thitherward, in progress, disguis’d. Their discourse is overheard by Cordella, who immediately knows them ; but,