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this raunsome. But in fine, wonne with the importunitye of hir brother (pleading for life :) upon these conditions she agreed to Promos. First that he should pardon her brother, and after marry her. Promos as fearles in promisse, as carelesse in performance, with sollemne vowe, sygned her conditions: but worse than any Infydel, his will satisfyed, he performed neither the one nor the other: for to keepe his aucthoritye, unspotted with favour, and to prevent Cassandraes clamors, he commaunded the Gayler secretly, to present Cassandra with her brother's head. The Gayler, with the outcryes of Andrugio, (abhorryng Promos lewdnes,) by the providence of God, provided thus for his safety. He presented Cassandra with a felons head newlie executed, who, (being mangled, knew it not from her brothers, by the Gayler, who was set at libertie) was so agreeved at this trecherye, that at the pointe to kyl her selfe, she spared that stroke, to be avenged of Promos. And devysing a way, she concluded, to make her fortunes knowne unto the kinge. She (executing this resolution) was so highly favoured of the King, that forthwith he hasted to do justice on Promos: whose judgement was, to marrye Cassandra, to repaire her crased Honour: which donne, for his hainous offence he should lose his head. This maryage 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 cōmon 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 safety, and craved pardon. The Kinge, to renowne the vertues of Cassandra, pardoned both
him, and Promos. The circumstances of this rare Historye, in action livelye foloweth." The play itself opens thus:
"Actus I. Scena 1.
Promos, Mayor, Shirife, Sworde bearer: One with a bunche of keyes: Phallax, Promos man.
"You Dfficers which now in Julio Gaye,
"Pro. Loe, here you see what is our Soveraignes wyl,
And thus it proceeds; without one word in it, that Shakspeare could make use of, or can be read with patience by any man living: and yet, besides the characters appearing in the argument, his Bawd Clown, Lucio, Juliet, and the Provost, nay, and even his Barnardine, are created out of hints which this play gave him; and the lines too that are quoted, bad as they are, suggested to him the manner in which his own play opens.
Merchant of Venice.
The Jew of Venice was a story exceedingly well known in Shakspeare's time; celebrated in ballads; and taken (perhaps) originally from an Italian book
intitl'd-Il Pecorone: the author of which calls himself,-Ser Giovanni Fiorentino; and writ his book, as he tells you in some humorous verses at the beginning of it, in 1378, three years after the death of Boccace; it is divided into giornata's, and the story we are speaking of is in the first novel of the giornata quarta; edit. 1565, octavo, in Vinegia, This novel Shakspeare certainly read; either in the original, or (which I rather think) in some translation that is not now to be met with, and form'd his play upon it. It was translated anew, and made publick in 1755, in a small octavo pamphlet, printed for M. Cooper: and, at the end of it, a novel of Boccace; (the first of day the tenth) which, as the translator rightly judges, might possibly produce the scene of the caskets, substituted by the poet in place of one in the other novel, that was not proper for the stage.
Merry Wives of Windsor.
"Queen Elizabeth," says a writer of Shakspeare's life," was so well pleas'd with that admirable character of Falstaff, in the two parts of Henry the Fourth, that she commanded him to continue it for one play more, and to shew him in love. This is said to be the occasion of his writing The Merry Wives of Windsor." As there is no proof brought for the truth of this story, we may conclude that it is either some playhouse tradition, or had its rise from Sir William D'Avenant, whose authority the writer quotes for another singular anecdote, relating to lord Southampton. Be this as it may; Shakspeare, in the conduct of Falstaff's love-adventures, made use of some incidents in a book that has been mention'd before, call'd-Il Pecorone; they are in
the second novel of that book. It is highly probable, that this novel likewise is in an old English dress somewhere or other; and from thence transplanted into a foolish book, call'd-The fortunate, the deceiv'd, and the unfortunate Lovers; printed in 1685, octavo, for William Whittwood; where the reader may see it, at p. 1. Let me add too, that there is a like story in the-" Piacevoli Notti, di Straparola, libro primo; at Notte quarta, Favola quarta; edit. 1567, octavo, in Vinegia.
The history of our old poets is so little known, and the first editions of their works become so very scarce, that it is hard pronouncing any thing certain about them: but, if that pretty fantastical poem of Drayton's, call'd-Nymphidia, or The Court of Fairy, be early enough in time, (as, I believe, it is; for I have seen an edition of that author's pastorals, printed in 1593, quarto,) it is not improbable, that Shakspeare took from thence the hint of his fairies: a line of that poem, "Thorough bush, thorough briar," occurs also in his play. The rest of the play is, doubtless, invention: the names only of Theseus, Hippolita, and Theseus' former loves, Antiopa and others, being historical; and taken from the translated Plutarch, in the article-Theseus.
Much Ado about Nothing.
"Timbree de Cardōne deviet amoureux à Messine de Fenicie Leonati, & des divers & estrāges accidens qui advindrēt avāt qu'il l' espousast."—is the title of another novel in the Histoires Tragiques
of Belleforest; Tom. 3. Hist. 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 story something like it in the fifth book of Orlando Furioso: (v. Sir John Harrington's translation 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 suo Alfieri l'accusa 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 accusato dallo Alfieri, non confessa il Moro, ma essendovi chiari inditii, è bandito, Et lo scelerato Alfieri, credendo nuocere ad altri, procaccia à sè la morte miseramente." Hecatommithi, Dec. 3, Nov. 7; edit. 1565, two tomes, octavo. If there was no translation of this novel, French or English; nor any thing built upon it, either in prose or verse, near enough in time for Shakspeare to take his Othello from them; we must, I think, conclude-that he had it from the Italian; for the story (at least, in all it's main circumstances) is apparently the same.
Romeo and Juliet.
This very affecting story is likewise a true one; it made a great noise at the time it happen'd, and