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MR. COLLIER, in his Annals of the Stage, * published in 1831, gives an account of a Diary, in which he found recorded a performance of Shakspeare's Twelfth Night. “ This Diary," he says, “I was fortunate enough to meet with among the Harleian MSS. in the Museum. It was kept by an individual, whose name is nowhere given, but who seems to have been a barrister, and consequently a member of one of the Inns of Court. The dates, which are inserted with much particularity, extend from January, 1600-1, to April, 1603 : and when I state, that it includes original and unpublished anecdotes of Shakspeare, Spenser, Tarleton, Ben Jonson, Marston, Sir John Davis, Sir Walter Raleigh, and others, it will not be disputed that it is a very valuable and remarkable source of information......
“ The period when Shakspeare wrote his Twelfth Night, or What You Will, has been much disputed among the commentators. Tyrwhitt was inclined to fix it in 1614, and Malone was for some years
* Vol. i., pages 327, 328.
of the same opinion : but he afterwards changed the date he had adopted to 1607. Chalmers thought he found circumstances in the play to justify him in naming 1613; but what I am about to state affords a striking, and, at the same time, a rarely occurring and convincing proof, how little these conjectures merit confidence. That comedy was unquestionably written before 1602, for in February of that year it was an established play, and so much liked, that it was chosen for performance, at the Reader's Feast on Candleinas day, at the Inn of Court to which the author of this Diary belonged — most likely the Middle Temple, which, at that date, was famous for its costly entertainments. After reading the following quotation, it is utterly impossible, although the name of the poet be not mentioned, to feel a moment's doubt as to the identity of the play there described and the production of Shakspeare :
« Feb. 2, 1601-2. "At our feast we had a play called Twelve Night, or What you Will, much like the Comedy of Errors, or Menechmi in Plautus, but most like and neere to that in Italian called Inganni. A good practice in it, to make the steward believe his lady widdowe * was in love with him, by counterfayting a letter, as from his lady, in general termes, telling him what she liked best in him, and prescribing his gestures, inscribing his apparaile, &c., and then, when he came to practise, making him believe they took him to be mad.'
“Should the Italian comedy, called Inganni, turn * Olivia is not a widow; but the misprision is of no moment,
up, we shall probably find in it the actual original of Twelfth Night, which it has been hitherto supposed was founded upon the story of Apollonius and Silla, in Barnabe Riche's Farewell to Military Profession, twice printed, viz. : in 1583 and 1606."
Riche’s Farewell was reprinted by the Shakspeare Society in 1846. The editor, after alluding to Bandello's tale of Nicuola and Lattantio, and Belleforest's French version of that tale, says: “It seems more likely that Riche resorted to Bandello; but it is possible that this novel was one of those which had been dramatized before Riche wrote, and if this were the case, it would establish the new and important fact, that a play on the same story as Twelfth Night, had been produced before 1581.
“ Two Italian comedies, upon very similar incidents, one called Inganni, and the other Ingannati, were certainly then in existence, and may have formed the groundwork of a drama, anterior to Shakspeare, in our own language. The names given by Riche to the various personages are not those which occur in Bandello, Belleforest, or the Italian comedies : neither are they the same as any used by Shakspeare. Riche perhaps obtained them from the old English drama.”
If a play on the same subject as Twelfth Night had been produced before 1581, it could scarcely have escaped the notice of the writer of the Diary. As to the two comedies, Gľ Inganni and Gľ Ingannati, the latter was first in time, and claims to be strictly original.
The Ingannati was performed in Siena in 1531; the Inganni at Milan in 1547.* The first has most re* Gľ Inganni, Comedia del Signor N. S. [Sechi], recitata in