Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

originals for his very thoughts and expressions, that we may fairly pronounce him not to have been above borrowing, to spare himself the labour of invention. It is therefore probable, that both these plays, (like that of King Henry V, in which Oldcastle is introduced) were the unsuccessful performances of contem. porary players. Shakspeare saw they were meanly written, and yet that their plans were such as would furnish incidents for a better dramatist. He therefore might lazily adopt the order of their scenes, still writing the dialogue anew, and inserting little more from either piece, than a few lines which he might think worth preserving, or was too much in haste to alter. It is no uncommon thing in the literary world, to see the track of others followed by those who would never have given themselves the trouble to mark out one of their own. Steevens.

It is almost unnecessary to vindicate Shakspeare from being the author of the old Taming of a Shrew. Mr. Pope in consequence of his being very superficially acquainted with the phraseology of our early writers, first ascribed it to him, and on his authority this strange opinion obtained credit for half a century. He might, with just as much propriety, have supposed that our author wrote the old King Henry IV, and V, and The History of King Leir and his three Daughters, as that he wrote two plays on the subject of Taming a Shresu, and two others on the story of King John.-The error prevailed for such a length of time, from the difficulty of meeting with the piece, which is so extremely scarce, that I have never seen or heard of any copy existing but one in the collection of Mr. Steevens, and another in my own: and one of our author's editors [Mr. Capell] searched for it for thirty years in vain. Mr. Pope's copy is supposed to be irrecoverably lost.

I suspect that the anonymous Taming of a Shrew was written about the year 1590, either by George Peele or Robert Greene.

Malone. The following are the observations of Dr. Hurd, on the Induction to this comedy. They are taken from his Notes on the Epistle to Augustus : “ The Induction, as Shakspeare calls it, to The Taming of the Shrew, deserves, for the excellence of its moral design and beauty of execution, throughout, to be set in a just light.

“This Prologue sets before us the picture of a poor drunken beg-. gar, advanced, for a short season, into the proud rank of nobility. And the humour of the scene is taken to consist in the surprise and awkward deportment of Sly, in this his strange and unwonted situation. But the poet had a further design, and more worthy his genius, than this farcical pleasantry. He would expose, under cover of this mimic fiction, the truly ridiculous figure of men of rank and quality, when they employ their great advantages of place and fortune, to no better purposes, than the soft and selfish gratification of their own intemperate passions: Of those, who take the mighty privilege of descent and wealth to live in the freer

indulgence of those pleasures, which the beggar as fully enjoys, and with infinitely more propriety and consistency of character, than their lordships.

"To give a poignancy to his satire, the poet makes a man of quality himself, just returned from the chace, with all his mind intent upon his pleasures, contrive this metamorphosis of the beggar, in the way of sport and derision only; not considering, how severely the jest was going to turn upon himself. His first. reflections, on seeing this brutal drunkard, are excellent:

0! monstrous beast! how like a swine he lies!

“Grim death! how foul and loathsome is thy image! “The offence is taken at human nature, degraded into bestiality; and at a state of stupid insensibility, the image of death. Nothing can be juster than this representation. For these lordly sensu. alists have a very nice and fastidious abhorrence of such ignoble brutality. And what alarms their fears with the prospect of death, cannot choose but present a foul and loathsome image. It is, also, said in perfect consistency with the true Epicurean character, as given by these, who understood it best, and which is here sustained by this--noble disciple. For, though these great masters of wisdom made pleasure the supreme vod, yet they were among the first, as we are told, to cry out against the Asotos ; meaning such gross sensualists: qui in mensam vomunt et qui de conviviis auferuntur, cradique postridie se rursus ingurgit. ant. But as for the mundos, elegantes, optumis cocis, pistoria bus, piscatu, aucupio, venatione, his omnibus exquisitis, vitantes cruditatem, these they complimented with the name of beatos and sapientis. (Cic. de Fin. Lib. II, 8.]

And then, though their philosophy promised an exemption from the terrors of death, yet the boasted exemption consisted only in a trick of keeping it out of the memory by continual dissipation; so that when accident forced it upon them, they could not help, on all occasions, expressing the most dreadful appre. hensions of it.

“ However, this transient gloom is soon succeeded by gayer prospects. My lord bethinks himself to raise a little diversion out of this adventure:

Sirs, I will practise on this drunken man:' And so proposes to have him conveyed to bed, and blessed with all those regalements of costly luxury, in which a selfish opulence is wont to find its supreme happiness.

“ The project is carried into execution. And now the jest begins. Sly, awakening from his drunken nap, calls out as usual for a cup of ale. On which the lord, very characteristically, and (taking the poet's design,* as here explained) with infinite satire, replies :

* To apprehend it thoroughly, it may not be amiss to recollect what the sen. sible Bruyere observes on a like occasion: "Un Grand aime le Champagne, ab. horre la Brie;, il s'enyvre de meillieure vin, que l'homme de peuple: seule difference, que la crapule laisse entre les conditions les plus disproportionees, en. tre le Seigneur, & l'Estaffier." (Tom. II, p. 12.)

"O! that'a mighty man of such descent,

Of such possessions, and so high esteem,

Should be infused with so foul a spirit!'
And again, afterwards:

Oh! noble Lord, bethink thee of thy birth,
* Call home thy ancient thoughts from banislıment ;

* And banish hence these lowly abject themes.' For, what is the recollection of this high descent and large possessions to do for him? And, for the introduction of what better thoughts and nobler purposes, are these lowly abject themes to be discarded? Why the whole inventory of Patrician pleasures is called over; and he hath his choice of whichsoever of them suits best with his lordship's improved palate. A long train of servants ready at his beck: musick, such as twenty caged nightingales do sing : couches, softer and sweeter than the lustful bed of Semiramis: burning odours, and distilled waters: floors bestrewed with car. pets: the diversions of hawks, hounds, and horses : in short, all the objects of exquisite indulgence are presented to him.

“But among these, one species of refined enjoyment, which requires a taste, above the coarse breeding of abject commonalty, is chiefly insisted on. We had a hint of what we were to expect, before :

•Carry him gently to my fairest chamber,

• And hang it round with all my wanton pictures. sc. ii. And what lord, in the luxury of all his wishes, could feign to himself a more delicious collection, than is here delineated? 2 Man. Dost thou love pictures? We will fetch thee straight

Adonis painted by a running brook;
• And Cytherea all in sedges hid;
• Which seem to move and wanton with her breath,

• Even as the waving sedges play with wind. * Lord. We'll show thee Io, as she was a maid;

. And how she was beguiled and surpris’d,

* As lively painted, as the deed was done. *3 Man. Or Daphne, roaming through a thorny wood;

Scratching her legs, that one shall swear, she bleeds :

. So workmanly the blood and tears are drawn.' These pictures, it will be owned, are, all of them, well chosen.* But the servants were not so deep in the secret, as their master. They dwell entirely on circumstantials. While his lordship, who

* Sir Epicure Mammon, indeed, would have thought this an insipid collection; for he would have his rooms,

“Fill'd with such pictures, as Tiberius took
“From Elephantis, and dull Aretine

“But coldly imitated.” Alchemist, Act II, sc. ii. But then Sir Epicure was one of the Asoti, before mentioned. In general, the satiric intention of the poet in this collection of pictures may be further gathered from a similar stroke in Randolph's Muse's Looking-Glass, where, to character. ise the voluptuous, he makes him say:

I would delight my sight
“With pictures of Diana and her nymphs
Naked and bathing;

bad, probably, been trained in the chaste school of Titian, is for coming to the point more directly. There is a fine ridicule implied in this.

“ After these incentives of picture, the charms of beauty itself are presented, as the crowning privilege of his high station:

“Thou hast a lady far more beautiful

•Than any woman in this waning age.' Here, indeed, the poet plainly forgets himself. The state, if not 'the enjoyment, of nobility, surely demanded a mistress, instead of a wife. All that can be said in excuse of this indecorum, is, that he perhaps conceived, a simple beggar, all unused to the refine. ments of high life, would be too much shocked, at setting out with a proposal so remote from all his former practices. Be it as it will, beauty even in a wife, had such an effect on this mock Lord, that, quite melted and overcome by it, he yields himself at last to the inchanting deception:

I see, I hear, I speak;
• I smell sweet savours, and I feel soft things:-

Upon my life, I am a Lord indeed.' The satire is so strongly marked in this last line, that one can no longer doubt of the writer's intention. If any should, let me further remind him that the poet, in this fiction, but makes his Lord play the same game, in jest, as the Sicilian tyrant acted, long ago, very seriously. The two cases are so similar, that some readers may, perhaps, suspect the poet of having taken the whole conceit from Tully. His description of this instructive scenery is given in the following words:

“Visne (inquit Dionysius) Ô Damocle, quoniam te hæc vita delectat, ipse eandem degustare & fortunam experiri meam? Cum se ille cupere dixisset, conlocari jussit hominem in aureo lecto, strato pulcherrimo, textili stragulo magnificis operibus picto: abacosque complures ornavit argento auroque caelato: hinc ad mensam eximia forma pueros delectos jussit consistere, eosque nutum illius intuentes diligenter ministrare: aderant unguenta, coronæ: incendebantur odores: mens& conquisitissimis epulis extruebantur.” [Tusc. Disp. Lib. V, 21.]

“ It follows, that Damocles fell into the sweet delusion of Christophero Sly:

Fortunatus sibi Damocles videbatur.' “The event in these two dramas, was, indeed, different. For the philosopher took care to make the flatterer sensible of his mistake; while the poet did not think fit to disabuse the beggar. But this was according to the design of each. For, the former would show the misery of regul luxury; the latter its vanity. The tyrant, therefore, is painted wretched. And his lordship only a beg. gar in disguise.

To conclude with our poet. The strong ridicule and decorum of this Induction make it appear, how impossible it was for Shakspeare, in his idlest hours, perhaps when he was only revising the trash of others, not to leave some strokes of the master behind him. But the morality of its purpose should chiefly re. commend it to us. For the whole was written with the best de. sign of exposing that monstrous Epicurean position, that the true enjoyment of life consists in a delirium of sensual pleasure. And this in a way the most likely to work upon the great, by showing their pride, that it was fit only to constitute the summum bonum of one

No better than a poor and loathsome beggar.' sc. iii. “Nor let the poet be thought to have dealt too freely with his betters, in giving this representation of nobility. He had the bighest authority for what he did. For the great master of life him. self gave no other of Divinity :

* Ipse pater veri Doctus Epicurus in arte
Fussit & hanc vitam dixit habere Deos."

Petron. c. 132. Steevens. The circumstance on which the Induction to the anonymous play, as well as that to the present comedy, is founded, is related (as Langbaine has observed) by Heuterus, Rerum, Burgund. Lib. iv. The earliest English original of this story in prose that I have met with, is the following, which is found in Goulart's -ADMIRABLE AND MEMORABLE HISTORIES, translated by E. Grimstone, quarto, 1607; but this tale (which Goulart translated from Heuterus) had undoubtedly appeared in English, in some other shape, before 1594:

" Philip, called the good Duke of Bourgundy, in the memory of our ancestors, being at Bruxelles with his Court, and walking one night after supper through the streets, accompanied with some of his favorits, he found lying upon the stones a certaine. artisan that was very dronke, and that slept soundly. It pleased the prince in this artisan to make trial of the vanity of our life, whereof he had before discoursed with his familiar friends. He therefore caused this sleeper to be taken up, and carried into his palace: he commands him to be layed in one of the richest beds; a riche night-cap to be given him: his foule shirt to be taken off, and to have another put on him of fine Holland. When as this dronkard had digested his wine, and began to awake, behold there comes about his bed Pages and Groomes of the Duke's chamber, who drawe the curteines, and make many courtesies, and, being bare-headed, aske him if it please him to rise, and what apparell it would please him to put on that day.- -They bring him rich apparell. This new Monsieur amazed at such courtesie, and doubting whether he dreampt or waked, suffered himselfe to be drest, and led out of the chamber. There came noblemen which saluted him with all honour, and conducted him to the Masse, where with great ceremonie they gave him the booke of the Gospell, and the Pixe to kisse, as they did usually to the Duke. From the Masse, they bring him backe unto the pallace; he washes his bands, and sittes downe at the table well furnished. After dinner, the great Chamberlaine commandes cardes to be brought, with a greate summe of money. This Duke in imagi. Nation playes with the chiefe of the court. Then they carry him

« PredošláPokračovať »