Imatges de pÓgina

part of the Tempest is founded on that sort of philosophy which was practised by John Dee and his associates, and has been called the Rosicrucian. The name Ariel came from the Talmudistick mysteries with which the learned Jews had infected this science. T. WARTON.

Mr. Theobald tells us that The Tempest must have been written after 1609, because the Bermuda Islands, which are mentioned in it, were unknown to the English until that year; but this is a mistake. He might have seen in Hackluyt, 1600, folio, a description of Bermuda, by Henry May, who was shipwrecked there in 1593.

It was however one of our author's last works. In 1598, he played a part in the original Every Man in his Humour. Two of the characters are Prospero and Stephano. Here Ben Jonson taught him the pronunciation of the latter word, which is always right in The Tempest:

"Is not this Stephano my drunken butler?"

And always wrong in his earlier play, The Merchant of Venice, which had been on the stage at least two or three years before its publication in 1600:

"My friend Stephano, signify, I pray you," &c.

-So little did Mr. Capell know of his author, when he idly supposed his school literature might perhaps have been lost by the dissipation of youth, or the busy scene of publick life! FARMER.

This play must have been written before 1614, when Jonson sneers at it in his Bartholomew Fair. In the latter plays of Shakspeare, he has less of pun and quibble than in his early ones. In The Merchant of Venice, he expressly declares against them. This perhaps might be one criterion to discover the dates of his plays. BLACKSTONE.

See Mr. Malone's Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays, and a Note on "The cloud-capp'd towers," &c. Act IV. STEEVENS.

A hope has long been entertained, that at some time or other the romance or tale might be found, that furnished Shakspeare with the materials on which he formed this beautiful comedy. But after having ascertained the precise fact that unquestionably gave rise to it, and after the perusal of some rare and curious pieces of his age, of which a more particular account will presently be given, I am firmly persuaded that no such tale or romance will ever be found, or indeed ever existed.

In constructing many other plays, our poet frequently formed his drama on some story that he met with, either adopting it as he found it, or making some alterations; and in both cases, generally adding some new and original characters of his own invention. Such we know was the process in the formation of TwelfthNight, All's Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure, The Winter's Tale, and some others. But here, as we have already

seen, the title and part of the story were suggested to him by the tremendous tempest, which, in July, 1609, dispersed the fleet carrying supplies from England to the infant colony in Virginia, and wrecked the vessel in which Sir George Somers and the other principal commanders had sailed, on one of the Bermuda islands. In strict propriety, the circumstances attending that disaster, having furnished an important part of the story of the piece before us, ought now to be recited in the first place; but as it was necessary to state them minutely in a former volume for the purpose of ascertaining its date, I shall here only refer the reader to the Essay, in which a very ample detail of them may be found.* The occurrence of the tempest, from the extraordinary circumstances which attended it, and the interest that it excited in a numerous body of his contemporaries, [forced] itself upon his notice; and yet supplied him with but a single, though important event. Hence, before it could be used for a dramatick purpose, it became necessary to form a fable that would accord with this incident; for surely it must be allowed to be in the highest degree improbable, that, just when the occasion demanded it, he should have found a tale corresponding in its principal parts with the story of The Tempest, as we now have it; in which an usurper was represented as having been assailed at sea by a furious storm, similar in its effects to that in his contemplation, and wrecked on an enchanted and almost desert island, inhabited only by a savage, an aërial spirit, a young lady, and her father, the rightful prince, whom that usurper had despoiled of his dukedom. It follows, therefore, that our poet, on this occasion, must have taken a course somewhat different from what he usually pursued; and that, in order to avail himself of the popular topick thus presented to him, he was under the necessity of adopting such incidents as he could either invent or quickly find, taking care that they should sufficiently harmonize with the particular fact on which he had already determined to write a play.

Of that part of the story which was suggested by the disastrous storm above mentioned, enough has already been said; and with respect to all the rest of the fable, it was, I am persuaded, in a great measure, of his own invention; set on work and aided in a slight degree, partly by a play written about twenty years before by one of his dramatick predecessors, whose reputation then stood extremely high, and to whom he has other similar obligations; partly, by the sixth metrical tale of George Turberville, one of the most distinguished poets of his time; and partly by the popular histories of voyages of discovery with which Shakspeare doubtless was perfectly conversant.

* See An Attempt to ascertain the Chronology of Shakspeare's plays, vol. ii. Art. Tempest.

That it may be seen whether what I have now suggested be well founded, it will be necessary to review the principal circumstances that occur in The Tempest, of which the story is shortly this:

Prospero, Duke of Milan, being fond of study and retirement, delegates his power in a great measure to his younger brother, Antonio, who confederates with Alonso, King of Naples, in order to deprive his elder brother of his dukedom, and to obtain it absolutely for himself; and to induce that King to assist him in effectuating this unjust and wicked scheme, he promises to pay tribute, and to do homage, to Naples, or, in other words, to make Milan a fief to that crown. Alonso having agreed to assist him on that condition, by their joint efforts: Prospero, who was extremely popular, and whom therefore they could not venture to kill, was hurried away with his daughter Miranda, the heir of his dukedom, and at three years old first put on board a bark, and finally into an old and rotten boat without sail or hulling, with only some fresh water and a scanty supply of provisions, together with a few books and some of his more costly and splendid garments, with which he was furnished by the humanity of Gonzalo, an old courtier. By the Divine mercy they arrived safely on a desert island, about twelve years before the commencement of the play. Miranda being at that time an infant, had no recollection of ever having seen a man. On this island, on which they found no human creature but a savage named Caliban, their mansion was only a poor cell, where Prospero amused his solitary hours with educating and instructing his daughter.

Alonso, who had been his inveterate enemy, having agreed to marry his daughter Claribel to the King of Tunis, for that purpose goes thither by sea, accompanied by his brother Sebastian, his son Ferdinand, his daughter already mentioned, and some of his courtiers; together with Antonio, the usurping Duke of Milan. Having left the lady with her husband at Tunis, they embarked again in several ships, intending to return to Naples; and after sailing for some time, they came near the island on which the banished Duke of Milan and his daughter lived. Prospero, who had studied the necromantick art, and therefore could at his pleasure command the elements, finding his enemies now in his power, raises a great tempest, that wrecks the King's ship only, which is safely lodged in a deep nook of the isle, so that none of the passengers are lost. The rest of the fleet, after having been dispersed by the storm, meet in consort, and return in great grief to Naples, supposing that the vessel which carried the King was lost, and, consequently, that he had perished.

Ferdinand, the King's son, by the management of Prospero, being separated from his father, and landed on a different part of the island, Alonso, supposing him drowned, is plunged in extreme

grief for his loss. Ferdinand, however, being preserved, is by Prospero's art brought to the same part of the island where he and Miranda reside; and on seeing the lady falls at once in love with her. She is no less struck with him; and after some little difficulty, Prospero consents to their marriage.

In the mean while he confines Alonso, and those who had landed with him, in a lime-grove near his cell, under the charge of one of his spirits named Ariel. After having for some time, punished his brother Antonio, and his confederate the King of Naples, together with their followers, who, being terrified by demons, become distracted, his generous nature inclines him to pardon them all; which he accordingly does, extending the same mercy to Caliban and his accomplices, who had conspired to murder him; and after having shown them his power by " an airy charm," he resolves to break his staff, to drown his book, and to abjure the necromantick art for ever. He then gives Alonso the pleasing intelligence of the safety of his son, and his marriage to Miranda, and introduces them to their father; and having informed the King that he would accompany him to Naples, to be present at the solemnization of the marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda, and afterwards resume his dukedom at Milan, he concludes the play by an Epilogue soliciting the favour of the audience.

Independent of the magick of this comedy, and all that concerns Miranda, Ariel, and Caliban, the plot, as appears from this slight sketch of it, is very simple; and, as far as relates to the marriage of Clanvil, at Tunis, was, I imagine, suggested by one of Turberville's tales; the rest, independent of the tempest (the origin of which has been given elsewhere) was, I conceive, suggested by a play written by Robert Green, and entitled "The comical history of Alphonsus, King of Arragon," which was printed in 1599, but must have been written several years before, the author having died in the year 1592.

In the first scene of Greene's play, which, though denominated a comedy, has no claim whatsoever to that title, being in truth a most sad dramatick history, Carinus, the father of Alphonsus, informs him, that he (Carinus) is the rightful heir to the crown of Arragon; but that his father, Ferdinandus, was several years ago put to death by his (Ferdinandus') younger brother, in consequence of which cruel act, Flaminius, the son of that brother, at that moment possessed the crown of Arragon. On this information, Alphonsus, in spite of his father's entreaties, vows he will endeavour to recover the crown; and for that purpose, having left his father, he tenders his services to Belinus, King of Naples, then at war with the usurping King of Arragon, on condition that, if he should be victorious, he shall have whatever he demands, even the crown of Arragon itself. Belinus agrees to this con

dition, and Alphonsus engages in the battle, which had at this time commenced: and having killed his kinsman, Flaminius, the usurper of Arragon, he claims the crown, and obtains it; but on his insisting that the King of Naples should do him homage, they quarrel, and Alphonsus turns his arms against Belinus; who, in spite of the support which he derived from his ally the Duke of Milan, and a considerable body of forces which that Prince had brought with him to the combat, is completely routed, and obliged to fly for succour to Amurach, Emperor of the Turks.

The Duke of Milan having been a principal agent in assisting the younger brother of Ferdinandus, the grandfather of Alphonsus, to deprive Ferdinandus of his life, to banish Carinus and himself, the rightful heirs of Arragon, and to transmit the crown wrongfully to Flaminius. Alphonsus, now invested with regal power, had particular pleasure in depriving him of his dukedom: a feeling which he indulges immediately after the battle, by creating Miles, one of his followers, Duke of Milan, in his room : Lelius, another follower, he makes King of Naples, in the room of the fugitive Belinus; and to Albinius, one of the generals of the routed king, he gives the crown of Arragon; intending himself to pursue Belinus, even to the foot of Amurach's throne.

The deposed Duke of Milan, having escaped from the battle with life, flies, we are not told whither, and is afterwards introduced in great distress, having wandered about without food for three days. In this unhappy state (like Antonio in The Tempest) he meets Carinus, the man whom he had so grievously wronged, near the cell in which that unfortunate prince had lived for twenty years. Carinus soon recognizes his old enemy, and, after some conversation, stabs him; and having previously learned from him that Alphonsus had overcome the King of Naples and recovered the crown of Arragon, he determines to go immediately to Naples, to witness his son's elevation to his new dignity. With the remainder of this play-the war of Alphonsus against Belinus and Amurach, and his final marriage with Iphigena, Amurach's daughter, we have no concern.

Undoubtedly Shakspeare was induced to place a magician in his desert island, by the accounts of the Bermudas, recently published before he wrote this play. This magician he has named Prospero; and it seems to me in the highest degree probable that the thought of making Prospero Duke of Milan-of deposing him by the artifice of a younger brother, in confederacy with the King of Naples, and of banishing the Duke, together with his danghter, the rightful and sole heir of the dukedom,—was suggested by the circumstance of the King of Arragon's being deprived of his crown and life by his younger brother, with the aid of the Duke of Milan, an active agent in effectuating that measure, and in banishing Carinus and his son, Alphonsus, the rightful heirs of the

« AnteriorContinua »