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duced in a comedy, the servants of the principal personages sustained his part; and the dialogue attributed to them was written with a particular view to supply that deficiency, and to amuse the audience by the promptness of their pleasantry and the liveliness of their conceits. Such is the province assigned to those characters in Lilly's comedies, which were performed with great success and admiration for several years before Shakspeare's time; and such are some of the lower characters in this drama, the Comedy of Errors, Love's Labour's Lost, and some others. On what ground therefore is our poet to be condemned for adopting a mode of writing universally admired by his contemporaries, and for not foreseeing that in a century after his death, these dialogues which set the audience in a roar, would by more fastidious criticks be denominated low quibbles and trifling conceits *?
With respect to his neglect of geography in this and some other plays, it cannot be defended by attributing his errour in this instance to his youth; for one of his latest productions is liable to the same objection. The truth, I believe, is, that as he neglected to observe the rules of the drama with respect to the unities, though before he began to write they had been enforced by Sidney in a treatise which doubtless he had read; so he seems to have thought that the whole terraqueous globe was at his command; and as he brought in a child in the beginning of a play, who in the fourth act appears as a woman, so he seems to have wholly set geography at defiance, and to have considered countries as inland or maritime just as it suited his fancy or convenience.
With the qualifications and allowances which these considerations demand, the present comedy, viewed as a first production, may surely be pronounced a very elegant and extraordinary performance.
Having already given the reasons why I suppose this to have been our author's first play, it is only necessary to say here, that I believe it to have been written in 1591. See the Essay on the Chronological Order of Shakspeare's Plays. MALone.
* See this topick further discussed, in the preliminary observations to the Comedy of Errors.
DUKE OF MILAN, father to Silvia.
ANTONIO, father to Proteus.
THURIO, a foolish rival to Valentine.
EGLAMOUR, agent for Silvia, in her escape.
HOST, where Julia lodges in Milan.
Gentlemen of Verona.
JULIA, a lady of Verona, beloved by Proteus. SILVIA, the Duke's daughter, beloved by Valentine. LUCETTA, waiting-woman to Julia.
SCENE, sometimes in VERONA ; sometimes in MILAN; and on the frontiers of MANTUA.
I PROTEUS,] The old copy has-Protheus; but this is merely the antiquated mode of spelling Proteus. See the Princely Pleasures at Kenelworth Castle, by G. Gascoigne, 1587, where "Protheus appeared, sitting on a dolphyns back." Again, in one of Barclay's Eclogues :
'Like as Protheus oft chaungeth his stature." Shakspeare's character was so called, from his disposition to change. STEEVENS.
2 PANTHINO.] In the enumeration of characters in the old copy, this attendant on Antonio is called Panthion, but in the play, always Panthino. STEEVENS.
ACT I. SCENE I.
An open place in Verona.
Enter VALENTINE and PROTEUS.
VAL. Cease to persuade, my loving Proteus 3; Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits:
3 PROTEUS.] Mr. Steevens has justly observed that Protheus, which is found in the old copy throughout this play, is merely the old spelling of Proteus, a circumstance which escaped him and all other editors till the year 1793. Thus in " the True Tragedie of Richard, Duke of Yorke," 1595, on which Shakspeare formed the Third Part of King Henry VI.:
"And for a need change shapes with Protheus." Again in Greene's Philomela :
"Nature foreseeing how men would devise
"More wiles than Protheus, women to entise."
Our ancestors seem to have been fond of introducing the letter h into proper names to which it does not belong; and hence, even to this day, our common christian name Antony is written improperly Anthony. Even scholars shewed the same disregard to propriety in this respect as the unlearned. Thus Sir John Davys, in his fine Eulogy on the English law, prefixed to his Reports, folio 1615:-"a greater combustion than that which happened when the chariot of the Sun did want a guide but half a day, as is lively expressed in the fable of Phaethon."
So also Sackville in the Mirrour for Magistrates:
"And Phaethon now near reaching to his race." Tubervile in his Tragical Tales, 1567, has Thunis for Tunis. Lydgate, in like manner, has Thelephus and Anthenor; and in an old translation of the Gesta Romanorum, printed about 1580, we find in p. 1, Athalanta for Atalanta. MALone.
4 HOME-KEEPING youth have ever HOMELY wits:] Milton
Wer't not, affection chains thy tender days
To see the wonders of the world abroad,
PRO. Wilt thou begone? Sweet Valentine, adieu!
When thou dost meet good hap; and, in thy danger,
VAL. And on a love-book pray for my success.
has the same play on words, in his Masque at Ludlow Castle:
"It is for homely features to keep home,
"They had their name thence." STEEVENS.
SHAPELESS IDLENESS.] The expression is fine, as implying that idleness prevents the giving any form or character to the manners. WARBURTON.
some shallow story of deep love,
How young Leander cross'd the Hellespont.] The poem of Musæus, entitled Hero and Leander, is meant. Marlowe's translation, or rather imitation, of this piece was entered on the Stationers' books, Sept. 18, 1593; but it did not appear till 1598, when the first two Sestiads, which were all that Marlowe had finished, were published by Edward Blount, for whom, in conjunction with Isaac Jaggard, our author's plays were afterwards printed. The remainder of this poem was added by Chapman, in 1600. Marlowe's production was extremely popular, and deservedly so, many of his lines being as smooth as those of Dryden. Our author has quoted one of them in As You Like It. He had probably read this poem in manuscript recently before he wrote the present play; for he again alludes to it in the third act:
PRO. That's a deep story of a deeper love; For he was more than over shoes in love.
VAL. 'Tis true; for you are over boots in love, And yet you never swom the Hellespont.
PRO. Over the boots? nay, give me not the boots'.
VAL. No, I will not, for it boots thee not.
VAL. To be in love where scorn is bought with
"Why then a ladder, quaintly made of cords,
"So bold Leander would adventure it." MALONE.
7- nay, give me not the BOOTS.] A proverbial expression, though now disused, signifying, don't make a laughing stock of me; don't play upon me. The French have a phrase, Bailler foin en corne; which Cotgrave thus interprets, To give one the boots; to sell him a bargain. THEOBALD.
Perhaps this expression took its origin from a sport the countrypeople in Warwickshire use at their harvest-home, where one sits as judge to try misdemeanors committed in harvest, and the punishment for the men is to be laid on a bench, and slapped on the breech with a pair of boots. This they call giving them the boots. I met with the same expression in the old comedy called Mother Bombie, by Lyly:
"What do you give mee the boots?"
Again, in The Weakest goes to the Wall, a comedy, 1618:
The boots, however, were an ancient engine of torture. In MS. Harl. 6999-48, Mr. T. Randolph writes to Lord Hunsdon, &c. and mentions in the P. S. to his letter, that George Flecke had yesterday night the boots, and is said to have confessed that the E. of Morton was privy to the poisoning the E. of Athol, 16 March, 1580: and in another letter, March 18, 1580: "—that the Laird of Whittingham had the boots, but without torment confess'd," &c. STEEVENS.
The boot was an instrument of torture used only in Scotland. Bishop Burnet in The History of his own Times, Vol. I. 332, edit. 1754, mentions one Maccael, a preacher, who, being suspected of treasonable practices, underwent the punishment so late as 1666: " He was put to the torture, which, in Scotland, they call the boots; for they put a pair of iron boots close on the leg, and drive wedges between these and the leg. The common