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Laftly, two of Shakspeare's perfonages, Kent, and the Steward, seem to owe their exiftence to the above-mention'd "fhag-hair'd wretch," and the Perillus of this Leir.
The episode of Glofter and his two fons is taken from the Arcadia: in which romance there is a chapter thus intitl'd;" The pitifull state, and ftorie of the Paphlagonian unkinde King, and his kind fonne, firft related by the son, then by the blind father." (Arcadia, p. 142, edit. 1590, 4to.) of which epifode there are no traces in either chronicle, poem, or play, wherein this history is handl'd.
Love's Labour's Loft.
The fable of this play does not seem to be a work entirely of invention; and I am apt to believe, that it owes its birth to some novel or other, which may one day be discover'd. The character of Armado has fome refemblance to Don Quixote; but the play is older than that work of Cervantes: of Holofernes, another fingular character, there are fome faint traces in a mafque of Sir Philip Sidney's that was presented before Queen Elizabeth at Wanfted this mafque, call'd in catalogues-The Lady of May, is at the end of that author's works, edit. 1627. folio.
Meafure for Measure.
In the year 1578, was publifh'd in a black-letter quarto a miferable dramatick performance, in two parts, intitl'd-Promos and Caffandra; written by one George Whetstone, author likewife of the Heptameron, and much other poetry of the fame
ftamp, printed about that time. These plays their author, perhaps, might form upon a novel of Cinthio's; (v. Dec. 8, Nov. 5,) which Shakspeare went not to, but took up with Whetstone's fable, as is evident from the argument of it; which, though it be fomewhat of the longeft, yet take it in his own words.
"The Argument of the whole
"In the Cyttie of Julio (fometimes under the dominion of Corvinus Kinge of Hungarie and Boemia) there was a law, that what man fo ever committed adultery, fhould lofe his head, & the woman offender, fhould weare fome difguifed apparel, during her life, to make her infamouflye noted. This fevere lawe, by the favour of fome mercifull magiftrate, became little regarded, untill the time of Lord Promos auctority: who convicting, a yong gentleman named Andrugio of incontinency, condemned, both him, and his minion to the execution of this statute. Andrugio had a very vertuous, and beawtiful gentlewoman to his fifter, named Caffandra: Caffandra to enlarge her brothers life, fubmitted an humble petition to the Lord Promos: Promos regarding her good behaviours, and fantasying her great beawtie, was much delighted with the fweete order of her talke: and doyng good, that evill might come thereof: for a time, he repryv'd her brother: but wicked man, tourning his liking unto unlawfull luft, he fet downe the spoile of her honour, raunfome for her Brothers life: Chafte Caffandra, abhorring both him and his fute, by no perfwafion would yeald to
this raunfome. But in fine, wonne with the importunitye of hir brother (pleading for life:) upon thefe conditions the agreed to Promos. Firft that he fhould pardon her brother, and after marry her. Promos as fearles in promiffe, as careleffe in performance, with follemne vowe, fygned her conditions but worfe than any Infydel, his will fatisfyed, he performed neither the one nor the other for to keepe his authoritye, unfpotted with favour, and to prevent Caffandraes clamors, he commaunded the Gayler fecretly, to present Caffandra with her brother's head. The Gayler, with the outcryes of Andrugio, (abhorryng Promos lewdnes,) by the providence of God, provided thus for his fafety. He prefented Caffandra with a felons head newlie executed, who, (being mangled, knew it not from her brothers, by the Gayler, who was fet at libertie) was fo agreeved at this trecherye, that at the pointe to kyl her felfe, fhe spared that ftroke, to be avenged of Promos. And devyfing a way, the concluded, to make her fortunes knowne unto the kinge. She (executing this refolution) was fo highly favoured of the King, that forthwith he hafted to do juftice on Promos: whofe judgement was, to marrye Caffandra, to repaire her crafed Honour: which donne, for his hainous offence he fhould lofe his head. This maryage folempnifed, Caffandra 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 comon weale, before her fpecial cafe, although he favoured her much) would not graunt her fute. Andrugio (difguifed amonge the company) forrowing the griefe of his fifter, bewrayde his fafety, and craved pardon. The Kinge, to renowne the vertues of Caffandra, pardoned both
him, and Promos. The circumftances 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.
Pou Dfficers which now in Julio ftaye,
“Knowe you our leadge, the Kinge of Hungarie:
That ftill toe may to Justice have an eye.
"And now to show, my rule & power at lardge,
"Phallax readeth the Kinges Letters Patents, which
"Pro. Lot, 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, befides the characters appearing in the argument, his Bawd Clown, Lucio, Juliet, and the Provoft, 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, fuggefted to him the manner in which his own play opens.
Merchant of Venice.
The Jew of Venice was a ftory 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 fome humorous verfes 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 fome tranflation that is not now to be met with, and form'd his play upon it. It was tranflated anew, and made publick in 1755, in a fmall 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 tranflator rightly judges, might poffibly produce the scene of the caskets, fubftituted by the poet in place of one in the other novel, that was not proper for the ftage.
Merry Wives of Windfor.
"Queen Elizabeth," fays a writer of Shakspeare's life," was fo well pleas'd with that admirable character of Falstaff, in the two parts of Henry the Fourth, that fhe commanded him to continue it for one play more, and to fhew him in love. This is faid to be the occafion of his writing The Merry Wives of Windfor." As there is no proof brought for the truth of this ftory, we may conclude that it is either fome playhouse tradition, or had its rife from Sir William D'Avenant, whofe authority the writer quotes for another fingular anecdote, relating to lord Southampton. Be this as it may; Shakfpeare, in the conduct of Falftaff's love-adventures, made ufe of fome incidents in a book that has been mention'd before, call'd-Il Pecorone; they are in VOL. I. Сс