« AnteriorContinuar »
(2) SCENE I.-Sir Valentine and servant.] By servant, they served to keepe him still waking from sleepe, so that in this and numerous instances of a similar kind, where as the wax ever melted so did the king's flesh ; by the the word occurs in the old writers, we are to understand, which means it should have come to passe, that when the not an accepted lover, as some commentators suppose, but wax was once cleane consumed, the death of the king should a follower, an admirer.
immediately follow." ** Sweet sister, let's sit in judgement a little; faith upon my
So Webster also, in his Dutchess of Malty, 1623 :serrant, Monsieur Laverdure.
it tastes me more Mel. Troth, well for a servant, but for a husband !
Than wert my picture fashion'd out of wax,
Stuck with a magick needle, and then buried
In some foul dunghill." (3) SCENE II.-And seal the bargain with a holy kiss.] " This," Douce remarks, was the mode of plighting (5) SCENE V. - To go to the ale with a Christian.] troth between lovers in private. It was sometimes done Launce is here supposed, though I think erroneously, to in the church with great solemnity; and the service on refer not to the ale-house he had before mentioned, but to this occasion is preserved in some of the old rituals." one of those periodical festivities which our rustic ancestors The latter ceremony is described by the priest in “Twelfth delighted in observing about the sixteenth century, called Night,” Act V. Sc. 1,
Ales. Such as the Leet-ale, Lamb-ale, Bride-ale, Clerk
ale, Church-ale, and Whitsun-ale.
The Church-ale, we learn from Drake, was instituted
generally for the purpose of contributing towards the Strengthen'd by interchangement of your rings."
repair or decoration of the church. On this occasion, it
was the business of the churchwardens to brew a considerAnd will be further alluded to in the Notes to that able quantity of strong ale, which was sold to the populace Comedy,
in the churchyard, and to the better sort in the church itself-a practice which, independent of the profit arising
from the sale of the liquor, led to great pecuniary advan(4) SCENE IV.- Which, like a waren image 'gainst a tages ; for the rich thought it a meritorious duty, besides Fre.) Among the practices imputed to the hapless wretches paying for their ale, to offer largely to the holy fund. who in former times had the misfortune to incur the Other Ales, however, were held by agreement, annually or charge of witchcraft, was that of making clay or waxen oftener, by the inhabitants of one or more parishes, each images of the individuals they were supposed to be hostile individual contributing a certain sum towards the exto, and roasting them before a fire. By doing which it was penses. An interesting proof of this is found in a MS. supposed they melted and wasted away the body of the from the “ Dodsworth Collection” in the Bodleian person represented. Thus Holinshed, speaking of the Library : “The parishioners of Elveston and Okebrook, in witchcraft employed to destroy King Duffe, —" whereupon Derbyshire, agree jointly to brew four Ales, and every Ale learning by her confessor in what house in the town (Fores) of one quarter of malt, betwixt this (the time of contract) they wrought their mischiefous mysteries, he sent forth and the feast of St. John Baptist, next coming ; and that soldiers about the middest of the night, who, breaking into every inhabitant of the said town of Okebrook shall be at the house, found one of the witches rosting upon a the several Ales ; and every husband and his wife shall wooden broch an image of wax at the fier, resembling in pay twopence, and every cottager one penny; and all the each feature the king's person, made and devised (as is to inhabitants of Elveston shall have and receive all the be thought) by craft and art of the devil ; another of them profits and advantages coming of the said Ales, to the use sat reciting certein words of inchantment, and still basted and behoof of the said church of Elveston. And the inthe image with a certein liquor verie busilie . . ... They habitants of Elveston shall brew eight Ales betwixt this confessed they went about such manner of inchantment to and the feast of Saint John Baptist, at the which Ales the the end to make awaie with the king ; for as the image did inbabitants of Okebrook shall come and pay, as before waste afore the fire, so did the bodie of the king break rehearsed ; and if he be away at one Ale, to pay at the toder forth in sweat. And as for the words of the inchantment, Ale for both,” &c.
(1) SCENE I.-St. Nicholas be thy speed Launce in the souls to their bodies. Because he conferred such honour Fokes St. Nicholas to be Speed's speed, because this saint was on scholars, they at this day celebrate a festival." the patron of scholars. The reason of his being so chosen Whether the election of St. Nicholas as the tutelary may be gathered, Douce tells us, from the following story saint of scholars, had really its origin in the belief of this in his life, translated from the French verse of Maître Wace, legend, is perhaps too much to say. He appears to have chaplain to Henry the Second :-" Three scholars were on been very early and very generally so acknowledged in this their way to school, (I shall not make a long story of it,) country. The parish clerks of London were incorporated their host murdered them in the night, and hid their as a guild, with this saint for their patron, in 1233; and bodies; their * he reserved. St. Nicholas was in we find that the first statutes of St. Paul's School required formed of it by God Almighty, and according to his plea- 'the children to attend divine service in the cathedral on sure, went to the place. He demanded the scholars of the bis anniversary. host, who was not able to conceal them, and therefore showed them to him. St. Nicholas, by his prayers, restored
* A word defaced in the manuscript.
(1) SCENE III.--Upon whose grave thou vou'dst pure chastity.] " It was common, Steevens observes, "in former ages for widowers and widows to make vows of chastity in honour of their deceased wives or husbands. In · Dugdale's Antiquities of Warwickshire,' p. 10–13, there is the form of a commission by the bishop of the diocese for taking a vow of chastity made by a widow. It seems that, besides observing the vow, the widow was for life to wear a veil and a mourning habit. The same distinction we may suppose to have been made in respect of male votaries; and, therefore, this circumstance might inform the players how Sir Eglamour should be drest, and will account for Silvia's having chosen bim as a person in whom she could confide without injury to her own character."
(2) SCENE IV.- And threw her sun-expelling mask avay.} “When they use to ride abroad they have masks and vizors made of velvet, wherewith they cover all their faces, having holes made in them against their eyes, whereout they looke. So that if a man that know not their guise before, should chaunce to incet one of them, he would think he met a monster or a Devil, for face he can shew none, but two broad holes against their eyes, with glasses in them."-STUBB's Anatomie of Abuses, 4to. p. 59, 1595.
So Randle Holme, “ Academy of Armory,” book iii. c. 5, speaks of vizard masks that covered all the face, having
(1) SCENE IV.-With triumphs, mirth, and rare solemnity.) We shall have occasion hereafter to speak at large on the subject of those magnificent and costly spectacles, the delight alike of the monarch and the people, called TRIUMPHS, MASQUES and PAGEANTS, of the grandeur and stateliness of which in Shakespeare's time, some conception may be formed from a description of an entertainment of the kind Ben Jonson has left us in his llymenai, or the Solemnities of Masque and Barriers at a Marriage. “ Hitherto extended the first night's solemnity, whose grace in the execution left not where to add to it, with wishing ; I mean (nor do I court them) in those, that sustained the nobler parts. Such was the exquisite performance, as (beside the pomp, splendor, or what we may call apparelling of such presentments), that alone (had all elso been absent) was of power to surprise with delight, and steal away the spectators from themselves. Nor was there wanting whatsoever might give [add] to the furniture or complement; either in riches, or strangeness of the habits, delicacy of dances, magnijicence of the scene, or divine ropture of musick. Only the envy was, that it lasted not still! or (now it is past) cannot hy imagination, much less description, be recovered to a part of that spirit it had in the gliding by.” Speaking of the attire of those who on this occasion assumed the part of actors, he tells
" that of the Lords had part of it taken from the antique Greek statues; mixed with some moderne additions ; which
holes only for the eyes, a case for the nose, and a slit for the mouth. They were easily disengaged, being held in the teeth by means of a round bead fastened in the inside. These masks were usually made of leather, covered with black velvet.
(3) SCENE IV.-I'll get me such a colourd periaig.] Periwigs are said to have been first introduced into England about 1572, and were worn of different colours by ladies long before the use of false hair was adopted by
Heywood has a passage in which he makes Sar. danapalus exclaim :
“Curl'd periwigs upon my head I wore,
And, being man, the shape of woman bore."
And perurickes are mentioned in one of Churchyard's earliest poems. So also in Barnabe Rich's “Honestie of the Age," 1615 :-—“The attire-makers within this forty years were not known by that name, and but now very lateis they kept their lowzie commodity of periwigs, and their monstrous attires closed in boxes ; and those women that used to weare them would not buy them but in secret. But now they are not ashamed to set them forthe upon their stallssuch monstrous mop-powles of haire, so proportioned and deformed, that but within this twenty or thirty years would have drawne the passers-by to stand and gaze, and to wonder at them."
made it both gracefull and strange. On their heads they wore Persick crowns that were with scroles of gold-plate turned outward and wreathed about with a carnation and silver net-lawne ; the one end of which hung carelessly on the left shoulder ; the other was tricked up before, ir severall degrees of folds between the plaits, and set with rich jevrels and great pearles. Their bodies were of car: nation cloth of silver, richly wrought, and cut to express the naked, (the flesh) in manner of the Greek Thoraz; girt under the brests with a broad belt of cloth of gold ixbroydered, and faste ned before with jewels : Their Labels were of white cloth of silver, laced and vrought curiously bet vreen, sutable to the upper halfe of their sleeves ; whose nether parts with their bases, were of watchet cloth of silver, chev'rond all over with lace. Their Mantils were of severall coloured silkes, distinguishing their qualities, as they were coupled in paires ; the first, skie colour; the second, pearle colour ; the third, flame colour; the fourth, tawny; and these cut in leaves, which were subtilly tacked up and imbroydered with Oo's, and between every ranck of leaves, a broad silcer lace. They were fastened on the right shoulder, and fell compasse down the back in gracious (graceful] folds, and were again tyed with a round knot, to the fastening of their swords. Upon their legs they wore silver greaves.” – The Workes of BENJAVIN Jonson, folio, 1640. Masques,
THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA.
“In this play there is a strange mixture of knowledge and ignorance, of care and negligence. The versification is often excellent, the allusions are learned and just, but the author conveys his heroes by sea from one inland town to another in the same country. He places the Emperor at Milan, and sends his young men to attend him, but never mentions him more. He makes Protheus, after an interview with Silvia, say he has only seen her picture; and, if we may credit the old copies, he has, by mistaking places, left his scenery inextricable. The reason of all this confusion seems to be that he took his story from a novel, which he sometimes followed and sometimes forsook, sometimes remembered and sometimes forgot.
“That this play is rightly attributed to Shakespeare, I have little doubt. If it be taken from him, to whom shall it be given ? This question may be asked of all the disputed plays, except Titus Andronicus ; and it will be found more credible that Shakespeare might sometimes sink below his highest flights, than that any other should rise up to his lowest.”—Johnson.
“Jr. Pope has expressed his surprise that 'the style of this comedy is less urative, and more natural and unaffected, than the greater part of this author's, THOUGH supposed to be one of the first he wrote.' But I conceive it is natural and unaffected, and less figurative, than some of his subsequent productions, in consequence of the very circumstance which has been mentioned—because it was a youthful performance. Though many young poets of ordinary talents are led by false taste to adopt inflated and figurative language, why should we suppose that such should have been the course pursued by this master genius? The figurative style of ‘Othello,'• Lear,' and `Macbeth,' written when he was an established and long-practised dramatist, may be ascribed to the additional knowledge of men and things which he had acquired during a period of fifteen years ; in consequence of which his mind teemed with images and illustrations, and thoughts crowded so fast upon him, that the construction in these, and some other of his plays of a still later period, is much more difficult and involved than in the productions of his youth, which in general are distinguished by their ease and perspicuity; and this simplicity and unaffected elegance, and not its want of success, were, I conceive, the cause of its being less corrupted than some others. Its perspicuity rendered any attempt at alteration unnecessary. Who knows that it was not successful ? For my own part, I have no doubt that it met with the highest applause. Nor is this mere conjecture; for we know from the testimony of a contemporary weil acquainted with the stage, whose eulogy on our author I have already produced, that he was very early distinguished for his comic talents, and that before the end of the year 1592, he had excited the jealousy of one of the most celebrated dramatick poets of the time.
“In a note on the first scene of this comedy, Mr. Pope has particularly objected to the low and trifling conceits which, he says, are found there and in various other parts of the play before us; but this censure is pronounced without sufficient discrimination, or a due attention to the period when it was produced. Every composition must be examined with a constant reference to the opinions that
prevailed when the piece under consideration was written ; and, if the present comedy be viewed in that light, it will be found that the conceits here objected to were not denominated by any person of Shakespeare's age low and trifling, but were very generally admired, and were considered pure and genuine wit. Nothing can prove the truth of this statement more decisively than a circumstance which I have had occasion to mention elsewhere,—that Sir John Harrington was commonly called by Queen Elizabeth her WITTY godson, and was very generally admired in his own time for the liveliness of his talents and the playfulness of his humour; yet, when we examine his writings,* we find no other proof of his wit than those very conceits which have been censured in some of our author's comedies as mean, low, and trifling. It is clear, therefore, that the notions of our ancestors on this subject were very different from ours. What we condemn, they highly admired; and what we denominate true wit, they certainly would not have relished, and perhaps would scarcely have understood.
“ Mr. Pope should also have recollected that, in Shakespeare's time, and long before, it was customary in almost every play to introduce a jester, who, with no great propriety, was denominated a clown, whose merriment made a principal part of the entertainment of the lower ranks, and, I believe, of a large portion of the higher orders also. When no clown or jester was introduced 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 Shake speare'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 comments ?
“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 Shakespeare's Plays.”—MALONE.
“The 'Two Gentlemen of Verona' paints the irresolution of love, and its infidelity to friendship, pleasantly enough, but in some degree superficially—we might almost say, with the levity of mind which a passion suddenly entertained, and as suddenly given up, presupposes. The faithless lover is at last, on account of a very ambiguous repentance, forgiven without much difficulty by his first mistress. For the more serious part, the premeditated flight of the daughter of a prince, the capture of her father along with herself by a band of robbers, of which one of the Two Gentlemen, the betrayed and banished friend, has been against his will elected captain : for all this a peaceful solution is soon found. It is as if the course of the world was obliged to accommodate itself to a transient youthful caprice, called love. Julia, who accompanies her faithless lover in the disguise of a page, is, as it were, a light sketch of the tender female figures of a Viola and an Imogen, who, in the latter pieces of Shakespeare, leave their home in similar disguises on love adventures, and to whom a peculiar charm is communicated by the display of the most virginly modesty in their hazardous and problematical situation.”-SCHLEGEL.
* See particularly his “Supplie" (or Supplement) to Godwin's Account of the English Bishops, which abounds in almost every page with such conceits as we are now speaking of. The titles of some of our poet's comedies, which appear to have been written by the booksellers for whom they were printed, may also be cited for the same purpose; thus we have, “A pleasant conceited comedy called Love's Labour's Lost," &c. 1598; that is, a comedy
full of pleasant conceits. The bookseller, doubtless, well knew the publick taste, and added this title as more likely to attract purchasers than any other he could devise. See also “ A most plezsant and excellent conceited comedy of Syr John Falstaffe," &c., 1602, i.e. a comedy full of excellent conceits.
+ See this topick further discussed in the preliminary observa tions to the “Comedy of Errors."
LOVE'S LABOUR’S LOST.
“ A PLEASANT Conceited Comedie called Loves labor 's lost. As it was presented before her Highnes this last Christmas. Newly corrected and augmented. By W. Shakespeare. Imprinted at London by W. W., for Cuthbert Burby. 1598. 440." Such is the title of the first edition we possess of the present comedy. Whether any impression was published prior to the corrections and augmentations mentioned, or between the date of this quarto and the folio, 1623, has yet to be discovered. Like The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love's Labour's Lost bears unmistakeable traces of Shakespeare's earliest style. We find in both, though in different degree, the same fluency and sweetness of measure, the same frequency of rhymes, the same laborious addiction to quibbling, repartees, and doggerel verse, and in both it is observable that depth of characterization is altogether subordinate to elegance and sprightliness of dialogue. In the former, however, the wit and fancy of the poet are infinitely more subdued; the events are within the range of probability; and the humour, for the most part, is confined to the inferior personages of the story. But Love's Labour's Lost is an extravaganza for Le bon Roi, René, and the Court of Provence; a humoursome display of frolic,” as Schlegel calls it, “ in which every one is a jester ; and the sparkles of wit fly about in such profusion that they resemble a blaze of fireworks; while the dialogue is in the same hurried style in which the masks at a carnival attempt to banter each other.”
From the circumstance that Armado is sometimes styled “the Braggart,” and Holofernes “ the Pedant," it has been conjectured that Shakespeare borrowed his plot from the Italian stage, where these buffoons once formed a staple source of entertainment.* But, judging from the names of the characters, and an evident Gallicism in the Fourth Act,+ Douce attributes its origin to a French novel, and his opinion is in some degree countenanced by the following passage in the Chronicles of Monstrelet (Lond. 1810, i. 108, ed. Johnes), first pointed out by Mr. Hunter :-“ Charles king of Navarre came to Paris to wait on the King. He negotiated so successfully with the King and Privy Council, that he obtained a gift of the castle of Nemours with some of its dependant castlewicks, which territory was made a duchy. He instantly did homage for it, and at the same time surrendered to the King the castle of Cherbourg, the county of Evreux, and all the other lordships he possessed within the kingdom of France, renouncing all claims or profits in them to the King and to his successors, on condition that with the duchy of Nemours the king of France engaged to pay him two hundred thousand gold crowns of the coin of the King our lord.” I
This passage is interesting because it shows that the original story, whether French or Italian, whence Shakespeare drew the outline of his plot, was founded in part at least upon an historical event, and because it enables us to fix the time of the play to about 1425, in which year
*“I was often," says Montaigne, "when a boy, wonderfully
Boyet, you can carve :
using the same metaphor of a poulet for a love epistle, that
The payment of a hundred thousand crowns;