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of his genius developed themselves by exercise, so, too, he gradually formed to himself his own taste and style of execution and expression; while, like his great dramatic ante-type, his earlier works, full of grace and mind, yet bore the marks of the feebler school in which he had studied, as well as of the timidity and constraint of ballformed talent.
Not only is the language of this piece carefully studied, but there seems no haste or carelessness in the construction of the plot, unless we may admit the criticism of Judge Blackstone,-whose legally trained acuteness has done for Shakespeare almost as much as the clearness and gracefulness of a style acquired in the best school of English literature has contributed to methodizing and elucidating the mysteries of his country's law. He remarks, that the great fault of the play is “the hastening too abruptly, and without preparation, to the dénouement, which shows that it was one of Shakespeare's very early performances." This, however, appears to be rather the want of dramatic skill, to be acquired by experience, than any effect of negligence or haste, and is, after all, no very serious fault. If, as a poem, it has little of that exuberance of thought which afterwards overflowed his page, yet, in the construction of his story, there is not only no deficiency of invention, but even more labour in that way than he was afterwards accustomed to bestow. The characters were not only new and uncopied from any dramatic model, but the plot and incidents are substantially equally original; for, although Skottowe, and the other diligent searchers for the original materials of his dramas, have found two or three resembling incidents in Sydney's “ Arcadia," and elsewhere, still there is nothing to show that the young dramatist had employed any prior story as the groundwork of his plot; and the incidents he used were such as form part of the common stock of romantic narrative.
In the humorous parts of the play, he is still more unfettered by authority, and more whimsically and boldly original. He happened to find the stage mainly abandoned in its comic underplots and interludes to the coarse buffoonery of barren-witted clowns, who excited the laughter of their audiences by jokes as coarse and practical as may be now witnessed in a modern circus. From the coarse farce of “Gammer Gurton's Needle" to Launce and Speed was a gigantic stride, even with reference to the probability of the scene ; although fastidious criticism may still find ample cause for objection. But it is now too late to protest against the improbability or the coarseness of Launce and his dog Crab. They have both of them become real and living persons of the great world of fictitious reality, and must continue to amuse generation after generation, along with Sancho and Dapple, Clinker and Chowder, and many other squires and dogs of high and low degree, whom “Posterity will not will. ingly let die."
Upon the whole, the Two GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, whatever rank of merit may be assigned to it by critics, will always be read and studied with deeper interest than it can probably excite as a mere literary performance, because it exhibits to us the great dramatist at a most interesting point in his career; giving striking, but imperfect and irregular, indications of his future powers.
This play was never printed until it appeared after the author's death, in the folio of 1623. The text,—whether because it contains few deviations from ordinary modes of expression and trains of thought; or, because the piece being less popular than others of the Poet's plays, was less exposed to the corruptions of frequent transcription for theatrical use, and so was first printed from an early and accurate manuscript,—whatever be the reason, offers fewer difficulties and various readings than are found in any other of Shakespeare's plays.
SOURCE OF THE PLOT.
“If the Two GENTLEMEN OP VERONA were not the offspring merely of the author's invention, we have yet to discover the source of its plot. Points of resemblance have been dwelled upon in connection with Sir Philip Sydney's · Arcadia,' (1590,) and the Diana' of Montemayor, which was not translated into English by B. Yonge until 1598; but the incidents, common to the drama and to these two works, are only such as might be found in other romances, or would present themselves spontaneously to the mind of a young poet: the one is the command of banditti by Valentine; and the other the assumption of male attire by Julia, for a purpose nearly similar to that of Viola in TWELFTH Night. Extracts from the · Arcadia' and the 'Diana' are to be found in Shakespeare's Library,' vol. ii.”—COLLIER.
SCENERY AND COSTUME.
“In the folio of 1623, there are no indications of the localities of the several scenes. The notices, such as · Au Open Place in Verona,' The Garden of Julia's House,' • A Room in the Duke's Palace, “A Forest near Mantua,' are additions that have been usefully made from time to time. The text, either specially or by allusion, of course furnishes the authority for these directions.
“ Ceasare Vecellio, the brother of Titian, in his curious work, “ Habiti Antiche e Moderni di tutto il Mondo,' completed in 1589, presents us with the general costume of the noblemen and gentlemen of Italy at the commencement of the sixteenth century, which has been made familiar to us by the well-known portraits of the contemporary monarchs, Francis I. and Henry VIII. He tells us they wore a sort of diadem surmounted by a turban-like cap of gold tissue, or embroidered silk, a plaited shirt (low in the neck) with a small band or ruff, a coat or cassock of the German fashion, short in the waist and reaching to the knee, having sleeves down to the elbow, and from thence showing the arın covered only by the shirt with wristbands or ruffles. The cassock was ornamented with stripes or borders of cloth, silk, or velvet of different colours, or of gold lace or embroidery, according to the wealth or taste of the wearer. With this dress they sometimes wore doublets and stomachers, or placcards, as they were called, of different colours, their shoes being of velvet, like those of the Germans, that is, very broad at the toes. Over these cassocks again were occasionally worn cloaks or mantles of silk, velvet, or cloth of gold, with ample turn-over collars of fur or velvet, having large arm-holes through which the full-puffed sleeves of the cassock passed, and sometimes loose hanging sleeves of their own, which could either be worn over the others, or thrown behind, at pleasure.
*Nicholas Hoghenberg, in his curious series of prints exhibiting the triumphal processions and other ceremonies attending the entry of Charles V. into Bologna, in 1530, affords us some fine specimens of the costume at that period, worn by the German and Italian nobles in the train of the emperor. Some are in the cassocks described by Vecellio, others in doublets with slashed hose; confined both above and below knee by garters of silk or gold. The turban head-dress is worn by the principal herald; but the nobles generally have caps or bonnets of cloth or velvet placed on the side of the head, sometimes over a caul of gold, and ornamented with feathers, in some instances profusely. These are most probably the Milan caps or bonnets of which we hear so much in wardrobe accounts, and other records of the time. They were sometimes slashed and puffed round the edges, and adorned with 'points' or .aglets,' i. e. tags or aiguillettes. The feathers in them, also, were occasionally ornamented with drops or spangles of gold, and jewelled up the quills.
"Milan was likewise celebrated for its silk hose. In the inventory of the wardrobe of Henry VIII., 'Harleian MSS., Nos. 1419 and 1420, mention is made of a pair of hose of purple silk, and Venice gold, woven like unto a caul, lined with blue silver sarcenet, edged with a passemain of purple silk and gold, wrought at Milan, and one pair of hose of white silk and gold knits, bought of Christopher Millener.' Our readers need scarcely be told that the present term milliner is derived from Milan, in consequence of the reputation of that city for its fabrication as well of weeds of peace' as of harness for war;' but it may be necessary to inform them that by hose, at this period, is invariably meant breeches, or upper-stocks,—the stockings, or nether-stocks, beginning now to form a separate portion of male attire.
“The ladies (we learn from Vecellio) wore the same sort of turbaned head-dress as the men, resplendent with various colours, and embroidered with gold and silk in the form of rose-leaves and other devices. Their neckchains and girdles were of gold, and of great value. To the latter were attached fans of feathers, with richly ornamented gold handles. Instead of a veil, they wore a sort of collar or neckerchief (Bavaro) of lawn or cambric, pinched or plaited. The skirts of their gowns were usually of damask, either crimson or purple, with a border-lace or trimming round the bottom, a quarter of a yard in depth. The sleeves were of velvet, or other stuff, large and slashed, so as to show the lining or under garment, terminating with a small band or ruffle like that round the edge of the collar. The body of the dress was of gold stuff or embroidery. Some of the dresses were made with trains, which were either held up by the hand when walking, or attached to the girdle. The head-dress of gold brocade was not unlike the beretta of the Doge of Venice; and caps, very similar in form and material, are still worn in the neighbourhood of Linz in Upper Austria.
• The Milan bonnet was also worn by ladies, as well as men, at this period. Hall, the chronicler, speaks of some who wore · Myllain bonnets of crymosyne sattin drawn through (i. e. slashed and puffed) with cloth of gold;' and in the roll of provisions for the marriage of the daughters of Sir John Nevil, tempore Henry VIII., the price of .a Millan bonnet, dressed with agletts,' is marked as lls."-KNIGHT.
SCENE I.—An Open Place in Verona.
Enter VALENTINE and PROTEUS. Val. Cease to persuade, my loving Proteus : Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits. Wer't not, affection chains thy tender days To the sweet glances of thy honour'd love, I rather would entreat thy company To see the wonders of the world abroad, Than, living dully sluggardiz'd at home, Wear out thy youth with shapeless idleness. But since thou lov'st, love still, and thrive therein, Even as I would, when I to love begin.
Pro. Wilt thou begone? Sweet Valentine, adieu. Think on thy Proteus, when thou haply seest Some rare note-worthy object in thy travel :
Wish me partaker in thy happiness,
Val. And on a love-book pray for my success.
Val. That's on some shallow story of deep love, How young Leander cross'd the Hellespont.
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 swam the Hellespont.
Pro. Over the boots ? nay, give me not the boots.
Val. To be in love, where scorn is bought with
groads; Coy looks, with heart-sore sighs ; one fading mo
Pro. So, by your circumstance you call me fool.
prove. Pro. 'Tis love you cavil at: I am not love.
Val. Love is your master, for he masters you; And he that is so yoked by a fool, Methinks, should not be chronicled for wise.
Pro. Yet writers say, as in the sweetest bud The eating canker dwells, so eating love Inhabits in the finest wits of all.
Val. And writers say, as the most forward bud Is eaten by the canker ere it blow, Even so by love the young and tender wit Is turn’d to folly; blasting in the bud, Losing his verdure even in the prime, And all the fair effects of future hopes. But wherefore waste I time to counsel thee, That art a votary to fond desire ? Once more adieu. My father at the road Expects my coming, there to see me shipp'd.
Pro. And thither will I bring thee, Valentine.
Pro. All happiness bechance to thee in Milan. Val. As much to you at home; and so, farewell.
[Exit. Pro. He after honour hunts, I after love: He leaves his friends to dignify them more; I leave myself, my friends, and all for love. Thou, Julia, thou hast metamorphos'd me; Made me neglect my studies, lose my time, War with good counsel, set the world at nought, Made wit with musing weak, heart sick with thought.
Enter SPEED. Speed. Sir Proteus, save you. Saw you my
master? Pro. But now hc parted hence to embark for
Milan. Speed. Twenty to one, then, he is shipp'd al
ready, And I have play'd the sheep in losing him.
Pro. Indeed a sheep doth very often stray, An if the shepherd be awhile away. Speed. You conclude, that my master is a shep
herd, then, and I a sheep? Pro. I do. Speed. Why then, my horns are his horns, whe
ther I wake or sleep. Pro. A silly answer, and fitting well a sheep. Speed. This proves me still a sheep. Pro. True, and thy master a shepherd. Speed. Nay, that I can deny by a circumstance. Pro. It shall go hard, but I'll prove it by another.
Speed. The shepherd seeks the sheep, and not the sheep the shepherd; but I seek my master, and my master seeks not me; therefore, I am no sheep.
Pro. The sheep for fodder follow the shepherd,