« AnteriorContinuar »
by Macbeth. The stride of the ravishing Tarquin (Macbeth, ii. 1. 55 ; Cymbeline, ii. 2. 12) and the unconsciously ironical praise of sleep (Macbeth, ii. 2. 38; Cymbeline, ii. 2. 11) were appropriate enough to each situation.2 Parallels, moreover, as striking can be found to a much earlier play. Imogen, like Hamlet, is 'craven'd' by the prohibition so divine against selfslaughter' (iii.4.78). And the internalevidence connects Cymbeline very closely with The Winter's Tale and The Tempest, neither of which can be dated before 1610.
Cymbeline is, notwithstanding its title, the story of Imogen and Posthumus. In its main outlines it was at least three centuries old. French romancers and playwrights of the thirteenth century had told a story substantially the same: a husband boasts of his wife's constancy, is challenged to lay a wager on it, is fraudulently convinced that his wager is lost, and plans a peremptory vengeance upon his wife. She, however, eludes it, and finally after many adventures discovers and exposes the betrayer. This is the subject of the romances of La Violette by Gilbert de Montreuil (c. 1220) and the Count of Poitiers. In two points tradition fluctuated: the nature of the deception, and the after-history of the husband and wife. Both romances smooth the challenger's path by giving him the aid of the lady's waiting-woman. In the one she enables him to look at her mistress in the bath, and to note
sur sa destre mamelote
Le semblant d'une violette ; in the other she furnishes him with the more material tokens a ring, a lock of hair, a scrap of samite
1 Cf. also iii. 4. 60 f. with blue of heaven's own tinct' Ham. i.
(Cymb. ii. 2. 22, 23) and Dun2 Cf. also the kindred delicacy can's silver skin laced with his of colouring in the 'lac'd with golden blood (Macb. ii. 3. 118). VOL. IV 113
dress. In both the wife is carried off into the woods, where she eludes the intended vengeance, but undergoes other adventures. A further step is marked by the Miracle de Nostre Dame. Here the scene of the wager is for the first time laid in Rome. The deception is aided by a sleeping-draught administered by the maid to her mistress; while the challenger, like Iachimo, tries to gain his point with the lady by insinuating scandal about her husband. 1
Most of these points, but not quite all, were woven by Boccaccio into his history of Bernabo of Genoa. It is the ninth of the tales told on the second day of the Decameron, when the discourse was of men who 'from positions of peril found beyond their hope a happy deliverance.' The scene is here transferred from feudal to bourgeois society. Bernabo is a merchant of Genoa; Ambrogiulo, the challenger, a merchant of Piacenza. Unlike his counterparts in the romances, Ambrogiulo does not even seek an interview with the lady, Zinevra, but, having convinced himself by inquiries that he could not fairly win the wager, resorts at once to stratagem. In this the female ally still plays a part, but a less important one. At his instigation a poor woman frequently employed in the house entrusts a chest to Zinevra's keeping during a few days' absence. Ambrogiulo thus gains secret access to Zinevra's chamber, where, while she sleeps, he notes the pictures and furniture, and a mole with a tuft of golden hairs beneath her left breast. After three days' waiting the woman returns, and he is released. Bernabo, convinced by Ambrogiulo's story of his success, sets out for his home, but commissions a servant to carry out his vengeance, by escorting his wife as if to meet him, and slaying her on the road.
Arrived in a 'very bstracts in Hazlitt, Shakspere's Library, ii. 179.
deep and lonely valley,' the servant discloses his instructions. She protests her innocence, begs for mercy, and finally induces him to agree to a plan by which he may at once please God, his lord, and herself, -by reporting her slain and leaving her, disguised in some pieces of his dress, to find her way to some distant region where she will never more be heard of. In describing her subsequent adventures, Boccaccio fairly outbids his predecessors. Under the name of Sicurano, Zinevra enters the service of a Catalonian gentleman, then becomes a favourite captain of the Sultan of Alexandria, and in this capacity discovers in a shop her own purse and girdle. Ambrogiulo, the owner, on being interrogated, laughingly tells how he had received them from a lady of Genoa, and won a wager at her husband's cost. Zinevra, bent only upon vengeance, contrives to detain Ambrogiulo at Alexandria, summons Bernabo, causes Ambrogiulo to repeat his story before the Sultan, and then, disclosing her identity, begs for the punishment of the deceiver and the pardon of the deceived. Whereupon Ambrogiulo suffers the horrible death which Autolycus graphically foretells to the Clown in The Winter's Tale, his ample fortune being transferred to Bernabo and Zinevra.
There is no doubt that Shakespeare used Boccaccio's version of the wager-story.
But it is extremely likely that independent traditions of it were current in England, as they were, from the early years of the sixteenth century, in Germany and Scandinavia. Singular coincidences between Cymbeline and French and German versions, which Shakespeare cannot possibly have known, point to this conclusion. It is not Boccaccio's Ambrogiulo but the Berengier of the French Miracle who anticipates Iachimo in stipulating for two interviews, and in persuading the lady of her husband's infidelity. Perhaps, too, the English tradition may have agreed with the German Volksbuch 1 in making the wager originate in company of 'four merchants,' corresponding to Pisanio's four guests of various nationalities.
Lastly, we have in the Fish wife's Tale in Westward for Smelts (1620) a version of the wager-story which presupposes an ignorance both of Boccaccio and of Shakespeare, and yet agrees in two significant points with Cymbeline. The entire management of the wager is extremely rude: the challenger hides under the bed, and convinces the husband, who dearly loved his wife,' by no more cogent argument than a crucifix abstracted from her chamber. But the lady's demeanour under the threat of death is more like Imogen's than Zinevra's; instead of pleading for her life she begs for death ("what should I desire to live having lost his favour?'), and instead of proposing the plan of living in disguise, she merely accepts it when proposed by the servant. Further, the wagerstory is set in a framework of English history, and the complicated meetings and partings of husband, wife, and betrayer are connected with the revolutions of civil war in a way of which there is no trace in Boccaccio. The disguised wife, after starving on herbs, takes service as a page with King Edward IV., and attends him at Barnet, where both her husband and his challenger are fighting for King Henry. Both are taken, and confronted in Edward's presence, the wife forgiving her husband, but not also, like Zinevra, calling for vengeance upon the traitor, who is dismissed with the moderate penalty of a fine and a year's imprisonment. Though not published till ten years after the production of Cymbeline,2 this tale seems to represent an earlier phase of the legend. It at least favours the suspicion that the wagerstory had already been brought into some connection with English history before Shakespeare.
1 Ein liepliche History und 2 It was entered in Jan. StaWarheit von Vier Kaufmennern, 4. tioners' Register in
Whether Shakespeare was the first to make the heroine's father a British king, and to interweave her fortunes with those of a Roman invading army, must remain undecided. But there can be no doubt that the more original, if less hazardous, achievement of flinging over the romance the enchantment of Germanic quasi-faery lore, is his alone.
The free manipulation of Roman history in the play has never quite ceased to scandalise some portion of the critical world. It is therefore to be noted that Shakespeare clearly designed Cymbeline to be as much and as little a picture of Augustan Britain as Hamlet is a picture of eleventh-century Denmark. Most of the political history of Cymbeline is to be found in Holinshed, but on pages often far apart and relating to remote and unconnected events. The king himself is in Holinshed a wise and peaceful prince, who maintains the best terms with Augustus and is complimented by him on his excellent government of Britain. Shakespeare has made him
1 The historical Cymbeline wife of Brute, the first ruler of (Cunebolinus) was
Britain (a name which Shakeking of the Britons, having his speare had already chosen for capital at Camulodunum (Col- the wife of Leonato in Much chester) (Stone, Holinshed, p. 6). Ado, First Q ed. 1600); Lucius, Most of the names of the other from a Roman captain in Gaul, persons occur scattered through vanquished by King Arthur of the pages of Holinshed, and Britain ; MORGAN, from a son Shakespeare may have gleaned of the Duke of Cornwall and them thence. Thus CADWAL .Gonorilla,' eldest daughter of (the pseudonym of Arviragus) King Leir; POLIDORE or PALAmay be from 'Cadwallo,' an DOUR, perhaps from Polydor early king of Britain ; CLOTEN, Virgil, an authority frequently from 'Cloton,' a king of Corn- cited in Holinshed's margin ; wall ; IMOGEN, from 'Innogen,' POSTHUMUS, perhaps from a