« AnteriorContinuar »
arrived at, are entirely confirmed by the internal evidence.
In style and metre The Tempest shares all the characteristics which place Pericles, The Winter's Tale, and Cymbeline very near the close of Shakespeare's work. The same proneness to metrical movements which cross the normal verse-rhythm or enrich it with double endings;1 the same abruptness of transition and elliptical brevity of phrase. Evident affinities of treatment, though less decisive, help to cement this connection : the separation and reunion of kin, the deliberate unreality of time and place, the bold implication of sea and storm in the web of the dramatic plot, the episodes of gracious idyll, the lofty humanity of the close. The one fragment of Shakespearean work clearly later in metrical character than The Tempest is his portion of Henry VIII. The Winter's Tale and Cymbeline carnot be later. than 1611, when they were performed at the Globe most probably as new plays. Henry VIII. is known to have been a new play in 1613. The Tempest is therefore unlikely to have been produced much before or much after the earlier date.
This is the chief ground of hesitation in regard to the only really plausible counter-suggestion which has ever been made.2 Dr. Garnett, taking up an idea already mooted by the older critics, but never before
1 The 'metrical tests' give theory of Elze, who placed The The Tempest 35 per cent of Tempest in 1604, because Jonson double endings, 41 per cent of in the prologue to Volpone (1605) enjambements, 4.59 per cent of referred to thefts from Montaigne light or weak endings ; the (as if in allusion to Gonzalo's first is the highest proportion of republic' in ii. 1). The earlier all the plays, the second and theory of Hunter, who identified third the highest but three. The Tempest with the Love's
Labour's Won' mentioned by 2 It is impossible to qualify Meres in 1598, is now quite this assertion in favour of the out of count.
so effectively pushed home, holds that the recorded performance of The Tempest at the wedding festivities of the Princess Elizabeth was in reality the original one, that it was written expressly for the occasion, and that the circumstances of the marriage are allegorically figured in its plot. "The foreign prince come from beyond sea, the island princess who has never left her home, the wise father who brings about the auspicious consummation of his policy; all found their counterparts among the splendid company that watched the performance on that February night.'1 The parallel so far is striking, but it cannot be pursued much further without the aid of a somewhat questionable ingenuity. When, for example, a delicate allusion to the recent death of Prince Henry, the brother of the bride, is discovered in the supposed death of Ferdinand, the bridegroom-'the woe being by a consummate stroke of genius taken from Prospero the representative of James, and transferred to the house of his enemy,'—we suspect the hand of the critical necromancer who can make anything of anything. It may well be asked, too, whether a plot which revolves about the forcible expulsion of a ruler from his dominions and his daughter's wooing by the son of the usurper's chief ally,' was 'one that a shrewd dramatist would have chosen as the setting of an official epithalamium in honour of the daughter of a monarch so sensitive about his title to the crown as James I.'? And was the fanatical denouncer of
those detestable slaves of the devil, --witches and enchanters ' 3— likely to appreciate the compliment of being represented' even by the most sublime magician in all literature ?
1 Universal Review, April art. ·Shakespeare,' p. 379. 1889.
James I.'s Demonology. 2 S. Lee, Dict. of Nat. Biog. Preface,
It is, nevertheless, highly probable that The Tempest was designed to celebrate a marriage. A wedding masque occupies, with its insubstantial pageantry, the place of a strict dramatic crisis ; and the hints of tragic harms, instead of being carried almost to the point of tragedy, as in The Winter's Tale and Cymbeline, are, like Ferdinand's log-piling, little more than a transparent make-believe. The real tragedy of Prospero's expulsion is an event already in the remote past when the action begins, and, though its results remain, they are so carefully denuded of pathetic suggestion that the island appears a very paradise of exiles.'
Nothing is known of the immediate source from which Shakespeare drew the story of The Tempest; but there is no doubt that it had already in substance been told. Among the waifs of historic tradition which drifted westward from the east of Europe was the story of Witold, a prince of Lithuania in the last quarter of the fourteenth century. Witold had resigned his government to a cousin Jagiello, who thereupon threw him into prison and handed over his capital, Wilna, to one Skirgiello. In 1388, however, Witold escaped with his daughter Sophia to Prussia, whence he carried on an indecisive struggle with Jagiello and Skirgiello for his inheritance. In this struggle he was supported by the avant-guard of eastern Christendom, the Teutonic Order; and in particular by the contingent of English soldiers who followed Henry Bolingbroke on one of those Reisen into Prussia, which were already familiar enough in England to be known by their German name.1 Henry was thus brought into direct contact with Witold, and the Lithuanian prince found a place in the English chronicles which related the adventures of the future English king 1
1 Chaucer's knight 'reised in nary vogue ; cf. the modern Lettowe.' The formation of French and German boycotter, the verb implies an extraordi. boycotten.
Perhaps aided by this association with the Teutonic Order, the figure of the disinherited Lithuanian prince seems to have appealed to the romantic imagination of the West, and gathered a rich accretion of legendary traits. When we meet with him again two centuries later as the Prince Ludolff of Jacob Ayrer's drama Die schöne Sidea, he has become a magician, with an attendant spirit, Runcifal. Driven from his throne by his rival, Prince Leudegast, he takes refuge in the forest with his only daughter, Sidea. There one day he suddenly encounters Engelbrecht, the son of Leudegast, summons him to yield, and, on his resisting, charms his sword, paralyses his nerves, and compels him to carry logs for his daughter. Finally, after many irrelevant adventures, Engelbrecht marries Sidea, and their union brings about the reconciliation of the rival princes.
English actors were well acquainted with Nürnberg long before the date of The Tempest,2 and Shakespeare may conceivably have heard some report of Ayrer's suggestive plot, though he assuredly had no opportunity of being repelled by its barbarous literary garb. But it is plain that, whether as floating tradition, or contemporary information, or in the form of some lost Elizabethan play, a story embodying all the points in which Ayrer anticipates The Tempest, served
1 Walsingham, Hist. Angli- Expeditions (Camden Society, cana, Rolls ed. ii. 197-8. Wit- 1894). The connection with old appears as Wytot, Skirgiello The Tempest was first made as Skirgall. Knighton and probable by Caro, Englische Capgrave have briefer notices. Studien, 1878. All are quoted at length in Miss 2 They are known to have L. T. Smith's admirably edited acted there in 1604 and 1606. accounts of The Earl of Derby's Ayrer died in 1605. VOL. IV
as material for the wonderful sea-change' there wrought.
The phrase is not without meaning, for half the fascination of the drama springs from the wild waters, roaring or allayed, which 'round' the enchanter's abode. Whatever rudiments of Prospero he may have found in tradition, Shakespeare first made his refuge an island, and the instrument of his
revenge a storm. The story of the sea which caught the ear of England in 1610 perhaps supplied the first suggestion of the drama. Certainly it offered tempting coigns of vantage on which to lodge a story of enchantment. Many of its incidents, as told by Strachey and Jourdain, have evidently contributed to the description of the wreck and of the island. The admiral's ship, like Alonso's, was separated from his fleet and cast away, as the world for months believed, on the desolate island of 'Bermudas'; a spot 'never inhabited by any Christian or heathen people, but only by 'witches and devils'; 1 thence 'ever esteemed and reputed a most prodigious and inchanted place,' 2 habitually known as 'the Ile of Divels';3 and not less dreaded for the accustomed monstrous thunderstorms and tempests'l by which it was still vexed.' When, in October 1610, the actual story was published, it was discovered that the crew of the Sea Venture,' after giving up all for lost, had been saved as by miracle, the ship being driven and jammed between two rocks, fast lodged and locked for further budging,' so that all got ashore, contriving even to land 'many a bottle of beer,' and hogshead of oil and wine. Actual marvels were not wanting. For the admiral, being upon the watch on the night of the wreck, ‘had an apparition of a little round light, like
1 Howe's continuation of 2 Jourdain. Stowe's Annals, quot. by Delius. 3 Jourdain's title.