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“ Feare not, my lord, the perfit good indeed,
But whoever he was, Shakspeare has done him the honour to follow him in a stroke or two: one has been observ'd upon above; and the reader, who is acquainted with Shakspeare's Lear, will perceive another in the second line of the concluding speech : and here is a third; “Knowest thou these letters ?” says Leir to Regan, (fign. I. 36.) shewing her hers and her fifter's letter commanding his death; upon which she snatches at the letters, and tears them: (v. Lear, p. 541, 542,) another, and that a most signal one upon one account, occurs at fignature C. 35: • But he, the myrrour
of mild patience,
and never gives reply;" Perillus says this of Leir; comprizing therein his character, as drawn by this author; how opposite to that which Shakspeare has given him, all know: and yet he has found means to put nearly the same words into the very mouth of his Lear, -
“ No, I will be the pattern of all patience, 14 I will say nothing." Lastly, two of Shakspeare's personages, Kent, and the fieward, seem to owe their existence to the above-mention'd shag-hair'd wretch," and the Perrillus of this Leir.
The episode of Gloster and his two sons is taken from the Arcadia: in which romance there is a chapter thus intitl'd;-"The pitifull fiate, and storie of
the Paphlagonian unkinde King, and his kind sonne, first 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 fome novel or other, which may one day be discover'd. The character of Armado has some resemblance to Don Quixote; but the play is older than that work of Cervantes : of Holofernes, another singular character, there are some faint traces in a masque of Sir Philip Sydney's that was presented before Queen Elizabeth at Wansted: this masque call'd in catalogues — The Lady of May, is at the end of that author's works, 'edit. 1627, folio,
Measure for Measure. In the year 1578, was publish'd in a black-letter quarto a miserable dramatick performance, in two parts, intitld- Promos and Calandra; written by one George Whetstone, author likewise of the Heptameron, and much other poetry of the fame stamp, 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 argumentofit; which, though it be somewhat of the longeit, yet take it in his own words.
The Argument of the whole
" In the Cyttie of Julio (sometimes under the dominion of Corvinus Kinge of Hungarie and Boemia) there was a law, that what man so ever committed adultery, should lose his head, & the woman offender, should weare some disguised apparel, during her life, to make her infamouslye noted. This fevere lawe, by the favour of some mercifull magistraté, became little regarded, untill the time of Lord Promos auctority: who convicing a young gentleman nam'd 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 sister, named Cassandra: Cassandra to enlarge her brothers life, submitted an humble petition to the Lord Promos: Promos regarded her good behaviours, and fantasying her great beawtie, was much delighted with the sweete, order of her talke: and doying good, that evill might come thereof: for a time he repryv'd her brother: but wicked man, tourning his liking unto unlawful lust , he fet . downe the spoile of her honour, raunsome for her Brothers life: Chaste Cassandra, abhorring both him and his suite, by no perswafion would yeald to this raunfome. But in fine, wonne with the importunitye of hir brother (pleading for life:) upon these conditions, she agreed to Promos. First that he should pardon her brother, and after marry her. Promos as fearles in Promise, as carelesse in performance, with sollemne vowe, sygned her conditions: but worse than any infydel, his will
satisfyed, he performed neither the one nor the other: for to keepe his authoritye, unspotted with favour, and to prevent Cassandraes claniors, he commaunded the Gayler secretly, to present Cafsandra with her brothers head. The Gayler, with the outcryes of Andrugio, (abhorring Promos lewdnes,) by the providence of God, provided thus for his safety. He presented Cassandra with a felons head newlie executed, who ( being mangled, knew it not from her brothers, by the Gayler, who was set at libertie) was so agreeved at this trecherye, that at the pointe to kyl her selfe, she spared that stroke, to be avenged of Promos.
And devysing a way, she concluded, to make her fortunes knowne unto the kinge. She (executing this resolution) was so highly favoured of the king, that forthwith he hasted to do justice on Promos: whose judgement was, to marrye Cassandra, to repaire her crased Honour: which donne, for his hainous offence he should lose his head. This marryage solempnised, Cassandra tyed in the greatest bondes of affection to her husband, became an earnest futer for his life: the Kinge (tendringe the generall benefit of the common weale, before her special ease, although he favoured her much ) would not graunt her fute. Andrugio (disguised a monge the company) sorrowing the griefe of his fifter, bewrayde his safety, and craved pardon. The Kinge, to renowne the vertues of Cassandra, pardoned both him, and Promos. The circumstances of this rare Historye, in action livelye foloweth."
The play itselfe opens thus: ;
" A&us I. Scena 1.
« Promos, Mayor, Shirife, Sworde bearer: One with a bunche of
keyes: Phallax, Piomos man.
" You Officers which now in Julio staye.
" Phallax readeth the Kings Letters Patents, which must be fayre written in parchment, with some great counterfeat zeale.
· Pro. Loe, 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, besides the characters appearing in the argument, his Bawd, : Clown, Lucio, Juliet, and the Provost, 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, suggested to him the manner in which his own play opens.
Merchant of Venice.
The Few of Venice, was a story exceedingly well known in Shakspeare's time; celebrated in ballads; and taken (perhaps) originally from an