« AnteriorContinuar »
THE ftory on which this play is formed, is of great antiquity. It is found in a book, once very popular, entitled Gefta Romanorum, which is fuppofed by Mr. Tyrwhitt, the learned editor of The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer, 1775, to have been written five hundred years ago. The earliest impreffion of that work (which I have feen) was printed in 1488; * in that edition the hiftory of Appolonius King of Tyre makes the 153d chapter. It is likewife related by Gower in his Confeffio Amantis, lib. viii. p. 175–185, edit. 1554. The Rev. Dr. Farmer has in his poffeffion a fragment of a MS. poem on the fame fubject, which appears, from the hand-writing and the metre, to be more ancient than Gower. There is also an ancient romance on this fubject,. called Kyng Appolyn of Thyre, tranflated from the French by Robert, Copland, and printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1510. In 1576 William Howe had a licence for printing "The most excellent, pleasant, and variable Hiftorie of the frange Adventures of Prince Appolonius, Lucine his wyfe, and Tharfa his daughter." The author of Pericles having introduced Gower in his piece, it is reafonable to fuppofe that he chiefly followed the work of that poet. It is obfervable, that the hero of this tale is, in Gower's poem, as in the prefent play, called prince of Tyre; in the Gefta Romanorum, and Copland's profe romance, he is entitled king. Moft of the incidents of the play are found in the Conf. Amant, and a few of Gower's expreffions are occasionally borrowed. However, I think it is not unlikely, that there may have been (though I have not met with it) an early profe tranflation of this popular ftory, from the Geft. Roman. in which the name of Appolonius was changed to Pericles; to which, likewife, the author of this drama may have been indebted. In 1607 was published at London, by Valentine Sims, "The patterne of painful adventures, containing the most excellent, pleafant, and variable hiftorie of the ftrange accidents that befell unto Prince Appolonius, the lady Lucina his wife, and Tharfia his daughter, wherein the uncertaintie of this world and the fickle itate of man's life are lively defcribed. Tranflated into English by T. Twine, Gent." I have never seen the book, but it was without doubt a republication of that publifhed by W. Howe in 1576.
Pericles was entered on the Stationers' books, May 2, 1608, by Edward Blount, one of the printers of the first folio edition of Shak* There are several editions of the Gesta Romanorum before 1488. Douce.
fpeare's plays; but it did not appear in print till the following year, and then it was published not by Blount, but by Henry Goffon; who had probably anticipated the other, by getting a hafty transcript from a playhoufe copy. There is, I believe, no play of our author's, perhaps I might fay, in the English language, fo incorrect as this. corrupt of Shakspeare's other dramas, compared with Pericles, is purity itfelf. The metre is feldom attended to; verse is frequently printed as profe, and the groffeft errors abound in almost every page. I mention thefe circunftances, only as an apology to the reader for having taken fomewhat more licence with this drama than would have been justifiable, if the copies of it now extant had been lefs disfigured by the negligence and ignorance of the printer or tranfcriber. The numerous corruptions that are found in the original edition in 1609, which have been carefully preferved and augmented in all the fubfequent impreffions, probably arofe from its having been frequently exhibited on the flage. In the four quarto editions it is called the much admired play of PERICLES PRINCE OF TYRE; and it is mentioned by many ancient writers as a very popular performance; particularly, by the author of a metrical pamphlet, entitled Pymlico or Run Redcap, in which the following lines are found':
"Amaz'd I flood, to fee a crowd
"Of civil throats ftretch'd out fo loud:
"As at a new play, all the rooms
"Did fwarm with gentles mix'd with grooms;
So that I truly thought all these
"Came to fee Shore or Pericles."
In a former edition of this play I faid, on the authority of another perfon, that this pamphlet had appeared in 1596; but I have fince met with the piece itself, and find that Pymlico, &c. was published in 1609. It might, however, have been a republication.
The prologue to an old comedy called The Hog has loft his Pearl, 1614, likewife exhibits a proof of this play's uncommon fuccefs. The poet fpeaking of his piece, fays:
if it prove fo happy as to please,
"We'll fay 'tis fortunate, like Pericles."
By fortunate, I understand highly fuccessful. The writer can hardly be fuppofed to have meant that Pericles was popular rather from accident than merit; for that would have been but a poor eulogy on his own performance.
An obfcure poet, however, in 1652, infinuates that this drama was ill received, or at least that it added nothing to the reputation of its author : "But Shakspeare, the plebeian driller, was
"Founder'd in his Pericles, and must not pafs."
Verfes by J. Tatham, prefixed to Richard Brome's
The paffages above quoted fhew that little credit is to be given to the affertion contained in thefe lines; yet they furnish us with an additional proof that Pericles, at no very diftant period after Shakspeare's death, was confidered as unquestionably his performance.
In The Times difplayed in Six Seftiads, 4to. 1646, dedicated by S. Shephard to Philip Earl of Pembroke, p. 22, Seftiad VI. stanza 9, the author thus fpeaks of our poet and the piece before us:
"See him, whose tragick scenes Euripides
"He wrote of luftful Tarquin's rape, fhows he
For the divifion of this piece into scenes I am refponfible, there being none found in the old copies. MALONE.
The Hiftory of Appolonius King of Tyre was fuppofed by Mark Welfer, when he printed it in 1595, to have been tranflated from the Greek a thousand years before. [Fabr. Bib. Gr. v. p. 821.] It cer tainly bears strong marks of a Greek original, though it is not (that I know) now extant in that language. The rythmical poem, under the fame title, in modern Greek, was re-tranflated (if I may fo fpeak) from the Latin απο Λατινικης εις Ρωμαϊκην γλωσσαν. Du Frefne Index Author, ad Gloff. Græc. When Welfer printed it, he probably did not know that it had been publifhed already (perhaps more than once) among the Gefta Romanorum. In an edition, which I have,
printed at Rouen in 1521, it makes the 154th chapter. Towards the latter end of the XIIth century, Godfrey of Viterbo, in his Pantheon or Univerfal Chronicle, inferted this romance as part of the hiftory of the third Antiochus, about 200 years before Chrift. It begins thus [MS. Reg. 14. C. xi.]:
"Filia Seleuci regis ftat clara decore,
"Matreque defunctâ pater arfic in ejus amore.
"Res habet effectum, preffa puella dolet " The rest is in the fame metre, with one pentameter only to two hexa❤
Gower, by his own acknowledgement, took his ftory from the Pantheon; as the author (whoever he was) of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, profeffes to have followed Gower. TYRWHITT.
There are three French translations of this story, viz.--" La Chronique d'Appollin, Roy de Thyr;" 4to. Geneva, bl. 1. no date;-and "Plaitante et agreable Hiftoire d'Appollonius Prince de Thyr en Affrique, et Roi d'Antioche; traduit par Gilles Corozet," 8vo. Paris, 1530; and (in the feventh volume of the Hiftoires Tragiques, &c. 12m). 1604, par François Belle-foreft, &c.) "Accidens diuers
aduenus à Appollonie Roy des Tyriens: fes malheurs fur mer, fes pertes de femme & fille, et la fin heureufe de tous ensemble."
In the introduction to this last novel, the tranflator fays-" Ayant. en main une hiftoire tiree du Grec, & icelle ancienne, comme auffi je l'ay recuellie d'un vieux livre écrit à la main," &c.
But the prefent ftory, as it appears in Belle-foreft's collection, (Vol. VII. p. 113,& feq.) has yet a further claim to our notice, as it had the honour (p. 148-9) of furnishing Dryden with the outline of his Alexander's Feaft. Langbaine, &c. have accused this great poet of adopting circumstances from the Hiftoires Tragiques, among other French novels; a charge, however, that demands neither proof nor apology.
The popularity of this tale of Appollonius, may be inferred from the very numerous MSS. in which it appears.
Both editions of Twine's tranflation are now before me. Thomas Twine was the continuator of Phaer's Virgil, which was left imperfect in the year 1558.
In Twine's book our hero is repeatedly called-" Prince of Tyrus." It is fingular enough that this fable fhould have been republished in 1607, the play entered on the books of the Stationers' Company in 1608, and printed in 1609.
It is almoft needlefs to obferve that our dramatick Pericles has not the least resemblance to his historical namefake; though the adventures of the former are fometimes coincident with those of Pyrocles, the hero of Sidney's Arcadia; for the amorous, fugitive, fhipwrecked, musical, tilting, defpairing Prince of Tyre is an accomplished knight of romance, difguifed under the name of a statesman,
"Whose refiftlefs eloquence
"Wielded at will a fierce democratie,
"Shook th' arfenal, and fulmin'd over Greece."
As to Sidney's Pyrocles, Tros, Tyriufve,
"The world was all before him, where to choofe
but Pericles was tied down to Athens, and could not be removed to a throne in Phoenicia. No poetick license will permit a unique, claffical, and confpicuous name to be thus unwarrantably transferred. A Prince of Madagascar must not be called Æneas, nor a Duke of Florence Mithridates; for fuch peculiar appellations would unfeasonably remind ys of their great original poffeffors. The playwright who indulges himfelf in these wanton and injudicious vagaries, will always counteract his own purpose. Thus, as often as the appropriated name of Pericles occurs, it ferves but to expose our author's grofs departure from established manners and hiftorick truth; for laborious fiction could not designedly produce two perfonages more oppofite than the settled dema gogue of Athens, and the vagabond Prince of Tyre.