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"Twelfe Night, Or what you will," was first printed in the folio of 1623, where it occupies twenty-one pages; viz. from p. 255 to 275 inclusive, in the division of "Comedies,” p. 276 having been left blank, and unpaged. It appears in the same form in the three later folios.
We have no record of the performance of "Twelfth-Night" at court, nor is there any mention of it in the books at Stationers' Hall until November 8, 1623, when it was registered by Blount and Jaggard, as about to be included in the first folio of "Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies." It appeared originally in that volume, under the double title, "Twelfth-Night, or What You Will," with the Acts and Scenes duly noted.
We cannot determine with precision when it was first written, but we know that it was acted on the celebration of the Readers' Feast at the Middle Temple on Feb. 2, 1602, according to our modern computation of the year. The fact of its performance we have on the evidence of an eye-witness, who seems to have been a barrister, and whose Diary, in his own hand-writing, is preserved in the British Museum (Harl. MSS. 5353). The memorandum runs, literatim, as follows:—
"Feby. 2, 1601. At our feast we had a play called TwelveNight, or What You Will, much like the comedy of errors, or Menechmi in Plautus, but most like and neere to that in Italian, called Inganni. A good practise in it to make the steward believe his lady widdowe was in love with him, by counterfayting a letter, as from his lady, in generall termes telling him what shee liked best in him, and prescribing his gestures, inscribing his apparaile, &c., and then when he came to practise, making him beleeve they tooke him to be mad."
This remarkable entry was pointed out in the "History of English Dramatic Poetry and the Stage," vol. i. p. 327. 8vo, 1831, and the Rev. Joseph Hunter, in his "Disquisition on The Tempest," 8vo, 1839, has ascertained that it was made by a person of the name of Manningham. It puts an end to the conjecture of Malone, that "Twelfth-Night" was written in 1607, and to the less probable speculation of Tyrwhitt, that it was not produced until 1614. Even if it should be objected that we have no evidence to show that this Comedy was composed shortly prior to its representation at the Middle Temple, it may be answered, that it is capable of proof that it was written posterior to the publication of the translation of Linschoten's "Discours of Voyages into the East and West
Indies." In A. ii. sc. 2. Maria says of Malvolio:-" He does smile his face into more lines than are in the new map, with the augmentation of the Indies." When Malone prepared his " "Chronological Order" he had "not been able to learn the date of the map here alluded to," but Linschoten's "Discours of Voyages" was published in folio in English in 1598, and in that volume is inserted "the new map with the augmentation of the Indies." Meres takes no notice of "Twelfth-Night" in his list, published in the same year, and we may conclude that the Comedy was not then in existence. The words "new map," employed by Shakespeare, may be thought to show that Linschoten's "Discours" had not made its appearance long before "Twelfth-Night" was produced; but on the whole, we are inclined to fix the period of its composition at the end of 1600, or in the beginning of 1601: it might be acted at the Globe in the summer of the same year, and from thence transferred to the Middle Temple about six months afterwards, on account of its continued popularity.
Several originals of "Twelfth-Night," in English, French, and Italian, have been pointed out, nearly all of them discovered within the present century, and to these we shall now advert.
A voluminous and various author of the name of Barnabe Rich, who had been brought up a soldier, published a volume, which he called "Rich his Farewell to Military Profession," without date, but between the years 1578 and 1581: a re-impression of it appeared in 1606, and it contains a novel entitled "Apolonius and Silla," which has many points of resemblance to Shakespeare's comedy. To this production more particular reference is not necessary, as it forms part of the publication called "Shakespeare's Library." If our great dramatist at all availed himself of its incidents, he must of course have used an earlier edition than that of 1606. One minute circumstance in relation to it may deserve notice. Manningham in his Diary calls Olivia a widow," and in Rich's novel the lady Julina, who answers to Olivia, is a widow, but in Shakespeare she never had been married. It is possible that in the form in which the comedy was performed on Feb. 2, 1601-2, she was a widow, and that the author subsequently made the change; but it is more likely, as Olivia must have been in mourning for the loss of her brother, that Manningham mistook her condition, and concluded hastily that she lamented the loss of her husband.
Rich furnishes us with the title of no work to which he was indebted; but we may conclude that, either immediately or intermediately, he derived his chief materials from the Italian of Bandello, or from the French of Belleforest. In Bandello it forms the thirtysixth novel of the Seconda Parte, in the Lucca edit. 1554. 4to, where it bears the subsequent title :-"Nicuola, innamorata di Lat
tantio, và à servirlo vestita da paggio; e dopo molti casi seco si marita e ciò che ad un suo fratello avvenne.' In the collection by Belleforest, printed at Paris in 1572, 12mo, it is headed as follows:-" Comme une fille Romaine, se vestant en page, servist long temps un sien amy sans estre cogneue, et depuis l'eust à mary, avec autres divers discours." Although Belleforest inserts no names in his title, he adopts those of Bandello, but abridges or omits many of the speeches and some portions of the narrative: what in Bandello occupies several pages is sometimes included by Belleforest in a single paragraph. We quote the subsequent passage, because it will more exactly show the degree of connexion between "TwelfthNight" and the old French version: it is where Nicuola, the Viola of Shakespeare, disguised as a page, and under the name of Romule, has an interview with Catelle, the Olivia of "Twelfth-Night," on behalf of Lattance, who answers to the Duke.
"Mais Catelle, qui avoit plus l'œil sur l'orateur et sur la naïve beauté, que l'oreille aux paroles venant d'ailleurs, estoit en une estrange peine, et volontiers se fut jettée à son col pour le baiser tout à son aise; mais la honte la retint pour un temps: à la fin n'en pouvant plus, et vaincue de ceste impatience d'amour, et se trouvant favorisée de la commodité, ne sceut de tant se commander, que l'embrassant estroitement elle ne le baisast d'une douzaine de fois, et ce avec telle lasciveté et gestes effrontez, que Romule s'apparceut bien que cette-cy avait plus chere son accointance que les ambassades de celuy qui la courtisoit. A ceste cause luy dit, Je vous prie, madame, me faire tant de bien que me donnant congé, j'aye de vous quelque gracieuse responce, avec laquelle je puisse faire content et joyeux mon seigneur, lequel est en soucy et tourment continuel pour ne sçavoir votre volonté vers luy, et s'il a rien acquis en vos bonnes graces. Catelle, humant de plus en plus le venin d'amour par les yeux, luy sembloit que Romule devint de fois à autre plus beau."
Upon the novel by Bandello two Italian plays were composed, which were printed, and have come down to our time. The title of one of these is given by Manningham, where he says that Shakespeare's "Twelfth-Night' was "most like and neere to that in Italian called Inganni." It was first acted in 1547, and the earliest edition of it, with which I am acquainted, did not appear until 1582, when it bore the title of Gl' Inganni Comedia del Signor N. S. The other Italian drama, founded upon Bandello's novel, bears a somewhat similar title:-Gl'Ingannati Commedia degl' Accademici Intronati di Siena, which was several times printed; last, perhaps, in the collection Delle Commedie degl' Accademici Intronati di Siena, 1611, 12mo. Whether our great dramatist saw either of these pieces before he wrote his "Twelfth-Night" may admit of doubt;