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Cymbeline was first printed in the folio of 1623, where it is the last play in the volume, occupying pages 369-399 (misprinted 993) in the division of “ Tragedies." The earliest allusion to it that has been discovered is in Dr. Simon Forman's MS. Diary (see Richard II. p. 13, M. N. D. p. 10, and W. T. p. 10), which belongs to the years 1610 and 1611. His sketch of the plot (not dated) is as follows: *
* As given in the New Shaks. Soc. Transactions for 1875-6, p. 417.
“Remember also the storri of Cymbalin king of England, in Lucius tyme, howe Lucius Cam from Octauus Cesar for Tribut, and being denied, after sent Lucius with a greate Arme of Souldiars who landed at milford hauen, and Affter wer vanquished by Cimbalin, and Lucius taken prisoner, and all by means of 3 outlawes, of the which 2 of them were the sonns of Cimbalim, stolen from himn when they but 2 yers old by an old man whom Cymbalin banished, and he kept them as his own sonns 20 yers with him in A caue. And howe [one] of them slewe Clotan, that was the quens sonn, goinge To milford hauen to sek the loue of Innogen the kinges daughter, whom he had banished also for louinge his daughter. and howe the Italian that cam from her loue conveied him selfe into A Cheste, and said yt was a chest of plate sent from her loue & others, to be presented to the kinge. And in the depest of the night, she being aslepe, he opened the cheste & cam forth of yt, And vewed her in her bed, and the markes of her body, & toke a-wai her braslet, & after Accused her of adultery to her loue, &c. And in thend howe he came with the Romains into England & was taken prisoner, and after Reueled to Innogen who had turned her self into mans apparrell & fled to mete her loue at milford hauen, & chanchsed to fall on the Caue in the wodes wher her 2 brothers were, & howe by eating a sleping Dram they thought she had bin deed, & laid her in the wodes, & the body of cloten by her in her loues apparrell that he left behind him, & howe she was found by lucius, &c.”
The play was probably a new one when Forman saw it in 1610 or 1611. Drake dates it in 1605, Chalmers in 1606, Malone in 1609 (after having at first assigned it to 1605), Fleay (Introd. to Shakespearian Study) "circa 1609," White “1609 or 1610,” Delius, Furnivall, and Stokes in 1610, Dowden and Ward at about the time when Forman saw it. The internal evidence of style and metre indicates that it was one of the latest of the plays.
Cymbeline is badly printed in the folio, and the involved style makes the correction of the text a task of more than usual difficulty. The critics generally agree that the vision in v. 4 cannot be Shakespeare's. Ward considers that “there is no reason, on account of its style, which reminds one of the prefatory lines to the cantos of the Faerie Queene, to impugn Shakespeare's authorship of it;" but it seems to us very clearly the work of another hand.
Cf. the rhymed episode in A. Y. L. v. 4. 113 fol., and see our ed. p. 199 (note on 136).
II. THE SOURCES OF THE PLOT. The poet took the names of Cymbeline and his two sons from Holinshed, together with a few historical facts concerning the king; but the story of the stealing of the princes and of their life in the wilderness appears to be his own.*
The story of Imogen, which is so admirably interwoven with that of the sons of Cymbeline, was taken, directly or indirectly, from the Decamerone of Boccaccio, in which it forms the ninth novel of the second day. No English translation of it is known to have been made in Shakespeare's time. A version appeared in a tract entitled Westward for Smelts, which was published in 1620. Malone speaks of an edition of 1603 ; but this is probably an error, as the book was not entered upon the Stationers' Registers until 1619-20. This translation, moreover, lacks some important details which the play has in common with the Italian original.†
* It has been pointed out by K. Schenkl that the incidents of Imogen's seeking refuge in the wilderness and her deathlike sleep occur in the German fairy-tale of Schneewittchen.
† For an outline of Boccaccio's novel, see the extract from Mrs. Jameson below. The chief incidents of the story had been used in a French miracle-play of the Middle Ages, and also in the old French romances of La Violette and Flore et Jehanne ; but we have no reason to suppose that Shakespeare made any use of these. In one of the romances the lady has a mole upon her right breast; in Boccaccio, as in Shakespeare, it is on her left breast. This mark is not mentioned at all in Westward for