Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

OBSERVATIONS

ON

THE FABLE AND COMPOSITION

OF

A MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM.

This play was entered Oct. 8, 1600, at Stationers' Hall. It is probable that the hint for this play was received from Chaucer's Knight's Tale : thence it is, that our author speaks of Theseus as duke of Athens. The tale begins thus :

Whylome as olde stories tellin us,
“ There was a Duke that highte Theseus,

Of Athens he was lord and governour,” &c. Lidgate too, the monk of Bury, in his Translation of the Tragedies of John Bochas, calls him the same. chap. xii. 1. 21.

Duke Theseus had the victorye.” Creon, in the tragedy of Jocasta, translated from Euripides ia 1566, is called Duke Creon. So Skelton,

“ Not lyke Duke Hamilcar,

“ Nor lyke Duke Asdruball.” And Stanghurst, in his Translation of Virgil, calls Æneas, Duke Æneas.

Steevens. Of this play there are two editions in quarto; one printed for Thomas Fisher, the other for James Roberts, both in 1600. I have used the copy of Roberts, very carefully collated, as it seems, with that of Fisher. Neither of the editions approach to exact

Fisher is sometimes preferable, but Roberts was followed, VOL. II.

b

[ocr errors]

though not without some variations, by Hemings and Condel, and they by all the folios that succeeded them.

Wild and fantastical as this play is, all the parts in their various modes are well written, and give the kind of pleasure which the author designed. Fairies in his time were much in fashion ; common tradition had made them familiar, and Spenser's poem had made them great.

JOHNSON. The Midsummer-Night's Dream I suppose to have been written in 1592.-See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays, vol. ix.

MALONE.

OBSERVATIONS

ON

THE FABLE AND COMPOSITION

OF

LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST.

I have not discovered any novel on which this play appears to have been founded; and yet the story of it wears the features of an ancient romance.

STEEVENS. In this play, which all the editors have concurred to censure, and some have rejected as unworthy of our poet, it must be confessed, that there are many passages mean, childish, and vulgar; and some which ought not to have been exhibited, as we are told they were, to a maiden queen. But there are scattered through the whole many sparks of genius ; nor is there any play that has more evident marks of the hand of Shakspeare. JOHNSON. Love's Labour's Lost I conjecture to have been written in 1594.

MALONE.

[blocks in formation]

OBSERVATIONS

ON

THE FABLE AND COMPOSITION

OF

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.

It has been lately discovered, that this fable is taken from a story in the Pecorone of Ser Giovanni Fiorentino, a novelist, who wrote in 1378. [The first novel of the fourth day.) The story has been published in English, and I have epitomized the translation. The translator is of opinion, that the choice of the caskets is borrowed from a tale of Boccace, though I believe that Shakspeare must have had some other novel in view.

There lived at Florence, a merchant whose name was Bindo. He was rich, and had three sons. Being near his end, he called for the two eldest, and left them heirs : to the youngest he left nothing. This youngest, whose name was Giannetto, went to his father, and said, What has my father done? The father replied, Dear Giannetto, there is none to whom I wish better than to you. Go to Venice to your godfather, whose name is Ansaldo; he has no child, and has wrote to me often to send you thither to him. He is the richest merchant amongst the Christians : if you behave well, you will be certainly a rich man. The son answered, I am ready to do whatever my dear father shall command : upon which he gave him his benediction, and in a few days died.

Giannetto went to Ansaldo, and presented the letter given by the father before his death. Ansaldo reading the letter, cried out, VOL. II.

b

« ÎnapoiContinuați »