Page images


FOURTEEN years before the appearance of the folio of 1623, a quarto edition of this play was published under the title of "The Famous Historie of Troylus and Cresseid. Excellently expressing the beginning of their loves, with the conceited wooing of Pandarus Prince of Licia. Written by William Shakespeare. London Imprinted by G. Eld for R. Bonian and H. Walley, and are to be sold at the spred Eagle in Paules Church-yeard, over against the great North doore. 1609." In the same year, another edition, or rather a second issue of the above, was printed with a different title-page,-" The Historie of Troylus and Cresseida. As it was acted by the Kings Maiesties servants at the Globe. Written by William Shakespeare. London," &c. Nor is this the only diversity between the two issues, for the first contains the following curious prefatory address, which was omitted in all the subsequent copies,—


[blocks in formation]

"Eternall reader, you have heere a new play, never stal'd with the Stage, never clapper-clawd with the palmes of the vulger, and yet passing full of the palme comicall; for it is a birth of your braine, that never undertooke any thing commicall vainely and were but the vaine names of Commedies changde for the titles of commodities, or of Playes for Pleas, you should see all those grand censors, that now stile them such vanities, flock to them for the maine grace of their gravities; especially this author's Commedies, that are so fram'd to the life, that they serve for the most common Commentaries of all the actions of our lives, shewing such a dexteritie and power of witte, that the most displeased with Playes are pleasd with his Commedies. And all such dull and heavywitted worldlings, as were never capable of the witte of a Commedie, comming by report of them to his representations, have found that witte there that they never found in themselves, and have parted better-wittied then they came; feeling an edge of witte set upon them, more then ever they dreamd they had brain to grinde it on. So much and such savoured salt of witte is in his Commedies, that they seeme (for their height of pleasure) to be borne in that sea that brought forth Venus. Amongst all there is none more witty then this: And had I time I would comment upon it, though I know it needs not, (for so much as will make you thinke your testerne well bestowd) but for so much worth, as even poore I know to be stuft in it. It deserves such a labour, as well as the best Commedie in Terence or Plautus. And beleeve this, that when hee is gone, and his Commedies out of sale, you will scramble for them, and set up a new English Inquisition. Take this for a warning, and at the perrill of your pleasures losse, and Judgements, refuse not, nor like this the lesse for not being sullied with the smoaky breath of the multitude: but thanke fortune for the scape it hath made amongst you. Since by the grand possessors wills, I beleeve, you should have prayd for them rather then been prayd, And so I leave all such to bee prayd for (for the states of their wits healths) that will not praise it.-VALE."

From this address we may conclude that, when first published, the piece had not been acted, or only acted at court, and that, being shortly after represented on the stage, it was thought necessary to withdraw the preface, and substitute another title-page.

In Henslowe's Diary is an entry, showing that in April, 1599, Decker and Chettle were occupied in writing a play, called “ Troilus and Cressida," and this may have been the "booke" recorded on the Stationers' Registers, February 7th, 1602-3,

"Mr. Roberts] The booke of Troilus and Cressida, as yt is acted by my Lo. Chamberlens men." Farther, as the company to which Shakespeare belonged was entitled the "Lord Chamberlain's Servants" until the year 1603, and as some parts of his "Troilus and Cressida" are evidently the production of an inferior writer, it is not at all improbable that the earlier piece formed the basis of the later one.

In the preface to his alteration of the present play, Dryden remarks that, "The original story was written by one Lollius, a Lombard, in Latin verse, and translated by Chaucer into English."""Twere to consider too curiously," perhaps, to enter here upon the question whether "Myn auctor Lollius" were a tangible personage, or the mere creation of the old bard's fancy; we may be satisfied the plot of the drama is immediately founded upon the poem of " Troylus and Cryseyde." Upon this point there can be no reasonable doubt; and Mr. Godwin, in his "Life of Chaucer," complains, with reason, that the commentators have dealt ungenerously towards the elder poet in not acknowledging the honour conferred up on him by the immortal dramatist,—

"It would be extremely unjust to quit the consideration of Chaucer's poem of Troilus and Cresseide,' without noticing the high honour it has received in having been made the foundation of one of the plays of Shakespear. There seems to have been in this respect a sort of conspiracy in the commentators upon Shakespear against the glory of our old English bard. In what they have written concerning this play, they make a very slight mention of Chaucer; they have not consulted his poem for the purpose of illustrating this admirable drama; and they have agreed, as far as possible, to transfer to another author the honour of having supplied materials to the tragic artist. Dr. Johnson says, Shakespeare has in his story followed, for the greater part, the old book of Caxton, which was then very popular; but the character of Thersites, of which it makes no mention, is a proof that this play was written after Chapman had published his version of Homer.' Mr. Steevens asserts that Shakspeare received the greatest part of his materials for the structure of this play from the Troye Boke of Lydgate.' And Mr. Malone repeatedly treats the History of the Destruction of Troy, translated by Caxton,' as 'Shakspeare's authority' in the composition of this drama. **The fact is, that the play of Shakespear we are here considering has for its main foundation the poem of Chaucer, and is indebted for many accessory helps to the books mentioned by the commentators.

[ocr errors]

# *

"We are not, however, left to probability and conjecture as to the use made by Shakespear of the poem of Chaucer. His other sources were Chapman's translation of Homer, the Troy Book' of Lydgate, and Caxton's History of the Destruction of Troy.' It is well known that there is no trace of the particular story of Troilus and Cresseide' among the ancients. It occurs, indeed, in Lydgate and Caxton; but the name and actions of Pandarus, a very essential personage in the tale as related by Shakespear and Chaucer, are entirely wanting, except a single mention of him by Lydgate, and that with an express reference to Chaucer as his authority. Shakespear has taken the story of Chaucer with all its imperfections and defects, and has copied the series of its incidents with his customary fidelity ;-an exactness seldom to be found in any other dramatic writer."

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]


IN Troy, there lies the scene. From isles of

The princes orgulous," their high blood chaf'd,
Have to the port of Athens sent their ships,
Fraught with the ministers and instruments
Of cruel war sixty and nine, that wore
Their crownets regal, from the Athenian bay
Put forth toward Phrygia; and their vow is made
To ransack Troy; within whose strong immures
The ravish'd Helen, Menelaus' queen,

With wanton Paris sleeps; and that's the quarrel.
To Tenedos they come;

And the deep-drawing barks* do there disgorge Their warlike fraughtage. Now on Dardan plains The fresh and yet unbruised Greeks do pitch Their brave pavilions: Priam's six-gated city,

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Dardan, and Tymbria, Helias, Chetas, Troien,
And Antenorides," with massy staples,

And corresponsive and fulfilling bolts,
Sperr up the sons of Troy.


Now expectation, tickling skittish spirits,
On one and other side, Trojan and Greek,
Sets all on hazard.-And hither am I come
A prologue arm'd," but not in confidence
Of author's pen or actor's voice; but suited
In like conditions as our argument,—
To tell you, fair beholders, that our play
Leaps o'er the vaunt and firstlings of those broils,
Beginning in the middle; starting thence away
To what may be digested in a play.

Like, or find fault; do as your pleasures are;
Now good, or bad, 'tis but the chance of war.

The fourthe gate highte also Cetheas;

The fyfte Troiana, the syxth Anthonydes," & well as Caxton's "Recuyell of the historyes of Troye," &c., where, in the chapter headed, "How the Kynge Priam reediffied the cyte of troye," it is said, "In this Cyte were sixe pryncipall gates. of whome that one was named dardane, the seconde tymbria. the third helyas. the fourthe chetas. the fifthe troyenne, and the sixthe antenorides."

c Sperr up the sons of Troy.] The folio, where alone of the old editions this Prologue is given, reads, "Stirre up." Theobald first proposed "Sperr," an old word signifying to shut up, which is occasionally used by Chaucer, Spenser, and other of our early writers. darm'd,-] From this it appears that the speaker of the Prologue, instead of wearing the customary black cloak, was dressed in armour,-"In like conditions as our argument."

e - the vaunt-] That is, the van, the fore-going, the begin jning.

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

TRO. Have I not tarried?

PAN. Ay, the grinding; but you must tarry the bolting.

TRO. Have I not tarried?

PAN. Ay, the bolting; but you must tarry the leavening.

TRO. Still have I tarried.

PAN. Ay, to the leavening; but here's yet in the word hereafter, the kneading, the making of the cake, the heating of the oven, and the baking; nay, you must stay the cooling too, or you may chance to burn your lips.

TRO. Patience herself, what goddess e'er she be,
Doth lesser blench" at sufferance than I do.
At Priam's royal table do I sit;

And when fair Cressid comes into my thoughts,
So, traitor!-when she comes!-when is she

[blocks in formation]

PAN. Well, she looked yesternight fairer than ever I saw her look, or any woman else.

TRO. I was about to tell thee,-when my heart, As wedged with a sigh, would rive in twain ; Lest Hector or my father should perceive me, I have (as when the sun doth light a storm*) Buried this sigh in wrinkle of a smile: But sorrow, that is couch'd in seeming gladness, Is like that mirth fate turns to sudden sadness.

PAN. An her hair were not somewhat darker than Helen's, well, go to,—there were no more comparison between the women,-but, for my part, she is my kinswoman; I would not, as they term it, praise her,t-but I would somebody had heard her talk yesterday, as I did. I will not dispraise your sister Cassandra's wit; but

TRO. O Pandarus! I tell thee, Pandarus,—
When I do tell thee, there my hopes lie drown'd,
Reply not in how many fathoms deep
They lie indrench'd. I tell thee, I am mad
In Cressid's love: thou answer'st, she is fair;
Pour'st in the open ulcer of my heart

Her eyes, her hair, her cheek, her gait, her voice:
Handlest in thy discourse,-0, that her hand,
In whose comparison all whites are ink,
Writing their own reproach; to whose soft seizure
The cygnet's down is harsh, and spirit of sense

(*) Old text, a-scorne, corrected by Rowe. (+) First folio, it. ablench-] To blench meant to flinch, or start off. The word is found again in "The Winter's Tale," Act II. Sc. 2; in "Hamlet," Act II. Sc. 2; and in "Measure for Measure," Act IV. Sc. 5.

b- when she comes!-when is she thence?] So Rowe; the old editions having,

"then she comes when she is thence."

e Handlest in thy discourse,-0, that her hand, &c.] This line, we surmise, has suffered from a compositor's transposition: the genuine reading, apparently, being,-

"Handlest in thy discourse her hand. - O, that,
In whose comparison," &c.

Hard as the palm of ploughman !—this thou tell'st me,

As true thou tell'st me, when I say I love her;
But, saying thus, instead of oil and balm,
Thou lay'st in every gash that love hath given me
The knife that made it.

PAN. I speak no more than truth.
TRO. Thou dost not speak so much.

PAN. Faith, I'll not meddle in 't. Let her be as she is if she be fair, 'tis the better for her; an she be not, she has the mends in her own hands.d TRO. Good Pandarus,-how now, Pandarus? PAN. I have had my labour for my travail; illthought on of her, and ill-thought on of you: gone between and between, but small thanks for my labour.

TRO. What, art thou angry, Pandarus? what,

with me?

PAN. Because she's kin to me, therefore she's not so fair as Helen: an she were not kin to me, she would be as fair on Friday as Helen is on Sunday. But what care I? I care not an she were a blackamoor; 't is all one to me.

TRO. Say I she is not fair?

PAN. I do not care whether you do or no. She's a fool to stay behind her father; let her to the Greeks; and so I'll tell her the next time I see her: for my part, I'll meddle nor make no more in the matter.

TRO. Pandarus,-
PAN. Not I.

TRO. Sweet Pandarus,

PAN. Pray you, speak no more to me; I will leave all as I found it, and there an end.

[Exit. An alarum. TRO. Peace, you ungracious clamours! peace, rude sounds!

Fools on both sides! Helen must needs be fair,
When with your blood you daily paint her thus.
I cannot fight upon this argument;

It is too starv'd a subject for my sword.
But Pandarus,-O gods, how do you plague me!
I cannot come to Cressid but by Pandar;
And he's as tetchy to be woo'd to woo,
As she is stubborn-chaste against all suit.

Unless, indeed, the words, "her hand," were intended to be repeated,

"Handlest in thy discourse her hand-O, that her hand," &c. In any case, it is evident from what follows,-"this thou tell'st me," &c.-that Troilus is repeating, or pretending to repeat, what Pandarus had said in praise of Cressida's hand; and the lines should be marked as a quotation.

d she has the mends in her own hands.] This was a proverbial expression; the meaning,-She must make the best of it. So Burton, in his "Anatomy of Melancholy,"-" and if men will be jealous in such cases, the mends is in their own handsthey must thank themselves."

e- she would be as fair on Friday as Helen is on Sunday.] We are not sure we understand this; it perhaps means,-She would be considered as fair in ordinary apparel as Helen in holiday finery.

« PreviousContinue »