« PreviousContinue »
* MEASURE FOR MEASURE.] The ftory is taken from Cinthio's Novels, Decad. 8. Novel 5. POPE.
We are sent to Cinthio for the plot of Measure for Measure, and Shakspeare's judgment hath been attacked for some deviations from him in the conduct of it, when probably all he knew of the matter was from Madam Isabella, in The Heptameron of Whetslone, Lond.
She reports, in the fourth dayes Exercise, the rare Hillorie of Promos and Cassandra. À marginal note informs 115, thai Whetstone was the author of the Comedie on that subject; which likewise had probably fallen into the hands of Shakspeare.
FARNIER. There is perhaps not one of Shakspeare's plays more darkened than this by the peculiarities of its author, and the unskilfulness of its editors, by distortions of phrase, or negligence of transcription,
JOHNSON. Dr. Johnson's remark is so just respecting the corruptions of this play, ihat I shall not attempt much reformation in its metre, which is 100 often rough, redundant, and irregular. Additions and omilfions (however trifling) cannot be made without constant notice of them; and such notices, in the present instance, would so frequently occur, as to become equally tirefome to the commentator and the reader.
Shakspeare took the fable of this play from the Promos and Cassandra of George Whetstone, published in 1578. See Theobald's note at the end,
A hint, like a seed, is more or less prolific, according to the qualities of the soil on which it is thrown. This story, which in the hands of Whetstone produced little more than barren infipidity, under the culture of Shakspeare became fertile of entertainment. The curious reader will find that the old play of Promos and Cassandra exhibits an almost complete embryo of Measure for Measure ; yel the hints on which it is formed are so flight, that it is nearly as impoffible to deica them, as it is to point out in the acorn the future ramifications of the oak. Whetstone opens his play thus :
Ad I. Scene i.. « Promos, Mayor, Shirife, Sworde bearer: one with a bunche
of keyes : Phallax, Promos Man.
16 And now 10 how my rule and power at laruge,
- Phallax, reade out my Soveraines chardge.
Phallax readeth the Kinges Letters Pattents, which
must be fayre written in parchment, with Jomo
great counterfeat zeale. Pro.. Loe, here you see what is our Soveraignez wyl,
« Loe, hcare his wish, that right, not might, beare swaye:
Loe, heare his care, to weede from good the yll,
Pro... Both fwoorde and keies, unto my princes use,
“ I do receyve, and gladlie take my chardge.
s. To treate of which , a whyle we wyll depart.
Exeunt." The reader will find the argument of G. Whetstone's Promos and Cassandra, at the end of this play. It is too bulky to be inserte here. See likewise the piece itself among Six old Plays on which Shakspeare founded, &c. published by S. Leacroft, Charingcross. STEEVENS.
Measure for Measure was, I believe, written in 1603. See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's: Plays, Vol. II.
Vincentio, duke of Vienna.
Lords, Gentlemen, Guards, Officers, and other
* Varrius might be omitted, for he is only once spoken to, and says nothing. JOHNSON.
Elb. O thou caitif.0 thor varlot'O thore wicked Hannibal
respected with her, or she with me, let not your
. _localus, a Justice, Éillon, Froth Clonn Officers dc.
ACT II. SCENE I.