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OBSERVATIONS

ON

THE FABLE AND COMPOSITION

OF

MEASURE FOR MEASURE.

THE story is taken from Cinthio's Novels, Decad. 8, Novel 5.

POPE.

I cannot help taking notice with how much judgement Shak speare has given turns to this story from what he found it in Cynthio Giraldi's novel. In the first place, the brother is there actually executed, and the governour sends his head in a bravado to the sister, after he had debauched her on promise of marriage : a circumstance of too much horror and villainy for the stage. And, in the next place, the sister afterwards is, to solder up her disgrace, married to the governour, and begs his life of the emperour, though he had unjustly been the death of her brother. Both which absurdities the poet has avoided by the episode of Mariana, a creature purely of his own invention. The Duke's remaining incognito at home to supervise the conduct of his deputy, is also entirely our author's fiction.

This story was attempted for the scene before our author was fourteen years old, by one George Whetstone, in Two Comical Discourses, as they are called, containing the right excellent and famous history of Promos and Cassandra, printed with the black letter, 1578. The author going that year with Sir Humphrey Gilbert to Norimbega, left them with his friends to publish,

THEOBALD.

VOL. I.

b.

ii

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 Whetstone, London, 4to, 1582.-She reports, in the fourth dayes Exercise, the rare Historie of Promos and Cassandru. A marginal note informs us, that Whetstone was the author of the Comedie on that subject; which likewise had probably fallen into the hands of Shakspeare. FARMER.

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. Shakspeare took the fable of this play from the Promos and Cassandra of George Whetstone, published in 1578.

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 insipidity, 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; yet the hints on which it is formed are so slight, that it is nearly as impossible to detect them, as it is to point out in the acorn the future ramifications of the oak. STEEVENS.

The Novel of Cynthio Giraldi, from which Shakspeare is sup ilposed to have borrowed this fable, may be read in Shakspeare lustrated, elegantly translated, with remarks which will assist the enquirer to discover how much absurdity Shakspeare has admitted or avoided.

I cannot but suspect that some other had new-modelled the novel of Cynthio, or written a story which in some particulars resembled it, and that Cynthio was not the author whom Shakspeare immediately followed. The emperor in Cynthio is named Maximine; the duke, in Shakspeare's enumeration of the persons of the drama, is called Vincentio. This appears a very slight remark; but since the duke has no name in the play, nor is ever mentioned but by his title, why should he be called Vincentio among the persons, but because the name was copied from the

iii

story, and placed superfluously at the head of the list by the mere habit of transcription? It is therefore likely that there was then a story of Vincentio duke of Vienna, different from that of Maximine emperor of the Romans.

Of this play the light or comick part is very natural and pleasing, but the grave scenes, if a few passages be excepted, have more labour than elegance. The plot is rather intricate than artful. The time of the action is indefinite; some time, we know not how much, must have elapsed between the recess of the duke and the imprisonment of Claudio; for he must have learned the story of Mariana in his disguise, or he delegated his power to a man already known to be corrupted. The unities of action and place are sufficiently preserved. JOHNSON.

Measure for Measure was, I believe, written in 1603.—See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays, vol. ix.

MALONE.

MEASURE FOR MEASURE.

ACT I SCENE I.

AN APARTMENT IN THE DUKE'S PALACE.

Enter Duke, Escalus, Lords, and Attendants.

Duke. Escalus,—

Escal. My lord.

Duke. Of government the properties to unfold, Would seem in me to affect speech and discourse; Since I am put to know, that your own science, Exceeds, in that, the lists of all advice

My strength can give you: Then no more remains,
But that to your sufficiency, as your worth is able,
And let them work. The nature of our people,
Our city's institutions, and the terms

For common justice, you are as pregnant in,
As art and practice hath enriched any

That we remember: There is our commission,
From which we would not have you warp.-Call

I

say,

hither,

bid come before us Angelo.

[Exit an Attendant.

What figure of us think you he will bear?

For

you must know, we have with special soul Elected him our absence to supply;

B

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