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Thanks, provost, for thy care and secrecy;
The novel of Giraldi Cinthio, from which Shakspeare is supposed to have borrowed this fable, may be read in Shakspeare Illustrated, elegantly translated, with remarks, which will assist the inquirer to discover how much absurdity Shakspeare has admitted or avoided.
I cannot but suspect that some other had new-modelled the novel of Cinthio, or written a story which in some particulars resembled it, and that Cinthio was not the author whom Shakspeare immediately followed. The emperor in Cinthio 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 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 comic part is very natural and pleasing, but the grave scenes, if a few passages be excepted, have more labor 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.
* The duke probably bad learned the story of Mariana in some of his former retirements, "having ever loved the life removed.” And he had a suspicion that Angelo was but a scemer, and therefore stays to watch him.