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ORIGIN OF SHAKSPEARE'S FABLES.
ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.
The fable of this Play is taken from a novel, of which Boccace is the original author; in whose Decameron it may be seen at p. 97.of the Giunti edition, reprinted at London. But it is more than probable, that Shakspeare read it in a book, callid The Palace of Pleasure : which is a collection of novels translated from other authors, made by one William Painter, and by him first published in the years 1565 and 67, in two tomes, quarto ; the novel now spoken of, is the thirtyeighth of tome the first. This novel is a meagre translation, not (perhaps) immediately from Boccace, but from a French translator of him: as the original is in every body's hands, it may there be seen that nothing is taken from it by Shakspeare, but some leading incidents of the serious parts of
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA. This play, together with Coriolanus, Julius Cæsar, and some part of Timon of Athens, are formed upon Plutarch's Lives, in the articles-Coriolanus, Brutus, Julius Cæsar, and Antony : of which Lives there is a French translation, of great fame, made by Amiot, Bishop of Auxerre and great almoner of France; which, some years after its first appearance, was put into an English dress by our countryman Sir Thomas North, and published in the year 1579, in folio. As the language of this translation is pretty good, for the time;
and the sentiments, which are Plutarch's, breathe the genuitte spirit of the several historical personages; Shakspeare has, with much judgment, introduc'd no small number of speeches into these plays in the very words of that translator, turning them into verse: which he has so well wrought up, and incorporated with his plays, that, what he has introduc'd, cannot be discover'd by any reader, 'till it is pointed out for him.
AS YOU LIKE IT. A novel, or (rather) pastoral romance, intitld-Euphues's Golden Legacy, written in a very fantastical style by Dr. Thomas Lodge, and by him first publish'd in the year 1590, in quarto, is the foundation of As you like it : besides the fable, which is pretty exactly followed, the outlines of certain principal characters may be observ'd in the novel : and some expressions of the novelist (few, indeed, and of no great moment,) seem to have taken possession of Shakspeare's memory, and from thence crept into his play.
COMEDY OF ERRORS.
Of this play, the Menachmi of Plautus is most certainly the original: yet the poet went not to the Latin for it; but took up with an English Menachmi, put out by one W. W. in 1595, quarto. This translation,-in which the writer professes to have usd some liberties, which he has distinguish'd by a particular mark, --is in prose, and a very good one for the time : it furnished Shakspeare with nothing but his principal incident; as you may in part see by the translator's argument, which is in verse, and runs thus :
• Two twinborne sonnes, a Sicill marchant had,
* This (growne a man) long travels tooke to seeke,
It is probable, that the last of these verses suggested the title of Shakspeare's play.
Boccace's story of Barnardo da Ambrogivolo, (Day 2, Nov. 9,) is generally suppos’d to have furnish'd Shakspeare with the fable of Cymbeline : but the embracers of this opinion seem not to have been aware, that many of that aư. thor's novels (translated, or imitated,) are to be found in English books, prior to, or contemporary with Shakspeare : and of this novel in particular, there is an imitation extant in a story-book of that time, intitld-Westward for Smelts : it is the second tale in the book : the scene, and the actors of it are different from Boccace, as Shakspeare's are from both; but the main of the story is the same in all. We may venture to pronounce it a book of those times, and that early enough to have been us'd by Shakspeare, as I am persuaded it was ; though the copy that I have of it, is no older than 1620; it is a quarto pamphlet of only five sheets and a half, printed in a black letter : some reasons for my opinion are given in another place; (v. IVinter's Tale) though perhaps they are not necessary, as it may one day better be made appear a true one, by the discovery of some more antient edition.
HAMLET. About the middle of the sixteenth century, Francis de Belleforest, a French gentleman, entertain'd his countrymen
with a collection of novels, which he intitles-Histoires Tragiques ; they are in part originals, part translations, and chiefly from Bandello : he began to publish them in the year 1564 ; and continu'd his publication successively in several tomes, how many I know not; the dedication to his fifth tome is dated six years after. In that tome, the troisieme Histoire has this title ;~" Avec quelle ruse Ambleth, qui depuis fut roy de Dannemarch, vengea la mort de son pere Horvuendille, occis par Fengon son frere, 8: autre occurrence de son histoire.” Painter, who has been mentioned before, compiled his Palace of Pleasure almost entirely from Belleforest, taking here and there a novel as pleas'd him, but he did not translate the whole: other novels, it is probable, were translated by different people, and publish'd singly; this, at least, that we are speaking of, was so, and is intitl'd—The Historie of Hamblet; it is in quarto, and black letter: there can be no doubt made, by persons who are acquainted with these things, that the translation is not much younger than the French original ; though the only edition of it, that is yet come to my knowledge, is no earlier than 1608 : that Shakspeare took his play from it, there can likewise be very little doubt.
1 HENRY IV.
In the eleven plays that follow,—Macbeth, King John, Richard II. Henry IV. two parts, Henry V. Henry VI. three parts, Richard III. and Henry VIII.—the historians of that time, Hall, Holinshed, Stow, and others, (and, in particular, Folinshed, are pretty closely follow'd; and that not only for their matter, but even sometimes in their expressions : the harangue of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Henry V. that of Queen Catharine in Henry VIII. at her trial, and the king's reply to it, are taken from those chroniclers, and put into verse : other lesser matters are borrow'd from them; and so largely scatter'd up and down in these plays, that whoever