Imatges de pàgina

book entitled Westward for Smelts. * The English story differs considerably from the Italian : its scene is laid “ at Waltam (not.farre from London) in the troublesome raigne of King Henry the Sixt.”

The narration is spirited, but would scarcely have attracted attention in the present day, had not Shakspeare adopted hints from it.

On the plot constructed with materials from these two sources, Shakspeare engrafted some incidents from the early history of England. All he knew of Cymbeline he acquired from Holinshed, who is sometimes closely followed, and sometimes strangely perverted.

The following is the story of Boccacio :

Several Italian merchants met accidently in Paris at supper, and conversed freely of their absent wives. I know not, one jestingly remarked, how my wife conducts herself in my

* The whole title is worth transcribing : “ Westward for Smelts, or the Waterman's Fare of mad Merry Western Wenches, whose Tongues albeit, like Bell-clappers, they never leave ringing, yet their Tales are sweet, and will much content you : written by kinde Kitt of Kingstone.” I wish that this title had fallen under the notice of the lively and ingenious author of Major Ravelin's Lucubrations. Adorned with some of his acute and brilliant sentences, it would have formed a delightful paragraph in his learned and witty paper on “ Title Pages.'

absence, but of this I am certain, that whenever I meet with an attractive beauty, I make the best advantage I can of the opportunity. And so do I, quoth another, for whether I believe my wife unfaithful or not, she will be so if she pleases.' A third said the same, and all readily coincided in the licentious opinion, except Bernabo Lomellin, of Genoa, who maintained, that he had a wife perfectly beautiful, in the flower of youth, and of such indisputable chastity, that he was convinced if he were absent for ten years she would preserve her fidelity. A young merchant of Piacenza, Ambrogiulo, was extremely facetious on the subject, and concluded some libertine remarks, by offering to effect the seduction of this modern Lucretia, provided opportunity were afforded him. Bernabo answered his confident boast by the proposition of a wager, which was instantly accepted.

According to agreement, Bernabo remained at Paris, while Ambrogiulo set out for Genoa, where his enquiries soon convinced him that Zinevra, the wife of Bernabo, had not been too highly praised, and that his wager would be lost, without he could effect by stratagem what he had certainly no probability of obtaining by di. rect solicitation. Chance threw in his way a

poor wôman, often employed in the house of Zinevra, whom he secured in his interest by a bribe. Pretending unavoidable absence for a few days, the woman intreated Zinevra to take charge of a large chest till she returned. The lady consented, and the chest, with Ambrogiulo secreted in it, was placed in Zinevra's bed chamber. When the lady retired to rest, the villain crept from his concealment, and by the light of a taper, took particular notice of the pictures and furniture, and the form and situation of the apartment. Advancing to the bed, he eagerly sought for some mark about the lady's person, and at last espied a mole and tuft of golden hair upon her left breast.

Then taking a ring, a purse, and other trifles, he returned to his concealment, whence he was not released till the third day, when the woman returned, and had the chest conveyed home.

Ambrogiulo hastily summoned the merchants in Paris, who were present when the wager was laid. As a proof of his success he produced the stolen trinkets, called them gifts from the lady, and described the furniture of the bed room. Bernabo acknowledged the correctness of the account, and confessed, that the purse and the ring belonged to his wife; but added, that as Ambrogiulo might have obtained his account of

the room, and procured the jewels also, from some of Zinevra's servants, his claim to the money was not yet established. The proofs I have given, said Ambroguilo, ought to suffice; but as you call on me for more, I will silence your scepticism at once; — Zinevra has a mole on her left breast. Bernabo's countenance testified the truth of the assertion, and he shortly acknowledged it by words : he then paid the sum he had wagered, and instantly set out for Italy. Arriving near his residence, he dispatched a messenger for Zinevra, and gave secret orders that she should be put to death upon the road. The servant stopped in a lonely place, and declared his master's harsh instructions. The lady vehemently protested her innocence of any crime against her husband; besought the compassion of her conductor, and promised to conceal herself in some distant and obscure abode. Her life was spared, and the servant returned to his master with some of Zinevra's clothes, reporting that he had killed her, and left her body to the ferocity of beasts of prey.

Zinevra disguised herself in the garments of a man, and entered the service of a Catalonian gentleman, who carried her to Alexandria. Here she was fortunate enough to attract the attention of the Sultan, who solicited her from her master.

She soon became a favourite, and under the name of Sicurano, was appointed captain of the guard. For the security of both Christian and Turkish merchants, who resorted to the fair at Acre, the Sultan annually sent an officer with a band of soldiers. Sicurano was employed on this service, when being in the shop of a Venetian merchant, she cast her eye upon a purse and girdle, which she recognised as her own. Without declaring her discovery, she enquired to whom they belonged, and whether they were for sale. Ambrogiulo, who had arrived with a stock of merchandise, now stepped forward, and replied, that the trinkets were his, and begged Sicurano, since he admired them, to accept of them. Sicurano asked why he smiled; when Ambrogiulo related, that the purse and girdle were presents to him from a married lady of Genoa, whose love he had enjoyed; and that he smiled at the folly of her husband, who had laid five thousand against one thousand florins, that the virtue of his wife was incorruptible.

The jealousy and revenge of Bernabo were now explained to Zinevra, and the base artificer of her ruin stood before her. She feigned pleasure at Ambrogiulo's story, cultivated his ac. quaintance, and took him with her to Alexandria. Her next care was to have Bernabo, now re

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