Imatges de pÓgina

duced to great distress, brought privately to Alexandria. Then, watching a favourable opportunity, she prevailed with the Sultan to compel Ambrogiulo to relate publicly every circumstance of his villainy. Bernabo confessed that he had caused his wife to be murdered on the supposition of her guilt with Ambrogiulo. You perceive, said Sicurano to the Sultan, how little reason the unhappy lady had to be proud either of her gallant or her husband : if you, my lord, will punish the deceiver, and pardon the deceived, the traduced lady shall



your presence. The Sultan assented; Sicurano fell at his feet, and discarding her assumed demeanour, declared herself to be Zinevra: thie display of the mole upon her breast, banished every doubt. Ambrogiulo was then put to a cruel death; and his immense wealth was given to Zinevra. The Sultan pardoned Bernabo, and, making Zinevra a princely donation of jewels and money, provided a ship, and suffered her and her husband to depart for Genoa.

This tale, which wears all the character of Italian fancy, Shakspeare has combined with the stern and gloomy events of early English story.

Kymbeline, or Cimbeline, was contemporary with Augustus Cæsar, under whom he served in war, and was in such favour, as to be “ made a

knight” by him. Holinshed relates little more than this of a monarch who reigned five and thirty years, and hence appears the extent of Shakspeare's additions, when he represents the king of England a widower, intermarried with a widow, who had a son named Cloten. On this " thing, too bad for bad report,” it was Cymbeline's intention to bestow his only daughter, Imogen, the presumptive heir of the kingdom ; his sons Guiderius and Arviragus having been stolen away in their infancy.

But Imogen disdained alliance with the despicable Cloten, and she clandestinely bestowed herself on Posthumus, a poor, but all accomplished gentleman, resident at her father's court. On the discovery of this union, Posthumus is banished. The parting of the lovers is solaced by interchanging tokens of affection : Posthumus receives from the hand of Imogen a ring, and, in return, places on her arm a bracelet, “a manacle of love." The elevation of the Genoese merchant into

a creature such
As, to seek through the regions of the earth
For one his like, there would be something failing
In him that should compare,"

and his wife into the daughter of a king; their clandestine love, and hapless separation, are

decided improvements upon a story already interesting ; and the alterations are coupled with a corresponding refinement of manners and delicacy of sentiment.

When Posthumus is imprudently hurried into a wager on the chastity of his wife, the scene is laid in Rome, and there are present, besides the principals, Philario, a Frenchman, a Dutchman, and a Spaniard. In an ancient translation of the story of Boccacio we are told, “How iiii merchauntes met all togyther in on way, which were of iiii dyverse landes." In the trifling particular of the arrangement of his dramatis personæ in this scene, therefore, Shakspeare acted under the influence of authority; and this is likewise evident, from the circumstance that the Spaniard and Hollander are mutes.

Before the entrance of Posthumus, Iachimo's disposition to cavil and detraction is carefully displayed, so that the ensuing conversation be. tween them, being easily and naturally introduced, carries with it little appearance of any thing extraordinary. It is with very peculiar effect that the last gift of Imogen, her ring, the pledge of love, is made the stake wagered by Posthumus on her honour, against the ten thousand ducats of Iachimo. Shakspeare corrects the impropriety of which Boccacio is guilty, of

making an affectionate husband the proposer of an indelicate wager on the chastity of his wife. Following the arrangement of the story in Westward for Smelts, the dramatist originates the wager with the libertine sceptic; and Posthumus consents to the proposition, only under the provocation of repeatedly, and insolently, expressed confidence, and he finally couples his acquiescence with the honourable stipulation, that if Iachimo fails in his disgraceful enterprise, he shall answer for his presumption with his sword.*

It will be remembered, that Boccacio's villain has no interview with the lady: in Westward for Smelts, he introduces himself as having been entreated by her husband to call and see her.

Shakspeare provides Iachimo with particular recommendations to Imogen, and avails himself of the opportunity for an admirable scene, in

* In Act V. sc. 5., Iachimo professes to give an account of the origin of the wager ; but his narration bears but a slender resemblance to the facts as they occurred. In Act I. sc.5., there is no “feast," no Posthumus “ sitting sadly," no high bred gallants praising their “ loves of Italy,

For beauty that made barren the swell’d boast

Of him that best could speak :" but almost exactly the reverse. Shakspeare was inattentive to what he had previously written, and thought only of the “ Italian merchants who accidentally met in Paris at supper, and talked freely of their wives at home.”

which the Italian, in yain, endeavours to shake the fidelity of the princess.

The traducer of the lady's honour, in Westward for Smelts, conceals himself under her bed, which is no very happy deviation from the clumsy expedient of Ambrogiulo to obtain admittance to Zinevra’s chamber. Shakspeare's management of this difficult incident is extremely skilful. Iachimo being a stranger in the town requests Imogen to receive into her care a chest of plate and jewels, which some Romans, together with her husband, had bought as a present for the emperor. This is an artful appeal to the lady's tenderest feelings, and opens an easy and natural access to Iachimo. Willingly,” replied Imogen, “And pawn mine honour for their safety: since My lord hath interest in them, I will keep them In bed-chamber." Zinevra was ignorant of the cause of her husband's apparent cruelty. Imogen is made acquainted with Posthumus's charge of adultery. The rest of the scene coincides more closely with the English than the Italian novel. Neither the lady, in the English tale, nor Imogen, in the play, solicit life from the servant; but each resigns herself with submission to the decree of her husband. The compassionate tenderness of the ser


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