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THE story was originally written by Lollius, an old Lombard author, and since by Chaucer. Pope.
Mr. Pope (after Dryden) informs us, that the story of Troilus and Cressida was originally the work of one Lollius, a Lombard; (of whom Gascoigne speaks in Dan Bartholmewe his first Triumph: Since Lollius and Chaucer both, make no doubt upon that glose,") but Dryden goes yet further. He declares it to have been written in Latin verse, and that Chaucer translated it. Lollius was a historiographer of Urbino in Italy. Shakspeare received the greatest part of his materials for the structure of his play from the Troye Boke of Lydgate. Lydgate was not much more than a translator of Guido of Columpna, who was of Messina in Sicily, and wrote his History of Troy in Latin, after Dictys Cretensis, and Dares Phrygius, in 1287. On these, as Mr. Warton observes, he engrafted many new romantic inventions, which the taste of his age dictated, and which the connection between Grecian and Gothic fiction easily admitted; at the same time comprehending in his plan the Theban and Argonautic stories from Ovid, Statius, and Valerius Flaccus. Guido's work was published at Cologne in 1477, again 1480: at Strasburgh, 1486, and ibidem, 1489. It appears to have been translated by Raoul le Feure, at Cologne, into French, from whom Caxton rendered it into English in 1471, under the title of his Recuyel, &c. so that there must have been yet some earlier edition of Guido's performance than I have hitherto seen or heard of, unless his first translator had recourse to a manuscript.
Guido of Columpna is referred to as an authority by our own chronicler Grafton. Chaucer had made the loves of Troilus and Cressida famous, which very probably might have been Shakspeare's inducement to try their fortune on the stage. Lydgate's Troye Boke was printed by Pynson, 1513. In the books of the Stationers' Company, anno 1581, is entered "A proper ballad, dialogue-wise, between Troilus and Cressida." Again, Feb. 7, 1602: "The booke of Troilus and Cressida, as it is acted by my Lo. Chamberlain's men." The first of these entries is in the name of Edward White, the second in that of M. Roberts. Again, Jan. 28, 1608, entered by Rich. Bonian and Hen. Whalley, "A booke called the history of Troilus and Cressida." Steevens.
The entry in 1608-9 was made by the booksellers for whom this play was published in 1609. It was written, I conceive, in 1602. Malone.
Before this play of Troilus and Cressida, printed in 1609, is a bookseller's preface, showing that first impression to have been before the play had been acted, and that it was published without Shakspeare's knowledge, from a copy that had fallen into the bookseller's hands. Mr. Dryden thinks this one of the first of our author's plays; but, on the contrary, it may be judged, from the fore-mentioned preface, that it was one of his last; and the great number of observations, both moral and politick, with which this piece is crowded more than any other of his, seems to confirm my opinion. Pope.
We may learn, from this preface, that the original proprietors of Shakspeare's plays thought it their interest to keep them unprinted. The author of it adds, at the conclusion, these words: "Thank fortune for the 'scape it hath made among you, since, by the grand possessors wills, I believe you should rather have prayed for them, than have been prayed," &c. By the grand pos sessors, I suppose, were meant Heming and Condell. It appears that the rival play-houses at that time made frequent depredations on one another's copies. In the Induction to The Malcontent, written by Webster, and augmented by Marston, 1606, is the following passage:
"I wonder you would play it, another company having interest in it."
"Why not Malevole in folio with us, as Jeronimo in decimo sexto with them? They taught us a name for our play; we call it One for another "
Again, T. Heywood, in his Preface to The English Traveller, 1633: "Others of them are still retained in the hands of some actors, who think it against their peculiar profit to have them come in print." Steevens.
It appears, however, that frands were practised by writers as well as actors. It stands on record against Robert Greene, the author of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, and Oriando Furioso, 1594 and 1599, that he sold the last of these pieces to two different theatres: "Master R. G. would it not make you blush, &c. if you sold not Orlando Furioso to the Queen's players for twenty nobles, and when they were in the country, sold the same play to the Lord Admiral's men for as much more? Was not this plain Coneycatching, M. G.?" Defence of Coneycatching, 1592.
This note was not merely inserted to expose the craft of authorship, but to show the price which was anciently paid for the copy of a play, and to ascertain the name of the writer of Orlando Furioso, which was not hitherto known Greene appears to have been the first poet in England who sold the same piece to different people. Voltaire is much belied, if he has not followed his example. Collins.
Notwithstanding what has been said by a late editor, [Mr. Capell] I have a copy of the first folio, including Troilus and Cressida. Indeed, as I have just now observed, it was at first either unknown or forgotten. It does not however appear in the list of the plays, and is thrust in between the histories and the tragedies without any enumeration of the pages; except, I think, on one leaf only. It differs entirely from the copy in the second folio. Farmer.
I have consulted at least twenty copies of the first folio, and Troilus and Cressida is not wanting in any of them. Steevens.
TO THE QUARTO EDITION OF THIS PLAY, 1609.
A never Writer to an ever Reader. Newes.
Eternall reader, you have heere a new play, never stal'd with the stage, never clapper-claw'd with the palmes of the vulger, and yet passing full of the palme comicall; for it is a birth of your [r. that] braine, that never under-tooke any thing commicall, vainely and were but the vaine names of commedies changde for the titles of commodities, or of playes for pleas; you should see all those grand censors, that now stile them such vanities, flock to them for the maine grace of their gravities: especially this authors commedies, that are so fram❜d to the life, that they serve for the most common commentaries of all the actions of our lives, shewing such a dexteritie and power of witte, that she most displeased with playes, are pleasd with his commedies. And all such dull and heavy-witted worldlings, as were never capable of the witte of a commedie, comming by report of them to his representations, have found that witte there, that they never found in them-selves, and have parted better-wittied then they came: feeling an edge of witte set upon them, more then ever they dreamd they had braine to grind it on. So much and such savoured salt of witte is in his commedies, that they seeme (for their height of pleasure) to be borne in that sea that brought forth Venus. Amongst all there is none more witty than this: and had I time I would comment upon it, though I know it needs not, (for so much as will make you thinke your testerne well bestowd) but for so much worth, as even poore I know to be stuft in it. It deserves such a labour, as well as the best commedy in Terence or Plautús. And beleeve this, that when hee is gone, and his commedies out of sale, you will scramble for them, and set up a new English inquisition. Take this for a warning, and and at the perill of your pleasures losse, and judgements, refuse not, nor like this the lesse, for not being sullied with the smoaky breath of the multitude; but thanke fortune for the scape it hath made amongst you: since by the grand possessors wills I believe you should have prayd for them [r. it] rather then beene prayd. And so I leave all such to bee prayd for (for the states of their wits healths) that will not praise it.