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MEASURE FOR MEASURE.] The story is taken from Cinthio's Novels, Decad. 8, Novel 5.
We are sent to Cinthio for the plot of Measure for Measure, and Shakespeare's judgment hath been attacked for some deviations from him in the conduct of it, when probably all he knew of the matter was from Madam Isabella, in The Heptameron of Whetstone, Lond. to. 1582. She reports, in the fourth dayes Exercise, e rare Historie of Promos and Cassandra. A marginal te informs us, that Whetstone was the author of the medie on that subject; which likewise had probably ften into the hands of Shakespeare.
here is perhaps not one of Shakespeare's plays more datened than this by the peculiarities of its author, and the nskilfulness of its editors, by distortions of phrase, or nyligence of transcription. JOHNSON.
DrJohnson's remark is so just respecting the corruptions this play, that I shall not attempt much reformation ins metre, which is too often rough, redundant, and irrular. Additions and omissions (however trifling) cannot made without constant notice of them; and such notices, the present instance, would so frequently occur, as become equally tiresome to the commentator and the rder.
Shakeshare took the fable of this play from the Promos and sandra of George Whetstone, published in 1578. See heobald's note at the end.
A hint, lia seed, is more or less prolific, according
to the qualities of the soil on which it is thrown. This story, which in the hands of Whetstone produced little more than barren insipidity, under the culture of Shakespeare became fertile of entertainment. The curious reader will find that the old play of Promos and Cassandra exhibits an almost complete embryo of Measure for Measure; yet the hints on which it is formed are so slight, that it is nearly as impossible to detect them as it is to point out in the acorn the future ramifications of the oak.
Whetstone opens his play thus:
ACT I.-SCENE I.
"Promos, Mayor, Shirife, Sworde Bearer: one with a bunche of keyes. Phalla Promos Man.
"You officers which now in Julio staye,
"Know you your leadge, the King of Hungarie,
Phallar, reade out my Soveraines chardge.
Phallax readeth the Kinges Letters Pattents, which must be
Pro. "Loe, here you see what is our Soveraignes wyl,
"Loe, heare his care, to weede from good the yll,
"To scoorge the wights, good lawes that disobay.
"Such zeale he beares, unto the common weale,
(How so he byds, the ignoraunt to save)
"As he commaundes, the lewde doo rigor feele, &c. &c. &
Pro." Both swoorde and keies, unto my princes use,
"It resteth now, for to reforme abuse,
"We poynt a tyme of councell more at lardge,
Al. speake. "To worke your wyll, we yeelde a willing hart.
The reader will find the argument of GWhetstone's Promos and Cassandra, at the end of th play. It is too bulky to be inserted here. See like se the piece