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There is great reason to believe, that the serious part of this Comedy is founded on some old translation of the seventh history in the fourth volume of Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques. Belleforest took the story, as usual, from Bandello. The comic scenes appear to have been entirely the production of Shakspeare. It is not impossible, however, that the circumstances of the Duke sending his Page to plead his cause with the Lady, and of the Lady's falling in love with the Page, &c. might be borrowed from the Fifth Eglog of Barnaby Googe, published with his other original poems, in 1563.
"A worthy Knyght dyd love her longe,
"The panges of love, that happen styl
By frowning fortune's wheale.
"He had a Page, Valerius named,
"And to entreate for grace to her
"This passed well, tyll at the length
"With many teares besechynge her
"He never wolde attempte her more
Thus also concludes the first scene of the third act of the play before us:
"And so adieu, good madam; never more
"Will I my master's tears to you deplore."
I offer no apology for the length of the foregoing extract, the book from which it is taken being so uncommon, that only one eopy, except that in my own possession, has hitherto occurred.
Even Dr. Farmer, the late Rev. T. Warton, Mr. Reed, and Mr. Malone, were unacquainted with this Collection of Googe's Poetry.
August 6, 1607, a Comedy called What you will, (which is the second title of this play,) was entered at Stationers' Hall by Tho. Thorpe. I believe, however, it was Marston's play with that name. Ben Jonson, who takes every opportunity to find fault with Shakspeare, seems to ridicule the conduct of Twelfth-Night in his Every Man out of his Humour, at the end of Act III. sc. vi. where he makes Mitis say, "That the argument of his comedy might have been of some other nature, as of a duke to be in love with a countess, and that countess to be in love with the duke's son, and the son in love with the lady's waiting maid: some such cross wooing, with a clown to their serving man, better than be thus near and familiarly allied to the time." STEEVENS.
I suppose this comedy to have been written in 1607. Ben Jonson unquestionably could not have ridiculed this play in Every Man out of his Humour, which was written many years before it.
ORSINO, duke of ILLYRIA.
SEBASTIAN, a young gentleman, brother to VIOLA.
VALENTINE, gentlemen attending on the duke.
Lords, Priests, Sailors, Officers, Musicians, and other
SCENE, a city in ILLYRIA; and the sea coast near it.
WHAT YOU WILL.
SCENE I. An Apartment in the Duke's Palace.
Enter DUKE, CURIO, Lords; Musicians attending.
Ir musick be the food of love, play on;
That strain again; — it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet south,
Stealing, and giving odour. - Enough; no more;
O spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou!
But falls into abatement and low price,
That it alone is high-fantastical.2
1 Of what validity and pitch soever.] Validity is here used for value. MALONE, who reads soe'er.
2 That it alone is high-fantastical.] High-fantastical, means funtastical to the height.
Cur. Will you go hunt, my lord?
Duke. Why, so I do, the noblest that I have:
And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds,
- How now? what news from
Val. So please my lord, I might not be admitted, But from her handmaid do return this answer: The element itself, till seven years heat3, Shall not behold her face at ample view; But, like a cloistress, she will veiled walk, And water once a day her chamber round With eye-offending brine: all this, to season A brother's dead love, which she would keep fresh, And lasting, in her sad remembrance.
Duke. O, she, that hath a heart of that fine frame,
Hath kill'd the flock of all affections else
Heat for heated.
3 The element itself, till seven years heat,] The air, till it shall have been warmed by seven revolutions of the sun, shall not, &c.
4 (Her sweet perfections,)] Liver, brain, and heart, are admitted in poetry as the residence of passions, judgement, and sentiments. These are what Shakspeare calls, her sweet perfections, though he has not very clearly expressed what he might design to have said. STEEVENS.