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vouched still more strongly by the profound masculine earnes mess which pervades it, and by the prevalence of the same tone of feeling which led Shakespeare to abandon the life and pursuits of London for his native town."
Until since these conclusions were put forth, the English critics, in default of other dila, grounded their re isonings upon certain probable allusions to contemporary matters; especially those passages which express the Duke's fondness for “ the life remov’d,” and his aversion to being greeted by crowds of people: and Chalmers, a very considerable instance of critical dulness, had the sagacity to discover a sort of portrait-like resemblance in the Duke to King James I. As the King was undeniably a much better theologian than statesman or governor, the circumstance of the Duke's appearing so much more at home in the cowl and hood than in his ducal robes certainly lends some credit to this discov. ery. The King's unamiable repugnance to being gazed upon by throngs of admiring subjects is thus spoken of by a contemporary writer : “ In his public appearance, especially in his sports, the accesses of the people made him so impatient, that he often dispersed them with frowns, that we may not say with curses.” And his unhandsome bearing towards the crowds which, prompted by eager loyalty, flocked forth to hail his accession, is noted by several historians. But he was a pretty liberal, and, for the time, judicious encourager of the drama, as well as of other learned delectations ; and with those who sought or had tasted his patronage it was nat ural that these symptoms of weakness, or of something worse, should pass for tokens of a wise superiority to the dainties of popular applause.
All which renders it quite probable that the Poet may have had an eye to the King in the passages cited by Malone in support of his conjecture.
“ I love the people,
« And even so
The allusion here being granted, Malone's inference that tho play was probably made soon after the King's accession, and before the effect of his unlooked-for austerity on this score had spent itself, was natural enough. Nor is the conjecture of Ulrici and others without weight, “ that Shakespeare was led to the compes. sition of the play by the rigoristic sentiments and arrogant virtue of the Puritans." And in this view several points of the main action might be aptly suggested at the time in question : for the King had scarcely set foot in England but he began to be worried by the importunities of that remarkable people, who had been leeding upon the hope, that by the sole exercise of his prerogative ne would cast out surplice, Liturgy, and Episcopacy, and revolutionize the Church up to the Presbyterian model ; it being a prime lmtion of theirs, that with the truth a minority, however small, was iviter than a majority, however large, without it.
Whether this view be fully warranted or not, it has been much ş..engthened by a recent discovery. The play is now known to bise been acted at court December 26, 1604. For this knowledge we are indebted to Edmund Tylney's “ Account of the Revels at Court,” preserved in the Audit Office, Somerset House, and lately edited by Mr. Peter Cunningham. Tylney was Master of the Revels from 1579 to 1610; and in his account of expenses for the year beginning in October, 1604, occurs the following entry : “ By His Majesty's players : On t. Stephen's night in the Hall a play called Measure for Measure." In a column headed « The Poets which made the Plays,” our author is set down as Mr. Shax neld;" the writer not taking pains to know the right spelling of a same, the mentioning of which was to be the sole cause that his own should be remembered in after ages and on other continents.
t'he date of the play being so far ascertained, all the main provabilities allegeable from the play itself readily fall into har01:11y therewith. And it is rather remarkable that Measure for Measure most resembles some other plays, known to have been wrilen about the same time, in those very characteristics which led the German critics to fix upon a later date. Which shows not weak, in such cases, the internal evidence of style, temper, aur spirit is by itself, and yet how strong in connection with the excernal evidence of facts.
No question is made, that for some particulars in the plot and story of Measure for Measure the Poet was ultimately indebted 16. Giraldi Cinthio, an Italian novelist of the sixteenth century. The original story forms the eighty-fifth in his Hecutommithi, or Hundred Tales. A vouth named Ludovico is there overtaken in the sam fault as Claudio; Juriste, a magistrate highly reputed for wisdom and justice, passes sentence of death upon him; and Ejllia, Ludovico's sister, a virgin of rare gifts and graces, goes lo pieading for her brother's life. Casting herself at the govern. or's feet her beauty and eloquence, made doubly poteit by the lears of suffering affection, have the same effect upon him as Isadeila's upon Angelo. His proposals are rejected with scorn and horror; but the lady, overcome by the pathetic entreaties of ber hrowber, at last yields to them under a solemn promise of marriage His object being gained, the wicked inau commits a double vow
breach, neither marrying the lady nor sparing her brother. She carries her cause to the Emperor, by whom Juriste is convicted. forced to marry her, and then sentenced to death; but is at last pardoned at the suit of Epitia, who is now as earnest and eloquent for her husband as she had been for her brother. Her holy and heroic conduct touches him with remorse, and finally proves as effective in redeeming his character as it was in redeeming his life.
As early as 1578, this tale of Cinthio's was dramatized after a sort by George Whetstone. The title of Whetstone's performance ruus thus : “ The right excellent and famous History of Promos and Cassandra, divided into Comical Discourses.” In the conduct of the story Whetstone varies somewhat from his model; as may be seen by the following abstract of his argument :
In the city of Julio, then under the rule of Corvinus, King of Hungary, there was a law that for incontinency the man should lose his head, and the woman be marked out for infainy by her dress. Through the indulgence of magistrates this severe law came to be little regarded. At length the government falling into the hands of Lord Promos, he revived the terrible statute, and, a youth named Andrugio being convicted of the fault in question, resolved to visit the penalties in their utmost rigour upon both him and his partner in guilt. Andrugio had a sister of great virtue and accomplishment, named Cassandra, who undertook to sue for his life. Her good behaviour, great beauty, and the sweet order of her talk wrought so far with the governor as to induce a short reprieve; but, his love soon turning into lust, he set down the spoil of her honour as the ransom; but she, abhorring both him and his suit, could by no persuasion be won to his wish. Unable, howevor, to stand out against the pathetic pleadings of her brother, she at last yielded to the wicked man's proposal, upon condition that he should pardon her brother and then marry her. This be solemnly vowed to do; but, his wish being gained, instead of keeping his vows, he ordered the jailer to present Cassandra with her brother's head. The jailer, knowing what the governor nad done, and touched with the outcries of Andrugio, took the head of
felon just executed, and set the other libertyCassandra, thinking the head to be her brother's, was at the point to kill her. self for grief at this treachery, but spared that stroke to be avenged of the traitor. She devised to make her case known to the King, and he forthwith hastened to do justice upon Promos, ordering that to repair the lady's honor he should marry her, and then for his crime against the state lose his bead. No sooner was Cassandra a wite, than all her rhetoric of eye, tongue,
and ac. tion was tasked to procure the pardon of her husband; but the King, tendering the public good more than hers, denied her suis At length Andrugio, overcome by his sister's grief, made himself known; for he had all the while been about the place in disguise ; wliereupon the King, to honour the virtues of Cassandra pardoned both him and Piouros
In 1582 Whetstone published his Heptameron of Civil Dis. courses, containing a prose version of the same tale. He was a writer of learning and talent, but not such that even the instruc. tions of Shakespeare could have made him capable of dramatic excellence; and, as he had no such benefit, his performance, as might be expected, is insipid and worthless enough. It is observe able that he deviates most from Cinthio in managing to bring Andrugio off alive; and from Shakespeare's concurring with him herein it may be fairly inferred that the borrowings were from him, not from the original author. The Poet, moreover, repre. sents the illicit meeting of Claudio and Juliet as taking place un. der the shield of a solemn betrothment; which very much softens their fault, as marriage bonds were already upon them, and proportionably heightens the injustice of Angelo, as it brings upon him the guilt of making the law responsible for bis own arbitrary rigour. Beyond this outline of the story, it does not appear that Shakespeare took any thing from Whetstone more than a few slight hints and casual expressions. And a comparison of the two performances were very far from abating the Poet's fame; it be. ing more creditable to have lifted the story out of the mire into such a region of art and poetry than to have invented it. The main original feature in the plot of Measure for Measure is the part of Mariana, which puts a new life into the whole, and purifies it almost into another nature; as it prevents the soiling of Isabella's holy womanhood, suggests an apt reason for the Duke's mysterious conduct, and yields a pregnant motive for Angelo's par. dou, in that his life is thereby bound up with that of a wronged and innocent woman, whom his crimes are made the occasion of restoring to her rights and happiness, so that her virtue may be justly allowed to reprieve him from death.
In the comic scenes of Whetstone's play there is all the grossness of Measure for Measure, unredeemed by any thing that the itinost courtesy of language can call wit or humour: here, as Shakespeare took no help, so he can have no excuse, from his predecessor. But he probably saw that some such matter was required by the scheme of the work and the laws of artistic pronortion ; and as in these parts the truth and character are all bis (WII, so he can scarce be blamed for not anticipating the delicacy of later times, there being none such in the most retined audiences of his day: and his choice of a subject so ugly in itself is amply justified by the many sweet lessons of virtue and wisdom which he has used it as an opportunity of delivering. To have trained uud taught a barbarous tale of cruelty and lust into such a rich mellow fruitage of poetry and humanity, may be safely leti 10 offset whatsoever of offence there may be in the play to inodern taste. Perhaps the hardest thing to digest is the conduct of Angelo, as being too improbable for a work of art or fiction ; though history nas recorded several instances substantially the
same, – of which probably the most familiar to English and American ears is that of Colonel Kirke, a lewd and inhumar minion of James II., whose crimes, however, did not exclude him from the favour of William III.
We have already referred to certain characteristics of style and temper which this play shares with several others written about the same period, and which have been thought to mark some crisis in the Poet's life. It cannot well be denied that the plays in question have something of a peculiar spirit, which might aptly suggest that some rude uncivil shock must have untuned the mel. ody of his soul; that some passage of bitter experience must have turned the sweet milk of his genius for a time into gall, and put him upon a course of harsh and ungentle thought. The matter is well stated by Mr. Hallam : “ There seems to have been a period of Shakespeare's life when his heart was ill at ease, and ill con. tent with the world or his own conscience: the memory of hours misspent, the pang of affection inisplaced or unrequited, the expe. rience of man's worser nature, which intercourse with ill-chosen associates peculiarly teaches; these, as they sank down into the depths of his great mind, seem not only to have inspired into il the conception of Lear and Timon, but that of one primary char. acter, the censurer of mankind. This type is first seen in the philosophic melancholy of Jaques, gazing with an undiminished serenity, and with a gayety of fancy, though not of manneis, on the follies of the world. Ii assumes a graver cast in the exiled Duke of the same play, and one rather more severe in the Duke of Measure for Measure. In all these, however, it is merely a contemplative philosophy. In Hamlet this is mingled with the impulses of a perturbed heart under the pressure of extraordinary circumstances; it shines no longer, as in the former characters. with a steady light, but plays in fitful coruscations amid feigned gayety and extravagance. In Lear, it is the flash of sudden inspiration across the incongruous imagery of madness; in Timon, it is obscured by the exaggerations of misanthropy.” Ms. Verplanck speaks in a similar strain of “ that portion of the author's life which was memorable for the production of Othello, with all its bitter passion; the additions to the original Hamlet, with the'r melancholy wisdom; probably of Timon, with his indignant and hearty scorn, an d rebukes of the baseness of civilized society ; and above all of Lear, with its dark pictures of unmixed, unmitigaled guilt, and its terrible and prophet-like denunciations."
These words certainly carry much weight, and may go far lo warrant the suggestion of the same authors, that the Poet was visited with some external calamity, which wrought itself into his moral frame; some assault of fortune, that wrenched his mind from its once smooth and happy course, causing it to recoil upou itself and brood over its own thoughts. Yet there are cogisider. sule diiticulties besetting a theory of this kind For ibere is no