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at her husband's persuasion, forbears to discover herself a while, relieves them with food, and then asks their story; which Leir gives her in these words:
"Leir. Then know this first, I am a Brittayne borne, "And had three daughters by one loving wife: "And though I say it, of beauty they were sped;
Especially the youngest of the three,
"For her perfections hardly matcht could be:
"And thought to try which of them lov'd me best,
"Unto my other daughter for reliefe,
"Who gave me pleasing and most courteous words; "But in her actions shewed her selfe so sore,
"As never any daughter did before:
"She prayd me in a morning out betime,
"To go to a thicket two miles from the court,
Poynting that there she would come talke with me:
"There she had set a shaghayrd murdring wretch,
"To massacre my honest friend and me.
"Cor. No doubt she will, I dare be sworne she will.”
Thereupon ensues her discovery; and, with it, a circumstance of some beauty, which Shakspeare has borrow'd-(v. Lear, p. 565,) their kneeling to each other, and mutually contending which should ask forgiveness. The next page presents us Gallia, and Mumford who commands under him, marching to embarque their forces, to re-instate Leir; and the next, a sea-port in Britain, and officers setting a watch, who are to fire a beacon to give notice if any ships approach, in which there is some low humour that is passable enough. Gallia and his forces arrive, and take the town by surprize immediately upon which, they are encounter'd by the forces of the two elder sisters, and their husbands: a battle ensues: Leir conquers; he and his friends enter victorious, and the play closes thus:
"Thanks (worthy Mumford) to thee last of all,
Such is the Leir, now before us. Who the author of it should be, I cannot surmise; for neither
in manner nor style has it the least resemblance to any of the other tragedies of that time: most of them rise now and then, and are poetical; but this creeps in one dull tenour, from beginning to end, after the specimen here inserted: it should seem he was a Latinist, by the translation following:
"Feare not, my lord, the perfit good indeed,
"A new fresh vessell still retaynes the taste
"Of that which first is powr'd into the same:" [sign. H.
But whoever he was, Shakspeare has done him the honour to follow him in a stroke or two: one has been observ'd upon above; and the reader, who is acquainted with Shakspeare's Lear, will perceive another in the second line of the concluding speech: and here is a third; "Knowest thou these letters?" says Leir to Ragan, (sign. I. 3b.) shewing her hers and her sister's letters commanding his death; upon which, she snatches at the letters, and tears them: (v. Lear, p. 590, 591,) another, and that a most signal one upon one account, occurs at signature C 3b:
"But he, the myrrour of mild patience,
Perillus says this of Leir; comprizing therein his character, as drawn by this author: how opposite to that which Shakspeare has given him, all know; and yet he has found means to put nearly the same words into the very mouth of his Lear,
"No, I will be the pattern of all patience,
Lastly, two of Shakspeare's personages, Kent, and the Steward, seem to owe their existence to the above-mention'd "shag-hair'd wretch," and the Perillus of this Leir.
The episode of Gloster and his two sons is taken from the Arcadia: in which romance there is a chapter thus intitl'd;-" The pitifull state, and storie of the Paphlagonian unkinde King, and his kind sonne, first related by the son, then by the blind father." (Arcadia, p. 142, edit. 1590, 4to.) of which episode there are no traces in either chronicle, poem, or play, wherein this history is handl'd.
Love's Labour's Lost.
The fable of this play does not seem to be a work entirely of invention; and I am apt to believe, that it owes its birth to some novel or other, which may one day be discover'd. The character of Armado has some resemblance to Don Quixote; but the play is older than that work of Cervantes: of Holofernes, another singular character, there are some faint traces in a masque of Sir Philip Sidney's that was presented before Queen Elizabeth at Wansted: this masque, call'd in catalogues-The Lady of May, is at the end of that author's works, edit. 1627. folio.
Measure for Measure.
In the year 1578, was publish'd in a black-letter quarto a miserable dramatick performance, in two parts, intitl'd-Promos and Cassandra; written by one George Whetstone, author likewise of the Heptameron, and much other poetry of the same
stamp, printed about that time. These plays their author, perhaps, might form upon a novel of Cinthio's; (v. Dec. 8, Nov. 5,) which Shakspeare went not to, but took up with Whetstone's fable, as is evident from the argument of it; which, though it be somewhat of the longest, yet take it in his own words.
"In the Cyttie of Julio (sometimes under the dominion of Corvinus Kinge of Hungarie and Boemia) there was a law, that what man so ever committed adultery, should lose his head, & the woman offender, should weare some disguised apparel, during her life, to make her infamouslye noted. This severe lawe, by the favour of some mercifull magistrate, became little regarded, untill the time of Lord Promos auctority: who convicting, a yong gentleman named Andrugio of incontinency, condemned, both him, and his minion to the execution of this statute. Andrugio had a very vertuous, and beawtiful gentlewoman to his sister, named Cassandra: Cassandra to enlarge her brothers life, submitted an humble petition to the Lord Promos: Promos regarding her good behaviours, and fantasying her great beawtie, was much delighted with the sweete order of her talke: and doyng good, that evill might come thereof: for a time, he repryv'd her brother: but wicked man, tourning his liking unto unlawfull lust, he set downe the spoile of her honour, raunsome for her Brothers life: Chaste Cassandra, abhorring both him and his sute, by no perswasion would yeald to