« AnteriorContinuar »
| PREFACE to the QUARTO EDI.
TION of this PLAY, 1609.
A never Writer, to an ever Reader. Newes. ETERNALI reader, you have heere a new play, never stala 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 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 the 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 than ever they dreamd they had braine to grind it on. So much and such savored salt of witte is in his commedies, that they seem (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 nog (for so much as will make you think your testern well bestowd), þut 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 Plautus.
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 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 thank fortune for the scape it hath made amongst you. Since by the grand possessors wills I believe you should have prayd for them 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. Vale.
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 bis first Triumph : “ Since Lollius and Chaucer both, make doubt
upon that glose"); but Dryden goes yet further. He de. clares it to have been written in Latin verse, and that Chaucer translated it. Lollius was a historiographer of Urbino in Italy. Shakspere received the greatest part of his materials for the structure of this 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 in 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 Ree cuyel, &c. so that there must have been yet some earlier edition B
of Guido's performance than I have hitherto seen or heard of unless his first translator had recourse to a manuscript,
Guido of Columpra 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 Shakspere'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. This play is more correctly written than most of Shak. spere's compositions, but it is not one of those in which either the extent of his views or elevation of his fancy is fully displayed. As the story abounded with materials, he has exerted little invention ; but he has diversified his characters with great variety, and preserved them with great exactness. His vicious characters sometimes disgust, but cannot corrupt, for both Cressida and Pandarus are detested and contemned. The comic characters seem to have been the favourites of the writer ; they are of the superficial kind, and exhibit more of manners than nature; but they are copiously filled and powerfully impressed. Shakspere has in his story followed, for the greater part, the old book of Caxton, which was then very popular ; but the character of Thersites, of which it makes no mention, is a proof that this play was written after Chapman had pub. lished his version of Homer. JOHN SO'N.