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TROILUS AND CRESSIDA.
FOURTEEN years before the appearance of the folio of 1623, a quarto edition of this play was published under the title of “The Famous Historie of Troylus and Cresseid. Excellently expressing the beginning of their loves, with the conceited wooing of Pandarus Prince of Licia. Written by William Shakespeare. London Imprinted by G. Eld for R. Bonian and H. Walley, and are to be sold at the spred Eagle in Paules Church-yeard, over against the great North doore. 1609.” In the same year, another edition, or rather a second issue of the above, was printed with a different title-page,—“ The Historie of Troylus and Cresseida.
- -As it was acted by the Kings Maiesties servants at the Globe. Written by William Shakespeare. London,” &c. Nor is this the only diversity between the two issues, for the first contains the following curious prefatory address, which was omitted in all the subsequent copies,
" A never Writer to an ever Reader. NEWES. " Eternall reader, you have heere a new play, never stald with the Stage, never clapper-clawd with the palmes of the vulger, and yet passing full of the palme comicall; for it is a birth of your braine, that never undertooke 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 author's Commedies, that are so fram'd to the life, that they serte 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 sueh dull and heavywitted worldlings, as were never capable of the witte of a Commedie, comming by report of them to his represen. tations, have found that witte there that they never found in themselves, and have parted better-wittied then they came ; feeling an edge of witte set upon them, more then ever they dreamd they had brain to grinde it on. So much and such savoured salt of witte is in his Commedies, that they seeme (for their height of pleasure) to be borne in that sea that brought forth Venus. Amongst all there is none more witty then this : And had I time I would comment upon it, though I know it needs not, (for so much as will make you thinke your testerne well bestowd) but for so much worth, as even poore I know to be stuft in it. It deserves such a labour, as well as the best Commedie in Terence or Plautus. And beleeve this, that when hee is gone, and his Cominedies out of sale, you will scramble for them, and set up a new English Inquisition. Take this for a Farning, and at the perrill 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 thanke fortune for the scape it hath made amongst Fou. Since by the grand possessors wills, I beleeve, you should have prayd for them rather then been prayd. And so I leave all such to bee prayd for (for the states of their wits healths) that will not praise it.- VALE."
From this address we may conclude that, when first published, the piece had not been acted, or only acted at court, and that, being shortly after represented on the stage, it was thought necessary to withdraw the preface, and substitute another title-page.
In Henslowe's Diary is an entry, showing that in April, 1599, Decker and Chettle were occupied in writing a play, called “ Troilus and Cressida,” and this may have been the “ booke ” recorded on the Stationers' Registers, February 7th, 1602-3,
“Mr. Roberts] The booke of Troilus and Cressida, as yt is acted by my Lo. Chamberlens men.” Farther, as the company to which Shakespeare belonged was entitled the “Lord Chamberlain's Servants” until the year 1603, and as some parts of his “ Troilus and Cressida” are evidently the production of an inferior writer, it is not at all improbable that the earlier piece formed the basis of the later one.
In the preface to his alteration of the present play, Dryden remarks that, “ The original story was written by one Lollius, a Lombard, in Latin verse, and translated by Chaucer into English.” “ Twere to consider too curiously,” perhaps, to enter here upon the question whether
” "Myn auctor Lollius were a tangible personage, or the mere creation of the old bard's fancy; we may be satisfied the plot of the drama is immediately founded upon the poem of “ Troylus and Cryseyde.” Upon this point there can be no reasonable doubt; and Mr. Godwin, in his " Life of Chaucer," complains, with reason, that the commentators have dealt ungenerously towards the elder poet in not acknowledging the honour conferred up in him by the immortal dramatist,
“It would be extremely unjust to quit the consideration of Chaucer's poem of · Troilus and Cresseide,' without noticing the high honour it has received in having been made the foundation of one of the plays of Shakespear. There seems to have been in this respect a sort of conspiracy in the commentators upon Shakespear against the glory of our old English bard. In what they have written concerning this play, they make a very slight mention of Chaucer; they have not consulted his poem for the purpose of illustrating this admirable drama ; and they have agreed, as far as possible, to transfer to another author the honour of having supplied materials to the tragic artist. Dr. Johuson says, ' Shakespeare 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 published his version of Homer.' Mr. Steevens asserts that Shakspeare received the greatest part of his materials for the structure of this play from the Troye Boke of Lydgate.' And Mr. Malone repeatedly treats the · History of the Destruction of Troy, translated by Caxton,' as Shakspeare's authority' in the composition of this drama. **** * The fact is, that the play of Shakespear we are here considering has for its main foundation the poem of Chaucer, and is indebted for many accessory helps to the books mentioned by the commentators.
“We are not, however, left to probability and conjecture as to the use made by Shakespear of the poem of Chaucer. His other sources were Chapman's translation of Homer, the • Troy Book of Lydgate, and Caxton's · History of the Destruction of Troy.' It is well known that there is no trace of the particular story of • Troilus and Cresseide' among the ancients. It occurs, indeed, in Lydgate and Caxton ; but the name and actions of Pandarus, a very essential personage in the tale as related by Shakespear and Chaucer, are entirely wanting, except a single mention of him by Lydgate, and that with an express reference to Chaucer as his authority. Shakespear has taken the story of Chaucer with all its imperfections and defects, and has copied the series of its incidents with his customary fidelity ;-an exactness seldom to be found in any other dramatic writer.”
Ix Troy, there lies the scene. From isles of
Greece The princes orgulous, their high blood chaf'd, Have to the port of Athens sent their ships, Fraught with the ministers and instruments Of cruel war : sixty and nine, that wore Their crownets regal, from the Athenian bay Put forth toward Phrygia; and their vow is made To ransack Troy; within whose strong immures The ravish'd Helen, Menelaus' queen, With wanton Paris sleeps; and that's the quarrel. To Tenedos they come; And the deep-drawing barks * do there disgorge Their warlike fraughtage. Now on Dardan plains The fresh and yet unbruised Greeks do pitch Their brave pavilions : Priam's six-gated city,
Dardan, and Tymbria, Helias, Chetas, Troien,
(*) First folio, Barke. * The princes orgulous,-) “ Orgulous," from the French Orgueilleuz, means proud, haughty.
Dardan, and Tymbria, Helias, Chetas, Troien,
And Antenorides,-) So these names are exhibited in the folio 1623, (with the exception cf the last, which is there " Antenonidus,") a circumstance that leads us to conjecture Shakespeare had consulted Lydgate's poem called, " The hystorye, Sege and dystruccyon of Troye,"
" The firste of all and strengest eke withall
Was by the Kynge called Dardanydes ;
The fourthe gate highte also Cetheas ;
The fyfte Troiana, the syxth Anthonydes," &c.as well as Caxton's “Recuyell of the historyes of Troye," &c., where, in the chapter headed, “How the Kynge Priam reediffied the cyte of troye,” it is said, “In this Cyte were sixe pryncipall gates. of whome that one was named dardane, the seconde tymbria. the third helyas, the fourthe chetas. the fifthe troyenne. and the sixthe antenorides."
c Sperr up the sons of Troy.] The folio, where alone of the old editions this Prologue is given, reads, “Stirre up." Theobald first proposed “Sperr," an old word signifying to shut up, which is occasionally used by Chaucer, Spenser, and other of our early writers.
d - arm'd,-) From this it appears that the speaker of the Prologue, instead of wearing the customary black cloak, was dressed in armour, -"In like conditions as our argument."
e — the vaunt-] That is, the van, the fore-going, the beginning.
Tro. The Greeks are strong, and skilful to
their strength, Fierce to their skill, and to their fierceness valiant; But I am weaker than a woman's tear, Tamer than sleep, fonder than ignorance ; Less valiant than the virgin in the night, And skill-less as unpractis'd infancy.
Pan. Well, I have told you enough of this: for my part, I'll not meddle nor make no further. He that will have a cake out of the wheat must needs tarry the grinding.
varlet ;) A " varlet" anciently signified a foolman or servant.