« PreviousContinue »
MEASURE FOR Measure.] The story is taken from Cinthio's Novels, Decad. 8, Novel 5.
We are sent to Cinthio for the plot of Measure for Measure, and Shakespeare's judgment hath been attacked for some deviations from him in the conduct of it, when probably all he knew of the matter was from Madam Isabella, in The Heptameron of Whetstone, Lond. to. 1582. -She reports, in the fourth dayes Exercise, le rare Historie of Promos and Cassandra. A marginal ite informs us, that Wlictstone was the author of the Inedie on that subject; which likewise had probably fien into the hands of Shakespeare.
here is perhaps not one of Shakespeare's plays more dakened than this by the peculiarities of its author, and thenskilfulness of its editors, by distortions of phrase, or Tyligence of transcription.
JOHNSON. DiJohnson's remark is so just respecting the corruptions this play, that I shall not attempt much reformation ins metre, which is too often rough, redundant, and irr-ular. Additions and omissions (however trifling) cannot made without constant notice of them; and such notices, the present instance, would so frequently occur, as become equally tiresome to the commentator
Shakeshre took the fable of this play from the Promos and ssandra of George Whetstone, published in 1578. See'heobald's note at the end.
A hint, lila seed, is more or less prolific, according
and the rher.
to the qualities of the soil on which it is thrown. This story, which in the hands of Whetstone produced little more than barren insipidity, under the culture of Shakespeare became fertile of entertainment. The curious reader will find that the old play of Promos and Cas. sandra exhibits an almost complete embryo of Measuri for Measure; yet the hints on which it is formed are so slight, that it is nearly as impossible to detect them as it is to point out in the acorn the future ramification of the oak.
Whetstone opens his play thus :
ACT I.-SCENE I.
“ Promos, Mayor, Shirife, Sworde Bearer : one with a bunche of keyes. Phalla
“ Phallax, reade out my Soveraines chardge.
Phallax readeth the Kinges Leliers Pattents, which must be
fayre wrillen in parchmeni, with some great counterfeat fe.
" Loe, heare his wish, that right, pot might, beare swaye :
(How so he byds, the ignoraunt to save)
Pro.“ Both swoorde and keies, unto my princes use,
" I do receyve, and gladlie take my chardge.
“ To treate of which, a whyle we wyll depart. dl. speake. " To worke your wyll, we yeelde a willing hart.
The reader will find the argument of GWhetstone's Promos and Cassandra, at the end of th play. It is 100 bulky to be inserted here. See likesse the piece