Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

They are altogether a grave people, in their demeanor, their history, and their literature, such as it is. I never met with the anomaly of a merry Pisan. Curiously enough, this line is repeated, word for word, in the fourth act.

Lucentio says,

his father came of the Bentivolii.' This is an old Italian plural. A mere Englishman would write of the Pentivolios.' Besides, there was, and is, a branch of the Bentivolii in Florence, where Lucentio says he was brought up. But these indications, just at the commencement of the play, are not of great

force. We now come to something more important; a remarkable proof of his having been aware of the law of the country in respect to the betrothment of Katharina and Petruchio, of which there is not a vestige in the older play. The father gives her hand to him, both parties consenting, before two witnesses, who declare themselves such to the act. Such a ceremony is as indissoluble as that of marriage, unless both parties should consent to annul it. The betrothment takes place in due form, exactly as in many of Goldoni's comedies :

Baptista. .. Give me your hands;
God send you joy, Petruchio! 'tis a match.

Gremio and Tranio. Amen! say we; we will be witnesses.'

instantly Petruchio addresses them as • father and wife;' because, from that moment, he possesses the legal power of a husband over her, saving that of taking her to his own house. Unless the betrothment is understood in this light, we can not account for the father's so tamely yielding afterward to Petruchio's whim of going in his mad attire' with her to the church. Authority is no longer with the father; in vain he hopes and requests the bridegroom will change his clothes ; Petruchio is peremptory in his lordly will and pleasure, which he could not possibly be, without the previous Italian betrothment.

• Padua lies between Verona and Venice, at a suitable distance from both, for the conduct of the comedy. Petruchio, after being securely betrothed, sets off for Venice, the very place for finery, to buy.rings and things, and fine array' for the wedding; and, when married, he takes her to his country-house in the direction of Verona, of which city he is a native. All this is complete, and in marked opposition to

66

precedency between two ladies at a ball; and one of the witnesses, a trar. elled gentleman, in his cross-examination, gives the following opinion of Pisa: “I did not see in the room that night; he is now in Pisa, which I don't think a pleasanter place than a court of justice: I think it a dd sickening place. It is much too holy for me.” This was deposed to so lately as the 10th of October, 1839.-W. M.

the worse than mistakes in the Two Gentlemen of Verona, which was written when he knew nothing whatever of the country.

“The rich old Gremio, when questioned respecting the dower he can assure to Bianca, boasts, as a primary consideration, of his richly furnished house :

"First, as you know, my house within the city

Is richly furnished with plate and gold;
Basins and ewers, to lave her dainty hands;
My hangings all of Tyrian tapestry:
In ivory coffers I have stuffed my crowns,
In cypress chests my arras, counterpoints,
Costly apparel, tents, and canopies;
Fine linen, Turkey cushions 'bossed with pearl,
Valance of Venice gold in needlework;
Pewter and brass, and all things that belong
To house, or housekeeping.'

“Lady Morgan, in her Italy, says (and my own observation corroborates her account), • There is not an article here described, that I have not found in some one or other of the palaces of Florence, Venice, and Genoa — the mercantile republics of Italy-even to the • • Turkey cushions 'bossed with pearl.' She then adds, • This is the knowledge of gerius, acquired by the rapid perception and intuitive appreciation,' &c., never once suspecting that Shakespeare had been an eye-witness of such furniture. For my part, unable to comprehend the intuitive knowledge of genius, in opposition to her ladyship's opinion, I beg leave to quote Dr. Johnson : Shakespeare, however favored by nature, could impart only, what he had learned. With this text as our guide, it behooves us to point out how he could obtain such an intimate knowledge of facts, without having been, like Lady Morgan, an eye-witness to them.

" In addition to these instances, the whole comedy bears an Italian character, and seems written as if the author has said to his friends, • Now I will give you a comedy, built on Italian manners, neat as I myself have imported.' Indeed, did I not know its archetype, with the scene in Athens, I might suspect it to be an adaptation of some unknown Italian play, retaining rather too many local allusions for the English siage.

Some may argue that it was possible for him to learn all this from books of travels now lost, or in conversation with travellers; but my faith recoils from so bare a possibility, when the belief that he saw what he described is, in every point of view, without difficulty, and probable. Books and conversation may do much for an author; but, should he descend to particular descriptions, or venture to speak of manners and customs intimately; is it possible he should not once fall into error with no better instruction ? An objection has been made, imputing an error, in Grumio's question, are the rushes strewed ?' But the custom of strewing rushes in England, belonged also to Italy; this may be seen in old authors, and their very word giuncare, now out of use, is a proof of it. English Christian names, incidentally introduced, are but translations of the same Italian names, as Catarina is called Katharine and Kate; and, if they were not, comedy may well be allowed to take a liberty of that nature."

This, certainly, is ingenious, as also are the arguments drawn by Mr. Brown from Othello and the Merchant of Venice; and I understand that a later lady-traveller in Italy than Lady Morgan coincides in the same view of the case; and she is a lady who ought to know " How to Observe." At all events, there is nothing improbable that Shakespeare, or any other person of cultivated mind, or easy fortune and he was both — should have visited the famed and fashionable land of Italy. There was much more energy and action among the literary men— among men in general, indeed, of the days of Elizabeth than of the last century; when making the “grand tour," as they called it, was considered an undertaking to be ventured on only by a great lord or squire, who looked upon it as a formal matter of his life. The sparks, and wits, and critics, and moralists, and dramatists, and so forth, in the time of the first Georges, either Cockneyised in London or confined themselves to the universities. One set did not look beyond the coffee-houses, taverns, inns of court, public-houses, and play-houses of the metropolis; the views of the others were in general confined to the easier shelves of the library, or the wit and tobacco of the common room. Going abroad required an effort beyond ordinary culculation, or ordinary ambition. To get as far as Paris was an event domanding much thought and preparation beforehand, and entitling him who performed it to much wonderment ever after. Italy was quite out of their line; and those who travelled to a region so remote had marvels to tell for ever. Professed, or rather professional tours, were made there, resulting in collections of letters crammed with accounts of bad dinners, detestable roads, diabolical inns, and black-whiskered banditti; or ponderous works commonplacing about admirable antiques, astonishing architecture, supereminent paintings, divine scenery, and celestial climates. The buoyant spirit of the friends of Raleigh, Sidney, Essex, was gone. No war, no taking of service, nothing calling on the notice of “ a man of action,” led to the Continent in the sodden days which followed the peace of Utrecht, and preceded the outburst of the French Revolution; and the means and appliances by which a trip to Constantinople is now-a-days as little regarded, and as lightly provided for, as a trip to Calais in the days of our grandsires, were not in being. The nation was asleep in the middle of the last century, and its literature snored in the general slumber. “In great Eliza's golden time" it was not only awake, but vigorous in the rude strength of manly activity. The spirit of sea-adventure was not dead while Drake, and his brother "shepherds of the ocean" lived; and an enthusiastic mind of that period would think far less, and make far less talk about a voyage to the Spanish Main, than Johnson did, near a couple of centuries afterward, of jolting to the North of Scotland. The activity of Shakespeare or his contemporaries is not to be judged of by the sloth of their accessors “ upon town," or the literary world.” It is to me evident that Shakespeare had been at sea, from his vivid description of maritime phenomena, and his knowledge of the management of a vessel, whether in calm or storm. The very first note of Dr. Johnson brings him and his author into a contrast not very favorable to the commentator. On the opening of the Tempest we are told : “ Jn this vaval dialogue, perhaps the first example of sailors' language upon the stage, there are, as I have been told by a skilful navigator, some inaccuracies and contradictory orders.”

* Harriet Martineau.-11.

16 in

If to stumble on the threshold be unlucky, this is a most unlucky opening. In the first place, an acquaintance with Shakespeare himself ought to have made the Doctor know that in Pericles, Prince of Tyre, generally attributed to him (I have no doubt that he wrote, or re-wrote, every line of it), produced some fifteen or sixteen years before the Tempest, there was a scene of sea language; and, in the next place, Constantine, second Lord Mulgrave, an experienced sailor (he was the Captain Phipps who sailed toward the North Pole, and a captain in the navy at the age of twenty-one - no jobbing, of course), proves by a practical and scientific analysis of the boatswain's orders, not only that each was the very best, that could be given in the impending danger, but that all were issued in the exact order in which they were required. This Constantine, Lord Mulgrave, was uncle of the present Marquess of Normanby; so that, on the principle of family merit, even the Tories ought to abate their wrath somewhat against the ex-lord-lieutenant,* on the ground of his connection with one who, besides having been at sea Nelson's earliest captain, may boast of contributing to save the national favorite of old England,

“ Whose flag has braved a thousand years

The battle and the breeze,"

from the reputation of being no better than a landlubber. Lord Mulgrave's note, which is a very clever one, will be found in Boswell's Shakespeare, vol. xv. pp. 184-6, at the end of the Tempest. His lordship says, that perhaps Shakespeare might have picked up his nautical knowledge from conversation; but, though his lordship tells that to the marines, as a sailor he does

* The Marquis had been Viceroy of Ireland.-M.

« PoprzedniaDalej »