Immagini della pagina

tween you and the women the play may please. If I were a woman," I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleas'd me, complexions that lik'd me, and breaths that I defied not; aud, I am sure, as many as have good beards, or good faces, or sweet breaths, will, for my kind offer, when I make curtesy, bid me farewell. [Exeunt.

17 The parts of women were performed by men or boys in Shakespeare's time.




THE only probable contemporary notice that has come down to us of ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL is in Meres's Palladis Tamia, under the title of Love's Labour Won. Dr. Farmer, in


nis Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare, 1767, first gave out the conjecture, that the two titles belonged to one and the same play; and this opinion has since been concurred or acquiesced in by so many good judgments, that it might well be let unsified. There is no other of the Poet's dramas extant, to which that title so well applies, while, on the other hand, it certainly fits this play better than the title it now bears. The whole play is emphatically love's labour: its main interest throughout turns on the unwearied and finally-successful struggles of affection against the most stubborn and disheartening drawbacks. It may perhaps be urged that the play entitled Love's Labour Won has been lost; but this, considering what esteem the Poet's works were held in, both in his time and ever since is so very improbable as to be hardly worth the dwelling upo

The Rev. Joseph Hunter has spent a deal of learning and ingenuity in trying to snow, that the play referred to by Meres in 1598 as Love's Labour Won was The Tempest. Among Shakespeare's dramas he could scarce have pitched upon a more unfit subject for such a title. There is no love's labour in The Tempest. For though a lover does indeed labour awhile in bearing logs, this is hot from love, but simply because he cannot help himself. Nor does he thereby win the lady, for she was won before, --"at the first sight they have chang'd eyes;" and the labour was imposed for the testing of his love, not for the gaining of its object; and was all the while refreshed with the "sweet thoughts" that in heart

[ocr errors]

and will she was already his. In short, there is no external evidence whatsoever in favour of Mr. Hunter's conjecture, while the internal evidence makes strongly against it. The probable date

of The Tempest has been argued in our Introduction to that play, from which the reader can judge whether it was likely to have been written so early as 1598.

[ocr errors]

Coleridge in his Literary Remains sets down this play as originally intended as the counterpart of Love's Labour's Lost; ́ which would seem to imply that he thought it to be the play meltioned by Meres. And Mr. Collier tells us it was the opinion of Coleridge, first given out in 1813, and again in 1818, though not found in his Literary Remains, "that All's Well that Ends Well, as it has come down to us, was written at two different and rather distant periods of the Poet's life;" and that he pointed out very clearly two distinct styles, not only of thought, but of expression." The same opinion has since been enforced by Tieck; and the grounds of it are so manifest in the play itself, that no considerate reader will be apt to question it. In none of the Author's plays do we meet with greater diversities of manner; one must be dull indeed not to observe them.


[ocr errors]

We have seen, in the Introduction to Love's Labour's Lost, that in 1598 that play had been "newly corrected and augmented." The probable truth, then, seems to be, that All's Well that Ends Well underwent a similar process. There being no external proofs, the date of this revisal must needs be uncertain; but one can scarce doubt that it was some years later than in case of the former play. We have also seen that Love's Labour's Lost was acted at court "between New-Year's Day and Twelfth Day." The reviving of this might naturally enough draw on a revival of its counterpart. We agree, therefore, with Mr. Collier in the conjecture for it is nothing more that All's Well that Ends Well was revived with alterations and additions about the same time, and its title changed, perhaps with a view to give an air of greater novelty to the performance. It is true, indeed, as Mr. Hunter argues, that the play twice bespeaks its present title: ut both instances occur precisely in those parts which taste most strongly of the Poet's later style; and in both the phrase, “All's well that ends well," is printed in the same type as the rest of the And the line near the close," All is well ended, if this suit be won," may be fairly understood as intimating some connection between the two titles which we suppose the play to have borne.


As to the rest, this play was first printed in the folio of 1623, where it makes the twelfth in the list of Comedies. In the origina. the acts are distinguished, but not the scenes. And there are several dark and doubtful words and passages, which cause us again to regret the want of earlier copies to correct or confirm the reading as it there stands. In one or two places both the first writing and the subsequent correction appear to have been printed together, thus making the sense very perplexed and obscure.

The only known source, from which the Poet could have borrowed any part of this play, is a story in Boccaccio's Decameron

entitled Giglietta di Nerbona. In 1566 William Paynter pnb. lished the first volume of his Palace of Pleasure, containing an English version of this tale; an outline of which will show the nature and extent of Shakespeare's obligations.

Isnardo, count of Rousillon, being sickly, always kept in his house a physician named Gerardo of Narbona. The count had a son named Beltramo, the physician a daughter named Giglietta, who were brought up together. The count dying, his son was left in the care of the king and sent to Paris. The physician dying some while after, his daughter, who had loved the young count so long that she knew not when she began to love him, sought occa sion of going to Paris, that she might see him; but being diligently looked to by her kinsfolk, because she was rich and had many suitors, she could not see her way clear. Now the king had a swelling on his breast, which through ill treatment was grown to a fistula; and, having tried all the best physicians and being only made worse by their efforts, he resolved to take no further counsel or help. The young maiden, hearing of this, was very glad, as it suggested an apt reason for visiting Paris, and showed a chance of compassing her secret and most cherished wish. Putting at work such knowledge in the healing art as she had gathered from her father, she rode to Paris, and repaired to the king, praying him to show her his disease. He consenting, as soon as she saw it she told him that, if he pleased, she would within eight days make him whole. He asked how it were possible for her, being a young woman, to do that which the best physicians in the world could not; and, thanking her for her good will, said he was resolved to try no more remedies. She begged him not to despise her knowledge because she was a young woman, assuring him that she ministered physic by the help of God, and with the cunning of master Gerardo of Narbona, who was her father. The king, hearing this, and thinking that peradventure she was sent of God, asked what might follow, if she caused him to break his resolution, and did not heal him. She said, 1l Let me be kept in what guard you list, and if I do not heal you let me be burnt; but if I do, what recompense shall I have?" He answered, that since she was a maiden, he would bestow her in marriage upon some gentleman of right good worship and estimation. To this she agreed, on condition that she might have such a husband as herself should ask, without presumption to any member of his family; which be readily granted. This done, she set about her task, and before the eight days were passed he was entirely well; whereupon he told her she had deserved such a husband as herself should choose, and she declared her choice of Beltramo, saying she had loved him from her youth. The king was very loth to grant him to her; but because he would not break his promise, be had him called forth, and told him what had been done. The


this king her stock unsuitable to his nobility, disdainfully


[ocr errors]

Will you, then, sir, give me a physician to wife?" The king pressing him to comply, he answered,—“Sire, you may take from ine all that I have, and give my person to whom you please, because I am your subject; but I assure you I shall never be contented with that marriage." To which he replied, "Well, you shall have her, for the maiden is fair and wise, and loveth you entirely; and verily you shall lead a more joyful life with her than with a lady of a greater house;" whereupon the count held his peace. The marriage over, the count asked leave to go home, having settled beforehand what he would do. Knowing that the Florentines and the Senois were at war, he was no sooner on horseback than he stole off to Tuscany, meaning to side with the Florentines; by whom being honourably received and made a captain, he continued a long time in their service.


[ocr errors]

His wife, hoping by her well-doing to win his heart, returned home, where, finding all things spoiled and disordered through his absence, she like a sage lady carefully put them in order, making all his subjects very glad of her presence and loving to her perHaving done this, she sent word thereof to the count by two knights, adding that if she were the cause of his forsaking home, he had but to let her know it, and she, to do him pleasure, would depart from thence. Now he had a ring which he greatly loved, and kept very carefully, and never took off his finger, for a certain virtue he knew it had. When the knights came he said to them churlishly, Let her do what she list; for I do purpose to dwell with her, when she shall have this ring upon her finger, and a son of mine in her arms." The knights, after trying in vain to change his purpose, returned to the lady and told his answer : whereat she was very sorrowful, and bethought herself a good while how she might accomplish those two things. Then, assembling the noblest of the country, she told them what she had done to win her husband's love; that she was loth he should dwell m perpetual exile on her account; and therefore would spend the rest of her life in pilgrimages and devotion; praying them to let him understand that she had left his house with purpose never to return. Then, taking with her a maid and one of her kinsmen, she set out in the habit of a pilgrim, well furnished with silver and jewels, telling no man whither she went, and rested not till she came to Florence. She put up at the house of a poor widow ; and the next day, seeing her husband pass by on horseback with his company, she asked who he was. The widow told her this, and that he was a courteous knight, well beloved in the city, and marvellously in love with a neighbour of hers, a gentlewoman that was very poor, but of right honest life and report, and because of her poverty was yet unmarried, and dwelt with her mother, a wise and honest lady. After hearing this she was not long in determining what to do. Repairing secretly to the house, and getting a private interview with the mother, she said, “Madam, methinks

« IndietroContinua »