Immagini della pagina



SCENE I.-A Hall in the Duke's Palace.


Enter DUKE, ÆGEON, Gaoler, Officer, and other Attendants.
Ege. Proceed, Solinus, to procure my fall,
And, by the doom of death, end woes and all.
Duke. Merchant of Syracusa, plead no more;
I am not partial to infringe our laws.
The enmity and discord which of late
Sprung from the rancorous outrage of your
To merchants, our well-dealing countrymen,-
Who, wanting guilders to redeem their lives,
Have sealed his rigorous statutes with their bloods,
Excludes all pity from our threatening looks.
For, since the mortal and intestine jars
"Twixt thy seditious countrymen and us,
It hath in solemn synods been decreed,
Both by the Syracusans and ourselves,
To admit no traffic to our adverse towns.
Nay, more: if any born at Ephesus be seen
At any Syracusan marts and fairs,-
Again, if any Syracusan born

Come to the bay of Ephesus, he dies,

His goods confiscate to the duke's dispose;

Unless a thousand marks be levied
To quit the penalty, and to ransom him.
Thy substance, valued at the highest rate,
Cannot amount unto a hundred marks;
Therefore by law thou art condemned to die.

Ege. Yet this my comfort; when your words are done,2
My woes end likewise with the evening sun.
Duke. Well, Syracusan, say in brief the cause
Why thou departedst from thy native home,
And for what cause thou camest to Ephesus.
Ege. A heavier task could not have been imposed,
Than I to speak my griefs unspeakable.


Yet, that the world may witness that my
Was wrought by nature,3 not by vile offence,

I'll utter what my sorrow gives me leave.
In Syracusa was I born; and wed

Unto a woman, happy but for me,

And by me too, had not our hap been bad.
With her I lived in joy; our wealth increased,
By prosperous voyages I often made

To Epidamnum; till my factor's death,
And the great care of goods at random left,
Drew me from kind embracements of my spouse:
From whom my absence was not six months old,
Before herself (almost at fainting under

This] This is. Shakspeare elsewhere omits the verb is after the subject this; as in K. Lear, iv. 6. "This a good block;' in Measure for Measure, v. 1, 'This a good friar;' and in Taming of the Shrew, i. 2, 'Why, this a heavy chance 'twixt him and you.' Compare Cymbeline, iii. 6, ‘Since Leonatus [is] false.'

2 Done] Performed; put in execution.

By nature] By the force of nature impelling me to go to Ephesus in search of my son.

• Care of] Anxiety occasioned by.

The pleasing punishment that women bear)
Had made provision for her following me,
And soon and safe arrived where I was.
There had she not been long, but she became
A joyful mother of two goodly sons;

And, which was strange, the one so like the other,
As could not be distinguished but by names.
That very hour, and in the self-same inn,
A poor mean woman was delivered

Of such a burden-male twins, both alike.
Those, for their parents were exceeding poor,—

I bought, and brought up to attend my sons.
My wife, not meanly proud of two such boys,
Made daily motions for our home return.
Unwilling I agreed-alas! too soon we came aboard:
A league from Epidamnum had we sailed,
Before the always-wind-obeying deep
Gave any tragic instance of our harm;
But longer did we not retain much hope;
For what obscured light the heavens did grant

Did but convey unto our fearful minds

A doubtful' warrant of immediate death;

Which, though myself would gladly have embraced,
Yet the incessant weepings of my wife,

Weeping before for what she saw must come,
And piteous plainings of the pretty babes,
That mourned for fashion,2 ignorant what to fear,
Forced me to seek delays for them and me.
And this it was-for other means was none:
The sailors sought for safety by our boat,
And left the ship, then sinking-ripe, to us.

1 Doubtful] Suspected.

2 For fashion] In imitation of others; to keep others company.

My wife, more careful for the latter-born,
Had fastened him unto a small spare mast,
Such as seafaring men provide for storms:
To him one of the other twins was bound,
Whilst I had been like heedful of the other.
The children thus disposed, my wife and I,
Fixing our eyes on whom our care was fixed,
Fastened ourselves at either end the mast;
And, floating straight, obedient to the stream,
Were carried towards Corinth, as we thought.
At length the sun, gazing upon the earth,
Dispersed those vapours that offended us;
And, by the benefit of his wished light,
The seas waxed calm, and we discovered
Two ships from far, making amain to us,—
Of Corinth that, of Epidaurus this:

But ere they came

-O, let me say no more!

Gather the sequel by that went before.2

Duke. Nay, forward, old man, do not break off so; For we may pity, though not pardon thee.

Ege. O, had the gods done so, I had not now

Worthily termed them merciless to us!

For, ere the ships could meet by twice five leagues,
We were encountered by a mighty rock;

Which being violently borne upon,

Our helpful ship was splitted in the midst;
So that, in this unjust divorce of us,

Fortune had left to both of us alike,

1 On whom] On those on whom. Shakspeare often thus writes a preposition only once, where grammar requires its repetition.

2 By that went before] By that which went before. Shakspeare very often suppresses a relative of the nominative case when the demonstrative that is antecedent. So in the Prayer-Book, 'To do always that is righteous.'

[ocr errors]

What to delight in, what to sorrow for.
Her part, poor soul! seeming as burdened
With lesser weight, but not with lesser woe,
Was carried with more speed before the wind;
And, in our sight, they three were taken up
By fishermen of Corinth, as we thought.
At length another ship had seized on us;
And, knowing whom it was their hap to save,
Gave healthful welcome to their shipwrecked guests
And would have reft the fishers of their prey,

Had not their bark been very slow of sail;

And therefore homeward did they bend their course.
Thus have you heard me severed from my bliss;
That by misfortunes was my life prolonged,

To tell sad stories of my own mishaps.

Duke. And, for the sake of them thou sorrowest for,

Do me the favour to dilate at full,

What hath befallen of them and thee till now.

Ege. My youngest boy, and yet my eldest care,

At eighteen years became inquisitive

After his brother; and importuned me
That his attendant (for his case was like,
Reft of his brother, but retained his name)
Might bear him company in the quest of him;
Whom whilst I laboured of a love to see,
I hazarded the loss of whom I loved.2

Five summers have I spent in farthest Greece,
Roaming clean through the bounds of Asia,
And, coasting homeward, came to Ephesus;
Hopeless to find, yet loath to leave unsought

1 For] The original reading is so.

2 Whilst I laboured, &c.] And whilst I laboured to have the delight of seeing the absent one, I hazarded losing him in whose presence I had delight.

« IndietroContinua »