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The plot of this admirable comedy appears to have been taken from the second tale in a collection by Barnabe Riche, entitled, “Rich his Farewell to the Militarie Profession,” which was first printed in 1583. It is probably borrowed from Les Histoires Tragiques de Belleforest, vol. iv. Hist. viime. Belleforest, as usual, copied Bandello. In the fifth eglog of Barnaby Googe, published with his poems in 1563, an incident somewhat similar to that of the duke sending his page to plead his cause with the lady, and the lady falling in love with the page, may be found. But Rich's narration is the more probable source, and resembles the plot more completely. It is too long for insertion here, but may be found in the late edition of Malone's Shakspeare, by Mr. Boswell.
The comic scenes appear to have been entirely the creation of the poet, and they are worthy of his transcendent genius. It is indeed one of the most delightful of Shakspeare's comedies. Dr. Johnson thought the natural fatuity of Ague-cheek hardly fair game; but the good-nature with which his folly and his pretensions are brought forward for our amusement, by humoring his whims, are almost without a spice of satire. It is rather an attempt to give pleasure by exhibiting an exaggerated picture of his foibles, than a wish to give pain by exposing their absurdity.
ORSINO, Duke of Illyria.
ENDWAN, } Servants to Olivia.
OLIVIA, a rich Countess.
Lords, Priests, Sailors, Officers, Musicians, and other Attendants.
SCENE. A City in Illyria, and the Sea-coast near it.
Enter Duke, Curio, Lords; Musicians attending.
Duke. If music be the food of love, play on;
1 The old copies read sound: the emendation is Pope's. Rowe had changed it to wind. In Sidney's Arcadia, 1590, we have—“ more sweet than a gentle south-west wind, which comes creeping over flowery fields.”
3 Fantastical to the height. This is the usual reading; but may it not have been originally written, “ hight (i. e. called) fantastical”? VOL. I.