« 上一頁繼續 »
much of the humour of Ben Johnson (whose greatest weakness was that he could not bear censure); and J. O. Halliwell notes in the Dict. of Old Eng. Plays, p. 211: The scene between Loveall, Mungrell, and Hammershin in the third act, is copied from that between True-wit, Daw, and La-Foole in the fourth act of Ben Jonson's Silent Woman.
The third play to be named owes less than the first two to Epicæne; but who can read the second act of She Stoops to Conquer, in which Hastings encourages the 'modest Marlowe' to meet Kate Hardcastle, and not be convinced that Goldsmith had laughed over the dialogue between the bashful Dauphine and the experienced True-wit. Cf. Epicæne 4. I.
The Spectator 251, surely derived a suggestion at least from Epicæne. Ralph Crotchet here describes a 'splenetic gentleman' who bargained with a noisy vender of cord matches never to come into the street where he lived-with the result that on the following day all the cord-matchmakers in London came to be bought off in like manner. Long before Morose ‘has beene vpon diuers treaties with the Fish-wiues and Orenge-women; and articles propounded betweene them'.
When Scrooge in the Christmas Carol rails at his nephew on Christmas-eve about the futility of any compliments of the season, and indeed about the futility of any gracious or courteous greeting between man and man, it is almost as if Morose were repeating Epicæne 5. 3. 25:
Salute 'hem? I had rather doe anything, then weare out time so vnfruitfully, sir. I wonder how these common formes, as god saue you, and you are well-come, are come to be a habit in our lives, or, I am glad to see you! when I cannot see, what the profit can bee of these wordes, so long as it is no whit better with him, whose affaires are sad and grieuous, that he heares this salutation.
Compare with this The Christmas Carol, Stave One.
A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you !'...
have you to be merry! What reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough.'
"Come then,' returned the nephew gaily, 'what right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose ? You're rich enough? ... Don't be cross, uncle !'
"What else can I be when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon Merry Christmas! What's Christmas time to you but for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; . . . If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with “ Merry Christmas” on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!'
In her weakness for language, and her relish for 'excellent choice phrase', Mrs. Otter has had many male kinsmen before and since her generation-Gobbos, Dogberrys, and their ilk; but the most famous of her descendants is Mrs. Malaprop, who surpasses the would-be ladycollegiate in the 'use of her oracular tongue' and 'a nice derangement of epitaphs'.
The works of Ben Jonson are sometimes claimed to have had direct influence upon the dramas of a kindred genius of the same century and another nation? Students both, their work represents not only original creation, but skilful borrowing and adaptation from classic and contemporary sources. Jonson might have said, as did Molière when likenesses were pointed out between his Fourberies de Scapin and Le Pédant joué of Cyrano de Bergerac, * Je prends mon bien où je le trouve'. The inherent likenesses of the men make it difficult to discern whether or not the comedies of the dramatist, whose L'Étourdi (1653) received recognition three decades after The Tale of a Tub was written, may be said to be in any sense literary descendants of Epicæne. A comparison of the half-dozen comedies of Molière which most resemble this play brings a negative answer.
Les Précieuses ridicules (1659) and Les Femmes savantes
Leser, Eugene, On the relation of Ben Jonson's 'Epicæne' to Molière's * Médecin malgré lui' and 'Femmes savantes,' Mod. Lang. Notes, 7 (1892); 8, pp. 489 ff.
(1671) bear comparison with the collegiates', and the poetaster element in Epicæne. Le Médecin malgré lui (1666) satirizes the medical profession, as Cutbeard and Otter may be said to do that of ecclesiastical law; besides, it contains opinions concerning silence, a woman's greatest virtue. In L'Avare (1667) Harpagon, like Morose, loves his money and pays court to a young woman. Le Misanthrope (1668) is the study of an egotist's withdrawal from society, but it entirely lacks the farcical treatment given the English misanthrope. Les Fourberies de Scapin (1671) has a trick-loving hero like True-wit, who victimizes two men with much the same device used to gull Daw and La-Foole (4. 5).
Although both authors ridicule similar subjects, impostors and parasites, pretenders to wit, learning, and social prestige; although comic action is sometimes similar, tricks played, and punishment given by the same means ; although comic ideas in Jonson are used to raise laughter in the comedies of Molière, there is no proof that Jonson was necessarily the source, in any case, of the character, incident, or idea.
Resemblances are accounted for by the kinship of genius, and of the society in which these men wrote, and by the identity of the classic drama which served as models for both.
D. CRITICAL ESTIMATE OF EPICENE. From the time Dryden picked out Epicæne as the pattern of a perfect play', and preferred it, before all other plays, I think justly, as I do its author, in judgement before all other poets'?, students of the drama have accorded the comedy a high place. Coleridge 3 is faintest in his praise, whereas Ward, while conceding that,
so far as the foundations of its plot are concerned, Epicæne would be properly described as an elaborate farce', believes 1 Essays, ed. Ker, 1. 79.
• Notes on Ben Jonson, Bohn, f. 42.
2 Ibid. 1, 131.
it to be of its kind without a rival, unless we turn to the writings of a comic dramatist worthy to rank as Jonson's peer —Molière. To Symonds ? and to Swinburne 3 it is a' Titanic farce'; to Taine 4'a masterpiece','an enchanting farce'; to Schlegel 5 it is the equal of Volpone and The Alchemist in the excellence of its plot; to Hazlitt®, who, like Schlegel, is repelled by Jonson's satiric spirit and love of the grotesque, it is the greatest of Jonson's comedies. So much for the critics' opinions.
First, to Epicæne belongs the distinction of breaking the convention which assigned comic action to a foreign or fustian country. Unlike its predecessors, its scene is London, and, with a minuteness that is astounding, the Jacobean city is portrayed bustling with life and laughter. Streets are noisy with tradesmen, showmen, bearwards, gallants on horseback, and ladies in coaches ; Whitehall, Paris Garden, and the Cockpit teem with pleasure-seeking courtiers, citizens, and apprentices. It may even be objected that this multiplicity of detail and local reference obscure a picture where the larger outlines are neglected. But the objection does not hold for the reader who knows something of the history of social England, nor for the spectator for whom the comedy was originally written. Moreover, local reference is unavoidable in comedy depicting the manners of a given time and country, which Jonson definitely undertakes to do.
Secondly, the intrigue deserves comment. Dryden's eulogy is extravagant: 'The intrigue... is the greatest and most noble of any pure unmixed comedy in any language'; yet the plot is singularly well contrived, full of movement, dash, and wit. If the scenes taken from Ovid
1 Ward, History of Eng. Dram. Lit. 2. 365.
4 English Lit. I. 342, 344. 5 Dram. Art and Lit., p. 465. Eng. Comic Writers, Bohn, p. 54. ? Essays, ed. Ker, 1. 72.
and Juvenal luxuriate in dialogue and retard the action temporarily, it is not without the consciousness of the dramatist, who considers such scenes an essential characteristic of the comedy in which repartee is one of the chiefest graces; the greatest pleasure of the audience is a chase of wit, kept up on both sides, and swiftly managed '. Besides, in every wit-combat Jonson accomplishes some second purpose, exhibiting the character of the speakers, describing persons to be introduced, recounting incidents taking place off the stage, or satirizing existent follies. The intrigue in its main outline is quite conventional, an impoverished knight scheming to obtain property from a rich and miserly uncle. The originality of the dramatist is shown in his treatment of the theme, in his manner of bringing about the dénouement, and in the diversity of characters, with the tormented old misanthrope in their midst. The ingenious device by which all the characters, even the chief victim, unwittingly further the nephew's scheme, makes possible a story in which the interest never flags, but grows to a climax in the surprise which the nephew keeps in store, for his fellows and for the spectators, till the final scene.
The plot runs in this wise. Morose, having wished to disinherit his nephew, has found, through the agency of his barber, a quiet, respectable woman, whom he may marry He did not know that Cutbeard was in Dauphine's pay, and had heard of the woman through the nephew, who confides to some of his friends that the bride-to-be has promised to divide the fortune with him. The play opens on the wedding-morning, when a hasty marriage takes place, despite the disinterested interference of Truewit. The ceremony being over, the nephew and friends throng the house, and make the old man miserable. Among the guests are Dauphine's friends, True-wit and Clerimont, two boastful cowardly knights, Daw and La-Foole, a beargarden captain, Otter, and his wife, and a group of idle,