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"we must not admit as evidence any parallels in sentiment and reflection which, as they express commonplaces, are likely to be mere coincidences," he fills several pages with interesting cases in point, and yet thereafter stresses other parallels which are no less constituted from commonplaces. Thus he writes that such parallels as the following may point to no more than coincidence :
To you your father should be as a god (M.S.N.D. i, 1). νόμιζε σαυτῷ τοὺς γονεῖς εἶναι θεούς.
(Consider that thy parents are gods to thee.)
(Menander, SENTEN. SINGULAR. in Stobaeus.)
Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all (HAMLET, iii, 1). ὁ συνιστορῶν αὐτῷ τι, κἂν ᾖ θρασύτατος,
ἡ σύνεσις αὐτὸν δειλότατον εἶναι ποιεῖ.
(He who is conscious of aught, e'en though he be the boldest of men, conscience makes him the most cowardly.Menander quoted in Stobaeus, SERM. xxiv.)
Yet he continues as follows:
But, "fat paunches have lean pates" (L.L.L. i, 1) is undoubtedly from the anonymous Greek proverb:
παχεία γαστὴρ λεπτὸν οὐ τίκτει νόον
(Fine wit is never the offspring of a fat paunch);
and the line in 3 HENRY VI, i, 2, “For a kingdom any oath may be broken," as certainly a reminiscence of Euripides, PHOENISSAE, 524-5:
εἴπερ γὰρ ἀδικεῖν χρή, τυραννίδος πέρι
(If indeed one must do injustice, injustice done for sovereignty's sake is honorablest.)
Though this may have come through Seneca :
Imperio pretio quolibet constant bene.
Now, the obvious comment here is that all the passages are alike of the nature of commonplaces, maxims, or pseudo-maxims, and that not "coincidence" but common currency is the explanation. To say that fat paunches have lean wits is to deal in proverbial wisdom no less than in saying "to you your father should be as a god." Such sayings are the common money of ancient literature, and as such were made current in Europe through the whole period of the Renaissance. The Interlude of CALISTO AND MELEBEA, dating from about 1530, and based upon the copious Spanish dramatic novel CELESTINA, begins by citing "Franciscus Petrarcus the poet lawreate" and "Eraclito the wyse clerk" to the effect that strife gives birth to and runs through all things, and that there is nothing under the firmament equivalent in all points with any other. There is no saying how many ancient sentences thus became current. The lost "tragic comedy of Celestina is entered in the Stationers' Register in 1598 as a work "wherein are discoursed in most pleasant style many philosophical sentences. and advertisements very necessary for young
gentlemen"; and other lost plays doubtless drew much on Seneca and other classics for reflections. It is indeed conceivable that the passage cited from 3 HENRY VI, i, 2, may be a reminiscence from Euripides or Seneca: the spavined English line cries aloud its non-Shakespearean paternity; and the "university hack" who wrote it may have read Euripides. Peele, we know, had. But it is far more probable that the tag was already current in the English form. Oath-breaking and injustice are different concepts; but sayings of this sort on either theme could easily be new-minted among the moderns without reminiscence of anything in Greek. The odd thing is that Mr. Collins did not bethink him of turning on the one hand to the version of the PHOENISSAE published in 1573 by Gascoigne, under the title of JOCASTA, where the passage in question is translated : 2
If law of right may any way be broke
To break a vow may bear the buckler best,
and on the other hand to the works of the English dramatists who preceded Shakespeare. In
1 See the pref. to the Malone Society's rep. of Calisto and Melebea, 1909.
Cunliffe's ed. of Gascoigne's Works, i, 272.
Greene's SELIMUS may be found no fewer than six variants of the sentiment in question:
Bare faith, pure virtue, poor integrity,
For th' only things that wrought our empery
I count it sacrilege for to be holy.
Make thou a passage for thy gushing flood
I reck not of their foolish ceremonies
To say nothing of the high probability that the passage in 3 HENRY VI is actually from Greene's hand, such data clearly forbid the resort to the classics for the immediate source of any tag in a Shakespearean play.
Mr. Collins proceeds to cite as a probable case of reminiscence the passage:
All places that the eye of heaven visits.
Are to a wise man ports and happy havens,
(RICHARD II, i, 3.)
putting without comment the parallel :
ἅπασα δὲ χθὼν ἀνδρὶ γενναίῳ πατρίς.
(To a noble man every land is his fatherland.)
Now, this particular maxim, as it happens, had been made current in Latin by Cicero ;1 and it is found not only in Lyly's EUPHUES in the form : "he noted that every place was a country to a wise man, "2 but in a whole series of other Elizabethan writers before Shakespeare. In the DAMON AND PITHIAS of Richard Edwards (1571) occurs the line :
Omne solum forti patria: a wyse man may live every
It is used both by Greene and Peele :
Tully said every country is a wise man's home.
And it appears in SOLIMAN AND PERSEDA in the form:
And where a man lives well, that is his country.
It is surely clear that in the face of such data no inference can be led from the bare fact of a parallel
1 Tusc. Disp. v, 37, § 108: "Patria est ubicumque est bene." This is cited from some lost tragedy. Aristophanes burlesques it (Plutus, 1151) and Euripides puts the idea 2 Euphues: the Anatomy of Wit. 3 Greene, Mourning Garment. Peele, Farewell, 49.
Arber's rep. p. 187. Cp. p. 189. Works, ed. Grosart, xi, 132. 6 IV, ii, 7.