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ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year One Thousand
Eight Hundred and Fifty-three, by J. S. REDFIELD, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.
“ Measure for Measure” was first printed in the folio of “ Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies," 1623, where it occupies twenty-four pages, viz., from p. 61 to p. 34, inclusive, in the division of “Come
It was, of course, reprinted in the later folios of 1632, 1664, and 1685.
In the History of English Dramatic Poetry," III. 68, it is remarked, that " although it seems clear that Shakespeare kept Whetstone's Promos and Cassandra' in his eye, while writing 'Measure for Measure, it is probable that he also made use of some other dramatic composition or novel, in which the same story was treated." I was led to form this opinion from the constant habit of dramatists of that period to employ the productions of their predecessors, and from the extreme likelihood, that when our old play-writers were hunting in all directions for stories which they could convert to their purpose, they would not have passed over the novel by Giraldi Cinthio, which had not only been translated, but actually converted into a drama nearly a quarter of a century before the death of Elizabeth. Whetstone's “Promos and Cassandra,” a play in two parts, was printed in 1578, though, as far as we know, never acted, and he subsequently introduced a translation of the novel (which he admitted to be its origin), in his “ Heptameron of Civil Discourses,” 4to. 1582'. No plays, however, excepting Promos and Cassandra," and "Measure for Measure,” founded on the same incidents, have reached our day, and Whetstone's is the only existing ancient version of the Italian novel.
The Title of Cinthio's novel, the fifth of the eighth Decad of his Hecatommithi, gives a sufficient account of the progress of the story as he relates it, and will show its connexion with Shakespeare's play :-“ Juriste e mandato da Massimiano, Imperadore, in Ispruchi, ove fa prendere un giovane, violatore di una vergine, e condannalo à morte: la sorella cerca di liberarlo: Juriste da speranza alla donna di pigliarla per moglie, e di darle libero il fratello: ella con lui si giace, e la notte istessa Juriste få tagliar al giovane la testa, e la manda alla sorella. Ella ne fà querela all' Imperadore, il quale fà sposare ad Juriste la donna; poscia lo fà dare ad essere ucciso. La donna lo libera, e con lui si vive amorevolissimamente."—Whetstone adopts these incidents pretty exactly in his “Promos and Cassandra ;" but Shakespeare varies from them chiefly by the introduction of Mariana, and by the final union between the Duke and Isabella. Whetstone lays his scene at Julio in Hungary, whither Corvinus, the King, makes a pro
1 Whetstone's "Heptameron" is not paged, but “the rare Historie of Promos and Cassandra," commences on Sign. N. ij 6.
gress to ascertain the truth of certain charges against Promos: Shakespeare lays his scene in Vienna, and represents the Duke as retiring from public view, and placing his power in the hands of two deputies. Shakespeare was not indebted to Whetstone for a single thought, nor for a casual expression, excepting as far as similarity of situation may be said to have necessarily occasioned corresponding states of feeling, and employment of language. In Whetstone's “Heplameron," the name of the lady who narrates the story of “Promos and Cassandra,” is Isabella, and hence possibly Shakespeare might have adopted it.
As to the date when “ Measure for Measure was written, we have no positive information, but we now know that it was acted at Court on St. Stephen's night, (26 Dec.) 1604. This fact is stated in Edmund Tylney's account of the expenses of the revels from the end of Oct. 1604, till the same date in 1605, preserved in the Audit Office: the original memorandum of the master of the revels runs literatim, as follows:
“By his Matis Plaiers. On St. Stivens night in the Hall, a Play caled Mesur for Mesur."
In the column of the account headed “The Poets which mayd the Plaies,” we find the name of “Shaxberd” entered, which was the mode in which the ignorant scribe, who prepared the account, spelt the name of our great 'dramatist. Malone conjectured from certain allusions (such as to the war” with Spain, “the sweat,” meaning the plague, &c.), that “Measure for Measure" was written in 1603; and if we suppose it to have been selected for performance at Court on 26th Dec. 1604, on account of its popularity at the theatre after its production, his supposition will receive some confirmation. However, such could not have been the case with “the Comedy of Errors,” and “Love's Labours Lost," which were written before 1598, and which were also performed at Christmas and Twelfth-tide, 1604–5. Tyrwhitt was at one time of opinion, from the passage in A. II. sc. 4.
"As these black masks
that this drama “was written to be acted at Court, as Shakespeare would hardly have been guilty of such an indecorum to flatter a common audience.” He was afterwards disposed to retract this notion; but it is supported by the quotation from the Revels' accounts, unless we imagine, as is not at all impossible, that the lines respecting “black masks" and some others (to use Tyrwhitt's words), “ of particular flattery to James,” were inserted after it was known that the play, on account of its popularity, had been chosen for performance before the king. One of these passages seems to have been the following, which may have had reference to the crowds attending the arrival of James I. in London, not very long before "Measure for Measure" was acted at Whitehall: