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who was capable of reading the 'Menæchmi' without the help of a translation." Malone entirely disagrees with Ritson's theory that this comedy was much indebted to an earlier production; but sets up a theory of his own to get over the difficulty started by Ritson, that not a single name, word, or line is taken from Warner's translation: a play called 'The Historie of Error' was enacted before Queen Elizabeth, "by the children of Powles," in 1576; and from this piece, says Malone, "it is extremely probable that he was furnished with the fable of the present comedy," as well as the designation of “surreptus." Here is, unquestionably, a very early play of Shakspere,—and yet Steevens maintains that it was taken from a translation of Plautus, published in 1595; the play has no resemblance, beyond the general character of the incidents, to this translation,-and therefore Ritson pronounces that it is not entirely Shakspere's work ;—and, while Malone denies this, he guesses that The Comedy of Errors' was founded upon a much older play. And why all this contradictory hypothesis? Simply because these most learned men are resolved to hold their own heads higher than Shakspere, by maintaining that he could not do what they could-read Plautus in the original. We have not a doubt that The Comedy of Errors' was written at least five years before the publication of Warner's translation of
is in Catullus, Ovid, and Horace. The "owls" | but proceeded from some inferior playwright, that "suck our breath" are the "striges" of Ovid. The apostrophe of Dromio to the virtues of "beating"-" When I am cold he heats me with beating; when I am warm he cools me with beating; I am waked with it when I sleep; raised with it when I sit; driven out of doors with it when I go from home; welcomed home with it when I return is modelled upon Cicero:- "Hæc studia adolescentiam agunt, senectutem oblectant, secundas res ornant, adversis perfugium ac solatium præbent, delectant domi, non impediunt foris, pernoctant nobiscum, peregrinantur, rusticantur." The burning of the conjuror's beard is an incident copied from the twelfth book of Virgil's 'Eneid,' where Corinæus singes "the goodly bush of hair" of Ebusus, in a manner scarcely consistent with the dignity of heroic poetry. Lastly, in the original copy of 'The Comedy of Errors,' the Antipholus of Ephesus is called Sereptus-a corruption of the epithet by which one of the twin brothers in Plautus is distinguished Menæchmus Surreptus. There was a translation of this comedy of Plautus, to which we shall presently more fully advert. "If the poet had not dipped into the original Plautus," says Capell, “Surreptus had never stood in his copy, the translation having no such agnomen, but calling one brother simply Menæchmus, the other Sosicles." With all these admissions on the part of some of those who proclaimed that Farmer had made a wonderful discovery when he attempted to prove that Shakspere did not know the difference between clarus and carus, they will not swerve from their belief that his mind was so constituted as to be incapable of attaining that species of knowledge which was of the easiest attainment in his own day, and for the teaching of which a school was expressly endowed at Stratford-upon-Avon. Steevens says, "Shakspeare might have taken the general plan of this comedy from a translation of The Menæchmi' of Plautus, by W. W., i. e. (according to Wood) William Warner, in 1595.” Ritson thinks that Shakspere was under no obligation to this translation; but that 'The Comedy of Errors' "was not originally his,
The Menæchmi;' and, further, that Shakspere, in the composition of his own play, was perfectly familiar with 'The Menæchmi' of Plautus. In Hamlet he gives, in a word, the characteristics of two ancient dramatists;
his criticism is decisive as to his familiarity with the originals: "Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light." We shall furnish a few extracts from this translation of 1595; whence it will be seen, incidentally, that the lightness of the free and natural old Roman is wondrously loaded by the prosaic hand of Master William Warner.
The original argument of "The Menæchmi,' it will be perceived, at once gave Shakspere the epithet surreptus, as well as furnished him with some of the characters of his play,
much more distinctly than the translation, which we present with it :
"Mercator Siculus, cui erant gemini filii;
Nomen surreptitii illi indit qui domi est
Hic fuerat auctus ille surreptitius.
Menæchmum civem credunt omnes advenam :
"Two twinborn sons a Sicill merchant had,
This (grown a man) long travel took to seek
That citizens there take him for the same:
socer (softened by Warner into "father. wife, neighbours"). We have " Medicus," the prototype of Dr. Pinch; but the mother of the twins is not found in Plautus. scarcely need say that the Parasite and the Father-in-law have no place in Shakspere's comedy. The scene in The Comedy of Errors' is changed from Epidamnum to Ephesus; but we have mention of Epidamnum once or twice in the play.
'The Menæchmi' opens with the favourite character of the Roman comedy--the Parasite; the scene is at Epidamnum. The Parasite is going to dine with Menæchmus, who comes out from his house, upbraiding his jealous wife. But his wife is not jealous without provocation:
"Hanc modo uxori intus palam surripui; ad scortum fero.",
The Antipholus of Shakspere does not propose to dine with one "pretty and wild," and to bestow "the chain" upon his hostess, till he has been provoked by having his own doors shut upon him. Our poet has thus preserved some sympathy for his Antipholus, which the Menæchmus of Plautus forfeits upon his first entrance. Menæchmus and the Parasite go to dine with Erotium (meretrix). Those who talk of Shakspere's anachronisms have never pointed out to us what formidable liberties the translators of Shakspere's time did not scruple to take with their originals. Menæchmus gives very precise directions for his dinner, after the most approved Roman fashion :
"Jube igitur nobis tribus apud te prandium accurarier,
Atque aliquid scitamentorum de foro obsonarier,
Much pleasant error, ere they meet together." This argument is almost sufficient to point out the difference between the plots of Plautus and of Shakspere. It stands in the place of the beautiful narrative of Ageon, in the first scene of 'The Comedy of Errors.' In Plautus we have no broken-hearted father bereft of both his sons: he is dead; and the grandfather changes the name of the one child who remains to him. Shakspere does not stop to tell us how the twin-brothers bear the same name; nor does he explain the matter any more in the case of the Dromios, whose introduction upon the scene is his own creation. In Plautus, the brother, Menæchmus Sosicles, who remained with the grandsire, comes to Epidamnum in search of This passage W. W. thus interprets :— his twin-brother who was stolen, and he is a good dinner be made for us three. Hark accompanied by his servant Messenio; but ye, some oysters, a mary-bone pie or two, all the perplexities that are so naturally some artichokes, and potato-roots; let our occasioned by the confusion of the two twin- other dishes be as you please." In reading servants are entirely wanting. The mistakes this bald attempt to transfuse the Roman are carried on by the "meretrix, uxor, et | luxuries into words accommodated to Eng
Glandionidem suillam, laridum pernonidem, aut
Sinciput, aut polimenta porcina, aut aliquid ad eum modum."
lish ideas, we are forcibly reminded how rare Ben" dealt with the spirit of antiquity in such matters :
"The tongues of carps, dormice, and camels' heels,
Boil'd in the spirit of sol, and dissolved pearl,
And I will eat these broths with spoons of
Headed with diamond and carbuncle.
My footboy shall eat pheasants, calver'd sal-
Knots, godwits, lampreys: I myself will have
Alchymist, Act II., Scene 1.
The second act in Plautus opens with the landing of Menæchmus Sosicles and Messenio at Epidamnum. The following is Warner's translation of the scene :
"Men. Surely, Messenio, I think seafarers never take so comfortable a joy in anything as, when they have been long tossed and turmoiled in the wide seas, they hap at last to ken land. Mes. I'll be sworn, I should not be gladder to see a whole country of mine own than I have been at such a sight. But, I pray, wherefore are we now come to Epidamnum? must we needs go to see every town that we hear of?
Men. Till I find my brother, all towns are alike to me: I must try in all places.
Mes. Why then, let 's even as long as we live seek your brother: six years now have we roamed about thus-Istria, Hispania, Massylia, Illyria, all the upper sea, all high Greece, all haven-towns in Italy. I think if we had sought a needle all this time we must needs have found it, had it been above ground. It cannot be that he is alive; and to seek a dead man thus among the living, what folly is it!
Men. Yea, could I but once find any man that could certainly inform me of his death, I were satisfied; otherwise I can never desist seeking little knowest thou, Messenio, how near my heart it goes.
Mes. This is washing of a blackamoor. Faith, let's go home, unless ye mean we should write a story of our travel.
Men. Sirrah, no more of these saucy speeches. I perceive I must teach you how to serve me, not to rule me.
Mes. Ay, so; now it appears what it is to be
a servant. Well, I must speak my conscience. Do ye hear, sir? Faith I must tell you one thing: when I look into the lean estate of your purse, and consider advisedly of your decaying stock, I hold it very needful to be drawing homeward, lest in looking your brother we quite lose ourselves. For this assure yourself, this town, Epidamnum, is a place of outrageous expenses, exceeding in all riot and lasciviousness; and, I hear, as full of ribalds, parasites, drunkards, catchpoles, coney-catchers, and sycophants, as it can hold. Then for courtezans, why here's the currentest stamp of them in the world. You must not think here to scape with as light cost as in other places. The very name shows the nature; no man comes hither sine damno.
Men. You say very well indeed: give me my purse into mine own keeping, because I will so be the safer, sine damno."
Steevens considered that the description of Ephesus in 'The Comedy of Errors,’— They say this town is full of cozenage," &c.— was derived from Warner's translation, where ribalds, parasites, drunkards, catchpoles, coney-catchers, sycophants, and courtezans," are found; the voluptarii, potatores, sycophanta, palpatores, and meretrices of Plautus. But surely the " jugglers," sorcerers," "witches," of Shakspere are not these. With his exquisite judgment, he gave Ephesus more characteristic "liberties of sin." The cook of the courtezan in Plautus first mistakes the wandering brother for the profligate of Epidamnum. Erotium next encounters him, and with her he dines; and, leaving her, takes charge of a cloak, which the Menæchmus of Epidamnum had given her. In 'The Comedy of Errors' the stranger brother dines with the wife of him of Ephesus. The Parasite next meets with the wanderer, and, being enraged that the dinner is finished in his absence, resolves to disclose the infidelities of Menæchmus to his jealous wife. The "errors" proceed, in the maid of Erotium bringing him a chain which she says he had
stolen from his wife: he is to cause it to be made heavier and of a newer fashion. The traveller goes his way with the cloak and the chain. The jealous wife and the Parasite lie in wait for the faithless husband, who, the Parasite reports, is carrying the cloak to
the dyer's; and they fall with their re- | spere's time, did not hesitate to introduce proaches upon the Menæchmus of Epidamnum, who left the courtezan to attend to his business. A scene of violence ensues; and the bewildered man repairs to Erotium for his dinner. He meets with reproaches only; for he knows nothing of the cloak and the chain. The stranger Menæchmus, who has the cloak and chain, encounters the wife of his brother, and of course he utterly denies any knowledge of her. Her father comes to her assistance, upon her hastily sending for him. He first reproaches his daughter for her suspicions of her husband, and her shrewish temper: Luciana reasons in a somewhat similar way with Adriana, in 'The Comedy of Errors ;'-and the Abbess is more earnest in her condemnation of the complaining wife. The scene in Plautus wants all the elevation that we find in Shakspere; and the old man seems to think that the wife has little to grieve for, as long as she has food, clothes, and servants. Menæchmus, the traveller, of course cannot comprehend all this; and the father and daughter agree that he is mad, and send for a doctor. He escapes from the discipline which is preparing for him; and the doctor's assistants lay hold of Menæchmus, the citizen. He is rescued by Messenio, the servant of the traveller, who mistakes him for his master, and begs his freedom. The servant, going to his inn, meets with his real master; and, while disputing with him, the Menæchmus of Epidamnum joins them. Of course, the éclaircissement is the natural consequence of the presence of both upon the same scene. The brothers resolve to leave Epidamnum together; the citizen making proclamation that he will sell all his goods, and adding, with his accustomed loose notions of conjugal duty,
"Venibit uxor quoque etiam, si quis emptor
Hazlitt has said, "This comedy is taken very much from 'The Menæchmi' of Plautus, and is not an improvement on it." We think he is wrong in both assertions.
We have noticed some of the anachronisms which the translator of Plautus, in Shak
into his performance. W. W. did not do this ignorantly; for he was a learned person; and, we are told in an address of 'The Printer to his Readers,' had "divers of this poet's comedies Englished, for the use and delight of his private friends, who in Plautus' own words are not able to understand them." There was, no doubt, a complete agreement as to the principle of such anachronisms in the writers of Shakspere's day. They employed the conventional ideas of their own time, instead of those which properly belonged to the date of their story; they translated images as well as words; they were addressing uncritical readers and spectators, and they thought it necessary to make themselves intelligible by speaking of familiar instead of recondite things. Thus W. W. not only gives us mary-bone pies and potatoes, instead of the complicated messes of the Roman sensualist, but he talks of constables and toll-gatherers, Bedlam fools and claret. In Douce's 'Essay on the Anachronisms and some other Incongruities of Shakspere,' the offences of our poet in 'The Comedy of Errors' are thus summed up:— "In the ancient city of Ephesus we have ducats, marks, and guilders, and the Abbess of a Nunnery. Mention is also made of several modern European kingdoms and of America; of Henry the Fourth of France*, of Turkish tapestry, a rapier, and a striking clock; of Lapland sorcerers, Satan, and even of Adam and Noah. In one place Antipholus calls himself a Christian. As we are unacquainted with the immediate source whence this play was derived, it is impossible to ascertain whether Shakspere is responsible for these anachronisms." The ducats, marks, guilders, tapestry, rapier, striking-clock, and Lapland sorcerers belong precisely to the same class of anachronisms as those we have already exhibited from the pen of the translator of Plautus. Had Shakspere used the names of Grecian or Roman coins, his audience would not have understood him. Such matters have nothing whatever to do with the period of a dramatic action. But we
*Mention is certainly not made of Henry IV.; there is a supposed allusion to him.
think Douce was somewhat hasty in pro- | pervades the following lines belongs to the claiming that the Abbess of a Nunnery, Satan, "true Arcadian" age :Adam and Noah, and Christian were anachronisms, in connexion with the "ancient city of Ephesus."
"O Mercury, foregoer to the evening,
O heavenly huntress of the savage mountains,
Vouchsafe your silent ears to plaining music,
But to what period belongs the following
sings, whose voice "strains the canary
"Her cannons be her eyes, mine eyes the walls be,
Which at first volley gave too open entry, Nor rampier did abide; my brain was upblown,
Undermined with a speech, the piercer of thoughts."
Douce, seeing that 'The Comedy of Errors' was suggested by "The Menæchmi' of Plautus, considers, no doubt, that Shakspere intended to place his action at the same period as the Roman play. It is manifest to us that he intended precisely the contrary. The Menæchmi' contains invocations in great number to the ancient divinities;-Jupiter and Apollo are here familiar words. From the first line of The Comedy of Errors' to the last we have not the slightest allusion to the classical mythology. Was there not a time, then, even in the ancient city of Ephesus, when there might be an Abbessmen might call themselves Christians-and Satan, Adam, and Noah might be names of common use? We do not mean to affirm that Shakspere intended to select the Ephesus of Christianity-the great city of churches and councils for the dwelling-place of Antipholus, any more than we think that Duke Solinus was a real personage that "Duke Menaphon, his most renowned uncle," ever had any existence-or that even his name could be found in any story more trustworthy than that of Greene's 'Arcadia.' The truth is, that, in the same way that Ardennes was a sort of terra incognita of chivalry, the poets of Shakspere's time had no hesitation in placing the fables of the romantic ages in classical localities, leaving the periods and the names perfectly undefined and unap-vasion; preciable. Who will undertake to fix a period for the action of Sir Philip Sidney's great romance, when the author has conveyed his reader into the fairy or pastoral land, and
informed him "what manner of life the inhabitants of that region lead?" We cannot open a page of Sidney's 'Arcadia' without being struck with what we are accustomed to call anachronisms,-and these from a very severe critic, who, in his 'Defence of Poesy,' denounces with merciless severity all violation of the unities of the drama. One example will suffice-Histor and Damon sing a "double sestine." The classical spirit that
Warton has prettily said, speaking of Spencer, exactness in his poem would have been like the cornice which a painter introduced in the grotto of Calypso." Those who would define everything in poetry are the makers of corniced grottos. As we are not desirous of belonging to this somewhat obsolete fraternity, to which even Warton himself affected to be
long when he wrote what is truly an apology for The Fairy Queen,' we will leave our readers to decide whether Duke Solinus reigned at Ephesus before "the great temple, after having risen with increasing splendour from seven repeated misfortunes, was finally burnt by the Goths in their third naval inor whether he presided over the decaying city, somewhat nearer to the period when Justinian "filled Constantinople with its statues, and raised his church of St. Sophia on its columns; "+ or, lastly, whether he approached the period of its final desolation, when the "candlestick was removed out of its place," and the Christian Ephesus became the Mohammedan Aiasaluck.
But, decide as our readers may-and if they decide not at all they will not derive less satisfaction from the perusal of this drama—it has become necessary for the de
*Gibbon, chap. x.