« 上一頁繼續 »
and account for his Italian phrases, as well as for his increased knowledge of Italian geography.
A few years since, it might have been contended, agreeably to the general opinion, that he had not sufficient means for travelling, unless towards the close of his life. Here, again, we have to express our obligation to Mr. Collier for the following facts, supported by irrefragable documents, brought to light by him. When Shakespeare was only in his twentysixth year, in November 1589, he was one of the sixteen shareholders, the twelfth on the list, in the Blackfriars Theatre. Seven years after this, when that theatre was to be repaired, his name had risen to the fifth on the list; and he was also, together with his partners at Blackfriars, one of the shareholders in the Globe Theatre, at Bankside, In seven years more his name stood the second on the list, in a patent granted by James the First. In 1608, when he was forty-four years old, the Blackfriars Theatre was valúed, owing to the City of London's having proposed to purchase it; and he then possessed no less than four shares, each rated at £233. 6s. 8d. together with the whole (as is stated) of “the wardrobe and properties," for which he asked £500. All this amounts to £1,488. 6s. Bd. possibly a larger sum than could have been obtained had he sought to sell the property, though he values the yearly profit of each share at no more than seven years' purchase. But if we calculate it at only one half of his estimate, and reckon the value of money as five times increased since that period, his theatrical property alone was worth, in our present money, £3,583. 6s. 8d. Besides
this, however, which we learn from other documents, he had previously paid off a mortgage of forty pounds on his mother's property; he had made a purchase of
; a small messuage, with barn, garden, and orchard, at Stratford, for sixty pounds; he had bought 107 acres of land in or near that borough for £320 (equal to £1,600 at present); he had given £440 (equal to £2,200 at present) for a lease of a moiety of the tithes at Stratford; and it is also conjectured he had lent money on mortgage. From this statement it will be seen he was possessed of nearly eight thousand pounds of our present value, a proof at once of his prosperity and prudence from the time he first arrived in London; especially if we consider he had a wife and children to support, and probably parents and their children to assist; for we may well believe the clearing a debt of forty pounds on his mother's property was not a solitary proof of his affection towards them. I am delighted to bring forward these proofs of the reward bestowed on his genius ;*
* Three papers, parts of this volume, were read at the Plymouth Institution. I was stopped in the middle of this sentence, and startled from the deep silence, so strictly observed in the hall during the reading of a paper, by a sudden and unanimous burst of joy, every hand at once echoing my delight with applause. Those gentlemen, many of whom are scientific rather than literary, who carefully weigh their words and regulate their conduct when they meet for the purpose of mutual instruction, here gave way, much to their honour, to an uncontrollable, generous impulse. The biographers of Shakespeare had it not in their power, till lately, of affording this grateful information to so great an extent. I trust that those of my readers, who were ignorant of it, will receive it as joyfully as my fellow members at the Institution,
there is enough in them to prove that he might have well and wisely afforded the expense of a visit to Italy as early as 1597, the year before the Merchant of Venice' was entered at Stationers' Hall. Lest a doubt should be entertained on this essential point, I need only mention that in a letter extant from one of his townsmen, Mr. Richard Quiney, we find Shakespeare, so early as 1597-8 was enabled to purchase land in his own county, and was talked of as an influential person in Stratford.
In the second place, no one can imagine that he was not desirous to see the most interesting country, certainly of his time, in Europe, -indeed the only interesting one for literature and the arts. Add to which that country was the scene of some of his plays; and possibly he might have been criticized for a want of local knowledge in them, which he desired to avoid for the future.
And in the third place, it was not an uncommon thing, among his contemporaries, to take a trip to Italy, particularly to Venice. It was rather a matter of complaint that so many gallants visited Venice, to the peril of their home-bred manners and morals. Many instances to this effect might be produced. Among the rest, Ben Jonson satirizes the English travellers to Venice in his Volpone, and our poet himself, in As you like it, makes Rosalind say, “Look you lisp, and wear strange suits; disable all the benefits of your own country; be out of love with your nativity, and almost chide God for making you that countenance you wear; or I will scarce think you have swum in a gondola.”
Thus, having shown there was no hindrance of any nature to such a journey, but, in all likelihood, a strong inducement, I proceed to show he was in Italy from the internal evidence of his works; and I begin with his Taming of the Shrew, where the evidence is the strongest.
This comedy was entirely rewritten from an older one by an unknown hand, with some, but not many, additions to the fable. It should first be observed that in the older coniedy, which we possess, the scene is laid in and near Athens, and that Shakespeare removed it to Padua and its neighbourhood; an unnecessary change, if he knew no more of one country than of the other.
The Dramatis Personæ next attract our attention. Baptista is no longer erroneously the name of a woman, as in Hamlet, but of a man. All the other names, except one, are pure Italian, though most of them are adapted to the English ear. Biondello, the name of a boy, seems chosen with a knowledge of the language,-as it signifies a little fair-haired fellow. Even the shrew has the Italian termination to her name, Katharina. The exception is Curtis, Petruchio's servant, seemingly the housekeeper at his villa; which, as it is an insignificant part, may have been the name of the player; but, more probably, it is a corruption of Cortese.
Act I, Scene 1. A public place. For an open place or a square in a city, this is not a home-bred expression. It may be accidental; yet it is a literal translation of una piazza publica, exactly what was meant for the scene.
The opening of the comedy, which speaks of Lombardy and the university of Padua, might have been written by a native Italian.
“ Tranio, since—for the great desire I had
To see fair Padua, nursery of arts,-
Here let us breathe, and happily institute A course of learning, and ingenious studies." The very next line I found myself involuntarily repeating, at the sight of the grave countenances within the walls of Pisa ;Pisa, renowned for
citizens.” They are altogether a grave people, in their demeanour, their history, and their literature, such as it is. I never met with the anomaly of a merry Pisan. Curiously enough, this line is repeated, word for word, in the fourth act.
Lucentio says, his father came “ of the Bentivolii ;" this is an old Italian plural ; a mere Englishman would write “ of the Bentivolios." Besides, there
” was, and is, a branch of the Bentivolii in Florence, where Lucentio says he was brought up.
But these indications, just at the commencement of the play, are not of great force. We now come to something more important; a remarkable proof of his having been aware of the law of the country in respect to the betrothment of Katharina and Petruchio, of which there is not a vestige in the older play. The father gives her hand to him, both parties consenting,