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Peele died in 1597, and very soon afterwards his “Merry Conceited Jests" must have been published, although no edition of them is known older than that of 1607. In one of these, a young tapster, “much given to poetry,” is represented as having in his possession “the Knight of the Sun, Venus and Adonis, and other pamphlets." Edit. Dyce, ii. p. 297.
In Thomas Heywood's “Fair Maid of the Exchange,” printed in 1607, but written some years earlier, the following dialogue is introduced, and if“Venus and Adonis ” had not been well known to most of the audience, the allusion would have had no point.
Cripple. Doe you not remember one pretty phrase
Bowdler. I never read any thing but Venus and Adonis.
Cripple. Why that's the very quintessence of love!
Bowdler. Why then, have at her :-
Mall. Hands off, fond sir.
"And thou shalt be my deere.
Mall. Feede you on woodcockes : I can fast a while.
Bowdler. Why then, she is alighted.
Mall. Why, is your breath so hot?" &c.--Sign. G 3, edit. 1607. Bowdler is a foolish gallant, who resorts to the Cripple of Fenchurch for advice how he is to court Mall Berry; and what he quotes is taken, with some trifling variations, from Shakespeare's “Venus and Adonis,” showing both its popularity, and the use to which it was sometimes applied. In Machin's "Dumb Knight,” which was printed the year after Heywood's comedy, a character called Precedent wishes to employ the same passages (with additions) for a similar purpose: he reads them to Velours, and closing the book exclaims, “Go thy way, thou best booke in the world !
Velours. I pray, sir, what booke do you reade?
Precedent. A booke that never an orator's clerke in this kingdom but is beholding unto: it is called • Maids Philosophy, or Venus and Adonis.' Looke you, gentlemen, I have divers other pretty bookes."
Mother of Adonis.” To these may be added the praise of Shakespeare, and of his “ Venus and Adonis," and Lucrece," in the play of “ The Return from Par. nassus," which was certainly produced before the death of Queen Elizabeth,
When another character, immediately afterwards, enters, Precedent is so rapt with delight at the poem (to which he has given a preliminary title which we do not know that it ever bore), that he goes on reading it aloud. How long the reputation of " Venus and Adonis" survived, for portions of it to be chosen for the purpose of amorous courtship, may be seen from a dramatic piece called “The Prince of Priggs Revels, or the Practises of that grand Thief Captain James Hind," published in 1651, and founded upon then recent incidents. The hero resorts to Grammario to furnish him with a copy of love-verses, and when they are finished, the writer reads them to Hind, with this introductory speech :
“Sir, I have fitted you i' faith :
“Hero and Leander"
was, of course, Marlowe's poem, first published in 1598, which, like Shakespeare's “Venus and Adonis,” went through many, though not so many, re-impressions. In Lewis Sharpe's “Noble Stranger,” a comedy acted with great applause shortly before 1640, when it was printed, a character called Pupillus exclaims, “Oh! for the book of Venus and Adonis to court my mistress by !” and Thomas Cranley, in his “ Amanda," a poem relating to the reformation of a courtezan, makes part of her library consist of Shakespeare's “Venus and Adonis,” Beaumont's“ Salmacis and Hermaphroditus," and Marston's "Pygmalion’s Image,” in these lines:
“amorous pamphlets, that best like thine eyes,
With Salmacis and her Hermaphrodite;
It is hardly possible to turn over a page of “ Venus and Adonis" without finding it quoted in "England's Parnassus," 1600; but the extracts are generally made with an utter disregard to accuracy in transcription, or printing.
S. Nicholson, in his “ Acolastus his Afterwitte," 1600, committed the most impudent plagiarisms from “ Venus and Adonis ;"
3 See “ The Shakespeare Society's Papers," Vol. iii. p. 94, for a copy of the poem from the exemplar at Oxford, 4to, 1602 (which is not unique, though generally so considered, since the editor of the present work owns the same impression), and for reasons leading to the belief that it was not the work of Francis Beaumont, though always assigned to him.
and R. S., the author of " Phillis and Flora," 1598, did not scruple to copy, almost with verbal exactness, part of the description Shakespeare gives of the horse of Adonis: we extract the following lines, that the reader may be able to make a comparison of them with Shakespeare's language on p. 494.
“ His mayne thin hair’d, his neck high crested,
Small eare, short head, and burly breasted. * * *
All nature's skill in him was proved.” Thomas Lodge printed his “Scillaes Metamorphosis” in 1589, four years before the public appearance of Shakespeare's “ Venus and Adonis :” the form of stanza is exactly the same in both poems, and Lodge (who may, or may not, have seen Shakespeare's production in manuscript) thus treats the very subject to which it relates :
“He that hath seene the sweete Arcadian boy
The echoes ringing from the rockes his fall,
The trees with teares reporting of his thrall ;
Whose beautie quaild, as wont the lilies droop,
When wastful winter windes doe make them stoop :
How on his senseles corpes she lay a crying,
As if the boy were then but new a dying." Our text of Shakespeare's “ Venus and Adonis," is that of the earliest 4to, 1593, which, for the time, is very correctly printed; and we will illustrate by a single quotation the importance of resorting to it: the line which there stands,
“He cheers the morn, and all the earth relieveth,” is misprinted in all modern editions,
“ He cheers the morn, and all the world relieveth." The corruption was introduced in the 4to, 1594, and it has ever since been repeated. The same remark will apply to other changes; such as “all swoln with chasing," instead of “ chafing;” “to love's alarm," instead of "alarnis ; " " from morn to night," instead of “ till night,” &c.; all which show strange carelessness of collation.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON, AND BARON OF TICHFIELD.
RIGHT HONOURABLE, I KNOW not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to your lordship, nor how the world will censure me for choosing so strong a prop to support so weak a burden : only, if
your honour seem but pleased, I account myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour. But if the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble a god-father, and never after ear so barren a land', for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest. I leave it to your honourable survey, and your honour to your heart's content; which I wish may always answer your own wish, and the world's hopeful expectation.
Your honour's in all duty,
1- and never after EAR so barren a land,] i.e. Plough or cultivate so barren a land: see various instances of the use of the word "ear" in Vol. ii. p. 543; Vol. iii. p. 269; Vol. iv. p. 716, &c.