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There cannot, we think, be a stronger proof Antipholus of Syracuse to Luciana, in the that “The Comedy of Errors' was an early third act of “The Comedy of Errors:'play of our author, than its agreement, “ Teach me, dear creature, how to think and in this particular, with the models which speak; Shakspere found in his almost immediate Lay open to my earthy gross conceit, predecessors.
Smotherd in errors, feeble, shallow, weak, 2. In 'Love's Labour's Lost,'' Romeo and The folded meaning of your word's deceit.” Juliet,' “A Midsummer Night's Dream,' and There was clearly a time in Shakspere's “The Comedy of Errors, alternate rhymes poetical life when he delighted in this are very frequently introduced. Shakspere species of versification ; and, in many of obtained the mastery over this species of the instances in which he has employed verse in the 'Venus and Adonis,' “ the first it in the dramas we have mentioned, the heir of his invention,” as he himself calls it.
passages have somewhat of a fragmentary He writes it with extraordinary facility
appearance, as if they were not originally with an ease and power that strikingly con- cast in a dramatic mould, but were amongst trast with the more laboured elegiac stanzas those scattered thoughts of the young poet of modern times. Nothing can be more har- which had shaped themselves into verse, monious, or the harmony more varied, than without a purpose beyond that of embodythis measure in Shakspere's hands. Take, ing his feeling of the beautiful and the harfor example, the well-known lines in the monious. When the time arrived that he “Venus and Adonis,' which, themselves the had fully dedicated himself to the great most perfect music, have been allied to one work of his life, he rarely ventured upon of the most successful musical compositions cultivating these offshoots of his early versiof the present day :
fication. The doggrel was entirely rejected; “ Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear, the alternate rhymes no longer tempted him Or, like a fairy, trip upon the green,
by their music to introduce a measure which Or, like a nymph, with long dishevell’d hair, is scarcely akin with the dramatic spirit; Dance on the sands, and yet no footing the couplet was adopted more and more seen."
sparingly; and he finally adheres to the Compare these with the following in ‘Love's blank verse which he may almost be said Labour's Lost:'
to have created,-in his hands certainly the
grandest as well as the sweetest form in “A wither'd hermit, five-score winters worn,
which the highest thoughts were ever unMight shake off fifty, looking in her eye:
folded to listening humanity. Beauty doth varnish age, as if new born, And gives the crutch the cradle's infancy."
The commentators have puzzled themOr with these, in 'Romeo and Juliet:'- selves, after their usual fashion, with the
evidence which this play undoubtedly pre“If I profane with my unworthiest hand
sents of Shakspere's ability to read Latin, This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this,
and their dogged resolution to maintain the My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand, To smooth that rough touch with a tender opinion that in an age of grammar-schools kiss."
our poet never could have attained that
common accomplishment. The speech of Or with some of the lines in ' A Midsummer
Ægeon, in the first scene, Night's Dream,' such as
“A heavier task could not have been imposed 'Why should you think that I should woo in
Than I to speak my griefs unspeakable," — scorn? Scorn and derision never come in tears :
is, they admit, an imitation of the Look, when I vow, I weep; and vows so born, Infandum, Regina, jubes renovare dolorem” In their nativity all truth appears."
of Virgil. Or, lastly, with the exquisite address of “ Thou art an elm, my husband, I a vine,"
is in Catullus, Ovid, and Horace. The “owls” | but proceeded from some inferior playwright, that “suck our breath” are the “striges” of who was capable of reading the Menachmi' Ovid. The apostrophe of Dromio to the vir- without the help of a translation.” Malone tues of " beating”—“When I am cold he entirely disagrees with Ritson's theory that heats me with beating; when I am warm he this comedy was much indebted to an earlier cools me with beating ; I am waked with it production; but sets up a theory of his own when I sleep; raised with it when I sit; to get over the difficulty started by Ritson, driven out of doors with it when I go from that not a single name, word, or line is home; welcomed home with it when I re- taken from Warner's translation : a play turn” is modelled upon Cicero : -“ Hæc called The Historie of Error' was enacted studia adolescentiam agunt, senectutem ob- before Queen Elizabeth, “ by the children of lectant, secundas res ornant, adversis perfu- Powles,” in 1576 ; and from this piece, says gium ac solatium præbent, delectant domi, Malone,” it is extremely probable that he non impediunt foris, pernoctant nobiscum, was furnished with the fable of the present peregrinantur, rusticantur.” The burning comedy,” as well as the designation of "surof the conjuror's beard is an incident copied reptus.” Here is, unquestionably, a very from the twelfth book of Virgil's "Æneid,' early play of Shakspere,—and yet Steevens where Corinæus singes“ the goodly bush of maintains that it was taken from a translahair" of Ebusus, in a manner scarcely con- tion of Plautus, published in 1595; the play sistent with the dignity of heroic poetry. has no resemblance, beyond the general Lastly, in the original copy of “The Comedy character of the incidents, to this translaof Errors,' the Antipholus of Ephesus is tion-and therefore Ritson pronounces that called Sereptus—a corruption of the epithet it is not entirely Shakspere's work ;-and, by which one of the twin brothers in Plautus while Malone denies this, he guesses that is distinguished · Menæchmus Surreptus. The Comedy of Errors' was founded upon There was a translation of this comedy of | a much older play. And why all this conPlautus, to which we shall presently more tradictory hypothesis ? Simply because these fully advert. “ If the poet had not dipped most learned men are resolved to hold their into the original Plautus,” says Capell,“ Sur- own heads higher than Shakspere, by mainreptus had never stood in his copy, the trans- taining that he could not do what they lation having no such agnomen, but calling could—read Plautus in the original. We one brother simply Menochmus, the other have not a doubt that “The Comedy of Sosicles.” With all these admissions on the Errors' was written at least five years before part of some of those who proclaimed that the publication of Warner's translation of Farmer had made a wonderful discovery The Menachmi;' and, further, that Shakwhen he attempted to prove that Shakspere spere, in the composition of his own play, did not know the difference between clarus was perfectly familiar with “The Menachmi' and carus, they will not swerve from their of Plautus. In Hamlet he gives, in a word, belief that his mind was so constituted as to the characteristics of two ancient dramatists; be incapable of attaining that species of -his criticism is decisive as to his familiarity knowledge which was of the easiest attain- with the originals : “ Seneca cannot be too ment in his own day, and for the teaching heavy, nor Plautus too light. We shall furof which a school was expressly endowed at nish a few extracts from this translation of Stratford-upon-Avon. Steevens says, Shak- 1595 ; whence it will be seen, incidentally, speare might have taken the general plan of that the lightness of the free and natural this comedy from a translation of "The old Roman is wondrously loaded by the proMenæchmi' of Plautus, by W. W., i.e. (ac-saic hand of Master William Warner. cording to Wood) William Warner, in 1595.” The original argument of The Menæchmi,' Ritson thinks that Shakspere was under no it will be perceived, at once gave Shakspere obligation to this translation; but that “The the epithet surreptus, as well as furnished Comedy of Errors' “ was not originally his, him with some of the characters of his play,
much more distinctly than the translation, socer (softened by Warner into “ father, which we present with it :
wife, neighbours "). We have “ Medicus," (PLAUTUS.]
the prototype of Dr. Pinch ; but the mother
of the twins is not found in Plautus. We “Mercator Siculus, cui erant gemini filii ;
scarcely need say that the Parasite and the Ei, surrepto altero, mors obtigit.
Father-in-law have no place in Shakspere's Nomen surreptitii illi indit qui domi est
comedy. The scene in The Comedy of Avus paternus, facit Menæchmum Sosiclem. Et is germanum, postquam adolevit, quæritat Errors' is changed from Epidamnum to Circum omnes oras. Post Epidamnum de- Ephesus ; but we have mention of Epidamvenit:
num once or twice in the play. Hic fuerat auctus ille surreptitius.
• The Menæchmi' opens with the favourite Menæchmum civem credunt omnes advenam: character of the Roman comedy—the ParaEumque appellant, meretrix, uxor et socer. site; the scene is at Epidamnum. The li se cognoscunt fratres postremò invicem.” Parasite is going to dine with Menæchmus,
who comes out from his house, upbraiding [WARNER.]
his jealous wife. But his wife is not jealous |“ Two twinborn sons a Sicill merchant had, without provocation :
Menechmus one, and Sosicles the other: “ Hanc modo uxori intus palam surripui; ad The first his father lost a little lad,
scortum fero." The grandsire named the latter like his brother.
The Antipholus of Shakspere does not proThis (grown a man) long travel took to seek pose to dine with one
pretty and wild,” His brother, and to Epidamnum came,
and to bestow "the chain " upon his hostess, Where th' other dwelt enrich'd, and him so till he has been provoked by having his own like,
doors shut upon him. Our poet has thus That citizens there take him for the same: preserved some sympathy for his Antipholus, Father, wife, neighbours, each mistaking which the Menæchmus of Plautus forfeits either,
upon his first entrance. Menæchmus and Much pleasant error, ere they meet together.” the Parasite go to dine with Erotium (mere
This argument is almost sufficient to point trix). Those who talk of Shakspere’s anaout the difference between the plots of chronisms have never pointed out to us what Plautus and of Shakspere. It stands in the formidable liberties the translators of Shakplace of the beautiful narrative of Ægeon, spere's time did not scruple to take with in the first scene of 'The Comedy of Errors.'
their originals. Menächmus gives very In Plautus we have no broken-hearted father precise directions for his dinner, after the bereft of both his sons: he is dead; and the most approved Roman fashion : grandfather changes the name of the one “Jube igitur nobis tribus apud te prandium child who remains to him. Shakspere does accurarier, not stop to tell us how the twin-brothers Atque aliquid scitamentorum de foro obsobear the same name; nor does he explain narier, the matter any more in the case of the
Glandionidem suillam, laridum pernonidem, Dromios, whose introduction upon the scene
aut is his own creation. In Plautus, the brother,
Sinciput, aut polimenta porcina, aut aliquid Menæchmus Sosicles, who remained with the
ad eum modum." grandsire, comes to Epidamnum in search of This passage W. W. thus interprets :-“ Let 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
lish ideas, we are forcibly reminded how a servant. Well, I must speak my conscience. “rare Ben” dealt with the spirit of antiquity Do ye hear, sir? Faith I must tell you one thing: in such matters :
when I look into the lean estate of your purse,
and consider advisedly of your decaying stock, “The tongues of carps, dormice, and camels' I hold it very needful to be drawing homeward, heels,
lest in looking your brother we quite lose ourBoild in the spirit of sol, and dissolved pearl, selves. For this assure yourself, this town, EpiApicius' diet 'gainst the epilepsy:
damnum, is a place of outrageous expenses, exAnd I will eat these broths with spoons of ceeding in all riot and lasciviousness; and, I amber,
hear, as full of ribalds, parasites, drunkards, Headed with diamond and carbuncle.
catchpoles, coney-catchers, and sycophants, as it My footboy shall eat pheasants, calver'd sal
can hold. Then for courtezans, why here is the mons,
currentest stamp of them in the world. You Knots, godwits, lampreys: I myself will have
must not think here to scape with as light cost The beards of barbels served, instead of salads;
as in other places. The very name shows the Oild mushrooms," &c.
nature; no man comes hither sine damno. Alchymist, Act II., Scene 1.
Men. You say very well indeed : give me my The second act in Plautus opens with the purse into mine own keeping, because I will so landing of Menæchmus Sosicles and Messenio be the safer, sine damno." at Epidamnum. The following is Warner's Steevens considered that the description translation of the scene :
of Ephesus in ' The Comedy of Errors,'— “Men. Surely, Messenio, I think seafarers “They say this town is full of cozenage,” &c.never take so comfortable a joy in anything as,
was derived from Warner's translation, where when they have been long tossed and turmoiled
“ ribalds, parasites, drunkards, catchpoles, in the wide seas, they hap at last to ken land. Mes. I 'll be sworn, I should not be gladder coney-catchers
, sycophants, and courtezans,”
are found; the voluptarii, potatores, sycoto see a whole country of mine own than I have been at such a sight. But, I pray, wherefore phantæ, palpatores, and meretrices of Plautus.
“ sorcerers," are we now come to Epidamnum? must we needs But surely the “jugglers,” go to see every town that we hear of?
“ witches,” of Shakspere are not these. With Men. Till I find my brother, all towns are
his exquisite judgment, he gave Ephesus alike to me: I must try in all places.
more characteristic “ liberties of sin.” The Mes. Why then, let 's even as long as we live cook of the courtezan in Plautus first misseek your brother: six years now have we takes the wandering brother for the profliroamed about thus—Istria, Hispania, Massylia, gate of Epidamnum. Erotium next encounIllyria, all the upper sea, all high Greece, all ters him, and with her he dines; and, leaving haven-towns in Italy. I think if we had sought her, takes charge of a cloak, which the Mea needle all this time we must needs have found nächmus of Epidamnum had given her. In it, had it been above ground. It cannot be that The Comedy of Errors' the stranger brother he is alive; and to seek a dead man thus among dines with the wife of him of Ephesus. The the living, what folly is it !
Parasite next meets with the wanderer, and, Men. Yea, could I but once find any man
being enraged that the dinner is finished in that could certainly inform me of his death, I his absence, resolves to disclose the infideliwere satisfied; otherwise I can never desist
ties of Menæchmus to his jealous wife. The seeking: little knowest thou, Messenio, how
errors" proceed, in the maid of Erotium near my heart it goes.
Mes. This is washing of a blackamoor. Faith, bringing him a chain which she says he had let 's go home, unless ye mean we should write stolen from his wife : he is to cause it to be a story of our travel.
made heavier and of a newer fashion. The Men. Sirrah, no more of these saucy speeches. traveller goes his way with the cloak and I perceive I must teach you how to serve me,
the chain. The jealous wife and the Parasite not to rule me.
lie in wait for the faithless husband, who, Mes. Ay, so; now it appears what it is to be 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 Epidam- into his performance. W. W. did not do num, who left the courtezan to attend to his this ignorantly; for he was a learned person ; business. A scene of violence ensues; and and, we are told in an address of 'The Printer the bewildered man repairs to Erotium for to his Readers,' had “ divers of this poet's his dinner. He meets with reproaches only; comedies Englished, for the use and delight for he knows nothing of the cloak and the of his private friends, who in Plautus' own chain. The stranger Menæchmus, who has words are not able to understand them.” the cloak and chain, encounters the wife of There was, no doubt, a complete agreement his brother, and of course he utterly denies as to the principle of such anachronisms in any knowledge of her. Her father comes to the writers of Shakspere's day. They emher assistance, upon her hastily sending for ployed the conventional ideas of their own him. He first reproaches his daughter for time, instead of those which properly beher suspicions of her husband, and her longed to the date of their story; they shrewish temper : Luciana reasons in a translated images as well as words; they somewhat similar way with Adriana, in The were addressing uncritical readers and spec- / Comedy of Errors ;'-and the Abbess is more tators, and they thought it necessary to earnest in her condemnation of the com- make themselves intelligible by speaking of plaining wife. The scene in Plautus wants familiar instead of recondite things. Thus all the elevation that we find in Shakspere ; W. W. not only gives us mary-bone pies and and the old man seems to think that the potatoes, instead of the complicated messes wife has little to grieve for, as long as she of the Roman sensualist, but he talks of has food, clothes, and servants. Menæchmus, constables and toll-gatherers, Bedlam fools the traveller, of course cannot comprehend and claret. In Douce’s ‘ Essay on the Anaall this; and the father and daughter agree chronisms and some other Incongruities of that he is mad, and send for a doctor. He Shakspere,' the offences of our poet in 'The escapes from the discipline which is pre- Comedy of Errors' are thus summed up: paring for him ; and the doctor's assistants * In the ancient city of Ephesus we have lay hold of Menæchmus, the citizen. He is ducats, marks, and guilders, and the Abbess rescued by Messenio, the servant of the tra- of a Nunnery. Mention is also made of veller, who mistakes him for his master, and several modern European kingdoms and of begs his freedom. The servant, going to his America ; of Henry the Fourth of France*, inn, meets with his real master; and, while of Turkish tapestry, a rapier, and a striking disputing with him, the Menæchmus of clock; of Lapland sorcerers, Satan, and even Epidamnum joins them. Of course, the of Adam and Noah. In one place Antipholus éclaircissement is the natural consequence of calls himself a Christian. As we are unthe presence of both upon the same scene. acquainted with the immediate source whence The brothers resolve to leave Epidamnum this play was derived, it is impossible to together; the citizen making proclamation ascertain whether Shakspere is responsible that he will sell all his goods, and adding, for these anachronisms.” The ducats, marks, with his accustomed loose notions of conjugal guilders, tapestry, rapier, striking-clock, and duty,
Lapland sorcerers belong precisely to the “ Venibit uxor quoque etiam, si quis emptor
same class of anachronisms as those we have venerit."
already exhibited from the pen of the trans
lator of Plautus. Had Shakspere used the Hazlitt has said, “ This comedy is taken names of Grecian or Roman coins, his audivery much from “The Menæchmi' of Plautus, ence would not have understood him. Such and is not an improvement on it.” We matters have nothing whatever to do with think he is wrong in both assertions.
the period of a dramatic action. But we We have noticed some of the anachronisms
* Mention is certainly not made of Henry IV.; there is a which the translator of Plautus, in Sbak
supposed allusion to him.