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MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.
This comedy is remarkable for the variety and number of the personages, who exhibit more characters appropriated and discriminated, than perhaps can be found in any other play.
Whether Shakspeare was the first that produced upon the English stage the effect of language distorted and depraved by provincial or foreign pronunciation, I cannot certainly decide.* This mode of forming ridiculous characters can confer praise only on him who originally discovered it, for it requires not much of either wit or judgment: its success must be derived almost wholly from the player, but its power in a skilful mouth, even he that despises it, is unable to resist.
The conduct of this drama is deficient; the action begins and ends often, before the conclusion, and the different parts might change places without inconvenience; but its general power, that power by which all works of genius shall finally be tried, is such, that perhaps it never yet had reader or spectator who did not think it too soon at the end. Johnson.
* In The Three Ladies of London, 1584, is the character of an Italian merchant, very strongly marked by foreign pronunciation. Dr. Dodypoli, in the comedy which bears his name, is like Caius, a French physician. This piece appeared at least a year before
The Merry Wives of Windsor. The hero of it speaks such another jargon as the antagonist of Sir Hugh, and like him is cheated of his mistress. În several other pieces, more ancient than the earliest of Shakspeare's, provincial characters are introduced. Steevens.
TWELFTH NIGHT: OR, WHAT YOU WILL.
THERE is great reason to believe, that the serious part of this Comedy is founded on some old translation of the seventh bistory in the fourth volume of Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques. Belleforest took the story, as usual, from Bandello. The comic scenes appear to have been entirely the production of Shakspeare. It is not impossible, however, that the circumstances of the Duke sending his page to plead his cause with the Lady, and of the Lady's falling in love with the Page, &c. might be borrowed from the Fifth Eglog of Barnaby Googe, published with his other original Poems in 1563:
“A worthy Knyght dyd love her longe,
“ And for her sake dyd feale
“ By frowning fortune's wheale.
“ Whom so muche he dyd truste,
" To hym declare he muste.
“ To sue for his redresse,
“ That caused his distresse.
“ Was straight with hym in love,
“ From Claudia's mynde remove,
By hym his sutes toke place,
“ To se his Ladyes face.
66 Valerius sore did sewe,
“ His mayster's gryefe to rewe.
“ Release his mayster's payne,
“ Nor se her ones agayne,” &c. Thus also concludes the first scene of the third act of the play before us:
“ And so adieu, good madam; never more
“ Will I my master's tears to you deplore,” &c. I offer no apology for the length of the foregoing extract, the book from which it is taken, being so uncommon, that only one copy, except that in my own possession, has hitherto occurred. Even Dr. Farmer, the late Rev. T. Warton, Mr. Reed, and Mr. Malone, were unacquainted with this Collection of Googe's Poetry:
TWELFTH NIGHT: OR, WHAT YOU WILL.
August 6, 1607, a Comedy called What you Will, (which is the second title of this play) was entered at Stationers' Hall by Tho. Thorpe. I believe, however, it was Marston's play with that name.
Ben Jonson, who takes every opportunity to find fault with Shakspeare, seems to ridicule the conduct of Twelfth Night in his Every Man out of his Humour, at the end of Act III, sc. vi, where he makes Mitis say, “ That the argument of his comedy might have been of some other nature, as of a duke to be in love with a countess, and that countess to be in love with the duke's son, and the son in love with the lady's waiting maid: some such cross wooing, with a clown to their serving man, better than be thus near and familiarly allied to the time.” Steevens.
I suppose this comedy to have been written in 1614. If however the foregoing passage was levelled at Twelfth Night, my speculation falls to the ground. Malone.
Orsino, duke of Illyria.
servants to Olivia. Clown,
} gentlemen attending on the duke.
Olivia, a rich counte88.
Lords, Priests, Sailors, Officers, Musicians, and other