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This play has many delightful scenes, though not sufficiently probable, and some happy characters, though not new, nor produced by any deep knowledge of human nature. Parolles is a boaster and a coward, such as has always been the sport of the stage, but perhaps never raised more laughter or contempt than in the hands of Shakspeare,
I cannot reconcile my heart to Bertram--a man noble without generosity, and young without truth; who marries Helen as a coward, and leaves her as a profligate; when she is dead by his unkindness, sneaks home to a second marriage, is accused by a woman he has wronged, defends himself by faisenood, and is dismissed to happiness.
The story of Bertram and Diana had been told before of Mariana and Angelo, and, to confess the truth, scarcely merited to be heard a sec
TAMING OF THE SHREW.
THERE is an old anonymous play extant, with the same title, first printed in 1596, which (as in the case of King John and Henry V.) Shakspeare rewrote, “ adopting the order of the scenes, and inserting little more than a few lines which he thought worth preserving, or was in too much haste to alter.” Malone, with great probability, suspects the old play to have been the production of George Peele or Robert Greene.* Pope ascribed it to Shakspeare, and his opinion was current for many years, until a more exact examination of the original piece (which is of extreme rarity) undeceived those who were better versed in the literature of the time of Elizabeth than the poet. It is remarkable that the Induction, as it is called, has not been continued by Shakspeare so as to complete the story of Sly, or at least it has not come down to us; and Pope, therefore, supplied the deficiencies in this play from the elder performance: they have been degraded from their station in the text, as in some places incompatible with the fable and Dramatis Persona of Shakspeare; the reader will, however, be pleased to find them subjoined to the notes.
The origin of this amusing fiction may probably be traced to the
sleeper awakened of the Arabian Nights: but similar stories are told of Philip the good Duke of Burgundy, and of the Emperor Charles the
Fifth. Marco Polo relates something similar of the Ismaelian Prince
Alo-eddin, or chief of the mountainous region, whom he calls, in common
* There was a second edition of the anonymous play in 1607; and the curious reader may consult it, in “Six Old Plays upon which Shakspeare founded,” &c., published by
with other writers of his time," the old man of the mountain." Warton refers to a collection of short comic stories in prose, “set forth by maister Richard Edwards, master of her majesties revels,” in 1570 (which he had seen in the collection of Collins the poet), for the immediate source of the fable of the old drama. The incident related by Heuterus in his Rerum Burgund., lib. iv., is also to be found in Goulart's Admirable and Memorable Histories, translated by E. Grimeston, 4to. 1607. The story of Charles V. is related by Sir Richard Barckley, in a Discourse on the Felicitie of Man, printed in 1598; but the frolic, as Mr. Holt White observes, seems better suited to the gayety of the gallant Francis, or the revelry of our own boisterous Henry.
Of the story of the Taming of the Shrew no immediate English source has been pointed out. Mr. Douce has referred to a novel in the Piacevoli Notti of Straparola, notte 8, fav. 2, and to El Conde Lucanor, by Don Juan Manuel, Prince of Castile, who died in 1362, as containing similar stories. He observes that the character of Petruchio bears some re
semblance to that of Pisardo in Straparola’s novel, notte 8, fav. 7.
Schlegel remarks that this play " has the air of an Italian comedy;" and, indeed, the love intrigue of Lucentio is derived from the Suppositi of Ariosto, through the translation of George Gascoigne. Johnson has observed the skilful combination of the two plots, by which such a variety and succession of comic incident is insured without running into perplexity. Petruchio is a bold and happy sketch of a humorist, in which Schlegel thinks the character and peculiarities of an Englishman are
visible. It affords another example of Shakspeare's deep insight into
human character, that in the last scene the meek and mild Bianca shows
she is not without a spice of self-will. The play inculcates a fine moral lesson, which is not always taken as it should be.
Every one, who has a true relish for genuine humor, must regret that we are deprived of Shakspeare's continuation of this Interlude of Sly, *
* Dr. Drake suggests that some of the passages in which Sly is introduced should be
adopted from the old drama, and connected with the text, so as to complete his story;
making very slight alteration, and distinguishing the borrowed parts by some mark.
6 who is indeed of kin to Sancho Panza.” We think, with a late elegant
writer, “the character of Sly, and the remarks with which he accom
panies the play, as good as the play itself.”
It appears to have been one of Shakspeare's earliest productions, and is supposed by Malone to have been produced in 1594.
Characters in the Original Play of The Taming of a Shrew, entered on
the Stationers' Books in 1594, and printed in quarto in 1607.
A Lord, &c.
Persons in the Induction.
ALPHONSUS, a Merchant of Athens.
Suitors to the Daughters of Alphonsus.
Tailor, Ilaberdasher, and Servants to Ferando and Alphonsus.
SCENE, Athens; and sometimes Ferando's Country-Hlouse.
other Servants attending on the Lord.
Persons in the
BAPTISTA, a rich Gentleman of Padua.
Suitors to Bianca.
Servants to Lucentio.
Servants to Petruchio.
KATHARINA, the leshorew, } Daughters to Baptista.
Tailor, Haberdasher, and Servants attending on Baptista
SCENE, sometimes in Padua; and sometimes in
Petruchio's House in the Country.