« PreviousContinue »
C Y M B E L I N E.
“ The Tragedie of Cymbeline" is one of the seventeen plays, the earliest known edition of which is the folio of 1623. When produced, or when first acted, we have, as usual, no means of determining; but Malone is perhaps not far wrong in supposing it was written in 1609, as about that period there is good reason for believing Shakespeare wrote “ The Tempest,” and “The Winter's Tale:” and the marked similarity in the versification of those plays and that of Cymbeline, indicates that the three were composed at no distant date from each other.
The main incident of the plot—the wager on the chastity of the heroine—appears to have been taken from a story in Boccaccio (Day 2, Nov. 9), of which an abstract will be found in the “ Illustrative Comments.” This novel was a favourite evidently, for it has been translated and paraphrased many times. One modification of it occurs in the amusing collection of stories called, “ Westward for Smelts, or The Water-mans fare of mad merry Western wenches,” &c., which Steevens and Malone assert was printed in 1603. If they are correct, this réchaufe of Boccaccio's fable may have contributed to the composition of
Cymbeline," but no edition of it earlier than 1620, and of that only one copy, is now known to exist. The events in this story are laid in England during the reigns of Henry VI. and Edward IV., and the villain of it, instead of being conveyed to the lady's chamber in a chest (as described in the Italian and French versions), hides himself beneath her
The historical facts and allusions in “Cymbeline” were seemingly derived from Holinshed ; but the important and delightful episode that introduces us to Belarius and the stolen princes, we may conclude was Shakespeare's own invention ; unless the germ of it were found in some older play upon which the present was founded.
z z 2
Lords, Ladies, Roman Senators, Tribunes, Officers, Soldiers, Musicians, Messengers
Apparitions, and Attendants.
SCENE,- Sometimes in BRITAIN, sometimes in Italy.
Still seemers-do the king's.] The old text of "Cymbeline,” in the number and inveteracy of its corruptions, is hardly surpassed by any other play in the collection. The very opening speech presents a typographical enigma which has been the subject of critical conjecture and experiment for above a century, and remains a puzzle still :
“ You do not meet a man but Frownes.
Our bloods no more obey the Heavens
Still seeme, as do's the Kings." Thus stands the passage in the folio. Amid a flood of hypothetical restorations, Tyrwhitt's proposal to omit the s in “King's" and to point the lines as follows,
Still seem, as does the king"is now generally followed, though no one perhaps ever believed or believes that this was what the poet wrote. It has been accepted only because the editors had nothing better to offer. The real blot lies, we apprehend, in the words " still seem as,” which were probably misheard or misread by the compositor for "still. seemers," i.e. ever dissemblers : and the meaning appears to be,Everyone you meet wears a frown; our complexions do not more sympathise with the changes of the sky, than the looks of our courtiers (those perpetual simulators) do with the aspect of the king. The expression “seemers" occurs again in the sense here attributed to it, in " Measure for Measure," Act I. Sc. 4.
“—-hence shall we see
Her husband banish'd ; she imprison’d: all By her election may be truly read
I honour him 2 GENT.
None but the king ? Even out of your report. But, pray you, tell me, 1 GENT. IIe that hath lost her, too : so is the Is she sole child to the king ? queen,
His only child. That most desir'd the match : but not a courtier, He had two sons,—if this be worth your hearing, Although they wear their faces to the bent Mark it,—the eldest of them at three years old, Of the king's looks, hath a heart that is not ['the swathing clothes the other, from their Glad at the thing they scowl at.
nursery 2 GENT.
And why so ? Were stol’n; and to this hour no guess in know1 Gent. He that hath miss'd the princess is a
Which way they went. Too bad for bad report ; and he that hath her, 2 GENT.
How long is this ago ? (I mean, that married her,-alack, good man ! - 1 GENT. Some twenty years. And therefore banish’d) is a creature such
2 Gent. That a king's children should be so As, to seek through the regions of the earth
Howsoe'er 't is strange, Endows a man but he.
Or that the negligence may well be laugh'd at, 2 GENT.
You speak him far. Yet is it true, sir. 1 GENT. I do extend him, sir, within himself ; 2 GENT. I do well believe you. Crush him together, rather than unfold
1 GENT. We must forbear: here comes the His measure duly.
gentleman, 2 GENT. What's his name, and birth? The queen, and princess.
[Exeunt. 1 GENT. I cannot delve him to the root : his
father Was callid Sicilius, who did join his honour,
Enter the QUEEN, POSTHUMUS, and IMOGEN. Against the Romans, with Cassibelan; But had his titles by Tenantius, whom
QUEEN. No, be assur’d, you shall not find me, He serv'd with glory and admir'd success,
daughter, So gain’d the sur-addition, Leonatus :
After the slander of most step-mothers, And had, besides this gentleman in question, Evil-ey'd unto you: you're my prisoner, but Two other sons, who, in the wars o' the time, Your gaoler shall deliver you the keys Died with their swords in hand; for which their That lock up your restraint.-For you,
mus, (Then old and fond of issue) took such sorrow So soon as I can win the offended king, That he quit being; and his gentle lady,
I will be known your advocate : marry, yet, Big of this gentleman, our theme, deceas'd The fire of rage is in him; and 't were good, As he was born. The king he takes the babe You lean’d unto his sentence with what patience To his protection ; calls him Posthumus Leonatus ;* Your wisdom may inform you. Breeds him, and makes him of his bed-chamber : Post.
Please your highness, Puts to him all the learnings that his time
I will from hence to-day. Could make him the receiver of; which he took, QUEEN.
You know the peril :As we do air, fast as 't was minister'd,
I'll fetch a turn about the garden, pitying And in 's spring became a harvest: livid in The
of barr'd affections, though the king court
Hath charg'd you should not speak together. (Which rare it is to do) most prais’d, most lovd:
Èxit QUEEN. A sample to the youngest; to the more mature Imo. O dissembling courtesy! How fine this A glass that feated them; and to the graver
tyrant A child that guided dotards : to his mistress- Can tickle where she wounds ! My dearest husFor whom he now is banish’d-her own price
band, Proclaims how she esteem'd him and his virtue; I something fear my father's wrath ; but nothing
a Posthumus Leonatus ;] So the old copies. In many modern editions, “Leonatus" is omitted as redundant, but the old poets not unfrequently introduce proper names without regard to the measure; occasionally indeed, as if at the discretion of the player, the name was to be spoken or not,
b A glass that feated them ;] That fashioned, or moulded them.
So convey'd !) So stolen. d And Imogen.] In the old and in most of the modern editions, this is marked as a new scene, but erroneously.
(Always reserv'd my holy duty) what
Than doth become a man! I will remain His rage can do on me : you must be gone; The loyal’st husband that did e'er plight troth: And I shall here abide the hourly shot
My residence in Rome, at one Philario's; Of angry eyes; not comforted to live,
Who to my father was a friend, to me But that there is this jewel in the world,
Known but by letter: thither write, my queen, That I may see again.
And with mine eyes I'll drink the words you send, Post.
My queen! my mistress! Though ink be made of gall. 0, lady, weep no more, lest I give cause To be suspected of more tenderness
(*) Old text, Filorio's.