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*MEASURE FOR MEASURE.] Novels, Decad. 8. Novel 5. POPE.
We are fent to Cinthio for the plot of Meafure for Meafure, and Shakspeare's judgment hath been attacked for fome deviations from him in the conduct of it, when probably all he knew of the matter was from Madam Isabella, in The Heptameron of Whetflone, Lond. 4to, 1582. She reports, in the fourth dayes Exercife, the rare Hiftorie of Promos and Caffandra. A marginal note informs us, that Whetstone was the author of the Comedie on that subject; which likewife had probably fallen into the hands of Shakspeare.
The ftory is taken from Cinthio's
There is perhaps not one of Shakspeare's plays more darkened than this by the peculiarities of its author, and the unfkilfulness of its editors, by distortions of phrafe, or negligence of transcription.
Dr. Johnson's remark is so just refpecting the corruptions of this play, that I fhall not attempt much reformation in its metre, which is too often rough, redundant, and irregular. Additions and omiffions (however trifling) cannot be made without conftant notice of them; and fuch notices, in the prefent inftance, would fo frequently occur, as to become equally tirefome to the commenfator and the reader.
Shakspeare took the fable of this play from the Promos and Caffandra of George Whetstone, publifhed in 1578. See Theobald's
note at the end.
A hint, like a feed, is more or less prolific, according to the qualities of the foil on which it is thrown. This ftory, which in the hands of Whetstone produced little more than barren infipidity, under the culture of Shakspeare became fertile of entertainment. The curious reader will find that the old play of Promos and Caffandra exhibits an almoft complete embryo of Meafure for Measure; yet the hints on which it is formed are fo flight, that it is nearly as impoffible to deica them, as it is to point out in the acorn the future ramifications of the oak.
Whetstone opens his play thus:
A& I. Scene i..
u Promos, Mayor, Shirife, Sworde bearer: one with a bunche of keyes Phallax, Promos Man. "You officers which now in Julio staye,
Know you your leadge, the King of Hungarie,
Sent me to Promos, to joyne with you in fway:
And now to fhow my rule and power at lardge, "Attentivelie his letters patents heare: «Phallax, reade out my Soveraines chardge. Phal. As you commaunde I wyll: give heedeful eare. Phallax readeth the Kinges Letters Pattents, which must be fayre written in parchment, with fome great counterfeat zeale.
Pro. « Loe, here you fee what is our Soveraignes wyl,
(How fo be byds, the ignoraunt to favej
As he commaundes, the lewde doo rigor feele, &c. &c. &c.
Pro. Both fwoorde and keies, unto my princes ufe,
"We poynt a tyme of councell more at lardge, "To treate of which, a whyle we wyll depart. Al. Speake. To worke your wyll, we yeelde a willing hart. Exeunt.
The reader will find the argument of G. Whetstone's Promos and Caffandra, at the end of this play. It is too bulky to be inferted here. See likewife the piece itself among Six old Plays on which Shakspeare founded, &c. publifhed by S. Leacroft, Charingcrofs. STEEVENS.
Measure for Meafure was, I believe, written in 1603. Attempt to afcertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays, Vol. II.
Vincentio, duke of Vienna.
Angelo, lord deputy in the duke's abfence.
Claudio, a young gentleman.
Two other like gentlemen.
a gentleman, fervant to the duke.
Elbow, a fimple conftable.
Ifabella, fifter to Claudio.
Lords, Gentlemen, Guards, Officers, and other Attendants.
*Varrius might be omitted, for he is only once spoken to, fays nothing. JOHNSON.
Painted by R. Smirke R.A.
Elb. thou caitif thou varlet: O there wicked Hannibal
Grave a Lorrach chez II. de. Mechel par H. Partout.
ACT II. SCENE I.
Measure for Measure