« PreviousContinue »
serving the duke in man's attire, and their subsequent marriage, the argument does not indicate any other resemblance to Shakespeare's play: Rich lays his scene in Constantinople, but Shakespeare in Illyria.
Elliot. Sebastian and Olivia, or any persons answering to them, seem entirely omitted by Rich.
Bourne. In the argument, not in the story: you would not wish to have the argument as long and as particular as the narrative: it cannot include every thing; notwithstanding, it was merely casting my eye over the argument that first led me to suspect a resemblance, which I afterwards found most satisfactorily confirmed. The body of the history opens with various reflections on the influence of "Dame Errour" in human affairs, and especially in those of love, after which it relates that Apolonius, "a worthy Duke," a very young man, who had levied an army and served against the Turk, while Constantinople was yet in the hands of the Christians, returning home after one year's victories, was compelled, by stress of weather, to seek shelter in Cyprus (or Cypres, as Rich calls it): he was here entertained very courteously by Pontus, the governor, who had a son named Silvio and a daughter named Silla: the latter soon fell desperately in love with Duke Apolonius, and "vsed so great familiarity with him, as her honour might well permitte, and fed him with such amorous baites as the modesty of a maide eould reasonably afforde."
Elliot. Then does Silvio, brother to Silla, correspond with Shakespeare's Sebastian, brother to Viola?
Bourne. Throughout.—Apolonius makes no return, and indeed scarcely seems to notice the attentions of the young lady, but with the first fair wind sails home to Constantinople. Thither Silla resolves to follow him, and is aided in her design by Pedro, a faithful servant, in whose company, and as whose sister, she embarks in a galley that happened to be preparing to quit the port. On the voyage the captain falls in love with the beautiful damsel, makes amorous advances, and at last offers her violence: she is obliged by his threats to appear consenting, and having obtained a short respite, she is about to destroy herself with a knife, to prevent the completion of the wicked purposes of her boisterous lover, when a dreadful storm opportunely rises to divert her from her purpose, and the vessel being wrecked, all are drowned excepting Silla, who escapes by clinging to a chest belonging to the captain.
Morton. To all this there is nothing parallel in Shakespeare. We hear nothing of any previous love, or even acquaintance, between Duke Orsino and Viola.
Elliot. All we have been told is antecedent, I suppose: Shakespeare begins after the storm, and of course omits what occurred during the voyage.
Bourne. It has always struck me as a defect in Shakespeare's highly finished play, that the motive for the voyage of Viola is not sufficiently explained: she tells the captain only that she had heard her father name Duke Orsino; but in the first instance she seems desirous rather to be taken into the service of Olivia than of the Duke:
"O that I serv'd that Lady,
are her words.
Morton. She did not then perhaps contemplate her disguise. While serving Olivia she might have an opportunity of seeing the Duke.
Bourne. Dr. Johnson remarks upon this part of the play: "Viola seems to have formed a very deep design with very little premeditation: she is thrown by shipwreck on an unknown coast: hears that the Prince is a bachelor, and resolves to supplant the lady whom he courts." This objection is wellfounded, as it applies to readers of the present day, but I apprehend it is not so well-founded with reference to Shakespeare's audiences. It is an acknowledged fact, that the stories he availed himself of were popular, the incidents were generally well known, and the hearers could therefore supply certain omissions from their memories. When Viola observes,
"I have heard my father name him:He was a bachelor then,"
she tells no more, in order not to disclose her design to the captain of the ship, but intends to say just enough to draw from him the facts, that he yet remained single, and that he was engaged in courtship to Olivia.
Elliot. If Shakespeare had used the same names for his characters as Rich gives them, your argument would have been more conclusive; as it is, I have some doubts upon the point: but let us proceed with the novel.
Bourne. Silla breaks open the chest that had been the means of her preservation during the storm, and finding it filled with men's apparel, she clothes herself in one of the suits: thus attired, she travels to Constantinople, and there presents herself to the Duke, who, "perceiuing him to be a proper smogue young man, gaue him entertainment." Silla at this time took upon herself her brother's name. We now come to Olivia, or the lady who in Rich's novel answers to her: she is called Julina, and is represented as a young beautiful widow, whose husband had died lately, and left her extremely rich. Shakespeare thought it would have a better effect to describe her as a virgin whose brother was recently deceased.
Morton. It has been objected that there is some impropriety in Olivia having her house filled by such persons as Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek: the impropriety might have been less striking had Shakespeare followed Rich's story in this respect more exactly.
Bourne. In Shakespeare's age I do not know that such a circumstance would have made any very material difference. Rich thus speaks of Julina: "At this very instaunt there was remainyng in the Cittie a noble Dame, a widdowe, whose husband was but lately deceased, one of the noblest men that were in the partes of Grecia, who left his Lady and wife large possessions and great liuings. This ladyes name was called Iulina, who besides the aboundance of her wealth and the greatnesse of her reuenues, had likewise the soueraigntie of all the Dames of Constantinople for her beautie."
Morton. Rich does not scruple to be guilty of tautologies.
Bourne. He proceeds in these terms: "To this Lady Iulina Apolonius became an earnest suter, and according to the manner of woers, besides faire wordes, sorrowfull sighes and piteous countenaunces, there must be sending of louing letters, Chaines, Braceletes, Brouches, Ringes, Tablets, Gemmes, Iuels and presents, I know not what. So my Duke who in the time that he remained in the lie of Cypres, had no skill at all in the arte of Loue, although it were more then half proffered vnto him, was now become a scholler in Loues Schoole and had alreadie