Some Shakespeare Originals: Some Shakespeare Originals, Daily Racing Form, 1918-08-07


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SOME SHAKESPEARE ORIGINALS As the liuil is to the blossom the chrysalis to the ImtttTfly the vaporous cloud to the beneficent lovrniour so are the recondite pallid obscure or incomplete sources of the Shakespearian plots to the monumental masterpieces derived from them Why then undertake the study of them will be asked Why not enjoy the refined gold without concern for the dross To which the reply may be advanced that the more we know of the Immortal Hards dexterity in weaving complex and beautiful arras from trivial shreds the better shall we be fitted to appreciate the close fine texture as well as the general pattern patternA A brief examination of the sources of The Mer ¬ chant of Venice for instance will show the skillful blending of two unrelated themes counter ¬ point as it were which is close harmony We have the episode of the caskets and the more important one of the pound of flesh A parallel story to that of 1ortias method of deciding on a husband is to be found in the work known as Gcsta Itoman orum published in ir 77 the Merchant was writ ¬ ten shortly before 1590 in which a princess is to select one of three caskets of the same metal and bearing virtually the same inscriptions as those qf the mistress of I5elinout her choice of the leaden vessel determing her fitness to wed an emperors son The other theme is undoubtedly of eastern origin possibly influenced even says one commentator by the legend of Prometheus It appears in more definite form in Italian the Pecorone of Gio ¬ vanni Fiorcntiuo published in 1558 This novel tells the story of an impecunious suitor financed by a wealthy Venetian merchant the bargain struck with a Jew in words closely similar to Shakespeares the forfeiting of the bond the heroines interven ¬ tion and even the detail of the ring extracted as payment by the supposed lawyer from her hus ¬ band and the subsequent teasing Several ballads evidently derived from Florentine and dealing with the same legal knot and the same summary cutting of it were in circulation for a time before The Merchant of Venice appeared appearedAs As You Like It does not owe its existence to several sources but is simply a matter of re ¬ telling Itosalynde Kuphues Golden Legacic by Thomas Lodge first published in 1590 with a few characters such as Touchstone and Audrey intro ¬ duced and other renamed An excellent edition of this with partly modernized spelling is available today It is a charmingly naif story recalling Aucassin and Nicolette and the ballad of the Nutbrown Maid it is told in a simple childlike way with amusingly superfluous explanatory sub ¬ headings frequent lapses into Latin and occasional delightfully refreshing bits of verse sometimes in dialogue Its literary merit is of an unusually high order particularly because of the atmosphcrs created its weakness was in the handling of the plot which iu Shakespeares grip became much more linn and closeknit closeknitThe The Taming of the Shrew again is drawn from various sources Two versions closely allied were extant in Shakespeares time of the incident serving for the induction that of the intoxicated tinker who for a day becomes a prince only to relapse into obscurity one in Goulards Admir ¬ able and Memorable Histories the other The Waking Mans Dream it is also told in Burtons Anatomy of Melancholy and can be traced as far afield as iu the Arabian Nights The play proper is an improvement on an old comedy of the same title which preceded Shakespeares and to which he probably added touches at the time when he gave much attention to the altering of existing dramas before he took to composing his own He is also indebted to the Suppositi of Ariosto which was performed in 1506 and a tale in verse a merry jest of a shrewd and curst wife lapped in Morels skin for her good behavior has vaguely the same outline though without the characteriza ¬ tion of the wife which redeems Katherine and her treatment the flaying and wrapping of the shrew in the hide of a horse is scarcely as subtle and as farreaching or as fertile in invention as was 1etruchios manner of dealing with his brides temper temperCynibeline Cynibeline is drawn from Ilolinsheds The Ac ¬ count of Kymbeline King of Britain for histori ¬ cal basis the plot against Imogen to destroy her reputation is to be found in many old chronicles notably two romances and one mediaeval play iu French and in Boccaccios Second Day of the Decameron It closely resembles the betrayal of Desdemona in Othello though this in its broader outlines follows still another Italian reconteur reconteurPerhaps Perhaps enough has been said to give a glimpse of the extraordinarily wide field and the iugeniuous resourcefulness at Shakespeares command and from which he alone could have produced such mag ¬ nificent results Toronto Globe

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