« FöregåendeFortsätt »
what is to be found in Shakespeare. He might - perhaps but only perhaps. Is it not a thing as easily to be believed that Shakespeare could read
"Aliæ panduntur inanes
Ad ventos," soft Pagan Latin of Virgil, as easily as “Sum stentit bene in wisnand wyndis wake,” &c., the wondrously hard Seoto-Saxon of Douglas; or endeavor to master the smooth verses of Æneid, as the rugged hexameters of Stanyhurst.
The knowledge or ignorance of Shakespeare with respect to the modern larguages remains to be considered. The consideration will be brief; and with that, and some reflections on dramatic composition in general, I shall release my reader.
PART III.—THE MODERN LANGUAGES.
The concluding pages of Doctor Farmer's Essay are devoted to Shakespeare's knowledge of the modern languages. And, first, of Italian :
• It is erident, we have been told, that he was not unacquainted with the Italian; but let us inquire into the evidence. Certainly, some Italian words and phrases appear in the works of Shakespeare ; yet, if we had nothing else to observe, their orthography might lead us to suspect them not to be of the author's importation. But we can go further and prove this. When Pistol .cheers up himself with ends of verse,' he is only a copy of Hanniball Gonsaga, who ranted on yielding himself a prisoner to an English captain in the Low Countries, as you may read in an old collection of tales, called Wits, Fits, and Fancies :
""Si fortuna me tormenta,
Il speranza me contenta.' And Sir Richard Hawkins, in his voyage to the South Sea, 1593, throws out the same jingling distich, on the loss of his pinnace."
A magnificent judge Dr. Farmer appears to be of Italian! I avail myself here willingly of what is said by Mr, Brown, in his Shakespeare's Autobiography :
“Dr. Farmer thus speaks of the Italian words introduced into his plays: • Their orthography might lead us to suspect them to be not of the writer's importation.' Whose, then, with bad orthography ? I can not understand this suspicion ; but perhaps it implies that the words, being incorrectly printed, were not originally correct. The art of printing was formerly far from being so exact as at present; but even now, I beg leave to say, I rarely meet with an Italian quotation in an English book that is correct; yet I can perceive plainly enough, from the context, the printer is alone to blame. In the same way I see that the following passage, in the The Taming of the Shrew, bears evident marks of having been correct, before it was corrupted in the printing of the first folios, and that it originally stood thus:
· Petruchio. Con tutto il core ben' trovato — may I say. • Hortensio. Alla nostra casa ben' venuto, molto onorato signor mio Pe
These words show an intimate acquaintance with the mode of salutation on the meeting of two Italian gentlemen; and they are precisely such colloquial expressions as a man might well pick up in bis travels through the country. My own opinion is that Shakespeare, beyond the power of reading it, which is easily acquired, had not much knowledge of Italian; though I believe it infinitely surpassed that of Steevens, or of Dr. Farmer, or of Dr. Johnson; that is, I believe that, while they pretended to pass an unerring judgment on his Italian, they themselves must have been astonishingly ignorant of the language. Let me make good my accusation against all three. It is necessary to destroy their authority in this instance.
· Steevens gives this note in the T'aning of the Shrew:donato. We should read, Mi pardonate.' Indeed, we should read no such thing as two silly errors in two common words. Shakespeare may have written Mi perdoni, or Perdonatemi; but why disturb the text further than by changing the syllable par into per? It then expresses, instead of pardon me, me being pardoned, and is suitable both to the sense and the metre:
“Me perdonato-gentle master mine.'
· Dr. Farmer says,
• When Pistol • cheers up himself with ends of verse,' he is only a copy of Hanniball Gonsaga, who ranted on yielding himself a prisoner to an English captain in the Low Countries, as you may read in an old collection of tales, called Wits, Fits, and Fancies:
"Si fortuna me tormenta,
Il speranza me contenta.' This is given as Italian, not that of the ignorant Pistol, nor of Shakespeare, but of Hanniball Gonsaga; but how comes it that Dr. Farmer did not look into the first few pages of a grammar, to teach him that the lines must have been these?
«Se fortuna mi tormenta,
La speranza mi contenta.' And how could he corrupt orthography (a crying sin with him) in the name of Annibale Gonzaga ?
Upon this very passage Dr. Johnson has a note, and following the steps of Sir Thomas Hanmer, puts his foot, with uncommon profundity, in the mud. He says: Sir Thomas Hanmer reads, Si fortuna me tormenta, il sperare me contenta, which is undoubtedly the true reading; but perhaps it was intended that Pistol should corrupt it.' Perhaps it was; but • undoubtedly' the Doctor, in his true reading,' containing five blunders in eight words, has carried corruption too far.”
If Shakespeare had all the Italian knowledge of the Della Cruscans, he could not have made Pistol quote this saying in any other way. Pistol's acquaintance with any foreign language was of course picked up from jest-books, or from the conversation of those whose sayings contribute to fill works of the kind; but it is pleasant to find Drs. Farmer and Johnson bearing testimony to the accuracy of broken Italian, and making matters still worse than Pistol. We must admit that, as Dr. Farmer referred only to the Wits, Fits, and Fancies, he was not bound to give the name of Hanniball Gonsaga, or the Italian distich, otherwise than as he there found them. It might have been expected, from so exact a critic, that he should have expressed his opinion that the Italian was not perfectly correct; and his having omitted to do so may lead to the suspicion that he knew as little about the matter as Dr. Johnson himself, who lectures Shakespeare with all the gravity, but by no means the accuracy, of Holofernes.
The second piece of Italian is almost as amusing :
"• Master Page, sit ; good Master Page, sit : proface, what you want in meat, we'll have in drink,' says Justice Shallow's factotum, Davy, in the Second Part of Henry IV. Proface, Sir Thomas Hanmer observes to be ltalian, from profaccia — much good may it do you, Mr. Johnson rather thinks it a mistake for perforce. Sir Thomas Hanmer, however, is right: yet it is no argument for his author's Italian knowledge."
Then follow three quotations from Heywood, Dekker, and Waterpoet Taylor, in which the word occurs. Other English authorities are added by the commentators. So far so good; but the learned mind of Steevens misgives him. “I am still,” he says, “in doubt whether there be such an Italian word as profaccia. Baretti has it not, and it is more probable that we received it from the French; proface being a colloquial abbreviation of the phrase, Bon prou leur face, i. e., Much good may it do them. See Cotgrave, in voce Prou.” And Malone in. forms us that “Sir Thomas Hanmer (as an ingenious friend observes to me) was mistaken in supposing profaccia a regular (regular !) Italian word; the proper expression being buon pro vi faccia, much good may it do you! Profaccia is, however, I am informed, a cant term used by the common people in Italy, though it is not inserted in the best Italian dictionaries.” The fact is that proface, or prouface, or prounface, is a Norman word, derived from the Latin proficiat, signifying, as Cotgrave says, though he does not give its origin, “Much good may it do you" (i. e., my pledging), and has no connection with Italian at all.* The most diverting part of the business is the conjectural sagacity of Johnson in reading perforce. Had poor Theobald done any thing of the kind, or “the Oxford Editor," how sharp and biting would have been the indignation of the variorum critics ! Dr. Farmer, knowing nothing of the matter, never suspected that Sir Thomas Hanmer had made a mistake as to the Italianism of profaccia ; for his next sentence is : “But the editors are not contented without coining Italian." Profaccia, there
* Roquefort: Glossaire de la Langue Romane. “PROUFACE, prounface; Souhait qui veut dire, bien vous fasse ; proficiat.” It is used so lately as by Paul Louis Courrier, in his translation of Lucian's Ass : “Bon prou te fasse," vol. iii., p. 47; but he was an avowed imitator of the antique style. There is no authority for it in his Greek original; and I am not sure that he uses it properly, for he employs it merely as an ironical wish for good luck, without any reference to drinking. I suppose it is now obsolete in France.-W. M.