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Cymbeline was first printed in 1623, and is the last play in the folio. The earliest allusion to it that has been discovered is in the Diary of Dr. Simon Forman (a noted quack and astrologer), which belongs to the years 1610 and 1611. His sketch of the plot (not dated) is as follows:

“Remember also the storri of Cymbalin king of England, in Lucius tyme, howe Lucius Cam from Octavus Cesar for Tribut, and being denied, after sent Lucius with a greate Arme of Souldiars who landed at milford haven, and Affter wer vanquished by Cimbalin, and Lucius taken prisoner, and all by means of 3 outlawes, of the which 2 of them were the sonns of Cimbalim, stolen from him when they but 2 yers old by an old man whom Cymbalin banished, and he kept them as his own sonns 20 yers with him in A cave. And howe [one] of them slewe Clotan, that was the quens sonn, goinge To milford haven to sek the love of Innogen the kinges daughter, whom he had banished also for lovinge his daughter, and howe the Italian that cam from her love conveied him selfe into A Cheste, and said yt was a chest of plate sent from her love and others, to be presented to the kinge. And in the depest of the night, she being aslepe, he opened the cheste and cam forth of yt, And vewed her in her bed, and the markes of her body, and toke a-wai her braslet, and after Accused her of adultery to her love, etc. And in thend howe he came with the Romains into England and was taken prisoner, and after reveled to Innogen who had turned her self into mans apparrell and fled to mete her love at milford haven, and chạnchsed to fall on the Cave in the wodes wher her 2 brothers were, and howe by eating a sleping Dram they thought she had bin deed, and laid her in the wodes, and the body of Cloten by her in her loves apparrell that he left behind him, and howe she was found by lucius, etc.”'

The play was probably a new one when Forman saw it in 1610 or 1611. The critics generally date it in 1609 or 1610. The internal evidence of style and metre indicates that it was one of the latest of the plays.

Cymbeline is badly printed in the folio, and the in

volved style makes the correction of the text a task of more than usual difficulty. The critics generally agree that the vision in v. 4 cannot be Shakespeare's. Like the parts of Hymen in As You Like It and of Hecate in Macbeth, it is quite certain from internal evidence that it is an interpolation by another hand. All these spurious passages are of the same type, and all were probably thrust into the plays by the theatrical managers, who were fond of introducing such mythological or supernatural matter when the dramatist had not provided it. It tickled the ears of the groundlings, like the songs and dances that were often added to the original text in the same way.


Shakespeare took the names of Cymbeline and his two sons from Holinshed, together with a few historical facts concerning the king; but the story of the stealing of the princes and their life in the wilderness appears to be his own.

The story of Imogen, which is so admirably interwoven with that of the sons of Cymbeline, was taken, directly or indirectly, from the Decamerone of Boccaccio, in which it forms the ninth novel of the second day. No English translation of it is known to have been made in Shakespeare's time. A version appeared in a tract entitled Westward for Smelts, which was published in 1620. Malone speaks of an edition of 1603 ; but this is probably an error, as the book was not entered upon the Stationers' Registers until 1619-20. This translation, moreover, lacks some important details which the play has in common with the Italian original.

The chief incidents of the story had been used in a French miracle-play of the Middle Ages, and also in the old French romances of La Violette and Flore et Jehanne; but we have no reason to suppose that Shakespeare made any use of these. In one of the romances the lady has a mole upon her right breast; in Boccaccio, as in Shakespeare, it is on her left breast. This mark is not mentioned at all in Westward for Smelts. In the latter, moreover, the person corresponding to Iachimo conceals himself under the bed in the lady's chamber, while in the French and Italian versions he is conveyed thither in a chest.

White has noted another circumstance which seems to show that Shakespeare went directly to Boccaccio, and that The Winter's Tale and Cymbeline were composed at about the same period : “In Boccaccio's novel the convicted slanderer is condemned by the Sultan to be anointed with honey, and exposed to the rays of the sun, tied to a stake upon some elevated spot, and to remain there until his flesh falls from his bones. From this doom it seems quite clear that Shakespeare took the hint for that mock sentence which Autolycus passes upon the clown in Winter's Tale, iv. 4. 812: • He has a son who shall be flayed alive; then 'nointed over with honey; ... then, raw as he is, and in the


hottest day prognostication proclaims, shall he be set against a brick wall, the sun looking with a southward eye upon him, where he is to behold him with flies blown to death.'

It has been pointed out by Schenkl that the incidents of Imogen's seeking refuge in the wilderness and her deathlike sleep occur in the German fairy-tale of Schneewittchen.


GENERAL COMMENTS ON THE PLAY The transition from the tragedies to the plays that follow is most remarkable. From the gloom and horror of Othello, Macbeth, and Lear, the poet emerges into the genial sunshine that irradiates the scenes of Cymbeline, The Tempest, and The Winter's Tale. Inexorable retribution for sin is no longer the keynote of his dramas, but charity, forgiveness, reconciliation, benignity almost divine. Dowden aptly calls these last plays “ Romances." In all there is a beautiful romantic background of sea or mountain. The dramas have a grave beauty, a sweet serenity, which seem to render the name comedies' inappropriate; we may smile tenderly, but we never laugh loudly, as we read them.”

Dr. Johnson says of Cymbeline : “ This play has many just sentiments, some natural dialogues, and some pleasing scenes, but they are obtained at the expense of much incongruity. To remark the folly of the fic

. tion, the absurdity of the conduct, the confusion of the names and manners of different times, and the impossi

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