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Introduction

Text. - Cymbeline was printed for the firsť time in the Folio of 1623, where it is placed among the Tragedies and is the last play in the volume. There is no evidence that it was published before that date. The text presents many difficulties and is thought by some to be a rough draft rather than a finished piece. Critics have long suspected the authenticity of certain passages of the play as we now have it, especially the Vision of Posthumus in Act V, Scene iv, and the concluding couplets of the stanzas in Act IV, Scene ii. Perhaps no play of Shakespeare's has offered a richer field for the emendator.

Date of Composition. Thus far it has been impossible to fix the precise date of the writing of Cymbeline. The quack doctor, Simon Forman, who died September 12, 1611, has left in his Booke of Plaies and Notes thereof a description of the play as given at the Globe Theatre. He saw performances of a Richard II (not Shakespeare's) on April 30, 1611; of The Winter's Tale, May 15, 1611; of Macbeth, April 20, 1610 (possibly a misprint for 1611); and of Cimbalin, King of England. There is no date for the last-named, merely the foregoing statement, followed by a synopsis of the plot. This evidence has been accepted as conclusive in marking September, 1611, as the latest possible date of the play. But Forman affords us no help in fixing the early limit of composition. Macbeth, certainly written much earlier than Cymbeline, is described by him with equal fulness. However, tests of style, metre, structure, and its relation to The Winter's

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Tale and The Tempest, as well as to Beaumont and Fletcher's Philaster, have been rather generally regarded as placing Cymbeline with these other dramatic romances, and we can fix upon 1609-1610 with reasonable certainty as the date of composition of our play.

Sources of the Plot. In Cymbeline, Shakespeare combined the pseudo-historical matter which came from Holinshed's chronicle with the romantic which his imagination fashioned or which he picked up here and there from continental folk-lore and literature. From Holinshed, he learned that Cymbeline, afterwards king of the Britons, was brought up at Rome and there knighted by Cæsar, and that the names of his sons were Guiderius and Arviragus. According to Holinshed, it was during the reign of Cymbeline's successor, Guiderius, that the Britons refused to pay tribute to Rome after Cæsar's death. Shakespeare places the incident during the reign of Cymbeline. He used the account of the destruction of Cæsar's ships (III, i), and adapted from Holinshed's History of Scotland the description of the fight between the Scottish husbandman, Hay, with his two sons, and the Danes at the battle of Loncart (V. iii). He found also many of the names of his characters in Holinshed, e.g., Cymbeline, Guiderius, Arviragus, Cadwallo, Polydor or Poladour, Cloton, Helen, Morgan, Lucius, Posthumus, and Imogen.

The romantic part of the plot of Cymbeline is closest to the ninth novel of the second day of the Decameron of Boccaccio. An English translation now lost, or some French edition of whose existence we do not know, may have been read by Shakespeare. As Malone has observed, the printer of the translation of 1620 informs the reader in his Epistle Dedicatory that many of Boccaccio's novels have been published before. Shakespeare used the story told by Boccaccio as he used many other old stories. He borrowed situations, but substantially modified the characters, and gave a new direction to the action of the play. It is altogether probable that for the story of the wager Shakespeare had no other immediate original than some form of Boccaccio's novella. Certain passages, however, suggest the possibility that he knew the version told by the Fishwife in Westward for Smelts, but as yet there is no proof that this was published before 1620. There were various forms of the story of the wager and the chest, of the stealing of young

rinces, and subsequent identification and reconciliation. These were so common that it seems hazardous at present to fix upon any one form as offering more than suggestions to Shakespeare, especially in the later years of his productive career. A recent suggestion seems plausible, that an early anonymous play, printed in 1589, The Rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune, contained suggestions for scenes and incidents, not only for Cymbeline, but also for The Winter's Tale and The Tempest. About the only thing certain, however, is his indebtedness to Holinshed and, directly or indirectly, to Boccaccio.

Stage History. — In some form Cymbeline has been played for more than two centuries. The first recorded

1 Cf. W. D. Adams, A Dictionary of the Drama, 1904, and Genest, Some Account of the English Stage, Bath, 1832.

performance was at the Theatre Royal in 1682, of an adaptation with “vile alterations," as Genest says, made by T. D'Urfey and called The Injured Princess, or The Fatal Wager. There were performances in 1720 and 1738 of Cymbeline, or The Fatal Wager, another adaptation, by Charles Marsh in 1755, and one by William Hawkins in 1759. This was produced at Covent Garden and published. In 1761 was performed a version by David Garrick with “ some most judicious changes,” according to Genest, Garrick playing the part of Posthumus. This play had a fair run of sixteen performances, and was revived in 1767 and in 1770 with the famous Mrs. Barry as Imogen. Henry Brooke rewrote the play in 1778. Since that date there have been numerous revivals of the original form, at the Haymarket, 1782, at Covent Garden, 1784, Drury Lane, 1785, 1787, with Mrs. Siddons as Imogen, Covent Garden, 1800, with Betterton as Cloten, by Kemble in 1806 and 1825, by Booth in 1817, and by Macready in 1818. The most famous actresses who have played Imogen in the United States have been Adelaide Neilson in 1877, Modjeska in 1888, and Ellen Terry, with Henry Irving as Iachimo, in 1896.

Cymbeline can scarcely be called a thoroughly successful play for the stage. The complexity of its numerous situations, its obscure passages, its Browningesque versification and compact vocabulary, have rendered exceedingly difficult the task of successful stage presentation.

Relations to Contemporary Drama. Though Cymbeline has not successfully appealed to the general theatrical public, it has been favorite with those critics of Shakespeare who are interested in his relation to his contemporaries and in his development as a dramatist. To the romantic dramas of his early years Cymbeline has many resemblances in situations, motives, and types of character. There is the romantic atmosphere as well as all the tricks of the romancer, such as disguise, marks of recognition, potions, the chest, the typical villain, the intriguing queen. More closely is it related to the other dramatic romances which seem to belong to the same date, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest, in the use of the sea and the open country, the incident of the lost children, and the reuniting of families and ultimate reconciliations. In an admirable monograph 1 Professor Thorndike has described most clearly the nature of this later type of romantic play, and has established a strong presumption that the type in general, and Cymbeline in particular, owe much to the Philaster of Beaumont and Fletcher. The following sentences, taken from a characterization of the heroic romances of these younger playwrights, but written without reference to Shakespeare, will show in how many important respects Cymbeline resembles their work: “ Their plots, largely invented, are ingenious and complicated. They deal with royal or noble persons, with heroic actions, and are placed in foreign localities. Usually contrasting a story of gross sensual passion with one of idyllic love, they introduce a great variety of incidents and aim at constant but varied excitement. The tragic, idyllic, and sensational material is skilfully constructed into a number of theatrically telling situations,

1A. H. Thorndike, The Influence of Beaumont and Fletcher on Shakespere, Worcester, Mass., 1901.

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