Page images





(Q.) Rule a Wife And have a Wife. A Comody. Acted by his Majesties Servants. Written by John Fletcher Gent. Oxford, Printed by Leonard Lichfield Printer to the University. Anno 1640. 4to.

(F.) Rule a Wife, and have a Wife, is the full title in the Folio of 1679, where it is the fourteenth play, occupying pp. 279-296 of the first system of pagination.

It appears in Theobald's edition (1750) vol. iii. (curavit Seward), in Colman's (1778) vol. iii., in Weber's (1812) vol. ii., and in Dyce's (1843) vol. ix. See also under ‘History,' p. 366.

The text of the Folio of 1679 is reproduced in vol. iii. (1906) of the edition by A. R. Waller in the Cambridge English Classics, with the Quarto's variants given in an Appendix.


Text.-The quarto of 1640, issued from the Oxford University Press, deserves on the whole Weber's praise for careful printing. The few corrections made in the folio of 1679 (e. £; 'her' for your'(Prol.), 'look'dst' for 'look'st ' I. v. 41, ‘Altea' for 4.' [Lady) II. i. iii, III. i, 'them' for ‘him’ II. iv. 80, 'manners' for 'meaner' III. iii. 4, 'were' for 'are' III. iv. 40, us'd' for 'use’ IV. iii. 193) are outweighed by its corruptions (e. g. 'stav'd' for "starv'd' I. v. 31, ‘Not' for 'Nor’ III. iv. 78, etc.) and omission of a line at III. iv. 23 and III. v. 73, and of a word in three other places; while its nine other doubtful changes are of no weight. The mistakes left as common to both are fewer than usual (the chief are, the Spanish I. v. 50, 'civill’ for 'Seville ' I. vi. 20, 'plates' for 'plate' II. ii. 35, ihe probable omission of a line at II. iv. 22 and (?) V. ii. 83 and the transposition of III. i. 95 and 96, 'last' for 'lust' III. i. 101, prefixes wrong or omitted IV. i. 50, iii. 17, V. v. 158, 162, 'basiness' III. ii. 30, bought' for 'brought' V. ii. 62, punctuation V. iii. 39, ‘reach' for 'reach'd' 82, 'swear' for 'sweat' V. iv. 26, ‘folly' v. 108, 'you' for 'we' 176); while, as regards metre, the quarto text (always faithfully followed in this matter by the folio) is much beiter than usual, the slight dislocation occurring at I.rv. 29–32, . vi. 59-63, II. iv. 85-90, 93-5, III. i. 23-6, 113-5, V. v. 63-5, and of a word or two in many other places, being due rather to a strict counting of syllables which failed to take account of Fletcher's redundancies than to the usual ignorant neglect of the whole matter.

Most of the errors, whether metrical or verbal, were corrected by Seward. Colman supplied a few stage directions and corrected the prefixes IV. i. 50, iii. 17 : Weber numbered and located the scenes and marked most of the asides and s.d. : and Dyce ably supplemented their work whether of rearrangement, correction or addition of s.d.

We have restored the old text at II. iv. 7, V. ii. 30-1, and iv. I s.d. ; and have found we believe the true emendation at III. iii. 51, and perhaps the right explanation at IV. iii. 206-7, V. iii. 82. Where not otherwise noted, the stage directions here are verbally reproduced from the quarto.

ARGUMENT.-An unattached heiress, Margarita, is the object of general interest among the gallants and officers at Seville, where recruiting is going on for the war in Flanders. She is anxious to marry, but only as a cover to illicit intrigue; and Altea, her confidential attendant, plots to obtain the coveted prize for her brother Leon, lately recommended as ensign to captain Juan de Castro. Promising Altea a thousand crowns, Leon, a tall strong fellow, assumes before the officers a character of foolish simplicity, and is introduced to Margarita as Altea's happy discovery, who will make the most submissive of husbands. With admirably-affected sheepishness he agrees to a complete subservience, and the heiress accepts and marries him. On their return to her town-house she prepares to entertain her wanton admirers, and especially the Duke of Medina, instructing Leon to occupy himself with the other servants. She is surprised by an ironical outburst on his part ; and, when the guests are come, he boldly asserts his rights as her husband and master of the house. The incensed Duke, overcome by his eloquence and spirit and the advocacy of Juan, suppresses his annoyance for the moment, and conceives the plan of getting rid of him by a false captain's commission. But Leon, equal to the occasion, at once gives orders that his wife, with plate, hangings and everything portable, shall accompany him to the seat of war. He defies all opposition ; and when she attempts a diversion by pretending a previous gift of the house to a former waiting-woman, Estefania, while the Duke declares the commission a trick, he announces the resolve to visit her other properties, even in the Indies. She feigns submission, only begging for a month's delay, which he grants. She is already half-conquered ; but lends herself to a last ruse by which the Duke, pretending to be wounded in a scuffle, obtains shelter and a bed in the house. Warned by Juan, now his staunch ally, Leon shows her he fathoms the trick, appeals to her sense of justice and threatens her with the most servile humiliation. Overcome at last by his resource and firmness, she throws herself whole-heartedly on his side and joins him in fooling the pretended invalid, whose amorous advances she parries with a lecture, works on his superstitious fears by means of drunken noises in the cellar below, and threatens him with her husband's vengeance. First cowed, then repentant, the Duke is reconciled to Leon, and gives him a genuine commission.

The main plot is well balanced by and carefully interwoven with an underplot, wherein Michael Perez, one of the captains, amorous and conceited of his powers as lady-killer and tamer, is tricked into wedding Margarita's woman, Estefania, who poses as owner of the house in her absence. For some days he revels in luxurious quarters and parades his good fortune before the officers. On Margarita's unexpected return with Leon, Estefania attributes to her the very device she has herself employed, and persuades Perez to vacate the house for four days, promising him handsome compensation when her 'cousin's' wealthy admirer is secured. He reluctantly consents, and they find accommodation in a poor cottage hard by, where he loudly complains of the discomfort. On the eve of his expected re-entry he finds his trunks robbed of the chains, jewels and rich clothes which had formed his contribution to the partnership; and, accusing the old woman of the house, learns from her the true position and character of his wife, who has abstracted them. Margarita confirms the woman's account; but Estefania, when they meet, counters him with the reproach that his chains are of copper and his jewels false. To vex him further she pretends that the old woman and Margarita are merely in league with her to try him, and bids him return and take possession. He goes distrustfully, demands the house from Leon, and is cheated by a moment's delusive hope when Margarita asserts that she had actually given it to his wife ; but the pretence is quickly abandoned, and the unhappy man breaks away to be revenged. Estefania boldly confronts him with a loaded pistol ; and proves that she can still be of use by producing a thousand ducats, which she has just wheedled out of Cacasogo, a rich and fatuous suitor of Margarita, pledging (as from her) the trumpery trinkets. Perez owns her ascendency and is reconciled ; and their future is secured by gifts from Margarita and the generous hospitality of Leon. Altea's deception is forgiven; and Cacafogo, a combination of baseness, folly, insolence and gross self-indulgence, visiting the house with amorous intentions, is confined by her in the cellar and finally dismissed in drunken ignominy.

DATE AND AUTHORSHIP.-Malone (Shakespeare, ed. Boswell, iii. 226), among a list of plays written by Fletcher only, mentions ours as licensed by Sir Henry Herbert on Oct. 19, 1624 ; and at p. 228 extracts the following from Herbert's ‘Note of such playes as were acted at Court in 1623 and 1624'

“Upon All-hollows night, 1624, the king beinge at Roiston, no play.

The night after, my Lord Chamberlin had Rule a Wife and Have a Wife for the ladys, by the kings company.

Upon St. Steevens night, the prince only being there, Rule a Wife and Have a Wife, by the kings company. 'Att Whitehall."

Fletcher's sole authorship is confirmed by the title-page of the quarto, and the attribution to him in the commendatory verse of G. Hills. The Prologue, too, evidently contemporary with the first production and probably by Fletcher himself, speaks of the poet.' And the verse exhibits the most marked degree of his special characteristics-a double or triple ending to almost every line, rarely a line run-on, and no prose at all. It was his latest or almost his latest play. His own marriage is very doubtful.

Sources. — The Perez-Estefania underplot is borrowed from one of Cervantes' Novelas Ejemplares, 'El Casamiento Engañoso' (The Deceitful Marriage), of which no English translation is known earlier than that of Thomas Shelton in 1642—it is not famong the six translated by James Mabbe in 1640. There existed, however, a French translation with the following title : ‘Les novveles, ov sont contenuës plusieurs rares advantures, et memorables exemples d'amour

. . Traduictes d'espagnol en françois : les six premieres par F. de Rosset et les autres par le sr d'Avdigvier. Avec l'Histoire de Ruis Dias, etc. Paris, 1620. 8vo.1 Since · El Casamiento' was the eleventh of the twelve tales as published by Cervantes, the translation of it would fall to the Sieur d'Audiguier, who translated Lazarillo de Tormes the same year. The existence of this French version of the Novelas is important for the question of Fletcher's familiarity with Spanish, which the occurrence of a few words and phrases in his text (e.g. I. i. 12, v. 50) can hardly be held to prove. It is doubtful whether there be anything of his, of Spanish connexion, not attributable to the use of translations or of other sources. Love's Cure, where, as we hope to show, large use is made of an untranslated Spanish play, is not Fletcher's. Yet the probability of his reading Spanish may be admitted.

The following full sketch of Cervantes' tale (abridged from W. K. Kelly's translation) gives everything of which Fletcher can have made the slightest use.

One morning in Valladolid the licentiate Peralta meets his friend, the alferez Campuzano [I. i. 12, 67), issuing from the Hospital of the Resurrection, so pale and with limbs so weak as shewed he 'must have sweated a good deal in the last few weeks' [I. ii. 8). Making the sign of the cross as though he had seen a ghost [IV. i. 5), he expresses his surprise---"Why, I thought you were in Flanders trailing a pike [I. i. 56), instead of hobbling along with your sword for a walking-stick” [I. ii. 12-3). Campuzano attributes his condition to a woman whom he has been so unfortunate as to marry recently; and, being invited to dine by Peralta, relates his story. Being some time since with a friend, Captain Pedro de Herrera, now in Flanders, they were accosted by two ladies of genteel appearance, one of whom drew the captain aside, while Campuzano addressed himself to the other, who was veiled, but excited his curiosity by shewing a very white hand with handsome rings. He imagined that with his rich dress, gold chain and good looks he would easily induce her to unveil : she remained obdurate, however, only promising that, if he would send a servant to note where she lived, he should see her with less reserve. The interview over, Herrera reported that he had been requested to carry letters to Flanders to one whom the lady called her cousin, but whom he knew to be only her gallant (cf. Juan's suspicion, I. i. 117-20). Campuzano, repairing next day to the house indicated by his servant, found a lady of about thirty whose name was Doña Estefania de Caycedo, well-looking rather than beautiful, but possessed of a sweet voice and fascinating address, occupying a handsomelyfurnished house, and waited on by a girl more rogue than simpleton. After

1 There is no copy of this in the British Museum. The title is here given from Mr. J. Fitz. maurice Kelly's Life of Cervantes, 1892, p. 357. Ward, who mentions it (ii. 753), gives its date as 1614-5.

« PreviousContinue »