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Slie. Who's this! Tapster! O Lord, sirrah, I have had the bravest dream to-night that ever thou heard'st in all thy life.
Tap. Yea, marry; but you had best get you home,
Slie. Will she! I know now how to tame a shrew. 1 dreamt upon it all this night till now, and thou hast waked me out of the best dream that ever I had in my life. But I'll to my wife, and tame her too, if she anger me.
Tap. Nay, tarry, Slie, for I'll go home with thee, And hear the rest that thou hast dreamt to-night."
Sly's adventure bears a strong resemblance to that of “The Sleeper Awakened,” in “THE ARABIAN Nights;" but its immediate origin is probably to be found in the following story from Goulart's " ADMIRABLE AND MEMORABLE HISTORIES:"
Philip, called the Good, Duke of Burgundy, in the memory of our ancestors, being at Bruxelles with his court, and walking one night after supper through the streets, accompanied with some of his favourites, he found lying upon the stones a certain artisan that was very drunk, and that slept soundly. It pleased the Prince, in this artisan, to make trial of the vanity of our life, whereof he had before discoursed with his familiar friends. He, therefore, caused this sleeper to be taken up, and carried into his palace. He commands him to be laid in one of the richest beds; a rich night-cap to be given him; his foul shirt to be taken off, and to have another put on him of fine holland. When as this drunkard had digested his wine and began to awake, behold there comes about his bed pages and grooms of the Duke's chamber, who draw the curtains, and make many courtesies, and, being bareheaded, ask him if it please him to rise, and what apparel it would please him to put on that day. They bring him rich apparel. This new Monsieur, amazed at such courtesy, and doubting whether he dreamed or waked, suffered himself to be dressed, and led out of the chamber. There came noblemen, which saluted him with all honour, and conduct him to the mass, where, with great ceremony, they give him the book of the Gospel, and Pixe to kiss, as they did usually to the Duke. From the mass they bring him back unto the palace; he washes his hands, and sits down at the table well furnished.
After dinner, the great chamberlain commands cards to be brought, with a great sum of money. This Duke in imagination plays with the chief of the court. Then they carry him to walk in the garden, and to hunt the hare, and to hawk. They bring him back unto the palace, where he sups in state. Candles being lighted, the musicians begin to play; and, the tables taken away, the gentlemen and gentlewomen fell to dancing. Then they played a pleasant comedy; after which followed a banquet, whereas they had presently store of ipocras and precious wine, with all sorts of confitures, to this Prince of the new impression; so as he was drunk, and fell soundly asleep. Thereupon the Duke commanded that he should be disrobed of all his rich attire. He was put into his old rags, and carried into the same place where he had been found the night before; where he spent that night.
Being awake in the morning, he began to remember what had happened before: he knew not whether it were true indeed, or a dream that had troubled his brain. But, in the end, after many discourses, he concludes that all was but a dream that had happened unto him; and so entertained his wife, his children, and his neighbours, without any other apprehension.
Amid the vast number of versions that have been issued since Reed's, there are probably others in which the passage would be found entire ; but we have not pursued the inquiry in a carping spirit. The instances quoted fell under our notice without seeking: in various other editions of the present century, we have certainly observed the asserted imperfection.
“Tell me, sweet Kate, and tell me truly too,
Act IV., Scene 5. One of the best passages in the older play is that which corresponds to the scene above quoted from; it is therefore subjoined :
“ Fer. Fair, lovely maiden, young and affable,
Kate. Fair, lovely lady, bright and crystalline,
"A scarlet cloak! and a copatain hat!"-Act V., Scene 1.
The last article is the conical or sugar-loaf hat, once so much in vogue. Stubbs says (1595), “Sometimes they use them sharpe on the crowne, pearking up like the spear or shaft of a steeple, standing a quarter of a yard above the crowns of their heads."
“Hor. Now go thy ways, thou hast tamed a cursed shrew. Luc. 'T is a wonder, by your leave, she will be tamed so."
Act V., Scene 2. From this couplet (which was no doubt intended for a rhyming one), as also from a similar one in the same act, it appears that the word shrew was formerly pronounced shrow.
As Shakspere unfortunately seems to have dropped Sly altogether after the first act, we subjoin the termination of his adventure from the older play: “ Then enter two, bearing of Slie in his own apparel again,
and leave him where they found him, and then go out : then enters the Tapster. Tap. Now that the darksome night is overpast, And dawning day appears in crystal sky, Now must I haste abroad: but soft, who's this? What, Slie? O wondrous ! hath he lain here all night? I'll wake him: I think he's starved by this, But that his belly was so stuffed with ale. What now, Slie, awake, for shame.
Slie. Sim, give's some more wine. What, all players gone? Am not I a lord ?
Tap. A lord, with a murrain: come, art thou drunken still?
HE fact is certain Homer sometimes nods, and Shakspere now and then indulges
in his “forty winks." Yet even in slumber the milder rays of intellect illumine their revelations; and we ought to wonder that such colossal faculties so seldom need a brief repose, rather than complain that they follow the universal law of immortality, and cannot be kept incessantly on the stretch.
It is with this feeling-surely at the least excusable—that we approach the minor Shaksperian dramas; anxious to place their merits in the most favourable position, and somewhat pertinaciously inclined to explain away defects which no amount of grateful scepticism will prevent us from perceiving. If we are told, for instance, that the Dromios, in the play before us, are chargeable with sundry woful puns and coarse allusions, the apology spontaneously suggests itself,—“That is true; but then, consider the license of the age ; their station in society ; what a number of good things are mingled with the bad; how many of the bad may have been foisted into the genuine text; but above all (for it is difficult to think of Shakspere's characters other than as actual beings), consider what droll good-humoured mortals these Dromios are ;-a condition of blood that prevents them from withholding even the poorest comical fancy that may tickle the hearer for the moment, however it may damage their reputation as wits, when put upon paper.” In real life, amiable fellows of the brightest faculties will sometimes utter what they perfectly well know to be atrocious absurdities, critically considered, from the mere love of fun, and a generous disregard of what more prudent wags would deem their personal pretensions. Charles Lamb appears to have been a prodigal of this description; and Shakspere doubtless was another in his private capacity, as he was occasionally too much so (let us candidly admit it) in his public one of a dramatist.
Thus much granted, it is by no means necessary to continue a notice of the present play in a tone of apology. If we cannot call it in the highest sense, what it calls itself, a “ Comedy,” it is certainly the nonpareil of farces; and although probably a very early production, much of the matter, both humorous and poetic, would not have been unworthy of the writer's brighter day. The opening dialogue between Ægeon and the Duke, forms an admirable introduction to the subsequent scenes of systematic confusion; it places a clue in the hand of the reader that guides him joyously through the labyrinth of cross purposes that from first to last involves and baffles the active though unconscious agents in the turmoil. These perplexities tell excellently in representation. The varieties of voice, &c. that necessarily exist between the representatives of the respective twins, render the whole plot obvious to the spectator ; while moderate resemblances of person, with the assistance of similar dresses, are sufficient to make him put faith in the general mystification; it not being painfully difficult to suppose that the victims of the spell may not be quite so quicksighted as ourselves.
A nice observer will detect differences of temperament in the Dromios; and still more clearly in the superior Brothers. The female characters, also, though not of the strongest cast, are sweetly discriminated. And here we cannot but do justice to the respect that Shakspere invariably exhibits for the higher points of morality and social feeling : the Brother exhibits not the slightest sympathy with the blandishments which the Wife seems anxious to lavish upon him, on the supposition that he is her husband. It is this wholesome reverence for substantial decency which, in despite of his occasional indecorums, has effectively co-operated even with his boundless genius to keep Shakspere continually fresh and welcome in the hearts and eyes of his countrymen—and countrywomen. And it is the want of this same soul of purity which—notwithstanding their brilliant fancies, and the galvanising efforts of laborious commentators— has condemned so many of his contemporaries and successors to hopeless and deserved obscurity.
The COMEDY OF ERRORS" is doubtless founded on the MENECHMI" of Plautus; it was first published in the original folio.