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LITERARY AND HISTORICAL NOTICE.
THE Menaechmi of Plautus (translated by an anonymous author in 1595,) furnished Shakspeare with the prin cipal incidents of this play. It is one of his earliest productions. Stevens thinks that the piece is not entirely of his writing. The singularity of the plot gives occasion to many amusing perplexities; but they are repeated till they become wearisome, and varied till they become unintelligible. Were it possible to procure in the representation, two Dromios, or two Antipholus's, of whom one should be exactly the counterpart of the other, no powers of perception or of memory, would enable an audience to carry their recollection of each individual beyond the termination of a second act. The very facility of invention with which the resembling individuals are made to puzzle and to thwart each other, would so confound the senses of a spectator, that he would soon be as much bewildered as the parties themselves: whereas the zest of the entertainment depends upon his being able accurately to retain the personal identity of each; without which, he may be involved in the intricacy, but cannot enjoy the humour, occasioned by similarity of person, and contrariety of purpose. Mr. Stevens has justly observed, that this comedy "exhibits more intricacy of plot than distiuction of character; and that attention is not actively engaged, since every one can tell how the denouement will be effected."
SCENE 1.-A Hall in the DUKE's Palace
Enter DUKE, ÆGEON, Jailer, Officer, and
Ege. Proceed, Solinus, to procure my fall,
And, by the doom of death, end woes and all.
Duke. Merchant of Syracusa, plead no more;
I am not partial, to infringe our laws :
The enmity and discord, which of late
Sprung from the rancorous outrage of your duke
To merchants, our well-dealing countrymen,-
Who wanting gilders to redeem their lives,
Have sealed his rigorous statutes with their
Excludes all pity from our threat'ning looks.
For, since the mortal and intestine jars
'Twixt thy seditious countrymen and us,
It hath in solemn synods been decreed,
Both by the Syracusans and ourselves,
To admit no traffic to our adverse towns:
If any, born at Ephesus, be seen
At any Syracusan marts and fairs,
Again, If any Syracusan born,
Come to the bay of Ephesus, he dies,
His goods confiscate to the duke's dispose;
Unless a thousand marks be levied,
To quit the penalty, and to ransom him.
Thy substance, valued at the highest rate,
Cannot amount unto a hundred marks;
Therefore, by law thou art condemn'd to die.
Ege. Yet this my comfort; when your words
My woes end likewise with the evening sun.
Duke. Well, Syracusan, say in brief, the
Why thou departedst from thy native home;
And for what cause thou cam'st to Ephesus.
Ege. A heavier task could not have been im-
Than I to speak my griefs unspeakable:
Yet, that the world may witness, that my end
not by vile offence, I'll utter what my sorrow gives me leave. In Syracusa was I born; and wed Unto a woman, happy but for me, And by me too, had not our hap been bad. With her I liv'd in joy; our wealth increas'd, By prosperous voyages I often made To Epidamnum, till my factor's death; And he (great care of goods at random left) Drew me from kind embracements of my spouse: From whom my absence was not six months old, Before herself (almost at fainting, under The pleasing punishment that women bear,) Had made provision for her following me, And soon, and safe, arrived where I was, There she had not been long, but she became A joyful mother of two goodly sons;
And, which was strange, the one so like the other,
As could not be distinguish'd but by names.
That very hour, and in the self-same inn,
A poor mean woman was delivered
Of such a burden, male twins, both alike :
Those, for their parents were exceeding poor,
I bought, and brought up to attend my sons.
My wife, not meanly proud of two such boys,
Made daily motions for our home return:
Unwilling I agreed; alas, too soon.
We came aboard :
A league from Epidamnum had we sail'd,
Before the always-wind-obeying deep
Gave any tragic instance of our harm:
But longer did we not retain much hope;
For what obscured light the heavens did grant
Did but convey unto our fearful minds
A doubtful warrant of immediate death;
At length, another ship had seiz’d on us;
And, knowing whom it was their hap to save.
Gave helpful welcome to their shipwreck'd
And would have reft the fishers of their prey,
Had not their bark been very slow of sail,
And therefore homeward did they bend their
Thus have you heard me sever'd from my bliss ;
That by misfortunes was my life prolong'd
To tell sad stories of my own mishaps.
Duke. And, for the sake of them thou sorrowest for,
Do me the favour to dilate at full
What hath befall'n of them, and thee, till now.
Ege. My youngest boy, and yet my eldest
At eighteen years became inquisitive
After his brother; and impórtun'd me,
That his attendant, (for his case was like,
Reft of his brother, but retain'd bis name,)
Might bear him company in the quest of him:
Whom whilst I labour'd of a love to see,
I hazarded the loss of whom I lov'd.
Five summers have I spent in furthest Greece,
Roaming clean + though the bounds of Asia,
And coasting homeward, came to Ephesus;
Hopeless to find, yet loath to leave unsought,
Or that, or any place that harbours men.
But here must end the story of my life;
And happy were I in my timely death,
Could all my travels warrant me they live.
Duke. Hapless Ægeon, whom the fates have
To bear the extremity of dire mishap!
Now, trust me, were it not against our laws,
Which, though myself would gladly have em- Against my crown, my oath, my dignity,
Yet the incessant weepings of my wife,
Weeping before for what she saw must come,
And piteous plainings of the pretty babes,
That mourn'd for fashion, ignorant what to fear,
Forc'd me to seek delays for them and me.
And this it was,-for other means was none.-
The sailors sought for safety by our boat,
And left the ship, then sinking-ripe, to us :
My wife, more careful for the latter-born,
Had fasten'd him unto a small spare mast,
Such as sea-faring men provide for storms;
To him one of the other twins was bound,
Whilst I had been like heedful of the other.
The children thus dispos'd, my wife and I,
Fixing our eyes on whom our care was fix'd,
Fasten'd ourselves at either end the mast;
And floating straight, obedient to the stream,
Were carried towards Corinth, as we thought.
At length the sun, gazing upon the earth,
Dispers'd those vapours that offended us;
And, by the benefit of his wish'd light,
The seas wax'd calm, and we discovered
Two ships from far making amain to us,
Of Corinth that, of Epidaurus this:
But ere they came,-Ö let me say no more!
Gather the sequel by what went before.
Duke. Nay, forward, old man, do not break
For we may pity, though not pardon thee.
Ege. Oh! had the gods done so, I had not now
Worthily term'd them merciless to us!
For, ere the ships could meet by twice
We were encounter'd by a mighty rock;
Which being violently borne upon,
Our helpful ship was splitted in the midst,
So that, in this unjust divorce of us,
Fortune had left to both of us alike
What to delight in, what to sorrow for.
Her part, poor soul! seeming as burdened
With lesser weight, but not with lesser woe,
Was carried with more speed before the wind;
And in our sight they three were taken up
By fishermen of Corinth, as we thought.
Which princes, would they, may not disannul,
My soul should sue as advocate for thee,
But, though thou art adjudged to the death,
And passed sentence may not be recall'd,
But to our honour's great disparagement,
Yet will I favour thee in what I can :
Therefore, merchant, I'll limit thee this day,
To sees thy help by beneficial help :
Try all the friends thou hast in Ephesus;
Beg thou, or borrow, to make up the sum,
And live; if not, then thou art doom'd to die :-
Jailer, take him to thy custody.
SCENE II.-A public Place.
Enter ANTIPHOLUS and DROMIO of Syracuse, and a MERCHANT.
Mer. Therefore, give out you are of Epidamnum,
Lest that your goods too soon be confiscate.
This very day, a Syracusan merchant
Is apprehended for arrival here;
And, not being able to buy out his life,
According to the statute of the town,
Dies ere the weary sun set in the west.
There is your money that I had to keep.
Ant. S. Go bear it to the Centaur, where
And stay there, Dromio, till I come to thee.
Within this hour it will be dinner-time :
Till that, I'll view the manners of the town,
Peruse the traders, gaze upon the buildings,
And then return, and sleep within mine inn;
For with long travel I am stiff and weary.
Get thee away.
Dro. S. Many a man would take you at your word,
And go indeed, having so good a mean.
Ant. S. A trusty villain, Sir, that very oft, When I am dull with care and melancholy, Lightens my humour with his merry jests. What, will you walk with me about the town, And then, go to my inn, and dine with me? Mer. I am invited, Sir, to certain merchants, Of whom I hope to make much benefit; I crave your pardon. Soon, at five o'clock, Please you, I'll meet with you upon the mart, † And afterwards consort you till bed-time; My present business calls me from you now. Ant. S. Farewell till theu: I will go lose myself,
And wander up and down, to view the city.
Mer. Sir, I commend you to your own con-
Ant. S. He that commends me to mine own
Commends me to the thing I cannot get.
I to the world am like a drop of water,
That in the ocean seeks another drop;
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,
Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself:
So I, to find a mother and a brother,
In quest of them, unhappy, lose myself.
Enter DROMIO of Ephesus.
Here comes the almanack of my true date,What now? How chance, thou art return'd so soon?
Dro. E. Return'd so soon! rather approach'd too late :
The capon burns, the pig falls from the spit :
The clock bath strucken twelve upon the bell,
My mistress made it one upon my cheek:
She is so hot, because the meat is cold:
The meat is cold, because you come not home;
You come not home, because you have no
You have no stomach, having broke your fast; But we, that know what 'tis to fast and pray, Are penitent for your default to-day.
Ant. S. Stop in your wind, Sir; tell me this, I pray; [you? Where have you left the money that I gave Dro. E. Oh!-sixpence, that I had o'Wednesday last,
To pay the saddler for my mistress' crupper ;The saddler had it, Sir, I kept it not.
Ant. S. I am not in a sportive humour now:
Tell me, and dally not, where is the money?
We being strangers here, how dar'st thou trust
So great a charge from thine own custody ?
Dro. E. I pray you, jest, Sir, as you sit at
I from my mistress come to you in post;
If I return, I shall be post indeed;
For she will score your fault upon my pate.
Methinks your maw, like mine, should be your
And strike you home without a messenger.
Ant. S. Come, Dromio, come, these jests are out of season; Reserve them till a merrier hour than this: Where is the gold I gave in charge to thee ? Dro. E. To me, Sir? why you gave no gold
Ant. S. What, wilt thou flout me thus unto my face,
Being forbid; There, take you that, sir knave. Dro. E. What mean you, Sir ? för God's sake hold your hands;
Nay, an you will not, Sir, I'll take my heels.
[Exit DROMIO, E.
Ant. S. Upon my life, by some device or
The villain is o'er-raught of all my money.
They say, this town is full of cozenage;
As nimble jugglers, that deceive the eye,
Dark-working sorcerers, that change the mind,
Soul-killing witches, that deform the body;
Disguised cheaters, prating mountebanks,
And many such like liberties of sin :
If it prove so, I will be gone the sooner.
I'll to the Centaur, to go seek this slave ;
I greatly fear, my money is not safe.
Enter ADRIANA, and LUCIANA. Adr. Neither my husband, nor the slave return'd,
That in such haste I sent to seek his master!
Sure Luciana, it is two o'clock.
Luc. Perhaps some merchant hath invited him,
And from the mart he's somewhere gone to dinner,
Good sister, let us dine, and never fret:
A man is master of his liberty:
Time is their master; and, when they see time,
They'll go, or come: If so, be patient, sister.
Adr. Why should their liberty than our's be
There's nothing, situate under heaven's eye,
But hath its bound, in earth, in sea, in sky:
The beasts, the fishes, and the winged fowls,
Are their males' subject, and at their controls:
Men, more divine, and masters of all these,
Lords of the wide world, and wild wat'ry seas,
Indued with intellectual sense and souls,
of more pre-eminence than fish and fowls,
Are masters to their females, and their lords:
Then let your will attend on their accords.
Adr. This servitude makes you to keep unwed.
Luc. Not this, but troubles of the marriage bed.
Adr But, were you wedded, you would bear
Luc. Ere I learn love, I'll practise to obey. Adr. How if your husband start some other