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Vincentio, Duke of Vienna.
Claudio, a young Gentleman.
Lucio, a Fantaftick.
Two other like Gentlemen.
* Varrius, a Gentleman, Servant to the Duke.
Clown, Servant to Mrs. Over-done.
Ifabella, Sifter to Claudio.
Miftrefs Overdone, a Bawd.
Guards, Officers, and other Attendants.
* Varrius might be omitted, for he is only once spoken to, and fays nothing. JOHNSON.
MEASURE for MEASURE'.
ACT I. SCENE I.
The Duke's Palace".
Enter Duke, Efcalus, and Lords.
The story is taken from Cinthio's Novels, Decad. 8. Novel 5.
There is perhaps not one of Shakespeare's plays more darkened than this by the peculiarities of its authour, and the unfkilfulness of its editors, by diftortions of phrafe, or negligence of tranfcription. JOHNSON.
Shakespeare took the fable of this play from the Promos and Caffandra of George Whetstone, published in 1578. See Theobald's note at the end.
A hint, like a feed, is more or lefs prolific, according to the qualities of the foil on which it is thrown. This ftory, which in the hands of Whetstone produced little more than barren infipidity, under the culture of Shakespeare became fertile of entertainThe curious reader will find that the old play of Promos and Caffandra exhibits an almost complete embryo of Measure for Meafure; yet the hints on which it is formed are fo flight, that it is nearly as impoffible to detect them, as it is to point out in the acorn the future ramifications of the oak.
Whetstone opens his play thus.
"Promos, Mayor, Shirife, Sworde bearer: one with a bunche
"Know you your leadge, the King of Hungarie:
"Act. I. Scena I.
Duke. Of government the properties to unfold, Would seem in me to affect speech and difcourfe; Since I am 3 put to know, that your own science, Exceeds, in that, the lifts of all advice + My ftrength can give you: Then no more remains", But
"And now to fhow, my rule and power at lardge,
As you commaunde, I wyll: give heedeful care.
Loe, here you fee what is our Soveraignes wyl "Loe, heare his wifh, that right, not might, beare swaye : "Loe, heare his care, to weede from good the yll, "To fcoorge the wights, good lawes that disobay. "Such zeale he beares, unto the common weale, "(How fo he byds, the ignoraunt to fave) "As he commaundes, the lewde doo rigor feele, &c. &c. &c.
Both fwoorde and keies, unto my princes ufe,
"I doo receyve and gladlie take my chardge.
"We poynt a tyme, of councell more at lardge, "To treate of which, a whyle we wyll depart. "Al. fpeake. To worke your wyll, we yeelde a wylling hart.
The reader will find the argument of G. Whetstone's Promos and Caffandra, at the end of this play. It is too bulky to be inferted here. See likewise the Piece itself among Six old Plays on which Shakespeare founded, &c. published by S. Leacroft, Charing-crofs. STEEVENS.
3 Since I am not to know,-] Old copy,
put to know, Perhaps rightly. JOHNSON.
I am put to know, may mean, I am obliged to acknowledge.
So in King Henry VI. p. 2. fc. i.
had I first been put to speak my mind." Again in Drayton's Legend of Pierce Gavefton:
So in Othello.
"My limbs were put to travel day and night." STEEVENS. lifts] Bounds, limits. JOHNSON.
"Confine yourself within a patient lift." STEEVENS. 5 Then no more remains, &c.] This is a paffage which has exercised the fagacity of the editors, and is now to employ mine.