« VorigeDoorgaan »
England, as he is recorded to have done; and that, pursuing a practice too prevalent in the middle ages, he dishonestly suppressed the mention of his real original. What has been advanced by Mr. Warton and some other writers respecting an old French romance under the name of Troilus and Cressida will not carry the story a moment higher : because this French romance is in fact nothing more than a much later performance, about the year 1400, compiled by Pierre de Beauvau from the Philostrato itself. This has been strangely confounded with several other French works on the Troy story related with great variety of circumstances, all or most of which were modelled on that of Guido of Colonna or his original: citing, as they had done, the supposititious histories of Dictys and Dares. It is worth while to embrace this opportunity of mentioning, for the first time, that there is a prose French version of Benoit's metrical romance; but when made, or by whom, does not appear in a MS. of it transcribed at Verona in 1320.
Lydgate professedly followed Guido of Colonna, occasionally making use of and citing other authorities. In a short time afterwards Raoul le Fevre compiled from various materials his Recueil des Histoires de Troye, which was translated into English and published by Caxton : but neither of these authors has given more of the story of Troilus and Cressida than any of the other romances on the war of
Troy; Lydgate contenting himself with referring to Chaucer. Of Raoul le Fevre's work, often printed, there is a fine MS. in the British Museum, Bibl. Reg. 17, E. II., under the title of Hercules, that must have belonged to Edward the Fourth, in which Raoul's name is entirely and unaccountably suppressed. The above may serve as a slight sketch of the romances on the history of the wars of Troy ; to describe them all particularly would fill a volume.
It remains to inquire concerning the materials that were used in the construction of this play. Mr. Steevens informs us that Shakspeare received the greatest part of them from the Troy book of Lydgate. It is presumed that the learned commentator would have been nearer the fact had he substituted the Troy book or recueyl translated by Caxton from Raoul le Fevre; which, together with a translation of Homer, supplied the incidents of the Trojan war. Lydgate's work was becoming obsolete, whilst the other was at this time in the prime of its vigour. From its first publication to the year 1619, it had passed through six editions, and continued to be popular even in the eighteenth century. Mr. Steevens is still less accurate in stating Le Fevre's work to be a translation from Guido of Colonna; for it is only in the latter part that he has made any use of him. Yet Guido actually had a French translator before the time of Raoul ; which translation, though never printed, is remaining in MS. under the whimsical title of “ La vie de la piteuse destruction de la noble supellative cité de Troy le grant. Translatée en Francois lan mcccLxxx;" and at the end it called “ Listoire tres plaisant de la destruction de Troy la grant." Such part of our play as relates the loves of Troilus and Cressida was most probably taken from Chaucer, as no other work, accessible to Shakspeare, could have supplied him with what was necessary. Douce.