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THERE is great reason to believe, that the serious part of this Comedy is founded on some old translation of the seventh history in the fourth volume of Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques. Belleforest took the story, as usual, from Bandello. The comic scenes appear to have been entirely the production of Shakspeare. It is not impossible, however, that the circumstances of the Duke sending his page to plead his cause with the Lady, and of the Lady's falling in love with the Page, &c., might be borrowed from the Fifth Eglog of Barnaby Googe, published with his other original poems, in 1563.
Thus also concludes the first scene of the third act of the play before us :
"And so adieu, good madam; never more
I offer no apology for the length of the foregoing extract, the
book from which it is taken being so uncommon, that only one copy, except that in my own possession, has hitherto occurred. Even Dr. Farmer, the late Rev. T. Warton, Mr. Reed, and Mr. Malone, were unacquainted with this Collection of Googe's Poetry.
August 6, 1607, a Comedy called What you Will (which is the second title of this play) was entered at Stationers' Hall by Tho. Thorpe. I believe, however, it was Marston's play with that name. Ben Jonson, who takes every opportunity to find fault with Shakspeare, seems to ridicule the conduct of Twelfth-Night in his Every Man out of his Humour, at the end of Act III. sc. vi., where he makes Mitis say, "That the argument of his comedy might have been of some other nature, as of a duke to be in love with a countess, and that countess to be in love with the duke's son, and the son in love with the lady's waiting maid: some such cross wooing, with a clown to their serving man, better than be thus near and familiarly allied to the time." STEEVENS.
I suppose this comedy to have been written in 1607. Ben Jonson unquestionably could not have ridiculed this play in Every Man out of his Humour, which was written many years before it. MALONE.
ORSINO, Duke of Illyria.
SEBASTIAN, a young Gentleman, Brother to VIOLA.
} Gentlemen attending on the Duke.
Sir TOBY BELCH, Uncle of OLIVIA.
} Servants to OLIVIA.
OLIVIA, a rich Countess.
VIOLA, in love with the Duke.
Lords, Priests, Sailors, Officers, Musicians, and other Attendants.
SCENE, a City in ILLYRIA; and the Sea-coast near it.