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Tales from Shakespeare's comedies online

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(i&nsltsb Classtts {or §it{iaal BeaHtns<




Edited, with Notes,





Copyright, 1890, by Harper & Brothers,

All rights reserved.


In the preface to the first edition the authors say that these Tales
' ' are meant to be submitted to the young reader as an introduc-
tion to the study of Shakespeare, for which purpose his words are
used whenever it seemed possible to bring them in ; and in what-
ever has been added to give them the regular form of a connected
story, diligent care has been taken to select such words as might
least interrupt the effect of the beautiful English tongue in which
he wrote ; therefore, words introduced into our language since his
time have been as far as possible avoided."

The authors say also •. "It has been wished to make these Tales
easy reading for very young children. To the utmost of their
ability the writers have constantly kept this in mind ; but the sub-
jects of most of them made this a very difficult task. It was no
easy matter to give the histories of men and women in terms famil-
iar to the apprehension of a very young mind. For young ladies,
too, it has been the intention chiefly to write ; because boys being
generally permitted the use of their fathers' libraries at a much
earlier age than girls are, they frequently have the best scenes of
Shakespeare by heart, before their sisters are permitted to look into
this manly book ; and, therefore, instead of recommending these
Tales to the perusal of young gentlemen who can read them so
much better in the originals, their kind assistance is rather request-
ed in explaining to their sisters such parts as are hardest for them
to understand ; and when they have helped them to get over the
difficulties, then perhaps they will read to them (carefully selecting
what is proper for a young sister's ear) some passage which has
pleased them in one of these stories, in the very words of the scene
from which it is taken ; and it is hoped they will find that the beau-


tiful extracts, the select passages, they may choose to give their
sisters in this way will be much better relished and understood
from their having some notion of the general story."

Nowadays "young ladies " are allowed to read and study Shake-
speare as early as their brothers, and may sometimes be able to help
the latter in understanding and appreciating the text more than
these "young gentlemen" can help them. I quote the passage,
however, because it has suggested to me the plan of the present
edition of these admirable stories. I have aimed to help both girls
and boys by " explaining such parts as are hardest for them to un-
derstand ;" and have added a selection of such portions of the origi-
nals as are likely to be intelligible and enjoyable to young readers,
and at the same time perfectly proper for even ' ' a young sister's

I believe that the book, thus annotated and illustrated, will be
useful not only as " supplementary reading for young children " (the
teacher or the parent will of course see what portions of the notes
are suited to their age and capacity), but also as an introduction to
the study of Shakespeare for those who are old enough to begin
that study in earnest. For this, as we have seen, the Tales were
intended, but the authors builded better than they knew. The
child's story-book has become "an English classic" for children of
larger growth. Even as a contribution to Shakespearian criticism
it has no mean value, as more than one good critic has pointed out.
Mr. Ainger, in his introduction to the edition of 1878, referring to
Mary Lamb's work on the Comedies, remarks : " She constantly
evinces a rare shrewdness and tact in her incidental criticisms,
which show her to have been, in her way, as keen an observer of
human nature as her brother. Mary Lamb had not lived so much
among the wits and humorists of her day without learning some
truths which helped her to interpret the two chief characters of
Much Ado About Nothing : ' As there is no one who so little likes
to be made a jest of as those who are apt to take the same liberty
themselves, so it was with Benedick and Beatrice ; these two sharp
wits never met in former times but a perfect war of raillery was
kept up between them, and they always parted mutually displeased
with each other.' And again : ' The hint she gave him that he
was a coward, by saying she would eat all he had killed, he did not
regard, knowing himself to be a brave man ; but there is nothing


that great wits so much dread as the imputation of buffoonery, be-
cause the charge comes sometimes a little too near the truth ; there-
fore Benedick perfectly hated Beatrice when she called him "the
prince's jester." ' How illuminating, in the best sense of the term,
is such a commentary as this ! The knowledge of human character
that it displays is indeed in advance of a child's own power of anal-
ysis or experience of the world, but it is at once intelligible when
thus presented, and in a most true sense educative. Very pro-
found, too, is the casual remark upon the conduct of Claudio and
his friends when the character of Hero is suddenly blasted — con-
duct which has often perplexed older readers for its heartlessness
and insane credulity : ' The prince and Claudio left the church,
without staying to see if Hero would recover, or at all regarding
the distress into which they had thrown Leonato. So hard-hearted
had their angermade them.^ It is this casual and diffused method
of enforcing the many moral lessons that lie in Shakespeare's plays
that constitutes one special value of this little book in the training
of the young. Writing avowedly, as Charles and Mary Lamb were
writing, for readers still in the schoolroom, ordinary compilers
would have been tempted to make these little stories sermons in
disguise, or to have appended to them in set form the lessons they
were calculated to teach. Happily, both as moralist and artist,
Charles Lamb knew better how hearts and spirits are touched to
'fine issues.' "

This preface is already longer than I intended to make it, but I
cannot refrain from adding to it the closing paragraph of the orig-
inal preface :

" What these tales shall have been to the young readers, that
and much more it is the writers' wish that the true Plays of Shake-
speare may prove to them in older years — enrichers of the fancy,
strengtheners of virtue, a withdrawing from all selfish and mer-
cenary thoughts, a lesson of all sweet and honorable thoughts and
actions, to teach courtesy, benignity, generosity, humanity ; for of
examples teaching these virtues his pages are full."

W. J. R.

Cambridge, July i6, 1890.




The Tempest , . . . . i

A Midsummer-Night's Dream i6

Much Ado About Nothing , 33

As You Like It 51

The Two Gentlemen of Verona . . 74

The Merchant of Venice 92

/ The Comedy of Errors. no

Twelfth Night 130

The Taming of the Shrew 149

The Winter's Tale , 164





There was a certain island in the sea, the only inhab-
itants of which were an old man, whose name was Pros-
pero,' and his daughter Miranda,^ a very beautiful young
lady. She came to this island so young that she had
no memory of having seen any other human face than 5
her father's.

They lived in a cave or cell, made out of a rock. It
^ Pros'-pe-ro. ^ Mt-ran'-da.



was divided into several small apartments, one of which
Prospero called his study : there he kept his books,
which chiefly treated of magic, a study at that time much lo
affected^ by all learned men; and the knowledge of this
art he found very useful to him, for, being thrown by a
strange chance upon this island, which had been en-
chanted by a witch called Sycorax,^ who died there a
short time before his arrival, Prospero by virtue of his 15
art released many good spirits that Sycorax had im-
prisoned in the bodies of large trees, because they had
refused to execute her wicked commands. These gen-
tle spirits were ever after obedient to the will of Pros-
pero. Of these ArieP was the chief. 20

The lively little sprite Ariel had nothing mischievous
in his nature, except that he took rather too much pleas-
ure in tormenting an ugly monster called Caliban,* for
he owed him a grudge because he was the son of his old
enemy Sycorax. I'his Caliban Prospero found in the 25
woods, a strange misshapen thing, far less human in form
than an ape. He took him home to his cell, and taught
him to speak; and Prospero would have been very kind
to him, but the bad nature which Caliban inherited from
his mother Sycorax would not let him learn anything 30
good or useful. Therefore he was employed like a slave,
to fetch wood and do the most laborious offices ; and
Ariel had the charge of compelling him to these services.

When Caliban was lazy and neglected his work, Ariel,
who was invisible to all eyes but Prospero's, would 35
come slyly and pinch him, and sometimes tumble him
down in the mire ; and then Ariel, in the likeness of an
ape, would make mouths at him. Then, swiftly chang-

' Liked, enjoyed. ^ Syc'-o-rax {y as i in siclz).

^ A'-rl-el. ^ Cal' i-ban.


ing his shape, in the likeness of a hedgehog he would
lie tumbling in Caliban's way, who feared the hedgehog's 40
sharp quills would prick his bare feet. With a variety
of such-like vexatious tricks Ariel would often torment
him, whenever Caliban neglected the work which Pros-
pero commanded him to do.

Having these powerful spirits obedient to his will, 45
Prospero could by their means command the winds and
the waves of the sea. By his orders they raised a vio-
lent storm, in the midst of which, and struggling with
the wild sea -waves that every moment threatened to
swallow it up, he showed his daughter a fine large ship, so
which he told her was full of living beings like them-
selves. " O my dear father," said she, " if by your art
you have raised this dreadful storm, have pity on their
sad distress ! See ! the vessel will be dashed to pieces.
Poor souls ! they will all perish. If I had power, I ss
would sink the sea beneath the earth, rather than the
good ship should be destroyed, with all the precious
souls within her."

"Be not so amazed, daughter Miranda," said Pros-
pero; "there is no harm done. I have so ordered it 60
that no person in the ship shall receive any hurt. What
I have done has been in care of you, my dear child.
You are ignorant who you are or where you came from,
and you know no more of me but that I am your father
and live in this poor cave. Can you remember a time 65
before you came to this cell? I think you can not, for
you were not then three years of age."

" Certainly I can, sir," replied Miranda.

"By what?" asked Prospero; "by any other house or
person? Tell me what you can remember, my child." 70

Miranda said, " It seems to me like the recollection


of a dream. But had I not once four or five women
who attended upon me?"

Prospero answered, "You had, and more. How is it
that this still lives in your mind? Do you remember 75
how you came here?"

" No, sir," said Miranda, " I remember nothing

"Twelve years ago, Miranda," continued Prospero, " I
was Duke of Milan, ^ and you were a princess and my 80
only heir. I had a younger brother, whose name was
Antonio,^ to whom I trusted everything; and as I was
fond of retirement and deep study, I commonly left the
management of my state affairs to your uncle, my false
brother — for so indeed he proved. I, neglecting all 85
worldly ends, buried among my books, did dedicate ^ my
whole time to the bettering of my mind. My brother
Antonio, being thus in possession of my power, began
to think himself the duke indeed. The opportunity I
gave him of making himself popular among my subjects 90
awakened in his bad nature a proud ambition to deprive
me of my dukedom ; this he soon effected with the aid
of the King of Naples, a powerful prince, who was my

" Wherefore," said Miranda, " did they not that hour 95
destroy us?"

" My child," answered her father, " they durst not, so
dear was the love that my people bore me. Antonio
carried us on board a ship ; and when we were some
leagues out at sea he forced us into a small boat, with- 100
out either tackle,* sail, or mast : there he left us, as he
thought, to perish. But a kind lord of my court, one

1 Mir-an. ^ An-t5'-ni-o.

^ Give, devote. ■* Rigging.


Gonzalo/ who loved me, had privately placed in the
boat water, provisions, apparel, and some books which
I prize above my dukedom." 105

"O my father!" said Miranda, "what a trouble must
I have been to you then !"

" No, my love," said Prospero, " you were a little
cherub that did preserve me. Your innocent smiles
made me to bear up against my misfortunes. Our food no
lasted till we landed on this desert island, since when
my chief delight has been in teaching you, Miranda,
and well have you profited by my instructions."

" Heaven thank you, my dear father," said Miranda.
" Now pray tell me, sir, your reason for raising this sea- 115

" Know, then," said her father, " that by means of this
storm my enemies, the King of Naples and my cruel
brother, are cast ashore upon this island."

Having so said, Prospero gently touched his daughter 120
with his magic wand, and she fell fast asleep ; for the
spirit Ariel just then presented himself before his mas-
ter, to give an account of the tempest, and how he had
disposed of the ship's company; and, though the spirits
were always invisible to Miranda, Prospero did not 125
choose she should hear him holding converse (as would
seem to her) with the empty air.

" Well, my brave ^ spirit," said Prospero to Ariel, " how
have you performed your task?"

Ariel gave a lively description of the storm, and of 130
the terrors of the mariners; and how the king's son,
Ferdinand,^ was the first who leaped into the sea; and
his father thought he saw this dear son swallowed up

^ G6n-za'-lo {a as in ali). ^ Fine, beautiful. See Notes.

^ Fer'-dl-nand.


by the waves and lost. " But he is safe," said Ariel, " in
a corner of the isle, sitting with his arms folded sadl}', 135
lamenting the loss of the king his father, whom he con-
cludes^ drowned. Not a hair of his head is injured;
and his princely garments, though drenched in the sea-
waves, look fresher than before."

"That's my delicate Ariel," said Prospero. "Bring 140
him hither. My daughter must see this young prince.
Where is the king, and my brother?"

" I left them," answered Ariel, " searching for Ferdi-
nand, whom they have little hopes of finding, thinking
they saw hi^ perish. Of the ship's crew not one is ms
missing, though each one thinks himself the only one
saved; and the ship, though invisible to them, is safe
in the harbor."

" Ariel," said Prospero, " thy charge is faithfully per-
formed; but there is more work yet." 150

"Is there more work?" said Ariel. "Let me remind
you, master, you have promised me my liberty. I pray,
remember, I have done you worthy service, told you no
lies, made no mistakes, served you without grudge or
grumbling." 155

"How now!" said Prospero. "You do not recollect
what a torment I freed you from. Have you forgot the
wicked witch Sycorax, who with age and envy was al-
most bent double? Where was she born ? Speak! tell
me." 160

" Sir, in Algiers," said Ariel.

" O, was she so ?" said Prospero. " I must recount
what you have been, which I find you do not remember.
This bad witch Sycorax, for her witchcrafts, too terrible
to enter human hearing, was banished from Algiers, 165

^ Believes.


and here left by the sailors; and because you were a
spirit too delicate to execute her wicked commands she
shut you up in a tree, where I found you howling. This
torment, remember, I did free you from."

" Pardon me, dear master," said Ariel, ashamed to 170
seem ungrateful; "I will obey your commands."

"Do so," said Prospero, "and I will set you free."
He then gave orders what further he would have him
do, and away went Ariel first to where he had left Fer-
dinand, and found him still sitting on the grass in the 175
same melancholy^ posture.

"O my young gentleman," said Ariel, \ hen he saw
him, " I will soon move you ! You must be brought, I
find, for the lady Miranda to have a sight of your pretty
person. Come, sir, follow me." He then began singing, iSo

" Full fathom five thy father lies ,
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes :

Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change 185

Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell :
Hark ! now I hear them— Ding-dong, bell."

This strange news of his lost father soon roused the
prince from the stupid fit into which he had fallen. He 190
followed in amazement the sound of Ariel's voice till it
led him to Prospero and Miranda, who were sitting un-
der the shade of a large tree. Now, Miranda had never
seen a man before, except her own father.

" Miranda," said Prospero, " tell me what you are 195
looking at yonder."

" O father!" said Miranda, in a strange surprise, " sure-
^ Sad, sorrowful.


ly that is a spirit. Lord! how it looks about! Beh'eve
me, sir, it is a beautiful creature. Is it not a spirit?"

" No, girl," answered her father, " it eats, and sleeps, 200
and has senses such as we have. This young man you
see was in the ship. He is somewhat altered by grief,
or you might call him a handsome person. He has lost
his companions, and is wandering about to find them."

Miranda, who thought all men had grave faces and 205
gray beards like her father, was delighted with the ap-
pearance of this beautiful young prince ; and Ferdinand,
seeing such a lovely young lady in this desert place,
and from the strange sounds he had heard expecting
nothing but w'onders, thought he was upon an enchanted 210
island and that Miranda was the goddess of the place,
and as such he began to address her.

She timidly answered she was no goddess but a sim-
ple maid, and was going to give him an account of
herself, when Prospero interrupted her. He was well 215
pleased to find they admired each other, for he plainly
perceived they had, as we say, fallen in love at first sight ;
but to try Ferdinand's constancy he resolved to throw
some difficulties in their way. Therefore, advancing
forward, he addressed the prince with a stern air, telling 220
him he came to the island as a spy, to take it from him
who was the lord of it. " Follow me," said he : " I will
tie you neck and feet together. You shall drink sea-
water; shell -fish, withered roots, and husks of acorns
shall be your food." " No," said Ferdinand, " I will 225
resist such entertainment ' till I see a more powerful
enemy," and drew his sword ; but Prospero, waving
his magic wand, fixed him to the spot where he stood,
so that he had no power to move.

' TreatmeiTt.



Miranda hung upon her father, saying, " Why are you 230
so ungentle? Have pity, sir; I will be his surety. This
is the second man I ever saw, and to me he seems a true

" Silence," said her father; " one word more will make
me chide you, girl ! What ! an advocate' for an impos- 23s
tor!^ You think there are no more such fine men, hav-
ing seen only him and Caliban. I tell you, foolish girl,
most men as far excel this as he does Caliban." This
he said to prove his daughter's constancy ; and she re-
plied, " My affections are most humble. I have no wish 240
to see a goodlier^ man."

" Come on, young man," said Prospero to the prince.
"You have no power to disobey me."

"I have not indeed," answered Ferdinand; and, not
knowing that it was by magic he was deprived of all 245
power of resistance, he was astonished to find himself
so strangely compelled to follow Prospero. Looking
back on Miranda as long as he could see her, he said,
as he went after Prospero into the cave, " My spirits are
all bound up, as if I were in a dream ; but this man's 250
threats, and the weakness which I feel, would seem light
to me, if from my prison I might once a day behold this
fair maid."

Prospero kept Ferdinand not long confined within the
cell. He soon brought out his prisoner, and set him a 253
severe task to perform, taking care to let his daughter
know the hard labor he had imposed on him ; and then,
pretending to go into his study, he secretly watched them

Prospero had commanded Ferdinand to pile up some 260
heavy logs of wood. Kings' sons not being much used
^ Defender. - Deceiver. ^ Better,


to laborious work, Miranda soon after found her lover
almost dying with fatigue. "Alas!" said she, "do not
work so hard. My father is at his studies; he is safe
for these three hours: pray rest yourself." 265

"O, my dear lady," said Ferdinand, " I dare not ! I
must finish my task before I take my rest."

" If you will sit down," said Miranda, " I will carry
your logs the while." But this Ferdinand would by no
means agree to. Instead of a help Miranda became a 270
hinderance, for they began a long conversation, so that
the business of log-carrying went on very slowly.

Prospero, who had enjoined^ Ferdinand this task mere-
ly as a trial of his love, was not at his books, as his
daughter supposed, but was standing by them invisible, 275
to overhear wdiat they said.

Ferdinand inquired her name, which she told him,
saying it was against her father's express command she
did so.

Prospero only smiled at this first instance of his 280
daughter's disobedience, for, having by his magic art
caused his daughter to fall in love so suddenly, he was
not angry that she showed her love by forgetting to
obey his commands. And he listened, well pleased, to
a long speech of Ferdinand's, in which he professed to 285
love her above all the ladies he ever saw.

In answer to his praises of her beauty, which he said
exceeded all the women in the world, she replied:"!
do not remember the face of any woman, nor have I
seen any more men than you, my good friend, and my 290
dear father. How features' are abroad, I know not ; but
believe me, sir, I would not wnsh any companion in the
world but you, nor can my imagination form any shape

^ Ordered.


but yours that I could like. But, sir, I fear I talk to
you too freely, and my father's precepts I forget." 295

At this Prosper© smiled, and nodded his head, as
much as to say, " This goes on exactly as I could wish.
My girl will be Queen of Naples."

And then Ferdinand, in another fine long speech (for
young princes speak in courtly phrases), told the inno-300
cent Miranda he was heir to the crown of Naples, and
that she should be his queen.

" Ah ! sir," said she, " I am a fool to weep at what I
am glad of. I will answer you in plain and holy inno-
cence. I am your wife, if you will marry me." 305

Prospero prevented Ferdinand's thanks by appearing
visible before them.

" Fear nothing, my child," said he ; " I have overheard
and approve of all you have said. And, Ferdinand, if
I have too severely used you, I will make you rich amends 31°
by giving you my daughter. All your vexations were
but my trials of your love, and you have nobly stood the
test. Then as my gift, which your true love has worthi-
ly purchased, take my daughter, and do not smile that I
boast she is above all praise." He then, telling them 31s
that he had business which required his presence, de-
sired they would sit down and talk together till he re-
turned; and this command Miranda seemed not at all
disposed to disobey.

When Prospero left them he called his spirit Ariel, 3=°
who quickly appeared before him, eager to relate what
he had done with Prospero's brother and the King of
Naples. Ariel said he had left them almost out of their
senses with fear at the strange things he had caused
them to see and hear. When fatigued with wandering 325
about and famished for want of food, he had suddenly


set before them a delicious banquet^ and then, just as
they were going to eat, he appeared visible before them

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Online LibraryCharles LambTales from Shakespeare's comedies → online text (page 1 of 20)