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  Introduction of intermedii Gismond of Salerne and its sources: motives of its authors  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume V. The Drama to 1642, Part One.

IV. Early English Tragedy.

§ 10. Jocasta.


Jocasta is written in blank verse, which Gorboduc had introduced on the English stage: its authorship is divided according to acts, the first and fourth being “done” by Francis Kinwelmersh, the second, third and fifth by George Gascoigne, while a third member of the society, Christopher Yelverton, contributed the epilogue. Gascoigne wrote the “argument,” and apparently, supervised the whole undertaking; for he afterwards included the tragedy in his collected works, and Ariosto’s Supposes, presented at the same time, was translated by him alone. As in Gorboduc, each act is preceded by a dumb-show with musical accompaniment, and the rimed choruses, which in the earlier tragedy were recited by “foure auncient and sage men of Brittaine,” were given in Jocasta by “foure Thebane dames.” The full title reads: “Jocasta: A Tragedie written in Greeke by Euripides, translated and digested into Acte by George Gascoygne and Francis Kinwelmershe of Grayes Inne, and there by them presented, 1566.” The claim of translation from the original Greek, apparently, passed without remark till 1879, when J. P. Mahaffy 14  first pointed out that Gascoigne and Kinwelmersh had not gone to Phoenissae, but to an adaptation of it by Lodovico Dolce, bearing the title Giocasta (1549). This was not Dolce’s only contribution, as we shall see, 15  in aid of Elizabethan tragedy, and some of his sonnets were translated by Thomas Lodge. He was a Venetian (1508–68), and much of his literary activity consisted of hack work for the well known publishing house of Gioliti. He translated Seneca’s tragedies and other Latin classics. He professed to translate the Odyssey, but was somewhat hampered by his ignorance of Greek, the result being a story taken from Homer rather than a translation. He treated Phoenissae in the same fashion, relying upon a Latin translation published at Basel by R. Winter, in 1541, the misprints of which he reproduced. He dealt freely with his original, recasting choruses, omitting some scenes and adding others, generally from his favourite author Seneca. Both the “original ode,” which Warton ascribes to Gascoigne and praises as “by no means destitute of pathos or imagination,” and the ode to Concord by Kinwelmersh, in which the same critic discovers “great elegance of expression and versification,” are loose translations of Dolce. In the dialogue, the translators followed the Italian text with greater fidelity, though there are some amusing blunders. Gascoigne, as a rule, is more successful in reproducing the sense of his original, but Dolce sometimes leads him astray. Thus, in Phoenissae (V. 1675), where Antigone threatens to follow the example of the Danaides (N[char]), Dolce translates flatly: Io seguirò lo stil d’alcune accorte; and Gascoigne still more flatly: “I will ensue some worthie womans steppes.” The same gradual depravation of a great original is to be seen in V. 1680, which descends, by clearly marked steps, to bathos. When Antigone declares her determination to accompany her father into exile, Creon says: [char]. The Latin version reproduces this prosaically but correctly: Generositas tibi inest, sed tamen stultitia quaedam inest. Dolce mistranslates: Quel ch’in altri è grandezza è in te pazzia; and Gascoigne blindly follows his blind guide: “What others might beseeme, beseemes not thee.”   15

Note 14Euripides (Classical Writers), pp. 134–5. [ back ]
Note 15. See infra, p. 83. Cf. also Symonds, J. A., Shakspere’s Predecessors, pp. 221–2. [ back ]

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  Introduction of intermedii Gismond of Salerne and its sources: motives of its authors  
 
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