Page:Notes and Queries - Series 11 - Volume 9.djvu/389

This page needs to be proofread.

ii s. ix. MAY is, 1911] NOTES AND QUERIES.


A close examination of the text does not justify this treatment of the play. It would seem that Webster's work was not confined to the main plot alone, but that the sub -plot also shows clear traces of his hand.

So far as versification is concerned, I shall content myself with Sir Sidney Lee's indis- putable assertion that the blank verse of the serious portion of the play closely resembles that of Webster's acknowledged work. Met- rical tests are at best unsatisfactory, and can seldom be considered decisive where ques- tions of authorship are concerned. In deal- ing with the substance of a play, with its language and sentiments, we are on surer ground. I shall show that ' A Cure for a Cuckold ' contains words and phrases borrowed from the same sources as are laid under contribution in Webster's acknow- ledged plays ; that its phraseology resembles that of his acknowledged plays in the constant use of his favourite words and characteristic turns of expression ; and that it not only repeats sentiments occurring in these plays, but also and this is one of the surest marks of Webster's hand repeats them in almost exactly the same way.

I now come to my evidence, premising that, in order that the case may be presented in as complete a form as possible, I have not hesitated to make use of that already adduced by other writers, acknow- ledging the source of my indebtedness where it exists.

It is now common knowledge that Webster borrowed freely from the writings of his contemporaries. Mr. Crawford has shown that Sidney's ' Arcadia ' was a source to which he had recourse more frequently than any other, and he also has noted that a phrase from this book already used by Web- ster in ' The Devil's Law Case ' reappears in this play :

" Dorus wandered .... through the woods, crying for pardon of her who could not hear him, but indeed was grieved for his absence, having given the wound to him through her own heart." ' Arcadia,' bk. iii.

Compare ' The Devil's Law Case,' III. iii. :

Leonora. You have given him the wound you

speak of Quite through your mother's heart.

Hazlitt's ' Webster,' iii. 68.

and ' A Cure for a Cuckold,' IV. ii. :

Clare. O, you have struck him dead through my heart 1 Hazlitt, iv. 69.

Such repetitions of a phrase that has taken his fancy are common in Webster's plays.

In my previous articles on ' Webster and Sir Thomas Overbury' (US. viii. 221, 244,

263, 282, 304) I have also proved that many passages in ' The Devil's Law Case ' are derived from the 'Conceited Newes,' published with ' The Wife ' and ' Characters ' of Overbury, and there can be little doubt that a sententious observation occurring in another of Clare's speeches :

Fortune plays ever with our good or ill Like cross and pile, and turns up which she will.. ' C. C.,' IV. ii. ; Hazlitt, iv. 72-3.

is due to a similar reflection in ' Countrey Newes ' :

That good and ill is the cross and pile in the aim of life. ' Overbury's Works,' ed. Eimbault,. 1890, p. 175.

I turn from these traces of borrowings from Webster's favourite authors to the subject of Hey wood's influence upon Web- ster's vocabulary.

In dealing with Webster's ' Appius and Virginia' (11 S. vii. 401, 422, 466; viii. 63> I produced evidence that that play, at any rate in the form in which it was published in 1654, is of a date not earlier than 1630. I also showed that it con- tains several words occurring more or less frequently in Heywood's writings, but seldom or never elsewhere. This led me to the conclusion that Webster borrowed these words from Heywood. If this conclusion be correct, and if ' A Cure for a Cuckold ' is also one of Webster's later works (and there is reason for believing that it owes one of the main features of its plot to Massinger's 'Parliament of Love,' licensed in 1624), we shall expect to find that ' A Cure ' also borrows words from Heywood. In- stances of such borrowed words are, I think, in fact, to be found in it, e.g., apology (as a verb), asperse, ecstasied, gratulate, mediate, and possibly also monomachy. I will deal with these words in the order in which they occur in the play.

Monomachy=a duel.

There is to be performed a monomachy, Combat or duel, time, place, and weapon Agreed betwixt us.

I. ii. (Hazlitt, iv. 19).

Not a common word. It is in Heywood's 1 Lucrece ' (1608), Act V. :

Had puissant Hector, by Achilles' hand,

Died in a single monomachy

Works,' ed. Pearson, 1874, v. 251.

and again in ' Nine Books of Various History concerning Women ' (1624), II. 62.

It occurs also, however, in Sidney's 'Ar~ cadia,' whence it is equally probable that Webster derived it.