Page:The Palace of Pleasure, Volume 1 (1890).djvu/22

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
xvi
INTRODUCTION.

ing for the fact that some dozen or so of his seventy-four stories are folk- tales taken from the mouth of the people, and were the first thus collected: Straparola was the earliest Grimm. His contemporary Giraldi, known as Cinthio (or Cinzio), intended his Ecatomithi to include one hundred novelle, but they never reached beyond seventy; he has the grace to cause the ladies to retire when the men relate their smoking-room anecdotes of feminine impudiche. Owing to Dryden's statement "Shakespeare's plots are in the one hundred novels of Cinthio" (Preface to Astrologer), his name has been generally fixed upon as the representative Italian novelist from whom the Elizabethans drew their plots. As a matter of fact only "Othello" (Ecat. iii. 7), and "Measure for Measure" (ib. viii. 5), can be clearly traced to him, though "Twelfth Night" has some similarity with Cinthio's "Gravina" (v. 8): both come from a common source, Bandello.

Bandello is indeed the next greatest name among the Novellieri after that of Boccaccio, and has perhaps had even a greater in fluence on dramatic literature than his master. Matteo Bandello was born at the end of the fifteenth century at Castelnuovo di Scrivia near Tortona. He lived mainly in Milan, at the Dominican monastery of Sta Maria delle Grazie, where Leonardo painted his "Last Supper." As he belonged to the French party, he had to leave Milan when it was taken by the Spaniards in 1525, and after some wanderings settled in France near Agen. About 1550 he was appointed Bishop of Agen by Henri II., and he died some time after 1561. To do him justice, he only received the revenues of his see, the episcopal functions of which were performed by the Bishop of Grasse. His novelle are nothing less than episcopal in tone and he had the grace to omit his dignity from his title-pages.

Indeed Bandello's novels[1] reflect as in a mirror all the worst sides of Italian Renaissance life. The complete collapse of all the older sanctions of right conduct, the execrable example given by the petty courts, the heads of which were reckless because their position was so insecure, the great growth of wealth and

  1. The Villon Society is to publish this year a complete translation of Bandello by Mr. John Payne.