Narcissus Part 2

The hint for this is given in _Met._ iii. 402:

"Sic hanc, sic alias undis aut montibus ortas Luserat hic Nymphas."

And likewise the suggestion of Florida's revengeful wish:

"Inde ma.n.u.s aliquis despectus ad aethera tollens 'Sic amet ipse licet, sic non potiatur amato!'


_Scene V._ Echo enters, and gives an account of herself, amplified--with a very free use of the English vernacular--from _Met._ iii. 356-368.

_Scene VI._, which has no counterpart in Ovid, consists of a spirited hunting-song in five stanzas, sung (presumably) while Narcissus, Dorastus, and Clinias chase a supposed hare over the stage.

_Scene VII._ introduces the "one with a bucket," _i.e._, The Well. The first twelve lines of his speech are a literal and smoothly-versified translation of _Met._ iii. 407-412. In Ovid, however, this description of the well comes after the conversation between Echo and Narcissus, and the account proceeds at once (l. 413) with:

"Hic puer, et studio venandi la.s.sus et aestu, Procubuit."

It is doubtful why the English writer should have preferred to introduce the Well thus early. With Ovid's lines may be compared those in the translation of the _Romaunt of the Rose_ attributed to Chaucer:

"----Springyng in a marble stone, Had nature set the sothe to tel Under that pyne tree a wel.

Aboute it is springyng For moyste so thycke and wel lykyng, That it ne may in wynter dye No more than may the see be drye.

For of the welle this is the syne, In worlde is none so clere of hewe, The water is euer fresshe and newe That welmeth vp with wawes bright."

_Scene VIII._ consists of a dialogue between Dorastus and Echo.

_Scene IX._ continues the same theme, Clinias being subst.i.tuted for Dorastus. Both these scenes are interpolations, introduced evidently for the amus.e.m.e.nt of the audience rather than for any bearing on the main plot.

_Scene X._ Here Narcissus delivers himself of a soliloquy, suggested by _Met._ iii. 479:

"Forte puer, comitum seductus et agmine fido, Dixerat"--

He is answered by Echo, who wishes to proffer him her affection. The conversation, gathered from Ovid, runs as follows:

"Ecquis adest?




Quid me fugis?

Quid me fugis?

Huc Coeamus!


This, with various amplifications, is followed in ll. 602-630 of the _Narcissus_.

Here, however, there is no reproduction of Ovid's account:

"Et verbis favet ipsa suis, egressaque silvis Ibat, ut injiceret sperato brachia collo.

Ille fugit, fugiensque ma.n.u.s complexibus aufert."

which leads on to and explains the next speech of Narcissus:

"'Ante' ait 'emoriar, quam sit tibi copia nostri.'"

rendered in the English by:

"Let mee dye first ere thou meddle with mee."

This terminates the interview; Echo does not seem to make any appearance on the stage. The few lines which, in Ovid, describe the effect of her hopeless love, are partly followed in ll. 740-747 of the English play.

_Scene XI._ Dorastus and Clinias abuse, fight with, and finally kill each other.

_Scene XII._ Narcissus enters, _fleeing from Echo_ (a connecting touch not found in Ovid). His speech, on discovering the well, is a mixture of the description of his transports in the _Metamorphoses_, and of the soliloquy there attributed to him. ll. 697-707 of the _Narcissus_ correspond word for word to _Met._ iii. 442-450.

It is remarkable that the use of the name of the G.o.ddess of corn instead of bread itself ("Cereris," l. 437) should have suggested to the English writer a similar metaphorical use of the names of Morpheus and Bacchus.

Another small point worthy of note is the introduction of a jest into the midst of this mournful scene; Ovid's:

"Et, quantum motu formosi suspicor oris, Verba refers aures non pervenientia nostras"

being irreverently rendered by:

"And by thy lippes moving, well I doe suppose Woordes thou dost speake, may well come to our nose; For to oure eares I am sure they never"

Ovid's Narcissus discovers his own ident.i.ty with the vision (_Met._ iii.

463), which the English version ignores; while, on the other hand, the prophecy of ll. 730-731:

"I, which whilome was The flower of youth, shalbee made flower againe"

finds no counterpart in Ovid.

Many of the reflections and entreaties ascribed to Narcissus in the Latin version are omitted in the English; neither is there any mention of the beating of the breast (_Met._ iii. 480-485). The final conversation with Echo is given thus by Ovid:



Heu frustra dilecte puer!

Heu frustra dilecte puer!



The English writer somewhat amplifies this, Echo being always a favourite stage-character. The rising up of Narcissus after death is an English expedient; so is Echo's return to give a final account of herself, the matter of which is suggested, as has been said, by _Met._ iii. 393-401.

So much for the cla.s.sical basis of the play; it remains to notice briefly the points in which it resembles an English comedy, or shows traces of the influence of other English writers. Most remarkable in the latter connection is the frequent coincidence of expressions between the _Narcissus_ and Shakspere's _Henry IV._ (Part 1.). Amongst these are the following:

L. 78. Ladds of metall. Cf. 1 _Henry IV._, ii. 4, 13.

80. No vertue extant " ii. 4, 132.

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