1781 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Whetstone

Thomas Warton, in History of English Poetry (1774-81; 1840) 3:390.



In 1582, a suite of tales was published by George Whetstone, a sonnet-writer of some rank, and one of the most "passionate among us to bewaile the perplexities of love" [Francis Meres], under the title of HEPTAMERON, and containing some novels from Cinthio. Shakspeare, in MEASURE FOR MEASURE, has fallen into great improprieties by founding his plot on a history in the HEPTAMERON, imperfectly compiled or translated from Cinthio's original. Many faults in the conduct of incidents for which Shakspeare's judgment is arraigned, often flowed from the casual book of the day, whose mistakes he implicitly followed without looking for a better model, and from a too hasty acquiescence in the present accomodation. But without a book of this sort, Shakspeare would often have been at a loss for a subject. Yet at the same time, we look with wonder at the structures which he forms, and even without labour or deliberation, of the basest materials.