THE plot of All's Well That Ends Well derives again from Boccaccio,1 whose tales are mostly popular. Here is a Vlach parallel to it:
A poor but beautiful girl, daughter of a broom-maker, had been told by a soothsayer that she was going to wed the son of the emperor. Thereupon, when the prince rode past her at the fountain and saluted her in derision as he often did, '' Good morning, daughter of a broom-maker," she answered:
"Indeed, daughter of a broom-maker I am, but I shall marry you!"
The prince felt very annoyed at these words and decided to espouse the daughter of a neighbouring emperor. Previous to the wedding-day the prince again met the poor girl and spoke:
"Good morning, daughter of a broom-maker, have you heard that I am taking a wife?''
"Yes, I did; but still I shall marry you!"
The prince laughed, thinking that the poor girl was out of her senses. The wedding ceremony soon took place. It happened, however, that the bride had once been involved in a love affair which caused the loss of her virginity. Her mother, knowing this fact and fearing that the prince would be aware of it, reflected to herself: "Why shouldn't I put someone else to lie with the prince for the first night?'' To this purpose she approached the poor girl, who accepted, and in the darkness crept into the bed of the prince. Without any suspicion on the latter's part she obtained from him, besides many endearing words, a most precious ring. The second day the prince addressed the poor girl mockingly as before:
"Good morning, daughter of a broom-maker, do you know that I am already married?''
"Yes, I know; but it is with me that you slept!"
"How!" The prince started up as if bitten by a serpent.
The poor girl then related the whole matter to him, and produced the ring, upon which the prince dissolved the marriage, took her to wife and they lived happily ever after.2
Of the two tales that went into the skilful blending of The Merchant of Venice, one—Shylock's pound of flesh—had long been familiar in many countries. A Roumanian variant, resting no doubt on a Byzantine original, speaks—instead of the pound of flesh—of a bond (signed with the borrower's own blood) whereby he renounces his Christian creed; the other tale of the caskets entered Roumanian folk - lore through that famous medieval book of Barlaam and Joasaph.
But we have in The Merchant of Venice a delightful piece:
Except for slight Shakespearean touches it must have been a folk-poem. One finds its actual parallel in Roumania:
I know also of Vlach and Greek versions, one of which says:
In The Taming of the Shrew, both Sly and Katharina are traditional types about whom one finds here and there a number of similar plots. I would mention a tale by a Roumanian peasant writer, I. Creanga, in which the hero, like Petruchio, looks for a humbled, submissive wife, assisted by a certain Mikidutza. The latter is none but the Evil One in disguise, fated to serve him for three years. At the moment when he listens to his master's expressions of joy concerning his newly-wedded wife:
Oh, Mikidutza, if you knew how good, how tamed she is. . . ."
"No," says he, "do not be mistaken even now, she has still got a devil's rib in her."
And so they proceed to extract that awkward rib to the complete satisfaction of the husband.
Upon As You Like It I shall not insist. Without even entering into its ballad-like subject, from a simple, casual reading one is struck, not only by its greenwood atmosphere, but likewise by the numerous sententious, proverbial sayings which have their counterparts in Roumania as well as anywhere else:
"Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold"; "It is hard matter for friends to meet, but mountains may be removed with earthquakes and so encounter "; "The oath of a lover is no stronger than the word of a tapster "; " Wherever sorrow is, relief would be "; " To have seen much, and to have nothing, is to have rich eyes and poor hands"; "I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad"; "A woman's thought runs before her action"; "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool"; " Rich honesty dwells like a miser in a poor house. . . ."
Third Day, novel ix.