The Kartvelologist

The Kartvelologist” is a bilingual (Georgian and English) peer-reviewed, academic journal, covering all spheres of Kartvelological scholarship. Along with introducing scholarly novelties in Georgian Studies, it aims at popularization of essays of Georgian researchers on the international level and diffusion of foreign Kartvelological scholarship in Georgian scholarly circles.

“The Kartvelologist” issues both in printed and electronic form. In 1993-2009 it came out only in printed form (#1-15). The publisher is the “Centre for Kartvelian Studies” (TSU), financially supported by the “Fund of the Kartvelological School”. In 2011-2013 the journal is financed by Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation.

Elguja Khintibidze 

 The Man in the Panther Skin –  Shakespeare’s Literary Source


Pro domo mea

The 12th century Georgian poet, Queen Tamar’s eulogist Chakhrukhadze develops a messianic conception in his “Thamariani”: Thamar is a rescuer, messiah of the kingdom of the Georgians, the Georgian kingdom – of Christianity and Christianity – of mankind.  Thamar is a rescuer, messiah. One stanza of the poem reads: “I said pale with fear”. I take these words to mean the great responsibility with respect to the statement. My personal responsibility is enhanced by the fact that I, a Georgian researcher, intend to reveal and assert a hitherto  absolutely unknown fact of  Shakespeare, the peak of the world’s literary thought, having  looked into the national treasury of my nation. Will this not be taken by scholarly circles, primarily by foreign Shakespearian scholars, as a patriotic desire, excitement and overstatement? Following in the wake of my great teacher Korneli Kekelidze, I have always tried to be exempt from such charges in my scholarly activity. I recall the words of another outstanding Georgian Giorgi Merchule: “Wise speech is pure silver, while silence is gold”. Perhaps  it is better to “leave trouble alone”, the more so as silence costs so much? I think I have no right to “leave trouble alone” and fall silent in fear of “what if” regarding the views that have taken  shape in my philological research of recent years and which I believe to be so important both for reading the unknown pages of the Georgian  creative genius and for the interpretation of a highly significant issue of English literary criticism.

On the history

In European literature of Shakespeare’s time Georgia or a Georgian character – historical or fictional – occurs very seldom. The situation alters from the last period of Shakespeare’s activity. A point of view exists in European literary criticism according to which a character of Shakespeare himself, Queen Thamora in the tragedy Titus Andronicus, must have been given the name of the Georgian Queen Tamar[see 21; 26, p. 194]. However, this view has a negative assessment in Georgian literary criticism[1]. In connection with The Man in the Panther Skin, Shakespeare’s name was mentioned by an English MP, Emrys Hughse in his speech at a festive meeting dedicated to Rustaveli’s 800th anniversary in 1966. He said: “Regrettably, I do not speak Georgian but I shall speak in Shakespeare’s language. As a matter of fact, from one point of view, Shakespeare was uneducated; he did not know  about the existence of Rustaveli, had he known it, he would have borrowed or stolen the plot of The Man in the Panther Skin”[3, p. 376]

The assumption that Shakespeare was acquainted with MPS followed my finding that the MPS is the source plot of two plays of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher: A King and No King and Philaster, both playwrights belonging to Shakespeare’s period. However, such bold thoughts were based on the argument that, as the MPS was used by Shakespeare’s junior contemporaries, it must have been known to Shakespeare as well, who had great knowledge and used numerous sources[4].

Interpretation of the possibility of posing the problem

Indeed, Shakespeare uses a vast number of literary and historical sources and, as seen from his work, he is familiar with much more. But I considered it possible to pose the question of his possible relation the MPS after two significant conclusions followed my above-mentioned research. Various assumptions on the arrival of the story of MPS reaching Europe earlier than is pointed out in the surviving evidence were expressed immediately with my assertion on the use of the story of Tariel and Nestan in the works of Beaumont and Fletcher[10, pp. 95-98; 11, pp. 35-39; 29, pp. 70-71]. But study of this question on the basis primary sources has led me to a more categorical conclusion[30, p. 36; 13, pp. 55-80; 14, pp. 56-59; 15, pp. 209-215].

1. The story of the MPS must have arrived in early 17th century England as a result of close relations and cooperation of a large group of English diplomats and travelers and high officials of Georgian extraction promoted at the court of Shah Abbas I of Persia.

 In particular, in the last year of the 16th century a 26-strong   group of English travelers arrived in Persia on a diplomatic mission, headed by a well-known diplomat and traveler Anthony Sherley. He stayed at the Persian royal court for six months, carrying on propaganda in favour of Persia launching a war against Turkey. Later Sherley was sent to Europe by Shah Abbas in the rank of his personal ambassador, and for years he was active in Russia, Central Europe, Italy and Spain. An abundance of letters and other parcels arrived in England through Sherley and his companions among which there must have been reports  dealing with cultural, literary and and other information on the orient. Sherley had close relations with Shah Abbas’ high officials of Georgian extraction, in the first place with the Shah’s principal adviser and General Alaverdi Khan Undiladze[see 40, p. 73]. I am aware of the great efforts of English diplomats and travellers of this period spent on sending reports to England on literary, folklore, historical sources. On the other hand, historical facts prove that Alaverdi Khan and his family of the turn of the 16th-17th centuries was highly advanced and imbued with Georgian national interests.  It should be added here that Alaverdi Khan and his son Imam Quli Khan, foremost and wealthiest officials at the Safavid court, were patrons of learning and culture, and were distinguished for intellectual aspirations[13, pp. 74-75].

2. At the next stage of research I faced the question. Can we be sure that Sherley’s aims included an interest in obtaining cultural, namely literary or folklore material in the East? Futher, did Sherley and his travellers have contact with the circles of English society from the story of this expedition could reach the dramatists of English royal court? The answer proved unequivocally positive.

Sherley’s expedition set out for Persia from Southampton. At the time Henry Wriothesly was the Earl of Southampton brother-in-law of Sherley. Henry and Anthony were married sisters, cousins of Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex. It was Earl Devereux who was the only sponsor of Sherley’s expedition. It is thought that the idea of the expedition came from him. For their part the earls of Essex and Southampton were linked with the strongest friendship. Henry idealized Devereux and considered that he stood beside all military campaigns, even in the conspiracy against Queen Elizabeth I.

The main point of interest of my study is that both were lovers of the theatre, while Henry Southampton was Shakespeare’s sponsor and his close friend[24]. Furthermore, this relationship  between the royal troupe  (in the first place between Shakespeare himself) and the named earls  was so close that when the Earl of Essex (and the Earl of Southampton who sided with him) hatched a plot against the queen, even the royal troupe was won over.

In more detail: Queen Elizabeth initially had a favourable attitude to the Earl of Essex Robert Devereux and he ordered him to lead a major military campaign in Ireland, which ended in disaster. This was followed by a confrontation of the Earl of Essex with the royal court, developing into a political conspiracy. At the culmination stage of the plot the royal troupe was involved. Shakespeares’ play Richard II was staged revised in such a way  as to be  directed  against the queen and the royal court. Shakespeare’s special liking for the Earl of Southampton is seen from the following: the English royal court put Devereux’s plot down harshly in 1601. Both earls were arrested and sentenced to death.  Henry Wriothesley   survived. On the initiative of the queen’s courtiers his death sentence was commuted   to life imprisonment. Following the death of Elizabeth I, he was released by the newly acceded James I. This event is echoed by one of the sonnets of Shakespeare (sonnet 107), whose historical base has been the subject of discussion by Shakespearean students. It is quite clear that Shakespeare    sympathises with Henry Wriothesley whom he calls “my true love”, while he compares the queen to “the mortal moon”: “The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured”[1].

Clearly enough, Sherley’s sponsors, well known English earls,   were in close contact with the royal troupe, and personally with Shakespeare. It is also known that Sherley kept up correspondence with the Earl of Essex. Shakespearean students contend that in Shakespeare’s writings one can see a reflection of Sherley’s travels and that Shakespeare was informed about Sherley’s expedition at its initial or planning stage[24, p. 64].

The finding of the above historical study can be summed up as follows: at the end of the 16th century a large group of travelers and diplomats from England, led by the well-known diplomat Anthony Sherley, visited the Persian royal court. The expedition was sent and was funded from the south-eastern counties of England. Anthony Sherley was a close friend and relative of two earls, those of Essex and Southampton. Both earls had close relations and considerable influence on the royal troupe. Henry is believed to have been Shakespeare’s friend, patron or sponsor. On the other hand Sherley’s greatest supporters at the royal court of Persia were viziers of Georgian extraction, in particular Alaverdi Khan Undiladze, whose life and activity demonstrate Georgian national orientation and cultural and literary interests. Reports on Sherley’s expedition and his letters began to arrive in England immediately after 1600. In 1608-10 two plays were created by the adaptation of the plot of the MPS by Shakespeare’s junior contemporaries and fellow-writers: Philaster and A King and No King. Hence, I assume that the story of the MPS goes to the dramatists of the royal troupe and directly to Shakespeare’s circle from originally Georgian viziers promoted in Persia via Sir Anthony’s expedition. Special attention should be given to the fact that the expeditions of English diplomats, merchants and travelers to the East were crowned by cultural spoils (including literary, folkloristic and historical stories). The group of Sherley’s patrons was clearly inspired by such interest.

The basic proposition of my new point of view, which, in my view, does not belong to the sphere of assumption, is that the MPS is indeed the plot source of Philaster and A King and No King. I assert this proposition through the philological path, i.e. study of literary relations [for details, see 11, pp. 12-34, 66-76; 29, pp. 51-61, 72-80]:

1. In the English plays the main plot line is built on the story of the principal pair of lovers of the MPS – Nestan and Tariel.

A King and No King: childess king and queen adopt a newly born son of a close noble. Later the  queen bears a daughter. For some time the children are reared together. Then they are separated. When, many years later, the prince (in the A King and No King already enthroned) sees the princess mature for marriage he faints  through sudden love, losing consciousness. The girl reciprocates. The end is happy – after overcoming the intrigue of the royal court (part of it being the solution of the problem of the would be son-in-law) the young people marry and the question of the royal dynasty is settled.  

Philaster: one kingdom incorporated (conquered) a neighboring kingdom. The king of the united kingdom has only an heiress. But the heir of the incorporated kingdom claims the throne. The king wants to enthrone his daughter, inviting the prince of a neighbouring  kingdom as a son-in-law. The problem is solved through love. The woman invites the man to visit her, confessing her love for him. It transpires that the man is also in love with her. They work out a plan of getting rid of the invited son-in-law. The settlement of the intrigue of the royal court is followed by a happy end – marriage.

Thus, the scheme of the plot of both English plays follows exactly the love story of Nestan and Tariel. The events of this story in the above plots are broken into two parts. The principal details of the story of Nestan and Tariel are redistributed, but there is something common in both plays, which is essential in the love story of the MPS as well: love brings together the two claimants to the throne (woman and man); the king or queen (both in the MPS) are willing and act towards raising their only daughter to the throne; great obstacles on the way of beloved pair;  a happy end.

2. A whole number of other  arguments proving the relation of the English plays to the MPS are the essential resemblance of separate plot passages of these plays to the MPS. For example the queen becoming pregnant exactly five years within the adoption of the child and the same indication of this as in the MPS; the almost same description of the king’s losing consciousness as Tariel fainted; the king in love considers his love dead and his meditation on his own departure from this world (A King and No King). The princess invites the heir to the throne  to her place and declares love to him; invitation of the prince by sending him a letter through her maid servant,  suggesting that the maid servant may go to the prince as his mistress;  the desire of mounting the throne transpires from the beginning of the conversation, etc (Philaster).

Here I want to add one more interesting parallel. In Philaster, in my view, one of the main characters, next to the enamored  – Arethusa and Philaster, is the virgin Euphrasia, disguised as a boy (the page Billario). Desperately in love with Philaster, Euphrasia flees from her father’s house, disguises herself as a boy and tries to attract Philaster’s attention. This is how Philaster describes his first seeng Bellario (the disguised Euphrasia): “Hunting the buck, I found his sitting by a fountain’s side,….and paid the nymph again as much in tears;...His tender  eyes upon ‘em he would weep,….”[18, p.26]. One cannot help remembering the first episode of Tariel’s first appearance in the MPS: “They saw a certain stranger knight: he sat weeping on the bank of the stream”(stanza 84 –M. Wardrop’s translation[38]). I should like to add, without commenting, that according to the view prevalent in the history of English literature, this scene – the first finding of Bellario – is one of the best passages in Philaster in terms of the poetic value[2].

3. The cited plays of Beaumont and Fletcher have other types of relation with the MPS as well: specific depiction of   personages, the beloved goes mad and ranges in the forest, etc. I shall pay attention to the fact that the English authors point directly at Georgia suggesting the MPS. Action in A King and No King according to the author takes place in Georgia (Iberia) and the princess of Iberia, with whom her brother (adopted, as it transpires later) is called Panthea. Her prototype in the MPS is Nestan-Darejan, whom her beloved Tariel likens to a panther; hence he imagines the panther as the symbol of his beloved (this is the main symbolic axis of the MPS). The name Panthea resembles the English word panther. The vepkhi of the MPS is the animal that we call panther. It may be conjectured, the English authors gave this character created as a prototype for Nestan a name that is suggestive of Nestan and the MPS as a whole[for details, see: 11, pp. 26-31; 29, pp. 58-61]. In naming this character the  English authors have recourse to the so-called punning speech. This is a pun of the type that is built on the similarity between spelling and reading (homographic-homophonic pun).  It was this type of punning speech that was very popular in the English literature of the circle represented by Beaumont and Fletcher. Shakespeare had recource to such punning speech – and very frequently at that[31, pp. 310-320]. Thus, for example, towards the end of the play Cymbeline the soothsayer explains a prophecy molis aer: “The piece of tender air, thy,  virtuous daughter, which we call ‘mollis aer’, and ‘mollis aer’ we term it ‘mulier’  which ‘mulier’ I divine is this most constant wife” (Cymbeline, V,v. [39, pp. 145-146]).

 We must sum up the foregoing once more. It is clear that in the first decade of the 17th century the circle of dramatists of the English royal court was familiar with Rustaveli’s MPS, i.e. the story of the love of Nestan-Darejan and Tariel. A highly convincing version of the story finding its way to the society of English playwrights is the path from the high officials of Georgian extraction promoted at Shah Abbas’ court by means of Sherley and his companionis to Robert Devereux and Henry Southampton – the well-known earls. According to the facts brought to light by me, to date it is more likely to think that this literary source fell into the hands of Shakespeare himself. This conjecture is based not only on the fact that the earls cited were great lovers of the theatre and admirers of Shakespeare nor on Shakespeare’s close relations with the Earl of Southampton to whom he dedicated the sonnets imbued with great sympathy, but also on Shakespeare’s familiarity with the facts of Sherley’s travels, reaching these earls through his letters[24, pp. 82-83][3]. It is also known that these letters were sometimes  brought by direct participants of this expedition. In particular, it is indicated that Sherley’s letters were brought to England in 1600 by Sherley’s companion William Perry who published his impressions of the voyage in 1601 [36][4]. Thus, Anthony’s letters came to his closely acquainted earl, who had direct links with Shakespeare and the latter had knowledge of the facts they contained.

At the present stage of assessing the possibility of posing the problem, I think one should bear in mind the view on Shakespeare’s style of writing according to which he rested on a wealth of literary and historical materials. This, as proven by earlier Shakespeare studies[43, pp. 159-160], was due to the fact that Shakespeare’s great creative art is primarily based on plot episodes or thematic innovations transformed, adapted or borrowed by him.

The above assumption on the route by which the story of the MPS may have entered England, and reached the royal troupe, I don’t think this is a sufficient argument to assert that Shakespeare was familiar with this story. The point is that to identify the author of Shakespeare’s works is vague. For me, as a researcher into this topic, the above assumption is primarily valuable for the reason that it has made me think that this story may have reached Shakespeare himself. This demanded from me observation not so much of Shakespeare’s biography but the facts of his creative work. This gave shape to a concrete situation that determined the need for work along this line.

The question of the place and significance of the dramaturgy of Beaumont and Fletcher in the history of English literature was clearly raised in 19th century English literary criticism.  The view took shape according to which the new literary style that appeared in the English literary process, i.e. tragicomedy was started or established by three plays of Beaumont and Fletcher: Philaster, A King and No King and The Maides Tragedy. The priority of Philaster  among these three plays lies in the fact that it was the first to be staged and enjoyed  special popularity[5]. In 1885 a study by a German literary critic B. Leonhardt was published, in which, by parallel showing of thematic and plot passages it was argued that Philaster was based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Cymbeline[33]. Reference to Philaster’s relations to Shakespeare’s Hamlet was not a surprise to English literary criticism, as the early works of Beaumont and Fletcher clearly bore the influence of Shakespeare’s dramaturgy. But naming Cymbeline as the literary source of Philaster proved problematic. The point is that Cymbeline is among the works of Shakespeare’s last period (Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, The 0 Tempest). They clearly show the change of the great dramaturgist’s creative style – important elements of the genre of tragicomedy and to put it crudely, some imitation of the new style established by Beaumont and Fletcher. Thus, the novelty brought by A.Thorndike’s basic monograph “The influence of Beaumont and Fletcher on Shakespeare” (1901) did not prove surprising[43]. The author of the monograph does not question the realness of the relations found between Cymbeline and Philaster  but he changes diametrically the line of relations: Shakespeare’s Cymbeline  relies on Beaumont and Fletcher’s Philaster: Proof: Philaster  appeared on the stage earlier than Cymbeline. Philaster at once became popular and Shakespeare, whose creative style readily adopted and rewrote literary sources, especially new and fashionable, was likely to use Philaster. The new style (tragicomedy), at the initial stage of whose establishment Philaster had the greatest popularity, clearly exerted influence on Shakespeare. This categorical conclusion in the cited monograph was accompanied by some hesitation which was caused by the lack of the precise dates of the writing of Philaster and Cymbeline.  According to a reliable assumption the time of creation of Philaster  predates Shakespeare’s play. But is this time enough for Philaster to have become an object of imitation due its popularity?

Subsequent literary criticism abstained from discussing the dating of Philaster and Cymbeline by the relations found between them. More attention is given to the resemblance in literary style, but considers some plot episodes resemblance, as well as ideal and thematic unquestionable. I think it sufficient to quote the view of Andrew Gurr, editor of the commented text of Philaster (1969; 2003):  “The fact that they are merely verbal echoes and that they are so slight, coupled with the further rather surprising fact that apart from the mutual dependence of the two plays on the romance tradition there is little structural resemblance, suggests if anything that each play was written in ignorance of the other, at least till very late in the composition of the indebted play, whichever that was. Philaster developed naturally enough from Cupid’s Revenge, in the same way that Cymbeline developed from Pericles, so there is no need to presume anything more than a parallel progression in the processes of composition of the two plays. There resemblance is more important to their dramatic genre than to their dating“[25, p. 2 XXVIII].

I wish to draw the reader’s attention to one more conclusion of English literary criticism. It has been noticed that Cymbeline is Shakespeare’s highly peculiar, original play, differing most from his other works[27, p. 30]. Critics also considered Philaster and A king and No King to be peculiar and differing from other works of Beaumont and Fletcher[37, pp. 113,114,179; 46, pp. 39,132,133]. With their story they proved to depend on the MPS. This also points – indirectly, however – to the need of studying Cymbeline in relation to the MPS.

Thus, the problem of the surprising resemblance of Beaumont and Fletcher’s Philaster to Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, research into which in English literary criticism counts over a century, has come to the conclusion that the main resemblance between the two plays, written at times close to each other, lies in the imitation of the romance tradition, strengthened by amazing plot parallels, yet they are not directly interrelated. This conclusion, which is of essential significance, was formulated before it transpired that the Philaster’s principal plot and ideal source is the romantic story of Rustaveli’s Nestan and Tariel’s love. Hence this should be added to my above assumption that the story of the MPS was brought to England a few years prior to the writing of these two plays and that   Rustaveli’s story must have reached the society with which Shakespeare was related. These newly revealed facts and conclusions entitle me to offer English literary criticism the following version of solving the problematic questions:  the plot- compositional and ideal–thematic resemblance between Shakespeare’s Cymbeline and Beaumont and Fletcher’s Philaster is due to their common literary source.  This is the romantic story of the love of Nestan and Tariel of Rustaveli’s MPS.

This permits me, as a historian of Georgian literature, not only to pose this problem but obliges me to conduct its philological study.

Plot sources of Cymbeline

It is better to begin to study the problem posed by discussing the works that in English literary criticism are identified as the plot sources of these two plays. About Philaster I shall say in brief that, prior to the identification of its principal plot thematic source (The Man in the Panther Skin) in English literary criticism it was suggested that by that already highly popular play, Beaumont and Fletcher are related through a separate plot situation to Alonso Perez’, sequel of the English translation pastoral short story Diana, by types of characters to Philip Sidney’s Arcadia, and by separate emotional situations to Shakespeare’s tragedies. At the same time it was noted that, apart from all this, there are many other literary sources[6]. Among those sources or references, as noted above, in the first place Shakespeare’s Cymbeline was named.

References or reminiscences to Cymbeline are seen in quite a few works (including in Shakespeare’s earlier tragedies), but a couple are named as plot sources. Primarily, these are England’s old historical chronicles, In particular it is suggested that Shakespeare relies on Geoffrey Monmouth’s (12th c) Historia Regnum Britannia. The latter was included in Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles, published in 1577. As noted, Shakespeare takes from Geoffrey’s history the name of the king of Britain (in history his name is unobeline// Cunobelinus// Kynobelinus// Kymbelinus) and the names of his two sons Guiderius and Arviragus, rather than Geoffrey’s narration of their story. Indeed, the event staged at the court of Britain’s king Cymbeline has nothing in common with Geoffrey’s History, except that the action takes place in pre-Roman Britain and King Cymbeline has a favourable attitude to the Romans, being their friend, though at the same time paying them taxes (History of the King of Britain, Book 4.11). I think at the same time that the war with the Romans fought in Cymbeline, the victory of the Britons, but the agreement on paying taxes to the Romans echoes Geoffrey’s History. The History tells about a war waged by Cymbeline’s sons after their father’s death, and which ends in peace (History, 4, 12-14). The story of Guiderius and Arviragus told in Cymbeline has nothing to do with the cited History. According to Shakespeare’s play, King Cymbeline’ssons are abducted out of revenge by the noble Belarius, expelled by the king and he brings them up in an uninhabited cave in the mountains. They return to the royal court only at the finale to celebrate the victory over the Romans, together with the king.

The next source of Cymbeline – this time plot source – is the ninth story of the second day in Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron: two young merchants bet: one wins the bet from the other by deception, pretending he had seduced the other’s chaste wife; the enraged husband sends a servant to kill his wife; by agreement with the servant the wife disguised as a boy slips away; establishment of the truth and punishment of the culprit. This story is indeed the main axis of the Cymbeline’s narrative: King Cymbeline has his only daughter Imogen by his first wife. The king and the queen wish to marry her to Cloten, the queen’s son by her first husband. Imogen is in love with Posthumus Leonatus, a poor but worthy gentleman brought up at the court. The man and woman get married secretly. The enraged king expels Posthumus from the country. The expelled man in Italy, in the circle of his hosts drops word about the chastity of his wife. An Italian Iachimo lays wager with him that he will seduce his wife. He stays secretly in Imogen’s bedroom and memorizes several features of the body of the sleeping woman, steals the bracelet, given to her as a present by the husband. Returning to Italy, he wins the wager. Posthumus, frustrated with his wife and enraged, orders his faithful servant Pisanio to kill his wife. Pisanio allows the woman, disguised as a man, to escape, but assures his master that he has fulfilled the task assigned. Imogen disguised as man serves as the page of the Roman commander Caius Lucius. Following the defeat of the Roman army Imogen, disguised as a man, exposes Iachimo the slanderer.

Some Shakespearean students name as a source of Cymbeline the well-known fairy-tale on the Snow White, known under various variants among European peoples. Its early version was for the first time recorded early in the 19th century by the brothers Grimm (Sneewittchen), known to the world today under the title Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the 1938 Disney film adaptation. A beautiful princess, hated by her stepmother, steals away from the palace and goes to live with dwarfs in a cave. Her sudden death and curious resuscitation. It is believed that the story may have been one of Shakespeare’s sources; this could be only in the case if the great dramatist was familiar with some other hitherto unknown version[34; 32, p. 123-124]. Indeed according to the play Cymbeline’ssecond wife, in order to make her son Cloten (by her first husband) successor to the throne, wishes to marry him to Imogen, or get rid of her. To this end she sends her poison in place of real medicine. Imogen, disappearing from the palace, disguised as a boy, finds herself together with the King’s children sheltering in a cave in the Welsh mountain: their upringer (and at the same time their abductor from the palace) Belarius is also with them. The tired woman, on the verge of illness drinks the medicine sent by the Queen. To deceive the Queen, the palace physician gave the poison a magic property; it made Imogen look like dead by sending her into deep sleep, and then awakening  her.  After this she met the Roman commander.                                 

In this passage, likened to the Snow White tale other parallels are also noticeable. A reminiscence of the story of Romeo and Juliet’s magic medicine, falling asleep and awakening, is obvious. Neither is this unexpected, for researchers point to Cymbeline’s  relations to Shakespeare’s other works as well (King Lear, Othello, As you like it)[34]. The disguised Imogen adopts the name Fidel, (meaning faithful in Latin) and again reminds us of Beaumont and Fletcher’s Philaster (in Beaumont and Fletcher’s play too the girl Euphrasia, is in love with Philaster and becomes the prince’s page). This returns us to the issue of our interest – the relationship of Philaster and Cymbeline.

Cymbeline  and  Philaster. MPS

It has long been accepted in English literary criticism that many situations are involved in the principal plot line (Imogen’s slander) whose parallel are clearly to be sought in other sources. The absolute majority of these parallel situations fall to Philaster[7]. The existence of these parallels is not denied, but their direction and correct explanation are debatable. As, in my view, they largely come from a common literary source and this source is the story of the love of Nestan and Tariel in Rustaveli’s MPS, the study of the question should start from the relations between Cymbeline and Philaster, revealed in English literary criticism.               

Let us dwell in more detail on a parallel just cited. Cymbeline: Imogen, disguised as a boy, leaves the country, becoming a page of a Roman commander. Philaster: Euphrasia disguised as a boy, becomes Philaster’s page, whom she loves. We should not consider that in this episode Cymbeline is indebted to Philaster. The disguising as a boy in Cymbeline comes from the principal plot source; the story indicated in Decameron: Imogen, abandoned to death by her husband, speaks to the servant sent to kill her. The king’s daughter disguises herself as a boy, changes her name and sets out to leave the country. In Decameron too [II, 9] Dzinevra, abandoned to be killed by decision of her husband, asks the servant sent to kill her to declare her killed and present his master (Dzinevra’s husband) with her clothes. She disguises herself  as a boy, changes her name and leaves the country. She serves first a noble, then a sultan. If the episodes of disguising oneself as a boy and becoming a page are related in Philaster and Cymbeline, we shall assume the influence of Cymbeline on Philater. At present we are interested in the relation of these episodes with the MPS. As we see, the passage of disguising oneself as a boy has its source in Cymbeline (Decameron); however, the motif of disguising as a boy is not alien to the MPS: Patman helps the disguised daughter of the King, Nestan to escape from the Kingdom of the Sea.

From the start, I prefer to focus attention on the basic relations between Philaster and Cymbeline that are believed essential in English literary criticism. This is primarily plot likeness. Ashley H. Thorndike, the author of principal monograph (“The Influence of Beaumont and Fletcher on Shakespeare”), while ruling out what is specific to each plot (the story of the loose character Megra in Philaster; British historical narrative and the Italian adventure of Posthumus in Cymbeline)  state categorically: “In the main, however, the plots are strikingly similar”[43, p. 152]. David Hirst, researcher into English tragicomedy, points to the plot similarity of these two works: “Certainly the two plays have several features in common. Both have a plot centring on false suspicions of infidelity; both present a faithful mistress disguised as a boy; both are concerned with exile, suffering and a final reconciliation in which all doubts are laid to rest; both contrast the court, where intrigue destroys relationship, with the country which brings the characters closer to nature and a true understanding of each other”[27, p. 30].   

In principle, this conclusion remains, though not so generally, in force in 20th century English literary criticism too. As cited above, Andrew Gurr, the editor and scholarly commentator of the text of Philaster, while not considering these two works as interdependent, still believes that there is a small yet structurally curious likeness[25, p. XXVIII]. The position, whose discussion I shall attempt, is as follows: inasmuch as the plot of Philaster is structured according to the MPS, the likeness of the plot of Cymbeline, leads one to believe that those passages of this play that are related to Philaster  must bear a trace of relationship with the MPS, i.e. the common source. I see confirmation of this assumption in the passages that are pointed out as demonstrating the likeness of these two plots. Furthermore, the common plot passages of Cymbeline  with Philaster  we see not only that these common plot passages establish a relationship with the MPS but also that in these passages Cymbeline’s subtledeviations from Philaster evince closeness with the plot of the MPS. Let us discuss this more specifically.

1. The main plot likeness between Philaster and Cymbeline is generally seen in the structure of the story or plot, more precisely in the planning of the plot. The axis is common for both plays: the king has a daughter as his successor. The king (or the king and the queen) have chosen a son-in-law and brought him to the royal court. The heiress dislikes him and disobeys the king. She is in love with a young man known at the court and distinguished in all features. The girl makes her choice against the wish of the royal court[33; 43, p. 153]. I shall begin commenting by the statement that the main axis of the love story of Nestan and Tariel from the MPS is exactly the same. More important is the fact that the realization of the main axis of the plot of these two plays or plot imagery will develop in both plays with subtle differences. I wish to emphasize that in such shades of plot deviation both Philaster and Cymbeline establish plot relation rather with the plot of MPS, in this case independently of each other.   

In Philaster, the king’s successor Arethusa falls in love with Prince Philaster, who has a claim to the throne, for he is the son of the king of an incorporated (conquered) country. In Cymbeline the heiress to the throne, Imogen falls in love with Posthumus, brought up at the royal court and exemplary with his personal qualities. There is a difference in the development of the plot. The development according to Philaster obviously follows that of the MPS: Tariel, who is loved by the only daughter of the king of India, is heiress to United India formed through accession. The point is that the plot development of Cymbeline too follows the MPS: Since childhood, Posthumus is being bred like his own child by the king of the Britons Cymbeline, as Tariel of the MPS was brought up by the king of India Parsadan. The latter adopted Tariel from his birth, while after the birth of his daughter Nestan, he reared both together. According to the plot of Shakespeare’s play, Pusthumus’ father Sicilius, who was a devoted servant of Britain’s kings, died before Posthumus was born, while his mother died at childbirth. The care for the newborn was taken upon himself  by the king;  he brought up the child himself[8] [Scene I], together with his only daughter Imogen (I, scene 1)[9]. Cymbeline’s son Arviragus, returning to the palace at the end of the play, even calls him brother (V, 5)[10]. Clearly enough, this specificity of the plot of Cymbeline, differing from Philaster, resembles the plot of MPS.

At the initial stage of the common plot structure of Philaster and Cymbeline, another difference in plot is noticeable: according to Philaster, the story at the royal court develops, on the one hand, against the background of the story of the son-in-law invited by the king, and on the other, the story of the pair in love. The woman and the man plan their actions together (I, 2). The plot develops along the line of compromising and getting rid of the son-in-law. Such plot structure finds parallel in the MPS: it is decided to invite the son-in-law. He arrives. Nestan and Tariel plan how to do away with the son-in-law. The plot develops along the line of implementing the plan. The structural line of the development of the plot in Cymbeline does not follow Philaster at this stage: the couple in love implement their decision without the king’s consent: they get married. This is followed by the exile of Posthumus from the country [I, 1], and subsequent action takes place outside the palace and Britain. In my view, special note should be taken of the fact that even this structural outline comes from the MPS: the story of Nestan and Tariel develops along the following structural composition: the conflict between the king and Tariel occurs after the couple in love swear love for each other without the king’s consent and carry out their decision – they do away (kill) the son-in-law, followed by Tariel’s leaving the country, and further action taking place outside the royal court, and even the country.

2. A highly important structural parallel between Philaster and Cymbeline is seen in both plays in the striving to the idyll of nature and multiple idyllic scenes. It has been noticed that in these two plays idyllic scenes have more than accidental resemblance, although the appropriate passages do not show close correspondence[43, p. 154][11]. Indeed, in this case the indicated parallels do not resemble one another situationally, but idealizations of life in nature and of the scenes seen in the forest is clearly noticeable both in Cymbeline and Philaster. From Philaster proper indication is given[43, p. 154] of the dream of the main personage of idyllic life in the forest, of a cave dug with his own hands, of a fire crackling, with scarcely room for a bed among the multiplicity of goats forgetting the royal throne and crown (IV, 3). The researcher pays special attention to the scene: Philaster, while hunting, sees  a beautiful boy crying on the bank of the river as demonstration of Philaster’s aspiration to the idyllic (I, 2). As described in detail above, this scene directly echoes (or better to say is borrowed) from one of the most popular idyllic scenes among the readers of the MPS: seeing while hunting, of a stranger knight of fairy-tale beauty sitting on the bank of the river and weeping. I shall not focus attention on the possible reminiscence of Philaster’s dream of digging a cave and living in it and the MPS’s main character living in a cave. To revert to Shakespeare’s play. Although Shakespeare’s work is generally characterized by idealizing   life in nature, forest, the following fact is also of essential importance[43, p. 154]: in parallel to these idyllic scenes, referens is made  in Cymbeline a plot passage differing from Beaumont and Fletcher, yet reflective of idyllic life in nature: Belarius, the most faithful noble expelled by king Cymbeline from the palace through slander; carried off the king’s sons in their minority, leaving him without heir; he (Belarius) has lived in a cave, among uninhabited mountains and rocks, bringing up two princes on game. Together with them lived the nurse-maid of the princes until her death. Quarrelling with the king, leaving the palace and living for years in a cave among inaccessible rocks, together with a servant-maid from the palace and subsisting on game – this is one of the main plot lines of the story of the MPS.

3. I want to touch upon one more plot resemblance between Philaster and Cymbeline, unanimously pointed out by English literary criticism. This is the happy end of the hazardous adventures of the couples in love. It is this happy end that is considered to be one of principal innovations of Beaumont and Fletcher, which they suddenly introduced into the English theatrical scene where the genre of tragedies was predominant, attaining instant popularity. With Beaumon and Fletcher this style appeared all of a sudden, in successive plays (Philaster, A King and No King, A Maiden’s Tragedy). That is why it is believed that Shakespeare‘s Cymbeline imitates Philaster with this happy end too[43, p. 100-101, 158]. Indeed, in the pieces of both – Shakespeare on the one hand, and Beaumont and Fletcher, on the other – the dramatic adventure staged by the couple in love and in the circle of the son-in-law proposed by the king to drive a wedge between them, end happily for those in love: the son-in-law is got rid of, the couple in love is accepted by the royal court. The situation is analogous in the MPS, which is a direct source of Philaster by such a happy end, in the same way as A King and No King by the same authors. Through a finale of this type Shakespeare’s Cymbeline directly follows the MPS rather than Philaster. That Philaster comes to resemble the MPS cannot be questioned. The situation is exactly analogous in both works: the two successors to the kingdom – the only daughter of the king and prince of the incorporated kingdom love each other. The king wishes to leave his throne to the daughter and he invites the son of the neighboring king to be his son-in-law. In the finale the son-in-law is removed and the couple get married. In Cymbeline too we have a triangle similar to that of the MPS: the only daughter of the king is in love with a worthy subject brought up with his daughter (Tariel’s childhood in the MPS was precisely the same). The king offers his daughter another groom residing at the court, who is the queen’s son, hence a more appropriate option to the throne for the daughter. The end is happy – the son-in-law is got rid of, and the king blesses the couple in love. However, there is a difference between Philaster and Cymbeline in the resolution of this conflict. According to Philaster, the invited son-in-law is returned to his country. But according to Cymbeline the would-be groom is slain. By this most important detail Cymbeline directly resembles the MPS: Tariel murders the son-in-law who arrives at the royal court.

I think the conclusion from the above excursus is unequivocal:  by the obvious plot resemblance between Philaster and Cymbeline, pointed out by English literary criticism, these plays come to resemble the MPS’s story of Nestan and Tariel. Furthermore, these similar plot passages of the two plays evince specific deviations among themselves. These deviations of both plays draw direct parallels again with the MPS. Thus, the structure of the plot of each play establishes a link   to Rustaveli’s poem – directly rather than through the other plays.

In discussing the similarity of these two plays, English literary criticism, apart from plot parallels, pays no less attention to the common, uniform literary style of these works. This, as it transpired from the views cited by me above, is seen by them in the dependence of the tradition on the romance tradition demonstrated in both of them[25, p. XXVIII]. At the same time, it is considered  to be surprising and hard to account for the change in these  plays of that period of an approved and established style in dramaturgy, i.e. interest was restored in romantic drama, relegated to  oblivion for decades of the type of romantic style  that was characteristic of Early Renaissance English literature[12]. This novel romantic style, reaching its heyday in 1608-10 (Philaster, Cymbeline, A King and No King…)rests on several  thematic, plot and compositional factors, each of  which is not  an absolute  novelty for the European literary  process. Yet their introduction and establishment together  and all of a sudden on English theatrical stages proved a most important innovation, gradually assuming the name of a new genre – tragicomedy. Here are a few principal characteristics pointed out when discussing the plot innovations of early 17th century English drama; in particular in discoursing the common characteristics of the literary style of Philaster and Cymbeline of more interest to our present topic.

In the first place this is the romance intrigue, staged at the royal court[cf. 25, p. XLVIII] – connected at that with the question of succession to the throne. The note of the editor and commentator of the text of Philaster calls for special attention: “What is important about this is the change in setting; the pastoral countryside of the first play (The Faithful Shepherdess-E.K) becomes the hunting country of Philaster, and the concerns are not the loves of literary shepherds but the loves and related dynastic complications of princes and courts”[25, p. XLVIII-XLIX]. Shakespeare followed the same path.

Then the happy end of a love of sentimental shade running in a setting of numerous obstacles and intrigues: sentimental type of a character in love ready to sacrifice   all for his love [43, p. 106]; heroic character prone to sentimental tragicalness, coming to light in a setting of idyllic and unbelievable  events[43, pp. 101, 107, 157].

And further, the development of events started at the royal court in woods and mountains. Removal of tragedy, discharging of situations leading to death penalty or tragic end. Introduction of comic, light scenes.

Search for the plot sources establishing such style is seen in English  literary criticism. In particular the theatrical repertory of the first years of the 17th century is classified and discussed – both in relation to the new literary styles of tragedies and comedies. The new literary style, that is evident in Beaumont and Fletcher’s Philaster, A King and No King and in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline dissociates itself from all of them[43, pp. 97-104]. That is why it is believed that this style was created either by Beaumont and Fletcher or by Shakespeare[43, p. 108]. At the same time it is noticed also that moving from tragedies to romantic drama, Shakespeare departed from his own practice of the decade but also from the entire theatrical practice of that period [43, p. 107]. It should be added to this that this new romantic style is not to be found in Beaumont’s and Fletcher’s independent plays or in their works prior to Philaster[43, pp. 104-105]. With this style they turned away from this contemporary theatrical and dramatic practice [43, p. 108]. The style of both earlier plays by Beaumont and Fletcher was dramatizing old stories in the Shakespearean manner. The new style beginning with Philaster obeys not the  conventions  of Shakespearean drama but the prose literary conventions[25, p. XXIX][13]

This short excursus  in describing the new literary style of tragicomedy genre established in the first decade of the English theatrical stage points out that no plot and thematic source of the 1608-1610 English drama (Philaster, Cymbeline, A King and No King) of the  theatrical  tradition  can be found. On the other hand, the philological-historical discovery of recent years to the effect  that these two plays of Beaumont and Fletcher (Philaster and A King and No King) use the plot of Rustaveli’s MPS as the basic plot axis  leads me to the view that the MPS may be the plot  source  that brings this innovation to Shakespeare’s Cymbeline as well. Indeed, all the above  peculiarities  of the first decade of the 17th century English  drama are thematic  and plot characteristic of the MPS. In particular:

The love story between the sole heiress to the throne and the noble subject of the same court is the thematic subject of both parallel stories of the MPS (the question of the courts of India and Arabia). Both stories in the MPS are connected with the succession to the throne. Like in Cymbeline, in the principal romance  intrigue  started at the royal court, in the main romance story Rustaveli’s poem (the story of the love of Nestan and Tariel) moves to an  uninhabited setting – mountains, woods, desert, and similarly to English plays, a considerable arena of the characters is hunting.

The person in love in the MPS is a literary character with qualities  that are considered an innovation for the romance style of English  drama: it is a heroic character  possessed of sentimental love  prone to tragedy, who is ready to sacrifice everything  to this love and fights to save it (Nestan, Tariel).

The end of the story of MPS love is happy. Like English tragicomedies, the love of Nestan  and Tariel is a sentimental love with a happy end and passing through numerous obstacles and intrigues.

Thus, at the end of the first decade of the 17th century the romance tradition revealed in plays by Beaumont and Fletcher on the one hand, and in Shakespeare’s new style romance tradition, judging by all the ideal and thematic features indicated in English literary criticism is a literary specificity of the late medieval courtly romance of the MPS.

In relation to English literary criticism I think it is relevant to point to one more important fact. The one hundred years’ parallel research into Cymbeline and Philaster has led to the belief that the presumable plot source of these plays is a prose romance. On the one hand, as suggested above, the view was expressed to the effect that these two plays are not indebted to one another. They must be linked to one common source[25, p. XXVIII]. Furthermore, research  directly into the sources of Philaster led the same author to an exceptionally interesting conclusion: in Andrew Gurr’s view, the norms of behaviour  of the characters of this work are of the type of prose romance genre rather than Shakespeare-type drama; and that these characters serve as it were the embodiment of some plot instead of the plot serving the depiction of the characters[25, XXIX][14]. But their characters – continues the researcher - do function on a similar, fairly elementary dramatic level. They are dramatizations rather than dramas. The conventions of the prose romance accordingly provided the material sources of the play... The first priority of these sources is a carefully designed story which will operate  as a vast and complex ... moral paradigm”[25, p. XXIX].

According to my research, this prose romance, suggested  by the English editor, is the love story of Nestan and Tariel, the courtly love poem by Rustaveli.

To sum up the research carried out:

1. English literary criticism, by observation of the art style of Beaumont and Fletcher’s plays of the so-called new style, namely Philaster, came to the conclusion that the latter is dramatization of a romance – placement  of dramatic characters in a plot framework of a prose romance. The research of recent years, as contended above, has confirmed this assumption: this romance is the MPS.

2. For over a century English literary criticism has been studying the similarities evinced by Beaumont and Fletcher’s Philaster and Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. The conclusion of the same literary criticism is that both plays establish relations with some other plays independently of each other (I would specify: with some other plot framework). As I asserted above, this other literary framework is the romance of Tariel and Nestan of the MPS.

3. Parallel study of these works shows that plot passages similar to Philaster and Cymbeline, even with the difference in shade, establish links with the MPS.

Thus, the MPS is not only a plot source of the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher but of William Shakespeare’s Cymbeline as well.

P.S. Part two of the present study will appear in the next issue of The Kartvelologist. -  E.Kh.



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17. Alter, F.K., Über georgianische Literatur. Wien 1798.

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20. “Cymbeline”:  <>.

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25. Gurr, A., “Introduction”: Philaster or, Love Lies A-Bleeding (by F.Beaumont and J.Fletcher). Edited by Andrew Gurr. “Manchester University press”, Manchester and New York 2003, pp. XIX-LXXXIII.

26. Highet, G., The Classical Tradition. “Oxford University Press”, 1949.

27. Hirst, D., L., Tragicomedy. “Methuen”, London and New York 1984.

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[1] See W. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 104, the original text with a modern English translation (


Original Text

Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul

Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,

Can yet the lease of my true love control,

Supposed as forfeit to a cónfined doom.

The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured

And the sad augurs mock their own preságe; Incertainties now crown themselves assured,

And peace proclaims olives of endless age.

Now with the drops of this most balmy time

My love looks fresh, and death to me subscibes,

Since spite of him I’ll live in this poor rhyme,

While he insults o’er dull and speechless tribes.

And thou in this shalt find thy monument,

When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent.

Modern Text

Neither my own fears nor the speculations of the rest of the world about the future can continue to keep me from possessing my beloved, who everybody thought was doomed to remain in prison. The moon, which was always mortal, has finally been eclipsed, and the gloomy fortune-tellers now laugh at their own predictions. Things that once seemed doubtful have become cerainties, and pease has come to stay.

Now, with the blessings of these times, my beloved looks fresh again and death itself submits to me, since in spite of death I’ll live on in this poor poem while death only exults over the stupid and illiterate peoples that he’s overcome. And you will find this poem to be your monument when tyrants reach the end of their reigns and tombs to brass fall into decay. 


[2] “The poetical merit of several passages in Philaster is well known, and especially the description of the first finding of Bellario”[42, VI, §13].

[3] Early in spring 1600 Sherley wrote the earl of Essex about the Shah awarding an annual pension of 30 000 crones. Shakespeare mentions this pension awarded by the Shah in the “Twelfth Night” (II, 5, 80-81).  

[4] Three of the addresses of the correspondence brought to England by William Perry are known: Sir Robert Cecil, King of Scotland James VI (later King of England James I) and the Earl of Essex Robert Devereux. Robert Cecil (secretary of state by that time) was the cousin of Francis Bacon (1561-1626). The latter was such a well-known intellectual, secretary of state, lawyer and writer that in the 19th century he was suggested the author of some or all works of William Shakespeare [23]. It is also known that a very wide circle of intellectuals of educated English society was in close contact with Francis Bacon, where great knowledge from the Continent was accumulated. Thus, Sherley’s letters from his Persian expedition were known not only to his direct  sponsors and patrons but to a wide circle  of England’s intellectuals as well.

[5] The special popularity of Philaster in 17th century England was due not only to its being  popular for a whole century in the repertoires  of various  theatre troops, but also because it was considered a favourite among family plays[see 44, pp. 10-11].

[6] “There is, of course, a good deal more to the sources behind Philaster than this drawing together of a plot-situation from Perez, character-types from Sidney, and emotional situation from Shakespeare”[Andrew Gurr – 25, p. XXXV]

[7] “To this Iachimo–Imogen story, however, Shakespeare added a dozen or so situations which are almost exact counterparts of situations in Philaster”[43, p. 154]

[8] ’’The King he takes  the babe;

To his protection, calls him Posthumus Leonatus

Breeds him and makes him of his bed-chamber,

Puts to him all the learnings that his time

Could make him the receiver of ….’’[39, p. 14].

[9]Imogen. Sir … you bred him as my playfellow”[39, p.18].

[10]Argivarus. You holp us, sir,

As you did mean indeed to be our brother;

Joy’d are we that you are”[39, p. 145].

[11] “Although the resemblance is not so close, the idyllic scenes in Cymbeline have more than a chance likeness to those in Philaster’’[43, p.154].

[12] Andrew Gurr: “A more plausible, if vaguer, answer might be found in the changing taste of the time, a renewal of interest in the romantic drama which had been quiescent a dozen years” [25, p. XLVI]

[13] “Few of the earlier Beaumont and Fletcher plays are concerned to give dramatized renderings of old stories in the Shakespearean manner”. As to Philaster, there  “The conventions are those of prose romance literature, not of Shakespearen drama”[25, P. XXIX]

[14] “Instead of a plot serving as vehicle for the ‘personation’ of character..., the characters are set in patterns to serve the plot. The conventions are those of prose romance literature not of Shakespearean drama”[25, p. XXIX].