"The Comedy of Errors" is borrowed from Plautus; and then came "Romeo and Juliet," founded upon a novellino by Masuccio, who had taken the story from the Greek. It has served for many countries, but nowhere has the plot found such a magical handling as Shakespeare gave it.

The play can be traced to its source, whether that source be a novellino of Masuccio, or Holinshed's "Chronicles," or Plutarch's Lives in North's translation, from which some passages are copied in extenso. The poet himself would seem to have had but little consciousness of the worth of his own work. In his time plays were not published.

Boccaccio, Sacchetti, Bandello, and Masuccio may be mentioned in particular for their familiar delineation of a profligacy which was interwoven with the national existence. The comic poets take the same course, and delight in ridiculing the gross manners of the clergy. Nor do the ecclesiasties spare themselves. Poggio, the author of the Facetiæ, held benefices and places at the Papal Court.

The man's name was Masuccio, his wife's Gioconda; between them they had a brood of nine children a grown daughter of fourteen, three stout lads, four brats, and a child not breeched; and in addition to all these, and to Belviso and myself, to a sow in farrow, four goats, and hens innumerable, the good man's father was posed as veritable master of the whole an old man afflicted with palsy, who did nothing but shake and suck at his pipe, but who, nevertheless, had, by virtue of his years and situation, the only semblance of a bed, the first of everything, and the best and the most of that.

Return with us to-night, my lord, and to-morrow, with but twenty spears for escort, we shall ride into Babbiano and proclaim you Duke. Nor need you fear the slightest opposition. One man only of Babbiano that same Masuccio whom you tell us that you saw to-night remains faithful to Gian Maria; faithful because he and the fifty Swiss mercenaries at his heels are paid to be so. Up, my lord!

In the Novellino of Masuccio, which was first printed in 1476, there is a passage in the tenth novel of the first part, in which a rogue passes as "grandissimo cognoscitore" of gems because he had spent much time in Scotland. De Varietate, p. 636. De Varietate, p. 637. Ibid., p. 637. Ibid., p. 565. "Peracto L anno quod stipendium non remuneraretur mansi Mediolani." De Vita Propria, ch. iv. p. 15.

No word spake the Duke in answer. He stood still, his head bowed, and his thoughts running again on that conspiracy. The mountain fight in which Masuccio had been killed had taken place on the Tuesday night, and the conviction scant though the evidence might be grew upon him that this man was one of the conspirators who had escaped.

"And Masuccio?" inquired Francesco. "Has he not told you since who were those others that escaped?" His Highness paused to masticate the olive. "Why, there lies the difficulty," said he at length. "The dog is dead. He was killed in the affray. May he rot in hell for his obstinate reticence. No, no!" he checked himself hastily.

The clergy and monks had many privileges and little supervision, and among them were doubtless plenty of murderers and other malefactors but hardly a second Pelagati. It is another matter, though by no means creditable, when ruined characters sheltered themselves in the cowl in order to escape the arm of the law, like the corsair whom Masuccio knew in a convent at Naples.

Then Aquila rose slowly to his feet, and with him rose the others, looking to their weapons. He softly breathed a name "Masuccio Torri." "Aye," cried Lodi bitterly, "would that we had heeded your warning! Masuccio it will be, and at his heels his fifty mercenaries." "Not less, I'll swear, by the sound of them," said Ferrabraccio. "And we but six, without our harness."