Here’s another surprising example from Erasmus’ Colloquia Familiaria.
If you have ever seen As You Like It and relished the cheeky brilliance of Rosalind and the pure silliness of the lovestruck Phebe, you may be startled, once again, to find some of their best lines presaged in this witty little play written by Erasmus forty years before Shakespeare was born! It’s actually a rather long one (with some sexy overtones and thoughts on maintaining a healthy marriage along the way) but we only recorded a few pages. They’re a lot of fun. It’s easy to see what stuck in the brain of the boy Shakespeare when he performed them in Latin at Stratford’s Latin grammar school, as part of his practice in conversation.
(Remember, Latin back then was NOT A DEAD LANGUAGE! It was the lingua franca, and required of every educated person entering any of the professions, because it allowed one to converse with any other educated person in any country throughout Europe; but casual conversation took practice. Thus, the “Colloquies.”)
The scene is a flirtatious courtship between the lover, Pamphilus, and his girlfriend, Maria. He’s trying to talk her into advancing their relationship to a new level, whatever that may be. Familiar?
Jill Holden has played the role of Phebe, and she immediately spotted echoes from this silly colloquy in her lines in response to Silvius:
Silvius: Sweet Phebe, do not scorn me; do not Phebe;
Say that you love me not but say not so in
In bitterness. The common executioner…
… first begs pardon….
Phebe: I would not be thy executioner:
I fly thee, for I would not injure thee.
Thou tell’st me there is murder in mine eye:
Tis pretty, sure, and very probable,
That eyes, that are the frail’st and softest things,
Should be called tyrants, butchers, murderers!
Now I do frown on thee with all my heart;
And if mine eyes can wound, now let them kill thee:
Now counterfeit to swoon; why now fall down;
Or if thou canst not, O, for shame, for shame,
Lie not, to say mine eyes are murderers!
And Susan Angelo, also present in the audience, has played Rosalind! And SHE recognized THESE lines:
Orlando: Then, in mine own person, I die.
Rosalind: No, faith, die by attorney. The poor world is almost six thousand years old and in all this time there was not any man died in his own person, in a love-cause. …….Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love.
And then, a bit later in the scene:
Rosalind: There are none of my uncle’s marks upon you: he taught me how to know a man in love; in which cage of rushes I am sure you are not prisoner.
Orlando: What were his marks?
Rosalind: A lean cheek, which you have not, a blue eye and sunken, which you have not, an unquestionable spirit, which you have not, a beard neglected, which you have not!
Do you hear the same teasing images in this exchange?
(Again, this translation is my adaptation of the two rather dated existing translations from the Latin. Every line is by Erasmus. I’ve just tried to make it sound more like what contemporary young people might say.)