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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume III. Renascence and Reformation.

XVI. Elizabethan Prose Fiction

§ 13. Rosalynde

Rosalynde, Euphues Golden Legacie (1590) “fetcht from the Canaries,” is, on the other hand, one of the most pleasing of all the romances, and, upon it, Shakespeare, as is well known, based his As You Like It. It is a fresh story, steeped in idyllic sentiment, the charm of which even a Euphuistic manner is unable to dull. Lodge claims to have written it on a cruise to the straits of Magellan, whence “every line was wet with the surge”; but the environment worked only by way of contrast, for pastoral scenes and rural notes are the products of this pen at work on the high seas. The story itself is based on The Tale of Gamelyn, a fourteenth-century ballad of the Robin Hood cycle, which relates how the hero, defrauded by his elder brother, takes to the forest and becomes an outlaw. This story of earlier England is removed by Lodge into the region of pastoral romance, and the English outlaws become Arcadians of the Italian type, polished in speech and courtly in manner. A love element is woven into the tale; Rosalynde and Alinda, as well as Phoebe, appear on the scene; and the plot develops, as in the Arcadia, by means of disguisals of sex. The narrative is also varied by the insertion of occasional verse, though the variations lack subtlety and the inserted eclogues frequently drag. But where the treatment most suffers is in the handling of character, which reveals no development, and is, moreover, stiff and formal. Shakespeare appreciated the charm and freshness of the woodland scenes, and he appropriated the elements of a good love-tale; but he also detected the unreality of Lodge’s creations, and, while he quickens them into life in his own incomparable way, through the humours of Touchstone he smiles at the inconsistencies and unrealities which he takes care to remove. Another of Lodge’s romances, Margarite of America, written in the winter of 1592 and published 1596, was also claimed to have been written at sea, on a voyage to South America with Master Thomas Cavendish; and the story, apparently, was taken from a Spanish work in the Jesuit library at Santos, Brazil. A number of Cavendish’s men certainly stayed at that place, and some are known to have been lodged at the Jesuit college. But the Spanish element is easily overrated; and several of its sonnets are borrowed from Italian sources, more particularly from Lodovico Dolce and Paschale.