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In the following attempt to trace the progress of his drae matick art, probability alone is pretended to. The filence and inaccuracy of those persons, who, after his death, had the revisal of his papers, will perhaps for ever prevent our attaining to any thing like proof on this head. Little then remains, but to collect into one view, from his several dramas, and from the ancient tracts in which they are mentioned, or alluded to, all the circumstances that can throw any light on this new and curious enquiry. From these circumstances, and from the entries in the books of the Stationers' company, extracted and now first published by Mr. Steevens, (to whom every admirer of Shakspeare has the highest obligations), it is probable, that the plays attributed to our author were written nearly in the following succession; which, though it cannot at this day be ascertained to be their true order, may yet be considered as approaching nearer to it, than any which has been observed in the various editions of his works. The rejected pieces are here enumerated with the rest; but no opinion is thereby meant to be given concerning their authenticity.
Of the nineteen genuine plays which were not printed in our author's life-time, the majority were, I believe, late compositions. The following arrangement is in some mea
sure • NOT E S.
e They are, King Henry VI. P. I. The Two Gentlemen of Veo rona, The Winter's Tale, The Comedy of Errors, King John, All's Well that End's Well, As you like it, King Henry VIII. Measure for Measure, Cymbeline, Macbeth, The Taming of the Shrew, Julius Cæsar, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Timon of Athens, Othello, The Tempest, and I wolfih Night. Of these nineteen plays, four, viz. Tbe first part of K. Henry VI. King John, The Two Genslemen of Verona, and The Comedy of Errors, were certainly early compofitions, and are an exception to the general truth of this observ. ation. Perhaps, the ill success of the two latter, was the occasion that they were not printed so soon as his other early performances. Two others, viz. The Winter's Tale, and All's well that ends well, though supposed to have been early productions, were, it must be acknowledged, not published in Shakipeare's lifetime; but for the dates of these we rely only on conjecture.
d This supposition is strongly confirmed by Meres's list of our author's plays, in 1598. From that lift, and from other circumstances, we learn, that of the sixteen genuine plays which were printed in Shakspeare's life-time, thirteen were written before the end of the year 1600.-The fixteen plays publilhed in our
life period. Pieces
ns. Cen to
Ture formed on this idea. Two reasons may be afligned, why Shakspeare's late performances were not published till after his death. 1. If we suppose him to have written for the stage during a period of twenty years, those pieces which were produced in the latter part of that period, were less likely to pass through the press in his life-time, as the curiosity of the publick had not been so long engaged by them, as by his early compositions. 2. From the time that Shakspeare had the superintendance of a playhouse, that is, from the year 1603e, when he and several others obtained a licence from King James to exhibit comedies, tragedies, histories, &c. at the Globe Theatre, and elsewhere, it became strongly his interest to preserve those pieces unpublished, which were composed between that year and the time of his retiring to the country; manuscript plays being then the great support of every theatre. Nor were the plays which he wrote after he became a manager, fo likely to get abroad, being confined to his own theatre, as his former productions, which probably had been acted on many different stages, and of consequence afforded the players at the several houses where they were exhibited, an cafy opportunity of making out copies from the separate parts transcribed for their use, and of selling such copies to printers; by which means, there is great reason to believe, that they
NOT E S. author's life-time, are-Love's Labour Loft, The Second and Third Parts of K. Henry VI. A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, K. Richard Il. K. Richard Ill. The First Part of K. Henry IV. The Mcrchant of Venice, The Second Part of K. Henry IV. K. Henry V. Much Ado about Nothing, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Troilus and Cressida, and K. Lear.
e None of the plays which in the ensuing list are supposed to have been written subsequently to this year, were printed till after the author's death, except K. Lear, the publication of which was probably hastened by that of the old play with the same title, in 1605. The copy of Troilus and Crellida, which seems to have been composed the year before K. James granted a licence to the company at the Globe Theatre, appears to have been obtained by some uncommon artifice. " Thank fortune (says the Editor) for the scope it hach made amongst you; since, by the grand possesfors' wills, I believe, you should have pray'd for them, rather than been pray’d.”—By the grand psc sors, Shakspeare and the other managers of the Globe Theatre, were clearly intended, VOL. I. [S]
were submitted to the press, without the consent of the author.
1. Titus Andronicus, 2. Love's LABOUR Lost, 3. FIRST PART OF King HENRY VI. 4 Second Part of KING HENRY VI. 5. THIRD PART OF KING HENRY VI. 6. Pericles, 7. Locrine, 8. The Two GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, 9. The Winter's Tale, 10. A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, II. ROMEO AND JULIET, 12. The COMEDY OF ERRORS, 13. HAMLET, 14. KING JOHN, 15. King RICHARD II. 16. King RICHARD III. 17. First Part of King HENRY IV. 18. The MERCHANT OF Venice, 19. All's WELL THAT End's WELL, 20. Sir John Oldia file, 21. SECOND PART OF King HENRY IV. 22. King Henry V. 23. The Puritan, 24. Much ADO ABOUT NOTHING, 25. As You Like IT. 26. MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, 27. KING Henry VIII. 28. Life and Death of Lord Cromwell, 29. TROILUS AND CRESSIDA, 30. MEASURE FOR MEASURE, 31. CYMBELINE, 32. The London Prodigal, . 33. KING LEAR, 34. MACBETH, 35. The TAMING OF THE SHREW, 36. JULIUS CÆSAR, 37. A Yorkshire Tragedy, 28. ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, 39. CORIOLANUS, 40. TIMON OF ATHENS,
1598. 1598. 1599. 1600. 1600. 1600. 1601. 1601. 1602. 1602.
1611. 1612. 1614.
: 1. Titus Andronicus, 1589. 'In what year our author began to write for the stage, or which was his first performance, has not been hitherto afcertained. And indeed we have so few lights to direct our enquiries, that any speculation on this subject may appear an idle expence of time. But the method which has been already marked out, requires that such facts should be mentioned, as may serve in any manner to elucidate these points.
Shakspeare was born on the 23d of April, 1564, and was probably married in, or before, September 1582, his eldest daughter, Susanna, having been baptized on the 26th of May, 1583. At what time he left Warwickshire, or was first employed in the playhouse, tradition does not inform us. However, as his fon Samuel and his daughter Judith were baptized at Stratford Feb. 2, 1584-5, we may prea sume that he had not left the country at that time.
He could not have wanted an easy introduction to the theatre; for Thomas Green', a celebrated comedian, was
his NOTE S. f" There was not (fays Heywood in his preface to Greene's Tu quoque, a comedy,) an actor of his nature in his time, of better ability in the performance of what he undertook, more applauded by the audience, of greater grace at the court, or of more general love in the city.” The birth-place of Thomas Greene is ascertained by the following lines, which he speaks in one of the old comedies, in the character of a clown :
" I pratled poesie in my nurse's arms,
And both came out together.” Chetwood quotes this passage, in his British Theatre, from the comedy of the Tivo Maids of Moreclack; bat no such paslage is there to be found. He deserves but little credit; having ceriainly forged many of bis dates; however, he probably met thele lines in some ancient play, though he forgot the rame of the piece from which he tranfcribed them, Greene was a writer as well as an [S2]
his townsman, perhaps his relation, and Michael Draytoni was likewise born in Warwickshire; the latter was nearly of his own age, and both were in some degree of reputation foon after the year 1590. If I were to indulge a conjecture, I should name the middle of the year 1591, as the era when our author commenced a writer for the stage; at which time he was somewhat more than twenty-seven years old. The reasons that induce me to fix on that period are these. In Webbe's Discourse of English Poetry, published in 1586, we meet with the names of most of the celebrate poets of that time; particularly those of George Whetstones and Antony Munday h, who were dramatick writers; but we
find NOT E S.
actor. There are some verses of his prefixed to a collection of Drayton's poems, published in the year 1613. He was perhaps a kinsman of Shakspeare's. In the register of the parish of Stratford, Thomas Greene, alias Shakspere, is said to have been buried March 6, 1689. He inight have been the actor's father.
& The author of Promos and Cassandra, a play which furnished Shakspeare with the fable of Measure for Measure.
h This poet is mentioned by Meres, in his Wit's Treasury, as an eminent comick writer, and the best plotter of his time. He seems to have been introduced under the name of Don Antonio Balladino, in a comedy that has been attributed to Ben Jonson, called The Case is Altered, and from the following pailages in that piece appears to have been city-poet; whose business it was to compose an annual panegyrick on the Lord Mayor, and to write verses for the pageants: an office which has been discontinued since the death of Elkanah Settle in 1922:
Onion. “ Shall I request your name?
Sir, are you?
Sir... Did you lee the last pageant I set forth ?" Afterwards Antonio, speaking of the plays he had written, fays, “Let me have good ground—no matter for the pen; the plot
shall carry it. Oni. Indeed that's right; you are in print, already, for THE
BEST PLOTTER. Ant. Ay; I might as well have been put in for a dumb-hew
too." It is evident, that this poet is here intended to be ridiculed by Ben Jonson: but he might, notwithstanding, have been deservedly