صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

find no trace of our author, or of any of his works. Three years afterwards, Puttenham printed his Art of Englis Pocfy; and in that work also we look in vain for the name of Shak. speare i. Sir John Harrington in his Apologie for Poetry, prefixed to the Translation of Arioflo, (which was entered in the Stationers' books Feb. 26, 1590-1, in which year, it was printed) takes occasion to speak of the theatre, and mentions some of the celebrated dramas of that time; but says not a word of Shakspeare, or of any of his plays. If even Love's Labour Loft had then appeared, which was probably his first dramatick composition, is it imaginable, that. Harrington should have mentioned the Cambridge Pedan. tius, and The Play of the Cards, (which last, he tells us was a London comedy) and have passed by, unnoticed, the new prodigy of the dramatick world ?

That Shakspeare had commenced a writer for the stage, and had even excited the jealousy of his contemporaries, before September 1592, is now decisively proved by a passagek

extracted NOTES. eminent. That malignity which endeavoured to tear a wreath from the brow of Shakspeare, would, certainly, not spare inferior writers.

i The thirty-first chapter of the first book of Puttenham's Art of Englis'Poesy is thus entitled: “ Who in any age have bene the most commended writers in our Englith Poesie, and the author's cenfure given upon them.”

After having enumerated several authors who were then celebrated for various kinds of composition, he gives this succinct account of those who had written for the stage: Of the later sort I thinke thus;—that for tragedie, the Lord Buckhurst and Maister Edsvard Ferrys, for such doings as I have fene of theirs, do deserve the hyest price; the Earl of Oxford and Maister Edwardes of her Majeftie's Chappell, for comedie and enterlude"

k See vol. VI. p. ult. where the passage is given at large. The paragraph which immediately follows that quoted by Mr. Tyr. whitt, though obscure, is worth transcribing, as it seems to allude to Shakspeare's country education, and to intimate, that he had not removed to London long before the year 1992.- After having mentioned a person who had newly appeared in the double capacity of actor and author, one, " who is in his ocene conccit the only Shake-scene in a country," and exhorted his brother poets to seek better masters than the players, Greene proceeds thus: “ In this I might insert two more, that both have written against these buckram genilenen (the players:) but let their ozune worke jerve to wituelle

[S3]

again? NOTES.

extracted by Mr. Tyrwhitt from Robert Greene's Greatsworth of Witte bought with a Million of Repentance', in which there is an evident allusion to our author's name, as well as to one of his plays.

At what time foever he became acquainted with the theatre, we may presume that he had not composed his first play long before it was aled; for being early incumbered with a young family, and not in very affluent circumstances, it is improbable that he should have suffered it to lie in his closet, without endeavouring to derive some profit from it; and in the miserable state of the drama in those days, the meanest of his genuine plays must have been a valuable acquisition, and would hardly have been refused by any of the managers of our ancient theatres.

Titus Andronicus appears to have been acted before any other play attributed to Shakspeare; and therefore, as it has been admitted into all the editions of his works, whoever might have been the writer of it, it is entitled to the first place in this general list of his dramas. From Ben Jonson's induction to Bartholomew Fair, 1614, we learn that Andronicus had been exhibited twenty-five or thirty years before, that is, at the lowest computation, in 1580; or, taking a middle period, (which is perhaps more just) in 1587. In our author's dedication of his Venus and Adonis to lord Southampton, in 1593, he tells us, as Mr. Steevens has observed, that that poem was the first heir of his invention:” and if we were sure that it was published immediately, or soon, after it was written, it would at once prove Titus Andronicus not to be the production of Shakspeare, and nearly ascertain the time when he commenced a dramatick writer. But we do not know what interval might have elapfed between the composition and the publication of that poem. There is indeed a passage in the dedication already mentioned, which, if there were not such decisive evidence on the other lide, might induce us to think that he had not written, in 1593, any piece of more dignity than a love-poem, or at least any on which he himself set a value. If (says he to his noble patron) your honour seem but pleased, Í account myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour."

E. 4:

against their ozun avickednelle, if they perfever to maintaine any more such peasants. For other new-commers, I leave them to the mercie of these painted monsiers, who, I doubt not, will drive the best minded to defpife theni, &c." Greene's Groatsworth of Witte, &c. Sig.

i This tra&t has no date, but was published after the author's death, agreeably to his dying request. It appears to have been written not long before his death; for near the conclusion he says, - Aibeit weakness will scarce fuffer me to write, yet to my fellow fibollers about this citic will I direct these few insuing lines." He died, according to Dr. Gabriel Harvey's account, on the third of September 1592. Additions by Oldys to Winstanley's Lives of ibe Poets, MI,

“ A booke, entitled a Noble Roman History of Titus Andronicus,” (without any author's name) was entered at Stationers' hall, Feb. 6, 1593—4. This I suppose to have been the play, as it was printed in that year, and acted (according to Langbaine, who alone appears to have seen the first edition) by the servants of the earls of Pembroke, "Derby, and Efex.

Mr. Pope thought, that Titus Andronicus was not written by Shakspeare, because Ben Jonson spoke flightingly of it, while Shakspeare was yet living. This argument will not, perhaps, bear a very strict examination. If it were allowed to have any validity, many of our author's genuine producrions must be excluded from his works; for Ben Jonson las ridiculed several of his dramas, in the same piece in which he has mentioned Andronicus with contempt.

It has been said that Francis Meres, who in 1598 enumerated this among our author's plays, might have been misled by a title-page; but we may presume that he was informed or deceived by some other means; for Shakspeare's name is not in the title-page of the edition printed in 1611, and therefore, we may conclude, was not in the title page of that in 1594, of which the other was probably a re-impression.

However, (notwithstanding the authority of Meres) the high antiquity of the piece, its entry on the Stationers' books without the name of the writer, the regularity of the versification, the diffimilitude of the style from that of those plays which are undoubtedly composed by our author, and the tradition mentioned by Ravenscroft, at a period when

fome NOTES. " I have been told, by some anciently conversant with the Stage, that it [Titus Andronicus) was not originally his, but brought by a private author to be acted, and he only gave some maiter [S4]

touches

fome of his contemporaries had not been long dead", rens der it highly improbable that this play should have been the composition of Shakspeare.

2. Love's LABOUR LOST, 1591.

Shakspeare's natural disposition leading him, as Dr. Johna fon has observed, to comedy, it is highly probable that his first dramatick production was of the comick kind: and of his comedies none appears to me to bear stronger marks of a first essay than Love's Labour Loft. The frequent rhymes with which it abounds°, of which, in his early perform

ances NOTES.

touches to one or two of the principal parts or characters." Ravenscroft's preface to Titus Andronicus, altered by him.

John Lowin, and Joseph Taylor, two of the actors in Shakspeare's plays, were alive a few years before the Restoration of K. Charles Il; and Sir William D'Avenant, who had himself written for the stage in 1629, (thirteen years atter the death of our author) did not die till April 1668. Ravenscroft's alteration of Titus Andronicus was published in 1687.

• As this circumstance is more than once mentioned, in the course of these observations, it may not be improper to add a few words on the subject our author's metre. A mixture of rhymes with blank verse, in the same play, and sometimes in the same fcene, is found in almost all his pieces, and is not peculiar to Shakspeare, being also found in the works of Jonson, and almost all our ancient dramatick writers. It is not, therefore, merely the use of rhymes, mingled with blank verse, but their frequency, that is here urged, as a circumstance which seems to characterize and distinguish our poet's earliest performances. In the whole number of pieces which were written antecedent to the year 1600, and which, for the sake of perspicuity, have been called his early compositions, more rhyming couplets are found, than in all the plays composed subsequently to that year; which have been nam. ed his late productions. Whether in process of time, Shakspeare grew weary of the bondage of rhyme, or whether he became convinced of its impropriety in a dramatick dialogue, his neglect of rhyming (for he never wholly disused it) seems to have been gradual. As, therefore, most of his early productions are character. ized by the multitude of fimilar terminations which they exhibit, whenever, of two early pieces it is doubtful which preceded the other, I am disposed to believe, (other proofs being wanting) that play in which the greater number of rhymes is found, to have been first composed. This, however, must be acknowledged to

be

ances he feems to have been extremely fond, its imperfe& versification, its artless and desultory dialogue, and the irregularity of the composition, may be all urged in support of this conjecture.

Love's Labour Loft was not entered at Stationers' hall till the 23d of January 1606, but is mentioned by Francis Meres P in his Wit's Treasury, or the Second Part of iVit's Commonwealth 9, in 1598, and was printed in that year. In the title page of this edition, (the oldest hitherto discovered) this piece is said to have been presented before her bighness [Queen Elizabeth) the laf Christmas (1597), and to be newly corrected and ang mented: from which it should seem, that there had been a former impression.

Mr. Gildon, in his obfervations on Love's Labour Loft, says, he cannot see why the author gave it this name." -The following lines exhibit the train of thoughts, which probably suggested to Shakspeare this title, as well as that which anciently was affixed to another of his comedies. Love's Labour Won.

- To be in love where scorn is bought with groans, Coy looks with heart-fore fighs; one fading moment's

[mirth With twenty watchful, weary, tedious nights: I£ haply won, perhaps a hapless gain; If ls, why then a grievous labour won.

I wo Gentlemen of Verona. Act. I. sc. i.

NOT E S. be but a fallible criterion; for the Three Parts of K. Henry VI. which appear to have been among our author's earliest compositions, do not abound in rhymes.

This writer, to whose list of our author's plays we are so much indebted, appears, from the following passage of the work here mentioned, to have been perfonally acquainted with Shakspeare :

“ As the foul of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras, so the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honeytongued Shake/peare. Witness his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugred Sonnets among his private friends, &c.” Wit's Treasury, p. 282. There is no edition of Shakspeare's Sonnets, now extant, of so early a date as 1598, when Meres's book was printed; so that we may conclude, he was one of those friends to whom they were privately recited, before their publication.

. This book was probably publithed in the latter end of the year 1598 ; for it was not entered at Stationers' hall till September in that year.

« السابقةمتابعة »