صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

whole piece, the more exalted characters are fubfervient to the interests of those beneath them. We laugh with Bottom and his fellows, but is a single passion agitated by the faint and childish sollicitudes of Hermia and Demetrius, of Helena and Lysander, those shadows of each other? - That a drama, of which the principal personages are thus insignificant, and the fable thus meagre and uninteresting, was one of our author's earliest compositions, does not, therefore, seem a very improbable conjecture; nor are the beauties with which it is embellished, inconsistent with this supposition; for the genius of Shakspeare, even in its minority, could embroider the coarsest materials with the brightest and most lasting colours.

A Midsummer Night's Dream was not entered at Stationers' hall till O&t. 8, 1600, in which year it was printed; but is mentioned by Meres in 1598.

From the comedy of Dr. Dodipoll Mr. Steevens has quoted a line, which the author seems to have borrowed from Shakspeare: .

“'Twas I that led you through the painted meads,
" Where the light fairies danc'd upon the flowers,

Hanging in ev'ry leaf an orient pearl.So, in A Midsummer Night's Dream,

“ And hang a pearl in ev'ry cowslip's ear." Again,

And that same dew, which fometimes on the buds
“ Was wont to swell, like round and orient pearls,
“ Stood now within the pretty flouret's eyes,

« Like tears," &c.There is no earlier edition of the anonymous play in which the foregoing lines are found, than that in 1600; but Dr. Dodipowle is mentioned by Nashe, in his preface to Gabriel Harvey's Hunt is up, printed in 1996. This, therefore, is another circumstance, that in some measure authorises the date here assigned to A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The passage in the fifth act, which, with some probabili

NOTES. conversation, determine to listen to a tragedy, which is acted before them, and to which they make a kind of chorus, by moralizing at the end of each act,

ts, has been thought to allude to the death of Spenser *, is not inconsistent with the early appearance of this comedy; for it might have been inserted between the time of the poet's death, and the year 1600, when the play was published. And indeed, if the allusion was intended, the patiage must have been added in that interval; for A Midsummer Night's Dream was certainly written in, or before, 1998, and Spenser, we are told by Sir James Ware, (whose testimony with respect to this controverted point must have great weight) did not die till 1599: “ others, (he adds) have it wrongly, 1598°.” So careful a searcher into antiquity, who lived so near the time, is not likely to have been mistaken in a fact, concerning which he appears to have made particular enquiries.

11. ROMEO AND JULIET, 1595. It has been already observed, that our author, in his early plays appears to have been much addicted to rhyming; a practice from which he gradually departed, though he never wholly deserted it. In this piece more rhymes, I believe, are found, than in any other of his plays, Love's Labour Loft and A Midsummer Night's Dream only excepted. This circumstance, the story on which it is founded, so likely to: captivate a 'young poet, the imperfect form in which it ori

* " The thrice three muses mourning for the death

Of learning, late deceas'd in beggary. c Preface to Spenser's View of the State of Ireland, Dublin, fol. 1633. This treatise was written, according to Sir James Ware, in 1996. The testimony of that historian, relative to the time of Spenser's death,' is confirmed by a fact related by Ben Jonson to Mr. Drummond of Hawthornden, and recorded iy that writer. When Spenser and his wife were forced in great distress to fly from their house, which was burnt in the Irish Rebellion, the Earl of Essex sent him twenty pieces; but he refused them ; telling the person that brought them, he was sure he had no time to spend them. He died soon after, according to Ben Jonson's account, in King Street [Dublin.] Lord Ellex was not in Ireland in 1598, and was there from April to September in the fol. lowing year. If Spenser had died in London, as Cainden fays he did, his death would probably have been mentioned by Rowland · Whyte, in his letters to Sir Robert Sydney, (brother to the poet's

great patron) which are still extant, and contain a minute detail of most of the inemorable occurrences of that time.


ginally appeared, and its very early publication, all incline me to believe that this was Shakspeare's first tragedy; for the three parts of K. Henry VI. do not pretend to that title.

“ A new ballad of Romeo and Juliet,(pcrhaps our author's play) was entered on the Stationers' books August 5, 1596€, and the first sketch of the play was printed in 1597; but it did not appear in its present form till two years afterwards.

Few of his plays appear to have been entered at Stationers' hall, till they had been some time in poffefsion of the stage; on which account it may be conjectured that this tragedy was written in 1595.

If the following passage in an old comedy already mena tioned, entitled Dr. Dodipoll, which had appeared before 1596, be considered as an imitation, it may add some weight to the supposition that Romeo and Yuliet had been exhibited before that year:

“ The glorious parts of fair Lucilia,
“ Take them and join them in the heavenly spheres,
« And fix them there as an eternal light
« For lovers to adore and wonder at."

Dr. Dodipo!l.
There is no edition of any of our author's genuine plays ex:
tant, prior to 1597, when Romco and Juliet was published.

There is no entry in the Stationers' books relative to the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, antecedent to its publication in 1597, if this does not relate to it. This entry was made by Edward Whyte, and therefore is not likely to have related to the poem called Romeo and Yuletta, which was entered in 1982, by Richard Tottel. How vague the description of plays was at this time, may appear from the following entry, which is found in the Stationers' books, an. 1590, and seems to relate to Marlowe's tragedy of Tamburlaine, published in that year, by Richard Jones.

"To Richard Jones] Twoe Commical Discourses of Tamburlein, the Cythian Shepparde.”

In Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, as originally performed, several comick enterludes were introduced; whence perhaps, the epithet comical was added to the title.-As tragedies were sometimes en. titled discourses, so a grave poem or sad discourse in verse, (to use the language of the times) was frequently denominated a tragedy. All the poems inserted in the Mirrour for Magistrates, and some of Drayton's pieces, are called tragedies, by Meres and other anciens writers. Some of Sir David Lindsay's poems, though not in a dramatick form, are also by their author entitled tragedies, VOL. I. iTi

“ Take

« Take him and cut him out into little stars, "!.
“ And he will make the face of heaven so fine,
“ That all the world shall be in love with night,
« And pay no worship to the garish sun."

Romeo and Juliet. Mr. Steevens in his observations on Romeo and Juliet has quoted these lines from Daniel's Complaint of Rafamond :

“ And nought-respecting death (the last of paines)
“ Plac'd his pale colours (th' ensign of his might)

“ Upon his new-got fpoil, &c." . So in Romeo and Juliet, Act V. Sc. iii.

- “ Beauty's enlign yec
“ Is crimson in thy lips, and in thy cheeks,

“ And death's pale flag is not advanced there." That Shakespeare imitated Daniel, or was imitated by him, there can, I think, be little doubt. The early appearance of The Complaint of Rofamond', (which is commended by Nashe, in a tract entitled Pierce Pennilefle his Supplication, &c. 1592,) seems to authorize the former opinion.

From a speech of the Nurse in this play, which contains these words--" It is now since the earthquake eleven years, &c.” Mr. Tyrwhitt conjectures, that Romeo and Juliet, or at least part of it, was written in 1991; the novels from which Shakfpeare may be supposed to have drawn his story, not meritioning any such circumstance; while, on the other hand, there actually was an earthquake in England on the 6th of April, 1580, which he might here have had in view 8.-It is not without great distrust of my own opinion that I express my diffent from a gentleman, to whose judgment the highest respect is due; but, I own, this argument does not appear to me conclusive. It seems extremely improbable, that Shakspeare, when he was writing this tragedy, should have adverted, with such precision, to the date of an earthquake that had been felt in his youth; unless we suppose him to have entertained so itrange and incongruous a thought, as to wish to perfuade his audience, that the events which

NOTES F" A booke called Delia containynge diverse fonates, with the Complaiite of Rofaicunde,” was entered at Stationers' hall by Sinon Waterson in Feb. 1591- 2.' 1 See Romeo and Juliet, Act I. Sc, iii,

, are are the subject of his play, happened at Verona in 1591, at the very moment that a dramatick representation of them was exhibiting in London: (for if Romeo and Juliet was written in 1591, it probably was then also represented.) The passage quoted strikes me, as only displaying one of those characteristical traits, which distinguish old people of the lower class; who delight in enumerating a multitude of minute circumstances that have no relation to the business immediately under their consideration, and are particularly fond of computing time from extraordinary events, such as battles, comets, plagues, and earthquakes. This feature of their character our author has in various places, strongly marked. Thus (to mention one of many instances) the Grave-digger in Hamlet says, that he came to his employment, “ of all the days i'th’year, that day that the last king o'ercame Fortinbras—that very day that young Hamlet was born.”—Shakspeare probably remembered the earthquake in 1980, and thought he might introduce one, for the nonce, at Mantua. Why he has placed this earthquake at the distance of eleven years, it is not very easy to determine. However, it may be observed, that'having supposed it to have happened on the day on which Juliet was weaned, he could not well have made it more diftant than thirteen years; which, indeed, from the context, should seem to be the true reading. Supposing the author to have used figures, the mistake might easily have happened. --At present there is a manifest contradiction in the Nurse's account; for she expressly says that Juliet was within a fortnight and odd days of completing her fourteenth year; and yet, according to the computation here made, she could not well be much more than twelve years old. Perhaps Shakspeare was more careful to mark the garrulity, than the precision, of the old woman-or perhaps, he meant this very incorrectness as a trait of her character:-or, without having recourse to either of these suppositions, shall we say, that our author was here, as in some other places, hasty and inattentive? It is certain

NOT E. Thus Mrs. Quickly in K. Henry IV, reminds Falstaff, that he “ swore on a parcel-gilt goblet, to marry her, fitting in her Dolphin chamber, at a round table, by a fea-coal fire, on Wednesday in Whitsun-week, when the prince broke his head for likcaing his father to a singing man of Windfor.” (T 2]


« السابقةمتابعة »