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that there is nothing in which he is less accurate, than the computation of time. Of his negligence in this respect, As jou Like It, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Measure for Measuri, and Othello, furnish remarkable instances..
12. COMEDY OF ERRORS, 1596. In a tract, written by Thomas Decker, entitled Notes from Hell brought by the Devil's Carrier, 1606, there seemo to be an allusion to this comedy:
" — his ignorance (arising from bis blindnefs) is the only cause of this Comedie of Errors."
This play was neither entered on the Stationers' books, nor printed, till 1623, but is mentioned by Meres in 1998; and exhibits internal proofs of having been an early production. It could not, however, have been written before 1596; for the translation of the Menachmi of Plautus, from which the plot was taken, was not published till 1595.
13. HAMLET, 1596. The tragedy of Hamlet was not registered in the books of the Stationers' company till the 26th of July 1602, nor printcd till 1604. This circumstance, and indeed the general air of the play itself, which has not, it must be owned, the appearance of an early compofition, might induce us to class it five or fix years later than 1596, were we not overpowers ed by the proof adduced by Dr. Farmer, and by other circumstances, from which it appears to have been acted in, or before, that yeark. The piece, however, which was then exhibited, was probably but a rude sketch of that which we now poffefs; for from the title page of the first edition, in 1604, we learn, that (like Romeo and Juliet, and the
NO TE S. 1 See Merry Wives of Windsor, A& II. Sc. laft.-Meas. for MeafA& I. Sc. iii. and iv.-As you Like It, A& IV. Sc. i. and iü.. Othello, A& III. Sc. ii. “ I Nept the next night well," &c.
* “ Dr. Lodge published, in the year 1996, a pamphlet called Wie's Miferie, or the World's Madness, discovering the incarnate Deo vils of the age, quarto. One of these devils is Hare virtue, or for. row for another man's fucceffe, who, lays the doctor, is a foula lubber, and looks as pale as the vizard of the ghost, who cried so mi. scrably at the theatre, Hamlet revenge." Furmer's Ejay on the Learning of Shakespeare.
Morg Merry Wives of Windsor) it had been enlarged to almost twice its original fize.
The Cafe is altered, a comedy, attributed to Ben Jonson, and written before the end of the year 1999', contains a paffage, which seems to me to have a reference to this play: Angelo. “ But first I'll play the ghoft; I'll call him out"."
In the second act of Hamlet, a contest between the chil dren of the queen's chapel", and the actors of the estabished theatres, is alluded to. At what time that contest began, is uncertain. But, should it appear not to have commenced till some years after the date here assigned, it would not, I apprehend, be a sufficient reason for ascribing this play to a later period; for, as we are certain that considerable additions were made to it after its first production, and have some authority for attributing the firft sketch of it to 1596, till that authority is shaken, we may presume, that any paffage which is inconsistent with that date, was not in the play originally, but a subsequent insertion.
With respect to the allusion in question, it probably was an addition; for it is not found in the quarto of 1604, (which has not the appearance of a mutilated or imperfect copy,) nor did it appear in print till the publication of the folio in 1623
The fame observation may be made on the passage produced by Mr. Holt, to prove that this play was not written till after 1597. “ Their inhibition comes by means of the late innovation." This, indeed, does appear in the quarto of 1604, but, we may presume, was added in the interval be
! This comedy was not printed till 1609, but it had appeared many years before. The time when it was written, is ascertained with great precision by the following circumstances. It contains
an allusion to Meres's Wit's Treasury, first printed in the latter end of the year 1598, (Ante p. 276.) and is itself mentioned by Nathe in his Lenten Stuff, 4to. 1599.-" It is right of the merry cob. ler's stuff, in that witty play of the Cafe is Allered.”
m Jonson's works, vol. VII. p. 362. Whalley's edit.
* Berween the years 1595 and 160o, some of Lilly's comedies were performed by these children. Many of the plays of Jonfoa were represented by them becween 1600 and 100,.--- From a paffage in Jack Drum's Extertainment, or the Comedy of Pajquil and Catherine, which was printed in 1601, we learn that they were much followed at that time.
tween 1597, (when the statute alluded to,- 39 Eliz. ch. 4-was enacted) and that year.
Hamleto Sadler was one of the witnesses to Shakspeare's Will. He was probably born soon after the first exhibition of this play; and, according to this date, was twenty years old at the time of his attestation.
If this tragedy had not appeared till some years after the date here afligned, he would not have been at the time of Shakspeare's death above sixteen or seventeen years old; at which
age he scarcely would have been chosen as a witness to fo folcmn an act.
The following passage, in An Epislle to the Gentlemen Students of the Two Universities by Thomas Nashe, prefixed to Greene's Arcadia, (which has no date) has been thought to allude to this play.--" I will turn back to my first text of studies of delight, and talk a little in friendship with a few of our trivial translators. It is a common practice now adays, among a sort of shifting companions, that runne through every art, and thrive by none, to leave the trade of Noverint, whereto they were born, and busie themselves with the endevors of art, that could scarcely latinize their neckverse if they should have neede; yet' English Seneca, read by candle light, yeelds many good sentences, as Bloud is a beggar, and so forth : and if you intreat. him faire in a frosty morning he will affoord you whole hamlets, I should say, handfuls of tragical speeches. But O grief! Tempus edax rerum—what is that will last always ? The sea ex. haled by drops will in continuance be drie ; and Seneca, let bloud line by line and page by page, at length must needes die to our stage."
This passage does not, in my apprehension, decisively prove that our author's Hamlet was written fo early as 1591; (in which ycarp Dr. Farmer, on good grounds, conjectures that Greene's Arcadia was published:) for supposing this to have been a fncer at Shakspeare, it might have been inserted in some new edition of this tract after 1596; it being a frequent practice of Nashe and Greene, to make additions to their pamphlets at every re-impression.
o It has been observed to me, that there are other instances of this being used as a christian name; it is certainly very uncom. mon; and may be fairly supposed, in this case, to have taken its rise from the play. - After all, however, it is not quite clear that this was his name. The name fubferibed to Shakspeare's original Will (which I have seen) seems to be Hamnet: but in the body of the Will, he is called Hamiet Sadler.
p Mr. Oldys, in tis Mf. Additions to Langbaine's Lives of the Dramatick Pocts, says, on I know not what authority, that Greene's
But it is by no means clear, that Shakspeare was the person whom Nashe had here in contemplation. He seems to point at some dramatick writer of that time, who had been originally a scrivener or attorney:
“ A clerk foredoom'd his father's soul to cross,
Who pen'd a stanza when he should engross”who, instead of transcribing deeds and pleadings, chose to imitate Seneca's plays, of which a translation had been published not many years before.--" The trade of Noverint is the trade of an attorney or notary 9. Shakspeare was not bred to the law, at least we have no such tradition; nor, however freely he may have borrowed from North’s Plutarch and Holinshed's Chronicle, does he appear to be at all indebted to the translation of Seneca.
Of all the writers of the age of queen Elizabeth, Nashe is the most licentious in his language; perpetually distorting words from their primitive fignification, in a manner often puerile and ridiculous, but more frequently income prehensible and absurd. His profe works, if they were collected together, would perhaps exhibit a greater farrago of unintelligible jargon, than is to be found in the productions of any author ancient or modern. An argument that rests on a term used by such a writer, has but a weak foundation.
The phrase" whole hamlets of tragical Speeches"—is cerrainly intelligible, without supposing an allusion to the play; and might have only meant a large quantity. - We meet a similar expression in our author's Cymbeline. “ I'd let a parish of such Clotens blood."
NOTES. Arcadia was printed in 1589.. If he is right, it is still less probable that this paffage should have related to our author's Hamlet. 9 6 The Country Lawyers too jog down apace, Each with his noverint univerfi face.”
Ravenscroft's Prologue prefixed to Titus Andronicus, Our ancient deeds were written in Latin, and frequently began with the words, Noverint Univerfi. The form is still retained. Know all men, &c. [T4).
It should also be observed, that “hamlets," in the force going patage, is not printed in Italicks, though the word Seneca, in the same sentence, is; and all the quotations, authors' names, and books mentioned in this epistle, are distinguifned by that character.
14. King JOHN, 1596. This is the only one of the uncontested plays of Shakfpeare, that is not entered in the books of the Stationers' company. It was not printed till 1623, but is mentioned by Meres in 1598, unless he mistook the old play in two parts, printed in 1991, for the composition of Shakspeare'.
In the first act of King John, an ancient tragedy, entitled Solyman and Perfeda, is alluded to. The earliest edition of that play, now extant, is that of 1599, but it was written, and probably acted, many years before; for it was entered on the Stationers' books, by Edward Whyte, Nov. 20, 1592.
Marston's Insatiate Countess, printed in 1603, contains a pafTage, which, if it should be considered as an imitation of a similar one in King John, will ascertain this historical dra. ma to have been written at leaft before that year:
“ Then how much more in me, whose youthful veins, “ Like a proud river, over
flow their bounds.” So in King John:
“ Why holds thine eye that lamentable rheum, “ Like a proud river peering o'er his bounds."
15. RICHARD II. 1597. King Richard II. was entered on the Stationers' books, August, 29, 1597, and printed in that year.
Dr. Farmer supposes that there was a former play on this subject, because when Sir Gilly Merricke, one of the fol
NOT E. It is observable, that on the republication of this old play in 1611, the two parts are set forth—" as they were (sundry times) lately acted by the Queene's Majefties fervants"-a description, which, probably, was copied literally from the former edition in 1591. If this had been really Shakspeare's performance, it would "hare been described, on its re-impression, as afted by bis Majesty's fervants; for so runs the title of most of his genuine pieces, that were either originally printed or re-publifhed after the year 1603, The bookseller, the better to impose on the publick, prefixed the letters W. Sh. to the new edition of this play in 1611, which do pot appear in the former impression in 1591,