صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

length in The Witch, while only the two first words of them are printed in Macbeth, favour the supposition that Middles

ton's NOTES. Again, the Hecate of Shakespeare fays to her sisters :

" I'll charm the air to give a sound,
66 While you perform your antique round, &c.

[Mufick. The Witches dance and vanish," The Hecate of Middleton says on a similar occasion:

66 Come, my sweete fisters, let the aire strike our tune,
" Whilst we shew reverence to yond peeping moone.

[Here they dance and Exeunt." In this play, the motives which incline the witches to mischief, their manners, the contents of their cauldron, &c. seem to have more than accidental resemblance to the same particulars in Macbeth. The hags of Middleton, like the weird fisters of Shakespeare, destroy cattle because they have been refused provisions at farm houses. The owl and the cat (Gray Malkin) give them notice when it is time to proceed on their several expeditions. Thus Shakespeare's Witch :

" " Harper cries;-'tis time, 'tis time.” Thus too the Hecate of Middleton :: " Hec.] Heard you the owle yet?,

Stad.] Briefely in the copps.

Hec.] 'Tis high time for us then." The Hecate of Shakespeare, addressing her fifters, observes, that Macbeth is but a wayward for, who loves for his own ends, not for them. The Hecate of Middleton has the same observation, when the youth who has been consulting her, retires :

" I know he loves me not, nor there's no hope on't.” Instead of the grease that's sweaten from the murderer's gibbet, and the finger of birth-ftrangled babe, the witches of Middleton employ the gristle of a man that hangs after sunset," si. e. of a murderer, for all other criminals were anciently cut down before evening) and the “ fat of an unbaptized child.” They likewise boast of the power to raise tempests that shall blow down trees, overthrow buildings, and occafion fhipwreck ; and, more particularly, that they can“ make miles of woods walk.Here too the Grecian Hecate is degraded into a presiding witch, and exercised in superstitions peculiar to our own country. So much for the scenes of enchantment; but even other parts of Middleton's play coincide more than once with that of Shakespeare. Lady Macbeth says, in act II:

the surfeited grooms " Do mock their charge with snores. I have drugg'd their

poflets.So too Francisca in the piece of Middleton : Vol. I,

[ 4]

[ocr errors]


ton's piece preceded that of Shakspeare; the latter, it should feem, thinking it unnecessary to set down verses which were

probably NO TE S. 16

they're now all at rest, « And Gasper there and all :-Lift!-- fast alleepe; “ He cryes it hither.— I must disease you straight, Sir: " For the maide-fervants, and the girles o'th' house,

" I spic'd them lately with a drowsie posset, ... " They will not hear in haste.” And Francisca, like lady Macbeth, is watching late at night to eng courage the perpetration of a murder.

The expression which Shakespeare has put into the mouth of Macbeth, when he is sufficiently recollected to perceive that the dagger and the blood on it, were the creations of his own fancy,

p". There's no such thing” is likewise appropriated to Francisca, when the undeceives her brother, whose imagination had been equally abused.

From the instances already produced, perhaps the reader would allow, that if Middleton's piece preceded Shakespeare's, the originality of the magic introduced by the latter, might be fairly questioned; for our author (who as actor, and inanager, had access to unpublished dramatic performances) has so often condescended to receive hints from his contemporaries, that our suspicion of his having been a copyilt in the present infance, might not be without foundation. Nay, perhaps, a time inay arrive, in which it will become evident from books and manuscripts yet undiscovered and unexamined, that Shakespeare never attempted a play on any arguinant, tiil the efiect of the fame story, or at least the ruling incidents in it, had been already tried on the stage, and familiarized to his audience. Let it be remembered, in support of this conjecture, that dramatic pieces on the following subjects, - viz. King Fobn, King Richard 11. and III. King Henry IV. and V. King Henry VIII. King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, Measure for Measure, the Merchant of Venice, the Teming of a Shrew, and the Comedy of Errors,-had appeared before those of Shakespeare, and that he has taken somewhat from ailcf them that we have hitherto seen. I must observe at the same tiine, that Middleton, in his other dramas, is found to have borrowed little froin the sentiments, and nothing from the fabies of his predecessors. He is known to have written in concert with Jonjon, Fletcher, Mojlinger, and Rowley ; but appears to have been unacquainted, or at leaft unconnected, with ShaktJpearl. · It is true that the date of The Witch cannot be ascertained. The author, however, in his dedication (to the truelie-worthie and generously-affe&ted Thomas Holmes Esquire) obferves, that he recoverthis. ignorant-ill-fated labour of his (from the play-house, I suppose) not without much difficultie. Witches (continues he) are, ipfo


probably well known, and perhaps then in the poffeffion of the managers of the Globe theatre. The high reputation

. NOTE . .

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


fatto, by the law condemn'd, and that onely, I thinck, hath made her lie so long in an imprison'd obscuritie. It is probable, therefore from these words, as well as from the title-page, that the play was written long * before the dedication, which seems to have been added foon after the year 1603, when the act of K. James against witches passed into a law. If it be objccted, that The WITCH appears from this title-page to have been acted only by his majesty's servants, let it be remembered that these were the very players who had been before in the service of the Queen; but Middleton, dedicating his work in the time of James, speaks of them only as dependants on the reigning prince.

Here too it may be remarked, that the firt dramatic piece in which Middleton is known to have had a hand, viz. The Old Law, was acted in 1599; fo that The Witch might have been composed, if not performed at an earlier period † than the accession of James to the crown; for the belief of witchcraft was sufficiently popular in the preceding reigns.' The piece in question might likewise have been neglected through the caprice of players, or retarded till it could be known that James would permit such representations; (for on his arrival here, both authors and actors who should have ventured to bring the midnight mirth and jollity of witches on the stage, would probably have been indicted as favourers of magic and enchantment) or, it might have shrunk into obscurity after the appearance of Macbeth; or perhaps was forbiden by the command of the king. The witches of Shakespeare (exclusive of the flattering circumstance to which their prophecy alludes) are solemn in their operations, and therefore behaved in conformity to his majesty's own opinions. On the contrary, the hags of Middleton are ludicrous in their conduct, and lefsen, by ridiculous combinations of images, the folemnity of that magic in which our scepter'd persecutor of old women most reverently and potently believed.

The conclufion to Middleton's dedication has likewise a degree of fingularity that deserves notice.--" For your fake alone, she

# That dramatic pieces were fometimes written long before they were printed, may be proved from the example of Marlowe's Ricb few of Malta, which was entered on the books of the Stationers' company in the year 1594,- but was not published till 1633, as we learn from the preface to it written by Heywood. It appears likewise from the same registers, that several plays were written, that were never published at all...

† The spelling in the MS, is sometimes more antiquated than any to be met with in the printed copies of Shakespeare, as the following inftances may prove: Byn for been-follempnely for folemnly-dampnation for damnation quigbe for quite - grizzel for grifloondos for dor-wollyff for olive, &c.


nified uports of thefees, to me

of Shakspeare's performances (to mention à circumstance which in the course of these observations will be more than once inlified upon) likewise strengthens this conjecture; for it is very improbable, that Middleton, or any other poet of that time, should have ventured into those regions of fiction, in which our author had already expatiated :

-“ Shakespeare's magick could not copy'd be,

Within that circle none durst walk but he.” Other pieces of equal antiquity may, perhaps, be hereafter

discovered; for the names of several ancient plays are pre- served, which are not known to have been ever printed. · Thus we hear of Valentine and Orson, plaied by her Majefilie's

players—The tragedy of Ninus and Semiramis-Titirus and Galathea-Godfrey of Bulloigne - The Cradle of Securitie - Hit

NOTES. hath thus conjur'd' her self abroad; and beares no other charmes about her, but what may tend to your recreation ; nor no other spell, but to poffes you with a beleif, that as the, fo he, that firs taught her to enchant, will alivaies be, &c."-" He that taught her to enchant," would have sufficiently expressed the obvious meaning of the writer, without aid from the word fir, which seems to imply a covert censure on foine person who had engaged his Hecate in a secondary course of witchcraft.

The reader must have inferred from the specimea of incantation already given, that this MS. play (which was purchased by Major · Peirson out of the collection of one Griffin, a player, and is in all

probability the presentation copy) had indubitably pafled through the hands of Sir William Davenant; for almost all the additions which he pretends to have made to the scenes of witchcraft in Macbeth (together with the names of the supplemental agents) are adopted from Middleton. It was not the interest therefore of Sir William, that this piece should ever appear in print: but time that makes important discoveries, has likewise brought his perty plagiarism to light *.

I should remark, that Sir W. D. has corrupted several words as well as proper names in the songs, &c. but it were needless to par. ticularize his mistakes, as this entire tragi-comedy will hereafier he published for the fatisfaction of the curious and intelligent readers of Shakojearc.'

STEEVENS. * Sir William Davenant might likewise have formed his play of Albovine King of Lombardy on some of the trayic scenes in this unpublished piece by Middleton. Yet the chiet cirrumstances on which they are both founded, occur in the fourth volume of the Histoires Tragiques, &c. par Français de Belle foreff, 1980, p. 297, and at the beginning of Macbiovel's Florentine History.



che Head - Mr. 736 Fidelea

[ 331 ] the Naile o'the Head - The Marriage of Wit and Wisdom - Sir Thomas More (Harl. Mf. 7368) The Ife of Dogs, by Thomas Nafhe-The comedy of Fidele and Fortunatus-The famous tragedy of The Deflruction of Jerusalem, by Dr. Legge -The Freeman's Honour, by William Smith - Mahomet and Irene the Faire GreekThe Play of the Cards---Cardenio, The Knaves--The Knot of Fools-- Raymond Duke of Lyons - The Nobleman, by Cyril Tourneur-[the five laft, acted in the year 1613] The honoured LovesThe Parliament of Love~and Nonfuch, a comedy; all by William Rowley--The Pilgrimage to Parnasus, by the author of the Return from Parnassus--Believe as you Lift, by Maffinger -The Pirate, by Davenport - Rofania or Love's Victor

ry, a comedy by Shirley, (some of whose plays were extant in · Mf. in Langbaine's time) - The Twins, a tragedy, acted in 1613

-Tancredo, a tragedy, by Sir Henry Wotton - Demetrius and Marfına, or the imperial Impoflor and unhappy Heroine, a tragedy The Tyrant, a tragedy - The Queen of Corsica-The Bugbears The Second Maid's Tragedy Timon, a comedy, &c. &c. Soon after the Restoration, one Kirkman a bookseller, printed many dramatick pieces that had remained unpublished for more than fixty years; and in an advertisement subjoined to“ A true, perfeel, and exact catalogue of all the comedies, tragedies, &c. that were ever get printed and published, till this present year 1671," he says, that although there were, at that time, but eight hundred and fix plays in print, yet many more had been written and acted, and that “ he himself had some quantity in manuscript.—The resemblance between Macbeth and this newly discovered piece by Middleton, naturally suggests a wish, that if any of the unpublished plays, above enumerated, be yet in being, (befides Timon and Sir Thomas More, which are known to be extant) their poffeffors would condescend to examine them with attention; as hence, perhaps, new lights might be thrown on others of our author's plays.

35. THE TAMING OF THE Shrew, 1606. The Taming of the Shrew, which, together with Romeo and Juliet, and Love's Labour Loft, was entered at Stationers' Hall by Nich. Ling, Jan. 22, 1606-7, was not, I believe, Shakspeare's play, but the old comedy of the same name, on which our author's piece was manifestly formed. Nich. Ling never printed either Romeo and Juliet, or Love's Labour Loft; though in the books of the Stationers' company they were entered by him. The old I aming of the Shrew, which


« السابقةمتابعة »