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and the rest of the King's Company, before prince Charles, the lady Elizabeth, and the prince Palatine elector, in the beginning of the year 1613.
The names of Trinculo and Antonio, two of the characters in this comedy, are likewise found in that of Albumazar; which was first printed in 1614, but is supposed by Dryden to have appeared some years before.
36. TWELFTH NIGHT, 1614.
It has been generally believed, that Shakspere rea tired from the theatre, and ceased to write, about three years before he died. The latter supposition must now be considered as extremely doubtful; for Mr. Tyrwhitt, with great probability, conjectures, that Twelfth Night was written in 1614: grounding his opinion on an allusion*, which it seems to contain, to those parliamentary undertakers, of whom frequent mention is made in the Journals of the House of Commons for that year t; who were stigmatized with this invidious name, on account of their having undertaken to inanage the elections of knights and burgesses, in such a manner as to secure a majority in parliament for the court. If this allusion was intended, Twelfth
*« Nay, if you be an undertaker, .I am for you." Twelfth Night, A& IV: Sc. iii. and the note there. + Comm. Journ. Vol. I. p. 456, 457, 470.
Night was probably our author's last production ; and, we may presume, was written after he had retired to Stratford. It is observable, that Mr. Ashley, a meinber of the House of Commons, in one of the debates on this subject, says, “ that the rumour concerning these undertakers had spread into the country."
When Shakspere quitted London and his profession, for the tranquillity of a rural retirement, it is improbable that such an excursive genius should have been immediately reconciled to a state of mental inactivity. It is more natural to conceive, that he should have occasionally bent his thoughts towards the theatre, which his muse had supported, and the interest of his associates whom he had left behind him, to struggle with the capricious vicissitudes of publick taste, and whom, his last Will shews us, he had not forgotten.
To the necessity, therefore, of literary amusement to every cultivated mind, or to the dictates of friend. ship, or to both these incentives, we are, perhaps, indebted for the comedy of Twelfth Night; which bears evident marks of having been composed at leisure, as most of the characters that it contains are finished to a higher degree of dramatick perfection, than is discoverable in some of our author's earlier comick performances *.
* The comedies particularly alluded to are, Love's Labour Lost, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and The Comedy of Errors.
In the third act of this comedy, Decker's Westward Hoe seems to be alluded to. Westward Hoe was printed in 1607, and, from the prologue to Eastward Hoe, appears to have been acted in 1604, or before.
Maria, in Twelfth Night, speaking of Malvolio, says, “ he does smile his face into more lines than the new map with the augmentation of the Indies." I have not been able to learn the date of the map here alluded to; but, as it is spoken of as a recent publi. cation, it may, when discovered, serve to ascertain the date of this play more exactly.
The comedy of What You Will (the second title of the play now before us), which was entered at Sta. tioners-Hall, August 9, 1607, was probably Mar. ston's play, as it was printed in that year; and it appears to have been the general practice of the booksellers at that time, recently before publication, to enter those plays of which they had procured copies.
Twelfth Night was not entered on the Stationers' books, nor printed, till 1623.
It has been thought, that Ben Jonson intended to ridicule the conduct of this play, in his Every Man out of his Humour, at the end of Act III. Sc. vi. where he makes Mitis say,—~ That the argument of his comedy might have been of some other nature, as of a duke to be in love with a countess, and that countess to be in love with the duke's son, and the son in love with the lady's waiting-maid ; some such cross Mmiij
wooing, with a clown to their serving-man, better than be thus near and familiarly allied to the time *.
I doubt, however, whether Jonson had here Twelfth Night in contemplation. If an allusion to this comedy were intended, it would ascertain it to have been written before 1599, when Every Man out of his Humour was first acted. But Meres does not mention Twelfth Night in 1598; nor is there any reason to believe that it then existed.
IF the dates here assigned to our author's plays should not, in every instance, carry with them conviction of their propriety, let it be remembered, that this is a subject on which conviction cannot at this day be obtained; and that the observations, now sub. mitted to the publick, do not pretend to any higher title than that of “ An Attempt to ascertain the chronology of the dranias of Shakspere.”
Should the errors and deficiencies of this essay invite others to deeper and more successful researches, the end proposed by it will be attained: and he who offers the present arrangement of Shäkspere's dramas will be happy to transfer the slender portion of credit that may result from the novelty of his undertaking, to some future claimant, who may be supplied with ampler materials, and endued with a superior degree of antiquarian sagacity.
* See the first note on Twelfth Night, Act I, Sc. i.
To some, he is not unapprized, this inquiry will appear a tedious and barren speculation. But there are many, it is hoped, who think nothing that relates to the brightest ornament of the English nation, wholly uninteresting ; who will be gratified by observing, how the genius of our great poet gradually expanded itself, till, like his own Ariel, it flamed amazement in every quarter, blazing forth with a lustre that has not hitherto been equalled, and perhaps will never be surpassed,