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history, and even the seeming peculiarities of his language: to furnish out these materials, all the plays have been perus’d, within
the tincture of any knowledge it had once been imbu'd with, can not be imagin’d: accordingly we see, that this school-learning (for it was no more) stuck with him to the last; and it was the recordations, as we may call it, of that learning which produc'd the Latin that is in many of his plays, and most plentifully in those that are most early: every several piece of it is aptly in. troduc'd, given to a proper character, and utter'd upon some proper occasion; and so well cemented, as it were, and join'd to the passage it stands in, as to deal conviction to the judicious -that the whole was wrought up together, and fetch'd from his own little store, upon the sudden and without study.
The other languages, which he has sometimes made use of, that is the Italian and French, are not of such difficult con. quest that we should think them beyond his reach: an acquaintance with the first of them was a sort of fashion in his time; Surrey and the sonnet-writers set it on foot, and it was continu'd by Sidney and Spenser: all our poetry issu'd from that school; and it would be wonderful, indeed, if he, whom we saw a litte before putting himself with so much zeal under the banner of the muses, should not have been tempted to taste at least of that fountain to which of all his other brethren there was such continual resort: let us conclude then, that he did taste of it; but, happily for himself, and more happy for the world that enjoys him now, he did not find it to his relish, and threw away the cup: metaphor apart, it is evident that he had some little knowledge of the Italian: perhaps, just as much as enabld him to read a novel or a poem; and to put some few fragments of it, with which his memory furnish’d him, into the mouth of a pe. dant, or fine gentleman.
How or when he acquird it we must be content to be igno. sant, but of the French language he was somewhat a greater master than of the two that have gone before; yet, unless we except their novelists, he does not appear to have had much acquaintance with any of their writers; what he has given us of it is meerly colloquial, flows with great ease from him, and is reasonably pure: Should it be said-he had travel'd for 't, we know not who can confute us: in his days indeed, and with people of his station, the custom of doing so was rather rarer than in ours; yet we have met with an example, and in his own band of players, in the person of the very famous Mr. Kempe; of whose travels there is mention in a silly old play, call'd—The Return from Parnassus, printed in 1606, but written much earlier in the time of Queen Elizabeth: add to this the exceeding great liveliness and justness that is seen in many descriptions of the sea and of promontories, which, if examin'd, shew another sort of knowledge of them than is to be gotten in books or relations ; and if these be lay'd together, this conjecture of his travelling may not be thought void of probability.
a very small number, that were in print in his time or some short time after; the chroniclers his contemporaries, or that a little preceded him; many original poets of that age, and many translators; with essayists, novellists, and story-mongers in great abundance: every book, in short, has been consulted that it was possible to procure, with which it could be thought he was acquainted, or that seem'd likely to contribute any thing towards his illustration. To what degree they illustrate him, and in how new a light they set the character of this great poet himself can never be conceiv'd as it should be, 'till these extracts come forth to the publick view, in their just magnitude, and properly digested : for besides the various passages that he has either made use of or alluded to, many other matters have been selected and will be found in this work, tending all to the same end-our better knowledge of him and his writings; and one class of them there is, for which we shall perhaps be censur'd as being too profuse in them, namely—the almost innumerable examples, drawn from these ancient writers, of words and modes of expression which many have thought peculiar to Shakspeare, and have been too apt to impute to him as a blemish: but the quotations of this class do effectually purge him from such a charge,
One opinion, we are sure, which is advanc'd somewhere or other, is utterly so;—that this Latin, and this Italian, and the language that was last mention'd, are insertions and the work of some other hand: there has been started now and then in philo. logical matters a proposition so strange as to carry its own condemnation in it, and this is of the number; it has been honour'd already with more notice than it is any ways intitld to, where the poet's Latin is spoke of a little while before; to which answer it must be left, and we shall pass on-to profess our entire belief of the genuineness of every several part of this work, and that he only was the author of it: he might write beneath himself at particular times, and certainly does in some places; but he is not always without excuse; and it frequently happens that a weak scene serves to very good purpose, as will be made appear at one time or other. It may be thought that there is one argument still unanswer’d, which has been brought against his acquaintance with the Latin and other languages; and that is-that, had he been so acquainted, it could not have happen'd but that some imitations would have crept into his writings, of which certainly there are none: but this argument has been answer'd in effect; when it was said-that his knowledge in these lan. guages was but slender, and his conversation with the writers in them slender too of course: but had it been otherwise, and he as deeply read in them as some people have thought him, his works (it is probable) had been as little deform’d with imi. tations as we now see thém: Shakspeare was far above such a practice; he had the stores in himself, and wanted not the assistance of a foreign hand to dress him up in things of their lending
vhich is one reason of their profusion; though another main it, ducement to it has been, a desire of shewing the true force and Meaning of the aforesaid unusual words and expressions; which can no way be better ascertain'd, than by a proper variety of well-chosen examples. Now,-to bring this matter home to the subject for which it has been alledg’d, and upon whose account this affair is now lay'd before the publick somewhat before it's time,—who is so short-sighted as not to perceive, upon first reflection, that, without manifest injustice, the notes upon this author could not precede the publication of the work we have been describing; whose choicest materials would unavoidably and certainly have found a place in those notes, and so been twice retail'd upon the world; a practice which the editor has often condemn'd in others, and could therefore not resolve to be guilty of in himself? By postponing these notes a while, things will be as they ought: they will then be confin'd to that which is their proper subject, explanation alone, intermix'd with some little criticism; and instead of long quotations, which would otherwise have appear'd in them, the School of Shakspeare will be refer'd to occasionally; and one of the many indexes with which this same School will be provided, will afford an ampler and truer Glossary than can be made out of any other matter. In the mean while, and 'till such time as the whole can be got ready, and their way clear'd for them by publication of the book above-mention'd, the reader will please to take in good part some few of these notes with which he will be presented by and by: they were written at least four years ago, with intention of placing them at the head of the several notes that are design'd for each play; but are now detach'd from their fellows, and made parcel of the Introduction, in compliance with some friends' opinion; who having given them a perusal, will needs have it, that 'tis expedient the world should be made acquainted forthwith-in what sort of reading the poor poet himself, and his editor after him, have been unfortunately immers’d.
This discourse is run out, we know not how, into greater heap of leaves than was any ways thought of, and has perhaps fatigu'd the reader equally with the penner of it: yet can we not dismiss him, nor lay down our pen, 'till one article more has been enquir'd into, which seems no less proper for the discussion of this place, than one which we have inserted before, beginning at p. 174; as we there ventur’d to stand up in the behalf of some of the quarto's and maintain their authenticity, so mean we to have the hardiness here to defend some certain plays in this collection from the attacks of a number of wr ers who have thought fit to call in question their genuineness: the plays contested are-- The Three Parts of Henry VI; Love's Labour's Lost; The Taming of the Shrew; and Titus Andronicus ; and the sum of what is brought against them, so far at least as is hitherto come to knowledge, may be all ultimately resolv'd into the sole opinion of their unworthiness, exclusive of some weak surmises which do not deserve a notice: it is therefore fair and allowable, by all laws of duelling, to oppose opinion to opinion; which if we can strengthen with reasons, and some. thing like proofs, which are totally wanting on the other side, the last opinion may chance to carry the day,
To begin then with the first of them, the Henry VI, in three parts. We are quite in the dark as to when the first part was written; but should be apt to conjecture, that it was some con. siderable time after the other two; and, perhaps, when those two were re-touch'd, and made a little fitter than they are in their first draught to rank with the author's other plays which he has fetch'd from our English history: and those two parts, even with all their re-touchings, being still much inferior to the other plays of that class, he may reasonably be suppos'd to have un. derwrit himself on purpose in the first, that it might the better match with those it belong'd to: now that these two plays (the first draughts of them, at least,) are among his early perform. ances, we know certainly from their date; which is further con. firm’d by the two concluding lines of his Henry V, spoken by the Chorus; and (possibly) it were not going too far, to imagine that they are his second attempt in history, and near in time to his original King John, which is also in two parts: and, if this be so, we may safely pronounce them his, and even highly wor. thy of him; being certain, that there was no English play upon the stage, at that time, which can come at all in competition with them; and this probably it was, which procur’d them the good reception that is mention’d too in the Chorus. The plays we are now speaking of have been inconceiveably mangld ei. theran the copy or the press, or perhaps both: yet this may be discover'd in them,—that the alterations made afterwards by the author are nothing near so considerable as those in some other plays; the incidents, the characters, every principal out. line in short being the same in both draughts; so that what we shall have occasion to say of the second, may, in some degree, and without much violence, be apply'd also to the first : and this we presume to say of it;-that, low as it must be set in comparison with his other plays, it has beauties in it, and gran. deurs, of which no other author was capable but Shakspeare only: that extreamly-affecting scene of the death of young Rutland, that of his father which comes next it, and of Clifford the murtherer of them both ; Beaufort's dreadful exit, the exit of King Henry, and a scene of wondrous simplicity and wondrous tenderness united, in which that Henry is made a speaker, while his last decisive battle is fighting -are as so many stamps upon these plays ; by which his property is mark’d, and him. self declar'd the owner of them, beyond controversy as we think: and though we have selected these passages only, and recommended them to observation, it had been easy to name abundance of others which bear his mark as strongly: and one circumstance there is that runs through all the three plays, by which he is as surely to be known as by any other that can be thought of; and that is,-the preservation of character: all the
personages in them are distinctly and truly delineated, and the character given them sustain'd uniformly throughout; the enormous Richard's particularly, which in the third of these plays is seen rising towards it's zenith : and who sees not the future monster, and acknowledges at the same time the pen that drew it, in these two lines only, spoken over a king who lies stab’d before him,
“ What, will the aspiring blood of Lancaster
“ Sink in the ground? I thought, it would have mounted." let him never pretend discernment hereafter in any case of this
It is hard to persuade one's self, that the objecters to the play which comes next are indeed serious in their opinion; for if he is not visible in Love's Labour's Lost, we know not in which of his comedies he can be said to be so: the ease and sprightliness of the dialogue in very many parts of it; it's quick turns of wit, and the humour it abounds in; and (chiefly) in those truly comick characters, the pedant and his companion, the page, the constable, Costard, and Armado,-seem more than sufficient to prove Shakspeare the author of it: and for the ble. mishes of this play, we must seek the true cause in it's antiquity; which we may venture to carry higher than 1598, the date of it's first impression : rime, when this play appear'd was thought a beauty of the drama, and heard with singular plea. sure by an audience who but a few years before, had been accustom'd to all rime; and the measure we call dogrel, and areso much offended with, had no such effect upon the ears of that time : but whether blemishes or no, however this matter be which we have brought to exculpate him, neither of these ar. ticles can with any face of justice be alledg’d against Love's Labour's Lost, seeing they are both to be met with in several sther plays, the genuineness of which has not been question'd by any one. And one thing more shall be observ'd in the behalf of this play ;-that the author himself was so little displeas'd at least with some parts of it, that he has brought them a se. cond time upon the stage; for who may not perceive that his famous Benedick and Beatrice are but little more than the counter-parts of Biron and Rosaline ? All which circumstances consider'd, and that especially of the writer's childhood (as it may be term’d) when this comedy was produc'd, we may con. fidently pronounce it his true offspring, and replace it amongst it's brethren.
That the Taming of the Shrew should ever have been put into this class of plays, and adjudg’d a spurious one, may justly be reckon'd wonderful, when we consider it's merit, and the re. ception it has generally met with in the world: it's success at first, and the esteem it was then held in, induc'd Fletcher to enter the lists with it in another play, in which Petruchio is humbld and Catharine triumphant; and we have it in his works, under the title of “ The Woman's Prize, or, The Tamer Tam’d:" but, by an unhappy mistake of buffoonery for humour and ob.