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insertion, for the sake of repaying by one poet a debt of gratitude to the other.
Without taking into consideration what may have been lost, if we are asked what we think it likely that Shakespeare had written in and before 1591, we should answer, that he had altered and added to the three parts of “Henry VI.,” that he had written, or aided in writing, “ Titus Andronicus,” that he had revived and amended “The Comedy of Errors,” and that he had composed “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” and “Love's Labour's Lost.” Thus, looking only at his extant works, we see that the eulogy of Spenser was well warranted by the plays Shakespeare, at that early date, had produced.
If the evidence upon this point were even more scanty, we should be convinced that by “our pleasant Willy” Spenser meant William Shakespeare, by the fact that such a character as he gives could belong to no other dramatist of the time. Greene can have no pretensions to it, nor Lodge, nor Kyd, nor Peele; Marlowe had never touched comedy: but if these have no title to the praise that they had mocked nature and imitated truth, the claim put in by Malone for Lyly is little short of absurd. Lyly was, beyond dispute, the most artificial and affected writer of his day: his dramas have nothing like nature or truth in them; and
Queene.” Fuller first published the anecdote in his “ Worthies,” 1662 ; but sixty years earlier, and within a very short time after the death of Spenser, the story was current, for we find the lines in Manningham's Diary, (Harl. MS. 5353) under the date of May 4, 1602 : they are thus introduced :
“ When ber Majesty had given order that Spenser should have a reward for his poems, but Spenser could have nothing, he presented her with these verses :
“ It pleas’d your Grace upon a time
To grant me reason for my rhyme ;
I heard of neither rhyme nor reason." The wording differs slightly from Fuller's copy. We add the following epigram upon the death of Spenser, also on the authority of Manningham :
Then god of poets, now poet of the gods."
if it could be established that Spenser and Lyly were on the most intimate footing, even the exaggerated admiration of the fondest friendship could hardly have carried Spenser to the extreme to which he has gone in his “ Tears of the Muses.” If Malone had wished to point out a dramatist of that day to whom the words of Spenser could by no possibility fitly apply, he could not have made a better choice than when he fixed upon Lyly. However, he labours the contrary position with great pertinacity and considerable ingenuity, and it is extraordinary how a man of much reading, and of sound judgment upon many points of literary discussion, could impose upon himself, and be led so far from the truth, by the desire to establish a novelty. At all events, he might have contented himself with an endeavour to prove the negative as regards Shakespeare, without going the strange length of attempting to make out the affirmative as regards Lyly.
We do not for an instant admit the right of any of Shakespeare's predecessors or contemporaries to the tribute of Spenser; but Malone might have made out a case for any of them with more plausibility than for Lyly. Greene was a writer of a fertile fancy, but choked and smothered by the overlaying of scholastic learning: Kyd was a man of strong natural parts, and a composer of vigorous lines : Lodge was a poet of genius, though not in the department of the drama: Peele had an elegant mind, and was a smooth and agreeable versifier; while Marlowe was gifted with a soaring and a daring spirit, though unchecked by a well-regulated taste : but all had more nature in their dramas than Lyly, who generally chose classical or mythological subjects, and dealt with those subjects with a wearisome monotony of style, with thoughts quaint, conceited, and violent, and with an utter absence of force and distinctness in his characterisation.
It is not necessary to enter farther into this part of the question, because, we think, it is now established that Spenser's lines might apply to Shakespeare as regards the date of their publication, and indisputably applied with most felicitous exactness to the works he has left behind him. With regard to the lines which state, that Willy
“Doth rather choose to sit in idle Cell,
Than so himselfe to mockerie to sell,” we have already shown that in 1589 there must have been some compulsory cessation of theatrical performances, which affected not only offending, but unoffending companies: hence the certificate, or more properly remonstrance, of the sixteen sharers in the Blackfriars. The choir-boys of St. Paul's were silenced for bringing “matters of state and religion” on their stage, when they introduced Martin Mar-prelate into one of their dramas: and the players of the Lord Admiral and Lord Strange were prohibited from acting, as far as we can learn, on a similar ground. The interdiction of performances by the children of Paul's was persevered in for about ten years; and although the public companies (after the completion of some inquiries by commissioners specially appointed) were allowed again to follow their vocation, there can be no doubt that there was a temporary suspension of all theatrical exhibitions in London. This suspension commenced a short time before Spenser wrote his “ Tears of the Muses,” in which he notices the silence of Shakespeare.
We have no means of ascertaining how long the order, inbibiting theatrical performances generally, was persevered in; but the plague broke out in London in 1592, and in the autumn of the year, when the number of deaths was greatest, “the Queen's players,”
I They consisted of the company under the leadership of Lawrence Dutton, one of the two associations acting at this period under the Queen's name. Both were unconnected with the Lord Chamberlain's servants.
in their progress round the country, whither they wandered when thus prevented from acting in the metropolis, performed at Chesterton, near Cambridge, to the great annoyance of the heads of the university.
It was at this juncture, probably, if indeed he ever were in that country, that Shakespeare visited Italy. Mr. C. Armitage Brown, in his very clever, and in many respects original work, “Shakespeare's Autobiographical Poems,” has maintained the affirmative with great confidence, and has brought into one view all the internal evidence afforded by the productions of our great dramatist. External evidence there is none, since not even a tradition of such a journey has descended to us. We own that the internal evidence, in our estimation, is by no means as strong as it appeared to Mr. Brown, who has evinced great ingenuity and ability in the conduct of his case, and has made as much as possible of his proofs. He dwells, among other things, upon the fact, that there were no contemporaneous translations of the tales on which “The Merchant of Venice" and “Othello” are founded; but Shakespeare may have understood as much Italian as answered his purpose without having gone to Venice. For the same reason we lay no stress upon the recently-discovered fact, (not known when Mr. Brown wrote) that Shakespeare constructed his “ Twelfth Night” with the aid of one or two Italian comedies: they may have found their way into England, and he may have read them in the original language. That Shakespeare was capable of translating Italian sufficiently for his own purposes, we are morally certain; but we think that if he had travelled to Venice, Verona, or Florence, we should have had more distinct and positive testimony of the fact in his works than can be adduced from them.
Other authors of the time have left such evidence behind them as cannot be disputed. Lyly tells us so distinctly in more than one of his pieces, and Rich
his friend a
to Italy and
informs us that he became acquainted with the novels he translated on the other side of the Alps: Daniel goes the length of letting us know where certain of his sonnets were composed : Lodge wrote some of his tracts abroad: Nash gives us the places where he met particular persons; and his friend Greene admits his obligations to Italy and Spain, whither he had travelled early in life in pursuit of letters. In truth, at that period and afterwards, there seems to have been a prevailing rage for foreign travel, and it extended itself to mere actors, as well as to poets; for we know that William Kempe was in Rome in 1601?, during the interval between the time when, for some unexplained reason, he quitted the company of the Lord Chamberlain's players, and joined that of the Lord Admiral”.
? See Mr. Halliwell's “ Ludus Coventriæ” (printed for the Shakespeare Society), p. 410. Rowley, in his “ Search for Money," speaks of this expedition by Kempe, who, it seems, had wagered a certain sum of money that he would go to Rome and back in a given number of days. In the introduction to the reprint of that rare tract by the Percy Society, it is shown that Kempe also danced a morris in France. These circumstances were unknown to the Rev. A. Dyce, when he superintended a republication of Kempe's “Nine Days' Wonder," 1600, for the Camden Society.
3 It is a new fact that Kempe at any time quitted the company playing at the Blackfriars and Globe theatres : it is however indisputable, and we have it on the authority of Henslowe's Diary, where payments are recorded to Kempe, and where entries are also made for the expenses of dresses supplied to him in 1602. These memoranda Malone overlooked, when the MS., belonging to Dulwich College, was in his hands ; but they may be very important with reference to the dates of some of Shakespeare's plays, and the particular actors engaged in them : they also account for the non-appearance of Kempe's name in the royal licence granted in May, 1603, to the company to which he had belonged. Mr. Dyce attributes the omission of Kempe's name in that instrument to his death, because, in the register of St. Saviour's, Southwark, Chalmers found an entry, dated Nov. 2, 1603, of the burial of “William Kempe, a man." There were doubtless many men of the common names of William Kempe; and the William Kempe, who had acted Dogberry, Peter, &c., was certainly alive in 1605, and had by that date rejoined the Lord Chamberlain's servants, then called “the King's players.” The following unnoticed memoranda relating to him are extracted from Henslowe's Diary: “ Lent unto Wm Kempe, the 10 of Marche, 1602, in redy mony, twentye
shillinges for his necesary uses, the some of xxs. “ Lent unto Wm Kempe, the 22 of Auguste, 1602, to buye buckram to
make a payer of gyentes hosse, the some of vs. “ Pd unto the tyerman for mackynge of Wm Kempe's sewt, and the boyes,
the 4 Septembr 1602, some of viijs. 84."