« السابقةمتابعة »
by Francis Meres entitled “ Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury.” In a division of this small but thick volume (consisting of 666 8vo. pages, besides “ The Table,”) headed “A comparative discourse of our English Poets, with the Greeke, Latine and Italian Poets,” the author inserts the following paragraph, which we extract precisely as it stands in the original, because it has no where, that we recollect, been quoted quite correctly.
"As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latines : so Shakespeare among ye English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage; for Comedy, witnes his Gētlemē of Verona, his Errors, his Loue labors lost, his Loue labours wonne, his Midsummers night dreame, & his Merchant of Venice : for Tragedy his Richard the 2. Richard the 3. Henry the 4. King Lohn, Titus Andronicus and his Romeo and Juliet 6."
6 The following passages, in the same division of the work of Meres, contain mention of the name or works of Shakespeare,
“ As the soule of Euphorbus was thought to liue in Pythagoras, so the sweete wittie soule of Ouid liues in mellifluous and hony-tongued Shakespeare ; witnes his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugred sonnets among his priuate friends &c.” fol. 281.
“As Epius Stolo said, the Muses would speake with Plautus tongue, if they would speak Latin; so I say the Muses would speak with Shakespeare's finefiled phrase, if they would speak English.” fol. 282.
“And as Horace saith of his, Exegi monumentū ære perennius, Regaliq; situ pyramidum altius; Quod non imber edax; Non Aquilo impotens possit diruere, aut innumerabilis annorum series et fuga temporum ; so say I severally of Sir Philip Sidneys, Spencers, Daniels, Draytons, Shakespeares, and Warners workes,” fol. 282.
“ As Pindarus, Anacreon, and Callimachus among the Greekes, and Horace and Catullus among the Latines, are the best lyrick poets; so in this faculty the best amog our poets are Spencer (who excelleth in all kinds) Daniel, Drayton, Shakespeare, Bretto." fol. 282.
“ As these tragicke poets flourished in Greece, Æschylus, Euripedes, Sophocles, Alexander Aetolus, Achæus Erithriæus, Astydamas Atheniēsis, Apollodorus Tarsensis, Nicomachus Phrygius, Thespis Atticus, and Timon Apolloniates; and these among the Latines, Accius, M. Attilius, Pomponius Secundus and Seneca ; so these are our best for tragedie ; the Lord Buckhurst, Doctor Leg of Cambridge, Dr. Edes of Oxford, Maister Edward Ferris, the Authour of the Mirrour for Magistrates, Marlow, Peele, Watson, Kid, Shakespeare, Drayton, Chapman, Decker, and Beniamin Iohnson.” fol. 283,
“ The best poets for comedy among the Greeks are these: Menander, Aristophanes, Eupolis Atheniensis Alexis, Terius, Nicostratus, Amipsias Atheniensis, Anaxãdrides Rhodius, Aristonymus, Archippus Atheniēsis, and Callias Atheniensis; and among the Latines, Plautus, Terence, Næuius, Sext. Turpilius, Licinius Imbrex, and Virgilius Romanus; so the best for comedy amongst us bee Edward Earle of Oxforde, Doctor Gager of Oxforde, Maister Rowley,
Thus we see that twelve comedies, histories, and tragedies (for we have specimens in each department) were known as Shakespeare's in the autumn of 1598, when the work of Meres came from the press'. It is a remarkable circumstance, evincing strikingly the manner in which the various companies of actors of that period were able to keep popular pieces from the press, that until Shakespeare had been a writer for the Lord Chamberlain's servants ten or eleven years not a single play by him was published; and then four of his first printed plays were without his name, as if the bookseller had been ignorant of the fact, or as if he considered that the omission would not affect the sale: one of them, “Romeo and Juliet,” was never printed in any early quarto as the work of Shakespeare, as will be seen from our exact reprint of the title-pages of the editions of 1597, 1599, and 1609, Vol. vi. p. 3668. The reprints of “Richard II.” and
once a rare scholler of learned Pembrooke Hall in Cambridge, Maister Edwardes, one of her Maiesties Chappell, eloquent and wittie John Lilly, Lodge, Gascoyne, Greene, Shakespeare, Thomas Nash, Thomas Heywood, Anthony Mundye, our best plotter, Chapman, Porter, Wilson, Hathway, and Henry Chettle.” fol. 283.
“As these are famous among the Greeks for elegie, Melanthus, Mymnerus Colophonius, Olympius Mysius, Parthenius Nicæus, Philetas Cous, Theogenes Megarensis, and Pigres Halicarnasæus; and these among the Latines, Mecænas, Ouid, Tibullus, Propertius, T. Valgius, Cassius Seuerus, and Clodius Sabinus; so these are the most passionate among us to bewaile and bemoane the perplexities of loue; Henrie Howard Earle of Surrey, sir Thomas Wyat the elder, sir Francis Brian, sir Philip Sidney, sir Walter Rawley, sir Edward Dyer, Spencer, Daniel, Drayton, Shakespeare, Whetstone, Gascoyne, Samuell Page sometime fellowe of Corpus Christi Colledge in Oxford, Churchyard, Bretton." fol. 283.
7 It was entered for publication on the Stationers' Registers in September, 1598. Meres must have written something in verse which has not reached our day, because in 1601 he was addressed by C. Fifzgeoffrey, in his Affanie, as a poet and theologian: he was certainly well acquainted with the writings of all the poets of his time, whatever might be their department. Fitzgeoffrey mentions Meres in company with Spenser, Daniel, Drayton, Ben Jonson, Sylvester, Chapman, Marston, &c.
8 The same remark will apply to “ Henry V.” first printed in 4to, 1600, and again in 1602, and a third time in 1608, without the name of Shakespeare. However, this “history” never appeared in any thing like an authentic shape, such as we may suppose it came from Shakespeare's pen, until it was included in the folio of 1623.
“ Richard III.” in 1598, as before observed, have Shakespeare's name on the title-pages, and they were issued, perhaps, after Meres bad distinctly assigned those “histories” to him.
It is our conviction, after the most minute and patient examination of, we believe, every old impression, that Shakespeare in no instance authorized the publication of his plays': we do not consider even “Hamlet” an exception, although the edition of 1604 was probably intended, by some parties connected with the theatre, to supersede the garbled and fraudulent edition of 1603: Shakespeare, in our opinion, had nothing to do with the one or with the other. He allowed most mangled and deformed copies of several of his greatest works to be circulated for many years, and did not think it worth his while to expose the fraud, which remained, in several cases, undetected, as far as the great body of the public was concerned, until the appearance of the folio of 1623. Our great dramatist's indifference upon this point seems to have been shared by many, if not by most, of his contemporaries; and if the quarto impression of any one of his plays be more accurate in typography than another, we feel satisfied that it arose out of the better state of the manuscript, or the greater pains and fidelity of the printer.
We may here point out a strong instance of the carelessness of dramatic authors of that period respecting the condition in which their productions came into the world : others might be adduced without much difficulty, but one will be sufficient. Before his “Rape of Lucrece," a drama first printed in 1608, Thomas Heywood inserted an address to the reader, informing him (for it was an exception to the general rule) that he had given his consent to the publication; but those who have examined that impression, and its repetition in 1609, will be aware that it is full of the very grossest blunders, which the commonest corrector of the press, much less the author, if he had seen the sheets, could not have allowed to pass. Nearly all plays of that time were most defectively printed, but Heywood's “Rape of Lucrece,” as it originally came from the press with the author's imprimatur, is, we think, the worst specimen of typography that ever met our observation'.
9 It will be observed that we confine this opinion to the plays, because with respect to the poems, especially “ Venus and Adonis” and “Lucrece,” we feel quite as strongly convinced that Shakespeare, being instrumental in their publication, and more anxious about their correctness, did see at least the first editions through the press.
Returning to the important list of twelve plays furnished by Meres, we may add, that although he does not mention them, there can be no doubt that the three parts of “ Henry VI.” had been repeatedly acted before 1598: we may possibly infer, that they were not inserted because they were then well known not to be the sole work of Shakespeare. By “Henry IV.” it is most probable that Meres intended both parts of that “history.” “Love's Labour's Won” has been supposed, since the time of Dr. Farmer, to be “ All's Well that ends Well,” under a different title: our notion is (see vol. iii. p. 201) that the original name given to the play was “Love's Labour's Won;" and that, when it was revived with additions and alterations, in 1605 or 1606, it received also a new appellation.
In connexion with the question regarding the interest taken by Shakespeare in the publication of his
I We cannot wonder at the errors in plays surreptitiously procured and hastily printed, which was the case with many impressions of that day. Upon this point Heywood is an unexceptionable witness, and he tells us of one of his dramas,
--"that some by stenography drew
The plot, put it in print, scarce one word true.” Other dramatists make the same complaint ; and there can be no doubt that it was the practice so to defraud authors and actors, and to palm wretchedly disfigured pieces upon the public as genuine and authentic works. It was, we are satisfied, in this way that Shakespeare's “Romeo and Juliet,” “ Henry V.," and “Hamlet,” first got out into the world.
works, we may notice the impudent fraud practised in the year after the appearance of the list furnished by Meres. In 1599 came out a collection of short miscellaneous poems, under the title of “The Passionate Pilgrim:” they were all of them imputed, by W. Jaggard the printer, or by W. Leake the bookseller, to Shakespeare, although some of them were notoriously by other poets. In the Introduction to our reprint of this little work (Vol. viï. p. 559) we have stated all the known particulars regarding it; but Shakespeare, as far as appears from any evidence that has descended to us, took no notice of the trick played upon him : possibly he never heard of it, or if he heard of it, left it to its own detection, not thinking it worth while to interfere?. It serves to establish, what certainly could not otherwise be doubted, the popularity of Shakespeare in 1599, and the manner in which a scheming printer and stationer endeavoured to take advantage of that popularity.
Yet it is singular, if we rely upon several coeval authorities, how little our great dramatist was about this period known and admired for his plays. Richard Barnfield published his “Encomion of Lady Pecunia,” in 1598, (the year in which the list of twelve of Shakespeare's plays was printed by Meres) and from a copy of verses entitled “Remembrance of some English Poets,” we quote the following notice of Shakespeare:
“And Shakespeare thou, whose honey-flowing vein,
Pleasing the world, thy praises doth contain,
2 When “ The Passionate Pilgrim” was reprinted in 1612, with some additional pieces by Thomas Heywood, that dramatist pointed out the imposition, and procured the cancelling of the title-page in which the authorship of the whole was assigned to Shakespeare.