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As the examples of Shaksperian learning which we have recently given are all taken from the additions to the Contention,' so are the examples of early Shaksperian versification also taken from the new passages. No one attempts to doubt that these new passages are by Shakspere. If, then, the same structure of versification prevails in some of the additional passages as prevails in the old portions,-and of this we could have furnished many similar examples, it follows, almost conclusively, that the argument against Shakspere being the original author of the three plays, on account of their versification, is as untenable as that he was not the author of the First Part on account of its learning.
Some pages of Malone's 'Dissertation' are devoted to the proof that "the supposition of imperfect or spurious copies cannot account for the variations" between the two Parts of the 'Contention' and the Second and Third Parts of Henry VI. We quite agree with him here. The argument sustains itself without any proof; for no theory of unskilful copyists, or of auditors obtaining a copy from repeated hearings, would account for such changes as we have exhibited between the elder and later plays. "We are compelled to maintain," adds Malone," either that Shakspeare wrote two plays on the story which forms his Second Part of King Henry VI.—a hasty sketch, and an entirely distinct and more finished performance or else we must acknowledge that he formed that piece on a foundation laid by another writer; that is, upon the quarto copy of the 'First Part of the Contention,' &c.; and the same argument applies to the Third Part of King Henry VI., which is founded on the 'True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York.'"* This is the question, certainly, to which we con fine ourselves, with a slight difference in terms. We hold that the quarto copy of each Part of the Contention' is a sketch, if we may so describe an artist's first picture, as compared with a later and more finished copy of the same general design. But it is not necessarily "a hasty sketch." This is, however, immaterial. But is the case of the Second and Third Parts of Henry VI. without a parallel? Has not Shakspere, in some of his undoubted plays, made a sketch of each, which was afterwards worked up into a "more finished performance?" Are there not existing sketches of Romeo and Juliet, of Henry V., of the Merry Wives of Windsor, and of Hamlet? The latter is the most important parallel example. The Duke of Devonshire's copy of the edition of 1603 was unknown to Malone; had it been familiar to him, as it now is to all Shaksperian students by its republication, would Malone have proved that Shakspere's Hamlet was formed "on a foundation laid by another writer?" We have no hesitation in saying most distinctly that there is not a single principle of " internal evidence" by which Malone's hypothesis is supported, that the Second and Third Parts of Henry VI. "were not originally written by Shakspeare," which could not be applied to prove that the Hamlet of 1603 did not also own some other "literary parent;" and that Shakspere only "new versified, new modelled, transposed many of the parts, and greatly amplified and improved the whole." We will endeavour very briefly to propound an hypothesis to this effect, after Malone's fashion. We take the words which he applies to the Henry VI.; the difference is only in a name. "That the reader may have the whole of the subject before him, we shall here transcribe" a speech from the second scene of the first act of Hamlet, "together with the corresponding scene in the original play; and also a speech" in the third act "with the original speech on which it is formed. The first specimen will serve to show the method taken by Shakspere, where he only new polished the language of the old play, rejecting some part of the dialogue, and making some slight additions to the part which he retained: the second is a striking proof of his facility and vigour of composition, which has happily expanded a thought, comprised originally in a short speech, into " fifty-nine "lines, none of which appear feeble or superfluous." See Introductory Notices to those plays. Dissertation, p. 572.
* Dissertation, p. 582.
FROM THE OLD HAMLET, SIG. B 3, edit. 1603. Cor.* Farewell! how now, Ophelia? what's the news with you?
Oph. O, my dear father, such a change in nature, So great an alteration in a prince,
So pitiful to him, fearful to me,
A maiden's eye ne'er looked on.
Cor. Why, what's the matter, my Ophelia?
Oph. O young prince Hamlet, the only flower of
He is bereft of all the wealth he had;
Is filch'd and stol'n away, his wit 's bereft him.
Cor. Mad for thy love?
What, have you given him any cross words of late? Oph. I did repel his letters, deny his gifts,
As you did charge me.
Cor. Why, that hath made him mad : By heav'n, 't is as proper for our age to cast Beyond ourselves, as 't is for the younger sort To leave their wantonness. Well, I am sorry That I was so rash: but what remedy? Let's to the king: this madness may prove, Though wild a while, yet more true to thy love.
FROM THE OLD HAMLET, SIG. G, EDIT. 1603. Ham. Why, what a dunghill idiot slave am I ! Why, these players here draw water from eyes: For Hecuba! why, what is Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba?
FROM HAMLET, ACT 1. SCENE II. 'Pol. Farewell!-How now, Ophelia? what's the matter?
*Oph. Alas, my lord, I have been so affrighted! Pol. With what, in the name of heaven? *Oph. My lord, as I was sewing in my chamber, *Lord Hamlet,—with his doublet all unbrac'd; *No hat upon his head; his stockings foul'd, *Ungarter'd, and down-gyved to his ancle; *Pale as his shirt'; his knees knocking each other; *And with a look so piteous in purport,
'As if he had been loosed out of hell,
*To speak of horrors,-he comes before me.
My lord, I do not know;
Oph. He took me by the wrist, and held me hard; *Then goes he to the length of all his arm; *And, with his other hand thus, o'er his brow, *He falls to such perusal of my face, *As he would draw it. Long stay'd he so; *At last, a little shaking of mine arm, *And thrice his head thus waving up and down,*He rais'd a sigh so piteous and profound, *That it did seem to shatter all his bulk, And end his being: That done, he lets me go: And, with his head over his shoulder turn'd, He seem'd to find his way without his eyes; For out o' doors he went without their help, And, to the last, bended their light on me.
Pol. Go with me; I will go seek the king. *This is the very ecstacy of love; . *Whose violent property foredoes itself, *And leads the will to desperate undertakings, *As oft as any passion under heaven
*That does afflict our natures. I am sorry,What, have you given him any hard words of late? *Oph. No, my good lord; but, as you did command, 'I did repel his letters, and denied "His access to me.
*More grief to hide than hate to utter love.
FROM HAMLET, Act III. Scene III. 'O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I! *Is it not monstrous, that this player here, *But in a fiction, in a dream of passion, *Could force his soul so to his whole conceit, * Corambis, in the old Hamlet, is the Polonius of the later play.
What would he do and if he had my loss?
His father murd'red, and a crown bereft him?
Stand still, and let it pass. Why, sure I am a coward:
Why, this is brave; that I, the son of my dear father,
I have heard that guilty creatures, sitting at a play,
Doth seek to damn me. I will have sounder proofs:
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.
*That, from her working, all his visage warm'd; *Tears in his eyes, distraction in 's aspect,
*A broken voice, and his whole function suiting *With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing! For Hecuba?
What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
"That he should weep for her? What would he do, *Had he the motive and the cue for passion *That I have? He would drown the stage with tears, *And cleave the general ear with horrid speech; 'Make mad the guilty, and appal the free, 'Confound the ignoraut; and amaze, indeed, *The very faculties of eyes and ears. Yet I,
*A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak, 'Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause, *And can say nothing; no, not for a king, *Upon whose property, and most dear life, 'A damn'd defeat was made. Am I a coward? *Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across? 'Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face? 'Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i' the throat, 'As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this? *Ha!
"Why, I should take it: for it cannot be, 'But I am pigeon-liver'd, and lack gall *To make oppression bitter; or, ere this, I should have fatted all the region kites 'With this slave's offal: Bloody, bawdy villain! 'Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain! *O vengeance.
'What an ass am I! ay, sure, this is most brave; "That I, the son of the dear murthered,
*Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
'Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,
'And fall a cursing, like a very drab,
'Fie upon 't! foh! About, my brains! I have heard
That guilty creatures, sitting at a play,
Have by the very cunning of the scene 'Been struck so to the soul, that presently
They have proclaim'd their malefactions;
*For murther, though it have no tongue, will speak
*With most miraculous organ. I'll have these players
*Play something like the murder of my father,
(As he is very potent with such spirits,)
The reader then having "the whole subject before him" in these extracts (those who will take the trouble to read Malone's 'Dissertation' will know that we are not over-stating his proofs), we ask, as Malone has asked with reference to the Henry VI., if there is any
similarity between the "versification" of the old play and "the undoubted performances of Shakspere;" whether there is any similarity in the "diction;" whether it is not clear, from this isolated view of the matter, that the old Hamlet was the work of "some author who preceded Shakspere;" and whether any further proof of this limited nature is required to show "with what expression, animation, and splendour of colouring, he filled up the outline that had been sketched by a preceding writer?" In giving these extracts, “all those lines which he adopted without any alteration are printed in the usual manner; those which he altered or expanded are distinguished by inverted commas; and to all the lines entirely composed by himself asterisks are prefixed. The total number of lines in" these extracts from "our author's" Hamlet is 106: "of these, as I conceive," 14" lines were written by some author or authors who preceded Shakspeare;" 36" were formed by him on the foundations laid by his predecessors; and" 56 "lines were entirely his own composition." +
And what does this calculation, and what do these internal proofs that Shakspere did not write the original Hamlet, omit? They entirely neglect to show that the first, informing, poetical idea was in the original; that entire scenes are the same in the original and the amended play, with very slight verbal alterations; that the whole of the action is in the original; that the characterization generally, and especially the character of Hamlet, has undergone no change; that the alterations, all of them, exhibit a wonderful advance in technical skill; and that all the differences in versification and diction, as compared with Shakspere's maturer works, only show that the Hamlet was a very early play, possessing the peculiarities of the transition state of the drama, but distinguished by more characteristic peculiarities of individual genius, such as belonged to no other writer of that period. This is the theory which we maintain with regard to the two Parts of the 'Contention.' These dramas, and the previous drama of the series, are not to be judged of, any more than the old Hamlet, by a comparison of their diction and versification, in the parts which exhibit least skill, with the finished parts of Shakspere's later works. They belong to a period which more or less impressed its own character upon them, as upon every contem porary dramatic production.
Dissertation, p. 376.
Dissertation, p. 572.
See the Introductory Notice to Hamlet, and especially the quotations from Lodge and Nashe, in reference to an old Hamlet.
Ar the period when, as we learn from Nashe's pamphlet, published in 1592, the First Part of Henry VI. was amongst the most popular of theatrical exhibitions, the public stages derived their chief attraction from that class of plays which we call Histories. In the same pamphlet Nashe describes the plays to the performance of which "in the afternoon" resorted "men that are their own masters, as gentlemen of the court, the inns of court, and the number of captains and soldiers about London." To this audience, then,-not the rudest or least refined, however idle and dissipated,—the representation of some series of events connected with the history of their country had a charm which, according to Nashe, was to divert them from grosser excitements. He says:- Nay, what if I prove plays to be no extreme, but a rare exercise of virtue! First, for the subject of them; for the most part it is borrowed out of our English Chronicles, wherein our forefathers' valiant acts, that have been long buried in rusty brass and worm-eaten books, are revived, and they themselves raised from the grave of oblivion, and brought to plead their aged honours in open presence; than which, what can be a sharper reproof to these degenerate days of ours?
In plays, all cosenages, all cunning drifts, over-gilded with outward holiness, all stratagems of war, all the canker-worms that breed in the rust of peace, are most lively anatomised. They show the ill success of treason, the fall of hasty climbers, the wretched end of usurpers, the misery of civil dissention, and how just God is evermore in punishing murder. And to prove every one of these allegations could I propound the circumstances of this play and that, if I meant to handle this theme otherwise than obiter." Nashe, as we have seen, has referred to two plays as examples of this attractive class of composition. If the First Part of Henry VI. and the Famous Victories' be the plays to which he refers, we have sufficient evidence that the poetical treatment of an historical subject was not absolutely necessary to its success. Nothing can be ruder or more inartificial than the dramatic conduct of the Famous Victories;' nothing grosser than the taste of many of its dialogues. The old Coventry play of Hock Tuesday,' exhibited before Queen Elizabeth in Kenilworth Castle in 1575, did not more essentially differ in the conduct of its action from the structure of a regular historical drama, than such a play as the Famous Victories' differed, in all that constitutes dramatic beauty and propriety, from the almost contemporary histories of Shakspere and Marlowe. Of the plays which had been acted previous to 1592, whose subject was "for the most part borrowed out of our English Chronicles," there are two specimens of the earlier and ruder sort preserved to us—the 'Famous Victories,' and the 'True Tragedy of Richard III.' The Famous Victories' was certainly acted previous to 1588; for Tarleton, who played the clown in it, died in that year. Mr. Collier thinks it was written in 1580. It continued to hold possession of the stage as late as 1595. We have already noticed that play in our account of the sources of the History of Henry IV.;'* but it may be desirable, in reference to our present purpose, to furnish a specimen of this extraordinary composition. We select the parallel scene to the well-known passage of Shakspere's Henry IV., Part II., Act IV., Sc. Iv., beginning
"I never thought to hear you speak again.”
Mr. Collier has observed that in the printed copy of this play (which was entered at Stationers'
* Histories, vol. i., p. 162.