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we ought not to dismiss it without affording a single specimen from “Tamburlaine the Great." The following is a portion of a speech by the hero to Zenocrate, when first he meets and sues to her :
“ Disdains Zepocrate to live with me,
Which with thy beauty will be soon dissolv'd'." Nash having alluded to “Tamburlaine” in 1587, it is evident that it could hardly have been written later than 1585 or 1586, which is about the period when it has been generally, and with much appearance of probability, supposed that Shakespeare arrived in London. In considering the state of the stage just before our great dramatist became a writer for it, it is therefore clearly necessary to advert briefly to the other works of Marlowe, observing in addition, with reference to “Tamburlaine,” that it is a historical drama, in
? Oar quotation is from a copy of the edition of 1590, 4to, in the library of the Earl of Ellesmere, which we believe to be the earliest : on the title-page it is stated that it is " now first and newly published :" it was several times reprinted, but no later edition is to be trusted : they are full of the grossest errors, and never could have been collated.
For this reason the modern impression, in 3 vols. 8vo, under the care of the Rev. A. Dyce, is peculiarly acceptable : the comparison of different editions is made with unusual care, bat not without the display of that timidity which has too often prevented the exercise of even ordinary sagacity. For instance, in the very first page of “Tamburlaine," Vol. i. p. 11, “ freezing meteors" ought unquestionably to be “freezing waters," the old compositor having mistaken, as was not unfrequently the case, the w for an m, and guessed at the rest of the word. Fiery meteors are well known, but wbo ever before heard of
Freezing meteors and congealed cold?" Again (p. 67), who can doubt that "senseless lure," of the old copies, ought to be “senseless aire," and not "senseless light,” as Mr. Dyce prints it;
" And make your strokes to wound the senseless air ?”
which not a single unity is regarded; time, place, and action, are equally set at defiance, and the scene shifts at once to or from Persia, Scythia, Georgia, and Morocco, as best suited
of the poet.
Marlowe was also, most likely, the author of a play in which the Priest of the Sun was prominent, as Greene mentions it
Tamburlaine" in 1588, but no such piece is now known : he however wrote “The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus," “The Massacre at Paris," “The rich Jew of Malta,” and an English historical play, called “The troublesome Reign and lamentable Death of Edward the Second,” besides aiding Nash in “Dido Queen of Carthage,” as already mentioned ?. If they were not all of them of a date anterior to any of Shakespeare's original works, they were written by a man who had set the example of the employment of blank-verse upon the public stage, and perhaps of the historical and romantic drama, in all its leading features and characteristics. His “Edward the Second affords sufficient proof of both these points: the versification displays, though not perhaps in the same abundance, nearly all the excellences of Shakespeare ; and in. point of construction, as well as in interest, it bears a strong resemblance to the “Richard the Second” of our great dramatist. It is impossible to read the one without being reminded of the other, and we can have no difficulty in assigning “Edward the Second” to an anterior period'.
The same remark as to date may be made upon the plays
? Another play, not published until 1657, under the title of “Lust's Dominion," has also been constantly, but falsely, assigned to Marlowe : some of the historical events contained in it did not happen until five years after the death of that poet. This fact was distinctly pointed out more than thirty years ago, in the last edition of Dodsley's “Old Plays” (Vol. i. p. 311); but nevertheless “ Lust's Dominion " has since been spoken of as Marlowe's undoubted production. Mr. Singer so treats it repeatedly in his recent edition of Shakespeare, in spite of irrefragable evidence, and the consequent exclusion of it by the Rev. Mr. yce. It is in all probability the same drama as that which, in Henslowe's Diary (Shakespeare Society's edit. p. 165), is called “The Spanish Moor's Tragedy," which was written by Dekker, Haughton, and Day, in the beginning of the year 1600.
3 In “The History of English Dramatic Poetry and the Stage," Vol. iii. p. 139, it is stated, that "the character of Shakespeare's Richard II. seems modelled in no slight degree upon that of Edward II.” We willingly adopt the qualification of Mr. Hallam upon this point, where, in reference to our opinion, he says (“ Introduction to the Literature of Europe," Vol. ii. p. 171, edit. 1843), “ I am reluctant to admit that Shakespeare modelled his characters by those of others ; and it is natural to ask whether there were not an extraordinary likeness in the dispositions, as well as in the fortunes of the two kings ?"
which came from the pen of Robert Greene, who died in September, 1592, when Shakespeare was fast rising into notice, and exciting the jealousy of dramatists who had previously furnished the public stages. This jealousy broke out on the part of Greene in, if not before, 1592, in which year his “Groatsworth of Wit,” a posthumous work, was published by his contemporary Henry Chettle“,) when he complained that Shakespeare had “ beautified himself” with the feathers of others: he alluded, as we apprehend, to the manner in which Shakespeare had availed himself of the two parts of the “Contention between the Houses, York and Lancaster,” in the authorship of which there is reason to suppose Greene had been concerned'. Such evidence as remains upon this point has been adduced in our “Introduction” to “The Third Part of Henry VI.;" and a perusal of the two parts of the
Contention, in their original state, will serve to show the condition of our dramatic literature at that great epoch of our stage-history, when Shakespeare began to acquire celebrity". “The True Tragedy of Richard III.” is a drama of about the same period, which has come down to us in a much more imperfect state, the original manuscript having been obviously very corrupt: it was printed in 1594, and Shakespeare, finding it in the possession of the company to which he was attached, probably had no sernple in constructing his “Richard the Third ” of some of its rude materials. It seems not unlikely that Robert Greene, and perhaps some other popular dramatists of his day, had been engaged upon "The True Tragedy of Richard III.""
The dramatic works published under the name or initials of Robert Greene, or by extraneous testimony ascertained to
* In our biographical account of Shakespeare, under the date of 1592, we have necessarily entered more at large into this question.
* Mr. Hallam (“Introduction to the Literature of Europe," Vol. ii. p. 171) supposes that the words of Greene, referring to Shakespeare, “ There is an upstart crow beautified with our feathers,” are addressed to Marlowe, who may have had a principal share in the production of the two parts of the “ Contention.” conjecture is certainly more than plausible; but we may easily imagine Greene to have alluded to himself also, and that he had been Marlowe's partner in the composition of the two dramas, which Shakespeare remodelled, perhaps, not very long before the death of Greene.
They have been accurately reprinted by the Shakespeare Society, under the care of Mr. Halliwell, from the earliest impressions in 1594 and 1595.
This drama has also been reprinted by the Shakespeare Society, with perfect fidelity to the original edition of 1594, in the library of the Duke of Devonshire. The reprint was superintended by the late Mr. B. Field in 1844.
be his, were
of Boiardo and Ariosto) first printed in 1594'; Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay,” also first printed in 1594, and taken from a popular story-book of the time; “Alphonsus King of Arragon," 1599, for which we know of no original; and “James the Fourth” of Scotland, 1598, partly borrowed from history, and partly mere invention. Greene also joined with Thomas Lodge in writing a species of moral-miracle-play, (partaking of the nature of both,) under the title of “A Looking-Glass for London and England," 1594, derived from sacred history; and to him has also been imputed “George a Greene, the Pinner of Wakefield,” and “The Contention between Liberality and Prodigality,” the one printed in 1599, and the other in 1602. It may be seriously doubted whether he had
any hand in the two last, but the productions abovenamed deserve attention, as works written at an early date for the gratification of popular audiences.
In the passage already referred to from the “Groatsworth of Wit,” 1592, Greene also objects to Shakespeare on the ground that he thought himself “as well able to bombast out a blank-verse as the best of his contemporaries. The
• In “The History of English Dramatic Poetry and the Stage,” Vol. iii. p. 155, it is observed of “Orlando Furioso:"_"How far this play was printed according to the author's copy we have no means of deciding ; but it has evidently come down to us in a very imperfect state.” Means of determining the point beyond dispute have since been discovered in a MS. of the part of Orlando (as written out for Edward Alleyn by the copyist of the theatre) preserved at Dulwich College. Hence it is clear that much was omitted and corrupted in the two printed editions of 1594 and 1599. See the “Memoirs of Edward Alleyn," 8vo, 1841, p. 198. These were not printed when the Rev. A. Dyce published his edition of “Greene's Works," 2 vols. 8vo, but from too confiding an adherence to the old impressions he has allowed undoubted blunders of text to remain, which ought to have been corrected. We will point out only one, as a specimen, from the commencement of “Orlando Furioso," where the poet mentions certain ships" which Brandimart rebated from his coast.” Now, surely it is as clear as day that "rebated" ought to be rebutted, i. e. drove back, a sense in which it occurs in the chronicler Hall, speaking of rebutting invaders by sea, and in other authorities. The same ob. vious error is repeated in a subsequent part of the same play (p. 34), where it is said,
“ This is the city of great Babylon,
Where proud Darius was rebated from." Darius was rebutted, or driven back, from Babylon, not “rebated," which merely means blunted, as in “ Richard III.," A. v. sc. 4,
“Rebate the edge of traitors, gracious Lord !” The ordinary reading has been “ Abate the edge of traitors ;" but it is "rebate" in the corr. fo. 1632,—an emendation of which Mr. Singer avails himself, but without notice of the source of the change in his text. He was right in adopting the alteration, but wrong in not avowing from whence he had procured it, viz. Mr. Collier's corrected folio.
fact is, that in this respect, as in most others, Greene was much inferior to Marlowe, and of course still less can be bear comparison with Shakespeare. He doubtless began to write for the stage in rhyme, and his blank-verse preserves nearly all the defects of that early form : it reads heavily and monotonously, without variety of pause and inflection, and almost the only difference between it and rhyme is the absence of corresponding sounds at the ends of the lines.
The same defects, and in quite as striking a degree, belong to another of the dramatists who is entitled to be considered a predecessor of Shakespeare, and whose name has been before introduced—Thomas Lodge. Only one play in which he was unassisted has descended to us, and it bears the title of “The Wounds of Civil War, lively set forth in the True Tragedies of Marius and Sylla.” It was not printed until 1594, but the author began to write as early as 1580, and we may safely consider his tragedy anterior to the original works of Shakespeare : it was probably written about 1587 or 1588, as a not very successful experiment in blank-verse, in poor imitation of that style which Marlowe in his “Tamburlaine” had at once rendered popular.
As regards the dates when his pieces came from the press, John Lyly is entitled to earlier notice than Greene, Lodge, or even Marlowe; and it is possible, as he was ten years older than Shakespeare, that he was a writer before any
of them : it does not seem, however, that his dramas were intended for the public stage, but for court-shows or private entertainments'. His “ Alexander and Campaspe," the best of his productions, was represented at Court, and it was twice printed, in 1584, and again in 1591: it is, like most of this author's productions, in prose; but his “Woman in the Moon” (printed in 1597) is in blank-verse, and the “ Maid's Metamorphosis,” 1600, (if indeed it be by him) is in rhyme. As none of these dramas, generally composed in a refined, affected, and artificial style, can be said to have had any material influence upon stage-entertainments before miscellaneous audiences, it is unnecessary for our present purpose. to say more regarding them.
• They were acted by the children of the chapel, or by the children of St. Paul's, and a few of them bear evidence on the title-pages that they were presented at a private theatre—none of them that they had been played upon public stages before popular audiences.