« AnteriorContinuar »
Taming of the Shrew. Nothing has yet been produc'd that is likely to have given the poet occasion for writing this play, neither has it (in truth) the air of a novel, so that we may reasonably suppose it a work of invention; that part of it, I mean, which gives it it's title. For one of it's underwalks, or plots,-to wit, the story of Lucentio, in almost all it's branches, (his love-affair, and the artificial conduct of it; the pleasant incident of the Pedant; and the characters of Vincentio, Tranio, Gremio, and Biondello,) is form'd upon a comedy of George Gascoigne's, call'd-Supposes, a translation from Ariosto's I Suppositi: which comedy was acted by the gentlemen of Grey's Inn in 1566; and may be seen in the translator's works, of which there are several old editions: and the odd induction of this play is taken from Goulart's Histoires admirables de notre Temps; who relates it as a real fact, practis'd upon a mean artisan at Brussels by Philip the good, duke of Burgundy. Goulart was translated into English, by one Edw. Grimeston: the edition I have of it, was printed in 1607, quarto, by George Eld; where this story may be found, at p. 587: but, for any thing that there appears to the contrary, the book might have been printed before.
Tempest. The Tempest has rather more of the novel in it than the play that was last spoken of: but no one has yet pretended to have met with such a novel; nor any thing else, that can be suppos'd to have furnishid Shakspeare with materials for writing this play: the fable of which must therefore pass for entirely his own production, 'till the contrary can be made appear by any future discovery. One of the poet's editors, after observing that-the persons of the drama are all Italians; and the unities all regularly observ'd in it, a custom likewise of the Italians; concludes his note with the mention of two of their plays,-N Negromante di L. Ariosto, and Il Negromante Palliato di Gio. Angelo Pe. trucci; one or other of which, he seems to think, may have given rise to the Tempest: but he is mistaken in both of them; and the last must needs be out of the question, being later than Shakspeare's time.
Titus Andronicus. An old ballad, whose date and time of writing can not be ascertain’d, is the ground-work of Titus Andronicus, the names of the persons acting, and almost every incident of the play are there in miniature :-it is, indeed, so like,—that one might be tempted to suspect, that the ballad was form'd upon the play, and not that upon the ballad; were it not sufficiently known, that almost all the compositions of that sort are prior to even the infancy of Shakspeare.
Troilus and Cressida. The loves of Troilus and Cressida are celebrated by Chaucer; whose poem might, perhaps induce Shakspeare to work them rip into a play. The other matters of that play (historical, or
fabulous, call them which you will,) he had out of an ancient book, written and printed first by Caxton, call’d-The Destruction of Troy, in three parts: in the third part of it, are many strange particulars, occurring no where else, which Shakspeare has admitted into his play.
Twelfth Night. Another of Belleforest's novels is thus intitl’d:-"Comme une fille Romaine se vestant en page servist long temps un sien amy sans estre cogneue, & depuis l'eut a mary avec autres divers discours.” Histoires Tragiques; Tom. 4, Hist. 7. This novel, which is itself taken from one of Bandello's (v. Tom. 2, Nov. 36,) is, to all appearance, the foundation of the serious part of Twelfth Night: and must be so accounted; 'till some English novel appears, built (perhaps) upon that French one, but approaching nearer to Shakspeare's comedy.
Two Gentlemen of Verona. Julia's love-adventures being in some respects the same with those of Viola in Twelfth Night, the same novel might give rise to them both; and Valentine's falling amongst out-laws, and becoming their captain, is an incident that has some resemblance to one in the Arcadia, (Book I, chap. 6,) where Pyrocles heads the Helots: all the other circumstances which constitute the fable of this play, are, probably of the poet's own invention.
Winter's Tale. To the story-book, or Pleasant History (as it is call’d) of Dorastus and Fawnia, written by Robert Greene, M. A. we are in. debted for Shakspeare's Winter's Tale. Greene join'd with Dr. Lodge in writing a play, callid A Looking-Glass for London and England, printed in 1598, in quarto, and black letter; and many of his other works, which are very numerous, were publish'd about that time, and this amongst the rest: it went through many impressions, all of the same form and letter as the play; and that so low down as the year 1664, of which year I have a copy. Upon this occasion, I shall venture to pronounce an opi. nion, that has been reserv'd for this place, (though other plays too were concern'd in it, as Hamlet and Cymbeline) which if it be found true, as I believe it will, may be of use to settle many disputed points in literary chronology. My opinion is this:---that almost all books, of the gothick or black character, printed any thing late in the seventeenth century, are in truth only re-impressions; they having pass'd the press before in the preceding century, or (at least) very soon after. For the character began then to be disus'd in the printing of new books: but the types remaining, the owners of them found a convenience in using them for books that had been before printed in them; and to this convenience of theirs are owing all or most of those impressions posterior to 1600. It is left to the reader's sagacity, to apply this remark to the book in the present article; and to those he finds mention'd before, in the articles-Hamlet and Cymdieline.
Such are the materials, out of which this great poet has rais'd a structure, which no time shall efface, nor any envy be strong enough to lessen the admiration that is so justly due to it; which if it was great before, cannot fail to receive encrease with the judicious, when the account that has been now given them is refiected upon duly: other originals have, indeed, been pretended; and much extraordinary criticism has, at different times, and by different people, been spun out of those conceits; but, except some few articles in which the writer professes openly his ignorance of the sources they are drawn from, and some others in which he delivers himself doubtfully, what is said in the preceding leaves concerning these fables may with all certainty be rely'd upon.
Ilow much is it to be wish’d, that something equally certain, and indeed worthy to be intitid--a Life of Shakspeare, could accompany this relation, and complete the tale of those pieces which the publick is apt to expect before new editions? But that nothing of this sort is at present in being, may be said without breach of candour, as we think, or suspicion of over much niceness: an imperfect and loose account of his father, and family; his own marriage, and the issue of it; some traditional stories,-many of them trilling in themselves, supported by small authority, and seemingly ill-grounded; together with his life's final period as gather'd from his monument, is the full and whole amount of historical matter that is in any of these writings; in which the critick and essavist swallow up the biographer, who yet ought to take the lead in them. The truth is, the occurrences of this most interesting life (we mean, the private ones,) are irrecoverably lost to us; the friendly office of registring them was overlook'd by those who alone had it in their power, and our enquiries about them now must prove vain and thrown away. But there is another sort of them that is not quite so hopeless; which besides affording us the prospect of some good issue to our endeavours, do also invite us to them by the promise of a much better reward for them: the knowledge of his private life had done little more than gratify our curiosity, but his publick one as a writer would have consequences more important; a discovery there would throw a new light upon many of his pieces; and, where rashness only is shew'd in the opinions that are now current about them, a judgment might then be form’d, which perhaps would do credit to the giver of it. When he commenc'd a writer for the stage, and in which play; what the order of the rest of them, and (if that be dis. coverable) what the occasion; and, lastly, for which of the numerous theatres that were then subsisting they were severally written at first-are the particulars that should chiefly engage the attention of a writer of Shakspeare's Life, and be the prin. cipal subjects of his enquiry: to assist him in which, the first impressions of these plays will do something, and their titlepages at large, which, upon that account, we mean to give in another work that will accompany The School of Shakspeare ,
and something the School itself will afford, that may contribute to the same service: but the corner-stone of all, must be the works of the poet himself, from which much may be extracted by a heedful peruser of them; and, for the sake of such a peruser, and by way of putting him into the train when the plays are be. fore him, we shall instance in one of them ;-the time in which Henry V was written, is determin'd almost precisely by a pas. sage in the chorus to the fifth act, and the concluding chorus of it contains matter relative to Henry VI: other plays might be mention'd, as Henry VIII, and Macbeth; but this one may be sufficient to answer our intention in producing it, which wasto spirit some one up to this task in some future time, by shew. ing the possibility of it; which he may be further convinc'd of, if he reflects what great things have been done, by criticks amongst ourselves, upon subjects of this sort, and of a more remov'd antiquity than he is concern’d in. A Life thus constructed, interspers’d with such anecdotes of common notoriety as the writer's judgment shall tell him-are worth regard; together with some memorials of this poet that are happily come down to us; such as, an instrument in the Heralds' Office, confirming arms to his father; a patent preserv'd in Rymer, granted by James the First; his last Will and Testament, extant now at Doctors Commons; his Stratford monument, and a monument of his daughter which is said to be there also; such a Life would, rise quickly into a volume; especially, with the addition of one proper and even necessary episodema brief history of our dra. ma, from its origin down to the poet's death: even the stage he appear'd upon, it's form, dressings, actors should be enquir'd into, as every one of those circumstances had some considerable effect upon what he compos'd for it: The subject is certainly a good one, and will fall (we hope) ere it be long into the hands of some good writer; by whose abilities this great want may at length be made up to us, and the world of letters enrich'd by the happy acquisition of a masterly Life of Shakse. peare.
MR. STEEVENS'S ADVERTISEMENT
TO THE READER.*
THE want of adherence to the old copies, which has been complained of, in the text of every modern republication of Shakspeare, is fairly deducible from Mr. Rowe's inattention to one of the first duties of an editor.t Mr. Rowe did not print
* First printed in 1773. Malone.
+“I must not (says Mr. Rowe in his dedication to the Duke of Somerset) pretend to have restor'd this work to the exactness of the author's original manuscripts: those, are lost, or, at least,
are gone beyond any enquiry I could make; so that there was from the earliest and most correct, but from the most remote and inaccurate of the four folios. Between the years 1623 and 1685 (the dates of the first and last) the errors in the very play, at least, were trebled. Several pages in each of these ancient editions have been examined, that the assertion might come more fully supported. It may be added, that as every fresh edi. tor continued to make the text of his predecessor the ground. work of his own (never collated but where difficulties occurred) some deviations from the originals had been handed down, the number of which are lessened in the impression before us, as it has been constantly compared with the most authentick copies, whether collation was absolutely necessary for the recovery of sense, or not. The person who undertook this task may have failed by inadvertency, as well as those who preceded him; but the reader may be assured, that he, who thought it his duty to free an author from such modern and unnecessary innovations as had been censured in others, has not ventured to introduce any of his own.
It is not pretended that a complete body of various readings is here collected; or that all the diversities which the copies ex. hibit, are pointed out; as near two thirds of them are typographical mistakes, or such a change of insignificant particles, as would croud the bottom of the page with an ostentation of materials, from which at last nothing useful could be selected.
The dialogue might indeed sometimes be lengthened by other insertions than have hitherto been made, but without advantage either to its spirit or beauty; as in the following instance:
“ Lear. No.
“ Kent. I say, yea.” Here the quartos add:
“Lear. No, no, they would not.
“Kent. Yes, they have.” By the admission of this negation and affirmation, has any new idea been gained?
The labours of preceding editors have not left room for a
nothing left, but to compare the several editions, and give the true reading as well as I could from thence. This I have endea. vour'd to do pretty carefully, and renderd very many places intelligible, that were not so before. In some of the editions, especially the last, there were many lines (and in Hamlet one whole scene) left out together; these are now all supply'd. I fear your grace will find some faults, but I hope they are mostly literal, and the errors of the press.” Would not any one, from this declaration, suppose that Mr. Rowe (who does not appear to have consulted a single quarto) had at least compared the folios with each other! Steevens.