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THAT Shakespeare had some share in the composition of this revolting tragedy, the fact of its appearance in the list of pieces ascribed to him by Meres, and its insertion by Heminge and Condell in the folio collection of 1623, forbids us to doubt. He may, in the dawning of his dramatic career, have written a few of the speeches, and have imparted vigour and more rhythmical freedom to others; he may have been instrumental also in putting the piece upon the stage of the company to which he then belonged; but that he had any hand in the story, or in its barbarous characters and incidents, we look upon as in the highest degree improbable. Upon this point, indeed, all his editors, from Rowe to Dyce, with the exception of Capell, Collier, and Knight, appear to be of one mind.
"On what principle the editors of the first complete edition of our poet's plays admitted this [Titus Andronicus] into their volume cannot now be ascertained. The most probable reason that can be assigned, is, that he wrote a few lines in it, or gave some assistance to the author in revising it, or in some other way aided him in bringing it forward on the stage. The tradition mentioned by Ravenscroft in the time of King James II. warrants us in making one or other of these suppositions. I have been told' (says
he in his preface to an alteration of this play published in 1687) by some anciently conversant with the stage, that it was not originally his, but brought by a private author to be acted, and he only gave some master touches to one or two of the principal parts or characters.'
"To enter into a long disquisition to prove this piece not to have been written by Shakspeare, would be an idle waste of time. To those who are not conversant with his writings, if particular passages were examined, more words would be necessary than the subject is worth; those who are well acquainted with his works, cannot entertain a doubt on the question. I will, however, mention one mode by which it may be easily ascertained. Let the reader only peruse a few lines of Appius and Virginia, Tancred
and Gismund, The Battle of Alcazar, Jeronimo, Selimus Emperor of the Turks, The Wounds of Civil War, The Wars of Cyrus, Locrine, Arden of Feversham, King Edward I., The Spanish Tragedy, Solyman and Perseda, King Leir, the old King John, or any other of the pieces that were exhibited before the time of Shakspeare, and he will at once perceive that Titus Andronicus was coined in the same mint."-MALONE.
Langbaine, in his Account of English Dramatic Poets, 1691, says this tragedy was first printed, 4to. Lond. 1594;" and as the Stationers' Registers show an entry made by John Danter, Feb. 6th, 1593-4, of “ A booke entitled a noble Roman Historye of Tytus Andronicus," he is probably correct, though the only quarto editions at present known are of 1600 and 1611. Of its origin and date of production we know but little. When registering his claim to the "Historye of Tytus Andronicus," Danter coupled with it "the ballad thereof," and this ballad, which will be found among the Comments at the end of the piece, was at one time supposed to be the basis of the drama. It is now a moot point whether the play was founded on the ballad, or the ballad on the play. The story of Titus, however, must have been popular. It is mentioned in Painter's Palace of Pleasure; and there is an allusion to it in the comedy called, "A Knack to know a Knave," 1594. Moreover, from a memorandum in Henslowe's Diary, which records the acting of a drama, entitled "Titus and Ondronicus," Jan. 23, 1593-4, there appears to have been another play on the subject. Is it to this piece, or to the "Titus Andronicus" attributed to Shakespeare, that Ben Jonson refers in the Induction to his "Bartholomew Fair"?" He that will swear, JERONIMO or ANDRONICUS, are the best plays yet, shall pass unexcepted at here, as a man whose judgment shows it is constant, and hath stood still these five-and-twenty or thirty years. Though it be an ignorance, it is a virtuous and staid ignorance; and next to truth, a confirmed error does well."
SATURNINUS, Son to the late Emperor of Rome, afterwards Emperor.
BASSIANUS, Brother to Saturninus.
TITUS ANDRONICUS, a noble Roman.
MARCUS ANDRONICUS, Brother to Titus.
Kinsmen of Titus, Senators, Tribunes, Officers, Soldiers, and Attendants.
SCENE, ROME, and the Country near it.
SCENE I.-Rome. Before the Capitol.
The Tomb of the Andronici appearing. Enter the Tribunes and
SAT. Noble patricians, patrons of my right,
BASS. Romans,-friends, followers, favourers of my right,-
Were gracious in the eyes of royal Rome,
And, Romans, fight for freedom in your choice.
Enter MARCUS ANDRONICUS, aloft, with the crown. MARC. Princes,-that strive by factions and by friends Ambitiously for rule and empery,
Know that the people of Rome, for whom we stand
A special party, have, by common voice,
In election for the Roman empery,
Chosen Andronicus, surnamed Pius
Lives not this day within the city walls.
From weary wars against the barbarous Goths;
(*) First folio, I was the.
Nor wrong mine age-] My claim by seniority.
continence,-] That is, temperance. So in " Macbeth," Act IV. Sc. 3,
"the king-becoming graces;
As justice, verity, temperance," &c.
That, with his sons, a terror to our foes,
And now at last, laden with honour's spoils,
SAT. How fair the tribune speaks to calm my thoughts!
In thy uprightness and integrity,
And so I love and honour thee and thine,
And her to whom my thoughts are humbled all,
[Exeunt the Followers of BASSIANUS. SAT. Friends, that have been thus forward in my right, I thank you all, and here dismiss you all; And to the love and favour of my country Commit myself, my person, and the cause.
[Exeunt the Followers of SATURNINUS.
Rome, be as just and gracious unto me,
Open the gates and let me in.
BASS. Tribunes, and me, a poor competitor.
[Flourish. SATURNINUS and BASSIANUS go up into the Capitol.
Enter a Captain, and others.
CAP. Romans, make way: the good Andronicus,
Patron of virtue, Rome's best champion,
Successful in the battles that he fights,
With honour and with fortune is return'd
From where he circumscribed with his sword,
And brought to yoke, the enemies of Rome.
(*) First folio, whence.
b Open the gates-] Capell prints-"Open the gates, tribunes," &c. Mr. Collier's annotator suggests,-" Open the brazen gates," &c.