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vanish; and the early play, now without a claimant, would be placed at once and without a dissenting voice where it belongs. The date of composition of the “Two Gentlemen of Verona' may therefore be assigned with reasonable certainty to the year 1584. Titus ANDRONICUS.

The evidence that Titus Andronicus' was one of the earliest of the Shake-speare canon is both external and internal. The external evidence rests on the testimony of Ben Jonson, who in the Introduction to his Bartholomew Fair' thus alludes to it:

“ 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."

It is not known when the Bartholomew Fair' was written, probably but a short time before it was first acted in 1614. It is supposed by many to have marked the beginning of Jonson's quarrel with Inigo Jones, and therefore, as Jones left England in 1612 for an absence of several years, to have had its origin not later than that year. Reckoning backward “twenty-five or thirty years ” from 1612, we obtain for the first performance of Titus Andronicus, according to Jonson's larger estimate, precisely the date which the internal evidence gives us; namely, a year or two anterior to the production of the 'Two Gentlemen of Verona,' or about 1583.

“A play produced somewhere about the middle of the ninth decade [1580–90]. . . . The fact of its early date is indisputable.” - KNIGHT's Shakespeare, vii. 54-48.

“Andronicus must have been on the stage before Shakespeare left Warwickshire to come and reside in London.” — Upton's Critical Observations on Shakespeare, p. 274.

It seems to be impossible for any one to doubt either that Shake-speare's genius in ‘Titus Andronicus' was in the tram

mels of a dramatic age then happily passing away, or that it took its first independent flight in the 'Two Gentlemen of Verona.' The two plays mark respectively the end of one era and the beginning of another.

In the one, the characters are stilted, unnatural, and barbarous; "they are drawn from social life, at once ideal and true,"? in the other. As the 'Two Gentlemen of Verona' was certainly written as early as 1584, having been acted at Greenwich in January following, we may safely assign the composition of *Titus Andronicus' to the year 1583. Jonson's testimony carries it back to the period 1582–87.?

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“It is indisputable that 'Titus Andronicus,' if a work of Shakespeare's at all, is one of his earliest writings ... produced during the first years of Shakespeare's life in London. ... The refinement of feeling which the poet acquired in his maturity was not of necessity equally the attribute of his youth. . . . At that period scenes of blood and horror were not so rare on the great stage of real life as with us ; upon the stage of art they commended a piece to hearers to whom the stronger the stimulant, the more it was agreeable. It is clear from Beu Jonson's before-mentioned testimony, that Titus was a welcome piece, which continued in favour on the stage, just as much as Schiller's ‘Robbers. Besides this approval of the people, the author of Titus could claim yet higher approbation. Whoever he might be, he was imbued, just as much as the poet of *Venus' and 'Lucrece,' with the fresh remembrance of the classical school ; Latin quotations, a predilection for Ovid and Virgil, for the tales of Troy and the Trojan party ; and constant references to old mythology and history prevail throughout the play. An allusion to Sophocles' Ajax and similarity to passages of Seneca have been discovered in it. All the tragic legends of Greece and Rome were certainly present to the poet, and we know how full they are of terrible matter. The learned poet gathered them together, in

1 Edinburgh Review,' July, 1840.

2 Professor Elze goes so far as to say that in his opinion Shakspere brought the tragedy of “Titus Andronicus' with him in his pocket from Stratford. This is, of course, a reductio ad absurdum.

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order to compose his drama and its action, from the most approved poetical material of the ancients. When Titus disguises his revenge before Tamora, he plays the part of Brutus; when he stabs his daughter, that of Virginius; the dreadful fate of Lavinia is the fable of Tereus and Progne; the revenge of Titus on the sons of Tamora, that of Atreus and Thyestes ; other traits remind of Æneas and Dido, of Lucretia and Coriolanus." GERVINUS, Commentaries, pages 102104.


Perhaps the most popular play of the canon among the author's contemporaries was that which is least worthy of his pen, ‘Pericles.' We know indirectly from Ben Jonson that as late as 1629 this production was still in great favor with the people.

“Come, leave the loathed stage.

No doubt some mouldy tale,

Like Pericles, and stale
As the shrieve's crusts, and nasty as his fish,

Scraps out of every dish,
Thrown forth, and rak'd into the common tub,
May keep up the play-club."

Jonson's Ode to Himself, 1629.

'Pericles' seems to have grown in favor as the years went by. In some notable passages, to be sure, it appeals to the lowest instincts of the rabble; but it rises to very high ideals of art in others. The most salient fact about it, however, lies in its exclusion from the first folio. Why was it so excluded? We find the answer to this question in Dryden's statement, made in 1675, that Pericles' was Shake-speare's first play; that is, the product of his early youth. The author in his maturity simply repudiated it as too sketchy, too imperfect for preservation among his other works. He drew the dividing line, it would seem, between ‘Titus Andronicus, which he let in, and Pericles,' which he shut out. Dryden gives a hint of this in his well-known verses:

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“Shakespeare's own muse her Pericles first bore,

The Prince of Tyre is elder than the Moor;
'T is miracle to see a first good play ;

All hawthorns do not bloom on Christmas day.” “We can scarcely expect to find better authority than this. It is a subject on which Dryden was likely to have been well informed.” — HALLIWELL-Phillipps's Life of Shakespeare, p. 139.

“We accept, then, Dryden's assertion with little doubt, and ... with the conviction that, if it be the work of Shakespeare, the foundations of it were laid when his art was imperfect.” KNIGHT's Shakespeare, vii. 116.

“The invention and composition of the tragedy and its notions of morality are all equally childish. As to invention, there is none; the author has simply followed the old romance, neither adding nor altering a single incident. ... There is no sort of unity in it, not even the unity of action, - it is like the showing off of a magic lantern with an indefinite number of pictures, and the more slides there are in the box the better the children are pleased. So great is the dramatic feebleness of the poet that in his childish reproduction of the romance he is obliged to have recourse to dumb show and to prologues to carry on a considerable part of the plot.

“We can well understand why many critics, in the absence of imperious external evidence, should have excluded this play, as unworthy, from the works of Shakespeare. Pope omitted it from his edition of the poet's work, and calls it in his preface a'wretched play.'” — STAPFER's Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity, 285, 287.

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It is easy to perceive, also, why 'Pericles' was not subsequently revised and perfected for publication in the folio. The author could not do this and remain true to his art without retaining the brothel scene, and with that he did not care again to soil his fingers.

Pericles,' preceding 'Titus Andronicus,' was written in or about 1582.

We have now come to certain productions which belong, we think, to Shake-speare's boyhood.

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The 'Troublesome Reign of King John' was first printed, anonymously, and in ancient black-letter type, in 1591. It was reprinted in 1611, with the words “written by W. Sh.” on the titlepage. Also again in 1622, then distinctly ascribed to “ W. Shake-speare.” Francis Meres mentioned it in his list of Shakespeare Plays, in 1598. In the folio of 1623, however, the play appeared re-written and enlarged as we now have it (under the title 'King John'), but in such a manner as to demonstrate beyond all serious doubt that the two versions were the product of the same hand, at different stages of the author's intellectual development. Indeed, the action in both is the same, and several passages are verbally identical.

“There are in it (the early play] many noble lines which Shakespeare himself might not have been ashamed of." — BANKSIDE Shakespeare, vol. 18, xii.

“Shakespeare's play of King John' is immediately founded upon and follows an earlier play in two parts of the same subject and title. There is so much of sterling gold in the old, or rather say the earlier King John' in language and versification, in poetical ideas and expression, in humour, in power of dramatization, and in adumbration of character that the author has good claim for some trouble to be taken to identify him." - SINGER'S Shakespeare, iv. 388.

“ Tieck alone maintains that every line of the earlier play (which he has translated) bears the impress of Shakespeare's hand, and even maintains it to be superior to the later version.” — Elze's William Shakespeare, page 338.

The 'Famous Victories of Henry V.' was mentioned by Thomas Nash in his Pierce Penniless in 1592. It was entered at the Stationers' Hall, May 14, 1594, and printed for the first time (so far as we know) anonymously and in black

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