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Tragedy 'was acted by one of Henslowe's companies. At the same time, the second extant tragedy, 'A Warning for Fair Women,''containing the most tragical and lamentable murther of Master George Sanders of London, Merchant, nigh Shooter's Hill, consented unto by his own wife, acted by M. Brown, Mistress Drury, and Trusty Roger, agents therein,' was printed for William Apsley. "Two Tragedies in One,' by Robert Yarrington, issued from the press in 1601. This curious piece, which we fortunately still possess, interweaves two separate tales of horror, the one being the murder of Master Beech by Thomas Merry, the other an Italian version of the ‘Babes in the Wood.'' Baxter's Tragedy' and Cartwright' followed in 1602 ; · The Fair Maid of Bristol” in 1605; and · The Yorkshire Tragedy'in 1608. The last two are extant; the former in a black letter quarto, the other among Shakspere's Doubtful Plays. In 1624 appeared two tragedies, the loss of which is deeply to be regretted One of these was called “The Bristol Merchant,' and was written by Ford and Dekker. The other bears this dreadful title : 'A Late Murther of the Son upon the Mother.' It was composed by Ford in collaboration with Webster, the two most sinister and sombre spirits of our drama, Saturn in conjunction with Mars. After this date, the pure domestic tragedy seems to have gone out of fashion. A lost play by George Chapman, entitled · The Yorkshire Gentlewoman and her Son,' was, however, entered on the Stationers' Books in 1660 ; and we still possess a piece by Rowley, Ford, and Dekker, entitled “The Witch of Edmonton,' which combines the tragedy of Mother Sawyer, burned in
SOURCES OF THESE DRAMAS.
1621, with a wife-murder by one Francis Thorney. It was acted in 1623, but not printed until 1658. To this list I will add Heywood's Woman Killed with Kindness,' a masterpiece in its way, first acted so early as 1603 and printed in 1607, but whether founded on an actual history or not, remains uncertain.
The sources chiefly drawn on by our playwrights in the composition of these tragedies, were Stow's and Holinshed's Chronicles, supplemented by special tracts and pamphlets devoted to a fuller exposition of the crimes in question. The author of 'Arden of Feversham 'followed Holinshed ; the author of The Yorkshire Tragedy' worked on Stow; the author of 'A Warning for Fair Women’ took for his text a detailed narrative of Sanders' murder, which appeared in 1573.1 It will be noticed that the most prolific writer in this kind was Dekker, and that Ford on three occasions devoted his great talents to the task. Shakspere,
if we could trust the title-page of the first quarto of the · Yorkshire Tragedy,' may have made at least one experiment in domestic drama. Neither Jonson nor Chapman nor yet Webster disdained the species ; and it is probable that if the works of these men had come down to us, our dramatic literature would have been enriched with highly instructive objects of study. For a note of the domestic drama is that here even great artists laid aside their pall of tragic state, descending to a simple style befitting the grim realism of their subject. This consideration should make us cautious in rejecting a tradition which ascribes to Shakspere one of these homely plays. The same consideration will
A Brief Discourse of the late Murther of Master George Sanders, &c.
perhaps enable us to understand how Jonson may have made those powerful additions to Kyd's 'Spanish Tragedy' which puzzled Lamb.
I propose to examine five domestic tragedies, beginning with the earliest and ending with the latest." These are · Arden of Feversham,' 'A Warning for Fair Women,’ • A Yorkshire Tragedy,'· The Witch of Edmonton,' and 'A Woman Killed with Kindness.' The first two were published anonymously, but have been ascribed upon internal evidence by no mean judges to Shakspere. Edward Jacob, in his reprint of · Arden'in 1770, was the first to suggest that the play was Shakspere's. Tieck, who translated it in 1823, adopted this view, and Goethe is said to have supported it. Mr. Swinburne in his recent Study of Shakespeare' pleads eloquently in favour of the Shaksperian authorship. Yet there is absolutely no external evidence to rest upon; and so far as internal evidence from style must be considered, neither the diction, though vigorous, nor the versification, though far from despicable, can be closely paralleled with Shakspere's in his youth or prime. The most substantial ground on which we might assign this play to Shakspere, is the dramatic skill, the tragic force, displayed in it. Was there
any other playwright capable of producing work so masterly before the date of 1592 ? We may at
1 By earliest and latest, I mean in date of publication, which is, however, no exact guide to date of composition. Arden of Feversham, for instance, has all the signs of more mature workmanship than A Warning
AUTHORSHIP OF 'ARDEN.'
once eliminate Marlowe, whose marked style nowhere shows itself in scene, soliloquy, or dialogue. Greene, Peele, and all their school, are out of question. Neither Heywood nor Dekker, both of them young men of twenty-two, are admissible upon the score of any similarity between their earliest extant work and this. Middleton is equally improbable.
There remains Robert Yarrington, of whom we know nothing except that he wrote one domestic tragedy; and to whom it might be indeed convenient, but far too fanciful, to ascribe the three domestic plays which puzzle * Either,' says Mr. Swinburne, summing up the
' case upon this point : 'Either this play is the young Shakespeare's first tragic masterpiece, or there was a writer unknown to us then alive and at work for the stage who excelled him as a tragic dramatist not lessto say the very least—than he was excelled by Marlowe as a narrative and tragic poet.' The argument is strongly stated; and those who agree with Mr. Swinburne in rating Arden of Feversham’among 'tragic masterpieces,' must admit the full force of it. After repeated study of the play, I am myself inclined to set
1 That is to say, of course, Arden, A Warning, and A Yorkshire Tragedy. With regard to A Yorkshire Tragedy, it formed part of Four Tragedies in One, while Yarrington's known play on Beech's murder is part of Two Tragedies in One. With regard to Arden and A Warning, although there is a vast difference in the power of these two dramas, the method of dealing with the prose text in each is strikingly similar, and is in keeping with the method of Yarrington's acknowledged piece. I have been both surprised and pleased to find this hazardous suggestion with regard to Yarrington confirmed in a private communication made to me by Mr. A. H. Bullen. He tells me that at one time he was inclined to ascribe Arden and A Warning to the author of Two Tragedies in One. About A Yorkshire Tragedy he says nothing; and indeed, except upon Fluellen's argument of an M in Monmouth and in Macedon, there is no ground to group this with the other three.
only a slightly lower value on it than he does. Yet how dangerous it is to build on arguments of exclusion, to assign to Shakspere unclaimed work chiefly because we judge it masterly, when we remember the wealth of dramatic ability in that fertile age, I have already pointed out!! Cautious critics, whatever may be their
It may be well to try and state briefly the conditions under which, if we incline to the Shaksperian hypothesis, we have to construct it. (1) There is no external proof in its favour ; but there is the difficulty of assigning the play to any known writer for the stage, combined with the fact that it is the work of a first-rate dramatist. (2) We know that Shakspere was the ‘Johannes Factotum of the Globe Company, turning his hand to the most various jobs. (3) The unrivalled power which he finally acquired over both character and metre was slowly developed after many tentative efforts. (4) What marks his earlier manner is a certain shadowiness of character-drawing (e.g. in A Midsummer Night's Dream) combined with humour, romantic luxuriance of fancy, euphuistic conceits, and a partiality for rhymed verse. (5) What marks Arden of Feversham s considerable grasp of character ; absence of humour, fancy, euphuism; baldness of blank verse, sparely relieved by decorative or impassioned rhetoric. (6) But the Domestic Tragedy was a well-defined species, aiming, as the Epilogue to Arden states, at nakedness' and 'simple truth' without “filèd points' and 'glozing stuff.' Shakspere may therefore have deliberately suppressed his own early manner when he was called upon to produce a Domestic Tragedy for the use of his company. It is also possible that he had a previous version to rehandle ; for we know that a play called Murderous Michael was shown at Court in 1578. (7) As regards the solid character-drawing which marks the piece, this was practically supplied to the dramatist by Holinshed; and the careful use made of Holinshed is remarkably similar to that which Shakspere made of his materials. (8) We might therefore plead that the species of the play excluded the young Shakspere's poetry and fancy, binding him down to a severe and naked style ; while the copious text on which he had to work, drew forth his latent powers of character-delineation. (9) There are many detached passages which forcibly recall the style of Shakspere. Some of these will be noted in the analysis of the play given in this chapter. See below, pp. 448, 452, 456, 458. (10) Lastly, the hypothesis might further be strengthened by recourse to the always convenient theory of piratical publication. This could be used to explain the halting versifica. tion of some scenes. But it is not very applicable to Arden of Feversham, which came to press perfect at least in all its parts, and not compressed in any of its numerous incidents. It is certainly of the full length. Oldys says: “They have the play in manuscript at Canterbury. If the MS. is extant, a comparison with the printed text might go far to set this point at rest.