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SHAKESPEARE was indebted for nearly the whole plot of his "Taming of the Shrew" to an older play, published in 1594, under the title of "The Taming of a Shrew." The mere circumstance of the adoption of the title, substituting only the definite for the indefinite article, proves that he had not the slightest intention of concealing his obligation.

When Steevens published the "Six Old Plays," more or less employed by Shakespeare in six of his own dramas, no earlier edition of the "Taming of a Shrew" than that of 1607 was known. It was conjectured, however, that it had come from the press at an earlier date, and Pope appeared to have been once in possession of a copy of it, published as early as 1594. This copy has since been recovered, and is now in the collection of the Duke of Devonshire : the exact title of it is as follows:


"A Pleasant Conceited Historie, called The taming of a Shrew. As it was sundry times acted by the Right honorable the Earle of Pembrook his seruants. Printed at London by Peter Short and are to be sold by Cutbert Burbie, at his shop at the Royall Exchange. 1594." 4to.

It was reprinted in 1596, and a copy of that edition is in the possession of Lord Francis Egerton. The impression of 1607, the copy used by Steevens, is in the collection of the Duke of Devonshire.

There are three entries in the Registers of the Stationers' Company relating to "The Taming of a Shrew" but not one referring to Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew'." When Blounte and Jaggard, on the 8th Nov. 1623, entered "Mr. William Shakspeere's Comedyes, Histories, and Tragedyes, soe many of the said copies as are not formerly entered to other men," they did not include "The Taming of the Shrew" hence an inference might be drawn, that at some previous time it had been "entered to other men;" but no such entry has been found, and Shakespeare's comedy, probably, was never printed until it was inserted in the folio of 1623.

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1 Malone was mistaken when he said (Shakespeare, by Boswell, vol. ii. p. 342.) that "our author's genuine play was entered at Stationers' Hall on the 17th Nov. The entry is of the 19th Nov. and not of Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew," but of the old "Taming of a Shrew."

On the question, when it was originally composed, opinions, including my own, have varied considerably; but I now think we can arrive at a tolerably satisfactory decision. Malone first believed that "The Taming of the Shrew" was written in 1606, and subsequently gave 1596 as its probable date. It appears to me, that nobody has sufficiently attended to the apparently unimportant fact that in "Hamlet" Shakespeare mistakenly introduces the name of Baptista as that of a woman, while in "The Taming of the Shrew" Baptista is the father of Katharine and Bianca. Had he been aware when he wrote "Hamlet" that Baptista was the name of a man, he would hardly have used it for that of a woman; but before he produced "The Taming of the Shrew" he had detected his own error. The great probability is, that "Hamlet" was written at the earliest in 1601, and "The Taming of the Shrew" perhaps came from the pen of its author not very long afterwards.

The recent reprint of "The pleasant Comedy of Patient Grissill," by Dekker, Chettle, and Haughton, from the edition of 1603, tends to throw light on this point. Henslowe's Diary establishes, that the three dramatists above named were writing it in the winter of 1599. It contains various allusions to the taming of shrews; and it is to be recollected that the old " Taming of a Shrew" was acted by Henslowe's company, and is mentioned by him under the date of 11th June, 1594. One of the passages in "Patient Grissill," which seems to connect the two, occurs in Act v. sc. 2, where Sir Owen, producing his wands, says to the marquess, "I will learn your medicines to tame shrews." This expression is remarkable, because we find by Henslowe's Diary that, in July, 1602, Dekker received a payment from the old manager, on account of a comedy he was writing under the title of "A Medicine for a curst Wife." My conjecture is, that Shakespeare (in coalition, possibly, with some other dramatist, who wrote the portions which are admitted not to be in Shakespeare's manner) produced his "Taming of the Shrew" soon after "Patient Grissill" had been brought upon the stage, and as a sort of counterpart to it; and that Dekker followed up the subject in the summer of 1602 by his "Medicine for a curst Wife," having been incited by the success of Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" at a rival theatre. At this time the old "Taming of a Shrew" had been laid by as a public performance, and Shakespeare having very nearly adopted its title, Dekker took a different one, in accordance with the expression he had used two or three years before in "Patient Grissill"."

The silence of Meres in 1598 regarding any such play by Shakespeare is also important: had it then been written, he could scarcely

2 If we suppose Shakespeare, in Act iv. sc. 1, to allude to T. Heywood's play, "A Woman Killed with Kindness," it would show that "The Taming of the

have failed to mention it; so that we have strong negative evidence of its non-existence before the appearance of Palladis Tamia. When Sir John Harington, in his "Metamorphosis of Ajax," 1596, says, "Read the booke of Taming a Shrew,' which hath made a number of us so perfect that now every one can rule a shrew in our country, save he that hath her," he meant the old "Taming of a Shrew," reprinted in the same year. In that play we have not only the comedy in which Petruchio and Katharine are chiefly engaged, but the Induction, which is carried out to the close; for Sly and the Tapster conclude the piece, as they had begun it.

As it is evident that Shakespeare made great use of the old comedy, both in his Induction and in the body of his play, it is not necessary to inquire particularly to what originals the writer of "The Taming of a Shrew" resorted. As regards the Induction, Douce was of opinion that the story of "The Sleeper awakened," in the "Arabian Nights' Entertainments," was the source of the many imitations which have, from time to time, been referred to. Warton (Hist. Engl. Poetry, iv. 117. Edit. 1824) tells us, that among the books of Collins was a collection of tales by Richard Edwards, dated in 1570, and including "the Induction of the Tinker in Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew.'" This might be the original employed by the author of the old "Taming of a Shrew." For the play itself he, perhaps, availed himself of some now unknown translation of Nott. viii. fab. 2, of the Piacevoli Notti of Straparola.

The Suppositi of Ariosto, freely translated by Gascoyne, (before 1566, when it was acted at Grey's Inn) under the title of "The Supposes," seems to have afforded Shakespeare part of his plot: it relates to the manner in which Lucentio and Tranio pass off the Pedant as Vincentio, which is not found in the old " Taming of a Shrew." In the list of persons preceding Gascoyne's "Supposes" Shakespeare found the name of Petrucio, (a character not so called by Ariosto,) and hence, perhaps, he adopted it. It affords another slight link of connexion between "The Taming of the Shrew" and "The Supposes ;" but there exists a third, still slighter, of which no notice has been taken. It consists of the use of the word "supposes,' ," in A. v. sc. 1, exactly in the substantive sense in which it is employed by Gascoyne, and in reference to that part of the story which had been derived from his translation. How little Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" was known in the beginning of the eighteenth century, may be judged from the fact, that "The Tatler," No. 231, contains the story of it, told as of a gentleman's family then residing in Lincolnshire.

Shrew" was written after Feb. 1602-3; but the expression was probably proverbial, and for this reason Heywood took it as the title of his tragedy.


A Lord.

CHRISTOPHER SLY, a Tinker. Hostess, Page,

Players, Huntsmen, and Servants,

BAPTISTA, a rich Gentleman of Padua.

Persons in the


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Tailor, Haberdasher, and Servants attending on Baptista and


SCENE, sometimes in Padua; and sometimes in Petruchio's
House in the Country.

1 A list of the characters was first printed by Rowe.




Before an Alehouse on a Heath.

Enter HOSTESS and SLY.

Sly. I'll pheese you, in faith'.
Host. A pair of stocks, you rogue!

Sly. Y'are a baggage: the Slys are no rogues; look in the chronicles, we came in with Richard Conqueror. Therefore, paucas pallabris; let the world slide. Sessa2! Host. You will not pay for the glasses you have bursts?

Sly. No, not a denier. Go by, S. Jeronimy: Go to thy cold bed, and warm thee1.

1 I'll PHEESE you, in faith.] Thus the word is printed in the folio of 1623. In the old "Taming of a Shrew," it is printed fese, in the three editions of 1594, 1596, and 1607. Ben Jonson uses the word in his "Alchemist,” and spells it, in his folio of 1616, feize. It is the same word, however spelt; and Gifford, who was a West of England man, says that in that part of the country it means, 66 to beat, chastise, or humble," &c. Jonson's Works, iv. 188. Dr. Johnson, on the authority of Sir Thomas Smith, in his book De Sermone Anglico, says that it means in fila diducere. Such may have been its original sense, but there is no doubt that it is used figuratively in the way Gifford has explained.

2 Therefore paucas pallabris; let the world slide: Sessa !] Pocas palabras is Spanish for "few words," a foreign phrase in common use in the time of Shakespeare. See vol. ii. p. 240. The same remark will apply to "let the world slide," or "let the world slip," as Sly afterwards words it; but we do not find sessa, or cessa (cease), so employed in other authors. It occurs again, under the form of sessey, in " King Lear," Act iii. sc. 4.


you have BURST ] To burst and to break were anciently synonymous. Go by, S. Jeronimy:

Go to thy cold bed, and warm thee.] In this passage, there is a double

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