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cisely that degree and kind of imperfectness, which would belong to manuscript prepared from defective short-hand notes. As Steevens printed the first and the third edition of “Romeo and Juliet” in his “ Twenty Quartos,” a comparison, to test the truth of our remark, may be readily made. We do not of course go the length of contending that Shakespeare did not alter and improve the play, subsequent to its earliest production on the stage, but merely that the 4to, 1597, does not contain the tragedy as it was originally represented. The second edition was printed in 1599, and it professes to have been "newly corrected, augmented, and amended :” the third dated edition appeared in 1609; but some copies without a date are known, which most likely were posterior to 1609, but anterior to the appearance of the folio in 1623. The 4to, 1637, is of little or no authority.
The 4to, 1609, was printed from the edition which came out ten years earlier; and the repetition, in the folio of 1623, of some decided errors of the press, shows that it was a reprint of the 4to, 1609. It is remarkable, that although every early 4to. impression contains a Prologue, it was not transferred to the folio. The 4to, 1597, has lines not in the 4tos, 1599, 1609, nor in the folio; and the folio, reprinting the 4to, 1609, besides ordinary errors, makes several important omissions. Our text is that of the 4to, 1599, compared, of course, with the 4to, 1609, and with the folio of 1623, and in some places importantly assisted by the 4to. of 1597. Of the value of this assistance, as regards particular words, we will only give a single instance, out of many, from Act iii. sc. 1, where Benvolio, in reference to the conflict between Mercutio and Tybalt, says of Romeo,
“ His agile arm beats down their fatal points." The 4tos, 1599 and 1609, and the folio of 1623, absurdly read "aged arm;" and the editor of the folio of 1632 substituted “able arm:" the true word, for which no substitute equally good could be found, is only in the 4to, 1597.
It will be observed that on the title-page of the 4to, 1597, it is stated that “Romeo and Juliet” was acted by the players of Lord Hunsdon; and hence Malone argued that it must have been first performed and printed between July, 1596, and April, 1597. The company to which Shakespeare was attached called themselves " the servants of the Lord Chamberlain :" Henry Lord Hunsdon died Lord Chamberlain on 22nd July, 1596, and his son George succeeded to the title, but not to the office, which, in August, was conferred upon Lord Cobham. Lord Cobham filled it until his death in March subsequent to his appointment, very soon after which event George Lord Hunsdon was made Lord Chamberlain. It seems that the theatrical servants of Henry Lord Hunsdon, Lord Chamberlain, did not, on his decease, transfer their services to his successor in office, Lord Cobham, but to his successor in title, George Lord Hunsdon, and called themselves the servants of that nobleman in the interval between the death of his father on 22nd July, 1596, and 17th April, 1597, when he himself became Lord Chamberlain. Malone concludes that in this interval, while those players who had been the servants of the Lord Chamberlain called themselves the servants of Lord Hunsdon, “Romeo and Juliet” was first performed and printed; and that, in consequence, the title-page of the first edition states, that it had been played by “the L. of Hunsdon his servants."
The answer that may be made to this argument is, that though the tragedy was printed in 1597, as it had been acted by Lord Hunsdon's servants, it does not follow that it might not have been played some years before by the same actors, when calling them. selves the Lord Chamberlain's servants. This is true; and it is not to be disputed that there is an allusion in one of the speeches of the Nurse (Act i. sc. 3) to an earthquake which, she states, had occurred eleven years before :
" But as I said,
It has been supposed that this passage refers to the earthquake of 1580, and, consequently, that the play was written in 1591. However, those who read the whole speech of the Nurse cannot fail to remark such discrepancies in it, as to render it impossible to arrive at any definite conclusion, even if we suppose that Shakespeare intended a reference to a particular earthquake in England. First, the Nurse tells us, that Juliet was in a course of being weaned; then, that she could stand alone; and, thirdly, that she could run alone. It would have been rather extraordinary if she could not, for even according to the Nurse's own calculation the child was very nearly three years old. No fair inference can, therefore, be drawn from the expression, “ 'Tis since the earthquake now eleven years," and we coincide with Malone that the tragedy was probably written towards the close of 1596!
1 The Registers of the Stationers' Company throw little light upon the question when “Romeo and Juliet” was first written. On 5 Aug. 1596, Edward White entered " A newe ballad of Romeo and Juliett," which may possibly have been the tragedy, printed (without a bookseller's name) in 1597, though called only a ballad. On 22 Jan. 1606-7, “Romeo and Juliet” (together with “Love's Labour's Lost " and " The Taming of a Shrew") was entered to “Mr. Linge," with consent of “Mr. Burby." On 19 Nov. 1607, John Smythick entered
Another trifling circumstance may lead to the belief that “Romeo and Juliet” was not written, at all events, until after 1594. In Act ii. (not Act iii., as Malone states) there is an allusion, in the words of Mercutio—“a gentleman of the very first house—of the first and second cause,"—to a work on duelling, called “ Vincentio Saviolo his Practise.” That book was first printed in 1594, and again in 1595, and the issue of the second impression might call Shakespeare's attention to it before he began “ Romeo and Juliet.” We have already seen “ Vincentio Saviolo his Practise" particularly referred to in “ As You Like It," Vol. ii. p. 429. We place little reliance upon the allusion in “Romeo and Juliet,” because the first and second cause " are also mentioned in “Love's Labour's Lost,” (Vol. ii. p. 107, though the passage may, like some others, have been an insertion just prior to Christmas, 1598.
Malone hastily concluded, from a reference in Marston's Satires, that Shakespeare's “Romeo and Juliet” was acted at the Curtain Theatre, in Shoreditch; but we can be by no means sure that Marston, by the terms “Curtain plaudities,” did not mean applauses at any theatre, for all had “curtains," and we have no trace that any other of our great dramatist's plays was acted at the Curtain. The subject must have been a favourite with the public, and it is more than probable that rival companies had contemporaneous plays upon the same story: (see the Memoirs of Edward Alleyn, p. 19.) To some piece formed upon the same incidents, and represented at the Curtain Theatre, Marston may have referred.
It is remarkable that in no edition of “Romeo and Juliet,” printed anterior to the publication of the folio of 1623, do we find Shakespeare's name upon the title-page. Yet Meres, in his Palladis Tamia, had distinctly assigned it to him in 1598; and although the name of the author might be purposely left out in the imperfect copy of 1597, there would seem to be no reason, especially after the announcement by Meres, for not inserting it in the "corrected, augmented, and amended” edition of 1599. But it is wanting even in the impression of 1609, although Shakespeare's popularity must then bave been at its height. “King Lear,” in 1608, had been somewhat ostentatiously called “M. William Shakc-speare, his, &c. Life and Death of King Lear;" and his Sonnets, in 1609, were recommended to purchasers, as “Shake-speare's Sonnets," in unusually large characters on the title-page.
“ Hamlet,” “The Taming of a Shrew,” “Romeo and Juliet," and “ Love's Labour's Lost," as having derived his property in them from Linge.
ESCALUS, Prince of Verona.
Heads of two hostile Houses.
Servants to Capulet.
LADY MONTAGUE, Wife to Montague.
Citizens of Verona ; male and female Relations to both Houses ;
Maskers, Guards, Watchmen, and Attendants.
SCENE, during the greater Part of the Play, in Verona; once, in PROLOGU E.
the fifth Act, at Mantua.
1 There was no list of persons until Rowe prefixed it.
Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life ; Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrows
Do, with their death ?, bury their parents' strife.
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
Chorus.] No doubt, as Malone suggested, the insertion of “ Chorus," under the word “ Prologue,” indicates that it was spoken by the same performer who delivered the chorus at the end of Act. i. Malone subjoined the Prologue as it is given in the 4to, 1597, but with just as many variations as lines. It runs literatim thus:
“ Two household Frends, alike in dignitie,
(In faire Verona, where we lay our Scene,)
Whose ciuill warre makes ciuill hands vncleane.
A paire of starre-crost Lovers tooke their life ;
(Through the continuing of their Fathers strife,
Is now the two howres traffique of our Stage.
What here we want wee'l studie to amend." Do, with their death,] The 4to, 1599, “ Doth,” &c. ; a grammatical error, not corrected in subsequent editions.