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Beaumont died in 1615, Fletcher in 1625, and Jonson in 1637• My researches, however, were not continued below the year 1032, the date of the second edition of Shakspeare.
Let it be added to the praises of our Author, that if he did not begin to write till 1593, nor ceased till within three years of his death, which happened in 1616; in the course of twenty years he had produced no less than thirty-five plays, admitting that the eight others (amongst which is to be reckoned Titus Andronicus) were fpurious. I reize this opportunity, however, to exprefs my doubts concerning all but the last mentioned piece and Locrine. Locrine hath only the letters W. S. prefixed to it; and exhibits internal proofs that it was not only the composition of a scholar but of a pedant. Neither has it ever yet been sufficiently proved, that it was once customary to set the names of celebrated living authors at full length in the title-pages to the works of others, or to enter them under thefe false colours in the books of Stationers Hall. Such frauds, indeed, have been attempted at a later period, but with little success. The most inconsiderable of all the pieces rejected by the editors of Shakspeare, is the Yorkshire Tragedy; and yet in 1608 it was both registered and published with his name. At this time too, he was probably in London, presiding at the Globe Theatre, in consequence of the licence granted by king James I. to him and his fellow-comedians in 1603. The Yorkshire Tragedy is only one out of four short dramas which were exhibited for the entertainment of a single evening, as the title-page in forms us; and perhaps would have been forgotten, with the other three, but that it was known to have been the work of our celebrated Author. Such miscellaneous representations were not uncommon, and the Reader will find a specimen of them in the tenth volume of Mr. Seyward's edition of Beaumont and Fletcher. Shakspeare, who hath expressed such a solicitude that his Clowns pould speak no more than what was set down for them, would naturally have taken fome opportunity to thew his impat'ence at being rendered answerable, in a still more decisive manner, for entire compositions which were not his own. It is possible, likewise, that the copies of the plays omitted in the first folio, bad been already disposed of to proprietors, out of whose hands they could not be redeemed : or if Heminge and Condell were * dií cerning friends to the reputation of their associate, conscious, as they might have been, that such pieces were his, they would have omitted them by design, as inferior to his other productions. From this inferiority, and from a cast of style occasion
• If the original editors of Shakspeare were discerning friends to the reputation of their associate, how came Titus Andronicus to find a place amongst his works in their own edition. Rev.
ally ally different, nothing relative to their authenticity can, with exactness, be inferred; for, as Dr. Johnson very justly observes on a similar occasion, “ There is little resemblance between the first works of Raphael and the last." But could it even be proved that these rejected pieces were not among the earlieft effufions of Shakspeare, such proofs would by no means affect their authenticity; as both Dryden and Rowe, after having written their best plays, are known to have produced others, which reflect a very inconsiderable degree of honour on their memory.
These reasonings in favour of the rejected plays, which had been originally attributed to Shakspeare, are exceedingly plaufble; but whether they will be considered as decisive, we presume not to determine. Perhaps they have been rejected too precipitately, through an implicit dependence on the authority of Mr. Pope; whose reasons for their total omiffion were, how ever, very far from being conclusive.
The most curious and important supplement to the prefaces of the former edition, is an attempt to ascertain the order in which the plays attributed to Shakspeare were written,' by Mr. Malone. Or this attempt,' Mr. Steevens makes the following handsome acknowledgment. By the aid of the registers ac Stationers Hall, and such internal evidences as the pieces them selves fupply, he (Mr. Malone] hath so happily accomplished his undertaking, that he only leaves me the power to thank him for an arrangement which I profess my inability either to dispute or to improve.'
Of the success of this undertaking Mr. Malone speaks in the following modest and candid manner: • After the most diligent enquiries, very few particulars have been recovered respecting Shakspeare's private life or literary history; and while it hath been the endeavour of all his editors and commentators to illur. Irate his obscurities, and to regulate and correct his text, no ata tempt hath been made to trace the progress and order of his plays. Yet, surely, it is no incurious. speculation to mark the * gradations by which he rose from mediocrity to the summit of excellence: 'from artless and uninteresting dialogues, to those unrivalled compositions which have rendered him the delight and wonder of successive ages.
• It is not pretended that a regular scale of gradual improvement is here presented to the Public: or that if even Shakspeare himself had left us a chronological list of his dramas, it would exbibit such a fcale. All that is meant is, that as his knowledge increased, and he became more conversant with the stage and with life, his performances, in general, were written more happily, and with greater art. Rev. Jan. 1780.
• The materials for ascertaining the order in which his plays were written, are indeed so few, that it is to be feared nothing very decisive can be produced on this subject. In the following attempt to trace the progress of his dramatic art, probability alone is pretended to. The filence and inaccuracy of those persons who, after his death, had the revisal of his papers, will, perhaps, for ever prevent our attaining to any thing like proof on this head. Little then remains, but to collect into one view, from his several dramas, and from the ancient tracts in which they are mentioned, or alluded to, all the circumstances that can throw any light on this new and curious inquiry. From these circumstances, and from the entries in the books of the Stationers Company, extracted, and now first published by Mr. Steevens (to whom every admirer of Shakspeare has the highest obligations), it is probable that the plays attributed to our Author were nearly written in the following succession, which, though it cannot at this day be ascertained to be their true order, may yet be considered as approaching nearer to it than any which has been observed in the various editions of his works. The rejected plays are here enumerated with the rest; but no opinion is thereby meant to be given concerning their authenticity. Of the nineteen genuine plays, which were not printed in our Author's life-time, the majority of them were, I believe, Jate compositions. The following arrangement is, in some measure, formed on this idea.
The dates of the several plays are arranged by Mr. Malone in the following order:
N. B. The rejected plays, which had been admitted in the 3d and 4th editions of the latt century, and also by Mr. Rowe, are, in the following list, marked by Italics; and those which were not printed cill after the Author's death, and made their first appearance in the folio edition of his plays in 1623, are distinguished by an alterisk.
1. Titus Andronicus, 1589. [This play, though admitted by all the Editors, yet is generally fupposed to be spurious.] 2. Love's Labour Loit, 1591. 3.
* Firft Part of King Henry VI. 1591.
4. Second Part of Henry VI. 1591. 5. Third Part of ditto, 1592. 6. Pericles, 1592. 7. Locrine, 1593. 8. * The Two Gentlemen of Verona, 1593. 9. * The Winter's Tale, 1594
10. Midsummer Night's Dream, 1595. 11. Romeo and Juliet, 1595,
12. * The Comedy of Errors, 1596. 13. Hamlet, 1596. 14. * King John, 1596.
15. King Richard the IId. 1597. 16. King Richard the wild. 1597. 17. First Part of King Henry IV. 1597: 18. Merchant of Venice, 1598. 19. * All's Well that Ends Well, 1598. 20. Sir Yohn Ollcastle, 1598. 21. Second Part of King Henry IV. 1598. 22. King Henry V. 1599. 23. The Puritan, i6oo.
24. Much-ado about Nothing, 1600. 25. * As you like it, 1600. 26. Merry Wives of Windsor, 1601. 27. * King Henry VIII. 1601. 28. Life and Death of Lord Cromwell, 1602. 29: Troilus and Crellida, 1602. 30. * Measure for Measure, 1603, 31. * Cymbeline, 1604. 32. The London Prodigal, 1605. 33. King Lear, 1605. 34. * Macbeth, 1606.
35. Taming of the Shrew, 1606. 36. * Julius Cælar, 1607. 37. A Yorkshire Tragedy, 1608. 38. * Anthony and Cleopatra, 1608. 39. * Coriolanus, 1609. 40. * Timon of Athens, 1610. 41. * Othello, 1611. 42. * The Tempest, 1612. 43. * Twelfth Night, 1614.'
We must not follow this ingenious Writer through every part of his elaborate enquiry,- in which we find much curious criticism interspersed with a number of entertaining anecdotes :-but we cannot take our leave of Mr. Malone, without presenting a specimen or two of his manner of treating the subject. We shall produce his account of Titus Andronic*s and Macbeth.
• In what year our Author began to write for the stage, or which was his first performance, has not been hitherto ascertained. And indeed we have so few lights to direct our enquiries, that any speculation on this subject may appear an idle expence of time. But the method which has been already marked out, requires that such facts should be mentioned as may serve in any manner to elucidate these points.
Shakspeare was born on the 23d of April 1564, and was probably married in, or before September 1582 ; his eldest daughter Susanna having been baptised on the 26th of May 1583. At what time he left Warwickshire, or was first employed in the play-house, tradition doth not inform us. However, as his fon Samuel and his daughter Judith were baptised at Stratford Feb. 2, 1584-5, we may presume that he had not left the country at that time.
• He could not have wanted an easy introduction to the theatre, for Thomas Green, a celebrated comedian, was his townsman, and, probably, his relation; and Michael Drayton was likewise born in Warwickshire : the latter was nearly of his own age, and both were in some degree of reputation foon after the year 1590. If I were to indulge a conjecture, the middle of the year
I should name as the era when our Author commenced a writer for the stage; at which time he was somewhat more than twenty-feven years of age. The reasons that induce me to fix on that period are these : In Webbe's Discourse of English Poetry, published in 1986, we meet with the names of most of the celebrated poets of that time, particularly those of George Whetstone and Antony Munday, who were dramatit writers; but we find no trace of our Author, or any of his
works. Three years afterwards Puttenham printed his Art of English Poesy; and in that work also we look in vain for the name of Shakspeare. Sir John Harrington, in his Apologie for Poetry, prefixed to the Translation of Ariosto (which was entered in the Stationers' books, Feb. 26, 1590-1, in which year it was printed), takes occasion to speak of the theatre, and mentions some of the celebrated dramas of that time; but rays not a word of Shakspeare
, or any of his plays. If even Love's Labour Loft had. then appeared, which was probably his first dramatic composkion, is it imaginable that Harrington should have mentioned the Cambridge Pedantius, and The Play of the Cards (which last he tells us was a London comedy), and have passed by, unnoticed, the new prodigy of the dramatic world?
• However, that Shakfpeare had commenced a writer for the stage, and even excited the jealousy of his contemporaries, before Sept._1592, is now decisively proved by a passage, extracted by Mr. Tyrwhitt from Robert Greene's Groatsworth of Wit bought with a Million of Repentance *, in which there is an evident allusion to our Author's name, as well as to one of his plays.
The passage to which this observation refers is too curious to be omitted ; and we shall present our Readers with Mr. Tyrwhite's own account of it. Though the objections which have been raised to the genuineness of the three plays of Henry VIth have been fully considered and answered by Dr. Johnson, it may not be amiss to add here, from a contemporary writer, a passage which not only points at Shakspeare as the author of them, but also news, that however mcanly we may now think of them, in comparison with his later proo ductions, they had, at the time of their appearance, a fufficient de gree of excellence to alarm the jealousy of the older play-wrights. The passage, to which I refer, is in a pamphlet entitled Greene's Groatsworth of Witte, fupposed to have been written by that volumi. nous author Robert Greene, M. A. and said in the title page to be published at bis dying requeft; probably about 1592. The conclusion of this piece is an address to his brother-poets, to dissuade them from writing any more for the stage, on account of the ill-treatment which they were used to receive from the players. " Trust them not (fays he), for there is an upstart crow beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygres Head wrapt in a Player's Hyde, supposes that he is as well able to bombafte out a blancke verse as the bett of you; and being an absolute Johannes Fac-totum, is in his own conceit the only SHAKE-scene in the countrey." There can be no doubt, I think, that Sbakspeare is alluded to by the expression Shake-scene, or that his Tygres Head wrapt in a Player's Hyde is a parody upon the following line of York's speech to Margaret, in Third Pars of Henry VI. Aš I. Scene 4th. " Oh Tygres Heart wrapt in Woman's Hide !"
[Vol. vi, p. 566.)