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Lavinia. 'Tis present death I beg; and one thing more, That womanhood denies my tongue to tell.
Acr ii. Sc. 3.
On what principle the editors of the first complete edition of Shakspeare's works admitted this play into their volume cannot now be ascertained. The most probable reason that can be assigned is, that he wrote a few lines in it, or gave some assistance to the author in revising it, or in some way or other aided in bringing it forward on the stage. The tradition mentioned by Ravenscroft, in the time of King James II., warrants us in making one or other of these suppositions. “I have been told (says he, in his preface to an alteration of this play, published in 1687), by some anciently conversant with the stage, that it was not originally his, but brought by a private author to be acted, and he only gave some master touches to one or two of the principal parts.'
'A booke, entitled A Noble Roman Historie of Titus Andronicas,' was entered at Stationers' Hall, by John Danter, Feb. 6, 1593-4. This was undoubtedly the play, as it was printed in that year (according to Langbaine, who alone appears to have seen the first edition), and acted by the servants of the Earls of Pembroke, Derby, and Sussex. It is observable that in the entry no author's name is mentioned, and that the play was originally performed by the same company of comedians who exhibited the old drama, entitled The Contention of the Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, The old Taming of a Shrew, and Marlowe's King Edward IJ.; by whom not one of Shakspeare's plays is said to have been performed.
From Ben Jonson's Induction to Bartholomew Fair, 1614, we learn that Andronicus, had been exhibited twenty-five, or thirty
years before; that is, according to the lowest computation, in 1589; or, taking a middle period, which is perhaps more just, in 1587.
• To enter into a long disquisition to prove this piece not to have been written by Shakspeare would be an idle waste of time. To those who are not conversant with his writings, if particular passages were examined, more words would be necessary than the subject is worth ; those who are well acquainted with his works cannot entertain a doubt on the question. I will, however, mention one mode by which it may be easily ascertained. Let the reader only peruse a few lines of Appius and Virginia, Tancred and Gismund, The Battle of Alcazar, Jeronimo, Selimus Emperor of the Turks, The Wounds of Civil War, The Wars of Cyrus, Locrine, Arden of Feversham, King Edward I., The Spanish Tragedy, Solyman and Perseda, King Leir, The old King John, or any other of the pieces that were exhibited before the time of Shakspeare, and he will at once perceive that Titus Andronicus was coined in the same mint.
• The testimony of Meres (who attributes it to Shakspeare in his Palladis Tamia, or the Second Part of Wits Common Wealth, 1598], remains to be considered. His enumerating this among Shakspeare's plays may be accounted for in the same way in which we may account for its being printed by his fellow comedians in the first folio edition of his works. Meres was, in 1598, when his book first appeared, intimately connected with Drayton, and probably acquainted with some of the dramatic poets of the time, from some or other of whom he might have heard that Shakspeare interested himself about this tragedy, or had written a few lines for the anthor. The internal evidence fornished by the piece itself, and proving it not to have been the production of Shakspeare, greatly outweighs any single testimony on the other side. Meres might have been misinformed, or inconsiderately have given credit to the rumour of the day. In short, the high antiquity of the piece, its entry on the Stationers' books, and being afterwards printed without the name of Shakspeare, its being performed by the servants of Lord Pembroke, &c.; the stately march of the versification, the whole colour of the composition, its resemblance to several of our most ancient dramas, the dissimilitude of the style from our
author's undonbted plays, and the tradition mentioned by Ravenscroft when some of his contemporaries had not long been dead (for Lowin and Taylor, two of his fellow comedians, were alive a few years before the Restoration, and Sir Wm. Davenant did not die till April, 1668); all these circumstances combined, prove with irresistible force that the play of Titus Andronicus has been erroneously ascribed to Shakspeare,'-MALONE.
• Mr. Malone, in the preceding note, has expressed his opinion that Shakspeare may have written a few lines in this play, or given some assistance to the author in revising it. Upon no other ground than this has it any claim to a place among our poet's dramas: Those passages in which he supposed the hand of Shakspeare may be traced, he marked with inverted commas. This system of seizing upon every line possessed of merit, as belonging of right to our great dramatist, is scarcely doing justice to his contemporaries; and resembles one of the arguments which Theobald has used in his preface to The Double Falsehood :—“My partiality for Sbakspeare makes me wish that every thing which is good or pleasing in our tongue had been owing to his pen.” Many of the writers of that day were men of high poetical talent; and many individual speeches are found in plays, which, as plays, are of no value, which would not have been in any way unworthy of Shakspeare himself; of whom, Dr. Johnson has observed, that “his real power is not shown in the splendour of particular passages, but by the progress of the fable and the tenour of his dialogue; and that he that tries to recommend him by select quotations will succeed like the pedant in Hierocles, who, when he offered his house to sale, carried a brick in his pocket as a specimen.” Dr. Farmer has ascribed Titus Andronicus to Kyd, and placed it on a level with Locrine; but it appears to be much more in the style of Marlowe.. His fondness for accumulating horrors upon other occasions will account for the sanguinary character of this play; and it would not, I think, be difficult to show by extracts from his other performances, that there is not a line in it which he was not fully capable of writing.'--BOSWELL.
* The author, whoever he was, might have borrowed the story, &c, from an old ballad which is entered in the books of the Sta. tioners' Company immediately after the play to John Danter,