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about Nothing the two principal persons of the drama frequently remind us of two other characters that had been exhibited in an early production,-Love's Labour's Lost. In All's Well that Ends Well and Measure for Measure we find the same artifice twice employed; and in many other of his plays the action is embarrassed, and the denouement affected, by contrivances that bear a striking similitude to each other.
The conduct of Pericles and The Winter's Tale, which have several events common to both, gives additional weight to the supposition that the two pieces proceeded from the same hand. In the latter our author has thrown the discovery of Perdita into narration, as if through consciousness of having already exhausted, in the business of Marina, all that could render such an incident affecting on the stage. Leontes too says but little to Hermione, when he finds her; their mutual situations having been likewise anticipated by the Prince of Tyre and Thaisa, who had before amply expressed the transports natural to unexpected meeting after long and painful separation.
All the objections which are founded on the want of liaison between the different parts of this piece, on the numerous characters introduced in it, not sufficiently connected with each other, on the various and distant countries in which the scene is laid,—may, I think, be answered, by saying that the author pursued the story exactly as he found it either in the Confessio Amantis* or some prose translation of the Gesta Romanorum; a practice which Shakspeare is known to have followed in many plays, and to which most of the faults that have been urged against his dramas may be imputed.f-If while we travel in Antony and
* Here also were found the names of the greater part of the characters introduced in this play; for of the seventeen persons represented, six of the names only were the invention of the poet.
The same quantity not being uniformly observed in some of these names, is mentioned by Mr. Steevens as a proof that this piece was the production of two hands. We find however Thaisa and Thaisa in the fifth Act, in two succeeding lines. Is it to be imagined, that this play was written like French Bouts rimées, and that as soon as one verse was composed by one of this supposed duumvirate, the next was written by his associate?
In the conduct of Measure for Measure his judgment has been arraigned for certain deviations from the Italian of Cinthio, in one of whose novels the story on which the play is built, may be read. But, on examination, it has been found, that the faults of the piece are to be attributed not to Shakspeare's departing from, but too closely pursuing his original, which, as Dr. Farmer observed, was not Cinthio's novel, but the Heptameron of Whetstone. In like manner the catastrophe of Romeo and Juliet is rendered less affecting than it might have been made, by the author's having implicitly followed the poem of Romeus and Juliet, on which his play appears to have been formed. In The
Cleopatra from one country to another with no less rapidity than in the present piece, the objects presented to us are more beautiful, and the prospect more diversified, let it be remembered at the same time, that between the composition of these plays there was probably an interval of at least fifteen years; that even Shakspeare himself must have gradually acquired information like other mortals, and in that period must have gained a knowledge of many characters, and various modes of life, with which in his earlier years he was unacquainted.
If this play had come down to us in the state in which the poet left it, its numerous ellipses might fairly be urged to invalidate Shakspeare's claim to the whole or to any part of it. But the argument that is founded in these irregularities of the style loses much of its weight, when it is considered, that the earliest printed copy appears in so imperfect a form, that there is scarcely a single page of it undisfigured by the grossest corruptions. As many words have been inserted, inconsistent not only with the author's meaning, but with any meaning whatsoever, as many verses appear to have been transposed, and some passages are appropriated to characters to whom manifestly they do not belong, so there is great reason to believe that many words and even lines were omitted at the press; and it is highly probable that the printer is answerable for more of these ellipses than the poet. The same observation may be extended to the metre, which might have been originally sufficiently smooth and harmonious, though now, notwithstanding the editor's best care, it is feared it will be found in many places rugged and defective.
On the appearance of Shakspeare's name in the title-page of the original edition of Pericles, it is acknowledged no great stress can be laid; for by the knavery of printers or booksellers it has been likewise affixed to two pieces, of which it may be doubted whether a single line was written by our author. However, though the name of Shakspeare may not alone authenticate this play, it is not in the scale of evidence entirely insignificant; nor is it a fair conclusion, that, because we are not to confide in the title-pages of two dramas which are proved by the whole colour of the style and many other considerations not to have been the composition of Shakspeare, we are therefore to give no credit to the title of a piece, which we are led by very strong internal
Winter's Tale, Bohemia, situated nearly in the center of Europe, is described as a maritime country, because it had been already described as such by Robert Greene in his Dorastus and Faunia; and in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Protheus goes from one inland town to another by sea; a voyage that in some novel be had probably taken before. Many similar instances might be added.
It is observable that the two plays of Pericles and Antony and Cleopatra were entered together at Stationers' Hall in the year 1608, by Edward Blount, a bookseller of eminence, and one of the printers of the first folio edition of our author's works
proof, and by many corroborating circumstances, to attribute to him. Though the title-pages of The London Prodigal and Sir John Oldcastle should clearly appear to be forgeries, those of Henry IV and Othello will still remain unimpeached.
The non-enumeration of Pericles in Meres's Catalogue of our author's plays, printed in 1598, is undecisive with respect to the authenticity of this piece; for neither are the three parts of King Henry VI, nor Hamlet, mentioned in that list; though it is certain they were written, and had been publickly performed, before his book was published.
Why this drama was omitted in the first edition of Shakspeare's works, it is impossible now to ascertain. But if we shall allow the omission to be a decisive proof that it was not the composition of our author, we must likewise exclude Troilus and Cressida from the list of his performances; for it is certain, this was likewise omitted by the editors of the first folio, nor did they see their error till the whole work and even the table of contents was printed; as appears from its not being paged, or enumerated in that table with his other plays. I do not, however, suppose that the editors, Heminge and Condell, did not know who was the writer of Troilus and Cressida, but that the piece, though printed some years before, for a time escaped their memory. The same may be said of Pericles. Why this also was not recovered, as well as the other, we can now only conjecture. Perhaps they thought their volume had already swelled to a sufficient size, and they did not choose to run the risk of retarding the sale of it by encreasing its bulk and price; perhaps they did not recollect The Prince of Tyre till their book had been issued out; or perhaps they considered it more for their friend's credit to omit this juvenile performance. Ben Jonson, when he collected his pieces into a volume, in the year 1616, in like manner omitted a comedy called The Case is Altered, which had been printed with his name some years before, and appears to have been one of his earliest productions; having been exhibited before the year 1599.
After all, perhaps, the internal evidence which this drama itself affords of the hand of Shakspeare is of more weight than any other argument that can be adduced. If we are to form our judgment by those unerring criterions which have been established by the learned author of The Discourse on Poetical Imitation, the question will be quickly decided; for who can point out two writers, that without any communication or knowledge of each other ever produced so many passages, coinciding both in sentiment and expression, as are found in this piece and the undisputed plays of Shakspeare?* Should it be said, that
* "Considering the vast variety of words which any language, and especially the more copious ones furnish, and the infinite possible combinations of them into all the forms of phraseology, it would be very strange, if two persons should hit on the same identical terms, and much more, should they agree in the same precise arrangement of them in whole sentences." Discourse on Poetical Imitation, Hurd's Horace, Vol. III, p. 109, edit. 1766.
he did not scruple to borrow both fables and sentiments from other writers, and that therefore this circumstance will not prove this tragedy to be his, it may be answered, that had Pericles been an anonymous production, this coincidence might not perhaps ascertain Shakspeare's title to the play; and he might with sufficient probability be supposed to have only borrowed from another; but when, in addition to all the circumstances already stated, we recollect the constant tradition that has accompanied this piece, and that it was printed with his name, in his life-time, as acted at his own theatre, the parallel passages which are so abundantly scattered throughout every part of Pericles and his undisputed performances, afford no slight proof, that in the several instances enumerated in the course of the preceding observations, he borrowed, as was his frequent practice from himself; and that this contested play was his own composition.
The testimony of Dryden to this point does not appear to me so inconsiderable as it has been represented. If he had only meant to say, that Pericles was produced before Othello, the second line of the couplet which has been already quoted, would have sufficiently expressed his meaning; nor, in order to convey this idea was it necessary to call the former the first dramatick performance of Shakspeare; a particular which he lived near enough the time to have learned from stage-tradition, or the more certain information of his friend Sir William D'Avenant.* If he had only taken the folio edition of our author's
* Sir William D'Avenant produced his first play at the theatre in Blackfryers, in 1629, when he was twenty-four years old, at which time his passion for apple-hunting, we may presume, had subsided, and given way to more manly pursuits. That a young poet thus early acquainted with the stage, who appears to have had a great veneration for our author, who was possessed of the only original picture of Shakspeare ever painted, who carefully preserved a letter written to him by King James, who himself altered four of his plays and introduced them in a new form on the stage, should have been altogether incurious about the early history and juvenile productions of the great luminary of the dramatick world (then only thirteen years dead) who happened also to be his god-father, and was by many reputed his father, is not very credible. That he should have never made an enquiry concerning a play, printed with Shakspeare's name, and which appears to have been a popular piece at the very time when D'Avenant produced his first dramatick essay (a third edition of Pericles having been printed in 1630) is equally im probable. And it is still more incredible, that our author's friend, old Mr. Heminge, who was alive in 1629, and principal proprie tor and manager of the Globe and Blackfryers play houses, should not have been able to give him any information concerning a play, which had been produced at the former theatre, probably while it was under his direction, and had been acted by his company with great applause for more than thirty years.
works for his guide, without any other authority, he would have named The Tempest as his earliest production; because it happens to stand first in the volume. But however this may be, and whether, when Dryden entitled Pericles our author's first composition, he meant to be understood literally or not, let it be remembered, that he calls it his PERICLES; that he speaks of it as the legitimate, not the spurious or adopted, offspring of our poet's muse; as the sole, not the partial, property of Shakspeare. I am yet, therefore, unconvinced, that this drama was not written by our author. The wildness and irregularity of the fable, the artless conduct of the piece, and the inequalities of the poetry, may, I think, be all accounted for, by supposing it either his first or one of his earliest essays in dramatick composition. Malone.
On looking into Roscius Anglicanus, better known by the name of Downes the Prompter's Book, originally printed in 1708, and lately published by the ingenious Mr. Waldron of Drury Lane Theatre, I was not a little surprized to find, that Pericles, Prince of Tyre was one of the characters in which the famous Betterton had been most applauded.-Could the copy from which this play was acted by him and his associates, be recovered, it would prove a singular curiosity; at least, to those who have since been drudging through every scene of the original quarto, 1609, in the hope of restoring it to such a degree of sense and measure as might give it currency with the reader.
As for the present editor, he expects to be
66 Stopp'd in phials, and transfix'd with pins," on account of the readiness with which he has obeyed the second clause of the Ovidian precept:
"Cuncta prius tentanda; sed immedicabile vulnus
When it is proved, however, that a gentle process might have been employed with equal success, let the actual cautery be rejected, or applied to the remarks of him who has so freely used