« FöregåendeFortsätt »
TITUS ANDRONICUS.] It is obfervable, that this play is printed in the quarto of 1611, with exactness equal to that of the other books of thofe times. The first edition was probably corrected by the author, fo that here is very little room for conjecture or emendation; and accordingly none of the editors have much molested this piece with officious criticism.
There is an authority for afcribing this play to Shakspeare, which I think a very strong one, though not made use of, as I remember, by any of his commentators. It is given to him, among other plays, which are undoubtedly his, in a little book, called Palladis Tamia, or the Second Part of Wit's Commonwealth, written by Francis Meres, Maifter of Arts, and printed at London in 1598. The other tragedies, enumerated as his in that book, are King John, Richard the Second, Henry the Fourth, Richard the Third, and Romeo and Juliet. The comedies are, the Midfummer-Night's Dream, the Gentlemen of Verona, the Comedy of Errors, the Love's Labour's Loft, the Love's Labour Won, and the Merchant of Venice. I have given this lift, as it ferves fo far to afcertain the date of these plays; and also, as it contains a notice of a comedy of Shakspeare, the Love's Labour Won, not included in any collection of his works; nor, as far as I know, attributed to him by any other authority. If there fhould be a play in being with that title, though without Shakfpeare's name, I fhould be glad to fee it; and I think the editor would be fure of the publick thanks, even if it should prove no better than the Love's Labour's Loft. TYRWHITT.
The work of criticism on the plays of our author, is, I believe, generally found to extend or contract itself in proportion to the value of the piece under confideration; and we shall always do little where we defire but little fhould be done. I know not that this piece stands in need of much emendation; though it might be treated as condemned criminals are in fome countries,-any experiments might be juftifiably made on it.
The author, whoever he was, might have borrowed the ftory, the names, the characters, &c. from an old ballad, which is entered in the books of the Stationers' Company immediately after the play on the fame subject. "John Danter] Feb. 6, 1593. A book entitled A Noble Roman Hiftorie of Titus Andronicus." "Enter'd unto him also the ballad thereof."
Entered again April 19, 1602, by Tho. Pavyer.
The reader will find it in Dr. Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, Vol. I. Dr. Percy adds, that" there is reafon to conclude that this play was rather improved by Shakspeare with
a few fine touches of his pen, than originally writ by him; for not to mention that the ftyle is lefs figurative than his others generally are, this tragedy is mentioned with difcredit in the induction to Ben Jonfon's Bartholomew Fair in 1614, as one that had then been exhibited five-and-twenty or thirty years: :* which, if we take the lowest number, throws it back to the year 1589, at which time Shakspeare was but 25: an earlier date than can be found for any other of his pieces, and if it does not clear him entirely of it, fhews at leaft it was a first attempt."
Though we are obliged to Dr. Percy for his attempt to clear our great dramatick writer from the imputation of having produced this fanguinary performance, yet I cannot admit that the circumftance of its being difcreditably mentioned by Ben Jonfon, ought to have any weight; for Ben has not very sparingly cenfured The Tempest, and other pieces which are undoubtedly among the most finished works of Shakspeare. The whole of Ben's Prologue to Every Man in his Humour, is a malicious fneer on him.
Painter, in his Palace of Pleasure, Tom. II. fpeaks of the story of Titus as well known, and particularly mentions the cruelty of Tamora: And, in 4 Knack to know a Knave, 1594, is the following allufion to it:
as welcome shall you be
"To me, my daughters, and my son in law,
"As Titus was unto the Roman fenators,
"When he had made a conqueft on the Goths."
Whatever were the motives of Heming and Condell for admitting this tragedy among thofe of Shakspeare, all it has gained by their favour is, to be delivered down to pofterity with repeated remarks of contempt,- -a Therfites babbling among heroes, and introduced only to be derided,
See the notes at the conclusion of this piece. STEEVENS.
On what principle the editors of the first complete edition of our poet's plays admitted this into their volume, cannot now be afcertained. The moft probable reafon that can be afligned, is, that he wrote a few lines in it, or gave fome affiftance to the author, in revifing it, or in fome other way aided him in bringing it forward on the ftage. The tradition mentioned by Ravenscroft in the time of King James II. warrants us in making one or other of these fuppofitions. I have been told" (fays he in his preface to an alteration of this play published in 1687,) by fome anciently converfant with the ftage, that it was not originally his, but brought by a private author to be acted, and he only gave fome mafter touches to one or two of the principal parts or characters.”
"A booke entitled A noble Roman Hiftorie of Titus Andronicus" was entered at Stationers'-Hall, 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 fervants of the Earls of Pembroke, Derby, and Suffex. It is obfervable that in the entry no author's name is mentioned, and that the play was originally performed by the fame company of comedians who exhibited the old drama, entitled The Contention of the Houfes of Yorke and Lancaster, The old Taming of a Shrew, and Marlowe's King Edward II. by whom not one of Shakspeare's plays is faid to have been performed. See the Differtation on King Henry VI. Vol. XIV. p. 236,
From Ben Jonfon'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 juft, in 1587.
To enter into a long difquifition to prove this piece not to have been written by Shakspeare, would be an idle wafte of time. To those who are not converfant with his writings, if particular paffages were examined, more words would be necessary than the fubject is worth; those who are well acquainted with his works, cannot entertain a doubt on the queftion.-I will however mention one mode by which it may be eafily afcertained. Let the reader only perufe a few lines of Appius and Virginia, Tancred and Gifmund, The Battle of Alcazar, Jeronimo, Selimus Emperor of the Turks, The Wounds of Civil War, The Wars of Cyrus, Locrine, Arden of Feverfham, King Edward I. The Spanish Tragedy, Solyman and Perfeda, 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 fame mint.
The teftimony of Meres, mentioned in a preceding note, alone remains to be confidered. His enumerating this among Shakfpeare's plays may be accounted for in the fame way in which we may account for its being printed by his fellow-comedians in the firft folio edition of his works. Meres was in 1598, when his book appeared, intimately connected with Drayton, and probably acquainted with fome of the dramatick poets of the time, from fome or other of whom he might have heard that Shakspeare interested himself about this tragedy, or had written a few lines for the author. The internal evidence furnished by the piece itself, and proving it not to have been the production of
Shakipeare, greatly outweighs any fingle teftimony on the other fide. Meres might have been misinformed, or inconfiderately have given credit to the rumour of the day. For fix of the plays which he has mentioned, (exclufive of the evidence which the reprefentation of the pieces themselves might have furnished,) he had perhaps no better authority than the whisper of the theatre; for they were not then printed. He could not have been deceived by a title-page, as Dr. Johnfon fuppofes; for Shakfpeare's name is not in the title-page of the edition printed in quarto in 1611, and therefore we may conclude, was not in the title-page of that in 1594, of which the other was undoubtedly a re-impreffion. Had this mean performance been the work of Shakspeare, can it be fuppofed that the booksellers would not have endeavoured to procure a fale for it by stamping his name upon it?
In fhort, the high antiquity of the piece, its entry on the Stationers' books, and being afterwards printed without the name of our author, its being performed by the fervants of Lord Pembroke, &c. the ftately march of the verfification, the whole colour of the compofition, its resemblance to several of our most ancient dramas, the diffimilitude of the ftyle from our author's undoubted compofitions, and the tradition mentioned by Ravenf.croft, when fome of his contemporaries had not been long dead, (for Lowin and Taylor, two of his fellow-comedians, were alive a few years before the Restoration, and Sir William D'Avenant, who had himself written for the ftage in 1629, did not die till April 1668;) all these circumstances combined, prove with irrefiftible force that the play of Titus Andronicus has been erroneoully afcribed to Shakspeare. MALONE.
"Kyd-probably original author of Andronicus, Locrine, and play in Hamlet.-Marloe, of H. 6.
Ben Jonfon, Barthol. Fair-ranks together Hieronymo and Andronicus, [time and ftile]-first exposed him to the criticksfhelter'd afterwards under another's name.
"Sporting Kyd [perhaps wrote comedy] and Marloe's mighty line-Jonfon. [might affift Lily,] Perhaps Shakspeare's additions outfhone.
Tamburlaine mention'd with praife by Heywood, as Marloe's might be different from the bombast one-and that written by Kyd."
From a loose scrap of paper, in the hand writing of Dr. Farmer.
In the library of the Duke of Bridgewater, at Athridge, is a volume of old quarto plays, numbered R. 1. 7; in which the firft is Titus Andronicus.