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Two reasons may be assigned, why Shakspeare's late performances were not published till after his death.
1. If we suppose him to have written for the stage during a period of twenty years, those pieces which were produced in the latter part of that period, were less likely to pass through the press in his life-time, as the curiosity of the publick had not been so long engaged by them, as by his early compositions. 2. From the time that Shakspeare had the superintendance of a playhouse, that is, from the year 1603,’ when he and several others obtained a licence from King James to exhibit comedies, tragedies, histories, &c. at the Globe Theatre, and elsewhere, it became strongly his interest to preserve those pieces unpublished, which were composed between that year circumstances, we learn, that of the fourteen plays which were printed in Shakspeare's life-time, thirteen were written before the end of the year 1600,-The fourteen plays published in our author's life-time, are --A Midsummer Night's Dream, Love's Labour's Loft, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, King Richard 11. King Richard III. The First Part of King Henry IV. The Second part of King Henry IV. The Merchant of Venice, King Henry V. Much Ado about Nothing, The Merry lives of Windsor, Troilus and Cressida, and King Lear,
? None of the plays which in the ensuing lift are supposed to have been written subsequently to this year, were printed till after the author's death, except King Lear, the publication of which was probably hastened by that of the old play with the same title, in 1605. The copy of Troilus and Cresida, which seems to have been composed the year before King James granted a licence to the company at the Globe Theatre, appears to have been obtained by some uncommon artifice. Thank (says the editor) for the scape it hath made amongst you ;. ünce, by the grand poffeffors' wills, I believe, you should have pray'd for them (r.it] rather than been pray'd.”-By the Srand pfeffors, Shakspeare and the other managers of the Globe Theatre, were certainly intended.
and the time of his retiring to the country; manufcript plays being then the great support of every theatre. Nor were the plays which he wrote after he became a manager, fo likely to get abroad, being confined to his own theatre, as his former productions, which perhaps had been acted on different stages, and of consequence afforded the players at the several houses where they were exhibited, an easy opportunity of making out copies from the separate parts transcribed for their use, and of selling such copies to printers; by which means there is reason to believe that some of them were submitted to the press, without the consent of the author.
The following is the order in which I suppose the plays of Shakspeare to have been written:
1. FIRST PART OF KING HENRY VI. 1589. 2. SECOND PART OF KING HENRY VI. 1591. S. THIRD PART OF KING HENRY VI. 1591. 4. A MIDSUMMER NICHT'S DREAM, 1592. 5. COMEDY OF ERRORS,
1593. 6. TAMING OF THE SHREW,
1594. 7. Love's LABOUR's Lost,
1594. 8. Two GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, 1595. 9. ROMEO AND JULIET,
1595. 10. HAMLET,
1596. 11. KING JOHN,
1596. 12. KING RICHARD II.
1597. 13. KING RICHARD III.
1597. 14. FIRST PART OF KING HENRY IV. 1597.
15. SECOND PART OF KING HENRY IV. 1598. 16. THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, 1598. 17. ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, 1598. 18. KING HENRY V,
1599. 19. Much ADO ABOUT NOTHING, 1600. 80. As You LIKE IT,
1600. 21. MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR,
1601. 22. KING HENRY VIII.
1601, 23. TROILUS AND CRESSIDA,
1602. 24. MEASURE FOR MEASURE,
1603. 25. THE WINTER'S TALE, 26. KING LEAR,
1605, 27. CYMBELINE,
1605. 28. MACBETH,
1606. 29. JULIUS CÆSAR,
1607. 30. ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA,
1608. 31. TIMON OF ATHENS,
160g. 32. CORIOLANUS,
1610. 39. OTHELLO,
1611. 34. THE TEMPEST,
1612. 35. TWELFTH NICHT,
1. THE FIRST PART OF KING HENRY VI, 1589.
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 inquiries, that any fpeculation 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 a3d of April, 1564, and was probably married in, or before, September 1582, his eldest daughter, Susanna, having been baptized on the 26th of May, 1583. At what time he left Warwickshire, or was first employed in the playhouse, tradition does not inform us. However, as his son Hamnet and his daughter Judith were baptized 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 introducion to the theatre; for Thomas Greene, a celebrated
.” There was not (says Heywood in his preface to Greene's Tu Quoque, a comedy, ) an actor of his nature in his time, of better ability in the performance of what he undertook, 'more applauded by the audience, of greater grace at the court, of more general love in the city.” The birth-place of Thomas Greene is ascertained by the following lines, which he speaks in one of the old com
omedies, in the character of a clown: “ I pratled poesie in my nurse's arms,
And, born where late our swan of Avon sung, " In Avon's streams we both of us have lav’d,
• And both came out together.” Chetwood, in his British Theatre, quotes this passage from the comedy of the Two Maids of Moreclack; but no such
comedian, was his townsman , perhaps his relation, and Michael Drayton was likewise born in Warwickshire; the latter was nearly of his own age, and both were in fome degree of reputation foon after the year 1590. If I were to indulge a conjecture, I should name the year 1591, as the era when our author commenced a writer for the stage; at which time he was somewhat more than twenty(seven years old. The reasons that induce me to fix on that period are these. In Webbe's Discourse of English Poetry, published in 1586, we meet with the names of most of the celebrated poets of that time; particularly those of George Whetstone' and Anthony Munday, who were dramatick writers;
passage is there to be found.' He deserves but little credit; having certainly forged many of his dates; however, he probably met with these lines in fome ancient play, though he forgot the name of the piece from which he transcribed them. Greene was a writer as well as an acior. There are some verses of his prefixed to a collection of Drayton's poems, published in the year 1613. He was perhaps a kininan of Shakspeare's. In the register of the parish of Stratford, Thomas Greene, alias Shakfpere, is said to have been buried there, March 6, 1589. He might have been the actor's father.
,9 The author of Promos and Cassandra , a play which furnished Shakspeare with the fable of Measure for Measure.
This poet is mentioned by Meres, in his Wit's Treasury, 1598, as an eminent comick writer, and the best flotter of his time. He seems to have been introduced under the name of Don Antonio Balladino, in a comedy that has been attributed to Ben Jonson, called The Case is Allereil, and from the following passages in that piece appears to have been city-poet; whose buliness it was to compofe an annual panegyrick on the Lord Mayor, and to write verses for the pagcants : an office which has been discontinued since the death of Elkanah Settle