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and not by any serious delinquency; that the father of his wife was a yeoman both of respectability and property; that his own father, though impoverished. was still in business; and that he had, in all likelihood, a ready admission to the stage through the influence of persons of leading weight in its concerns ; we cannot, without doing the utmost violence to probability, conceive that, under these circumstances, and in the 23rd year of his age, he would submit to the degrading employment of either a horse-holder at che door of a theatre, or of a call-boy within its walls.
That Shakspeare had a perfect knowlege of his art is sufficiently proved by the instructions which are given to the player in Hamlet, and by other
passages in his works : it is improbable, however, that he was entrusted with first-rate characters. Mr. Rowe has mentioned as the sole result of his inquiries, that he excelled in representing the Ghost in Hamlet; and if the names of the actors prefixed to “Every Man in his Humor' were arranged in the same order as the persons of the drama, he must have performed the part of Old Knowell in that comedy. A traditionary anecdote relating to our author's dramatic performances, preserved by Mr. Oldys, and communicated to him, as Mr. Malone thinks, by Mr. T. Jones, of Tarbick, imports, (as corrected by the learned commentator) that a relation of Shakspeare, then in advanced age, but who in his youth had been in the habit of visiting London for the purpose of seeing him act in some of pis own plays, told Mr. Jones, that he had a faint recollection of having once seen him act a part in one of his own comedies, wherein, being to personate a decrepit old man, he wore a long beard, and appeared so weak, and drooping, and unable to walk, that he was forced to be supported and carried by another person to a table, at which he was seated among some company, who were eating, and one of them sang a song.' That this part was the character of Adam, in “ As You Like It,' there can be no doubt : and hence, perhaps, we may be warranted in the conclusion, that the representation of aged characters was peculiarly his forte.
We now come to that era in the life of Shakspeare when he began to write his immortal dramas, and to develop those powers which have rendered him the delight and wonder of successive ages. At the time that he became in some degree a public character, we naturally expect to find many anecdotes recorded of his literary history: but by a strange fatality, thu same want of authentic record, the same absence of all contemporary anecdote, marks every stage of his life. Even the date at which his first play appeared is unknown, and the greatest uncertainty prevails with respect to the chronological order in which the whole series was exhibited or published, of which 14 only were printed during the life-time of the pret. As this subject was justly considered by Malone to be both curious and interesting, he has appropriated "o its examination a long and laborious essay. Chalmers, in his Supplemental Apology,' however indeavors to controvert Malone's dates, and assigns hem to other eras. Dr. Drake suggests a new chrohological arrangement, and assigns very plausible aruments in support of his opinions : he thinks that he first drama, either wholly, or in great part yritten by him, was ·Pericles,' which was produced in 1590. Malone says the First Part of Henry VI.' published in 1589, and commonly attributed to Shakspeare, was not written by him, though it might receive some corrections from his pen at a subsequent period, in order to fit it for representation. The Second Part of Henry VI.' this writer contends, ought therefore to be considered as Shak. speare's first dramatic piece; and he thinks that it might be composed about 1591, but certainly not earlier than 1590.
1. llenry VI. Part 1.
Malone, Chalmers. Drake. 1589 1595
1590 1591 1595 1592 1591
1595 1592 1591 1595 1595 1592 1591 1591 1593
8. Richard III. 9. Love's Labor's Lost 10. Merchant of Venice 11. Midsummer Night's Dream 12. Taming of the Shrew 13. Romeo and Juliet 14. King John
15. Henry IV. Part 1. í 16. Henry IV. Part 2.
17. As You Like It 18. Henry V. 19. Much Ado about Nothing 20. Hamlet 21. Merry Wives of Windsor 22. Troilus and Cressida 23. Measure for Measure 24. Henry VIII. 25. Othello 26. King Lear 27. All's Well that Ends Well 28. Macbeth 29. Julius Cæsar 30. Twelfth Night 31. Antony and Cleopatra 32. Cymbeline 33. Coriolanus 34. Timon of Athens 35. Winter's Tale 36. Tempest
Malone. Chalmers, Drake.
1593 1595 1595 1594 1592 1591 1594 1397 1597 1594 1598 1593 1596 1598
1594 1596 1592
1593 1596 1598 1598 1597 1596 1396 1599 1597 1596 1599
1599 1600 1599 1597 1599 1600 1599 1599 1600 1597 1601 1596 1601 1602 1600 1601 1603 1604 1603 1603 1613 1602 1604 1614 1612 1605 1605
1604 1606 1599 1598 1606 1606 1606 1607 1607 1607 1607 1613 1613 1608 1008 1608 1609 1606 1605 1610 1609 1609 1610 1601 1602 1611 1601 1610 1611
Much has been said by different commentators on certain plays ascribed to Shakspeare, but which are of such a doubtful class, that it is almost impossible to identify their authors; and it is quite impossible to prove them to be, or not to be,' the writings of the bard of Avon. • Titus Andronicus' is generally cíassed with his plays; but all the critics, except Capell and Schlegel, consider it to be unworthy of Shakspeare. The editors of the first folio edition however have included it in that volume ; which, combined with other circumstances, implies that they considered the play as his production. George Meres, a contemporary and admirer of Shakspeare, enumerates it
among his works in 1598, and Meres was personally acquainted with, and consulted by, our poet. • I cannot conceive,' says Schlegel, ‘that all the critical scepticism in the world would be sufficient to get over such a testimony. The same critic assigns other reasons to show that this play was one of Shakspeare's early productions, between 1584 and 1590. •Can we imagine,' he asks, that such an active head would remain idle for six whole years. without making any attempt to emerge by his talents from an uncongenial situation ?' The following pieces appeared during Shakspeare's lifetime, and with his name to them :-1. Locrine; 2. Sir John Oldcastle ; 3. Lord Cromwell ; 4. The London Prodigal; 5. The Puritan; and, 6. A Yorkshire Tragedy, Schlegel, speaking of these plays, says. • The last three are not only unquestionably Shaksreare's, but, in my opinion, they deserve to be classed among his best and maturest works. Steevens admits at least in some degree, that they are Shakspeare's. as well as the others, excepting • Locrine;' but he speaks of them all with great contempt, as