Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

(on which Shakspeare's Third Part of King Henry VI. is founded) entered at Stationers? Hall at the same time; but they were both printed for T. Millington in 1600+.

The first thing that strikes us in this entry is, that the name of Shakspeare is not mentioned; nor, when the two plays were published in 1600, did the printer ascribe them to our author in the title-page, (though his reputation was then at the highest,) as surely he would have done, had they been his compositions.

In a subsequent edition indeed of the same pieces, printed by one Pavier, without date, but in reality in 1619, after our great poet's death, the name of Shakspeare appears; but this was a bookseller's trick, founded upon our author's celebrity ; on his having new modelled thele plays; and on the proprietors of the Globe and Blackfriars' theatre not having published Shakspeare's Second and Third Parts of King Henry VI. The very fame deception was practised with respect to King John. The old play (written perhaps by the same person who was the author of The Contention of the two famous Houses, &c.) was printed in 1591, like that piece, anonymously. In 1611, (Shakspeare's King John, founded on the same story, having been probably often acted and admired,) the old piece in two parts was reprinted; and, in order to deceive the purchaser, was said in the title-page to be written by W. Sh. A subsequent printer in 1622 grew more bold, and affixed Shakspeare's name to it at full length.

It is observable that Millington the bookseller, by whom The first part of the Contention of the two famous Houses, &c. was entered at Stationers' Hall, in 1593-4, and for whom that piece and The Tragedie of the duke of Yorke, & c. were printed in 1600, was not the proprietor of any one of Shakspeare's undisputed plays, except King Henry V. of which he published a Spurious copy, that, I think, must have been imperfectly taken down in short-hand in the play-house.

4 They were probably printed in 1600, because Shakspeare's alterations of ihem were then popular, as King Leir and bis ebree daugbiers was printed in 1605, because our author's play was probably at that time first produced.

The The next observable circumstance with respect to these two quarto plays, is, that they are said in their titlepages to have been “ fundry times acted by the earle of Pembrooke his servantes.” Titus Andronicus and The old Taming of a Shrew were acted by the same company of Comedians; but not one of our author's plays is said in its title-page to have been acted by any but the Lord Chamberlain's, or the Queen's, or King's servants. This circumstance alone, in my opinion, might almost decide the question.

This much appears on the first superficial view of these pieces ; but the passage quoted by Mr. Tyrwhitt from an old pamphlet, entitled Greene's Groatsworth of Wirte, &c. affords a still more decisive support to the hypothesis that I am endeavouring to maintain ; which indeed that pamphlet first suggested to me. As this passage is the chief hinge of my argument, though it has already been printed in a preceding page, it is necessary to lay it again before the reader..' Yes," says the writer, Robert Greene, (addresling himself, as Mr. Tyrwhitt conjectures with great probability, to his poetical friend George Peele,) trust them (the players] not ; for there is an upstart crowe BEAUTIFIED WITH OUR FEATHERS, that with his tygres heart wrapt in a players hide supposes hee is as well able to bombatte out a blank verse as the best of you ; and being an absolute Johannes fac totum, is, in his own conceit, the only Shake-scene in a country.

-"O tyger's heart, wrapt in a woman's hide!” is a line of the old quarto play, entitled The first part of the Contention of the two houses, &c.

That Shakspeare was here alluded to, cannot, I think, be doubted. But what does the writer mean by calling him " a crow beautified with our feathers?" My solution is, that GREENE and Peele were the joint-authors of the two quarto plays, entitled The firft part of the Cone tention of the two famous houses of Yorke and Lancaster, &c. and The true Tragedie of Richarde Duke of Yorke, &c. or that Greene was the author of one, and Peele of the other. Greene's pamphlet, from whence the foregoing passage Vol. VI. Ес

is

is extracted, was written recently before his death, which happened in September 1592. How long he and Peele had been dramatick writers, is not precisely ascertained. Peele took the degree of Master of Arts at Oxford, in 1579: Greene took the same degree in Cambridge in 1583. Each of them has left four or five plays, and they wrote several others which have not been published. The carliest of Peele's printed pieces, The Arraignment of Paris, appeared in 1584; and one of Greene's pamphlets was printed in 1583. Between that year and 1591 it is highly probable that the two plays in question were written. I suspect they were produced in 1588 or 1589. We have undoubted proofs that Shakspeare was not above working on the materials of other men. His Taming of the Shrew, his King John, and other plays, render any arguments on that point unneceffary. Having therefore probably not long before the year 1592, when Greene wrote this dying exhortation to his friend, new-modell. ed and amplified these two pieces, and produced on the ftage what in the folio edition of his Works are called The Second and Third Part of King Henry VI. and having acquired considerable reputation by them, Greene .could not conceal the mortification that he felt at his own fame and that of his associate, both of them old and admired play-wrights, being eclipsed by a new upstart writer, (for so he calls our great poet,) who had then first perhaps attracted the notice of the publick by exhibiting two plays, formed upon old dramas written by them, considerably enlarged and improved. He there fore in direct terms charges him with having acted like the crow in the fable, beautified himself with their feathers; in other words, with having acquired fame furtivis coloribus, by new-modelling a work originally produced by them: and wishing to depretiate our author, he very naturally quotes a line from one of the pieces, which Shakspeare had thus re-written; a proceeding which the authors of the original plays confidered as an invafion both of their literary property and character. This line with many others Shakspeare adopted without any alteration. The very term that Greene uses," to bombast out a blank verse,” exactly corresponds with what has been now suggested. This new poet, says he, knows as well as any man how to amplify and swell out a blank verse. Bumbaft was a soft ftuff of a loose texture, by which garments were rendered more swelling and protuberant.

Several years after the death of Boiardo, Francesco Berni undertook to new-versify Boiardo's poem, entitled ORLANDO INNAMORATO. Berni (as Baretti observes) “ was not satisfied with merely making the versification of that poem better; he interspersed it with many stanzas of his own, and changed almost all the beginnings of the cantos, introducing each of them with some moral refection arising from the canto foregoing.” What Berni did to Boiardo's poem after the death of its author, and more, I suppose Shakspeare to have done to The firft part of she Contention of the two houses of Yorke and Lancaster, &c. and The true Tragedie of Richarde duke of Yorké, &c. in the life time of Greene and Peele, their literary parents ; and this Rifacimento (as the Italians call it) of these two plays I suppose to have been'executed by Shakspeare, and exhibited at the Globe or Blackfriars theatre, in the year 1591.

I have said Shakspeare did what Berni did, and more. He did not content himself with writing new beginnings to the acts; he new-verfified, he new-modelled, he trani. posed many of the parts, and greatly amplified and ima proved the whole. Several lines, however, and even whole speeches which he thought sufficiently polished, he accepted, and introduced into his own work, without any, or with very night, alterations.

In the present edition, all those lines which he adopted without any alteration, are printed in the usual manner; those speeches which he altered or expanded, are distinguished by inverted commas; and to all the lines entirely composed by himself asterisks are prefixed. The total number of lines in our author's Second and Third Part of K. Henry VI, is Six THOUSAND AND FORTY-THRES:

Ee2

of

of these, as I conceive, 1971 lines were written by fome author who preceded Shakspeare ; 2373 were formed by him on the foundation laid by his predecessors; and 1899 lines were entirely his own composition.

That the reader may have the whole of the subject before him, I shall here transcribe the fourth scene of the fourth act of The Third Part of K. Henry VI. (which hap pens to be a short one,) together with the corresponding Icene in the original play; and also a speech of Queen Margaret in the fifth act, with the original speech on which it is formed. The first specimen will serve to thew the method taken by Shakspeare, where he only new polished the language of the old play, rejecting fome part of the dialogue, and making some light additions to the part which he retained; the second is a striking proof of his facility and vigour of compofition, which has happily expanded a thought comprized originally in a very short speech, into thirty-seven lines, none of which appear feeble or superfluous. THE TRUE TRAGEDIE OF RICHARDE DUKE OF

YORKE, &c. Sign. F. 4. edit. 1600.

Enter the Queene, and the Lord Rivers.
Riv. Tell me, good madam,
Why is your grace so paffionate of late.

Queene. Why, brother Rivers, heare you not the news
Of that success king Edward had of late?
Riv. What? lofle of some pitcht battaile against War-

wick? Tuh; fear not, faire queen, but cast these cares aside. King Edwards noble minde his honours doth display; And Warwicke may lose, though then he got the day.

Queene. If that were all, my griefes were at an end; But greater troubles will, I feare, befall.

Riv. What? is he taken prisoner by the foc, To the danger of his royal person then? Queene. I, there's my griefe; king Edward is fur

prisde, And led away as prisoner unto Yorke,

« AnteriorContinuar »