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• The materials for ascertaining the order in which his plays were written, are indeed fo few, that it is to be feared nothing very decisive can be produced on this fubjeét. In the following attempt to trace the progress of his dramatic art, probability alone is pretended to. The silence and inaccuracy of those persons who, after his death, had the revisal of his papers, will, perhaps, for ever prevent our attaining to any thing like proof on this head. Little then remains, but to collect into one view, from his several dramas, and from the ancient tracts in which they are mentioned, or alluded to, all the circumstances that can throw any light on this new and curious inquiry. From these circumitances, and from the entries in the books of the. Stationers Company, extracted, and now first published by Mr. Steevens (to whom every admirer of Shakspeare has the highest obligations), it is probable that the plays attributed to our Au. thor were nearly written in the following succession, which, though it cannot at this day be ascertained to be their true order, may yet be confidered as approaching nearer to it than any which has been observed in the various editions of his works. The rejefted plays are here enumerated with the rest; but no opinion is thereby meant to be given concerning their authenticity. Of the nineteen genuine plays, which were not printed in our Author's life-time, the majority of them were, I believe, late compofitions. The following arrangement is, in fome measure, formed on this idea.
The dates of the several plays are arranged by Mr. Malone in the following order :
N. B. The rejected plays, which had been admitted in the 3d and 4th editions of the last century, and alfo by Mr. Rowe, are, in the following list, marked by Italics; and those which were not printed till after the Author's death, and made their first appearance in the folio edition of his plays in 1623, are distinguished by an asterisk.
1. Titus Andronicus, 1589. (This play, though admitted by all the Editors, yet is generally fupposed to be spurious.] 2. Love's Labour Loft, 1591. 3. * First Part of King Henry VI. 1591. 4. Second Part of Henry VI. 159!.
5. Third Part of ditto, 1592. 6. Pericles, 1592. 7. Locrine, 1593. 8. * The Two Gentlemen of Verona, 1593- 9. The Winter's Tale, 1594; 10. Midsummer Night's Dream, 1595,
11. Romeo and Juliet, 1595. 12. * The Comedy of Errors, 1596. 13. Hamlet, 1596. 14. King John, 1596. 15. King Richard the IId. 1597: 16. King Richard the IIId. 1597. 17. First Part of King Henry IV. 1597. 18. Merchant of Venice, 1598. 19. * All's Well that Ends Well, 1598. 20. Sir John Oldcajile, 1598. 21. Second Part of King Henry IV. 1598. 22. King Henry V. 1599. 23. The Puritan, 1600.
35. * The
24. Much-ado about Nothing, 1600: 25. * As you like it, 1600. 26. Merry Wives of Windsor, 1601. 27. * King Henry VIII. 1601. 28. Life and Death of Lord Cromwell, 1602. 29. Troilus and Cressida, 1602. 30 * Measure for Measure, 1603. 31. * Cymbeline, - 1604. 32 The London Prodigal, 1605. 37. King Lear, 1605. 34. * Macbeth, 1606. Taming of the Shrew, 1606. 36. * Julius Cælar, 1607. 37. A Yorkshire Tragedy, 1608. 38. * Anthony and Cleopatra, 1608.
* Coriolanus, 1609. 40. * Timon of Athens, 1610. 41. * Othello, 1611. 42. * The Tempeft, 1612. 43. • Twelfth Night, 1614.'
'We must not follow this ingenious Writer through every part of his elaborate enquiry,-in which we find much curious criticism interspersed with a number of entertaining anecdotes :but we cannot take our leave of Mr. Malone, without presento ing a specimen or two of his manner of treating the subject. We tall produce his account of Titus Andronicus and Macbeth.
• In what year our Author began to write for the stage, or which was his first performance, has not been hitherto afcero tained. And indeed we have fo few lights to direct our enquiries, that any speculation on this subject may appear an idle ex. pence 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 23d of April 1564, and was probably married in, or before September 1582 ; his eldeft daughter Susanna having been baptised on the 26th of May 1583. At what time he left Warwickshire, or was first employed in the play-house, tradition doth not inform us. However, as his son Samuel and his daughter Judith were baptised 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 introduction to the thea. tre, for Thomas Green, a celebrated comedian, was his townsman, and, probably, his relation; and Michael Drayton was likewise born in Warwickshire : the latter was nearly of his own age, and both were in some degree of reputation foon after the year 1590. If I were to indulge a conjecture, the middle of the year 1991 I should name as the era when our Author commenced a writer for the stage; at which time he was somewhat more than twenty-seven years of age. The reasons that induce me to fix on that period are these: In Webbe's Discourse of English Poetry, published in 1986, we meet with the names of most of the celebrated poets of that time, particularly those of George Whetstone and Antony Munday, who were dramatic writers; but we find no trace of our Author, or any of his
works. Three years afterwards Puttenham printed his Art of English Poely; and in that work also we look in vain for the name of Shakspeare. Sir John Harrington, in his Apologie for Poetry, prefixed to the Translation of Ariosto (which was entered in the Stationers' books, Feb. 26, 1590-1, in which year it was printed), takes occasion to speak of the theatre, and mentions some of the celebrated dramas of that time; but fays not a word of Shakspeare or any of his plays. If even Love's Labour Loft had then appeared, which was probably his first dramatic compofition, is it imaginable that Harrington should have mentioned the Cambridge Pedantius, and The Play of the Cards (which last he tells us was a London comedy), and have passed by, unnoticed, the new prodigy of the dramatic world?
However, that Shakipeare had commenced a writer for the stage, and even excited the jealousy of his contemporaries, before Sept. 1592, is now decisively proved by a passage, extracted by Mr. Tyrwhitt from Robert Greene's Groatsworth of Wit bought with a Million of Repentance *, in which there is an evident allusion to our Author's name, as well as to one of his plays.
• The passage to which this observation refers is too curious to be omitted ; and we shall present our Readers with Mr. Tyrwhite's own account of it. - Though the objections which have been raised to the genuineness of the thru plays of Henry VIth have been fully considered and answered by Dr. Johnson, it may not be amiss to add here, from a contemporary writer, a passage which not only points at Shakspeare as the author of them, but also thews, that however meanly we may now think of them, in comparison with his later productions, they had, at the time of their appearance, a fufficient degree of excellence to alarm the jealousy of the older play-wrights. The paffage, to which I refer, is in a pamphlet entitled Greene's Groaisworth of Witte, supposed to have been written by that volumi. nous author Robert Greene, M. A. and said in the title page to be published at his dying request; probably about 1592. The conclusion of this piece is an address to his brother-poets, to dissuade them from writing any more for the flage, on account of the ill-treatment which they were used to receive from the players. “ Trust them not (says he), for there is an upstart crow beautified with our feathers, that with bis Tygres Head wrapt in a Player's Hyde, fuppofes that he is as well able to bombaile out a blancke verse as the bett of you; and being an absolute Johannes Fac-totum, is in his own conceit the only SHAKE SCENE in the countrey." There can be no doubt, i think, that Shakspeare is alluded to by the expression Shake-fcone, or that bis Tygres Head wrapt in a Player's Hyde is a parody upon the following line of York's speech to Margaret, in Thira Part of Henry VI. Ace I. Sane 4th. " Oh Tygres Heart wrapt in a Woman's Hide !"
[Vol. vi, p. 566.)
• At what time foever he became acquainted with the theatre, we may presume that he had not composed his first play long before it was acted; for being early encumbered with a young family, and not in very affluent circumstances, it is improbable that he should have suffered it to lie in his closet, without endeavouring to derive from it some profit; and in the miserable ftate of the drama in those days, the meanest of his genuine plays must have been a valuable acquisition, and would hardly have been refused by any of the managers, of our ancient theatres.
• Titus Andronicus appears to have been alled before any other play attributed to Shakspeare: and, therefore, as it hath been admitted into all the editions of his works, whocver might have been the writer of it, it is entitled to the first place in this general list of his dramas. From Ben Jonson's induction to Bars tholomew Fair 1614, we learn that tindronicus had been exhia bited twenty-five or thirty years before ; that is, at the lowest computation, in 1589: or, taking a middle period (which is perhaps more juft), in 1587. In our Author's dedication of Venus and Adonis to lord Southampton, in 1593, he tells us, as Mr. Sreevens hath observed, that that poem was “the forf Heir of his Invention,” and if we were sure that it was published immediately, or soon after it was written, it would at once prove Titus Andronicus not to be the production of Shakspeare, and nearly ascertain the time when he commenced a dramatic writer. But we do not know what interval might have elapsed be. tween the composition and the publication of that poem. There is indeed a passage in the dedication already mentioned; which, if there were not fuch decisive evidence on the other side, might induce us to think that he had not written in 1593 any piece of more dignity than a love-poem; or at least any on which he himself fet a value. “If (says he to, his noble patron) your honour serm but pleased, I account myself highly praised; and vow to take advantage of all idle hours will I have honoured you with some graver labour."
"A book entitled.“ A Noble Roman History of Titus Andronicus” (without any Author's name) was entered at Stationers Hall, Feb, 6, 1593-4. This I suppole to have been the play as it was printed in that year, and acted (according to Langbaine, who alone appears to have seen the first edition) by the servants of the earls of Pembroke, Derby, and Eflex.
Mr. Pope thought that Titus Andronicus was not written by Shakspeare; becaule. Ben Jonson spoke slighringly of it while Shakspeare was yet living. This argument perhaps will not bear a very strict examination. If it were allowed to have any validity, many of our Author's genuine productions must be excluded from his works; for Ben has ridiculed several of his
dramas in the fame piece in which he hath mentioned Andronacus with contempt.
It has been said, that Francis Meres, who, in 1998, enumerated this among our Author's plays, might have been milled by a title-page : but we may prefume, that he was informed, or deceived, by some other means; for Shakspeare's name is not in the title-page of that in 1611; and therefore we may conclude, it was not in the title-page of the edition of 1594, of which the other was probably a re-impreslion.
However (notwithstanding the authority of Meres), the high antiquity of the piece, its entry on the Stationers books, without the name of the writer, the regularity of the versification, the diffimilitude of the style from that of those plays which were undoubtedly composed by our Author, and the tradition mentioned by Ravenscroft, at a period when some of his contemporaries had not been long dead (viz. “ that he had been told by some, anciently conversant with the stage, that ArAronicus was not originally Shakspeare's, but brought by a private author to be acted, and that he only gave some masters touches to one or two of the principal parts or characters.") these circumstances 'render it highly improbable, that this play should have becn the composition of Shakspeare."
These remarks are acute and judicious, and conclude much againft the authenticity of this play: and yet, in spite of evią dence internal and external, a certain painful collator of parą ticles and commas hath, through an old pair of fpectacles, which Tom Hearne had thrown afide as good for nothing, dil, covered beauties and excellencies in Titus Andronicus, which had hitherto been invisible to mortal sight. On this wonderful dircovery, Mr. Malone indulges himself in a little pleasantry : for which we refer to the booki
Concerning the date of Macbeth, Mr. Malone offers the fol. lowing ingenious conjectures.
• From a book entitled Rex Platonicus, cited by Dr. Farmer, we learn, that King James, when he visited Oxford in 1605, was addressed by three students of St. John's College, who perfonated the three Weird Sisters; and recited a short dramatic poem, founded on the prediction of those Sybils (as the Author calls them), relative to Banquo and Macbeth.
• Dr. Farmer is of opinion, that this little piece preceded Shakspeare's play; a supposition which is strengthened by the filence of the Author of Rex Platonicus, who, if Macbeth had then appeared on the stage, would probably have mentioned something of it. It Tould likewise be remembered, that there fubfisted, at that time, a spirit of opposition between the regular players and the academics of the two Universities; the latter of wham frequently acted plays both in Latin and English, and