« VorigeDoorgaan »
other scattered passages here and there, afford evidence that, if the author possessed little or nothing of what may be properly called dramatic power, he might, could he have shaken off the false learning and extravagance of his school, have produced something which with proper culture might have ripened into poetry :
“ You mountain nymphs which in these deserts reign,
Can we then believe that · Locrine' was the earliest work of Shakspere, as Tieck would believe? or are we to think with Schlegel that it belongs to the same class, and the same hand, as “Titus Andronicus ?' We doubt much whether it is the work of a very young man at all. It is wrought up to the author's conception of a dramatic poem ; it has no inequalities; its gross defects were intended to be beauties. It was written unquestionably by one who had received a scholastic training, and who saw the whole world of poetry in the remembrance of what he had read; he looked not upon the heart of men; he looked not even upon the commonest features of external nature. Did Shakspere work thus in the poems that we know he produced when a young man ? Assuredly not. If his training had been scholastic, his good sense would have taught him to see something in poetry besides the echo of his scholarship. Nor can Locrine’ be compared with “Titus Andronicus.' The faults of that play are produced by the uncontrolled energy which, straining for effect in action and passion, destroys even its own strength through the absence of calmness and repose. Even Shakspere could not at first perceive the universal truth which is contained in his own particular direction to the players :-“In the very torrent, tempest, and (as I may say) the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness."
We have already apprised our readers that the opinions we entertain with regard to the authorship of Locrine' are directly opposed to those of Tieck, who has translated the play. The passages we have selected are, we think, fair examples of the average character of the poetry; but Tieck has pointed out one passage which he considers demonstrative of the hand of Shakspere. He supposes
that * Locrine' was enlarged and improved by our poet previous to the edition of 1595; and he says—“In this new edition are doubtless added many verses adapted to the circumstances of the time; but particularly the beautiful rhymed stanzas in the fourth act, which so distinctly remind us of his Sonnets and the • Venus and Adonis,' that these alone would prove the genuineness of the drama.” We subjoin the stanzas :
“ Enter Soldiers, leading in Estrii.D.
The mode in which some of the German critics have spoken of this play is a rebuke to dogmatic assertions and criticism. Schlegel says-putting Sir John Oldcastle,' “ Thomas Lord Cromwell,' and • The Yorkshire Tragedy' in the same class—“The three last pieces are not only unquestionably Shakspere's, but in my opinion they deserve to be classed among his best and maturest works. * Thomas Lord Cromwell’and • Sir John Oldcastle' are biographical dramas, and models in this species; the first is linked, from its subject, to · Henry VIII.,' and the second to 'Henry V.!” Tieck is equally confident in assigning the authorship of this play to Shakspere. Ulrici, on the contrary, takes a more sober view of the matter. He says—“The whole betrays a poet who endeavoured to form himself on Shakspere's model, nay, even to imitate him, but who stood far below him in mind and talent.” Our own critics, relying upon the internal evidence, agreed in rejecting it. Malone could “not perceive the least trace of our great poet in any part of this play.”. He observes that it was originally entered on the Stationers' registers without the name of Shakspere; but he does not mention the fact that of two editions printed in 1600 one bears the name of Shakspere, the other not. The one which has the name says"
.“ As it hath bene lately acted by the Right honorable the Earle of Notingham, Lord High Admirall of England, his Seruants.” In 1594 a play of Shakspere's might have been acted, as, we believe, “Hamlet' was, at Henslowe's theatre, which was that of the Lord High Admiral his servants; but in 1600 a play of Shakspere's would have unquestionably been acted by the Lord Chamberlain his servants. However, this conjectural evidence is quite unnecessary. Henslowe, the head of the Lord Admiral's company, as we learn by his diary, on the 16th of October, 1599, paid " for The first part of the Lyfe of Sir Jhon Ouldcastell, and in earnest of the Second Pte, for the use of the company, ten pound;" and the money was received by “ Thomas Downton” “to pay Mr. Monday, Mr. Drayton, Mr. Wilson, and Hathaway." We might here dismiss the question of the authorship of this play, did it not furnish a very curious example of the imperfect manner in which it was attempted to imitate the excellence and to rival the popularity of Shakspere's best historical plays at the time of their original production. It is not the least curious also of the circumstances connected with “The First Part of Sir John Oldcastle,' that, whilst the bookseller affixed the name of Shakspere to the performance, it has been supposed that the Falstaff of his · Henry IV.' was pointed at in the following prologue :
6 The doubtful title, gentlemen, prefix'd
Upon the argument we have in hand,
A valiant martyr, and a virtuous peer ;
Since forg‘d invention former time defac'd.” In the Introductory Notice to · Henry IV.' we have adverted to the opinion that the Sir John Falstaff of Shakspere's 'Henry IV.' was originally called Sir John Oldcastle; and the question is again touched upon in the Introductory Notice to · The Merry Wives of Windsor.' The line in the prologue which we have just quoted
“Since forg’d invention former time defac'd "might appear to point to an earlier period of the stage than that in which Shakspere's Henry IV.' was produced. Indeed, the old play of “The Famous Victories' contains the character of Sir John Oldcastle. He is a low, ruffianly sort of fellow, who may be called “ an aged counsellor to youthful sin;" but he is not represented as “a pampered glutton.” In the Notice to · Henry IV.' we said — “In our opinion, there was either another play besides • The Famous Victories' in which the name of Oldcastle was introduced, or the remarks of contemporary writers applied to Shakspere's Falstaff, who had originally borne the name of Oldcastle. The following passage is from Fuller's • Church History:'— Stage-poets have themselves been very bold with, and others very merry at, the memory
of Sir John Oldcastle, whom they have fancied a boon companion, a jovial royster, and a coward to boot. The best is, Sir John Falstaff hath relieved the memory of Sir John Oldcastle, and of late is substituted buffoon in his place. This description of Fuller cannot apply to the Sir John Oldcastle of “The Famous Victories.' The dull dog of that play is neither a jovial companion nor a coward to boot.” We added, “Whether or not Shakspere's Falstaff was originally called Oldcastle, he was, after the character was fairly established as Falstaff, anxious to vindicate himself from the charge that he had attempted to represent the Oldcastle of history. In the epilogue to “The Second Part of Henry IV.' we find this passage:— For anything I know, Falstaff shall die of a sweat, unless already he be killed with your hard opinions; for Oldcastle died a martyr, and this is not the man.' • The Second Part of Henry IV.,' the epilogue of which contains this passage, was entered in the Stationers' registers in 1600, and was published in that year. When "The First Part of Sir John Oldcastle' was published in the same year, Falstaff is distinctly recognised as the