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two very pathetic scenes from a tragedy of this writer, “A Woman Killed with Kindness,' says, "Heywood is a sort of prose Shakspeare. His scenes are to the full as natural and affecting. But we miss the poet, that which in Shakspeare always appears out and above the surface of the nature. Heywood's characters, his country gentlemen, &c., are exactly what we see (but of the best kind of what we see) in life. Shakspeare makes us believe, while we are among his lovely creations, that they are nothing but what we are familiar with, as in dreams new things seem old; but we awake, and sigh for the difference." We have no doubt that Heywood could have written The Yorkshire Tragedy ;' we greatly question whether Shakspere would have written it. The play, however, is one of sterling merit in its limited range; and as it is also a remarkable specimen of a species of drama of which we have very few other examples of the Shaksperian age, we have printed it entire. It is scarcely necessary for us to enter upon any minute criticism in this place, especially as we shall have to revert to the general principle of the suitableness of such a subject to Shakspere's powers, when we give an account of Arden of Feversham,' a tragedy of an earlier date, which has also been imputed to our great poet. A writer in the “Retrospective Review,' analyzing · The Yorkshire Tragedy,' says, “ There is no reason why Shakspeare should not have written it, any more than why he should.” The reason why Shakspere should not have written it is, we think, to be deduced from the circumstance that he, who had never even written a comedy in which the scene is placed in his own country in his own times, would very unwillingly have gone out of his way to dramatise a real incident of horror, occurring in Yorkshire in 1604, which of necessity could only have been presented to the senses of an audience as a fact admitting of very little elevation by a poetical treatment which might seize upon
their imaginations. There is, no doubt, in this little drama the evidence of a sound judgment, relying upon the truth of the representation for its effect; and the patience and gentleness of the wife, as contrasted with the selfish ferocity of the husband, add to the intensity of the pain which the representation produces. The Retrospective reviewer further says—“If he (Shakspere) had written it, on the principle of merely dramatising the known fact, he would not have done it much better than it is here done; and there were many of his contemporaries who could have done it quite as well.” We agree with this assertion. If The Yorkshire Tragedy' had been done better than it is—that is, if the power of the poet had more prevailed in it-it would not have answered the purpose for
which it was intended; it would in truth have been a mistake in art. Shakspere would not have committed this mistake. But then we doubt whether he would have consented at all to have had a circle drawn around him by the anti-poetical, within which his mastery over the spirits of the earth and of the air was unavailing. There were other men amongst his contemporaries to whom these limits would not have been imprisonment; who might say with Hamlet, “I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space.” Thomas Heywood was one of the number. We extract from that writer the concluding scene of A Woman Killed with Kindness, in which a faithless but repentant wife receives when dying the forgiveness of her husband. We request our readers to compare this with the last scene of “The Yorkshire Tragedy,' in which the murderer of her children, when about to be led to execution, is in the same spirit forgiven by his outraged wife:
“ Frankford. How do you, woman?
Mrs. Anne. Well, Mr. Frankford, well; but shall be better
Frankford. This hand once held my heart in faster bond
Frankford. As freely from the low depth of my soul
So do we all.
Sir Francis. O, Mr. Frankford, all the near alliance
Frankford. Even as I hope for pardon at that day,
Sir Charles. Then comfort, Mistress Frankford,
Susan. How is it with you ?
to see it.
Mrs. Anne. Pardon'd on earth, soul, thou in heaven art free, Once more : thy wife dies thus embracing thee. (Dies."
ARDEN OF FEVERSHAM.
In 1592 was first published The lamentable and true Tragedie of M. Arden of Feversham in Kent.' Subsequent editions of this tragedy appeared in 1599 and 1633. Lillo, the author of "George Barnwell,' who died in 1739, left an unfinished tragedy upon the same subject, in which he has used the play of the 16th century very freely, but with considerable judgment. In 1770 the Arden of Feversham’ originally published in 1592 was for the first time ascribed to Shakspere. It was then reprinted by Edward Jacob, a resident of Feversham (who also published a history of that town and port), with a preface, in which he endeavours to prove that the tragedy was written by Shakspere, upon the fallacious principle that it contains certain expressions which are to be found in his acknowledged works. This is at once the easiest and the most unsatisfactory species of evidence. Resemblances such as this may consist of mere conventional phrases, the common property of all the writers of a particular period. If the phrases are so striking that they must have been first created by an individual process of thought, the repetition of them is no proof that they have been twice used by the same person. Another may have adopted the phrase, perhaps unconsciously. General resemblances of style lead us into a wider range of inquiry; but even here we have a narrow enclosed ground compared with the entire field of criticism, which includes not only style, but the whole system of the poet's art. It has been said of this play, “ Arden of Feversham, a domestic tragedy, would, in point of absolute merit, have done no discredit to the early manhood of Shakspeare himself; but, both in conception and execution, it is quite unlike even his earliest manner; while, on the other hand, its date cannot possibly be removed so far back as the time before which his own style had demonstrably been formed.” * Tieck has translated the tragedy into German, and he assigns it with
* Edinburgh Review, vol. lxxi. p. 471.
little hesitation to Shakspere. Ulrici also subscribes to this opinion ; but he makes a lower estimate of its merit than his brother critic. The versification he holds to be tedious and monotonous, and the dialogue, he says, is conducted with much exaggeration of expression. The play appears to us deserving of a somewhat full consideration. It was printed as early as 1592, and was most probably performed several years earlier; the event which forms its subject took place in 1551. What is very remarkable too for a play of this period (and in this opinion we differ from Ulrici), there is very little extravagance of language; and the criminal passion in all its stages is conducted with singular delicacy. There are many passages too which aim to be poetical, and are in fact poetical; but for the most part they want that vivifying dramatic power which makes the poetry doubly effective from its natural and inseparable union with the situation which calls it forth and the character which gives it utterance. The tragedy is founded upon a real event which had been popularly told with great minuteness of detail; and the dramatist has evidently thought it necessary to present all the points of the story, and in so doing has of course sometimes divided and weakened the interest. Of invention, properly so called, there is necessarily very little; but there is still some invention, and that of a nature to show that the author had an imaginative conception of incident and character. Upon the whole, we should be inclined to regard it as the work of a young man; and the question then arises whether that young man was Shakspere. If • Arden of Feversham,' like the “Yorkshire Tragedy,' had been founded upon an event which happened in Shakspere's mature years, that circumstance would have been decisive against his being in any sense of the word the author. But whilst we agree with the writer in the · Edinburgh Review' that “both in conception and execution it is quite unlike even his earliest manner," we are not so confident that “its date cannot possibly be removed so far back as the time before which his own style had demonstrably been formed." Whether it be due to the absorbing nature of the subject, or to the mode in which the story is dramatically treated, we think that Arden of Feversham' cannot be read for the first time without exciting a very considerable interest; and this interest is certainly not produced by any violent exhibitions of passion, any sudden transitions of situation, or any exciting display of rhetoric or poetry; but by a quiet and natural succession of incidents, by a tolerably consistent, if not highly forcible, delineation of character, and by equable and unambitious dialogue, in which there is certainly less extravagance of expression