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poet. Whatever merit it possesses, and it is certainly in some respects a lively and spirited performance, arises out of the circumstance that the author had good models before him. But we look in vain for all that sets Shakspere so high above his contemporaries; his wit, his humour, his poetry, his philosophy, his intimate knowledge of man, his exquisite method. Scenes such as these pass before our eyes like the tricks of the fantoccini. There is nothing of vitality in them;-they
“ Come like shadows, so depart."
MUCED OR US.
The first known edition of this « comedy” is that of 1598:— A most pleasant Comedy of Mucedorus, the Kings Sonne of Valentia, and Amadine the Kings Daughter of Arragon. With the merry Conceits of Mouse. There are repeated reprints of this play up to 1639, denoting an extraordinary popularity ; and, what is more remarkable, the piece is revived after the Restoration, and the edition before us of 1668 is “ Amplifyed with new Additions, as it was Acted before the King's Majestie at White-hall on Shrove-sunday night.” A more rude, inartificial, unpoetical, and altogether effete performance the English drama cannot, we think, exhibit. Popularity, however, is not obtained by mere accident. Mediocrity and positive stupidity will often command it,—but in the case of • Mucedorus' it appears to us that the piece was expressly adapted for a very common audience. Whilst the highest and the best educated of the land were captivated by Shakspere and Jonson, there must necessarily have been rude farces and melodramas for theatres lower than the Globe and Blackfriars. There were strolling companies, too, who in many cases were unable to procure copies of the best plays, and who would justly think that other wares than poetry and philosophy would be demanded in the barn of the alehouse or in the hall of the squire. We have a curious example of the long-during popularity of Mucedorus. After the suppression of the theatres in 1647, clandestine performances in London were put down by provost-marshals and troopers. But in the country the wandering players sometimes dared to lift their heads; and as late as 1653 a company went about playing “Mucedorus.' They had acted in several villages in the neighbourhood of Oxford, but, upon the occasion of its performance at Witney, an accident occurred by which several persons lost their lives, and others were wounded. A pamphlet immediately appeared from the pen of an Oxford divine, showing that this calamity was an example of the Divine vengeance against stage performances. But · Mucedorus, as we have seen, had a higher popularity in reserve. It was revived for the entertainment of the King's Majesty, the tastes of whose court were VOL. XII.
pretty much upon a level with those of the Witney peasants and blanket-makers; and, what is not the least wonderful part in the history of this comedy, “ very delectable and full of conceited mirth,” some one rises up and says it is written by Shakspere. The tradition is handed down in old catalogues; and the Germans apply themselves seriously to discuss the point, whether a play which is too silly to be ascribed to any known writer of the time, might not be a youthful performance of the great poet himself.
To attempt any detailed analysis of the story of 'Mucedorus' would be a waste of time. Mucedorus, the Prince of Valentia, has heard of the beauty of Amadine, the Princess of Aragon, and he resolves to go in disguise to her father's court. The shepherdprince, upon his arrival in Aragon, immediately saves the princess from the attack of a bear, who has rushed upon her, when in company with Segasto, a sort of lover, who takes to his heels in a very ungallant style. The lady, of course, falls in love with the shepherd, and the shepherd is very soon turned out of the court for his own presumptuous love. But the princess resolves to run away with him, and they appoint to meet and live in the forest, unscared by hunger or by bears. A wild man of the woods, however, seizes upon the lady; but Mucedorus, disguised as a hermit, very opportunely kills the
The King of Valentia comes to look after his son. The lovers return to court. The gentleman who ran away from the bear withdraws his claims to the princess, and the whole terminates with great felicity. We can easily understand how such a story would be popular, and how any surplusage of wit or poetry would have lessened its popularity. The serious adventures are relieved by the constant presence of a clown, who, to do him justice, is never guilty of the slightest cleverness, but produces a laugh by his exquisite stupidity. One specimen of the poetry will suffice. Mucedorus, clothed as a hermit, meets Bremo, the wild man of the woods, who has got Amadine safe in his grasp; and, justly considering that a wild man of the woods must be an excellent judge of rhetoric, and liable to be moved to pity by the force of fine words, thus addresses him :
“ In time of yore, when men like brutish beasts
Did lead their lives in loathsome cells and woods,
Behold, one Orpheus came (as poets tell),
I 'll fight for thee." There are one or two passages in “Mucedorus' which indicate some poetical power, but they are inappropriate to the situation and character. Whenever we compare Shakspere with other writers, the difference which, perhaps, upon the whole makes the most abiding impression is the marvellous superiority of his judgment.
THE BIRTH OF MERLIN.
The first known edition of this play was published in 1662, under the following title:— The Birth of Merlin: or, The Childe hath found his Father: as it hath been several times Acted with great Applause. Written by William Shakespear and William Rowley.' Of this very doubtful external evidence two of the modern German critics have applied themselves to prove the correctness. Horn has written a criticism of fourteen pages upon « The Birth of Merlin,' which he decides to be chiefly Shakspere's, possessing a high degree of poetical merit with much deep-thoughted characterization. Tieck has no doubt of the extent of the assistance that Shakspere gave in producing this play :-“ This piece is a new proof of the extraordinary riches of the period, in which such a work was unnoticed among the mass of intellectual and characteristic dramas. The modern English, whose weak side is poetical criticism, have left it almost to accident what shall be again revived; and we seldom see, since Dodsley, who proceeded somewhat more carefully, any reason why one piece is selected and others rejected.” He adds, “ None of Rowley's other works are equal to this. What part has Shakspere in it?—has he taken a part ?—what induced him to do so ? can only be imperfectly answered, and by supposition. Why should not Shakspere for once have written for another theatre than his own? Why should he not, when the custom was so common, have written in companionship with another though less powerful poet?" Ulrici takes a different, and, as we think, a much juster view. The play, he holds, must have been produced late in Shakspere's life. If he had written in it at all, he would have put out his matured strength. All the essentials,-plan, composition, and character, belong to Rowley. Peculiarities of style and remarkable turns of thought are not sufficient to furnish evidence of authorship, for they are common to other contemporary poets. It is not very easy to trace the exact progress of William Rowley. He was an actor in the company of which Shakspere was a proprietor. We find his