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him from his roome
* See Shepherd's Pipe, Eglogue I. Chalmers's English Poets, vol. vi. p. 315. col. 2.
OBSERVATIONS OS ROMEO AND JULIET; ON THE TAMING OF THE SHREW; ON THE
TWO CENTLEVEN OF VERONA; ON KING RICHARD THE THIRD; OX KIYG RICHARD THE SPOND; ON KING HENRY THE FOURTH, PARTS 1. 8. 11. ; ON
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, AND ON HAMLET DISSERTATION ON THE AGENCY OF SPIRITS AND APPARITIONS, AND ON THE GHOST IN HAMLET.
Ix endeavouring to ascertain the chronological series of our author's play“, we must ever hold in mind, that, in general, nothing more than a choice of probabilities is before us, and that, whilst weighing their preponderancy, the slightest additional circumstance, so equally are they sometimes balanced, may turn the scale. It appears to us, that an occurrence of this kind will be found to point out, more wcurately than hitherto, the precise period to which the first sketch of the following tragedy may be ascribed.
7. Romeo AND JULIET: 1593. The passage in this play on which the commentators have chiefly relied for the establishment of their respective dates, runs thus:
“ Nurse. Even or odd, of all days in the year,
Building on Shakspeare's usual custom of alluding to the events of his own time, and transferring them to the scene and period of the piece on which he happened to be engaged, Mr. Tyrwhitt with much probability conjectured, that the poet, in these lines, had in
Reed's Shakspeare, vol. XX. pp. 37–39. Act i. sc. 3.
view the earthquake which, according to Stowe* and Gabriel Harvey, took place in England on the 6th of April, 1580; but then, relying, unfortunately too much, on the computation of the good nurse, he hastily concludes, that Romeo and Juliet, or a part of it at least, was written in 1591. +
Mr. Malone, after admitting the inference of Mr. Tyrwhitt, adds another conjecture, that the foundation of this play might be laid in 1591, and finished at a subsequent period f, which period he has assigned in his chronology to the
1595. S Lastly, Mr. Chalmers, principally because Shakspeare appears to have borrowed some imagery in the fifth act, from Daniel's Complaint of Rosamond, which was entered at Stationers' Hall on the 4th of February, 1592, has ascribed the first sketch of Romeo and Juliet to the spring-time of the same year. ||
Now, adopting the opinion of Mr. Tyrwhitt as to Shakspeare's reference to the earthquake of 1580, a little attention to the lines which the poet has put into the mouth of his garrulous nurse, will convince us that these gentlemen are alike mistaken in their chronological calculations.
The nurse in the first place tells us, that Juliet was within little more than a fortnight of being fourteen years old, an assertion in which she could not be incorrect, as it is corroborated by Lady Capulet, who thinks her daughter, in consequence of this age, fit for marriage. In the next place she informs us that Juliet was weaned on the day of the earthquake, and as she could then stand and run alone, we must conceive her to have been at this period at least a twelvemonth old ; and thirdly, and immediately afterwards we are told, with a contradiction which assigns to Juliet but the age of twelve,
“ 'Tis since the earthquake now eleven years.”
* See Stowe's Chronicle, and Gabriel Harvey's Letter in the Preface to Spenser's Works, edit. 1679.
+ Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xx. p. 38. note 2. # Ibid. vol. ii. p. 272. $ Ibid. vol. ii. p. 268.
|| Supplemental Apology, p. 286.
There can be no doubt, therefore, that this miscalculation of eleven for thirteen years, was intended as a characteristic feature of the superannuated nurse, and that, assuming the era of 1580 as the epoch meant to be conveyed in the allusion to the earthquake at Verona, the composition of Romeo and Juliet must be allotted, not to the years 1591, 1592, or 1595, but to the year 1593.
It appears somewhat singular, indeed, that Mr. Malone, contrary to his usual custom, should have given a place in his Chronology, not to the first sketch of this play, but to a supposed completion of it in 1595; more especially when we find, from his own words *, that this, like several other dramas of our bard, was gradually and successively improved, and that, though first printed in 1597, it was not filled up and completed as we now have it, until 1599, when a second edition was published.
Some surprise also must be excited by the reasons which induced Mr. Chalmers to date the first sketch of this tragedy in the spring of 1592. Of these the first, he remarks, “ is plainly an allusion to the Faerie Queene, the three first books of which were published in 1590 ; and which was continually present in our poet's mind; Mercutio, in his airy and satiric speech, cries out,
« O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with
forgetting, that between the popular fairies, the tiny elves, of Shakspeare, and the allegorical fairies of Spenser, there is not the smallest similarity, not even a point in contact. The second, drawn from the imitation of Daniel, has been noticed above, and might with as much, if not more probability be assigned for its date in 1593 as in the year preceding
* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 269. .
+ Supplemental Apology, p. 294.
There is much reason to suppose, from a late "communication by Mr. Haslewood, that this play was not altogether founded on Arthur Broke's.“ Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet,” but partly on a theatrical exhibition of the same story which had taken place anterior to 1562 ; for in a copy of Broke's poem of this date in the Collection of the Rev. H. White, of the Close, Lichfield, occurs an address “ To the Reader,” not found in Mr. Capell's impression of 1562, and omitted in the edition of 1587, which closes with the following curious piece of information:-“ Though I saw," observes Broke, speaking in reference to his story, " the same argument lately set foorth on the stage with more commendation, then I can lookę for : (being there much better set forth then I have or can dooe) yet the same matter penned as it is, may serve to lyke good effect, if the readers do brynge with them lyke good myndes, to consider it, which hath the more incouraged me to publishe it, suche as it is.” *
Here we find three important circumstances announced : that a play on this subject had, previous to 1562, been set forth with no little preparation; that it contained the same argument and matter with the Tragical History, and that it had been well received and productive of a good effect! Thirty years, consequently, before Shakspeare's tragedy appeared, had the stage been familiar with this pathetic tale. †
* British Bibliographer, vol. ii. p. 115.—The title, which is wanting in Mr. Capell's copy of 1562, is thus given by Mr. Hazlewood :
“ The Tragicall His-
Richard Tottill the xix day of
November. An. do. 1562." + “ Steevens," remarks Mr. Haslewood, “ in a note prefixed to the play, rather prophetically observes, we are not yet at the end of our discoveries relative to the originals