[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]





propriated too, there is reason to think, by the public at that time, and unacknowledged by the author, should be passed over in silence.

Having thus endeavoured to fix the era of our poet's commencement as a dramatic writer, it remains to ascertain which was the first drama that, either wholly or in great part, issued from his pen; a subject, like the former, certainly surrounded with many difficulties, liable to many errors, and only to be illustrated by a patient investigatlon of, and a well-weighed deduction from, minute circumstances and conflicting probabilities.

The reasons which have induced us to fix upon PERICLES, as the result of a laborious, if not a successful, enquiry, will be offered, with much diffidence, under the first article of the following Chronological Arrangement, which, though deviating, in several instances, from the chronologies of both Chalmers and Malone, will not, it is hoped, on that account be found needlessly singular, nor unproductive of a closer approximation to probability, and, perchance, to truth.

For the sake of perspicuity, it has been thought eligible to prefix, in a tabular form, the order which has been adopted, the observations confirmatory of its arrangement being classed according to the series thus drawn out; and here it may benecessary to premise, that the substance of our commentary, with the exception of what may be requisite to establish a few new dates, will be chiefly confined to critical remarks on each play, relieved by intervening dissertations on the superhuman agency of the poet.

CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE. 1. Pericles, 1590.119. Much Ado About Nothing

1599. 2. Comedy of Errors, 1591 |20. As You Like It,

1600. 3. Love's Labours Lost, . 1591. 21. Merry Wives of Windsor,

1601. 4. King Henry the Sixth, Part I. 1592.22. Troilus and Cressida,

1601. 5. King Henry the Sixth, Part II. 1592. 23. King Henry the Eigth,

1602. 6. Midsummer-Night's Dream, 1593. 24. Timon of Athens,

1602. 7. Romeo and Juliet, 1593. 25. Measure for Measure,

1603. 8. Taming of the Shrew, 1594. 26. King Lear,

1604. 9. Two Gentlemen of Verona, 1595. 27. Cymbeline,

1605. 10. King Richard the Third, 1595. 28. Macbeth, .

1606. 11. King Richard the Second, 1596. 29. Julius Cæsar,

1607. 12. King Henry the Fourth, Part 1. 1596. 30. Antony and Cleopatra,

1608. 13. King Henry the Fourth, Part. II. 1596.31. Coriolanus,

1609. 14. The Merchant of Venice, 1597. 32. T'he Winter's Tale,

1610. 15. Hamlet, 1597.33. The Tempest,

1611. 16. King John, 1598. |34. Othello,

1612. 17. All's Well That Ends Well 1598. 35. Twelfth Night, .

1613. 18. King Henry the Fifth,

1599.) 1. PERICLES, 1590. That the greater part, if not the whole, of this drama, was the composition of Shakspeare, and that it is to be considered as his earliest dramatic effort, are positions, of which the first has been rendered highly probable by the elaborate disquisitions of Messrs. Steevens and Malone, and may possibly be placed in a still clearer point of view by a more condensed and lucid arrangement of the testimony already produced, and by a further discussion of the merits and peculiarities of the play itself; while the second will, we trust, receive additional support by inferences legitimately deduced from a comprehensive survey of scattered and hitherto insulated premises.

The evidence required for the etablishment of a high degree of probability under the first of these positions necessarily divides itself into two parts; the external and the internal evidence. The former commences with the original edition of Pericles, which was entered on the Stationer's books by Edward Blount, one of the printers of the first folio edition of Shakspeare's plays, on the 20th of May,*

20 May, 1608.--Edw. Blunt Entered under t'hands of Sir Geo. Bucke, Kt. and Mr. Warden Seton, a book called : The booke of Pericles Prynce of Tyre.

A booke by the like authoritie, called Anthony and Cleopatra." Chaliners's Supplemental Apology,

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

1608, but did not pass the press until the subsequent year, when it was published, not, as might have been expected, by Blount, but by one Henry Gosson, who placed Shakspeare's name at full length in the title-page.

It is worthy of remark, also, that this edition was entered at Stationer's Hall together with Antony and Cleopatra, and that it, and the three following editions, which were also in quarto, were styled in the title-page, “the much admired play of Pericles.” As the entry, however, was by Blount, and the edition by Gosson, it is probable, as Mr. Malone has remarked, that the former had been anticipated by the latter, through the procurance of a play-house copy. * It may also be added, that Pericles was performed at Shakspeare's own theatre, The Globe. The next ascription of this play to our author, is found in a poem entitled “The Times Displayed in Six Sestyads,” by S. Sheppard, 4to, 1646, dedicated to Philip Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, and containing, in the ninth stanza of the sixth Sestiad, a positive assertion of Shakspeare's property in this drama:

" See him whose tragick sceans Euripides

Doth equal, and with Sophocles we may
Compare great Shakspear; Aristophanes
Never like him his fancy could display,

Witness the Prince of Tyre, his Pericles." This high eulogium on Pericles received a direct contradiction very shortly afterwards from the pen of an obscure poet named Tatham, who bears, however, an equally strong testimony as to Shakspeare being the author of the piece, which he thus presumes to censure :

But Shakspeare, the plebeian driller, was

Founder'd in his Pericles, and must not pass " + To these testimonies in 1646 and 1652, full and unqualified, and made at no distant period from the death of the hard to whom they relate, we have to add the still more forcible and striking declaration of Dryden, who tells us, in 1677, and in words as strong and as decisive as he could select, that

Shakspeare's own muse, his Pericles first bore.” I The only drawback on this accumulation of external evidence is the omission of Pericles in the first edition of our author's works; a negative fact which can have little weight when we recollect, that both the memory and judgment of Heminge and Condell, the poet's editors, were so defective, that they had forgotten Troilus and Cressida, until the entire folio and the table of contents had been printed, and admitted Titus Andronicus, and the Historical Play of king llenry the Sixth, probably for no other reasons, than that the former had been, from its unmerited popularity, brought forward by Shakspeare on his own theatre, though there is suflicient internal evidence to prove, without the addition of a single line; and because the latter, with a similar predilection of the lower orders in its favour, had, on that account, obtained a similar, though not a more laboured attention from our poet, and was therefore deemed by his editors, though very unnecessarily, a requisite introduction to the two plays on the reign of that monarch which Shakspeare had really new-modelled.

It cannot, consequently, be surprising that, as they had forgotten Troilus and Cressida until the folio had been printed, they should have also forgolten Pericles until the same folio had been in circulation, and when it was too late to correct the omission ; an error which the second folio has, without doubt or examination, blindly copied.

[ocr errors]

p. 488, 489. By a somewhat singular mistake, the second of May is mentioned by Mr. Malone, as the date of the entry of Pericles.

The four quarto editions of Pericles are dated 1609, 1619, 1630, and 1635 † Verses by J. Tatham, prefixed to Richard Brome's Jovial Crew or the Merry Beggars, 410. 1652. # Prologue to the tragedie of Circe, by Charles D'Arenant, 1677.

[ocr errors]

If the external evidence in support of Shakspeare being the author of the greater part of this play be striking, the internal must be pronounced still more so, and, indeed, absolutely decisive of the question; for, whether we consider the style and phraseology, or the imagery, sentiment, and humour, the approximation to our author's uncontested dramas appears so close, frequent, and peculiar, as to stamp irresistible conviction on the mind.

The result has accordingly been such as might have been predicted under the assumption of the play being genuine; for the more it has been examined, the more clearly has Shakspeare's large property in it been established. It is curious, indeed, to note the increased tone of confidence which each successive commentator has assumed in proportion as be has weighed the testimony arising from the piece itself. Rowe, in his first edition, says, “ it is owned that some part of Pericles certainly was written by him, particularly the last act;" Dr. Farmer observes that the hand of Shakspeare may be seen in the latter part of the play; Dr. Percy remarks, that “ more of the phraseology used in the genuine dramas of Shakspeare prevails in Pericles, than in any of the other six doubted plays," and, of the two rival restorers of this drama, Steevens and Malone, the former declares; — " I admit without reserve that Shakspeare,

“whose hopeful colours

Advance a half-fac'd sun, striving to shine," is visible in many scenes throughout the play ;-the purpurei panni are Shakspeare's, and the rest the productions of some inglorious and forgotten playwright;" — adding, in a subsequent paragraph, that Pericles is valuable," as the engravings of Mark Antonio are valuable not only on account of their beauty, but because they are supposed to have been executed under the eye of Raflaelle;" while the latter gives it as his corrected opinion, that “ the congenial sentiments, the numerous expressions bearing a striking similitude to passages in his undisputed plays, some of the incidents, the situation of many of the persons, and in various places the colour of the style, all these combine to set the seal of Shakspeare on the play before us, and furnish us with internal and irresistible proofs, that a considerable portion of this piece, as it now appears, was written by him. The greater part of the three last acts may, I think, on this ground be safely ascribed to him; and his hand may be traced occasionally in the other two divisions.” Lastly, Mr. Douce asserts, that “ many will be of opinion that it contains more that he might have written than either Love's Labour's Lost, or All's Well that Ends Well.”

For satisfactory proof that the style, phraseology, and imagery of the greater part of this play are truly Shakspearean, the reader is referred to the commentators, who have noticed, with unwearied accuracy, all the numerous coincidences which, in these respects, occur between Pericles and the poet's subsequent productions; similitudes so striking, as to leave no doubt that they originated from one and the same source.

If we attend, however, a little further to the dramatic construction of Pericles, to its humour, sentiment, and character, not only shall we find additional evidence in favour of its being, in a great degree, the product of our author, but fresh cause, it is expected, for awarding it a higher estimation than it has hitherto obtained.

However wild and extravagant the fable of Pericles may appear, if we consider its numerous chorusses, its pageantry, and dumb shows, its continual succession of incidents, and the great length of time which they occupy, yet is it, we may venture to assert, the most spirited and pleasing specimen of the nature and fabric of our earliest romantic drama which we possess, and the more valuable, as it is the only one with which Shakspeare has favoured us.

"We should therefore welcome this play, an admirable example of the neglected favourites of our ancestors, with something of the same feeling thal is experienced in the reception of an old

and valued friend of our fathers or grandfathers. Nay, we should like it the better for its gotbic appendages of pageants and chorusses, to explain the intricacies of the fable; and we can see no objection to the dramalic representation even of a series of ages in a single night, that does not apply to every description of poem which leads in perusal from the fire-side at wbich we are sitling, to a succession of remote periods and distant countries. In these mallers, faith is allpowerful; and, without her influence, the most chastely cold and critically correct of dramas is precisely as unreal as the Midsummer-Night's Dream, or the Winter's Tale.”*

Perfectly coinciding in opinion with this ingenious critic, and willing to give an indefinite influence to the illusion of the scene, we have found in Pericles much entertainment from its uncommon variety and rapidity of incident, qualities which peculiarly mark the genius of Shakspeare, and which rendered this drama so successful on its first appearance, that the poets of the time quote its reception as a remarkable instance of popularity.”+

A still more powerful attraction in Pericles is, that the interest accumulates as the story proceeds; for, though many of the characters in the earlier part of the piece, such as Antiochus and his Daughter, Simonides and Thaisa, Cleon and Dionyza, disappear and drop into oblivion, their places are supplied by more pleasing and efficient agents, who are not only less fugacious, but better calculated for theatric effect. The inequalities of this production are, indeed, considerable, and only to be accounted for, with probability, on the supposition, that Shakspeare either accepted a coadjutor, or improved on the rough sketch of a previous writer; the former, for reasons which will be assigned hereafter, seems entitled to a preference, and will explain why, in compliment to his dramatic friend, he has sufsered a few passages, and one entire scene, of a character totally dissimilar to his own style and mode of composition, to stand uncorrected; for who does not perceive that of the closing scene of the second act, not a sentence or a word escaped from the pen of Shakspeare, and yet, that the omission of a few lines would have rendered that blameless and consistent, which is now, with reference to the character of Simonides, a tissue of imbecility, absurdity, and falsehood. I

* Monthly Review, New Series, vol. Ixxvii. p. 158. † Thus, in the prologue to a comedy entitled The Hog has lost his Pearl, 1614, the author, alluding to his own production, says,

“if it prove so happy as to please,

Well say, 'tis fortunate, like Pericles." # As this is the only scene in the play which disgusts from its total dereliction of nature, a result at once decisive as to Shakspeare having no property in it; and as the mere omission of a few lines, not a word being either added or altered, will be sufficient to render the whole probable and inoffensive, I cannot avoid wishing that such curtailment might be adopted in every future edition. SCENE V.

Sim. Sir, you are music's master.

Per. The worst of all her scholars, my good lord PENTAPOLIS. A Room in the Palace. Sim. Let me ask one thing. What do you thuk,

sir, of Enter SIYONIDES and the KNIGHTS: SIMONIDES My daughter ? reading a letter.

Per. As of a most virtuous princess.

Sim. And she is fair too, is she not? Knights. May we not get access to her, my lord? Per. As a fair day in summer; wondrous fair. Sim. 'Faith, by no means; it is impossible. Sim. My daughter, sir, thinks very well of you ; Knights. Though loath to bid farewell we take Ay, so well, that- peruse this writing, sir. our leaves.

(Ereunt. Per. What's here! Sim. So

A letter, that she loves the knight of Tyre? They're well dispatch'd ; now to my daughter's letter: "Tis the king's subtilty, to have my life. (Aside. , She tells me here, she'll wed the stranger knight; 0, seek not to intrap, my gracious lord, Well I commend her choice;

A stranger and distressed gentleman, And will no longer have it be delay'd.

That never aim'd so high, to love your daughter, Soft, here he comes :-I must dissemble it.

But bent all offices to honour her.

Sim. Thou hast bewitch'd my daughter, and thou Enter PERICLES.

A traitor. Per. All fortune to the good Simonides!

Per. By the gods, I have not, sir. Sim. To you as much, sir ! I am beholden to you, Never did thought of mine levy offence; For your sweet music this last night: my ears, Nor never did my actions yet commence I do protest, were never better fed

A deed might gain her love, or your displeasure. With such delightful pleasing harmony.

My actions are as noble as my thoughts, Per. It is your grace's pleasure to commend; That never relish'd of a base descent. Not my desert.

I came unto your court, for honour's cause,


« VorigeDoorgaan »