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Comedy of Errors, and The Taming of the Shrero, is, that there is more attempt at delineation of character in it than in either the first or second of the plays just mentioned *, a reason which loses all its weight the moment we seriously contrast this comedy with its supposed predecessors, for who would then think of assigning to the very slight sketches of Biron and Katharine, any mark of improvement, either in poetic or dramatic strength, over the imaginative powers of the Midsummer-Night's Dream, or the strong, broad, and often characteristic outlines of The Taming of the Shrew !
The construction, indeed, of the whole play, the variety of its versification, the abundancy of its rhymes, and the length and frequency of its dogrel lines, very clearly prove this comedy to be one of our author's very earliest compositions ; indications which originally disposed Mr. Malone to give it to the year which we have adopted, and which induced Mr. Chalmers to assign it to 1592, though why he prefers this year
to the preceding does not appear. Of Love's Labour's Lost, as it was performed in the year 1591, we possess no exact transcript ; for, in the oldest edition which has hitherto been found of this play, namely that of 1598, it is said in the title-page to be newly corrected and augmented, with the further information, that it had been presented before Her Highness the last Christmas ; facts which show, that we are in possession not of the first draft or edition of this comedy, but only of that
which represents it as it was revived and improved for the entertainment of the Queen, in 1597.
The original sketch, whether printed or merely performed, we conceive to have been one of the pieces alluded to by Greene, in 1592, when he accuses Shakspeare of being an absolute Johannes fac-totum of the stage, primarily and principally from the mode of its execution, which, as we have already observed, betrays the earliness of its source in the strongest manner ; secondarily, that, like Pericles, it occasionully copies the language of the Arcadia, then with all the attractive
* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 264.
novelty of its reputation in full bloom *, and thirdly, that in the fifth act, various allusions to the Muscovites or Russians, seem evidently to point to a period when Russia and its inhabitants attracted the public consideration, a period which we find, from Hackluyt t, to have occupied the years 1590 and 1591, when, as Warburton and Chalmers have observed, the arrangement of Russian commerce engaged very particularly the attention, and formed the conversation, of the court, the city, and the country. I
It may be also remarked, that while no play among our author's works exhibits more decisive marks of juvenility than Love's Labour's Lost, none, at the same time, is more strongly imbued with the peculiar cast of his youthful genius; for in style and manner, it bears a closer resemblance to the Venus and Adonis, the Rape of Lucrece, and the earlier Sonnets, than any other of his genuine dramas. It presents us, in short, with a continued contest of wit and repartee, the
persons represented, whether high or low, vying with each other, throughout the piece, in the production of the greatest number of jokes, sallies, and verbal equivoques. The profusion with which these are every-where scattered, has, unfortunately, had the effect of throwing an air of uniformity over all the characters, who seem solely intent on keeping up the ball of raillery; yet is Biron now and then discriminated by a few strong touches, and Holofernes is probably the portrait of an individual, some of his quotations having justly induced the commentators to infer, that Florio, the author of First and Second Fruits, dialogues in Italian and English, and of a Dictionary, entitled A World of Words, was the object of the poet's satire.
If in dramatic strength of painting this comedy be deficient, and it appears to us, in this quality, inferior to Pericles, we must, independent of the vivacity of its dialogue already noticed, acknowledge,
* Vide Chalmers's Supplemental Apology, pp. 281, 282.; and Douce's Illustrations, vol. i. p. 238.
+ Vol. i. p. 498-9, edit. 1598. | Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vii. p. 151. note; and Chalmers's Supplemental Apology,
Comedy of Errors, and The Taming of the Shrea's
moral more attempt at delineation of character in it t'
al fund of or second of the plays just mentioned *, a rin weight the moment we seriously contrast 11,'.
that, even posed predecessors, for who would then
iti, a peculiar very slight sketches of Biron and Kai!
Eiscination of a ment, either in poetic or dramatic
power of pleaspowers of the Midsummer-Night's ;)
s of other bards, often characteristic outlines of 7".
Sarion, to ascertain The construction, indeed,
ou cict, a touchstone, versification, the abundanes
at has been termed quency of its doggrel lin.
ierery other evidence of our author's very car! disposed Mr. Malone
sr: 1592; and which induce
BUD: 1592 : he prefers this yees
is arrangement is intended Of Love's L
dern times, been ascribed possess no
säng Henry the Sixth. The hitherto
Tu so satisfactorily proved by the title
Exposed any longer to rest on informe
would be still further shaken by Chrisa
retti che discovery of Mr. Henslowe's first
na isppears that this play was never rep:
prettured, to its present appellation,
de entered, Henry the Sixth, and had pelit plays of Peele and Marlowe on
ered the 3d of March, 1591, and the ...nival Strange's company, and performed
liber of which Shakspeare had, at any vallt render the external testimony still Halone's position, as to the antiquity,
The internal evidence,
sanhi ng of this drama. *
l's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 355. note.
however, is quite sufficient for the purpose ; for the hand of Shakspeare is nowhere visible throughout the entire of this “ Drum-andtrumpet-Thing," as Mr. Morgan has justly termed it. * Yet that our author, subsequent to his re-modelling The first Part of the Contention, and The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of Yorke, might alter the arrangement, or slightly correct the diction of this play, is very possible,—an interference, however trivial, which probably induced the editors of the first folio, from the period in which this design was executed, to register it with Shakspeare's undisputed plays, under the improper title of The Third Part of King Henry the Sixth. *
As this drama therefore, which we hold to contain not ten lines of Shakspeare's composition, was, when originally produced, called The Play of Henry the VI., and in 1623, registered The Third Part of King Henry the VI. ; though, in the folio published during the same year, it was then for the first time named the first part, would it not be allowable to infer, that the two plays which our poet built on the foundations of Marlowe, or perhaps Marlowe, Peele, and Greene, though not printed before they appeared in the folio, were yet termed, not as they are designated in the modern editions, the second and third parts, but as we have here called them, the first and second parts ? Such, in fact, appears to have been the case ; for, since the publication of Mr. Malone's Essay, an entry on the Stationers' Registers has been discovered †, made by Tho. Pavier, and dated
* An Essay on the Dramatic Character of Sir John Falstaff. 8vo. 1777, p. 19.
+ Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 241.- It is conjectured by Mr. Malone, that Shakspeare, for the advantage of his own theatre, having written a few lines in The First Part of King Henry VI., after his own Second and Third Part had been played, the editors of the first Folio conceived this a sufficient warrant for attributing it, along with the others, to him, in the general collection of his works. Vol. xiv. p. 259. His prior supposition, however, “ that they gave it a place as a necessary introduction to the two other parts," especially if we consider the great popularity which it had enjoyed, and the general ignorance of the audience in historical lore, will sufficiently account, in those lax times of literary appropriation, for its insertion and attribution.
# The discovery was made by Mr. Chalmers, vide Supplemental Apology, p. 292.
April, 19th, 1602, of “ The 1st and 2d pts of Henry VI. ij. books * ;" which entry, whether it be supposed to apply to the original Contention and True Tragedy, or to an intended edition of the same plays as altered by Shakspeare, clearly proves, that this designation of first and sccond was here given either to the primary or secondary set of these two plays, and, if applied to one set, would necessarily be applicable to, and used in speaking of, the other.
These two plays then, founded on The First Part of the Contention of the Two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, and on the Second, or The true Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, written by Marlowe and his friends about the year 1590-t, we conceive to have been brought forward by Shakspeare with great and numerous improvements, in 1592.
The vacillation of the commentators in determining the era of our author's two parts of Henry the Sixth, has been very extraordinary. The year 1592 was fixed upon in 1778; this, in 1793, was changed to 1593, or 1594; and in 1803, to 1591 ; while Mr. Chalmers, in 1799, had adopted the date of 1595!
That these plays had received their new dress from the hand of Shakspeare, previous to September, 1592, is, we think, irreversibly established by Greene's parody, in his Groatsworth of Wit, on a line in the second of these productions, an allusion which, with the context, can neither be set aside nor misapplied: that they were thus re-modelled in 1592, rather than in 1591, will appear highly probable, when we reflect that, in the passage where this parody is found, Shakspeare is termed, in reference to the stage, an absolute Johannes factotum, an epithet which, as we have before remarked,
* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 126.
+ Mr. Malone, in his “ Dissertation on King Henry VI.” was of opinion, that the First Part of the Contention, &c. came from the pen of Robert Greene; (vide Reed's Shakspear, vol. xiv. p. 257.) but in his “ Chronological Order," he inclines to the supposition of Marlowe being the author of both Parts; (vol. ii. p. 246.) It is more probable, I think, from the language of the Groats worth of Wit, that Marlowe, Greene, and Peele, were jointly concerned in their composition.