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JOHNSON AND STEEVENS?
TAMING OF THE SHREW,
COMEDY OF ERRORS.
PUBLISHED BY H. MAXWELL AND T. S. MANNING.
WE have hitherto supposed Shakspeare the author of The Taming of the Shrew, but his property in it is extremely disputable. I will give my opinion, and the reasons on which it is founded. I suppose then the present play not originally the work of Shakspeare, but restored by him to the stage, with the whole Induction of the Tinker; and some other occasional improvements; especially in the character of Petruchio. It is very obvious that the Induction and the Play were either the works of different hands, or written at a great interval of time. The former is in our author's best manner, and a great part of the latter in his worst, or even below it. Dr. Warburton declares it to be certainly spurious; and without doubt, supposing it to have been written by Shakspeare, it must have been one of his earliest productions. Yet it is not mentioned in the list of his works by
Meres in 1598.
I have met with a facetious piece of Sir John Harrington, printed in 1596, (and possibly there may be an earlier edition) called The Metamorphosis of Ajax, where I suspect an allusion to the old play: "Read the Booke of Taming a Shrew, which hath made a number of us so perfect, that now every one can rule a shrew in our countrey, save he that hath hir."-I am aware a modern linguist may object that the word book does not at present seem dramatick, but it was once technically so: Gosson, in his Schoole of Abuse, containing a pleasaunt Invective against Poets, Pipers, Players, Jesters, and such like Caterpillars of a Commonwealth, 1579, mentions "Twoo prose bookes played at the BellSauage" and Hearne tells us, in a note at the end of William of Worcester, that he had seen a MS. in the nature of a Play or Interlude, entitled The Booke of Sir Thomas Moore.
And in fact there is such an old anonymous play in Mr. Pope's list: "A pleasant conceited history, called The Taming of a Shrew-sundry times acted by the Earl of Pembroke his servants." Which seems to have been republished by the remains of that company in 1607, when Shakspeare's copy appeared at the Black-Friars or the Globe.-Nor let this seem derogatory from the character of our poet. There is no reason to believe that he wanted to claim the play as his own; for it was not even printed till some years after his death; but he merely revived it on his stage as a manager.
In support of what I have said relative to this play, let me only observe further at present, that the author of Hamlet speaks of Gonzago, and his wife Baptista; but the author of The Taming of the Shrew knew Baptista to be the name of a man. Mr. Capell indeed made me doubt, by declaring the authenticity of it to be confirmed by the testimony of Sir Aston Cockayn. I knew Sir Aston was much acquainted with the writers immediately subsequent to Shakspeare; and I was not inclined to dispute his authority: but how was I surprised, when I found that Cockayn ascribes nothing more to Shakspeare, than the Induction-WincotAle and the Beggar! I hope this was only a slip of Mr. Capell's memory. Farmer.