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working years, one of which, 1601, was per- | however, he blames most for the assistance haps the most prolific of his career, it is on which they give to the unscholarly dramathe face of it most improbable to assume tists. And then he once more attacks one that he only began his dramatic authorship of these dramatists : “ It is a common pracin 1590, as most of his critics are disposed tice now-a-days among a sort of shifting to think.
companions that run through every art and But if, on the contrary, we admit that thrive by none, to leave the trade of noverint The Comedy of Errors was written between whereto they were born, and busy themselves 1585 and 1587, that the first Hamlet be- with the endeavours of art, that could scarcelongs to 1587 or 1588, and that not only the ly latinize their neck-verse, if they should three parts of Henry VI. but even the two have need. Yet English Seneca read by of Henry IV. (in their first show" or form) candle-light yields many good sentences, as were in existence before 1592, we shall have blood is a beggar,' and so forth. And if no difficulty in acknowledging the real ap- you entreat him fair in a frosty morning, he plicability to Shakespeare of two allusions, will afford you whole Hamlets, I should say one of 15
and the other of 1589, which handfuls of tragical speeches.” This almost have indeed often been applied to him, and seems to be the text on which critics of as often disclaimed, on the ground of his Shakespeare founded their judgments for not having at the times in question written the next century. The “idiot [private, unanything that could have provoked or justifi- qualified by university education] art-mased such language. One of these is in Nash's ter," bis intrusion,” his “arrogance," his letter prefixed to Greene's Menaphon, to "swelling bombast of bragging blank verse," which the date 1587 has been given on the his “ kill-cow conceit,” his “ drunken resoluauthority of Mr. Dyce (no other critic having tion,” his being a “deep-read schoolman or seen so early an edition), but which, so far grammarian," j.e. one whose education at least as Nash's preliminary matter is con- stopped at the grammar-school, with learning cerned, must be of 1589. For in it Nash enough for a tradesman and art enough for talks of the Marprelate divinity, which only a serving-man, his ironical censuring of all began in 1589. This epistle is the very coun- men, his dependence on the translator's terpart of Greene's Groat' s-worth of Wit trencher, his shifting life, running through already quoted. In it Nash attacks the every art and thriving by none, his school and scholars of “vain-glorious trage- inability to latinize his neck-verse, his way
of dians who contend not so seriously to excel gathering conceits and sentences from any in action as to embroil the clouds in a speech source that came to hand, were all matters of comparison," " to get Boreas by the beard, objected to Shakespeare by subsequent criand the heavenly bull by the dewlap;" toge- tics. The hint that the man attacked had ther with the play-writers, “ their idiot art- already written a tragedy of Hamlet, and the masters, that intrude themselves to our ears advice that if he wanted any more sentences as the alchemists of eloquence who, mounted like "blood is a beggar" he might go to the on the stage of arrogance, think to outbrave English translation of Seneca, which might better pens with the swelling bombast of supersede the midnight lamp by furnishing bragging blank verse." With one of these him conceits, and might obviate the need of “idiot art-masters” Nash is especially pro- soliciting his frozen imagination for tragic voked ; particularly with his “ kill-cow con- speeches by giving them to him ready made, ceit," governed by an “ imagination over- both agree with Shakespeare, who had written cloyed with drunken resolution.” “Amongst his first Hamlet, who probably in an early these men," he says, “that repose eternity Henry VIII, had already complained that in the mouth of a player, I can but engross some deep-read schoolmen or grammarians,
“A beggar's book outworths a noble's blood," who, having no more learning in their skulls / but who abstained in a most marked manthan will serve to take up a commodity, nor ner from borrowing anything from the Engart in their brains than was nourished in a lish Seneca. serving-man's idleness, will take upon them The passage in Spenser's Tears of the to be the ironical censors of all, when God Muses which Dryden considered to be and poetry doth know they are the simplest meant for Shakespeare has generally been of all.” But all these he leaves " to the applied by modern critics to Lily or Sydney, mercy of their mother tongue, that feed on first because, though published in 1591, it nought but the crumbs that fall from the may perhaps have been written ten years translator's trencher." Then, after a pane- earlier, before Shakespeare had written anygyric on Greene, and an attack on non-uni- thing, and secondly because, even in 1590, versity divines and the Marprelate writers, Shakespeare had produced nothing that he attacks “our trivial translators," whom, I could deserve so high an encomium. But,
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in the first place, the date of Spenser's poem very cause of their unpopularity. The is clearly 1590; he was then in London tragedians were obliged to travel because bringing out the first edition of his Fairy “novelty carried it away, and the principal Queen. The public and private allusions in public audience that came to them were turnthe Tears of the Muses both relate to this ed to private plays, and to the humour of time. The Queen granted him a pension of children.” The children of Pauls, backed £50, the punctual payment of which Lord up by their ecclesiastical masters, entered Burghley prevented. To this Clio in the with rare enthusiasm into the controversies poem alludes :
of the day. Lily and Nash, fortified by the
secret support of Whitgift and Bancroft, “Ne only they that dwell in lowly dust, The sonnes of darknes and of ignoraunce,
provided them with shows; and all London But they, whom thou, great Jove, by doome went to their theatre to see “ Martin giving unjust
divinity a scratched face, and administering Did'st to the type of honour earst advaunce, an emetic to make her bring up her beneThey now, puft up with sdeignfull insolence fices,” or “the May game of Martinism," Despise the brood of blessed sapience.” very deftly set out with pomps, pageants, The public allusions show that the poem
motions, masks, scutcheons, emblems, imwas written at a time when tragedy was presses, strange tricks and devices”—in fact, silent, and when the comic stage was usurpa political pantomimes. But these shows ob
to see, not comedies, not even farces, but ed by a movement thoroughly opposed to all real art. Melpomene, the tragic muse, government was obliged to inhibit them;
tained so exaggerated a success that the asks,
and the children of Pauls were silent “Why doo they banish us, that patronize from 1591 to 1599, when they were again The name of learning ?
let loose to “ berattle the common stages," And Thalia, the comic muse, complains that to ridicule the adherents of Essex, and once all the sweet delight of learning's treasure
more to divert the public favour from the which used in comic sock to beautify the legitimate drama to the humour of children. painted theatres, and fill the listener's So, in 1590, Shakespeare felt his occupation
eyes and cars with pleasure and melody, is gone; gone, and Spenser wrote of him :the goodly glee of gay wits is laid abed; “And he, the man whom Nature selfe bad and unseemly sorrow, with hollow brows made and grisly countenance, has usurped her To mock her selfe and Truth to imitate place. With sorrow comes barbarism and With kindly counter under Mimick shade brutish ignorance :
Our pleasant Willy, ah! is dead of late:
With whom all joy and jolly meriment “They in the mindes of men now tyrannize,
Is also deaded and in dolour drent. And the faire Scene with rudenes foul disguize,
In stead thereof scoffing Scurrilitie All places they with follie have possest,
And scornfull Follie with Contempt is crept And with vaine toyes the vulgar entertainc,
Rolling in rymes of shamelesse ribaudrie But me have banished.”
Without regard, or due Decorum kept;
Each idle wit at will presumes to make And with Thalia also counterfesance and un- And doth the Learneds taske upon him take. hurtful sport have departed—Delight and
But that same gentle Spirit, from whose pen Laughter,
Large streames of Honnie and sweete nectar
flowe “By which man's life in his likest image
Scorning the boldnes of such base-borne Was limned forth, are wholly now defaced, And those sweet wits, which wont the like
Which dare their follies forth so rashlie to frame
throwe, Are now despizd and made a laughing game."
Doth rather choose to sit in idle Cell
Than so himself to mockerie to sell." It was in 1589 and 1590 that this temporary cclipse of the “ painted theatres” took All this is completely consonant with Nash's place. The Marprelate controversy seized scorn for Shakespeare in 1589, and Greene's upon
the stage, and made it hateful alike to in 1592. Nash was Lieutenant-general of the Puritan authorities of the city, the Puri- the Paphatchet or anti-Martinist party; and tanical members of the government, and the Greene belonged to it also. Spenser belongmen of true dramatic taste. Against the ed to the opposite set. Shakespeare government the Lord Chamberlain's men considered to belong to Spenser's party, or could protect themselves by the declaration Jaggard would hardly have printed with his that “ they had never meddled with affairs name Barnefield's sonnet with the words of religion and state.” But this was the “Spenser to me is dear.” Shakespeare, as
the friend of Southampton and Essex, was the Quip for an Upstart Courtier, which naturally in this set, and, related as he he published as his own, was not much more was to the Stanleys on his mother's side, than a reprint of Thynne's Debate between was naturally called “ our Willy” in a poem Pride and Lowliness. He is known to dedicated by Spenser to the Countess of have published other men's works as his Derby. The same poet once again alluded own; and his testimony is worthless, to him in the Eclogue Colin Clout's come doubled though it be by the writer of his home again, written after the death of Funerals, who can have known nothing of Ferdinando Earl of Derby, in 1594: the rights of a question about the disputed
authorship of a play in the custody of the " And there, though last not least, is Aetion; actors. We have only Greene's assertion
A gentler shepheard may no where be found; and Shakespeare's denial. The assertion
“beautified in our feathers" may be inter
preted to mean either an accusation of theft The second objection to the reference of or a mere envious carping at success; the Spenser's lines to Shakespeare, that the denial is a testimony of the general honesty dramatist had not in 1590 written anything of Shakespeare, given by his friends as a to deserve so strong a eulogium, fålls of special answer to the general accusation. itself, when we consider that The Comedy If we believe Shakespeare's friends, he did of Errors was then four years old. The not purloin the plumes of bis rivals. Therelove-scenes in that play contain probably fore, if the plays which he is said to have the sweetest poetry that had as yet been imitated really preceded his dramas as they written in the English language. And now stand, we must suppose that those Spenser was one of the few favoured friends first sketches also were his own. And there who knew the secret of Shakespeare's author- is not a more striking difference between ship, or were permitted to read the manu- The Troublesome Raigne of King John script of his plays. At any rate, and on and the present King John, or between the any theory, it is not more difficult to apply Contention between the Houses of York and Spenser's high praise to Shakespeare in 1590 Lancaster and Henry VI., than between the than it is to accept Greene's declaration in Hamlet of 1603 and the Hamlet of 1623, 1592 that he was then the successful rival or between the Merry Wives of Windsor of of Marlowe, Lodge, Peele, and Greene him- 1602 and that of 1623. Pope believed the self, and likely soon to supplant them all first King John to be by Shakespeare and and monopolize the stage.
Rowley; and Mr. Knight argues with great Greene, as we have seen, accused Shake- force that the first sketches of Henry VI. speare of borrowing his plumes; and Chet- were by the author of the plays as we have tle, who had published the accusation, with them now. Or, if these plays are not by drew it, acknowledging his “ uprightness of Shakespeare, there is very little to prove dealing, which argues his honesty.' On the that they preceded his. Some of them may other hand, the writer of Greene's Funerals be copies from his, imitations got up in a repeats the charge:
hurry, and printed to be palmed off on the
public when the stage was occupied with “ Nay more, the men that so eclipsed his fame a new play by him, like to the spurious Purloyned his plumes; can they deny the
- books of the words” which used to be sold same ?
outside the theatres. Or they may have Chettle, as we have seen, did deny it, on been imitations acted by rival companies of the authority of Shakespeare's friends. The players. The marvellous superiority of charge has been treated as a light one; Shakespeare's own versions is no proof that and critics have generally been contented to it was not found more profitable to water accept it as true. It is evident, however, down his mighty draughts to the tastes of that Shakespeare and his friends did not vulgar audiences. He owns in Hamlet that think it unimportant. They considered that some of his plays were “caviare to the genhe was accused of a breach of “uprightness eral.” Why, then, may not plagiarists in of dealing," arguing dishonesty of character. the sixteenth century have been as tasteless The charge concerned matters which would as Cibber in the eighteenth? Many adaptabe very difficult of proof. At a time when tions of Shakespeare's plays have been made plays were not printed, an anonymous writer in many ages, with vast contemporary apof them might easily be accused of plagiar- i la ise, and equal condemnation of posterity. ism by an unscrupulons opponent. Greene Nash criticises the actors in 1589 as neglectwas a thoroughly unscrupulous man. His ing action for diction. There is no doubt friend Nash called his Groat's-worth of Wit that Shakespeare's style was less adapted to a scald lying pamphlet; and we know that I the sometimes ranting, sometimes stiff and
statuesque, and always unnatural, method of overseen and corrected by W. S.”* It is the classical school which Nash and the throughout a quiz upon plays like Tambur“university wits” patronized, than were the lain, and upon all kinds of literary affectaformal and antithetical periods of Marlowe tions of the day. In character it is like one and Greene. The inferiority of what are of Thackeray's “ novels by eminent hands." supposed to be the older plays is no proof It parodies Marlowe as the humourist paroof their precedence. Part of their badness dies Lord Lytton or Mr. Disraeli. The style
, may be due to the stenographist, to the method, and opinions of the object of criticopyist, or the printer; and, for the rest, it cism are all exhibited in caricature. The is as easy to suppose them to be bad imitations big brag and swelling exaggerations of the of unapproachable and ill-understood mas- storming Scythian are mingled with the terpieces as to suppose Shakespeare's ac- frigid conceits and incongruous images knowledged dramas to be centos laboriously which appear at the proper moment to stile compiled from bad models. Out of two a rising passion. The conceits are contrived bad books it is easy to make a third : it is to be absurd, as when the ploughman rips more difficult to make the bad tree bring the roots with his razors, or the temple is forth good fruit. The only instance in raised higher than the high pyramids which the date of publication seems to for
“Which with their top surmount the firmabid this supposition is The Famous Victories of Henry V. This worthless play was published in 1598, and Shakespeare's
or when hearty oaths are rapped out, such Henry V., as we have it, was written in 1599, while the Earl of Essex was in Ire- "O gods and stars, damned be the gods and land. But it is impossible to say whether the
stars; chorus in which the allusions to Essex occur
is made like that of Locrine was not an addition to the play. The play before he kills himself, which is quite in is as old as its parts; but each part need Bottom's vein :not be as old as the play. The date of publication of all the other so-called original plays
Forgive, forgive this foul accursed sin,
Forget, O gods, this foul condemned fault; is perfectly compatible with their being pla
And now my sword," etc.; giarisms from Shakespeare, instead of Shakespeare's being plagiarisms from them. or when it is clearly indicated that the actor Once more. When Nash accuses Shakeis to rattle the stage roll of the R,
which speare of being an “ironic censurer of all,” Thackeray would show by doubling or trehe gives a hint in what direction we ought bling the letter, as to look for Shakespeare's retorts on his cen- “ Turinus [Turrnus] that slew six hundred
It need not be supposed that his men-at-arms, anger at Greene's accusations sought no and further vindication of them than the expostulations of his friends and Chettle's apology.
“For with my sword [sworrd], this sharp curtle A poet who had written the poetry of The
I'll cut asunder my accursed heart”Comedy of Errors seven years previously must have felt that it was preposterous to the very figure which Thackeray used when consider him a plagiarist from Marlowe, he was talking of “Meagher of the sword," Greene, or Peele. It was not necessary to “'Tis he will steep that battle-axe in Sason argue against the imputation. The most gore." effectual way to meet it would be to com- It is to be noted also that the historical pose plays in the style of the poets he was ideas of the play are the same as Shakeaccused of copying, and to let men see the speare's. We have Brutus, alias Posthumius, difference between his natural and his as- the husband of Innogen, and Hector, slain sumed strain, Titus Andronicus, written not by Achilles but by the Myrmidons. The before 1589, looks
Taming of a Shrew has been shown to be censure upon the style of Marlowe and his imitators. Aaron is an excellent parody of whose verses are transported into it
an imitation of Marlowe, whole handfuls of Barabas. After Greene's accusation in 1592
speare afterwards asserted his rights of we have two plays, The Taming of a Shrew property over this play by altering it
, as he and Locrine, which fulfill all the conditions did over Titus Andronicus by having it requisite for the ironical reply. The “la- played by his own company.
This is a mentable tragedy" of Locrine was printed in 1595, having been entered at Stationers'
* Shakespeare only claims an editor's honours. Hall the year before.
" set forth Cliarles Tylney is said to have been the author.
matter which requires explanation on any time of Elizabeth favoured this representaother supposition. The induction which tion of it on the stage. At the present day Webster wrote to Marston's Malcontent it would be difficult to make a serious drama shows that it was considered unjust for one | turn on the fate of principles, or to write a company to play a drama which belonged tragedy or comedy on Reform or the Ballot. to another; and the Lord Chamberlain's But political principles did not present themcompany only justify the annexation of selves to the contemporaries of Shakespeare the Malcontent on the plea that the rival in an abstract form. They were all crystalcompany had previously stolen Jeronymo. lized in persons. The Earl of Essex, for Shakespeare seems to have given both The instance, was the concrete expression for Taming of a Shrew and Titus Andronicus toleration, aggressive instead of defensive to the Earl of Pembroke's men, a company war, independence of nobles, and privilege of which we have the first mention in the as opposed to universal absolutism in the Chamberlain's accounts for Leicester in prince; and as the symbol of those princi1592, but which may have been established ples he commanded the favour of men who earlier. It is doubtful whether Locrine was would have been the last to abet his childish ever acted at all; perhaps it was judged to sallies, his ungovernable impatience, and his be too absurd. But it is easy to believe incurable imprudence. Naunton tells us that that Shakespeare, intimate as he must have the principal note of Elizabeth's reign was been with the circle to which the Earl of the government by faction and parties, which Pembroke, afterwards one of his great pa- she made, upheld, and weakened, according trons, belonged, made a present of these to her own judgment. It was not till half two plays to the Earl's company, without a century afterwards that principles were altogether renouncing his right of property independent of persons. In Elizabeth's day, in them.
the master, or reputed master, was the symThe method which we have used to help bol and text-book of his doctrine. This to fix the date of The Comedy of Errors is lightened the labour of the political playone which has been unaccountably neglected wright, gave a dramatic tinge to his design, by investigators. It is notorious that in and enabled him at the same time to speak Elizabeth's day the stage supplied the place in riddles, and so to avoid the danger of now occupied by the press. The dramatist open utterances in the presence of a Starwas both the novelist and the reviewer. Chamber. All but one of Lily's plays are When Parliaments were short and infre- political; and their allusions are even yet quent, and the debates secret, political dis- perfectly intelligible. The only wonderful cussion was carried on in public through the thing about them is that so plain-spoken mouth of the actor. It was indeed only in and so insolent a play as The Woman in the front of the stage that the lay political es- Moon, the fickle Pandora who uses her gifts sayist could periodically find his audience. only to chase away her lovers, should have Plays were reckoned amongst the engines of escaped censure. It clearly refers to the political propagandism; malcontents were conduct of the Queen witń the Duke of often accused of indulging in private repre-Anjou; and its date is probably 1581. A 'sentations of dramas which exhibited the careful consideration of this play will show triumph of their party or their principles. that it is very possible to refer the first act Shakespeare makes Hamlet declare
of Pericles to the same political situation.
The black insinuation which is to be found "The play's the thing
there as to the cause of the Queen's unwilIn which to catch the conscience of the King."
lingness to marry is only the echo of what Sidney had previously said that tragedy was whispered in many circles of English made kings fear to be tyrants, and tyrants society. The princess of the country invites to manifest their tyrannical humours. A suitors; but she requires of them impossible quarter of a century afterwards, Heywood, conditions which drive them to distraction, after showing that the stage had been the and all because she is already bound in the great political schoolmaster of the people, toils of a degrading connection. Lily still summed up its merits, in the eyes of the continued the argument of his Pandora in Court at least, in the praise that it “had his later plays, Campaspe and Sapho and taught subjects obedience to their king, Phaon, in 1583 and 1584.
Pericles seems shown the people the untimely ends of such to belong to one of the years between 1581 as moved tumults and insurrections, and pre- and 1584.
Even the earliest of these dates sented the flourishing state of the obedient, is not quite incompatible with Shakespeare's thus exhorting men to allegiance, and warn- authorship of the play. According to Auing them from all treason and felony.” The brey, and the tradition of Shakespeare's very construction of English policy in the marriage-feast upon Sir Thomas Lucy's
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