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The popularity of Shakespeare's “Richard the Third” must have been great, judging only from the various quarto editions which preceded the publication of it in the folio of 1623. It originally came out in 1597, without the name of the author : it was reprinted in 1598, with “by William Shake-speare” on the title-page, and again in 16022, all three impressions having been made for the same bookseller, Andrew Wise. On the 27th June, 1603, it was assigned to Mathew Lawe, as appears by an entry in the Stationers' Registers ; accordingly, he published the fourth edition of it with the date of 1605 : the fifth edition was printed for the same bookseller in 16132. This seems to have been the last time it came out in quarto, anterior to its appearance in the first folio3; but after that date, three other quarto impressions are known, viz. in 1624, 1629, and 1634, and it is remarkable that these were all meré reprints of the earlier quartos, not one of them including any of the passages which the player-editors of the folio first inserted in their volume. This fact might show that the publishers of the later quartos did not know that there were any material variations between the earlier quartos and the folio, that they did not think them of importance, or that the projectors of the folio were considered to have some species of copyright in the additions. These additions, extending in one instance to more than fifty lines, are pointed out in our notes. It will also be found that more than one speech in
1 By the title-pages of the four earliest editions on the opposite leaf, it will be seen, that it was professed by Andrew Wise, that the play in 1602, had been “newly augmented," although it was in fact only a reprint of the previous impressions of 1597 and 1598, for the same bookseller. It is possible that the augmentations observable in the folio of 1623 were made shortly before 1602, and that Wise wished it to be thought, that his edition of that year contained them. The quarto reprints, subsequent to that of 1602, all purport to have been newly augmented."
Malone gives the date 1612, and in his copy at Oxford the last figure is blurred. The title-page in no respect differs from that of 1605, excepting that the play is said to have been "acted by the King's Majesty's servants.” They were not so called, until after May, 1603.
3 An impression in 1622 is mentioned in some lists, but the existence of a copy of that date is doubtful.
the folio is unintelligible without aid from the quartos; and for some other characteristic omissions, particularly for one in Act iv. sc. 2, it is not possible to account.
With respect to the additions in the folio of 1623, we have no means of ascertaining whether they formed part of the original play. Stevens was of opinion that the quarto, 1597, contained a better text than the folio: such is not our opinion; for though the quarto sets right several doubtful matters, it is not well printed, even for a production of that day, and bears marks of having been brought out in haste, and from an imperfect manuscript. The copy of the “history” in the folio of 1623 was in some places a reprint of the quarto, 1602, as several obvious errors of the press are repeated, right for “fight,” helps for “helms," &c. For the additions, a manuscript was no doubt employed ; and the variations in some scenes, particularly near the middle of the play, are so numerous, and the corrections so frequent, that it is probable a transcript belonging to the theatre was there consulted. Our text is that of the folio, with due notice of all the chief variations.
The earliest entry in the Stationers Registers relating to Shakespeare's “Richard the Third,” is in these terms :
“ 20 Oct. 1597
with the death of the Duke of Clarence." This memorandum, probably, immediately preceded the publication of the quarto, 1597. The only other entry relating to “Richard the Third " we have already mentioned, and the exact words of it may be seen in a note to our Introduction to “ Richard the Second."
It is certain that there was a historical drama upon some of the events of the reign of Richard III. anterior to that of Shakespeare. T. Warton quoted Sir John Harington's
Apologie for Poetry," prefixed to his translation of Ariosto in 1591, respecting a tragedy of “Richard the Third,” acted at St. John's, Cambridge, which would “have moved Phalaris, the tyrant, and terrified all tyrannous-minded men;" and 'Steevens adduced Heywood's * Apology for Actors," 1612, to the saine effect, without apparently being aware that Heywood was professedly only repeating the words of Harington. Both those authors, however, referred to a Latin drama on the story of Richard III., written by Dr. Legge, and acted at Cambridge before 1583. Steevens followed up his quotation from Heywood by the copy of an entry in the Stationers' Registers, dated June 19, 1594, relating to an English play on the same subject. When Steevens wrote, and for many years afterwards, it was not known that such a drama had ever been printed ; but in 1821 Boswell reprinted a large fragment of it (with many errors) from a copy want
4 Stevens calls it "The Actors' Vindication," as indeed it was entitled when it was republished (with alterations and insert by Cartwright the Comedian, without date, but during the Civil Wars. See the reprint of this tract by the Shakespeare Society, the text being taken from the first impression.
ing the commencement. A perfect copy of this very rare play is in the collection of the Duke of Devonshire, and from it we transcribe the following title-page :
“The true Tragedie of Richard the third : Wherein is showne the death of Edward the fourth, with the smothering of the two yoong Princes in the Tower: With a lamentable ende of Shore's wife, an example for all wicked women. And lastly, the coniunction and ioyning of the two noble Houses, Lancaster and Yorke. As it was playd by the Queenes Maiesties Players. London Printed by Thoinas Creede, and are to be sold by William Barley, at his shop in Newgate Market, neare Christ Church doore. 1594.”
This title-page so nearly corresponds with the entry in the Stationers' Registers", as to leave no doubt that the latter roferred to the former. The piece itself, as a literary composition, deserves little remark, but as a drama it possesses several peculiar features. It is in some respects unlike any relic of the kind, and was evidently written several years before it came from Creede's press. It opens with a singular dialogue between Truth and Poetry :
" Poetrie. Truth, well met.
" Truth. Then, will I adde bodies to the shadowes.
“ Poet. Why, will Truth be a Player ?
" Truth. No; but Tragedia like for to present A Tragedie in England done but late, That will revive the hearts of drooping mindes.
“ Poet. Whereof?
“ Truth. Marry, thus." Hence Truth proceeds with a sort of argument of the play; but before the Induction begins, the ghost of George,
Duke of Clarence, had passed over the stage, delivering two lines as he went, which we give precisely as in the original copy now before us :
“ Cresse cruor sanguinis, satietur sanguine cresse,
Quod spero scitio. O scitio, scitio, vendicta !" The drama itself afterwards opens with a scene representing the death of Edward IV., and the whole story is thenceforward most inartificially and clumsily conducted, with a total disregard of dates, facts, and places, by characters imperfectly drawn and ill sustained. 'Shore's wife plays a con8picnous part; and the tragedy does not finish with the battle of Bosworth Field, but is carried on subsequently, although the plot is clearly at an end. The conclusion is quite as remarkable as the commencement. After the death
5 It is as follows, being rather unusually particular :Tho. Creede) An Enterlude entitled the Tragedie of Richard
the Third, wherein is showen the Death of Edward the Fourthe, with the Smotheringe of the twoo Princes in the Tower, with a lamentable End of Shores wife, and the conjunction of the twoo Houses of Lancaster and York.
of Richard, Report (a personification like some of those in the old Moralities) enters, and holds a dialogue with a Page, to inform the audience of certain matters not exhibited; and after a long scene between Richmond, the Queen mother, Princess Elizabeth, &c., two Messengers enter, and, mixing with the personages of the play, detail the succession of events and of monarchs from the death of Richard until the accession of Elizabeth. The Queen mother then comes forward, and pronounces an elaborate panegyric upon Elizabeth, ending with these lines :
“For which, if ere her life be taen away,
Your hope is gone, on whom did peace depend." As in this sort of epilogue no allusion is made to the Spanish Armada, though other public events of less prominence are touched upon, we may perhaps infer that the drama was written before the year 1588.
The style in which it is composed also deserves observation : it is partly in prose, partly in heavy blank-verse, (such as was penned before Marlowe had introduced his improvements, and Shakespeare had adopted and advanced them) partly in ten-syllable rhyming couplets, and stanzas, and partly in the long fourteen-syllable metre, which seems to have been popular even before prose was employed upon our stage. In every point of view it may be asserted, that few more curious dramatic relics exist in our language. It is perhaps the most ancient printed specimen of composition for a public theatre, of which the subject was derived from English history.
Boswell asserts that “The True Tragedy of Richard the Third” had “evidently been used and read by Shakespeare," but we cannot trace any resemblances, but such as were probably purely accidental, and are merely trivial. Two persons could hardly take up the same period of our anrals, as the ground-work of a drama, without some coincidences; but there is no point, either in the conduct of the plot or in the language in which it is clothed, where our great dramatist does not show his measureless superiority. The portion of the story in which the two plays make the nearest approach to each other, is just before the murder of the princes, where Richard strangely takes a page into his confidence respecting the fittest agent for the purpose.
It is not to be concluded, because the title-page of "The True Tragedy of Richard the Third” expresses that it was acted “by the Queen's Majesty's Players,” that it was the association to which Shakespeare belonged, and which became “the King's Players after James I. ascended the throne. In 1583, the Queen selected a company from the theatrical servants of several of her nobility ; (Hist. of Engl. Dram. Poetry and the Stage, vol. i. 254;) and in 1590 there were two companies, called “her Majesty's Players,” one under the management of Laneham, and the other of Lau
rence Dutton. By one of these companies “The True Tragedy of Richard the Third” must have been performed. Until the death of Elizabeth, the association to which Shakespeare was attached was usually called “the Lord Chamberlain's Servants."
In the “Memoirs of Edward Alleyn," p. 121, it is shown that Henslowe's company, subsequent to 1599, was either in possession of a play upon the story of Richard III., or that some of the poets he employed were engaged upon such a drama. From the sketch of five scenes, there inserted,
we may judge that it was a distinct performance from “ The True Tragedy of Richard the Third.” By an entry in Henslowe's Diary, dated 22d June, 1602, we learn that Ben Jonson received 101. in earnest of a play called “Richard Crookback," and for certain additions he was to make to Kyd's Spanish Tragedy. Considering the success of Shakespeare's "Richard the Third," and the active contention, at certain periods, between the company to which Shakespeare belonged, and that under the management of Henslowe, it may be looked upon as singular, that the latter should have been without a drama on that portion of English history until after 1599; and it is certainly not less singular, that as late as 1602 Ben Jonson should have been occupied in writing a new play upon the subject. Possibly, about that date Shakespeare's " Richard the Third " had been revived with the additions; and hence the employment of Jonson on a rival drama, and the publication of the third edition of Shakespeare's tragedy after an interval of four years.
Malone was of opinion that Shakespeare wrote “Richard the Third” in 1593, but did not adduce a particle of evidence, and none in fact exists. We should be disposed to place it somewhat nearer the time of publication.
6 This new fact in the history of our early drama and theatres, we owe to Mr. Peter Cunningham, who establishes it beyond contradiction, in his interesting and important volume of "Extracts from the Accounts of the Revels at Court,” printed for the Shakespeare Society. Introd. p. xxxii.