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be unable to discover, without forcing and untruth, that which is the first requisition of art, and without which it must forfeit its pretensions to the title of art.
And here, then, my critical labours terminate. There is no place here for true positive criticism; it cannot artistically reproduce there, where no artistic production originally existed. It is painful to be compelled to close our criticisms on these noble historic dramas with so grave a censure.
But it cannot be helped. Even against the greatest poet, perhaps of any age, we must maintain the truth, that art cannot flatter with impunity—even where, as in the case of Elizabeth, a glorious and successful reign, and general esteem, might urge so fair a plea. I forbear to adduce any more definite reasons for my unfavourable judgment, even because it would hardly grieve me to be shewn to be in error. But until this shall have been done, I shall indulge a belief, that it was Shakspeare's intention to write a second and concluding part to “ Henry the Eighth," but was prevented by external circumstances from accomplishing his design. On the supposition that such a continuation was contemplated, I should not hesitate to place “ Henry the Eighth ” by the side of the best works of this great master of
Or perhaps it was written merely as a court piece, and by express command. This idea occurred to me years ago, from the perusal merely of the fifth act, and has lately grown almost to a conviction upon a better acquaintance with the attempts of Malone, Drake, and Chalmers, to trace the origin and dates of Shakspeare's tragedies. In the first place, all internal marks, whether of style, language, characters, and versification, are in favour of its being assigned to the latter half of Shakspeare's poetic career. Malone and Drake place it in 1601 or 2, on the single ground that the flattery of Elizabeth implies that it was written in her life-time. But with these compliments to Elizabeth the praises of James are interwoven, which again are mixed up with allusions to events of 1606, and even of 1612. Besides, the closing lines, in which Elizabeth's character is drawn, clearly intimate that they were not written until after her death. But lastly—and this is the important point—the play which was acted on the day that the Globe was burnt down is called in the con
temporary letter of Sir H. Wotton, a new piece, and this piece was “ Henry the Eighth,” as clearly appears from the continuation of Stowe's Chronicle, and from Sir Henry's own words. These reasons induced Chalmers even to place the first appearance of this drama in 1613. Malone does not, indeed, deny the weight of this evidence, but he argues on the other hand, that since the laudations of Elizabeth would necessarily have been offensive to James, whose feelings for his predecessor were anything but friendly, it could not have been first written in his reign, and that to appease him, the verses in honour of James were introduced, and that consequently Sir H. Wotton must have been deceived by a new title and a new prologue and epilogue, especially as the title he gives to the piece acted on the day of the fire, is “ All is True," and not “Henry the Eighth.” If Malone's first argument can be shewn to be untenable, there will be little difficulty about the second, since it was much more reasonable to suppose that the change of title had taken place subsequently, or that it originally appeared with a double title, which Wotton had given imperfectly. Now Malone's first argument loses much of its weight if we suppose that the piece was first acted, and probably written, in honour of the nuptials of the Palsgrave Frederic and the Princess Elizabeth in 1613—as, indeed, is not improbable, since it is a wellestablished fact, that during the visit of Palsgrave, several of Shakspeare's pieces were represented before the court, and among others the “ Tempest,” which contains many palpable allusions to the marriage festival. Now on this supposition the praises of Elizabeth may have sounded more tolerable in the King's ears, since the princess in whose honour the festivities were held, was also named Elizabeth, and they might therefore pass for covert compliments to her. This conjecture derives its chief support from an examination of the language and versification of “ Henry the Eighth.” It contains, for instance, as Roderick long ago remarked, almost twice as many verses with a redundant syllable as any other drama of Shakspeare ; the Cesuras also are less uniform and more free and careless - peculiarities which Steveens accounted for by the haste with which Shakspeare borrowed entire scenes from Holinshed's Chronicles, and want of time to give them a regular and harmonious versification. The latter critic has another alter
native by which to explain them, in which indeed Malone concurs, and he refers them to a supposed revision of the whole play by Ben Jonson, with a view to its representation before the court. • But this is a most gratuitous and unsubstantial hypothesis, for in 1613 Shakspeare was without doubt still in London. But other passages also--as, for instance, the obscurely written third and fourth acts, as well as Cranmer's enigmatical and abrupt speech in praise of Elizabeth and James-betoken haste. Now with Shakspeare's practice of continually revising and correcting his earlier pieces, this appearance of haste and carelessness can only be explained by external circumstances. We must therefore assume, either that Shakspeare was hurried by the sudden command of the court to produce a new drama for the nuptial festivities, or probably merely by the event itself, or that he composed the piece in the last years of his life, and consequently had no time either for a careful revision of it, or for the completion of his original design, by the composition of a second part. In either case these faults and defects admit at least of excuse.
OF CERTAIN PLAYS ASCRIBED TO SHAKSPEARE, THE GENUINENESS OF WHICH IS QUESTIONED.
The reasons on which English critics, from Theobald and Johnson down to Drake and Collier, almost unanimously reject as spurious many old dramas, which in addition to those admitted in the first collective edition (Folio 1623), have been ascribed to dur great poet, are drawn principally from the assumption that Shakspeare did not come before the public as an original writer prior to 1591-3, and that up to this date he had chiefly employed himself with altering and improving the productions of others. So far as this hypothesis is grounded on external evidence it certainly deserves a strict examination. The reasons of his predecessors in support of this view have been collected by Malone, who has also sifted and enlarged them, and it is on the result of his labours that his successors have for the most part rested. Malone, however, contradicts himself, for in his chronological arrangement of Shakspeare's plays (Reed, ii. 230) he places the three parts of
· Henry the Sixth,” “The Comedy of Errors,” and “ The Two Gentlemen of Verona," between 1589 and 92, and nevertheless declares it to be his conviction that Shakspeare did not begin to write for the stage before 1591. For, he argues, Shakspeare's reputation as a dramatist must have been very low indeed in 1591, since he is neither alluded to in Sir P. Sidney's “ Apology for Poetry,” (printed 1595), nor mentioned in Webbe's “Discourse of English Poetry,” (1586), or Puttenham's “ Art of English Poetry, (1589), or lastly, in J. Harrington's "Apology for Poetry (1591). But, as Collier justly remarks, the marvel would be, if Sidney, who fell at Zutphen in 1584—the very year in which Malone places Shakspeare's arrival in London—had spoken of our poet in his “ Apology,” which must have been written before 1584; and equally impossible was it for Webbe to speak of him, when his work appeared in 1586. Drake, too, is equally inconsistent, for after adopting (ii. 256) Malone's reasons without further inquiry, he nevertheless in another place (i. 465,) conjectures that Puttenham's work was written a considerable period before it was printed. And so, of all Malone's authorities, Harrington alone remains. He, however, designed his “ Apology” merely as an introduction to his translation of "Ariosto's Orlando Furioso," and consequently can hardly be supposed to have had it in view to notice every dramatist who at the time he was writing (1590) was known to fame.
Collier, (ii. 481) it is true, admits the insufficiency of all Malone's arguments. He even allows that an argument resting on the silence of contemporaries amounts at best to little ; since in the “Return from Parnassus," written in 1602, and printed in 1606, Marston, Marlowe, Ben Jonson, and other dramatists, are mentioned; whilst Shakspeare is approvingly noticed only for his “Venus and Adonis," and the “Rape of Lucrece,” coupled with the regret that he had not essayed a graver subject. In short, if we knew nothing more of Shakspeare, no one would have guessed that he was, at the very time these verses were written, the author of “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet,” “Richard the Second, and Third.” And yet Collier agrees with Malone in the conclusion he comes to. Indeed, he even goes further, and maintains that Shakspeare had in 1591 commenced writer for the stage, by the improvement and alteration of the works of earlier dramatists, but that he did not produce any original piece of his own until 1593. By this supposition, he thinks the difficulty involved in the dedication of the “Venus and Adonis," where he calls that poem “ the first heir of his invention,” may be reconciled, if not entirely removed. For he says, it might have been the first heir of his invention in two ways; either because it was actually the first poem he ever wrote, and which had been for some years in manuscript, and because the plays upon which he had been engaged up to 1593 were not of his invention, but the invention of preceding contemporary poets, on which he had been employed only in making additions. This supposition is, he says, further strengthened by the words of Robert Greene, in his “Groatsworth of Wit,” in which he designates Shakspeare as a plagiary "beautified with our feathers.” With this passage Collier also connects another from Chettle’s “Kind Heart's Dream,” (which immediately followed the publication of the “Groatsworth of Wit),” where Greene is thus mentioned : “He was of singular pleasance, the very supporter, and to no man's disgrace be this intended, the only comedian of a vulgar writer in this country." In this passage Greene is placed above all his contemporaries; and we may conclude therefore, that at the end of 1592, (old style) and beginning of 1593, Shakspeare had not attained renown as a dramatic writer; or at any rate, that in the judgment of Chettle, and apparently also in that of the public, came far short of Greene. For Chettle's words, “the only comedian of a vulgar writer," do not mean that Greene was an applauded actor, but that he was a comic play-writer of the highest popularity. Lastly, Collier observes, that in the petition presented to the Privy Council by the Lord Chamberlain's servants in 1596, Shakspeare's name stands fifth, only preceding Kempe, Sly, and Tooley, which serves to shew that even then his station as an author and an actor was not by any means prominent.
These arguments of Collier, though the strongest that have been advanced, appear when closely examined not less untenable than those of Malone, Drake, and others. For the difficulty vanishes from the words of Shakspeare in his dedication of the “ Venus and Adonis," when we remember--what Collier himself elsewhere