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Period of Shakspeare's Commencement as a Dramatic Poet-Chronological Arrangement of his genuine Plays-Observations on Pericles; on the Comedy of Errors; on Love's Labour's Lost: on Henry the Sixth, Part the First; on Henry the Sixth, Part the Second; and on A Midsummer Night's Dream-Dissertation on the Fairy Mythology, and on the Modifications which it received from the Genius of Shakspeare.

We have, in a former portion of this work (Part II. ch. 1), assigned our reasons for concluding that, on Shakspeare's arrival in London, about the year 1586 or 1587, his immediate employment was that of an actor; and we now proceed to consider the much agitated question as to the era of his first attempts in dramatic poetry. That this was subsequent to the production of his Venus and Adonis, we possess his own authority, when he informs us that the poem just mentioned was "the first heir of his invention;" and though we enjoy no testimony of a like kind, or emanating from a similar source, as to the period of his earliest effort in dramatic literature, yet, if we be correct in referring the composition of his Venus and Adonis to the interval elapsing between the years 1587 and 1590 (Part II. ch. 2), the epoch of his first play cannot, with any probability, be placed either much anterior or subsequent to the year 1590. That it occurred not before this date, may be presumed from recollecting, that, in the first place, the prosecution of his amatory poem and the acquirement of his profession as an actor, might be sufficient to occupy an interval of two years; and, in the second place, that no contemporary previous to 1592, neither Webbe in 1586 in his Discourse on English Poetry, nor Puttenham in 1589, in his Art of English Poesy, nor Harrington in February, 1591, in his Apology for Poetry, has noticed or even alluded to any theatrical production of our author.


That it took place, either in 1590, or very soon after that year, must be inferred both from tradition and from written testimony. Aubrey tells us, the former source, that "he began early to make essays in dramatique poetry, which at that time was very lowe, and his plays took well;" and from the nature and extent of the allusions in the following passage from Robert Greene's "Groatsworth of Witte bought with a Million of Repentance," there can be no doubt that, not only one play, but that several had been written and prepared for the stage by our poet, anterior to September, 1592.

It appears that this tract of Geeene's was completed a very short time previous to his death, which happened on the third of the month of the year just mentioned, and that Henry Chettle, "upon whose perill" it had been entered in the Stationers' register on September the 20th, 1592, became editor and publisher of it before the ensuing December.

Greene had been the intimate associate of Marlowe, Lodge, and Peele, and he concludes his Groatsworth of Witte with an address to these bards, the object of which is, to dissuade them from any further reliance on the stage for support, and to warn them against the ingratitude and selfishness of players: "trust them not;" he exclaims, "for there is an upstart crowe beautified with our feathers, that with his tygres heart wrapt in a player's hide, supposes hee is as well able to bombaste out a blank verse as the best of you; and being an absolute Johannes fac-totum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a countrey."

To Mr. Tyrwhit we are indebted for the first application of this passage to Shakspeare, who, as might naturally be expected, feeling himself hurt at Greene's unmerited sarcasm, clearly pointing to him by the designation of the only Shake-scene in a country, and not well pleased with Chettle's officious



publication of it, expressed his sentiments so openly as to draw forth from the repentant editor, about three months after his edition of the Groatsworth of Witte, an apology, which adds further weight to the inferences which we wish to deduce from the language of Greene. In this interesting little pamphlet which, under the title of Kind Harts Dreame, in an earlier part of the volume (Part II. ch. 1), the author, after slightly nowe have had occasion to quote more at large ticing Marlowe, one of the offended parties, and speaking highly of the demeanour, professional ability, and moral integrity of Shakspeare, closes the sentence and the eulogium by mentioning "his facetious grace of writing, that approves his




From these passages in Greene and Chettle, combined with the traditionary relation of Aubrey, we may legitimately infer, first, that he had written for the stage before the year 1592; secondly, that he had written during this period with considerable success, for Aubrey tells us, that "his plays took well," and Chettle that his grace in writing approved his art," thirdly, that he had written both tragedy and comedy, Greene reporting, that he was "well able to bombast out a blank verse," and Chettle speaking of his "facetious grace in writing;" fourthly, that he had altered and brought on the stage some of the separate or joint productions of Marlowe, Greene, Lodge, and Peele; the words of Greene, where he terms Shakspeare a crowe beautified with our feathers, that with his tygres heart wrapt in a player's hide, supposes," etc. implying, not only that he had furtively acquired fame by appropriating their productions, but referring to a particular play, through the medium of quotation, as a proof of the assertion, the words "tygres heart wrapt in a player's hide" being a parody of a line in the Third Part of King Henry the Sixth or what we, for reasons which will be speedily assigned, have thought proper to call the Second Part,


"O, tiger's heart, wrapp'd in a woman's hide;"


Act i. sc. 4.

fifthly, that he had already excited, as the usual consequence of success, no small degree of jealousy and envy; hence Greene has querulously bestowed upon him the appellation of " upstart," and has taxed him with a monopolising spirit, an accusation which leads us to believe, sixthly, that he had written or prepared for the stage several plays anterior to September, 1592; this last inference, which we conceive to be fairly deduced from the description of our poet as AN ABSOLUTE JOHANNES FAC-TOTUM with regard to the stage, will immediately bring forward again the question as to the precise era of our author's earliest drama.

Now to warrant the charge implied by the expression, "an absolute fac-totum," we must necessarily allow a sufficient lapse of time before September, 1592, in order to admit, not only of Shakspeare's altering a play for the stage, but of his composing either altogether, or in part, both tragedy and comedy on a basis of his own choice, so that he might, as he actually did, appear to Greene, in the capacities of corrector, improver, and original writer of plays, to be a perfect factotum.

And, if we further reflect, that the composition of the "Groatsworth of Witte" most probably, from indisposition, occupied its author one month, as he complains of “weakness scarce suffering him to write" towards the conclusion of his tract, and that we cannot reasonably conclude less than two years to have been employed by Shakspeare in the execution of the functions assigned him by Greene; the period for the production of his first drama will necessary be thrown back to the August of the year 1590; an era to which no objection, from contradictory testimony, can with any show of probability apply; for, though Harrington, whose Apologie for Poetrie" was entered on the Stationers' books in February, 1591, has not noticed Shakspeare, yet, if we consider that this treatise was, in all likelikood, completed previous to the close of 1590, we shall not wonder that a play, performed but three or four months before the critic finished his labours, unap


propriated too, there is reason to think, by the public at that time, and unacknowledged by the author, should be passed over in silence.

Having thus endeavoured to fix the era of our poet's commencement as a dramatic writer, it remains to ascertain which was the first drama that, either wholly or in great part, issued from his pen; a subject, like the former, certainly surrounded with many difficulties, liable to many errors, and only to be illustrated by a patient investigatlon of, and a well-weighed deduction from, minute circumstances and conflicting probabilities.

The reasons which have induced us to fix upon PERICLES, as the result of a laborious, if not a successful, enquiry, will be offered, with much diffidence, under the first article of the following Chronological Arrangement, which, though deviating, in several instances, from the chronologies of both Chalmers and Malone, will not, it is hoped, on that account be found needlessly singular, nor unproductive of a closer approximation to probability, and, perchance, to truth.

For the sake of perspicuity, it has been thought eligible to prefix, in a tabular form, the order which has been adopted, the observations confirmatory of its arrangement being classed according to the series thus drawn out; and here it may benecessary to premise, that the substance of our commentary, with the exception of what may be requisite to establish a few new dates, will be chiefly confined to critical remarks on each play, relieved by intervening dissertations on the superhuman agency of the poet.

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1595. 27. Cymbeline,

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1590. 19. Much Ado About Nothing
1591 20. As You Like It,



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1591. 21. Merry Wives of Windsor,


1592. 22. Troilus and Cressida,


1592. 23. King Henry the Eigth,


1593. 24. Timon of Athens,


1593. 25. Measure for Measure,


1594. 26. King Lear,



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PERICLES, 1590. That the greater part, if not the whole, of this drama,. was the composition of Shakspeare, and that it is to be considered as his earliest dramatic effort, are positions, of which the first has been rendered highly probable by the elaborate disquisitions of Messrs. Steevens and Malone, and may possibly be placed in a still clearer point of view by a more condensed and lucid arrangement of the testimony already produced, and by a further discussion of the merits and peculiarities of the play itself; while the second will, we trust, receive additional support by inferences legitimately deduced from a comprehensive survey of scattered and hitherto insulated premises.

The evidence required for the etablishment of a high degree of probability under the first of these positions necessarily divides itself into two parts; the external and the internal evidence. The former commences with the original edition of Pericles, which was entered on the Stationer's books by Edward Blount, one of the printers of the first folio edition of Shakspeare's plays, on the 20th of May,*

“20 May, 1608.-Edw. Blunt Entered under t'hands of Sir Geo. Bucke, Kt. and Mr. Warden Seton, a book called: The booke of Pericles Prynce of Tyre."

“A booke by the like authoritie, called Anthony and Cleopatra." Chalmers's Supplemental Apology,

1608, but did not pass the press until the subsequent year, when it was published, not, as might have been expected, by Blount, but by one Henry Gosson, who placed Shakspeare's name at full length in the title-page.

It is worthy of remark, also, that this edition was entered at Stationer's Hall together with Antony and Cleopatra, and that it, and the three following editions, which were also in quarto, were styled in the title-page, "the much admired play of Pericles." As the entry, however, was by Blount, and the edition by Gosson, it is probable, as Mr. Malone has remarked, that the former had been anticipated by the latter, through the procurance of a play-house copy. It may also be added, that Pericles was performed at Shakspeare's own theatre, The Globe. The next ascription of this play to our author, is found in a poem entitled "The Times Displayed in Six Sestyads," by S. Sheppard, 4to, 1646, dedicated to Philip Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, and containing, in the ninth stanza of the sixth Sestiad, a positive assertion of Shakspeare's property in this drama :

See him whose tragick sceans Euripides
Doth equal, and with Sophocles we may
Compare great Shakspear; Aristophanes
Never like him his fancy could display,

Witness the Prince of Tyre, HIS Pericles."

This high eulogium on Pericles received a direct contradiction very shortly afterwards from the pen of an obscure poet named Tatham, who bears, however, an equally strong testimony as to Shakspeare being the author of the piece, which he thus presumes to censure :—

"But Shakspeare, the plebeian driller, was

Founder'd in His Pericles, and must not pass." +

To these testimonies in 1646 and 1652, full and unqualified, and made at no distant period from the death of the bard to whom they relate, we have to add the still more forcible and striking declaration of Dryden, who tells us, in 1677, and in words as strong and as decisive as he could select, that

"Shakspeare's own muse, HIS Pericles first bore." +

The only drawback on this accumulation of external evidence is the omission of Pericles in the first edition of our author's works; a negative fact which can have little weight when we recollect, that both the memory and judgment of Heminge and Condell, the poet's editors, were so defective, that they had forgotten Troilus and Cressida, until the entire folio and the table of contents had been printed, and admitted Titus Andronicus, and the Historical Play of King Henry the Sixth, probably for no other reasons, than that the former had been, from its unmerited popularity, brought forward by Shakspeare on his own theatre, though there is sufficient internal evidence to prove, without the addition of a single line; and because the latter, with a similar predilection of the lower orders in its favour, had, on that account, obtained a similar, though not a more laboured attention from our poet, and was therefore deemed by his editors, though very unnecessarily, a requisite introduction to the two plays on the reign of that monarch which Shakspeare had really new-modelled.

It cannot, consequently, be surprising that, as they had forgotten Troilus and Cressida until the folio had been printed, they should have also forgotten Pericles until the same folio had been in circulation, and when it was too late to correct the omission; an error which the second folio has, without doubt or examination, blindly copied.

p. 498, 489. By a somewhat singular mistake, the second of May is mentioned by Mr. Malone, as the date of the entry of Pericles.

The four quarto editions of Pericles are dated 1609, 1619, 1630, and 1635.

Verses by J. Tatham, prefixed to Richard Brome's Jovial Crew or the Merry Beggars, 4to. 1652. Prologue to the tragedie of Circe, by Charles D'Avenant, 1677.

If the external evidence in support of Shakspeare being the author of the greater part of this play be striking, the internal must be pronounced still more so, and, indeed, absolutely decisive of the question; for, whether we consider the style and phraseology, or the imagery, sentiment, and humour, the approximation to our author's uncontested dramas appears so close, frequent, and peculiar, as to stamp irresistible conviction on the mind.

The result has accordingly been such as might have been predicted under the assumption of the play being genuine; for the more it has been examined, the more clearly has Shakspeare's large property in it been established. It is curious, indeed, to note the increased tone of confidence which each successive commentator has assumed in proportion as he has weighed the testimony arising from the piece itself. Rowe, in his first edition, says, "it is owned that some part of Pericles certainly was written by him, particularly the last act;" Dr. Farmer observes that the hand of Shakspeare may be seen in the latter part of the play; Dr. Percy remarks, that "more of the phraseology used in the genuine dramas of Shakspeare prevails in Pericles, than in any of the other six doubted plays," and, of the two rival restorers of this drama, Steevens and Malone, the former declares; "I admit without reserve that Shakspeare,

"whose hopeful colours

Advance a half-fac'd sun, striving to shine,"

is visible in many scenes throughout the play;-the purpurei panni are Shakspeare's, and the rest the productions of some inglorious and forgotten playwright;"adding, in a subsequent paragraph, that Pericles is valuable," as the engravings of Mark Antonio are valuable not only on account of their beauty, but because they are supposed to have been executed under the eye of Raffaelle;" while the latter gives it as his corrected opinion, that "the congenial sentiments, the numerous expressions bearing a striking similitude to passages in his undisputed plays, some of the incidents, the situation of many of the persons, and in various places the colour of the style, all these combine to set the seal of Shakspeare on the play before us, and furnish us with internal and irresistible proofs, that a considerable portion of this piece, as it now appears, was written by him. The greater part of the three last acts may, I think, on this ground be safely aseribed to him; and his hand may be traced occasionally in the other two divisions." Lastly, Mr. Douce asserts, that" many will be of opinion that it contains more that he might have written than either Love's Labour's Lost, or All's Well that Ends Well."

For satisfactory proof that the style, phraseology, and imagery of the greater part of this play are truly Shakspearean, the reader is referred to the commentators, who have noticed, with unwearied accuracy, all the numerous coincidences which, in these respects, occur between Pericles and the poet's subsequent productions; similitudes so striking, as to leave no doubt that they originated from one and the same source.

If we attend, however, a little further to the dramatic construction of Pericles, to its humour, sentiment, and character, not only shall we find additional evidence in favour of its being, in a great degree, the product of our author, but fresh cause, it is expected, for awarding it a higher estimation than it has hitherto obtained.

However wild and extravagant the fable of Pericles may appear, if we consider its numerous chorusses, its pageantry, and dumb shows, its continual succession of incidents, and the great length of time which they occupy, yet is it, we may venture to assert, the most spirited and pleasing specimen of the nature and fabric of our earliest romantic drama which we possess, and the more valuable, as it is the only one with which Shakspeare has favoured us.

"We should therefore welcome this play, an admirable example of the neglected favourites of our ancestors, with something of the same feeling that is experienced in the reception of an old

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