Page images
PDF
EPUB

66

With respect to himself, it does not appear that he printed any one of his plays, and only eleven of them were printed in his lifetime. The reason assigned for this is, that he wrote them for a particular theatre, sold them to the managers when only an actor, reserved them in manuscript when himself a manager, and when he disposed of his property in the theatre, they were still preserved in manuscript to prevent their being acted by the rival houses. Copies of some of them appear to have been surreptitiously obtained, and published in a very incorrect state; but we may suppose, that it was wiser in the author or managers to overlook this fraud, than publish a correct edition, and so destroy the exclusive property they enjoyed. It is clear, therefore, that any publication of his plays by himself would have interfered, at first with his own interest, and afterwards with the interest of those to whom he had made over his share in them. But even had this obstacle been removed, we are not sure that he would have gained much by publication. If he had no other copies but those belonging to the theatre, the business of correction for the press must have been a toil which we are afraid the taste of the public at that time would have poorly rewarded. We know not the exact portion of fame he enjoyed: it was probably the highest which dramatic genius could confer; but dramatic genius was a new excellence, and not well understood. His claims were probably not heard out of the jurisdiction of the master of the revels, certainly not beyond the metropolis. Yet such was Shakspeare's reputation, that we are told his name was put to pieces which he never wrote, and that he felt himself too confident in popular favor to undeceive the public. This was singular resolution in a man who wrote so unequally, that at this day, the test of internal evidence must be applied to his doubtful productions with the greatest caution. But still how far his character would have been elevated by an examination of his plays in the closet, in an age when the refinements of criticism were not understood, and the sympathies of taste were seldom felt, may admit of a question. His language," says Dr. Johnson, “not being designed for the reader's desk, was all that he desired it to be if it conveyed his meaning to tho audience.

Shakspeare died in 1616; and seven years afterwards appeared the first edition of his plays, published at the charges of four booksellers,—a circumstance from which Mr. Malone infers, " that no single publisher was at that time willing to risk his money on a complete collection of our author's plays." This edition was printed from the copies in the hands of his fellow-managers, Heminge and Condell, which had been in a series of years frequently altered through convenience, caprice, or ignorance. Heminge and Condell had now retired from the stage; and, we may suppose, were guilty of no injury to their successors, in printing what their own interest only had formerly withheld. Of this, although we have no documents amounting to demonstration, we may be convinced, by adverting to a circum. stance, which will, in our days, appear very extraordinary, namely, the declension of Shakspeare's popularity. We have seen that the publication of his works was accounted a doubtful speculation; and it is yet more certain, that so much had the public taste turned from him in quest of variety, that for several years after his death the plays of Fletcher were more frequently acted than his, and during the whole of the seventeenth century, they were made to give place to performances, the greater part of which cannot now be endured. During the same period, only four editions of his works were published, all in folio; and perhaps this unwieldy size of volume may be an additional proof that they were not popular; nor is it thought that the impressions were numerous.

These circumstances which attach to our author and to his works, must be allowed a plausible weight in accounting for our deficiencies in his biography and literary career; but there were circumstances enough in the history of the times to suspend the progress of that more regular drama of which he had set the example, and may be considered as the founder. If we wonder why we know so inuch less of Shakspeare than of his contemporaries, let us recollect that his genius, however highly and justly we now rate it, took a direction which was not calculated for permanent admiration, either in the age in which he lived, or in that which followed. Shakspeare was a writer of plays, a promoter of an amusement just emerging from barbarism; and an amusement which, although it has been classed among the schools of morality, has ever had such a strong tendency to deviate from moral purposes, that the force of law has, in all ages, been called in to preserve it within the bounds of cominon decency. The Church has ever been unfriendly to the stage. A part of the injunctions of Queen Elizabeth is particularly directed against the printing of plays; and, according to an entry in the books of the Stationers' Company, in the forty-first year of her reign, it is ordered, that no plays be printed, except allowed by persons in authority. Dr. Farmer also remarks, that in that age, poetry and novels were destroyed publicly by the bishops, and privately by the puritans. The main transactions, indeed, of that period, could not admit of much attention to matters of amusement. The Reformation required all the circumspection and policy of a long reign to render it so firmly established in popular favor as to brave the caprice of any succeeding sovereign. This was effected, in a great measure, by the diffusion of religious controversy, which was encouraged by the Church, and especially by the puritans, who were the immediate teachers of the lower classes, were listened to with veneration, and usually inveighed against all public amusements, as inconsistent with the Christian profession. These controversies continued during the reign of James I, and were, in a considerable degree, promoted by him, although he, like Elizabeth, was a favorer of the stage, as an appendage to the grandeur and pleasures of the Court. But the commotions which followed in the unhappy reign of Charles I, when the stage was totally abolished, are sufficient to account for the oblivion thrown on the history and works of our great baru. From this time, no inquiry was made, until it was too late to obtain any information more satisfactory, than the few hearsay scraps and contested traditions above detailed. ** How little," says Mr. Steevens, “ Shakspeare was once read, may be understood from Tate, who, in his dedication to the altered play of King Lear, speaks of the original as an obscure piece, recommended to his notice by a friend; and the author of the Tatler having occasion to quote a few lines out of Macbeth, was content to receive them from D'Avenant's alteration of that celebrated drama, in which almost every original beauty is either awkwardly disguised, or arbitrarily omitted.”

. Mr. Steevens's Advertisement to the Reader, first printed in 1773.

In fifty years after his death, Dryden mentions that he was then become “a little obsolete.” In the beginning of the last century, Lord Shaftesbury complains of his “ rude unpolished style, and his antiquated phrase and wit.” It is certain, that for nearly a hundred years after his death, partly owing to the immediate revolution and rebellion, and partly to the licentious taste encouraged in Charles II's time, and perhaps partly to the incorrect state of his works, he was almost entirely neglected. Mr. Malone bas justly remarked, “that if he had been read, admired, studied, and imitated, in the same degree as he is now, the enthusiasm of some one or other of his admirers in the last age would have induced him to make some inquiries concerning the history of his theatrical career, and the anecdotes of his private life.".

His admirers, however, if he had admirers in that age, possessed no portion of such enthusiasm. That curiosity, which in our days has raised biography to the rank of an independent study, was scarcely known, and where known, confined principally to the public transactions of eminent characters. And if, in addition to the circumstances already stated, we consider how little is known of the personal history of Shakspeare's contemporaries, we may easily resolve the question, why, of all men that have ever claimed admiration by genius, wisdom, or valor, who have eminently contributed to enlarge the taste, promote the happiness, or increase the reputation of their country, we know the least of Shakspeare: and why, of the few particulars which seem entitled to credit, when simply related, and in which there is no manifest violation of probability, or promise of importance, there is scarcely one which has not swelled into a controversy. After a careful examination of all that modern research has discovered, we know not how to trust our curiosity beyond the limits of those barren dates which afford no personal history. The nature of Shakspeare's writings prevents that appeal to internal evidence, which in other cases has been found to throw light on character. The purity of his morals, for example, if sought in his plays, must be measured against the licentiousness of his language, and the question will then be, how much did he write from conviction, and how much to gratify the taste of his hearers? How much did he add to the age, and how much did he borrow from it? Pope says, “he was obliged to please the lowest of the people, and to keep the worst of company;" and Pope might have said more: for although we hope it was not true, we have no means of proving that it was false.

The only life which has been prefixed to all the editions of Shakspeare of the eighteenth century, is that drawn up by Mr. Rowe, and which he modestly calls, “Some Account,” &c. In this we have what Rowe could collect when every legitimate source of information was closed, a few traditions that were floating nearly a century after the author's death. Some inaccuracies in his account have been detected in the valuable notes of Mr. Steevens and Mr. Malone, who, in other parts of their respective editions, have scattered a few brief notices which we have incorporated in the present sketch. The whole, however, is unsatisfactory. Shakspeare, in his private character, in his friendships, in his amusements, in his closet, in his family, is no where before us; and such was the nature of the writings on which his fame depends, and of that employment in which he was engaged, that being in no important respect connected with the history of his age, it is in vain to look into the latter for any information concerning him.

Mr. Capell is of opinion, that he wrote some prose works, because “it can hardly be supposed that he, who had so considerable a share in the confidence of the Earls of Essex and Southampton, could be a mute spectator only of controversies in which they were so much interested." This editor, however, appears to have taken for granted, a degree of confidence with these two statesmen, which he ought first to have proved. Shakspeare might have enjoyed the confidence of their social hours; but it is mere conjecture that they admitted him into the confidence of their state affairs. Mr. Malone, whose opinions are entitled to a higher degree of credit, thinks that his prose compositions, if they should be discovered, would exbibit the same perspicuity, the same cadence, the same elegance and vigor, which we find in his plays. It is unfortunate, however, for all wishes and all conjectures, that not a line of Shakspeare's manuscript is known to exist, and his prose writings are no where hinted at. We have only printed copies of his plays and poems, and those so depraved by carelessness or ignorance, that all the labor of all his commentators has not yet been able to restore them to a probable purity. Many of the greatest difficulties attending the perusal of them, yet remain, and will require, what it is scarcely possible to expect, greater sagacity and more happy conjecture than have hitherto been employed.

Of his Poems, it is perhaps necessary, that some notice should be taken, although they have never been favorites with the public, and have seldom been reprinted with his plays. Shortly after his death, Mr. Malone informs us, a very incorrect impression of them was issued out, which in every subsequent edition was implicitly followed, until he published a corrected edition in 1780 with illustrations, &c. But the peremptory decision of Mr. Steevens on the merits of these poems must be our apology for omitting them in the present abridgement of that critic's labors. “We have not reprinted the Sonnets, &c., of Shakspeare, because the strongest act of Parliament that could be framed would fail to compel readers into their service. Had Shakspeare produced no other works than these, his name would have reached us with as little celebrity as time has conferred on that of Thomas Watson, an older and much more elegant sonnetteer.”

The elegant preface of Dr. Johnson gives an account of the attempts made in the early part of the last century to revive the memory and reputation of our poet, by Rowe, Pope, Theobald, Hanmer, and Warburton, whose respective merits he has characterized with candor, and with singular felicity of expression. Shakspeare's works may be overloaded with criticism, for what writer has excited so much curiosity, and so many opinions? but Johnson's preface is an accompaniment worthy of the genius it celebrates. His own edition followed in 1765; and a second, in conjunction with Mr. Steevens, in 1773. The third edition of the joint editors appeared in 1785, the fourth in 1793, and the last and most complete, in 1803, in twenty-one volumes octavo. Mr. Malone's edition was published in 1790, in ten volumes, crown octavo, and is now become exceedingly scarce. His original notes and improve

•Mr. Malone's Preface to his edition, 1790.

ments, however, are incorporated in the editions of 1793 and 1803, by Mr. Steevens. Mr. Malone says, that “from the year 1716 to the date of his edition in 1790,--that is, in seventy-four years, above 30,000 copies of Shakspeare have been dispersed through England." Among the honors paid to his genius, we ought not to forget the very magnificent edition undertaken by Messrs. Boydell. Still less ought it to be forgotten how much the reputation of Shakspeare was revived by the unrivalled ex. cellence of Garrick's performance. His share in directing the public taste towards the study of Shakspeare was, perhaps, greater than that of any individual in his time, and such was his zeal, and such his success, in this laudable attempt, that he may readily be forgiven the foolish mummery of the Stratford Jubilee.

When public opinion had begun to assign to Shakspeare the very high rank he was destined to hold, he became the promising object of fraud and imposture. This, we have already observed, he did not wholly escape in his own time, and he had the spirit or policy to despise it.' It was reserved for modern impostors, however, to avail themselves of the obscurity in which his history is involved. In 1751, a book was published, entitled, “ A Compendious or briefe examination of certayne ordinary Complaints of diuers of our Countrymen in those our days: which, although they are in some Parte unjust and frivolous, yet are they all by way of dialogue thoroughly debated and discussed by William Shakespeare, Gentleman.” This had been originally published in 1581; but Dr. Farmer has clearly proved that W. S., gent., the only authority for attributing it to Shakspeare in the reprinted edition, meant William Stafford, gent. Theobald, the same accurate critic informs us, was desirous of palming upon the world a play called “ Double Falsehood,” for a posthumous one of Shakspeare. In 1770, was reprinted at Feversham, an old play called “The Tragedy of Arden of Feversham and Black Will," with a preface attributing it to Shakspeare, without the smallest foundation. But these were trifles compared to the atrocious attempt made in 1795–6, when, besides a vast mass of prose and verse, letters, &c., pretendedly in the handwriting of Shakspeare and his correspondents, an entire play, entitled Vortigern, was not only brought forward for the astonishment of the admirers of Shakspeare, but actually performed on Drury Lane stage. It would be unnecessary to ex patiate on the merits of this play, which Mr. Steevens has very happily characterized as “the performance of a madman without a lucid interval," or to enter more at large into the nature of a fraud so recent, and so soon acknowledged by the authors of it. It produced, however, an interesting controversy between Mr. Malone and Mr. George Chalmers, which, although mixed with some unpleasant asperities, was extended to inquiries into the history and antiquities of the stage, from which future critics and historians may derive considerable information.

Mr. Malone has given a list of fourteen plays ascribed to Shakspeare, either by the editors of the two later folios, or by the co lers of ancient catalogues. Of these Pericles has found advocates for its admission into his works.

CONTENTS.

SKETCE OF THE LIFE OF SHAXSPEARE, Page üii Henry IV-Part Second,
TEMPEST,

I HENRY V,
Two GENTLEMEN op Verona,

21 HENRY VÍ-Part First, MERRY WIVES OF Windsor,

40

-Part Second, Twelftu Night,

64

-Part THIRD, MEASURE FOR MEASURE,

85 RICHARD III, MUCH ADO ABOUT Nothing,

109 HENRY VIII, MISUMMER's Nugur's DREAM,

131 TROLUS and CRESSIDA, Love's Labor's Lost,

149 TIMON OF ATHENS, MERCHANT OF VENICE,

173 CORIOLANUS, As You Like It,

195 Julius Cæsar, All's Well tua'r Ends Well,

218 ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, TAMING OF THE SHREW,

243 CYMBELINE, Winter's Tale,

266 Titus ANDRONICUS, COMEDY OF Errors,

293 PERICLES, MACBETH,

309 King LEAR, King Joux, .

330 ROMEO AND JULIET, Richard II,

352 | HAMLET, Henry IV-Part First,

376 OTHELLO,

401 429 457 481 509 536 568 596 626 648 679 701 731 762 784 805 835 862 896

.

[ocr errors]

TEMPEST.

PERSONS REPRESENTED.

Aloxso, King of Naples.

MIRANDA, Daughter to Prospero.
Sebastian, his brother.
PROSPERO, the rightful Duke of Milan. Ariel, an airy Spirit.
Antonio, his brother, the usurping Duke of Milan. Inis,
FERDINAND, son to the king of Naples.

CERES,
Goszalo, an honest old Counsellor of Naples. JUNO, Spirits.
ADRIAN,

Nymphs,

Reapers,
Caliban, a savage and deformed Slave.
Trixculo, a Jester.
STEPHANO, a drunken Butler.

Other Spirits attending on Prospero. Master of a Ship, Boatswain, and Mariners.

Francisco

, } Lords.

ACT I.

SCENE I.-On a Ship at Sea. You are a counsellor; if you can command these

elements to silence, and work the peace of the A Storm with thunder and lightning.

present,' we will not hand a rope more; use your Enter a Ship-master and a Boatswain.

authority. If you cannot, give thanks you have

lived so long, and make yourself ready in your Master. Boatswain,

cabin for the mischance of the hour, if it so hap:Bouts. Here, master: what cheer?

Cheerly, good hearts.-Out of our way, I say. Master. Good: Speak to the mariners: fall to't

[Erit. yarely', or we run ourselves aground: bestir, bestir. Gon. I have great comfort from this fellow;

[Exit. methinks he hath no drowning mark upon him: Enter Mariners.

his complexion is perfect gallows. Stand fast, good

fate, to his hanging! make the rope of his destiny Boats. Heigh, my hearts; cheerly, cheerly, my our cable, for our own doth little advantage! If he hearts; yare, yare : Take in the top-sail; Tend to be not born to be hanged, our case is miserable. the master's whistle. — Blow till thou burst thy

[Exeunt. wind, if room enough!

Re-enter Boatswain.
Enter Alonso, SEBASTIAN, Antonio, Ferdi-
NAND), Gonzalo, and others.

Boats. Down with the top-mast; yare; lower,

lower; bring her to try with main course. [A cry Alon. Good boatswain, have care. Where's the within.] A plague upon this howling! they are master? Play the men.

louder than the weather, or our office. Boats. I pray now, keep below. Ant. Where is the master, boatswain?

Re-enter SEBASTIAN, Antonio, and Gonzalo. Boats. Do you not hear him? You mar our labor! keep your cabins: you do assist the storm. Yet again? what do you here? Shall we give o'er Gon. Nay, good, be patient.

and drown? Have you a mind to sink? Boats. When the sea is. Hence!

What care

Seb. A pox o' your throat! you bawling, blasthese roarers for the name of king? To cabins: phemous, uncharitable dog! silence: trouble us not.

Boats. Work you, then. Gom. Good; yet remember whom thou hast Ant. Hang, cur, hang! you whoreson, insolent aboard.

noise-maker, we are less afraid to be drowned than Boats. None that I more love than myself.- thou art.

1 Readily.

. Present instant.

PERO.

Gon. I'll warrant him from drowning; though | Which thou heard'st cry, which thou saw st sink. the ship were no stronger than a nut-shell, and as

Sit down; leaky as an unstaunched' wench.

For thou must now know further. Boats. Lay her a-hold, a-hold; set her two Mira.

You have often courses; off to sea again, lay her off.

Begun to tell me what I am; but stopp'd

And left me to a bootless inquisition;
Enter Mariners, wet.

Concluding, Stay, not yet.
Mar. All lost! to prayers, to prayers! all lost! Pro.

The hour's now come; [Exeunt. The very minute bids thee ope thine ear; Boats. What, must our mouths be cold?

Obey, and be attentive. Canst thou remember Gon. The king and prince at prayers! let us A time before we came unto this cell? assist them,

I do not think thou canst; for then thou wast not For our case is as theirs.

Out' three years old. Seb. I am out of patience.

Mira.

Certainly, sir, I can. Ant. We are merely: cheated of our lives by

Pro. By what? by any other house, or person? drunkards.

Of any thing the image tell me, that This wide-chapped rascal;—'Would thou mightst Hath kept with thy remembrance. lie drowning

Mira.

'Tis far off; The washing of ten tides!

And rather like a dream than an assurance
Gon.

He'll be hanged yet; That my remembrance warrants: had I not
Though every drop of water swear against it, Four or five women once, that tended me?
And
gape at wid'st to glut him.

Pro. Thou hadst, and more, Miranda: but how [A confused noise within.] Mercy on us!-We

is it, split, we split! Farewell, my wife and children !

That this lives in thy mind? What seest thou else Farewell, brother!—We split, we split, we split. In the dark backward and abysm of time?

Ant. Let's all sink with the king. [Exit. If thou remember'st aught, ere thou cam’st here, Seb. Let's take leave of him.

[Exit.

How thou cam'st here, thou may'st. Gon. Now would I give a thousand furlongs of Mira.

But that I do not. sea for an acre of barren ground; long heath, brown Pro. Twelve years since, furze, any thing: the wills above be done! but I Miranda, twelve years since, thy father was would fain die a dry death.

[Exit. The duke of Milan, and a prince of power. SCENE II.—The island: before the cell of Pros

Mira. Sir, are not you my father?
Enter PROSPERO and MIRANDA.

Pro. Thy mother was a piece of virtue, and

She said—thou wast my daughter; and thy father Mir. If by your art, my dearest father, you have Was duke of Milan; and his only heir Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them: A princess ;-no worse issued. The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch, Mira.

0, the heavens! But that the sea, mounting to the welkin's cheek, What foul play had we, that we came from thence? Dashes the fire out. O, I have suffer'd

Or blessed was't we did? With those that I saw suffer! a brave vessel,

Pro.

Both, both, my girl. Who had no doubt some noble creatures in her, By foul play, as thou say'st, were we heav'd thence; Dash'd all to pieces. O, the cry did knock But blessedly holp hither. Against my very heart! Poor souls! they perish'a. Mira,

O, my heart bleeds Had I been any god of power, I would

To think o' the teen that I have turn'd you to, Have sunk the sea within the earth, or e'er Which is from my remembrance! Please you furIt should the good ship so have swallow'd, and

ther. The freighting souls within her.

Pro. My brother, and thy uncle, call’d Antonio,Pro.

Be collected; I pray thee, mark me,—that a brother should No more amazement: tell your piteous heart, Be so perfidious !-he whom, next thyself, There's no harm done.

Of all the world I lov’d, and to him put Mira. 0, wo the day!

The manage of my state; as, at that time, Pro.

No harm. Through all the signiories it was the first, I have done nothing but in care of thee,

And Prospero the prime duke; being so reputed (Of thee, my dear one! thee my daughter !) who In dignity, and, for the liberal arts, Art ignorant of what thou art, nought knowing Without a parallel; those being all my study, Of whence I am; nor that I am more better The government I cast upon my brother, Then Prospero, master of a full poor cell, And to my state grew stranger, being transported, And thy no greater father.

And wrapt in secret studies. Thy false uncleMira.

More to know Dost thou attend me? Did never meddle with my thoughts.

Mira,

Sir, most heedfully. Pro.

"Tis time Pro. Being once perfected how to grant suits, I should inform thee further. Lend thy hand, How to deny them; whom to advance, and whom And pluck my magic garment from me.—So; To trash' for over-topping; new-created

(Lays down his mantle. The creatures that were mine; I say, or chang’d Lie there my art.— Wipe thou thine eyes; have

them, comfort.

Or else new-form'd them: having both the key The direful spectacle of the wreck, which touch'd of officer and office, set all hearts The very virtue of compassion in thee,

To what tune pleas'd his ear; that now he was I have with such provision in mine art

The ivy, which had hid my princely trunk, So safely örder'd, that there is no soul

And suck'd my verdure out on't.-Thou attend'st No, not so much perdition as a hair,

not: Betid to any creature in the vessel

I
pray

thee mark me. • Incontinent.

• Absolutely

• Qulte.

. Sorrow.

Cut away

« PreviousContinue »