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be sold at his shop near the Exchange. 1599.” There was a third quarto issue in 1609, which was merely a reprint of the foregoing, save that in the title-page we have, “ acted by the King's Majesty's Servants at the Globe," and, “ Printed for John Smethwick, and are to be sold at his shop in St. Dunstan's Churchyard, in Fleet-street, under the Dial.” There was also a fourth edition in quarto, undated, but probably issued between 1609 and 1623. The folio of 1623 gives it as the fourth in the division of Tragedies, and without any marking of the acts and scenes, save that at the beginning we have, “ Actus Primus. Scæna Prima." The folio, though omitting several passages found in the quarto of 1609, is shown, by the repetition of certain typographical errors, to have been printed from that copy. In our text, as in that of most modern editions, the quarto of 1599 is taken as the basis, and the other old copies drawn upon for the correction of errors, and sometimes for a choice of readings ; in both which respects the quarto of 1597 is of great value. Our variations from the second quarto are duly specified in the notes.
As may well be supposed, the second issue evinces a considerably stronger and riper authorship than the first; for of course the Poet would hardly proceed to rewrite the play until he thought that he could make important changes for the better. How much the play was “augmented” may be judged from the fact that in Steevens' reprint of the editions of 1597 and 1609, both of which are in the same volume and the same type, the first occupies only 73 pages, the other 99. The augmentations are much more important in quality than in quantity; and both these and the corrections show a degree of judgment and tact hardly consistent with the old notion of the Poet having been a careless writer ; though it is indeed much to be regretted that he did not carry his older and severer hand into some parts of the play, which he left in their original state. In our notes will be found a few passages – especially Juliet's speech on taking the sleeping-draught, in Act iv. sc. 3, and Romeo's speech just before he swallows the poison, in Act v. sc. 3,- - as they stand in the quarto of 1597; from which the reader may form some judgment of the difference between the original and amended copies in respect of quality. The same may be said of Juliet's soliloquies in Act ji. sc. 5, and in Act iii. se. 2; which, particularly the latter, are comparatively nothing, as given in the first edition.
The date more commonly assigned for the writing of this tragedy is 1596. This is allowing only a space of about two years between the writing and rewriting of the play; and we fully agree with Knight and Verplanck, that the second edition shows such a measure of progress in judgment, in the cast of thought, and in dramatic power, as would naturally infer a much longer interval. And the argument derived from this circumstance is strengthened
by another piece of internal evidence. The Nurse, in reckoning up the age of Juliet, has the following:
« On Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen ;
That shall she, marry: I remember it well.
For even the day before she broke her brow.”
Now, at the time of the event in question, the great clock at Westminster, and divers other clocks and bells struck of them. selves with the shaking of the earth : the lawyers supping in the Temple ran from their tables and out of the halls, with the knives in their hands: the people assembled at the theatres rushed forth into the fields, lest the galleries should fall : the roof of Christ church near Newgate-market was so shaken, that a stone dropped out of it, killing two persons, it being sermon time: chimneys were toppled down, and houses shattered. All which circumstances were well adapted to keep the event fresh in popular remembrance; and it was with this remembrance, most likely, that the Poet mainly concerned himself. We give the rest of the argument in the words of Knight : “Shakespeare knew the double world in which an excited audience lives; the half belief in the world of poetry amongst which they are placed during a theatrical representation, and the half consciousness of the external world of their ordinary life. The ready disposition of every audience to make a transition from the scene before them to the scene in which they ordi
narily move, is perfectly well known to all who are acquainted with the machinery of the drama. In the case before us, even if Shakespeare had not this principle in view, the association of the English earthquake must have been strongly in his mind, when he made the Nurse date from an earthquake. Without reference to the circumstance of Juliet's age, he would naturally, dating from the earthquake, have made the date refer to the period of his writing the passage, instead of the period of Juliet's being weaned. But, according to the Nurse's chronology, Juliet had not arrived at that epoch in the lives of children, till she was three years old. The very contradiction shows that Shakespeare had another object in view than that of making the Nurse's chronology tally with the age of her nursling."
This of course would throw the original writing of the play back to the year 1591, or thereabouts, and so give ample time for the growth of mind indicated by the additions and improvements of the second issue. However, we do not regard the argument from the Nurse's speech as conclusive; for, even granting the Poet to have had his thoughts on the particular earthquake in question, it does not follow that he would have made the Nurse perfectly accurate in her reckoning of time. It may be worth observing, in this connection, that there appears some little remembrance, one way or the other, between the play and Daniel's Complaint of Rosamond, published in 1592. The passage from Daniel is given in Act v. sc. 3, note 7; so that it need not be quoted here. It will be seen, from the preceding note, that, except in one slight particular, the resemblances both of thought and expression are not found in the oldest copy of the play. Nor even in that particular is the resemblance so close as to infer any more acquaintance than might well enough have been formed by the ear; and Daniel was a man of theatrical tastes. So that this does not necessarily make against 1591 as Shakespeare's true date; though whether Daniel first improved upon him, and then he upon Daniel, or whether the original writing of the play was not till after the printing of the poem, cannot with certainty be affirmed.
At all events, we are quite satisfied, from many, though for the most part undefinable, tricks of style, that the tragedy in its original state was produced somewhere between 1591 and 1595. The cast of thought and imagery, but especially the large infusion, not to say preponderance, of the lyrical element, naturally associates it to the same stage of art and authorship which gave us A Midsummer-Night's Dream. The resemblance of the two plays in these respects is too strong and clear, we think, to escape any studious eye, well-practised in discerning the Poet's different styles. And a diligent comparison of Romeo and Juliet with, for example, the poetical scenes in the First Part of King Henry IV., which was published in 1598, will suffice for the conclusion that the former must have been written several years before the latter.
We have seen that nearly all the incidents of the tragedy were borrowed, the Poet's invention herein being confined to the duel of Mercutio and Tybalt, and the meeting of Romeo and Paris at the tomb. In the older English versions of the story, there is a general fight between the partizans of the two houses ; when, after many have been killed and wounded on both sides, Romeo comes in, tries in vain to appease with gentle words the fury of Tybalt, and at last kills him in self-defence. What a vast gain of dramatic life and spirit is made by Shakespeare's change in this point, is too obvious to need insisting on. Much of a certain amiable grace, also, is reflected upon Paris from the circumstances that occasion his death ; and the character of the heroine is proportionably raised by the beauty and pathos thus shed around her second lover, there being, in the older versions, a cold and selfish policy in his love-making, which dishonours both himself and the object of it. The judicious bent of the Poet's invention is the more apparent in these particulars, that in the others he did but reproduce what he found in Brooke's poem. Moreover, the incidents, throughout, are disposed and worked out with all imaginable skill for dramatic effect; so that what was before a comparatively lymphatic and lazy narrative is made redundant of animation and interest.
In respect of character, too, the play has little of formal originality beyond Mercutio and the Nurse; though all are indeed set forth with a depth and vigour and clearness of delineation to which the older versions of the tale can make no pretension. It scarce need be said, that the two characters named are, in the Poet's workmanship, as different as can well be conceived from any thing that was done to his hand. But what is most worthy of remark, here, is, that he just inverts the relation between the incidents and the characterisation, using the former merely to support the latter, instead of being supported by it. Before, the persons served but as a sort of frame-work for the story; here, the story is made to serve but as canvas for the portraiture of char. acter. So that, notwithstanding the large borrowings of incident and character, the play, as a whole, has eminently the stamp of an original work; and, which is more, an acquaintance with the sources drawn upon nowise diminishes our impression of its originality.
Before proceeding further, we must make some abatements from the indiscriminate praise which this drama has of late received. For criticism, in its natural and just reaction from the mechanical methods formerly in vogue, has run to the opposite extreme of unreserved special-pleading, and of hunting out of nature after reasons for unqualified approval; by which course it stultifies itself without really helping the subject. Now, we cannot deny, and care not to disguise, that several places this play is sadly blemished with ingenious and elaborate affectations. We refer not now to the conceits which Romeo indulges in so freely before his meeting with Juliet ; for, in his then state of mind, such self centred and fantastical eddyings of thought may be not altogether without reason, as proceeding not from genuine passion, but rather from the want of it: he may be excused for playing with these little smoke-wreaths of fancy, forasmuch as the true flame is not yet kindled in his heart. But, surely, this excuse will not serve for those which are vented so
by the heroine even in her most impassioned moments; as, especially, in her dialogue with the Nurse in the second scene of Act iii. Yet, Knight boldly justifies these, calling them the results of strong emotion, seeking to relieve itself by a violent effort of the intellect, that the will may recover its balance." Which is either a piece of forced and far-fetched attorneyship, or else it is too deep for our comprehension. No, no! these things are plain disfigurements and blemishes, and criticism will best serve its proper end by calling them so. And if there be any sufficient apology for them, doubtless it is this, - That they grew from the general custom and conventional pressure of the time, and were written before the Poet had by practice and experience worked bimself above these into the original strength and rectitude of his genius. And we submit, that any unsophisticated criticism, however broad and liberal, will naturally regard them as the effects of imitation, not of mental character, because they are plainly out of keeping with the general style of the piece, and strike against the grain of the sentiment which that style inspires.
Bating certain considerable drawbacks on this score,- and the fault disappears after Act iii., — the play gives the impression of having been all conceived and struck out in the full heat and glow of youthful passion; as if the Poet's genius were for the time thoroughly possessed with the spirit and temper of the subject, so that every thing becomes touched with its efficacy; - while at the same time the passion, though carried to the utmost intensity, is every where so pervaded with the light and grace of imagination, that it kindles but to ennoble and exalt. For richness of poetical colouring, — poured out with lavish hand indeed, but yet so managed as not to interfere either with the development of character or the proper dramatic effect, but rather to heighten them both, it may challenge a comparison with any of the Poet's dramas.
It is this intense passion, acting through the imagination, that gives to the play its remarkable unity of effect. On this point, Coleridge has spoken with such rare felicity that his words ought always to go with the subject. “. That law of unity,” says he, " which has its foundations, not in the factitious necessity of custom, but in nature itself, the unity of feeling, is everywhere and at all times observed by Shakespeare in his plays. Read Romeo and Juliet :- all is youth and spring ; - youth with its follies, its virtues, its precipitancies ; — spring with its odours, its flowers, VOL. X.