Page images
PDF
EPUB

Vespasian, who has the Roman crown in his hand. This answers to the speech of Marcus Andronicus in the play ascribed to Shakespeare. Ætiopissa, Queen of Ethiopia, becomes, in Shakespeare, Tamora, Queen of the Goths, presented by Titus Andronicus to the Emperor. Morian corresponds to Aaron the Moor. Helicates and Saphonus, sons of Ætiopissa, who love Andronica, daughter of Andronicus, married to a husband who appears in the play but who has no name assigned to him, are Shakespeare's Demetrius and Chiron, sons of Tamora, who love Lavinia, daughter of Andronicus, beloved by Bassianus.

In the German version of the old English play, after the scenes in the wood, when Morian causes Titus Andronicus to cut off his right hand to save two of his sons from execution, Titus's remaining son, Vespasian, and Titus's brother Victoriades, both offer their own hands for his. When they have gone to cast lots which shall make the sacrifice, and Titus meanwhile cuts off his own hand, on their return it is Vespasian who enters with rejoicing that the lot has fallen upon him. Then comes Morian, with the heads of the two sons of Titus, whose hand is returned to him; and Vespasian calls for sword and armour, that he may fight "not like a man, but like a furious devil,” to avenge his father's wrong. Vespasian swoons at the sight of his sister Andronica, who enters with her tongue and hands cut off. It is he, afterwards, who spreads sand on the floor, that she may take a staff between her stumps and write upon the sand the names of those who had thus injured her. The crimes of the day of the hunt are so discovered. The incidents of Morian-Aaron—and his child lead on to his capture by men of the army raised by Vespasian—in the later play, Lucius. Vespasian has marched through Italy, everywhere striking terror. He is resolved to seize the emperor, the empress, and her two sons, when Morian and his child are found and brought to him, and the whole truth is told to

him by Morian, who seeks thereby to save his child. Then follows the revenge of Titus, with all its horrible incidents. After Titus has killed Ætiopissa, the emperor kills Titus. Then Vespasian “ leaps over the table” and kills the emperor. After which, says his uncle Victoriades, “O woeful, woeful ! most harrowing sight. Ah, I shall never be happy again. Now, Vespasian, the empire belongs to you; place the crown on your head, and rule in peace.” And so the play ends with Vespasian, son of Titus Andronicus, Emperor of Rome.

Thus we have restored to us, in mangled form, the old play of “ Titus and Vespasian,” with absolute certainty that it was the original of “Titus Andronicus." We find in it all those crude horrors which Shakespeare himself could never have invented, but which were delightful to rough audiences that divided their attention between plays and bear-baiting, until the poets worked with finer magic on the minds of men.

Now, in the days when Shakespeare was a player, altering old plays with ready pen but not yet known as a dramatic poet, there was the play of “Titus and Vespasian,” greatly delighted in for its entanglement of horrors. Even the players might consider it absurd to associate a tale like this with the early life of the Roman Emperor Vespasian, notwithstanding the very bold use of emperors' names in the tales of the Gesta Romanorum. Shakespeare got rid of that absurdity. He distributed the business of Vespasian between Titus's brother Marcus and his son Lucius. He struck out other crudities, and gave here and there more poetical form to the sound and fury of the lines, taking good care rather to concentrate than to dilute the horrors which were the main features of the play. One horror those early Elizabethans had not reached, and that is the misuse of the word "sensational,” by which some moderns would describe plays of this kind. The play was to be, and

was, of its kind thorough, after as before revision. It was no invention of Shakespeare's ; it is not reconstructed upon Shakespeare's lines; but, as we see, characters were renamed, some of the matter was recast, crudities were struck out, here and there the writing was touched over, and some fresh lines were inserted. We find lines in which we feel young Shakespeare's touch, and while the whole construction of the play that Shakespeare worked upon is thoroughly unlike the inventions of Shakespeare himself, its crude horrors are, no doubt, felt the more intensely for his removal of absurdities in the first way of telling them, and for touches of his that gave more pomp of words and more force to the style, with now and then some small hint of a grace beyond the reach of the inventor and first writer of the play.

The Three Parts of King Henry VI. were placed by his fellow-actors Heminge and Condell, in 1623, in the first collected edition of Shakespeare's Plays. The list of his plays given, in 1598, in “Palladis King ,

Henry VI." Tamia," hereafter to be considered, does not include “Henry VI.," but it does include “Titus Andronicus," which is also contained in the first folio of 1623. Shakespeare's earliest original piece may have brought a reputation that, after his comedy had been acted, gave interest to what else had been done by him.

Philip Henslowe, who died in the same year as Shakespeare, was the son of a Sussex Master of the Game, and he began life as servant to the bailiff of Viscount Montague, owner of Cowdray House, at Mid- Hens? hurst, and of Battle Abbey. Lord Montague's town house was in Southwark, where young Philip Henslowe took part in the care of his house-property. Henslowe was living in 1577 in the liberty of the Clink, Upon the death of Lord Montague's bailiff—Woodward --whom he had served, Henslowe married the bailiff's

First Part of

er of Cowdray Lord Montagueoung Philip

widow, Agnes, took with her the bailiff's property, which was considerable, and, settled by the river-bank in Southwark, gave his mind to money-making. He was broker for the sale of wood from Ashdowne Forest, where his father had been Master of the Game, and he now bought property in Southwark for himself. He bought house and land at East Grinstead, land also at Buxted, where his only sister was settled as the wife of an ironfounder. He experimented

profit from the new rage for ruffs stiffened with “the devil's liquor,” by making starch. He was a money-lender, and he was not above profiting by houses let as stews. He owned the Boar's Head and other inns. He even got-perhaps through his old relations with Lord Montague-small offices at Court, and he was a groom of the Queen's Chamber in 1593. In his parish he was a diligent church-goer, and he lived to become churchwarden. Now, it was clear to Philip Henslowe that he could speculate as well on demand for plays as on demand for starch. It was he, therefore, who in March, 1585, purchased land on Bankside, and afterwards built on it The Rose Theatre, by reconstruction, perhaps, of a smaller play-house that may have stood on the same ground.

It is not always easy to distinguish play-places, which were many, from play-houses, which at first were few-to

distinguish houses built for other purposes and se used by actors, from those built for the sole use

of actors and their audiences. But we may take “The Rose," built by Philip Henslowe in 1591, and opened in February, 1592, as the next play-house of importance built after The Theatre and The Curtain. On the seventeenth of February, 1592, at the time of the opening of The Rose, Henslowe began to keep an account of his theatre business. It has come down to us, preserved at Dulwich College. It names the plays Henslowe

The Rose
Theatre.

Henslowe's

Lord
Strange's

caused to be acted; distinguishes by a mark (ne, for “new enterlude") those which were new; it shows at what dates he acted them and what money they Dia brought; it notes also payments and advances to play writers, six pounds being the highest price for a new play till the end of the century. Great, therefore, is the value of Henslowe's Diary to students of our early drama.*

The Earl of Leicester died in the Armada year, on the fourth of September, 1588. His company of actors passed into the service of Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange, son of Henry Stanley, Earl of Derby. 5 Since 1504 the Barony of Strange had become company merged in the Earldom of Derby, and the title was borne by the heir to the earldom. Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange, showed goodwill to the poets and the players. He became Earl of Derby in 1592, and he died without male heir in 1594, leaving as widow the dowager countess for whom Milton wrote his “Arcades." Whether Shakespeare's first employment in London was with the servants of Leicester we do not know, but we may think it likely. Certainly the first company of which he is known to have been a member was that of Lord Strange, which held together from 1588 to 1594. Now, it was Lord Strange's company that first paid rent to Philip Henslowe for the occupation of his Rose Theatre, and Henslowe's Diary shows that this company acted, within the first two years of its occupation, “ Mulomorco,"—that is, “The Battle of Alcazar”-fourteen times, “The First Part of Henry VI.--marked as ne-sixteen times between the third of March, 1592, and the end of January, 1593. It acted also “ Titus and Vespasian” and plays presently to be

* It was edited by John Payne Collier, for the old Shakespeare Society, but needs re-editing from the original.

« PreviousContinue »