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Shakspeare's boys, that circumstance is the long buried in obscurity. He rapidly rose to the strongest possible corroboration of the story. highest station in the theatre ; and, by the power But it was known to Rowe, and rejected by him; of his genius, raised our national dramatic and Steevens advances this omission as a proof poetry, then in its merest infancy, to the highest that our author's first biographer considered the state of perfection which it is perhaps capable of anecdote incredible, and wholly undeserving his reaching. attention. Rowe's suppression of the fact may It is impossible for any art to have attained a however have originated in some other cause more rapid growth, than was attained by the art than his suspicion of its truth. Might he not of dramatic writing in this country.
The people have been actuated by that absurd spirit of re- had, indeed, been long accustomed to a species finement, which is only too common among the of exhibition, called Miracles, or MYSTERIES, * writers of biography, as well as history, and founded on sacred subjects, and performed by the which induces them to conceal or misrepresent ministers of religion themselves, on the holy every occurrence which is at all of a humiliating festivals, in or near the churches, and designed nature, and does not accord with those false and to instruct the ignorant in the leading facts of effeminate notions so generally entertained re- sacred history. From the occasional introducspecting the dignity of that peculiar class of tion of allegorical characters, such as Faith, composition ? But, however inferior the situa- Death, Hope, or Sin, into these religious dramas, tion which Shakspeare occupied on first entering representations of another kind, called moraliupon his dramatic career, his talents were not ties,t had by degrees arisen, of which the plots
• The most ancient as well as most complete col- + We have a curious account in a book entitled lection of this kind is The Chester Mysteries, which Mount Tabor, or private Exercises of a Penitent were written not by Ralph Higden, as was supposed Sinner, by R. W. [R. Willis,) Esq. published in the by Warton, Malone, and others, but by an earlier year of his age 75, Anno Domini, 1639; an extract ecclesiastic of the Abbey of Chester, named Randall, from which will give the reader a more accurate noand were first represented between the years 1208 tion of the old Moralities, than a long dissertation and 1276. The following extract is from MSS. Harl. on the subject. 2013, &c. •Exhibited at Chester in the year 1327,
' UPON A STAGE-PLAY WHICH I SAW WHEN I at the expense of the different trading companies of
WAS A CHILD. that city. The Fall of Lucifer, by the Tanners. The Creation, by the Drapers. The Deluge, by the In the city of Gloucester the manner is (as I think Dyers. Abraham, Melchisedeck, and Lot, by the it is in other like corporations), that when players of Barbers. Moses, Balak, and Balaam, by the Cap- interludes come to towne, they first attend the pers. The Salutation and Nativity, by the Wrightes. Mayor, to enforme him what nobleman's servants The Shepherds feeding their Flocks by Night, by the they are, and so to get licence for their publike playPainters and Glaziers. The three Kings, by the ing; and if the Mayor like the actors, or would shew Vintners. The Ohlation of the three Kings, by the respect to their lord and master, he appoints them to Mercers. The killing of the Innocents, by the play their first play before himself, and the AlderGoldsmiths. The Purification, by the Blacksmiths. man and Common-Counsell of the city; and that is The Temptation, by the Butchers. The Last Supper, called the Mayor's play: where every one that will, by the Bakers. The Blind Men and Lazarus, by comes in without money, the Mayor giving the the Glovers. Jesus and the Lepers, by the Corve- players a reward as hee thinks fit to shew respect sarys. Christ's Passion, by the Bowyers, Fletchers, unto them. such a play, my father tooke me and Ironmongers. Descent into Hell, by the Cooks with him and made me stand between bis leggs, as and Innkeepers. The Resurrection, by the Skinners. he sate upon one of the benches, where we saw and The Ascension, by the Taylors. The Election of St. beard very well. The play was called The Cradle Mathius, sending of the Holy Ghost, &c. by the of Security, wherein was personated a king or some Fishmongers. Antichrist, by the Clothiers. Day great priuce, with his courtiers of several kinds, of Judgment, by the Websters. The reader will among which three ladies were in special grace with perhaps smile at some of these combinations. This him; and they keeping him in delights and pleais the substance and order of the former part of the sures, drew him from his graver counsellors, hearing play. God enters creating the world : he breathes of sermons, and listening to good councell and adlife into Adam, leads bim into Paradise, and opens monitions, that in the end they got him to lye down his side while sleeping. Adam and Eve appear in a cradle upon the stage, where these three ladies naked, and not ashamed, and the old serpent enters, joyning in a sweet song, rocked him asleepe, and be lamenting his fall. He converses with Eve. She snorted againe ; and in the mean time closely coneats of the forbidden fruit, and gives part to Adam. veyed under the cloaths wherewithall he was coverThey propose, according to the stage-direction, to ed, a vizard, like a swine's snout, upon his face, with make themselves subligacula a foliis quibus tega- three wire chains fastened thereunto, the other end mus pudenda. Cover their nakedness with leaves, whereof being holden severaily by those three laand converse with God. God's curse. The serpent dies; who fall to singing againe, and then discoerit hissing. They are driven from Paradise by vered his face, that the spectators might see how four angels and the cherubim with a flaming sword. they had transformed him, going on with their Adam appears digging the ground, and Eve spinning. singing. Whilst all this was acting, there came Their children Cain and Abel enter: the former forth of another doore at the farthest end of the kills his brother. Adam's lamentation. Cain is stage, two old men ; the one in blew, with a serjeant banished,'&c.-Warton's History of English Poetry, at armes, his mace on his shoulder; the other in red, vol. i. p. 243.
with a drawu sword in his hand, and leaning with Indulgences were granted to those who attended the other hand upon the other's shoulder; and so the at presentation of these mysteries.
they went along with a soft pace round about the or perhaps other inconvenience might have hapThe writer of this book appears to have been born pened.'-Letter from Mr. Garrard, dated Jan. 25th, the same year with our great poet (1564). Sup. 1535. Straff. Letters, vol. i. p. 511.
were more artificial, regular, and connected, and by whom all his productions were exhibited.
ter theatre, the top was entirely closed, and the
by the night, for the more wealthy and refined
skirt of the stage, till at last they came to the cradle, posing him to have been seven or eight years old
it 1, b
accommodation at a cheaper rate. On the stage, verting the common ornaments of their walls the arrangements appear to have been nearly the into the decorations of their theatres. But, the same as at present—the curtain divided the au- fact appears to be, that the use of scenery was dience from the actors; which, at the third sound almost coexistent with the introduction of draing, not indeed of the bell, but of the trumpet, was matic representations in this country. In the drawn for the commencement of the performance. Chester Mysteries, written in 1268, and which Malone has puzzled himself and his readers, in are the most ancient and complete collection of his account of the ancient theatre, by the suppo- | the kind that we possess, we have the following sition that there was a permanent elevation of stage direction : Then Noe shall go into the about nine feet, at the back of the stage, from arke with all his familye, his wife excepte. The which, in many of the old plays, part of the dia- arke must be boarded round about, and upon the logue was spoken; and that there was a private bordes all the beastes and fowles hereafter rehearsed box on each side of this platform. Such an ar- must be painted, that their wordes may agree rangement would have precluded the possibility with the pictures. 'I In this passage, then, is & of all theatrical illusion; and it seems an extra- | distinct reference to a painted scene; and it is ordinary place to fix upon as a station for specta- not likely, that in the lapse of three centuries, tors, where they could have seen nothing but the while all other arts were in a state of rapid imbacks and trains of the performers. But as Ma- provement, and the art of dramatic writing perlone himself acknowledges the spot to have been haps more rapidly and successfully improved than inconvenient, and that it is not very easy to any other, the art of theatrical decoration should ascertain the precise situation where these boxes have alone stood still. It is not improbable that really were ;'* it may be presumed, from our their scenes were few; and that these were varied knowledge of the good sense of our forefathers, as occasion might require, by the introduction of that, if indeed such boxes existed at all, they cer- different pieces of stage furniture. Mr. Gifford, tainly were not where the historian of the Eng- who adheres to Malone's opinion, says, 'a table lish stage has placed them. Malone was possessed with a pen and ink thrust in, signified that the with an opinion, that the use of scenes was stage was a counting-house; if these were withunknown in the early years of our national drama, drawn, and two stools put in their places, it was and he was perhaps not unwilling to adopt such then a tavern ;'S and this might be perfectly a theory respecting the distribution of the stage satisfactory, as long as the business of the play as would effectually preclude the supposition was supposed to be passing within doors, but that such aids to the imagination of the audience when it was removed to the open air, such meahad ever been employed. That he was in error gre devices would no longer be sufficient to guide respecting the want of painted scenery, I cannot the imagination of the audience, and some new help suspecting, even against the high authority method must have been adopted to indicate the of Mr. Gifford.+ As to his permanent platform, place of action. After giving the subject consior upper stage, he may, or may not, be correct in derable attention, I cannot help thinking that his opinion; all that is certain upon this subject | Steevens was right in rejecting the evidence of is, that his quotations do not authorize the con- Malone, strong as it may in some instances clusion that he has deduced from them; and only appear; and concluding that the spectators were, prove that in the old, as in the modern theatre, as at the present day, assisted in following the when the actor was to speak from a window, or progress of the story, by means of painted and appear upon a balcony, or on the walls of a for- moveable scenery. This opinion is confirmed tress, the requisite ingenuity was not wanting by the ancient stage directions. In the folio to contrive an adequate representation of the Shakspeare, of 1623, we read, •Enter Brutus, place. But, with regard to the use of scenery, | in his orchard.' Enter Timon, in the woods.' it is scarcely possible, from the very circumstances • Enter Timon, from his cave.' In Coriolanus : of the case, that such a contrivance should have Marcius follows them to the gates, and is shut in.' escaped our ancestors. All the materials were Innumerable instances of the same kind might ready to their hands; they had not to invent for be cited, to prove that the ancient stage was not themselves, but to adapt an old invention to their so defective in the necessary decorations as some own purposes : and at a time when every better antiquarians of great authority would represent. apartment was adorned with tapestry; when even. It may be added,' says Steevens, that the diathe rooms of the commonest taverns were hung logue of Shakspeare has such perpetual reference with painted cloths; while all the essentials of to objects supposed visible to the audience, that scenery were continually before their eyes, we the want of scenery could not have failed to can hardly believe our forefathers to have been render many of the descriptions uttered by his so deficient in ingenuity, as to suppose that they speakers absurd and laughable. Banquo exnever should have conceived the design of con- amines the outside of Inverness castle with such
* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 83, note 9. + Massinger, vol. i. p. 103.
I REED's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 15. $ Massinger, vol. i. p. 103.
THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE. minuteness, that he distinguishes even the nests obviated the necessity of obtruding performers which the martins had built under the projecting before the public in parts that were unsuited to parts of its roof. Romeo, standing in a garden, their time of life. When the lad had become points to the tops of fruit-trees gilded by the moon. too tall for Juliet, he was prepared to act, and was The prologue speaker to the Second Part of King most admirably calculated in age to assume, the Herry IV., expressly shews the spectators, “this character of the ardent Romeo: when the voice Form-eaten hold of ragged stone,” in which had the ‘mannish crack,' that rendered the Northumberland was lodged. Iachimo takes the youth unfit to appear as the representative of the most exact inventory of every article in Imogen's gentle Imogen, he was skilled in the knowledge bed-chamber, from the silk and silver of which of the stage, and capable of doing justice to the her tapestry was wrought, down to the Cupids princely sentiments of Arviragus or Guiderius. that support her andirons. Had not the inside Such then was the state of the stage when of this apartment, with its proper furniture, been Shakspeare entered into its service, in the double represented, how ridiculous must the action of capacity of actor and author. As an author, lachimo have appeared! He must have stood though Dryden says, that looking out of the room for the particulars sup- 'Shakspeare's own muse his Pericles first bore, '* posed to be visible within it. In one of the parts it is most probable that Titus Andronicus was the of King Henry VI., a cannon is discharged earliest dramatic effort of his pen. Shakspeare against a tower; and conversations are held in arrived in London about the year 1587, and acalmost every scene from different walls, turrets, cording to the date of the latter play, as intimated and battlements.' Indeed, must not all the hu- by Ben Jonson, in his introduction to Bartholomour of the mock play in the Midsummer Night's mew Fair,g we find it to have been produced Dream have failed in its intent, unless the au- immediately after his arrival. That Titus Andence before whom it was performed were dronicus is really the work of Shakspeare, it accustomed to be gratified by the combination of would be a defiance to all contemporary evidence all the embellishments requisite to give effect to to doubt. It was not only printed among his works a dramatic representation, and could therefore by his friends, Heminge and Condell, but is estimate the absurdity of those shallow contri- mentioned as one of his tragedies by an author, || sances, and mean substitutes for scenery, which who appears to have been on such terms of intiwere devised by the ignorance of the clowns ?* macy with him, as to have been admitted to a
In only one respect do I perceive any material sight of his MS. sonnets. Against this testimony, difference between the mode of representation the critics have nothing to oppose but the accuat the time of Shakspeare and at present. In mulated horrors of its plot; the stately march his day, the female parts were performed by of its versification; and the dissimilarity of its bogs:f this custom, which must in many cases style from the other efforts of Shakspeare's have materially injured the illusion of the scene, genius. It does not strike me that these arguwas in others of considerable advantage. It ments are sufficient to lead us to reject the play furnished the stage with a succession of youths as the composition of our great dramatist. He regularly educated to the art, and experienced was, perhaps, little more than three-and-twenty to Ell the parts appropriate for their age. It years of age when it was composed. The plays
This question appears to be set at rest by the demona, about the year 1660. Her name is unknown.
Prologue to the Tragedy of Circe.
♡ In the year 1614, he speaks of it as a play which Lszárd, for gold, sylver, and sundry other cullers by had then been exhibited • five-and-twenty or thirty him spent, in painting the houses that served for
years. the playes and players at the coorte, with their pro
A MERES, Palladis Tamia. perties and necessaries incident, &c., 131. 16s. ld.
1540. • Paper for patternes, and for leaves of trees, and
1561. other garnishing, 4 reams, 24$.
Damon and Pythias
1562. • Mrs. Dane, the lynnen dealer, for canvas to paynte
Tancred and Gismund
1508. for houses for the players, and other properties, as monsters, great hollow trees, and such other, twenty Appius and Virginia
1570. ezen ells, 121.
Gam. Gurton's Needle * William Lyzarde, for syze, cullers, pottes, nayles,
Promos and Cassandra
1578. and pepsills, nased and occupied upon the payntinge of seven cities, one villadge, one countrey house, Arraignment of Paris
Sapho and Phaon
1581. see battlement, nine axes, a braunche, lillyes, and a
Alexander and Campaspe
1587. There are several other references to paynting Misfortunes of Arthur
Jeronimo great clotbes of canvas,' wbich were evidently
1589. Beitber more nor less than moveable canvass scenes.
1589. + The first woman who appeared in a regular
Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 3, 4. note. Gama, on a public stage, performed the part of Des
which at the time had possession of the stage, of lection of our poet's works; but this may have which very few had been written, and not above proceeded from forgetfulness, and it was only by fifteen are extant, supposing Andronicus to have an afterthought, that Troilus and Cressida escaped been produced in 1589, were all of the same a similar fortune. How far Pericles, as originally bombastic and exaggerated character; and the written, was, or was not, worthy the talents of youthful poet naturally imitated the popular Shakspeare, we have no means of judging. The manner, and strove to beat his contemporaries only editions of this tragedy that have come down with their own weapons.
However tiresome the to us, are three spurious quartos, of which the tragedy may be to us, it was a great favourite at text was printed from copies taken by illiterate its first appearance. It was full of barbarities persons during representation, and published that shock the refined taste; but these formed a without any regard to the property or the repumode of exciting the interest of the audience tation of the author, to impose on the curiosity which was very commonly had recourse to by the of the public. The Pericles of Shakspeare may play-writers of the age, and from which Shak- have been a splendid composition, and yet not speare never became fully weaned, even at a have shewn so in the garbled editions of the period when his judgment was matured; as we booksellers. We may estimate the injuries that may learn from the murder of Macduff's children, Pericles received, by the injuries which we know the hamstringing of Cassio, and the plucking out were inflicted upon Hamlet on its first issuing, the eyes of Gloucester. The versification and after such a process, from the press. In the first language of the play, are certainly very different edition of Hamlet, 1603, there is scarcely a trace from those of Othello, of Hamlet, of Macbeth, or of the beauty and majesty of Shakspeare's work. Lear. The author had not yet acquired that Long passages, and even scenes, are misplaced ; facility of composition for which he was after- grammar is set wholly at defiance; half lines wards distinguished. He wrote with labour, and frequently omitted, so as to destroy the sense; left in every line the trace of the labour with and sentences brought together without any which he wrote. He had not yet discovered imaginable connexion. Sometimes the tran(and it was he who eventually made the disco- scriber caught the expression, but lost the sentivery), that the true language of nature and of ment; and huddled the words together, without passion is that which passes most directly to the any
gard to the
ing or no-meaning that heart: but it is not with the works of his expe- they might happen to convey: at other times he rienced years, that this 'bloody tragedy should remembered the sentiment, but lost the expresbe compared; if it be, we certainly should find sion; and considered it no presumption to supa difficulty in admitting that writings of such ply the lines of Shakspeare with doggerel verses opposite descriptions, could be the effusions of of his own. Such were, for the most part, the the same intellect; but, compare this tragedy early quarto impressions our author's plays : with the other works of his youth, and the diffi- and it is not difficult to conceive, that Pericles, culty vanishes. Is it improbable that the author which seems to have suffered more than any other of the Venus and Adonis, and the Rape of Lucrece, play in passing through the ignorant and negshould, on turning his attention to the stage, ligent hands of the transcriber and the printer, produce as heavy and monotonous a performance might have been originally the work of Shakas the Titus Andronicus ?
speare, without retaining in its published form I have been rather more diffuse upon this sub- any distinguishing characteristics of the magic ject, than the nature of the present notice would hand that framed it. To attempt tracing the appear to warrant, because it affords the means literary life of our great dramatist were a work of ascertaining the time when Shakspeare com- of unprofitable toil.
I have given in the appenmenced writer for the stage. If Titus Androni- dix (No. 2.) the list of his plays, according to cus be really his, as I suppose, he became an the order in which Chalmers, Malone, and Dr. author immediately on finding himself in the Drake, suppose them to have been composed : service of the theatre. His first play, though but the grounds of their conjectures are so unwe now despise and reject it, was the best play certain, that little reliance can be placed in them, that had been presented to the public; and im- and all we really know upon the subject, is what mediately placed him in the first ranks of the pro- we learn from Meres,* that previously to the fession, and among the principal supports of the year 1598, that is, within twelve years after his company to which he was attached.
attaching himself to the theatre, Shakspeare had Pericles, if the work of Shakspeare, was pro- not only published his two poems, the Venus and bably his next dramatic production. Dryden Adonis, and the Rape of Lucrece; but had already has most unequivocally attributed this play to written Titus Andronicus, King John, Richard the Shakspeare, and he was also commended as its author, in 1646, by S. Shepherd, in a poem
Palladis Tamia, or Second part of Wit's Comcalled Time displayed. It is true that it was mon Place Book, hy Francis Meres, and printed at omitted by Heminge and Condell, in their col