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* Titus ANDRONICUS.] It is observable, that this play is printed in the quarto of 1611, with exactness equal to that of the other books of those times. The first edition was probably corrected by the author, so that here is very little room for conjecture or emendation; and accordingly none of the editors have much molested this piece with officious criticism. JOHNSON.
There is an authority for ascribing this play to Shakspeare, which I think a very strong one, though not made use of, as I remember, by any of his commentators. It is given to him, among other plays, which are undoubtedly his, in a little book, called Palladis Tamia, or the Second Part of Wit's Commonwealth, written by Francis Meres, Maister of Arts, and printed at London in 1598. The other tragedies, enumerated as his in that book, are King John, Richard the Second, Henry the Fourth, Richard the Third, and Romeo and Juliet. The comedies are, the Midsummer-Night's Dream, the Gentlemen of Verona, the Comedy of Errors, the Love's Labour's Lost, the Love's Labour Won, and the Merchant of Venice. I have given this list, as it serves so far to ascertain the date of these plays; and also, as it contains a notice of a comedy of Shakspeare, the Love's Labour Won, not included in any collection of his works; nor, as far as I know, attributed to him by any other authority. If there should be a play in being with that title, though without Shakspeare's name, I should be glad to see it; and I think the editor would be sure of the publick thanks, even if it should prove no better than the Love's Labour's Lost. TYRWHITT.
The work of criticism on the plays of our author, is, I believe, generally found to extend or contract itself in proportion to the value of the piece under consideration ; and we shall always do little where we desire but little should be done. I know not that this piece stands in need of much emendation; though it might be treated as condemned criminals are in some countries, -any experiments might be justifiably made on it.
The author, whoever he was, might have borrowed the story, the names, the characters, &c. from an old ballad, which is entered in the books of the Stationers' Company immediately after the play on the same subject. “ John Danter] Feb. 6, 1593. A book entitled A Noble Roman Historie of Titus Andronicus."
“ Enter'd unto him also the ballad thereof." Entered again April 19, 1602, by Tho. Pavyer.
The reader will find it in Dr. Percy's Reliques of Ancient Eng. lish Poetry, Vol. I. Dr. Percy adds, that is there is reason to conclude that this play was rather improved by Shakspeare with a few fine touches of his pen, than originally writ by him; for not to mention that the style is less figurative than his others gene. rally are, this tragedy is mentioned with discredit in the induction to Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair in 1614, as one that had then been exhibited 'five-and-twenty or thirty years:' which, if we take the lowest number, throws it back to the year 1589, at which time Shakspeare was but 25: an earlier date than can be found for any other of his pieces, and if it does not clear him entirely of it, shews at least it was a first attempt."
Though we are obliged to Dr. Percy for his attempt to clear our great dramatick writer from the imputation of having produced this sanguinary performance, yet I cannot admit that the circumstance of its being discreditably mentioned by Ben Jonson, ought to have any weight; for Ben has not very sparingly censured The Tempest, and other pieces which are undoubtedly among the most finished works of Shakspeare. The whole of Ben's Prologue to Every Man in his Humour, is a malicious sneer on him.
Painter, in his Palace of Pleasure, Tom. II. speaks of the story of Titus as well known, and particularly mentions the cruelty of Tamora: And, in A Knack to know a Knave, 1594, is the following allusion to it:
- as welcome shall you be
“ When he had made a conquest on the Goths." Whatever were the motives of Heming and Condell for admitting this tragedy among those of Shakspeare, all it has gained by their favour is, to be delivered down to posterity with repeated remarks of contempt,-a Thersites babbling among heroes, and introduced only to be derided. STEEVENS.
On what principle the editors of the first complete edition of our poet's plays admitted this into their volume, cannot now be ascertained. The most probable reason that can be assigned, is, that he wrote a few lines in it, or gave some assistance to the author, in revising it, or in some other way aided him in bringing it forward on the stage. The tradition mentioned by Ravenscroft in the time of King James II. warrants us in making one or other of these suppositions. “ I have been told” (says he in his preface to an alteration of this play published in 1687,) “ by some anciently conversant with the stage, that it was not originally his, but brought by a private author to be acted, and he only gave some master touches to one or two of the principal parts or characters."
“A booke entitled A noble Roman Historie of Titus Androni. cus" was entered at Stationers'-Hall, Feb. 6, 1593-4. This was undoubtedly the play, as it was printed in that year (according to Langbaine, who alone appears to have seen the first edition,) and acted by the servants of the Earls of Pembroke, Derby, and Sussex. It is observable that in the entry no author's name is mentioned, and that the play was originally performed by the same company of comedians who exhibited the old drama, entitled The Contention of the Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, The old Taming of a Shrew, and Marlowe's King Edward II. by whom not one of Shakspeare's plays is said to have been performed.
From Ben Jonson's Induction to Bartholomew Fair, 1614, we learn that Andronicus had been exhibited twenty-five or thirty years before; that is, according to the lowest computation in 1589; or taking a middle period, which is perhaps more just, in 1587.
To enter into a long disquisition to prove this piece not to have been written by Shakspeare, would be an idle waste of time. To those who are not conversant with his writings, if particular passages were examined, more words would be necessary than the subject is worth : those who are well acquainted with his works, cannot entertain a doubt on the question.— I will however mention one mode by which it may be easily ascertained. Let the reader only peruse a few lines of Appius and Virginia, Tancred and Gis. mund, The Battle of Alcazar, Jeronimo, Selimus Emperor of the Turks, The Wounds of Civil War, The Wars of Cyrus, Locrine, Arden of Feversham, King Edward I. The Spanish Tragedy, Solyman and Perseda, King Leir, the old King John, or any other of the pieces that were exhibited before the time of Shakspeare, and he will at once perceive that Titus Andronicus was coined in the same mint.
The testimony of Meres, nientioned in a preceding note, alone remains to be considered. His enumerating this among Shakspeare's plays may be accounted for in the same way in which we may account for its being printed by his fellow-comedians in the first folio edition of his works. Meres was in 1598, when his book appeared, intimately connected with Drayton, and probably acquainted with some of the dramatick poets of the time, from some or other of whom he might have heard that Shakspeare interested himself about this tragedy, or had written a few lines for the author. The internal evidence furnished by the piece itself, and proving it not to have been the production of Shakspeare, greatly outweighs any single testimony on the other side. Meres might have been misinformed, or inconsiderately have given credit to the rumour of the day. For six of the plays which he has mentioned, (exclusive of the evidence which the representation of the pieces themselves might have furnished,) he had perhaps no better authority than the whisper of the theatre; for they were not then printed. He could not have been deceived by a titlepage, as Dr. Johnson supposes ; for Shakspeare's name is not in the title-page of the edition printed in quarto in 1611, and there. fore we may conclude, was not in the title-page of that in 1594, of which the other was undoubtedly a re-impression. Had this mean performance been the work of Shakspeare, can it be supposed that the booksellers would not have endeavoured to procure a sale for it by stamping his name upon it?
In short, ihe high antiquity of the piece, its entry on the Stationers' books, and being afterwards printed without the name of our author, its being performed by the servants of Lord Pembroke, &c. the stately march of the versification, the whole colour of the composition, its resemblance to several of our most ancient dramas, the dissimilitude of the style from our author's undoubted compositions, and the tradition mentioned by Ravenscroft, when some of his contemporaries had not been long dead, (for Lowin and Taylor, two of his fellow-comedians, were alive a few years before the Restoration, and Sir William D'Avenant, who had himself written for the stage in 1629, did not die till April 1668;) all these circumstances combined, prove with irresistible force that the play of Titus Andronicus has been erroneously ascribed to Shakspeare. MALONE.
In the library of the Duke of Bridgewater, at Ashridge, is a volume of old quarto plays, numbered R. 1.7, in which the first is Titus Andronicus. This, the ingenious and accurate Mr. Todd has collated with the edition of 1793, and most of his collations may be seen in the edition of Shakspeare in 21 volumes, 1803.
Saturninus, Son to the late Emperor of Rome, and
afterwards declared Emperor himself. Bassianus, Brother to Saturninus; in love with Lavinia. Titus Andronicus, a noble Roman, General against
the Goths. Marcus Andronicus, Tribune of the People ; and
Brother to Titus.
Young Lucius, a Boy, Son to Lucius,
Tamora, Queen of the Goths.
Kinsmen of Titus, Senators, Tribunes, Officers,
Soldiers, and Attendants.
SCENE, Rome; and the Country near it.