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Horatio and Lorenzo leading Prince Bal- Your sable streams which look like molten thazar captive : then the Lord General, with pitch; others, mourning : a great cry within, Charon, My funeral rites are made, my hearse hung rich." a boat, a boat : then enter Charon and the HENRY CHETTLE, a friend of Greene, but Ghost of Andrea." Charon, Revenge, and who seems to have been a man of higher the Ghost have a little pleasant dialogue ; morals, if of inferior genius ; and ANTHONY and the Ghost then vanishes with the fol- MUNDAY, who was called by Meres “the best lowing triumphant words :
plotter" (by which he probably means
manufacturer of dumb shows), are the only “I am a happy ghost;
remaining dramatists, whose names have Revenge, my passage now cannot be cross'd: escaped oblivion, that can be called conCome, Charon; come, hell's sculler, waft me temporaries of Shakspere in his early days o'er
at the Blackfriars.
ON THE CHRONOLOGY OF SHAKSPERE'S PLAYS.
The order in which the thirty-six plays con-
TORIES, AND TRAGEDIES CONTAINED IN THIS
Cymbeline, King of Britain.” The general division here given of the plays into three classes is manifestly a discriminating and a just one. The editors were thoroughly cognizant of the distinction which Shakspere drew between his Histories and Tragedies, as works of art. Subsequent editors have not so accurately seen this distinction ; for they have inserted ‘Macbeth' immediately after the Comedies, and preceding 'King John,' as if it were a History, taking its place in the chronological order of events. It will be observed, also, that the original editors had a just regard to the order of events in their arrangement of the Histories, properly so called. But the order of succession in the Comedies and Tragedies must be considered an arbitrary one. Subsequent editors have introduced an order still more arbitrary; and to Malone belongs
the credit of having endeavoured to place established in London, as a shareholder in the Comedies and Tragedies in the order in the leading company of players, as early as which he supposed them to have been writ- the year 1589. We begin, therefore, by asten. This arrangement took place in his suming that he was a writer for the stage posthumous edition ; but, his preliminary five years at least before the period usually notices to each play consisting of the various assigned for the commencement of his career opinions of the commentators generally, the as a dramatic poet. It may be convenient advantage of considering each with refer- here briefly to recapitulate the reasons for ence to the supposed epoch of its production this opinion, which we shall have to enforce was very imperfectly attained in that edi- in many subsequent passages of these “stution. We therefore resolved, previous to the dies.” commencement of our "Pictorial Edition,' We shall first present an Abstract of Mato establish in our own minds certain prin- lone's last Chronological Order, as a case ciples, which should become to us a ge- upon which to ground our argument. neral guide as to the order in which we should publish the Comedies and Tragedies ;
Age. still, however, keeping the classes separate, 1. First Part of King Henry VI. . 1589 25 and not mixing them, according to their 2. Second Part of King Henry VI. 1591 supposed dates, as Malone had done. But 3. Third Part of King Henry VI. . 1591 - 27 we did not pretend, nor even desire, to esta- 4. Two Gentlemen of Verona . 1591) blish an exact date for the original produc- 5. Comedy of Errors
1592 28 tion of each play. We attempted only to 6. King Richard II.
29 obtain a general notion of the date of their 7. King Richard III.
1593 8. Love's Labour's Lost
1594 production in several groups. There would,
9. Merchant of Venice .
1594 30 of course, occur, with reference to each play,
10. Midsummer Night's Dream some detailed investigation, which would exhibit facts having a tendency to approxi
11. Taming of the Shrew
1596 12. Romeo and Juliet
1596 32 mate that play to a particular year; but we
13. King John. knew, and we have subsequently shown, 14. First Part of King Henry IV.
1597 33 that, with very few exceptions indeed, the
15. Second Part of King Henry IV. 1599) confident chronological orders of Malone, 16. As you Like It
1599 35 and Chalmers, and Drake, have been little
17. King Henry V.
1599 more than guesses, sometimes ingenious and 18. Much Ado about Nothing . 1600
36 plausible, but oftener unsatisfactory and 19. Hamlet ..
1600) almost childish. But it appeared to us that 20. Merry Wives of Windsor . 1601 37 there were certain broad principles to be 21. Troilus and Cressida
. 1602 38 kept in view, which would offer no incon- 22. Measure for Measure
39 siderable assistance in forming a just esti- 23. Henry VIII.
. 1603) mate of the growth of the poet's powers,
1604 40 and of his peculiarities of thought and style 25. Lear
26. All's Well that Ends Well at different periods of his life. It is obvious
27. Macbeth. that, upon some such estimate as this, how
28. Julius Cæsar ever imperfect, much that is most valuable
29. Twelfth Night. in any critical analysis of his works, and
30. Antony and Cleopatra
. 1608 44 especially in any comparison with the works of his contemporaries, must in a large degree 32. Coriolanus
31. Cymbeline .
. 1609 45
1610 depend. The general views which we have
46 33. Timon of Athens.
. 1610 ) taken differ considerably from those of our
34. Winter's Tale predecessors ; and they do so, for the most
35. Tempest. part, because we have more facts to guide 36. Pericles
Omitted as us,—and especially the one fact that he was 37. Titus Andronicus doubtful.
1606 / 42
In 1598 Francis Meres published his have just given, to crowd twenty plays into 'Palladis Tamia, Wit's Treasury,' which ten years. But, putting aside Titus Androcontains the most important notice of Shak- nicus,' Meres gives us a list of twelve original spere of any contemporary writer :—"As plays existing when his book was printed in Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best 1598—twelve plays which we would not exfor comedy and tragedy among the Latins, change for all the contemporary dramatic so Shakespeare, among the English, is the literature produced in the years between most excellent in both kinds for the stage : 1593 and 1598. In support of these asserfor comedy, witness his 'Gentlemen of Ve- tions, and these computations, not the slightrona,' his “Errors,' his . Love's Labour's Lost,' est direct evidence has ever been offered. his “Love Labours Won,' his 'Mid-summer's The indirect evidence constantly alleged Night Dream,' and his Merchant of Venice ;' against Shakspere being a writer before he for tragedy, his 'Richard II.,'‘Richard III.,' was twenty-seven years old is that he had 'Henry IV.,' 'King John,' Titus Andro- obtained no reputation, and is not even mennicus,' and his “Romeo and Juliet.'
tioned by any contemporary, previously to This notice fixes the date of thirteen plays, the satirical notice of him in the last proas having been produced up to 1598. But duction of Robert Greene, who died in Septhis list can scarcely be supposed to be a tember, 1592, in which he is called “the complete one. The expression which Meres only Shake-scene in the country.” The very uses, “for comedy witness,” implies that he terms used by Greene would imply that the selects particular examples of excellence. successful author of whom he was envious We know that the three parts of ‘Henry VI.' | had acquired a reputation. But this is not existed before 1598 : we believe that “The the usual construction put on the words. Taming of the Shrew' was amongst the early The silence of other writers with regard to plays; and that the original sketch of Shakspere is minutely set forth by Malone ; “Hamlet' had been produced at the very and his opinions, as it appears to us, have outset of Shakspere's dramatic career. All's been much too implicitly received-someWell that Ends Well,' we believe, also, to times indolently-sometimes for the support have been an early play, known to Meres as of a theory that would recognise Shakspere 'Love's Labour's Won.' But carry the list as a mere actor, or, at most, as the repairer of Meres forward two years, and we have to of other men's works—whilst the original add 'Much Ado about Nothing' and 'Henry genius of Marlowe, and half a dozen inferior V.,' which were then printed. The account, writers, was in full activity around him. The therefore, stands thus in 1600 :
omission of all notice of Shakspere by Webbe,
Puttenham, Harrington, Sidney, are brought Plays mentioned by Meres, considering Henry IV. as Two Parts.
forward by Malone as unquestionable proofs
13 Henry VI., Three Parts
that our poet had not written before 1591 or Taming of the Shrew
1592. He says that in Webbe's ‘Discourse }
2 Hamlet (sketch)
of English Poetry,' published in 1586, we Much Ado about Nothing
meet with the names of the most celebrated
2 Henry V.
poets of that time, particularly those of the
dramatic writers Whetstone and Munday ;
20 | but that we find no trace of Shakspere or of We have now seventeen plays, including his works. But Malone does not tell us that ‘Pericles,' left for the seventeenth century ; Webbe makes a general apology for his omisbut some of these have established their sions, saying, “Neither is my abiding in such claim to an earlier date than has been usually place where I can with facility get knowassigned to them. "Twelfth Night' and ledge of their works.” “Three years after"Othello' were performed in 1602. Under wards,” continues Malone, “ Puttenham the usual chronological order we are com- printed his “ Art of English Poesy ;' and in pelled, according to the analysis which we that work also we look in vain for the name
of Shakspere.” The book speaks of the one- had they then appeared, would doubtless and-thirty years' space of Elizabeth's reign, have rescued the English stage from the and thus puts the date of the writing a year contempt which is thrown upon it by the earlier than the printing. But we here look accomplished writer, and to which it was in vain for some other illustrious names justly exposed by the wretched compositions besides that of Shakspere. Malone has not of those who preceded our poet. "The Detold us that the name of Edmund Spenser is fence of Poesie' was not published till 1595, not found in Puttenham ; nor, what is still but must have been written some years bemore uncandid, that not one of Shakspere's fore.” There is one slight objection to this early dramatic contemporaries is mentioned argument: Sir Philip Sidney was killed at -neither Marlowe, nor Greene, nor Peele, the battle of Zutphen, in the year 1586 ; and nor Kyd, nor Lyly. The author evidently it is tolerably well ascertained that “The derives his knowledge of “poets and poesy
Defence of Poesie' was written in the year from a much earlier period than that in 1581. which he publishes. He does not mention If the indirect evidence that Shakspere Spenser by name, but he does " that other had not acquired any reputation in 1591 gentleman who wrote the late 'Shepherd's thus breaks down, we may venture to inquire Calendar.'" The 'Shepherd's Calendar' of whether the same authority has not been Spenser was published in the year 1579. equally unsuccessful in rejecting the belief, Malone goes on to argue that the omission which was implicitly adopted by Dryden and of Shakspere's name, or any notice of his Rowe, that the reputation of Shakspere as a works, in Sir John Harrington's ' Apology of comic poet was distinctly recognised by Poetry,' printed in 1591, in which“ he takes Spenser in his • Thalia,' in 1591 *. occasion to speak of the theatre, and men- What, then, is the theory which we build tions some of the celebrated dramas of that upon the various circumstances we have time,” is a proof that none of Shakspere's brought together, and which we oppose to dramatic compositions had then appeared. the prevailing theory in England as to the The “celebrated dramas” which Harrington dates of Shakspere's works? We ask that mentions are Latin plays, and an old London the author of twenty plays, existing in 1600, comedy called 'Play of the Cards.' Does he which completely changed the face of the mention "Tamburlaine,' or 'Faustus,' or dramatic literature of England, should be • The Massacre of Paris,' or “The Jew of supposed to have begun to write a little Malta ?' As he does not, it may be assumed earlier than the age of twenty-seven ; that with equal justice that none of Marlowe's we should assign some few of those plays to compositions had appeared in 1591 ; and yet a period antecedent to 1590. We have reason we know that he died in 1593. So of Lyly's to believe that, up to the close of the six• Galathea,'' Alexander and Campaspe,” · En- teenth century, Shakspere was busied as an dymion,' &c. So of Greene's Orlando actor as well as an author. It is something Furioso,''Friar Bacon,''James IV.' So of too much to expect, then, even from the the ‘ Jeronimo' of Kyd. The truth is, that fertility of his genius, occupied as he was, Harrington in his notice of celebrated that he should have produced twenty plays dramas was even more antiquated than Put- in nine years ; and it is still more unreasontenham ; and his evidence, therefore, in this able to believe that the consciousness of matter is utterly worthless. But Malone has power which he must have possessed should given his crowning proof that Shakspere had not have prompted him to enter the lists not written before 1591, in the following with other dramatists (whose highest prowords :-“Sir Philip Sidney, in his “Defence ductions may, without exaggeration, be of Poesie,' speaks at some length of the low stated as every way inferior to his lowest), state of dramatic literature at the time he composed this treatise, but has not the
* This poem of 'Thalia' is noticed in The Life and
Writings of Shakspere,' in Knight's Cabinet' and One slightest allusion to Shakspere, whose plays, Volume editions of Shakspere.
until he had gone through a probation of six Macbeth. or seven years' acquaintance with the stage Timon of Athens (probably revision of an as an humble actor. We cannot reconcile it
earlier play). to probability that he who ceased to be an
FOURTH PERIOD, 1608 to 1616. From his actor when he was forty should have been
44th year to his death. contented to have been only an actor till he was twenty-seven. We cling to the belief
Cymbeline (probably revision of an earlier that Shakspere, by commencing his career as
A Winter's Tale. a dramatic writer some four or five years
Pericles (probably revision of an earlier earlier than is generally maintained, may
play). claim, in common with his less illustrious
The Tempest. early contemporaries, the praise of being one Troilus and Cressida. of the great founders of our dramatic litera
Henry VIII. ture, instead of being the mere follower and
Coriolanus. improver of Marlowe, and Greene, and Peele, Julius Cæsar. and Kyd.
Antony and Cleopatra. Our belief, then, as to the periods of the original production of Shakspere's Plays,
There is another view in which the chroshapes itself into something like the follow nological order of Shakspere's plays may be ing arrangement :
regarded : and we think that it presents a
key to the workings of his genius, in conFirst PERIOD, 1585 to 1593. From his 21st
nexion with that desire which men of the year to his 29th.
highest genius only entertain, when a conTitus Andronicus.
stant succession of new productions is deHamlet. The first sketch.
manded of them by the popular appetiteHenry VI. Three Parts. Two Gentlemen of Verona.
namely, to generalize their works by certain Comedy of Errors.
principles of art, producing novel combina
tions ; which principles impart to groups of Love's Labour's Lost. All's Well that Ends Well (perhaps imper. them belonging to the same period a correfect).
sponding identity. In Shakspere this is to Taming of the Shrew (the same).
be regarded more especially with reference
to the nature of the dramatic action. We SECOND PERIOD, 1594 to 1600. From his
put down these groups, rather as materials 30th year to his 36th.
for thought in the reader, than as a decided Richard III.
expression of our own conviction ; because Richard II.
all such circumstances and relations must Henry IV. Two Parts.
be modified by other facts of which we have Henry V. King John.
an incomplete knowledge
Hamlet. First sketch Much Ado about Nothing.
riod;—1585 Merry Wives of Windsor.
Romeo and Juliet. First sketch * to 1588. THIRD PERIOD, 1601 to 1607. From his 37th year to his 43rd.
THE TRAGEDY OF HORRORS.
Of a Tragic Cast. As You Like It.
Henry VI. Three Parts Second early Twelfth Night.
period; Measure for Measure.
1589 to 1593. Hamlet (complete). Othello.
* Our reasons for considering the first Hamlet' and
* Romeo and Juliet' to belong to this class are given in Lear.
the next chapter, on Titus Andronicus.'