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Horatio and Lorenzo leading Prince Balthazar captive: then the Lord General, with others, mourning: a great cry within, Charon, a boat, a boat: then enter Charon and the Ghost of Andrea." Charon, Revenge, and the Ghost have a little pleasant dialogue; and the Ghost then vanishes with the following triumphant words :
"I am a happy ghost;
Revenge, my passage now cannot be cross'd: Come, Charon; come, hell's sculler, waft me o'er
Your sable streams which look like molten pitch;
My funeral rites are made, my hearse hung rich." HENRY CHETTLE, a friend of Greene, but who seems to have been a man of higher morals, if of inferior genius; and ANTHONY MUNDAY, who was called by Meres "the best plotter" (by which he probably means a manufacturer of dumb shows), are the only remaining dramatists, whose names have escaped oblivion, that can be called contemporaries of Shakspere in his early days at the Blackfriars.
ON THE CHRONOLOGY OF SHAKSPERE'S PLAYS.
THE order in which the thirty-six plays contained in the folio of 1623 are presented to the reader is contained in the following list, which forms a leaf of that edition :
A CATALOGUE OF THE SEVERAL COMEDIES, HISTORIES, AND TRAGEDIES CONTAINED IN THIS VOLUME.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
The Comedy of Errors.
The Taming of the Shrew.
Twelfth Night, or What You Will.
The Life and Death of King John.
The First Part of King Henry VI.
Troilus and Cressida.
The Life and Death of Julius Cæsar.
The Tragedy of Hamlet.
Othello, the Moor of Venice. Antony and Cleopatra.
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 leading company of players, as early as the year 1589. We begin, therefore, by assuming that he was a writer for the stagè five years at least before the period usually assigned for the commencement of his career as a dramatic poet. It may be convenient here briefly to recapitulate the reasons for this opinion, which we shall have to enforce in many subsequent passages of these "studies."
We shall first present an Abstract of Malone's last Chronological Order, as a case upon which to ground our argument.
1. First Part of King Henry VI. 1589 25
6. King Richard II.
8. Love's Labour's Lost
1591 27 1591
the credit of having endeavoured to place | established in London, as a shareholder in the Comedies and Tragedies in the order in which he supposed them to have been written. This arrangement took place in his posthumous edition; but, his preliminary notices to each play consisting of the various opinions of the commentators generally, the advantage of considering each with reference to the supposed epoch of its production was very imperfectly attained in that edition. We therefore resolved, previous to the commencement of our Pictorial Edition,' to establish in our own minds certain principles, which should become to us a general guide as to the order in which we should publish the Comedies and Tragedies; still, however, keeping the classes separate, and not mixing them, according to their supposed dates, as Malone had done. But we did not pretend, nor even desire, to establish an exact date for the original production of each play. We attempted only to obtain a general notion of the date of their production in several groups. There would, of course, occur, with reference to each play, some detailed investigation, which would exhibit facts having a tendency to approximate that play to a particular year; but we knew, and we have subsequently shown, that, with very few exceptions indeed, the confident chronological orders of Malone, and Chalmers, and Drake, have been little more than guesses, sometimes ingenious and plausible, but oftener unsatisfactory and almost childish. But it appeared to us that there were certain broad principles to be kept in view, which would offer no inconsiderable assistance in forming a just estimate of the growth of the poet's powers, and of his peculiarities of thought and style 25. Lear at different periods of his life. It is obvious that, upon some such estimate as this, however imperfect, much that is most valuable in any critical analysis of his works, and especially in any comparison with the works of his contemporaries, must in a large degree depend. The general views which we have taken differ considerably from those of our predecessors; and they do so, for the most part, because we have more facts to guide us, and especially the one fact that he was
13. King John
This notice fixes the date of thirteen plays, as having been produced up to 1598. But this list can scarcely be supposed to be a complete one. The expression which Meres uses, "for comedy witness," implies that he selects particular examples of excellence. We know that the three parts of 'Henry VI.' existed before 1598: we believe that 'The Taming of the Shrew' was amongst the early plays; and that the original sketch of 'Hamlet' had been produced at the very outset of Shakspere's dramatic career. 'All's Well that Ends Well,' we believe, also, to have been an early play, known to Meres as 'Love's Labour's Won.' But carry the list of Meres forward two years, and we have to add 'Much Ado about Nothing' and 'Henry V.,' which were then printed. The account, therefore, stands thus in 1600:
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 the satirical notice of him in the last production of Robert Greene, who died in September, 1592, in which he is called "the only Shake-scene in the country." The very terms used by Greene would imply that the successful author of whom he was envious had acquired a reputation. But this is not the usual construction put on the words. The silence of other writers with regard to Shakspere is minutely set forth by Malone; and his opinions, as it appears to us, have been much too implicitly received-sometimes indolently-sometimes for the support of a theory that would recognise Shakspere as a mere actor, or, at most, as the repairer of other men's works whilst the original genius of Marlowe, and half a dozen inferior writers, was in full activity around him. The omission of all notice of Shakspere by Webbe, Puttenham, Harrington, Sidney, are brought forward by Malone as unquestionable proofs that our poet had not written before 1591 or 1592. He says that in Webbe's 'Discourse of English Poetry,' published in 1586, we meet with the names of the most celebrated poets of that time, particularly those of the dramatic writers Whetstone and Munday; but that we find no trace of Shakspere or of his works. But Malone does not tell us that Webbe makes a general apology for his omissions, saying, “Neither is my abiding in such place where I can with facility get knowledge of their works." "Three years afterwards," continues Malone, "Puttenham printed his 'Art of English Poesy;' and in that work also we look in vain for the name
Plays mentioned by Meres, considering
Henry VI., Three Parts
Taming of the Shrew
Much Ado about Nothing
We have now seventeen plays, including 'Pericles,' left for the seventeenth century; but some of these have established their claim to an earlier date than has been usually assigned to them. 'Twelfth Night' and 'Othello' were performed in 1602. Under the usual chronological order we are compelled, according to the analysis which we
had they then appeared, would doubtless have rescued the English stage from the contempt which is thrown upon it by the accomplished writer, and to which it was justly exposed by the wretched compositions of those who preceded our poet. 'The Defence of Poesie' was not published till 1595, but must have been written some years before." There is one slight objection to this argument: Sir Philip Sidney was killed at the battle of Zutphen, in the year 1586; and it is tolerably well ascertained that "The Defence of Poesie' was written in the year 1581.
of Shakspere." The book speaks of the oneand-thirty years' space of Elizabeth's reign, and thus puts the date of the writing a year earlier than the printing. But we here look in vain for some other illustrious names besides that of Shakspere. Malone has not told us that the name of Edmund Spenser is not found in Puttenham; nor, what is still more uncandid, that not one of Shakspere's early dramatic contemporaries is mentioned -neither Marlowe, nor Greene, nor Peele, nor Kyd, nor Lyly. The author evidently derives his knowledge of "poets and poesy from a much earlier period than that in 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 mentions some of the celebrated dramas of that time," is a proof that none of Shakspere's dramatic compositions had then appeared. The "celebrated dramas" which Harrington mentions are Latin plays, and an old London comedy called 'Play of the Cards.' Does he mention "Tamburlaine,' or 'Faustus, or 'The Massacre of Paris,' or 'The Jew of Malta?' As he does not, it may be assumed with equal justice that none of Marlowe's compositions had appeared in 1591; and yet we know that he died in 1593. So of Lyly's Galathea,' ,''Alexander and Campaspe,' 'Endymion,' &c. So of Greene's 'Orlando Furioso,''Friar Bacon,' 'James IV.' So of the Jeronimo' of Kyd. The truth is, that Harrington in his notice of celebrated dramas was even more antiquated than Puttenham; and his evidence, therefore, in this matter is utterly worthless. But Malone has given his crowning proof that Shakspere had not written before 1591, in the following words:" Sir Philip Sidney, in his 'Defence of Poesie,' speaks at some length of the low state of dramatic literature at the time he composed this treatise, but has not the slightest allusion to Shakspere, whose plays,
What, then, is the theory which we build upon the various circumstances we have brought together, and which we oppose to the prevailing theory in England as to the dates of Shakspere's works? We ask that the author of twenty plays, existing in 1600, which completely changed the face of the dramatic literature of England, should be supposed to have begun to write a little earlier than the age of twenty-seven; that we should assign some few of those plays to a period antecedent to 1590. We have reason to believe that, up to the close of the sixteenth century, Shakspere was busied as an actor as well as an author. It is something too much to expect, then, even from the fertility of his genius, occupied as he was, that he should have produced twenty plays in nine years; and it is still more unreasonable to believe that the consciousness of power which he must have possessed should not have prompted him to enter the lists with other dramatists (whose highest productions may, without exaggeration, be stated as every way inferior to his lowest),
*This poem of Thalia' is noticed in The Life and Writings of Shakspere,' in Knight's Cabinet' and One Volume editions of Shakspere.
until he had gone through a probation of six or seven years' acquaintance with the stage as an humble actor. We cannot reconcile it to probability that he who ceased to be an actor when he was forty should have been contented to have been only an actor till he was twenty-seven. We cling to the belief that Shakspere, by commencing his career as a dramatic writer some four or five years earlier than is generally maintained, may claim, in common with his less illustrious early contemporaries, the praise of being one of the great founders of our dramatic literature, instead of being the mere follower and improver of Marlowe, and Greene, and Peele, and Kyd.
Timon of Athens (probably revision of an earlier play).
FOURTH PERIOD, 1608 to 1616. From his 44th year to his death.
Cymbeline (probably revision of an earlier play).
A Winter's Tale.
Pericles (probably revision of an earlier play).
Troilus and Cressida.
Antony and Cleopatra.
There is another view in which the chro
Our belief, then, as to the periods of the original production of Shakspere's Plays, shapes itself into something like the follow-nological order of Shakspere's plays may be ing arrangement :regarded and we think that it presents a
First Period, 1585 to 1593. From his 21st key to the workings of his genius, in con
year to his 29th.
Hamlet. The first sketch.
Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Comedy of Errors.
Love's Labour's Lost.
nexion with that desire which men of the highest genius only entertain, when a constant succession of new productions is demanded of them by the popular appetitenamely, to generalize their works by certain principles of art, producing novel combinations; which principles impart to groups of
All's Well that Ends Well (perhaps imper- them belonging to the same period a corre
Taming of the Shrew (the same).
SECOND PERIOD, 1594 to 1600. From his 30th year to his 36th.
Henry IV. Two Parts.
A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Romeo and Juliet.
Merchant of Venice.
Much Ado about Nothing.
Merry Wives of Windsor.
THIRD PERIOD, 1601 to 1607.
37th year to his 43rd.
As You Like It.
Measure for Measure.
Henry VI. Three Parts
Of a Tragic Cast.
Second early period; 1589 to 1593.
* Our reasons for considering the first Romeo and Juliet' to belong to this class are given in the next chapter, on Titus Andronicus.'