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The following passage is found in An Epzstle, to the Gentlemen- Students of the Two Univerfities by Thomas Nalhe, prefixed to G.reene's Arcadia, which was published in 158g: " Iwill turn back to my first text of iiudies of delight; and talk a little in friendship with a few of our trivial translators. It is a common pracfiice now a-days, among a fort of ihisting companions , that runne through every art, and thrive by none, to leave the trade 0fJVOverint,
t it 4 . OF SHAKSPEARES PLAYS. an
Not having feen the first edition of this trafi till a few years ago, I formerly doubted whether the foregoing pallage referred to the tragedy 0fH.-rmlcz; but the word. Hamlets being printed in the original copy in a different cliarafler from the rell, I have no longer any doubt upon the subject.
It is manifest from this pasfage that some play on the Ptory of Hamlet had been exhibitcd before the year 1589; bu,tI am inclined to think that it was not Shakfpeare's drama, but an elder performance , on which , with the aid ofthe old profe History of Hamlet, his tragedy was formed. The great number of pieces which we know he formed on the perfonnancgs ofpreceding writers , 7 renders it highly probable that fome others also of his dramas were conslrufted on plays that are now lollz. Perhaps the original Hanilct was written by Thomas Kyd; who was the author of one play (and probably of more) to which no name is afhxed. ' The only tragedy to which Kyd's name is aflixed, (C'0rnclz'a,) is aprofeffed tfanflatzion from the French of Garnier , who , as well as his translator, imitated Seneca. In Kyd's Spanish Tragedy, as in Shakspeare"s Hamlet , there is , if I may fay so , a play represented within a play: if the old play ofHamlct ihould ever be recovered, a fnnilarinterlude, Imalae no doubt, would be found there; and fomewhat of the fame contrivance may be traced in The old Tamzing osa Shrcw , a comedy which perhaps had the fame author as the other ancient pieces now enumerated. i
7 See the Diifertation on the Three Parts of King Hem) 71. Vol. XV. p. 246. V The Spanish- Tragedy. .'
1 12 CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER .
sNallie seems to point at some dramatick writer of that time, who had originally been a scrivener or attorney: . ,
On a conditional bond's becoming forfeitcd for nnn-payment of money borrowed, the whole penalty , whuh is usually the double of the principal fum lent by the oblicree, was formerly recoverable at law. To this our poet here