ePub 版

cerning the Essays may throw still further light on the whole subject, proceeding thus:

"These fragments of my conceits were going to print: to labour the stay of them had been troublesome, and subject to interpretation; to let them pass had been to adventure the wrong they might receive by untrue copies, or by some garnishment, which it might please any that should set them forth to bestow upon them. Therefore I held it best discretion to publish them myself, as they passed long ago from my pen, without any further disgrace, than the weakness of the author. And as I did ever hold, there might be as great a vanity in retiring and withdrawing men's conceits (except they be of some nature) from the world, as in obtruding them: so in these particulars I have played myself the Inquisitor, and find nothing to my understanding in them contrary or infectious to the state of Religion, or manners, but rather (as I suppose) medicinable. Only I disliked now to put them out because they will be like the late new half-pence, which though the Silver were good, yet the pieces were small. But since they would not stay with their Master, but would needs travel abroad, I have preferred them to you that are next to myself, dedicating them, such as they are, to our love, in the depth whereof (I assure you) I sometimes wish your infirmities translated upon myself, that her Majesty might have the service of so active and able a mind, and I might be with excuse confined to these contemplations and studies for which I am fittest."

And the circumstances under which the "Troilus and Cressida," that "remarkable and singular production," as it is styled by Mr. Verplanck, first made its appearance, in 1609, are worthy of note in this connection. It appears that an older play of this name, perhaps an earlier sketch of this very one (as Mr. Verplanck seems to think, though there is much reason to believe it was by another author altogether), had been entered upon the Stationers' Regis

ter in 1602-3, but never printed; but before 1609, it must have been greatly enlarged and improved (if indeed this were not wholly a new play) in the most matured style of this master; and it was first presented before the King's Majesty at Court, in that year, and thence sent directly to the printer, and was printed with a preface, and with the name of William Shakespeare on the title-page, before it had ever appeared at the theatre.1 The printer's preface (and, of course, the printer would expect the author himself to furnish the preface as well then as now) announces it thus:

"A never writer to an ever reader.


Eternall reader [a "never writer" must have meant one never known to the public as a writer of plays, and could not well be William Shakespeare himself who was writing so much for the ever-reading public], you have heere a new play never stal'd with the stage, never clapperclawed with the palmes of the vulger, and yet passing full of the palme comicall; for it is a birth of your braine, that never undertooke any thing comicall vainely: and were but the vaine names of commedies changde for the titles of commodities, or of playes for pleas [mind still running on pleas], you should see all those grand censors, that now stile them such vanities, flock to them for the main grace of their gravities ["we cannot but know their dignity greater, than to descend to the reading of these trifles," says the Dedication to the Folio, and "I have done with such vanities," says Bacon, in answer to a summons to the House of Lords, some time afterwards]; especially this author's commedies, that are so fram'd to the life. [“Painter. It is a pretty mocking of the life;" and says Bacon, "I must do contrary to that that painters do;


1 White's Shakes., IX. 1-16; Papers of the Shakes. Soc., III. 79. London. 2 Timon of Athens, Act I. Sc. 1.


for they desire to make the picture to the life, and I must endeavour to make the life to the picture," 1] that they serve for the most common commentaries of all the actions of our lives, showing such a dexteritie, and power of witte, that the most displeased with playes are pleased with his commedies, [says Bacon's letter to the King (1621), "Cardinal Wolsey said that if he had pleased God as he pleased the King, he had not been ruined. My conscience saith no such thing; for I know not but in serving you, I served God in one. But it may be if I had pleased God, as I had pleased you, it would have been better for me"]. . . . So much and such savord salt of witte is in his commedies, that they seem (for their height of pleasure ["it hath been the height of our care," says the Dedication again]) to be borne in that sea that brought forth Venus. Amongst all there is none more witty than this; and had I time, I would comment upon it, though I know it needs not, (for so much as will make you thinke your testern well bestow'd,) but for so much worth, as even poore I know to be stuft in it [certainly there can be no doubt of that, your worship.] It deserves such a labour, as well as the best commedy in Terence or Plautus: and believe this, that when hee is gone, and his commedies out of sale, you will scramble for them, and set up a new English inquisition [some twelve years before, the Dedicatory Epistle to the Essays had said, "so in these particulars I have played myself the Inquisitor"]. Take this for a warning, and at the perill of your pleasures losse, and judgments, refuse not, nor like this the lesse for not being sullied with the smoaky breath of the multitude; but thanke fortune for the 'scape it hath made amongst you. Since by the grand possessors' wills, I believe, you should have prayd for them, rather than beene prayd. And so I leave all such to bee prayd for (for the states of their wits healths) that will not praise it.—Vale."

1 Letter, 1619.

It is positively asserted here, that the play was a new ɔne, and that it had never been upon the stage, nor been sullied with the smoky breath of the multitude. The writer must have known this. It was first produced at Court, and was no doubt addressed rather to the refined and learned personages that would be there assembled to hear it, than to the unlettered multitude; and these being "the grand possessors," and the play being such as he knew it to be, he did not hesitate to tell the public, that they might be thankful that they ever got it at all, and, if they knew what was good for themselves, they should rather pray to have it than be prayed to take it; and this is as true today as it was then; for as we know, it seldom appears upon the public stage, though full of the loftiest wisdom.

But very soon after it was printed, it found its way to the theatre, and shortly after it had appeared upon the stage, and in the same year, a second edition was issued from the same type, only suppressing this preface, and announcing the play on the title-page "as it was acted by the King's Majesty's Servants at the Globe: Written by William Shakespeare." It had now come to be a Shakespeare's play. From this significant allusion to the "grand possessors' wills," both Tieck and Knight have inferred that the manuscript came from the possession, or control, either of the King himself, or of some great personage about the Court, and that Shakespeare had written this "wonderful comedy" for that person and for the use of the revels at Court, and not for the public stage; an inference, which would seem to carry upon its face the appearance of a forced construction. In view of all that will be offered herein touching the question of this authorship, it may appear more probable, and these very facts may give us some intimation, that the great personage in question was himself the author of the play, being no other (as it will be shown) than Sir Francis Bacon, then lately become Solicitor-General. At least, not inconsistent with

this conclusion, is Mr. Verplanck's excellent appreciation of the play itself, in these words:

"Its beauties are of the highest order. It contains passages fraught with moral truth and political wisdom - high truths, in large and philosophical discourse, such as remind us of the loftiest disquisitions of Hooker, or Jeremy Taylor, on the foundations of social law. Thus the comments of Ulysses (Act I. Sc. 3) on the universal obligation of the law of order and degree, and the confusion caused by rebellion to its rule, either in nature or in society, are in the very spirit of the grandest and most instructive eloquence of Burke. The piece abounds too in passages of the most profound and persuasive practical ethics, and grave advice for the government of life; as when in the third act, Ulysses (the great didactic organ of the play) impresses upon Achilles the consideration of man's ingratitude for good deeds past,' and the necessity of perseverance to keep honor bright.""


And in further confirmation of this view, we find in this play one of those numerous instances of similarity, not to say identity, of thought and language, which, independent of extraneous circumstances, though not absolutely conclusive in themselves, are, nevertheless, scarcely less convincing than the most direct evidence when considered with all the rest; for, in the "Advancement of Learning," treating of moral culture, Bacon quotes Aristotle as saying, "that young men are no fit auditors of moral philosophy," because "they are not settled from the boiling heat of their affections, nor attempered with time and experience." And in the "Troilus and Cressida," we have the same thing in these lines:

[ocr errors]

"Not much

Unlike young men, whom Aristotle thought

Unfit to hear moral philosophy." Act II. Sc. 2.

Mr. Spedding notices that Aristotle speaks only of "political philosophy," and he observes that the error of Bacon, in

« 上一頁繼續 »