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Given the probability of a literary influence exercised upon a given writer by one or more previous writers, or by any course of culture, by what kind of evidence shall it be proved to have taken
This problem, necessarily present to the writer's mind when the following treatise was separately published, has since been pressed upon him with a new clearness by the essays of the late Professor Churton Collins, collected under the title of STUDIES IN SHAKESPEARE. Discussing, among other things, “Shakespeare as a Classical Scholar,"
Shakespeare and Montaigne," and, under the heading of “Shakespearean Paradoxes,” the point of the authorship of Titus Andronicus, they raise from three sides the question under notice. The first cited essay claims to prove Shakespeare's familiarity with Latin literature, and with Plato and the Greek tragedians in Latin translations; the second challenges much of the evidence offered in the following pages to show that Shakespeare was much influenced by Montaigne ; and the third claims to prove, as against the main line of English criticism, that Shakespeare really wrote the disputed play named
With the last thesis I have dealt fully in my book DID SHAKESPEARE WRITE “TITUS ANDRONICUS"? published during Mr. Collins's lifetime ; and the conclusions therein reached bear directly upon the first issue as to Shakespeare's classical scholarship. Much of Mr. Collins's case on that head turns upon classical quotations and allusions found in Titus and in plays long held, like that, to contain much that is not Shakespeare's work, albeit more affected than Titus by his touch. Thus, before we can come to a conclusion as to all the literary influences undergone by Shakespeare, we must form an opinion as to what is and what is not genuine in the mass of matter which goes under his name. Upon this head there will be found some comment in the paper on “The Originality of Shakespeare " in the present volume. So far as this discussion is concerned, however, it is still left in large part an open question. While it is claimed that the non-Shakespearean authorship of Titus is proved, it is admitted that the old question as to the Henry VI group and Richard III; the survival of alien matter in Troilus, Timon, ROMEO AND JULIET, the TAMING OF THE SHREW, and the COMEDY OF ERRORS; and the probability of pre-Shakespearean forms of Richard II, the Two GENTLEMEN, All's Well, and MEASURE For Measure have still to be systematically dealt with. I should add that for many years I have been convinced that some of the matter in Love's LABOUR's Lost to which Mr. Collins and others point for proof of Shakespeare's classical knowledge was the work of one or more collaborators, probably not professional playwrights.
Such an avowal, of course, suggests the retort that I have reasoned in a circle, settling in advance that matter which showed classical knowledge was not Shakespeare's. In point of fact, however, it is only in regard to Love's Labour's Lost that I have ever so reasoned. The whole of Titus, much of the HENRY VI plays, and most of the SHREW, was for me non-Shakespearean from the first study, in respect of everything that made Shakespeare distinguishable from other men. Instead, therefore, of begging the question, I have been 'led to my conclusions as to the learning of Shakespeare by a general induction from the matter which, upon the main and primary grounds of genuineness, was certificated to me as his. The