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youth's employment, voluntary or compelled, is certain of leaving an indelible hue on his nature, however distinct his after pursuits may become. Strongly impressed with this fact, I proceed to explain and corroborate the information afforded us by Malone.
Malone has given us, without believing in its application to Shakespeare, the following passage from An Epistle to the Gentlemen Students of the two Universities, by Thomas Nashe, prefixed to Robert Greene's Arcadia, the first edition of which is dated 1589:- -“ I will turn back to my first text of studies of delight, and talk a little in friendship with a few of our trivial translators. It is a common practice nowa-days, among a sort of shifting companions, that runne through every art, and thrive by none, to leave the trade of noverint, whereto they were born, and busie themselves with the endeavours of art, that could scarcely Latinize their neck-verse, if they should have need; yet English Seneca, read by candle-light, yeelds many good sentences, as blood is a beggar,* and so forth: and if you intreat him fair, in a frosty morning, he will affoord you whole
* Might not these very words, or something similar, have been in the original sketch of Hamlet ? Or might not Nashe have quoted a phrase from the translation of Seneca, in allusion to such passages as the following, in the fourth act?
“ Your fat king, and your lean beggar, is but variable service." “ To show you how a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar."
I regret that it has been out of my power to obtain a sight of Seneca, his Tenne Tragedies, London, 1581 ; in order to discover if it contains “ blood is a beggar,” or any proof of its having been read by Shakespeare.
hamlets ; I should say, handfuls of tragical speeches. But, O grief! Tempus edax rerum,-what is that will last always ? The sea, exhaled by drops, will, in continuance, be drie ; and Seneca, let bloud line by line, and page by page, at length must needs die to our stage."
The word Hamlets, according to Dr. Farmer, was thus distinguished by italics in the original edition ; of this Malone was not aware.
Such punning allusions were frequent. The passage is in the same taste, and in the same spirit of jealousy, as that by Greene himself, to whose Arcadia, that of Nashe was prefixed, wherein he called Shakespeare “ an upstart crow;" — one who
supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of
!"_" in his own conceit the only shake-scene in the country.” Surely the evidence is as strong in one case as in the other. No one doubts of Greene's allusion, with or without italics ; nor can I agree with Malone, that “the phrase Hamlets is certainly intelligible without supposing an allusion to the play.” There is but one objection of seeming weight, which is, that Hamlet must have been played as early as 1589. It has always struck me that the chronologers of his plays have fixed too late a period for the appearance of the first in 1591, for which there is no authority. Malone, Chalmers, and Dr. Drake, place the first performance of Hamlet in 1596 or 7, on very uncertain grounds. That it was, in its present state, an early work, can hardly be conceived; but it was first brought forward as a mere sketch, compared with its after appearance. Is it at all unlikely that the first sketch was popular,
and written when Shakespeare was four-and-twenty? “ The piece, however,” says Malone, speaking of Hamlet,“ which was then (first) exhibited, was probably but a rude sketch of that which we now possess ; for, from the title-page of the first edition, in 1604, we learn, that (like Romeo and Juliet, and The Merry Wives of Windsor) it had been enlarged to almost twice its original size.”
That which at once establishes the passage as being aimed at Shakespeare, and proves he had been a lawyer's clerk, is to be found in his works. Law phrases are strangely numerous there, as noticed by Malone and Chalmers. Of course they are more observable, according to the subject, in some plays than in others. But what is most to the purpose, lest it should be said they were acquired in London, is to show that in his earliest works-his poems,—his mind was astonishingly haunted by professional terms; the verses continually offering metaphors and illustrations, picked up from the desk of a lawyer. I shall quote the most remarkable lines cut of many that I have marked, nor did I seek for
I them attentively when I marked them. Besides which, I took no notice of his constant references to “ debts," “ loans,” “ quittance,” and similar phrases of an accountant, though they might be ranked among a country lawyer's terms. Altogether, they swarm in his poems, even to deformity. To begin with some from Venus and Adonis, the subject was surely no temptation to them.
Being judge in love, she cannot right her cause.”
“ But when the heart's attorney once is mute,
The client breaks, as desperate in his suit." “ Her eyes petitioners to his eyes suing." “ But when he saw his love, his youth's fair fee.” “ Which purchase if thou make, for fear of slips,
Set thy seal-manual on my wax-red lips."
Say for non-payment that the debt should double.” “ The honey-fee of parting tender'd is.” “ Her pleading hath deserv'd a greater fee.” “ Thou art the next of blood, and 'tis thy right.”
Let us now turn to the Rape of Lucrece.
“ An expired date cancell'd ere well begun."
And bring him where thy suit may be obtain'd ?” “ For me I force not argument a straw, .
Since that my case is past the help of law.” “ This brief abridgement of my will I make." “ No rightful plea might plead for justice there." “ Hath served a dumb arrest upon his tongue.”
The subjects of these two poems are most adverse to such phraseology ; but in the Sonnets, where the poet speaks in his own person, describing his own feelings, the following instances might perhaps be trebled.
“ But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes."
Proving his beauty by succession thine.” " What acceptable audit canst thou leave ?" " That use is not forbidden usury,
Which happies those that make the willing loan." “ Ah! if thou issueless shalt hap to die.” “ So should that beauty which you hold in lease.” “ And summer's lease hath all too short a date." “ When to the sessions of sweet silent thought,
I summon up remembrance of things past.”.
Thy adverse party is thy advocate.” “ And 'gainst thyself a lawful plea commence." “ Call’d to that audit by advised respects." “ To leave poor me thou hast the strength of laws,
Since, why to love, I can allege no cause.” “ But be contented; when that fell arrest,
Without all bail, shall carry me away.” “ The barren tender of a poet's debt.” “ The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing." “ So thy great gift, upon misprision growing." “ Of faults conceald wherein I am attainted.” " Which works on leases of short-number'd hours."
“ And I myself am mortgaged in thy will."