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THE external evidence that bears upon the authorship of 'Titus Andronicus' is of two kinds :
belonged. But neither was the name of Shakspere affixed to the first editions of 'Richard II.,' 'Richard III.,' and 'Henry IV.,
1. The testimony which assigns the play Part I.;' nor to the first three editions of to Shakspere, wholly or in part. 'Romeo and Juliet ;' nor to 'Henry V.' These
2. The testimony which fixes the period of similar facts, therefore, leave the testimony its original production. of Hemings and Condell unimpeached.
We now come to the second point-the testimony which fixes the date of the original
two modes of viewing this portion of the evidence; and we first present it with the interpretation which deduces from it that the tragedy was not written by Shakspere.
The direct testimony of the first kind is unimpeachable: Francis Meres, a contemporary of Shakspere-a man intimately ac-production of 'Titus Andronicus.' There are quainted with the literary history of his day -not writing even in the later period of Shakspere's life, but as early as 1598-compares, for tragedy, the excellence of Shakspere among the English, with Seneca among the Latins, and says, witness, "for tragedy, ‘his Richard II.,' 'Richard III.,' 'Henry IV.,' 'King John,' 'Titus Andronicus,' and his 'Romeo and Juliet.'”
The indirect testimony is nearly as important. The play is printed in the first folio edition of the poet's collected worksan edition published within seven years after his death by his intimate friends and "fellows;" and that edition contains an entire scene not found in either of the previous quarto editions which have come down to us. That edition does not contain a single other play upon which a doubt of the authorship has been raised; for even those who deny the entire authorship of 'Henry VI.' to Shakspere have no doubt as to the partial authorship.
Against this testimony of the editors of the first folio, that Shakspere was the author of 'Titus Andronicus,' there is only one fact to be opposed that his name is not on the title-page of either of the quarto editions, although those editions show us that it was acted by the company to which Shakspere
Ben Jonson, in the Induction to his 'Bartholomew Fair,' first acted in 1614, says"He that will swear 'Jeronimo,' or 'Andronicus,' are the best plays yet, shall pass unexcepted at here, as a man whose judgment shows it is constant, and hath stood still these five-and-twenty or thirty years. Though it be an ignorance, it is a virtuous and staid ignorance; and, next to truth, a confirmed error does well." Percy offers the following comment upon this passage, in his 'Reliques of Ancient Poetry:'"There is reason to conclude that this play was rather improved by Shakespeare with a few fine touches of his pen, than originally written by him: for, not to mention that the style is less figurative than his others generally are, this tragedy is mentioned with discredit in the Induction to Ben Jonson's 'Bartholomew Fair,' in 1614, as one that had been then exhibited 'five-and-twenty or thirty years;' which, if we take the lowest number, throws it back to the year 1589, at which time Shakespeare was but 25: an earlier date than can be found for any other of his pieces." With the views we entertain as to the com
mencement of Shakspere's career as a dra- | matic author, the proof against his authorship of Titus Andronicus,' thus brought forward by Percy, is to us amongst the most convincing reasons for not hastily adopting the opinion that he was not its author. The external evidence of the authorship, and the external evidence of the date of the authorship, entirely coincide: each supports the other. The continuation of the argument derived from the early date of the play naturally runs into the internal evidence of its authenticity. The fact of its early date is indisputable; and here, for the present, we leave it.
We can scarcely subscribe to Mr. Hallam's strong opinion, given with reference to this question of the authorship of Titus Andronicus,' that, "in criticism of all kinds, we must acquire a dogged habit of resisting testimony, when res ipsa per se vociferatur to the contrary."* The res ipsa may be looked upon through very different media by different minds: testimony, when it is clear, and free from the suspicion of an interested bias, although it appear to militate against conclusions that, however strong, are not infallible, because they depend upon very nice analysis and comparison, must be received, more or less, and cannot be doggedly resisted. Mr. Hallam "Titus Andronicus' is now, says, by common consent, denied to be, in any sense, a production of Shakspeare." Who are the interpreters of the " common consent?" Theobald, Johnson, Farmer, Steevens, Malone, M. Mason. These critics are wholly of one school; and we admit that they represent the " common consent" of their own school of English literature upon this point-till within a few years the only school. But there is another school of criticism, which maintains that "Titus Andronicus' is in every sense a production of Shakspere. The German critics, from W. Schlegel to Ulrici, agree to reject the " common consent" of the English critics. The subject, therefore, cannot be hastily dismissed; the external testimony cannot be doggedly resisted. But, in entering upon the examination of this question with the best care we can bestow, we con*Literature of Europe,' vol. ii. p. 385.
sider that it possesses an importance much higher than belongs to the proof, or disproof, from the internal evidence, that this painful tragedy was written by Shakspere. The question is not an isolated one. It requires to be treated with a constant reference to the state of the early English drama,—the probable tendencies of the poet's own mind at the period of his first dramatic productions,-the circumstances amidst which he was placed with reference to his audiences,— the struggle which he must have undergone to reconcile the contending principles of the practical and the ideal, the popular and the true, the tentative process by which he must have advanced to his immeasurable superiority over every contemporary. It is easy to place 'Titus Andronicus' by the side of 'Hamlet,' and to say, the one is a low work of art, the other a work of the highest art. It is easy to say that the versification of Titus Andronicus' is not the versification of A Midsummer Night's Dream.' It is easy to say that Titus raves and denounces without moving terror or pity; but that Lear tears up the whole heart, and lays bare all the hidden springs of thought and passion that elevate madness into sublimity. But this, we venture to think, is not just criticism. We may be tempted, perhaps, to refine too much in rejecting all such sweeping comparisons; but what we have first to trace is relation, and not likeness:—if we find likeness in a single "trick or line," we may indeed add it to the evidence of relation. But relation may be established even out of dissimilarity. No one who has deeply contemplated the progress of the great intellects of the world, and has traced the doubts, and fears, and throes, and desperate plunges of genius, can hesitate to believe that excellence in art is to be attained by the same process through which we may hope to reach excellence in morals-by contest, and purification,
until habitual confidence and repose succeed to convulsive exertions and distracting aims. He that would rank amongst the heroes must have fought the good fight. Energy of all kinds has to work out its own subjection to principles, without which it can never become power. In the course of this struggle
what it produces may be essentially unlike to the fruits of its after-peacefulness:-for the good has to be reached through the evil -the true through the false-the universal through the partial. The passage we subjoin is from Franz Horn; and we think that it demands a respectful consideration :
tone was not long sufficient for him. He soon desired, from that stage 'which signifies the world' (an expression that Schiller might properly have invented for Shakspere), to speak aloud what the world seemed to him,-to him, the youth who was not yet able thoroughly to penetrate this seeming. Can there be here a want of colossal errors? Not merely single errors. No we should have a whole drama which is diseased at its very root,-which rests upon one single mon
"A mediocre, poor, and tame nature finds itself easily. It soon arrives, when it endeavours earnestly, at a knowledge of what it can accomplish, and what it cannot. Its poetical tones are single and gentle spring-strous error. Such a drama is this 'Titus.' breathings; with which we are well pleased, but which pass over us almost trackless. A very different combat has the higher and richer nature to maintain with itself; and the more splendid the peace, and the brighter the clearness, which it reaches through this combat, the more monstrous the fight which must have been incessantly maintained.
"Let us consider the richest and most powerful poetic nature that the world has ever yet seen; let us consider Shakspere, as boy and youth, in his circumscribed external situation, without one discriminating friend, without a patron, without a teacher,-with- | out the possession of ancient or modern languages,-in his loneliness at Stratford, following an uncongenial employment; and then, in the strange whirl of the so-called great world of London, contending for long years with unfavourable circumstances,-in wearisome intercourse with this great world, which is, however, often found to be little; -but also with nature, with himself, and with God:-What materials for the deepest contemplation! This rich nature, thus circumstanced, desires to explain the enigma of the human being and the surrounding world. But it is not yet disclosed to himself. Ought he to wait for this ripe time before he ventures to dramatise? Let us not demand anything super-human: for, through the expression of error in song, will he find what accelerates the truth; and well for him that he has no other sins to answer for than poetical ones, which later in life he has atoned for by the most glorious excellences!
"The elegiac tone of his juvenile poems allows us to imagine very deep passions in the youthful Shakspere. But this single
The poet had here nothing less in his mind than to give us a grand Doomsday-drama. But what, as a man, was possible to him in Lear,' the youth could not accomplish. He gives us a torn-to-pieces world, about which Fate wanders like a bloodthirsty lion, or as a more refined or more cruel tiger, tearing mankind, good and evil alike, and blindly treading down every flower of joy. Nevertheless a better feeling reminds him that some repose must be given; but he is not sufficiently confident of this, and what he does in this regard is of little power. The personages of the piece are not merely heathens, but most of them embittered and blind in their heathenism; and only some single aspirations of something better can arise from a few of the best among them ;aspirations which are breathed so gently as scarcely to be heard amidst the cries of desperation from the bloody waves that roar almost deafeningly."
The eloquent critic adds, in a note, "Is
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Possess it merely.'
"And now, let us bethink ourselves, in opposition to this terrible feeling, of the sweet blessed peacefulness which speaks from out of all the poet's more matured dramas: for
instance, from the inexhaustibly joyfulminded As You Like It.' Such a contest followed by such a victory!"
It is scarcely necessary to point out that this argument of the German critic is founded upon the simple and intelligible belief that Shakspere is, in every sense of the word, the author of 'Titus Andronicus.' Here is no attempt to compromise the question, by the common English babble that Shakspere may have written a few lines in this play, or given some assistance to the author in revising it." This is Malone's opinion, founded upon an idle tradition, mentioned by Ravenscroft in the time of James II., a tradition contradicted by Ravenscroft himself, who, in a prologue to his alteration of Titus Andronicus,' says—
"To-day the poet does not fear your rage; Shakespear, by him revived, now treads the stage."
In Malone's posthumous edition, by Boswell, "those passages in which he supposed the hand of Shakspere may be traced are marked with inverted commas." This was the system which Malone pursued with 'Henry VI.;' and, as we fully believe, it was founded upon a most egregious fallacy. The drama belongs to the province of the very highest poetical art; because a play which fully realizes the objects of a scenic exhibition requires a nicer combination of excellences, and involves higher difficulties, than belong to any other species of poetry. Taking the qualities of invention, power of language, versification, to be equal in two men, one devoting himself to dramatic poetry, and the other to narrative poetry, the dramatic poet has chances of failure which the narrative poet may entirely avoid. The dialogue, and especially the imagery, of the dramatic poet are secondary to the invention of the plot, the management of the action, and the conception of the characters. Language is but the drapery of the beings that the dramatic poet's imagination has created. They must be placed by the poet's power of combination in the various relations which they must maintain through a long and sometimes complicated action: he must see
the whole of that action vividly, with reference to its capacity of manifesting itself distinctly to an audience, so that even the deaf should partially comprehend: the pantomime must be acted over and over again in his mind, before the wand of the magician gives the agents voice. When all this is done, all contradictions reconciled, all obscurities made clear, the interest prolonged and heightened, and the catastrophe naturally evolved and matured, the poet, to use the terms of a sister-art, has completed that design which colour and expression are to make manifest to others with something like the distinctness with which he himself has seen it. We have no hesitation in believing that one of the main causes of Shakspere's immeasurable superiority to other dramatists is that all-penetrating power of combination by which the action of his dramas is constantly sustained; whilst in the best pieces of his contemporaries, with rare exceptions, it flags or breaks down into description, or is carried off by imagery,— or the force of conception in one character overpowers the management of the other instruments— -cases equally evidencing that the poet has not attained the most difficult art of controlling his own conceptions. And thus it is that we so often hear Christopher Marlowe, or Philip Massinger,-to name the very best of them,-speaking themselves out of the mouths of their puppets, whilst the characterization is lost, and the action is forgotten. But when do we ever hear the individual voice of the man William Shakspere? When does he come forward to bow to the audience, as it were, between the scenes? Never is there any pause with him, that we may see the complacent author whispering to his auditory-"This is not exactly what I meant; my inspiration carried me away; but is it not fine?" The great dramatic poet sits out of mortal ken. He rolls away the clouds and exhibits his world. There is calm and storm, and light and darkness; and the material scene becomes alive; and we see a higher life than that of our ordinary nature and the whole soul is elevated; and man and his actions are presented under aspects more real than reality,