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when we consider that the life of their author extended very little beyond half a century, interest and unauthorised rumour have added a long list of spurious productions. Among these, we have assigned our reasons for placing what has been commonly called the First Part of King Henry the Sixth, but which, in Henslowe's catalogue of plays performed at the Rose theatre, is simply designated by the title of Henry the Sixth. In the same catalogue, also, is to be found Titus Andronicus, which, though printed like Henry in the first folio, has, if possible, still fewer pretensions to authenticity, having been clearly ascertained by the commentators, both from external and internal evidence, to possess no claim to such distinction, and to hold no affinity with the undisputed works of Shakspeare.


In a new edition of the Supplement, therefore, which Mr. Malone published in 1780, it is our recommendation that these two pieces be inserted, as proper companions for Locrine, Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cromwell, The London Prodizal, The Puritan, and A Yorkshire Tragedy. Of these wretched dramas, it has been now positively proved, through the medium of the Henslowe Papers, "that the name of Shakspeare, which is printed at length in the title-pages of Sir John Oldcastle, 1600, and The London Prodigal, 1605, was affixed to those pieces by a knavish bookseller, without any foundation," the following entry occurring in the manuscript, on the 16th of October, 1599:-"Received by me Thomas Downton, of Philip Henslowe, to pay Mr. Monday, Mr. Drayton, Mr. Wilson, and Hathway, for "The first part of the Lyfe of Sir Jhon Ouldeastell," and in earnest of the Second Pte," for the use of the company, ten pound, I say received 10lb." Not content with this ample addition, which first appeared in the folio of 1664, the public has been further imposed upon by another illegitimate group, principally derived from a blind confidence in the accuracy of catalogues and the fabrication of booksellers. From these sources, and from the authority of a volume formerly in the possession of King Charles the Second, and lettered on the back, SHAKSPEARE, Vol. I., the subsequent enumeration has been given by Mr. Steevens, viz. :-1. The Arraignment of Paris; 2. The Birth of Merlin ; 3. Edward III.; 4. Fair Emm; 5. The Merry Devil of Edmonton; and 6. Mucedorus; to which may be added, from Warburton's Collection of Old Dramas, where they are said to have been entered on the books of the Stationers' Company as written by Shakspeare. 7. Duke Humphrey, a Tragedy; and 8. The History of King Stephen, both registered, June 29, 1660.* George Peele, it appears, was the author of The Arraignment of Paris, and a writer, who signs himself T. B., of The Merry Devil of Edmonton, while the ascription of the plays, once in Warburton's library, was probably owing, at that distance of time, either to the ignorance, credulity, or fraud, of some heedless or mercenary trader.

To enter into any critical discussion of the merits or defects of these pieces, would be an utter abuse of time, We do not believe that, either in the play of Henry the Sixth, or Titus Andronicus, twenty lines can be found of Shakspeare's composition; and, in the residue of this first group, consisting of six more, we decidedly think not so many. In the second, including also eight dramas, the only production now extant, of any worth, is The Merry Devil of Edmonton, which contains a few pleasing and interesting passages expressed with ease and simplicity.

We have still to notice some vague reports relative to our poet's occasional junction with his contemporaries in dramatic composition: thus, we are told, that he assisted Ben Jonson in his Sejanus; Davenport, in his Henry the First, and Fletcher, in his Two Noble Kinsmen. § Of these traditional stories, the first has been very deservedly given up, as entirely out of the question;"

* See Gentleman's Magazine, vol. lxxxv. p. 219.


+ Capell's School of Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 479. See also Gifford's Ben Jonson, vol. i. p. lxx. Gentleman's Magazine, vol. lxxxv. p. 219.

On the authority of the title of the first quarto, printed in 1634, eighteen years after the death of Shakspeare.

For proof of this, see Gifford's Jonson, vol. i. p. lxx. note.

the second rests merely on the unsupported assertion of a Stationers' Register,' and the third, though more express and distinct, has been completely refuted by Colman and, Steevens. Indeed, there is much reason to suppose that The Two Noble Kinsmen was not written until after the death of Shakspeare.‡

From what has been said, under each article of the preceding chronology, perhaps no very inadequate idea may be formed of the Dramatic Character of our poet; but, it will be expected here, and it is indeed essential to a just and facile. comprehension of the subject, that a summary or condensed view of this character be attempted, in order by collecting the scattered rays into a focus, to throw upon it a due degree of brilliancy and strength.

With the view of ascertaining the peculiar Genius of his Drama, it is necessary that we should attend to a distinction, which has been very correctly and luminously laid down by some late German critics, particularly by Herder and Schlegel, who oppose the modern to the ancient drama, under the appellation of the Gothic or roman'ic, assimilating the antique or classical theatre to a group in sculpture, and the Gothic or romantic to an extensive picture, separation being the essence of the former, and combination of the latter; or, in other words, that the spirit of the Grecian drama is plastic, and that of the English picturesque.

In fact, the Romantic Drama is the result of that great change which took place in society on the extinction of the western empire, when the blended influence of Christianity and Chivalry, operating on the stern virtues of the Teutonic tribes, gave birth to a spirit of seriousness and sentiment, of love and honour, of enterprise and adventure, which led to a constant aspiration after the great, the wonderful, the wild, and, by mingling the melancholy of a sublime religion with an enthusiastic homage for female worth, threw an anxious but unparalleled interest over all the relations of existence, and all the products of intellectual effort. The effect of this combination on the poetry of the middle ages, and more especially on that of the immediately subsequent centuries, in impressing it with an awful and mysterious character, has been beautifully sketched by Schlegel, particularly where, as in the following passage, he accounts for the solemn and contemplative cast of its structure, by tracing its dependency on the genius of our faith. "Among the Greeks," he observes, "human nature was in itself all-sufficient; they were conscious of no wants, and aspired at no higher perfection than that which they could actually attain by the exercise of their own faculties. We, however, are taught by superior wisdom that man, through a high offence, forfeited the place for which he was originally destined; and that the whole object of his earthly existence is to strive to regain that situation, which, if left to his own strength, he could never accomplish. The religion of the senses had only in view the possession of outward and perishable blessings; and immortality, in so far as it was believed, appeared in an obscure distance like a shadow, a faint dream of this bright and vivid futurity. The very reverse of all this is the case with the Christian; every thing finite and mortal is lost in the contemplation of infinity; life has become shadow and darkness, and the first dawning of our real existence opens in the world beyond the grave. Such a religion must waken the foreboding, which slumbers in every feeling heart, to the most thorough consciousness, that the happiness after which we strive we can never here attain; that no external object can ever entirely fill our souls; and that every mortal enjoyment is but a fleeting and momentary deception. When the soul, resting as it were under the willows of exile, breathes out its longing for its distant home, the prevailing character of its songs must be melancholy. Hence the poetry of the ancients was the poetry of enjoyment, and ours is that of desire: the former has its foundation in the scene which is present, while the latter hovers betwixt recollection and hope. Let me not be understood

See Gent. Magazine, vol. lxxxv. p. 219, and Biographia Dramatica, 1782, vol. i. p. 118, article Davenport.

Colman's Beaumont and Fletcher, vol. i. p. 118,

"The Two Noble Kinsmen," observes Steevens, "could not have been composed til after 1611, nor perhaps antecedent to the deaths of Beaumont and our author, when assistance and composition ceased, and the poet, who resembled the latter most, had the fairest prospect of success During the life of Beaumont, which concluded in 1615, it cannot well be supposed that Fletcher would have deserted him, to write in concert with any other dramatist. Shakspeare survived Beaumont only by one year, and, during that time, is known to have lived in Warwickshire, bevond the reach of Fletcher, who continued to reside in London till he fell a sacrifice to the plague in 1625."

to affirm that every thing flows in one strain of wailing and complaint, and that the voice of melancholy must always be loudly heard. As the austerity of tragedy was not incompatible with the joyous views of the Greeks, so the romantic poetry can assume every tone, even that of the most lively gladness; but still it will always, in some shape or other, bear traces of the source from which it originated. The feeling of the moderns is, upon the whole, more intense, their fancy more incorporeal, and their thoughts more contemplative.'

Who does not perceive that this reference to futurity, this apprehension of the possible consequences of death, which chills the blood with awful emotion, and mingles fear even with the energies of hope, is peculiarly characteristic of the serious drama of Shakspeare? In what poet, for instance, shall we find the ter rors of dissolution painted with such appalling strength? where nature recoiling with such involuntary horror from the thoughts of extinction? and where those blended feelings which, on the eve of our departure, even agitate the good, ere the forms of earthly love sink into night, and a world unknown receives the disembodied spirit? Need we point to Henry the Sixth, to Hamlet, to Measure for Measure, to Macbeth, and to many others, for proofs of this continual appeal to life beyond the grave, this perpetual effort to unite, with influential power, these two states of our existence, certainly one of the most striking distinctions which separate the romantic from the antique style of dramatic fiction, and in which, as in every other feature of this species of poetry, Shakspeare was the first who, in our own or any other country, exhibited such unrivalled excellence, as to constitute him, in every just sense of the term, the founder of this species of the drama.

For have we not, in his productions, the noblest model of that comprehensive form which, including under one view all the varieties and vicissitudes of human being, presents us with a picture in which not only the virtues and the vices, but the follies and the frailties, the levities and the mirth of man, are harmonised and blended into a perfect whole, connected too, and that intimately, with a vast range of surrounding circumstances which, both in the foreground and in the distance, are so managed, as, by the illusory aid of tinting, grouping, and shadowing, to assist in the production of a great and determinate effect. To evince the superiority of this mode of composition over that which prevailed on the Grecian stage, it is only necessary to reflect, that the concatenated series of events which is unfolded, with so much unity of design, in the single drama of Macbeth, could only be represented, on the simple and confined plan of the school of Athens, by a trilogy, or succession of distinct tragedies! Can a system, thus necessarily broken into insulated parts, be put into competition with the rich and full evolution of the romantic or Shakspearean drama?

It is evident, therefore, that the romantic or picturesque drama should be judged by laws and regulations of its own; that it is a distinct order of art, displaying great originality and invention, and a much more perfect and profound view of human life and its dependencies, than any anterior effort in the same department of literature; and as all the productions of our poet are exclusively referable to this order, of which he is, without dispute, the greatest master, a brief enquiry into the CONDUCT OF HIS DRAMA cannot fail to throw some light on the subject.

Of the three unities, upon which so much stress has leen laid by the French critics, Shakspeare has in general, and, for the most part, very judiciously, rejected two. One of these, the unity of place, was, indeed, indissolubly connected with the tragedy of the Greeks; for as the chorus was continually on their stage, no curtain could be dropped, nor was any change of scene therefore possible; but the unity of time was most assuredly neither rigidly observed by them, nor did it constitute any essential part of their system; on the contrary, Aristotle, after remarking," that the dramatic fable should have such a length that the connexion of the circumstances may easily be remembered," immediately afterwards

• Lectures on Dramatic Literature, vol. i. p. 15, 16.


declares of this very length, that " as far as regards the time of the performance and the spectators, it has no relation to the poetic art," and that "as to the natural boundary of the action, the greater it is the better, provided it be perspicuous." In fact, as to unity of place, no rule was required, this limitation, as we have seen, being the inevitable consequence of the defective and insulated construction of their dramatic fable; and as to unity of time, the observation which we have just quoted from Aristotle is decisive, the circumstances attending both these supposed laws being such as fully to warrant the assertion of Mr. Twining, who, commenting on the Stagyrite, observes, that "with respect to the strict unities of time and place, no such rules were imposed on the Greek poets by the critics, or by themselves; nor are imposed on any poet, either by the nature, or the end, of the dramatic imitation itself;" and we may add, that, in as far as both have been simultaneously reduced to practice, either by the Greeks themselves, or by their still more scrupulous imitators the French, have interest and probability been proportionably sacrificed.

Whether Shakspeare, therefore, acting solely from his own judgment, rejected, or, guided merely by the usage of his day, overlooked these unities, a great point was gained for all the lovers of nature and verisimilitude. For, omitting regulations which, though generally or partially observed by the ancients, were either altogether arbitrary, or only locally necessary, he has adopted two, of which it may be said, that neither time, circumstance, nor opinion, can diminish the utility. To unity of action, the indispensable requisite of every well-constituted fable, he has added, what in him is found more perfect than in any other writer, unity of feeling, as applicable not only to individual character, but to the prevailing tone and influence of each play. Thus, while it must be confessed that the former is, in a few instances, broken in upon, by the admission of extraneous personages or occurrences, in no respect is the latter, throughout the whole range of his productions, forgotten or violated.

It is to this sedulous attention in the preservation of unity of feeling, that Shakspeare owes much of his fascination and powers of impression over the hearts and minds of his audience. It has been duly panegyrised by the critics with respect to his delineation of character; but as referable to the expression and effect of an entire drama, it has been too much overlooked. What, for example, can be more distinct than the tone of feeling which pervades every portion of Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, and how consistently is this tone preserved throughout each! Through the first, from its opening to its close, breathe the freshness and the fragrance of youth and spring, their sweetness, their innocency, and alas! their transiency; while in the second, a tempest of more than midnight horror, and the still more turbulent strife of human vice and passion, howl for ever in our ears! Again, how delightful is the tender and philosophic melancholy, which steals upon us in every scene of As You Like It, and how contrasted with the bustle and vivacity, the light and effervescent wit which animate, and sparkle in, the dialogue of Much Ado about Nothing! We consider this unity, by which the separate parts of a drama are rendered so strictly subservient to a single and a common object, namely, the production of a combined and uniform impression, as one of the most remarkable proofs of the depth and comprehensiveness of the mind of Shakspeare.

This excellence is the more extraordinary, as no part in the conduct of his drama is perhaps so prominent, as that mixture of seriousness and mirth, of comic and tragic effect, which springs from the very structure itself of the romantic drama. But this interchange of emotion serves only to place the intention of the poet, and the fulness of his success, more completely in our view; for he has almost always contrived, that the ludicrous personages of his play should give essential aid to the pre-determined effect of the composition as a whole; and this co-operation

Pye's Aristotle, 4to, 1792, p. 22.

is even most apparent, where the impression intended to be excited is the most tragic thus the anguish which lacerates the bosom of Lear, when deserted by his children, and driven forth amid the horrors of the tempest, is augmented almost to madness by the sarcastic drollery of the fool; developed, indeed, with an energy and strength which no other expedient could have accomplished.

These contrasts, which are, in fact, of the very essence of the romantic drama, as requiring richer and more varied accompaniments than the antique species, form, in their whole spirit and effect, a sufficient apology, were one in the least necessary, for the tragi-comic texture of our author's principal productions.

By embracing in one view the whole of the checkered scene of human existence, its joys and sorrows, its perpetually shifting circumstances and relations, and by blending these into one harmonious picture, Shakspeare has achieved a work to which the ancient world had nothing similar, and which, of all the efforts of human genius, demands perhaps the widest and profoundest exertion of intellect. It demands a knowledge of a man, both as: genus and a species; of man, as acting from himself, and of man in society under all its aspects and revolutions it demands a knowledge of what has influenced and modified his character from the earliest dawn of record; and, above all, it demands a conversancy of the most intimate kind with his constitution, moral, intellectual, and religious; so that in detaching a portion of history for the purposes of dramatic composition, the philosopher shall be as discernible in the execution as the poet.

It is this depth and comprehension of design in the conduct of his drama, this amplitude of "a mind reflecting ages past," which, while it has rendered Shakspeare an object of admiration to the intelligent student of nature, has occasioned him to be so often and so grossly misinterpreted by the narrow critic and the careless reader.

To these brief remarks on the Genius and Conduct, it will be necessary to add a few observations on the Characters, the Passions, the Comic Painting, and the Imaginative Powers, of his drama.

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is, indeed, a task of the utmost magnitude and difficulty, but one in which our poet has succeeded with a felicity altogether unparalleled. His characters live and breathe before us; we perceive not only what they say and do, but what they feel and think; and we are tempted to believe, that like some magician of old, he possessed the art of transfusing himself into the frame, and of speaking through the organs, of those whom he wished to represent; so exactly has he drawn, without deviation from the general laws and broad tract of life, each class and condition of mankind.

Whether he delineate the possessor of a throne, or the tenant of a cottage; the warrior in battle, or the statesman in debate; youth in its fervour, or old age in its repose; guilt in agony, or innocence in peace; the votaries of pleasure, or the victims of despair; we behold each character developing itself, not through the medium of self-description, but, as in actual experience, through the influence and progression of events, and through the re-action of surrounding agents.

*This expression, and the verses which open some of the leading subjects of this summary, are taken from a poem "On worthy Master Shakspeare," supposed to have been the composition of Jasper Mayae. but which Mr. Godwin, if we recollect aright, for the book is not before us, is desirous of attributing, on account of its singular excellence, to the pen of Milton.-See his Lives of E. and J. Philips, 4to.

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