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WE have hitherto supposed Shakspeare the author of The Taming of the Shrew, but his property in it is extremely disputable. I will give my opinion, and the reasons on which it is founded. I suppose then the present play not originally the work of Shakspeare, but restored by him to the stage, with the whole Induction of the Tinker; and some other occasional improvements; especially in the character of Petruchio. It is very obvious that the Induction and the Play were either the works of different hands, or written at a great interval of time. The former is in our author's best manner, and a great part of the latter in his worst, or even below it. Dr. Warburton declares it to be certainly spurious; and without doubt, supposing it to have been written by Shakspeare, it must have been one of his earliest productions. Yet it is not mentioned in the list of his works by Meres in 1598.
I have met with a facetious piece of Sir John Harrington, printed in 1596, (and possibly there may be an earlier edition) called The Metamorphosis of Ajax, where I suspect an allusion to the old play: "Read the Booke of Taming a Shrew, which hath made a number of us so perfect, that now every one can rule a shrew in our countrey, save he that hath hir."-I am aware a modern linguist may object that the word book does not at present seem dramatick, but it was once technically so: Gosson, in his Schoole of Abuse, containing a pleasaunt Invective against Poets, Pipers, Players, Festers, and such like Caterpillars of a Commonwealth, 1579, mentions "Twoo prose bookes played at the BellSauage;" and Hearne tells us, in a note at the end of William of Worcester, that he had seen a MS. in the nature of a Play or Interlude, entitled The Booke of Sir Thomas Moore.
And in fact there is such an old anonymous play in Mr. Pope's list: "A pleasant conceited history, called The Taming of a Shrew-sundry times acted by the Earl of Pembroke his servants." Which seems to have been republished by the remains of that company in 1607, when Shakspeare's copy appeared at the Black-Friars or the Globe.-Nor let this seem derogatory from the character of our poet. There is no reason to believe that he wanted to claim the play as his own; for it was not even printed till some years after his death; but he merely revived it on his stage as a manager.
In support of what I have said relative to this play, let me only observe further at present, that the author of Hamlet speaks of Gonzago, and his wife Baptista; but the author of The Taming of the Shrew knew Baptista to be the name of a man. Mr. Capell indeed made me doubt, by declaring the authenticity of it to be confirmed by the testimony of Sir Aston Cockayn. I knew Sir Aston was much acquainted with the writers immediately subsequent to Shakspeare; and I was not inclined to dispute his au thority: but how was I surprised, when I found that Cockayn ascribes nothing more to Shakspeare, than the Induction-Wincot Ale and the Beggar! I hope this was only a slip of Mr. Capell's memory. Farmer.
The following is Sir Aston's epigram:
"TO MR. CLEMENT FISHER, OF WINCOT.
Sir A. Cockayn's Poems, 1659, p. 124.
In spite of the great deference which is due from every commentator to Dr. Farmer's judgment, I own I cannot concur with him on the present occasion. I know not to whom I could impute this comedy, if Shakspeare was not its author. I think his hand is visible in almost every scene, though perhaps not so evidently as in those which pass between Katharina and Petruchio.
I once thought that the name of this play might have been taken from an old story, entitled The Wf lapped in Morells Skin, or The Taming of a Shrew; but I have since discovered among the entries in the books of the Stationers' Company, the following: "Peter Shorte] May 2, 1594, a pleasaunt conceyted hystorie, called The Taminge of a Shrowe." It is likewise entered to Nich. Ling, Jan. 22, 1606; and to John Smithwicke, Nov. 19, 1607.
It was no uncommon practice among the authors of the age of Shakspeare, to avail themselves of the titles of ancient performances. Thus, as Mr. Warton has observed, Spenser sent out his Pastorals under the title of The Shepherd's Kalendar, a work which had been printed by Wynken de Worde, and reprinted about twenty years before these poems of Spenser appeared, viz. 1559.
Dr. Percy, in the first volume of his Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, is of opinion, that The Frolicsome Duke, or the Tinker's Good Fortune, an ancient ballad in the Pepys' Collection, might have suggested to Shakspeare, the Induction for this comedy.
The following story, however, which might have been the parent of all the rest, is related by Burton in his Anatomy of Melancholy, edit. 1632, p. 649: "A Tartar Prince, saith Marcus Polus, Lib. II, cap. 28, called Senex de Montibus, the better to establish his government amongst his subjects, and to keepe them in awe, found a convenient place in a pleasant valley environed with hills, in which he made a delitious parke full of odorifferous flowers and fruits, and a palace full of all worldly contents that could possibly be devised, musicke, pictures, variety of meats, &c. and chose out a certaine young man whom with a soporiferous
potion he so benummed, that he perceived nothing: and so, fast asleepe as he was, caused him to be conveied into this faire garden. Where after he had lived a while in all such pleasures a sensuall man could desire, he cast him into a sleepe againe, and brought him forth, that when he waked he might tell others he had beene in Paradise."-Marco Paolo, quoted by Burton, was a traveller of the 13th century.
Chance, however, has at last furnished me with the original to which Shakspeare was indebted for his fable; nor does this discovery at all dispose me to retract my former opinion, which the reader may find at the conclusion of the play. Such parts of the dialogue as our author had immediately imitated, I have occasionally pointed out at the bottom of the page; but must refer the reader, who is desirous to examine the whole structure of the piece, to Six Old Plays on which Shakspeare founded, &c. published by S. Leacroft, at Charing-cross, as a Supplement to our commentaries on Shakspeare.
Beaumont and Fletcher wrote what may be called a sequel to this comedy, viz. The Woman's Prize, or the Tamer Tam'd; in which Petruchio is subdued by a second wife. Steevens.
Among the books of my friend the late Mr. William Collins of Chichester, now dispersed, was a collection of short comick stories in prose, printed in the black letter under the year 1570: "sett forth by maister Richard Edwards, mayster of her Majesties revels." Among these tales was that of the INDUCTION OF THE TINKER in Shakspeare's Taming of the Shrew; and perhaps Edwards's story-book was the immediate source from which Shakspeare, or rather the author of the old Taming of a Shrew, drew that diverting apologue. If I recollect right, the circumstances almost tallied with an incident which Heuterus relates from an epistle of Ludovicus Vives to have actually happened at the marriage of Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy about the year 1440. That perspicuous annalist, who flourished about the year 1580 says, this story was told to Vives by an old officer of the Duke's court. T. Warton.
See the earliest English original of this story, &c. at the conclusion of the play. Steevens.