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strongly to infer that at that period, either as the corrector of old or as the writer of original dramas, he had supplied the stage with a copiousness of materials. We learn also from the same documents that, in bis profession of actor, he trod the boards not without the acquisition of applause. The two publications, to which I allude, are Robert Greene's “Groatsworth of Wit bought with a Million of Repentance," and Henry Chettle's “ Kind Hart's Dream.” In the former of these works, which was published by Chettle subsequently to the unhappy author's decease, the writer, addressing his fellow dramatists, Marlowe, Peele, and Lodge, says,
“ Yes! trust them not” (the managers of the theatre); “ for there is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that, with his tiger's heart wrapt in a player's hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you ; and, being an absolute Johannes Factotum, is in bis own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country.” As it could not be doubtful against whom this attack was directed, we cannot wonder that Shakspeare should be hurt by it: or that he should expostulate on the occasion rather warmly with Chettle as the editor of the offensive matter. In consequence, as it is probable, of this expression of resentment on the part of Shakspeare, a pamphlet from the pen of Chettle called “ Kind Hart's Dream” issued from the press before the close of the same year (1592), which had witnessed the publication of Greene's posthumous work. In this pamphlet, Chettle acknowledges his concern for having edited any thing which had given pain to Shakspeare, of whose character and accomplishments he avows a very favorable opinion. Marlowe, as well as Shakspeare, appears to have been offended by some passages in this production of poor Greene's: and to both of these great dramatic poets Chettle refers in the short citation which we sball now make from his page: “ With neither of them that take offence was I acquainted, and with one of them” (concluded to be Marlowe, whose moral character was unhappily not good) “ I care not if I never be. The other" (who must necessarily be Shakspeare) “ whoń at that time I did not so much spare as since I wish I had; for that, as I have moderated the hate of living authors, and might have used my own discretion, (especially in such a case, the author being dead,) that I did not I am as sorry as if the original fault had been my fault: because myself have seen bis demeanor no less civil than he is excellent in the quality he professes. Besides divers of worship have reported his uprightness of dealing, which argues his bonesty; and his facetious grace in writing, that approves bis art.” Shakspeare was now twenty-eight years of age; and this testimony of a contemporary, who was acquainted with bim, and was himself an actor, in favour of his moral and his professional excellence, must be admitted as of considerable value. It is evident that he had now written for the stage; and before he entered upon dramatic composition we are certain that he had completed, though he had not published, his two long and laboured poems of Venus and Adonis, and the Rape of Lucrece. We cannot, therefore, date his arrival in the capital later than 1588, or, perhaps, than 1587; and the four or five years wbich interposed between his departure from Stratford and his becoming the object of Greene's malignant attack, constituted a busy and an important period of bis life. Within this term he had conciliated the friendship of the young Thomas Wriothesly, the liberal, the highsouled, the romantic Earl of Southampton; a friendship which adhered to him throughout his life; and he had risen to that celebrity, as a poet and a dramatist, which placed bim with the first wits of the age, and subsequently lifted him to the notice and the favour of Elizabeth and James, as they successively sate upon the throne of England.
At the point of time which our narrative has now reached, we cannot accurately determine what dramatic pieces had been composed by him: but we are assured that they were of sufficient excellence to excite the envy and the consequent hostility of those who, before his rising, had been the luminaries of the stage. It would be gratifying to curiosity if the feat were possible, to,
adjust with any precision the order in which his wonderful productions issued from his brain. But the attempt has more than once been made, and never yet with entire success. We know only that his connexion with the stage continued for about twenty years (though the duration even of this term cannot be settled with precision) and that, within this period he composed either partially, as working on the ground of others, or educing them altogether from his own fertility, thirtyfive or (if that wretched thing, Pericles, in consequence of Dryden's testimony in favour of its authenticity, and of a few touches of the GOLDEN Pen being discoverable in its last scenes, must be added to the number) thirtysix dramas; and that of these it is probable that such as were founded on the works of preceding authors were the first essays of his dramatic talent; and such as were more perfectly his own, and are of the first sparkle of excellence, were among the last. While I should not hesitate, therefore, to station “Pericles,” the three parts of“ Henry VI.” (for I cannot see any reason for throwing the first of these parts from the protection of our author's name), “ Love's Labour Lost,” “The Comedy of Errors,"
,” “The Taming of the Shrew," “ King John," and “ Richard II.,” among his earliest productions, I should, with equal confidence, arrange
“ Macbeth,” Lear," “ Othello,” “Twelfth Night,” and “ The Tempest," with his latest, assigning them to that season of his life; when his mind exulted in the conscious plenitude of power. Whatever might be the order of succession in which this illustrious family of genius sprang into existence, they soon attracted notice, and speedily compelled the homage of respect from those who were the most eminent for their learning, their talents, or their rank. Jonson, Selden, Beaumont, Fletcher, and Donne were the associates and the intimates of our Poet: the Earl of Southampton was his especial friend: the Earls of Pembroke and of Montgomery were avowedly bis admirers and patrons: Queen Elizabeth distinguished him with her favour; and her successor, James, with his own hand, honoured the great dramatist with a letter of
thanks for the compliment paid in Macbeth to the royal family of the Stuarts *.
The circumstance which first brought the two lords of the stage, Sbakspeare and Jonson, into that embrace of friendship which continued indissoluble, as there is reason to believe, during the permission of mortality, is reported to bave been the kind assistance given by the former to the latter, when be was offering one of his plays (Every Man in his Humour) for the benefit of representation. The manuscript, as it is said, was on the point of being rejected and returned with a rude answer, when Shakspeare, fortunately glancing his eye over its pages, immediately discovered its merit; and, with his influence, obtained its introduction on the stage. To this story some specious objections have been raised; and there cannot be any necessity for contending for it, as no lucky accident can be required to account for the inducement of amity between two men of high genias, each treading the same broad path to fame and fortune, yet each with a character so peculiarly his own that he might attain his object without wounding the pride or invading the interests of the other. It has been generally believed that the intellectual superiority of Shakspeare excited the envy and the consequent enmity of Jonson. It is well that of these asserted facts no evidences can be adduced. The friendship of these great men seems to have been unbroken during the life of Shakspeare; and, on his death, Jonson made an offering to bis memory of high, just, and appropriate panegyric. He places him above not only the modern but the Greek dramatists; and he professes for him admiration short only of idolatry. They who can discover any penuriousness of praise in the surviving poet must be gifted with a very peculiar vision of mind. With the flowers, which he strewed upon the grave of his friend, there certainly was not blended one poisonous or bitter leaf. If,
* The existence of this royal letter of thanks is asserted on the authority of Sheffield Duke of Buckingham, who saw it in the possession of Davenant. The cause of the thanks is assigned on the most probable conjecture.
therefore, he was, as he is represented to have been by an impartial and able judge, (Drummond of Hawthornden) “ a great lover and praiser of himself; a contemner and scorner of others; jealous of every word and action of those about him, &c. &c.,” how can we otherwise account for the uninterrupted harmony of bis intercourse with our bard than by supposing that the frailties of his nature were overruled by that preeminence of mental power in his friend which precluded competition; and by his friend's sweetness of temper and gentleness of manners, which repressed every feeling of hostility. Between Shakspeare and Thomas Wriothesly, the munificent and the noble Earl of Southampton, distinguished in history by his inviolable attachment to the rash and the unfortunate Essex, the friendship was permanent and ardent. At its commencement, in 1593, when Shakspeare was twenty-nine years of age, Southampton was not more than nineteen; and, with the love of general literature, he was particularly attached to the exhibitions of the theatre. His attention was first drawn to Shakspeare by the poet's dedication to bim of the “ Venus and Adopis,” that “first heir," as the dedicator calls it, “ of his invention;" and the acquaintance, once begun between characters and hearts like theirs, would soon mature into intimacy and friendship. In the following year (1594) Shakspeare's second poem, " The Rape of Lucrece," was addressed by him to his noble patron in a strain of less distant timidity; and we may infer from it that the poet had then obtained a portion of the favour which he sought. That his fortunes were essentially promoted by the munificent patronage of Southampton cannot reasonably be doubted. We are told by Sir William Davenant, who surely possessed the means of knowing the fact, that the peer gave at one time to his favoured dramatist the magnificent present of a thousand pounds. This is rejected by Malone as an extravagant exaggeration; and because the donation is said to have been made for the purpose of enabling the poet to complete a purchase which he had then in contemplation; and because no purchase of an adequate