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THE TEMPEST was first printed in the folio of 1623, in which edition it stands the first of the series. As this play was undoubtedly written in the later years of the Poet's life, the reason of its standing first is not apparent. Nor is it much more apparent why the arrangement of that edition should be broken up, until more is known of the order in which Shakespeare's plays were written.
The play was originally printed with great accuracy for the time: the true reading is seldom doubtful; for which cause commentators have not often found it easy to mar the text under the notion of improving it.
It has been ascertained clearly enough that The Tempest was written somewhere between 1603 and 1612. That it was written after the former date, is rendered almost certain in that the leading features of Gonzalo's commonwealth were plainly taken from Florio's translation of Montaigne, which was printed that year, The passage of Montaigne is given in a note, from which the reader may see that the resemblance is too close to have been accidental. If any see fit to maintain, as some have done, that Shakespeare might have seen the passage in question before it was printed, we will not argue with them; our concern being with facts, not with possibilities.
The Tempest was performed at Court, “by the King's Players," Nov. 1, 1611. This fact was but lately discovered ; and for the discovery we are indebted to “ Extracts from the Accounts of the Revels at Court,” edited by Mr. Cunningham for the Shakespeare Society; where the following memorandum occurs : “ Hollowmas night was presented at Whitehall before the King's Majesty a play called The Tempest.” Until this discovery the earliest known performance of the play was in “ the beginning of the year 1613," when, as Malone proved from Vertue's MSS., it was acted
by “the King's company before Prince Charles, the Princess Elizabeth, and the Prince Palatine.” So that the play must needs have been written before 1612.
As to any nearer fixing of the date we have nothing to go upon but probabilities. Some of these, however, are pretty strong. From the “ Extracts" already quoted it appears that eleven other plays, Winter's Tale being one of them, were acted at Court within a year after the last of Oct. 1611, the oldest of which, so far as hath been ascertained, had not been written more than three years. From which it seems probable that The Tempest was not then an old play; and perhaps it was selected by the Master of the Revels for its novelty and its popularity on the public stage.
Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair was first acted in 1614, and written perhaps the year before; the Induction of which has an apparent, though not necessarily ill-natured glance at both The Tempest and Winter's Tale : “ If there be never a Servant-monster i' the Fair, who can help it, he says; nor a nest of Antiques ? He is loth to make Nature afraid in his Plays, like those that beget Tales, Tempests, and such like Drolleries." We agree with Mr. Collier that some of the words in Italic, which we give just as they stand in the original, are “so applicable to The Tempest, that they can hardly refer to any thing else.” Which seems to warrant the inference that Bartholomew Fair was written while The Tempest and Winter's Tale were yet in the morn and blush of popular favour.
It can hardly be questioned that Shakespeare drew some of his materials for The Tempest from the sources thus indicated by Malone : “ Sir George Somers, Sir Thomas Gates, and Captain Newport, with nine ships and five hundred people, sailed from England in May, 1609, on board the Sea Venture, which was called the Admiral's Ship; and on the 25th of July she was parted from the rest by a terrible tempest, which lasted fortyeight hours, and scattered the whole fleet, wherein some of them lost their masts, and others were much distressed. Seven of the vessels, however, reached Virginia ; and, after landing about three hundred and fifty persons, again set sail for England. During a great part of the year 1610 the fate of Somers and Gates was not known in England; but the latter, having been sent home hy Lord Delaware, arrived in August or September.” In 1610 “one Jourdan, who probably returned from Virginia in the same ship with Sir Thomas Gates, published a pamphlet, entitled • A Discovery of the Bermudas, otherwise called The Isle of Devils.'” In this book, after relating the circumstances of their shipwreck, the author says : “ But our delivery was not more strange in falling so opportunely and happily upon land, than our feeding and provision was, beyond our hopes and all men's expectations, most admirable. For the Islands of the Bermudas, as every man knoweth, that hath heard or read of them, were never inhabited by any Christian or Heathen people, but ever esteemed and reputed a most prodigious and inchanted place, affording nothing but gusts, storms, and foul weather ; which made every navigator and mariner to avoid them as Scylla and Charybdis, or as they would shun the Devil himself : and no man was ever heard to make for this place; but as, against their wills, they have, by storms and dangerousness of the rocks lying seven leagues into the sea, suffered shipwreck. Yet did we find there the air so temperate, and the country so abundantly fruitful of all fit necessaries for the sustentation and preservation of man's life, that notwithstanding we were there for the space of nine months, we were not only well refreshed, comforted, and with good satiety contented, but out of the abundance thereof provided us some reasonable quantity of provision to carry us for Virginia, and to maintain ourselves and that company we found there.” Somewhat later the Council of Virginia put forth a narrative of “ the disasters which had befallen the fleet, and of their miraculous escape," wherein they say : “ These Islands of the Bermudas have ever been accounted an inchanted pile of rocks, and a desert inhabitation for devils : but all the fairies of the rocks were but flocks of birds, and all the devils that haunted the woods were but herds of swine."
The words in Italic may suggest a probable explanation of some points in the play. It is hardly needful to add, that the Poet's “ still-vex'd Bermoothes " seems to link his work in some way with Jourdan's narrative. So that it is not easy to see how an earlier date can be assigned for The Tempest than 1610. , The supernatural in the play was undoubtedly the Poet's own work ; but it had been in strict keeping with his usual method to avail himself of whatsoever interest may have sprung from the popular notions touching the Bermudas. In his marvellous creations the people of course would see nothing but the distant marvels with which their fancies were prepossessed.
Concurrent with this external evidence is the internal evidence of the play itself. The style, language, and general tone of thought, the union of richness and severity, the grave, austere beauty of character that pervades it, and the organic compactness of its whole structure, all go to mark it as an issue of the Poet's ripest years. Mr. Collier says that Coleridge, in his lectures, “spoke of The Tempest as certainly one of Shakespeare's latest works, judging from the language only;" and Schlegel, probably for similar reasons, was of the same opinion. Campbell, the poet, supposes it to have been his very latest work : « The Tempest has a sort of sacredness, as the last work of a mighty workman. Shakespeare, as if conscious that it would be his last, and as if inspired to typify himself, has made his hero a natural, a dignified, and benevolent magician, who could conjure up
• spirits from the vasty deep,' and command supernatural agency by the most seemingly natural and simple means. Shakespeare himself is Prospero, or rather the superior genius who commands both Prospero and Ariel. But the time was approaching when the potent sorcerer was to break his staff, and bury it fathoms in the ocean, —
• Deeper than did ever plummet sound.' That staff has never been and will never be recovered.” But there is more of poetry than of truth in this statement; at least we have no warrant for it: whereas, besides the improbability that Shakespeare would pass the last six years of his life entirely aloof from the wonted play of his faculties, besides this, there is good ground for believing that at least Coriolanus, Cymbeline, and perhaps Winter's Tale, were written after The Tempest. Mr. Verplanck, a critic of rare taste and judgment, rather than give up the notion so well put by Campbell, conjectures that the Poet may have revised The Tempest after all his other plays were written, and inserted the passage where Prospero abjures his “ rough magic,” and buries his staff, and drowns his book. But we cannot believe that Shakespeare had any reference to himself in that passage ; for, besides that he evidently did not use to put his own feelings and purposes into the mouth of his characters, his doing so in this case would fairly infer such a degree of selfexultation as, it seems to us, his native and habitual modesty would hardly permit.
No play or novel has been discovered, to which Shakespeare could have been indebted for the plot or matter of The Tempest. Thomas Warton indeed tells a curious story, how Collins during his mental aberration said he had seen an Italian Romance, called Aurelio and Isabella, which contained the story of The Tempest. But Collins was afterwards found to be mistaken, there being no such matter in that Romance; and though the poor crazed poet may have put one name for another, it seems more likely that in the disorder of his mind his recollections of The Tempest itself got mixed up with other matter. Mr. Collier says : “ We have turned over the pages of, we believe, every Italian novelist anterior to the age of Shakespeare, in hopes of finding some story containing traces of the incidents of The Tempest, but without success." So that the notion started by Collins probably may as well be given up.
What may be the issue of another notion started since, is not so clear. Mr. Thoms informs us through the New Monthly Magazine of Jan. 1841, that Jacob Ayrer, a notary of Nuremberg, was the author or translator of thirty plays, published in 1618. He is quite confident that Shakespeare derived his idea of The Tempest from a play of Ayrer's, called The Beautiful Sidea. But besides that the resemblances, even as stated by Mr. Thoms,