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In my judgment the anonymous writer was sometimes engaged in imitating Marlowe and sometimes in burlesquing him. But be this as it may, the absurdity of attributing the piece to Marlowe is flagrant. The author of the Taming of a Shrew was a genuine humourist; and Mr. Swinburne is speaking within bounds when he calls him “Of all the pre-Shakespeareans incomparably the truest, the richest, the most powerful and original humourist.” Marlowe had little or no humour.
We may therefore safely dismiss the Taming of a Shrew; but with Titus Andronicus the case is different. As I re-read this play after coming straight from the study of Marlowe, I find again and again passages that, as it seems to me, no hand but his could have written. It is not easy in a question of this kind to set down in detail reasons for our belief. : Marlowe's influence permeated so thoroughly the dramatic literature of his day, that it is hard sometimes to distinguish between master and pupil. . When the master is writing at his best there is no difficulty, but when his work is hasty and illdigested, or has been left incomplete and has received additions from other hands, then our perplexity is great. In our disgust at the brutal horrors that crowd the pages of Titus Andronius, we must beware of blinding ourselves to the imaginative power that marks much of the writing. . In Aaron's soliloquy at the opening of act ii., . it is hard to believe that we are not listening to the young Marlowe. There is the ring of Zamburlaine in such lines as these :— - - -
"As when the golden sun salutes the morn,
And, having gilt the ocean with his beams,
Both rhythm and diction in the following lines remind us of Marlowe's earliest style:—
“Madam, though Venus govern your desires,
Aaron's confession of his villainies (in v. 1) will recall to every reader the conversation between Barabas and Ithamore in the third scene of the second act of the Jew of Malta. The character of Aaron was either drawn by Marlowe or in close imitation of him; and it seems to me more reasonable to suppose that Titus Andronicus is in the main a crude early work of Marlowe's than that
any imitator could have written with such marked power."
But the great difficulty lies in determining to whom we should assign the frantic ravings of old Andronicus. They appear to be by another hand than Marlowe's; and they cannot, with any degree of plausibility, be assigned to Shakespeare. Lamb suggested that they recall the writer who contributed the marvellous “additions” to the Spanish Tragedy, a suggestion that deserves more attention than it has received. What
share Shakespeare had in the play I must confess myself at a loss to divine. I have sometimes thought that there are traces of his hand in the very first scene,—and not beyond it; that he began to revise the play, and gave up the task in disgust. It is of Shakespeare rather than of Marlowe that we are reminded in such lines as
“Wilt thou draw near the nature of the gods? Draw near them then in being mercisul : Sweet mercy is nobility's true badge.” But however closely we may look for them, we shall find very few Shakespearean passages. Of Marlowe's earliest style we are constantly and inevitably reminded. That Marlowe had a share in all three parts of Henry VI. is, I think, certain. The opening lines of the First Part at once recall the language and rhythm of Zambur. laine, and the closing lines are suggestive of a passage of Fäward II. The opening lines are:— “Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night ! Comets, importing change of times and states, Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky, And with them scourge the bad revolting stars That have consented unto Henry's death 1” Compare II. Tamburlaine, v. 3:— “Weep, heavens, and vanish into liquid tears 1 Fall, stars that governs his nativity, And summon all the shining lamps of heaven To cast their bootless fires to the earth, And shed their feeble influence in the air; Muffle your beauties with eternal clouds !” A closer parallel, whether as regards rhythm or expression, could hardly be found. The two lines with which the
First Part closes are:
“Margaret shall now be queen and rule the king,
Very similar are Mortimer's words in Edward II.,
To Shakespeare we can assign with certainty only thescene in the Temple Garden and Talbot's last battle, to which may be perhaps added Suffolk's courtship of Margaret. In my judgment the rest of the play is chiefly Marlowe's. I would fain shift from Marlowe's shoulders to Peele's the scene in which the memory of Joan of Arc is so shamefully slandered; but I am convinced that the composition of that scene was beyond Peele's powers. It is well known that the Second and Third Parts of Benry VI. represent a revision of two older Plays—The Airst Part of the Contention betwixt the two famous Åouses of York and Zancaster (1594) and the True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York (1595); but it is not, perhaps, so generally known that the revised editions preserve passages by Marlowe which are not found in the earlier editions. The subject is one of the highest possible interest, but for adequate discussion a lengthy essay would be needed. It is important to note that the 1619 edition of the Whole Contention preserves in some passages a text partially revised. The fact would seem to be that there existed several copies of the plays in various stages of revision. There is no possibility of discovering the early unrevised text in its integrity. The first editions (1594 and 1595) present a text that had undergone a certain amount of revision. It is more than probable that in many passages of the earliest editions we have a garbled text; for even Peele or Greene might have reasonably considered themselves aggrieved at being held responsible for such lines as these:—
“So lie thou there and breathe thy last.
These jerky disjointed lines must have been hashed up from short-hand notes. I will now state my own views very briefly. I hold that Shakespeare worked on a full and accurate MS. copy of the early plays, and that these early plays were in large part by Marlowe. Unless we suppose that Shakespeare had the full text of the early plays before him, I do not know how we are to account for the introduction into the revised plays of passages by Marlowe not found in the earlier copies. Critics have pointed out that the opening lines of act iv. of 2 Henry VI. (“The gaudy, blabbing, and remorseful day,” &c.) are unmistakably Marlowe's; and these lines are not found in the Contention. It is plain that Shakespeare's copy of these plays was more complete than the early printed copy. The difficulty, lies in determining how much of the additional matter found in the later copies belongs to Shakespeare and how much to Marlowe.