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be no doubt that all his dramas were written, if not all performed, before Shakspeare's commencement as a writer for the stage; we find, from Henslowe's List, that Frier Bacon was performed at the Rose theatre, in February, 1591, and repeated thrice in the course of the season it was printed in 1594, and being founded on a popular story, had considerable success. 2. “ The Historie of Orlando Furioso, one of the twelve Peers of France.” This piece was likewise performed at the same theatre, in February, 1591, and also printed in 1594 ; the fable is taken, with little or no alteration, from the Orlando of Ariosto. 3. “ The Scottish Historie of James the Fourth, slaine at Flodden. Entermixed with a pleasant Comedie presented by Oboram King of the Fayeries." Greene, says Oldys, in plotting plays, was his craft's master, and it would be curious and interesting to ascertain how he has conducted a subject which has obtained so much celebrity in our own days, and more especially in what manner he has combined it with the romantic superstition attendant on Oberon and his fairies. † 4. “ The Comicall Historie of Alphonsus, King of Arragon.” 5. “ The History of Jobe.” This play, which was never printed, and it is supposed never performed, although it was entered on the Stationers' books, in 1594, was unfortunately, with many others, destroyed by the carelessness of Dr. Warburton's servant. 6. “ Fair Emm, the Miller's Daughter of Manchester, with the Love of William the Conqueror,” a comedy which has been ascribed to Greene, by Phillips and Winstanley; the former, after enumerating some pieces which upon no good grounds
* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 354.
+ Berkenhout's Biographia Literaria, p. 319. note. — The only account which I have seen of this play, printed in 1598, is in a note by Mr. Malone, who tells us that Shakspeare does not appear to have been indebted to this piece. “ The plan of it,” he adds, “ is shortly this: Bohan, a Scot, in consequence of being disgusted with the world, having retired to a tomb where he has fixed his dwelling, is met by Aster Oberon, king of the fairies, who entertains him with an antick or dance by his subjects. These two personages, after some conversation, determine to listen to a tragedy, which is acted before them, and to which they make a kind of chorus, by moralizing at the end of each act.” Vol. ii.
had been attributed to the joint pens of our author and Dr. Lodge, adds, “ besides which, he wrote alone the comedies of Friar Bacon and Fair Emme.” * It is the more probable that this drama was the composition of Greene, as it was represented at the same theatre and by the same company which brought forward his avowed productions.
We must, with Ritson, express our regret, that the dramatic works of Greene have not hitherto been collected and published together. †
20. LEGGE, THOMAS, twice vice-chancellor of Cambridge, and the author of two plays which, though never printed, were acted with great applause, not only in the University which gave them birth, but on the public theatres. The first of these is named The Destruction of Jerusalem, and appears from Henslowe's List to have been performed at the Rose theatre, on the 22d of March, 1591 ; the second is entitled, The Life of King Richard the Third, a subject which induces us to regret, that it should not have been submitted to the press, especially when the character of Legge for dramatic talent is considered; for Meres informs us in 1598, that “ Doctor Leg of Cambridge” was esteemed among the “ best for tragedie," adding, that “as M. Anneus Lucanus writ two excellent tragedies, one called Medea, the other de Incendio Troiæ cum Priami calamitate: so Doctor Leg hath penned two famous tragedies, yo one of Richard the 3, the other of the destruction of Jerusalem.” | The death of Dr. Legge took place in July, 1607.
To this catalogue of dramatic writers who preceded Shakspeare, it will be necessary to annex the names, at least, of those anonymous plays which, as far as any record of their performance has reached us, were the property of the stage anterior to the year 1594, under the almost certain presumption, that they must have been written before Shakspeare had acquired any celebrity as a theatrical poet.
* Theatrum Poetarum apud Brydges, p. 193. + Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xxi. p. 37. # Vide Censura Literaria, vol. ix, p. 98.
These, with the exception of the plays ascribed to Shakspeare, a few Interludes and Moralities, the tragi-comedy of Appius and Virginia, printed in 1576, and the tragedy of Selimus, Emperor of the Turks, must, and perhaps without danger of any very important omission, be limited to the following enumeration of dramas performed at the Rose theatre during the years 1591, 1592, and 1593; from which, however, we have withdrawn all those pieces that may be found previously noticed under the names of their respective authors:
1. Muly Mulocco, or the Battle of Alcazar
* This play was printed in 1594, and has fallen under the ridicule of Shakspeare, in a parody on the words, Feed and be fat, &c.
† The miserable orthography of this catalogue has frequently disguised the real titles so much as to render them almost unintelligible, and I suspect Orgasto in this place to be very remote from the genuine word.
| Called in one part of the list, “bendo and Ricardo," and in another, “ Byndo and Ricardo.”
In order accurately to ascertain how far Shakspeare might be indebted to his predecessors, it would be highly desirable to possess a printed collection of all the dramas which are yet within the reach of the press,
from the days of Sackville, to the year 1591. work, so far from diminishing the claim to originality with which this great poet is now invested, would, we are convinced, place it in a still more indisputable point of view; and merely prove, that, without any servility of imitation, or even the smallest dereliction of his native talent and creative genius, he had absorbed within his own refulgent sphere the few feeble lights which, previous to his appearance, had shed a kind of twilight over the dramatic world.
The models, indeed, if such they may be called, which were presented to his view, are, as far as we are acquainted with them, so grossly defective in structure, style, and sentiment, that, if we set aside two or three examples, little or nothing could be learned from
* This, being the prior part of the title of the Pinner of Wakefield, mentioned below, is probably one and the same with that production.
+ The Pinner of Wakefield, which is in Dodsley's Collection, and in Scott's Ancient British Drama, was printed in 1599.
† Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. pp. 354–358.—Mr. Malone observes of the play in this catalogue, called “ Richard the Confessor,” that it “ should seem to have been written by the Tinker, in Taming of the Shrew, who talks of Richard Conqueror."
them. . In the course of near thirty years which elapsed between Sarkville sand Shakspeare, the best and purest period was perhaps that whicho immediately succeeded the exhibition of Gorboduc, but which Was aprelily terminated by the appearance of Preston's Cambyses in tot gorushesbely raber before the year 1570. From this era we behold a wszínit of playwrights who, for better than twenty years, deluged the 2* w sa tragic poets with a torrent of bombastic and sanguinary fiction, imani na diegriseful to the feelings of humanity and common sense; or can clic writers, overwhelmed us with a mass of quaintness, buftry, and affectation. The worthy disciples of the author of Camboys,
Whetstone, Pcele, Lilly, Kydd, and Marlowe, seem to have ranked their brains to produce what was unnatural and atrocious, atent having, like their leader, received a classical education, misemproyed it to clothe their conceptions in a scholastic, uniform, and
nous garb, as far, at least, as a versification modulated with mbi e most undeviating regularity, and destitute of all variety of cadence
pause could minister to such an effect. That so dark a picture should occasionally be relieved by gleams of light, which appear the more brilliant from the surrounding contrast, was naturally to be expected ; and we have accordingly seen that the very poets who may justly be censured for their general mode of execution, for the wildness and extravagancy of their plots, now and then present us with lines, passages, and even scenes, remarkable for their beauty, strength, or poetical diction ; but these, so unconnected are they, and apart from the customary tone and keeping of the pieces in which they are scattered, appear rather as the fortuitous irradiation of a meteor, whose momentary splendour serves but to render the returning gloom more heavy and oppressive, than the effect of that sober, steady, and improving light which might cheer us with the prospect of approaching day.
Of the twenty poets who have just passed in review before us, Marlowe certainly exhibits the greatest portion of genius, though debased with a large admixture of the gross and glaring faults of his contemporaries. Two of his productions may yet be read with