« ZurückWeiter »
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 Inuective against Poets, Pipers, Players, Festers, and such like Caterpillars of a Commonwealth, 1579, mentions “twoo prose bookes played at the Bell-Sauage:" 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, intitled 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 Shakspere'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
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 Shakspere ; and I was not inclined to dispute his authority: but how was I surprised, when I found that Cockayn ascribes nothing more to Shakspere, than the Induction-Wincot-ale and the Beggar! I hope this was only a slip of Mr. Capell's memory.
The following is Sir Aston's Epigram.
To Mr. Clement Fisher of Wincot.
Shakspere your Wincot-ale hath much renown'd,
Sir A. Cockayn's Poems, 1659, p. 124.
In spite of the great deference which is due from every commentator to Mr. 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 Shakspere 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 Katharine and Petruchio,
I once thought that the title of this play might have been taken from an old story, entitled, Tbe Wyf lapped in Morell's 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 Tayminge of a Shrowe.” It is likewise entered to Nich. Ling, Jan. 22, 1606; and to John Smythwicke, Nov. 19, 1607.
It was no uncommon practice among the authors of the age of Shakspere, to avail themselves of the titles of ancient per
formances. 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 Wynkyn 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 Frolicksome Duke, or the Tinker's Good Fortune, an ancient ballad in the Pepy's ColleЕtion, might have suggested to Shakspere the Induction for this comedy. ST E E Y ENS.
The players delivered down this comedy, among the rest, as one of Shakspere's own; and its intrinsick merit bears sufficient evidence to the propriety of their decision.
May I add a few reasons why I neither believe the former comedy of the Taming the Shrew, 1607, nor the old play of King John in two parts, to have been the work of Shakspere ? He generally followed every novel or history from whence he took his plots, as closely as he could; and is so often indebted to these originals for his very thoughts and expressions, that we may fairly pronounce him not to have been above borrowing, to spare himself the labour of invention. It is therefore probable, that both these plays (like that of Henry V, in which Oldcastle is introduced) were the unsuccessful performances of contemporary players. Shakspere saw they were meanly written, and yet that their pians were such as would furnish incidents for a better dramatist. He therefore might lazily adopt the order of their scenes, still writing the dialogue anew, and inserting little more from either piece, than a few lines which he might think worth preserving, or was too much in haste to alter. It is no uncommon thing in the literary world, to see the track of others followed by those who would never have given themselves the trouble to mark out one of their own,
The following are the observations of Dr. Hurd on the In. duction to this comedy. They are taken from his Notes on the Epistle to Augustus. “ The Induction, as Shakspere calls it, to The Taming of the Shrew, deserves, for the excellence of its moral design and beauty of execution, throughout, to be set in a just light.
“ This Prologue sets before us the picture of a poor drunken beggar, advanced, for a short season, into the proud rank of nobility. And the humour of the scene is taken to consist in the surprise and awkward deportment of Sly, in this his strange and unwonted situation. But the poet had a further design and more worthy his genius, than this farcical pleasantry. He would expose, under cover of this mimic fiction, the truly ridiculous figure of men of rank and quality, when they employ their great advantages of place and fortune, to no better purposes, than the soft and selfish gratification of their own intemperate passions : Of those, who take the mighty privia lege of descent and wealth, to lie in the freer indulgence of those pleasures, which the beggar as fully enjoys, and with infinitely more propriety and consistency of character, than their lordships.
“ To give a poignancy to his satire, the poet makes a man of quality himself, just returned from the chace, with all his mind intent upon his pleasures, contrive this metamorphosis of the beggar, in the way of sport and derision only; not considering, how severely the jest was going to turn upon himself. His first reflections, on seeing this brutal drunkard, are excellent :
60! monstrous beast ! bow like a swine be lies!
“ Grim death! bow foul and loathsome is thy image! " The offence is taken at human nature, degraded into bese
tiality; and at a state of stupid insensibility, the image of death. Nothing can be juster, than this representation. For these lordly sensualists have a very nice and fastidious abhorrence of such ignoble brutality. And what alarms their fears with the prospect of death, cannot choose but present a foul and loathsome image. It is, also, said in perfect consistency with the true Epicurean character, as given by these, who understood it best, and which is, here, sustained by this noble disciple. For, though these great masters of wisdom made pleasure the supreme good, yet, they were among the first, as we are told, to cry out against the Asotos; meaning such gross sensualists, “ qui in mensam vomunt & qui de convi. “ viis auferuntur, crudique postridie se rursus ingurgitant." But as for the “ mundos, elegantes, optumis cocis, pistoribus, “ piscatu, aucupio, venatione, his omnibus exquisitis, vitantes “ cruditatem,” these they complimented with the name of beatos and sapientes. (Cic. de Fin. lib. ii. 8.]
“ And then, though their philosophy promised an exemp. tion from the terrors of death, yet the boasted exemption consisted only in a trick of keeping it out of the memory by continual dissipation; so that when accident forced it upon them, they could not help on all occasions, expressing the most dreadful apprehensions of it.
“ However, this transient gloom is soon succeeded by gayer prospects. My lord bethinks himself to raise a little diversion out of this adventure :
“ Sirs, I will practise on this drunken man : And, so, proposes to have him conveyed to bed, and blessed with all those regalements of costly luxury, in which a selfish opulence is wont to find its supreme happiness. “ The project is carried into execution. And now the jest