Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

additions in the terrific scene xvi. it is not easy to speak with confidence. In my judgment the text of the earlier edition is preferable. By delaying the catastrophe the additions seem to weaken its impressiveness. At the departure of the scholars, after they have paid their last sad farewell, our feelings have been raised to the highest j pitch; and the intrusion at that moment of the Good \and Evil Angels is an artistic mistake. Nor does the entrance of Lucifer and Mephistophilis at the beginning of the scene contribute in the slightest degree to the } terror of the catastrophe. The scene as it stands in the earlier edition—the pathetic leave-taking between Faustus and the scholars, followed swiftly by the awful soliloquy —needs no addition of horror. But the new matter found in the later edition is undoubtedly powerful; it was penned by no hack-writer, but has the ring of Marlowe. My impression is, that the text in the later edition gives us the scene in its first state; and that Marlowe on revising his work heightened the dramatic effect of the profoundly impressive catastrophe by cancelling the passages which found their way into ed. 1616. But what shall be said of the final colloquy between the scholars when they find the mangled body of Faustus on the morrow of that fearful night of storm? Is it by Marlowe, or is it, as the late Professor Wagner thought, the work of a "mere versifier"? To my ear the lines are solemn and pathetic, thoroughly worthy of Marlowe; but it does not on this account follow that they have a dramatic fitness. It is not improbable that the play in its unrevised state concluded with the scene between the

scholars, and that the poet afterwards substituted for this scene the chorus' speech of compassion and warning. If we retain the colloquy between the scholars, then the final moralising of the chorus would seem to be otiose; if, on the other hand, the chorus closes the play, then even the short delay caused by the appearance of the scholars is felt to be a dramatic impropriety. To the chorus, in my judgment, must be given the last word; and we must part, however reluctantly, with the tender and pitiful colloquy.1

My view, then, is that Marlowe revised his work; that the quartos of 1604 and 1616 were both printed from imperfect and interpolated play-house copies, and that neither gives the correct text; that in some cases the readings of the earlier editions are preferable, in other cases the readings of the later.

But, it may be objected, what evidence have we to show that the Elizabethan dramatists ever revised their works with such care and elaboration? Omitting all references to doubtful cases—such as the relationship between the 1597 and 1599 quartos of Romeo and Juliet, or the 1603 and 1604 quartos of Hamlet—and omitting, too, the example of Ben Jonson, who was twitted by his

1 The lengthy additions in scene vii. are the work of a practised playwright, but diction and versification plainly show that they are not from Marlowe's hand. So too with the additional scenes on pp. 299311 (Vol. I.), although we are occasionally reminded of Marlowe's early manner in reading such lines as—

..." To cast his magic charms that shall pierce through
The ebon gates of ever-burning hell,
And hale the stubborn Furies from their caves."

contemporaries for the labour that he bestowed on his works (" For his were called works where others were but plays'"), I select two pieces which underwent at their author's hands precisely the same revision as I hold to have been given by Marlowe to Faustus. In Egerton MS. 1994 (preserved in the British Museum) there is a play entitled Calisto, or the Escapes of Jupiter, which I have elsewhere shown to be composed of scenes from Heywood's Golden Age and Silver Age. A comparison of the text of the MS. with the text of the quartos shows that the author when issuing the printed copy, revised his work throughout, scene by scene, and line by line, correcting, rewriting, curtailing, augmenting. This is the more remarkable in Heywood's case, for he was the most prolific of all the old dramatists, and might well be supposed to have had little time for correction. Again: in my edition of the works of John Day I have printed, along with the text of the quarto, the readings of an early MS. copy of the Parliament of Bees. In the MS., which gives the unrevised text, we find many passages that were afterwards cancelled on revision, and the quarto on the other hand contains passages not found in the MS.; while the variations in phrases and single words are very numerous.

For information as to the origin and growth of the Faust-legend, I refer the reader to the elaborate introductions by Professor Ward and the late Professor Wagner to their editions of Faustus. The point for us to consider is where Marlowe obtained the materials for his tragedy. In 1587 at Frankfort-on-the-Main appeared the first connected account of the great conjurer, under the title of Historia von D. Johann Fausten, dem weiibeschreyten Zauberer und Schwartzkiinstkr. Two reprints were published in the same year, and three more editions followed in 1589. It was from this book that Marlowe drew his materials; but it is probable that he used an English translation, not the German original. The earliest translation yet discovered is dated 1592. It bears the following title :—The Historie of the damnable life and deserved death of Dr. John Faustus, Newly imprinted and in, convenient places imperfect matter amended: according to the true copieprinted at Franckfort and translated into English by P. F. Gent.1 The words "Newly imprinted" show that there must have been an edition prior to 1592. It should be remembered that the book was one of those popular productions which ran the greatest risk of being thumbed out of existence. Of the first edition of the German original only a single copy (preserved in the Imperial Library at Vienna) is now known.2 There is one strong piece of evidence to show that Marlowe made use of an English translation. In scene v. the third article of the contract signed by Faustus runs, " Shall do for him and bring for him whatsoever." Dyce pointed out that the curious text of this passage closely tallies with the text of the corresponding passage in the prose tract . Dyce's quotations are from ed . 1648; he does not seem to have been aware of the

1 Some later editions bear the name " P. R. Gent." on the title-page. a The late Professor Wagner is my authority for this statement.

existence of the 1592 edition, where the article stands, "That Mephistophilis should bring him anything and doo for him whatsoever." This verbal coincidence is too striking to be merely accidental. It has been suggested by Dr. Von der Velde that the English actors who performed at the courts of Dresden and Berlin between 1585 and 1587 (as shown by Mr. Albert Cohn in his work on Shakespeare in Germany) brought with them on their return to England at the end of 1587 the recently published Faustbuch. Professor Ward adds a further suggestion, which deserves consideration. In the German original we have a Duke of Anhalt (in the English tract, Anholf) who becomes in the play the Duke of Vanholt. Professor Ward thinks that the "oddity is best to be reconciled with the other circumstances of the case by the supposition that the German Faustbuch was brought over to England in one of its early editions (before that of 1590) by some person or persons who had travelled both in Germany and in the Netherlands; that through them it came into Marlowe's hands in the shape of a MS. English translation; and that the MS. translation was very probably used by ' P. R.' or whoever was the 'gentleman' who wrote the English History." He proceeds to state that the English actors who had been performing in Germany would naturally pass through the Netherlands on their return to England. The theory is ingenious, but it is hardly safe to build on such slender foundations.

1 The original has "Zum dritten, dasz er im gefliessen, unterthanig und gehorsam seyn wollte, als ein Diener."

« ZurückWeiter »