Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

See juftice done to Aaron, that damn'd Moor,
By whom our heavy haps had their beginning:
Then, afterwards, to order well the ftate ;5
That like events may ne'er it ruinate.

[Exeunt.

4 See juftice done to Aaron,] The 4to, 1600, reads:-- done on Aaron. TODD,

5 Then, afterwards, to order &c.] Then will we apply ourfelves to regulate the ftate. MALONE.

This is one of thofe plays which I have always thought, with the better judges, ought not to be acknowledged in the lift of Shakspeare's genuine pieces. And, perhaps, I may give a proof to strengthen this opinion, that may put the matter out of queftion. Ben Jonfon, in the Introduction to his BartholomewFair, which made its firft appearance in the year 1614, couples Jeronymo and Andronicus together in reputation, and speaks of them as plays then twenty-five or thirty years ftanding. Confequently Andronicus muft have been on the ftage before Shakspeare left Warwickshire, to come and refide in London: and I never heard it fo much as intimated, that he had turned his genius to ftage-writing before he affociated with the players, and became one of their body. However, that he afterwards introduced it a-new on the stage, with the addition of his own masterly touches, is inconteftible, and thence, I prefume, grew his title to it. The diction in general, where he has not taken the pains to raise it, is even beneath that of the Three Parts of Henry VI. The story we are to fuppofe merely fictitious. Andronicus is a fur-name of pure Greek derivation. Tamora is neither mentioned by Ammianus Marcellinus, nor any body else that I can find. Nor had Rome, in the time of her emperors, any war with the Goths that I know of: not till after the tranflation of the empire, I mean to Byzantium. And yet the fcene of our play is laid at Rome, and Saturninus is elected to the empire at the Capitol. THEOBALD.

All the editors and criticks agree with Mr. Theobald in fuppofing this play fpurious. I fee no reason for differing from them; for the colour of the ftyle is wholly different from that of the other plays, and there is an attempt at regular verfification, and artificial closes, not always inelegant, yet feldom pleafing. The barbarity of the fpectacles, and the general maffacre, which are here exhibited, can fcarcely be conceived tolerable to any audience; yet we are told by Jonfon, that they were not only borne but praised. That Shakspeare wrote any part, though Theobald declares it inconteftible, I fee no reason for believing.

The teftimony produced at the beginning of this play, by which it is afcribed to Shakspeare, is by no means equal to the argument against its authenticity, arifing from the total difference of conduct, language, and fentiments, by which it ftands apart from all the reft. Meres had probably no other evidence than that of a title-page, which, though in our time it be fufficient, was then of no great authority; for all the plays which were rejected by the first collectors of Shakspeare's works, and admitted in later editions, and again rejected by the critical editors, had Shakfpeare's name on the title, as we muft fuppofe, by the fraudulence of the printers, who, while there were yet no gazettes, nor advertisements, nor any means of circulating literary intelligence, could ufurp at pleasure any celebrated name. Nor had Shakfpeare any intereft in detecting the impofture, as none of his fame or profit was produced by the prefs.

The chronology of this play does not prove it not to be Shakfpeare's. If it had been written twenty-five years, in 1614, it might have been written when Shakspeare was twenty-five years old. When he left Warwickshire I know not, but at the age of twenty-five it was rather too late to fly for deer-stealing.

Ravenscroft, who in the reign of James II. revised this play, and reftored it to the stage, tells us, in his preface, from a theatrical tradition, I fuppofe, which in his time might be of fufficient authority, that this play was touched in different parts by Shakspeare, but written by fome other poet. I do not find Shakfpeare's touches very difcernible. JOHNSON.

There is every reason to believe, that Shakspeare was not the author of this play. I have already faid enough upon the fubje&t.

Mr. Upton declares peremptorily, that it ought to be flung out of the lift of our author's works: yet Mr. Warner, with all his laudable zeal for the memory of his fchool-fellow, when it may feem to ferve his purpose, difables his friend's judgment !

Indeed a new argument has been produced; it must have been written by Shakspeare, because at that time other people wrote in the fame manner !*

It is fcarcely worth obferving, that the original publisher + had nothing to do with any of the reft of Shakspeare's works. Dr. Johnson obferves the copy to be as correct as other books of the

Capell thought Edward III. was Shakspeare's because nobody could write fo, and Titus Andronicus becaufe every body could! Well fare his heart, for he is a jewel of a reasoner! FARMER.

+ The original owner of the copy was John Danter, who likewise printed the first edition of Romeo and Juliet in 1597, and is introduced as a character in The Return from Parnassus, &c. 1606. STEEVENS.

time; and probably revised by the author himself; but furely Shakspeare would not have taken the greatest care about infinitely the worst of his performances! Nothing more can be faid, except that it is printed by Heminge and Condell in the first folio: but not to infift, that it had been contrary to their intereft to have rejected any play, ufually called Shakspeare's, though they might know it to be fpurious; it does not appear, that their knowledge is at all to be depended on; for it is certain, that in the first copies they had entirely omitted the play of Troilus and Creffida. It has been faid, that this play was firft printed for G. Eld, 1594, but the original publisher was Edward White. I have feen in an old catalogue of Tales, &c. the hiftory of Titus Andronicus. FARMER.

I have already given the reader a fpecimen of the changes made in this play by Ravenscroft, who revived it with fuccefs in the year 1687; and may add, that when the Empress stabs her child, he has fupplied the Moor with the following lines: "She has outdone me, ev'n in mine own art,

"Outdone me in murder, kill'd her own child;
"Give it me, I'll eat it."

It rarely happens that a dramatick piece is altered with the fame fpirit that it was written; but Titus Andronicus has undoubtedly fallen into the hands of one whofe feelings and imagination were congenial with thofe of its original author.

In the courfe of the notes on this performance, I have pointed out a paffage or two which, in my opinion, fufficiently prove it to have been the work of one who was acquainted both with Greek and Roman literature. It is likewife deficient in fuch internal marks as diftinguish the tragedies of Shakspeare from those of other writers; I mean, that it prefents no ftruggles to introduce the vein of humour fo conftantly interwoven with the bufinefs of his ferious dramas. It can neither boast of his ftriking excellencies, nor his acknowledged defects; for it offers not a fingle interesting fituation, a natural character, or a ftring of quibbles from first to laft. That Shakspeare should have written without commanding our attention, moving our paffions, or fporting with words, appears to me as improbable, as that he fhould have ftudioufly avoided diffyllable and trifyllable terminations in this play, and in no other.

Let it likewife be remembered that this piece was not published with the name of Shakspeare till after his death. The quarto in 1611 is anonymous.

Could the ufe of particular terms employed in no other of his pieces be admitted as an argument that he was not its author, more than one of these might be found; among which is palliament for robe, a Latinism which I have not met with elsewhere

in any English writer, whether ancient or modern; though it muft have originated from the mint of a scholar. I may add, that Titus Andronicus will be found on examination to contain a greater number of claffical allufions, &c. than are scattered over all the reft of the performances on which the feal of Shakspeare is indubitably fixed.-Not to write any more about and about this fufpected thing, let me obferve that the glitter of a few paffages in it has perhaps misled the judgment of those who ought to have known, that both fentiment and defcription are more eafily produced than the interefting fabrick of a tragedy. Without these advantages, many plays have fucceeded; and many have failed, in which they have been dealt about with the most lavith profufion. It does not follow, that he who can carve a freize with minutenefs, elegance, and eafe, has a conception equal to the extent, propriety, and grandeur of a temple.

STEEVENS.

Dr. Johnson is not quite accurate in what he has afferted concerning the feven fpurious plays, which the printer of the folio in 1664 improperly admitted into his volume. The name of Shakfpeare appears only in the title-pages of four of them; Pericles, Sir John Oldcastle, The London Prodigal, and The Yorkshire Tragedy.

To the word palliament mentioned by Mr. Steevens in the preceding note, may be added the words accite, candidatus, and facred in the fenfe of accurfed; and the following allufions, and fcraps of Latin, which are found in this lamentable tragedy :

"As hateful as Cocytus' mifty mouth-."

"More stern and bloody than the Centaurs' feast."

"The self-fame gods that arm'd the queen of Troy
"With opportunity of fharp revenge

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Upon the Thracian tyrant in his tent."

But fafer is this funeral pomp,
"That hath afpir'd to Solon's happiness."

"Why fuffer'ft thou thy fons unbury'd yet
"To hover on the dreadful fhore of Styx ?"

"The Greeks upon advice did bury Ajax
"That flew himself; and wife Laertes' fon
"Did graciously plead for his funeral.”

"He would have dropp'd his knife, and fallen afleep,
"As Cerberus at the Thracian poet's feet."

"To bid Æneas tell the tale twice o'er,
"How Troy was burnt, and he made miferable."

"Was it well done of rath Virginius,

"To flay his daughter with his own right hand?”

"Believe me, queen, your fwart Cimmerian
"Doth make your honour of his body's hue."

"But fure fome Tereus hath deflowred thee,

[ocr errors]

And, left thou should detect him, cut thy tongue."

"That, like the stately Phoebe 'mong her nymphs,
"Doft overshine the gallant dames of Rome."

"No man fhed tears for noble Mutius,
"He lives in fame that died in virtue's caufe."

"I tell you younglings, not Enceladus,

"With all his threat'ning band of Typhon's brood,
"Nor great Alcides," &c.

"I'll dive into the burning lake below,

"And pull her out of Acheron by the heels."

"I come, Semiramis; nay, barbarous Tamora."

"And faster bound to Aaron's charming eyes,
"Than is Prometheus ty'd to Caucafus."

"Per Styga, per manes, vehor,
"Sit fas, aut nefas,-

"Ad manes fratrum facrifice his flesh."

"Suum cuique is our Roman justice."

66

Magne dominator poli,

"Tam lentus audis fcelera? tam lentus vides ?”
Integer vita," &c.

[ocr errors]

"Terras ftræa reliquit."

Similar fcraps of Latin are found in the old play of King John, and in many other of the dramatick pieces written by our author's predeceffors.

It must prove a circumftance of confummate mortification to the living criticks on Shakspeare, as well as a difgrace on the memory of those who have ceased to comment and collate, when it fhall appear from the fentiments of one of their own fraternity (who cannot well be suspected of afinine tasteleffness, or Gothick

« ZurückWeiter »