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CRITICAL OPINIONS ON TITUS ANDRONICUS.
“All the editors and critics agree with Mr. Theobald in supposing this play spurious. I see no reason for differing from them ; for the colour of the style is wholly different from that of the other plays, and there is an attempt at regular versification, and artificial closes, not always inelegant, yet seldom pleasing. The barbarity.of the spectacles, and the general massacre, which are here exhibited, can scarcely be conceived tolerable to any audience ; yet we are told by Jonson, that they were not only borne, but praised. That Shakespeare wrote any part, though Theobald declares it incontestable, I see no reason for believing.
“ The testimony produced at the beginning of this play, by which it is ascribed to Shakespeare, is by no means equal to the argument against its authenticity, arising from the total difference of conduct, language, and sentiments, by which it stands apart from all the rest. Meres had probably no other evidence than that of a title-page, which, though in our time it be sufficient, was then of no great authority ; for all the plays which were rejected by the first collectors of Shakespeare's works, and admitted in later editions, and again rejected by the critical editors, had Shakespeare's name on the title, as we must suppose, by the fraudulence of the printers, who, while there were yet no gazettes, nor advertisements, nor any means of circulating literary intelligence, could usurp at pleasure any celebrated name. Nor had Shakespeare any interest in detecting the imposture, as none of his fame or profit was produced by the press.
“The chronology of this play does not prove it not to be Shakespeare's. If it had been written twentyfive years in 1614, it might have been written when Shakespeare was twenty-five years old. When be left Warwickshire, I know not; but at the age of twenty-five it was rather too late to fly for deerstealing.
" Ravenscroft, who in the reign of Charles II. revised this play, and restored it to the stage, tells us in his preface, from a theatrical tradition, I suppose, which in his time might be of sufficient authority, that this play was touched in different parts by Shakespeare, but written by some other poet. I do not find Shakespeare's touches very discernible."-Johxson. VOL. III.
“In the course of the notes on this performance, I have pointed out a passage or two which, in my opinion, sufficiently prove it to have been the work of one who was acquainted both with Greek and Roman literature. It is likewise deficient in such internal marks as distinguish the tragedies of Shakspeare from those of other writers; I mean, that it presents no struggles to introduce the vein of humour so constantly interwoven with the business of his serious dramas. It can neither boast of his striking excellencies, nor his acknowledged defects ; for it offers not a single interesting situation, a natural character, or a string of quibbles from first to last. That Shakspeare should have written without commanding our attention, moving our passions, or sporting with words, appears to me as improbable, as that he should have studiously avoided dissyllable and trisyllable terminations in this play, and in no other.
“Let it likewise 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 use 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 must 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 classical allusions, &c. than are scattered over all the rest of the performances on which the seal of Shakspeare is indubitably fixed.-Not to write any more about and about this suspected thing, let me observe that the glitter of a few passages in it has perhaps misled the judgment of those who ought to have known, that both sentiment and description are more easily produced than the interesting fabrick of a tragedy. Without these advantages many plays have succeeded ; and many have failed, in which they have been dealt about with the most lavish profusion. It does not follow, that he who can carve a frieze with minuteness, elegance, and ease, has a conception equal to the extent, propriety, and grandeur of a temple."-STEEVENS.
In the Registers of the Stationers, under the date, October 6th, 1621, is the following memorandum :
Entered for his, to wit, under the bandes of Sir George Buck and of the
Wardens : The Tragedie of Othello, the Moore of Venice.”
This entry was made by Walkley, preparatory to the publication of his quarto edition of the play which appeared some time in the next year, and was entitled :-" The Tragedy of Othello, The Moore of Venice. As it hath beene diverse times acted at the Globe, and at the BlackFriers, by his Maiesties Servants. Written by William Shakespeare. London, Printed by N. O. for Thomas Walkley, and are to be sold at his shop at the Eagle and Child, in Brittans Bursse, 1622.” The next quarto copy appeared in 1630, seven years after the publication of the first folio: the title-page varies from that of the quarto of 1622 only in the imprint, which reads :- -“ by A. M. for Richard Hawkins," &c.
Upon the supposition that a passage in Act III. Sc. 4,
the hearts of old gave hands; But our new heraldry is hands, not hearts," –
was a satirical allusion to the creation of the new order of Baronets by James I. in 1611, Malone at first assigned the composition of “ Othello”
“Othello” to that year; he subsequently attributed it to 1604, because, as he remarks, “ we know it to have been acted in that year ;” but he has given no evidence in support of his assertion. Modern research, however, has supplied tủis evidence. In the “ Extracts from the Accounts of the Revels at Court,” edited by Mr. P. Cunningham for the Shakespeare Society, there is an entry, beginning November 1st, 1604, and terminating October 31st, 1605, from which it appears that the King's Players performed the play of The Moor of Venis at the Banqueting-house at Whitehall on the 1st of November (Hullamas Day), 1604. Mr. Collier, indeed, cites an extract from “ The Egerton Papers,” to show that “ Othello” was acted for the entertainment of Queen Elizabeth, at the residence of Lord Ellesmere (then Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal), at Harefield, on the 6th of August, 1602; but the suspicion long entertained that the Shakespearian documents in that collection are modern fabrications having now deepened almost into certainty, the extract in question is of no historical value. The earliest authentic record of the performance of “Othello," then, is that in the Accounts of the Revels. Six years later, we