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1591 *, has noticed or even alluded to any theatrical production of our author.
That it took place, either in 1590, or very soon after that year, must be inferred both from tradition, and from written testimony. Aubery tells us, from the former source, that “ he began early to make essays in dramatique poetry, which at that time was very lowe, and his plays took well to ;” and from the nature and extent of the allusions in the following passage from Robert Greene's Groatsworth of Witte bought with a Million of Repentance, there can be no doubt that, not only one play, but that several had been written and prepared for the stage by our poet, anterior to September, 1592.
It appears that this tract of Greene's was completed a very short time previous to his death, which happened on the third of the month of the year just mentioned, and that Henry Chettle, “ perill” † it had been entered in the Stationers' register on September the 20th, 1592, became editor and publisher of it before the ensuing December.
Greene had been the intimate associate of Marlowe, Lodge, and Peele, and he concludes his Groatsworth of Witte with an address to these bards, the object of which is, to dissuade them from any further reliance
stage for support, and to warn them against the ingratitude and selfishness of players : “ trust them not;" he exclaims, “ for there is an upstart crowe BEAUTIFIED WITH OUR FEATHERS, that with his tygres heart wrapt in a player's hide, supposes hee is as well able to bombaste out a blank verse as the best of you ; and being an absolute JOHANNES PAC-TOTUM, is in his own conceit the only SHAKE-SCENE in a countrey."
To Mr. Tyrwhit we are indebted for the first application of this
* In his Apology for Poetry,
# Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 286; and Chalmers's Supplemental Apology, p. 272. note. ģ Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 237.
# Ibid. vol. xiv. p. 217. VOL. II.
HIT APPROVES HIS
We have, in a former portion of this wa
ies, and concluding that, on Shakspeare's arri
and moral in-1586 or 1587, his immediate employr
('ulogium by we now proceed to consider the murd of his first attempts in dramatic
poe the production of his Venus and 1
:!e's combined with the when he informs us that the poer
viimately infer, first, that his invention ; and though we e
1592 ; secondly, that he had emanating from a similar sourc. i success, for Aubrey tells us, in dramatic literature, yet, if
grace in writing approved tion of his Venus and Ados
. tragedy and comedy, Greene years 1587 and 1590 t, the
bombast out a blank verse, and probability, be placed either race in writing ;" fourthly, that 1590. That it occurred » · stuge some of the separate or joint recollecting, that, in the
Lodge, and Peele; the words of poem and the acquirem. are a “ crowe beautified with our sufficient to occupy ay
wrapt in a player's hide, supposes,” &c. place, that no conter isurtively acquired fame by appropriat1586 I, nor Putteni:
ning to a particular play, through the poroof of the assertion, the words tygres
being a parody of a line in the Third * Part II. chapte: I In his Discour
• Part II. chap. 1.
Part of King Henry the Sixth : or what we, for reasons which will be speedily assigned, have thought proper to call the Second Part,
fifthly, that he had already excited, as the usual consequence of success, no small degree of jealousy and envy; hence Greene has querelously bestowed upon him the appellation of upstart, and has taxed him with a monopolising spirit, an accusation which leads us to believe, sixthly, that he had written or prepared for the stage SEVERAL PLAYS anterior to September, 1592; this last inference, which we conceive to be fairly deduced from the description of our poet as AN ABSOLUTE JOHANNES FAC-TOTUM with regard to the stage, will immediately bring forward again the question as to the precise era of our author's earliest drama.
Now to warrant the charge implied by the expression, an absolute fac-totum, we must necessarily allow a sufficient lapse of time before September, 1592, in order to admit, not only of Shakspeare's altering a play for the stage, but of his composing either altogether, or in part, both tragedy and comedy on a basis of his own choice, so that he might, as he actually did, appear to Greene, in the capacities of corrector, improver, and original writer of plays, to be a perfect fac-totum.
And, if we further reflect, that the composition of the Groatsworth of Witte most probably, from indisposition, occupied its author one month, as he complains of weakness scarce suffering him to write towards the conclusion of his tract, and that we cannot reasonably conclude less than two years to have been employed by Shakspeare in the execution of the functions assigned him by Greene; the period for the production of his first drama, will necessarily be thrown back to the August of the year 1590 ; an era to which no objection, from contradictory testimony, can with any show of probability apply; for,
* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xiv. p. 43. Act i. sc. 4.
hat a play, per
passage to Shakspeare, who, as might naturally }
wiered on the himself hurt at Greene's unmerited sarcasm,
-kspeare, yet, by the designation of the only Shake-scene i
vod, completed pleased with Chettle's officious publicatio. ments so openly as to draw forth from t?
ished his labours, months after his edition of the G:
che public at that which adds further weight to the i
be passed over in from the language of Greene. which, under the title of K"
i poet's commenceto quote more at large in
i which was the first after slightly noticing
red from his pen ; a speaking highly oft!
with many difficulties, integrity of Shah.
lirated by a patient investimentioning
meion from, minute circumstances ART.” From the
diced us to fix upon Pericles, as the
ki a successful, enquiry, will be offered, he il
Ler the first article of the following Chrono
Balita though deviating, in several instances, can we both Chalmers and Malone, will not, it is novine bra found needlessly singular, nor unproductive Hotlitid u to probability, and, perchance, to truth. Londonspicuity, it has been thought eligible to prefix,
Baie vruler which has been adopted, the observations Le is arrangement being classed according to the series
cond wifi and here it may be necessary to premise, that the Lontour commentary, with the exception of what may be
ristablish a few new dates, will be chiefly confined to mies kyrks on each play, relieved by intervening dissertations Shepapper human agency of the poet.
1. Pericles, 2. Comedy of Errors, 3. Love's Labour's Lost, 4. King Henry the Sixth, Part I. 5. King Henry the Sixth, Part II. 6. Midsummer-Night's Dream, 7. Romeo and Juliet, 8. Taming of the Shrew, 9. Two Gentlemen of Verona, 10. King Richard the Third, 11. King Richard the Second, 12. King Henry the Fourth, Part I. 13. King Henry the Fourth, Part II. 14. The Merchant of Venice, 15. Hamlet, 16. King John, 17. All's Well That Ends Well, 18. King Henry the Fifth, 19. Much Ado About Nothing, 20. As You Like It, 21. Merry Wives of Windsor, 22. Troilus and Cressida, 23. King Henry the Eighth, 24. Timon of Athens, 25. Measure for Measure, 26. King Lear, 27. Cymbeline, 28. Macbeth, 29. Julius Cæsar, 30. Antony and Cleopatra,
1590. 1591. 1591. 1592. 1592. 1593. 1593, 1594. 1595. 1595. 1596. 1596. 1596. 1597. 1597. 1598. 1598. 1599. 1599. 1600. 1601. 1601. 1602. 1602. 1603. 1604. 1605. 1606. 1607. 1608.