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this short but interesting article. It is taken from his "Palladis Tamia. Wit's Treasury. Being the second part of Wit's Common Wealth," 1598, and from that part of it entitled "A comparative discourse of our English Poets, with the Greeke, Latine, and Italian Poets."

"As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for comedy and tragedy among the Latines, so Shakspeare, among y English, is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage; for comedy, witness his Getleme of Verona, his Errors, his Love Labor's Lost, his Love Labour's Wonne, his Midsummer's-Night Dreame, and his Merchant of Venice: for tragedy, his Richard the 2. Richard the 3. Henry the 4. King John, Titus Andronicus, and his Romeo and Juliet." *

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Some of the commentators, and more particularly Ritson and Steevens, have positively pronounced this play to have been originally the composition of a writer anterior to Shakspeare, and that it merely received some embellishments from our poet's pen: "On a careful revision of the foregoing scenes," says the latter gentleman, "I do not hesitate to pronounce them the composition of two very unequal writers. Shakspeare had undoubtedly a share in them; but that the entire play was no work of his, is an opinion which (as Benedick says) 'fire cannot melt out of me; I will die in it at the stake.' Thus, as we are informed by Aulus Gellius, lib. iii. cap. 3. some plays were absolutely ascribed to Plautus which in truth had only been (retractatæ et expolita) retouched and polished by him." †

We have frequently occasion to admire the wit, the classical elegance, and the ingenuity of Mr. Steevens, but we have often also to regret the force of his prejudices, and the unqualified dogmatism of his critical opinions. That the business of the Comedy of Errors is better calculated for farce than for legitimate comedy, cannot be

* For this paragraph, the reader is referred to p. 282. of the original edition, or to p. 46. of the ninth volume of the Censura Literaria.

+ Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xx. p. 461. note.

denied; and it must also be confessed that the droggrel verses attributed to the two Dromios, contribute little to the humour or value of the piece; but let us, at the same time, recollect, that the admission of the latter was in conformity to the custom of the age in which this play was produced, and that the former, though perplexed and somewhat improbable †, possesses no small share of entertainment.

This drama of Shakspeare is, in fact, much more varied, rich, and interesting in its incidents, than the Menæchmi of Plautus; and while in rigid adherence to the unities of action, time, and place, our poet rivals the Roman play, he has contrived to insinuate the necessary previous information for the spectator, in a manner infinitely more pleasing and artful than that adopted by the Latin bard, for whilst Plautus has chosen to convey it through the medium of a prologue, Shakspeare has rendered it at once natural and pathetic, by placing it in the mouth of Ægeon, the father of the twin brothers.

In a play of which the plot is so intricate, occupied in a great measure by mere personal mistakes, and their whimsical results, no elaborate developement of character can be expected; yet is the portrait of Ægeon touched with a discriminative hand, and the pressure of age and misfortune is so painted, as to throw a solemn, dignified, and impressive tone of colouring over this part of the fable, contrasting well with the lighter scenes which immediately follow, a mode of relief which is again resorted to at the close of the drama, where the re-union of Ægeon and Æmilia, and the recognition of their children, produce an interest in the denouëment, of a nature more affecting than the tone of the preceding scenes had taught us In expect.

As to the comic action which constitutes the chief bulk of this picce, if it be true that to excite laughter, awaken attention, and fix

* For specimens of the doggrel verse which preceded and accompanied the era of the Comedy of Errors, see Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xx. pp. 462, 463.

The addition of the twin servants to their twin masters, doubles the improbability, while it adds to the fund of entertainment.

curiosity, be essential to its dramatic excellence, the Comedy of Errors cannot be pronounced an unsuccessful effort; both reader and spectator are hurried on to the close, through a series of thick-coming incidents, and under the pleasurable influence of novelty, expectation, and surprise; and the dialogue, so far from betraying the inequalities complained of by Ritson and Steevens, is uniformly vivacious, pointed, and even effervescing. Shakspeare is visible, in fact, throughout the entire play, as well in the broad exuberance of its mirth, as in the cast of its more chastised parts, a combination of which may be found in the punishment and character of Pinch the pedagogue and conjurer, who is sketched in the strongest and most marked style of our author.

If we consider, therefore, the construction of the fable, the narrowness of its basis, and that its powers of entertainment are almost exclusively confined to a continued deception of the external senses, we must confess that Shakspeare has not only improved on the Plautian model, but, making allowance for a somewhat too coarse vein of humour, has given to his production all the interest and variety that the nature and the limits of his subject would permit.

3. LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST: 1591. In the first edition of Mr. Malone's Chronological Essay on Shakspeare's Plays, which was published in January, 1778, the year 1591 is the date assigned to this drama, an epoch, which, in the re-impression of 1793, was changed in the catalogue for the subsequent era of 1594, though the reasons given for this alteration appeared so inconclusive to the chronologist himself, that he ventures in the text merely to say, "I think it probable, that our author's first draft of this play was written in or before 1594*," a mode of expression which leaves as much authority to the former as the latter date. In short, the only motive brought forward for the present locality of this piece in Mr. Malone's list, where it appears posterior to A Midsummer-Night's Dream, the


*Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 262.


Comedy of Errors, and The Taming of the Shrew, is, that there is more attempt at delineation of character in it than in either the first or second of the plays just mentioned, a reason which loses all its weight the moment we seriously contrast this comedy with its supposed predecessors, for who would then think of assigning to the very slight sketches of Biron and Katharine, any mark of improvement, either in poetic or dramatic strength, over the imaginative powers of the Midsummer-Night's Dream, or the strong, broad, and often characteristic outlines of The Taming of the Shrew!

The construction, indeed, of the whole play, the variety of its versification, the abundancy of its rhymes, and the length and frequency of its doggrel lines, very clearly prove this comedy to be one of our author's very earliest compositions; indications which originally disposed Mr. Malone to give it to the year which we have adopted, and which induced Mr. Chalmers to assign it to 1592, though why he prefers this year to the preceding does not appear.

Of Love's Labour's Lost, as it was performed in the year 1591, we possess no exact transcript; for, in the oldest edition which has hitherto been found of this play, namely that of 1598, it is said in the title-page to be newly corrected and augmented, with the further information, that it had been presented before Her Highness the last Christmas; facts which show, that we are in possession not of the first draft or edition of this comedy, but only of that copy which represents it as it was revived and improved for the entertainment of the Queen, in 1597.

The original sketch, whether printed or merely performed, we conceive to have been one of the pieces alluded to by Greene, in 1592, when he accuses Shakspeare of being an absolute Johannes fac-totum of the stage, primarily and principally from the mode of its execution, which, as we have already observed, betrays the earliness of its source in the strongest manner; secondarily, that, like Pericles, it occasionally copies the language of the Arcadia, then with all the attractive

* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 264.

novelty of its reputation in full bloom *, and thirdly, that in the fifth act, various allusions to the Muscovites or Russians, seem evidently to point to a period when Russia and its inhabitants attracted the public consideration, a period which we find, from Hackluyt †, to have occupied the years 1590 and 1591, when, as Warburton and Chalmers have observed, the arrangement of Russian commerce engaged very particularly the attention, and formed the conversation, of the court, the city, and the country. ‡

It may be also remarked, that while no play among our author's works exhibits more decisive marks of juvenility than Love's Labour's Lost, none, at the same time, is more strongly imbued with the peculiar cast of his youthful genius; for in style and manner, it bears a closer resemblance to the Venus and Adonis, the Rape of Lucrece, and the earlier Sonnets, than any other of his genuine dramas. It presents us, in short, with a continued contest of wit and repartee, the persons represented, whether high or low, vying with each other, throughout the piece, in the production of the greatest number of jokes, sallies, and verbal equivoques. The profusion with which these are every-where scattered, has, unfortunately, had the effect of throwing an air of uniformity over all the characters, who seem solely intent on keeping up the ball of raillery; yet is Biron now and then discriminated by a few strong touches, and Holofernes is probably the portrait of an individual, some of his quotations having justly induced the commentators to infer, that Florio, the author of First and Second Fruits, dialogues in Italian and English, and of a Dictionary, entitled A World of Words, was the object of the poet's satire.

If in dramatic strength of painting this comedy be deficient, and it appears to us, in this quality, inferior to Pericles, we must, independent of the vivacity of its dialogue already noticed, acknowledge,

* Vide Chalmers's Supplemental Apology, pp. 281, 282.; and Douce's Illustrations, vol. i. p. 238.

+ Vol. i. p. 498-9, edit. 1598.

Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vii. p. 151. note; and Chalmers's Supplemental Apology,

p. 283.

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