Page images
PDF
EPUB

own.

a

6

*

but very slight deviations. The first scene, for instance, which in both cases introduces the course of the action, consists in the second part of Henry VI.' of 254 lines; in • The First of the Contention,' etc. it amounts only to 116; of these, however, several passages are printed as prose, which are evidently blank verse (but corrupted in the print), and which if printed as verse would make the number of lines 8 or 9 more. Of these 174 lines, only 34 differ from the corresponding lines in Henry VI.';

' 140 are, for the most part, word for word the same. ACcordingly, if Malone's view is correct, Shakspeare has merely added some 80 lines to this scene from the work of another author, and replaced about 34 by others of his

The.case is much the same with most of the other scenes of the play (except that a few appear almost wholly unaltered), and is even more unfavourable as regards • The True Tragedie of Richard,' etc., of which almost the whole substance, at least all that is in any way important and significant, coincides more or less exactly with the third part of Henry VI.'* However, had there existed a poet who could have written the scenes of the old plays retained by Shakspeare, then this predecessor was so closely related to him in mind, that Shakspeare required but to follow his footsteps, and, accordingly, Shakspeare's position as regards the age in which he lived, his importance as regards the growth and development of the English drama, would have to be conceived in quite a different light from that in which they have hitherto been viewed. For however low an estimate may be formed of the two old plays, this much is certain and has never been disputed, that in those portions retained by Shakspeare there occur a number of passages which are more equal to the undoubtedly genuine productions of Shakspeare's genius than any other dramatic work of his day.

The most distinguished dramatists among Shakspeare's predecessors and younger associates, were Robert Greene and Christopher Marlowe. And they alone can be taken

* Truly this is a colossal piece of plagiarism, the inconceivable part of which is that Heminge and Condell could have had the face to admit it among Shakspeare's works!

*

[ocr errors]

315 into consideration in regard to the question as to what poet, besides Shakspeare, the two old plays belong. Collier, as already remarked, decides in favour of R. Greene, and Gervinus agrees with him. Dyce,* on the other hand, declares himself decidedly opposed to Greene, by maintaining that .Greene, Lodge and Peele may each perhaps have had a hand in The First Part of the Contention, and in The True Tragedie, but their undisputed works show that they were quite incapable of rising to the vigour of conception and expression which characterise some scenes in those two dramas. And, in fact, whoever has but cursorily glanced through Greene's dramas cannot well avoid coming to the conviction that he was simply incapable of writing a scene such as, for instance, the murder of King Henry in the True Tragedie;' the thoughts, the diction, the spirit and the characterisation, in short, almost everything, differ so completely from Greene's style that perhaps it was only the external consideration of the celebrated passage in his Groatsworth of Wit,' which accuses Shakspeare of plagiarism and first provoked the controversy, that may have misled Collier in his judgment and have induced him to regard Greene as the author of both plays. If, accordingly, Greene cannot have been the author, then Marlowe is the only one who could possibly have written them. To him, as already said, they have been ascribed by A. Dyce; and Dyce is an authority in the domain of criticism and literary history whose importance I perfectly acknowledge, and this alone has induced me to give a full statement of my contrary opinion.

I have already characterised Marlowe † more fully as the most eminent of Shakspeare's predecessors, as compared with Greene and his contemporaries. In grandeur, in power and boldness of spirit, in vigour and energy of will, in freedom of mind and independence of thought, he unquestionably stood next to Shakspeare. But his heart was devoid of all tenderness and sincerity of feeling; his soul was wholly wanting in that depth, calmness and warmtŁ which alone can give rise to and develop

* His edition of Shakspere, vol. i. 54. + Vol. i. p. 150 ff.

nigher, ethical emotions, the religious and moral sentiments, that is, the feeling for truth and beauty ; his nature inclined towards wild passionateness, towards unbridled capriciousness, which despised alike both moderation and law. In power of tragic pathos, therefore, he stands unrivalled among Shakspeare's predecessors, but the tragio element in him becomes perverted into what is fearful, revolting, and horrible. For, as I have already shown, his idea of tragedy is the annihilating struggle of mighty forces and in pulses which have run from their usual course, the struggle of uncontrollable emotions and passions one against the other; and this idea found its support in Macchiavelli's view of life (which, according to Greene's testimony, Marlowe favoured), regarding all means as justifiable in order to acquire that unlimited power and dominion which offers the gratification of all lusts and desires. His characters are more profoundly conceived, more powerfully and sharply delineated than those in any of Shakspeare's other predecessors; in this respect, also, he stands next to Shakspeare. But, owing to the majority of his dramatic personages being mere emotion, mere passion, and in this respect transgressing all bounds the perpetual ferment and commotion do not permit of any fine delineation, of any progressive growth and development of the characters. Passion and lust so completely govern their actions that they are wholly wanting in all ethical emotions, and completely ignorant of the idea of duty. In not a single one of Marlowe’s dramas do we find a character guided by truly moral motives; nowhere is there any question about the struggle between the moral nature of man with his sensual impulses and selfish desires. In short, the moral element in the mental life of man appears wholly excluded from Marlowe's works.

This point, which was discussed in our last volume, I have here again brought forward because of its great importance in regard to the point in question. For, in face of these general characteristics of Marlowe's mind and disposition, the reader will here, I think, be forced to ask himself, could Marlowe—the Marlowe whom we know from the dramas that are undoubtedly his, and which must be taken as our standard-bape created characters like

[ocr errors]

6

the 'good,' conscientious Duke of Gloster, who is always striving to acquire self-control and ever giving proofs of it, or like the pious, dutiful, gentle and amiable Henry VI., who is only entirely wanting in strength of will and energy, or could he have even sketched them in the manner in which they are presented to us in “ The First Part of tbe Contention’and in • The True Tragedie'? My opinion is that every impartial reader, comparing these characters with the most prominent personages in Marlowe's dramas, will be inclined

to answer in the negative. Marlowe would have made the Duke of Gloster an arrogant, defiant man, silently acquiescing in the plans of his ambitious wife, and retaining possession of the regency as long as possible,

-in short, he would have made him a character to whom he could have applied his favourite epithet of aspiring.' Marlowe would have placed Henry VI. entirely in the background, have ruercilessly branded him as a weak, effeminate, unkingly man, and have caused him to dielike his own Edward II.'-grieving and lamenting over his unhappy fate, perhaps with a few cold religious phrases on his lips (such as his Henry of Bourbon in The Massacre at Paris,' occasionally uses). At all events it must be admitted—what indeed is an established factthat not in one of Marlowe's pieces are there any personages at all resembling these two characters.

But before pronouncing a final judgment, let us first enter son what more closely into details and compare those of Marlowe's dramas which come into special consideration with the two plays in question, more particularly as regards his composition and treatment of the historical subjects. Of the six tragedies that we possess of Marlowe, two must at once be set aside: The Tragical Historie of Doctor Faustus' and The Tragedie of Dido, Queen of Carthage.' The latter, because it has been proved that Marlowe was not its sole author, and because it was obviously written for a performance at Court, i.e. was not a free composition, but one written under various conditions with regard to the Queen and to the taste of the Court, and, accordingly, very different in spirit and character from Marlowe's other dramas. His Doctor Faustus,' as Dyce has proved, we do not

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]

possess in its original form, but so strongly corrupted with additions and corrections that it, too, cannot be regarded as a genuine work of Marlowe’s.* Of the other four remaining tragedies, the two historical dramas must here occupy the first place; these are · The Massacre of

aris with the Death of the Duke of Guise,' and The troublesome Raigne and lamentable Death of Edward the Second.' Marlowe’s Tamburlaine' is not a historical drama, for although the object is externally connected with the person of the famous Mussulman Tamerlane (Timur-Leck), still history itself is treated so arbitrarily, so interpolated, altered, and perverted, that the whole piece becomes wild and fantastic in character, and is very

far removed from what in Shakspeare's day was called a • historie.' His Jew of Malta' has no historical basis whatever; the whole piece is taken up with the description of a man filled with a passionate, blind, and fierce spirit of revenge, who does not even spare his own child ; hence, as regards subject and form, it offers no direct point of comparison.

Marlowe's two historical dramas are among his later works, and are probably even the last plays he presented

* The earliest extant quarto edition is dated 1604, the second 1616. Both show such remarkable differences, that the second must be regarded not merely as enlarged or improved, but, more correctly, as a refacimento of the play. But the edition of 1604, also, does not give Marlowe's original text. For it contains a line (in Dyce, ii. 64) mentioning a Spanish doctor, 'Lopus' (Lopez), and the latter and his "treasonable practices' were first heard of through his legal trial and public execution in the year 1594—hence not till after Marlowe's death. (Dyce i. p. xviii). The edition of 1604, accordingly, doubtless contains

. the play in the form in which it was again brought upon the stage in 1597, with the additions by Th. Dekker, which are expressly referred to by Henslowe; the edition of 1616 is probably the more extensive remodelling which, according to Henslowe, it subsequently experienced at the hands of W. Bird and S. Rowley. This is also Dyce's conjecture, but he does not venture to maintain this extremely probable supposition, because in the older Taming of a Shrew (which appeared in print in 1594) he found a passage which he thinks contains '& seeming imitation of a line in Faustus,' and moreover a line which occurs only in the edition of 1616, in a scene which could not possibly have been written by Marlowe. Now, for this reason, the author of the older 'Taming of a Shrew doubtless did not take the line froin Marlowe but, conversely, it was borrowed by Bird and Rowley from the olj comedy and introduced among their additions into Faustus.

« EelmineJätka »