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What, on the other hand, was more natural—as I musi again repeat-than that young Shakspeare, in his first dramatic attempts, should have followed the method of the best models of his day, and worked in their style? In the present case, it was obviously R. Greene's style that
Wilkins is supposed to refer to Pericles only so as expressly to intimate that the play was originally his own. But why, we are forced to ask, -why did not Wilkins have his original poem printed instead of his novel? This would have been a much simpler and more natural means of claiming his property and of exposing Shakspeare the plagiarist ! Because, says Delius: The play had in the meantime passed over into the possession of the King's Players, and had become quite different in Shakspeare's hands.' Quite different !' How does this agree with the trouble which Delius has given himself to prove that the whole of the first half of the play can have been but little, if at all, altered by_Shakspeare, and obviously the production of some inferior poet? But even granted that the play became 'quite different' in Shakspeare's hands, and that it became the property of the King's Players in that form, this need not have prevented the robbed author from printing his own drama as he himself had written it: no right in the world
could have prevented him, for any such right would have been the most crying wrong! Obviously, therefore, Wilkins had no claim to Pericles either in its present or in its earlier form, nor even previous to its remodelling by Shakspeare. Moreover, the only extant play of Wilkins'—which appeared in print in 1608 under the title of The Miseries of Inforst Marriage, etc. (reprinted in Dodsley)—shows that Wilkins could not possibly have been the author of the original Pericles. Delius, it is true, finds throughout an affinity in style, metre and dramatic structure, between The Inforst Marriage, Pericles, and Timon of Athens. However, the single features of this affinity, which he adduces in support of his opinion, prove nothing, for reasons already stated. Besides, they can be explained in a much simpler manner by the evidently great trouble which Wilkins has taken-in diction, versification, and other external respects to approach Shakspeare, whom he perhaps honestly admired (and therefore published his Pericles in the form of a novel); but Wilkins could not imitate nor even approach Shakspeare except in his defects and his least excellent works." The whole of his Inforst Marriage, when viewed as a whole, is not only an unimportant production, but the coarseness of its substance, its lax morals, its weak as well as repulsive characters—in short, its whole tone is so entirely different from the genius of Shakspeare and his ethical greatness, and so completely follows the style and tendency of the more modern school (described in vol i. p. 289 f.), that it forms the most direct contrast to the strictly moral intention and purely ethical character of Shakspeare's Pericles and Timon of Athens. A poet who could write Pericles and The Inforet Marriage in the same period, perhaps in the same year, would be one of the strangest phenomena in the domain of dramatic literature.
he imitated. Like all the plays of this writer, 'Pericles, also, is not so much a drama as a dramatised narrative; in language, composition, and characterisation, it is thoroughly epic in colouring, and therefore, generally speaking, it is clogged with the same faults as are met with in Greene. And yet Shakspeare surpasses, and doubtless even in his original form, surpassed, his model in many respects. The characters, although wanting in
. roundness, and more sketches than fully-coloured figures, are nevertheless more powerfully delineated and revealmore of their inner life than those of Greene's best pieces. The composition, also, although externally throughly epic, is nevertheless internally held together by the thread of one thought. All the principal parts of the play reflect, either directly or indirectly (by contrast), the same view of life as spent in the search after, and in the acquisition, the loss, and the recovery of its highest gift-pure, genuine love. The fault of the play is that it is more epic than dramatic, for which reason the action, in place of being condensed, hangs loosely together and is flat and diffuse. Even the language and versification, in so far as their original colouring can be conjectured, show, I think, some resemblance to Ř. Greene's style, except that naturally, in this respect also, Greene was probably as much surpassed in his own style by the superior poetical genius of Shakspeare, as Marlowe was surpassed by Titus Andronicns,' which was composed after his fashion. But, in my opinion, it is more especially the comic parts (for instance, the scenes among the fishermen, and between Boult and his mistress, etc.) that show such great resemblance to passages .nThe Comedy of Errors, The Two Gentlemen of Verona," Henry VI.' (Jack Cade, etc.), and Romeo and Juliet' (the disputes of the servants), that not only do they quite eclipse all the comic parts in Greene's dramas, but must necessarily have been written by Shakspeare, and moreover by Shakspeare as a young, not as an older
THE ARRAIGNMENT OF PARIS. SIR JOHN OLDOASTLE. THE
MERRY DEVIL OF EDMONTON. THE FAIR EM. MUCEDORUS. THE LONDON PRODIGAL. THE PURITAN. THE HISTORY OF KING STEPHAN. THE DUKE HUMPHREY.
BEFORE proceeding to apply the standard furnished by • Pericles, • Titus Andronicus,' Henry VI. and the comedies mentioned at the end of our last chapter, to the criticism of the earlier plays the genuineness of which is really doubtful, we must first strike off the list those of which it is clear, from internal as well as external evidence, that Shakspeare had no hand in their composition. These are :
1. The Arraignment of Paris, a play which has been discussed in our first volume, p. 131 f., and was in 1660 ascribed to Shakspeare by the booksellers Kirkman and Winstanley; but, according to the express testimony of Nash, in his Epistle to the Gentlemen Students of both Universities, prefixed to R. Greene's 'Arcadia,' was a work of Peele's. Opposed to testimony of such weight, the inner nature of the piece itself would prove nothing, even granted—which however is far from being the case
that its inner nature would justify our ascribing it to Shakspeare.
2. Sir John Oldcastle, * although published in 1600 by the bookseller, T. P. (Thomas Pavier), with Shakspeare's name in full on the title-page, is nevertheless assuredly not written by him. For in several entries in Henslowe's Diary † (in October, November, and December, 1599), the authors of the play are expressly said to be Monday,
* Reprinted in the Supplement to the Edition of Shakspeare's Plays, published in 1778 by S. Johnson and G. Steerens. London, 1780; ii. 265 ff.
† Henslowe's Diary, pp. 158, 162, 166, 236 f.
Drayton, Wilson and Hathaway; moreover, as already remarked, Pavier was subsequently compelled to cancei Shakspeare's name on the original title-page. Yet Tieck * appears to consider it a work of Shakspeare's, at least he has admitted it in his translation of four of Shakspeare's plays, without a word of explanation.
Tieck's opinion, although often very justly doubted in matters of criticism, is always deserving of consideration. Therefore, let us examine the character of the play somewhat more closely. In the first place, it is very important to observe that the piece must have been written after the appearance of Shakspeare's Henry IV. This is clearly evident from the prologue and several passages in the play itself, where allusion is made to Falstaff
, Poins, and Peto, to the merry life led by Prince Henry, his thefts, etc. This agrees perfectly with the entry in Henslowe’s diary, according to which the play was first acted in 1599, and paid for as a new piece. If, therefore, the play was written in 1598, I must honestly confess that it is to me inconceivable how, for a moment, it can be regarded as a work of Shakspeare's. The invention, the diction, the characterisation, and the composition and a number of details,-in short, no less than everything, speaks decisively against such a supposition. I shall merely direct attention to a few points. In the first place, what could have induced Shakspeare so utterly to destroy his own representation of the character of Henry V., so diametrically to contradict himself, and to describe the king—whom, from the very first, he made so royal in pearance—as quite the reverse, not only as delighting in the remembrance of his youthful excesses, but also as playing at dice in disguise with the most worthless and lowest of characters! Further, how is it possible to assume that Shakspeare, when at the very meridian of his poetical career, should have published a drama in which several entirely different actions are so badly patched together, that inwardly the whole falls to pieces ! What, for instance, in its significance, has the story of Lord Powis to do with the conspiracy of the Earl of Cambridge, Scroop, and Grey, and the latter with the fortunes of Sir
* Vier Schauspiele von Shakspe rre, Stuttgart and Tübingen, 1836.
John Oldcastle and the rash rebellion of Acton, Beverley and Murley! A number of secondary personages, such as Lord Herbert and Sir Richard Lee, the Irishman, and Sir John Wrotham with his Dolly, the Duke of Suffolk, the Earl of Huntingdon, and Butler, Chartres, Cromer, the Judges, the Mayor, the Bailiff, the Host, etc., are mere dummies ; these are hardly interwoven with the action externally, and render it necessary to introduce a number of scenes the poetical significance of which, when closely examined, is reduced to nothing. The principal characters are, indeed, generally speaking, correctly drawn, but are nevertheless quite wanting in that fulness and roundness, that inward depth, that ease of movement and progressive development which distinguish Shakspeare's figures. In like manner the language is flowing and suitable, the dialogue animated and unconstrained, but devoid of elevation, poor in thought as well as in poetic imagery, accordingly, although usually free from long speeches, it is nevertheless flat and tame, at all events, very different from the poetic dignity, the solidity and fullness, as well as from the historical brevity and energy of the diction in • Richard II.,'· Henry IV.,' etc. Lastly, the comic scenes specially-for instance, between the Summoner, Harpool, Sir John of Wrotham, Dolly, etc., or between Acton, Boure, Beverley and Murley—not only have not the slightest bearing upon the proper action of the play, but are, for the most part, so low and spiritless, that not a spark of Shakspeare's facetious grace' is to be discovered in them. The whole betrays a poet who, it is true, endeavoured to form himself upon Shakspeare's masterpieces, nay, even to imitate him, but who stood far below him in genius and talent.
3. The Merry Devil of Edmonton * is a comedy that has been ascribed to Shakspeare simply because it was found bound up with two other pieces in one volume on the back of which was printed Shakespeare, vol. i.t
Upon the authority of the bookbinder, Kirkman tho
* Reprinted in the latest edition of Dodsley's Old Plays, 1825, vol. v
† The volume formerly belonged to Charles the Second, and afterwards came into the possession of Garrick.