« EelmineJätka »
which almost any writer of ordinary talent can, to a certain extent, imitate. A poet's style of composition rests pre-eminently and directly upon his poetical view of life, and this no one can simply appropriate to himself. Now, in the present case, as in . Sir John Oldcastle,' we indeed meet with Shakspeare's custom of allowing several actions and several groups of figures to advance simultaneously. But these different circles are not, as in Shakspeare, internally, organically connected with one another, they are hardly linked together externally, mechanically; the story of the Prodigal has not the faintest connection with the love affairs of Bisam, Oliver, and Sir Arthur. These characters, as well as Mr. Weathercock, Delia, etc.,
mere secondary personages, without any poetical significance. The play is divided into a dramatic action and a number of quite unimportant incidents, into dramatic characters and mere dummies, and therefore in reality falls to pieces. Hence we everywhere find the same superficiality into which popular writers so readily fall when aiming exclusively at momentary effect.
As regards the two plays: The Puritan, or the Widow of Watling Street * -which is entered at Stationers' Hall under the date of the 6th of August, 1601, and was printed in the same year with Shakspeare's initials, W. S. (perhaps Wentworth Smith)—and The History of King Stephan, which does not even possess the authority of these initials, I may spare myself the trouble of proving
Ι their spuriousness, since no one but booksellers and compilers of catalogues have ascribed them to Shakspeare. The Duke Humphrey, a Tragedy, which even Drake mentions among the spurious plays, is most probably the second part of Shakspeare's 'Henry VI.'
* Supplement to Johnson and Steevens' edition, I. c. ii. 533 ff.
LOORINE. THE TROUBLESOME REIGN OF KING JOHN. ABDEN
OF FEVERSHAM. THE LIFE AND DEATH OF THE LORD CROMWELL.
Of the really doubtful plays the oldest is perhaps The Lamentable Tragedie of Locrine, the eldest Son of King Brutus, etc. It is, indeed, not mentioned in the books of the Stationers' Company till July 20th, 1594, and was printed by Thomas Creede in 1595. But even the remark on the title-page : “ As newly set foorthe, overseene and corrected by W. S.'—from which it has been inferred that Shakspeare was the author of the play-proves that it was an older piece that was then revived. This is also evident from several passages which are written throughout in rhyme, and again from the strong colours used in describing the warlike, patriotic spirit which pervades the play, and from the evident allusions to the events of the years 1586–88, when England was dreading the intrigues of Mary Queen of Scots, and was threatened by the Spanish Armada. Hence the play may have first appeared in those years.
Tieck * gives a translation of it in his 'Early English Theatre,' and pronounces it to be a youthful work of Shakspeare's. He thinks that it contains, in embryo, most of Shakspeare's later plays, and that a searching eye must everywhere recognise his genius; further, that it distinctly bears witness to his predilection for the bizarre and the gigantesque, nay, that most of the speeches merely repeat the tone given by rude Pyrrhus in ‘Hamlet' (a tirade which is undoubtedly taken from one_ of the poet's earlier plays); that, accordingly, when England was again in dread of a Spanish Armada, Shakspeare, in 1595, merely republished it with additions and improve
* Alt-Englisches Theater.
ments. But, even though the correctness of these remarks could not be doubted-and I, on my part, do partly doubt them--still they do not seem to me sufficiently strong to refute the statement on the title-page of the old edition, according to which the play was simply revised and corrected by Shakspeare. Some of its principal motives, for instance, the division of the kingdom by a dying father, the appearance of ghosts, a family quarrel, etc., are, it is true, met with in Shakspeare's later works; some of the characters also-such as Humber, Albanact, Estrild - remind us of • Titus Andronicus.' But general motives, such as these are of frequent occurrence in the dramatic poetry of that day, and the outward nature of the characters, the bizarre and the gigantesque have more the appearance of Marlowe's style than Shakspeare's. To pretend to recognise Shakspeare's mind in Locrine,' can, we presume, only mean that the tone and spirit of the play are found to accord with Shakspeare's character. And as to the moral earnestness and the enthusiastic patriotism which is the soul of the piece, the feelings of every honourable Englishman in 1586–88 would doubtless have agreed on these points. For these were, generally speaking, the sentiments of the whole nation.
Again, the resemblance of most of the speeches with the coarse language of Pyrrhus, seems to speak more against than in favour of Tieck's opinion. For Shakspeare has nowhere, not even in prologues or epilogues, presumed to give his own works the smallest praise ; hence it is scarcely likely that the lines in ‘Hamlet' can have been from a work of Shakspeare's, and moreover, do not show any affinity to the versification and diction of those of his earliest plays which are acknowledged to be genuine. Now, if this supposition has to be given up, it must also be admitted that the diction of Locrine' does not look very like Shakspeare's. In the first place, it is much heavier, more diffuse and tedious than in Titus Andronicus' and · Henry VI.,' and yet, on the other hand, does not possess the mystic grace and tenderness of • Pericles. Further, although the subject shows great resemblance to that of “Titus Andronicus,' still the exi ression of feelings, of passion and emotion, is poorer and
much less powerful. It wants the wild grandeur which carries the poet himself along with it, and which we might suppose would have been the case with young Shakspeare when treating such a subject; the language is too choice, too artificial, and too much adorned with grand epithets and imagery. The frequent indulgence in reflections by the dramatic personages, as well as in the prologues to the several acts betray an older poet with more command over his subject-quite a contrast to the youthful colouring pervading Titus Andronicus.' This circumstance is therefore of special importance, as both plays must have been written much about the same time, 'Locrine 'perhaps even later, after the defeat of the Armada (1588).
Lastly, I cannot discover in ‘Locrine' any of Shakspeare's fine appreciation for the beauty of dramatic form. The subject is here not of an epic nature, and the want can therefore not be excused on account of the epic style which Shakspeare followed in ‘Pericles. In fact, as in • Titus Andronicus,' the subject here was very well adapted for that organic and truly dramatic roundness of form; which Shakspeare had even aimed at in Titus Andronicus.' And yet the author of Locrine' evidently had no idea of Shakspeare's peculiar style of composition, which is centred in and proceeds from his peculiar view of life (to which we have often alluded). The scene of the death of Brutus, nay, the whole first act is a mere prologue; it belongs to the past, and therefore stands wholly apart from the dramatic (present) action. The latter does not begin till the second act, and this immediately gives rise to an internal division of the subject; on the one hand we have the story of Humber, Hubba, and Estrild, on the other the story of Locrine, of his wife, brother, and uncle. Both groups come into outward contact only by means of purely factitious incidents; they do not move concentrically round one common point. The story of Humber has quite a different significance from that of Locrine's doings and sufferings. Hubba and Albanact are mere supernumeraries, who enter and then leave the action from wholly external motives. On all sides we miss the lifelike ideal connection of the deeds and the characters among one another, and the organic contrasts which aro
found in 'Titus Andronicus,' and even in ‘Pericles. In all these points, therefore, I cannot see anything of Shakspeare's genius. The comic parts alone form an exception. The story
. of Strumbo, with his two wives, is, in the first place, a kind of humorous counterpart to the life and doings of Locrine, that is, it stands in an ideal connection with the main action in Shakspeare's usual manner. Individual features of the comic parts also, are, both in spirit and form, more in Shakspeare's style, and show more affinity to the comic scenes in • Pericles,’ • Henry VI.,' The Two Gentlemen of Verona,' etc. In these parts I do find something of Shakspeare's 'facetious grace,' at least it seems to me scarcely to be doubted that the comic and tragic actions were written by different authors. Hence if Shakspeare had any hand in the play, then, as I think, it was the comic parts alone which were his work, wholly or for the most part his own invention, or, at all events, remodelled and corrected by him. Whether, however, the piece is one of those, in regard to which Greene accused young Shakspeare of having decked himself in the feathers of others, and whether, therefore, it was originally a work of G. Peele’s—which might be inferred from the choice and elaborate diction-or one of Marlowe's—to which its above-mentioned 'peculiarities seem to indicate points which I do not venture to decide. This much only seems to be certain, that the initials W. S. on the titlepage of the old edition cannot have stood for Wentworth Smith (as Malone thought), or for anyone else but Shakspeare, for the simple reason that, according to all we know of this initial-kinsman of Shakspeare's, his poetical career did not begin till ten years after the appearance of ‘Locrine.'
However, the comic parts are too poor and unsafe a criterion to determine the question as to whether Shakspeare did or did not make corrections in the play
Immediately connected with 'Locrine'is the older King John,' or, according to its full title, The Trouble
* In Henslowe's Diary he is first mentioned in 1599 as the ar thor of The Italian Tragedy, etc. (Vide Collier History of English Dr.xixatio Poetry, iii, 98.)