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some Reigne of John, King of England, * because, in the first place, the play appeared about the same time as * Locrine.' Its two parts, which were printed for the bookseller Sampson Clarke, did not appear till 1591, and did not give the author's name; yet the play must have been written about the time of the war with Spain, or, at least, soon after the defeat of the Armada (1588). This is clearly evident from the fanatical zea] against the Papists, as well as from the fierce patriotic and warlike spirit which pervades the whole play, together with the many allusions to foreign invasions and to the victorious power of England when at peace with herself. Moreover, in the first part there are very many passages in rhyme; they occur also in the second part, although not so frequently, perhaps — as Collier conjecturesbecause they were here partly discarded upon a later l'emodelling
The play has been ascribed to Shakspeare because his name is intimated on the title-page of a later edition (printed for the bookseller, J. Helme, in 1611) by the initials W. Sh., and given in full in the following edition of 1622 (for Th. Dewe). English critics are, however, almost unanimous in considering the play too bad to have even a partial claim to the name of Shakspeare, and, accordingly, that we here again have an instance of a bookseller's fraud; Steevens alone was at first inclined to regard it as genuine. Schlegel, on the other hand, maintains that it can be made very probable that the play was written by Shakspeare, and Tieck,f without hesitation, declares it to be one of the poet's youthful productions. He says that the composition, the characters, nay, that every line bears so decidedly the stamp of Shakspeare's writing, that it is ridiculous of English critics blindly to ascribe it to R. Greene, Marlowe, or any other writer, simply because they think it utterly wretched and unworthy of Shakspeare. I, on my part, cannot uncondi. tionally agree with either verdict. Both seem to me to go too far; for that every line' bears the stamp of Shakspeare's style must as distinctly be denied, as
* Steevens, Six Old Plays, etc., ii. 1 ff. † Alt-Englisches Theater, i. p. 16.
piece is throughout too bad to be allowed to bear the name even of young Shakspeare.
However, it does not follow that the play was actually written by young Shakspeare, or that it was corrected by him. Entirely his, in my opinion, it certainly is not. For the comic parts--for instance, the scenes between Phil. Faulconbridge and the monks and nuns—appear to me so full of coarseness and vulgarity, that I cannot find in them anything of Shakspeare's facetious grace. If Shakspeare could have written such scenes he would have contrived to ennoble the indelicacy by wit and humour, but of this there is no trace; the fountain of his wit which gushes forth even in ‘Pericles' and · Henry VI.,' and of course more abundantly in his earliest comedies, seems here to be quite dried up. The comic element consists merely of bare facts, and these facts are mere coarse pasquinades. It is in vain to urge that the poet has allowed himself to be carried away by the prevailing popular feeling, and that he has made a sacrifice to popular wit; for in the present case there is no question even of popular wit, and we have abundant proof in Shakspeare's above-mentioned youthful compositions, of how well, even as a young poet, he understood how to make use of true popular wit. Besides this, the comic parts in the older · King John'are distinguished by short rhyming lines, and by a style of language which has not the faintest resemblance to that of any one of Shakspeare's plays. In like manner the long scene at the shrine of St. Edmund's, and, at the end of the second part, the scene between the monks and the abbot-which is so like the one found fault with above—are so decidedly un-Shakspearian, that there can be no question even of alterations or corrections by Shakspeare's hand, much less of their being Shakspeare's own composition.
On the other hand, one might be inclined, and I myself was formerly inclined, to consider some other portions of the piece, if not as Shakspeare's sole property, still as partly belonging to him. For some scenes—for instance, in the first part of the passage where Phil. Faulcon bridge declares that he prefers being the bastard of Richard Cour de Lion, than the legitimate son of old Faulconbridge,
and again the scene between Hubert and Prince Arthur, between King John, the prophet of Pomphret, Phil. Faulconbridge, etc., as well as John's several soliloquies— are, in my opinion, so truly poetic that, generally speaking, they show in spirit and character tolerable resemblance to Shakspeare's youthful works. The characterisation also is not unworthy of young Shakspeare. This is evident even from the fact that the fundamental features in the character of King John, of Faulconbridge, of Hubert and most of the secondary figures, have been retained by Shakspeare in his undoubtedly genuine play of 'King John,' and that he has merely softened the much rougher outlines and the glaring colours, given the characters more depth, a fuller and richer mental life, made the inotives of their actions more definite, and more strongly emphasised the contrasts between them. In like manner, the composition in all essential points presents precisely the same form which the subject afterwards received in Shakspeare's hands.
Accordingly, were I to analyse the plan and fundamental idea of the play any closer, I should merely be repeating what I have already said wben discussing Shakspeare's 'King John ;' for in this respect Shakspeare has made scarcely any alterations. He has not only invariably adopted the whole plan of the piece, the course of the action, and the succession of the scenes, but the intention, the leading motives, the conception of the ideal nucleus, and the general significance of the historical events represented, are essentially the same, except that they are more clearly brought forward and more profoundly conceived. It is evident, therefore, that Shakspeare judged the older play more favourably than its English critics.
Lastly, as regards the language, Malone * endeavours, it is true, to point out that it shows the greatest affinity to the diction of the second and third parts of Henry VI.,' and that, accordingly, both plays must belong to the same author ; he lays special stress on this point because, as
; he thinks, it is at the same time a clear proof of the spuriousness of 'Henry VI.' If he were right, his argument would obviously decide in favour of the older King John,'
* In Reed's Shakspeare, xiv. 258 f.
inasmuch as Shakspeare's claim to Henry VI. cannot, I think, be any longer doubted. But his prejudice against • Henry VI.,' his endeavour to prove its spuriousness has, in this case, obviously clouded his judgment; outward resemblances have caused him to overlook the total absence of internal affinity in style. In the monotony and stiffness of the regularity of the versification which young Shakspeare employed in his historical plays (much less in his comedies), and moreover not only in Henry VI., but also in Richard III.' and 'King John'—the older · King John' certainly shows some similarity with the treatment of the verse in Shakspeare's youthful works, although even in this respect differences will become manifest to those whose feeling for style is more thoroughly cultivated. But, on the other hand, the diction of the older "King John' shows so little affinity to the style either of young or of old Shakspeare, that it constitutes the chief argument against Shakspeare's being the author of the play. For it is invariably unfanciful in expression, poor in its general ideas (so-called sententious sayings); there is an absence of warmth of feeling as well as of acuteness and wealth of reflexion; further it has a tendency to artificial rhetoric (as in the scene between Hubert and Arthur), which is intended to compensate for and to conceal the coldness and want of elevation in the expression of feeling and emotion, and this
hand in hand with a skilfulness in the dialogue and the formal dramatisation of the subject which has obviously been acquired by long practice and betrays an older and somewhat experienced dramatist. This difference in the language, even though occasionally less prominent, is distinctly enough apparent in every part of the piece, so that it cannot well be assumed that Shakspeare even remodelled or corrected individual passages.
* The question as to who was the author of the older King John, I do not venture to answer, on account of the uncertainty of a criticism based on purely internal idence. However, Von Friesen's conjecture —which he has communicated to me by letter-that it may have been written by G. Peele in conjunction with R. Greene, seems to me extremely plausible. Von Friesen, in all essential points, agrees with my present opinion of the play.
The next play to be discussed is Arden of Feversham. This is a domestic tragedy, and is entered at Stationers' Hall under the date of April 3rd, 1592 (again in 1599 and 1633, but in all cases without the name of the author). Its claim to genuineness is not supported by any external evidence, for the first to ascribe it to Shakspeare was Edward Jacob, a bookseller of Feversham, in a reprint of the play issued by him in the year 1770, and his reason for so doing was on account of some unimportant parallel passages. Still, in my opinion, the question as to whether it may be a youthful production of Shakspeare's, cannot be decided in the off-hand manner with which English critics have treated the matter.
Tieck * enters at length into the criticism of the piece, and, upon the whole, I concur with the praise he awards to it. But even his criticism is one-sided, inasmuch as he does not mention the defects of the play, which are far from being confined merely to some smaller or greater excrescences, to exaggerated expressions and lame verses. In the first place, as regards the language, although generally poetic, it is too frosty, slow, broad, and monotonous for Shakspeare's warmth of sentiment and overflowing fulness of genius; again, it is often too choice, the form artificial in its grandeur-in fact, too beautiful for the meagre substance, so that it occasionally reminds one of G. Peele, the artifex verborum. The delineation of the characters is indeed, generally speaking, true and lifelike; some of the figures, however (such as Franklin, tho Painter, and Susan), are very much too insipid, vague, and ill-defined, whereas others are now and again inconsistent. For instance, Michael, Arden's servant, who, on one occasion, concocts a most confused and ludicrousiy stupid love-letter, soon afterwards (iii. 1) describes his anxiety of mind in very refined, almost exalted language; Black Will also, a vulgar ruffian, at times speaks very much in the same tone as the sententious Franklin. This is quite contrary to Shakspeare's art, which sharply distinguishes the characters not only in nature but also in form, a style of art which is even distinctly apparent in “Pericles' and · Henry VI. In like manner the com
* Vorschule Shakspeare's, i. 21 f.