« EelmineJätka »
position corresponds more with the style of the earlier school than with Shakspeare's, that is to say, it proceeds in a straight line, without rounding and coinplication: one attempt to commit the murder is succeeded by another; mere external accidents, devoid of ideal significance, invariably thwart the execution of an act which was determined
upon in the very first scene. This one deed is, so to say, in the throes of birth throughout four entire acts; it forms the sole substance of the whole action; no wonder, therefore, that the representation in the end becomes tiresome. There is, moreover, not even an adequate motive for the unnatural deed : Arden is murdered without having in any way been guilty-at all events, the poetical justice which is supposed to be saved by the representation of his wrong against Richard Reed, comes in very lame; Alice, a lady of high birth, whom the noble Arden loved, and still loves, conspires against his life, owing to a low and guilty passion, which is presented to us fully developed, without its growth being accounted for by her own character, or even by outward circumstances. The play is wholly wanting in a fundamental idea, a general view of life; in fact, we have but the representation of this one crime, committed by these few definite personages, surrounded by a host of wholly unimportant secondary characters—such as Lord Cheinie, the landlord, the goldemith, the sailor and ferryman, etc., who hardly stand in any external connection with the action. Lastly, the motives which the poet every now and then employs for introducing a comic scene (for instance, in act vi. 2, 3), do not show
the slightest trace of Shakspeare's great talent in comedy, which is so distinctly manifest in all his earlier plays, with the sole exception of Titus Andronicus.'
In addition to this is the fact that in all of Shakspeare's earlier dramas we find a greater or lesser number of passages in rhyme. Of these we find none in “Arden of Feversham,' nay, even the rhyming couplet with which Shakspeare, in all his plays, usually closes a long speech or scene, is here met with only four times in the whole play. I, therefore, consider the piece one of the best of the works of the earlier pre-Shakspearian school, but not
even as having been produced under Shakspeare's influence, much less as having been written by him.*
The Life and Death of the Lord Cromwell, has scarcely any more claim to the name of Shakspeare: it is entered at Stationers' Hall under the date of 11th of August, 1602, as 'a booke called the Lyfe and Deathe of the Lord Cromwell, as yt was lately acted by the Lord Chamberleyn his servants – hence by Shakspeare's company
- and was printed in the same year without the author's name. was the second edition of 1613 that first gave Shakspeare's initials (W. S.) on the title-page. It is very improbable that these initials can be meant to refer to the above-mentioned Wentworth Smith, under whose name Malone and other English critics are so ready to take refuge, because he was at that time intimately connected with Henslowe’s company. At all events according to Henslowe's Diary, between April 1601 and March 1603, Smith wrote no less than fourteen plays for the Lord Admiral's company, all of which had been written in conjunction with other poets. He appears to have produced little or nothing alone. Moreover, it is difficult to see why Smith's name should not have been printed in full on the title-page, Assuredly, therefore, the initials are meant to refer to Shak-peare's name, and this would seem to make it a likely supposition that the reason of the publication of the play, with the popular name of Shakspeare, was but a speculation of some bookseller. At best, therefore, the authority is only that of a bookseller, from which, as already shown, little or nothing is to be gained.
If, accordingly, the internal structure of the play is to decide the question of its genuineness, the first point will be to determine the date of its origin. The publisher's words, 'as yt was lately acted,' would be in favour of the
* My view is, in general, agreed to both by Ch. Knight (l. c. p. 82) and by N. Delius (Pseudo-Shakspear'sche Dramen, Elberfeld, *1856, Preface, p. vi). I differ from them only in so far as I do not consider the play of so much value, and not as equal to Edward the Third, and accordingly, even in the second edition of my work, declared myself as opposed to its genuineness. Mézières (Prédécesseurs de Shuksp., etc., p. 116 f.) finds the characters of Mosbie and Alice so excellent that he thinks it evidení that Shakspeare had a hand in their delineation, and accordingly ascribes at least some part of the play to him.
year 1601-2, were we certain that it was lately written as well as 'lately acted.' The supposition, however, is not probable, inasmuch as the frequent occurrence of rhyming lines points to an earlier date, and admits of the possibility of its having been an older work that was merely revived about the year 1602. This conjecture is also supported by the plan and the composition of the play, which is the most unsatisfactory part about it. The narrative, epic style, which describes the life of a man through all its various stages, and thus divides the play into a number of smaller pieces, points to the earlier school
a which Shakspeare at first joined; but this style is appropriate only for the epic, legendary, fantastic subject of the story of Pericles, not for the historical subject of the life of Cromwell. For a legend is essentially the past poetically described in the present, or rather the present in the past; it therefore takes the form of the epos, the narrative. History, on the other hand, is history only as a living present, containing the essence of the past and deterinining the vature of the future; it, therefore, requires a strictly dramatic form, that inner unity of place, of time, and of action, which pervades not only all Shakspeare's later dramas, but-as regards his histories 'even his earlier plays. In The Life and Death of Cromwell,' however, all the three unities are disregarded : the first act has different fundamental conditions and a different significance from the second and third acts.*
The unity consists only of the unity of the person, whose life and fortunes are depicted in the play.
Still, we are forced to admire the skill with which the poet contrives to gather up the many loosely arranged ihreads, and ultimately collects the various persons whom he introduced on different occasions, although he does not succeed in bringing their dramatic existence to a proper close. It is only to a certain extent that the play can be said to reflect Shakspeare's fine skill in giving organic roundness to the subject matter, inasmuch as it is based upon one view of life. This view; however, is too indefinite, too general, and more epic than
* This is a point upon which Ch. Knight lays special emphasis in bis criticism of the play.
dramatic; for life is conceived in its surging movement, at times as falling to the lowest ebb of misfortune, and then as rising on the full tide of the highest glory and splendour. Tnis is exhibited not only in the fortunes of Cromwell, but likewise in the manifold fluctuations in the fortunes of Banister and his family, of Bagot, Bedford and Frescobald, not excepting honest Hodge and Seely. The delineation of the characters follows the general rules of epic composition : Thomas Cromwell is always noble, amiable, talented and lofty in his aims; his father a good-hearted braggart; Gardiner, ambitious, jealous and revengeful; the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, ordinary courtiers who rejoice in the fall of a rival but have not the strength or the courage to meddle with things themselves; Bedford, on the other hand, is a man in the dress of a courtier, he is grateful, grieves for the fall of a friend, but is without the wit or the energy to give actual assistance; Banister is an innocent but unfortunate individual; Frescobald, a thoroughly noble character; Bagot, on the other hand, an utter scoundrel; Hodge a foolish, goodnatured simpleton, whose stupidity proves his good fortune,
All these figures are depicted outwardly in light but correct outlines ; the depth of their inner life is left wholly unrevealed, and only in so far as they take any real part in the action do they at all stand out from the
Yet the comic characters—Cromwell, Hodge, and Seely and his wife-occasionally show a touch of Shakspearian humour.
All this does indeed admit of the possibility of the play being reckoned as one of Shakspeare's first attempts in the domain of historical drama; but it cannot be dated so far back as this. For, apart from the fact that Shakspeare's earliest historical plays are invariably distinguished by greater depth and sharpness of characterisation, by more careful motives for the incidents and a stricter connection between the details and the whole, these very plays prove that Shakspeare seems at first to have rejected the invariable introduction of verse as inappropriate for this species of drama (such passages are first of more frequent occurrence in his · Richard II.'). In addition to this, the diction, in tone and colouring, bears the stamp of belonging
to an earlier date and of possessing but very little of Shakspeare's style. Generally speaking it does indeed show some affinity to the straightforward, calm flow of the language in . Pericles.' But this regular movement is not adapted to the subject of the representation; Shakspeare would have clothed the subject in a perfectly different dress. As in the older King John,' the expression of sentiment is wanting in warmth, the outbursts of emotion and of passion in elevation, the reflection in acuteness and richness of substance as well as of form ; in like manner there is a total absence of Shakspearian spell-words, his striking brevity of expression, the rapid change from the language of feeling to that of reflection, and conversely,– characteristics which, even though to a small extent, distinguish Shakspeare's youthful works from those of his fellow labourers.
The language, on the other hand, shows distinct traces of that higher development of dramatic diction which the English drama, through Shakspeare's influence, acquired during the last decade of the 16th century. passages Shakspeare's influence is, I think, directly evident. It may have been this that induced the publisher to give the play Shakspeare's name; in fact, the author may have been an admirer of his. Accordingly, in my opinion, “The Life and Death of Lord Cromweli' cannot, in spite of its epic style and composition, have been written earlier than 1595—that is, cannot well be a work of Shakspeare's.