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on account of this that the piece acquires a more general significance, and that it becomes a dramatic work of art, taking a subordinate place by the side of the great tragedies, only in so far as the latter represent the general and the ideal indirectly, whereas, in the present case, these appear exhibited directly only, so to say, symbolically by a single incident.

Accordingly, the question as to whether the play is one of Shakspeare's, can be decided only by an examination of individual features--of the characters and of the language. Some passages, for instance the lamentation of the unhappy wife and mother, at the very beginning:

What will become of us ? All will away!
My husband never ceases in expense,

Both to consume his credit and his house, etc. and the subsequent speech of the husband :

Divines and dying men may talk of hell,

But in my heart her several torments dwell, etc., can, as I think, hardly have been written by any other than Shakspeare. But the character of the hero also, his wild despair, his terrible dread of the spectre poverty, which has driven him to the very threshold of madness, and ultimately, in a kind of frenzy, urges him to murder his own children; and again the almost demoniacal love of his wife, which gives evidence of the most extraordinary energy, and is yet of such purely passive endurance, bearing all the outbursts of her husband's violence with the utmost 'meekness, she, who does not grieve over the death of her children but over the fate of her husband, who has no word of reproach against him, but only entreaties for his love, till, in the end, her love melts the ice of despair which had encrusted his heart, and he becomes conscious of what he has done and what he is throwing away—these are traits and features of character which, it is true, are not fully developed, but nevertheless could only have been conceived by Shakspeare.

On the other hand, however, the piece, as a whole, not only bears the mark of a carelessness and hurry such as Shakspeare cannot often be accused of, but some scenes, according to my feeling, differ so widely in tone and character from Shakspeare's mature and fully developed style, that it appears to me doubtful whether they were written by him. At all events, it is very remarkable that the first scene between the servants, Ralph, Oliver and Samuel, does not stand in any sort of connection with the following and principal part of the action, and that it has quite the appearance of having been originally composed for a more elaborate treatment of the subject on a broader basis. And yet this very scene shows how iittle the comic scenes possess of Shakspeare's colouring. There also occur passages of very striking obscurity in the development of the action, which again make me doubtful. Hence I am inclined to subscribe to Collier's hypothesis, that Shak. speare undertook to dramatise the subject simply at the request of his company, who wished to profiť by the excitement and general interest created by the occurrence, and that, for the sake of the hurry with which the play had to be got up before the interest subsided-he engaged one or two friendly coadjutors who entered into his style of treating the subject. He may then have sketched out the parts he had reserved for himself, and, as such patchwork cannot assuredly have been to his taste, may have handed over the arrangement of the several parts to some disinterested third party-perhaps to the manager of the theatre.

Accordingly, the play was perhaps brought upon the stage soon after the occurrence; probably, however, after the interest in the affair had subsided it was set aside and -although perhaps warmed up again in 1618–19—did not meet with any great success. This is the simplest explanation of how the publisher came to call it a work of Shakspeare's in the entry at Stationers' Hall, and of how he could, without reproof, as it seems, venture to place Shakspeare's name in full, in the two editions issued by him, whereas Heminge and Condell, although acquainted with its origin, disdained, or did not presume, to give it a place among Shakspeare's works.

CHAPTER VII.

THE BIRTH OF MERLIN, THE TWO NOBLE KISSMEN, AND THE

CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER OF SHAKSPEAR:E'S PLAYS.

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*

In closing the examination of the doubtful plays, I have still to consider other two which are said to have been written by Shakspeare in conjunction with some other poet.

The first of these is The Birth of Merlin, a fantastic play, which was published in 1662, by Kirkman (from his collection of manuscripts), with the names of Shakspeare and William Rowley. Otherwise we know nothing about the piece, and hence it is very doubtful whether a man like Kirkman—the same who made such a decided mistake in regard to The Arraignment of Paris'-can be trusted. English critics are unanimously opposed to his assertion. Tieck,* on the other hand, has translated the play, and in a detailed critique has endeavoured to make it probable, • that Shakspeare, in his maturer years (for the play cannot well have been written earlier than towards the middle of James's reign) had, out of friendship, assisted a brother actor and poet to produce this singular and charming work. Tieck ranks it with the best of this species of writing that he knows of. Delius † also, who has had it reprinted in his recent edition of Shakspeare's doubtful plays, speaks of it with undisguised approval. I do not deny the merits of the play, although I am far from believing them to be as great as Tieck thinks. But its excellence can prove nothing, as all the essential parts

--plan, composition and characterisation-are no doubt Rowley's, and Shakspeare at most only assisted him. However, even admitting the justness of all that is advanced by Tieck in favour of his view, it nevertheless seems to me more than doubtful whether Shakspeare wrote as much

* In the Preface to his Torschule Shakspeure's, xvi. f. xxxiv. f.
† In his Pseudo-Shakspeare’sche Dramen.

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VOL. II.

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as one line of it. For the language, upon which in this case all depends, is throughout so invariably the same, that Tieck himse.f is unable to determine which parts may have been Shakspeare's. It is only on account of the peculiar beauty of the third and fifth acts, that Tieck supposes them to be the work of a master hand, a supposition which is unwarrantable unless the supposed assistance were an established fact; this, however, is quite an arbitrary assumption as long as its advocates have to admit that language and versification, imagery and thoughts, etc., are throughout of the same character.

Now the language of 'The Birth of Merlin '--as every unprejudiced reader will at once acknowledge-is so thoroughly unlike Shakspeare (especially if it be considered that the play must have been composed almost contemporaneously with King Lear,'Coriolanns,'· Macbeth,' etc.), that Tieck himself is obliged to have recourse to a second supposition: that Shakspeare possessed the talent of completely casting aside his own style and of adopting the language and individuality of another poet. Who would deny that Shakspeare's language is wont to reflect with equal truth the most different tones of the most different characters in the most different moments of life? And yet through all its most manifold modifications, it always remains Shakspeare's language, in the same way as in the most varied compositions we may have the most various forms and colourings, and yet always detect the colouring of a Rafaelle, a Titian, or a Correggio. It is always Shakspeare that is speaking, and he speaks differently only in so far as he speaks in different characters. At any rate there would be an end to all criticism of language, were it to admit so great a degree of power in disguising language, as Tieck assumes here to be the case. For, naturally, it would come to be a matter of impossibility to infer the genuineness or spuriousness of a work from its language, were it true that an author could, at pleasure, express himself with ease and fluency either in his own style or in that of another. But this could scarcely be the result even of intentional and most careful imitation, which, however, is not the point at issue in the present rase. Hence, in making the above assertion, Tieck throws up his best weapon of criticism and puts the game into the hands of his adversaries. His method of criticism is, in fact, somewhat arbitrary. He appeals so frequently to certain usages of Shakspeare's, to certain turns and figures of speech, certain transitions common to him, certain ways of turning or breaking off his thoughts ' in short, to peculiarities of which he himself cannot or does not choose to give any closer definition. He is too arbitrary in his assumption that Shakspeare worked in a variety of different manners—an assertion which would require first to be established in the case of the poet's genuine works, which Tieck, however, adduces only in favour of those doubtful plays the genuineness of which he defends. He adheres too little to the precise, unchanging and primary form of Shakspeare's poetry, which his various compositions merely serve to develop, that is, to a style entirely and peculiarly Shakspearian. By such a proceeding the critical estimate of what is genuine or spuriou becomes a mere play of subjective opinion. According to such principles, all the more or less excellent plays of unknown authorship-in which this period of English literature abounds-might be attributed to the great master. I therefore perfectly agree with the verdict of English critics, that Shakspeare had no hand whatever in the composition of • The Birth of Merlin.'

Lastly, as regards the play which Shakspeare is said to have written in conjunction with Fletcher, I mention it here again merely out of consideration for A. Dyce and his opinion. I allude to Fletcher's well-known tragedy, the original edition of which appeared in 1634 under the title of · The Two Noble Kinsmen: presented at Blackfriars by the King's Maiesties servants, with great applause : written by the memorable Worthies of their time, Mr. John Fletcher and Mr. William Shakspeare, Gent.'

The play was first included among the works of Shakspeare (together with six other doubtful pieces) by the editors of the folios of 1664 and 1685. Dyce has admitted it into his edition of Shakspeare, by the side of Pericles, because, as he says, he is perfectly convinced that por

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