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time upon the stage; for who may not perceive that his famous Benedick and Beatrice are but little more than the counter-parts of Biron and Rosaline? All which circumstances consider'd, and that especially of the writer's childhood (as it may be term'd) when this comedy was produc'd, we may confidently pronounce it his true offspring, and replace it amongst it's brethren.
That the Taming of the Shrew should ever have been put into this class of plays, and adjudg'd a spurious one, may justly be reckon'd wonderful, when we consider it's merit, and the reception it has generally met with in the world: it's success at first, and the esteem it was then held in, induc'd Fletcher to enter the lists with it in another play, in which Petruchio is humbl'd and Catharine triumphant; and we have it in his works, under the title of "The Woman's Prize, or, the Tamer tam'd:" but, by an unhappy mistake of buffoonery for humour and obscenity for wit, which was not uncommon with that author, his production came lamely off, and was soon consign'd to the oblivion in which it is now bury'd; whereas this of his antagonist flourishes still, and has maintain'd its place upon the stage (in some shape or other) from its very first appearance down to the present hour: and this success it has merited, by true wit and true humour; a fable of very artful construction, much business, and highly interesting; and by natural and well-sustain'd characters, which no pen but Shakspeare's was capable of drawing: what defects it has, are chiefly in the diction; the same (indeed) with those of the play that was lastmention'd, and to be accounted for the same way: for we are strongly inclin'd to believe it a neighbour in time to Love's Labour's Lost, though we
want the proofs of it which we have luckily for that.2
But the plays which we have already spoke of are but slightly attack'd, and by few writers, in comparison of this which we are now come to of "Titus Andronicus;" commentators, editors, every one (in short) who has had to do with Shakspeare, unite all in condemning it,-as a very bundle of horrors, totally unfit for the stage, and unlike the poet's manner, and even the style of his other pieces; all which allegations are extreamly true, and we readily admit of them, but can not admit the conclusion-that, therefore, it is not his; and shall now proceed to give the reasons of our dissent, but (first) the play's age must be enquir'd into. In the Induction to Jonson's Bartholomew Fair, which was written in the year 1614, the audience is thus accosted:-" Hee that will sweare, Jeronimo, or Andronicus are the best playes, yet, shall passe unexcepted at, heere, as a man whose judgement shewes it is constant, and hath stood still, these five and twentie, or thirty yeeres. Though it be an ignorance, it is a vertuous and stay'd ignorance; and next to truth, a confirm'd errour does well; such a one the author knowes where to finde him." We have here the great Ben himself, joining this play with Jeronimo, or, the Spanish Tragedy, and bearing express testimony to the credit
The authenticity of this play stands further confirm'd by the testimony of Sir Aston Cockayn; a writer who came near to Shakspeare's time, and does expressly ascribe it to him in an epigram address'd to Mr. Clement Fisher of Wincot; but it is (perhaps,) superfluous, and of but little weight neither, as it will be said that Sir Aston proceeds only upon the evidence of it's being in print in his name: we do therefore lay no great stress upon it, nor shall insert the epigram; it will be found in The School of Shakspeare, which is the proper place for things of that sort.
they were both in with the publick at the time they were written; but this is by the by; to ascertain that time, was the chief reason for inserting the quotation, and there we see it fix'd to twentyfive or thirty years prior to this Induction: now it is not necessary, to suppose that Jonson speaks in this place with exact precision; but allowing that he does, the first of these periods carries us back to 1589, a date not very repugnant to what is afterwards advanc'd: Langbaine, in his Account of the English dramatick Poets, under the article-SHAKSPEARE, does expressly tell us,-that "Andronicus was first printed in 1594, quarto, and acted by the Earls of Derby, Pembroke, and Essex, their servants ;" and though the edition is not now to be met with, and he who mentions it be no exact writer, nor greatly to be rely'd on in many of his articles, yet in this which we have quoted he is so very particular that one can hardly withhold assent to it; especially, as this account of it's printing coincides well enough with Jonson's æra of writing this play; to which therefore we subscribe, and go on upon that ground. The books of that time afford strange examples of the barbarism of the publick taste both upon the stage and elsewhere: a conceited one of John Lilly's set the whole nation a madding; and, for a while, every pretender to politeness" parl'd Euphuism,' as it was phras'd, and no writings would go down with them but such as were pen'd in that fantastical manner: the setter-up of this fashion try'd it also in comedy; but seems to have miscarry'd in that, and for this plain reason: the people who govern theatres are, the middle and lower orders of the world; and these expected laughter in comedies, which this stuff of Lilly's was incapable of exci
ting: but some other writers, who rose exactly at that time, succeeded better in certain tragical performances, though as outrageous to the full in their way, and as remote from nature, as these comick ones of Lilly; for falling in with that innate love of blood which has been often objected to British audiences, and choosing fables of horror which they made horrider still by their manner of handling them, they produc'd a set of monsters that are not to be parallel'd in all the annals of play-writing; yet they were receiv'd with applause, and were the favourites of the publick for almost ten years together ending at 1595: many plays of this stamp, it is probable, have perish'd; but those that are come down to us, are as follows;-" The Wars of Cyrus; Tamburlaine the Great, in two parts; The Spanish Tragedy, likewise in two parts; Soliman and Perseda; and Selimus, a tragedy;" which whoever
No evidence has occur'd to prove exactly the time these plays were written, except that passage of Jonson's which relates to Jeronimo; but the editions we have read them in, are as follows: Tamburlaine in 1593; Selimus, and The Wars of Cyrus, in 1594; and Soliman and Perseda, in 1599; the other without a date, but as early as the earliest: they are also without a name of author; nor has any book been met with to instruct us in that particular, except only for Jeronimo; which we are told by Heywood, in his Apology for Actors, was written by Thomas Kyd; author, or translator rather, (for it is taken from the French of Robert Garnier,) of another play, intitl'd-Cornelia, printed likewise in 1594. Which of these extravagant plays had the honour to lead the way, we can't tell, but Jeronimo seems to have the best pretensions to it; as Selimus has above all his other brethren, to bearing away the palm for blood and murther: this curious piece has these lines for a conclusion:
"If this first part Gentles, do like you well,
"The second part, shall greater murthers tell." but whether the audience had enough of it, or how it has happen'd we can't tell, but no such second part is to be found. All these plays were the constant butt of the poets who came imme
has means of coming at, and can have patience to examine, will see evident tokens of a fashion then prevailing, which occasion'd all these plays to be cast in the same mold. Now, Shakspeare, whatever motives he might have in some other parts of it, at this period of his life wrote certainly for profit; and seeing it was to be had in this way, (and this way only, perhaps,) he fell in with the current, and gave his sorry auditors a piece to their tooth in this contested play of Titus Andronicus; which as it came out at the same time with the plays above-mention'd, is most exactly like them in almost every particular; their very numbers, consisting all of ten syllables with hardly any redundant, are copy'd by this Proteus, who could put on any shape that either serv'd his interest or suited his inclination: and this, we hope, is a fair and unforc'd way of accounting for "Andronicus;" and may convince the most prejudic'd-that Shakspeare might be the writer of it; as he might also of Locrine which is ascrib'd to him, a ninth tragedy, in form and time agreeing perfectly with the others. But to conclude this article, However he may be censur'd as rash or ill-judging, the editor ventures to declare that he himself wanted not the conviction of the foregoing argument to be satisfy'd who the play belongs to; for though a work of imitation, and conforming itself to models truly execrable throughout, yet the genius of its author breaks forth in some places, and, to the editor's eye, Shakspeare stands confess'd: the third act in particular may be read with admiration even
diately after them, and of Shakspeare amongst the rest; and by their ridicule the town at last was made sensible of their ill judgment, and the theatre was purg'd of these monsters.