Слике страница

suppose merely fictitious. Andronicus is a surname of pure Greek derivation. Tamora is neither mentioned by Ammianus Marcellinus, nor any body else that I can find. Nor had Rome, in the time of her emperors, any wars with the Goths that I know of: not till after the translation of the empire, I mean to Byzantium. And yet the scene of our play is laid at Rome, and Saturninus is elected to the empire at the capitol.

THEOBALD. All the editors and critics agree with Mr. Theobald in supposing this play spurious. I see no reason for differing from them; for the colour of the stile is wholly different from that of the other plays, and there is an attempt at regular versification, and artificial closes, not always inelegant, yet seldom pleasing. The barbarity of the spectacles, and the general massacre, which are here exhibited, can scarcely be conceived tolerable to any audience; yet we are told by Jonson, that they were not only borne, but praised. That Shakspeare wrote any part, though Theobald declares it in. contestible, I see no reason for believing.

The testimony produced at the beginning of this play, by which it is ascribed to Shakspeare, is by no means equal to the argument against its authenticity, arising from the total difference of conduct, language, and sentiments, by which it stands apart from all the rest. Meeres had probably no other evidence than that of a title-page, which, though in our time it be sufficient, was then of no great authority ; for all the plays which were rejected by the first collectors of Shakspeare's works, and admitted in later editions, and again rejected by the critical editors, had Sbakspeare's name on the title, as we must suppose, by the fraudulence of the printers, who, while there were yet no gazettes, nor advertisements, nor any means of circulating literary intelligence, could usurp at pleasure any celebrated name. Nor had Shakspeare any interest in detecting the imposture, as none of his fame or profit was produced by the press.

The chronology of this play does not prove it not to be Shakspeare's. If it had been written twenty-five years, in 1614, it might have been written when Shakspeare was twenty-five years old. When he left Warwickshire I know not, but at the age of twenty-five it was rather too late to fly for deer-stealing. Ravenscroft, who in the reign of Charles II. revised this play,

Tit. And.

and restored it to the stage, tells us, in his preface, from a theatrical tradition, I suppose, which in his time might be of sufficient authority, that this play was touched in different parts by Shakspeare, but written by some other poet. I do not find Shakspeare's touches very discernible.

JOHNSON It may not be amiss to remark, that this tragedy, which (setting aside the feebleness of composition) would be regarded as too bloody on the modern stage, appears to have been highly relished in 1686, when it was revived with alterations by Ravenscroft. Instead of diminishing any of its horrors, he seized every opportunity of making large additions of them, insomuch that when Tamora stabs her child, the Moor utters the following lines :

She has out-done me, ev'n in mine own art,
Out-done me in murderkild her own child!
Give it me- I'll eat it.






The story on which this play is formed, is of great antiquity. It is found in a book, once very popular, entitled Gesta Romanorum, which is supposed by Mr. Tyrwhitt, the learned editor of The Can. terbury Tales of Chaucer, 1775, to have been written five hundred years ago. The earliest impression of that work (which I have seen) was printed in 1488 ; in that edition the history of Appolonius King of Tyre makes the 153d chapter. It is likewise related by Gower in his Confessio Amantis, lib. viii. p. 175—185, edit. 1554. The Rev. Dr. Farmer has in his possession a fragment of a MS. poem on the same subject, which appears, from the handwriting and the metre, to be more ancient than Gower. There is also an ancient romance on this subject, called Kyng Appolyn of Thyre, translated from the French by Robert Copland, and printed by Wynkin de Worde in 1510. In 1576 William Howe had a license for printing “ The most excellent, pleasant, and variable Historie of the strange Adventures of Prince Appollonius, Lucine his wyfe, and Tharsa his daughter." The author of Pericles having introduced Gower in his piece, it is reasonable to suppose that he chiefly followed the work of that poet. It is observable, that the hero of this tale is, in Gower's poem, as in the present play, called prince of Tyre; in the Gesta Romanorum, and Copland's prose romance, he is entitled king. Most of the incidents of the play VOL. VI.


are found in the Conf. Amant, and a few of Gower's expressions are occasionally borrowed. However, I think it is not unlikely, that there may have been (though I have not met with it) an early prose translation of this popular story, from the Gest, Roman. in which the name of Appolonius was changed to Pericles; to which, likewise, the author of this drama may have been indebted. In 1607 was published at London, by Valentine Sims, “ The patterne of painful adventures, containing the most excellent, pleasant, and variable historie of the strange accidents that befell unto Prince Appolonius, the lady Lucina his wife, and Tharsia his daughter, wherein the uncertaintie of this world and the fickle state of man's life are lively described. Translated into English by T. Twine, Gent.” I have never seen the book, but it was without doubt a re-publication of that published by W. Howe in 1576.

Pericles was entered on the Stationers' books, May 2, 1608, by Edward Blount, one of the printers of the first folio edition of Shakspeare's plays; but it did not appear in print till the following year, and then it was published not by Blount, but by Henry Gosson; who had probably anticipated the other, by getting a hasty transcript from a playhouse copy. There is, I believe, no play of our author's, perhaps I might say, in the English language, so incorrect as this. The most corrupt of Shakspeare's other dramas, compared with Pericles, is purity itself. The metre is seldom attended to; verse is frequently printed as prose, and the grossest errors abound in almost every page. I mention these circumstances, only as an apology to the reader for having taken somewhat more license with this drama than would have been justifiable, if the copies of it now extant had been less disfigured by the negligence and ignorance of the printer or transcriber. The numerous corruptions that are found in the original edition in 1609, which have been carefully preserved and augmented in all the subsequent impressions, probably arose from its having been frequently exhibited on the stage. In the four quarto editions it is called the much admired play of PERICLES PRINCE OF TYRE; and it is mentioned by many ancient writers as a very popular performance; particularly, by the author of a metrical pamphlet, entitled Pymlico or Run Redcap, in which the following lines are found :

[ocr errors]

Amaz'd I stood, to see a crowd
« Of civil throats stretch'd out so loud :
As at a new play, all the rooms
“ Did swarm with gentles mix'd with grooms;
“So that I truly thought all these

“ Came to see Shore or Pericles." In a former edition of this play I said, on the authority of another person, that this pamphlet had appeared in 1596; but I have since met with the piece itself, and find that Pymlico, &c. was published in 1609. It might, however, have been a republication.

The prologue to an old comedy called, The Hog has lost his Pearl, 1014, likewise exhibits a proof of this play's uncommon success. The poet speaking of his piece, says:

if it prove so happy as to please, We'll say 'tis fortunate, like Pericles." By fortunate, I understand highly successful. The writer can hardly be supposed to have meant that Pericles was popular rather from accident than merit; for that would have been but a poor eulogy on his own performance.

An obscure poet, however, in 1652, insinuates that this drama was ill received, or at least that it added nothing to the reputation of its author :

“But Shakspeare, the plebeian driller, was
“ Founder'd in his Pericles, and must not pass.”

Verses by J. Tatham, prefixed to Richard Brome's

Jovial Crew, or the Merry Beggars, 4to. 1652. The passages above quoted shew that little credit is to be given to the assertion contained in these lines; yet they furnish us with an additional proof that Pericles, at no very distant period after Shakspeare's death, was considered as unquestionably his per. formance.

In The Times displayed in Six Sestiads, 4to. 1646, dedicated by S. Shephard to Philip Earl of Pembroke, p. 22, Sestiad VI. stanza 9, the author thus speaks of our poet and the piece before us :

“ See him, whose tragick scenes Euripides
“Doth equal, and with Sophocles we may
“Compare great Shakspeare ; Aristophanes
“Never like him his fancy could display :

« ПретходнаНастави »