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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. Meres 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 Shakspeare'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 James II. revised this play, 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.
There is every reason to believe, that Shakspeare was not the author of this play. I have already said enough upon the subject.
Mr. Upton declares peremptorily, that it ought to be flung out of the list of our author's works: yet Mr. Warner, with all his laudable zeal for the memory of his school-fellow, when it may serve his purpose, disables his friend's judgment!
Indeed a new argument has been produced; it must have been written by Shakspeare, because at that time other people wrote in the same manner !*
It is scarcely worth observing, that the original publisher + had nothing to do with any of the rest of Shakspeare's works. Dr. Johnson observes the copy to be as correct as other books of the
Capell thought Edward III. was Shakspeare's because nobody could write so, and Titus Andronicus because every body could! Well fare his heart, for he is a jewel of a reasoner! FARMER.
+ The original owner of the copy was John Danter, who likewise printed the first edition of Romeo and Juliet in 1597, and is introduced as a character in The Return from Parnassus, &c. 1606. STEEVENS.
time; and probably revised by the author himself; but surely Shakspeare would not have taken the greatest care about infinitely the worst of his performances! Nothing more can be said, except that it is printed by Heminge and Condell in the first folio: but not to insist, that it had been contrary to their interest to have rejected any play, usually called Shakspeare's, though they might know it to be spurious; it does not appear, that their knowledge is at all to be depended on; for it is certain, that in the first copies they had entirely omitted the play of Troilus and Cressida.
It has been said, that this play was first printed for G. Eld, 1594, but the original publisher was Edward White. I have seen in an old catalogue of Tales, &c. the history of Titus Andronicus. FARMER.
I have already given the reader a specimen of the changes made in this play by Ravenscroft, who revived it with success in the year 1687; and may add, that when the Empress stabs her child, he has supplied the Moor with the following lines:
"She has outdone me, ev'n in mine own art,
It rarely happens that a dramatick piece is altered with the same spirit that it was written; but Titus Andronicus has undoubtedly fallen into the hands of one whose feelings and imagination were congenial with those of its original author.
In the course of the notes on this performance, I have pointed out a passage or two which, in my opinion, sufficiently prove it to have been the work of one who was acquainted both with Greek and Roman literature. It is likewise deficient in such internal marks as distinguish the tragedies of Shakspeare from those of other writers; I mean, that it presents no struggles to introduce the vein of humour so constantly interwoven with the business of his serious dramas. It can neither boast of his striking excellencies, nor his acknowledged defects; for it offers not a single interesting situation, a natural character, or a string of quibbles from first to last. That Shakspeare should have written without commanding our attention, moving our passions, or sporting with words, appears to me as improbable, as that he should have studiously avoided dissyllable and trisyllable terminations in this play, and in no other.
Let it likewise be remembered that this piece was not published with the name of Shakspeare till after his death. The quarto in 1611 is anonymous.
Could the use of particular terms employed in no other of his pieces be admitted as an argument that he was not its author, more than one of these might be found; among which is palliament for robe, a Latinism which I have not met with elsewhere
in any English writer, whether ancient or modern; though it must have originated from the mint of a scholar. I may add, that Titus Andronicus will be found on examination to contain a greater number of classical allusions, &c. than are scattered over all the rest of the performances on which the seal of Shakspeare is indubitably fixed.-Not to write any more about and about this suspected thing, let me observe that the glitter of a few passages in it has perhaps misled the judgment of those who ought to have known, that both sentiment and description are more easily produced than the interesting fabrick of a tragedy. Without these advantages, many plays have succeeded; and many have failed, in which they have been dealt about with the most lavish profusion. It does not follow, that he who can carve a frieze with minuteness, elegance, and ease, has a conception equal to the extent, propriety, and grandeur of a temple.
Dr. Johnson is not quite accurate in what he has asserted concerning the seven spurious plays, which the printer of the folio in 1664 improperly admitted into his volume. The name of Shakspeare appears only in the title-pages of four of them; Pericles, Sir John Oldcastle, The London Prodigal, and The Yorkshire Tragedy.
To the word palliament mentioned by Mr. Steevens in the preceding note, may be added the words accite, candidatus, and sacred in the sense of accursed; and the following allusions, and scraps of Latin, which are found in this lamentable tragedy:
"As hateful as Cocytus' misty mouth-." .
"More stern and bloody than the Centaurs' feast."
"The self-same gods that arm'd the queen
66 But safer is this funeral pomp,
"Why suffer'st thou thy sons unbury'd yet
"The Greeks upon advice did bury Ajax
"He would have dropp'd his knife, and fallen asleep, "As Cerberus at the Thracian poet's feet."
"To bid Æneas tell the tale twice o'er,
"Was it well done of rash Virginius,
"Believe me, queen, your swart Cimmerian
"But sure some Tereus hath deflowred thee,
"That, like the stately Phoebe 'mong her nymphs,
"No man shed tears for noble Mutius,
"I tell you younglings, not Enceladus,
"I'll dive into the burning lake below,
"I come, Semiramis; nay, barbarous Tamora."
"And faster bound to Aaron's charming eyes,
"Per Styga, per manes, vehor,-
"Ad manes fratrum sacrifice his flesh."
"Tam lentus audis scelera? tam lentus vides?"
" Integer vitæ," &c.
"Terras Astræa reliquit."
Similar scraps of Latin are found in the old play of King John, and in many other of the dramatick pieces written by our author's predecessors.
It must prove a circumstance of consummate mortification to the living criticks on Shakspeare, as well as a disgrace on the memory of those who have ceased to comment and collate, when it shall appear from the sentiments of one of their own fraternity (who cannot well be suspected of asinine tastelessness, or Gothick
pre-possessions,) that we have been all mistaken as to the merits and author of this play. It is scarce necessary to observe that the person exempted from these suspicions is Dr. Capell, who delivers his opinion concerning Titus Andronicus in the following words: "To the editor's eye, [i. e. his own,] Shakspeare stands confess'd: the third Act in particular may be read with admiration even by the most delicate; who, if they are not without feelings, may chance to find themselves touch'd by it with such passions as tragedy should excite, that is,-terror and pity." It were injustice not to remark, that the grand and pathetick circumstances in this third Act, which we are told cannot fail to excite such vehement emotions, are as follows:-Titus lies down in the dirt.-Aaron chops off his hand.-Saturninus sends him the heads of his two sons, and his own hand again, for a present. -His heroick brother Marcus kills a fly.
Mr. Capell may likewise claim the honour of having produced the new argument which Dr. Farmer mentions in a preceding note. MALONE.
I agree with such of the commentators as think that Shakspeare had no hand in this abominable tragedy; and consider the correctness with which it is printed, as a kind of collateral proof that he had not. The genuine works of Shakspeare have been handed down to us in a more depraved state than those of any other contemporary writer; which was partly owing to the obscurity of his hand-writing, which appears from the fac-simile prefixed to this edition, to have been scarcely legible, and partly to his total neglect of them when committed to the press. And it is not to be supposed, that he should have taken more pains about the publication of this horrid performance, than he did in that of his noblest productions. M. MASON.
The reader may possibly express some surprize on being told that Titus Andronicus was revived at Lincoln's Inn Fields, 21st of Dec. 1720. The receipt of the house was only 351. 16s. 6d.
It was acted again at the same theatre 19th of March, 1724, for the benefit of Mr. Quin. Receipt in money 801. 6s. 6d. tickets 641. 14s.-1451. Os. 6d.
The characters as follow:-Aaron, Mr. Quin; Titus, Mr. Boheme; Saturninus, Mr. Leigh; Bassianus, Mr. Walker; Lucius, Mr. Ryan; Marcus, Mr. Ogden; Demetrius, Mr. Digges; Chiron, Mr. Ward; Tamora, Mrs. Egleton; Lavinia, Mrs. Sterling.
Again, on the 25th of April, for the benefit of Mr. Hurst, a dramatick writer. Receipt in money 181. 2s. tickets 171. 3s.— 351. 5s. REED.