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like proofs, which are totally wanting on the other fide, the last opinion may chance to carry the day.
To begin then with the first of them, the Henry VI. in three parts. We are quite in the dark as to when the first part was written; but fhould be apt to conjecture, that it was fome confiderable time after the other two; and, perhaps, when those two were re-touch'd, and made a little fitter than they are in their firft draught to rank with the author's other plays which he has fetch'd from our English history: and those two parts, even with all their re-touchings, being ftill much inferior to the other plays of that clafs, he may reasonably be fuppos'd to have underwrit himself on purpose in the first, that it might the better match with those it belong'd to: now that these two plays (the first draughts of them, at least,) are among his early performances, we know certainly from their date; which is further confirm'd by the two concluding lines of his Henry V. fpoken by the Chorus; and (poffibly) it were not going too far, to imagine that they are his fecond attempt in hiftory, and near in time to his original King John, which is alfo in two parts: and, if this be fo, we may fafely pronounce them his, and even highly worthy of him; it being certain, that there was no English play upon the ftage, at that time, which can come at all in competition with them; and this probably it was, which procur'd them the good reception that is mention'd too in the Chorus. The plays we are now fpeaking of have been inconceiveably mangl'd either in the copy or the prefs, or perhaps both: yet this may be difcover'd in them, that the alterations made afterwards
the author are nothing near fo confiderable as those in some other plays; the incidents, the characters, every principal outline in short being the fame in both draughts; fo that what we thall have occafion to say of the fecond, may, in fome degree, and without much violence, be apply'd also to the first and this we presume to say of it;-that, low as it must be fet in comparison with his other plays, it has beauties in it, and grandeurs, of which no other author was capable but Shakspeare only: that extreamly-affecting fcene of the death of young Rutland, that of his father which comes next it, and of Clifford the murtherer of them both; Beaufort's dreadful exit, the exit of King Henry, and a fcene of wondrous fimplicity and wondrous tenderness united, in which that Henry is made a speaker, while his laft decifive battle is fighting, are as fo many ftamps upon these plays; by which his property is mark'd, and himself declar'd the owner of them, beyond controversy as we think and though we have felected thefe paffages only, and recommended them to observation, it had been easy to name abundance of others which bear his mark as ftrongly and one circumftance there is that runs through all the three plays, by which he is as furely to be known as by any other that can be thought of; and that is,-the prefervation of character: all the perfonages in them are diftinctly and truly delineated, and the character given them fuftain'd uniformly throughout; the enormous Richard's particularly, which in the third of these plays is feen rifing towards it's zenith and who fees not the future monster, and acknowledges at the fame time the pen that drew it, in these two lines only, fpoken over a king who lies ftab'd before him,
"What, will the aspiring blood of Lancaster
let him never pretend difcernment hereafter in any cafe of this nature.
It is hard to perfuade one's felf, that the objecters to the play which comes next are indeed ferious in their opinion; for if he is not vifible in Love's Labour's Loft, we know not in which of his comedies he can be faid to be fo: the ease and fprightliness of the dialogue in very many parts of it; it's quick turns of wit, and the humour it abounds in; and (chiefly) in those truly comick characters, the pedant and his companion, the page, the conftable, Coftard, and Armado,-feem more than fufficient to prove Shakspeare the author of it and for the blemishes of this play, we muft seek the true caufe in it's antiquity; which we may venture to carry higher than 1598, the date of it's firft impreffion: rime, when this play appear'd, was thought a beauty of the drama, and heard with fingular pleasure by an audience who but a few years before, had been accuftom'd to all rime; and the measure we call dogrel, and are fo much offended with, had no fuch effect upon the ears of that time but whether blemishes or no, however this matter be which we have brought to exculpate him, neither of these articles can with any face of juftice be alledg'd againft Love's Labour's Loft, feeing they are both to be met with in feveral other plays, the genuineness of which has not been queftion'd by any one. And one thing more fhall be obferv'd in the behalf of this play;-that the author himself was fo little difpleas'd at least with some parts of it, that he has brought them a fecond time
upon the ftage; for who may not perceive that his famous Benedick and Beatrice are but little more than the counter-parts of Biron and Rofaline? All which circumstances confider'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 clafs of plays, and adjudg'd a fpurious one, may juftly be reckon'd wonderful, when we confider it's merit, and the reception it has generally met with in the world: it's fuccefs at first, and the esteem it was then held in, induc'd Fletcher to enter the lifts 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 miftake of buffoonery for humour and obfcenity for wit, which was not uncommon with that author, his production came lamely off, and was foon confign'd to the oblivion in which it is now bury'd; whereas this of his antagonist flourishes ftill, and has maintain'd its place upon the stage (in fome fhape or other) from its very first appearance down to the prefent hour: and this fuccefs it has merited, by true wit and true humour; a fable of very artful construction, much business, and highly interefting; and by natural and well-fuftain'd characters, which no pen but Shakspeare's was capable of drawing: what defects it has, are chiefly in the diction; the fame (indeed) with thofe of the play that was laftmention'd, and to be accounted for the fame way: for we are strongly inclin'd to believe it a neighbour in time to Love's Labour's Loft, 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 flightly attack'd, and by few writers, in comparison of this which we are now come to of "Titus Andronicus;" commentators, editors, every one (in fhort) 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 ftyle of his other pieces; all which allegations are extreamly true, and we readily admit of them, but can not admit the conclufion-that, therefore, it is not his; and fhall now proceed to give the reasons of our diffent, but (firft) the play's age must be enquir'd into. In the Induction to Jonfon's Bartholomew Fair, which was written in the year 1614, the audience is thus accofted :-" Hee that will fweare, Jeronimo, or Andronicus are the best playes, yet, fhall paffe unexcepted at, heere, as a man whofe judgement fhewes it is conftant, and hath ftood ftill, 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; fuch 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 exprefs teftimony to the credit
2 The authenticity of this play stands further confirm'd by the teftimony of Sir Afton Cockayn; a writer who came near to Shakspeare's time, and does exprefsly ascribe it to him in an epigram addrefs'd to Mr. Clement Fisher of Wincot; but it is (perhaps, fuperfluous, and of but little weight neither, as it will be faid that Sir Afton proceeds only upon the evidence of it's being in print in his name: we do therefore lay no great ftrefs upon it, nor fhall infert the epigram; it will be found in The School of "Shakspeare, which is the proper place for things of that sort.