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founded on the same story, having been probably often acted and admired,) the old piece in two parts was reprinted; and, in order to deceive the purchaser, was said in the title-page to be written by W. Sh. A subsequent printer in 1622 grew more bold, and affixed Shakspeare's name to it at full length.
It is observable that Millington, the bookseller, by whom The First Part of the Contention of the Two famous Houses, &c. was entered at Stationers' Hall, in 1593-4, and for whom that piece and The Tragedie of the Duke of York, &c. were printed, was not the proprietor of any one of Shakspeare's undisputed plays, except King Henry V. of which he published a spurious copy, that, I think, must have been imperfectly taken down in short hand in the play-house.
The next observable circumstance, with respect to these two quarto plays, is, that they are said, in their title-pages, to have been" sundry times acted by the earle of Pembrooke his servantes." Titus Andronicus and The old Taming of a Shrew, were acted by the same company of comedians; but not one of our author's plays is said, in its title-page, to have been acted by any but the Lord Chamberlain's or the Queen's, or King's servants*. This circumstance, alone, in my opinion, might almost decide the question.
This much appears on the first superficial view of these pieces; but the passage quoted by Mr. Tyrwhitt from an old pamphlet, entitled Greene's Groatsworth of Witte, &c. affords a still more decisive support to the hypothesis that I am endeavouring to maintain; which, indeed, that pamphlet first suggested to me. As this passage is the chief hinge of my argument, though it has already been printed in a preceding page, it is necessary to lay it again before the reader." Yes," says the writer, Robert Greene, (addressing himself, as Mr. Tyrwhitt conjectures with great probability, to his poetical friend, George Peele,) "trust them [the players] not; for there is an upstart crowe BEAUTIFIED WITH OUE FEATHERS, that with his tygres heart wrapt in a player's hide supposes hee is as well able to bombaste out a blank verse as the best of you; and being an absolute Johannes fac totum, is, in his own conceit, the only Shake-scene in a country."—“ O tyger's
* The first edition of Romeo and Juliet, 1597, is said in its title-page to have been acted "By the right honourable the L. of Hunsdon his servants." STEEVENS.
It is to be hoped that Mr. Steevens wrote this note in a moment of forgetfulness, and that he did not intend to mislead the reader by what is only a seeming contradiction to what is stated by Mr. Malone, that our author's plays were only acted by the Lord Chamberlain's, or the Queen's, or King's servants: Lord Hunsdon was Lord Chamberlain. BOSWELL.
heart, wrapt in a woman's hide!" is a line of the old quarto play, entitled The First Part of the Contention of the Two Houses, &c.
That Shakspeare was here alluded to, cannot, I think, be doubted. But what does the writer mean by calling him " a crow beautified with our feathers ?" My solution is, that Greene and Peele were the joint authors of the two quarto plays, entitled The first part of the Contention of the Two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, &c. and The true Tragedie of Richarde Duke of Yorke, &c. or that Greene was the author of one, and Peele of the other. Greene's pamphlet, from whence the foregoing passage is extracted, was written recently before his death, which happened in September, 1592. How long he and Peele had been dramatick writers, is not precisely ascertained. Peele took the degree of Master of Arts at Oxford, in 1579: Greene took the same degree in Cambridge, in 1583. Each of them has left four or five plays, and they wrote several others, which have not been published. The earliest of Peele's printed pieces, The Arraignment of Paris, appeared in 1584; and one of Greene's pamphlets was printed in 1583. Between that year and 1591 it is highly probable that the two plays in question were written. I suspect they were produced in 1588 or 1589. We have undoubted proofs that Shakspeare was not above working on the materials of other men. His Taming of the Shrew, his King John, and other plays, render any arguments on that point unnecessary. Having therefore, probably not long before the year 1592, when Greene wrote his Dying Exhortation to a Friend, new-modelled and amplified these two pieces, and produced on the stage what, in the folio edition of his works, are called The Second and Third Parts of King Henry VI. and having acquired considerable reputation by them, Greene could not conceal the mortification that he felt at his own fame and that of his associate, both of them old and admired play-wrights, being eclipsed by a new upstart writer, (for so he calls our great poet,) who had then first, perhaps, attracted the notice of the publick by exhibiting two plays, formed upon old dramas written by them, considerably enlarged and improved. He therefore, in direct terms, charges him with having acted like the crow in the fable, beautified himself with their feathers; in other words, with having acquired fame furtivis coloribus, by new-modelling a work originally produced by them, and wishing to depreciate our author, he very naturally quotes a line from one of the pieces which Shakspeare had thus re-written; a proceeding which the authors of the original plays considered as an invasion both of their literary property and character. This line, with many others, Shakspeare adopted without any alteration. The very term that Greene uses
“to bombast out a blank verse," exactly corresponds with what has been now suggested. This new poet, says he, knows as well as any man how to amplify and swell out a blank verse. Bumbast
was a soft stuff of a loose texture, by which garments were rendered more swelling and protuberant.
Several years after the death of Boiardo, Francesco Berni undertook to new-versify Boiardo's poem, entitled Orlando Innamorato. "Berni (as Baretti observes) was not satisfied with merely making the versification of that poem better; he interspersed it with many stanzas of his own, and changed almost all the beginnings of the cantos, introducing each of them with some moral reflection arising from the canto foregoing." What Berni did to Boiardo's poem after the death of its author, and more, I suppose Shakspeare to have done to The First Part of the Contention of the Two Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, &c. and The true Tragedie of Richarde Duke of Yorke, &c. in the life time of Greene and Peele, their literary parents; and this Rifacimento (as the Italians call it) of these two plays I suppose to have been executed by Shakspeare, and exhibited at the Globe or Blackfriars theatre, in the year 1591.
I have said Shakspeare did what Berni did, and more. He did not content himself with writing new beginnings to the acts; he new-versified, he new-modelled, he transposed many of the parts, and greatly amplified and improved the whole. Several lines, however, and even whole speeches which he thought sufficiently polished, he accepted, and introduced into his own work, without any, or with very slight, alterations.
In the present edition, all those lines which he adopted without any alteration, are printed in the usual manner; those speeches which he altered or expanded, are distinguished by inverted commas; and to all the lines entirely composed by himself, asterisks are prefixed. The total number of lines in our author's Second and Third Part of King Henry VI. is Six Thousand and Forty-three of these, as I conceive, 1771 lines were written by some author or authors who preceded Shakspeare; 2373 were formed by him on the foundation laid by his predecessors; and 1899 lines were entirely his own composition.
That the reader may have the whole of the subject before him, I shall here transcribe the fourth scene of the fourth Act of The Third Part of King Henry VI. (which happens to be a short one,) together with the corresponding scene in the original play; and also a speech of Queen Margaret, in the fifth Act, with the original speech on which it is formed. The first specimen will serve to show the method taken by Shakspeare, where he only new-polished the language of the old play, rejecting some part of the dialogue, and making some slight additions to the part which he retained; the second is a striking proof of his facility and vigour of composition, which has happily expanded a thought comprized originally in a very short speech, into thirty-seven lines, none of which appear feeble or superfluous.
THE TRUE TRAGEDIE OF RICHARDE DUKE OF YORKE, &c. Sign. F. 4. edit. 1600.
Enter the Queene, and the Lord Rivers. Riv. Tell me, good madam,
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Why is your grace so passionate of late.
Queene. Why brother Rivers, heare you not the news Of that success king Edward had of late?
Riv. What? losse of some pitcht battaile against Warwick? Tush; fear not, fair queen, but cast these cares aside. King Edwards noble minde his honours doth display; And Warwicke may lose, though then he got the day.
Queene. If that were all, my griefes were at an end; But greater troubles will, I feare, befall.
Riv. What? is he taken prisoner by the foe,
To the danger of his royal person then?
Queene. I, there's my griefe; king Edward is surprisde, And led away as prisoner unto Yorke.
Riv. The newes is passing strange, I must confesse ;
Yet comfort yourselfe, for Edward hath more friends
Queene. God grant they may! but gentle brother, come,
There to preserve the fruit within my womb,
KING HENRY VI. PART III. ACT IV. SCENE IV.
Enter the Queen and Rivers.
Riv. Madam, what makes you in this sudden change? Queen. Why, brother Rivers, are you yet to learn, What late misfortune is befall'n king Edward?
Riv. What, loss of some pitch'd battle against Warwick?
Queen. Ay, almost slain, for he is taken prisoner;
Riv. These news, I must confess, are full of grief;
Queen. Till then, fair hope must hinder life's decay.
Riv. But, madam, where is Warwick then become?
Queen. I am informed, that he comes towards London
(For trust not him that once hath broken faith,)
To save at least the heir of Edward's right;
Queen. Welcome to England, my loving friends of France;
THE TRUE TRAGEDIE OF RICHARDE DUKE OF YORKE, &c! Sign. G. 4. edit. 1600.
Enter the Queene, Prince Edward, Oxford, Somerset, with drumme and souldiers.
Q. Mar. Great lords, wise men ne'er sit and wail their loss,
KING HENRY VI. PART III. ACT V. SCENE IV.
March. Enter Queen Margaret, Prince Edward, Somerset, Oxford, and Soldiers.