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late editions. The supposed imperfections originate in the cir. cumstance, that Shakspeare here handled a childish and extra. vagant romance of the old poet Gower, and was unwilling to drag the subject out of its proper sphere. Hence he even intro, duces Gower himself, and makes him deliver a prologue entirely in his antiquated language and versification. This power of assuming so foreign a manner is at least no proof of helplessness.
* 3. The London Prodigal. If we are not mistaken, Lessing pronounced this piece to be Shakspeare's, and wished to bring it on the German stage.
“4. The Puritan ; or, the Widow of Watling Street. One of my literary friends, intimately acquainted with Shakspeare, was of opinion that the poet must have wished to write a play for once in the style of Ben Jonson, and that in this way we must account for the difference between the present piece and his usual manner. To follow out this idea, however, would lead to a very nice critical investigation. 65. Thomas, Lord Cromwell. “6. Sir John Oldcastle, First Part. “7. A Yorkshire Tragedy.
“The three last pieces are not only unquestionably Shakspeare's, but in my opinion they deserve to be classed among his best and maturest works. Steevens admits at last, in some degree, that they are Shakspeare's, as well as the others, excepting Lo. crine, but he speaks of all of them with great contempt, as quite worthless productions. This condemnatory sentence is not, however, in the slightest degree convincing, nor is it supported by a critical acumen. I should like to see how such a critic would, of his own natural suggestion, have decided on Shakspeare's acknowledged master-pieces, and what he would have thought of praising in them, had the public opinion not imposed on him the Juty of admiration. Thomas, Lord Cromwell, and Sir John Oldcastle, are biographical dramas, and models in this species: the first is linked, from its subject, to Henry the Eighth, and the second to Henry the Fifth. The second part of Oldcasile is wanting ; I know not whether a copy of the old edition has been discovered in England, or whether it is lost. The
Yorkshire Tragedy is a tragedy in one act, a dramatised tale of murder: the tragical effect is overpowering, and it is extremely important to see how poetically Shakspeare could handle such a subject.
“There have been still farther ascribed to him :-1st. The Merry Deril of Edmonton, a comedy in one act, printed in Dods. ley's old plays. This has certainly some appearances in its favor. It contains a merry landlord, who bears a great similar. ity to the one in the Merry Wires of Windsor. However, at all events, though an ingenious, it is but a hasty sketch. 24. The Accusation of Paris. 3d. The Birth of Merlin. 4th. Ed. toard the Third. 5th. The Fair Emma. 6th. Mucedorus. 7th. Arden of Feversham. I have never seen any of these, and cannot therefore say anything respecting them. From the passages cited, I am led to conjecture that the subject of Mucedorus is the popular story of Valentine and Orson ; a beautiful subject, which Lope de Vega has also taken for a play. Arden of Fe. versham is said to be a tragedy on the story of a man, fmm whom the poet was descended by the mother's side. If the quality of the piece is not too directly at variance with this claim, the circumstance would afford an additional probability in its favor. For such motives were not foreign to Shakspeare: he treated Henry the Seventh, who bestowed lands on his fire fathers for services performed by them, with a visible partiality.
* Whoever takes from Shakspeare a play early ascribed in him, and confeswedly belonging to his time, is unquestionably bound to answer, with some degree of probability, this question : who did write it! Shakspeare's competitors in the dramatic walk are pretty well known, and if those of them who have even acquired a considerable name, a Lily, a Marlowe, a Heywond. are still so very far below him, we can hardly imagine that the author of a work, which rises so high beyond theirs, would have remained unknown."_Lectures on Dramatic Literature, vol. ii. p. 252.
We agree to the truth of this last observation, but not to the justice of its application to some of the plays here mrntsoed. It is true that Shakaparr's best works are very supporter to the of Marlowe or Heywood, but it is not true that the best of the doubtful plays above enumerated are superior or even equal to the best of theirs. The Yorkshire Tragedy, which Schlegel speaks of as an undoubted production of our author's, is much more in the manner of Heywood than of Shakspeare. The effect is indeed overpowering, but the mode of producing it is by no means poetical. The praise which Schlegel give to Thomas, Lord Cromwell, and to Sir John Oldcastle, is altogether exaggerated. They are very indifferent compositions, which have not the slightest pretensions to rank with Henry V. or Henry VIII. We suspect that the German critic was not very well acquainted with the dramatic contemporaries of Shakspeare, or aware of their general merits; and that accordingly he mistakes a resemblance in style and manner for an equal degree of excellence. Shakspeare differed from the other writers of his age not in the treating of his subjects, but in the grace and power which he displayed in them. The reason assigned by a literary friend of Schlegel's for supposing The Puritan; or, the Widow of Watling Street, to be Shakspeare's, viz., that it is in the style of Ben Jonson, that is to say, in a style just the reverse of his own, is not very satisfactory to a plain English understanding. Locrine, and The London Prodigal, if they were Shakspeare's at all, must have been among the sins of his youth. Arden of Feversham contains several striking passages, but the passion which they express is rather that of a sanguine temperament than of a lofty imagination; and in this respect they approximate more nearly to the style of other writers of the time than to Shakspeare's. Titus Andronicus is certainly as unlike Shakspeare's usual style as it is possible. It is an accumulation of vulgar physical hor. rors, in which the power exercised by the poet bears no proportion to the repugnance excited by the subject. The character of Aaron the Moor is the only thing which shows any originality of conception; and the scene in which he expresses his joy “ at the blackness and ugliness of his child begot in adultery,” the only one worthy of Shakspeare. Even this is worthy of him only in the display of power, for it gives no pleasure. Shakspeare managed these things differently. Nor do we think it a sufficient answer to say that this was an embryo or crude production of the author. In its kind it is full grown, and its features decided
and overcharged. It is not like a first imperfect essay, but shows a confirmed habit, a systematic preference of violent effect to everything else. There are occasional detached images of great beauty and delicacy, but these were not beyond the powers of other writers then living. The circumstance which inclines us to reject the external evidence in favor of this play being Shakspeare's is, that the grammatical construction is constantly false and mixed up with vulgar abbreviations, a fault that never occurs in any of his genuine plays. A similar defect, and the halting measure of the verse, are the chief objections to Pericles of Tyre, if we except the far-fetched and complicated absurdity of the story. The movement of the thoughts and passions has something in it not unlike Shakspeare, and several of the de. scriptions are either the original hints of passages which Shak. speare has ingrafted on his other plays, or are imitations of them by some cotemporary poet. The most memorable idea in it is in Marina's speech, where she compares the world to a "lasting storm, hurrying her from her friends."
POEMS AND SONNETS
Our idolatry of Shakspeare (not to say our admiration) ceases with his plays. In his other productions, he was a mere author, though not a common author. It was only by representing others, that he became himself. He could go out of himself, and express the soul of Cleopatra ; but in his own person, he appeared to be always waiting for the prompter's cue. In express. ing the thoughts of others, he seemed inspired; in expressing his own, he was a mechanic. The licence of an assumed character was necessary to restore his genius to the privileges of nature, and to give him courage to break through the tyranny of fashion, the trammels of custom. In his plays, he was “as broad and casing as the general air:" in his poems, on the contrary, he appears to be “cooped, and cabined in " by all the technicalities of art, by all the petty intricacies of thought and language which poetry had learned from the controversial jargon of the schools, where words had been made a substitute for things. There was, if we mistake not, something of modesty, and a pain. ful sense of personal propriety at the bottom of this. Shakspeare's imagination, by identifying itself with the strongest characters in the most trying circumstances, grappled at once with nature, and trampled the littleness of art under his feet: the rapid changes of situation, the wide range of the universe, gave him life and spirit, and afforded him full scope to his genius; but returned into his closet again, and having assumed the badge of his profession, he could only labor in his vocation, and conform himself to existing models. The thoughts, the passions, the words which the poet's pen, “glancing from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven," lent to others, shook off the fetters