« PreviousContinue »
a few fine touches of his pen, than originally writ by him; for not to mention that the style is less figurative than his others generally are, this tragedy is mentioned with discredit in the induction to Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair in 1614, as one that had then been exhibited five-and-twenty or thirty years: which, if we take the lowest number, throws it back to the year 1589, at which time Shakspeare was but 25: an earlier date than can be found for any other of his pieces, and if it does not clear him entirely of it, shews at least it was a first attempt."
Though we are obliged to Dr. Percy for his attempt to clear our great dramatick writer from the imputation of having produced this sanguinary performance, yet I cannot admit that the circumstance of its being discreditably mentioned by Ben Jonson, ought to have any weight; for Ben has not very sparingly censured The Tempest, and other pieces which are undoubtedly among the most finished works of Shakspeare. The whole of Ben's Prologue to Every Man in his Humour, is a malicious. sneer on him.
Painter, in his Palace of Pleasure, Tom. II. speaks of the story of Titus as well known, and particularly mentions the cruelty of Tamora: And, in A Knack to know a Knave, 1594, is the following allusion to it:
as welcome shall you be
"To me, my daughters, and my son in law,
"When he had made a conquest on the Goths."
Whatever were the motives of Heming and Condell for admitting this tragedy among those of Shakspeare, all it has gained by their favour is, to be delivered down to posterity with repeated remarks of contempt,-a Thersites babbling among heroes, and introduced only to be derided.
See the notes at the conclusion of this piece. STEEVENS.
On what principle the editors of the first complete edition of our poet's plays admitted this into their volume, cannot now be ascertained. The most probable reason that can be assigned, is, that he wrote a few lines in it, or gave some assistance to the author, in revising it, or in some other way aided him in bringing it forward on the stage. The tradition mentioned by Ra- venscroft in the time of King James II. warrants us in making one or other of these suppositions. "I have been told" (says he in his preface to an alteration of this play published in 1687,) "by some anciently conversant with the stage, that it was not originally his, but brought by a private author to be acted, and he only gave some master touches to one or two of the principal parts or characters."
"A booke entitled A noble Roman Historie of Titus Andronicus" was entered at Stationers'-Hall, Feb. 6, 1593-4. This was undoubtedly the play, as it was printed in that year (according to Langbaine, who alone appears to have seen the first edition,) and acted by the servants of the Earls of Pembroke, Derby, and Sussex. It is observable that in the entry no author's name is mentioned, and that the play was originally performed by the same company of comedians who exhibited the old drama, entitled The Contention of the Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, The old Taming of a Shrew, and Marlowe's King Edward II. by whom not one of Shakspeare's plays is said to have been performed. See the Dissertation on King Henry VI. Vol. XIV. p. 236.
From Ben Jonson's Induction to Bartholomew Fair, 1614, we learn that Andronicus had been exhibited twenty-five or thirty years before; that is, according to the lowest computation in 1589; or taking a middle period, which is perhaps more just, in 1587.
To enter into a long disquisition to prove this piece not to have been written by Shakspeare, would be an idle waste of time. To those who are not conversant with his writings, if particular passages were examined, more words would be necessary than the subject is worth; those who are well acquainted with his works, cannot entertain a doubt on the question.-I will however mention one mode by which it may be easily ascertained. Let the reader only peruse a few lines of Appius and Virginia, Tancred and Gismund, The Battle of Alcazar, Jeronimo, Selimus Emperor of the Turks, The Wounds of Civil War, The Wars of Cyrus, Locrine, Arden of Feversham, King Edward I. The Spanish Tragedy, Solyman and Perseda, King Leir, the old King John, or any other of the pieces that were exhibited before the time of Shakspeare, and he will at once perceive that Titus Andronicus was coined in the same mint.
The testimony of Meres, mentioned in a preceding note, alone remains to be considered. His enumerating this among Shakspeare's plays may be accounted for in the same way in which we may account for its being printed by his fellow-comedians in the first folio edition of his works. Meres was in 1598, when his book appeared, intimately connected with Drayton, and probably acquainted with some of the dramatick poets of the time, from some or other of whom he might have heard that Shakspeare interested himself about this tragedy, or had written a few lines for the author. The internal evidence furnished by the piece itself, and proving it not to have been the production of
Shakspeare, greatly outweighs any single testimony on the other side. Meres might have been misinformed, or inconsiderately have given credit to the rumour of the day. For six of the plays which he has mentioned, (exclusive of the evidence which the representation of the pieces themselves might have furnished,) he had perhaps no better authority than the whisper of the theatre; for they were not then printed. He could not have been deceived by a title-page, as Dr. Johnson supposes; for Shakspeare's name is not in the title-page of the edition printed in quarto in 1611, and therefore we may conclude, was not in the title-page of that in 1594, of which the other was undoubtedly a re-impression. Had this mean performance been the work of Shakspeare, can it be supposed that the booksellers would not have endeavoured to procure a sale for it by stamping his name upon it?
In short, the high antiquity of the piece, its entry on the Stationers' books, and being afterwards printed without the name of our author, its being performed by the servants of Lord Pembroke, &c. the stately march of the versification, the whole colour of the composition, its resemblance to several of our most ancient dramas, the dissimilitude of the style from our author's undoubted compositions, and the tradition mentioned by Ravenscroft, when some of his contemporaries had not been long dead, (for Lowin and Taylor, two of his fellow-comedians, were alive a few years before the Restoration, and Sir William D'Avenant, who had himself written for the stage in 1629, did not die till April 1668;) all these circumstances combined, prove with irresistible force that the play of Titus Andronicus has been erroneously ascribed to Shakspeare. MALONE.
Kyd-probably original author of Andronicus, Locrine, and play in Hamlet.-Marloe, of H. 6.
Ben Jonson, Barthol. Fair-ranks together Hieronymo and Andronicus, [time and stile]-first exposed him to the criticks -shelter'd afterwards under another's name.
"Sporting Kyd [perhaps wrote comedy] and Marloe's mighty line-Jonson. [might assist Lily,] Perhaps Shakspeare's additions outshone.
"Tamburlaine mention'd with praise by Heywood, as Marloe's might be different from the bombast one-and that written by Kyd."
From a loose scrap of paper, in the hand writing of Dr. Farmer.
In the library of the Duke of Bridgewater, at Ashridge, is a volume of old quarto plays, numbered R. 1. 7; in which the first is Titus Andronicus.
I have collated it with the tragedy as it stands in the edition of Shakspeare, 1793: and the following remarks, and various readings, are here assigned to their proper places. TODD.
The ingenious and accurate Mr. Todd has most obligingly collated this tragedy (4o. 1600) with that in 8vo. 1793. Most of his collations &c. will be found at the bottom of the following pages. STEEVENS.
Saturninus, Son to the late Emperor of Rome, and afterwards declared Emperor himself. Bassianus, Brother to Saturninus; in love with Lavinia.
Titus Andronicus, a noble Roman, General against the Goths.
Marcus Andronicus, Tribune of the People; and Brother to Titus.
Sons to Titus Andronicus.
Young Lucius, a Boy, Son to Lucius.
Sons to Tamora.
Aaron, a Moor, beloved by Tamora.
A Captain, Tribune, Messenger, and Clown;
Romans. Goths and Romans.
Tamora, Queen of the Goths.
Lavinia, Daughter to Titus Andronicus.
Kinsmen of Titus, Senators, Tribunes, Officers, Soldiers, and Attendants.
SCENE, Rome; and the Country near it.