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of his dialogue: and when it becomes necessary for me to quote a decision founded on comprehensive views, I can appeal to none in which I should more implicitly confide.-Gower relates the story of Pericles in a manner not quite so desultory; and yet such a tale as that of Prince Appolyn, in its most perfect state, would hardly have attracted the notice of any playwright, except one who was quite a novice in the rules of his art. Mr. Malone indeed observes that our author has pursued the legend exactly as he found it in the Confessio Amantis, or elsewhere. I can only add, that this is by no means his practice in any other dramas, except such as are merely historical, or founded on facts from which he could not venture to deviate, because they were universally believed. Shakspeare has deserted his originals in As you like it, Hamlet, King Lear, &c. The curious reader may easily convince himself of the truth of these assertions.
That Shakspeare has repeated in his later plays any material circumstances which he had adopted in his more early ones, I am by no means ready to allow. Some smaller coincidences with himself may perhaps be discovered. Though it be not usual for one architect to build two fabricks exactly alike, he may yet be found to have distributed many ornaments in common over both, and to have fitted up more than one apartment with the same cornice and mouldings. If Pericles should be supposed to bear any general and striking resemblance to The Winter's Tale, let me enquire in what part of the former we are to search for the slightest traces of Leontes' jealousy (the hinge on which the fable turns) the noble fortitude of Hermione, the gallantry of Florizel, the spirit of Paulina, or the humour of Autolycus? Two stories cannot be said to have much correspondence, when the chief features that distinguish the one, are entirely wanting in the other.
Mr. Malone is likewise willing to suppose that Shakspeare contracted his dialogue in the last Act of The Winter's Tale, because he had before exhausted himself on the same subject in Pericles. But it is easy to justify this distinction in our poet's conduct, on other principles. Neither the king or queen of Tyre feels the smallest degree of self-reproach. They meet with repeated expressions of rapture, for they were parted only by unprovoked misfortune. They speak without reserve, because there is nothing in their story which the one or the other can wish to be suppressed. Leontes, on the contrary, seems content to welcome his return of happiness without expatiating on the means by which he had formerly lost it; nor does Hermione recapitulate her sufferings, through fear to revive the memory of particulars which might be construed into a reflection of her husband's jealousy. The discovery of Marina would likewise admit of clamorous transport, for similar reasons; but whatever could be said on the
restoration of Perdita to her mother, would only tend to prolong the remorse of her father. Throughout the notes which I have contributed to Pericles, I have not been backward to point out many of the particulars on which the opinion of Mr. Malone is built; for as truth, not victory, is the object of us both, I am sure we cannot wish to keep any part of the evidence that may seem to affect our reciprocal opinions, out of sight.
Mr. Malone is likewise solicitous to prove, from the wildness and irregularity of the fable, &c. that this was either our author's first, or one of his earliest dramas. It might have been so; and yet I am sorry to observe that the same qualities predominate in his more mature performances; but there these defects are instrumental in producing beauties. If we travel in Antony and Cleopatra from Alexandria to Rome-to Messina-into Syriato Athens-to Actium, we are still relieved in the course of our peregrinations by variety of objects, and importance of events. But are we rewarded in the same manner for our journeys from Antioch to Tyre, from Tyre to Pentapolis, from Pentapolis to Tharsus, from Tharsus to Tyre, from Tyre to Mitylene, and from Mitylene to Ephesus?-In one light, indeed, I am ready to allow Pericles was our poet's first attempt. Before he was satisfied with his own strength, and trusted himself to the publick, he might have tried his hand with a partner, and entered the theatre in disguise. Before he ventured to face an audience on the stage, it was natural that he should peep at them through the curtain.
What Mr. Malone has called the inequalities of the poetry, I should rather term the patchwork of the style, in which the general flow of Shakspeare is not often visible. An unwearied blaze of words, like that which burns throughout Phædra and Hippolitus, and Mariamne, is never attempted by our author; for such uniformity could be maintained but by keeping nature at a distance. Inequality and wildness, therefore, cannot be received as criterions by which we are to distinguish the early pieces of Shakspeare from those which were written at a later period.
But one peculiarity relative to the complete genuineness of this play, has hitherto been disregarded, though in my opinion it is absolutely decisive. I shall not hesitate to affirm, that through different parts of Pericles, there are more frequent and more aukward ellipses than occur in all the other dramas attributed to the same author; and that these figures of speech appear only in such worthless portions of the dialogue as cannot with justice be imputed to him. Were the play the work of any single hand, or had it been corrupted only by a printer, it is natural to suppose that this clipped jargon would, have been scattered over it with equality. Had it been the composition of our great poet, he
would be found to have availed himself of the same licence in his other tragedies; nor perhaps, would an individual writer have called the same characters and places alternately Pericles and Pericles, Thaisa and Thaisa, Pentapolis and Pentapolis. Shakspeare never varies the quantity of his proper names in the compass of one play. In Cymbeline we always meet with Posthūmus, not Posthumus, Arvirāgus, and not Árvirăgus.
It may appear singular that I have hitherto laid no stress on such parallels between the acknowledged plays of Shakspeare and Pericles, as are produced in the course of our preceding illustrations. But perhaps any argument that could be derived from so few of these, ought not to be decisive; for the same reasoning might tend to prove that every little piece of coincidence of thought and expression, is in reality one of the petty larcenies of literature; and thus we might in the end impeach the original merit of those whom we ought not to suspect of having need to borrow from their predecessors.* I can only add on this subject, (like Dr. Farmer) that the world is already possessed of the Marks of Imitation; and that there is scarce one English tragedy, but bears some slight internal resemblance to another. I therefore attempt no deduction from premises occasionally fallacious, nor pretend to discover in the piece before us the draughts of scenes which were afterwards more happily wrought, or the slender and crude principles of ideas which on other occasions were dilated into consequence or polished into lustre.
* Dr. Johnson once assured me, that when he wrote his Irene he had never read Othello; but meeting with it soon afterwards, was surprized to find he had given one of his characters a speech very strongly resembling that in which Cassio describes the effects produced by Desdemona's beauty on such inanimate objects as the gutter'd rocks and congregated sands. The Doctor added, that on making the discovery, for fear of imputed plagiarism, he struck out this accidental coincidence from his own tragedy.
Though I admit that a small portion of general and occasional relations may pass unsuspected from the works of one author into those of another, yet when multitudes of minute coincidences occur, they must have owed their introduction to contrivance and design. The surest and least equivocal marks of imitation (says Dr. Hurd) are to be found in peculiarities of phrase and diction; an identity in both, is the most certain note of plagiarism.
This observation inclines me to offer a few words in regard to Shakspeare's imputed share in The Two Noble Kinsmen.
On Mr. Pope's opinion relative to this subject, no great reliance can be placed; for he who reprobated The Winter's Tale as a performance alien to Shakspeare, could boast of little acquaintance with the spirit or manner of the ́author whom he undertook to correct and explain.
Dr. Warburton (Vol. I. after the table of editions) expresses a belief that our great poet wrote "the first Act, but in his worst manner." The Doctor indeed only seems to have been ambitious of adding somewhat (though at random) to the decision of his predecessor.
that such a kind of evidence, however strong, or however skil
Mr. Seward's enquiry into the authenticity of this piece, has been fully examined by Mr. Colman, who adduces several arguments to prove that our author had no concern in it. [See Beaumont and Fletcher, last edit. Vol. I. p. 118.] Mr. Colman might have added more to the same purpose; but, luckily for the publick, his pen is always better engaged than in critical and antiquarian disquisitions.
As Dr. Farmer has advanced but little on the present occasion, I confess my inability to determine the point on which his conclusion is founded.
This play, however, was not printed till eighteen years after the death of Shakspeare; and its title-page carries all the air of a canting bookseller's imposition. Would any one else have thought it necessary to tell the world, that Fletcher and his pretended coadjutor, were "memorable worthies?" The piece too was printed for one John Waterson, a man who had no copyright in any of our author's other dramas. It was equally unknown to the editors in 1623, and 1632; and was rejected by those in 1664, and 1685.-In 1661, Kirkman, another knight of the rubrick post, issued out The Birth of Merlin, by Rowley and Shakspeare. Are we to receive a part of this also as a genuine work of the latter? for the authority of Kirkman is as respectable as that of Waterson.—I may add, as a similar instance of the craft or ignorance' of these ancient Curls, that in 1640, the Coronation, claimed by Shirley, was printed in Fletcher's name, and (1 know not why) is still permitted to hold a place among his other dramas.
That Shakspeare had the slightest connection with B. and Fletcher, has not been proved by evidence of any kind. There are no verses written by either in his commendation; but they both stand convicted of having aimed their ridicule at passages in several of his plays. His imputed intimacy with one of them, is therefore unaccountable. Neither are the names of our great confederates enrolled with those of other wits who frequented the literary symposia held at the Devil Tavern in Fleet Street. As they were gentlemen of family and fortune, it is probable that they aspired to company of a higher rank than that of needy poets, or mercenary players. Their dialogue bears abundant testimony to this supposition; while Shakspeare's attempts to exhibit such sprightly conversations as pass between young men of elegance and fashion, are very rare, and almost confined (as Dr. Johnson remarks) to the characters of Mercutio and his associates. Our author could not easily copy what he had few opportunities of observing.-So much for the unlikeliness of Fletcher's having united with Shakspeare in the same composition.
But here it may be asked-why was the name of our poet joined with that of Beaumont's coadjutor in The Two Noble Kinsmen, rather than in any other play of the same author that so long remained in manuscript? I answer,—that this event might have taken its rise from the playhouse tradition mentioned by Pope, and founded, as 1 conceive, on a singular occurrence, which it is my present office to point out and illustrate to my readers.
The language and images of this piece coincide perpetually with those in the dramas of Shakspeare. The same frequency of coincidence occurs in no other individual of Fletcher's works; and how is so material a distinction to be accounted for? Did Shakspeare assist the survivor of Beaumont in his tragedy? Surely no; for if he had, he would not (to borrow a conceit from Moth in Love's Labour's Lost) have written as if he had been at a great feast of tragedies, and stolen the scraps. It was natural that he should more studiously have abstained from the use of marked expressions in this than in any other of his pieces written without assistance. He cannot be suspected of so pitiful an ambition as that of setting his seal on the portions he wrote, to dis
fully applied, would divest my former arguments of their weight; for I admit without reserve that Shakspeare, whose hopeful colours
"Advance a half-fac'd sun striving to shine,"
tinguish them from those of his colleague. It was his business to coalesce with Fletcher, and not to withdraw from him. But were our author convicted of this jealous artifice, let me ask where we are to look for any single dialogue in which these lines of separation are not drawn. If they are to be regarded as landmarks to ascertain our author's property, they stand so constantly in our way, that we must adjudge the whole literary estate to him. I hope no one will be found, who supposes our duumvirate sat down to correct what each other wrote. To such an indignity Fletcher could not well have submitted; and such a drudgery Shakspeare would as hardly have endured. In Pericles it is no difficult task to discriminate the scenes in which the hand of the latter is evident. I say again, let the critick try if the same undertaking is as easy in The Two Noble Kinsmen. The style of Fletcher on other occasions is sufficiently distinct from Shakspeare's, though it may mix more intimately with that of Beaumont :
*Ος τ ̓ ἀποκιδνάμενος ποταμου κελάδοντος Αράξεω
From loud Araxes Lycus' streams divide,
But, that my assertions relative to coincidence may not appear without some support, I proceed to insert a few of many instances that might be brought in aid of an opinion which I am ready to subjoin.-The first passage hereafter quoted is always from The Two Noble Kinsmen, edit. 1750.
Dear glass of ladies.
2- he was indeed the glass
P. 9, Vol. X.
Wherein the noble youths did dress themselves. King Henry IV. P. II.
2 o'er-sized with coagulate gore.
Antony and Cleopatra.