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TROILUS AND CRESSIDA
The circumstances connected with the publication of this play both in quarto form and in the folio of 1623 are singular. On February 7, 1602–3 an entry appears in the Stationers' Register of 'Master Robertes' copy of ' The booke of Troilus and Cresseda as it is acted by my lord Chamberlens Men', giving permission to Roberts to print the play when he hath gotten sufficient aucthority for yt'. No quarto, as far as we know, appeared until 1609. Mr. A. W. Pollard notices that soon after February 1603 the theatres were closed by the Queen's death and the plague '. He maintains that the entry of 'Troilus and Cressida'had been made not after but in anticipation of a theatrical performance, and that as a fact no performance took place. Again on January 28, 1608-9, the play was entered in the Register under the names of Richard Bonian and Henry Walley ; it appeared in the same year in two issues, the first named The Historie of Troylus and Cresseida', with the added words, “As it was acted by the Kings Maiesties servants at the Globe; the second named “The Famous Historie of Troylus and Cresseid,' and substituting for the words which refer to its performance an extension of the title in which is mentioned 'the conceited wooing of Pandarus Prince of Licia'. The sheets of the play were not reprinted, but for some reason the original title had been cancelled, and a curious address to the reader headed · A never writer, to an ever reader. Newes.' was inserted after the title. In this address the play is described as new, never stald with the Stage, never clapper-clawd with the palmes of the vulger'; it goes on to eulogize the writer—whose name both issues bear --to refer to the price of the publication, a testern, and to predict that hereafter copies of Shakespeare's comedies would be scrambled for; the reader, it adds, should thank fortune for the scape it has made' in obtaining publication, since by the grand possessors wills, I beleeve you should have prayd for them rather then beene prayd.' The grand possessors were probably the members of the theatrical company to which Shakespeare belonged, who may have objected to its publication. Whether Troilus and Cressida was acted, as the title of the first issue of the quarto states, or was not acted, we cannot tell.
When the folio of 1623 was in preparation, Walley, the survivor of Bonian and Walley, may have opposed the inclusion of the present play. It is not mentioned in the Catalogue of contents. At first the intention was to place it after Romeo and Juliet, and copies of the folio have been found in which the opening of the play was so printed ; the leaf was cancelled, and the following leaf was transferred to a new position. Possibly the editors were uncertain whether Troilus and Cressida should be reckoned among the histories or the tragedies ; they finally placed it between the two, after Henry VIII and before Coriolanus ; they prefixed a prologue which had not appeared in the quarto, and which may have been written by some unknown hand to fill a blank page ; with the exception of one leaf, betraying its original position, they left the pages unnumbered ; the signatures of the quires are special to this play. We are of opinion,' write the Cambridge editors, that the Quarto was printed from a transcript of the author's original MS. ; that this MS. was afterwards revised and slightly altered by the author himself, and that before the first Folio was printed from it, it had been tampered with by another hand.' Perhaps, however, the quarto is but an imperfect presentation of substantially the same text as that of the folio.
The questions which some of these peculiarities raise chiefly concern the bibliographer. There is and can
be no doubt as to the authorship of the great body of the play ; Shakespeare's sign-manual is impressed upon it ; but the authenticity of certain passages towards the close, as for example, that which concerns the death of Hector, has been questioned. It is not difficult to admit that the play had been tampered with, and possibly even before the publication of the quarto.
The date at which Troilus and Cressida was written has been the subject of much discussion. Some critics have supposed that the entry in the Stationers' Register of February 7, '1602-3, may refer to a play upon the same theme by Chettle and Dekker, which is mentioned in Henslowe's Diary, April 1599 ; but this is improbable, for the name of their play seems to have been altered from Troilus and Cressida to Agamemnon. In the old drama Histriomastix, which, as we possess it in the printed form, has been supposed to contain some work of Marston, occurs a passage that looks like a mocking allusion to the scene (Act iv, Scene iv) of Shakespeare's play in which Troilus and Cressida exchange a sleeve and a glove as love-tokens ; it may also be that the name "Shakespeare' is played on. Actors enter in the parts of the lovers ; Troilus exhibits Cressida's garter, worn on his elbow, so that 'when he shakes his furious Speare' the foe may fall in terror before him. Cressida adds the gift of her skreene' to be placed within her lover's helmet. Histriomastix seems to be alluded to in Jonson's Every Man out of his Humour, the date of which is 1599. Did Shakespeare's play exist in some earlier form before Histriomastix appeared ? or does the passage parody something in the piece by Chettle and Dekker ? On grounds of internal evidence, including style and versification, several critics of authority have supposed that our play was written at two different periods; that the lovestory was the earlier in date, and the so-called 'camp story' was the later. This idea was elaborated by Mr. Fleay into a theory, which assigned three periods, separated by considerable intervals, to the composition of three several parts of Troilus and Cressida. Into a discussion of this theory we need not enter here. It we accept the suggestion of two periods of composition, we may be content to conjecture that an early sketch, whether complete or unfinished, was recast by Shakespeare at a time when he seems to have found it impossible to write comedy in the spirit of genuine mirth, and was about to devote himself to the great series of his tragedies. I cannot see that there are good grounds for placing any part of Troilus and Cressida later than 1602-3. The American editor Verplanck wrote long since words which deserve to be quoted : 'It contains passages fraught with moral truth and political wisdom --high truths, in large and philosophical discourse. Thus the comments of Ulysses (Act I, Scene iii) on the universal obligation of the law of order and degree ... are in the very spirit of the grandest and most instructive eloquence of Burke. The piece abounds too in passages of the most profound and persuasive practical ethics, and grave advice for the government of life. . . With all this, there is a large alloy of inferior matter, such as Shakespeare too often permitted bimself to
in filling up the chasms of the scene, between loftier and brighter thoughts. . . . In such a recasting and improvement of a juvenile work, unless it was wholly rewritten-which seems never to have been Shakespeare's method—the work would bear the characteristics of the several periods of its composition, and with the vernal flush of his youthful fancy, it would have its crudity of taste, but contrasted with the matured fullness of thought, and the laboring intensity of compressed expression, of his middle career.'
This is admirably said ; but one who believes that the play is essentially coherent and was written at a single heat, may question that there is any “flush of vernal fancy'in Troilus and Cressida. It reads through. out like the work of a mature man, who had suffered some great disillusion ; who could dramatically represent the raptures of youth, but who could also, not without a certain bitterness, smile at them. If the