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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 Messinainto Syria-to 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 Ture, from Tyre to Pentapolis, from Pentapolis to Tharsus, from Tharsus to Tyre, from Tyre to Mitylene, and from Mitylene to Ephesus 2-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 Muriamne, 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 Pentapōlis. Shakspeare never varies the quantity of his proper names in the compass of one play. In Cymbeline we always meet with Posthumus, not Posthumus, Arvirāgus, and not Arviragus.
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. Not that such a kind of evidence, however strong, or
* 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 coincidencies 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 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.
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,
however skilfully 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,"
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 (I know not why) is still permitted to hold a place among his
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 conversation 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 composi tion.
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 I 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
is visible in many scenes throughout the play. But it follows not from thence that he is answerable for its worst part, though the
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 distinguish 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 ποταμε κελάδοντος Δραξεω
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.
he was indeed the glass.
p. 9, Vol. X.
Wherein the noble youths did dress themselves. King
Subdue before they touch.
as is the osprey to the fish, who takes it
By sovereignty of nature.
best it contains may be, not dishonourably, imputed to him. Both weeds and flowers appear in the same parterre, yet we do
As is the morn-dew on a myrtle leaf
Their intertangled roots of love.
Antony and Cleopatra.
2 Grief and patience, rooted in him both, Mingle their spurs together.
S1 Lord, lord, the difference of men!
20, the difference of man and man.
2 Or, like the Parthian, I shall flying fight.
p. 22. Cymbeline. P. 30. King Lear. p. 30.
Romeo and Juliet.
Mr. Seward observes that this comparison occurs no where
Banish'd the kingdom, &c. .
2 See the speech of Romeo on the same occasion.
He has a tongue will tame
Romeo and Juliet.
she would sing the savageness out of a bear. Othello. 1 Theseus.] To-morrow, by the sun, to do observance
To flowery May.
The rite of May.
they rose up early to observe
Midsummer Night's Dream.
1 Let all the dukes and all the devils roar, He is at liberty
2 And if the devil come and roar for them, He shall not have them.
in thy rumination
King Henry IV, P. I.
That I, poor man, might eftsoons come between. p. 50..
Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd!
1 Dear cousin Palamon
Pal. Cozener Arcite.
King Henry IV, P. I.
this question, sick between us,
2 Gentle Harry Percy, and kind cousin,
The devil take such cozeners.
By bleeding must be cur'd.
2 Let's purge this choler without letting blood. K. Richard II.
swim with your body,
And carry it sweetly.
2 Bear your body more seemly, Audrey.
As You Like It.