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5 This play is so uncommonly corrupted by the printers, &c. that it does not so much seem to want illustration as emendadation and the errata are so numerous and gross, that one is tempted to suspect almost every line where there is the least deviation in the language from what is either usual or proper. Many of the corruptions appear to have arisen from an illiterate transcriber having written the speeches by ear from an inaccurate reciter; who between them both have rendered the text (in the verbs particularly) very ungrammatical.
More of the phraseology used in the genuine dramas of Shakspeare prevails in Pericles, than in any of the other six doubted plays. Percy.
The fragment of the MS. poem, mentioned in the preliminary observations, has suffered so much by time, as to be scarcely legible. The parchment on which it is written having been converted into the cover of a book, for which purpose its edges were cut off, some words are entirely lost. However, from the following concluding lines the reader may be enabled to form a judgment with respect to the age of this piece:
thys was translatyd almost at englondes ende to the makers stat tak sich a mynde have y take hys bedys on hond and sayd hys
patr. nostr. and crede
"Thomas vicary y understonde at wymborne mynstre in
y thouzte zou have wryte hit is nouzt worth to be knowe
that wole the sothe ywyte go thider and me wol the
On the subject of Pericles, Lillo formed a play of three Acts, which was first represented in the year 1738.
To a former edition of this play were subjoined two Dissertations; one written by Mr. Steevens, the other by me. In the latter I urged such arguments as then appeared to me to have weight, to prove that it was the entire work of Shakspeare, and one of his earliest compositions. Mr. Steevens on the other hand maintained, that it was originally the production of some elder playwright, and afterwards improved by our poet, whose hand was acknowledged to be visible in many scenes throughout the play. On a review of the various arguments which each of us produced in favour of his own hypothesis, I am now convinced that the theory of Mr. Steevens was right, and have no ifficulty in acknowledging my own to be erroneous.
This play was entered on the Stationers' books, together with Antony and Cleopatra, in the year 1608, by Edward Blount, a bookseller of eminence, and one of the publishers of the first
The letters in the Italick character have been supplied by the conjecture of Mr. Tyrwhitt, who very obligingly examined this ancient fragment, and furnished the editor with the above
folio edition of Shakspeare's works. It was printed with his name in the title-page, in his life-time; but this circumstance proves nothing; because by the knavery of booksellers other pieces were also ascribed to him in his life-time, of which he indubitably wrote not a line. Nor is it necessary to urge in support of its genuineness, that at a subsequent period it was ascribed to him by several dramatick writers. I wish not to rely on any circumstance of that kind; because in all questions of this nature, internal evidence is the best that can be produced, and to every person intimately acquainted with our poet's writings, must in the present case be decisive. The congenial sentiments, the numerous expressions bearing a striking similitude to passages in his undisputed plays, some of the incidents, the situation of many of the persons, and in various places the colour of the style, all these combine to set the seal of Shakspeare on the play before us, and furnish us with internal and irresistible proofs, that a considerable portion of this piece, as it now appears, was written by him. The greater part of the three last Acts may, I think, on this ground be safely ascribed to him; and his hand may be traced occasionally in the other two divi
To alter, new-model, and improve the unsuccessful dramas of preceding writers, was, I believe much more common in the time of Shakspeare than is generally supposed. This piece having been thus new-modelled by our poet, and enriched with many happy strokes from his pen, is unquestionably entitled to that place among his works which it has now obtained. Malone.
After Mr. Malone's retraction, (which is no less honourable to himself than the present editor of Pericles) it may be asked why the dissertations mentioned in the foregoing note appear a second time in print. To such a question I am not unwilling to reply. My sole motive for republishing them is to manifest that the skill displayed by my late opponent in defence of what he conceived to have been right, can only be exceeded by the liberality of his concession since he has supposed himself in the wrong. Steevens.
In a former disquisition concerning this play, I mentioned, that the dumb shows, which are found in it, induced me to doubt whether it came from the pen of Shakspeare. The sentiments that I then expressed, were suggested by a very hasty and transient survey of the piece. I am still, however, of opinion, that this consideration (our author having expressly ridiculed such exhibitions) might in a very doubtful question have some weight.. But weaker proofs must yield to stronger. It is idle to lay any great stress upon such a slight circumstance, when the piece itself furnishes internal and irresistible evidence of its authenticity. The congenial sentiments, the numerous expressions bearing a striking similitude to passages in his undisputed plays, the inci dents, the situations of the persons, the colour of the style, at least through the greater part of the play, all, in my apprehension, conspire to set the seal of Shakspeare on this performances
What then shall we say to these dumb shows? Either, that the poet's practice was not always conformable to his opinions, (of which there are abundant proofs) or, (what I rather believe to be the case) that this was one of his earliest dramas, written at a time when these exhibitions were much admired, and before he had seen the absurdity of such ridiculous pageants; probably, in the year 1590, or 1591.*
Mr. Rowe, in his first edition of Shakspeare, says, "It is owned that some part of Pericles certainly was written by him, particularly the last Act." Dr. Farmer, whose opinion in every thing that relates to our author has deservedly the greatest weight, thinks the hand of Shakspeare may be sometimes seen in the latter part of the play, and there only. The scene, in the last Act, in which Pericles discovers his daughter, is indeed eminently beautiful; but the whole piece appears to me to furnish abundant proofs of the hand of Shakspeare. The inequalities in different parts of it are not greater than may be found in some of his other dramas. It should be remembered also, that Dryden, who lived near enough the time to be well informed, has pronounced this play to be our author's first performance: Shakspeare's own muse his Pericles first bore; "The Prince of Tyre was elder than the Moor."
Let me add, that the contemptuous manner in which Ben Jonson has mentioned it, is, in my apprehension, another proof of its authenticity. In his memorable Ode, written soon after his New Inn had been damned, when he was comparing his own unsuccessful pieces with the applauded dramas of his contemporaries, he naturally chose to point at what he esteemed a weak performance of a rival, whom he appears to have envied and hated merely because the splendor of his genius had eclipsed his own, and had rendered the reception of those tame and disgusting imitations of antiquity, which he boastingly called the only legitimate English dramas, as cold as the performances them
As the subject is of some curiosity, I shall make no apology for laying before the reader a more minute investigation of it. It is proper, however, to inform him, that one of the following dissertations on the genuineness of this play precedes the other only for a reason assigned by Dogberry, that where two men ride on a horse, one must ride behind. That we might catch hints from the strictures of each other, and collect what we could mutually advance into a point, Mr. Steevens and I set forward with an agreement to maintain the propriety of our respective suppositions relative to this piece, as far as we were able; to submit our remarks, as they gradually increased, alternately to each other, and to dispute the opposite hypothesis, till one of us should acquiesce in the opinion of his opponent, or each remain confirm
*If this play was written in the year 1590 or 1591, with what colour of truth could it be styled (as in the title-page to the first edition of it, 4to. 1609,) "the late and much admired" &c.?
ed in his own. The reader is therefore requested to bear in mind, that if the last series of arguments be considered as an answer to the first, the first was equally written in reply to the last:
66 -unus sese armat utroque,
"Unaque mens animat non dissociabilis ambos." Malone. THAT this tragedy has some merit, it were vain to deny; but that it is the entire composition of Shakspeare, is more than can be hastily granted. I shall not venture, with Dr. Farmer, to determine that the hand of our great poet is only visible in the last Act, for I think it appears in several passages dispersed over each of these divisions. I find it difficult, however, to persuade myself that he was the original fabricator of the plot, or the author of every dialogue, chorus, &c. and this opinion is founded on a concurrence of circumstances which I shall attempt to enumerate, that the reader may have the benefit of all the lights I am able to throw on so obscure a subject.
Be it first observed, that most of the choruses in Pericles are written in a measure which Shakspeare has not employed on the same occasion, either in The Winter's Tale, Romeo and Juliet, or, King Henry the Fifth. If it be urged, that throughout these recitations Gower was his model, I can safely affirm that their language, and sometimes their versification, by no means resembles that of Chaucer's contemporary. One of these monologues is composed in hexameters, and another in alternate rhymes; neither of which are ever found in his printed works, or those which yet remain in manuscript; nor does he, like the author of Pericles, introduce four and five-feet metre in the same series of lines. If Shakspeare therefore be allowed to have copied not only the general outline, but even the peculiarities of nature with ease and accuracy, we may surely suppose that, at the expence of some unprofitable labour, he would not have failed so egregiously in his imitation of antiquated style or numbers:-That he could assume with nicety the terms of affectation and pedantry, he has shown in the characters of Osrick and Armada, Holofernes and Nathaniel. That he could successfully counterfeit provincial dialects, we may tearn from Edgar and Sir Hugh Evans; and that he was no stranger to the peculiarities of foreign pronunciation, is likewise evident from several scenes of English tinctured with French, in The Merry Wives of Windsor, and King Henry the Fifth.*
*Notwithstanding what I have advanced in favour of Shakspeare's uncommon powers of imitation, I am by no means sure he would have proved successful in a cold attempt to copy the peculiarities of language more ancient than his own. His exalted genius would have taught him to despise so servile an undertaking; and his good sense would have restrained him from engaging in a task which he had neither leisure nor patience to perform. His talents are displayed in copies from originals of a higher rank. Neither am I convinced that inferior writers have been over-lucky in poetical mimickries of their early predeces
But it is here urged by Mr. Malone, that an exact imitation of Gower would have proved unintelligible to any audience during the reign of Elizabeth. If it were (which I am slow to admit) our author's judgment would scarce have permitted him to choose an agent so inadequate to the purpose of an interpreter; one whose years and phraseology must be set at variance before he could be understood, one who was to assume the form, office, and habit of an ancient, and was yet to speak the language of a modern.
I am ready to allow my opponent that the authors who introduced Machiavel, Guicciardine, and the Monk of Chester, on the stage, have never yet been blamed because they avoided to make the two former speak in their native tongue, and the latter in the English dialect of his age. The proper language of the Italian statesman and historian, could not have been understood by our common audiences; and as to Rainulph, he is known to have composed his Chronicle in Latin. Besides, these three personages were writers in prose. They are alike called up to superin tend the relations which were originally found in their respective books, and the magick that converted them into poets, might claim an equal power over their modes of declamation. The case is otherwise, when ancient bards, whose compositions were in English, are summoned from the grave to instruct their countrymen; for these apparitions may be expected to speak in the style and language that distinguishes their real age, and their known productions, when there is no sufficient reason why they should depart from them.
If the inequalities of measure which I have pointed out, be also visible in the lyrick parts of Macbeth, &c. I must observe that throughout these plays our author has not professed to imitate the style or manner of any acknowledged character or age; and therefore was tied down to the observation of no particular rules. Most of the irregular lines, however, in A Midsum mer Night's Dream, &c. I suspect of having been prolonged by casual monosyllables, which stole into them through the inattention of the copyist, or the impertinence of the speaker.-If indeed the choruses in Pericles contain many such marked expressions as are discoverable in Shakspeare's other dramas, I
sors. It is less difficult to deform language, than to bestow on it the true cast of antiquity; and though the licentiousness of Chaucer, and the obsolete words employed by Gower, are within the reach of moderate abilities, the humour of the one, and the general idiom of the other, are not quite so easy of attainment. The best of our modern poets have succeeded but tolerably in short compositions of this kind, and have therefore shown their prudence in attempting none of equal length with the assembled choruses in Pericles, which consist at least of three hundred lines. Mr. Pope professes to give us a story in the manner of Chaucer; but uses a metre on the occasion in which not a sin gle tale of that author is written.