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together in 1609. But the Sonnets, or some of them at least, were well known long before this. “As the soul of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras,” says a writer named Francis Meres in his Palladis Tamia, published in 1598, “ so the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honeytongued Shakespeare: witness his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugаred Sonnets among his private friends.” It was still a common practice for works to be circulated to a limited extent in manuscript while they were withheld from the press.
The first edition of Shakespeare's collected Dramatic Works appeared in 1623, or not till seven years after his death, in a folio volume. A second edition, with numerous verbal alterations, but no additional Plays, was brought out in the same form in 1632. In 1664 appeared a third edition, also in folio, containing seven additional Plays. And a fourth and last folio reprint followed in 1685.
The Plays that are now commonly received as Shakespeare's are all those that are contained in the First Folio, being thirty-six in number, together with Pericles, Prince of Tyre, one of the seven added in the Third Folio. Besides the other six in that edition, — entitled The Tragedy of Locrine, The First Part of the Life of Sir John Oldcastle, The Chronicle History of Thomas Lord Cromwell, The London Prodigal, The Puritan, and A Yorkshire Tragedy,—there have been ascribed to Shakespeare in more recent times the old Plays of The Reign of King Edward the Third and The Tragedy of Arden of Feversham; and by certain German critics those of The Comedy of George-a-Green (generally held to be the work of Robert Greene), The Comedy of Mucedorus, The Birth of Merlin, and The Merry Devil of Edmonton. Some of these are among the humblest productions of the human intellect: that the notion of their being Shakespeare's should have been taken up by such men as Schlegel and Tieck is an illustrious instance of how far the blinding and extravagant spirit of system may go. Finally, the Play of The Two Noble Kinsmen, commonly included among those of Beaumont and Fletcher, has been attributed in part to Shakespeare ; it is described on the title page of the first edition, published in 1634, as written by Fletcher and Shakespeare, and the opinion that Shakespeare had a share in it has been revived in our own day.
Of the thirty-seven Plays generally held to be genuine, eighteen are known to have been separately printed, some of them oftener than once, in Shakespeare's lifetime :-Titus Andronicus, Romeo and Juliet, Love's Labour's Lost, Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado about Nothing, Merchant of Venice, Lear, Troilus and Cressida, Pericles, Richard the Second, First Part of Henry the Fourth, Second Part of Henry the Fourth, Rich ard the Third (all substantially as we now have them); Hamlet, in three editions, two of them greatly differing the one from the other; and, in forms more or less unlike our present copies, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry the Fifth, and the Second and Third Parts of Henry the Sixth, under the titles of " The First Part of the Contention betwixt the Houses of York and Lancaster,” and “The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York” (often referred to as “ The Second Part of the Contention”). Nor is it improbable that there may have been early impressions of some others of the Plays, although no copies are now known. The Tragedy of Othello was also printed separately in 1622. All these separately published Plays are in quarto, and are familiarly known as the old or early Quartos.
The following eighteen Plays appeared for the first time, as far as is known, in the Folio of 1623:The Tempest, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Measure for Measure, The Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, The Taming of the Shrew, All's Well that Ends Well, Twelfth Night, A Winter's Tale, King John, The First Part of Henry the Sixth, Henry the Eighth, Coriolanus, Timon of Athens, Julius Cæsar, Macbeth, Anthony and Cleopatra, and Cymbeline.
There is reason to believe that the first edition of Titus Andronicus was printed in 1594, although the earliest of which any copy is now known is dated 1600. The earliest existing editions of Romeo and Juliet, Richard the Second, and Richard the Third, bear the date of 1597. The dates of the other Quartos (except Othello) all range between 1593 and 1609. It appears, however, from Francis Meres's book, mentioned above, that by the year 1598, when it was published, Shakespeare had already produced at least the following Plays, several of which, as we have seen, are not known to have been printed till they were included, a quarter of a century afterwards, in the First Folio:- The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Comedy of Errors, Love's Labour's Lost, Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Richard the Second, Richard the Third, Henry the Fourth, King John, Titus Andronicus, Romeo and Juliet, and another called Love's Labour's Won, which has been commonly supposed to be that now entitled All's
Well that Ends Well.* And Meres cannot be held to profess to do more than to instance some of the works by which Shakespeare had by this time, in his opinion, proved himself the greatest English writer that had yet arisen, both in tragedy and in comedy,
Six years before this, or in 1592, Robert Greene,
* But the play of All's Well that Ends Well seems to have its present title built or wrought into it, and as it were incorporated with it. It is Helena's habitual word, and the thought that is never absent from her mind. “ All's well that ends well,” she exclaims, in the Fourth Scene of the Fourth Act, –
Still the fine's the crown:
All's well that ends well yet.
All yet seems well; and, if it end so meet
The bitter past, more welcome is the sweet; and then to the audience:
The king's a beggar, now the play is done;
That you express content. There would be no nature or meaning in the dialogue circling around the phrase in question, or continually returning upon it, in this way, unless it formed the name of the Play. On the other hand, there is not an expression throughout the piece that can be fairly considered as allusive to such a title as Love's Labour's Won.
Another notion that has been taken up is that the Play now known as The Tempest is that designated Love's Labour's Won by Meres. This is the theory of the Reverend Joseph Hunter, first brought forward in a “ Disquisition on the Tempest," published in 1841, and reproduced in the Second Part of his “New Illustrations of the Life, Studies, and Writings of Shakespeare,” 1844. But, notwithstanding all the learning and ingenuity by which it has been set forth and defended, it has probably not met with much acceptance. One would as soon believe with Ulrici that The
Tempest is the very latest of all Shakespeare's Plays, as with Mr. Hunter that it is one of his earliest, — "nearly the first in time,” he calls it, “as the first in place [meaning as it
accounted by himself and others one of the chief lights of that early morning of our drama, but destined to be soon completely outshone and extinguished, had, perhaps with some presentiment of his coming fate, in a pamphlet which he entitled 6. Greene's Groatsworth of Wit,” thus vented his
stands in the original collective edition), of the dramas which are wholly his.”
May not the true Love's Labour's Won be what we now call The Taming of the Shrew? That play is founded upon an older one called The Taming of A Shrew; it is therefore in the highest degree improbable that it was originally produced under its present name. The designation by which it is now known, in all likelihood, was only given to it after its predecessor had been driven from the stage, and had come to be generally forgotten. Have we not that which it previously bore indicated in one of the restorations of Mr. Collier's MS. annotator, who directs us, in the last line but one of the Second Act, instead of “in this case of wooing,” to read “in this case of winning,” thus giving us what may stand, in want of a better, for a rhyme to the “if I fail not of my cunning” of the line following? The lines are pretty evidently intended to rhyme, however rudely. The Play is, besides, full of other repetitions of the same key-note. Thus, in the Second Scene of Act I., when Hortensio informs Gremio that he had promised Petrucio, if he would become suitor to Katharine, that they would be contributors, And bear his charge of wooing, whatsoe'er," Gremio answers, “And so we will, provided that he win her.” In the Fifth Scene of Act IV., when the resolute Veronese has brought the shrew to a complete submission, Hortensio's congratulation is, “ Petrucio, go thy ways; the field is won.” So in the concluding scene the lady's father exclaims, “ Now fair befall thee, good Petrucio! The wager thou hast won;” to which the latter replies, “Nay, I will win my wager better yet.” And his last words in passing from the stage, as if in pointed allusion to our supposed title of the piece, are, — 'Twas I won the wager, though you[Lucentio hit the white; And, being a winner, God give you good night!
The title of Love's Labour's Won, it may be added, might also comprehend the underplot of Lucentio and Bianca, and even that of Hortensio and the Widow, though in the case of the latter it might rather be supposed to be the lady who should be deemed the winning party.