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character of his versification. It is this, for instance, which furnishes us with the most conclusive or at least the clearest evidence that the Play of K’ing Henry the Eighth cannot have been written throughout by Shakespeare. It is a point of style which admits of precise appreciation to a degree much beyond most others; and there is no other single indication which can be compared with it as an element in determining the chronology of the Plays. It is therefore extremely difficult to believe that the three Roman plays, Julius Cæsar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus, can all belong to the same period (Malone assigns them severally to the years 1607, 1608, and 1610), seeing that the second and third are among the Plays in which verses having in the tenth place an unemphatic monosyllable of the kind in question are of most frequent occurrence, while the only instances of anything of the sort in the first are, I believe, the following:
54. I had as lief not be as live to be
In awe of such a thing as I myself. 54.
And Cassius is A wretched creature, and must bend his body. 54. A man of such a feeble temper should
So get the start of the majestic world. 55. I do believe that these applauses are
For some new honours that are heaped on Cæsar. 155.
All the interim is Like a phantasma. 306. Desiring thee that Publius Cimber may
Have an immediate freedom of repeal. 354. And am moreover suitor, that I may
Produce his body to the market-place. 387. And that we are contented Cæsar shall
Have all true rites and lawful ceremonies.
405. But yesterday the word of Cæsar might
Have stood against the world. 493.
Or here, or at The Capitol. Not only does so comparatively rare an indulgence in it show that the habit of this kind of versification was as yet not fully formed, but in one only of these ten instances have we it carried nearly so far as it repeatedly is in some other Plays: be, and is, and should, and may, and shall, and might, and are, all verbs, though certainly not emphatic, will yet any of them allow the voice to rest upon it with a considerably stronger pressure than such lightest and slightest of "winged words " as and, or, but, if, that (the relative or conjunction), who, which, than, as, of, to, with, for, etc. The only decided or true and perfect instance of the peculiarity is the last in the list.
2. In some of the Plays at least the prosody of many of the verses constructed upon the principle under consideration has been misconceived by every editor, including the most recent. Let us take, for example, the play of Coriolanus, in which, as has just been observed, such verses are very numerous. Here, in the first place, we have a good many instances in which the versification is correctly exhibited in the First Folio, and, of course, as might be expected, in all subsequent editions ; such as
Only in strokes, but with thy grim looks and
Permitted by our dastard nobles, who
* The reading of all the copies is “No other quarrel else;" but it is evident that other is merely the author's first word, which he must be supposed to have intended to strike out, if he did not actually do so, when he resolved to substitute else. The prosody and the sense agree in admonishing us that both words cannot stand. So in Antony and Cleopatra, iv. 10, in the line “ To the young Roman boy she hath sold me, and I fall; ” young is evidently only the word first intended to be used, and never could be meant to be retained after the expression Roman boy was adopted. Another case of the same kind is unquestionably that of the word old in the line (As You Like It, iv. 3), –
Under an (old) oak, whose boughs were mossed with age.
The city posts by this hath entered, and
- V. 5.
Though in this city he
These instances are abundantly sufficient to prove the prevalence in the Play of the peculiarity under consideration, and also its recognition, whether consciously and deliberately or otherwise does not matter, by the editors. But further, we have also some instances in which the editors most attached to the original printed text have ventured to go the length of rearranging the verse upon this principle where it stands otherwise in the First Folio. Such are the following:
Commit the war of white and damask in
Their nicely gauded cheeks. — ii. 1.
A kinder value of the people than
He hath hereto prized them at. — ii. 2. The Folio gives this as prose.
To allay my rages and revenges with
Your colder reasons. The Folio gives from “My rages.” inclusive as a line.
After this it is surely very strange to find in our modern editions such manifest and gross misconceptions of the versification as the following arrangements exhibit:
My gentle Marcius, worthy Caius,
In all these instances the words which I have separated from those that followed them by a dash belong to the preceding line; and, nearly every time that the first of the two lines is thus put out of joint, the rhythm of both is ruined.