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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 accept
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 “Greene's Groatsworth of Wit,” thus vented his anger against the new luminary: “ There is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that, with liis tiger's heart wrapped in a player's hide, supposcs he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you; and, being an absolute Johannes Fam totum, is, in his own conceit, the only Shake-scene in a country.” This would seem to imply, what is otherwise probable enough, that up to this time Shakespeare had chiefly made himself known as a dramatic writer by remodelling and improving the works of his predecessors. He may, however, have also even already produced some Plays wholly of his own composition. If Titus Andronicus and the Three Parts of Henry the Sixth are to be accounted his in any sense, they probably belong to this earliest stage of his career.
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.
Of the thirty-seven Plays there are seven the authenticity of which has been more or less questioned. The Three Parts of King Henry the Sixth (especially the First) and Titus Andronicus, if they are by Shakespeare, have very little of his characteristic manner; Pericles has come down to us in so corrupted a state that the evidence of manner and style is somewhat unsatisfactory, though it is probably his; Timon of Athens is generally admitted to be only partly his; and much of King Henry the Eighth, which has only recently come to be suspected, is also evidently by another hand.
III. THE SOURCES FOR THE TEXT OF SHAKE
From what has been stated it appears that, of the entire number of thirty-seven Plays which are usually regarded as Shakespeare's, there are only four
teen (including Hamlet) of which, in what may be called their completed state or ultimate form, we possess impressions published in his lifetime; together with four others (reckoning the Second and Third Parts of Henry the Sixth to be the same with the Two Parts of the Contention) of which in an immature and imperfect state we have such impressions. Of one other, Othello, we have also an edition, printed indeed after the author's death, but apparently from another manuscript than that used for the First Folio. For the remaining eighteen Plays our oldest authority is that edition. And the only other sources for which any authority has been claimed are, 1. The Second, Third, and Fourth Folios; 2. A manuscript of the First Part and some portions of the Second Part of Henry the Fourth, which is believed to be nearly of Shakespeare's age, and of which an impression has been edited by Mr. Halliwell for the Shakespeare Society; 3. The manuscript emendations, extending over all the Plays, with the exception only of Pericles, made in a handwriting apparently of about the middle of the seventeenth century, in a copy of the Second Folio belonging to Mr. Collier.
None of these copies can claim to be regarded as of absolute authority. Even the least carelessly printed of the Quartos which appeared in Shakespeare's lifetime are one and all deformed by too many evident and universally admitted errors to make it possible for us to believe that the proofs underwent either his own revision or that of any attentive editor or reader; it may be doubted if in any case the Play was even set up from the author's manuscript. In many, or in most, cases we may affirm with confidence that it certainly was not. Some of these Quartos are evidently unauthorized publications, hurriedly brought out, and founded probably in the main on portions of the dialogue fraudulently furnished by the actors, with the lacunæ filled up perhaps from notes taken by reporters in the theatre.
The First Folio (1623) is declared on the title page to be printed “according to the true original copies ;” and it is probable that for most of the Plays either the author's autograph, or, at any rate, some copy belonging to the theatre, was made use of. The volume was put forth in the names of two of Shakespeare's friends and fellow-actors, John Heminge and Henrie Condell, who introduce what they style " these trifles," the “ remains” of their deceased associate, by a Dedication to the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery, - who, they observe, had been pleased to think the said trifles something, and by a Preface, in which, after confessing that it would have been a thing to be wished “ that the author himself had lived to have set forth and overseen his own writings,” they desire that they, his surviving friends, may not be envied the office of their care and pains in collecting and publishing them, and so publishing them as that, whereas formerly, they continue, addressing the Reader, “you were abused with divers stolen and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealths of injurious impostors that exposed them (that is, exposed them for sale, or published them], even those are now offered to your view cured and perfect of their limbs, and all the rest absolute in their numbers,* as he
* This Latinism has no special reference, as has soinetimes been supposed, to the verse; it means merely perfect in all their parts, or in all respects. So Sir Roger Twysden,