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Quiney, a vintner of Stratford, and on the 23rd of April following the poet died, at the age of 52.
He had probably withdrawn, not only from the stage, but from all connection with the theatre, several years before, and lived uninterruptedly at New Place—to use Rowe's words—'in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends.' His contemporaries have commemorated his ' gentleness,' his 'uprightness of dealing,' his 'honesty,' - his 'open and free nature.' His works show that he had a constant sense of human responsibility and an aweful reverence for the mysteries which encompass our life. We might apply to him what Don Pedro says of Benedick (Much Ado About Nothing, ii. 3. 204), 'The man doth fear God, howsoever it seems not in him by some large jests he will make.'
In person he was 'handsome and well-shaped;' his hair and beard were auburn, and the expression of his face grave yet kindly.
There is no ground for the assertion that Shakespeare was not duly appreciated during his life, and neglected afterwards. On the contrary we have ample evidence that his popularity was immediate and continuous. He was perhaps the only literary man of his time who made a large fortune, and there is no poet whose works, separately and collectively, have been to often reprinted.
Of the thirty-seven plays now included in editions of Shakespeare, the following were published separately in small quarto while the author was still alive:—Richard II. 1597; Richard III. 1597; Romeo and Juliet, 1597; Love's Labour's Lost, 1598; Henry IV. part i. 1599; Henry IV. part ii. 1600; Much Ado About Nothing, 1600; Midsummer Night's Dream, 1600; The Merchant of Venice, 1600; Henry V. 1600; Titus Andronicus, 1600; The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1602; Hamlet, 1603; King Lear, 1608; Troilus and Cressida, 1609; Pericles, 1611.
Of these, Henry V, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Pericles, and the first editions of Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet were surreptitious and unauthorized, being printed in all probability from copies made from shorthand notes taken during the representation.
Othello was also published separately after the author's death, but before the appearance of the first folio, 1622.
The first folio was published in 1623, with a Preface by Heminge and Condell, two of Shakespeare's fellow-actors and partners in the theatre. It contained thirty-six plays, and professed to be printed from the author's MSS. It is however demonstrable that in nearly every case where a previous quarto existed the text was printed from it, and it is almost certain that where there was no previous edition the text of the folio was taken, not immediately from the author's MS., but from a more or less faulty transcript.
The second folio, reprinted from the first, was published in 1632; the third folio in 1664, and the fourth in 1685. The two last included seven other plays, of which Pericles alone has been retained in modern editions.
The Passionate Pilgrim was published in 1599.
Shakespeare's Sonnets, together with A Lover's Complaint, were printed in 1609, doubtless without the sanction of the author. Some pieces now included among the poems were printed in 'England's Helicon' and 'England's Parnassus,' collections from divers authors, in 1600; and one, The Phoenix and Turtle, first appeared in Chester's ' Love's Martyr' in the year following. C
The first attempt really to 'edit' Shakespeare's Plays was made by Rowe, 1709, who published a second and much improved edition in 1714. Pope's first edition appeared in 1725, his second in 1728. Theobald, who surpassed both his predecessors in learning, diligence and critical ingenuity, published his first edition in 1733. Subsequent editors were Hanmer, 1744, Warburton, 1747, Johnson, 1765. • Afterwards Steevens was associated with Johnson. Capek, who first made a complete collation of the quartos and folios, published his text in 1768. In 1790 appeared an edition by Malone, the most learned and laborious of all Shakespeare's commentators. His edition was the basis of the so-called ' Variorum' editions which were issued in 1803, 1813, and 1821.
During the last and present century there have been probably not less than three hundred reprints of Shakespeare's works published in England, America, and Germany.
The questions as to the sources from which Shakespeare derived his plot of The Merchant of Venice, and the origin of the two stories which are combined in it, are entirely distinct, and may be treated separately. With regard to the former, there is good reason to suppose that he was indebted to an older play on the same subject. Stephen Gosson, writing in 1579, in 'The Schoole of Abuse' (fol. 226), enumerated among the few plays which were 'tollerable at sometime,' and 'without rebuke,' 'The lew and Ptolome, showne at the Bull, the one representing the greedinesse of worldly chusers, and bloody mindes of Usurers: The other very liuely describing howe seditious estates, with their owne deuises, false friendes, with their owne swoords, & rebellious commons in their owne snares are ouerthrowne: neither w* amorous gesture wounding the eye: nor with slouenly talke hurting the eares of ye chast hearers.' It is clear that the plot of a play, which represented 'the greedinesse of worldly chusers, and bloody mindes of Usurers,' must have been essentially the same as that of The Merchant of Venice, and that here we have combined, if not for the first time, the two stories of the caskets and the pound of flesh, which had previously a separate existence in many forms. Although, so far as Shakespeare is concerned, the enquiry may be unimportant, it will be interesting to trace as far as possible what has been the fate of these two stories, which of itself forms an interesting chapter in the history of fiction.
The device of the caskets for showing 'the greedinesse of worldly chusers' occurs for the first time, so far as we are aware, in the mediaeval romance of 'Barlaam and Josaphat,' written in Greek by Joannes Damascenus about A. D. 800, of which a Latin version was current, according to Warton, before the thirteenth century. In this Latin dress the story appears in Joannis Damasceni Opera, pp. 824, 825, ed. Basil. 1575. The Greek text is published in the Jahrbucher der Lift. Bd. xxvi. p. 42. Vincent de Beauvais inserted the history of Barlaam and Josaphat in his Speculum Historiale, and it is again found in the Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine. (See foil. 352, 353 of the English translation printed by Wynkyn de Worde, 1527.) The form in which the story of the caskets (arcellai) is introduced is briefly as follows. A certain rich and glorious king, attended by the officers of his court, is riding with regal pomp in a gilt chariot, when he is met by two men of mean appearance in squalid and threadbare garments. The king descends from his chariot and salutes them. His courtiers are disgusted, and remonstrate with him through the medium of the king's brother. They are then taught a lesson of the folly of judging by external appearances, in the following manner. We give the rest of the story in the words of Warton's translation from the Greek (Hist. of English Poetry, vol. i. p. ccxxiii. ed. 1824). 'The king commanded four chests to be made: two of which were covered with gold, and secured by golden locks, but filled with the rotten bones of human carcasses. The other two were overlaid with pitch, and bound with rough cords; but replenished with pretious stones and the most exquisite gems, and with ointments of the richest odour. He called his nobles together; and placing these chests before them, asked which they thought the most valuable. They pronounced those with the golden coverings to be the most pretious, supposing they were made to contain the crowns and girdles of the king. The two chests covered with pitch they viewed with contempt. Then said the king, I presumed what would be your determination, for ye look with the eyes of sense. But to discern baseness or value, which are hid within, we must look with the eyes of the mind. He then ordered the golden chests to be opened, which exhaled an intolerable stench, and filled the beholders with horror.' Warton adds, 'In the Metrical Lives
of the Saints, written about the year 1300, these chests are called four fates, that is, four rats, or vessels.' We cannot, however, agree with him, that the story as it stands in the fifth book of Gower"s Confessio Amantis is copied from the above, which is told by the hermit Barlaam to king Avenamore; for not only are the details different, there being two caskets instead of four, and both of the same external appearance, but the moral lesson sought to be conveyed is entirely dissimilar. Gower professes to have read his story 'in a cronique.' It is told of a king whose officers complained that their promotion was not in proportion to their service. To prove to them that it was all of fortune, the king adopted the device of making two coffers so exactly alike that no one could tell one from the other. The one was filled with fine gold and precious stones, the other with straw and rubbish. The courtiers were asked to choose, and of course their choice fell upon the latter. The contents of the other were then displayed, and the moral follows.
* Lo, saith the king, now may ye se,
Confessio Amantis, ii. 207, ed. Pauli.
The source of this tale is obviously the same as that which is told by Boccaccio in his Decameron, the first of those recited on the tenth day, of which Dunlop (Hist. of Fiction, ii. 338, 339, ed. 2) gives the following abridgment:—'A noble Italian, called Ruggieri, entered into the service of Alphonso, king of Spain. He soon perceives that his majesty is extremely liberal to others, but thinking his own merits not sufficiently rewarded, he asks leave to return to his own country. This the king grants, after presenting him with a fine mule for his journey. Alphonso directs one of his attendants to join him on the road, to note if he make any complaint of the treatment he had received, and, if he should,