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Sly. Madam wife, they say, that I have dream'd, and slept Above some fifteen year and more.
THE FABLE AND COMPOSITION
TAMING OF THE SHREW.
We have hitherto supposed Shakspeare the author of the Taming of the Shrew, but his property in it is extremely disputable. I will give my opinion, and the reasons on which it is founded. I suppose then the present play is not originally the work of Shakspeare, but restored by him to the stage, with the whole induction of the Tinker; and some other occasional improvements; especially in the character of Petruchio. It is very obvious that the Induction and the Play were either the works of different hands, or written at a great interval of time. The former is in our author's best manner, and a great part of the latter in his worst, or even below it. Dr. Warburton declares it to be certainly spurious; and without doubt, supposing it to have been written by Shakspeare, it must have been one of his earliest productions. Yet it is not mentioned in the list of his works by Meres, in 1598.
I have met with a facetious piece of Sir John Harrington, printed in 1596, (and possibly there may be an earlier edition,) called The Metamorphoses of Ajax, where I suspect an allusion to the old play; Read the Booke of Taming a Shrew, which hath made a number of us so perfect, that now every one can rule a shrew in our countrey, save he that hath hir."—I am aware a modern linguist may object that the word book does not at present seem dramatick, but it was once technically so: Gosson in his Schoole of Abuse, containing a pleasaunt Inuective against Poets, Pipers, Players, Jesters, and such like Caterpillars of a Commonwealth, 1579, mentions "" twoo prose bookes played at the Bell-Sauage :" and Hearne tells us, in a note at the end of William of Worcester, that he had seen b
a MS. in the nature of a Play or Interlude, intitled the Booke of Sir Thomas Moore.
And in fact there is such an old anonymous play in Mr. Pope's list: "A pleasant conceited history, called, the Taming of a Shrew-sundry times acted by the earl of Pembroke his servants.” Which seems to have been republished by the remains of that company in 1607, when Shakspeare's copy appeared at the BlackFriars or the Globe.-Nor let this seem derogatory from the character of our poet. There is no reason to believe that he wanted to claim the play as his own; for it was not even printed till some years after his death; but he merely revived it on his stage as a manager.
In support of what I have said relative to this play, let me only observe further at present, that the author of Hamlet speaks of Gonzago, and his wife Baptista; but the author of the Taming of the Shrew knew Baptista to be the name of a man, Mr. Capell indeed made me doubt, by declaring the authenticity of it to be confirmed by the testimony of Sir Aston Cockayn. I knew Sir Aston was much acquainted with the writers immediately subsequent to Shakspeare; and I was not inclined to dispute his authority but how was I surprised, when I found that Cockayn ascribes nothing more to Shakespeare, than the Induction-Wincotale and the Beggar! I hope this was only a slip of Mr. Capell's FARMER.
Of this play the two plots are so well united, that they can hardly be called two without injury to the art with which they are interwoven. The attention is entertained with all the variety of a double plot, yet is not distracted by unconnected incidents.
The part between Catharine and Petruchio is eminently spritely and diverting. At the marriage of Bianca the arrival of the real father, perhaps, produces more perplexity than pleasure. The whole play is very popular and diverting. JOHNSON.
A story very similar to the Taming of the Shrew is to be found in the Tatler, Vol. iv, No. 231, the plot of which was evidently borrowed from this play of our author, though it is pretended to have been a real transaction in Lincolnshire.
Our author's Taming of the Shrew was written, I imagine, in 1594.-See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays, vol. ix. MALONE.
TAMING OF THE SHREW.
BEFORE AN ALEHOUSE ON A HEATH.
Enter Hostess and Sly.
Sly. I'LL pheese you, in faith.
Host. A pair of stocks, you rogue!
Sly. Y'are a baggage; the Slies are no rogues: Look in the chronicles, we came in with Richard Conqueror. Therefore, paucas pallabris; let the world slide: Sessa!
Host. You will not pay for the glasses you have burst?
Sly. No, not a denier: Go by, says Jeronimy ;Go to thy cold bed, and warm thee.
Host. I know my remedy, I must go fetch the thirdborough. [Exit.
Sly. Third, or fourth, or fifth borough, I'll answer him by law: I'll not budge an inch, boy; let him come, and kindly.
[Lies down on the ground, and falls asleep.