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Before I quit the subject of the choruses introduced in this piece, let me add, that, like many other parts of this play, they contain some marked expressions, certain ardentia verba, that are also found in the undisputed works of our great poet; which any one who will take the trouble to compare them with the choruses in King Henry V. and The Winter's Tale, will readily perceive. If, in order to account for the similitude, it shall be said, that though Shakspeare did not compose these declamations of Gower, he might have retouched them, as that is a point which never can be ascertained, so no answer can be given to it.
That the play of Pericles was originally written by another poet, and afterwards improved by Shakspeare, I do not see sufficient reason to believe. It may be true, that all which the im prover of a dramatick piece originally ill-constructed can do, is, to polish the language, and to add a few splendid passages; but that this play was the work of another, which Shakspeare from his friendship for the author revised and corrected, is the very point in question, and therefore cannot be adduced as a medium to prove that point. It appears to me equally improbable that Pericles was formed on an unsuccessful drama of a preceding period; and that all the weaker scenes are taken from thence. We know indeed that it was a frequent practice of our author to avail himself of the labours of others, and to construct a new drama upon an old foundation; but the pieces that he has thus imitated are yet extant. We have an original Taming of a Shrew, a King John, a Promos and Cassandra, a King Leir, &c. but where is this old play of Pericles?* or how comes it to pass that no memorial of such a drama remains? Even if it could be proved that such a piece once existed, it would not warrant us in supposing that the less vigorous parts of the performance in question were taken from thence; for though Shakspeare borrowed the fables of the ancient dramas just now enumerated, he does not appear to have transcribed a single scene from any one of them.
Still, however, it may be urged, if Shakspeare was the original author of this play, and this was one of his earliest produc tions, he would scarcely in a subsequent period, have introduced in his Winter's Tale some incidents and expressions which bear a strong resemblance to the latter part of Pericles: on the other hand, he might not scruple to copy the performance of a preceding poet.
Before we acquiesce in the justice of this reasoning, let us ex
When Ben Jonson calls Pericies a mouldy tale, he alludes, I apprehend, not to the remote date of the play, but to the antiquity of the story on which it is founded.
amine what has been his practice in those dramas concerning the authenticity of which there is no doubt. Is it true that Shakspeare has rigidly abstained from introducing incidents or characters similar to those which he had before brought upon the stage? Or rather, is not the contrary notorious? In Much Ado about Nothing the two principal persons of the drama frequently remind us of two other characters that had been exhibited in an early production,-Love's Labour's Lost. In All's well that ends well and Measure for Measure we find the same artifice twice employed; and in many other of his plays the action is embarrassed, and the denouement effected, by contrivances that bear a striking similitude to each other.
The conduct of Pericles and The Winter's Tale, which have several events common to both, gives additional weight to the supposition that the two pieces proceeded from the same hand. In the latter our author has thrown the discovery of Perdita into narration, as if through consciousness of having already exhausted, in the business of Marina, all that could render such an incident affecting on the stage. Leontes too says but little to Hermione when he finds her; their mutual situations having been likewise anticipated by the Prince of Tyre and Thaisa, who had before amply expressed the transports natural to unexpect ed meeting after long and painful separation.
All the objections which are founded on the want of liaison between the different parts of this piece, on the numerous characters introduced in it, not sufficiently connected with each other, on the various and distant countries in which the scene is laid, may, I think, be answered, by saying that the author pursued the story exactly as he found it either in the Confessio Amantis or some prose translation of the Gesta Romanorum; a practice which Shakspeare is known to have followed in many plays, and to which most of the faults that have been urged against his dramas may be imputed.+-If while we travel in
Here also were found the names of the greater part of the characters introduced in this play; for of the seventeen persons represented, six of the names only were the invention of the poet.
The same quantity not being uniformly observed in some of these names, is mentioned by Mr. Šteevens as a proof that this piece was the production of two hands. We find however Thaisa and Thaisa in the fifth Act, in two succeeding lines. Is it to be imagined, that this play was written like French Bouts rimées, and that as soon as one verse was composed by one of this supposed duumvirate, the next was written by his associate?
In the conduct of Measure for Measure his judgment has been arraigned for certain deviations from the Italian of Cinthio, in one of whose novels the story on which the play is built, may be read. But, on examination, it has been found, that the faults of the piece are to be attributed not to Shakspeare's departing from, but too closely pursuing his original, which, as Dr. Farmer
Antony and Cleopatra* from one country to another with no less rapidity than in the present piece, the objects presented to us are more beautiful, and the prospect more diversified; let it be remembered at the same time, that between the composition of these plays there was probably an interval of at least fifteen years; that even Shakspeare himself must have gradually acquired information like other mortals, and in that period must have gained a knowledge of many characters, and various modes of life, with which in his earlier years he was unacquainted.
If this play had come down to us in the state in which the poet left it, its numerous ellipses might fairly be urged to invalidate Shakspeare's claim to the whole or to any part of it. But the argument that is founded in these irregularities of the style loses much of its weight, when it is considered, that the earliest printed copy appears in so imperfect a form, that there is scarcely a single page of it undisfigured by the grossest corruptions. As many words have been inserted, inconsistent not only with the author's meaning, but with any meaning whatsoever, as many verses appear to have been transposed, and some passages are appropriated to characters to whom manifestly they do not belong, so there is great reason to believe that many words and even lines were omitted at the press; and it is highly probable that the printer is answerable for more of these ellipses than the poet. The same observation may be extended to the metre, which might have been originally sufficiently smooth and harmonious, though now, notwithstanding the editor's best care, it is feared it will be found in many places rugged and defective.
On the appearance of Shakspeare's name in the title-page of the original edition of Pericles, it is acknowledged no great stress can be laid; for by the knavery of printers or booksellers it has been likewise affixed to two pieces, of which it may be doubted whether a single line was written by our author. However, though
has observed, was not Cinthio's novel, but the Heptameron of Whetstone. In like manner the catastrophe of Romeo and Juliet is rendered less affecting than it might have been made, by the author's having implicitly followed the poem of Romeus and Juliet, on which his play appears to have been formed. In The Winter's Tale, Bohemia, situated nearly in the center of Europe, is described as a maritime country, because it had been already described as such by Robert Greene in his Dorastus and Faunia; and in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Protheus goes from one inland town to another by sea; a voyage that in some novel he had probably taken before. Many similar instances might be added.
It is observable that the two plays of Pericles and Antony and Cleopatra were entered together at Stationers' Hall in the year 1608, by Edward Blount, a bookseller of eminence, and one of the printers of the first folio edition of our author's works.
the name of Shakspeare may not alone authenticate this play, it is not in the scale of evidence entirely insignificant; nor is it a fair conclusion, that, because we are not to confide in the titlepages of two dramas which are proved by the whole colour of the style and many other considerations not to have been the composition of Shakspeare, we are therefore to give no credit to the title of a piece, which we are led by very strong internal proof, and by many corroborating circumstances, to attribute to him. Though the title-pages of The London Prodigal and Sir John Oldcastle should clearly appear to be forgeries, those of Henry IV. and Othello will still remain unimpeached.
The non-enumeration of Pericles in Meres's Catalogue of our author's plays, printed in 1598, is undecisive with respect to the authenticity of this piece; for neither are the three parts of King Henry VI. nor Hamlet mentioned in that list; though it is certain they were written, and had been publickly performed, before his book was published.
Why this drama was omitted in the first edition of Shakspeare's works, it is impossible now to ascertain. But if we shall allow the omission to be a decisive proof that it was not the composition of our author, we must likewise exclude Troilus and Cressida from the list of his performances: for it is certain, this was likewise omitted by the editors of the first folio, nor did they see their error till the whole work and even the table of contents was printed; as appears from its not being paged, or enumerated in that table with his other plays. I do not, however, suppose that the editors, Heminge and Condell, did not know who was the writer of Troilus and Cressida, but that the piece, though printed some years before, for a time escaped their memory. The same may be said of Pericles. Why this also was not recovered, as well as the other, we can now only conjecture. Perhaps they thought their volume had already swelled to a sufficient size, and they did not choose to run the risk of retarding the sale of it by encreasing its bulk and price; perhaps they did not recollect The Prince of Tyre till their book had been issued out; or perhaps they considered it more for their friend's credit to omit this juvenile performance. Ben Jonson, when he collected his pieces into a volume, in the year 1616, in like manner omitted a comedy called The Case is Altered, which had been printed with his name some years before, and appears to have been one of his earliest productions; having been exhibited before the year 1599.
After all, perhaps, the internal evidence which this drama itself affords of the hand of Shakspeare, is of more weight than
any other argument that can be adduced. If we are to form our judgment by those unerring criterions which have been established by the learned author of The Discourse on Poetical Imitation, the question will be quickly decided; for who can point out two writers, that without any communication or knowledge of each other ever produced so many passages, coinciding both in sentiment and expression, as are found in this piece and the undisputed plays of Shakspeare? Should it be said, that he did not scruple to borrow both fables and sentiments from other writers, and that therefore this circumstance will not prove this tragedy to be his; it may be answered, that had Pericles been an anonymous production, this coincidence might not perhaps ascertain Shakspeare's title to the play; and he might with sufficient probability be supposed to have only borrowed from another; but when, in addition to all the circumstances already stated, we recollect the constant tradition that has accompanied this piece, and that it was printed with his name, in his life-time, as acted at his own theatre, the parallel passages which are so abundantly scattered throughout every part of Pericles and his undisputed performances, afford no slight proof, that in the several instances enumerated in the course of the preceding observations, he borrowed, as was his frequent practice, from himself; and that this contested play was his own composition.
The testimony of Dryden to this point does not appear to me so inconsiderable as it has been represented. If he had only meant to say, that Pericles was produced before Othello, the second line of the couplet which has been already quoted, would have sufficiently expressed his meaning; nor, in order to convey this idea was it necessary to call the former the first dramatick performance of Shakspeare; a particular which he lived near enough the time to have learned from stage-tradition, or the more certain information of his friend Sir William D'Avenant.+ If
Considering the vast variety of words which any language, and espe cially the more copious ones furnish, and the infinite possible combinations of them into all the forms of phraseology, it would be very strange, if two persons should hit on the same identical terms, and much more, should they agree in the same precise arrangement of them in whole sentences." Discourse on Poetical Imitation, Hurd's Horace, Vol. III. p. 109, edit. 1766.
+ Sir William D'Avenant produced his first play at the theatre in Blackfryers, in 1629, when he was twenty-four years old, at which time his passion for apple-hunting, we may presume, had subsided, and given way to more manly pursuits. That a young poet thus early acquainted with the stage, who appears to have had a great veneration for our author, who was possessed of the only original picture of Shakspeare ever painted, who carefully preserved