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Act II., Se. 2. "I could be bounded in a nutshell," &c.
„ III., „ 4. "Bring me to the test, and I the matter will re-word," &c. „ IV., „ 3. "I see a cherub," &c.
5. "Nature is fine in love," &c. „ V., „ 2. "There's a divinity," &c.
Further, Mr. Hallam observes, "There seems to have been a period of Shakspeare's life when his heart was ill at ease, and ill content with the world or his own conscience: the memory of hours mis-spent, the pang of affection misplaced or unrequited, the experience of man's worser nature, which intercourse with ill-chosen associates, by choice or circumstance, peculiarly teaches,—these, as they sank down into the depths of his great mind, seem not only to have inspired into it the conception of Lear and Timon, but that of one primary character, the censurer of mankind." The type, Mr. Hallam proceeds to say, is first seen in Jaques,—then in the exiled duke of the same play,—and in the duke of 'Measure for Measure;' but in these in the shape of "merely contemplative philosophy." "In 'Hamlet' this is mingled with the impulses of a perturbed heart, under the pressure of extraordinary circumstances." These plays, Mr. Hallam points out, all belong to the same period—the beginning of the seventeenth century: he is speaking of the 'Hamlet,' "in iU altered form." Without admitting the absolute correctness of this reasoning, we may ground an opinion upon it. If this type be not found in the ' Hamlet' of the original sketch, we may rei'er that sketch to an earlier period. It is remarkable that in this sketch the misanthropy, if so it may be called, of 'Hamlet,' can scarcely be traced; his feelings have altogether reference to his personal griefs and doubts. Mr. Hallam says that, in the plays subsequent to these mentioned above, "much of moral speculation will be found; but he has never returned to this type of character in the personages."* We shall give a few examples, as in the case of the "thoughtful philosophy," of the absence in the first sketch of the passages which indi
* Vol. til. pp. 563 and 3ffi).
cate the existence of the morbid feelings to
which Mr. Hallam alludes:—
Act I., Sc. 2. "How weary, flat, stale, and
unprofitable," &c. „ II., „ 2. "Denmark's a prison," &c.
"I have of late (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth," &c.
„ III., „ 1. The soliloquy. All that appears in the perfect copy as the outpouring of a wounded spirit, such as "the pp.ngs of dispriz'd love," — "the insolence of office,"—'' the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes,"—are generalized in the quarto of 1603, as follows :—
"Who'd bear the scorns and flatterv of the
Scorn'd by the rich, the rich cursed of the poor,
Act V., Sc. 2. "Absent thee from felicity
And in this harsh world draw thy breath of pain."
We could multiply examples. But there are differences between the first and second copies which address themselves more distinctly to the understanding, in corroboration of our opinion that there was a considerable interval between the production of the sketch and the perfect play.
We will first take the passage relating to the "tragedians of the city," placing the text of the first and second quartos in juxtaposition :—
Quarto Of 1603.
'• Ham. Players, what players be they?
Bon. My lord, the tragedians of the city, those that you took delight to see so often.
Ham. How comes it that they travel? Do they grow restie?
Gil. No, my lord, their reputation holds as it was wont.
Ham. How then?
Gil. Yfaith, my lord, novelty carries it away; | for the principal public audience that came to them are turned to private plays, and to the humour of children."
Qcabto Of 1604.
"Ham. What players are they?
Ros. Even those you were wont to take such delight in, the tragedians of the city.
•Ham. How chances it they travel! their residence, both in reputation and profit, was better both ways.
Bos. I think their inhibition comes by the
c'vn.s of the late innovation.
Hum. Do they hold the s;ime estimation they did when I was in the city? are they i*o followed!
Hot. Ko, indeed arc they not."
We thus see that in the original play the "tragedians of the city," by which are unquestionably meant certain players of Shakspere's own day, were not adequately rewarded, because the public audience "turned to private plays, and to the humour of children." On the contrary, in the augmented play, puUithed in the following year, they were not so followed—they were inhibited in consequence of a late innovation. The words "inhibition" and " innovation" point to some public proceeding; "novelty," on the other hand, "private plays," and "the humour of children," would seem to have reference to some popular caprice. "The humour of children," in the first copy, points to a period when plays were acted by children; when the novelty of such performances, diminishing the attractions of the tragedians of the city, compelled them to travel. The children of Paul's represented plays in their singing school at a very early period. Several of Lyly's pieces were presented by them subsequent to 1584, according to Mr. Collier; but in 1591 we find these performances suppressed. In the address of the printer before Lyly's 'Endymion,' published in 1501, the suppression is mentioned as a recent event: —" Since the plays in Paul's were dissolved, there are certain comedies come to my hiiml." In 1590 the interdict was not taken off; for Nash, in his ' Have with You to Saffron Waidon,' printed in that year, wishes to see the '1 plays at Paul's up again." But in 1600
we find a private play, attributed to Lyly, "acted by the children of Powles." In 'Jack Drum's Entertainment,' 1601, we find the performances of these children described, with the observation,—"The apes in time will do it handsomely." The audience is mentioned as a "good gentle audience." Our belief, founded upon this passage, is, that the first copy of 1003 refers to the period before 1591, when "the humour of children" prevailed; and that the "innovation," mentioned in the second copy, refers to the removal of the interdict, which removal occasioned the revival of plays at Paul's, about 10OO. In that year came the "inhibition." On the 2-2nd of June. 1600, an order of the Privy Council appeared, "for the restraint of the immoderate use of play-houses;" and it is here prescribed "that there shall be about the city two houses and no more allowed, to serve for the use of the common stage plays." No restraint was, however, laid upon the children of Paul's. It appears to us, therefore, that the inhibition and innovation are distinctly connected in Shnkspere's mind. The passage is to us decisive, as fixing the date of the augmented play about 1000; as it is equally clear to us that the passage of the first copy has reference to an earlier period. The text, as we now have it,— "There is, Sir, an ayrie of children," who "so berattle the common stages,"—belongs to a later period, when the children of Paul's acted the plays of Marston, Dekker, and other writers of repute, and the Blackfriars' Theatre was in the possession of a company of boys. In 1012, the performances of children had been made the vehicle for scurrility, and they were again suppressed. (See Air. Collier's ' Annals of the Stage,' vol. i. pp. 279, 282; and Malone's 'Historical Account of the English Stage,' Boswcll's edition, pp. 62 and 453.)
The speech from the play that was "never acted, or not above once,"—that "pleased not the million,"—is found, with very slight alteration, in the quarto of 1003; and so is Hamlet's commendation of it. We agree with Coleridge, that "the fancy that a burlesque was intended sinks below criticism." Warburton expressed the same opinion, in opposition to Dryden and Pope. Coleridge very justly says, that the diction of these lines was authorized by the actual style of the tragedies before Shakspere's time. Ritson, we think, has hit the truth:—" It appears to me not only that Shakspere had the favourable opinion of these lines which he makes Hamlet express, but that they were extracted from some play which he, at a more early period, had either produced or projected upon the story of 'Dido and jEneas.' The verses recited are far superior to those of any coeval writer; the parallel passage in Marlowe and Nash's 'Dido' will not bear the comparison. Possibly, indeed, it might have been his first attempt, before the divinity that lodged within him had instructed him to despise the tumid and unnatural style so much and so unjustly admired in his predecessors or contemporaries." The introduction of these lines, we think, cannot be accounted for upon any other supposition but that they were written by Shakspere himself; and he is so thoroughly in earnest in his criticism upon the play, and his complaint of its want of success is so apparently sincere, that it is impossible to imagine that the passage had reference to something non-existent. But would Shakspere, then, have produced such a play, except in his very early career, before he understood his owu peculiar powers 1— and would he have written so sensitively about it, except under the immediate influence of the disappointment occasioned by its failure? The dates of the first copy of 'Hamlet,' and of the play which contained the description of "Priam's slaughter," are certainly not far removed.
Lastly, we arc of opinion that the directions to the players, especially as given in the first copy, point to a state of the stage anterior to the period when Shakspere had himself reformed it. The mention of "Termagant" and "Herod" has reference to the time when thase characters possessed the stage in pageants and mysteries. Again, the reproof of the cxtemporal clowns—the injunction that they should speak no more than is set down for them—applied to the infancy of the stage. Shakspere had reformed the clowns before the date usually assigned
to 'Hamlet.' In a book, called 'Tarleton's Jeast's,' published in 1611, we have some specimens of the licence which this prince of clowns was wont to take. The author, however, adds—" But would I see our clowns in the»e dai/s do the like? No, I warrant ye." In the original copy of 'Hamlet,' the reproof of the clowns is more diffuse than in the augmented copy; and the following passage distinctly shows one of the evils which Shakspere had to contend with, and which he probably had overcome before the end of the sixteenth century:—"And then you hare some again that keeps one suit of jests, as a man is known by one suit of apparel; and gentlemen quote his jests down in their tables before they come to the play, as thus: Cannot you stay till I eat my porridge! and, you owe me a quarter's wages; and, my coat wants a cullison ; and, your beer is sour; and blabbering with his lips, and thus keeping in his cinkapase of jests, when, God knows, the warm clown cannot make a jest unless by chance, as the blind man catchcth a hare: Masters, tell him of it." The additions to these directions to the players, in the augmented copy, are, on the other hand, such as bespeak a consciousness of the elevation which the stage had attained in its "high and palmy state," a little before the death of Elizabeth, when its purpose, as realised by Shakspere and Jonson especially, was "to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time, his form and pressure."
The history of Hamlet, or Hamleth, is found in the Danish historian, Saxo Grammaticus, who died about 1204. The works of Saxo Grammaticus are in Latin, and in Shakspere's time had not been translated into any modern language. It was inferred, therefore, by Dr. Grey and Mr. Whalley that Shakspere must have read the original. The story, however, is to be found in Belleforest's collection of novels, begun in 1564; and an English translation of this particular story was published as a quarto tract, entitled 'The Hystorie of Hamblet, Prince of Denmarke.' Capell, in his 'School of Shakspere,' has given some extracts
from an edition of this very rare book, dated 1608; but he conjectures that it first appeared about 1570. He has also printed the heads of chapters as they are given in this 'History. Mr. Collier has since reprinted this tract from the only copy known, which is preserved amongst CapelFs collection at Cambridge. Horvendile, in the novel, is the name of Hamlet's father, Fengon that of his uncle, and Geruth that of hia mother. Fengon traitorously slays Horvendile, and marries his brother's wife. In the second chapter we are informed, "how Hamlet counterfeited the madman, to escape the tyrrany of his uncle, and how he was tempted by a woman (through his uncle's procurement), who thereby thought to undermine the Prince, and by that means to find out whether he counterfeited madness or not." In the third chapter we learn "how Fengon, uncle to Hamlet, a second time to entrap him in his politic madness, caused one of his counsellors to be secretly hidden in the Queen's chamber, behind the arras, to hear what speeches past between Hamlet and the Queen; and how Hamlet killed him, and escaped that danger, and what followed." It is in this part of the action that Shakspere's use of this book may be distinctly traced. Capell says,—"Amidst this resemblance of persons and circumstances, it is rather strange that none of the relater's expressions have got into the play: and yet not one of them is to be found, except the following, in Chapter III., where Hamlet kills the counsellor (who is described as of a greater reach than the rest, and is the Poet's Polonius) behind the arras: here, beating the hangings, and perceiving something to stir under them, he is made to cry out—'a rat, a rat,' and presently drawing his sword, thrust it into the hangings, which done, pulled the counsellor (half dead) out by the heels, made an end of killing him." In the fourth chapter Hamlet
is sent to England by Fengon, "with secret letters to have him put to death;" and, while his companions slept, Hamlet counterfeits the letters "willing the King of England to put the two messengers to death." Here ends the resemblance between the history and the play. The Hamlet of the history returns to Denmark, slays his uncle, burns his palace, makes an oration to the Danes, and is elected king. His subsequent adventures are rather extravagant. He goes back to England, kills the king of that country, returns to Denmark with two English wives, and, finally, falls himself through the treachery of one of these ladies.
It is scarcely necessary to point out how little these rude materials have assisted Shakspere in the composition of the great tragedy of ' Hamlet.' He found, in the records of a barbarous period, a tale of adultery, and murder, and revenge. Here, too, was a rude indication of the character of Hamlet. But what he has given us is so essentially a creation from first to last, that it would be only tedious to point out the lesser resemblances between the drama and the history. That Shakspere adopted the period of the action as related by Saxo Grammaticus, there can be no doubt. The following passage is decisive:— "And, England, if my love thou hold'st at
aught (A» my great power thereof may give thee
Since yet thy cicatrice looks raw and red After the Danish sword, and thy free awe Pays homage to us), thou mayst not coldly set Our sovereign process."
We have here a distinct indication of the period before the Norman Conquest, when England was either under the sovereignty of the Northmen, as in the time of Canute, or paid tribute to the Danish power.
CHAPTER IV. TIMON OF ATHENS.
'The Life of Tymon of Athens' was first published in the folio collection of 1623; and immediately previous to that publication it was entered in the books of the Stationers' Company, as one of the plays ':not formerly entered to other men." The text, in this first edition, has no division into acts and scenes. We have reason to believe that, with a few exceptions, it is accurately printed from the copy which was in the possession of Heminge and Condell; and we judged it important to follow that copy with very slight variations in the text of 'The Pictorial' and other editions.
The text which is ordinarily printed, that of Steevens, has undergone, in an almost unequalled extent, what the editors call "regulation." Steevens was a great master in this art of "regulation "—a process by which what wtis originally printed as prose is sometimes transformed into verse, with the aid of transposition, omission, and substitution; and what, on the contrary, stood in the original as verse is changed into prose, because the ingenuity of the editor has been unable to render it strictly metrical. There are various other modes of "regulation," which have been most extensively employed in 'Timon of Athens;' and the consequence is that some very important characteristies have been utterly destroyed in the modern copies—the record has been obliterated. The task, however, which Steevens undertook was in some cases too difficult a one to be carried through consistently; and he has been compelled, therefore, to leave several passages, that invited his ambition to "regulate," even as he found them. For example, in that part of the first scene whore Apemantus appears, we have a dialogue, of which Steevens thus speaks:—"The very imperfect state in which the ancient copy of this play has reached us leaves a doubt whether several short speeches in the present scene were designed for verse or prose;
I have, therefore, made no attempt at 'regulation.'" Boswell upon this very sensibly asks, "Why should not the same doubt exist with regard to other scenes, in which Mr. Steevens has not acted with the same moderation?" It will be necessary that we should here call the attention of the reader to a few specimens of the difference between the ancient and the modern text.
The original presents to us in particular scenes a very considerable number of short lines, occurring in the most rapid succession. We have no parallel example in Shakspere of the frequency of their use. The hemistich is introduced with great effect in some of the finest passages in ' Lear.' But, in ' Timon of Athens,' its perpetual recurrence in some scenes is certainly not always a beauty. The "regulation," however, has not only concealed this peculiar feature, but has necessarily altered the structure of the verses preceding or following the hemistich. We print a few such passages in consecutive order:—
• ANCIENT COPIES.
Act i. Scene i.
"Tim. What trumpet's that? Mess. "I is Alci'uiades, and some twenty horse, All of companionship.
T-TM. Most honoured Timon, It hath pleas'd the gods to remember my father's
age, And call !iim to long peace.
Act in. Scene iv.
Stew. Ay, if money were as certain as your
'T were sure enough.
Why then prcferr'd you not your sums and hills, When your false masters eat of mr lord's meat? Then they could smile, and fawn upon his debts,