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TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA.
This is one of Shakspeare's earliest if not his first play. It was not printed until 1623; but it is mentioned by Meres in his Wit's Treasury, printed in 1598. It bears strong internal marks of an early composition. Pope has observed, that “the style of this comedy is less figurative, and more natural and unaffected than the greater part of Shakspeare's, though supposed to be one of the first he wrote.” Malone is inclined to consider this to be in consequence of that very circumstance, and that it is natural and unaffected, because it was a youthful performance. “Though many young poets of ordinary talents are led by false taste to adopt inflated and figurative language, why should we suppose that such should have been the course pursued by this master genius? The figurative style of Othello, Lear, and Macbeth, written when he was an established and long-practised dramatist, may be ascribed to the additional knowledge of men and things which he had acquired during a period of fifteen years; in consequence of which his mind teemed with images and illustrations, and thoughts crowded so fast upon him, that the construction, in these and some other plays of a still later period, is much more difficult and involved than in the productions of his youth.”
Hanmer thought Shakspeare had no other hand in this play, than the enlivening it with some speeches and lines, which, he thinks, are easily distinguished from the rest. Upton peremptorily asserts, “ that if any proof can be drawn from manner and style, this play must be sent packing, and seek for its parent elsewhere.” “How otherwise,” says he, a do painters distinguish copies from originals ? and have not authors their peculiar style and manner, from which a true critic can form as unerring judgment as a painter?” To this Johnson replies very satisfactorily: “I am afraid this illustration of a critic's science will not prove what is desired. A painter knows a copy from an original, by rules somewhat resembling those by which critics know a translation, which, if it be literal, and literal it must be to resemble the copy of a picture, will be easily distinguished. Copies are known from originals, even when a painter copies his own picture ; so, if an author should literally translate his work, he would lose the manner of an original. Upton confounds the copy of a picture with the imitation of a painter's manner. Copies are easily known; but good imitations are not detected with equal certainty, and are, by the best judges, often mistaken. Nor is it true that the writer has always peculiarities equally distinguishable with those of the painter. The peculiar manner of each arises from the desire, natural to every performer, of facilitating his subsequent work by recurrence to his former ideas : this recurrence produces that repetition which is called habit. The painter, whose work is partly intellectual and partly manual, has habits of the mind, the eye, and the hand; the writer has only habits of the mind. Yet some painters