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overlaying of scholastic learning: Kyd was a man of strong natural parts, and a composer of vigorous lines : Lodge was a poet of genius, though not in the department of the drama: · Peele had an elegant mind, and was a smooth and agreeable versifier: while Marlowe was gifted with a soaring and a daring spirit, though unchecked by a well-regulated taste: but all had more nature in their dramas than Lyly, who generally chose classical or mythological subjects, and dealt with those subjects with a wearisome monotony of style, with thoughts quaint, conceited, and violent, and with an utter absence of force and distinctness in his characterization.
It is not necessary to enter farther into this part of the question, because, we think, it is now established that Spenser's lines might apply to Shakespeare as regards the date of publication, and indisputably applied with most felicitous exactness to the works he has left behind him 5. With regard to the lines which state, that Willy
“ Doth rather choose to sit in idle Cell,
Than so himselfe to mockerie to sell," we have already shown that in 1589 there must have been some compulsory cessation of theatrical performances, which affected not only offending, but unoffending companies : hence the certificate, or more properly remonstrance, of the sixteen sharers in the Blackfriars. The choir-boys of St. Paul's were actually silenced for bringing "matters of state and religion' on their stage, when they introduced Martin Mar-prelate into one of their dramas: and the players of the Lord Admiral and Lord Strange were prohibited from acting, as far as we can learn, on a similar ground. The interdiction of performances by the children of Paul's was persevered in for about ten years; and although the public companies (after the completion of some inquiries by commissioners specially appointed) were allowed again to follow their vocation, there can be no doubt that there was a temporary suspension of all theatrical exhibitions in London. This suspension commenced a short time before Spenser wrote his “Tears of the Muses," in which he notices the silence of Shakespeare.
5 The Rev. H. J. Todd, in his edition of Spenser, Vol. iii. p. 333, endeavours to make out a case in favour of Sir Philip Sidney, and proceeds with some plausibility until he arrives near the conclusion of his lengthened note, when he destroys his whole argument by an endeavour to carry it too far. What most deserves attention in this claim is the actual death of Sidney in 1586, and the opinion that Spenser's tribute might have been written as early as 1580. Various circumstances show that Spenser's “ Tears of the Muses ” must have been written considerably posterior to that date : besides, and above all, Sidney was no dramatist. Oldys had argued in support of the merits of an actor and dramatist of the name of Wilson; but it is enough to say that Oldys was really so ignorant of Wilson's merits, that he did not even know his Christian name: Robert Wilson, the person to whom Oldys refers, was a low comedian, author of an extant farci. cal play called “ The Cobbler's Prophecy.” To suppose that Spenser had Shakespeare in his mind seems to us to remove all difficulty.
We have no means of ascertaining how long the order, inhibiting theatrical performances generally, was persevered in; but the plague broke out in London in 1592, and in the autumn of the year, when the number of deaths was greatest, “the Queen's players,” in their progress round the country, whither they wandered when thus prevented from acting in the metropolis, performed at Chesterton, near Cambridge, to the great annoyance of the heads of the university.
It was at this juncture, probably, if indeed he ever were in that country, that Shakespeare visited Italy. Mr. C. Armitage Brown, in his very clever, and in many respects original work, “Shakespeare's Autobiographical Poems,” has maintained the affirmative with great confidence, and has brought into one view all the internal evidence afforded by the productions of our great dramatist. External evidence there is none, since not even a tradition of such a journey has descended to us. We
e own that the internal evidence, in our estimation, is by no means as strong as it appeared to Mr. Brown, who has evinced great subtlety and ability in the conduct of his case, and has made as much as possible of his proofs. He dwells, among other things, upon the fact, that there were no contemporaneous translations of the tales on which «The Merchant of Venice" and "Othello founded; but Shakespeare may have understood as much Italian as answered his purpose without having gone to Venice. For the same
reason we lay no stress upon the recently-discovered fact, (not known when Mr. Brown wrote) that Shakespeare constructed his "Twelfth Night" with the aid of one or two Italian comedies : if not translated, they may have found their way into England, and he may have read them in the original language. That Shakespeare was capable of translating Italian sufficiently for his own objects,
They consisted of the company under the leadership of Lawrence Dutton, one of the two associations acting at this period under the Queen's name. Both were, we believe, unconnected with the Lord Chamberlain's servants.
we are morally certain ; but we think that if he had travelled to Venice, Verona, or Florence, we should have had more distinct and positive testimony of the fact in his works than can be adduced from them.
Other authors of the time have left such evidence behind them as cannot be disputed. Lyly tells us so distinctly in more than one of his pieces; and Rich informs us that he became acquainted with the novels he translated in 1581 on the other side of the Alps : Daniel goes the length of letting us know where certain of his sonnets were composed : Lodge wrote some of his tracts abroad : Nash gives us the places where he met particular persons; and his friend Greene admits his obligations to Italy and Spain, whither he had travelled early in life in pursuit of letters. In truth, at that period and afterwards, there seems to have been a prevailing rage for foreign travel, and it extended itself to mere actors, as well as to poets; for we know that William Kempe was in Rome in 1601', during the interval between the time when, for some unexplained reason, he quitted the company of the Lord Chamberlain's players, and joined that of the Lord Admiral ®. Although we do not believe that Shakespeare ever was in Italy, we admit that we are without evidence to prove a negative; and he may have gone there without having left behind him any distinct record of the fact. At the date to which we are now adverting he might certainly have had a convenient opportunity for doing so, in consequence of the temporary prohibition of dramatic performances in London.
7 See Mr. Halliwell's “ Ludus Coventriæ" (printed for the Shakespeare So. ciety), p. 410. Rowley, in his “ Search for Money,” speaks of this expedition by Kempe, who, it seems, had wagered a certain sum of money that he would go to Rome and back in a given number of days. In the Introduction to the reprint of that unique tract by the Percy Society it is shown that Kempe also danced a morris in France. These circumstances were unknown to the Rev. A. Dyce, when, in 1840, he superintended a re-publication of Kempe's “ Nine Days' Wonder," 1600, for the Camden Society.
8 It is a new fact that Kempe at any time quitted the company playing at the Blackfriars and Globe theatres : it is however indisputable, and we have it on the authority of Henslowe's Diary, where payments are recorded to Kempe, and where entries are also made for the expenses of dresses supplied to him in 1602. These memoranda Malone overlooked, when the MS., belonging to Dulwich College, was in his hands; but they may be important with reference to the dates of some of Shakespeare's plays, and the particular actors engaged in them: they also account for the non-appearance of Kempe's name in the royal licence granted in May, 1603, to the company to which he had belonged. The Rev. Mr. Dyce attributes the omission of Kempe's name in that instrument to his death, because, in the register of St. Saviour's, Southwark, Chalmers found an entry, dated Nov. 2, 1603, of the burial of " William Kempe, a man.” There were doubtless many men of the common names of William and Kempe; and the William Kempe, who had acted Dogberry, Peter, &c., was certainly alive in 1605, and had by that date rejoined the Lord Chamberlain's servants, then called “ the King's players." The following unnoticed memoranda relating to him are extracted from Henslowe's Diary, pp. 215. 237. 239 :“ Lent unto Wm Kempe, the 10 of Marche, 1602, in redy mony, twentye
shillinges for his necesary uses, the some of xxs.
Death of Robert Greene in 1592, and publication of his “ Groatsworth of Wit,"
by H. Chettle. Greene's address to Marlowe, Lodge, and Peele, and his envious mention of Shakespeare in the “Groatsworth of Wit." Shakespeare's offence at Chettle, and the apology of the latter in his “Kind-heart's Dream :" the character of Shakespeare there given. Second allusion by Spenser to Shakespeare in “ Colin Clout's come home again,” 1594. The
'gentle Shakespeare." Change in the character of his compositions between 1591 and 1594: his “ Richard II.” and “ Richard III.”
DURING the prevalence of the infectious malady of 1592, although not in consequence of it, died one of the most notorious and distinguished of the literary men of the time, -Robert Greene. He expired on the 3rd of September, 1592, and left behind him a work purporting to have been written during his last illness : it was published a few months afterwards by Henry Chettle, a fellow-dramatist, under the title of “A Groatsworth of Wit, bought with a Million of Repentance," bearing the date of 1592, and preceded by an address from Greene “To those Gentlemen, his quondam acquaintance, who spend their wits in making Plays.” Here we meet with the second notice of Shakespeare, not indeed by name, but with such a near approach to it, that nobody can entertain a moment's doubt that he was intended. It is necessary to quote the whole passage, and to observe, before we do so, that Greene is addressing himself particularly to Marlowe, Lodge, and Peele, and urging them to break off all connexion with players ° :- “Base minded men all three of you, if by my misery ye be not warned; for unto none of you, like me, sought those burs to cleave; those puppets, I mean, that speak from our mouths, those anticks garnished in our colours. Is it not strange that I, to whom they all have been beholding; is it not like that you, to whom they have all been beholding, shall (were ye in that case that I am now) be both of them at once forsaken? Yes, trust them not; for there is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger's heart wrapp'd in a player's hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank-verse, as the best of you : and, being an absolute Johannes Fac-totum, is, in his own conceit, the only Shake-scene in a country.
“Lent unto Wm Kempe, the 22 of Auguste, 1602, to buye buckram to make
a payer of gyentes hosse, the some of vs. “ Pd unto the tyerman for mackynge of Wm Kempe's sewt, and the boyes, the 4 Septembr
802, some of viijs. 8d.” About the year 1590 Kempe had belonged to the association acting under Edward Alleyn, for “ A Knack to know a Knave," played " by Ed. Allen and his Company,” and printed in 1594, contains “ Kempe's applauded Merrimentes of the Men of Gotham." See the reprint of this play and four others for the Roxburghe Club in 1851.
Oh ! that I might entreat your rare wits to be employed in more profitable courses, and let these apes imitate your past excellence, and never more acquaint them with your admired inventions."
The chief and obvious purpose of this address is to induce Marlowe, Lodge, and Peele to cease to write for the stage; and, in the course of his exhortation, Greene bitterly inveighs against “an upstart crow," who had availed himself of the dramatic labours of others, who imagined himself able to write as good blank-verse as any of his contemporaries, who was a Johannes Fac-totum, and who, in his own opinion, was "the only SHAKE-SCENE in a country.” All this is clearly levelled at Shakespeare, under the purposely-perverted name of Shake-scene; and the words, “ Tiger's heart wrapp'd in a player's hide,” are a parody upon a line (most likely by Greene), “Oh, tiger's heart wrapp'd in a woman's hide,” in a historical play from which Shakespeare had taken his "Henry VI., Part III.1 "
9 We have some doubts of the authenticity of the “Groatsworth of Wit," as a work by Greene. Chettle, originally a printer, was a needy dramatist, and possibly wrote it in order to avail himself of the high popularity of Greene, then just dead. Falling into some discredit, in consequence of the publication of it, Chettle reasserted that it was by Greene, but he admitted that the MS. from which it was printed was in his (Chettle's] own hand-writing: this circumstance he explained by stating that Greene's copy was so illegible that he was obliged to transcribe it: "it was ill written,” says Chettle," as Greene's hand was none of the best ;" and therefore he re-wrote it. This may be true, and perhaps was so, but it is liable to suspicion.
See this point more fully considered in the Introduction to “ Henry VI., Part III.," Vol. iv. p. 113.