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THE MERRY PRANKS OF ROBIN GOODFELLOW,
TO THE TUNE OF DULCINEA.?
From Oberon, in fairye land,
More swift than wind away I go; I This title is given by Bishop Percy from an old black-letter copy in the British Museum.
O’er hedge and lands, thro' pools and ponds,
I marke their gloze, and it disclose
So, Vale, Vale! ho, ho, ho !? 2 This ballad has been generally attributed to Ben Jonson and Mr. Collier has a version in a manuscript of the time, with the initials B. J. at the end. This copy, he says, varies somewbat from that given above, and has an additional stanza, which we subjoin :
“ When as my fellow elfes and I
LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST.
Love's LABOUR's Lost was first published in a quarto pam. phlet of thirty-eight leaves in 1598, the title-page reading as follows : “A pleasant-conceited Comedy called Love's Labour's Lost : As it was presented before her Highness this last Christ. mas : Newly corrected and augmented : By W. Shakespeare. Imprinted at London by W. W. for Cuthbert Burby : 1598.” There was no other known edition of the play till the folio of 1623, where it is the seventh in the division of Comedies. From the repetition of certain errors of the press, it is quite probable that the second copy was reprinted from the first; while, on the other hand, there are certain differences that look as if another authority had in some points been consulted : the editors of the folio probably taking the quarto as their standard, and occasionally having recourse to a play-house manuscript. In the quarto neither scenes nor acts are distinguished ; in the folio only the latter; and even here, as may easily be seen, the division into acis is very unequal and inartificial : yet no modern edition has ventured upon any change in this respect.
In the Accounts of the Revels at Court, under the date of January, 1605, occurs the following entry :“ Between New-years Day and Twelfth Day, a play of Love's Labour's Lost.” As success on the public stage was generally at that time the main reason of a play's being selected for performance at court, we may infer that this play continued popular after many better ones had been written. The play was also entered in the Stationers' Books, January 22, 1607, the right of it being passed over from Burby to Ling, probably because the latter contemplated a new edition. The design, however, if any such there were, seems to have been given up, as no impression of that date has come down to us.
Love's Labour's Lost is mentioned in the list of Shakespeare's plays given by Francis Meres in 1598. The same year one Robert
Tofte put forth a poem entitled “ Alba the Months Minde of a Melancholy Lover,” wherein the play is thus referred to :
« Love's Labour Lost! I once did see a play
Ycleped so, so called to my paine,
Giving attendance on my froward dame:
This play no play, but plague, was unto me,
For there I lost the love I liked most;
I that in earnest found unto my cost.
Each actor plaid in cunning wise his part,
But chiefly those entrapt in Cupid's snare;
They seeme to grieve, but yet they felt no care ;
These are all the contemporary notices of the play that have reached us. In our Introduction to The Two Gentlemen of Verona we have stated our main reasons for assigning an earlier date to the Poet's first dramatic efforts than has been generally supposed. That this play was among the earliest scarce admits of question, from the character of the thing itself. Though it be apparently designed as a satire upon book-men in general, yet it displays in almost every part, and a good deal more than any other of the Poet's dramas, just such a preponderance of book-knowl. edge as were to be looked for in one fresh from school. Moreover, after the first writing a considerable time must naturally have passed before it was “newly corrected and augmented,” as stated in the title-page of the quarto. There may be some question as to what year “it was presented before her Highness ;” but as the year was then reckoned from the twenty-fifth of March, it seems quite likely that “this last Christmas” refers to the Christmas of 1598. Though we need not suppose so many as ten years to have elapsed between the writing and the revising, yet there is nothing that apparently makes against such a supposal. And Tofte's expression, “ I once did see a play,” may well enough infer that it was some years since he saw it.
The fact of the play's having been “corrected and argmented," of course invalidates whatsoever of evidence on this score might else be drawn from allusions to contemporary matters.