Page images

Thus, condemned by the serious and puritanical, and stained with follies, while his genius was rapidly maturing and developing its magnificent resources, Marlow fell a victim to an obscure and disgraceful brawl. The last words of Greene's address to him a year or two before are somewhat ominous :- Refuse not (with me) till this last point of extremity; for little knowest thou how in the end thou shalt be visited.' The warning was

Like the sad presaging raven, that tolls
The sick man's passport in her hollow beak,
And in the shadow of the silent night
Doth shake contagion from her sable wings.
Jew of Malta.

Marlow's fatal conflict is supposed to have taken place at Deptford, as he was buried there on the 1st of June 1593. The finest compliment paid to the genius of this unfortunate poet was by his contemporary and fellow-dramatist, Michael Drayton:

Next Marlow, bathed in the Thespian springs,
Had in him those brave translunary things
That the first poets had: his raptures were
All air and fire, which made his verses clear;
For that fine madness still he did retain,
Which rightly should possess a poet's brain.

We subjoin part of the death-scene of Edward II. in his historical drama, a scene which Charles Lamb says, 'moves pity and terror beyond any scene, ancient or modern.' It may challenge comparison with Shakspeare's death of Richard II.; but Marlow could not interest us in his hero as the great dramatist does in the gentle Richard:

[blocks in formation]

Edw. Who's there? what light is that? wherefore com'st thou ?

Light. To comfort you, and bring you joyful news. Edw. Small comfort finds poor Edward in thy looks. Villain, I know thou com'st to murder me.

Light. To murder you, my most gracious lord!
Far is it from my heart to do you harm.
The queen sent me to see how you were us'd,
For she relents at this your misery:
And what eyes can refrain from shedding tears,
To see a king in this most piteous state.

Edw. Weep'st thou already? list a while to me,
And then thy heart, were it as Gurney's1 is,
Or as Matrevis', hewn from the Caucasus,
Yet will it melt, ere I have done my tale.
This dungeon where they keep me is a sink
Wherein the filth of all the castle falls.
Light. O villains!

Edw. And there, in mire and puddle have I stood
This ten days' space; and lest that I should sleep,
One plays continually upon a drum.
They give me bread and water, being a king;
So that, for want of sleep and sustenance,
My mind's distemper'd, and my body's numb'd,
And whether I have limbs or no, I know not.
O would my blood drop out from every vein,
As doth this water from my tattered robes !
Tell Isabel the queen, I look'd not thus,
When for her sake I ran at tilt in France,
And there unhors'd the Duke of Cleremont.

Edw. These looks of thine can harbour nought but death:

I see my tragedy written in thy brows.
Yet stay a while, forbear thy bloody hand,
And let me see the stroke before it comes,
That even then when I shall lose my life,
My mind may be more steadfast on my God.
Light. What means your highness to mistrust me

Edw. What mean'st thou to dissemble with me thus? Light. These hands were never stain'd with innocent blood,

Nor shall they now be tainted with a king's.

Edw. Forgive my thought, for having such a thought. One jewel have I left, receive thou this. Still fear I, and I know not what's the cause, But every joint shakes as I give it thee. Oh, if thou harbour'st murder in thy heart, Let the gift change thy mind, and save thy soul. Know that I am a king: Oh, at that name I feel a hell of grief. Where is my crown? Gone, gone; and do I still remain alive?

Light. You're overwatch'd my lord; lie down and rest. Edw. But that grief keeps me waking, I should sleep; For not these ten days have these eyelids closed. Now as I speak they fall, and yet with fear Open again. O wherefore sitt'st thou here?

Light. If you mistrust me, I'll be gone, my lord. Edw. No, no; for if thou mean'st to murder me, Thou wilt return again; and therefore stay. Light. He sleeps.

Edw. O let me not die; yet stay, O stay a while.
Light. How now, my lord?

Edw. Something still buzzeth in mine ears,
And tells me if I sleep I never wake;
This fear is that which makes me tremble thus.
And therefore tell me, wherefore art thou come !
Light. To rid thee of thy life; Matrevis, come.
Edw. I am too weak and feeble to resist :
Assist me, sweet God, and receive my soul.

The taste of the public for the romantic drama, in preference to the classical, seems now to have been confirmed. An attempt was made towards the close of Elizabeth's reign, to revive the forms of the classic stage, by DANIEL the poet, who wrote two plays, Cleopatra and Philotas, which are smoothly versified, but undramatic in their character. LADY PEMBROKE Co-operated in a tragedy called Antony, written in 1590; and SAMUEL BRANDON produced, in 1598, a tame and feeble Roman play, Virtuous Octavia.


In the throng of dramatic authors, the names of ANTHONY MUNDAY and HENRY CHETTLE frequently occur. Munday was an author as early as 1579, and he was concerned in fourteen plays. Francis Meres, in 1598, calls him the best plotter' among the writers for the stage. One of his dramas, Sir John Oldcastle, was written in conjunction with Michael Drayton and others, and was printed in 1600, with the name of Shakspeare on the titlepage! The Death of Robert, Earl of Huntington, printed in 1601, was a popular play by Munday, assisted by Chettle. The pranks of Robin Hood and Maid Marian in merry Sherwood are thus gaily set forth:

Light. O speak no more, my lord! this breaks my Wind once more, jolly huntsmen, all your horns,


Lie on this bed, and rest yourself a while.

1 His keepers.

Whose shrill sound, with the echoing woods' assist,
Shall ring a sad knell for the fearful deer,
Before our feather'd shafts, death's winged darts,
Bring sudden summons for their fatal ends.

Give me thy hand: now God's curse on me light,
If I forsake not grief in grief's despite.
Much, make a cry, and yeomen stand ye round:
I charge ye, never more let woeful sound
Be heard among ye; but whatever fall,

Laugh grief to scorn, and so make sorrow small. *
Marian, thou seest, though courtly pleasures want,
Yet country sport in Sherwood is not scant.
For the soul-ravishing delicious sound
Of instrumental music, we have found
The winged quiristers, with divers notes,
Sent from their quaint recording pretty throats,
On every branch that compasseth our bower,
Without command contenting us each hour.
For arras hangings, and rich tapestry,
We have sweet nature's best embroidery.
For thy steel glass, wherein thou wont'st to look,
Thy crystal eyes gaze on the crystal brook.
At court, a flower or two did deck thy head,
Now, with whole garlands it is circled;
For what in wealth we want, we have in flowers,
And what we lose in halls, we find in bowers.


Chettle was engaged in no less than thirty-eight plays between the years 1597 and 1603, four of which have been printed. Mr Collier thinks he had written for the stage before 1592, when he published Greene's posthumous work, 'A Groat's Worth of Wit.' Among his plays, the names of which have descended to us, is one on the subject of Cardinal Wolsey, which probably was the original of Shakspeare's Henry VIII. The best drama of this prolific author which we now possess, is a comedy called Patient Grissell, taken from Boccaccio. The humble charms of the heroine are thus finely described:


See where my Grissell and her father is,
Methinks her beauty, shining through those weeds,
Seems like a bright star in the sullen night.
How lovely poverty dwells on her back!
Did but the proud world note her as I do,
She would cast off rich robes, forswear rich state,
To clothe her in such poor habiliments.

The names of Haughton, Antony Brewer, Porter, Smith, Hathaway (probably some relation of Shak. speare's wife), Wilson, &c., also occur as dramatic writers. From the diary of Henslowe, it appears that, between 1591 and 1597, upwards of a hundred different plays were performed by four of the ten or eleven theatrical companies which then existed. Henslowe was originally a pawnbroker, who advanced money and dresses to the players, and he ultimately possessed a large share of the wardrobe and properties of the playhouses with which he was concerned. The name of Shakspeare does not once occur in his diary.

[ocr errors]

Several good dramas of this golden age have descended to us, the authors of which are unknown. A few of these possess merit enough to have been considered first sketches of Shakspeare, but this opinion has been gradually abandoned by all but one or two German critics. Most of them have been published in Dodsley's Collection of Old Plays. The best are, the Merry Devil of Edmonton,' the London Prodigal,' the Yorkshire Tragedy,' 'Lord Cromwell,' the Birth of Merlin,' the Collier of Croydon,' Mucedorus,' Locrine,' Arden of Feversham,' the 'Misfortunes of Arthur,' 'Edward III.,' &c. The most correct and regular of these anonymous dramas is Arden of Feversham,' a domestic tragedy, founded on a murder which took place in 1551. Alice, the wife of Arden, proves unfaithful, and joins with her paramour Mosbie, and some assassins, in murdering her husband. Tieck has translated this play into German, as a genuine production of Shakspeare, but

[ocr errors]

the style is different. In the earliest acknowledged works of the Warwickshire bard, there is a play of wit, and of what Hallam calls analogical imagery,' which is not seen in Arden of Feversham,' though it exhibits a strong picture of the passions, and indicates freedom of versification and dramatic art. We subjoin one touching scene between Alice and her paramour-a scene of mutual recrimination, guilt, and tenderness :

[Scene from Arden of Feversham.]


Mos. How now, Alice? What! sad and passionate ? Make me partaker of thy pensiveness;

Fire divided burns with lesser force.

Al. But I will dam that fire in my breast, Till by the force thereof my part consume. Ah, Mosbie !

Mos. Such deep pathaires, like to a cannon's burst,
Discharged against a ruinated wall,
Breaks my relenting heart in thousand pieces.
Ungentle Alice, thy sorrow is my sore;
Thou knowest it well, and 'tis thy policy
To forge distressful looks, to wound a breast
Where lies a heart which dies when thou art sad.
It is not love that loves to anger love.

Al. It is not love that loves to murder love.
Mos. How mean you that?

Al. Thou know'st how dearly Arden loved me.
Mos. And then-

Al. And then-conceal the rest, for 'tis too bad,
Lest that my words be carried to the wind,
And published in the world to both our shames.
I pray thee, Mosbie, let our spring-time wither;
Our harvest else will yield but loathsome weeds.
Forget, I pray thee, what has past betwixt us:
For now I blush and tremble at the thoughts.
Mos. What are you changed?

Al. Ay, to my former happy life again;
From title of an odious strumpet's name
To honest Arden's wife, not Arden's honest wife-

Ha, Mosbie ! 'tis thou hast rifled me of that,
And made me slanderous to all my kin.
A mean artificer, that low-born name!
Even in my forehead is thy name engraven,
I was bewitcht; woe-worth the hapless hour
And all the causes that enchanted me.

And if you stand so nicely at your fame,
Mos. Nay, if thou ban, let me breathe curses forth;
Let me repent the credit I have lost.
I have neglected matters of import,
That would have 'stated me above thy state;
For slow'd advantages, and spurned at time;
Ay, fortune's right hand Mosbie hath forsook,
To take a wanton giglot by the left.
I left the marriage of an honest maid,
Whose dowry would have weigh'd down all thy wealth;
Whose beauty and demeanour far exceeded thee.
This certain good I lost for changing bad,
And wrapt my credit in thy company.
I was bewitcht; that is no theme of thine;
And thou unhallow'd hast enchanted me.
But I will break thy spells and exorcisms,
And put another sight upon these eyes,
That showed my heart a raven for a dove.
Thou art not fair; I view'd thee not till now:
Thou art not kind; till now I knew thee not:
And now the rain hath beaten off thy gilt,
Thy worthless copper shows thee counterfeit.
It grieves me not to see how foul thou art,
But mads me that ever I thought thee fair.
Go, get thee gone, a copesmate for thy hinds;
I am too good to be thy favourite.

Al. Ay, now I see, and too soon find it true,

Which often hath been told me by my friends,
That Mosbie loves me not but for my wealth;
Which too incredulous I ne'er believed.
Nay, hear me speak, Mosbie, a word or two;
I'll bite my tongue if I speak bitterly.
Look on me, Mosbie, or else I'll kill myself.
Nothing shall hide me from thy stormy look;
If thou cry war, there is no peace for me.
I will do penance for offending thee;
And burn this prayer book, which I here use,
The holy word that has converted me.
See, Mosbie, I will tear away the leaves,
And all the leaves; and in this golden cover
Shall thy sweet phrases and thy letters dwell,
And thereon will I chiefly meditate,

And hold no other sect but such devotion.

Wilt thou not look is all thy love o'erwhelm'd?
Wilt thou not hear? what malice stops thy ears?

Why speak'st thou not? what silence ties thy tongue?
Thou hast been sighted as the eagle is,

And heard as quickly as the fearful hare,
And spoke as smoothly as an orator,

When I have bid thee hear, or see, or speak :
And art thou sensible in none of these?

Weigh all thy good turns with this little fault,
And I deserve not Mosbie's muddy looks.
A fence of trouble is not thicken'd still;
Be clear again; I'll ne'er more trouble thee.
Mos. O fie, no; I'm a base artificer;
My wings are feathered for a lowly flight.
Mosbie, fie, no; not for a thousand pound
Make love to you; why, 'tis unpardonable.
We beggars must not breathe where gentles are.
Al. Sweet Mosbie is as gentle as a king,
And I too blind to judge him otherwise.
Flowers sometimes spring in fallow lands,
Weeds in gardens, roses grow on thorns;
So whatsoe'er my Mosbie's father was,
Himself is valued gentle by his worth.

Mos. Ah, how you women can insinuate,
And clear a trespass with your sweet set tongue.
I will forget this quarrel, gentle Alice,
Provided I'll be tempted so no more.

[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic][subsumed]

M Miam Shakspeare

[Copy of the Bust at Stratford.]

'Arden of Feversham' was first printed in 1592. The Yorkshire Tragedy,' another play of the same kind, but apparently more hastily written, was per- with more variety of character and action, with formed in 1604, and four years afterwards printed deep passion, and true poetry. The latter, indeed, with Shakspeare's name. Both Dyce and Collier, was tinged with incoherence and extravagance, but able dramatic antiquaries and students, are inclined the sterling ore of genius was, in Marlow at least, to the opinion, that this drama contains passages abundant. Above all, they had familiarised the which only Shakspeare could have written. But in public ear to the use of blank verse. The last imlines like the following-though smooth and natu-provement was the greatest; for even the genius of ral, and quoted as the most Shakspearian in the play -we miss the music of the great dramatist's thoughts and numbers. It is, however, a forcible picture of a luckless, reckless gambler :

What will become of us? All will away!
My husband never ceases in expense,
Both to consume his credit and his house;
And 'tis set down by heaven's just decree,
That Riot's child must needs be Beggary.
Are these the virtues that his youth did promise?
Dice and voluptuous meetings, midnight revels,
Taking his bed with surfeits, ill beseeming
The ancient honour of his house and name?
And this not all, but that which kills me most,
When he recounts his losses and false fortunes,
The weakness of his state, so much dejected,
Not as a man repentant, but half mad.
His fortunes cannot answer his expense.

He sits and sullenly locks up his arms,

Shakspeare would have been cramped and confined, if it had been condemned to move only in the fetters of rhyme. The quick interchange of dialogue, and the various nice shades and alternations of character and feeling, could not have been evolved in dramatic action, except in that admirable form of verse which unites rhythmical harmony with the utmost freedom, grace, and flexibility. When Shakspeare, therefore, appeared conspicuously on the horizon, the scene may be said to have been prepared for his reception. The Genius of the Drama had accumulated materials for the use of the great poet, who was to extend her empire over limits not yet recognised, and invest it with a splendour which the world had never seen before.

The few incidents in Shakspeare's life are surrounded with doubt and fable. The fond idolatry with which he is now regarded, was only turned to his personal history at a late period, when little could

Forgetting heaven, looks downward, which makes him be gathered even by the most enthusiastic collector.

Appear so dreadful, that he frights my heart:
Walks heavily, as if his soul were earth;

Not penitent for those his sins are past,

Our best facts are derived from legal documents.
WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE was born at Stratford-on-
Avon, in the county of Warwick, in April 1564. There

is a pleasant and poetical tradition, that he was born on the 23d of the month, the anniversary of St

George, the tutelar saint of England; but all we know with certainty is, that he was baptised on the 26th. His father, John Shakspeare, was a woolcomber or glover, who had elevated his social position by marriage with a rustic heiress, Mary Arden, possessed of an estate worth about £70 per annum of our present money. The poet's father rose to be high bailiff and chief alderman of Stratford; but in 1578, he is found mortgaging his wife's inheritance, and, from entries in the town-books, is supposed to have fallen into comparative poverty. William was the eldest of six surviving children, and after some education at the grammar-school, he is said to have been brought home to assist at his father's business. There is a blank in his history for some years; but doubtless he was engaged, whatever might be his circumstances or employment, in treasuring up materials for his future poetry. The study of man and of nature, facts in natural history, the country, the fields, and the woods, would be gleaned by familiar intercourse and observation among his fellow-townsmen, and in rambling over the beautiful valley of the Avon. It has been conjectured that he was some time in a lawyer's office, as his works abound in technical legal phrases and illustrations. This has always seemed to us highly probable. The London players were also then in the habit of visiting Stratford: Thomas Green, an actor, was a native of the town; and Burbage, the greatest performer of his day (the future Richard, Hamlet, and Othello), was originally from Warwickshire. Who can doubt, then, that the high bailiff's son, from the years of twelve to twenty, was a frequent and welcome visitant behind the scenes?-that he there imbibed the tastes and feelings which coloured all his future life-and that he there felt the first stirrings of his immortal dramatic genius? We are persuaded that he had begun to write long before he left Stratford, and had most probably sketched, if not completed, his Venus

and Adonis, and the Lucrece. The amount of his education at the grammar-school has been made a question of eager scrutiny and controversy. Ben Jonson says, he had little Latin, and less Greek,' This is not denying that he had some. Many Latinised idioms and expressions are to be found in his plays. The choice of two classical subjects for his early poetry, and the numerous felicitous allusions in his dramas to the mythology of the ancients, show that he was imbued with the spirit and taste of classical literature, and was a happy student, if not a critical scholar. His mind was too comprehensive to degenerate into pedantry; but when, at the age of four or five and twenty, he took the field of original dramatic composition, in company with the university-bred authors and wits of his times, he soon distanced them all, in correctness as well as facility, in the intellectual richness of his thoughts and diction, and in the wide range of his acquired knowledge. It may be safely assumed, therefore, that at Stratford he was a hard, though perhaps an irregular, student. The precocious maturity of Shakspeare's passions hurried him into a premature marriage. On the 28th of November 1582, he obtained a license at Worcester, legalising his union with Anne Hathaway, with once asking of the banns. Two of his neighbours became security in the sum of £40, that the poet would fulfil his matrimonial engagement, he being a minor, and unable, legally, to contract for himself. Anne Hathaway was seven years older than her husband. She was the daughter of a 'substantial yeoman' of the village of Shottery, about a mile from Stratford. The hurry and anxiety with respect to the marriage-license, is explained by the register of baptisms in the poet's native town; his daughter Susanna was christened on the 26th May 1583, six months after the marriage. In a year and a half, two other children, twins, were born to Shakspeare, who had no family afterwards. We may readily suppose that the small town of Stratford did not offer scope for the ambition of the poet, now arrived at early manhood, and feeling the ties of a husband and a father. He removed to London in 1586 or 1587. It has been said that his departure was hastened by the effects of a lampoon he had written on a neighbouring squire, Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, in revenge for Sir Thomas prosecuting him for deer-stealing. The story is inconsistent in its details. Part of it must be untrue; it was never recorded against him in his lifetime; and the whole may have been built upon the opening scene in the Merry Wives of Windsor (not written till after Sir Thomas Lucy's death), in which there is some wanton wit on the armorial bearings of the Lucy family. The tale, however, is now associated so intimately with the name of Shakspeare, that, considering the obscurity which rests and probably will ever rest on his history, there seems little likelihood of its ever ceasing to have a place in the public mind.* Shakspeare soon rose to dis


* Mr Washington Irving, in his Sketch-Book,' thus adverts to Charlecote, and the deer-stealing affair :

'I had a desire to see the old family seat of the Lucys at Charlecote, and to ramble through the park where Shakspeare, in company with some of the roysters of Stratford, committed his youthful offence of deer-stealing. In this hair-brained exploit, we are told that he was taken prisoner, and carried to the keeper's lodge, where he remained all night in doleful captivity. When brought into the presence of Sir Thomas Lucy, his treatment must have been galling and humiliating; for it which was affixed to the park-gate at Charlecote. so wrought upon his spirit, as to produce a rough pasquinade,

This flagitious attack upon the dignity of the knight so incensed him, that he applied to a lawyer at Warwick to put the severity of the laws in force against the rhyming deer stalker.

tinction in the theatre. He was a shareholder of the Blackfriars Company, within two or three years after his arrival; of the fifteen shareholders of the theatre in November 1589, Shakspeare's name is

Charlecote House.

the eleventh on the list. In 1596, his name is the fifth in a list of only eight proprietors; and in 1603, he was second in the new patent granted by King James. It appears from recent discoveries made by Mr Collier, that the wardrobe and stage properties afterwards belonged to Shakspeare, and with the shares which he possessed, were estimated at £1400, equal to between £6000 and £7000 of our present money. He was also a proprietor of the Globe Theatre; and at the lowest computation, his income must have been about £300 a-year, or £1500 at the present day. As an actor, Shakspeare is said by a contemporary (supposed to be Lord Southampton) to have been of good account in the company; but the cause of his unexampled success was his immortal dramas, the delight and wonder of his


That so did take Eliza and our James, as Ben Jonson has recorded, and as is confirmed by various authorities. Up to 1611, the whole of Shakspeare's plays (thirty-seven in number, according to the first folio edition) are supposed to have Shakspeare did not wait to brave the united puissance of a knight of the shire and a country attorney.

* *

I now found myself among noble avenues of oaks and elms, whose vast size bespoke the growth of centuries. It was from wandering in early life among this rich scenery, and about the romantic solitudes of the adjoining park of Fulbroke, which then formed a part of the Lucy estate, that some of Shakspeare's commentators have supposed he derived his noble forest meditations of Jaques and the enchanting woodland pictures in "As You Like It." ** [The house] is a large building of brick, with stone quoins, and is in the Gothic style of Queen Elizabeth's day, having been built in the first year of her reign. The exterior remains very nearly in its original state, and may be considered a fair specimen of the residence of a wealthy country gentleman of those days.**The

front of the house is completely in the old style-with stoneshafted casements, a great bow window of heavy stone-work,

and a portal with armorial bearings over it, carved in stone. **The Avon, which winds through the park, makes a

bend just at the foot of a gently sloping bank, which sweeps round the rear of the house. Large herds of deer were reposing upon its borders."

been produced. With the nobles, the wits, and poets of his day, he was in familiar intercourse. The gentle Shakspeare,' as he was usually styled, was throned in all hearts. But notwithstanding his brilliant success in the metropolis, the poet early looked forward to a permanent retirement to the country. He visited Stratford once a-year; and when wealth flowed in upon him, he purchased property in his native town and its vicinity. He bought New Place, the principal house in Stratford; in 1602, he gave £320 for 107 acres of land adjoining to his purchase; and in 1605, he paid £440 for the lease of the tithes of Stratford. The latest entry of his name among the king's players is in 1604, but he was living in London in 1609. The year 1612 has been assigned as the date of his final retirement to the country. In the fulness of his fame, with a handsome competency, and before age had chilled the enjoyment of life, the poet returned to his native town to spend the remainder of his days among the quiet scenes and the friends of his youth. His parents were both dead, but their declining years had been gladdened by the prosperity of their illustrious son. Four years were spent by Shakspeare in this dignified retirement, and the history of literature scarcely presents another such picture of calm felicity and satisfied ambition. He died on the 23d of April 1616, having just completed his fifty-second year. His widow survived him seven years. His two daughters were both married (his only son Hamnet had died in 1596), and one of them had three sons; but all these died without issue, and there now remains no lineal representative of the great poet.

Shakspeare, it is believed, like his contemporary the works of others, and adapting them for the stage. dramatists, began his career as an author by altering The extract from Greene's Groat's Worth of Wit, which we have given in the life of that unhappy author, shows that he had been engaged in this subordinate literary labour before 1592. Three years previous to this, Nash had published an address to the students of the two universities, in which there is a remarkable passage: It is,' he says, a common practice now-a-days, among a sort of shifting companions, that run through every art, and thrive by none, to leave the trade of Noverint, whereto they were born, and busy themselves with the endeavours of art, that could scarce Latinise their neck verse if they should have need; yet English Seneca, read by candle-light, yields many good sentences, as blood is a beggar, and so forth; and if you intreat him far in a frosty morning, he will afford you whole Hamlets, I should say handfuls, of tragical speeches.' The term Noverint was applied to lawyers' clerks, so called from the first word of a Latin deed of those times, equivalent to the modern commencement of Know all men, &c. We have no doubt that Nash alluded to Shakspeare in this satirical glance, for Shakspeare was even then, as has been discovered, a shareholder in the theatre; and it appears from the title-page to the first edition of Hamlet,' in 1604, that, like Romeo and Juliet,' and the Merry Wives of Windsor,' it had been enlarged to almost twice its original size. It seems scarcely probable that the great dramatist should not have commenced writing before he was twenty-seven. Some of his first drafts, as we have seen, he subsequently enlarged and completed; others may have sunk into oblivion, as being judged unworthy of resuscitation or improvement in his riper years. Pericles is supposed to be one of his earliest adaptations. Dryden, indeed, expressly states it to be the first birth of his muse; but two if not three styles are distinctly traceable in this play, and the two first acts look

« PreviousContinue »