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32. The London Prodigal, 16c5.

There is good ground for thinking that The London Prodigal was written long before 1505; but not affording any marks to afcertain the precife time of its compofition, and not deferving any very minute inquiry, it is here afcribed to that year, in which it was published.

Shakspeare's name is printed in the title page of this play, as well as in three other contefted pieces;-Pericles, Sir John Oldcastle, and A Yorkshire Tragedy. But how little the bookfellers of that time fcrupled to avail themselves of his name, in order to procure a fale for their publications, appears from its being prefixed to two of Ovid's Epifles, (which have ever fince been publifhed among his poems) though they were tranflated by Thomas Heywood; and printed (as Dr. Farmer has obferved) in a work of his entitled Brytaine's Troy, fol. 1609a, before they were afcribed to Shakspeare.

33. KING LEAR, 1605.

The tragedy of King Lear was entered on the books of the Stationers' company Nov. 26, 1607, and is there mentioned to have been played the preceding Chriftmas, before his majesty at Whitehall. But this, I conjecture, was not its firft exhibition. It feems extremely probable that its firft appearance was in 1605; in which year the old play of K. Leir, that had been entered at Stationers' hall in 1594, was printed by Simon Stafford, for John Wright, who, we may prefume, finding Shakspeare's play fuccefsful, hoped to palm the fpurious one on the publick for his ".

Our author's King Lear was not publifhed till 1608. Harfnet's Declaration of Popish Impoftures, from which Shakfpeare borrowed fome fantastick names of fpirits, mentioned in this play, was printed in 1603.



Thefe two epifiles, being fo pertinent to our hiftorie, I thought neceffarie to tranflate."-Bryt. Troy, p. 211.

Shakspeare has copied one of the paffages in this old play. This he might have done, though we fhould fuppofe it not to have been publifhed till after his K. Lear was written and acted; for the old play had been in poffeffion of the stage for many years before 1605.


34. MACBETH, 1606.

From a book entitled Rex Platonicus, cited by Dr. Fars mer, we learn that king James, when he vifited Oxford in 1605, was addressed by three students of St. John's college, who perfonated the three weird fifters, and recited a fhort dramatick poem, founded on the prediction of those fybils, (as the author calls them) relative to Banquo and Macbeth.


Dr. Farmer is of opinion, that this little piece preceded Shakspeare's play; a fuppofition which is ftrengthened by the filence of the author of Rex Platonicus, who, if Macbeth had then appeared on the stage, would probably have mentioned fomething of it. It fhould be likewife remembered, that there fubfifted at that time a fpirit of oppofition and rivalship between the regular players and the academicks of the two univerfities; the latter of whom frequently acted plays both in Latin and English, and feem to have piqued themselves on the fuperiority of their exhibitions to those of the established theatres. Wishing probably to manifest this fuperiority to the royal pedant, it is not likely that they would chufe for a collegiate interlude, a fubject, which had already appeared on the public ftage, with all the embellishments that the magick hand of Shakspeare could beftow.

This tragedy contains an allufion to the union of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, under one fovereign, and alfo to the cure of the king's-evil by the royal touch; but in what year that pretended power was


In Rex Platonicus it is called Lufiuncula.

Ab ejufdem collegii alumnis (qui et cothurno tragico et focco comico principes femper habebantur) Vertumnus, comoedia faceta, ad principes exhilarandos exhibetur. Rex Platonicus, p. 78.

Arcadiam reftauratam Iñiacorum Arcadum lectiffimi cecinerunt, unoque opere, principum omniumque fpectantium animos immenfa et ultra fidem affecerunt voluptate; fimulque patrios ludiones, etfi exercitatiffimos, quantum interfit inter fcenam mercenariam & eru ditam docuerunt, Ib. p. 228. See alfo the lines quoted above from the Return from Parnaffus, and Act IV. Sc. iii. of that piece, which was acted publickly at St. John's college in Cambridge. Macbeth, Act IV. Sc. i. ii.




affumed by king James I. is uncertain. Macbeth was not entered in the Stationers' books, nor printed, till 1623.

In The Tragedy of Cæfar and Pompey, or Cæfar's Revenge, are thefe lines:

"Why think you, lords, that 'tis ambition's fpur
"That pricketh Cæfar to these high attempts ?"

If the author of that play, which was published in 1607, fhould be thought to have had Macbeth's foliloquy in view, (which is not unlikely) this circumftance may add fome degree of probability to the fuppofition that this tragedy had appeared before that year:

"I have no fpur

"To prick the fides of my intent, but only
"Vaulting ambition, which o'er-leaps itself
"And falls at the other".

At the time when Macbeth is fuppofed to have been written, the fubject, it is probable, was confidered as a topick the most likely to conciliate the favour of the court. In the additions to Warner's Albion's England, which were first printed in 1606, the ftory of "the Three Fairies or Weird Elves," as he calls them, is fhortly told, and king James's defcent from Banquo carefully deduced.

Ben Jonfon, a few years afterwards, paid his court to his majefty by his Mafque of Queens, prefented at Whitehall, Feb. 12, 1609; in which he has given a minute detail of all the magick rites that are recorded by king James in his book of Damonologie, or by any other author ancient or modern.

Mr. Steevens has lately difcovered a Mf. play, entitled THE WITCH, written by Thomas Middleton, which renders


f Mr. Upton was of opinion that this mafque preceded Macbeth. But the only ground that he states for this conjecture, is, "that Jonfon's pride would not fuffer him to borrow from Shakefpeare, though he ftole from the ancients."

g In an advertisement prefixed to an edition of A Mad World my Mafters, a comedy by Thomas Middleton, 1640, the printer fays, that the author was 66 long fince dead." Middleton probably died foon after the year 1626. He was chronologer to the city of London, and it does not appear that any mafque or pageant, in honour of the Lord Mayor, was fet forth by him after that


ders it questionable, whether Shakspeare was not indebted to that author for the first hint of the magick introduced in this tragedy. The reader will find an account of this fingular curiofity in the note .-To the obfervations of Mr. Steevens


year*. From the dates of his printed plays, and from the enfuing verfes on his laft performance, by Sir William Lower, we may conclude, that he was as early a writer, and at least as old, as Shakspeare:

Tom Middleton his numerous iffue brings,
"And his last mufe delights us when the fings:
"His halting age a pleasure doth impart,
"And his white locks fhew master of his art."

The following dramatick pieces by Middleton appear to have been published in his life-time.-Your Five Gallants, 1601.Blurt Mafter Confiable, or the Spaniard's Night Walke,_1602.— Michaelmas Term, 1607.-The Phanix, 1607.-The Family of Love, 1608.-A Trick to catch the Old One, 1608.-A Mad World my Mafters, 1608.-The Roaring Girl, or Moll Cutpurse, 1611.Fair Quarrel, 1617.-A Chafie Maid of Cheapfide, 1620.-A Game at Cheffe, 1625-Moft of his other plays were printed, about thirty years after his death, by Kirkman and other bookfellers, into whofe hands his manufcripts fell.

In a former note on this tragedy, I have faid that the original edition contains only the two firft words of the fong in the 4th act, beginning-Black fpirits, &c; but have lately difcovered the entire stanza in an unpublished dramatic piece, viz. "A Tragi-Coomodie called THE WITCH; long fince acted by his Ma.ties Servants at the Black Friers; written by Tho. Middleton." The fong is there called " A charme-fong, about a veffell." The other fong omitted in the 5th fcene of the 3d act of Macbeth, together with the imperfect couplet there, may likewife be found, as follows, in Midd eton's performance.-The Hecate of Shakespeare, fays:

"I am for the air, &c."

The Hecate of Middleton (who like the former is fummoned away by aerial fpirits) has the fame declaration in almoft the fame words:"I am for aloft," &c.


Song.] Come away, come away:
"Heccat, Heccat, come away.
"Hec. I come, I come, I come,
"With all the fpeed I may,


in the aire.

The Triumph of Health and Profperity at the Inauguration of the most worthy Brother, the Right Hon. Cuthbert Hafket, draper; composed by Thomas Middleton, draper, 1626, 410.



Steevens I have only to add, that the fongs, beginning, Come away, &c. and Black fpirits, &c. being found at full



"With all the speed I may.

Heere.] in the aire.

"Wher's Stadlin?


"Wher's Puckle?

"Heere.] in the aire. "And Hoppo too, and Hellwaine too, "We lack but you, we lack but you: "Come away, make up the count. "Hec. I will but 'noynt, and then I mount. A fpirit like a cat defcends.


There's one comes downe to fetch his dues,
A kiffe, a coll, a fip of blood:
And why thou ftaist so long
"I mufe, I muse,
"Since the air's fo fweet and good.
Hec. Oh, art thou come?

in the aire.


"What newes, what newes?
"All goes ftill to our delight,
Either come, or els



Refufe, refufe.
Now I am furnish'd for the flight.

Fire.] Hark, hark, the catt fings a brave treble in her owne


4 Hec. going up.]

Now I goe, now I flie,
"Malkin my fweete fpirit and I.
"Oh what a daintie pleasure 'tis
"To ride in the aire,

"When the moone fhines faire


"And fing, and daunce, and toy and kifs!
"Over woods, high rocks and mountains,
"Over feas, our miftris' fountains,
"Over steepe towres and turrets,
"We fly by night 'mongft troopes of fpiritts.
"No ring of belis to our eares founds,
"No howles of woolves, no yelpes of hounds;
"No, not the noyfe of waters'-breache,

"Or cannons' throat, our height can reache.
"No ring of bells, &c.] above.

"Fire.] Well mother, I thank your kindness: you must be gambolling i' th'aire, and leave me to walk here, like a foole and a mortall. Exit. Finis Actus Tercii."

This Fire-flone, who occafionally interpofes in the course of the dialogue, is called, in the lift of Perfons Reprefented,-" The Clowne and Heccat's fon."

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