Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

length in The Witch, while only the two firft words of them are printed in Macbeth, favour the fuppofition that Middle ton's

NOTES.

Again, the Hecate of Shakespeare fays to her fifters:-
I'll charm the air to give a found,

"While you perform your antique round, &c. [Mufick. The Witches dance and vanish.” The Hecate of Middleton fays on a fimilar occafion : "Come, my fweete fifters, let the aire ftrike our tune, "Whilft we fhew reverence to yond peeping moone. [Here they dance and Exeunt." In this play, the motives which incline the witches to mischief, their manners, the contents of their cauldron, &c. feem to have more than accidental refemblance to the fame particulars in Macbeth. The hags of Middleton, like the weird fifters of Shakespeare, deftroy cattle becaufe they have been refufed provifions at farm houses. The owl and the cat (Gray Malkin) give them notice. when it is time to proceed on their feveral expeditions.—Thus Shakespeare's Witch:

"Harper cries;-'tis time, 'tis time." Thus too the Hecate of Middleton:

"Hec.] Heard you the owle yet?
Stad.] Briefely in the copps.
"Hec.] 'Tis high time for us then."

The Hecate of Shakespeare, addreffing her fifters, obferves, that Macbeth is but a wayward fun, who loves for his own ends, not for them. The Hecate of Middleton has the fame obfervation, when the youth who has been confulting her, retires:

"I know he loves me not, nor there's no hope on't." Inftead of the greafe that's fweaten from the murderer's gibbet, and the finger of birth-firangled babe, the witches of Middleton employ "the griftle of a man that hangs after funfet," (i. e. of a murderer, for all other criminals were anciently cut down before evening) and the "fat of an unbaptized child." They likewife boast of the power to raise tempefts that shall blow down trees, overthrow buildings, and occafion fhipwreck; and, more particularly, that they can "make miles of woods walk." Here too the Grecian Hecate is degraded into a prefiding witch, and exercised in fuperftitions peculiar to our own country. So much for the fcenes of enchantment; but even other parts of Middleton's play coincide more than once with that of Shakespeare. Lady Macbeth fays, in act II:

66

the furfeited grooms

"Do mock their charge with fnores. I have drugg'd their poffets."

So too Francifca in the piece of Middleton:

VOL. I.

[X4]

[merged small][ocr errors]

ton's piece preceded that of Shakspeare; the latter, it should feem, thinking it unneceflary to fet down verfes which were probably

NOTES.

66

they're now all at rest,

"And Gafper there and all :-Lift!—fast asleepe;
"He cryes it hither.I muft difeafe you straight, Sir:
"For the maide-fervants, and the girles o' th' house,
"I pic'd them lately with a drowfie poffet,
They will not hear in hafte.".

60

And Francifca, like lady Macbeth, is watching late at night to ens courage the perpetration of a murder.

The expreffion which Shakespeare has put into the mouth of Macbeth, when he is fufficiently recollected to perceive that the dagger and the blood on it, were the creations of his own fancy, "There's no fuch thing"- is likewife appropriated to Fran cifca, when the undeceives her brother, whofe imagination had been equally abused.

From the inftances already produced, perhaps the reader would allow, that if Middleton's piece preceded Shakespeare's, the originality of the magic introduced by the latter, might be fairly quef tioned; for our author (who as actor, and manager, had access to unpublished dramatic performances) has fo often condefcended to receive hints from his contemporaries, that our fufpicion of his having been a copyift in the prefent inftance, might not be without foundation. Nay, perhaps, a time may arrive, in which it will become evident from books and manufcripts yet undiscovered and unexamined, that Shakespeare never attempted a play on any argument, till the effect of the fame ftory, or at least the ruling incidents in it, had been already tried on the ftage, and familiarized to his audience. Let it be remembered, in fupport of this conjecture, that dramatic pieces on the following fubjects, viz. King John, King Richard II. and III. King Henry IV. and V. King Henry VIII. King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, Meafure for Mea fure, the Merchant of Venice, the Taming of a Shrew, and the Comedy of Errors, had appeared before thofe of Shakespeare, and that he has taken fomewhat from ail of them that we have hitherto seen. I muft obferve at the fame time, that Middleton, in his other dramas, is found to have borrowed little from the fentiments, and nothing from the fables of his predeceffors. He is known to have written in concert with Jonfon, Fletcher, Mafinger, and Rowley; but appears to have been unacquainted, or at leaft unconnected, with Shakespeare.

-

[ocr errors]

It is true that the date of THE WITCH cannot be ascertained. The author, however, in his dedication (to the truelie-aworthie and generously-affected Thomas Holmes Efquire) obferves, that he recovered this ignorant-ill-fated labour of his (from the play-houfe, I suppofe) not without much difficultie. Witches (continues he) are, ipfa

facto

probably well known, and perhaps then in the poffeffion of the managers of the Globe theatre. The high reputation

of

NOTES.

facto, by the law condemn'd, and that onely, I thinck, hath made her lie fo long in an imprifon'd obfcuritie. It is probable, therefore from these words, as well as from the title-page, that the play was written long before the dedication, which feems to have been added foon after the year 1603, when the act of K. James against witches paffed into a law. If it be objected, that THE WITCH appears from this title-page to have been acted only by his majesty's fervants, let it be remembered that thefe were the very players who had been before in the fervice of the Queen; but Middleton, dedicating his work in the time of James, fpeaks of them only as dependants on the reigning prince.

Here too it may be remarked, that the first dramatic piece in which Middleton is known to have had a hand, viz. The Old Law, was acted in 1599; fo that THE WITCH might have been compofed, if not performed at an earlier period than the acceffion of Fames to the crown; for the belief of witchcraft was fufficiently popular in the preceding reigns. The piece in queftion might likewife have been neglected through the caprice of players, or retarded till it could be known that James would permit fuch reprefentations; (for on his arrival here, both authors and actors who fhould have ventured to bring the midnight mirth and jollity of witches on the stage, would probably have been indicted as favourers of magic and enchantment) or, it might have fhrunk into obfcurity after the appearance of Macbeth; or perhaps was forbiden by the command of the king. The witches of Shakespeare (exclufive of the flattering circumstance to which their prophecy alludes) are folemn in their operations, and therefore behaved in conformity to his majesty's own opinions. On the contrary, the hags of Middleton are ludicrous in their conduct, and leffen, by ridiculous combinations of images, the folemnity of that magic in which our fcepter'd perfecutor of old women moft reverently and potently believed.

The conclufion to Middleton's dedication has likewise a degree of fingularity that deferves notice." For your fake alone, fhe

That dramatic pieces were fometimes written long before they were printed, may be proved from the example of Marlowe's Rich Jew of Malia, which was entered on the books of the Stationers' company in the year 1594, but was not published till 1633, as we learn from the preface to it written by Heywood. It appears likewife from the fame regifters, that feveral plays were written, that were never published at all.

The fpelling in the MS. is fometimes more antiquated than any to be met with in the printed copies of Shakespeare, as the following inftances may prove :Byn for been-follempnely for folemnly—dampnation for damnation—quight for quite grizzel for griftle-doa for doe-ollyff for olive, &c.

hath

[ocr errors]

of Shakspeare's performances (to mention a circumstance which in the course of these obfervations will be more than once infifted upon) likewife ftrengthens this conjecture; for it is very improbable, that Middleton, or any other poet of that time, fhould have ventured into those regions of fiction, in which our author had already expatiated:

"Shakespeare's magick could not copy'd be, Within that circle none durft walk but he."

Other pieces of equal antiquity may, perhaps, be hereafter difcovered; for the names of feveral ancient plays are preferved, which are not known to have been ever printed. Thus we hear of Valentine and Orfon, plaied by her Majefie's players-The tragedy of Ninus and Semiramis-Titirus and Galathea-Godfrey of Bulloigne-The Cradle of Securitie - Hit

NOTES.

hath thus conjur'd her felf abroad; and beares no other charmes about her, but what may tend to your recreation; nor no other fpell, but to poffes you with a beleif, that as the, fo he, that firf taught her to enchant, will alwaies be, &c."-" He that taught her to enchant," would have fufficiently expreffed the obvious meaning of the writer, without aid from the word first, which feems to imply a covert cenfure on foine perfon who had engaged his Hecate in a fecondary courfe of witchcraft.

The reader must have inferred from the fpecimen of incantation already given, that this MS. play (which was purchafed by Major Peirfon out of the collection of one Griffin, a player, and is in all probability the presentation copy) had indubitably paffed through the hands of Sir William Davenant; for almost all the additions which he pretends to have made to the fcenes of witchcraft in Macbeth (together with the names of the fupplemental agents) are adopted from Middleton. It was not the intereft therefore of Sir William, that this piece fhould ever appear in print: but time that makes important discoveries, has likewife brought his petty plagiarifm to light*.

Ifhould remark, that Sir W. D. has corrupted feveral words as well as proper names in the fongs, &c. but it were needlefs to particularize his mistakes, as this entire tragi-comedy will hereafter be published for the fatisfaction of the curious and intelligent readers of Shakespeare. STEEVENS.

Sir William Davenant might likewife have formed his play of Albovine King of Lombardy on fome of the tragic fcenes in this unpublifhed piece by Middleton. Yet the chief circumflances on which they are both founded, occur in the four th volume of the Hiftoires Tragiques, &c. par François de Belle foreft, 1580, p. 297, and at the beginning of Machiavel's Florentine Hiftory.

STLEVENS.

[ocr errors]

the Naile o'the Head-The Marriage of Wit and Wisdom - Sir Thomas More-(Harl. Mf. 7368) The Ifle of Dogs, by Thomas Nafhe-The comedy of Fidele and Fortunatus-The famous tragedy of The Deflruction of Jerufalem, by Dr. Legge. The Freeman's Honour, by William Smith- Mahomet and Irene the Faire Greek-The Play of the Cards-Cardenio-The Knaves-The Knot of Fools-Raymond Duke of Lyons-The Nobleman, by Cyril Tourneur-[the five laft, acted in the year 1613] The bonoured Loves-The Parliament of Love-and Nonfuch, a comedy; all by William Rowley--The Pilgrimage to Parnaffus, by the author of the Return from Parnaffus--Believe as you Lift, by Maflinger-The Pirate, by Davenport- Rofania or Love's Victo ry, a comedy by Shirley, (fome of whofe plays were extant in Mf. in Langbaine's time) - The Twins, a tragedy, acted in 1613 -Tancredo, a tragedy, by Sir Henry Wotton -Demetrius and Marfina, or the imperial Impoftor and unhappy Heroine, a tragedy— The Tyrant, a tragedy -The Queen of Corfica-The BugbearsThe Second Maid's Tragedy-Timon, a comedy, &c. &c. Soon after the Restoration, one Kirkman a bookfeller, printed many dramatick pieces that had remained unpublished for more than fixty years; and in an advertisement fubjoined to " A true, perfeet, and exact catalogue of all the comedies, tragedies, &c. that were ever get printed and published, till this prefent year 1671," he says, that although there were, at that time, but eight hundred and fix plays in print, yet many more had been written and acted, and that he himself had fome quantity in manufcript."-The refemblance between Macbeth and this newly difcovered piece by Middleton, naturally fuggefts a wifh, that if any of the unpublished plays, above enumerated, be yet in being, (befides Timon and Sir Thomas More, which are known to be extant) their poffeffors would condefcend to examine them with attention; as hence, perhaps, new lights might be thrown on others of our author's plays.

35. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, 1606.

The Taming of the Shrew, which, together with Romeo and Juliet, and Love's Labour Loft, was entered at Stationers' hall by Nich. Ling, Jan. 22, 1606-7, was not, I believe, Shakspeare's play, but the old comedy of the fame name, on which our author's piece was manifeftly formed. Nich. Ling never printed either Romeo and Juliet, or Love's Labour Loft; though in the books of the Stationers' company they were entered by him. The old 1 aming of the Shrew, which

had

« AnteriorContinuar »