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instrument from the Herald's office, so frequently reprinted.—Shakespeare most certainly went to London, and commenced Actor thro' necessity, not natural inclination.--Nor have we any reason to suppose that he did act exceedingly well. Rowe tells us from the information of Betterton, who was inquisitive into this point, and had very early opportunities of Inquiry from Sir W. Davenant, that he was no extraordinary Actor; and that the top of his performance was the Ghost in his own Hamlet. Yet this Chef d'Oeuvre did not please : I will give you an original stroke at it. Dr. Lodge, who was for ever pestering the town with Pamphets, published in the year 1596 Wits miserie, and the Worlds madnesse, discovering the Devils incarnat of this Age. 4to. One of these Devils is Hate-virtue, or Sorrow for another mans good successe, who, says the Doctor, is “a foule lubber, and looks as pale as the Visard of the Ghost, which cried so miserably at the Theatre, like an Oister-wife, Hamlet revenge.
.” Thus you see Mr. Holt's supposed proof, in the Appendix to the late Edition, that Hamlet was written after 1597, or perhaps 1602, will by no means hold good; whatever might be the case of the particular passage on which it is founded.
Nor does it appear that Shakespeare did begin early to make Essays in Dramatique Poetry: the Arraignment of Paris, 1584, which hath so often been ascribed to him on the credit of Kirkman and Winstanley, was written by George Peele ; and Shakespeare is not met with, even as an Assistant, 'till at least seven years afterward.—Nash, in his Epistle to the Gentlemen Students of both Universities, prefixed to Greene's Arcadia, 4to. black Letter, recommends his Friend, Peele, “as the chiefe supporter of pleasance now living, the Atlas of Poetrie, and primus Verborum Artifex : whose first increase, the Arraignment of Paris, might plead to their opinions his pregnant dexteritie of wit, and manifold varietie of inuention.
In the next place, unfortunately, there is neither such a Character as a Constable in the Midsummer Night's Dream :
nor was the three hundred pounds Legacy to a Sister, but a Daughter.
And to close the whole, it is not possible, according to Aubrey himself, that Shakespeare could have been some years a Schoolmaster in the Country : on which circumstance only the supposition of his learning is professedly founded. He was not surely very young, when he was employed to kill Calves, and he commenced Player about Eighteen ! The truth is that he left his Father, for a Wife, a year sooner; and had at least two Children born at Stratford before he retired from thence to London. It is therefore sufficiently clear that poor Anthony had too much reason for his character of Aubrey: You will find it in his own Account of his Life, published by Hearne, which I would earnestly recommend to any Hypochondriack ;
“A pretender to Antiquities, roving, magotie-headed, and sometimes little better than crased: and being exceedingly credulous, would stuff his many Letters sent to A. W. with folliries and misinformations. p. 577.
Thus much for the Learning of Shakespeare with respect to the ancient languages: indulge me with an observation or two on his supposed knowledge of the modern ones, and I will promise to release you.
“ It is evident,” we have been told, “ that he was not unacquainted with the Italian ": but let us inquire into the Evidence.
Certainly some Italian words and phrases appear in the Works of Shakespeare; yet if we had nothing else to observe, their Orthography might lead us to suspect them to be not of the Writer's importation. · But we can go further, and prove this.
When Pistol “ cheers up himself with ends of verse," he is only a copy of Hanniball Gonsaga, who ranted on yielding himself a Prisoner to an English Captain in the Low Countries, as you may read in an old Collection of Tales, called Wits, Fits, and Fancies,
Si Fortuna me tormenta,
And Sir Richard Hawkins, in his Voyage to the SouthSea, 1593, throws out the same jingling Distich on the loss of his Pinnace.
“ Master Page, sit; good Master Page, sit ; Proface. What you want in meat, we'll have in drink,” says Justice Shallow's Fac totum, Davy, in the 2d Part of Henry the fourth.
Proface, Sir Thomas Hanmer observes to be Italian, from profaccia, much good may it do you. Mr. Johnson rather thinks it a mistake for perforce. Sir Thomas however is right; yet it is no argument for his Author's Italian knowledge.
Old Heywood, the Epigrammatist, addressed his Readers long before,
Readers, reade this thus : for Preface, Proface,
Woorkes. Lond. 4to. 1562.
And Dekker in his Play, If it be not good, the Diuel is in it (which is certainly true, for it is full of Devils), makes Shackle-soule, in the character of Friar Rush, tempt his Brethren with “ choice of dishes,"
To which proface; with blythe lookes sit yee.
Nor hath it escaped the quibbling manner of the Waterpoet, in the title of a Poem prefixed to his Praise of Hempseed: “A Preamble, Preatrot, Preagallop, Preapace, or Preface; and Proface, my Masters, if your
But the Editors are not contented without coining Italian. “Rivo, says the Drunkard,” is an Expression of the madcap Prince of Wales ; which Sir Thomas Hanmer corrects to Ribi, Drink away, or again, as it should rather be translated. Dr. Warburton accedes to this ; and Mr. Johnson hath admitted it into his Text; but with an observation, that Rivo might possibly be the cant of English Taverns. And so indeed it was: it occurs fre
quently in Marston. Take a quotation from his Comedy of What you will, 1607:
Musicke, Tobacco, Sacke, and Sleepe,
Rivo drink deep, give care the mate.
A Spaniard that keeps here in Court,
A Phantasme, a Monarcho. Here too Sir Thomas is willing to palm Italian upon us. We should read, it seems, Mammuccio, a Mammet, or Puppet : Ital. Mammuccia. But the allusion is to a fantastical Character of the time.—“Popular applause,' says Meres,“ dooth nourish some, neither do they gape after any other thing, but vaine praise and glorie, -as in our age Peter Shakerlye of Paules, and Monarcho that liued about the Court." I fancy you will be satisfied with one more instance.
Baccare, You are marvellous forward,” quoth Gremio to Petruchio in the Taming of the Shrew.
“But not so forward,” says Mr. Theobald, Editors are indolent. This is a stupid corruption of the press, that none of them have dived into. We must read Baccalare, as Mr. Warburton acutely observed to me, by which the Italians mean, Thou ignorant, presumptuous Man." Properly indeed,” adds Mr. Heath, “a graduated Scholar, but ironically and sarcastically a pretender to Scholarship."
This is admitted by the Editors and Criticks of every
Backare, quoth Mortimer to his Sow:
Howel takes this from Heywood, in his Old Sawes and Adages: and Philpot introduces it into the Proverbs collected by Camden.
We have but few observations concerning Shakespeare's knowledge of the Spanish tongue. Dr. Grey indeed is willing to suppose that the plot of Romeo and Juliet may be borrowed from a Comedy of Lopes de Vega. But the Spaniard, who was certainly acquainted with Bandello, hath not only changed the Catastrophe, but the names of the Characters. Neither Romeo nor Juliet, neither Montague nor Capulet, appears in this performance: and how came they to the knowledge of Shakespeare ?Nothing is more certain than that he chiefly followed the Translation by Painter from the French of Boisteau, and hence arise the Deviations from Bandello's original Italian. It seems, however, from a passage in Ames's Typographical Antiquities, that Painter was not the only Translator of this popular Story: and it is possible, therefore, that Shakespeare might have other assistance.
In the Induction to the Taming of the Shrew, the Tinker attempts to talk Spanish : and consequently the Author himself was acquainted with it.
Paucas pallabris, let the World slide, Sessa. But this is a burlesque on Hieronymo ; the piece of Bombast that I have mentioned to you before :
What new device have they devised, trow ?
Pocas pallabras, &c.— Mr. Whalley tells us, “the Author of this piece hath the happiness to be at this time unknown, the remembrance of him having perished with himself”: Philips and others ascribe it to one William Smith : but I take this
opportunity of informing him that it was written by Thomas Kyd ; if he will accept the authority of his Contemporary, Heywood.
More hath been said concerning Shakespeare's acquaintance with the French language. In the Play of