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IN discussing the authorship of a play attributed to Shakespeare, especially one so much in dispute as Titus Andronicus, it is necessary to confine ourselves as far as possible to views which have some reasonable amount of probability, and not to spend strength and space in fighting mere phantoms. It will not, for instance, be necessary to deal here with the Baconian theory in general, because I take it that the least sober Baconian would neither claim nor wish to claim a play of this character, so startlingly replete with horrors, for Francis, Lord Verulam. For the Baconian theory, or the anti-Shakespearian theories generally are founded on the supposed impossibility of Shakespeare having had the learning, the knowledge, and the philosophic cast of mind displayed in his greater plays; whereas the argument against his having written this particular play is entirely founded on what we moderns conceive to be its faults. The Baconian would think-if one dare guess at Baconian thought—that the beauties of the play, which are really great, would argue against Shakespeare; while the crudities, or indeed barbarities, it contains might well be set down to the credit, or discredit, of this supposed Warwickshire ignoramus. I may candidly say I am not a Baconian, because in the first place there are to my mind such
stupendous difficulties in the way of conceiving of Bacon as the author, not only of his own mighty works, but also of the most wonderful poetic and dramatic prodigies the world possesses, that no amount of evidence, of the order we are ever likely to get, could be for a moment set in the balance against this tremendous antecedent improbability—I would say impossibility-of this theory. So, if I were an advocate of the Baconian theory, the first thing I should set out to prove would be that Bacon did not write the works attributed to him; as they are the really insuperable obstacle to my belief in his authorship of what we call “ Shakespeare." What I do believe regarding the generally acknowledged plays of Shakespeare is that they are mainly the work of a single master-mind, of one who not only was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of all Poets, but also the Prince of Playwrights or Dramatists, and certainly the greatest exponent and creator of human character in all Literature,
I propose, in discussing the authorship of Titus Andronicus, while touching upon the question of characteristic versification in its proper place, to begin with what I consider the “ weightier matters of the Law," and not with the “mint, anise, and cumin " of pedantic criticism.
I shall first endeavour, as succinctly as possible, to give those facts upon which, by common consent, all arguments regarding the dates of the writing, performance, and publication of this play are founded. These facts have become common property, and it will be unnecessary always to mention here who it was who happened to be the very first to draw attention to them.
The earliest edition of this play, as we know it, of which