Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

13486.102.33

HARVARD COLLEGE

1440

fan

3.

Cristig forthel. rukarniti on how Englands Antiquities

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1873, by

HENRY N. HUDSON,

In the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

CAMBRIDGE:

PRESS OF JOHN WILSON AND SON.

INTRODUCTION TO ROMEO AND JULIET.

THIS tragedy was first printed in 1697,

but with a text very different from what we now have. That edition was unquestionably piratical; and Mr. Collier thinks that “the manuscript used by the printer was made up, partly from portions of the play as it was acted, but unduly obtained, and partly from notes taken at the theatre during representation.” The play was printed again in 1599, with the words, “newly corrected, augmented, and amended,” in the title-page. This issue bears clear marks of authenticity, and has the best text of all the old copies. It was reprinted in 1609, and again at a later period, which however cannot be ascertained, the edition being undated. The folio, though omitting several passages found in the quarto of 1609, is shown, by the repetition of certain misprints, to have been printed from that copy. How much the play was augmented appears in that the text of 1597 is less than three-fourths as long as that of 1599. And the difference of the two copies in respect of quality is still greater. For instance, the speech of Juliet on taking the sleeping-draught, and also that of Romeo just before he swallows the poison, are mere trifles in the first copy as compared with what they are in the second. The improvement in these cases and in many others is such as may well cause us to regret that the Poet did not carry his riper hand into some parts of the play which he left unchanged.

The diversities of style in this play are so great as to argue a considerable lapse of time between the writing of the first and second copies. In particular, the first three Acts are in many places sadly disfigured with forced and affected expressions, such as nothing but immaturity and the influence of bad models could well account for

These, however, disappear almost entirely in the other two Acts. The date more commonly assigned for the original form of the tragedy is 1596, which allows only a space of about two years between the writing and rewriting; and I fully agree with those editors who hold that the second issue shows such a measure of progress in judgment, cast of thought, and dramatic power as would naturally infer a much longer interval. And there is one item of internal evidence which would seem to throw the original composition as far back as 1591. This is what the Nurse says when prattling of Juliet's age: “'Tis since the earthquake now eleven years, and she was wean'd;” which has been often quoted as a probable allusion to the earthquake that happened in England in the Spring of 1580, and "caused such amazedness among the people as was wonderful for the time.” To be sure, arguments of this sort are apt to pass for more than they are worth; nevertheless the general style of the workmanship inclines me to think that it hits about right as to the time of the composition.

The story which furnished the basis of the tragedy was exceedingly popular in Shakespeare's time. The original author of the tale as then received was Luigi da Porto, whose novel La Giulietta was first published in 1535. From him the matter was borrowed and improved by Bandello, who published it in 1554. The story is next met with in the French version of Belleforest, and makes the third in his collection of Tragical Iistories. These were avowedly taken from Bandello. Some of them, however, vary considerably from the Italian; as in this piece Bandello brings Juliet out of her trance in time

or excuse.

« PreviousContinue »