Page images

power in an unpractised dramatist : as a poetical production it has not hitherto had justice done to it, on account, partly, of the revolting nature of the plot. Compared with the versification of Greene, Peele, or Lodge, the lines in “Titus Andronicus” will be found to run with ease and variety, and they are scarcely inferior to the later and better productions of Marlowe. Neither is internal evidence wholly wanting, for

ds and phrases emploved by Shakespeare in his other works may be pointed out; and in Act iii. sc. 1, we meet a remarkable expression, which is also contained in “Venus and Adonis."

With reference to the general complexity of the drama, and the character of the plot, it must also be borne in mind that it was produced at a time, when scenes of horror were especially welcome to public audiences, and when pieces were actually recommended to their admiration in consequence of the blood and slaughter with which they abounded. Shakespeare, perhaps, took up the subject on this account, and he worked it out in such a way as, prior to the introduction and formation of a purer taste, would best gratify those for whose amusement it was intended.

The oldest kuown edition of " Titus Andronicus" bears date in 1600 : two copies of it are extant, the one in the collection of Lord Francis Egerton, now before us, and the other in the Signet Library at Edinburgh. This second copy was not discovered until very recently, and we feel convinced that a more ancient impression will some time or other again be brought to light. That it once existed, we have the testiinony of Langbaine, in his “ Account of English Dramatic Poets," 8 vo. 1691, where he tells us that the play was " first printed 4to. Lond. 1594." Consistently with this assertion we find the following entry in the Registers of the Stationers' Company :

6 Feb. 1593 John Danter] A booke entitled a noble Roman Historye of

Tytus Andronicus." The Stationers' books contain several subsequent memoranda respecting “ Titus Andronicus," bearing date 19th April, 1602, 14th Dec. 1624, and 8th Nov. 1630 ; but none which seems to have relation to the editions of 1600 and 1611. No quarto impressions of a subsequent date are known, and the tragedy next appeared in the folio of 1623. The folio was printed from the quarto of 1611, but with the addition of a short scene in the third Act, which otherwise, according to the divisions there adopted, would have consisted of only one scene.

The wording of the title-page of the edition of 1600 is remarkable, although it has hitherto been passed over without due notice: it professes that the drama had been played not only by “the Lord Chamberlain's servants," of whom Shakespeare was o

at by the theatrical servants of the Earl of Pembroke, the Earl of Derby, and the Earl of Sussex. The performance of Shakespeare's plays seems almost uniformly to have beeu confined to the company to which he belonged; but we know from Henslowe's Diary that between 3rd June, 1594, and 15th Nov. 1596, the Lord Chamberlain's servants were acting in apparent conjunction with those of the Lord Admirala : one of the plays, enumerated by Henslowe as having been acted in this interval, is " Titus Andronicns," which circumstance he records under date of 12th June, 1594. This may have been the very play Shakespeare had written, and which having been thus represented by several companies, although the Earl of Nottingham's servants was not one of them, the fact was stated on the title-page of the earliest extant impression. It is to be observed, however, that Henslowe has an entry of the performance of " Titus Andronicus” on the 23rd Jan. 1593-4, when it appears to have been a new play. The “Titus Andronicus," therefore, acted on 12th June, 1594, may have been a repetition of a drama, which possibly had been got up for Henslowe, in consequence of the success of a tragedy upon the same story, the property of a rival company. There can be little doubt that Shakespeare's “ Titus Andronicus” was written several years earlier

It is very possible that Shakespeare's " Titus Andronicus" was founded upon some anterior dramatic performance, but on this point we have no evidence beyond what may be collected from the piece itself, in certain real or supposed dissimilarities of composition.

When Danter entered the "noble Roman History of Titus Andronicus" in 1593, he coupled with it “the ballad thereof," which probably is the same printed in Percy's “Reliques," vol. i. p. 241, edit. 1812. A play called “ Andronicus" is mentioned by Ben Jonson in the Induction to his "Bartholomew Fair," (played first in 1614,) as a piece of twenty-five or thirty years standing. This may have been Shakespeare's tragedy, that acted by Henslowe's company, or a drama which had served as a foundation of both. The oldest notice of “ Titus Andronicus" (excepting that by Meres) is contained in a tract called “Father Hubbard's Tales, or The Ant and the Nightingale," 4to. 1604, imputed to Thomas Middleton, where (Sign. E. 3) the author speaks of the lamentable action of one arm, like old Titus Andronicus." The loss of his hand by the hero would no doubt form an incident in every drama written upon the subject.

? See “ The Memoirs of Edward Alleyn," published by the Shakespeare Society, p. 22. The theatre the Lord Chamberlain's and the Lord Admiral's players jointly occupied, was that at Newington Butts.


SATURNINUS, Son to the late Emperor of Rome,

and afterwards declared Emperor.
BASSIANUS, Brother to Saturninus; in love with

TITUS ANDRONICUS, a noble Roman, General

against the Goths.
MARCUS ANDRONICUS, Tribune of the People;

and Brother to Titus.
QUINTUS, Sons to Titus Andronicus.


Young Lucius, a Boy, Son to Lucius.
PUBLIUS, Son to Marcus the Tribune.
ÆMILIUS, a noble Roman.
DEMETRIUS, Sons to Tamora. -
AARON, a Moor, beloved by Tamora.
A Captain, Tribune, Messenger, and Clown.
Goths and Romans.

TAMORA, Queen of the Goths.
LAVINIA, Daughter to Titus Andronicus.
A Nurse, and a black Child.

Kinsmen of Titus, Senators, Tribunes, Officers, Sol.

diers, and Attendants.
SCENE, Rome; and the Country near it.

[merged small][ocr errors]

SCENE I.-Rome. Before the Capitol. The Tomb of the Andronici appearing; the Tribunes

and Senators aloft, as in the Capitol. Enter, below, SATURNINUS and his Followers, on one side ; and BASSIANUS and his Followers, on the other ; with Drum and Colours.

Sat. Noble patricians, patrons of my right,
Defend the justice of my cause with arms;
And, countrymen, my loving followers,
Plead my successive title with your swords.
I am the first-born son, of him the last
That wore the imperial diadem of Rome :
Then, let my father's honours live in me,
Nor wrong mine age with this indignity.
Bas. Romans,-friends, followers, favourers of my

If ever Bassianus, Cæsar's son,
Were gracious in the eyes of royal Rome,
Keep then this passage to the Capitol ;
And suffer not dishonour to approach
Th' imperial seat, to virtue consecrate,
To justice, conscience, and nobility,
But let desert in pure election shine;
And, Romans, fight for freedom in your choice.

Enter MARCUS ANDRONICUS, aloft, with the Crown.

Mar. Princes, that strive by factions, and by friends, Ambitiously for rule and empery, Know, that the people of Rome, for whom we stand A special party, have by common voice In election for the Roman empery, Chosen Andronicus, surnamed Pius,

1 f.e: continence.

For many good and great deserts to Rome :
A nobler man, a braver warrior,
Lives not this day within the city walls.
He by the senate is accited' home,
From weary wars against the barbarous Goths ;
That, with his sons, a terror to our foes,
Hath yok'd a nation strong, train’d up in arms.
Ten years are spent since first he undertook
This cause of Rome, and chastised with arms
Our enemies' pride : five times he hath return'd
Bleeding to Rome, bearing his valiant sons
In coffins from the field ;
And now at last, laden with honour's spoils,
Returns the good Andronicus to Rome,
Renowned Titus, flourishing in arms.
Let us entreat.-—by honour of his name,
Whom worthily you would have now succeed,
And in the Capitol and senate's right,
Whom you pretend to honour and adore,-
That you withdraw you, and abate your strength:
Dismiss your followers, and, as suitors should,
Plead your deserts in peace and humbleness.

Sat. How fair the tribune speaks to calm my thoughts.

Bas. Marcus Andronicus, so I do affya
In thy uprightness and integrity,
And so I love and honour thee and thine,
Thy noble brother Titus, and his sons,
And her, to whom my thoughts are humbled all,
Gracious Lavinia, Rome's rich ornament,
That I will here dismiss my loving friends ;
And to my fortunes, and the people's favour,
Commit my cause in balance to be weigh’d.

[Exeunt the Followers of BASSIANUS.
Sat. Friends, that have been thus forward in my right,
I thank you all and here dismiss you all ;
And to the love and favour of my country
Commit myself, my person, and my cause.

[Exeunt the Followers of SATURNINUS. Rome, be as just and gracious unto me, As I am confident and kind to thee.Open the brazen gates, and let me in. Bas. Tribunes, and me, a poor competitor. [Sat, and Bas. go into the Capitol ; and exeunt with

Senators, MARCUS, 8c.

« PreviousContinue »