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main differences in the quarto copies ; and it enables us with some plausibility to conjecture, that the date when Shakespeare wrote " Troilus and Cressida” was not long before it was first represented, and a still shorter time before it was first printed
Some difficulty has arisen out of the entry, already quoted, of a “Troilus and Cressida" in the Stationers' books, with the date of 7th Feb. 1602–3, in which entry, it is stated that the play was “acted by the Lord Chamberlain's servants;"> the company to which Shakespeare belonged having been so denominated anterior to the license of James I. in May, 1603. This circumstance formed Malone's chief ground for contending that Shakespeare wrote his “ Troilus and Cressida" in 1602. It may, however, be reasonably inferred that this was a different play on the same subject. Every body must be struck with the remarkable inequality of some parts of Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida," especially towards the conclusion: they could, hardly have been written by the pen which produced the magnificent speeches of Ulysses and other earlier portions, and were probably relics of a drama acted by the Lord Chamberlain's servants about 1602, and in the spring of 1603 intended to be printed by Roberts. In April and May, 1599, it appears by Henslowe's Diary that he paid various sums to Dekker and Chettle for a play they were then writing under the title of “Troilus and Cressida :" it may be concluded that it was soon afterwards acted by the Earl of Nottingham's players, for whom it was composed ; and the “Troilus and Cressida," entered by Roberts on the 7th Feb. 1602–3, may have been a tragedy, not by Shakespeare, brought out by the Lord Chamberlain's servants at the Globe, in competition with their rivals at the Rose, or. Fortune. Of this piece it is not impossible that Shakespeare in some degree availed himself; and he might be too much in haste to have time to alter and improve all that his own taste and genius would otherwise have rejected.
This brings us to the question of the source from which Shakespeare derived his plot: how far he did, or did not, follow the older play we suppose him to have employed, it is not possible to determine. In 1581
ballad, dialogue-wise, between Troilus and Cressida? was entered on the Stationers' Registers by Edward White, and in the lax form of expression of that day this may have been a dramatic, performance. More than a century earlier, viz. in 1471, Caxton had printed his “Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye,"? which at various dates, and in a cheap form, was reprinted, Lydgate's “ History, Sege, and Destruccyon of Troye" came from Pynson's press in 1513; but Shakespeare seems to have been so attentive a reader of Chaucer's five books of " Troylus and Creseyda" (of which the last edition, anterior to the production of Shakespeare's play, appeared in 1602) as to have been considerably indebted to them. It is not easy to trace any direct or indirect obligations on the part of Shakespeare to Chapman's translation of Homer, of which the earliest portion canie out in 1598. It is well known that the adven
tures of Troilus and Cressida are not any where mentioned in the Iliad.
After adverting to the real or supposed origin of the story of" Troilus and Cressida,” Coleridge remarks in his Literary Remains, vol. ii. p. 130, that it can scarcely be classed with his dramas of Greek and Roman History; but it forms an intermediate link between the fictitious Greek and Roman Histories, which we may call legendary dramas, and the proper ancient histories; that is, between the Pericles or Titus Åndronicus, and the Coriolanus or Julius Cæsar.” He then adverts to the characters of the hero and heroine, and the purpose Shakespeare had in view of pourtraying them, and goes on to observe:-“I am half inclined to believe that Shakespeare's main object, or shall I rather say, his ruling impulse, was to translate the poetic heroes of paganism into the not less rude, but more intellectually vigorous, and more featurely, warriors of Christian chivalry,--and to substantiate the distinct and graceful profiles or outlines of the Homeric epic into the flesh and blood of the romantic drama,-in short, to give a grand history-piece in the robust style of Albert Durer.” Consistently in some degree with this opinion, Schlegel remarks, that "the whole play is one continued irony of the crown of all heroic tales—the tale of Troy," and after dwelling briefly upon this point, he adds :-" in all this let no man conceive that an indignity was intended to Homer: Shakespeare had not the Iliad before him, but the chivalrous romances of the Trojan war derived from Dares Phrygius." Shakespeare, in fact, found the story popular, and he applied it to a popular purpose in a popular manner.
One reason for thinking that “ Troilus and Cressida” came from the hands of a different printer, though little or no distinction can be traced in the type, is that there is hardly any play in the folio of 1623 which contains so many errors of the press. The quarto of 1609 was unquestionably the foundation of the text of the folio, for in various instances the latter adopts the literal blunders of the former: it besides introduces not a few important corruptions, for which it is not easy to account, so that the language of Shakespeare, on the whole, is perhaps best represented in the quarto. There are, however, some valuable additions in the folio, not found in the quarto, while on the other hand the quarto contains passages omitted in the folio, though sometimes absolutely necessary to the sense. The variations, whether important or comparatively insignificant, are noted at the foot of the page; but there are two instances deserving notice in which our text differs from that of all preceding editions. It has been thought that the quarto impressions of 1609, as far as regards the body of the play, are identical. Such is not precisely the case, and a copy of the drama issued after it had been acted by the King's Majesty's servants at the Globe," belonging to the Duke of Devonshire, contains two valuable improvements of the text, as it had been given in the earlier copies published before it had been performed. The first of these occurs in Act iii. sc. 2, whero Troilus, anticipating the
entrance of Cressida, exclaims, as we find the passage in all modern editions,
“I am giddy : expectation whirls me round.
Love's thrice-reputed nectar ?" For “thrice-reputed nectar," the Duke of Devonshire's copy of the quarto, 1609, has “thrice-repured nectar," or thrice purified and refined nectar. The other instance of the same kind occurs near the end of the play (Act v. sc. 7.) where Achilles is exciting his armed Myrmidons to the slaughter of Hector, and tells them,
“Empale him with your weapons round about:
In fellest manner execute your arms." Thus it stands in all editions, from the folio of 1623 downwards, and the commentators have been at some pains to explain the phrase "execute your arms," when in truth, as Steevens suspected, it is nothing but a misprint for "execute your aims," as appears upon the authority of the quarto, 1609, in the collection of the Duke of Devonshire: for Achilles, to charge his followers to encircle Hector with their weapons, and then to execute their aims against him in the fellest manner, requires no explanation, and is an improvement of the received text. This copy of the second issue of the quarto, 1609, seems originally to have belonged to Humphry Dyson, a curious collector, who considerably outlived Shakespeare, and who registers on the title-page, with the attestation of his signature, that “Troilus and Cressida” was
printed amongest the workes” of Shakespeare, referring of course to the folio of 1623.
Dryden produced an alteration of “Troilus and Cressida" at the Dorset Garden Theatre in 1679, and it was printed in the same year: in the preface he states that he had “refined Shakespeare's language, which before was obsolete."
PREFIXED TO SOME COPIES OF THE EDITION OF 1609.
A never Writer to an ever Reader.
Eternal reader, you have here a new play, never staled with the stage, never clapper-clawed with the palms of the vulgar, and yet passing full of the palm comical; for it is a birth of your brain, that never undertook any thing comical vainly: and were but the vain names of comedies changed for the titles of commodities, or of plays for pleas, you should see all those grand censors, that now style them such vanities, flock to them for the ain grace of their gravities; especially this author's comedies, that are so framed to the life, that they serve for the most common commentaries of all the actions of our lives, showing such a dexterity and power of wit, that the most displeased with plays are pleased with his comédies. And all such dull and heavy-witted worldlings, as were never capable of the wit of a comedy, coming by report of them to his representations, have found that wit there that they never found in themselves, and have parted better-witted than they came; feeling an edge of wit set upon them, more than ever they dreamed they had brain to grind it on. So much and such savoured salt of wit is in his comedies, that they seem (for their height of pleasure) to be born in that sea that brought forth Venus. Amongst all there is none more witty than this; and had I time I would comment upon it, though I know it needs not, (for so much as will make you think your testern well bestowed) but for so much worth, as even poor I know to be stuffed in it. It deserves such a labour, as well as the best comedy in Terence or.Plautus: and believe this, that when he is gone, and his comedies out of sale, you will scramble for them, and set up a new English inquisition.2
1 A never Writer to an ever Reader. News.] This address, or epistle, is only found in such copies of “Troilus and Cressida” as do not state on the title-page that it was acted by the King's Majesty's servants at the Globe." See Introduction.
2 -and set up a new English inquisition.] This prophecy has been well verified of late years, when (to say nothing of the prices of first editions of Shakespeare's undoubted works) 1001, have been given for a copy of the old “ Taming of a Shrew," 1594, and 1301. for
The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York,” 1595, merely because they were plays which Shakespeare made use of in his compositions.
Take this for a warning, and at the peril of your pleasure's loss, and judgment's, refuse not, nor like this the less for not being sullied with the smoky breath of the multitude; but thank fortune for the scape it hath made amongst you, since by the grand possessors wills, I believe, you should have prayed for them, rather than been prayed. And so I leave all such to be prayed for (for the states of their wits' healths) that will not praise it.- Vale.
3-rather than been prayed.] This passage refers, probably, to the unwillingness of the company to which Shakespeare belonged to allow any of their plays to be printed. Such seems to have been the case with all the associations of actors, and hence the imperfect manner in which most of the dramas of the time have come down to us, and the few that issued from the press, compared with the number that were written. The word " them," in prayed for them," refers, as Mr. Barron Field suggests to me, not to the “grand possessors,” but to "his comedies," mentioned above.