Page images

title-page of which it appeared, that the. play was printed as it was acted by the King's Majesty's servants at the Globe.'

- In the Stationers' Registers are two entries, of distinct dates, relating to a play, or plays, called Troilus and Cressida : they are in the following terms:

57 Feb. 1602-3 • Mr. Roberts] The booke of Troilus and Cresseda, as

yt is acted by my Lo. Chamberlens men. 28 Jan. 1608-9 • Rich. Bonion and Hen. Whalleys] Entered for their

copie under t’hands of Mr. Segar Deputy to Sir Geo. Bucke, and Mr. Warden Lownes: A booke

called the History of Troylus and Cressula.' * 6. The edition of 1609 was, doubtless, published in consequence of the entry of “28 Jan. 1608–9;' but if Roberts printed a • Troilus and Cressida,' whether by Shakespeare or by any other dramatist, in consequence of the earlier entry of 7 Feb. 1602-3,' none such has come down to our time."

In the Remarks on the Preliminary Matter to the Folio of 1623, (Vol. II. p. lxi.,) it has been already mentioned that Troilus and Cressida is omitted from the Catalogue of the Plays published in that volume; and in the Introduction to The Winter's Tale, (Vol. V. p. 275,) allusion has been made to the existence of typographical evidence in the folio that the player editors were in doubt as to the classification of both these plays. . This evidence consists of the lack of paginal numbering, the use in each play of a series of signature marks peculiar to it, and as to the play before us, the omission, just mentioned, from the Catalogue. Hypothetical explanation of these circumstances was naturally sought; and the theory of the eighteenth century editors with regard to Troilus and Cressida is given in the following paragraph from Mr. Knight's Introduction to the play, together with his own ingenious and far more probable solution of the problem.

" Steevens says, · Perhaps the drama before us was not entirely of his (Shakspere's) construction. It appears to have been unknown to his associates, Hemings and Condell, till after the first folio was almost printed off. If the play had been unknown to Hemings and Condell, the notion that, for this

* Attention was first directed to these entries by Malone, in his edition of Shakespeare, 1790, Vol. I. p. 342, and they are quoted in the Variorum of 1821, pp. 639 and 639 -- the paging 639, 640 being repeated instead of 641, 642.

reason, it might not be entirely of Shakspere's construction, would be a most illogical inference. But how is it shown that the play was unknown to Shakspere's associates ? Farmer tells us, .It was at first either unknown or forgotten. It does not, however, appear in the list of the plays, and is thrust in between the Histories and the Tragedies, without any enumeration of the pages; except, I think, on one leaf only. If these critics had carried their inquiries one step farther, they would have found that Troilus and Cressida was neither unknown nor forgotten by the editors of the first folio. It is more probable that they were only doubtful how to classify it. In the first quarto edition it is called a famous History, in the title-page; but in the preface it is repeatedly mentioned as a Comedy. In the folio edition it bears the title of The Tragedie of Troylus and Cressida.' In that edition the Tragedies begin with Coriolanus; and the paging goes on regularly from 1 to 76, that last page bringing us within a hundred lines of the close of Romeo and Juliet. We then skip pages 77 and 78, Romeo and Juliet concluding with 79. Now the leaf of Troilus and Cressida, on which Farmer observed an enumeration of pages, includes the second and third pages of the play, and those are marked 79, 80. If the last page of Romeo and Juliet had been marked 77, as it ought to have been, and the first page of Troilus and Cressida 78, we should have seen at once that this Tragedy was intended by the editors to follow Romeo and Juliet. But they found, or they were informed, that this extrordinary drama was neither a Comedy, nor a History, nor a Tragedy; and they therefore placed it between the Histories and the Tragedies, leaving to the reader to make his own classification. This is one solution of the matter which we have to offer; and it is a better one, we think, than the theory that so remarkable a production of Shakspere's later years should be unknown or forgotten by his fellows.'

Mr. Collier thinks that the circumstances in question “ may be sufficiently accounted for by the supposition that Troilus and Cressida was given to, and executed by, a different printer,” from those who printed the rest of the plays in the folio of 1623. But I have been able to discover no evidence in support of this conjecture on the pages of the first folio; and although Mr. Collier has the advantage over me of some thirty-five years' longer study of typography, I will venture to assert that no essential difference can be detected between the letter or the press-work of Troilus and Cressida and that of the other plays in the folio of 1623. The ornamental head-piece, initial letter, and tail-piece are the same which are used frequently in the course of the volume ; * and there is no minute peculiarity of letter, composition, or “make-up” in which I have not found absolute correspondence between the printing of this play and that of all the others which were 66 printed at the charges of W. Jaggard, Ed. Blount, I. Smithweeke, and W. Aspley." There is little question in my mind that Mr. Knight's ingenious conjecture rightly accounts for the circumstances under which we find this play in the first folio. And I add in support of the conclusion that there was doubt as to the designation of the play, that in the folio all the other tragedies (except Timon of Athens, which is called a "Life") are designated as tragedies in the running title at the head of the page: whereas this is not so designated, except upon the third and fourth pages, where the specification seems, like the numbering of the same pages, to be a vestige of the first classification.

The sources whence Shakespeare derived the incidents and the characters which he worked into this play are, Chaucer's poem, Troilus and Creseide, Caxton's Recuyell of the historyes of Troy, (a translation from the Norman French of Raoul le Fevre,) Lydgate's History, Sege and Destruccion of Troye, and Chapman's translation of Homer, which was published 1596– 1600, a few years before the production of Troilus and Cressida. The very undramatic story (of which there is not even a hint in the Iliad, and which is said to be the invention of a Lombard Latin poet Lollius nominis umbra) Shakespeare retained about as he found it; the incidents he chose here and there from the various authorities above mentioned; the characterization of the personages is entirely his own, he not being indebted even to Chaucer for the traits of his Cressida; so that a comparison of his work with that of any other author who had previously used the same materials would be entirely superfluous, if, indeed, it were possible. But the entry of a "booke of Troilus and Cressida” upon the Stationers' Register in 1602–3, the fact that in 1599, as we learn from Henslowe's Diary, Dekker and Chettle were employed upon a Troyelles and Cresseda, and the great inequality of style in the play as it appears in the quarto and folio editions, have not unreasonably led to the supposition that the story may have been put into a dramatic form before Shakespeare touched it, and that in the play as we have it there is some of the work of an earlier playwright. Dryden advances the opinion, in the preface to his revision of the play, that its commencement is spirited, but its conclusion tame; regarding it, apparently, as an example illustrative of Horace's simile of the vase and the jug; and Sir Walter Scott in his Life of Dryden echoes the opinion of his author, and decides that this play was left by Shakespeare « in a singular state of imperfection.”

* A reduced fac-simile of the ornamental head-piece is given on p. 17 of Vol. II. of this edition, over Leonard Digges' verses 6 To the Memorie of the deceased Authour," &c.

Of the characteristics which form the internal evidence as to the manner in which the play was produced, Mr. Verplanck, with comprehensive view and fine critical insight, has given us this valuable judgment:

- The play is, in all respects a very remarkable and singular production; and it has perplexed many a critic, not, as usual, by smaller difficulties of readings and interpretation, but by doubts as to the author's design and spirit. Its beauties are of the highest order. It contains passages fraught with moral truth and political wisdom — high truths, in large and philosophical discourse, such as remind us of the loftiest disquisitions of Hooker, or Jeremy Taylor, on the foundations of social law. Thus the comments of Ulysses (Act I. Sc. 3) on the universal obligation of the law of order and degree, and the confusion caused by rebellion to its rule, either in nature or in society, are in the very spirit of the grandest and most instructive eloquence of Burke. The piece abounds too in passages of the most profound and persuasive practical ethics, and grave advice for the government of life; as when, in the third act, Ulysses (the great didactic organ of the play) impresses upon Achilles the consideration of man's ingratitude for good deeds past, and the necessity of perseverance to keep honor bright.' Other scenes again, fervid with youthful passion or rich in beautiful imagery, are redolent with intense sweetness of poetic fancy. Such is that splendid exhortation of Patroclus to Achilles, of which Godwin has justly said, that a more poetical passage, if poetry consists in sublime, picturesque, and beautiful imagery, neither ancient nor modern times have produced.' (Life of Chaucer.)

• Sweet, rouse yourself; and the weak, wanton Cupid
Shall from your neck unloose his amorous folds,
And like a dew-drop from the lion's mane,
Be shook to air.'

“ Nor is there any drama more rich in variety and truth of character. The Grecian camp is filled with real and living men of all sorts of temper and talent, while Thersites, a variation and improvement of the original deformed railer of the Iliad, " is, in his way, a new study of human nature, not (as some writers view him) a mere buffoon, but a sort of vulgar and cowardly Iago, without the • Ancient's' courage and higher intellect, but with the same sort of wit and talent, and governed by the same self-generated malignity. So, too, Ulysses' sarcastic sketch of Cressida is a gem of art, at once arch, sagacious, and poetic.

or With all this, there is large alloy of inferior matter, such as Shakespeare too often permitted himself to use, in filling up the chasms of the scene, between loftier and brighter thoughts. More especially is there felt, by every reader, a sense of disappointment at the unsatisfactory effect of the whole, arising mainly from the want of unity in that effect, and in the interest of the plot -- at the desultory and purposeless succession of incident and dialogue, all resembling (as W. Scott well observes) • a legend, or a chronicle, rather than a dramatic composition.' That power of comprising the varied details of any great work in one view, and, while preserving the individuality and truth of the parts, blending them in the effect of one whole-- the ponere totum of Horace so essential to excellence in all of the higher works either of art or of literature, hardly appears here. Yet it is a power that Shakespeare never wanted or neglected, even in his earlier comedies; and at the date of TROILUS AND CRESSIDA he had exhibited the highest proof of it, in LEAR, OTHELLO, and MACBETH.”

“ Moreover, the style, and the verbal and metrical peculiarities, suggest other questions. There is much in the play recalling the rhymes and the dialogue of the Poet's earlier comedies, while the higher and more contemplative passages resemble the diction and measure of his middle period — that of MEASURE FOR MEASURE and LEAR. It also abounds in singular words, unusual accentuations, and bold experiments in language, such as he most indulged in during that period, but to a greater extent than can, I think, be found in any other play.”

Mr. Verplanck, after citing the opinions of Dryden and Scott, as to the merits of the play, with Coleridge's, that Shakespeare intended it to be “ a grand history piece in the robust style of Albert Durer," and the fanciful and extravagant notion of Ulrici, that Shakespeare wrote Troilus and Cressida to warn the world thoroughly against the over-valuation and idolatry of heroes, goes on to state the conclusion which he has drawn from the external and internal evidence as to the production of the play:

-a conclusion so entirely different from that of any previous editor, that, although it is identical with mine, it would be unjust to Mr. Verplanck, as well as a deprivation to my

« PreviousContinue »