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fact that Holinshed's Chronicles and Painter's Palace of Pleasure (both books having been certainly used by Shakespeare for the plots of plays) supplied the fable. Mr. Fleay believes that Edward III. was a play of Marlowe's which Shakespeare altered and revised. The Shakespearian part he holds to be from the entrance of King Edward in the last scene of act i. to the end of act ii. "For myself", writes Mr. Swinburne, who has made a careful study of the play, "I am, and have always been, perfectly satisfied with one single and simple piece of evidence that Shakespeare had not a finger in the concoction of King Edward III. He was the author of King Henry V." If any man of common judgment, Mr. Swinburne adds, can be found to maintain the theory of Shakespeare's possible partnership in the composition of the play, "such a man will assuredly admit that the only discernible or imaginable touches of his hand are very slight, very few, and very early". This last statement expresses sufficiently nearly my own opinion. In the portion of King Edward III. ascribed to Shakespeare by Mr. Fleay, the amorous king makes an attempt upon the honour of the Countess of Salisbury, which is met by a spirited repulse. With a reference to the Roman Lucrece the king, now brought to his better mind, addresses her:
Arise, true English lady: whom our isle
May better boast of, than e'er Roman might
It seems to me far from probable that the author
THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN.
of the Rape of Lucrece is here alluding to his own poem.
$46. The romantic comedy of The Two Noble Kinsmen is of a much later date, and has certainly a far stronger claim to be considered as in part the work of Shakespeare. It was first printed in 1634, eighteen years after our great dramatist's death, and on the title-page it bore his name as joint-author with Fletcher. Other external evidence than this
there is none. The internal evidence yields a doubtful result. Several eminent critics-Coleridge, Hallam, Dyce, Sidney Walker, Mr. Swinburne, and others have accepted the theory of Shakespeare's joint authorship, and schemes for the distribution of the acts and scenes between Fletcher and Shakespeare have been proposed.1 But it is a remarkable fact that one of the most accomplished and careful students of the play, Professor Spalding, who in 1833 published an essay in which he endeavoured, with singular fineness of criticism, to draw the line between Shakespeare's handiwork and Fletcher's, declared in 1840 that his opinion was then "not so decided as it once was", and wrote in 1847 with increasing doubts that "the question of Shakespeare's share in this play is really insoluble". What happened in Spalding's case has probably happened with not a few persons, who at one time were assured that the hand of Shakespeare can be discerned in The Two Noble Kinsmen. The parts ascribed to him seem to grow less like his work in thought, feeling, and expression, as we, so to speak,
1Shakespeare's part: act i. (except part of sc. 2.); act ii. sc. 1; act. iii. sc. 1. 2; act. iv. sc. 3; act v. (except sc. 2).
live with them. The resemblance which at first impressed us so strongly seems to fade, or, if it remains, to be at most something superficial. At the present moment the drift of opinion is rather in favour of assigning the play to Fletcher and Massinger. The subject of The Two Noble Kinsmen is the story of Palamon and Arcite (told by Chaucer in his Knightes Tale), with which a wretched underplot, the work of Fletcher, is connected.
No intelligent reader of Locrine, Mucedorus, The London Prodigal, The Puritan, The Life and Death of Thomas Cromwell, The History of Sir John Oldcastle, Fair Em, The Birth of Merlin, can suppose that a single line was contributed to any one of these plays by Shakespeare. It is conceivable that touches from his hand may exist in A Yorkshire Tragedy, and even in Arden of Feversham. But the chance that this is actually the case is exceedingly small. We may therefore set down King Edward III. and The Two Noble Kinsmen as doubtful plays; the rest for which an idle claim has been made, should be named pseudo-Shakespearian.
$47. While Shakespeare lived his poems circulated widely and received high commendation; his plays were favourites with the people, and were also esteemed by the courtly patrons of the drama. is probable that for some years after Shakespeare's death the plays of Fletcher were more popular upon the stage than those of any other writer. Ben Jonson was looked on as the great master of
SEVENTEENTH CENTURY APPRECIATION. 89
the scholarly or classical school of dramatic writing; he was, however, probably more praised by the judicious than enjoyed by the ordinary spectators of the theatre. Taste was deteriorating from Elizabethan days; the manlier temper of the drama was declining; and Shakespeare's plays soon came to be regarded as somewhat old-fashioned. Yet we know that several were enacted before Charles I., and were, as Sir Henry Herbert records in his Office Book, "well likte by the kinge". It was one of the virtues-not too numerous-of that loyal courtier and slight poet Sir John Suckling that he knew Shakespeare well; when his portrait was painted by Vandyke he was represented as holding in his left hand a folio on the edge of which is a paper bearing the name Shakespeare. The growth of Puritanism was of course unfavourable to the influence of a dramatic writer; yet Milton, the greatest poet of Puritanism, did honour in his earlier days to Shakespeare's memory in verses which tell of the profound impression made by the dramatist's "Delphic lines", and elsewhere celebrated him in contrast with Jonson, the poet of art and erudition, for "his native woodnotes wild". It was a grief to William Prynne, the author of Histrio-Mastix (1633), that "Shackspeer's Plaies are printed in the best Crowne paper, far better than most Bibles"; but that grief may have been allayed by knowledge of the fact that no crowne paper" in folio form was used for this unworthy purpose during the period of the struggle against the bishops and the king.
In Restoration days, when the theatres were (789)
reopened and possessed the new attraction of actresses in the female parts, there was something like a Shakespearian revival; but it was accompanied with the feeling that though Shakespeare was a glory of the elder English drama, he belonged to an age half-barbarous in comparison with one which had been refined by the growth of general culture and by influences derived from France. Killigrew's new theatre in Drury Lane opened with King Henry IV. The great actor Betterton appeared in several of Shakespeare's leading characters. The dramatist D'Avenant did honour to his memory. On Oct. 11, 1660, Mr. Samuel Pepys saw the "Moor of Venice" at the Cockpit, and on December 5 of the same year at the New Theatre "The Merry Wives of Windsor ". In later entries in his diary he mentions that he had been present at performances of Romeo and Juliet, "a play of itself the worst that ever I heard in my life"; A Midsummer Night's Dream, "the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life"; Twelfth Night, "a silly play"; Macbeth, "a most excellent play for variety"; and to this last he returned again and again. The altered taste of the time made it seem necessary that Shakespeare's plays, in not a few instances, should be recast and modernized, a practice which was continued-and, as may readily be conceived, often with lamentable results-during the eighteenth century. The Tempest was altered by D'Avenant and Dryden, with added spectacle and song, new characters, and indecent dialogue. Antony and Cleopatra was improved upon by Sedley, Timon of Athens by Shadwell, Cymbeline