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Alexander and Shakespear, who have lately published their works.' He appears to allude to the Sonnets, but can hardly be taken to mean that the publication was authorised by Shakespeare. For one thing, the poet does not seem to have spelt his name Shake-speare (with the hyphen), as is done in Thorpe's book. The date when the Sonnets were composed is not known. They must have been mostly written between 1590 and 1600, and chiefly in the earlier years of the decade. One or two seem to be so late as 1603 or 1604. Shakespeare's sonnet period is synchronous with his earlier dramas; and parallels in Love's Labour's Lost,' 'Two Gentlemen,' Romeo and Juliet,' and other plays of that period are numerous and striking. External references are all previous to 1600; the Meres allusion in 1598, the publication of two of the Sonnets, from the end sequences, in the 'Passionate Pilgrim' (1599), and the use of the 'Fair, Kind, and True' Sonnet (105) by Breton in his 'Melancholy Humours' of 1600, as first noticed by the present writer, all point to a 16th-century date. A book called 'Amours by J. D. with certein other Sonnets by W. S.,' licensed for publication in 1600, but not brought out, may refer to Shakespearean sonnets. But there was a William Smith who produced a collection of sonnets called 'Chloris' in 1596.
Now that a satisfactory Life of Shakespeare, fully up to modern requirements, and written with skill, moderation, and common sense, has been provided for the lovers and students of Shakespeare, there remains yet one necessary thing, which would form the most suitable of all tercentenary memorials of his death. There is at present in existence no adequate edition of Shakespeare in a single handy volume. When the publishers of the Globe edition, which was excellent at that date and deserved its immense success, decided in 1900 to bring out a new edition, they were content merely to produce the old faulty book, now quite out of date, with all its glaring imperfections, in practically the same form as before. The Clarendon Press followed suit almost immediately, though their edition is undated. Its text indeed is far better than that of the 'Globe,' but in many important respects the book is quite as unsatisfactory.
For instance, it keeps the absurd order of the plays found in the first folio, and makes no attempt to eject the un-Shakespearean parts of the 'Passionate Pilgrim.'
Can no publisher be found—an editor would soon be forthcoming-to bring out an edition on the following lines? A single handy volume; the plays as far as possible in their chronological order; marginal references as in the Bible; non-Shakespearean parts of the plays in different type; 'Edward III,' 'Sir Thomas More,' and 'Two Noble Kinsmen' to be included and treated similarly; passages in Quartos not found in the Folios to be marked; concise headings to each play, giving approximate dates, sources and other necessary information; revised lists of dramatis persona, with aliases inserted; modern equivalents of obsolete words at the foot of the page; The Passionate Pilgrim' critically revised and the non-Shakespearean items thrown out; other occasional poems, some of which, such as the two epitaphs, are certainly, and others such as the Florio sonnets, are most probably, by Shakespeare, to be inserted; all the minor poems to be in proper order; a short life, or at least a chronological table at the beginning, and a glossary at the end. An edition such as the one here sketched out, on thin light paper-the old Globe edition was excellent in this respect-would command instant acceptance and chase every rival from the field.
A canon of Shakespeare is imperatively needed. Until it is at least approximately known what parts of 'Titus Andronicus' (if any), Henry VI,' Parts 1, 2, 3, 'Pericles,' 'Timon,' 'Henry VIII,' and the three so-called apocryphal plays, are by Shakespeare, it will be impossible to settle the question (for instance) of his classical knowledge. Interpolated passages or scenes have also crept into 'Cymbeline' and other plays. These must be discriminated. The establishment of a true canon will not be easy, but it need not be considered impossible. Titus Andronicus' will undoubtedly be a bone of contention. Because the well-informed Meres mentions it, and it finds a place in the first Folio, some will not hear of its not being wholly Shakespeare's. Yet internal evidence is decisive against it. In general style, phraseology, diction, plot, and moral it is unlike his
work. Apart from this, it was probably written before 1590; and how can we attribute this play and 'Love's Labour's Lost,' the 'Comedy of Errors,' and 'Romeo and Juliet' to the same hand at about the same time? Moreover, it was acted by Lord Pembroke's players in the first instance. No doubt the tradition recorded by Ravenscroft in 1678 is correct. The play was by another hand (most probably Kyd's), and Shakespeare only shredded in a few passages, such as:
'What, hast not thou full often struck a doe,
And borne her cleanly by the keeper's nose?' (II, 1, 90). 'What stern ungentle hands
Have lopp'd and hew'd and made thy body bare
With regard to Pericles,' all now agree that Shakespeare had a considerable hand in it, in spite of its exclusion from the Folio. The inferior parts are attributed to George Wilkins, who wrote the novel based on the play. But the famous-infamous brothel scenes, which are quite beyond the reach of Wilkins, sorely disturb the equanimity of the Shakespeare idealisers. Had Jonson or any other been the writer of the finer parts of 'Pericles,' no one would have hesitated to ascribe the brothel scenes to the author of these parts. Those who will not hear of their being by Shakespeare are obliged to introduce a third author for them alone, an expedient which stands selfcondemned. Certainly Shakespeare was never, and he is not here, a procurer to the Lords of hell'; and his outspoken and mostly humorous grossness is far less offensive and pernicious than the corrupt and suggestive prurience of a Tourneur, a Fletcher, or a Ford. The brothel scenes in truth are so skilfully and vigorously handled, and are so similar in manner to passages in 'Measure for Measure,' that we are almost forced, on reading them, to cry, Aut Shakespeare aut diabolus,' possibly et Shakespeare et diabolus.' The play was published first in 1609, and probably written within the two previous years, as the words 'gazed on like a
comet'* may refer to Halley's comet, which appeared in 1607.
Fletcher, perhaps the most brilliant dramatist next to Shakespeare, and his coadjutor, surpassed himself in his share of Henry VIII,' but does not show to quite such advantage in the other joint play, 'The Two Noble Kinsmen.' The best parts of this are by a greater than he, and who but Shakespeare could be called so? Take the splendid apostrophe to Mars in the third scene of the fourth act, or these lines:
'By th' helm of Mars I saw them in the war,
If this is not by Shakespeare, then had Fletcher learnt to write with his 'victorious pen'! Surely too, the Shakespeare touch is seen in such words as
'That we should things desire that do cost us
Some parts of the play, especially the vulgar and indecent love episode of the jailer's daughter, are a sort of ignoble travesty of Shakespeare's work; but in the
'Roses, their sharp spines being gone,
Not royal in their smells alone
But in their hue;
Maiden pinks, of odour faint,
Daisies smell-less yet most quaint,
And sweet thyme true,'
we find something, if not entirely beyond Fletcher's skill in his happiest moments, yet quite worthy of Shakespeare. In the Quarto of 1634 this play is ascribed to Fletcher and Shakespeare, the order of the names being noticeable, as if Fletcher had worked up Shakespeare material and been responsible for the play.
But there are plays, for Shakespeare's joint authorship of which we have no external evidence whatever, yet seem forced to ascribe to him a share in them. Chief among these comes Edward III,' first published in 1596. In the first two acts the love episode between
v, 1, 87.
the King and the Countess of Salisbury shows a splendour and opulence of thought and diction scarcely to be found but in Shakespeare's admitted work. The incident and its dénouement are both characteristic of him. Many lines recall Shakespeare's style:
'And from the fragrant garden of her womb
Your gracious self, the flower of Europe's hope,
'Upon the bare report and name of arms' (1, 2, 80).
And every ornament that thou would'st praise,
Fly it a pitch above the soar of praise' (II, 1, 84).
The style in some places reminds us of the Sonnets, one line, Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds ' (п, 1, 451), being taken from Sonnet 94, where it seems more in place than here, and the expression scarlet ornaments' recalls a phrase in Sonnet 142. Compare also
'I kill my poor soul and my poor soul me' (II, 1, 242),
'Now in the sun it doth not lie
With light to take light from a mortal eye;
(1, 2, 131). Tennyson affirmed that he could trace Shakespeare's hand through the last three acts. These lines seem the most prominent instance:
To die is all as common as to live
For from the instant we begin to live
And dying but beginning of new life' (IV, 4, 133).
This incident is taken from Bandello in Painter's Palace of Pleasure,'
a book which we know Shakespeare to have used.