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THE FABLE AND COMPOSITION
TAMING OF THE SHREW.
We have hitherto supposed Shakspeare the author of the Taming of the Shrew, but his property in it is extremely disputable. I will give my opinion, and the reasons on which it is founded. I suppose then the present play is not originally the work of Shakspeare, but restored by him to the stage, with the whole induction of the Tinker; and some other occasional improvements; especially in the character of Petruchio. It is very obvious that the Induction and the Play were either the works of different hands, or written at a great interval of time. The former is in our author's best manner, and a great part of the latter in his worst, or even below it. Dr. Warburton declares it to be certainly spurious; and without doubt, supposing it to have been written by Shakspeare, it must have been one of his earliest productions. Yet it is not mentioned in the list of his works by Meres, in 1598.
I have met with a facetious piece of Sir John Harrington, printed in 1596, (and possibly there may be an earlier edition,) called The Metamorphoses of Ajax, where I suspect an allusion to the old play; "Read the Booke of Taming a Shrew, which hath made a number of us so perfect, that now every one can rule a shrew in our countrey, save he that hath hir."—I am aware a modern linguist may object that the word book does not at present seem dramatick, but it was once technically so: Gosson in his Schoole of Abuse, containing a pleasaunt Inuective against Poets, Pipers, Players, Jesters, and such like Caterpillars of a Commonwealth, 1579, mentions " twoo prose bookes played at the Bell-Sauage:" and Hearne tells us, in a note at the end of William of Worcester, that he had seen VOL. III.
a MS. in the nature of a Play or Interlude, intitled the Booke of Sir Thomas Moore.
And in fact there is such an old anonymous play in Mr. Pope's list: "A pleasant conceited history, called, the Taming of a Shrew-sundry times acted by the earl of Pembroke his servants." Which seems to have been republished by the remains of that company in 1607, when Shakspeare's copy appeared at the BlackFriars or the Globe.-Nor let this seem derogatory from the character of our poet. There is no reason to believe that he wanted to claim the play as his own; for it was not even printed till some years after his death; but he merely revived it on his stage as a
In support of what I have said relative to this play, let me only observe further at present, that the author of Hamlet speaks of Gonzago, and his wife Baptista; but the author of the Tuming of the Shrew knew Baptista to be the name of a man. Mr. Capell indeed made me doubt, by declaring the authenticity of it to be confirmed by the testimony of Sir Aston Cockayn. I knew Sir Aston was much acquainted with the writers immediately subsequent to Shakspeare; and I was not inclined to dispute his authority but how was I surprised, when I found that Cockayn ascribes nothing more to Shakespeare, than the Induction-Wincotale and the Beggar! I hope this was only a slip of Mr. Capell's memory. FARMER.
Of this play the two plots are so well united, that they can hardly be called two without injury to the art with which they are interwoven. The attention is entertained with all the variety of a double plot, yet is not distracted by unconnected incidents.
The part between Catharine and Petruchio is eminently spritely and diverting. At the marriage of Bianca the arrival of the real father, perhaps, produces more perplexity than pleasure. The whole play is very popular and diverting. JOHNSON.
A story very similar to the Taming of the Shrew is to be found in the Tatler, Vol. iv, No. 231, the plot of which was evidently borrowed from this play of our author, though it is pretended to have been a real transaction in Lincolnshire.
Our author's Taming of the Shrew was written, I imagine, in 1594.-See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays, vol. ix.
THE FABLE AND COMPOSITION
THE WINTER'S TALE.
THIS play, throughout, is written in the very spirit of its author. And in telling this homely and simple, though agreeable, country tale,
Our sweetest Shakspeare, fancy's child,
Warbles his native wood-notes wild.
This was necessary to observe in mere justice to the play; as the meanness of the fable, and the extravagant conduct of it, had misled some of great name into a wrong judgement of its merit; which, as far as it regards sentiment and character, is scarce inferior to any in the whole collection. WARBURTON.
Dr. Warburton, by "some of great name," means Dryden and Pope. See the Essay the end of the Second Part of The Conquest of Granada: "Witness the lameness of their plots; [the plots of Shakspeare and Fletcher ;] many of which, especially those which they wrote first, (for even that age refined itself in some measure,) were made up of some ridiculous incoherent story, which in one play many times took up the business of an age. I suppose I need not name Pericles, Prince of Tyre, [and here, bythe-by, Dryden expressly names Pericles as our author's production,] nor the historical plays of Shakspeare; besides many of the 1est, as The Winter's Tale, Love's Labour's Lost, Measure for Measure, which were either grounded on impossibilities, or at
least so meanly written, that the comedy neither caused your mirth, nor the serious part your concernment." Mr. Pope, in the Preface to his edition of our author's plays, pronounced the same ill-considered judgement on the play before us. I should conjecture (says he) of some of the others, particularly Love's Labour's Lost, THE WINTER'S TALE, Comedy of Errors, and Titus Andronicus, that only some characters, single scenes, or perhaps a few particular passages, were of his hand."
None of our author's plays has been more censured for the breach of dramatick rules than The Winter's Tale. In confirmation of what Mr. Steevens has remarked in another place—“ that Shakspeare was not ignorant of these rules, but disregarded them," it may be observed, that the laws of the drama are clearly laid down by a writer once universally read and admired, Sir Philip Sidney, who in his Defence of Poesy, 1595, has pointed out the very improprieties into which our author has fallen in this play. After mentioning the defects of the tragedy of Gorboduc, he adds: "But if it be so in Gorboducke, how much more in all the rest, where you shall have Asia of the one side, and Africke of the other, and so manie other under kingdomes, that the player when he comes in, must ever begin with telling where he is, or else the tale will not be conceived.-Now of time they are much more liberal. For ordinarie it is, that two young princes fall in love, after many traverses she is got with childe, delivered of a faire boy he is lost, groweth a man, falleth in love, and is readie to get another childe, and all this in two houres space: which how absurd it is in sence, even sence may imagine."
The Winter's Tale is sneered at by B. Jonson, in the induction to Bartholomew Fair, 1614: "If there be never a servant-monster in the fair, who can help it, nor a nest of Antiques? He is loth to make nature afraid in his plays, like those that beget TALES, Tempests, and such like drolleries." By the nest of antiques, the twelve satyrs who are introduced at the sheep-shearing festival, are alluded to.-In his conversation with Mr. Drummond of Hawthornden, in 1619, he has another stroke at his beloved friend: "He (Jonson) said, that Shakspeare wanted art, and sometimes sense for in one of his plays he brought in a number of men,
saying they had suffered shipwreck in Bohemia, where is no sea near by 100 miles." Drummond's Works, fol. 225, edit. 1711.
When this remark was made by Ben Jonson, The Winter's Tale was not printed. These words therefore are a sufficient answer to Sir T. Hanmer's idle supposition that Bohemia was an error of the press for Bythinia.
This play, I imagine, was written in the year 1604.
Sir Thomas Hanmer gave himself much needless concern that Shakspeare should consider Bohemia as a maritime country. He would have us read Bythinia: but our author implicitly copied the novel before him. Dr. Grey, indeed, was apt to believe that Dorastus and Faunia might rather be borrowed from the play; but I have met with a copy of it, which was printed in 1588.-Cervantes ridicules these geographical mistakes, when he makes the princess Micomicona land at Ossuna.-Corporal Trim's king of Bohemia" delighted in navigation, and had never a sea-port in his dominions ;" and my lord Herbert tells us, that De Luines the prime minister of France, when he was embassador there, demanded, whether Bohemia was an inland country, or lay "upon the sea?" -There is a similar mistake in The Two Gentlemen of Veronu, relative to that city and Milan.
The story of this play is taken from The Pleasant History of Dorastus and Fawnia, written by Robert Greene.
This play, as Dr. Warburton observes, with all its absurdities, is very entertaining; the character of Autolycus is very naturally conceived, and strongly represented. JOHNSON.