Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

“The Tempest” was first printed in the folio edition of “Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies," bearing date in 1623, where it stands first, and occupies nineteen pages, viz. from p. 1, to p. 19 inclusive. It fills the same place in the folios of 1632, 1664, and 1685.

INTRODUCTION.

A MATERIAL fact, in reference to the date of the first production of "The Tempest,” has only been recently ascertained: we allude to the notice of the performance of it, before King James, on Nov. 1st, 1611,1 which is contained in the “ Extracts from the Accounts of the Revels at Court," edited by Mr. P. Cunningham for the Shakespeare Society, p. 211: the memorandum is in the following form: “Hallomas nyght was presented att Whithall before the

Kinges Majestie a play called the Tempest.” In the margin is inserted the additional circumstance, that the performance was " by the King's Players ;" and there can be no reasonable doubt that it was Shakespeare's drama, which had been written for that company. When it had been so written, is still a point of difficulty; but the probability, we think, is that it was selected by the Master of the Revels, for representation at Court in 1611, on account of its novelty and popularity on the public stage. Eleven other dramas, as appears by the same document, were exhibited between Oct. 31, 1611, and the same day in the next year; and it is remarkable that ten of these (as far as we possess any information respecting them) were comparatively new plays, and with regard to the eleventh, it was not more than three years old. We may, perhaps, be warranted in inferring, therefore, that “The Tempest” was also not then an old play.

It seems to us, likewise, that the internal evidence, derived from style and language, clearly indicates that it was a late production, and that it belongs to about the same period of our great dramatist's literary history as his “Wiuter's Tale," which was also chosen for a Court-play, and represented at Whitehall only four days after “Thé Tempest” had been exhibited. In point of construction, it must be admitted at once

1 The earliest date hitherto discovered for the performance of The Tempest " was the beginning of the year 1613," which Malone established from Vertue's MSS. : it was then acted by “the King's Company, before Prince Charles, the Princess Elizabeth, and the Prince Palatine," but where is not

stated. * See note 2 to the Introduction to “ The Winter's Tale." The par. ticular play to which we refer is entitled in the Revels' Account “Lucrecia," which may have been either T. Heywood's " Rape of Lucrece," first printed in 1608, or a different tragedy on the same incidents.

that there is the most obvious dissimilarity, inasmuch as “ The Winter's Tale" is a piece in which the unities are utterly disregarded, while in The Tempest” they are strictly observed. It is only in the involved and parenthetical character of some of the speeches, and in psychological resemblances, that we would instituto a comparison between “The Tempest” and the “Winter's Tale," and would infer from thence that they belong to about the same period.

Without here adverting to the real or supposed origin of the story, or to temporary incidents which may have suggested any part of the plot, we may remark that there is one piece of external evidence which strongly tends to confirm the opinion that “The Tempest” was composed not very long before Ben Jonson wrote one of his comedies: we allude to his "Bartholomew Fair," and to a passage in “ the Induction," frequently mentioned, and which we concur in thinking was intended as a hit not only at “ The Tempest,” but at "The Winter's Tale.” Ben Jonson's “Bartholomew Fair," was acted in 1614, and written perhaps in the preceding year, during the popularity of Shakespeare's two plays; and there we find the following words, which we reprint, for the first time, exactly as they stand in the original edition, where Italic type seems to have been used to make the allusions inore distinct and obvious:-“If there bee never a Servantmonster i' the Fayre, who can helpe it, he sayes; nor a nest of Antiques ? Hee is 'loth to make Nature afraid in his Playes, like those that beget Tales, Tempests, and such like Drolleries.” The words servant-monster," "antiques," "Tales," “ Tempests," and "drolleries,” which last Shakespeare himself employs in “The Tempest," (Act iii. sc. 3.) seem so applicable, that they can hardly relate to any thing else.

It may be urged, however, that what was represented at Court in 1611 was only a revival of an older play, acted before 1596, and such may have been the case : we do not, however, think it probable, for several reasons. One of these is an apparently trifling circumstance, pointed out by Farmer; viz. that in “The Merchant of Venice," written before 1598, the name of Stepharo is invariably pronounced with the accent on the second syllable, while in “The Tempest,” the proper pronunciation is as constantly required by the verse. It seems certain, therefore, that Shakespeare found his error in the interval, and he may have learnt it from Ben Jonson's “Every Man in his Humour," in which Shakespeare performed, and in the original list of characters to which, in the edition of 1601, the names not only of Stephano, but of Prospero occur.

Another circumstance shows, we think almost decisively, that “The Tempest” was not written until after 1603, when the translation of Montaigne's Essays, by Florio, made its first

* See " Alleyn Papers," printed by the Shakespeare Society, p. 67, where Daborne, under date of Nov. 13th, 1613, speaks of " Jonson's play" as then about to be performed. Possibly it was deferred for a short time, as the title-page states that it was acted in 1614. It may have been written in 1612, for performance in 1613.

appearance in print. In Act II. sc. 1, is a passage so closely copied from Florio's version, as to leave no doubt of identity. If it be said that these lines may have been an insertion subsequent to the original production of the play, we answer, that the passage is not such as could have been introduced, like some others, to answer a temporary or complimentary purpose, and that it is given as a necessary and continuous portion of the dialogue.

The Rev. Mr. Iunter, in his very ingenious and elaborate “ Disquisition on the Tempest,” has referred to this and to other points, with a view of proving that every body has hitherto been mistaken, and that this play instead of being one of his latest, was one of Shakespeare's earliest works. With regard to the point derived froin Montaigne's Essays by Florio, 1603, he has contended, that if the particular essay were not separately printed before, (of which we have not the slightest hint) Shakespeare may have seen the translation in manuscript; but unless he so saw it in print or manuscript as early as 1595, nothing is established in favour of Mr. Hunter's argument; and surely when other circumstances show that " The Tempest" was not written till 1610,5 we need not hesitate long in deciding that our great dramatist went to no manuscript authority, but took the passage almost verbatim, as he found it in the complete edition. In the same way Mr. Hunter has argued, that "The Tempest” was not omitted by Meres in his list in 1598, but that it is found there under its second title, of “Love's Labours Won;" but this is little better than a gratuitous assumption, even supposing we were to admit that “ All's well that ends Well” is not the play intended by Meres. Our notion is, that “All's well that ends Well” was originally called “Love's Labours Won," and that it was revived, with some other changes, under a new name in 1605 or 1606.

Neither can we agree with Mr. Hunter in thinking that he has established, that nothing was suggested to Shakespeare by the storm, in July 1609, which dispersed the fleet under Sir George Somers and Sir Thomas Gates, of which an account was published by a person of the name of Jourdan in the following year. This point was, to our mind, satisfactorily made out by Malone, and the mention of “the still-vex'd Bermoothes" by Shakespeare seems directly to connect the drama with Jourdan's 5t Discovery of the Bermudas, otherwise called the Isle of Devils," printed in 1610. We are told at the end of the play, in the folio of 1623, that the scene is laid “ in an uninhabited island," and Mr. Hunter has contended that this island was Lampedusa, which unquestionably lies in the track which the ships in “The Tempest” would take. Our objection to this theory is two-fold: first, we cannot persuade ourselves, that Shakespeare had any particular island in his mind; and secondly, if he had meant to lay his scene in Lampedusa, he could hardly have failed to introduce its name in some part of his performance: in consequence of the deficiency of scenery, &c., it was the constant custom with our early dramatists to mention distinctly, and often more than once, where the action was supposed to take place. As a minor point, we may add, that we know of no extant English authority to which he could have gone for information, and we do not suppose that he consulted the Turco Græciæ of Crusius, the only older authority quoted by Mr. Hunter.

4 Malone (Shaksp. by Boswell, vol. xv. p. 78.) quotes this important passage from Florio's translation of Montaigne with a singular degree of incorrectness : with many minor variations he substitutes partitions for “dividences," and omits the words “no manuring of lands" altogether. This is a case in which verbal, and even literal, accuracy is important.

6 In the Introduction to “The Winter's Tale,” we have assigned a reason, founded upon a passage in R. Greene's “ Pandosto." for believing that “The Tempest” was anterior in composition to that play. .6 Mr. Hunter contends that in " The Tempest " " love's labours" are “won;" but such is the case with every play in which the issue is successful passion, after difficulties and disappointments: in "The Tempest" they are fewer than in most other plays, since from first to last the love of Ferdinand and Miranda is prosperous. At all events “ The Tempest " was played at Court under that title in 1611 and 1613. Mr. Hunter also endeavours to establish that Ben Jonson alluded to “ The Tempest” in 1596, in the Prologue to “Every Man in his Humour;" but while we admit the acuteness, we cannot by any means allow the conclusiveness, of Mr. Hunter's reasoning.

No novel, in prose or verse, to which Shakespeare resorted for the incidents of “ The Tempest” has yet been discovered; and although Collins, late in his brief career, mentioned to T. Warton that he had seen such a tale, it has never come to light, and we apprehend that he must have been mistaken. We have turned over the pages of, we believe, every Italian novelist, anterior to the age of Shakespeare, in hopes of finding some story containing traces of the incidents of “The Tempest," but without success. The ballad entitled “The Inchanted Island," printed in “Farther Particulars regarding Shakespeare and his Works," is a inore modern production than the play, from which it varies in the names, as well as in some points of the story, as if for the purpose of concealing its connection with a production which was popular on the stage. Our opinion decidedly is, that it was founded upon “The Tempest," and not upon any ancient narrative to which Shakespeare also might have been indebted. It inay be remarked, that here also no locality is given to the island: on the contrary, we are told, if it ever had any existence but in the imagination of the poet, that it had disappeared :

"From that daie forth the Isle has beene
By wandering sailors never seene

Some say 't is buryed deepe
Beneath the sea, which breakes and rores
Above its savage rocky shores,

Nor ere is knowne to sleepe.” Mr. Thoms has pointed out some resemblances in the incidents of an early German play, entitled Die Schone Sidea, and “ The Tempest:" his theory is, that a drama upon a similar

« ZurückWeiter »