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The Tempeft has rather more of the novel in it than the play that was last spoken of: but no one has yet pretended to have met with fuch a novel; nor any thing elfe, that can be fuppos'd to have furnifh'd Shakspeare with materials for writing this play: the fable of which must therefore pass for entirely his own production, 'till the contrary can be made appear by any future difcovery. One of the poet's editors, after abserving that- the perfons of the drama are all Italians; and the unities all regularly obferv'd in it, a cuftom likewife of the Italians; concludes his note with the mention of two of their plays, Il Negromante di L. Ariofto, and Il Negromanțe Palliato di Gio. Angelo Petrucci; one or other of which, he seems to think, may have given rife to the Tempest: but he is mistaken in both of them; and the last must needs be out of the question, being later than Shakspeare's time.
An old ballad, whofe date and time of writing can not be afcertain'd, is the ground-work of Titus Andronicus; the names of the perfons acting, and almoft every incident of the play are there in mi̟niature; it is, indeed, fo like,-that one might be tempted to fufpect, that the ballad was form'd upon the play, and not that upon the ballad; were it not fufficiently known, that almost all the compofitions of that fort are prior to even the infancy of Shakspeare.
Troilus and Creffida.
The loves of Troilus and Creffida are celebrated by Chaucer; whose poem might, perhaps, induce Shakspeare to work them up into a play. The other matters of that play (hiftorical, or fabulous, call them which you will,) he had out of an ancient book, written and printed first by Caxton, call'd -The Deftruction of Troy, in three parts: in the third part of it, are many ftrange particulars, occurring no where else, which Shakspeare has admitted into his play.
Another of Belleforeft's novels is thus intitl'd. — "Comme une fille Romaine se veftant en page fervift long temps un fien amy fans eftre cogneue, & depuis l'eut a mary avec autres divers difcours." Hiftoires Tragiques; Tom. 4, Hift. 7. This novel, which is itself taken from one of Bandello's (v. Tom. 2, Nov. 36,) is, to all appearance, the foundation of the ferious part of Twelfth Night: and must be fo accounted; 'till fome English novel appears, built (perhaps) upon that French one, but approaching nearer to Shakspeare's comedy.
Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Julia's love adventures being in fome refpects the fame with those of Viola in Twelfth Night, the fame novel might give rife to them both; and Valentine's falling amongst out-laws, and becoming their captain, is an incident that has fome refem
blance to one in the Arcadia, (Book I. chap. 6,) where Pyrocles heads the Helots: all the other circumftances which conftitute the fable of this play, are, probably, of the poet's own invention.
To the ftory-book, or Pleafant History (as it is call'd) of Doraftus and Fawnia, written by Robert Greene, M. A. we are indebted for Shakspeare's Winter's Tale. Greene join'd with Dr. Lodge in writing a play, call'd A Looking-Glafs for London and England, printed in 1598, in quarto, and black letter; and many of his other works, which are very numerous, were publifh'd about that time, and this amongst the reft: it went through many impreffions, all of the fame form and letter as the play; and that fo low down as the year 1664, of which year I have a copy. Upon this occafion, I shall venture to pronounce an opinion, that has been referv'd for this place, (though other plays too were concern'd in it, as Hamlet and Cymbeline) which if it be found true, as I believe it will, may be of use to fettle many difputed points in literary chronology. My opinion is this: that almost all books, of the gothick or black character, printed any thing late in the feventeenth century, are in truth only re-impreffions; they having pass'd the prefs before in the preceding century, or (at least ) very foon after. For the character began then to be difus'd in the printing of new books: but the types remaining, the owners of them found a convenience in using them for books that had been before printed in them; and to this convenience
of theirs are owing all or moft of thofe impreffions pofterior to 1600. It is left to the reader's fagacity, to apply this remark to the book in the prefent article; and to thofe he finds mention'd before, in the articles - Hamlet and Cymbeline.
Such are the materials, out of which this great poet has rais'd a ftructure, which no time fhall efface, nor any envy be ftrong enough to leffen the admiration that is fo juftly due to it; which if it was great before, cannot fail to receive encreafe with the judicious, when the account that has been now given them is reflected upon duly: other originals have, indeed, been pretended; and much extraordinary criticifm has, at different times, and by different people, been fpun out of thofe conceits; but, except fome few articles, in which the writer profeffes openly his ignorance of the fources they are drawn from, and fome others in which he delivers himself doubtfully, what is faid in the preceding leaves concerning thefe fables may with all certainty be rely'd upon.
How much is it to be wifh'd, that fomething equally certain, and indeed worthy to be intitl'da Life of Shakspeare, could accompany this relation, and complete the tale of thofe pieces which the publick is apt to expect before new editions? But that nothing of this fort is at prefent in being, may be faid without breach of candour, as we think, or fufpicion of over-much niceness: an imperfect and loofe account of his father, and family; his own marriage, and the iffue of it; fome traditional ftories, many of them trifling in themfelves, fupported by small authority, and feemingly illgrounded; together with his life's final period as
gather'd from his monument, is the full and whole amount of hiftorical matter that is in any of these writings; in which the critick and effayist swallow up the biographer, who yet ought to take the lead in them. The truth is, the occurrences of this most interesting life (we mean, the private ones) are irrecoverably loft to us; the friendly office of regiftring them was overlook'd by thofe who alone had it in their power, and our enquiries about them now must prove vain and thrown away. But there is another fort of them that is not quite fo hopelefs; which befides affording us the profpect of fome good iffue to our endeavours, do also invite us to them by the promise of a much better reward for them: the knowledge of his private life had done little more than gratify our curiofity, but his publick one as a writer would have confequences more important; a discovery there would throw a new light upon many of his pieces; and, where rashness only is fhew'd in the opinions that are now current about them, a judgment might then be form'd, which perhaps would do credit to the giver of it. When he commenc'd a writer for the stage, and in which play; what the order of the reft of them, and (if that be discoverable) what the occafion; and, laftly, for which of the numerous theatres that were then fubfifting they were feverally written at first,—are the particulars that should chiefly engage the attention of a writer of Shakspeare's Life, and be the principal subjects of his inquiry; to affift him in which, the firft impreffions of these plays will do fomething, and their title-pages at large, which, upon that account, we mean to give in another work that will