« ZurückWeiter »
ing the commencement. A perfect copy of this very rare play is in the collection of the Duke of Devonshire, and from it we transcribe the following title-page :
“The true Tragedie of Richard the third : Wherein is showne the death of Edward the fourth, with the smothering of the two yoong Princes in the Tower: With a lamentable ende of Shore's wife, an example for all wicked women. And lastly, the coniunction and ioyning of the two noble Houses, Lancaster and Yorke. As it was playd by the Queenes Maiesties Players. London Printed by Thoinas Creede, and are to be sold by William Barley, at his shop in Newgate Market, neare Christ Church doore. 1594.”
This title-page so nearly corresponds with the entry in the Stationers' Registers", as to leave no doubt that the latter roferred to the former. The piece itself, as a literary composition, deserves little remark, but as a drama it possesses several peculiar features. It is in some respects unlike any relic of the kind, and was evidently written several years before it came from Creede's press. It opens with a singular dialogue between Truth and Poetry :
" Poetrie. Truth, well met.
" Truth. Then, will I adde bodies to the shadowes.
“ Poet. Why, will Truth be a Player ?
" Truth. No; but Tragedia like for to present A Tragedie in England done but late, That will revive the hearts of drooping mindes.
“ Poet. Whereof?
“ Truth. Marry, thus." Hence Truth proceeds with a sort of argument of the play; but before the Induction begins, the ghost of George,
Duke of Clarence, had passed over the stage, delivering two lines as he went, which we give precisely as in the original copy now before us :
“ Cresse cruor sanguinis, satietur sanguine cresse,
Quod spero scitio. O scitio, scitio, vendicta !" The drama itself afterwards opens with a scene representing the death of Edward IV., and the whole story is thenceforward most inartificially and clumsily conducted, with a total disregard of dates, facts, and places, by characters imperfectly drawn and ill sustained. 'Shore's wife plays a con8picnous part; and the tragedy does not finish with the battle of Bosworth Field, but is carried on subsequently, although the plot is clearly at an end. The conclusion is quite as remarkable as the commencement. After the death
5 It is as follows, being rather unusually particular :Tho. Creede) An Enterlude entitled the Tragedie of Richard
the Third, wherein is showen the Death of Edward the Fourthe, with the Smotheringe of the twoo Princes in the Tower, with a lamentable End of Shores wife, and the conjunction of the twoo Houses of Lancaster and York.
of Richard, Report (a personification like some of those in the old Moralities) enters, and holds a dialogue with a Page, to inform the audience of certain matters not exhibited; and after a long scene between Richmond, the Queen mother, Princess Elizabeth, &c., two Messengers enter, and, mixing with the personages of the play, detail the succession of events and of monarchs from the death of Richard until the accession of Elizabeth. The Queen mother then comes forward, and pronounces an elaborate panegyric upon Elizabeth, ending with these lines :
“For which, if ere her life be taen away,
her soule may live in heaven for aye ;
Your hope is gone, on whom did peace depend." As in this sort of epilogue no allusion is made to the Spanish Armada, though other public events of less prominence are touched upon, we may perhaps infer that the drama was written before the year 1588.
The style in which it is composed also deserves observation : it is partly in prose, partly in heavy blank-verse, (such as was penned before Marlowe had introduced his improvements, and Shakespeare had adopted and advanced them) partly in ten-syllable rhyming couplets, and stanzas, and partly in the long fourteen-syllable metre, which seems to have been popular even before prose was employed upon our stage. In every point of view it may be asserted, that few more curious dramatic relics exist in our language. It is perhaps the most ancient printed specimen of composition for a public theatre, of which the subject was derived from English history.
Boswell asserts that “The True Tragedy of Richard the Third” had "evidently been used and read by Shakespeare,' but we cannot trace any resemblances, but such as were probably purely accidental, and are merely trivial. Two persons could hardly take up the same period of our anrials, as the ground-work of a drama, without some coincidences; but there is no point, either in the conduct of the plot or in the language in which it is clothed, where our great dramatist does not show his measureless superiority. The portion of the story in which the two plays make the nearest approach to each other, is just before the murder of the princes, where Richard strangely takes a page into his confidence respecting the fittest agent for the purpose.
It is not to be concluded, because the title-page of "The True Tragedy of Richard the Third” expresses that it was acted “by the Queen's Majesty's Players,” that it was the association to which Shakespeare belonged, and which became “the King's Players " after James 'I. ascended the throne. In 1583, the Queen selected a company from the theatrical servants of several of her nobility ; (Hist. of Engl. Dram. Poetry and the Stage, vol. i. 254 ;) and in 1590 there were two companies, called “her Majesty's Players,” one under the management of Laneham, and the other of Lau
rence Duttons. By one of these companies "The True Tragedy of Richard the Third" must have been performed. Until the death of Elizabeth, the association to which Shakespeare was attached was usually called “the Lord Chamberlain's Servants."
In the “Memoirs of Edward Alleyn," p. 121, it is shown that Henslowe's company, subsequent to 1599, was either in possession of a play upon the story of Richard III., or that some of the poets he employed were engaged upon such a drama. From the sketch of five scenes, there inserted,
we may judge that it was a distinct performance from “The True Tragedy of Richard the Third." By an entry in Henslowe's Diary, dated 22d June, 1602, we learn that Ben Jonson received 10. in earnest of a play called “Richard Crookback," and for certain additions he was to make to Kyd's Spanish Tragedy. Considering the success of Shakespeare's “Richard the Third,” and the active contention, at certain periods, between the company to which Shakespeare belonged, and that under the management of Henslowe, it may be looked upon as singular, that the latter should have been without a drama on that portion of English history until after 1599; and it is certainly not less singular, that as late as 1602 Ben Jonson should have been occupied in writing a new play upon the subject. Possibly, about that date Shakespeare's “ Richard the Third” had been revived with the additions ; and hence the employment of Jonson on a rival drama, and the publication of the third edition of Shakespeare's tragedy after an interval of four years.
Malone was of opinion that Shakespeare wrote “Richard the Third” in 1593, but did not adduce a particle of evidence, and none in fact exists. We should be disposed to place it somewhat nearer the time of publication.
6 This new fact in the history of our early drama and theatres, we owe to Mr. Peter Cunningham, who establishes it beyond contradiction, in his interesting and important volume of "Extracts from the Accounts of the Revels at Court,” printed for the Shakespeare Society. Introd. p. xxxii.
KING EDWARD THE FOURTH.
Sons to the King.
MARQUESS OF Dorset, and LORD GREY, her
ELIZABETH, Queen of King Edward IV.
Clarence, and Gloster.
Lords, and other Attendants; two Gentlemen, a Pur
suivant, Scrivener, Citizens, Murderers, Messengers, Ghosts, Soldiers, &c.
LIFE AND DEATH
KING RICHARD III.
SCENE I.-London. A Street.
Enter GLOSTER, Glo. Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this sun' of York; And all the clouds that lower'd upon our house, In the deep bosom of the ocean buried. Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths; Our bruised arms hung up for monuments; Our stern alarums chang’d to merry meetings, Our dreadful marches to delightful measures. Grim-visagd war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front; And now, instead of mounting barbed” steeds, To fright the souls of fearful adversaries, He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber, To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.» But I, that am not shap'd for sportive tricks, Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass; I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty, To strut before a wanton ambling nymph ; I, that am curtail'd thus of* fair proportion, Cheated of feature by dissembling nature, Deform’d, unfinish'd, sent before my time Into this breathing world, scarce half made up, And that so lamely and unfashionable, That dogs bark at me, as I halt by them; Why I, in this weak piping time of peace,
1 The cognizance of Edward IV., consisted of three suns. soned. 3 love : in quartos. 4 curtail'd of this : in f. e.