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WILLIAM ALDIS WRIGHT, M. A.
Bursar of Trinity College, Cambridge
AT THE CLARENDON PRESS
M DCCC LXXX
[All rights reserved]
THE Tempest was printed for the first time, so far as we know, in the folio of 1623, where it stands first in the volume. It is divided into acts and scenes, and the locality of the play is indicated at the end, "The Scene, an uninhabited Island,' followed by the 'Names of the Actors,' or dramatis personæ, which are substantially the same as those given in modern editions.
The date at which The Tempest was written is still uncertain, and can be only approximately determined. Among the 'Extracts from the Accounts of the Revels at Court in the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King James I,' edited for the Shakespeare Society in 1842 by the late Mr. Peter Cunningham, appeared the following from the book for the years 1611, 1612:—/
By the Kings
Hallowmas nyght was presented att Whithall before ye Kinges Matie A play Called the Tempest.
It is now ascertained that this entry, and all the others of a similar kind contained in the books of the Revels numbered xii and xiii, are undoubted forgeries. The books themselves disappeared for many years, but were restored in 1868 to their proper place in the Record Office by the authorities of the British Museum, to whom they were offered for sale. The date, 1611, assigned to the performance of the play in this spurious entry, agrees however with that given by Malone in
his 'Account of the Incidents, from which the Title and part of the Story of Shakespeare's Tempest were derived; and its true date ascertained' (Shakespeare, ed. Boswell, 1821; vol. xv. pp. 377-434). The conclusion at which Malone arrived, that 'the circumstances attending the storm by which Sir George Somers was shipwrecked on the island of Bermuda, in the year 1609, unquestionably gave rise to Shakespeare's Tempest, and suggested to him the title, as well as some of the incidents, of that admirable comedy,' was put forward independently by Douce in his Illustrations of Shakespeare. If The Tempest, as is not improbable, be hinted at in the Induction to Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair, this fact supplies an ultimate limit for the date of the play. The passage in which it is supposed to be referred to was pointed out by Theobald, and is as follows: 'If there bee never a Servant-monster 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. Bartholomew Fair was acted at the Hope Theatre, Bankside, on 31st October, 1614, by the Lady Elizabeth's servants. The Winter's Tale, to which the extract just given appears also to allude, was undoubtedly among the latest of Shakespeare's plays, and was acted at court in May 1613. Malone conjectures that it was licensed about the end of 1610 or beginning of 1611; and, according to Dr. Simon Forman's diary, it was put on the stage at least as early as May 15, 1611, when he witnessed the performance of it at the Globe Theatre. Mr. Collier argues that The Tempest was written before The Winter's Tale, from the fact that whereas in the latter Shakespeare closely follows the story of Greene's Pandosto, he departs from it in one important particular, namely the manner in which Perdita is exposed in the deserts of Bohemia. In Greene's tale the child is cast adrift at sea in a sailless and rudderless boat, and Mr. Collier's suggestion is that Shakespeare purposely varied this incident in The Winter's Tale because he had already made use of it in The Tempest. In seeking for a superior limit to the
date of the play, we come to a passage which was pointed out by Steevens as having possibly suggested to Shakespeare the lines in the fourth Act, beginning 'The cloud-capt towers,' &c. It is from 'The Tragedie of Darius,' written by William Alexander, afterwards Earl of Stirling, and originally published at Edinburgh in 1603. The following quotation is from the London edition of 1604, sig. H recto, Act. iv. Scene 2
'Let greatnesse of her glascie scepters vaunt;
Those golden Pallaces, those gorgeous halles,
Those statelie Courts, those sky-encountring walles
There is certainly sufficient resemblance to warrant the quotation of this as a parallel passage, but hardly enough to justify any inference with regard to priority of date. But there is another fact which seems to fix 1603 as a superior limit to the date of the play, and it is this: that Florio's translation of Montaigne's Essays, from which the passage in Act ii. Scene 1, lines 147 &c., is evidently borrowed, was not published till that year. We know that Shakespeare possessed this book, for a copy with his autograph is now in the British Museum. It may therefore be fairly assumed that The Tempest was written between the years 1603 and 1614, and nearer the latter than the former limit. Malone states, on the authority of Mr. George Vertue's MSS., that it 'was acted by John Heminge and the rest of the King's Company, before Prince Charles, the lady Elizabeth, and the Prince Palatine Elector, in the beginning of the year 1613.' If Mr. Collier's conjecture is right, that The Tempest was written before The Winter's Tale, this would place the time of its composition not later than 1610, for The Winter's Tale was written and acted as early as May 1611. Again, supposing the theory of the origin of the play advanced by Malone and Douce to be true, and it is, to say the least, a very reasonable conjecture, we then arrive at