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It must be held as anything but complimentary to the acumen of the expositors that this peculiar expression of defiance, thus repeatedly made use of, should have escaped their notice. Mr Staunton, in reference to the last given lines, resorts to a play of Beaumont and Fletcher for à parallel expression, apparently unaware that Shakspere had used it elsewhere in the works.
The allusions to the stage and to actors are numerous throughout the works, as might have been expected in the case of one whose life was devoted to the writing of plays. These references, however, are so artistically varied as to be scarcely capable of being contrasted with each other, as in the following examples :
All the world's a stage,
I do not like to stage me to men's eyes. Such expressions as these indicate to some extent Shakspere's philosophy and his power of drawing sharp comparisons, but without yielding any exact or proper points of contrast.
In concluding this part of the subject, we may notice the frequent references made to a certain personage who figures conspicuously in “ Troilus and Cressida,” called Pandarus. This character, from whom we derive the word pandar, Shakspere seems to have found so useful that it occurs in many of the plays. We need not repeat the expressions, which are more numerous than any references of a similar nature; Pistol's may answer for the whole—“Shall I Sir Pandarus of Troy become?" From whatever cause, it is certain that no person, real or imaginary, is so frequently introduced into the plays as this same Pandarus of doubtful reputation.
These works have been the despair and the distraction of critics, and consequently a complete puzzle to the reading public at large. In the last age, the general opinion was that they were not, or only very partially, the product of the author's pen. Dryden professed to believe that “Shakspere's muse his Pericles' first bore." Malone would accept “ Pericles,” and reject. “ Andronicus.” Pope was chary about admitting either into the catalogue of the works. Warburton reprinted “Andronicus," and excluded “Pericles ;"* and Johnson, although not without a giudge, gave a place to both in his edition. Pope's opinion of the works is as follows :
If I may judge from all the distinguishing marks of his style, and his manner of thinking and writing, I make no doubt to declare that those wretched plays, “ Pericles,” “Locrine,"
"“Sir John Oldcastle,” “ Yorkshire Tragedy," & Lord Cromwell,” “The Puritans," and "London Prodigal,” cannot be ad. mitted as his. And I should conjecture of some of the others (particularly “Love's Labour Lost,” “The Winter's Tale,” and “Titus Andronicus,") that only some characters, single scenes, or perhaps a few particular passages, were of his hand,
The author of the “ Art of Criticism" was evidently not an infallible critic! The idea that portions only of “Love's Labour Lost” and “ The Winter's Tale” were by Shakspere, is one which would be held by no scholar of these days who had any regard for his position, and is indeed flatly opposed by the whole scope and management of the works in question, which are marked with many of the most decided touches of their author-elegance of diction, depth of thought, and happy and acute characterisation.
Dr Johnson, in his usual dogmatic way, would not allow that Shakspere had written any part of " Andronicus." In mentioning the theatrical tradition alluded to by Ravenscroft, that this play was written by some other poet, but touched in different parts by Shakspere, the doctor says that
* Warburton was a critic of more assumption than acuteness. In addition to « Pericles" and "Andronicus,” he rejects, as not belonging to Shakspere, the “ Taming of the Shrew," Comedy of Errors," and the three parts of Henry VI. The first act of Fletcher's "Three Noble Kinsmen" was, he believes, written by Shakspere, “but in his worst manner.” This same piece is believed by De Quincy to be by Shakspere, and " in his very best manner.” Thus do doctors differ !
he does not “find Shakspere's touches very discernible.” Since Johnson's day opinion on the subject of the two productions has varied with the different editors, but no one now ventures to aver that the pieces are not more or less the work of Shakspere, the tendency of modern criticism being to admit a greater rather than a diminished share in the writing of these works by the author. Opinion, however, still fluctuates in a rather distressing fashion, as may be seen from that hazarded by Mr Staunton regarding " Andronicus” in his recent edition of the works. He says :
That Shakespeare [Mr Staunton persists in this spelling of the name) had any share in this revolting tragedy, the fact of its appearance in the list of pieces ascribed to him by Meres, and its insertion by Heminge and Condell in the folio collection of 1623, forhids us to doubt. He may, in the dawning of his dramatic career, have written a few of the speeches, and have imparted vigour and more rhythmical freedom to others ; he inay have been instrumental also in putting the pieces upon the stage of the company to which he then belonged; but that he had any hand in the story, or in its barbarous characters and incidents, we look upon as in the highest degree improbable.
A dictum such as this is a fair illustration of the difficulties of editors in making up their minds as to Shakspere's share in the production of the piece. Mr Staunton admits that Shakspere may have written a few of the speeches,” but thinks it highly improbable that he had “any hand in its
' barbarous characters and incidents,” overlooking the obvious inference that the penning of any part of the speeches necessarily involved to some extent participation in the management of the characters or incidents, seeing that these are solely evolved from the mouths of the speakers themselves, and from no other source.
Mr Gerald Massey, in his book on the Sonnets, already alluded to in these pages, gives it as his opinion that “Pericles” is genuine, and that “Andronicus” is not. He says-_“In the whole play, there is no single touch that his closest acquaintances instantly and for ever recognise as the master's; not one of these nearnesses to nature that we know as Shakesperian; and yet he could not write thirty lines without emitting an authentic flash of such revelation.' As we proceed, we shall be able to see the worth of this sweeping opinion. Mr Charles Knight pertinently asks, if this play was not from the hand of its reputed author, whose it was; and Mr Massey answers the question by alleging that it was a compound composition by Marlowe and Nash, but without producing a particle of evidence in support of his belief, and indeed destroying all faith in his own sup
position by admitting that Shakspere may have made a copy of it in his own hand-writing, and in this way may have misled the editors of the Folio.
Leaving out of view the strong external evidence supplied by Meres and by the editors of the First Folio that Shakspere was the sole author of " Titus Andronicus"--evidence stronger than any we can get in the case of most of the recognised plays——there are other considerations of even a more cogent character pointing in the same direction, which are supplied by the work itself, and these based on certain broad characteristics of style and manner. The grand objection to the genuineness of the authorship lies in what Guizot calls that execrable accumulation of horrors" which principally make up the incidents of the piece. But it has to be considered that such matters were paid much less attention to in the days of Shakspere than they are now, and it is mere folly to guage the taste or refinement of the present or of the last age by the fashions and modes of thought prevailing in preceding centuries. In the time of Shakspere neither play-wrights nor audiences were easily frightened by the production of horrors, as all must admit who have glanced at the stage productions of the time. Indeed, to us of the present age it seems impossible of belief that such a piece could have been brought before an audience at all, yet we have the fact on record that it was repeatedly produced in public. Shakspere was an immense reformer of
. the stage, but in some of the very greatest of his unquestioned works he has not scrupled to introduce scenes and incidents which would be perfectly abhorrent to any modern audience, and those who object so strenuously to the authenticity of portions of “ Andronicus" on account of the barbarous and shocking nature of the incidents, should be reminded of certain occurrences which take place in some of his acknowledged plays. Johnson objects to what he calls the “general massacre" of the dramatis persona in “Andronicus,” but it happens that in “Lear,” which no one ever doubted to be from the true Shaksperian mint, there is also something of the like catastrophe. Gloster's eyes are plucked out and trampled on before the audience, and the hair of his beard is torn out by Regan. He dies afterwards of “passion, joy, and grief,” in the extreme of which his “flawed heart burst smilingly.” Nor he alone. Lear himself dies in wadness and misery. Cordelia is hanged, and in the act her father kills the hangman. Edward is slain in combat with his brother. Goner il poisons her sister, and stabs herself. The
Duke of Cornwall is killed in a brawl with a servant, and the servant also dies.
A messenger from Goneril is killed by Edmund. Kent dies. The poor fool” is hanged. Here, then, is a decided “accumulation of horrors,” but no one ventures to doubt the handwriting of “ Lear” on this account. “ Hamlet” furnishes another example. In this tragedy, also, all the principal characters perish miserably. Ophelia is drowned, her father is accidentally stabbed, her brother is poisoned. Rosencranz and Guildenstern lose their lives by Hamlet's stratagem. Hamlet himself is poisoned, as well as both father and mother, and he kills his uncle. Then, in “Macbeth " we have as one of the incidents the barbarous murder of a whole household, and the head of the tyrant himself, if the old stage directions were obeyed, should be paraded by Macduff in face of the audience. In some of the other plays the same revolting spectacle is introduced, as in Richard III. (act 3, scene 5), wbere we read “Enter Lovell and Ratcliffe, with Hastings' head,” and in King John (act 3, scene 2), where the direction is “Enter the Bastard with Austria's head.”
These things are apt to be overlooked while denying the paternity.of. Andronicus” on account of the nature of the incidents. But, after all, it has to be admitted that scenes are depicted and scenes alluded to in the piece which have no counterpart in the other acknowledged works of the author, although possibly they may be only such as would occur to a young writer who was struggling to produce strong dramatic effects, and who was working from such vicious models as the age
afforded. One peculiarity in “ Andronicus” is the difference between it and the other classic plays. The style is altogether more loose and unprecise than in “ Julius Cæsar,"
Coriolanus,' Antony and Cleopatra," “ Troilus and Cressida,” or “ Timon. ” There is also a want of local colouring, and an occasional unnecessary obtrusion of learning. The characters are less individualised and less natural than in the other dramas just named. Tamora looks like a first sketch of Regan or of Goneril, Titus resembles Lear, and Aaron might pass for the original draught of Iago.
On the hypothesis that the dramas in question were the work of Shakspere whilst he was young and his genius still immature, most of the difficulties connected with them appear to vanish. He may have sketched them out at Stratford, laid them aside, and afterwards, when celebrity brought demands on his pen which were difficult to supply,