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INTRODUCTION.

Together with Pericles, Cymbeline, and the Winter's Tale, The Tempest forms a group of romantic comedies, which, with the exception of Henry VIII., appears to have been their author's latest work. It is a group marked by characteristics which are easily recognised. Even when compared on the mechanical side only, the reader will find these plays distinguished from the earlier comedies by unmistakable metrical peculiarities, such as the paucity of rhyme, and the frequent occurrence of unstopt (or run on) lines of “double” endings or lines with an extra-metrical syllable, and of “weak” endings, or lines ending in an unemphatic monosyllable. But the differences that lie beneath the surface are no less striking; it is not the letter only, but the spirit also that is changed, for throughout these plays there is manifest a serenity of touch, an earnestness of purpose, and a power of sympathy with all that is good and beautiful in mankind, such as we should expect from the poet in his maturer years; they are all concerned with forgiveness and reconciliation, with the healing of jealousies and estrange ments, and the reunion of parted kinsfolk. We may take the period between the years 1608 and 1611 as that during which Shakspere was occupied with this group, and with respect to The Tempest, with which alone we are here concerned, we shall show that there is good ground for assigning it to the years 1610 or 1611. The student, however, must be content with probabilities in this question ; the date of The Tempest is not capable of absolute proof; none of the following conclusions are beyond the possibility of dispute, and the sceptical critic may, if he chooses, confine himself to the statement that we know nothing of the play before its appearance in the First Folio (1623).

Assuming that the passage in ii., 1, 147, &c. (see note), is borrowed from Florio's Montaigne, we arrive at 1603 as the earliest date at which the play could have been written; and assuming that Ben Jonson alludes to The Tempest in his induction to “ Bartholemew Fair” (see note on iii., 2, 3), we arrive at 1614 as the latest. But the period can be narrowed further. In the Booke of the Revells, extending from Oct. 31, 1611 to Nov. 1, 1612, preserved in the Record Office is the following entry: “ By the Kings players Hallomas nyght [November 1, 1611] was presented att Whithall before the Kinges Majestie a play called the Tempest.” This entry, it is true, has been shown to be a modern forgery, but there is good reason for believing that, forged as it is, it is based upon an authentic record, for Malone, who had “free access to such of the Revels' Accounts as have escaped the corrosive hand of time” in 1791, and who is by no means the kind of critic to make such a positive statement without authority, expressly says (Boswell's Malone, vol. xv. p. 423), “I know that it [The Tempest] had 'a being and a name in the autumn

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1611."1 Our next notice of the play is also a Court performance. On February 14, 1613, the Lady Elizabeth, daughter of James I., was married to the Elector Palatine, and The Tempest occurs in a list preserved in the Bodleian of fourteen plays, presented at Whitehall early in that year before “the Princes Highnes, the Lady Elizabeth and the Prince Pallatyne Elector.” It has indeed been suggested that the play was composed expressly for this marriage, but if the entry above quoted from the books of the Revels is founded on fact, this supposition is, of course, untenable.

Further, there is a piece of contemporary history which was brought forward by Malone, and independently by Douce,* as giving occasion to the play and its title. In May, 1609, a new charter was granted to the Virginia company, and in June Sir Thomas Gates, Sir George Somers, and Captain Newport were sent with a fleet of nine vessels carrying supplies of men and provisions to the infant colony. On St. James's day, July 25th, the fleet was overtaken by a terrible hurricane off the Bermudas, and the

admiral-ship,” with the three commanders and a hundred and fifty men on board, was separated from the rest, and driven upon

the coast of those islands, where on the 28th the vessel stuck fast between two rocks, and all the crew landed in safety. Here they remained till May 1oth in the following year, 1610, when, having built two vessels of cedar, they left the island and reached Virginia on the 24th of the same month. The news of this disaster had reached England in December, 1609, and the admiral-ship and its crew were given up for lost, till August or September, 1610, when Sir Thomas Gates arrived in England with the news of their escape and preservation. Two accounts of their adventures were published before the end of the year, one by Silvester Jourdan,' one of the crew of the wrecked vessel, who probably returned to England in the same ship as Sir Thomas Gates, and the other by the Council of Virginia, based upon materials supplied by Sir Thomas Gates, Malone points to general expressions in the play which he considers, and with great probability, to have been suggested by these two pamphlets, and lays much stress on the inference he draws from i., 2, 193, &c., that Shakspere knew the Admiral-ship was safe when he wrote The Tempest; a piece of news which could not have reached him earlier than the arrival of Sir Thomas Gates in August or September, 1610, and probably not so soon, for the dedication of Jourdan's pamphlet is only dated October 13, 1610, and it would be from this that Shakspere drew his earliest information. The pamphlet of the Council was confessedly intended to allay public apprehension, and to refute certain rumours which had got abroad prejudicial to the interests of

1 Halliwell - Phillipps, Outlines, 7th ed. vol. il., p. 30y.

2 The Accounts of moneys expended by Lord Stanhope, Treasurer of the Chamber, between Michael. mas, 1612, and Michaelmas, 1613. -Ibid., p. 87.

3 An Account of the Incidents from which the Title and Part of the Story of Shakespeare's Tempest were derived, and its true date ascertained, 1808; reprinted 1809 and in Boswell's Malone, 1821, vol. xv.

4 Illustrations of Shakespeare, 1807.

1 A Discovery of the Barmudas, otherwise called the lle of Divels : by Sir Thomas Gates, Sir George Sommers, and Captayne Newport, with diuers others, 1610.

? A true Declaration of the Estate

of the Colonie in Virginia, with a Confutation of such scandalous Reports as have tended to the Disgrace of so worthy an Enterprise. Published by advice and direction of the Councell of Virginia, 1610.

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