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TROILUS AND CRESSIDA.
We learn from Henslowe's Diary (p. 147 sqq. ed. Shakespeare Soc.) that in April 1599 Dekker and Chettle were engaged in writing a play, which has not come down to us, called Troilus and Cressida ; and to that piece perhaps applies the entry made by Roberts in the Stationers' Registers, Feb. 7th, 1602–3, of “The booke of Troilus and Cresseda, as yt is acted by my Lo. Chamberlens men,”—which "booke," as far as we know, was never given to the press. But another entry in the Stationers' Registers, made by Bonian and Walley, Jan. 28th, 1608-9, of “A booke called the History of Troylus and Cressula,” undoubtedly describes our author's drama, which was published by the booksellers who made the entry. "The play was criginally printed in 1609 [4to). It was formerly supposed that there were two editions in that year, but they were merely different issues of the same impression : the body of the work (with two exceptions) is alike in each ; they were from the types of the same printer, and were published by the same stationers. [Various readings are frequently found in old plays which have been printed from the same forms of type.] The title-pages [see vol. i. p. 174) vary materially; but there is another more remarkable diversity. On the title-page of the copies first circulated, it is not stated that the drama had been represented by any company; and in a sort of preface, headed 'A never Writer to an ever Reader. News,' it is asserted that it had never been 'staled with the stage, never clapper-clawed with the palms of the vulgar ;' in other words, that the play had not been acted. This was probably then true ; but as Troilus and Cressida' was very soon afterwards brought upon the stage, it became necessary for the publishers to substitute a new title-page, and to suppress their preface : accordingly a re-issue of the same edition took place, by the title-page of which it appeared, that the play was printed as it was acted by the King's Majesty's servants at the Globe.'
It is very evident that • Troilus and Cressida' was originally acted in the interval between the first and the second edition of the 4to, as printed by G. Eld for Bonian and Walley in the early part of 1609. It is probable that our great dramatist prepared it for the stage in the winter of 1608-9, with a view to its production at the Globe as soon as the season commenced at that theatre : before it was so produced, and after it had been licensed, Bonian and Walley seem to have possessed themselves of a copy of it; and having procured it to be printed, issued it to the world as 'a new play, never staled with the stage, never clapper-clawed with the palms of the vulgar.' That they had obtained it without the consent of the company, the grand possessors,' as they are called, may be gathered from the conclusion of the preface. The second issue of Bonian and Walley's edition of 1609 was not made until after the tragedy had been acted at the Globe, as is stated on the title-page.” COLLIER (Introd. to Troilus and Cressida).-
That some portions of it, particularly towards the end, are from the pen of a very inferior dramatist, is unquestionable : and they would seem to belong to an earlier piece on the same subject, perhaps to the joint-production of Dekker and Chettle before mentioned. The Troilus and Creseide of Chaucer may be considered as the foundation of this play ; towards which something was also furnished by Caxton's Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye (first printed circa 1474*), and by Lydgate's Historye, Sege, and dystruccyon of Troye (first printed in 1513).
*"(1472-4 ?)." Blades's Life and Typog. of William Caxton, vol. ii. f. 3.
PREFIXED TO SOME COPIES OF THE EDITION OF 1609, 4to.
A never writer to an ever reader :-News. ETERNAL reader, you have here a new play, never staled with the stage, never clapper-clawed with the palms of the vulgar, and yet passing full of the palm comical; for it is a birth of your brain that never undertook any thing comical vainly: and were but the vain names of comedies changed for the titles of commodities, or of plays for pleas, you should see all those grand censors,
that now style them such vanities, flock to them for the main grace of their gravities; especially this author's comedies, that are so framed to the life, that they serve for the most common commentaries of all the actions of our lives, showing such a dexterity and power of wit, that the most displeased with plays are pleased with his comedies. And all such dull and heavy-witted worldlings as were never capable of the wit of a comedy, coming by report of them to his representations, have found that wit there that they never found in themselves, and have parted better-witted than they came; feeling an edge of wit set upon them, more than ever they dreamed they had brain to grind it on. So much and such savoured salt of wit is in his comedies, that they seem, for their height of pleasure, to be born in that sea that brought forth Venus. Amongst all there is none more witty than this : and had I time, I would comment upon it, though I know it needs not,-for so much as will make you think your testern well bestowed,—but for so much worth as even poor I know to be stuffed in it. It deserves such a labour, as well as the best comedy in Terence or Plautus: and believe this, that when he is gone, and his comedies out of sale, you will scramble for them, and set up a new English inquisition. Take this for a warning, and, at the peril of your pleasure's loss and judgment's, refuse not nor like this the less for not being sullied with the smoky breath of the multitude ; but thank fortune for the scape it hath made amongst you; since by the grand possessors' wills, I believe, you should have prayed for them, rather than been prayed. And so I leave all such to be prayed for—for the states of their wits' healths—that will not praise it. Vale.
PRIAM, king of Troy
, } Trojan commanders
CALCHAS, a Trojau priest taking part with the Greeks.
HELEN, wife to Menelaus.
Trojan and Greek Soldiers, and Attendants.
SCENE—Troy, and the Grecian camp before it.