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THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW makes the eleventh in the division of Comedies in the folio of 1623, where it was first printed; or, if there were an earlier impression, no copy of it has reached us. In the original the acts are distinguished, but not the scenes. And the text is in general so clear as to leave little room for critical controversy.
No certain contemporary notice of this play having been dis covered, we have no external guide to the probable date of the composition. So that here we must make the best we can out of such judgments as come recommended to our hands. Malone at first thought the play was written in 1606, but this opinion did not hold: he says, -“On a more attentive perusal of it, and more experience in our author's style and manner, I am persuaded that it was one of his very early productions, and near, in point of time, to The Comedy of Errors, Love's Labour's Lost, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona." Farmer thought the Induction to be in the Poet's best manner, and a great part of the play in his worst, or even below it; that more than one hand was concerned in it, and that Shakespeare had little to do with any of the scenes where Katharine and Petruchio are not engaged. To which Steevens replies, "I know not to whom I could impute this comedy, if Shakespeare was not its author: I think his hand is visible in almost every scene, though perhaps not so evidently as a those which pass between Katharine and Petruchio." Mr. Collier, whose judgment in such matters is always deserving of respect, was once of the opinion that it should be set down to 1606; but his later sentence is for 1601, or 1602. We should attach more weight to his judgment herein, had he withheld the reasons thereof. One of which is, that in Hamlet Shakespeare used Baptista as the name of a woman, but, before he wrote The Taming of the Shrew had found out the mistake. He adds,- -"The great probability
is, that Hamlet was written at the earliest in 1601, and The Tam ing of the Shrew perhaps came from his pen not very long afterwards." The other reason is as follows. In "The pleasant Comedy of Patient Grissill," which was written by Dekker, Chettle, and Haughton, in 1599, one of the persons says, "I will learn your medicines to tame shrews." In July, 1602, Dekker received payment of Henslowe for a play he was then writing, entitled A Medicine for a curst Wife." From whence Mr. Collier conjectures, "that Shakespeare produced his Taming of the Shrew soon after Patient Grissill had been brought upon the stage, and as a sort of counterpart to it; and that Dekker followed up the subject in the summer of 1602 by his Medicine for a curst Wife, having been incited by the success of Shakespeare's play at a rival theatre." There is much ingenuity, perhaps some force, in these reasons; but surely not enough to stand against the internal evidence of the play; which is too strong to admit of the belief that the whole could have been written by Shakespeare at that time. Mr. Collier is sensible of this, and therefore supposes that some parts of the play must have come from another hand; a supposition for which there is no authority, save that the assigning so late a date renders it necessary. Our persuasion, therefore, is. that the best parts of the play do not relish much of Shakespeare as he was at the period in question; and that none are so bad but they may well enough have been written by him several years before. And we should much sooner think he wrote it at differen times, than that he had any help in writing it then.
That no certain contemporary notice of this play should have come down to us, is the more remarkable forasmuch as we have several such of an earlier play, called The Taming of a Shrew, which was first published in 1594, again in 1596, and a third time in 1607. The title-page of 1594 reads thus: "A pleasant-conceited History, called The Taming of a Shrew: As it was sundry times acted by the right honourable the Earl of Pembroke his servants. Printed at London by Peter Short, and are to be sold by Cuthbert Burbie at his shop at the Royal Exchange. 1594,” Of this play there are, also, three several entries in the Stationers' Books; and Sir John Harrington in his Metamorphosis of Ajax, 1596, says, 15 Read the book of Taming a Shrew, which hath made a number of us so perfect that now every one can rule a shrew in our country, save he that hath her." All which argues the play to have been popular enough. And Shakespeare may have taken the more pains to keep his play out of print, and therefore out of the Stationers' Books, because it was so like one already printed.
The old Taming of a Shrew evidently furnished Shakespeare the plot, order, and incidents of his play, so far as these relate to the Lord, the Tinker, Petruchio, Katharine, and the whole taming Drocess. The scene of the first is at Atheus, of the other at
Padua, both of which are represented as famous seats of learning Alphonsus, an Athenian merchant, has three daughters, Kate, Emelia, and Phylema. Aurelius, son to the duke of Sestos, goes in quest of Phylema, Polidor of Emelia: as for Kate, she is such a terrible shrew nobody seems likely to want her; which puts the father upon taking an oath not to admit any suitors to the younger, till the elder be disposed of. Presently one Ferando, hearing of her fame, offers himself as her lover, and proceeds to carry her by storm. The wooing, the marriage, the entertainment of the bride at Ferando's country house, the passages with the tailor and haberdasher, the trip to her father's, and Kate's subdued and pliant behaviour, all follow, in much the same style and strain as in Shakespeare's play. The underplot, however, is quite different. Aurelius and Polidor do not carry on their suits in disguise; though the former brings in a merchant to personate his father, who arrives in time to discover the trick, and lets off plenty of indignation thereat. All the parties being at length married, the play winds up with a wager between the three husbands respecting the obedience of their several wives, and the tamed Kate reads her sisters a lecture on the virtue and sweetness of wifely submission. The persons and proceedings of the Induction, also, are much the same in both, save that in the first Sly continues his remarks from time to time throughout the play, and finally, having drunk himself back into insensibility, is left where he was found, and upon awaking regards it all as a glorious dream; whereas in Shakespeare this part is not carried beyond the first act.
This close similarity of title, matter, and interest, shows that the Poet had no thought of concealing his obligations; rather, it looks as if he meant to turn the popularity of the old play to the advan tage of his company. Nevertheless, excepting a very few lines and phrases imitated or adopted, the dialogue, language, and poetry are all his own: the characters, even when partly borrowed, are wrought out into a much more determinate and specific individuality; and the whole is quickened and permeated with the briskness and vigour of his genius: even in the poorest parts there is a clean evolving of the thought, an energetic directness of style, and a driving right straight at the point, that lift it immeasurably above its model. So that the thing is emphatically a new substance cast in a borrowed mould; and that, too, with as little disturbing as might be of those associations that would be apt to make it tell on the receipts of the theatre. Yet the old play must be owned to have considerable merit: probably few of the English dramas then in being should take rauk much before it it has occasional blushes of genuine poetry, some force and skill of characterization, and a good deal of sound stage-effect; though, upon the whole, the style is very stiff, frigid, pedantic, and artificial; and often, in setting out to be humorous, it runs into flat vulgarity and vapid common-place.
There is no telling with certainty when or by whom the old play was written. Malone conjectured it to be the work of Robert Greene, who died September 3, 1592, at the house of a poor shoemaker near Dowgate. The weight of probability bears strongly in favour of that conjecture. An argument of no mean force has been drawn from the title-page to the Orlando Furioso, which is known to have been Greene's, because it was spoken of as such by a contemporary writer. Both were anonymous, were issued the same year, and by the same publisher; and both are called histories. Knight, after stating this point, asks,- Might not the recent death of Greene, the reputation he left behind him, the unhappy circumstances of his death, and the remarkable controversy between Nash and Harvey, in 1592, principally touching Robert Greene,' have led the bookseller to procure and publish these plays, if they were both written by him? It is impossible, we think, not to be struck with the resemblance of these performances, in the structure of the verse, the excess of mythological allusion, the laboured finery intermixed with feebleness, and the occasional outpouring of a rich and gorgeous fancy." And he thereupon quotes from the two plays several passages, a compar ison of which certainly goes to bear out his view.
To our mind this view has been strengthened by an anonymous writer of our own country, who has pointed out a number of passages in The Taming of a Shrew that were evidently copied or taken from Marlowe's Faustus and Tamburlaine. From these the writer himself infers the play to have been by Marlowe. Against this we could start many arguments; but probably all of them would not weigh so much with considerate readers as the judgment of Mr. Dyce, who, after giving his opinion the other way, remarks as follows: "I find enough in The Taming of a Shrew to convince me that it was the work of some one who had closely studied Marlowe's writings, and who frequently could not resist the temptation to adopt the very words of his favourite dramatist. It is quite possible that he was not always conscious of his more trifling plagiarisms from Marlowe,-recollections of whose phraseology may have mingled imperceptibly with the current of his thoughts: but the case was certainly otherwise when he transferred to his own comedy whole passages of Tamburlaine or Faustus."
Marlowe was killed June 1, 1593. Of his Faustus the earliest known edition was in 1604. Henslowe's Diary has several entries concerning it, the earliest of which is dated September 30, 1594. From one of these entries it appears that twenty shillings were paid to Thomas Dekker, December 20, 1597, for making additions to Faustus. The play was also entered in the Stationers' Register January 7, 1601. All which seems to warrant the conclusion that it had not been printed in 1594, when The Taming of a Shrew first came out. So that the author of the latter play, whoever he might be, must have had access to the manuscript of Faustus