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glanced through the book in his shop, but are now seen to constitute a very plain case of 'protesting-too-much.' But no more than Bancroft did he believe that Shakespeare addressed a flesh-and-blood 'friend' and 'mistress.' Indeed, his words with regard to the Sonnets: 'which in themselves appeare of the same purity, the Authour himselfe then living avouched,' probably have their root in the testimony of one among the persons of whom enquiry had been made who had heard Shakespeare affirm their purity.


We have still more evidence to adduce from Ben Jonson. It is contained in his 'Poetaster.' During the years 1600-1602 Ben Jonson was engaged in a violent quarrel with two other dramatists, Dekker and Marston, and the quarrel reached its height with the production on the stage in 1601 of Jonson's 'Poetaster.' In that play the speaker of the prologue enters 'armed,' because, as he explains, 'tis a dangerous age.' It is admitted that Jonson himself figures in the play as Horace, and his enemies, Dekker and Marston, as Demetrius and Crispinus. In the fifth act, Demetrius and Crispinus are seized and brought to trial, the charge against them being that they have calumniated Horace by taxing him falsely of self-love, arrogance, impudence, railing, filching by translation, &c.' During the trial one of them is dosed with emetic pills, which make him vomit forth, once for all, many queer words which he had coined and formerly used, and which had offended Horace's taste.


When the play was printed in the 1616 folio of Jonson's works he appended an 'Apologetical Dialogue,'

the author of the play being one of the speakers, and stated in an address to the reader that it had only been spoken once upon the stage, and was all the answer he ever gave to the 'impotent libels' against him and that play. In the Dialogue' he notices that the lawyers, soldiers, and players had thought themselves attacked; and as to the players he says:


'Now for the players, it is true I taxed them.
And yet but some, and those so sparingly

As all the rest might have sat still unquestioned,
Had they but had the wit or conscience
To think well of themselves. But, impotent, they
Thought each man's vice belonged to their whole tribe;
And much good do't them. What they have done 'gainst me
I am not moved with; if it gave them meat

Or got them clothes, 'tis well; that was their end;

Only amongst them I am sorry for

Some better natures, by the rest so drawn
To run in that vile line.'

Jonson's play was produced at the Blackfriars Theatre by the Children of the Chapel, and a play by his opponents in answer to his 'Poetaster' and some earlier attacks, was shortly afterwards produced at the Globe by the company of which Shakespeare was a member. This was Dekker and Marston's 'Satiro-mastix, or the Untrussing of the Humourous Poet.' From the fact that it was produced by Shakespeare's company we may conclude that the majority were opposed to Jonson, either on account of his supposed self-love, arrogance, impudence, &c.,' or else because of his connection with their competitors the Children of the Chapel. But there is evidence

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that Shakespeare himself took no part in the quarrel. The competition of the boy actors, and the attacks on the men players which were put into their mouths by the poets, Shakespeare refers to in Hamlet,' and in such a way as, we think, to preclude the idea that he was other than a looker-on who thought the quarrel anything but edifying:

'Hamlet. What players are they?

Rosencrantz. Even those you were wont to take delight in, the tragedians of the city.

Hamlet. How chances it they travel? their residence, both in reputation and profit, was better both ways.

Rosencrantz. I think their inhibition comes by the means of the late innovation.

Hamlet. Do they hold the same estimation they did when I was in the city? are they so followed?

Rosencrantz. No, indeed, they are not.

Hamlet. How comes it? do they grow rusty?

Rosencrantz. Nay, their endeavour keeps in the wonted pace : but there is, sir, an aery of children, little eyases, that cry out on the top of question, and are most tyrannically clapped for't: these are now the fashion, and so berattle the common stagesso they call them—that many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills and dare scarce come thither.

Hamlet. What? are thy children? Who maintains 'em? how are they escoted? Will they pursue the quality no longer than they can sing? Will they not say afterwards, if they should grow themselves to common players-as is most like, if their means are no better their writers do them wrong, to make them exclaim against their own succession?

Rosencrantz. Faith, there has been much to do on both sides; and the nation holds it no sin to tarre them to controversy: there was, for a while, no money bid for argument, unless the poet and the player went to cuffs in the question.


Hamlet. Is't possible?

Guildenstern. O, there has been much throwing about of brains.' 1

In the prologue to 'Troilus and Cressida,' probably written in 1603, there is a slight reference which also shows Shakespeare's neutrality. The speaker of the prologue enters' armed,' as Jonson's did in his 'Poetaster,' but for a different reason:

' and hither am I come
A prologue armed, but not in confidence
Of author's pen or actor's voice, but suited
In like conditions as our argument;'

that is (as he proceeds to explain), in keeping with a play which opens in the middle of the wars of the Greeks and Trojans.

Some think Shakespeare was one of Jonson's active opponents because of certain words in the 'Return from Parnassus,' a play of unknown authorship which was acted by the students of St. John's College, Cambridge, at Christmas, 1601. Two of Shakespeare's fellow-actors, Burbage and Kemp, are impersonated, and made to ridicule the acting powers of scholars, and then their characteristics as playwrights. Of them as playwrights, Kemp is made to say: 'Few of the university pen plaies well, they smell too much of that writer Ovid and that writer Metamorphosis, and talke too much of Proserpina and Juppiter. Why heres our fellow Shakespeare puts them all downe, I, and Ben Jonson too. O that Ben Jonson is a pestilent fellow, he brought up Horace giving

1 Act ii. Sc. ii., 11. 339-74.

the Poets a pill, but our fellow Shakespeare hath given him a purge that made him beray his credit.' Burbage is then made to remark, 'Its a shrewd fellow indeed.'

Shakespeare's 'putting down' of the learned Ben being merely outstripping him as a playwright, and the 'purge' having as result a loss of credit to Jonson, it seems to us that the 'purge' was of the same nature as the 'putting down,' and referred to a recently-given signal proof of superiority which had drawn the audience back again from Jonson and the Children, probably, as Mr. Sidney Lee suggests, his 'Julius Cæsar,' first acted that year.

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One of the characters in Jonson's play is Virgil, who is greatly eulogized by Horace and his two friends Gallus and Tibullus, as also by Cæsar, who appoints him judge between Horace (Jonson) and those charged with having slandered him. Here is the passage of the 'Poetaster' with which we are concerned (Act V., Scenes i-ii):


Present: Cæsar, Mæcenas, Gallus, Tibullus, Horace, and some of the Equestrian order. Equestrian. Virgil is now at hand imperial Cæsar.


Cæsar. Rome's honour is at hand then. Fetch a chair,
And set it on our right hand, where 'tis fit
Rome's honour and our own should ever sit.
Now he is come out of Campania,

I doubt not he hath finished all his Æneids,
Which, like another soul, I long to enjoy.
What think you three of Virgil, gentlemen,

That are of his profession, though ranked higher;
Or, Horace, what say'st thou, that art the poorest,
And likeliest to envy, or to detract?

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