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In this comedy there is more attempt at delineation of character than in either The Comedy of Errors or A Midsummer Night's Dream; á circumstance which inclines me to think that it was written subsequently to those plays. Biron and Catharine, as Mr. Steevens, I think, has observed, are faint prototypes of Benedick and Beatrice.
The doggrel verses in this piece, like those in The Comedy of Errors, are longer and more hobling than those which have been quoted from The Taming of the Shrew :
c. You two are bookmen ; can you tell by your wit
weeks old as yet?"-
so fit," &c. This play is mentioned in a mean poem intitled Alba, the Months Minde of a melancholy Lover, by R. T. Gentleman, printed in 1598 :
6. Love's Labour Loft I once did fee, a play
Y-cleped so, so called to my paine,
Giving attendance to my froward dame:
horse, as you have, I would do more than thal. Lihate'er it be, faid Bankes, to please him, I will charge him to do it. Then, faies Tarlton, charge him to bring me the veryeft whore-master in the company. He Jhall, faies Bankes. Signior, laies he, bring Mafter Tarlton the veryelt whore-master in the company. The horie leads his master to him. Then God-a-inercy, horse, indeed faies Tarlton. The people had much ado to keep peace: but Bankes and Tarlton had like to have fquared, and the horse by, to give aime. But ever after it was a by word thorow London, God-a-mercy, korse! and is to this day.” Tarlton's Jois, 4to. 1611.--Tariton died in 1589.
" My misgiving mind prefaging to me ill,
" Each actor plaid in cunning wife his part,
They seeme to grieve, but yet they felt no care :
Mr. Gildon, in his observations on Love's Labour's Loft, says, he cannot see why the author gave it this name."— The following lines exhibit the train of thoughts which probably suggested to Shakspeare this title, as well as that which anciently was affixed to another of his comedies,-Love's Labour Won :
- To be in love, where scorn is bought with groans, . “ Coy looks with heart-fore Gghs ; one fading moment's
If haply won, perhaps a hapless gain ;
Two Gentlemen of Verona. Alt I. sc. i.
3. Two GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, 1595. This comedy was not entered on the books of the Stationers' Company till 1623, at which time it was first printed; but is mentioned by Meres in 1598, and bears strong internal marks of an early composition. The comick parts of it are of the same colour with the comick parts of Love's Labour's Loft, The Comedy of Errors, and A Midsummer Night's Dream; and the ferious scenes are eminently dif-' tinguished by that clegant and pastoral fimplicity
which might be expecied from the early effufions of such a mind as Shakspeare's, when employed in describing the effects of love. In this piece also, as in The Comedy of Errors and Love's Labour's Loft, some alternate verses are found!
Sir William Blackstone concurs with me in opinion on this subject; observing, that “one of the great faults of The Two Gentlemen of Verona is the haftening too abruptly and without preparation to the denouëment, which shews that it was one of Shakspeare's very early performances.”
The following lines in Act I. sc. iii. have induced me to ascribe this play to the year
He wonder'd, that your lordship
Some to the wars, to try their fortunes there,
Shakspeare, as has been often observed, gives to almost every country the manners of his own: and though the speaker is here a Veronese, the poet, when he wrote the last two lines, was thinking of England; where voyages for the purpose of discovering islands far away were at this time much prosecuted. In 1595, Sir Walter Rawleigh undertook a voyage to the island of Trinidado; from which he made an expedition up the river Oronoque, to discover Guiana.
Sir Humphry Gilbert had gone on a similar voyage of discovery the preceding year.
The particular situation of England in 1595 may have suggested the line above quoted: “Some to
the wars, &c. In that year it was generally beļieved that the Spaniards meditated a second invafion of England with a much more powerful and better appointed Armada than that which had been defeated in 1588. Soldiers were levied with great diligence, and placed on the fea-coasts, and two great fleets were equipped; one to encounter the enemy in the British seas; the other to fail to the West-Indies, under the command of Hawkins and Drake, to attack the Spaniards in their own territories. About the same time also Elizabeth sent a considerable body of troops to the assistance of King Henry IV. of France, who had entered into an offensive and defensive alliance with the English Queen, and had newly declared war against Spain. Our author therefore, we see, had abundant reafon for both the lines before us :
“ Some to the wars, to try their fortunes there,
Among the marks of love, Speed in this play (A& Il. sc. i.) enumerate's the walking alone, “like one that had the peftilence.” In the year 1593 there had been a great plague, which carried off near eleven thousand persons in London. Shakfpeare was undoubtedly there at that time, and his own recollection probably furnished him with this image. There had not been a great plague in the metropolis, if I remember right, fince that of 1564, of which our poet could have no personal knowledge, having been born in that year.
Valentinus putting himself at the head of a band of outlaws in this piece, has been supposed to be
copied from Sydney's Arcadia, where Pylades heads the Helots. The first edition of the Arcadia was
In The Two Gentlemen of Verona there are two allusions to the story of Hero and Leander, which I fufpect Shakspeare had read recently before he composed this play. Marlowe's poem on that subje&t was entered at Stationer's hall, Sept. 18, 1593, and I believe was published in that or the following year, though I have met with no copy earlier than that printed in quarto in 1598. Though that should have been the first edition, Shakspeare might yet have read this poem soon after the author's death in 1593: for Marlowe's fame was deservedly so high, that a piece left by him for publication was probably handed about in manuscript among his theatrical acquaintances antecedent to its being ifsued from the press. In the following lines of this play,
Why, Phaeton, (for thou art Merops' fon)
the poet, as Mr. Steevens bas observed, might have been furnished with his mythology by the old play of King John, in two parts, 4to. 1591:
as sometimes Phaeton, Mitrusting flly Merops for his Gre."
If I am right in fupposing our author's King John to have been written in 1596, it is not improbable that he read the old play with particular attention antecedentiy, to his fitting down to ,compose