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look in vain for any traits of character. The manners of Hippolita, the Amazon, are undistinguished from those of other females. Theseus, the associate of Hercules , is not engaged in any adventure worthy of his rank or reputation, nor is he in reality an agent throughout the play. Like King Henry VIII. he goes out a Maying. He mects the lovers in perplexity, and makes no effort to promote their happiness ; but when supernatural accidents have reconciled them, he joins their company, and concludes his day's entertainment by uttering some miserable puns at an interlude represented by a troop of clowns.' Over the fairy part of the drama he cannot be supposed to have any influence.
This part of the fable, indeed, (at least as much of it as relates to the quarrels of Oberon and Titania,) was not of our author's invention. 3 Through the whole piece, the more
3 The learned editor of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, printed in 1775, observes in his introductory discourse, (Vol. IV. p. 161, ) that Pluto and Proserpina in the Marchant's Tale' appear to have been the true progenitors of Shakspeare's 'Oberon and Titania." In a tract already quoted, Greene's Groatsworth of Witte, 1592 , a player is introduced, who boasts of having performed the part of the King of Fairies with applause. Greene himself wrote a play, entitled The Scottishie Historie of James the Fourthe , faine at Floddon , intermixed with a pleasant Comedie presented by Oberoi King of Fayeries ; which was entered at Stationers' hall in 1594, and printed in 1598. Shakspeare, however, does not appear to have been indebted to this piece.
The plan of it is shortly this. Bohan, a Scot, in confequence of being disgusted with the world, having retired to a tomb where he has fixed his dwelling, is met by After Obero”, king of the fairies, who entertains him with an antick or dance by his subjects. These two personages, after some
exalted characters are subfervient to the interests
Oberon and Titania had been introduced in a
". Given me by Auberon (Oberon) the fairie king.”
A Midsummer Night's Dream was not entered at
conversation, determine to listen to a tragedy, which is
it was printed; but is mentioned by Meres in 1598.
From the comedy of Doctor Dodipoll, Mr. Steevens has quoted a linc, which the author seems to have borrowed from Shakspeare :
" 'Twas I that led you through the painted meads,
Where the light fairies danc'd upon the flowers,
Hanging in every ieaf an orient pearl.”
And hang a pearl in ev'ry cowslip's car."
" And that fime dew, which fometimes on the buds
There is no earlier edition of the anonymous play in which the foregoing lines are found, than that in 1600; but Doctor Dodipowle is mentioned by Naílie, in his preface to Gabriel Harvey's Hunt is uḥ, printed in 1596.
The passage in the fifth act, which has been thought to allude to the death of Spenser, * is not inconsistent with the early appearance of this comedy; for it might have been inserted between the time of that poet's death , and the year 1600, when the play was published. And indeed, if the allusion was intended, which I do not believe, the passage must have been added in that interval; for A Midsummer Night's Dream was certainly
" The thrice three muses, mourning for the death
Of learning; late deceas'd in beggary.”
written in, or before 1598, and Spenser, we are told by Sir James Ware, (whofe teftimony with respect to this controverted point must have great weight,) did not die çill 1599: “ others, ( hic adds,) have it wrongly, 1598.”'
So careful a
Preface to Spenser's View of the State of Ireland. Dublin, fol. 1633. This treatisc was written, according to Sir James Ware, in 1596. The testimony of that historian, relative to the time of Spenser's death, is confirmed by a fact related by Ben Jonson to Mr. Drummond of Hawthoraden, and recorded by that writer. 'When Spenser and his wife were forced in great distress to fly from their house, which was burnt in the Irish Rebellion, the carl of Eisex sent him twenty pieces ; but he refused them; telling the person that brought them, he was fure he had no time to fpend them. He died soon afterwards, according to Ben Jonson's account, in King-street. Lord Eflex was not in Ireland in 1598, and was there from April to September in the following year.
It should also be remembered that verses by Spenser are prefixed to Lewknor's Commonu' calih and Government of Venice, published in 1599.
That this celebrated poet was alive in Sept. 1598, is proved by the following paper , addressed by Queen Elizabeth to the Lords Justices of Ireland, which is preserved in the Museum, MSS. Harl. 286, and has not, I believe, been noticed by any of his biographers :
" Lait. of Sept. 1398. " To the Lords Justices of Ireland.
Though we doubt not but you will without any motion from us have good regard for the appointing of meetc and serviceable persons to be Sheriffs in the feveral counties, which is a matter of great importance, especially at this time, when all parts of the realme are tiuged with the infection of rebellion , yet wee thinke it noi amille fometime to recommend unto you such men as wee should (with) to have for that office. Among whom we may juitly reckon Edm. Spenser, a gentleman dwelling in the county of Corke, who is so well known unto you all for his good and commendable parts , (being a man endowed with good
searcher into antiquity, who lived so near the time, is not likely to have been mistaken in a fact, concerning which he appears to have made particular inquiries.
The passage in question, however, in my apprehenfion, has been misunderstood. It relates, I conceive, not to the death of Spenser, but to the nine Muses lamenting the decay of learning, in that author's poem entitled The Tears of the Muses, which was published in 1591: and hence probably the words, " late deceas'd in beggary." This allusion, if I am right in my conjecture, may serve to confirm the date affigned to A Midsummer Night's Dream.
5. COMEDY OF ERRORS, 1593.
"The only note of time that occurs in this play is found in the following passage:
“ Ant. S. In what part of her body ftands -France?"
“ Drom. S. In her forehead, arm'd and reverted, making war against the hair."
knowledge in learning, and not unskilful or without experience in the service of the warres, ) as we need not use many words in his behalf. And therefore as we are of opinion that you will favour him for himfelfe and of
your own accord , fo we do pray you that this letter may increase his credit so far forth with you as that he may not fayle to be appointed Sheriffe of the county of Corke, unleffe there be to you knowne fome important cause to the contrary.
" We are persuaded he will so behave himselfe in this particular as
you Thall have just cause to allowe of our recommerdation, and his good service. And so, ” &c.