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To play histories, or to exhibit a succession of events by action and dialogue, was a common entertainment among our rude ancestors upon great festivities. The parish clerks once performed at Clerkenwell a play which lasted three days, containing The History of the World. Johnson. It
appears from more than one MS. in the British Museum, that the tradesmen of Chefter were three days employed in the representation of their twenty-four Whitsun plays or mysteries. The like performances at Coventry must have taken up a longer time, as they are no less than forty in number. The exhibition of them began on Corpus Christi day, which was (according to Dugdale) one of their ancient fairs. See the Harleian MSS. No. 2013, 2124, 2125, and MS. Cott. Vefp. D. VIII, and Dugdale's War. wickshire, p. 116. Steevens.
* TroilUS AND Cressida.] The story was originally written by Lollius, an old Lombard author, and since by Chaucer.
Pope. Mr. Pope (after Dryden) informs us, that the story of Troilus and Cressida was originally the work of one Lollius, a Lombard; (of whom Gascoigne speaks in Dan Bartholmewe his firft Triumph: is Since Lollius and Chaucer both, make doubt upon that glose,”') but Dryden goes yet further. He declares it to have been written in Latin verse, and that Chaucer translated it. Lollius was a historiographer of Urbino in Italy. Shakspeare received the greateft part of his materials for the structure of this play from the Troye Boke of Lydgate. Lydgate was not much more than a translator of Guido of Columpra, who was of Messina in Sicily, and wrote his History of Troy in Latin, after Dietys Cretenfis, and Dares Phrygius, in 1287. On these, as Mr. Warton observes, he engrafted many new romantic inventions, which the taste of his age dictated, and which the connection between Grecian and Gothic fiction easily admitted ; at the same time comprehending in his plan the Theban and Argonautic stories from Ovid, Statius, and Valerius Flaccus. Guido's work was published at Cologne in 1477, again 1480: at Strasburgh, 1486, and ibidern, 1489. It appears to have been translated by Raoul le Feure, at Cologne, into French, from whom Caxton rendered it into English in 1471, under the title of his Recurel, &c. so that there must have been yet fome earlier edition of Guido's performance than I have hitherto seen or heard of, unless his first translator had recourse to a manufcript.
Guido of Columpna is referred to as an authority by our own chronicler Grafton. Chaucer had made the loves of Troilus and Crellida famous, which very probably might have been Shakspeare's inducement to try their fortune on the stage.-Lydgate's Troye Boke was printed by Pynson, 1513. In the books of the Stationers' company, anno 1581, is entered “
ballad, dialogues wise, between Troilus and Cressida." Again, Feb. 7, 1602 : “ The booke of Troilus and Cressida, as it is acted by my Lo. Chamberlain's men.” The first of these entries is in the name of Edward White, the second in that of M. Roberts. Again, Jan. 28, 1608, entered by Rich. Bonian and Hen. Whalley, “ A booke called the hiftory of Troilus and Crifida,” STEEVENS.
The entry in 1608-9 was made by the book sellers for whom this play was published in 1609. It was written, I conceive, in 1602. See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plazs, Vol. I.
MALONE. Before this play of Troilus and Craffida, printed in 1609, is a bookseller's preface, showing that first impreflion to have been be
fore the play had been acted, and that it was published without Shakspeare's knowledge, from a copy that had fallen into the bookseller's hands. Mr. Dryden thinks this one of the firft of our author's plays: but, on the contrary, it may be judged, from the fore-mentioned preface, that it was one of his laft; and the great number of observations, both moral and politick, with which this piece is crowded more than any other of his, seems to confirm my opinion. Pope. We
may learn from this preface, that the original proprietors of Shakspeare's plays thought it their interest to keep them unprinted. The author of it adds, at the conclusion, these words : “ Thank fortune for the 'scape it hath made among you, since, by the grand poffeffors wills, I believe you should rather have prayed for them, than have been prayed," &c. By the grand polifors, I suppose, were meant Heming and Condell. It appears that the rival playhouses at that time made frequent depredations on one another's copies. In the Induction to The Malcontent, written by Webster, and augmented by Marston, 1606, is the following passage:
“ I wonder you would play it, another company having interest in it.”
Why not Malevole in folio with us, as Jeronimo in decimo fexto with them? They taught us a name for our play; we call it One for another.”
Again, T. Heywood, in his preface to The English Traveller, 1633 : " Others of them are still retained in the hands of some actors, who think it against their peculiar profit to have them come in print.” STEEVENS.
It appears, however, that frauds were practised by writers as well as actors. It stands on record against kobert Greene, the author of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungny, and Orlando Furioso, 1594 and 1599, that he sold the last of these pieces to two different theatres : " Master R. G. would it not make you
blush, &c. if
fold not Orlando Furioso to the Queen's players for twenty nobles, and when they were in the country, fold the same play to the Lord Admiral's men for as much more? Was not this plain Coneycatching, M. G.?" Defence of Coneycatching, 1592.
This note was not merely inserted to expose the craft of authorship, but to show the price which was anciently paid for the copy of a play, and to ascertain the name of the writer of Orlando Furioso, which was not hitherto known. Greene appears to have been the first poet in England who fold the fame piece to different people. Voltaire is much belied, if he has not followed his example.
Notwithstanding what has been said by a late editor, (Mr. Capell, ) I have a copy of the firft folio, including Troilus and Cressida.' Indeed, as I have just now observed, it was at first either unknown or forgotten. It does not however appear in the list of the plays, and 'is thrust in between the histories and the tragedies without any enumeration of the pages ; except, I think, on one leaf only. It differs entirely from the copy in the second folio. Farmer.
I have consulted at least twenty copies of the firf folio, and Troilus and Cressida is not wanting in any of them. STEEVENS.