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When Learning's triumph o'er her barb'rous focs
DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
Printed for, and under the direction of,
ON THE Fable and Composition of
It is observable, that this play is printed in the quarto of 1611, with exactness equal to that of the other books of those times. The first edition was probably corrected by the author, so that here is very little room for conjecture or emendation ; and accordingly none of the editors have much molested this piece with officious criticism. Johnson.
This is one of those plays which I have always thought, with the better judges, ought not to be acknowledged in the list of Shakspere's genuine pieces. And, perhaps, I may give a proof to strengthen this opinion, that may put the matter out of question. Ben Jonson, in the introduction to his Bartholomew-Fair, which made its first appearance in the year 1614. couples Jeronymo and Andronicus together in reputation, and speaks of them as plays then of twenty-five or thirty years standing. Consequently Andronicus must have been on the stage before Shakspere left Warwickshire, to come and reside in London : and I never heard it so much as intimated, that he had turned his genius to stage-writing before he associated with the players, and became one of their body. However, that he afterwards introduced it a-new on the stage, with the addiAii
tion of his own masterly touches, is incontestible, and thence, I presume, grew his title to it. The diction in general, where he has not taken the pains to raise it, is even beneath that of the Three Parts of Henry VI. The story we are to suppose merely fictitious. Andronicus is a sur-name of pure Greek derivation. Tamora is neither mentioned by Ammianus Marcellinus, nor any body else that I can find. Nor had Rome, in the time of her emperors, any wars with the Goths that I know of: not till after the translation of the empire, I mean to Byzantium. And yet the scene of our play is laid at Rome, and Saturninus is elected to the empire at the capitol.
THEOBALD. All the editors and critics agree with Mr. Theobald in supposing this play spurious. I see no reason for differing from them; for the colour of the style is wholly different from that of the other plays, and there is an attempt at regular versification, and artificial closes, not always inelegant, yet seldom pleasing. The barbarity of the spectacles, and the general massacre, which are here exhibited, can scarcely be conceived tolerable to any audience : yet we are told by Jonson, that they were not only, borne, but praised. That Shakspere wrote any part, though Theobald declares it inconteftible, I see no reason for believing