Francis Meres's Comments on Shakespeare
The quotes below are taken from Francis Meres's commonplace book Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury, first published in 1598. Though brief, this is one of the most important primary documents related to Shakespeare since it sets the date before which all the plays listed were written. I give the text below with original spellings.
"As the soule of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras : so the sweet wittie soule of Ovid lives in mellifluous & honytongued Shakespeare, witnes his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugred Sonnets among his private frinds, &c.
As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latines : so Shakespeare among y' English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage; for Comedy, witnes his Ge'tleme' of Verona, his Errors, his Love labors lost, his Love labours wonne, his Midsummer night dreame, & his Merchant of Venice : for Tragedy his Richard the 2. Richard the 3. Henry the 4. King John, Titus Andronicus and his Romeo and Juliet.
As Epius Stolo said, that the Muses would speake with Plautus tongue, if they would speak Latin : so I say that the Muses would speak with Shakespeares fine filed phrase, if they would speake English."
Much ingenuity has been expended over the identity of Love Labour's Won. It seems The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado are the leading candidates, but it is just possible there was a lost play by this name.
A facsimile of the original may be found in: Samuel Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare A Documentary Life (Oxford, 1975), p. 140, which gives the citation for an original in the Bodleian.
A transcription may be found in: E. K. Chambers, William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems (Oxford, 1930) v. ii, p. 194.
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Last modified 04/05/99.