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A Shakespeare allusion of 1605 and its author

Hilton Kelliher


SURPRISINGLY few critical notices of Shakespeare have so far been recovered from sources dating from his own lifetime; fewer than a dozen are known to survive, and all of these originate from more or less professional literary circles. The most famous is the schoolmaster Francis Meres's comment in Palladis Tamia (1598): 'As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latines: so Shakespeare among the English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage.' Apparently the only other estimates recorded until now of his skill as a writer of tragedy are a marginal jotting by Gabriel Harvey and a sentence in Anthony Skoloker's Daiphantus (1604), both specifically praising Hamlet. A further testimony has now come to light which, though decidedly more ambiguous than these, implies that for one gentleman playgoer, as for Meres, Shakespeare was the greatest tragedian of the age.

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