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are the reflection of his real sentiments. We have the playfulness of an early love, and the agonizing throes of an unlawful passion. They speak of a period when the writer had won no honour or substantial rewards “ in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,” the period of his youth, if the allusion was at all real; and yet the writer is
“With time's injurious hand crush'd and o'erworn."
One little dedicatory poem says,
“Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage
Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit,
To witness duty, not to show my wit."
Another (and it is distinctly associated with what we hold to be a continued little poem, wholly fictitious, in which the poet dramatizes as it were the poetical character) boasts that
“Not marble, not the gilded monuments
Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme."
Without attempting therefore to disprove that these Sonnets were addressed to the Earl of Southampton, or to the Earl of Pembroke, we must leave the reader who fancies he can find in them a shadowy outline of Shakspere's life to form his own conclusion from their careful perusal. We have endeavoured, in our analysis of these poems, to place before him all the facts which have relation to the subject. But to preserve in this place the unity of our narrative with reference to the period before us, we reprint a passage from the “Studies” to which we refer : “ The 71st to the 74th Sonnets seem bursting from a heart oppressed with a sense of its own unworthiness, and surrendered to some overwhelming misery. There is a line in the 74th which points at suicide. We cling to the belief that the sentiments here expressed are essentially dramatic. In the 32nd Sonnet, where we recognise the man Shakspere speaking in his own modest and cheerful spirit, death is to come across his well-contented day.' The opinion which we have endeavoured to sustain of the probable admixture of the artificial and the real in the Sonnets, arising from their supposed original fragmentary state, necessarily leads to the belief that some are accurate illustrations of the poet's situation and feelings. It is collected from these Sonnets, for example, that his profession as a player was disagreeable to him; and this complaint is found amongst those portions which we have separated from the series of verses which appear to us to be written in an artificial character. It might be addressed to any one of his family, or to some honoured friend, such as Lord Southampton :
0, for my sake do you with Fortune chide,
But if from his professional occupation his nature was felt by him to be subdued to what it worked in,-if thence his name received a brand, —if vulgar scandal sometimes assailed him, he had high thoughts to console him, such as were never before imparted to mortal. This was probably written in some period of dejection, when his heart was ill at ease, and he looked upon the world with a slight tinge of indif
ference, if not of dislike. Every man of high genius has felt something of this. It was reserved for the highest to throw it off, like dew-drops from the lion's mane.' But the profound self-abasement and despondency of the 74th Sonnet, exquisite as the diction is, appear to us unreal, as a representation of the mental state of William Shakspere ; written, as it most probably was, at a period of his life when he revels and luxuriates (in the comedies which belong to the close of the sixteenth century) in the spirit of enjoyment, gushing from a heart full of love for his species, at peace with itself and with all the world."
The spring of 1599 saw Shakspere's friends and patrons, Essex and Southampton, in honour and triumph. “The 27th of March, 1599, about two o'clock in the afternoon, Robert Earl of Essex, Vicegerent of Ireland, &c., took horse in Seeding Lane, and from thence, being accompanied with divers noblemen and many others, himself very plainly attired, rode through Grace Street, Cornhill, Cheapside, and other high streets, in all which places, and in the fields, the people pressed exceedingly to behold him, especially in the highways for more than four miles space, crying, and saying, God bless your Lordship, God preserve your honour, &c., and some followed him until the evening, only to behold him. When he and his company came forth of London, the sky was very calm and clear, but before he could get past Iseldon (Islington] there arose a great black cloud in the north-east, and suddenly came lightning and thunder, with a great shower of hail and rain,
the which some held as an ominous prodigy.” * It was perhaps with some reference to such forebodings that in the chorus to the fifth Act of “Henry V.”
—which of course must have been performed between the departure of Essex in March, and his return in September --- Shakspere thus anticipates the triumph of Essex :
“But now behold,
But the “ominous prodigy” was sadly realized. About the close of the year 1599, the Blackfriars Theatre was remarkable for the constant presence of two men of high rank, who were there seeking amusement and instruction as some solace for the bitter mortifications of disappointed ambition. “My Lord Southampton and Lord Rutland came not to the Court; the one doth but very seldom ; they pass away the time in London merely in going to plays every day.”+ Essex had arrived from Ireland on the 28th of September, 1599--not
“Bringing rebellion broached on his sword,” — not surrounded with swarms of citizens who
“Go forth, and fetch their conquering Cæsar in,”but a fugitive from his army; one who in his desire for peace had treated with rebels, and had brought down upon him the censures of the Court; one who knew that his sovereign was surrounded with his personal enemies, and who in his reckless anger once thought to turn his army homeward to compel justice at their hands ; one who at last rushed alone into the Queen's presence, “ full of dirt and mire," and found that he was in the toils of his foes. From that Michaelmas till the 26th of August, 1600, Essex was in the custody of the Lord Keeper ; in free custody as it was termed, but to all intents a prisoner. It was at this period that Southampton and Rutland passed "away the time in London merely in going to plays every day." Southampton in 1598 had married Elizabeth Vernon, a cousin of Lord Essex. The marriage was without the consent of the Queen; and therefore Southampton was under the ban of the Court, having been peremptorily dismissed by Elizabeth from the office to which Essex had appointed him in the expedition to Ireland. Rutland was also connected with Essex by family ties, having married the daughter of Lady Essex, by her first husband, the accomplished Sir Philip Sydney. The season when these noblemen sought recreation at the Theatre was one therefore of calamity to themselves, and to the friend who was at the head of their party in the state. At Shakspere's theatre there were at this period abundant materials for the highest intellectual gratification. Of Shakspere's own works we know that at the opening of the seventeenth century there were twenty plays in existence. Thirteen (considering “ Henry IV." as two parts) are recorded by Meres in 1598; “Much Ado About
* Stow's " Annals.” † Letter of Rowland Whyte to Sir Robert Sydney, in the Sydney Papers.
Nothing,” and “Henry V.” (not in Meres' list), were printed in 1600; and we have to add the three parts of " Henry VI.,” “ The Taming of the Shrew," and the original “Hamlet,” which are also wanting in Meres' record, but which were unquestionably produced before this period. We cannot with extreme precision fix the date of any novelty from the pen of Shakspere when Southampton and Rutland were amongst his daily auditors; but there is every reason to believe that “ As You Like It" belongs as nearly as possible to this exact period. It is pleasant to speculate upon the tranquillizing effect that might have been produced upon the minds of the banished courtiers, by the exquisite philosophy of this most delicious play. It is pleasant to imagine Southampton visiting Essex in the splendid prison of the Lord Keeper's house, and there repeating to him from time to time those lessons of wisdom that were to be found in the woods of Arden. The two noblemen who had once revelled in all the powers and privileges of Court favouritism had now felt by how precarious a tenure is the happiness held of
“That poor man that hangs on princes' favours.”
The great dramatic poet of their time had raised up scenes of surpassing loveliness, where happiness might be sought for even amidst the severest penalties of fortune :
“Now, my co-mates, and brothers in exile,
It was for them to feel how deep a truth was there in this lesson :
“Sweet are the uses of adversity.”
Happy are those that can feel such a truth ;
“That can translate the stubbornness of fortune
Into so quiet and so sweet a style.”
And yet the same poet had created a character that could interpret the feelings of those who had suffered undeserved indignities, and had learnt that the greatest crime in the world's eye was to be unfortunate. There was one in that play who could moralize the spectacle of
“A poor sequester'd stage. That from the hunter's aim had ta’en a hurt,"
and who thus pierced through the hollowness of “this our life :”—
“Poor deer,' quoth he, 'thou mak'st a testament
As worldlings do, giving thy sum of more
We could almost slide into the belief that “As You Like It” had an especial refer