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the last assizes" is no evidence that he was a lawyer.* Many similar instances are given, equally founded, we think, upon the mistake of believing that the technical language has no relation to the general language. Metaphorical, no doubt, are some of these expressions, such as
"But be contented when that fell arrest
Without all bail shall carry me away;". but the metaphors are as familiar to the reader as to the poet himself. They present a clear and forcible image to the mind ; and looking at the habits of society, they can scarcely be called technical. Dekker describes the conversation at a third-rate London ordinary :-“There is another ordinary, at which your London usurer, your stale bachelor, and your thrifty attorney do resort ; the price three. pence; the rooms as full of company as a jail; and indeed divided into several wards, like the beds of an hospital The compliment between these is not much, their words few; for the belly hath no ears : every man's eye here is upon the other man's trencher, to note whether his fellow lurch him, or no : if they chance to discourse, it is of nothing but of statutes, bonds, recognizances, fines, recoveries, audits, rents, subsidies, sureties, enclosures, liveries, indictments, outlawries, feoffments, judgments, commissions, bankrupts, amercements, and of such horrible matter." + Here is pretty good evidence of the general acquaintance with the law's jargon ; and Dekker, who was himself a dramatic poet, has put together in a | few lines as many technical terms as we may find in Shakspere. • “Ode on Mrs. Killigrew.”
† Dekker's “Gull's Hornbook :" 1609.
The ancient accounts of the Chamberlains of the Borough of Stratford exhibit a number of payments made out of the funds of the corporation for theatrical performances. In 1569, when John Shakspere was chief magistrate, there is a payment of nine shillings to the Queen's players, and of twelvepence to the Earl of Worcester's players. In 1573 the Earl of Leicester's players received five shillings and eightpence. In 1576 "my Lord of Warwick's players” have a gratuity of seventeen shillings, and the Earl of Worcester's players of five and eightpence. In 1577 “my Lord of Leicester's players” received fifteen shillings, and “my Lord of Worcester's players” three and fourpence. In 1579 and 1580 the entries are more circumstantial :
“1579. Item paid to my Lord Straunge men the xịth day of February at the comaundement of Mr. Bayliffe, vs.
Pd at the comaundement of Mr. Baliffe to the Countys of Essex plears, xijis. vid.
It thus appears that there had been three sets of players at Stratford within a short distance of the time when William Shakspere was sixteen years of age. In a subsequent volume we have endeavoured to present a general view of the state of the stage at this point of its history; with reference to the impressions which theatrical performances would then make upon him who would be the chief instrument in building up upon these rude foundations a noble and truly poetical drama. Such a view may enable the reader to form a tolerable conception of the amusements which were so highly popular, and so amply encouraged, in a small town far distant from the capital, as to invite three distinct sets of players there to exhibit in the brief period which is defined in the entries of 1579 and 1580.*
The hall of the Guild, which afterwards became the Town Hall, was the occasional theatre of Stratford. It is now a long room, and somewhat low, the building being divided into two floors, the upper of which is used as the Grammar School. The elevation for the Court at one end of the hall would form the stage ; and on one side is an ancient separate chamber to which the performers would retire. With a due provision of benches, about three hundred persons could be accommodated in this room ; and no doubt Mr. Bailiff would be liberal in the issue of his invitations, so that Stratford might not grudge its expenditure. | If there was amongst that audience at Stratford, in 1580, witnessing the per
formance of such a comedy as “Common Conditions," + one in whom the poetical · feeling was rapidly developing, and whose taste had been formed upon better models than anything which the existing drama could offer to him (such a one perhaps was there in the person of William Shakspere) he would perceive how imperfectly this comedy attained the end of giving delight to a body of persons assembled together with an aptitude for delight. And yet they would have been pleased and satisfied. There is in this comedy bustle and change of scene; something to move the feelings in the separation of lovers and their re-union ; laughter excited by grotesqueness which stands in the place of wit and humour ; music and song; and, more than all, lofty words and rhymed cadences which sound like poetry. But to that one critical listener the total absence of the real dramatic spirit would be most perplexing. At the moment when he himself would be fancying what the characters upon the scene were about to do, how their discourse, like that of real life, would have reference to the immediate business of the action in which they were engaged, and explain their own feelings, passions, peculiarities,—the writer would present, through the mouth of some one of these characters, a description of what some one else was doing or had done ; and thus, though the poem was a dialogue, it was not a drama; it did not realize the principle of personation which such a mind was singularly formed to understand and cultivate. The structure of the versification, too, would appear to him altogether unfit to represent the thoughts and emotions of human beings engaged in working out a natural train of adventures. Some elevation of style Fould be required to distinguish the language from that of ordinary life, without being altogether opposed to that language ; something that would convey the idea of poetical art, whilst it was sufficiently real not to make the art too visible. “The Tragedy of Ferrex and Porrex;" printed in 1571, “as the same was showed on the stage before the Queen's Majesty, about nine year past, by the gentlemen of the
Inner Temple,” would give him the most complete specimen of that species of verse ' which appeared fitted for the purposes of the higher drama. The speeches were indeed long, after the model of the stately harangues which he had read in his “Livy" and "Sallust;" but they were forcible and impressive ; especially those lines on
* See “Studies of Shakspere,” Book I., Chapters II, III, IV, and v.
t“ Studies," p. 11.
the causes and miseries of civil war of which our history had furnished such fearful examples :
“And thou, O Britain ! whilom in renown,
Yet the entire play of " Ferrex and Porrex” was monotonous and uninteresting ; it seemed as if the dramatic form oppressed the undoubted genius of one of the authors of that play. How inferior were the finest lines which Sackville wrote in this play, correct and perspicuous as they were, compared with some of the noble bursts in the Induction to “A Mirror for Magistrates !” Surely the author of the sublime impersonation of War could have written a tragedy that would have filled the heart with terror, if not with pity!
“Lastly stood War in glittering arms yclad,
Still, he might wonder that the example which Sackville had given of dramatic blank verse had not been followed by the writers of plays for the common theatres. A change, however, was taking place ; for the First Part of “Promos and Cassandra” was wholly in rhyme ; while in the Second Part Master George Whetstone had freely introduced blank verse. In the little book which Stephen Gosson had just written against plays,- his second book in answer to Thomas Lodge,—was an evidence that the multitude most delighted in rhyme: “The poets send their verses to the stage, upon such feet as continually are rolled up in rhyme at the fingers' ends, which is plausible to the barbarous and carrieth a sting into the ears of the common people."* And yet, from another passage of the same writer, the embryo poet might collect that even the refined and learned were delighted with the poetical structure of the common dramas : “So subtle is the devil, that under the colour of recreation in London, and of exercise of learning in the universities, by seeing of plays, he maketh us to join with the Gentiles in their corruption. Because the sweet numbers of poetry, flowing in verse, do wonderfully tickle the hearers' ears, the devil
* “Plays Confuted, in Five Actions."
hath tied this to most of our plays, that whatsoever he would have stick fast to our souls might slip down in sugar by this inticement, for that which delighteth never troubleth our swallow. Thus, when any matter of love is interlarded, though the thing itself be able to allure us, yet it is so set out with sweetness of words, fitness of epithets, with metaphors, allegories, hyperboles, amphibologies, similitude ; with | phrases so picked, so pure, so proper ; with action so smooth, so lively, so wanton ; that the poison, creeping on secretly without grief, chokes us at last, and hurleth us down in a dead sleep." It is difficult to arrive at an exact knowledge of the truth from the description of one who wrote under such strong excitement as Master Stephen Gosson.
It was about the period which we are now touching upon that Sidney wrote his “Defence of Poesy." The drama was then as he has described it, “much used in England, and none can be more pitifully abused; which, like an unmannerly daughter showing a bad education, causeth her mother Poesy's honour to be called in question.” The early framers of the drama seem soaroely to have considered that she was the daughter of Poesy. A desire for dramatic exhibitions—not a new desire, but taking a new direction—had forcibly seized upon the English people. The demand was to be supplied as it best might be, by the players who were to profit by it. They were, as they always will be, the best judges of what would merely please an audience; and it was to be expected that, having within themselves the power of constructing the rude plot of any popular story, so as to present rapid movement, and what in the language of the stage is called business, the beauty or even propriety of the dialogue would be a secondary consideration, and indeed would be pretty much left to the extemporal invention of the actor. That the wit of the clown was almost entirely of this nature we have the most distinct evidence. Sidney, with all his fine taste, was a stickler for “place and time, the two necessary companions of all corporal actions. For,” he says, “ where the stage should always represent one place, and the uttermost time presupposed in it should be, both by Aristotle's precept and common reason, but one day, there is both many days and many places inartificially imagined.” As the players were the rude builders of our early drama, and as that drama was founded upon the ruder Mysteries and Moral Plays, in which all propriety was disregarded, so that the senses could be gratified, they naturally rejected the unities of time and place, the observance of which would have deprived their plays of their chief attraction-rapid change and abundant incident. And fortunate was it that they did so ; for they thus went on strengthening and widening the foundations of our national drama, the truth and freedom of which could not exist under a law which, literally construed, is not the law of nature ; but which, in its treatment by a great artist like Shakspere, would evolve a higher law than “Aristotle's precept and common reason." Had Sidney lived five or six years longer, had he seen or read “Romeo and Juliet,” or “A MidsummerNight's Dream," he would probably have ceased to regard the drama as the unmannerly daughter of Poesy; he would in all likelihood have thought that something was gained even through the “defectuous circumstances” that spurn the bounds of time and place, and compel the imagination to be still or to travel at its bidding, to be utterly regardless of the halt or the march of events, so that one dominant idea possess the soul and sway all its faculties. But this was only to be effected when a play was to become a high work of art; when all the conditions of its excellence should be fully comprehended ; when it should unite the two main conditions of the highest excellence—that of subjecting the popular mind to its power, through the skill which only the most refined understanding can altogether appreciate. When the young man of Stratford, who, as we have conceived, knew the drama of his time through the representations of itinerant players, heard the