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creatures had widened and softened. Puck laughs at the faults and follies of men

Lord, what fools these mortals be;

while Ariel acknowledges a sympathy with the hapless people on whom he has inflicted distresses at his master's bidding, and suggests to Prospero thoughts of mercy. Caliban is a direct contrast to Ariel; he is a monster, half-man, half-beast, capable of villainy, yet not unmoved by the beauty of nature, and the charms of sweet sounds.

Throughout the plays are scattered beautiful lyrics, which have become as familiar to us as our own

The songs of Voices. "Where the bee sucks" (Tempest), the plays. "O mistress mine" (Twelfth Night), and "Under the Greenwood Tree" (As You Like It) may be noted as examples of Shakespeare's lyrical sweetness and melody.


We have now passed in brief review the main body of Shakespeare's work. In dealing with a dramatist it is The scope of exceedingly difficult by means of description Shakespeare's to give an adequate account of his work. Quotation is of little avail, since, unless whole scenes or sometimes whole acts are given, it is impossible to show how the plot is developed, step by step, by the working of character on character, as the play progresses. To appreciate Shakespeare's mighty genius the student must study his plays in their entirety closely and carefully; and, to borrow the words of the editors of the first Folio edition of the plays (1623), if, when we have read him again and again, we do not like him, we are surely "in some manifest danger not to understand him". Furthermore we must never allow ourselves to

1 It is possible by quotation to show Shakespeare's greatness as a poet, but we believe, with Dr. Johnson, that "his real power is not shown in the splendour of particular passages, but by the progress of his fable and the tenor of his dialogue: and he that tries to recommend him by select quotations, will succeed like the pedant in Hierocles, who, when he offered his house to sale, carried a brick in his pocket as a specimen".

forget that Shakespeare's first object was to make his plays good acting plays, and we are obviously not in a position to judge of Shakespeare's dramatic genius and power until we have seen some of the plays produced on the stage. He understood the exigencies of the stage; he knew that the first thing necessary is an interesting story that appeals to popular sympathies; it was his uncontrollable imagination that clothed his stories in incomparable poetry, and gave them value for all time.

Shakespeare had three purposes. "The first was to tell in every play a dramatically complete story; the second was to work out that story by the means of purely human and probable characters; and the third was to give such form and ornaments to the working out as might please the playgoers of his day." His supreme greatness lay in the second of these. In his finest plays the characters are always of greater importance than the plots, "the interest in the plot is always in fact on account of the characters." 2

He took the whole of human life for his province, and has set before us a gallery of men and women who are little less real to us than our own personal friends. We discuss the characters of Portia or of Hamlet, of Lady Macbeth or of Iago, exactly as if they were living beings, and it is just because their motives and actions sometimes admit of more than one interpretation that they are so marvellously alive and real. He has introduced nearly all the situations that can arise between men and women, all the passions that can move them, all the motives that can be the basis of their actions.3 And the passions and motives are those that are common to humanity in every age. "He was not of an age but for all time", wrote his contemporary Ben Jonson. He "is the historian of eternity. He paints no particular country, no particular age; he describes the history of humanity." 4

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3 There are, however, some interesting exceptions. He seems, for instance, to have felt no interest in the relation of mother and daughter. 4 Ernest Renan, the great French writer.

Shakespeare's general knowledge was remarkable; he was "naturally learned", and his powers of observation both of men and of nature were unique. There is plenty of evidence to show that he was widely read. As we have seen, he lived in a learned age, when people felt a strong interest in literature, and talked about it with the same enthusiasm as they talk about politics now.


His humour is always kindly, and it varies according to the character. The humour of Touchstone differs from that of Falstaff, Falstaff's from that of His humour. the Fool in Lear, or of Dogberry, the watchHe often mingles grave and gay. Mercutio dies with a jest on his lips. The Fool makes jesting reply to the tragic and pathetic outbursts of Lear; the gravediggers in Hamlet joke and sing as they dig Ophelia's grave.

True humour suffers little or nothing from time, for it consists in a way of looking at life. But in wit, fashions alter; for wit often turns upon a double meaning in words which lose their significance in time; often upon a reference to passing events which are soon forgotten. Yet it is sometimes difficult to see how Shakespeare's puns, quibbles, and conceits could ever have pleased. They were characteristic of his age. Matthew Arnold declared Elizabethan literature to be "fanciful". As he puts it, "steeped in humours and fantasticality up to its very lips, the Elizabethan age, newly arrived at the free use of the human faculties after their long term of bondage, and delighting to exercise them freely, suffers from its own extravagance in this first exercise of them, can hardly bring itself to see an object quietly or to describe it temperately".

Fifteen of Shakespeare's plays were printed in quarto volumes during his lifetime; Othello was issued in like Editions of form six years after the poet's death. The the plays. earliest collected edition of his plays, known as the First Folio, was published in 1623. It contained

1 Romeo and Juliet.

thirty-six plays, that is, all, except Pericles. The printers (Hemming and Condell) dedicated the volume to the Earls of Pembroke (William Herbert) and The Quartos.

Montgomery, and prefaced it with com

mendatory verses. Those by Ben Jonson, addressed "to the memory of my beloved, the author, The Folios: Master William Shakespeare, and what he the "First hath left us", are famous. Jonson calls


Shakespeare "sweet swan of Avon", and "my gentle Shakespeare", and the poet who made

those flights upon the banks of Thames,

That so did take Eliza and our James.

And very finely does he testify to Shakespeare's undying greatness.

Thou art a monument without a tomb,

Thou art alive still, while thy book doth live
And we have wits to read, and praise to give.

The portrait engraved by Martin Droeshout, referred to earlier, appears on the title-page of this famous book.

The Second Folio was published in 1632. It is little more than a reprint of the first. To it was prefixed a poem entitled "An epitaph on the admirable The "Second dramatic poet, W. Shakespeare", by Milton, Folio". though without his name, and this was the first of Milton's poems that was published:

What needs my Shakespeare for his honour'd bones,

The labour of an age in piléd stones?

Thou in our wonder and astonishment

Hast built thyself a live-long monument.

The Third Folio appeared in 1663 and 1664. In it were printed for the first time seven plays ascribed to Shakespeare. One of these was Pericles, in the composition of which he certainly had a share, and which has since been included in all editions

The Third

of his works; that he had any part in the other six there is no evidence whatever.

A Fourth Folio edition was published in 1685.

Shakespeare's editors and critics.

Numberless critics and commentators have busied themselves with Shakespeare's plays. The majority of them were printed first after their author's death, and even those which appeared during his life seem to have received little revision from him, so that the text is very imperfect. Emendations of it, explanations of obscure passages or obsolete words, or of contemporary allusions, attempts to fathom the deeper meanings of the plays, and the motives of the various characters, have afforded employment for many pens. The first edition that can be called critical appeared in 1709, edited by Nicholas Rowe; Pope, the great poet, followed in 1725, with his edition, to which he wrote a most interesting preface. But in making unnecessary changes he showed too little reverence for the text. He was in that respect a great contrast to Theobald, who was one of the most acute of all Shakespeare's editors, and whose insight amounted almost to genius. Other editors of the same century are Capell, a man of great learning, but whose obscure style has mulcted him of proper appreciation; Steevens, a very acute critic; and Malone, who was painstaking and judicious. Dr. Johnson's edition has an admirable preface, and though on the whole the work is disappointing, it is valuable for many fine remarks on the characters of the plays, and for an occasional piece of judicious criticism of the text. But it was reserved for Coleridge, Charles Lamb, and Hazlitt, early in the present century, to do full justice to the supreme greatness of Shakespeare's work. In France Shakespeare has never perhaps been appreciated at his full value, and until this century he was consistently disparaged. His mingling of tragedy and comedy, indeed, his whole method, was contrary to the traditions of the French stage. His plays, however, have been translated by a son of Victor Hugo, and Hugo himself has written a volume of glowing eulogy. German scholars, on the other hand, preceded his own

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