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their thoughts, feelings, passions, and foibles, but who candidly manifest the human nature that is within them. Men and women in a lowly rank of life have frequently all the passions and weaknesses of Kings, Queens, Popes, and Statesmen; while these either lack the peculiar foibles of the former, or take infinite pains to dissemble them. Thus Shakespeare, who developed the highest, deepest, and widest Imagination, and likewise the most copious vocabulary ever possessed by a poet, had been made thoroughly acquainted, by the time he reached manhood, with the fundamental qualities and play of human nature. Finally, he grew up to adolescence in a town which we should now designate a mere village, by reason of its diminutive dimensions, and which, while possessed of Municipal Institutions, so ancient and so cherished in England, was little more than a rustic hamlet, surrounded by a practically endless expanse of fields, lanes, woods, and streams, where wild flowers and wild animals abounded ; nor can we doubt that the thrush and the blackbird fluted and carrolled all through March and April, and the nightingale trilled all through May and most of June, within hearing of Shakespeare as he walked with his satchel “ unwillingly to school,” or was being introduced, under threat of the primitive ferule, to vulgar fractions and the elements of algebra. In what boys used to call play-hours he could wander wherever he listed ; and he would not have been a poet at all had he not already been drawn by an overpowering love to the spots so enchantingly sung of by him in " As You Like It":

“ Under the greenwood tree,

Who loves to lie with me,
And tune his


Unto the sweet bird's throat,
Come hither, come hither, come hither ! ”

Even when he passed from Stratford-on-Avon to London, he found a city very different from the one we now know. Lanes, orchards, copses, meadows, and a noble river, were its immediate neighbours; and to live in London towards the end of the sixteenth and at the beginning of the seventeenth century was not to live in what we now understand by a vast urban centre. Thus, throughout his whole life, he lived face to face and in close loving familiarity with external Nature, as surely every poet should do.

Thirdly, Shakespeare had the instructive experience of an early and scarcely ideal marriage. There is no evidence permitting us to conclude that the marriage was an unhappy one; but Ann Hathaway was several years older than her husband, and had succumbed to the attractiveness of the young poet before the legal ratification of their troth. All we can safely presume is, and without attaching any blame to the wife, that the union was sufficiently uncongenial to Shakespeare to breed in him for a time, in early manhood, that restless and rebellious feeling which is perhaps indispensable to the full development and maturing of a poet's genius. But we may be quite sure that, in this respect, as in all others, Shakespeare ended by establishing that harmony in his marriage relations and responsibilities which was

Some persons

the crowning mark of his majestically serene intellect, equable temper, and tolerant imagination. In the welfare of his children he manifested a solicitous and unintermitted interest.

To return anything approaching to an adequate answer to the fourth question propounded above would require more space than can be dedicated to the whole of this introductory paper. It must therefore be brief but, I hope, not altogether without suggestiveness. may perhaps be disposed to ask how it is possible to gather what a Poet himself thinks about Life, Government, Society, the proper relation of the sexes, and the After-world, from his works, when those works are almost wholly dramatic and, it is universally allowed, objective, and devoted to the unfolding of action through character and circumstance. My reply must be that the reader who cannot, as a rule, distinguish between the situations and occasions when Shakespeare is saying only what the situation and occasion dramatically demanded should be said, and those on which, together with complying with that imperative obligation, he is saying what he himself thought on the subject, sees only half-way into Shakespeare's mind and meaning. Three examples must suffice for the illustration and enforcement of this. In the wellknown speech of Claudio in “Measure for Measure,” beginning

“Ay, but to die and go we know not where,” and in the course of which Claudio describes the posthumous punishments that “lawless and uncertain spirits imagine,” can any one doubt he is listening as much to Shakespeare's voice as to Claudio's? Again, when, in “King Lear,” we are told

Men must endure
Their going hence, even as their coming hither :
Ripeness is all,"

it is obvious that it is Shakespeare, even more than Edgar, who is speaking. When, at the end of “ The Taming of the Shrew,” Katherine delivers her final sentiments on the proper relation of the sexes, one knows one is harkening to the deep-seated convictions of Shakespeare himself. Finally, when, in “Troilus and Cressida” the wise Ulysses says

"Take but degree away, untune that string,

And hark what discord follows," pure white light is cast on the opinions of Shakespeare respecting Law, Government, and Society. The Röntgen rays of true, penetrating criticism enable one to know Shakespeare, as the phrase is, through and through, better than any other person.

My last observation here will be one I never tire of repeating, since it has as yet met with only imperfect welcome, because it runs counter to the tastes of this Age, which happily is not the ultimate Court of Appeal on such matters, that the essential greatness of a Poet depends not on mere emotional Fancy, but on the combined capacity to have a thorough and complete apprehension of persons, things, human nature, and life generally as they are, and then to transform and transfigure these into Poetry by an all-powerful Imagination, assisted by an appropriate and inexhaustible vocabulary. It is because in Shakespeare that combination is consummate, he is the greatest of all Poets.


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