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If a person, after comparing the above first and second with the third and fourth citations, does not note an essential musical difference between them, there is nothing more to be said to him, and one only thinks to oneself that he has an imperfect ear for the delicacies and distinctions in the structure and sound of verse. The first and second quotations march steadily on, like welldrilled battalions, at a majestic even pace. The third and fourth undulate, as they rush, pause, loiter, hurry on, like the course of a river. The former have a certain stately inflexibility in them. The latter are throughout flexible even in their potency; flexible as is also the following passage, equally selected at chance from “Venus and Adonis”:

“ Torches are made to light, jewels to wear,

Dainties to taste, fresh beauty for the use,
Herbs for their smell, and sappy plants to bear :
Things growing to themselves are growth's abuse :

Seeds spring from seeds and beauty breedeth beauty;

Thou wast begot; to get it is thy duty.” If one had space in which to quote passages from the blank verse of Wordsworth, Tennyson,

and even Shelley, all of whom are exquisite lyrical poets, when writing what are called lyrics proper, the same distinction would be observed by those who are capable of such observation. It might be interesting, on some suitable occasion, to enter more minutely and exhaustively into the radical causes of this difference in the blank verse of Shakespeare and that of most other English poets of eminence. Here it must suffice to remark that, while there is a certain artistic

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craft and conscious intention discernible in the latter, Shakespeare's blank verse is a perfectly natural utterance, as natural to him as the most ordinary prose utterances are to other people. I remember that, sitting one after

I noon with Tennyson in his garden at Aldworth, and citing with sincere admiration two lines of “ Locksley Hall," I ventured to add that there was in one of them what I feared he would now regard as a slight blemish, though I myself did not regard it as such. “ What is that ?” he asked with solicitude, and I indicated it. “You are quite right,” he observed. No, I am not, I ventured to reply, “ and you are quite wrong, in my opinion, for regarding it as a blemish. But

you

have laid an additional burden, for some time to come, on all English poets, by your craving for perfection and finish.” With quick sensitiveness, he pressed my arm, and said, “ But it is n't artificial, is it?” Well aware of his sensitiveness, I answered, “ Yes, it is; but I suppose it is the

artifice.” In Shakespeare there was no artifice. He is the most natural of writers, and fortunately for himself, as for us, he could afford to be so. In him, the art itself is nature."

It would be just as easy to establish the other proposition that, in the rhymed and more confessedly lyrical verse of his earlier poems, Shakespeare manifested the germs of that dramatic or objective power, and that copious rhetoric, so conspicuous in his dramas. That the bulk of the “Sonnets” represent not what Shakespeare himself personally felt at the time of writing them, but rather what other people would feel in the circumstances supposed,

proper artifice."

I think no one can well doubt after reading the evidence Mr. Sidney Lee marshals in support of that view, provided he be capable of weighing evidence rightly and dispassionately. They are essentially objective, and give expression to states of mind and feeling which, in those days, it was thought becoming, and even necessary, that a young writer advancing claims to be regarded as a poet should entertain ; and Shakespeare, born dramatist and born actor as he was, threw himself by virtue of his imagination and his rich, ready vocabulary into those feelings with such complete success that the incautious have built on the “Sonnets ” speculations and even theories that lack all foundation, when once the true and full nature of his genius is apprehended. Similarly, in “ Venus and Adonis” and “ The Rape of Lucrece,” he manifests that ample command of language and that power

of

preserving an almost hard and fast line between one character and another so conspicuous in his plays; though it should be added that, even in these last, he sacrifices the distinction without hesitation or scruple, where not to do so would hamper the action of the piece; action, or the unfolding of the story, being the most important matter in a stage-play.

It is often said that we know nothing about Shakespeare, the man. It seems to me there is no one about whom I know so much. For what is knowledge respecting a person? Is it the precise day of his birth, and of his death? Is it the colour of his hair and eyes, the exact number of his inches in height and chest measurement, or the customary style of his dress? These may

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be interesting matters for the curious, but they are scarcely the essential or really instructive facts concerning a man. The essential and most informing things respecting him are what he thought and felt, what he said when he truly meant what he was saying, what was the main occupation and what the general tenor of his life, what his reputed disposition, and what his conduct in the practical every-day affairs of existence. Bearing the above distinction in mind, let us ask what we know for certain concerning Shakespeare.

1st. As to the time and date in which he lived and wrote.

2d. The social conditions, according to the ideas and educational opportunities of his time, in which he was born.

3d. What kind of woman he married, and how did the marriage he contracted, as the phrase is, turn out, and to what extent, and in what manner, did it influence his life and his conduct towards his children.

4th. What were his views as to Life, Government, Law, Society, external Nature, Art, the relation of Man and Woman, and finally as to the World not seen, and necessarily, therefore, only surmised.

To answer these questions in the above order, Shakespeare was born in A.D. 1564, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and died in 1616, in the reign of James I; but his principal works were written between 1591 and 1611, or between his twenty-seventh and forty-seventh year. The period covered by these dates was the very height and heart of the Epoch of the Renaissance in England, following swiftly on what is called the Reformation, justly described by Tennyson as a “spacious time." It is no slight advantage for a man, and for a poet especially, to live in a spacious as contra-distinguished from a narrow and quietistic age. But the advantage fully avails only a poet who has, at one and the same time, a due admixture of Receptivity and Resistance; and Shakespeare possessed both those qualities in about equal proportion. Endowed with too great an amount of Receptivity, he would have welcomed both the Reformation and the Renaissance with unquestioning and excessive enthusiasm. Gifted with too large a share of Resistance, he might have looked on them with displeasure and suspicion, and even have manifested prejudice and hostility towards them. Endued with a perfectly balanced mind, he confronted them with sympathetic but not servile hospitality, “looked before and after,” as was his saying, and his own wont, and thoroughly understood them, as he understood all things that are to be in any way understood by mortals.

In the second place, Shakespeare was born, according to the ideas and educational opportunities of the England of that day, in a relatively humble but certainly not a lowly rank of life, and came of people self-respecting and respected, thoroughly well-grounded in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and who deemed it their duty, and a point of class honour, to give their sons the opportunities of book education afforded by the local Grammar School, whereby they could obtain an ample knowledge of their own tongue, and a smattering of Latin and

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