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French. Moreover, rich territorial noblemen were inviting to their country seats at that time Italian craftsmen, imbued with the architectural principles and decorative ideas of the Renaissance; and from these intelligent workers Englishmen in much the same station of life had opportunities of hearing something of Italy and other Continental countries and languages, in our day denied to people in the absence of foreign travel. Moreover, a Priesthood, both Secular and Regular, still not wholly severed from Rome, had much noninsular information of no small educational service to Englishmen, who, in every age, as all the world knows, are somewhat prone to insularity of knowledge and feeling.

Such were some of the educational opportunities offered to Shakespeare; and one may be quite sure that, bringing into the world with him the electrically quick apprehension of Genius, he quickly turned them to account, to an extent denied to the average human being. No surprise, therefore, need be felt, though it is so often expressed, at the apparently wide knowledge of men, things, and books shown by Shakespeare from the first moment at which he began to write. Far from moving about, in Wordsworth's well-known phrase, in worlds not realised, he realised them very early in life, and instinctively idealised them by what in later years he called, through the mouth of Prospero, "my so potent Art," in other words, his transforming Imagination. But scholastic teaching, mere book-learning, and even converse with men of diverse tongues and nationalities, did

not by any means constitute the main and most valuable ingredients in Shakespeare's early education. I have spoken of the rank of life in which he was born; and it is an inexpressible advantage to a poet of great native genius to pass the earlier years of his life among people of not too lowly a condition to have any but a small and narrow view of existence shut out from them, withal of not so lofty and comfortable a condition as to be more or less divorced by artificial manners and restraints from the frank manifestations of human nature, to take all that happens to them, and all they see and hear, as a matter of course, and to lack the spur and stimulus of a desire for personal improvement and advancement. No English poet who can be accurately described as of great eminence came of an absolutely ignorant, uneducated stock, and only one English poet of what is called in England the higher titular rank- Byron - can be justly described as a poet of conspicuous distinction. Byron, in addition to his own volcanic genius, was not handicapped in any disadvantageous degree by the native accident of being a peer. His family was relatively obscure, and its means were narrow; and had he not filled the world with his fame as a poet, he would, merely as the Lord Byron of the period, have been known even by name to not one in ten thousand of his countrymen. It was one of the great native advantages of Shakespeare that he came of people half-yeomen, half-tradesmen, had a sound, thorough, grammar-school education, and that his original condition necessitated his consorting, in early life, with men and women who make no attempt to conceal


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":

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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

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. Some persons 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

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