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WHERE are two plays within plays

wherein Shakespeare commits extravagance : the “Hamlet” interlude and “ The Taming of the

Shrew." Needless to say, the T inter-relation of the four plays is

different; the inner play being a brief incident in the tragedy, and the outer play a mere incident in the comedy. But the inner play is in each case removed, set further than ordinary drama from the con

ditions of actual life, the life of the audience seated at this table of double entertainment. Now, it seems evident that when he thus took two conventions, erected one proscenium within another, added fiction to fiction, lapped a play with a play, and proclaimed a second make-believe, Shakespeare took full advantage of this circumstance of art. He who knew the separa


tion of drama from life knew the added separation of a drama within a drama from life, and gave himself a fantastic permission to exceed, and not only to exceed but to ignore, to glisser, to evade, to refuse us the right to look as deep as we may look into single, ordinary and primary drama. Into the comedy of “The Taming of the Shrew” we may not look, we look upon it. Nor do we, if we are wise, ask for leave to do more. “ N'appuyons pas.If we wish to pause, let it be on the slight play which is the first and the immediate drama, - that is, the

Induction,” the comedy of Christopher Sly. Here is omething to linger over, here are a very few things, but rich ones; here is something human, something richly alive, and responsible to Nature. Through one proscenium, through one convention, we look upon that life once removed from reality which is drama. The “ Induction ” is a very small play, but a play full of slightly scenic nature; “ The Taming of the Shrew ” itself is a long play, but a play vacant of nature. The Elizabethan dramatist took his ease in that inn of the stage, and took it the more whimsically in that stage-alcove, the inner scene whereon the Player King and the Player Queen, Petruchio and Katharine, act their parts. Fantastic, wilful, arbitrary, defiant, unchallengeable is “ The Taming of the Shrew.” Whatever pleasure we can take in this comedy is manifestly to be taken at a glance. To the Elizabethan audience the pleasure was not small; to us to-day it is not great. Such as it is, it must be taken with gaiety, without insistence, without exaction, and in haste. We must certainly not be either tender or stern;


we must not incline to the pathos of mortal things. Not long ago an essayist found out pathos in Christopher Sly. Having looked close and sadly, and with a modern mind, to the tinker, he erected himself again, as it were, turned round, and told us it was this that he had discovered, namely, pathos. It seems an undramatic quest and an importunate suggestion; a lapse of tact, and under the guise of more than common imagination, an utter defect of phantasy, — this fond curiosity and this soft heart of the modern writer. Yet if he must be moved ; and if he must compel Shakespeare to serve him in his emotions; and if he will not keep them for his living brothers, but must spend them on the comic drama, why then at least · let him have his way with Christopher Sly and the “ Induction” only; let him stop there. Let him not intrude upon the inner play, and find the pathos of life in that gay interior where the light heart of drama takes sanctuary ; let him not attribute pathos to Katharine, or study Petruchio, or make a symbol of the Pedant.

Nevertheless, this, or nearly this, is what he has in fact done — or rather she ; for a woman, once well and honourably known for her Shakespearean studies, and in particular for a Concordance, did point the moral of Katharine and Bianca, making a story of the earlier girlhood of each, setting forth that once before had this shrew been tamed by a strong-handed boy, —Petruchio's precursor ; that this generous nature of woman did but wait for love and a master; and so forth. The thing is just worthy of mention because it may stand as a per

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