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Full text of "The man Shakespeare and his tragic life-story"

Class _: 

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THE MAN SHAKESPEARE 



Br FRANK HARRIS 




Fiction 


THE BOMB 




ELDER CONKLIN 


MONTES, THE 


MATADOR 




Plays 


MR. AND MRS 


. DAVENTRY 


SHAKESPEARE 


AND HIS LOVE 



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THE MAN 

SHAKESPEARE 

AND HIS TRAGIC 
LIFE -STORY 



BY 

FRANK HARRIS 




NEW YORK 

MITCHELL KENNERLEY 

MCMIX 

f T07 



.H3 



Copyright iQOg by 
Mitchell Kennerley 



GLA25iei2 



I DEDICATE THIS BOOK TO MY FRIEND, 

ERNEST BECKETT (NOW LORD GRIMTHORPE), 

A MAN OF MOST EXCELLENT DIFFERENCES, 

WHO UNITES TO A GENIUS FOR PRACTICAL THINGS 

A PASSIONATE SYMPATHY FOR ALL 

HIGH ENDEAVOUR IN LITERATURE AND ART 



The Man Shakespeare 

Introduction ....... ix-xviii 



BOOK I 

SHAKESPEARE PAINTED BY HIMSELF 

OHAPTBB PAGE 

I. Hamlet: Romeo-Jaques .... 3 

II. Hamlet- Macbeth . . . . .16 

III. Duke Vincentio-Posthumus . . . -35 

IV. Shakespeare's Men of Action: the Bastard, 

Arthur, and King Richard II. . , . 55 

V. Shakespeare's Men of Action {continued^'. Hot- 
spur, Henry V. . . . . .79 

VI. Shakespeare's Men of Action {concluded)'. King 

Henry VI. and Richard III. . . .112 

VII, Shakespeare as Lyric Poet: "Twelfth Night" 127 
VIII. Shakespeare's Humour : **FalstafF'* . . 139 



BOOK II 

I. Shakespeare's early attempts to portray himself 

and his wife: Biron, Adriana, Valentine . 159 

II. Shakespeare as Antonio the Merchant . . 185 

III. / Shakespeare's Love-story: the Sonnets: Part I 199 

IV. »' " " " II 212 
V. " " " "III 227 

VI. The First-fruit of the Tree of Knowledge : Brutus 249 

VII. Dramas of Revenge and Jealousy : Hamlet . 261 

VIII. " " '» Othello . 270 

IX. Dramas of Lust : Part I : Troilus and Cressida 290 

X. " " " II : Antony and Cleopatra 298 

XI. The Drama of Madness : Lear . . .324 

XII. " " Despair : Timon of Athens . 332 

XIII. The Latest Works: All Copies: "Winter's 

Tale"; «'Cymbeline" "The Tempest" . 336 

XIV. Shakespeare's Life: Parti . . . - 35^ 
XV. " " " II . . . . 382 

vu 



INTRODUCTION 

THIS book has grown out of a series of articles 
contributed to " The Saturday Review " some 
ten or twelve years ago. As they appeared they 
were talked of and criticized in the usual way; a 
minority of readers thought " the stuff " interest- 
ing; many held that my view of Shakespeare was 
purely arbitrary; others said I had used a concord- 
ance to such purpose that out of the mass of words 
I had managed, by virtue of some unknown formula, 
to re-create the character of the man. 

The truth is much simpler: I read Shakespeare's 
plays in boyhood;, chiefly for the stories ; every 
few years later I was fain to re-read them; for as I 
grew I always found new beauties in them which 
I had formerly missed, and again and again I was 
lured back by tantalizing hints and suggestions of 
a certain unity underlying the diversity of char- 
acters. These suggestions gradually became more 
definite till at length, out of the myriad voices in 
the plays, I began to hear more and more insistent 
the accents of one voice, and out of the crowd of 
faces, began to distinguish more and more clearly 
the features of the writer; for all the world like 
some lovelorn girl, who, gazing with her soul in her 
eyes, finds in the witch's cauldron the face of the 
beloved. 

I have tried in this book to trace the way I fol- 
lowed, step by step ; for I found it effective to rough 
in the chief features of the man first, and afterwards, 
taking the plays in succession, to show how Shake- 



Introduction 

speare painted himself at full-length, not once, but 
twenty times, at as many different periods of his 
life. This is one reason why he is more interesting 
to us than the greatest men of the past, than Dante 
even, or Homer; for Dante and Homer worked 
only at their best in the flower of manhood. 
Shakespeare, on the other hand, has painted him- 
self for us in his green youth with hardly any 
knowledge of life or art, and then in his eventful 
maturity, with growing experience and new powers, 
in masterpiece after masterpiece; and at lengths 
in his decline with weakened grasp and fading ' 
colours, so that in him we can study the growth and 
fruiting and decay of the finest spirit that has yet 
been born among men. This tragedy of tragedies, 
in which " Lear " is only one scene — this rise to 
intensest life and widest vision and fall through 
abysms of despair and madness to exhaustion and 
death — can be followed experience by experience, 
from Stratford to London and its thirty years of 
passionate living, and then from London to village 
Stratford again, and the eternal shroujding silence. 
As soon as this astonishing drama discovered it- 
self to me in its tragic completeness I jumped to 
the conclusion that it must have been set forth long 
ago in detail by Shakespeare's commentators, and 
so, for the first time, I turned to their works. I do 
not wish to rail at my forerunners as Carlyle railed 
at the historians of Cromwell, or I should talk, as 
he talked, about " libraries of inanities . . . conceited 
dilettantism and pedantry . . . prurient stupidity," 
and so forth. The fact is, I found all this, and 
worse; I waded through tons of talk to no result. 
Without a single exception the commentators have 
all missed the man and the story ; they have turned 
the poet into a tradesman, and the unimaginable 



Introduction 

tragedy of his life into the commonplace record of 
a successful tradesman's career. Even to explain 
this astounding misadventure of the host of critics 
is a little difficult. The mistake, of course, arose 
from the fact that his contemporaries told very 
little about Shakespeare ; they left his appearance 
and even the incidents of his life rather vague. 
Being without a guide, and having no clear idea 
of Shakespeare's character, the critics created him 
in their own image, and, whenever they were in doubt, 
idealized him according to the national type. 

Still, there was at least one exception. Some 
Frenchman, I think it is Joubert, says that no great 
man is bom into the world without another man 
being born about the same time, who understands 
and can interpret him, and Shakespeare was of 
necessity singularly fortunate in his interpreter. 
Ben Jonson was big enough to see him fairly, and 
to give excellent-true testimony concerning him. 
Jonson's view of Shakespeare is astonishingly ac- 
curate and trustworthy so far as it goes ; even his 
attitude of superiority to Shakespeare is fraught 
with meaning. Two hundred years later, the rising 
tide of international criticism produced two men, 
Goethe and Coleridge, who also saw Shakespeare, 
if only by glimpses, or rather by divination of kin- 
dred genius, recognizing certain indubitable traits. 
Goethe's criticism of " Hamlet " has been vastly 
over-praised; but now and then he used words 
about Shakespeare which, in due course, we shall 
see were illuminating words, the words of one who 
guessed something of the truth. Coleridge, too, with 
his curious, complex endowment of philosopher 
and poet, resembled Shakespeare, saw him, there- 
fore, by flashes, and might have written greatly 
about him ; but, alas, Coleridge, a Puritan bom, was 

xi 



Introduction 

brought up in epicene hypocrisies, and determined 
to see Shakespeare — that child of the Renascence 
— as a Puritan, too, and consequently mis-saw him 
far oftener than he saw him; misjudged him 
hideously, and had no inkling of his tragic history. 

There is a famous passage in Coleridge's " Essays 
on Shakespeare " which illustrates what I mean. It 
begins : '* In Shakespeare all the elements of woman- 
hood are holy " ; and goes on to eulogize the instinct 
of chastity which all his women possess, and this in 
spite of Doll Tearsheet, Tamora, Cressida, Goneril, 
Regan, Cleopatra, the Dark Lady of the Sonnets, 
and many other frail and fascinating' figures. Yet 
whatever gleam of light has fallen on Shakespeare 
since Coleridge's day has come chiefly from that dark 
lantern which he now and then flashed upon the 
master. 

In one solitary respect, our latter-day criticism 
has been successful; it has established with very 
considerable accuracy the chronology of the plays, 
and so the life-story of the poet is set forth in due 
order for those to read who can. 

This then is what I found — a host of commenta- 
tors who saw men as trees -^^alking, and mistook 
plain facts, and among them me authentic witness, 
Jonson, and two interesting 1 ough not trustworthj^^ 
witnesses, Goethe and Coleridge — and nothing more 
in three centuries. The mere fact may well give us 
pause, pointing as it does to a truth which is still 
insufficiently understood. It is the puzzle of criti- 
cism, at once the despair and wonder of readers, that 
the greatest men of letters usually pass through 
life without being remarked or understood by their 
contemporaries. The men of Elizabeth's time were 
more interested in Jonson than in Shakespeare, and 
have told us much more about the younger than the 

xii 



Introduction 

greater master; just as Spaniards of the same age 
were more interested in Lope de Vega than in Cer- 
vantes, and have left a better picture of the second- 
rate playwright than of the world-poet. Attempting 
to solve this problem Emerson coolly assumed that 
the men of the Elizabethan age were so great that 
Shakespeare himself walked about among them un- 
noticed as a giant among giants. This reading of 
the riddle is purely transcendental. We know that 
Shakespeare's worst plays were far oftener acted 
than his best ; that " Titus Andronicus " by popular 
favour was more esteemed than " Hamlet." The 
majority of contemporary poets and critics regarded 
Shakespeare rather as a singer of " sugred " verses 
than as a dramatist. The truth is that Shakespeare 
passed through life unnoticed because he was so 
much greater than his contemporaries that they 
could not see him at all in his true proportions. 
It was Jonson, the nearest to him in greatness, who 
alone saw him at all fairly and appreciated his 
astonishing genius. 

Nothing illustrates more perfectly the uncon- 
scious wisdom of the English race than the old 
saying that " a man'must be judged by his peers." 
X3ne's peers, in fact, •' ''e the only persons capable of 
judging one, and the truth seems to be that three 
centuries have only produced three men at all capa- 
ble of judging Shakespeare. The jury is still 
being collected. But from the quality of the first 
three, and of their praise, it is already plain that 
his place will be among the highest. From various 
indications, too, it looks as if the time for judging 
him had come : " Hamlet " is perhaps his most 
characteristic creation, and Hamlet, in his intel- 
lectual unrest, morbid brooding, cynical self-analy- 
sis and dislike of bloodshed, is much more typical 

xiii 



Introduction 

of the nineteenth or twentieth century than of the 
sixteenth. Evidently the time for classifying the 
creator of Hamlet is at hand. 

And this work of description and classification 
should be done as a scientist would do it: for 
criticism itself has at length bent to the Time-spirit 
and become scientific. And just as in science, 
analysis for the moment has yielded pride of place 
to synthesis, so the critical movement in literature 
has in our time become creative. The chemist, who 
resolves any substance into its elements, is not 
satisfied till by synthesis he can re-create the sub- 
stance out of its elements : this is the final proof that 
his knowledge is complete. And so we care little or 
nothing to-day for critical analyses or appreciations 
which are not creative presentments of the person. 
" Paint him for us," we say, " in his habit as he 
lived, and we will take it that you know something 
about him." 

One of the chief attempts at creative criticism 
in English literature, or, perhaps it would be fairer 
to say, the only memorable attempt, is Carlyle's 
Cromwell. He has managed to build up the man 
for us quite credibly out of Cromwell's letters and 
speeches, showing us the underlying sincerity and 
passionate resolution of the great Puritan once for 
all. But unfortunately Carlyle was too romantic 
an artist, too persuaded in his hero-worship to dis- 
cover for us Cromwell's faults and failings. In his 
book we find nothing of the fanatic who ordered the 
Irish massacres, nothing of the neuropath who lived 
in hourly dread of assassination. Carlyle has painted 
his subject all in lights, so to speak; the shadows 
are not even indicated, and yet he ought to have 
known that in proportion to the brilliancy of the 
light the shadows must of necessity be dark. It 

xiv 



Introduction 

is not for me to point out that this romantic paint- 
ing of great men, Hke all other make-believes and 
hypocrisies, has its drawbacks and shortcomings: 
it is enough that it has had its day and produced 
its pictures of giant-heroes and their worshippers 
for those w^ho love such childish toys. 

The wonderful age in which we live — this twen- 
tieth century with its X-rays that enable us to see 
through the skin and flesh of men, and to study the 
working of their organs and muscles and nerves — ■ 
has brought a new spirit into the world, a spirit of 
fidelity to fact, and with it a new and higher ideal 
of life and of art, which must of necessity change 
and transform all the conditions of existence, and 
in time modify the almost immutable nature of man. 
For this new spirit, this love of the fact and of 
truth, this passion for reality will do away with the 
foolish fears and futile hopes which have fretted the 
childhood of our race, and will slowly but surely 
establish on broad foundations the Kingdom of Man 
upon Earth. For that is the meaning and purpose 
of the change which is now coming over the world. 
The faiths and convictions of twenty centuries are 
passing away and the forms and institutions of a 
hundred generations of men are dissolving before us 
like the baseless fabric of a dream. A new morality 
is already shaping itself in the spirit ; a morality 
based not on guess-work and on fancies, but on 
ascertained laws of moral health ; a scientific mor- 
ality belonging not to statics, like the morality of 
the Jews, but to dynamics, and so fitting the nature 
of each individual person. Even now conscience 
with its prohibitions is fading out of life, evolving 
into a more profound consciousness of ourselves and 
others, with multiplied incitements to wise living. 
The old religious asceticism with its hatred of the 

XV 



Introduction 

body is dead; the servile acceptance of conditions 
of life and even of natural laws is seen to be vicious ; 
it is of the nobility of man to be insatiate in desire 
and to rebel against limiting conditions ; it is the 
property of his intelligence to constrain even the 
laws of nature to the attainment of his ideal. 

Already we are proud of being students, investi- 
gators, servants of truth, and we leave the great 
names of demi-gods and heroes a little contemptu- 
ously to the men of bygone times. As student- 
artists we are no longer content with the outward 
presentment and form of men : we want to discover 
the protean vanities, greeds and aspirations of men, 
and to lay bare, as with a scalpel, the hidden motives 
and springs of action. We dream of an art that 
shall take into account the natural daily decay and 
up-building of cell-life; the wars that go on in the 
blood ; the fevers of the brain ; the creeping paral- 
ysis of nerve-exhaustion; above all, we must be 
able even now from a few bare facts, to re-create 
a man and make him live and love again for the 
•reader, just as the biologist from a few scattered 
bones can reconstruct some prehistoric bird or fish 
or mammal. 

And we student-artists have no desire to paint 
our subject as better or nobler or smaller or meaner 
than he was in reality ; we study his limitations as 
we study his gifts, his virtues with as keen an interest 
as his vices ; for it is in some excess of desire, or in 
some extravagance of mentality, that we look for 
the secret of his achievement, just as we begin to 
wonder when we see hands constantly outstretched 
in pious supplication, whether a foot is not thrust 
out behind in some secret shame, for the biped, man, 
must keep a balance. 

I intend first of all to prove from Shakespeare's 

xvi 



Introduction 

works that he has painted himself twenty times 
from youth till age at full length: I shall consider 
and compare these portraits till the outlines of his 
character are clear and certain ; afterwards I shall 
show how his little vanities and shames idealized 
the picture, and so present him as he really was, 
with his imperial intellect and small snobberies ; his 
giant vices and paltry self-deceptions ; his sweet 
gentleness and long martyrdom. I cannot but think 
that his portrait will thus gain more in truth than 
it can lose in ideal beauty. Or let me come nearer 
to my purpose by means of a simile. Talking with 
Sir David Gill one evening on shipboard about the 
fixed stars, he pointed one out which is so distant 
that we cannot measure how far it is away from 
us and can form no idea of its magnitude. " But 
surely," I exclaimed, " the great modern telescopes 
must bring the star nearer and magnify it? " " No," 
he replied, " no ; the best instruments make the star 
clearer to us, but certainly not larger." This is 
what I wish to do in regard to Shakespeare; make 
him clearer to men, even if I do not make him larger. 
And if I were asked why I do this, why I take 
the trouble to re-create a man now three centuries 
dead, it is, first of all, of course, because he is worth 
it — the most complex and passionate personality 
in the world, whether of life or letters — ^because, 
too, there are certain lessons which the English will 
learn from Shakespeare more quickly and easily than 
from any living man, and a little because I want to 
get rid of Shakespeare by assimilating all that was 
fine in him, while giving all that was common and 
vicious in him as spoil to oblivion. He is like the 
Old-Man-of-the-Sea on the shoulders of our ^''outb ; 
he has become an obsession to the critic, a weapon to 
the pedant, a nuisance to the man of genius. True, 

xvii 



Introduction 

he has painted great pictures in a superb, romantic 
fashion ; he is the Titian of dramatic art : but is 
there to be no Rembrandt, no Balzac, no greater 
Tolstoi in English letters? I want to liberate Eng- 
lishmen so far as I can from the tyranny of Shake- 
speare's greatness. For the new time is upon us, 
with its new knowledge and new claims, and we 
English are all too willing to live in the past, and 
so lose our inherited place as leader of the nations. 
The French have profited by their glorious Revo- 
lution: they trusted reason and have had their re- 
ward; no such leap forward has ever been made as 
France made in that one decade, and the effects are 
still potent. In the last hundred years the language 
of Moliere has grown fourfold; the slang of the 
studios and the gutter and the laboratory, of the 
engineering school and the dissecting table, has been 
ransacked for special terms to enrich and strengthen 
the language in order that it may deal easily with 
the new thoughts. French is now a superb instru- 
ment, while English is positivel}^ poorer than it was 
in the time of Shakespeare, thanks to the prudery- 
of our illiterate middle class. Divorced from reality, 
with its activities all fettered in baby-linen, our lit- 
erature has atrophied and dwindled into a babble 
of nursery rhymes, tragedies of Little Marys, tales 
of Babes in a Wood. The example of Shakespeare 
may yet teach us the value of free speech ; he could 
say what he liked as he liked: he was not afraid of 
the naked truth and the naked word, and through his 
greatness a Low Dutch dialect has become the chief- 
est instrument of civilization, the world-speech of 
humanity at large. 

, Frank Harris 

Loi^Dcm, 1909. 



xviu 



BOOK I 
SHAKESPEARE PAINTED BY HIMSELF 



CHAPTER I 

hamlet: KOMEO JAaUES 

'* A S I passed by ... I found an altar with this 
l\ inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom 
therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto 
you." This work of Paul — the discovery and pro- 
claiming of an unknown god — ^is in every age the 
main function of the critic. 

An unknown god this Shakespeare of ours, whom 
all are agreed it would be well to know, if in any 
way possible. As to the possibility, however, the 
authorities are at loggerheads. Hallam, " the judi- 
cious," declared that it was impossible to learn any- 
thing certain about " the man, Shakespeare." 
Wordsworth, on the other hand (without a nick- 
name to show a close connection with the common), 
held that Shakespeare unlocked his heart with the 
sonnets for key. Browning jeered at this belief, to 
be in turn contradicted by Swinburne. Matthew 
Arnold gave us in a sonnet " the best opinion of his 
time " : 

" Others abide our question. Thou art free. 
We ask and ask — Thou smilest and art still. 
Out-topping knowledge." 

But alas ! the best opinion of one generation is 
in these matters often flat unreason to the next, 
and it may be that in this instance neither the 
opinion of Hallam nor Browning nor Arnold will 
be allowed to count. 

3 



The Man Shakespeare 

As it Is the object of a general to win battles, so 
it is the life-work of the artist to show himself to 
us, and the completeness with which he reveals his 
own individuality is perhaps the best measure of 
his genius. One does this like Montaigne, simply, 
garrulously, telling us his height and make, his 
tastes and distastes, his loves and fears and habits, 
till gradually the seeming-artless talk brings the 
man before us, a sun-warmed fruit of humanity, with 
uncouth rind of stiff manners and sweet kindly 
juices, not perfect in any way, shrivelled on this 
side by early frost-bite, and on that softened to 
corruption through too much heat, marred here by 
the bitter-black cicatrice of an ancient injury and 
there fortune-spotted, but on the whole healthy, 
grateful, of a most pleasant ripeness. Another, like 
Shakespeare, with passionate conflicting sympathies 
and curious impartial intellect cannot discover him- 
self so simply ; needs, like the diamond, many facets 
to show all the light in him, and so proceeds to cut 
them one after the other as FalstafF or Hamlet, to 
the dazzling of the purblind. 

Yet Shakespeare's purpose is surely the same 
as Montaigne's, to reveal himself to us, and it would 
be hasty to decide that his skill is inferior. For while 
Montaigne had nothing but prose at his command, 
and not too rich a prose, as he himself complains, 
Shakespeare in magic of expression has had no 
equal in recorded time, and he used the lyric as well 
as the dramatic form, poetry as well as prose, to 
give his soul utterance. 

We are doing Shakespeare wrong by trying to 
believe that he hides himself behind his work; the 
suspicion is as unworthy as the old suspicion dis- 
sipated by Carlyle that Cromwell was an am- 
bitious hypocrite. Sincerity is the birthmark of 



Hamlet: Romeo — Jaques 

genius, and we can be sure that Shakespeare has 
depicted himself for us with singular fidelity; we 
can see him in his works, if we will take the trouble, 
" in his habit as he lived." 

We are doing ourselves wrong, too, by pretending 
that Shakespeare "out-tops knowledge." He did 
not fill the world even in his own time: there was 
room beside him in the days of Elizabeth for Mar- 
lowe and Spenser, Ben Jonson and Bacon, and 
since then the spiritual outlook, like the material 
outlook, has widened to infinity. There is space in 
life now for a dozen ideals undreamed-of in the 
sixteenth century. Let us have done with this pre- 
tence of doglike humility ; we, too, are men, and 
there is on earth no higher title, and in the universe 
nothing beyond our comprehending. It will be 
well for us to know Shakespeare and all his high 
qualities and do him reverence ; it will be well for 
us, too, to see his limitations and his faults, for after 
aUjt is the human frailties in a man that call forth 
our sympathy and endear him to us, and without 
love there is no virtue in worship, no attraction in 
example. 

The doubt as to the personality of Shakespeare, 
and the subsequent confusion and contradictions are 
in the main, I think, due to Coleridge. He was the 
first modern critic to have glimpses of the real 
Shakespeare, and the vision lent his words a sin- 
gular authority. But Coleridge was a hero-wor- 
shipper by nature and carried reverence to lyric 
heights. He used all his powers to persuade men 
that Shakespeare was fJuvpLovovs avyp — " the myriad- 
minded man " ; a sort of demi-god who was every 
one and no one, a Proteus without individuality of 
his own. The theory has held the field for nearly 
a century, probably because it flatters our national 

& 



The Man Shakespeare 

vanity; for in itself it is fantastically absurd and 
leads to most ridiculous conclusions. For instance, 
when Coleridge had to deal with the fact that 
Shakespeare never drew a miser, instead of ac- 
cepting the omission as characteristic, for it is con- 
firmed by Ben Jonson's testimony that he was 
" of an open and free nature," Coleridge proceeded 
to argue that avarice is not a permanent passion in 
humanity, and that Shakespeare probably for that 
reason chose to leave it undescribed. This is an 
example of the ecstasy of hero-worship ; it is 
begging the question to assume that whatever 
Shakespeare did was perfect; humanity cannot be 
penned up even in Shakespeare's brain. Like every 
other man of genius Shakespeare must have shown 
himself in his qualities and defects, in his prefer- 
ences and prejudices ; " a fallible being," as stout 
old Dr. Johnson knew, " will fail somewhere." 

Even had Shakespeare tried to hide himself in 
his work, he could not have succeeded. Now that 
the print of a man's hand or foot or ear is enough 
to distinguish him from all other men, it is im- 
possible to believe that the mask of his mind, the 
very imprint, form and pressure of his soul should 
be less, distinctive. Just as Monsieur Bertillon's 
whorl-pictures of a thumb afford overwhelming 
proofs of a man's identity, so it is possible from 
Shakespeare's writings to establish beyond doubt 
the main features of his character and the chief in- 
cidents of his life. The time for random assertion 
about Shakespeare and unlimited eulogy of him 
has passed away for ever: the object of this inquiry 
is to show him as he lived and loved and suffered, 
and the proofs of this and of that trait shall be so 
heaped up as to stifle doubt and reach absolute 
conviction. For not only is the circumstantial evi- 



Hamlet: Romeo — Jaques 

dence overwhelming and conclusive, but we have also 
the testimony of eye-witnesses with which to con- 
firm it, and one of these witnesses, Ben Jonson, is 
of rare credibility and singularly well equipped. 

Let us begin, then, by treating Shakespeare as we 
would treat any other writer, and ask simply how 
a dramatic author is most apt to reveal himself. 
A great dramatist may not paint himself for us 
at any time in his career with all his faults and 
vices ; but when he goes deepest into human nature, 
we may be sure that self-knowledge is his guide; as 
Hamlet said, " To know a man well, were to know 
himself" (oneself), so far justifying the paradox 
that dramatic writing is merely a form of auto- 
biography. We may take then as a guide this first 
criterion that, in his masterpiece of psychology, the 
dramatist will reveal most of his own nature. 

If a dozen lovers of Shakespeare were asked to 
name the most profound and most complex char- 
acter in all his dramas it is probable that everyone 
without hesitation would answer Hamlet. The cur- 
rent of cultivated opinion has long set in this di- 
rection. With the intuition of a kindred genius, 
Goethe was the first to put Hamlet on a pedestal: 
*' the incomparable," he called him, and devoted 
pages to an analysis of the character. Coleridge 
followed with the confession whose truth we shall 
see later : " I have a smack of Hamlet myself, if I 
may say so." But even if it be admitted that 
Hamlet is the most complex and profound of 
Shakespeare's creations, and therefore probably the 
character in which Shakespeare revealed most of 
himself, the question of degree still remains to be 
determined. Is it possible to show certainly that 
even the broad outlines of Hamlet's character are 
those of the master-poet.'^ 

7 



The Man Shakespeare 

There are various ways in which this might be 
proved. For instance, if one could show that when- 
ever Shakespeare fell out of a character he was 
drawing, he unconsciously dropped into the Hamlet 
vein, one's suspicion as to the identity of Hamlet 
and the poet would be enormously strengthened. 
There is another piece of evidence still more con- 
vincing. Suppose that Shakespeare in painting 
another character did nothing but paint Hamlet 
over again trait by trait — virtue by virtue, fault by 
fault — our assurance would be almost complete ; 
for a dramatist only makes this mistake when he 
is speaking unconsciously in his proper person. But 
if both these kinds of proof were forthcoming, and 
not once but a dozen times, then surely our con- 
viction as to the essential identity of Hamlet and 
Shakespeare vrould amount to practical certitude. 

Of course it would be foolish, even in this event, 
to pretend that Hamlet exhausts Shakespeare ; art 
does little more than embroider the fringe of the 
garment of life, and the most complex character in 
drama or -even in fiction is simple indeed when 
compared with even the simplest of living men 
or women. Shakespeare included in himself Fal- 
staff and Cleopatra, beside the author of the 
sonnets, and knowledge drawn from all these must 
be used to fill out and perhaps to modify the out- 
lines given in Hamlet before one can feel sure that 
the portrait is a re-presentment of reality. But 
when this study is completed, it will be seen that, 
with many necessary limitations, Hamlet is indeed 
a revelation of some of the most characteristic traits 
of Shakespeare. 

To come to the point quickly, I will take Hamlet's 
character as analyzed by Coleridge and Professor 
Dowden. 





Hamlet: Romeo — Jaques 

Coleridge says : '' Hamlet's character is the prev- 
alence of the abstracting and generalizing habit 
over the practical. He does not want courage, 
skill, will or opportunity; but every incident sets 
him thinking: and it is curious, and at the same 
time strictly natural, that Hamlet, who all the play 
seems reason itself, should be impelled at last by 
mere accident to effect his object." Again he says: 
^' in Hamlet we see a great, an almost enormous 
intellectual activity and a proportionate aversion to 
real action consequent upon it." 

Professor Dowden's analysis is more careful but 
hardly as complete. He calls Hamlet " the medi- 
tative son " of a strong-willed father, and adds, " he 
has slipped on into years of full manhood still a 
haunter of the university, a student of philosophies, 
an amateur in art, a ponderer on the things of life 
and death who has never formed a resolution or 
executed a deed. This long course of thinking 
apart from action has destroyed Hamlet's very 
capacity for belief. ... In presence of the spirit 
he is himself ' a spirit,' and believes in the immor- 
tality of the soul. When left to his private 
thoughts he wavers' uncertainly to and fro; death 
is a sleep; a sleep, it may be, troubled with 
dreams. . . . He is incapable of certitude. . . . 
After his fashion (that of one who relieves himself 
by speech rather than by deeds) he unpacks his 
heart in words." 
/ Now what other personage is there in Shake- 
speare who shows these traits or some of them? 
He should be bookish and irresolute, a lover of 
thought and not of action, of melancholy temper 
too, and prone to unpack his heart with words. 
Almost every one who has followed the argument 
thus far will be inclined to think of Romeo. 

9 



( The Man Shakespeare 

Hazlitt declared that " Romeo is Hamlet In love. 
There Is the same rich exuberance of passion and 
sentiment in the one, that there is of thought and 
sentiment In the other. Both are absent and self- 
involved; both live out of themselves in a world 
of imagination." Much of this is true and affords 
a noteworthy example of Hazlitt's occasional in- 
sight into character, yet for reasons that will appear 
later it is not possible to insist, as Hazlitt does, 
upon the identity of Romeo and Hamlet. The 
most that can be said is that Romeo is a younger 
brother of Hamlet, whose character is much less 
mature and less complex than that of the student- 
prince. Moreover, the characterization In Romeo 
— the mere drawing and painting — is very inferior 
to that put to use in Hamlet. Romeo is half hidden 
from us in the rose-mist of passion, and after he is 
banished from Juliet's arms we only see him for a 
moment as he rushes madly by Into never-ending 
night, and all the while Shakespeare is thinking 
more of the poetry of the theme than of his hero's 
character. Romeo is crude and immature when 
compared with a profound psychological study 
like Hamlet. In " Hamlet " t) action often stands 
still while incidents are inven^ 1 for the mere pur- 
pose of displaying the peculiarities of the pro- 
tagonist. " Hamlet," too, is the longest of Shake- 
speare's plays with the exception of " Antony and 
Cleopatra," and " the total length of Hamlet's 
speeches," says Dryasdust, " far exceeds that of 
those allotted by Shakespeare to any other of his 
characters." The important point, however, is that 
Romeo has a more than family likeness to Hamlet. 
Even in the heat and heyday of his passion Romeo 
plays thinker ; Juliet says, " Good-night " and dis- 

10 



Hamlet: Romeo — Jaques 

appears, but he finds time to give us the abstract 
truth : 

" Love goes towards love, as schoolboys from their books, 
But love from love, toward school with heavy looks." 

Juliet appears again unexpectedly, and again 
Hamlet's generalizing habit asserts itself in Romeo: 

" How silver-sweet sound lovers' tongues by night, 
Like softest music to attending ears." 

We may be certain that Juliet would have pre- 
ferred more pointed praise. He is indeed so lost 
in his ill-timed reverie that Juliet has to call him 
again and again by name before he attends to her. 

Romeo has Hamlet's peculiar habit of talking to 
himself. He falls into a soliloquy on his way to 
Juliet in Capulet's orchard, when his heart must 
have been beating so loudly that it would have 
prevented him from hearing himself talk, and 
into another when hurrying to the apothecary. 
In this latter monologue, too, when all his thoughts 
must have been of Juliet and their star-crossed 
fates, and love-dev iring Death, he is able to 
picture for us the a i)thecary and his shop with a 
wealth of detail that says more for Shakespeare's 
painstaking and memory than for his insight into 
character. The fault, however, is not so grave as 
it would be if Romeo were a different kind of man ; 
but like Hamlet he is always ready to unpack his 
heart with words, and if they are not the best words 
sometimes, sometimes even very inappropriate words, 
it only shows that in his first tragedy Shakespeare 
was not the master of his, art that he afterwards 
became. 

11 



The Man Shakespeare 

In the churchyard scene of the fifth act Romeo's 
likeness to Hamlet comes into clearest light. 
Hamlet says to Laertes: 

** I pr*ythee, take thy fingers from my throat; 
For though I am not splenitive and rash 
Yet have I something in me dangerous 
Which let thy wisdom fear/* 

In precisely the same temper, Romeo says to 
Paris: 

** Good, gentle youth, tempt not a desperate man; 
Fly hence and leave me; think upon these gone. 
Let them affright thee/' 

This magnanimity is so rare that its existence 
would almost of itself be sufficient to establish a 
close relationship between Romeo and Hamlet. 
Romeo's last speech, too, is characteristic of Hamlet : 
on the very threshold of death he generalizes : 

" How oft when men are at the point of death. 
Have they been merry? which their keepers call 
A lightening before death." 

There is in Romeo, too, that peculiar mixture of 
pensive sadness and loving sympathy which is the 
very vesture of Hamlet's soul ; he says to " Noble 
County Paris " : 

" O, give me thy hand. 
One writ with me in sour misfortune's book." 

And finally Shakespeare's supreme lyrical gift 
is used by Romeo as unconstrainedly as by Ham- 
let himself. The beauty in the last soliloquy is 
of passion rather than of intellect, but in sheer 



Hamlet: Romeo — Jaques 

triumphant beauty some lines of it have never been 
surpassed: 

*' Here, here will I remain 

With worms that are thy chambermaids; O, here 

Will I set up my everlasting rest 

And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars 

From this world-wearied flesh." 

The whole soliloquy and especially the superb 
epithet " world-wearied " are at least as suitable to 
Hamlet as to Romeo. Passion, it is true, is more 
accentuated in Romeo, just as there is greater ir- 
resolution combined with intenser self-conscious- 
ness in Hamlet, yet all the qualities of the youthful 
lover are to be found in the student-prince. Ham- 
let is evidently the later finished picture of which 
Romeo was merely the charming sketch. 

Hamlet says he is revengeful and ambitious, 
although he is nothing of the kind, and in much the 
same way Romeo says : 

" I'll be a candle-holder and look on/* 

whereas he plays the chief part and a very active 
part in the drama. If he were more of a " candle- 
holder " and onlooker, he would more resemble 
Hamlet. Then too, though he generalizes, he does 
not search the darkness with aching eyeballs as 
Hamlet does ; the problems of life do not as yet 
lie heavy on his soul; he is too young to have felt 
their mystery and terror; he is only just within the 
shadow of that melancholy which to Hamlet dis- 
colours the world. 

Seven or eight years after writing " Romeo and 
Juliet," Shakespeare growing conscious of these 
changes in his own temperament embodied them 
in another character, the melancholy " Jaques " in 

13 



The Man Shakespeare 

" As You Like It." Everyone knows that Jaques 
is Shakespeare's creation ; he is not to be found in 
Lodge's " Rosalynde," whence Shakespeare took 
the story and most of the characters of his play. 
Jaques is only sketched in with light strokes, but 
all his traits are peculiarly Hamlet's traits. For 
Jaques is a melancholy student of life as Hamlet 
is, with lightning-quick intelligence and heavy heart, 
and these are the Hamlet qualities which were not 
brought into prominence in the youthful Romeo. 
Passages taken at haphazard will suffice to estab- 
lish my contention. " Motley's the only wear," says 
Jaques, as if longing to assume the cap and bells, 
and Hamlet plays the fool's part with little better 
reason. Jaques exclaims: 

" Give me leave 
To speak my mind, and I will through and through 
Cleanse the foul body of the infected world, 
If they will patiently receive my medicine." 

And Hamlet cries: 

" The Time is out of joint; O cursed spite 
That ever I was born to set it right." 

The famous speech of Jaques, " All the world's 
a stage," might have been said by Hamlet, indeed 
belongs of right to the person who gave the ex- 
quisite counsel to the players. Jaques' confession 
of melancholy, too, both in manner and matter is 
characteristic of Hamlet. How often Shakespeare 
must have thought it over before he was able to 
bring the peculiar nature of his own malady into 
such relief: 

" I have neither the scholar's melancholy, which 
is emulation ; nor the musician's, which is fantastical ; 
nor the courtier's, which is proud; nor the soldier's, 

14 



Hamlet: Romeo — J agues 

which is ambitious ; nor the lawyer's, which is politic ; 
nor the lady's, which is nice; nor the lover's, which 
is all these; but it is a melancholy of mine own, 
compounded of many simples, extracted from many 
objects, and indeed, the sundry contemplation of 
my travels; which, by often rumination, wraps me 
in a most humourous sadness." 

This "humourous sadness," the child of contem- 
plation, was indeed Shakespeare's most constant 
mood. Jaques, too, loves solitude and the country 
as Hamlet loved them — and above all the last trait 
recorded of Jaques, his eagerness to see the reformed 
Duke and learn from the convert, is a perfect ex- 
ample of that intellectual curiosity which is one of 
Hamlet's most attaching characteristics. Yet an- 
other trait is attributed to Jaques, which we must on 
no account forget. The Duke accuses him of lewd- 
ness though lewdness seems out of place in Jaques' 
character, and is certainly not shown in the course 
of the action. If we combine the characters of 
Romeo, the poet-lover, and Jaques, the pensive-sad 
philosopher, we have almost the complete Hamlet. 

It is conceivable that even a fair-minded reader 
of the plays will admit all I have urged about the 
likeness of Romeo and Jaques to Hamlet without 
concluding that these preliminary studies, so to 
speak, for the great portrait render it at all certain 
that the masterpiece of portraiture is a likeness of 
Shakespeare himself. The impartial critic will 
probably say, " You have raised a suspicion in my 
mind; a strong suspicion it may be, but still a sus- 
picion that is far from certitude." Fortunately the 
evidence still to be offered is a thousand times more 
convincing than any inferences that can properly 
be drawn from Romeo or from Jaques, or even from 
both together. 

15 



CHAPTER II 

HAMIiET MACBETH 

THERE is a later drama of Shakespeare's, a 
drama which comes between " Othello " and 
'' Lear," and belongs, therefore, to the topmost 
height of the poet's achievement, whose principal 
character is Hamlet, Hamlet over again, with every 
peculiarity and every fault ; a Hamlet, too, en- 
tangled in an action which is utterly unsuited to 
his nature. Surely if this statement can be proved, 
it will be admitted by all competent judges that 
the identity of Hamlet and his creator has been 
established. For Shakespeare must have painted 
this second Hamlet unconsciously. Think of it. 
In totally new circumstances the poet speaks with 
Hamlet's voice in Hamlet's words. The only possi- 
ble explanation is that, he is speaking from his 
own heart, and for that reason is unaware of the 
mistake. The drama I refer to is " Macbeth." 

No one, so far as I know, has yet thought of 
showing that there is any likeness between the 
character of Hamlet and that of Macbeth, much 
less identity; nevertheless, it seems to me easy to 
prove that Macbeth, " the rugged Macbeth," as 
Hazlitt and Brandes call him, is merely our gentle, 
irresolute, humanist, philosopher Hamlet masquer- 
ading in gallygaskins as a Scottish thane. 

Let us take the first appearance of Macbeth, and 
we are forced to remark at once that he acts and 
speaks exactly as Hamlet in like circumstances 
would act and speak. The honest but slow Banquo 

16 



Hamlet — Macbeth 

is amazed when Macbeth starts and seems to fear 
the fair promises of the witches ; he does not see 
what the nimble Hamlet-intellect has seen in a flash 
— the dread means by which alone the promises can 
be brought to fulfilment. As soon as Macbeth is 
hailed " Thane of Cawdor " Banquo warns him, 
but Macbeth, in spite of the presence of others, 
falls at once, as Hamlet surely would have fallen, 
into a soliloquy: a thing, considering the circum- 
stances, most false to general human nature, for 
what he says must excite Banquo's suspicion, and 
is only true to the Hamlet-mind, that in and out of 
season loses itself in meditation. The soliloquy, 
too, is startlingly characteristic of Hamlet. After 
giving expression to the merely natural uplifting 
of his hope, Macbeth begins to weigh the for and 
against like a student-thinker: 

** This supernatural soliciting 
Cannot be ill; cannot be good; if ill, 
Why hath it given me earnest of success, 
Commencing in a truth? I am thane of Cawdor: 
If good, why do I yield to that suggestion 

Whose horrid image 

function 

Is smothered in surmise and nothing is 
But what is not, " 

When Banquo draws attention to him as " rapt," 
Macbeth still goes on talking to himself, for at 
length he has found arguments against action: 

"If chance will have me King, why chance may crown 
me, 
Without my stir," — 

all in the true Hamlet vein. At the end of the 

17 



The Man Shakespeare 

act, Macbeth when excusing himself to his com- 
panions becomes the student of Wittenberg in 
proper person. The courteous kindhness of the 
words is almost as characteristic as the bookish 
illustration : 

" Kind gentlemen, your pains 
^ Are registered where every day I turn 
The leaf to read them/' 

If this is not Hamlet's very tone, manner and 
phrase, then individuality of nature has no peculiar 
voice. 

I have laid such stress upon this, the first scene 
in which Macbeth appears, because the first ap- 
pearance is by far the most important for the 
purpose of establishing the main outlines of a 
character; first impressions in a drama being ex- 
ceedingly difficult to modify and almost impossible 
to change. 

Macbeth, however, acts Hamlet from one end of 
the play to the other; and Lady Macbeth's first 
appearance (a personage almost as important to 
the drama as Macbeth himself) is used by Shake- 
speare to confirm this view of Macbeth's character. 
After reading her husband's letter almost her first 
words are: 

*' Yet do I fear thy nature. 
It is too full o' the milk of human kindness 
Toi catch the nearest way." 

What is this but a more perfect expression of 
Hamlet's nature than Hamlet himself gives? Ham- 
let declares bitterly that he is " pigeon livered," and 
lacks " gall to make oppression bitter " ; he says to 
Laertes, " I loved you ever," and to his mother : 

18 



Hamlet — Macbeth 

" I must be cruel only to be kind/* 

and she tells the King that he wept for Polonius' 
death. But the best phrase for his gentle-hearted- 
ness is what Lady Macbeth gives here; he is "too 
full o' the milk of human kindness." The words 
are as true of the Scottish chieftain as of the Wit- 
tenberg student ; in heart they are one and the 
same person. 

Though excited to action by his wife, Macbeth's 
last words in this scene are to postpone decision. 
" We will speak further," he says, whereupon the 
woman takes the lead, warns him to dissemble, and 
adds, " leave all the rest to me." Macbeth's doubt- 
ing, irresolution, and dislike of action could hardly 
be more forcibly portrayed. 

The seventh scene of the first act begins with 
another long soliloquy by Macbeth, and this solil- 
oquy shows us not only Hamlet's irresolution and 
untimely love of meditation, but also the peculiar 
pendulum-swing of Hamlet's thought: 

"If it were done when 't is done, then 't were well 
It were done quickly: if the assassination 
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch 
With his surcease success: that but this blow 
Might be the be-all and the end-all; here. 
But here upon this bank and shoal of time 
We'd jump the life to come " 

Is not this the same soul which also in a solilo- 
quy questions fate .? — " Whether 'tis better in the 
mind. . . ." 

Macbeth, too, has Hamlet's peculiar and ex- 
quisite intellectual fairness — a quality, be it re- 
marked in passing, seldom found in a ruthless mur- 
derer. He sees even the King's good points: 

Id 



The Man Shakespeare 

" this Duncan 

Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been 
So clear in his great office, that his virtues 
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against 
The deep damnation of his taking off." 

Is it not like Hamlet to be able to condemn him- 
self in this way beforehand? Macbeth ends this 
soliloquy with words which come from the inmost 
of Hamlet's heart: 

" I have no spur 
To prick the sides of my intent, but only 
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself. 
And falls on the other." 

Hamlet, too, has no spur to prick the sides of his 
intent, and Hamlet, too, would be sure to see how apt 
ambition is to overleap itself, and so would blunt 
the sting of that desire. This monologue alone 
should have been sufficient to reveal to all critics 
the essential identity of Hamlet and Macbeth. Lady 
Macbeth, too, tells us that Macbeth left the supper 
table where he was entertaining the King, in order 
to indulge himself in this long, monologue, and 
when he hears that his absence has excited comment, 
that he has been asked for even by the King, he 
does not attempt to excuse his strange conduct, he 
merely says, " We will proceed no further in this 
business," showing in true Hamlet fashion how reso- 
lution has been " sicklied o'er with the pale cast of 
thought." In fact, as his wife says to him, he lets 
" ' I dare not ' wait upon ' I would ' like the poor 
cat i' the adage." Even when whipped to action by 
Lady Macbeth's preternatural eagerness, he asks : 

** If "we should fail? " 
SO 



Hamlet — MachetK 

whereupon she tells him to screw his courage to 
the sticking place, and describes the deed itself. 
Infected by her masculine resolution, Macbeth at 
length consents to what he calls the " terrible feat." 
The word " terrible " here is surely more character- 
istic of the humane poet-thinker than of the chief- 
tain-murderer. Even at this crisis, too, of his fate 
Macbeth cannot cheat himself; like Hamlet he is 
compelled to see himself as he is : 

'* False face must hide what the false heart doth know." 

I have now considered nearly every word used 
by Macbeth in this first act: I have neither picked 
passages nor omitted anything that might make 
against my argument ; yet every impartial reader 
must acknowledge that Hamlet is far more clearly 
sketched in this first act of " Macbeth " than in the 
first act of " Hamlet." Macbeth appears in it as an 
irresolute dreamer, courteous, and gentle-hearted, of 
perfect intellectual fairness and bookish phrase ; and 
in especial his love of thought and dislike of action 
are insisted upon again and again. 

In spite of the fact that the second act is one 
chiefly of incident, filled indeed with the murder and 
its discovery, Shakespeare uses Macbeth as the 
mouthpiece of his marvellous lyrical faculty as 
freely as he uses Hamlet. A greater singer even 
than Romeo, Hamlet is a poet by nature, and turns 
every possible occasion to account, charming the 
ear with subtle harmonies. With a father's murder 
to avenge, he postpones action and sings to himself 
of life and death and the undiscovered country in 
words of such magical spirit-beauty that they can 
be compared to nothing in the world's literature save 
perhaps to the last chapter of Ecclesiastes. From 

21 



The Man Shakespeare 

the beginning to the end of the drama Hamlet is a 
great lyric poet, and this supreme personal gift is 
so natural to him that it is hardly mentioned by 
the critics. This gift, however, is possessed by 
Macbeth in at least equal degree and excites just 
as little notice. It is credible that Shakespeare used 
the drama sometimes as a means of reaching the 
highest lyrical utterance. 

Without pressing this point further let us now 
take up the second act of the play. Banquo and 
Fleance enter; Macbeth has a few words with them; 
they depart, and after giving a servant an order, 
Macbeth begins another long soliloquy. He thinks 
he sees a dagger before him, and immediately falls 
to philosophizing: 

" Come, let me clutch thee : — 
I have thee not and yet I see thee still. 
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible 
To feeling as to sight, or art thou hut 
A dagger of the mind, a false creation 
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain? 
I see thee yet in form as palpable 
As that which now I draw 



Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses. 
Or else worth all the rest: I see thee still; 
And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood 
Which was not so before. — There's no such thing." 

What is all this but an illustration of Hamlet's 
assertion : 

" There is nothing either good or bad 
But thinking makes it so." 

Just too as Hamlet swings on his mental bal- 
ance, so that it is still a debated question among 
academic critics whether his madness was feigned 



Hamlet — Macbeth 

or real, so here Shakespeare shows us how Macbeth 
loses his foothold on reality and falls into the void. 

The lyrical effusion that follows is not very suc- 
cessful, and probably on that account Macbeth 
breaks oif abruptly: 

** Whiles I threat he lives. 

Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives/* 

which is, of course, precisely Hamlet's complaint: 

" This is most brave ; 
That I, the son of a dear father murdered. 
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell. 
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words." 

After this Lady Macbeth enters, and the murder is 
committed, and now wrought to the highest ten- 
sion Macbeth must speak from the depths of his 
nature with perfect sincerity. Will he exult, as 
the ambitious man would, at having taken success- 
fully the longest step towards his goal.^^ Or will 
he, like a prudent man, do his utmost to hide the 
traces of his crime, and hatch plans to cast sus- 
picion on others.? It is Lady Macbeth who plays 
this part ; she tells Macbeth to " get some water," 

" And wash this filthy witness from your hand," 

while he, brainsick, rehearses past fears and shows 
himself the sensitive poet-dreamer inclined to piety: 
here is the incredible scene: 

" Lady M. There are two lodged together. 
Macb. One cried, * God bless us ! ' and * Amen ' the 
other. 
As they had seen me with these hangman's hands. 

23 



The Man Shakespeare 

Listening their f ear^ I could not say ' Amen/ 
When they did say * God bless us/ 

Lady M. Consider it not so deeply. 

Mach. But wherefore could not I pronounce ' Amen ' ? 
I had most need of blessing, and 'Amen' 
Stuck in my throat." 

This religious tinge colouring the weakness of 
self-pity is to be found again and again in " Ham- 
let " ; Hamlet, too, is religious-minded ; he begs 
Ophelia to remember his sins in her orisons. When 
he first sees his father's ghost he cries: 

"Angels and ministers of grace defend us/' 

and when the ghost leaves him his word is, " I'll go 
pray." This new trait, most intimate and distinc- 
tive, is therefore the most conclusive proof of the 
identity of the two characters. The whole passage 
in the mouth of a murderer is utterly unexpected 
and out of place; no wonder Lady Macbeth ex- 
claims : 

** These deeds must not be thought 
After these ways: so, it will make us mad." 

But nothing can restrain Macbeth; he gives rein 
to his poetic imagination, and breaks out in an ex- 
quisite lyric, a lyric which has hardly any closer 
relation to the circumstances than its truth to 
Shakespeare's nature: 

" Methought I heard a voice cry, * Sleep no more ! 
Macbeth does murder sleep/ — the innocent sleep: 
Sleep, that knits up the ravelled sleave of care," 

and so forth — the poet in love with his own imagin- 
ings. 

84 



Hamlet — Macbeth 

Again Lady Macbeth tries to bring him back to 
a sense of reahty; tells him his thinking unbends 
his strength, and finally urges him to take the dag- 
gers back and 

*' smear 
The sleepy grooms with the blood." 

But Macbeth's nerve is gone ; he is physically broken 
now as well as mentally o'erwrought ; he cries : 

" I'll go no more; 
I am afraid to think what I have done. 
Look on't again I dare not." 

All this is exquisitely characteristic of the nervous 
student who has been screwed up to a feat beyond 
his strength, " a terrible feat," and who has broken 
down over it, but the words are altogether absurd 
in the mouth of an ambitious, half-barbarous chief- 
tain. 

His wife chides him as fanciful, childish — " infirm 
of purpose," — she'll put the daggers back herself; 
but nothing can hearten Macbeth; every household 
noise sets his heart thumping: 

"Whence is that knocking? 
How is't with me when every noise appals me .^ '* 

His mind rocks; ho. even imagines he is being tor- 
tured : 

" What hands are here } Ha ! 
They pluck out my eyes." 

And then he swings into another incomparable 
lyric : 

" Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood 
Clean from my hand.^ No, this my hand will rather 

S5 



The Man Shakespeare 

The multitudinous seas incarnadine. 
Making the green one' red." 

There is a great deal of the poet-neuropath and 
very little of the murderer for ambition's sake in 
this lyrical hysteria. No wonder Lady Macbeth 
declares she would be ashamed " to wear a heart so 
white." It is all Hamlet over again, Hamlet wrought 
up to a higher pitch of intensity. And here it 
should be remembered that " Macbeth " was written 
three years after " Hamlet " and probably just be- 
fore " Lear " ; one would therefore expect a greater 
intensity and a deeper pessimism in Macbeth than 
in Hamlet. 

The character-drawing In the next scene is neces- 
sarily slight. The discovery of the murder impels 
every one save the protagonist to action, but Mac- 
beth finds time even at the climax of excitement 
to coin Hamlet-words that can never be forgotten: 

" There's nothing serious in mortality ; '* 

and the description of Duncan: 

** His silver skin laced with his golden blood " 

— as sugar'd sweet as any line in the sonnets, and 
here completely out of place. 

In these first two acts the character of Macbeth 
is outlined so firmly that no after-touches can efface 
the impression. 

Now comes a period in the drama in which deed 
follows so fast upon deed, that there is scarcely 
any opportunity for characterization. To the 
casual view Macbeth seems almost to change his 
nature, passing from murder to murder quickly if 
not easily. He not only arranges for Banquo's as- 

^6 



Hamlet — Macbeth 

sassmatlon, but leaves Lady Macbeth innocent of 
the knowledge. The explanation of this seeming 
change of character is at hand. Shakespeare took 
the history of Macbeth from Holinshed's Chronicle, 
and there it is recorded that Macbeth murdered 
Banquo and many others, as well as Macduff's 
wife and children. Holinshed makes Duncan have 
" too much of clemencie," and Macbeth " too much 
of cruel tie." Macbeth's actions correspond with 
his nature in Holinshed; but Shakespeare first made 
Macbeth in his own image — gentle, bookish and 
irresolute — and then found himself fettered by the 
historical fact that Macbeth murdered Banquo and 
the rest. He was therefore forced to explain in 
some way or other why his Macbeth strode from 
crime to crime. It must be noted as most charac- 
teristic of gentle Shakespeare that even when 
confronted with this difficulty he did not think of 
lending Macbeth any tinge of cruelty, harshness, or 
ambition. His Macbeth commits murder for the same 
reason that the timorous deer fights — out of fear. 

" To be thus is nothing; 
But to be safely thus. Our fears in Banquo 
Stick deep, and in his royalty of nature 
Reigns that which would be feared " : 

And again: 

" There is none but he 
Whose being I do fear " : . . . . 

This proves, as nothing else could prove, the all- 
pervading, attaching kindness of Shakespeare's 
nature. Again and again Lady Macbeth saves the 
situation and tries to shame her husband into stern 
resolve, but in vain ; he 's " quite unmann'd in folly." 

Had Macbeth been made ambitious, as the com- 

37 



The Man Shakespeare 

mentators assume, there would have been a suffi- 
cient motive for his later actions. But ambition is 
foreign to the Shakespeare-Hamlet nature, so the 
poet does not employ it. Again and again he 
returns to the explanation that the timid grow 
dangerous when " frighted out of fear." Macbeth 
says: 

" But let the frame of things disj oint, both the worlds 
suffer 
Ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep 
In the affliction of these terrible dreams 
That shake us nightly." 

In passing I may remark thab Hamlet, too, com- 
plains of " bad dreams." 

In deep Hamlet melancholy, Macbeth now begins 
to contrast his state with Duncan's: 

" After life's fitful fever he sleeps well. 
Treason has done his worst: nor steel nor poison. 
Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing. 
Can touch him further." 

Lady Macbeth begs him to sleek o'er his rugged 
looks, be bright and jovial. He promises obedience; 
but soon falls into the dark mood again and pre- 
dicts " a deed of dreadful note." Naturally his wife 
questions him, and he replies: 

** Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck. 

Till thou applaud the deed. Come, seeling night. 
Scarf up the tender eye of pityful day. 
And with thy bloody and invisible hand 
Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond 
Which keeps me pale." 



Hamlet — Macbeth 

No other motive for murder is possible to Shake- 
speare-Macbeth but fear. 

Banquo is murdered, but still Macbeth cries : 

" I am cabined, cribbed, confined, bound in 
To saucy doubts and fears." 

The scene with the ghost of Banquo follows, where- 
in Macbeth again shows the nervous imaginative 
Hamlet nature. His next speech is mere reflection, 
and again Hamlet might have framed it : 

*' the time has been 
That when the brains were out the man would die 
And there an end ": . . . 

But while fear may be an adequate motive for 
Banquo's murder, it can hardly explain the murder 
of Macduff's wife and children. Shakespeare feels 
this, too, and therefore finds other reasons natural 
enough ; but the first of these reasons, " his own 
good," is not especially characteristic of Macbeth, 
and the second, while perhaps characteristic, is 
absurdly inadequate: men don't murder out of 
tediousness : 

" For mine own good 
All causes shall give way : I am in blood ^ 
Stepped in so far, that, should I wade no more. 
Returning were as tedious as go o'er." 

1 It seems to me probable that Shakespeare, unable to find 
an adequate motive for murder, borrowed this one from 
"Richard III." Richard says: 

" But I am in 

So far in blood that sin will pluck on sin " — 

This is an explanation following the fact rather than a cause 
producing it — an explanation, moreover, which may be true 
in the case of a fiend like Richard, but is not true of a Mac- 
beth. 

^9 



The Man Shakespeare 

Take it all in all, this latter reason is as poor a 
motive for cold-blooded murder as was ever given, 
and Shakespeare again feels this, for he brings in 
the witches once more to predict safety to Macbeth 
and adjure him to be " bloody, bold and resolute." 
When they have thus screwed his courage to the 
sticking place as his wife did before, Macbeth re- 
solves on Macduff's murder, but he immediately re- 
curs to the old explanation ; he does not do it for 
" his own good " nor because " returning is 
tedious " ; he does it 

** That I may tell pale-hearted fear it lies^ 
And sleep in spite of thunder." 

It is fair to say that Shakespeare's Macbeth is so 
gentle-kind, that he can find no motive in himself 
for murder, save fear. The words Shakespeare puts 
into Hubert's mouth in " King John " are really his 
own confession: 

** Within this bosom never enter 'd yet 
The dreadful motion of a murderous thought." 

The murders take place and the silly scenes in 
England between Malcolm and Macduif follow, and 
then come Lady Macbeth's illness, and the charac- 
teristic end. The servant tells Macbeth of the ap- 
proach of the English force, and he begins the won- 
derful monologue: 

"my May of life 
Is fall'n into the sere, the yellow leaf; 
And that which should accompany old age. 
As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends, 
I must not look to have; but in their stead 
Curses, not loud, but deep, mouth-honour, breath 
Which the poor heart would fain deny, and dare not." 

30 



Hamlet — Macbeth 

Truly this is a strange murderer who longs for 
" troops of friends," and who at the last push of 
fate can find in himself kindness enough towards 
others to sympathize with the " poor heart." All 
this is pure Hamlet; one might better say, pure 
Shakespeare. 

We are next led into the field with Malcolm and 
MacdufF, and immediately back to the castle again. 
While the women break into cries, Macbeth solilo- 
quizes in the very spirit of bookish Hamlet : 

" I have almost forgot the taste of fears, 
The time has been, my senses would have cooled 
To hear a night-shriek; and my fell of hair 
Would at a dismal treatise rouse and stir 
As life were in't." 

The whole passage, and especially the " dismal 
treatise," recalls the Wittenberg student with a 
magic of representment. 

The death of the Queen is a.nnounced, and 
wrings from Macbeth a speech full of despairing 
pessimism, a bitterer mood than ever Hamlet 
knew; a speech, moreover, that shows the student 
as well as the incomparable lyric poet: 

** She should have died hereafter: 
There would have been a time for such a word. — • 
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow. 
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, 
To the last syllable of recorded time; 
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools 
The way to dusty death. Out^ out, brief candle ! 
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player. 
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage. 
And then is heard no more: it is a tale 
Told by an- idiot, full of sound and fury. 
Signifying nothing." 

31 



The Man Shakespeare 

Macbeth's philosophy, like Hamlet's, ends in utter 
doubt, in a passion of contempt for life, deeper 
than anything in Dante. The word " syllable " in 
this lyric outburst is as characteristic as the " dis- 
mal treatise " in the previous one, and more char- 
acteristic still of Hamlet is the likening of life to 
** a poor player." 

The messenger tells Macbeth that Birnam Wood 
has begun to move, and he sees that the witches 
have cheated him. He can only say, as Hamlet 
might have said: 

** I *gin to be aweary of the sun. 
And wish the estate o' the world were now undone. — 
Bing the alarum bell! Blow wind! Come, wrack! 
At least we'll die with harness on our back." 

And later he cries: 

" They have tied me to a stake ; I cannot fly. 
But bear-like I must fight the course." 

This seems to me intensely characteristic of Ham- 
let ; the brutal side of action was never more con- 
temptuously described, and Macbeth's next soliloquy 
makes the identity apparent to every one; it is in 
the true thinker-sceptic vein: 

" Why should I play the Koman ^ fool and die 
On mine own sword? " 

Macbeth then meets Macduff, and there follows 

1 About the year 1600 Shakespeare seems to have steeped 
himself in Plutarch. For the next five or six years, whenever 
he thinks of suicide, the Roman way of looking at it occurs 
to him. Having made up his mind to kill himself, Laertes 
cries : 

" I am more an antique Roman than a Dane," 

and, in like case, Cleopatra talks of dying " after the high 
Roman fashion." 

33 



Hamlet — Macbeth 

the confession of pity and remorse, which must be 
compared to the gentle-kindness with which Ham- 
let treats Laertes and Romeo treats Paris. Mac- 
beth says to MacdufF: 

** Of all men else I have avoided thee: 
But get thee back, my soul is too much charged 
With blood of thine already/* 

Then comes the " something desperate " in him 
that Hamlet boasted of — and the end. 

Here we have every characteristic of Hamlet 
without exception. The crying difference of situa- 
tion only brings out the essential identity of the two 
characters. The two portraits are of the same per- 
son and finished to the finger-tips. The slight shades 
of difference between Macbeth and Hamlet only 
strengthen our contention that both are portraits of 
the poet; for the differences are manifestly changes 
in the same character, and changes due merely to 
age. Just as Romeo is younger than Hamlet, show- 
ing passion where Hamlet shows thought, so Mac- 
beth is older than Hamlet ; in Macbeth the melan- 
choly has grown deeper, the tone more pessimistic, 
and the heart gentler.^ I venture, therefore, to as- 

1 Immediately after the publication of these first two essays. 
Sir Henry Irving seized the opportunity and lectured before 
a distinguished audience on the character of Macbeth. He 
gave it as his opinion that " Shakespeare has presented Mac- 
beth as one of the most blood-thirsty, most hypocritical vil- 
lains in his long gallery of men, instinct with the virtues and 
vices of their kind (^ic)." Sir Henry Irving also took the 
occasion to praise the simile of pity: 

" And pity, like a naked new-born babe. 
Striding the blast." 

This ridiculous fustian seemed to him " very beautiful." All 
this was perfectly gratuitous: no one needed to be informed 
that a man might have merit as an actor and yet be without 
any understanding of psychology or any taste in letters. 

33 



The Man Shakespeare 

sert that the portrait we find in Romeo and Jaques 
first, and then in Hamlet, and afterwards in Mac- 
beth, is the portrait of Shakespeare himself, and we 
can trace his personal development through these 
three stages. 



CHAPTER III 

DUKE VINCENTIO POSTHUMUS 

T may be well to add here a couple of portraits 
of Shakespeare in later life in order to establish 
beyond question the chief features of his character. 
With this purpose in mind I shall take a portrait 
that is a mere sketch of him, Duke Vincentio in 
*' Measure for Measure," and a portrait that is 
minutely finished and perfect, though consciously 
idealized, Posthumus, in " Cymbeline." And the 
reason I take this careless, wavering sketch, and 
contrast it with a highly-finished portrait, is that, 
though the sketch is here and there hardly recog- 
nizable, the outline being all too thin and hesitating, 
yet now and then a characteristic trait is over-em- 
phasized, as we should expect in careless work. And 
this sketch in lines now faint, now all too heavy, is 
curiously convincing when put side by side with a 
careful and elaborate portrait in which the same 
traits are reproduced, but harmoniously, and with 
a perfect sense of the relative value of each feature. 
No critic, so far as I am aware, not Hazlitt, not 
Brandes, not even Coleridge, has 3^et thought of 
identifying either Duke Vincentio or Posthumus with 
Hamlet, much less with Shakespeare himself. The 
two plays are very unlike each other in tone and 
temper ; " Measure for Measure " being a sort of 
tract for the times, while " Cymbeline " is a purely 
romantic drama. Moreover, " Measure for Meas- 
ure " was probably written a couple of years after 

S5 



The Man Shakespeare 

" Hamlet," towards the end of 1603, while " Cym- 
beline " belongs to the last period of the poet's 
activity, and could hardly have been completed be- 
fore 1610 or 1611. The dissimilarity of the plays 
only accentuates the likeness of the two protagonists. 
" Measure for Measure " is one of the best ex- 
amples of Shakespeare's contempt for stagecraft. 
Not only is the mechanism of the play, as we shall 
see later, astonishingly slipshod, but the ostensible 
purpose of the play, which is to make the laws 
respected in Vienna, is not only not attained, but 
seems at the end to be rather despised than for- 
gotten. This indifference to logical consistency is 
characteristic of Shakespeare; Hamlet speaks of 
" the undiscovered country from whose bourne no 
traveller returns " just after he has been talking 
with his dead father; the poetic dreamer cannot 
take the trouble to tie up the loose ends of a story. 
The real purpose of " Measure for Measure," which 
is the confusion of the pretended ascetic Angelo, is 
fulfilled, and that is sufficient for the thinker, who 
has thus shown what " our seemers be." It is no 
less characteristic of Shakespeare that Duke Vin- 
centio, his alter ego, should order another to punish 
loose livers — a task which his kindly nature found 
too disagreeable. But, leaving these general con- 
siderations, let us come to the first scene of the first 
act : the second long speech of the Duke should have 
awakened the suspicion that Vincentio is but an- 
other mask for Shakespeare. The whole speech pro- 
claims the poet ; the Duke begins : 

Angelo 
There is a kind of character in thy life: " 

Hamlet says to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in 
what is supposed to be prose: 



Duke Vincentio — Posthumus 
" There is a kind of confession in your looks." 

A little later the line: 

" Spirits are not finely touched 
But to fine issues/' 

is so characteristic of Hamlet-Shakespeare that it 
should have put every reader on the track. 

The speeches of the Duke in the fourth scene of 
the first act are also characteristic of Shakespeare. 
But the four lines, 

" My holy sir, none better knows than you 
How I have ever loved the life removed. 
And held in idle price to haunt assemblies, 
Where youth and cost and witless bravery keep/' 

are to me an intimate, personal confession ; a fuller 
rendering indeed of Hamlet's " Man delights not 
me ; no, nor woman neither." In any case it will be 
admitted that a dislike of assemblies and cost and 
witless bravery is peculiar in a reigning monarch, so 
peculiar indeed that it reminds me of the exiled Duke 
in " As You Like It," or of Duke Prospero in " The 
Tempest " (two other incarnations of Shakespeare), 
rather than of any one in real life. A love of soli- 
tude ; a keen contempt for shows and the " witless 
bravery " of court-life were, as we shall see, charac- 
teristics of Shakespeare from youth to old age. 

In the first scene of the third act the Duke as a 
friar speaks to the condemned Claudio. He argues 
as Hamlet would argue, but with, I think, a more 
convinced hopelessness. The deepening scepticism 
would of itself force us to place " Measure for Meas- 
ure " a little later than " Hamlet " : 

37 



The Man Shakespeare 

" Reason thus with life: — 
If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing 
That none but fools would keep; a breath thou art, 

• • • • • 

The best of rest is sleep, 
And that thou oft provok'st, yet grossly fear'st 
Thy death which is no more. Thou'rt not thyself; 
For thou exist'st on many a thousand grains 
That issue out of dust. Happy thou art not; 
For what thou hast not, still thou striv'st to get, 
And what thou hast, forgett'st. 

What's in this. 
That bears the name of life? Yet in this life 
Lie hid more thousand deaths ; yet death we fear. 
That makes these odds all even." 

That this scepticism of Vincentio is Shakespeare's 
scepticism appears from the fact that the whole 
speech is worse than out of place when addressed 
to a person under sentence of death. Were we to 
take it seriously, it would show the Duke to be 
curiously callous to the sufferings of the condemned 
Claudio ; but callous the Duke is not, he is merely 
a pensive poet-philosopher talking in order to lighten 
his own heart. Claudio makes unconscious fun of 
the Duke's argument: 

*' To sue to live, I find I seek to die. 
And seeking death, find life: let it come on." 

This scepticism of Shakespeare which shows itself 
out of place in Angelo and again m.ost naturally in 
Claudio's famous speech, is one of the salient traits 
of his character which is altogether over-emphasized 
in this play. It is a trait, moreover, which finds 
expression in almost everything he wrote. Like 

38 



Duke Vincentio — Posthumus 

nearly all the great spirits of the Renaissance, 
Shakespeare was perpetually occupied with the 
heavy problems of man's life and man's destiny. 
Was there any meaning or purpose in life, any 
result of the striving? was Death to be feared or a 
Hereafter to be desired? — incessantly he beat strain- 
ing wings in the void. But even in early manhood 
he never sought to deceive himself. His Richard H. 
had sounded the shallow vanity of man's desires, 
the futility of man's hopes ; he knew that man 

** With nothing shall be pleased^ till he be eased 
With being nothing." 

And this sad knowledge darkened all Shakespeare's 
later thinking. Naturally, when youth passed from 
him and disillusionment put an end to dreaming, his 
melancholy deepened, his sadness became despairing; 
we can see the shadows thickening round him into 
night. Brutus takes an " everlasting farewell " of 
his friend, and goes v/illingly to his rest. Hamlet 
dreads " the undiscovered country " ; but unsentient 
death is to him " a consummation devoutly to be 
wished." Vincentio's mood is half -contemptuous, but 
the melancholy persists ; death is no " more than 
sleep," he says, and life a series of deceptions ; while 
Claudio in this same play shudders away from death 
as from annihilation, or worse, in words which one 
cannot help regarding as Shakespeare's: 

'' Claud. Ay, but to die, and go we know not where ; 
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot. . . ." 

A little later and Macbeth's soul cries to us from the 
outer darkness : " there's nothing serious in mor- 
tality " ; life's 

39 



The Man Shakespeare 

" a tale 
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. 
Signifying nothing." 

And from this despairing gloom come Lear's shrieks 
of pain and pitiful ravings, and in the heavy inter- 
vals the gibberings of the fool. Even when the 
calmer mood of age came upon Shakespeare and 
took away the bitterness, he never recanted ; Post- 
humus speaks of life and death in almost the words 
used by Vincentio, and Prospero has nothing to add 
save that " our little life is rounded with a sleep." 

It is noteworthy that Shakespeare always gives 
these philosophic questionings to those characters 
whom I regard as his impersonations,^ and when he 
breaks this rule, he breaks it in favour of some 
Claudio who is not a character at all, but the mere 
mouthpiece of one of his moods. 

I now come to a point in the drama which at once 
demands and defies explanation. In the first scene 
of the third act the Duke, after listening to the ter- 
rible discussion between Isabella and Claudio, first of 
all tells Claudio that " Angelo had never the pur- 
pose to corrupt " Isabella, and then assures Claudio 

1 One of my correspondents, Mr. Theodore Watts-Dunton, 
has been kind enough to send me an article contributed to 
" Colbourn's Magazine" in 1873, in which he declares that 
" Shakespeare seems to have kept a sort of Hamlet note- 
book, full of Hamlet thoughts, of which ' To be or not to be ' 
may be taken as the type. These he was burdened with. 
These did he cram into Hamlet as far as he could, and then 
he tossed the others indiscriminately into other plays, trag- 
edies and histories, perfectly regardless of the character who 
uttered them." Though Mr. Watts-Dunton sees that some of 
these " Hamlet thoughts " are to be found in Macbeth and 
Prospero and Claudio, he evidently lacks the key to Shake- 
speare's personality, or he would never have said that Shake- 
speare tossed these reflections " indiscriminately into other 
plays." Nevertheless the statement itself is interesting, and 
deserves more notice than has been accorded to it. 

40 



Duke Vincentio — Posthumus 

that to-morrow he must die. The explanation of 
these two falsehoods would be far to seek, unless we 
take it that they were invented simply in order to 
prolong our interest in the drama. But this assump- 
tion, though probable, does not increase our sym- 
pathy with the protagonist — the lies seem to be too 
ca'relessly uttered to be even characteristic — nor yet 
our admiration of the structure of a play that needs 
to be supported by such flimsy buttresses. Still this 
very carelessness of fact, as I have said, is Shake- 
spearean ; the philosophic dreamer paid little atten- 
tion to the mere incidents of the story. 

The talk between the Duke and Isabella follows. 
The form of the Duke's speech, with its touch of 
euphuistic conceit, is one which Hamlet-Shakespeare 
affects : 

" The hand that hath made you fair hath made you 
good: the goodness that is cheap in beauty makes 
beauty brief in goodness; but grace^ being the soul of 
your complexion_, shall keep the body of it ever fair." 

This Duke plays philosopher, too, in and out of 
season as Hamlet did : he says to Isabella : 

"Virtue is bold^ and goodness never fearful/' 

generalizing his praise even to a woman. 

Again, when Pompey is arrested, he passes from 
the individual to the general, exclaiming: 

" That we were all as some would seem to be. 

Free from our faults, as from faults seeming free ! " 

Then follows the interesting talk with Lucio, who 
awakens the slightly pompous Duke to natural life 
with his contempt. When Lucio tells the Duke, who 

41 



The Man Shakespeare 

is disguised as a friar, that he (the Duke) was a 
notorious loose-liver — " he had some feeling of the 
sport ; he knew the service " — the Duke merely de- 
nies the soft impeachment ; but when Lucio tells him 
that the Duke is not wise, but " a very superficial, 
ignorant, unweighing fellow," the Duke bursts out, 
" either this is envy in you, folly, or mistaking : 
. . . Let him but be testimonied in his own bring- 
ings-forth, and he shall appear to the envious a 
scholar, a statesman, and a soldier," which recalls 
Hamlet's " Friends, scholars, and soldiers," and 
Ophelia's praise of Hamlet as " courtier, soldier, 
scholar." Lucio goes off, and the Duke " moralizes " 
the incident in Hamlet's very accent : 

" No might nor greatness in mortality 

Can censure 'scape; backwounding calumny 

The whitest virtue strikes. What king so strong 

Can tie the gall up in the slanderous tongue ? " 

Hamlet says to Ophelia: 

** Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt 
not escape calumny." 

And Laertes says that " virtue itself " cannot escape 
calumny. 

The reflection is manifestly Shakespeare's own, 
and here the form, too, is characteristic. It may be 
as well to recall now that Shakespeare himself was 
calumniated in his lifetime; the fact is admitted in 
Sonnet 36, where he fears his " guilt " will " shame " 
his friend. 

In his talk with Escalus the Duke's speech becomes 
almost obscure from excessive condensation of 
thought — a habit which grew upon Shakespeare. 

43 



Duke Vincentio — Posthumus 

Escalus asks: 

" What news abroad in the world ? " 

The Duke answers: 

" None, but that there is so great a fever on good- 
ness, that the dissolution of it must cure it: novelty 
is only in request. . . . There is scarce truth enough 
alive to make societies secure, but security enough to 
make fellowships accursed." 

Escalus then tells us of the Duke's temperament 
in words which would fit Hamlet perfectly; for, 
curiously enough, they furnish us with the best de- 
scription of Shakespeare's melancholy: 

" Rather rejoicing to see another merry, than merry 
at anything which professed to make him rejoice." 

And, lastly, the curious rhymed soliloquy of Vin- 
centio which closes this third act, must be compared 
with the epilogue to " The Tempest " : 

" He who the sword of Heaven will bear 
Should be as holy as severe; 
Pattern in himself to know, 
Grace to stand and virtue go; 

i*. • • • 

Shame to him whose cruel striking 
Kills for faults of his own liking! 
Twice treble shame on Angelo, 
iTo weed my vice and let his grow ! " 

In the fifth act the Duke, freed from making plots 
and plans, speaks without constraint and reveals his 
nature ingenuously. He uses words to Angelo that 
recall the sonnets : 

43 



The Man Shakespeare 

*' O, your desert speaks loud ; and I should wrong it^ 
To lock it in the wards of covered bosom, 
When it deserves, with characters of brass, 
A forted residence 'gainst the tooth of time 
And razure of oblivion." ^ 

Again, the Duke argues in gentle Shakespeare's 
fashion for Angelo and against Isabella: 

" If he had so offended. 
He would have weighed thy brother by himself 
And not have cut him off." 

It seems impossible for Shakespeare to believe 
that the sinner can punish sin. It reminds one of 
the sacred " He that is without sin among you let 
him first cast a stone." The detections and for- 
givings of the last act follow. 

It will be admitted, I think, on all hands that 
Duke Vincentio speaks throughout the play with 
Shakespeare's voice. From the point of view of 
literary art his character is very far from being as 
complex or as deeply realized as that of Hamlet 
or Macbeth, or even as that of Romeo or of Jaques, 
and yet one other trait besides that of sceptical 
brooding is so over-accentuated that it can never 
be forgotten. In the last scene the Duke orders 
Barnardine to the block and the next moment re- 
spites him ; he condemns 

"An Angelo for Claudio; death for death," 

then pardons Angelo, and at once begins to chat 
with him in kindly intimacy; he asserts that he 
cannot forgive Lucio, Lucio who has traduced him, 

iCf. Sonnet 122 with its "full character'd" and "razed 
oblivion." 

44 



Duke Vincentio — Posthumus 

shall be whipped and hanged, and in the same breath 
he remits the heavy penalty. Truly he is " an un- 
hurtful opposite " ^ whose anger has no steadfast- 
ness ; but the gentle forgivingness of disposition that 
is so marked in Vincentio is a trait we found empha- 
sized in Romeo, and again in Hamlet and again in 
Macbeth. It is, indeed, one of the most permanent 
characteristics of Shakespeare. From the beginning 
to the end of the play, Duke Vincentio is weakly- 
kind in act and swayed by fitful impulses ; his as- 
sumed austerity of conduct is the thin varnish of 
vanity that will not take on such soft material. The 
Hamlet weakness is so exaggerated in him, and so 
unmotived, that I am inclined to think Shakespeare 
was even more irresolute and indisposed to action 
than Hamlet himself. 

In the character of Posthumus, the hero of " Cym- 
beline," Shakespeare has painted himself with ex- 
traordinary care ; has, in fact, given us as deliberate 

1 The critics are at variance over this ending, and, indeed, 
over the whole play. Coleridge says that " our feelings of 
justice are grossly wounded in Angelo's escape"; for " cruelty 
with lust and damnable baseness cannot be forgiven." Mr. 
Swinburne, too, regrets the miscarriage of justice; the play 
to him is a tragedy, and should end tragically with the punish- 
ment of the " autotype of the huge national vice of England." 
Perhaps, however, Puritan hypocrisy was not so widespread or 
so powerful in the time of Shakespeare as it is nowadays; 
perhaps, too, Shakespeare was not so good a hater as Mr. 
Swinburne, nor so strenuous a moralist as Coleridge was, at 
least in theory. In any case it is evident that Shakespeare 
found it harder to forgive Lucio, who had hurt his vanity, 
than Angelo, who pushed lust to outrage and murder, which 
strange, yet characteristic, fact I leave to the mercy of future 
commentators. Mr. Sidney Lee regards " Measure for Meas- 
ure " as " one of Shakespeare's greatest plays." Coleridge, 
however, thought it "a hateful work "; it is also a poor work, 
badly constructed, and for the most part carelessly written. 
In essence it is a mere tract against Puritanism, and in form 
a sort of Arabian Nights' Entertainment in which the hero 
plays the part of Haroun-al-Raschid. 

45 



The Man Shakespeare 

and almost as complete a picture of himself as he 
did in Hamlet. Unluckily his hand had grown 
weaker in the ten years' interval, and he gave such 
loose rein to his idealizing habit that the portrait is 
neither so veracious nor so lifelike. The explana- 
tion of all this will be given later ; it is enough for 
the moment to state that as Posthumus is perhaps 
the completest portrait of him that we have after 
his mental shipwreck, we must note the traits of it 
carefully, and see what manner of man Shakespeare 
took himself to be towards the end of his career. 

It is difficult to understand how the commentators 
have been able to read " Cymbeline " without seeing 
the likeness between Posthumus and Hamlet. The 
wager which is the theme of the play may have 
hindered them a little, but as they found it easy to 
excuse its coarseness by attributing lewdness to the 
time, there seems to have been no reason for not 
recognizing Posthumus. Posthumus is simply a 
staider Hamlet considerably idealized. I am not at 
all sure that the subject of the play was void of 
offence in the time of Elizabeth ; all finer spirits must 
even then have found it puerile and coarse. What 
would Spenser have said about it? Shakespeare 
used the wager because of the opportunities it gave 
him of painting himself and an ideal woman. His 
view of it is just indicated; lachimo says: 

" I make my wager rather against your confidence 
than her reputation: and, to bar your offence herein 
too^ I durst attempt it against any lady in the world.'* 

But in spite of the fact that lachimo makes his 
insult general, Posthumus warns him that: 

" If she remain unseduced . . . for your ill opinion. 



Duke Vincentio — Posthumus 

and the assault you have made to her chastity^ you shall 
answer me with your sword." 

From this it appears that the bet was distasteful to 
Posthumus ; it is not so offenceful to him as it should 
have been according to our modern temper, but this 
shortcoming, an unconscious shortcoming, is the 
only fault which Shakespeare will allow in his hero. 
In the first scene of the first act Posthumus is praised 
as men never praise the absent without a personal 
motive ; the First Gentleman says of him : 

" I do not think 
So fair an outward and such stuff within 
Endows a man but he." 

The Second Gentleman replies: 

" You speak him far ; '* 

and the First Gentleman continues: 

"I do extend him, sir, within himself; 
Crush him together, rather than unfold 
His measure duly." 

And as if this were not enough, this gentleman- 
eulogist goes on to tell us that Posthumus has sucked 
in " all the learnings " of his time " as we do air," 
and further: 

" He lived in court — 

Which rare it is to do — most praised, most loved; 

A sample to the young'st, to the more mature 

A glass that feated them; and to the graver 

A child that guided dotards." 

This gross praise is ridiculously unnatural, and 
outrages our knowledge of life; men are much more 

47 



The Man Shakespeare 

apt to criticize than to praise the absent; but it 
shows a prepossession on Shakespeare's part in fav- 
our of Posthumus which can only be explained by the 
fact that in Posthumus he was depicting himself. 
Every word is significant to us, for Shakespeare evi- 
dently tells us here what he thought about himself, 
or rather what he wished to think, towards the end of 
his life. It is impossible to believe that he was 
" most praised, most loved " ; men do not love or 
praise their .superiors in looks, or intellect. 

The first words which Posthumus in this same 
scene addresses to Imogen, shows the gentle Shakes- 
peare nature : 

" O lady, weep no more, lest I give cause 
To be suspected of more tenderness 
Than doth become a man." 

And when Imogen gives him the ring and tells him 
to wear it till he woos another wife, he talks to her 
exactly as Romeo would have talked: 

" How ! how ! another ? — 
You gentle gods, give me but this I have. 
And sear up my embracements from a next 
With bonds of death! [Pwtting on the ring. 
Remain, remain thou here 
While sense can keep it on/* 

And he concludes as self-depreciating Hamlet would 
have concluded: 

** And sweetest, fairest, 
As I my poor self did exchange for you, 
To your so infinite loss, so in our trifles 
I still win of you; for my sake wear this: 
It is a manacle of love; I'll place it 
Upon this fairest prisoner. 

[Putting a bracelet on lier.arm.y 
48 



Duke Vincentio — Posthumus 

In his fight with Cloten he is depicted as a rare 
swordsman of wonderful magnanimity. Pisanio 
says: 

*' My master rather played than fought. 
And had no help of anger." 

I call this gentle kindness which Posthumus displays, 
the birthmark of Shakespeare ; he had " no help of 
anger." As the play goes on we find Shakespeare's 
other peculiarities, or Hamlet's. lachimo represents 
Posthumus as " merry," " gamesome," " the Briton 
reveller " ; but curiously enough Imogen answers as 
Ophelia might have answered about Hamlet: 

" When he was here. 
He did incline to sadness; and ofttimes 
Not knowing why." 

This uncaused melancholy that distinguishes Ko- 
meo, Jaques, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Vincentio is not 
more characteristic of the Hamlet-Shakespeare na- 
ture than the way Posthumus behaves when lachimo 
tries to make him believe that he has won the wager. 
Posthumus is convinced almost at once; jumps to 
the conclusion, indeed, with the heedless rapidity of 
the naive, sensitive, quick-thinking man who has cul- 
tivated his emotions and thoughts by writing in soli- 
tude, and not the suspicions and distrust of others 
which are developed in the market-place. One is re- 
minded of Goethe's famous couplet: 

** Es bildet ein Talent sich in der Stille, 
Sich ein Charakter in dem Strom der Welt." 

Posthumus is all in fitful extremes ; not satisfied with 
believing the lie, he gives lachimo Imogen's ring as 
well, and bursts into a diatribe: 

4.9 



The Man Shakespeare 

-\ 

** Let there be no honour 
Where there's beauty; truth, where semblance; love, 
Where there's another man/' 

and so forth. Even Philario, , who has no stake in 
the matter, is infinitely harder to convince : 

" Have patience, sir. 
And take your ring again; 'tis not yet won: 
It may be probable she lost it." 

Then this " unstable opposite," Posthumus, demands 
his ring back again, but as soon as lachimo swears 
that he had the bracelet from her arm, Posthumus 
swings round again to belief from sheer rapidity of 
thought. Again Philario will not be convinced. He 
says: 

" Sir, be patient. 

This is not strong enough to be believed 

Of one persuaded well of — " 

But Posthumus will not await the proof for which 
he has asked. He is convinced upon suspicion, as 
Othello was, and the very nimbleness of his Hamlet- 
intellect, seeing that probabilities are against him, 
entangles him in the snare. Even his servant 
Pisanio will not believe in Imogen's guilt though 
his master assures him of it. Shakespeare does not 
notice this peculiar imprudent haste of his hero, as 
he notices, for example, the hasty speech of Hotspur 
hj letting Harry of England imitate it, simply be- 
cause the quick- thinking wa,s his own ; while the hur- 
ried stuttering speech was foreign to him. Post- 
humus goes on to rave against women as Hamlet 
did ; as all men do who do not understand them : 

" For even to vice 
They are not constant, but are changing still." 
50 



Duke Vincentio — Posthumus 

And Posthumus betrays as clearly as ever Hamlet 
did that he is merely Shakespeare masquerading: 

** I'll write against them. 
Detest them, curse them — yet 'tis greater skill 
In a true hate, to pray they have their will: 
The very devils cannot plague them better." 

"Write against them" indeed! This is the same 
threat which Shakespeare uses against his dark mis- 
tress in Sonnet 140, and every one will admit that 
it is more in the character of the poet and man of 
letters than in that of the warrior son-in-law of a 
half-barbarous king. The last line here, because it 
is a little superfluous, a little emphatic, seems to me 
likely to have a personal application. When Shake- 
speare's mistress had her will, did she fall to misery, 
I wonder .f^ 

I may be allowed to notice here how intensely 
characteristic all this play is of Shakespeare. In 
the third scene of the third act, life in the country 
is contrasted to its advantage with life at Court ; 
and then gold is treated as dirt by the princely 
brothers — ^both these, the love of country life, and 
the contempt of gold, are, as we shall see later, 
abiding peculiarities of Shakespeare. 

When we come to Posthumus again almost at the 
end of the play we find that his anger with Imogen 
has burned itself out. He is angry now with Pisanio 
for having executed his order and murdered her; he 
should have " saved the noble Imogen to repent." 
Surely the poet Shakespeare and not the outraged 
lover speaks in this epithet, " noble." 

Posthumus describes the battle in which he took 
so gallant a part in Shakespeare's usual manner. 
He falls into rhyme; he shows the cheap modesty of 

51 



The Man Shakespeare 

the conventional hero ; he tells of what others did, 
and nothing of his own feats ; Belarius and the two 
striplings, he says : 

" With their own nobleness . . . gilded pale looks.'* 

Unfortunately one is reminded of the exquisite son- 
net line: 

" Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy." 

" Gild " is one of Shakespeare's favourite words ; 
he uses it very often, sometimes indeed as in this 
case, ineffectively. 

But the scene which reveals the character of Post- 
humus beyond all doubt is the prison scene in the 
fifth act. His soliloquy which begins : 

** Most welcome, bondage, for thou art a way, 
I think, to liberty" — 

is all pure Shakespeare. When he determines to 
give up life, he says: 

" O Imogen ! 
Ill speak to thee in silence," 

and Hamlet at his death comes to the self-same 
word : 

" The rest is silence." 

The scene with the gaoler is from Hamlet's soul; 
Posthumus jests with his keeper as Hamlet v/ith the 
gravedigger : 

*' So, if I prove a good repast to the spectators, the 
ship pays the shot; " 

and the Hamlet melancholy: 

52 



Duke Vincentio — Posthumus 

" I am merrier to die than thou art to live ; " 
and the Hamlet riddle still unsolved: 

** I tell thee^ fellow, there are none want eyes to 
direct them the way I am going; but such as wink, 
and will not use them." 

When the messenger comes to bring him to the king, 
Posthumus cries : 

" Thou bringest good news, I am called to be made 
free/' 

for there are " no bolts for the dead." 

Those who wish to see how Shakespeare's mind 
worked will compare Posthumus' speech to lachimo, 
when he has learned the truth, with Othello's words 
when he is convinced of his own fatal error and of 
Desdemona's chastity. The two speeches are twins ; 
though the persons uttering them should be of 
totally different characters. The explanation of this 
astounding similarity will be given when we come 
to " Otheilo." 

It is characteristic of Posthumus that he should 
strike Imogen in her page's dress, not recognizing 
her ; he is ever too quick — a mere creature of im- 
pulse. More characteristic still is the way he for- 
gives lachimo, just as Vincentio forgave Angelo: 

" Kneel not to me: 
The power that I have on you, is to spare you. 
The malice towards you, to forgive you. Live 
And deal with others better." 

In judging his fellow-men this is Shakespeare's 
harshest word. Posthumus, then, is presented to us 

53 



The Man Shakespeare 

in the beginning of the play as perfect, a model to 
young and old, of irreproachable virtue and of all 
wonderful qualities. In the course of the play, how- 
ever, he shows himself very nimble-witted, credulous, 
and impulsive, quick to anger and quicker still to 
forgive; with thoughts all turned to sadness and to 
musing ; a poet-^ever in extremes ; now hating 'his 
own rash errors to the point of demanding the 
heaviest punishment for them ; now swearing that he 
will revenge himself on women by writing against 
them; a philosopher — ^he jests with his gaoler and 
consoles himself with despairing speculation in the 
very presence of the Arch-Fear. All these are mani- 
festly characteristics of Hamlet, and Posthumus 
possesses no others. 

So far, then, from finding that Shakespeare never 
revealed himself in his dramas, I have shown that he 
pictured himself as the hero ^ of six plays written 
at widely different times ; in fact that, like Rem- 
brandt, he painted his own portrait in all the critical 
periods of life: as a sensuous youth given over to 
love and poetry in Romeo ; a few years later as a 
melancholy onlooker at life's pageant in Jaques ; in 
middle age as the passionate, melancholy, aesthete- 
philosopher of kindliest nature in Hamlet and Mac- 
beth ; as the fitful Duke incapable of severity in 
" Measure for Measure," and finally, when standing 
within the shadow, as Posthumus, an idealized yet 
feebler replica of Hamlet. 

1 A hypercritic might contend that Jaques was not the hero 
of "As You Like It"; but the objection really strengthens 
my argument. Shakespeare makes of Jaques, who is merely 
a secondary character without influence on the action, the 
principal person in the play simply because in Jaques he satis- 
fied his own need of self-revealing. 



54 



CHAPTER IV 

shakespeaee's men of action: the bastard, 
arthur, and king richard ii. 

IT is time now, I think, to test my theory by con- 
sidering the converse of it. In any case, the at- 
tempt to see the other side, is pretty sure to make for 
enlightenment, and may thus justify itself. In the 
mirror which Shakespeare held up to human nature, 
we not only see Romeo, and Jaques, Hamlet, Mac- 
beth and Posthumus ; but also the leonine, frank face 
of the Bastard, the fiery, lean, impatient mask of 
Hotspur, and the cynical, bold eyes of Richard III. 
Even if it were admitted that Shakespeare preferred 
the type of the poet-philosopher, he was certainly 
able, one would say, to depict the man of action 
with extraordinary vigour and success. He himself 
then must have possessed a certain strength of char- 
acter, certain qualities of decision and courage ; he 
must have had, at least, " a good stroke in him," as 
Carlyle phrased it. This is the universal belief, a 
belief sanctioned by Coleridge and Goethe, and 
founded apparently on plain facts, and yet, I think, 
it is mistaken, demonstrably untrue. It might even 
be put more plausibly than any of its defenders has 
put it. One might point out that Shakespeare's men 
of action are nearly all to be found in the historical 
plays which he wrote in early manhood, while the 
portrait of the philosopher-poet is the favourite 
study of his riper years. It would then be possible 
to suggest that Shakespeare grew from a bold, 



The Man Shakespeare 

roistering youth into a melancholy, thoughtful old 
age, touching both extremes of manhood in his own 
development. But even this comforting explanation 
will not stand: his earliest impersonations are all 
thinkers. 

Let us consider, again, how preference In a writer 
is established. Everyone feels that Sophocles pre- 
fers Antigone to Ismene ; Ismene is a mere sketch 
of gentle feminine weakness ; while Antigone is a 
great portrait of the revoltee, the first appearance 
indeed in literature of the " new woman," and the 
place she fills in the drama, and the ideal qualities 
attributed to her girlhood — alike betray the per- 
sonal admiration of the poet. In the same way 
Shakespeare's men of action are mere sketches in 
comparison with the Intimate detailed portrait of the 
aesthete-philosopher-poet with his sensuous, gentle, 
melancholy temperament. Moreover, and this should 
be decisive, Shakespeare's men of action are all 
taken from history, or tradition, or story, and not 
from Imagination, and their characteristics were 
supplied by the chroniclers and not invented by the 
dramatist. To see how far this is true I must ex- 
amine Shakespeare's historical plays at some length. 
Such an examination did not form a part of my 
original purpose. It Is very difficult, not to say im- 
possible, to ascertain exactly how far history and 
verbal tradition helped Shakespeare In his historical 
portraits of English worthies. Jaques, for instance, 
is his own creation from top to toe ; every word 
given to him therefore deserves careful study; but 
how much of Hotspur is Shakespeare's, and how 
much of the Bastard? Without pretending, however, 
to define exactly the sources or the limits of the 
master's Inspiration, there are certain indications in 
the historical plays which throw a flood of light on 

56 



The Bastardy Arthur, and King Richard II, 

the poet's nature, and certain plain inferences from 
his methods which it would be folly not to draw. 

Let us begin with " King John," as one of the 
easiest and most helpful to us at this stage, and re- 
membering that Shakespeare's drama was evidently 
founded on the old play entitled " The Troublesome 
Raigne of King John," let us from our knowledge 
of Shakespeare's character forecast what his part 
in the work must have been. A believer in the theory 
I have set forth would guess at once that the strong, 
manly character of the Bastard was vigorously 
sketched even in the old play, and just as surely one 
would attribute the gentle, feminine, pathetic char- 
acter of Arthur to Shakespeare. And this is pre- 
cisely what we find: Philip Fauconbridge is excel- 
lently depicted in the old play; he is called: 

** A hardy wildehead, tough and venturous^" 

and he talks and acts the character to the life. In 
" The Troublesome Raigne," as in " King John," 
he is proud of his true father, the lion-hearted Rich- 
ard, and careless of the stain of his illegitimate 
birth ; he cries : 

** The world's in my debt. 
There's something owing to Plantaginet. 
I, marrie Sir, let me alone for game 
He act some wonders' now I know my name; 
By blessed Marie He not sell that pride 
For England's wealth and all the world beside." 

Who does not feel the leaping courage and hardi- 
hood of the Bastard in these lines .^^ Shakespeare 
seizes the spirit of the character and renders it, but 
his emendations are all by way of emphasis : he does 
not add a new quality; his Bastard is the Bastard 

57 



The Man Shakespeare 

of " The Troublesome Raigne." But the gentle, 
pathetic character of Arthur is all Shakespeare's. 
In the old play Arthur is presented as a prema- 
turely wise youth who now urges the claims of his 
descent and speaks boldly for his rights, and now 
begs his vixenish mother to , 

" Wisely winke at all 
Least further harmes ensue our hasty speech." 

Again, he consoles her with the same prudence: 

** Seasons will change and so our present griefe 
May change with them and all to our reliefe." 

This Arthur is certainly nothing like Shakespeare's 
Arthur. Shakespeare, who had just lost his only son 
Hamnet,^ in his twelfth year, turns Arthur from a 
young man into a child, and draws all the pathos 
possible from his weakness and suffering; Arthur's 
first words are of " his powerless hand," and his ad- 
vice to his mother reaches the very fount of tears: 

" Good my mother, peace ! 
I would that I were low laid in my grave; 
I am not worth this coil that's made for me." 

When taken prisoner his thought is not of himself: 

" O, this will make my mother die with grief." 

He is a woman-child in unselfish sympathy. 

The whole of the exquisitely pathetic scene be- 

1 Some months before writing " King John " Shakespeare 
had visited Stratford for the first time after ten years' ab- 
sence and had then perhaps learned to know and love young 
Hamnet. 

58 



The Bastard, Arthur, and King Richard II, 

tween Hubert and Arthur belongs, as one might 
have guessed, to Shakespeare, that is, the whole 
pathos of it belongs to him. 

In the old play Arthur thanks Hubert for his 
care, calls him " curteous keeper," and, in fact, be- 
haves as the conventional prince. He has no words 
of such affecting appeal as Shakespeare puts into 
Arthur's mouth: 

** I would to heaven 

I were your son, so you would love me, Hubert." 

This love and longing for love is the characteristic 
of Shakespeare's Arthur ; he goes on : 

"Are you sick, Hubert?' You look pale to-day. 
In sooth, I would you were a little sick, 
That I might sit all night and watch with you: 
I warrant, I love you more than you do me." 

A girl could not be more tender, more anxious for 
love's assurance. In " The Troublesome Raigne," 
when Hubert tells Arthur that he has bad news for 
him, tidings of " more hate than death," Arthur 
faces the unknown with a man's courage ; he asks : 

" What is it, man ? if needes be don. 

Act it, and end it, that the paine were gon." 

It might be the Bastard speaking, so hardy-reck- 
less are the words. When this Arthur pleads for his 
eyesight, he does it in this way: 

" I speake not only for eyes priviledge. 
The chief e exterior that I would enjoy: 
But for thy perill, farre beyond my paine. 
Thy sweete soules losse more than my eyes vaine lack." 

Again at the end he says : 

59 



The Man Shakespeare 

** Delay not, Hubert, my orisons are ended. 
Begin I pray thee, reave me of my sight." 

And when Hubert relents because his " conscience 
bids him desist," Arthur says: 

" Hubert, if ever Arthur be in state 
Looke for amends of this received gift." 

In all this there is neither realization of character 
nor even sincere emotion. But Shakespeare's Arthur 
is a masterpiece of soul-revealing, and moves us to 
pity at every word: 

" Will you put out mine eyes ? 
These eyes that never did, nor never shall. 
So much as frown on you ? '* 

And then the child's imaginative horror of being 
bound : 

" For heaven's sake, Hubert, let me not be bound. 
Nay, hear me, Hubert: drive these men away. 
And I will sit as quiet as a lamb; 
I will not stir, nor wince, nor speak a word." 

When Hubert relents, Shakespeare's Arthur does 
not promise reward, he simply breathes a sigh of 
exquisite affection: 

" O, now you look like Hubert: all this while 
You were disguised." 

And finally, when Hubert promises never to hurt 
him, his words are: 

" O heaven ! I thank you, Hubert." 

Arthur's character we owe entirely to Shake- 

60 



The Bastard, Arthur, and King Richard II, 

speare, there is no hint of his weakness and tender- 
ness in the original, no hint either of the pathos of 
his appeal — these are the inventions of gentle Shake- 
speare, who has manifestly revealed his own exceed- 
ing tenderness and sweetness of heart in the person 
of the child Prince. Of course, there are faults in 
the work ; faults of affectation and word-conceit 
hardly to be endured. When Hubert says he will 
burn out his eyes with hot irons, Arthur replies: 

** Ah^ none, but in this iron age, would do it ! 
The iron of itself, though heat red-hot/' 

and so forth. . . . Nor does this passage of tinsel 
stand alone. When the iron cools and Hubert says 
he can revive it, Arthur replies with pinchbeck con- 
ceits : 

" And if you do you will but make it blush. 
And glow with shame at your proceedings," 

and so forth. The faults are bad enough ; but the 
heavenly virtues carry them all off triumphantly. 
There is no creation like Arthur in the whole realm 
of poetry; he is all angelic love and gentleness, and 
yet neither mawkish nor unnatural ; his fears make 
him real to us, and the horror of his situation allows 
us to accept his exquisite pleading as possible. We 
need only think of Tennyson's May Queen, or of 
his unspeakable Arthur, or of Thackeray's prig 
Esmond, in order to understand how difficult it is 
in literature to make goodness attractive or even 
credible. Yet Shakespeare's art triumphs where no 
one else save Balzac and Tourgenief has achieved 
even a half-success. 

I cannot leave this play without noticing that 

61 



The Man Shakespeare 

Shakespeare has shown in it a hatred of murder just 
as emphatically as he has revealed his love of gentle- 
ness and pity in the creation of Arthur. In spite of 
the loyalty which the English nobles avow in the 
second scene of the fourth act, which is a quality 
that always commends itself to Shakespeare, Pem- 
broke is merely their mouthpiece in requesting the 
King to " enfranchise Arthur." As soon as John 
tells them that Arthur is dead they throw off their 
allegiance and insult the monarch to his face. Even 
John is startled by their indignation, and brought 
as near remorse as is possible for him: 

" I repent; 
There is no sure foundation set on blood; 
No certain life achieved by others' death — '* 

— which reads like a reflection of Shakespeare him- 
self. When the Bastard asks the nobles to return 
to their allegiance, Salisbury finds an astonishing 
phrase to express their loathing of the crime: 

" The King hath dispossess'd himself of us ; 
We will not line his thin bestained cloak 
With our pure honours, nor attend the foot 
That leaves the print of blood where'er it rvalhs." 

In all literature there is no more terrible image: 
Shakespeare's horror of bloodshed has more than 
Aeschylean intensity. When the dead body of 
Arthur is found each of the nobles in turn expresses 
his abhorrence of the deed, and all join in vowing 
instant revenge. Even the Bastard calls it 

** A damned and bloody work. 
The graceless action of a heavy hand/' 
62 



The Bastard, Arthur, and King Richard II, 

and a little later the thought of the crime brings 
even this tough adventurer to weakness : 

" I am amazed, methinks, and lose my way 
Among the thorns and dangers of this world." 

— a phrase that suits the weakness x)f Richard II. or 
Henry VI. or Shakespeare himself better than it 
suits the hardy Bastard. Even as a young man 
Shakespeare hated the cruelty of ambition and the 
savagery of war as much as he loved all the cere- 
monies of chivalry and observances of gentle 
courtesy. 

Very similar inferences are to be drawn from a 
study of Shakespeare's " King Richard II.," which 
in some respects is his most important historical 
creation. Coleridge says : " I know of no character 
drawn by our great poet with such unequalled skill 
as that of Richard II." Such praise is extravagant ; 
but it would have been true to say that up to 1593 
or 1594?, when Shakespeare wrote " King Richard 
11." he had given us no character so complex and so 
interesting as this Richard. Coleridge overpraised 
the character-drawing probablj^ because the study 
of Richard's w^eakness and irresolution, and the 
pathos resulting from such helplessness, must 
have seemed very like an analysis of his own na- 
ture. 

Let us now examine " Richard II.," and see what 
light it casts on Shakespeare's qualities. There 
was an old play of the same title, a play which is 
now lost, but we can form some idea of what it was 
like from the description in Forman's Diary. Like 
most of the old history-plays it ranged over twenty 
years of Richard's reign3 whereas Shakespeare's 
tragedy is confined to the last year of Richard's life. 

63 



The Man Shakespeare 

It is probable that the old play presented King 
Richard as more wicked and more deceitful than 
Shakespeare imagines him. We know that in the 
" Confessio Amantis," Gower, the poet, cast off his 
allegiance to Richard: for he cancelled the dedica- 
tion of the poem to Richard, and dedicated it in- 
stead to Henry. William Langland, too, the 
author of the " Vision of Piers Plowman," turned 
from Richard at the last, and used his deposition as 
a warning to ill-advised youth. It may be assumed, 
then, that tradition pictured Richard as a vile 
creature in whom weakness nourished crime. Shake- 
speare took his story partly from Holinshed's narra- 
tive, and partly either from the old play or from the 
traditional view of Richard's character. When he 
began to write the play he evidently intended to 
portray Richard as even more detestable than his- 
tory and tradition had presented him. In Holinshcd 
Richard is not accused of the murder of Gloster, 
whereas Shakespeare directly charges him with it, 
or rather makes Gaunt do so, and the accusation is 
not denied, much less disproved. At the close of the 
first act we are astonished by the revelation of 
Richard's devilish heartlessness. The King hearing 
that his uncle, John of Gaunt, is " grievous sick," 
cries out : 

" Now, put it, God, in his physician's mind. 
To help him to his grave immediately ! 
The lining of his coffers shall make coats 
To deck our soldiers for these Irish wars. 
Come, gentlemen, let's all go visit him: 
Pray God we may make haste and come too late." 

This mixture of greed and cold cruelty decked out 
with blasphemous phrase is viler, I think, than any- 
thing attributed by Shakespeare to the worst of his 

64 



The Bastard, Arthur, and King Richard II. 

villains. But surely some hint of Richard's incred- 
ible vileness should have come earlier in the play, 
should have preceded at least his banishment of 
Bolingbroke, if Shakespeare had really meant to 
present him to us in this light. 

In the first scene of the second act, when Gaunt 
reproves him, Richard turns on him in a rage, 
threatening. In the very same scene York reproves 
Richard for seizing Gaunt's money and land, and 
Richard retorts : 

** Think what you will: we seize into our hands 
His plate^ his goods, his money, and his lands." 

But when York blames him to his face and predicts 
that evil will befall him and leaves him, Richard in 
spite of this at once creates : 

" Our uncle York, Lord Governor of England ; 
For he is just, and always loved us well." 

This Richard of Shakespeare is so far, I submit, 
almost incomprehensible. When reproved by Gaunt 
and warned, Richard rages and threatens ; when 
blamed by York much more severely, Richard re- 
wards York; the two scenes contradict each other. 
Moreover, though his callous s^eMshness, greed and 
cruelty are apparently established, in the very next 
scene of this act our sympathy with Richard is 
called forth by the praise his queen gives him. She 
says: 

" I know no cause 
Why I should welcome such a guest as grief. 
Save bidding farewell to so sweet a guest 
As my sweet Richard." 

And from this scene to the end of the play Shake- 

65 



The Man Shakespeare 

speare enlists all our sympathy for Richard. Now, 
what is the reason of this right-about-face on the 
part of the poet? 

It appears to me that Shakespeare began the 
play intending to present the vile and cruel Richard 
of tradition. But midway in the play he saw that 
there was no emotion, no pathos, to be got out of 
the traditional view. If Richard were a vile, schem- 
ing, heartless murderer, the loss of his crown and 
life would merely satisfy our sense of justice, but 
this outcome did not satisfy Shakespeare's desire 
for emotion, and particularly his desire for pathos,^ 
and accordingly he veers round, says nothing more 
of Richard's vileness, lays stress upon his weakness 
and sufferings, discovers, too, all manner of amiable 
qualities in him, and so draws pity from us for his 
dethronement and murder. 

The curious thing is that while Shakespeare is 
depicting Richard's heartlessness, he does his work 
badly; the traits, as I have shown, are crudely ex- 
travagant and even contradictory ; but when he 
paints Richard's gentleness and amiability, he works 
like a master, every touch is infallible : he is painting 
himself. 

It was natural for Shakespeare to sympathize 
deeply with Richard; he was still young when he 
wrote the play, young enough to remember vividly 
how he himself had been led astray by loose com- 
panions, and this formed a bond between them. At 
this time of his life this was Shakespeare's favourite 
subject: he treated it again in "Henry IV.," which 
is at once the epilogue to " Richard II.," and a com- 

iln the last scene of the last act of "Lear," Albany says: 

" This judgement of the heavens, that makes us tremble 
Touches us not with pity." 

66 



(The Bastard, Arthur, and King Richard II, 

panion picture to it ; for the theme of both plays 
is the same — youth yielding to unworthy com- 
panions — though the treatment in the earlier play is 
incomparably feebler than it became in " King 
Henry IV." Bushy, Bagot, and Green, the favour- 
ites of Richard, are not painted as Shakespeare 
afterwards painted Falstaff and his followers. But 
partly because he had not yet attained to such ob- 
jective treatment of character, Shakespeare iden- 
tified himself peculiarly with Richard ; and his paint- 
ing of Richard is more intimate, more subtle, more 
self-revealing and pathetic than anything in 
"Henry IV." 

As I have already said, from the time when Rich- 
ard appoints York as Regent, and leaves England, 
Shakespeare begins to think of himself as Richard, 
and from this moment to the end no one can help 
sympathizing with the unhappy King. At this point, 
too, the character-drawing becomes, of a sudden, 
excellent. When Richard lands in England, he is 
given speech after speech, and all he says and does 
afterwards throws light, it seems to me, on Shake- 
speare's own nature. Let us mark each trait. First 
of all Richard is intensely, frankly emotional: he 
"weeps for joy" to be in England again; " w^eep- 
ing, smiling," he greets the earth of England, and 
is full of hope. " The thief, the traitor," Boling- 
broke, will not dare to face the light of the sun; 
for " every man that Bolingbroke has in his pay," 
he cries exultantly, God hath given Richard a 
" glorious angel ; . . . . Heaven still guards the 
right." A moment later he hears from Salisbury 
that the Welshmen whom he had relied upon as allies 
are dispersed and fled. At once he becomes " pale 
and dead." From the height of pride and confi- 
dence he falls to utter hopelessness. 

67 



The Man Shakespeare 

"All souls that will be safe fly from my side; 
For time hath set a blot upon my pride." 

Aumerle asks him to remember who he is, and at 
once he springs from dejection to confidence again. 
He cries : 

"Awake, thou sluggard majesty! thou sleepest. 
Is not the king's name forty thousand names ? '* 

The next moment Scroop speaks of cares, and forth- 
with fitful Richard is in the dumps once more. But 
this time his weakness is turned to resignation and 
sadness, and the pathos of this is brought out by the 
poet: 

" Strives ^olingbroke to be as great as we ? 
Greater he shall not be; if he serve God 
We'll serve him, too, and be his fellow so. 
Revolt our subjects? that we cannot mend; 
They break their faith to God, as well as us. 
Cry woe, destruction, ruin, loss, decay; 
The worst is death, and death will have his day." 

Who does not hear Hamlet speaking in this memor- 
able last line.f^ Like Hamlet, too, this Richard is 
quick to suspect even his friends' loyalty. He guesses 
that Bagot, Bushy, and Green have made peace 
with Bolingbroke, and when Scroop seems to admit 
this, Richard is as quick as Hamlet to unpack his 
heart with words: 

** O villains, vipers, damned without redemption ! 
Dogs, easily won to fawn on any man! 
Snakes," 

and so forth. 

But as soon as he learns that his friends are dead 

68 



The Bastard, Arthur, and King Richard II, 

he breaks out in a long lament for them which 
ranges over everything from worms to kings, and in 
its melancholy pessimism is the prototype of those 
meditations which Shakespeare has put in the mouth 
of nearly all his favourite characters. Who is not 
reminded of Hamlet's great monologue when he 
reads : 

" For within the hollow crown. 
That rounds the mortal temples of a king. 
Keeps Death his court: and there the antic sits. 
Scoffing his state, and grinning at his pomp; 
Allowing him a breath, a little scene 
To monarchize, be fear'd and kill with looks; 
Infusing him with self and vain conceit. 
As if this flesh, which walls about our life. 
Were brass impregnable; and, humour'd thus. 
Comes at the last, and with a little pin ^ 
Bores through his castle wall, and — farewell. King ! " 

Let us take another two lines of this soliloquy: 

" For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground 
And tell sad stories of the death of kings." 

In the second scene of the third act of " Titus 
Andronicus " we find Titus saying to his daughter : 

" I'll to thy closet; and go read with thee 
Sad stories chanced in the times of old." 

Again, in the " Comedy of Errors," JEgeon tells us 
that his life was prolonged: 

" To tell sad stories of my own mishaps.** 

The similarity of these passages shows that in the 
very spring of life and heyday of the blood Shake- 

1 In Hamlet's famous soliloquy the pin is a " bodkin." 

69 



The Man Shakespeare 

speare had in him a certain romantic melancholy 
which was developed later by the disappointments 
of life into the despairing of Macbeth and Lear. 

When the Bishop calls upon Richard to act, the 
King's weathercock mind veers round again, and he 
cries : 

** This ague fit of fear is over-blown, 
An easy task it is to win our own." 

But when Scroop tells him that York has joined 
with Bollngbroke, he believes him at once, gives up 
hope finally, and turns as if for comfort to his own 
melancholy fate: 

" Beshrew tliee^ cousin^ which didst lead me forth 
Of that sweet way I was in to despair ! " 

That " sweet way " of despair is Romeo's way, 
Hamlet's, Macbeth's and Shakespeare's way. 

In the next scene Richard meets his foes, and at 
first pla3^s the king. Shakespeare tells us that he 
looks like a king, that his eyes are as " bright as an 
eagle's " ; and this poetic admiration of state and 
place seems to have got into Richard's blood, for 
at first he declares that Bollngbroke is guilty of 
treason, and asserts that: 

" My master, God omnipotent. 
Is mustering in his clouds, on our behalf. 
Armies of pestilence." 

Of course, he gives in with fair words the next 
moment, and the next rages against Bollngbroke; 
and then comes the great speech in which the poet 
reveals himself so ingenuously that at the end of 
it the King he pretends to be, has to admit that he 
has talked but idly. I cannot help transcribing the 

70 



The Bastard, Arthur, and King Richard II, 

whole of the passage, for it shows how easily Shake- 
speare falls out of this King's character into his 
own: 

"What must the King do now? Must he submit? 
The King shall do it. Must he be depos'd? 
The King shall be contented: must he lose 
The name of king? O! God's name, let it go: 
I'll give my jewels for a set of beads; 
My gorgeous palace for a hermitage; 
My gay apparel for an alms-man's gown; 
My iigur'd goblets for a dish of wood; 
My sceptre for a palmer's walking staff; 
My subjects for a pair of carved saints; 
And my large kingdom for a little grave, 
A little, little grave, an obscure grave: — 
Or I'll be buried in the King's highway, 
3ome way of common trade, where subjects* feet 
May hourly trample on their sovereign's head: 
For on my heart they tread, now whilst I live; 
And, buried once, why not upon my head? — 
Aumerle, thou weep'st; my tender-hearted cousin!-— 
We'll make foul weather with despised tears; 
Our sighs, and they, shall lodge the summer corn. 
And make a dearth in this revolting land. 
Or shall we play the wantons with our woes. 
And make some pretty match with shedding tears? 
As thus: — To drop them still upon one place, 
Till they have fretted us a pair of graves 
Within the earth; and, therein laid, — There lies 
Two kinsmen digg'd their graves with weeping eyes. 
Would not this ill do well? — Well, well, I see 
I talk but idly, and you mock at me. — 
Most mighty prince, my lord Northumberland, 
What says King Bolingbroke? will his majesty 
Give Richard leave to live till Richard die? 
You make a leg, and Bolingbroke says ay." 

Every one will admit that the poet himself speaks 

71 



The Man Shakespeare 

here, at least, from the words " I'll give my jewels '* 
to the words "Would not this ill do well?" But 
the melancholy mood, the pathetic acceptance of 
the Inevitable, the tender poetic embroidery now 
suit the King who is fashioned in the poet's like- 
ness. 

The next moment Richard revolts once more 
against his fate: 

** Base court, where kings grow base. 
To come at traitors' calls, and do them grace." 

And when Bolingbroke kneels to him he plays 
upon words, as Gaunt did a little earlier in the play, 
misery making sport to mock itself. He says: 

" Up, cousin, up ; your heart is up, I know. 
Thus high at least, although your knee be low " — 

and then he abandons himself to do " what force will 
have us do." 

The Queen's wretchedness is next used to heighten 
our sympathy with Richard, and immediately after- 
wards we have that curious scene between the gard- 
ener and his servant which is merely youthful Shake- 
speare, for such a gardener and such a servant never 
yet existed. The scene ^ shows the extravagance of 
Shakespeare's love of hierarchy, and shows also that 

1 Coleridge gives this scene as an instance of Shakespeare's 
"wonderful judgement"; the introduction of the gardener, 
he says, " realizes the thing," and, indeed, the introduction of 
a gardener would have this tendency, but not the introduction 
of this pompous, priggish philosopher togged out in old 
Adam's likeness. Here is the way this gardener criticises the 
King: 

" All superfluous branches 
We lop away, that bearing boughs may live; 
Had he done so, himself had borne the crown, 
Which waste of idle hours hath quite thrown down." 



The Bastard, Arthur, and King Richard IL 

his power of realizing character is as yet but slight. 
The abdication follows, when Richard in exquisite 
speech after speech unpacks his heavy heart. To 
the very last his irresolution comes to show as often 
as his melancholy. Bolingbroke is sharply practical : 

" Are you contented to resign the crown ? '* 
Richard answers : 

"Ay, no; no, ay; — for I must nothing be; 
Therefore, no, no, for I resign to thee." 

When he is asked to confess his sins in public, he 
moves us all to pity: 

" Must I do so? and must I ravel out 
My weaved up follies? Gentle Northumberland, 
If thy offences were upon record. 
Would it not shame thee, in so fair a troop. 
To read a lecture of them? " 

His eyes are too full of tears to read his own 
faults, and sympathy brings tears to our eyes also. 
Richard calls for a glass wherein to see his sins, and 
we are reminded of Hamlet, who advises the play- 
ers to hold the mirror up to nature. He jests with 
his grief, too, in quick-witted retort, as Hamlet 
jests: 

*' Rich. Say that again. 
The shadow of my sorrow? Ha! let's see: — 
'Tis very true, my grief lies all within; 
And these external manners of lament 
Are merely shadows to the unseen grief. 
That swells with silence in the tortur'd soul.'* 

Hamlet touches the self-same note: 

73 



The Man Shakespeare 

** 'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother^ 
Nor customary suits of solemn blacky 

• • • • • 

But I have that within which passeth show; 
These but the trappings and the suits of woe." 

In the fifth act the scene between the Queen and 
Richard is used simply to move our pity. She 
says he is " most beauteous," but all too mild, and 
he answers her: 

** I am sworn brother, sweet. 
To grim necessity; and he and I 
Will keep a league till death." 

He bids her take, 

" As from my death-bed, my last living leave," 

and for her consolation he turns again to the tell- 
ing of romantic melancholy stories: 

** In winter's tedious nights, sit by the fire 
With good old folks ; and let them tell thee tales' 
Of woeful ages long ago betid: 
And, ere thou bid good night, to quit their grief, 
Tell thou the lamentable fall of me. 
And send the hearers weeping to their beds. 
For why; the senseless brands will sympathize 
The heavy accent of thy moving tongue." 

I cannot copy this passage without drawing at- 
tention to the haunting music of the third line. 

The scene in which York betrays his son to Bol- 
ingbroke and prays the king not to pardon but 
" cut off " the offending member, Is merely proof, 
if proof were wanted, of Shakespeare's admiration 
of kingship and loyalty, which in youth, at least, 
often led him to silliest extravagance. 

74 



The Bastard, Arthur, and King Richard II, 

The dungeon scene and Richard's monologue in 
it are as characteristic of Shakespeare as the simi- 
lar scene in " Cymbeline " and the sohloquy of 
Posthumus : 

" K. Rich. I have been studying how I may compare 

This prison where I live unto the world: 

And for because the world is populous, 

And here is not a creature but myself, 

I cannot do it; yet I'll hammer it out. 

My brain I'll prove the female to my soul. 

My soul the father; and these two beget 

A generation of still breeding thoughts. 

And these same thoughts people this little world. 

In humours like the people of this world. 



For no thought is contented. 



Here we have the philosopher playing with his own 
thoughts ; but soon the Hamlet-melancholy comes 
to tune the meditation to sadness, and Shakespeare 
speaks to us directly: 

" Thus play I in one person many people. 
And none contented: sometimes am I king; 
Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar. 
And so I am: then crushing penury 
Persuades me I was better when a king; 
Then am I king'd again; and by and by 
Think, that I am unking'd by Bolingbroke, 
And straight" am nothing; but whate'er I be. 
Nor I nor any man that but man is 
With nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased 
With being nothing." 

Later one hears Kent's lament for Lear in Rich- 
ard's words : 

" How these vain weak nails 
May tear a passage through the flinty ribs 
Of this hard world, my ragged prison walls." 

75 



The 'Man Shakespeare 

To Richard music is " sweet music," as it is 
to all the characters that are merely Shakespeare's 
masks, and the scene in which Hamlet asks Guild- 
enstern to " play upon the pipe " is prefigured for 
us in Richard's self-reproach: 

" And here have I the daintiness of ear, 
To check time broke in a disordered string; 
But for the concord of my state and time. 
Had not an ear to hear my true time broke." 

In the last three lines of this monologue which 
I am now about to quote, I can hear Shakespeare 
speaking as plainly as he spoke in Arthur's appeals ; 
the feminine longing for love is the unmistakable 
note: 

" Yet blessing on his heart that gives it me ! 
For 'tis a sign of love; and love to Richard 
Is a strange brooch in this all-hating world." 

And at the last, by killing the servant who 
assaults him, this Richard shows that he has the 
" something desperate " in him of which Hamlet 
boasted. 

The murderer's praise that this irresolute-weak 
and loving Richard is " as full of valour as of royal 
blood " is nothing more than an excellent instance 
of Shakespeare's self-illusion. He comes nearer the 
fact in " Measure for Measure," where the Duke, 
his other self, is shown to be " an unhurtful oppo- 
site " too gentle-kind to remember an injury or 
punish the offender, and he rings the bell at truth's 
centre, when, in " Julius Caesar," his mask Brutus 
admits that he 

" . . . . carries anger, as the flint bears fire 
Who much enforced shows a hasty spark 
And straight is cold again." 

76 



The Bastard, Arthur, and King Richard II. 

If a hasty blow were proof of valour then Walter 
Scott's Eachin in " The Fair Maid of Perth " would 
be called brave. But courage to be worth the name 
must be founded on stubborn resolution, and all 
Shakespeare's incarnations, and in especial this 
Richard, are as unstable as water. 

The whole play is summed up in York's pathetic 
description of Richard's entrance into London: 

" No man cried^ God save him ; 
No joyful tongue gave him his welcome home: 
But dust was thrown upon his sacred head; 
Which with such gentle sorrow he shook off — 
His face still combating with tears and smiles^ 
The badges of his grief and patience — 
That had not God, for some strong purpose, steel'd 
The hearts of men, they must perforce have melted, 
And barbarism itself have pitied him." 

This passage it seems to me both in manner and 
matter is as truly characteristic of Shakespeare as 
any that can be found in all his works : his loving 
pity for the fallen, his passionate sympathy with 
" gentle sorrow " were never more perfectly ex- 
pressed. 

Pity, indeed, is the note of the tragedy, as it 
was in the Arthur-scenes in " King John," but the 
knowledge of Shakespeare derived from " King 
John " is greatly widened by the study of " King 
Richard II." In the Arthur of " King John " we 
found Shakespeare's exquisite pity for weakness, his 
sympathy with suffering, and, more than all, his 
girlish-tender love and desire of love. In " Richard 
IL," the weakness Shakespeare pities is not physical 
weakness, but mental irresolution and incapacity 
for action, and these Hamlet-weaknesses are accom- 
panied by a habit of philosophic thought, and are 

77 



The Man Shakespeare 

enlivened by a nimble wit and great lyrical power. 
In Arthur Shakespeare is bent on revealing his 
qualities of heart, and in " Richard II." his quali- 
ties of mind, and that these two are but parts of 
the same nature is proved by the fact that Arthur 
shows great quickness of apprehension and felicity 
of speech, while Richard once or twice at least dis- 
plays a tenderness of heart and longing for love 
worthy of Arthur. 

It appears then that Shakespeare's nature even 
in hot, reckless youth was most feminine and affec- 
tionate, and that even when dealing with histories 
and men of action he preferred to picture irresolu- 
tion and weakness rather than strength, and felt 
more sympathy with failure than with success. 



CHAPTER V 

Shakespeare's men of action (continued) : 

HOTSPUR, HENRY V. 

THE conclusions we have already reached will 
be borne out and strengthened in unexpected 
ways by the study of Hotspur — Shakespeare's mas- 
terpicture of the man of action. The setting sun of 
chivalry falling on certain figures threw gigantic 
shadows across Shakespeare's path, and of these 
figures no one deserved immortality better than 
Harry Percy. Though he is not introduced in 
" The Famous Victories of Henry V.," the old play 
which gave Shakespeare his roistering Prince and 
the first faint hint of FalstafF, Harry Percy lived 
in story and in oral tradition. Plis nickname itself 
is sufficient evidence of the impression he had made 
on the popular fancy. And both Prince Henry when 
mocking him, and his wife when praising him, bear 
witness to what were, no doubt, the accepted pe- 
culiarities of his character. Hotspur lived in the 
memory of men, we may be sure, with thick, hasty 
speech, and hot, impatient temper, and it is easy, I 
think, even at this late date, to distinguish Shake- 
speare's touches on the traditional portrait. It is 
for the reader to say whether Shakespeare blurred 
the picture, or bettered it. 

Hotspur's first words to the King in the first act 
are admirable; they bring the brusque, passionate 
soldier vividly before us ; but I am sure Shakespeare 
had the fact from history or tradition. 

79 



The Man Shakespeare 

"My liege, I did deny no prisoners. 
But, I remember, when the fight was done. 
When I was dry with rage and extreme toil, 
Breathless and faint^ leaning upon my sword. 
Came there a certain lord, neat, trimly dressed, 
Fresh as a bridegroom." 

Hotspur's picture of this " popinjay "^ with 
pouncet-box in hand, and " perfumed like a milli- 
ner," is splendid self-revelation : 

** he made me mad. 
To see him shine so brisk and smell so sweet. 
And talk so like a waiting gentlewoman/' 

But immediately afterwards Hotspur's defence of 
Mortimer shows the poet Shakespeare rather than 
the rude soldier who hates nothing more than " minc- 
ing poetry." The beginning is fairly good: 

"Hot. Revolted Mortimer! 

He never did fall off, my sovereign liege, 
But by the chance of war; to prove that true. 
Needs no more but one tongue for all those wounds, 
Those mouthed wounds which valiantly he took. 
When on the gentle Severn's sedgy bank." . . . 

This " gentle Severn's sedgy bank " is too poetical 
for Hotspur; but what shall be said of his descrip- 
tion of the river.? 

" Who then, affrighted with their bloody looks. 
Ban fearfully among the trembling reeds. 
And hid his crisp head in the hollow bank 
Blood-stained with these valiant combatants." 

Shakespeare was still too young, too much in 
love with poetry to confine himself within the nature 

80 



Hotspur, Prince Henry, and Henry V. 

of Hotspur. But the character of Hotspur was so 
well known that Shakespeare could not long remain 
outside it. When the King cuts short the audience 
with the command to send back the prisoners, we 
find the passionate Hotspur again: 

"And if the devil come and roar for them, 
I will not send them. — I will after straight, 
And tell him so: for I will ease my heart. 
Although it be with hazard of my head." 

The last line strikes a false note; such a reflection 
throws cold water on the heat of passion, and that 
is not intended, for though reproved by his father 
Hotspur storms on: 

" Speak of Mortimer ! 
'Zounds ! I will speak of him ; and let my soul 
Want mercy, if I do not join with him. . . ." 

The next long speech of Hotspur is mere poetic 
slush ; he begins : 

" Nay, then, I cannot blame his cousin king. 

That wish'd him on the barren mountains starve. . . .'* 

and goes on for thirty lines to reprove the con- 
spirators for having put down " Richard, that sweet 
lovely rose," and planted " this thorn, Bolingbroke." 
This long speech retards the action, obscures the 
character of Hotspur, and only shows Shakespeare 
poetising without a flash of inspiration. Then 
comes Hotspur's famous speech about honour: 

" By heaven, methinks it were an easy leap, 
To pluck bright honour from the pale-faced moon: 
Or dive into the bottom of the deep ..." 

And immediately afterwards a speech in which 

81 



The Man Shakespeare 

his uncontrollable impatience and the childishness 
which always lurks in anger, find perfect expres- 
sion. To soothe him, Worcester says he shall keep 
his prisoners ; Hotspur bursts out : 

"Nay, I will: that's flat. 
He said, he would not ransom Mortimer; 
Forbad my tongue to speak of Mortimer; 
But I will find him when he lies asleep. 
And in his ear I'll holla — ' Mortimer ! ' Nay, 
I'll have a starling shall be taught to speak 
Nothing but * Mortimer,' and give it him, 
To keep his anger still in motion.'* 

No wonder Lord Worcester reproves him, and his 
father chides him as " a wasp-stung and impatient 
fool," who will only talk and not listen. But again 
Hotspur breaks forth, and again his anger paints 
him to the life: 

** Why, look you, I am whipped and scourged with rods, 
Nettled and stung with pismires, when I hear 
Of tliis vile politician, Bolingbroke. 
In Richard's time, — what do you call the place? — 
A plague upon 't — it is in Glostershire ; — 
'Twas where the madcap duke his uncle kept, — . . .'* 

The very ecstasy of impatience and of puerile pas- 
sionate temper has never been better rendered. 

His soliloquy, too, in the beginning of scene ill, 
when he reads the letter which throws the cold light 
of reason on his enterprise, is excellent, though it 
repeats qualities we already knew in Hotspur, and 
does not reveal new ones : 

" * The purpose you undertake is dangerous ' ; — why 
that's certain: 'tis dangerous to take a cold, to sleep, to 
drink; but I tell you, my lord fool^, out of this nettle 

8S 



Hotspur, Prince Henry, and Henry V. 

danger, we pluck this flower safety. . . . \Vhat a frosty- 
spirited rogue is this ! . . . O, I could divide myself and 
go to buffets, for moving such a dish of skimmed milk 
with so honourable an action! Hang him! Let him tell 
the King: we are prepared. I will set forward to- 
night." 

But the topmost height of self-revealing is reached 
in the scene with his wife which immediately fol- 
lows this. Lady Percy enters, and Hotspur greets 
her: 

" How now, Kate ? I must leave you within these 
two hours." 

The lady's reply is too long and too poetical. Hot- 
spur interrupts her by calling the servant and giv- 
ing him orders. Then Lady Percy questions, and 
Hotspur avoids a direct answer, and little by little 
Shakespeare works himself into the characters till 
even Lady Percy lives for us: 

*" Lady. Come, come, you paraquito, answer me 
Directly unto this question that I ask. 
In faith, I'll break thy little finger, Harry, 
An if thou wilt not tell me true. 

Hot, Away, 

Away, you trifler ! — Love ? — I love thee not, 
I care not for thee, Kate; this is no world 
To play with mammets and to tilt with lips. . . .'* 

It shows a certain immaturity of art that Hotspur 
should introduce the theme of " love," and not Lady 
Percy; but, of course. Lady Percy seizes on the 
word: 

" Lady. Do you not love me ? do you not indeed ? 
Well, do not then; for since you love me not, 

83 



The Man Shakespeare 

I will not love myself. Do you not love me? 
Nay, tell me, if you speak in jest or no? 

Hot. Come, wilt thou see me ride? 
And when I am o' horseback, I will swear 
I love thee infinitely. . . ." 

All this is superb ; Hotspur's coarse contempt of 
love deepens our sense of his soldier-like nature and 
eagerness for action ; but though the qualities are 
rendered magically the qualities themselves are few: 
Shakespeare still harps upon Hotspur's impatience ; 
but even a soldier is something more than hasty 
temper, and disdain of love's dalliance. But the 
portrait is not finished yet. The first scene in the 
third act between Hotspur and Glendower is on 
this same highest level; Hotspur's impatience of 
Glendower's bragging at length finds an unforget- 
able phrase: 

" Glend. I can call spirits from the vasty deep. 
Hot. Why, so can I, or so can any man; 
But will they come when you do call for them? '* 

Then Hotspur disputes over the division of Eng- 
land; he wants a larger share than that allotted 
to him; the trait is typical, excellent; but the next 
moment Shakespeare effaces it. As soon as Glen- 
dower yields, Hotspur cries: 

** I do not care; I'll give thrice so much land 
Away to any well-deserving friend; 
But in the way of bargain, mark ye me, 
I'll cavil on the ninth part of a hair. . . ." 

This large generosity is a trait of Shakespeare 
and not of Hotspur; the poet cannot bear to lend 
his hero a tinge of meanness, or of avarice, and yet 

84 



Hotspur, Prince Henry, and Henry V, 

the character needs a heavy shadow or two, and 
no shadow could be more appropriate than this, for 
greed of land has always been a characteristic of 
the soldier-aristocrat. 

Shakespeare is perfectly willing to depict Hot- 
spur as scorning the arts. When Glendower praises 
poetry. Hotspur vows he'd " rather be a kitten and 
cry mew . . . than a metre ballad-monger. . . ." 
Nothing sets his teeth on edge " so much as minc- 
ing poetry " : and a little later he prefers the howl- 
ing of a dog to music. When he is reproved by 
Lord Worcester for " defect of manners, want of 
government, . . . pride, haughtiness, disdain," his 
reply is most characteristic: 

" Well, I am schooled : good manners be your speed, 
Here come our wives, and let us take our leave." 

He is too old to learn, and his self-assurance is not 
to be shaken; but though he hates schooling he 
will school his wife: 

** Swear me, Kate, like a lady as thou art, 
A good mouth-filling oath ; and leave, * in sooth/ 
And such protest of pepper-gingerbread 
To velvet guards and Sunday citizens." 

This is merely a repetition of the trait shown in 
his first speech when he sneered at the popinjay-lord 
for talking in " holiday and lady terms." But 
not only does Shakespeare repeat well-known traits 
in Hotspur, he also uses him as a mere mouthpiece 
again and again, as he used him at the beginning 
in the poetic description of the Severn. The fourth 
act opens with a speech of Hotspur to Douglas, 
which is curiously illustrative of this fault: 

85 



The Man Shakespeare 

" Hot. Well said, my noble Scot, if speaking truth 
In this fine age were not thought flattery. 
Such attribution should the Douglas have. 
As not a soldier of this season's stamp 
Should go so general current through the world. 
By God, I cannot flatter; I defy 
The tongues of soothers; but a braver place 
In my heart's love hath no man than yourself. 
Nay, task me to my word; approve me, lord." 

In the first five lines of this skimble-skamble stuff 
I hear Shakespeare speaking in his cheapest way ; 
with the oath, however, he tries to get into the 
character again, and succeeds indifferently. 

Immediately afterwards Hotspur is shocked by 
the news that his father is sick and has not even sent 
the promised assistance ; struck to the heart by the 
betrayal, the hot soldier should now reveal his true 
character ; one expects him to curse his father and 
rising to the danger, to cry that he is stronger 
without traitors and faint-heart friends. But 
Shakespeare the philosopher is chiefly concerned with 
the effect of such news upon a rebel camp, and again 
he speaks through Hotspur: 

** Sick now ! droop now ! this sickness doth infect 
The very life-blood of our enterprise; 
'Tis catching hither, even to our camp." 

Then Shakespeare pulls himself up and tries to get 
into Hotspur's character again by representing to 
himself the circumstance : 

*' He writes me here, that inward sickness — 
And that his friends by deputation could not 
So soon be drawn; nor did he think it meet — " 

and so forth to the question: ". . . What say you 
to it.? " 

86 



Hotspur, Prince Henry, and Henry V. 

" Wor. Your father's sickness is a maim to us. 
Hot. A perilous gash^ a very limb lopped off: — ** 

Shakespeare sees that he cannot go on exaggerat- 
ing the injury — that is not Hotspur's line, is indeed 
utterly false to Hotspur's nature ; and so he tries 
to stop himself and think of Hotspur: 

" And yet, in faith, it's not ; his present want 
Seems more than we shall find it: were it good 
To set the exact wealth of all our states 
All at one cast? to set so rich a main 
On the nice hazard of one doubtful hour? 
It were not good; for therein should we read 
The very bottom and the soul of hope. 
The very list, the very utmost bound 
Of all our fortunes." 

After the first two lines, which Hotspur might have 
spoken, we have the sophistry of the thinker poet- 
ically expressed, and not one word from the hot, 
high-couraged soldier. Indeed, in the last four lines 
from the bookish " we read " to the end, we have the 
gentle poet in love with desperate extremities. The 
passage must be compared with Othello's — 

" Here is my journey's end, here is my butt. 
And very sea-mark of my utmost sail." 

But at length when Worcester adds fear to danger 
Hotspur half finds himself: 

** Hot. You strain too far. 

I rather of his absence make this use: — 
It lends a lustre, and more great opinion, 
A larger dare to our great enterprise. 
Than if the earl were here; for men must think. 
If we, without his help can make a head 

87 



The Man Shakespeare 

To push against the kingdom; with his help 
We shall o'erturn it topsy-turvy down. — 
Yet all goes well^ yet all our joints are whole." 

And this is all. The scene is designed, the situation 
constructed to show us Hotspur's courage: here, if 
anywhere, the hot blood should surprise us and 
make of danger the springboard of leaping hardi- 
hood. But this is the best Shakespeare can reach — 
this fainting, palefaced " Yet all goes well, yet all 
our joints are whole." The inadequacy, the feeble- 
ness of the whole thing is astounding. Milton had 
not the courage of the soldier, but he had more than 
this : he found better words for his Satan after de- 
feat than Shakespeare found for Hotspur before 
the battle: 

"What though the field be lost? 
All is not lost; the unconquerable will^ 
And study of revenge, immortal hate, 
And courage never to submit or yield. 
And what is else not to be overcome; 
That glory never shall his wrath or might 
Extort from me." 

When Shakespeare has to render Hotspur's impa- 
tience he does it superbly, when he has to render 
Hotspur's courage he fails lamentably. 

In the third scene of this fourth act we have an- 
other striking instance of Shakespeare's shortcom- 
ing. Sir Walter Blount meets the rebels " with gra- 
cious offers from the King," whereupon Hotspur 
abuses the King through forty lines ; this is the kind 
of stuff: 

** My father and my uncle and myself 
Did give him that same royalty he wears; 

88 



Hotspur, Prince Henry, and Henry V. 

And when he was not six and twenty strong. 
Sick in the world's regard, wretched and low, 
A poor unminded outlaw sneaking home. 
My father gave him welcome to the shore; . . " 

and so on and on, like Hamlet, he unpacks his heart 
with words, till Blount cries : 

** Tut, I came not to hear this." 

Hotspur admits the reproof, but immediately starts 
off again: 

" Hot. Then to the point. 

In short time after he deposed the king; 
Soon after that, deprived him of his life," 

and so forth for twenty lines more, till Blount pulls 
him up again with the shrewd question: 

*' Shall I return this answer to the king ? " 

Hotspur replies: 

" Not so. Sir Walter ; we'll withdraw awhile. 

Go to the king 

And in the morning early shall mine uncle 
Bring him our purposes; and so farewell." 

And yet this Hotspur who talks interminably when 
he would do much better to keep quiet, assures us 
a little later that he has not well " the gift of 
tongue," and again declares he's glad a messenger 
has cut him short, for " I profess not talking." 

The truth is the real Hotspur did not talk much, 
but Shakespeare had the gift of the gab, if ever a 
man had, and Hotspur was a mouthpiece. It is 
worth noting that though the dramatist usually 

89 



The Man Shakespeare 

works himself into a character gradually, Hotspur 
is best presented in the earlier scenes : Shakespeare 
began the work with the Hotspur of history and 
tradition clear in his mind, but as he wrote he grew 
interested in Hotspur and identified' himself too 
much with his hero and so almost spoiled the por- 
trait. This is well seen in Hotspur's end; Prince 
Henry has said he'd crop his budding honours and 
make a garland for himself out of them, and this 
is how the dying Hotspur answers him: 

" O Harry^ thou hast robbed me of my youth ! 

I better brook the loss of brittle life 

Than those proud titles thou hast won of me ; 

They wound my thoughts worse than thy sword my 

flesh:— 
But thought's the slave of life, and life time's fool. 
And time, that takes survey of all the world. 
Must have a stop. O, I could prophesy. 
But that the earthly and cold hand of death 
Lies on my tongue: — no, Percy, thou art dust. 
And food for " 

Of course, Prince Henry concludes the phrase, and 
continues the Hamlet-like philosophic soliloquy: 

"P. Henry. For worms, brave Percy; fare thee well, 

great heart! — 
Ill-weaved ambition, how much art thou shrunk! 
When that this body did contain a spirit, 
A kingdom for it was too small a bound; 
But now two paces of the vilest earth 
Is room enough: . . . ." 

I have tried to do justice to this portrait of Hot- 
spur, for Shakespeare never did a better picture of 
a man of action, indeed, as we shall soon see, he 
never did as well again. But take away from Hot- 

90 



Hotspur, Prince Henry, and Henry V. 

spur the qualities given to him by history and tra- 
dition, the hasty temper, and thick stuttering 
speech, and contempt of women, and it will be seen 
how Httle Shakespeare added. He makes Hotspur 
hate " mincing poetry," and then puts long poetic 
descriptions in his mouth ; he paints the soldier de- 
spising " the gift of tongue " and forces him to talk 
history and poetic slush in and out of season; he 
makes the aristocrat greedy and sets him quarrel- 
ling with his associates for more land, and the next 
moment, Avhen the land is given him, Hotspur aban- 
dons it without further thought ; he frames an occa- 
sion calculated to show off Hotspur's courage, and 
then allows him to talk faint-heartedly, and finally, 
when Hotspur should die mutely, or with a short 
curse, biting to the last, Shakespeare's Hotspur 
loses himself in mistimed philosophic reflection and 
poetic prediction. Yet such is Shakespeare's magic 
of expression that when he is revealing the qualities 
which Hotspur really did possess, he makes him 
live for us with such intensity of life that no num- 
ber of false strokes can obliterate the impression. 
It is only the critic working sine ira et studio who 
will find this portrait blurred by the intrusion of 
the poet's personality. 

It is the companion picture of Prince Henry 
that shows as in a glass Shakespeare's poverty 
of conception when he is dealing with the distinc- 
tively manly qualities. In order to judge the mat- 
ter fairly we must remember that Shakespeare did 
not create Prince Henry any more than he created 
Hotspur. In the old play entitled " The Famous 
Victories of Henry V.," and in the popular mouth, 
Shakespeare found roistering Prince Hal; the mad- 
cap Prince, like Plarry Percy, was a creature of 
popular sympathy; his high spirits and extrava- 

91 



(The Man Shakespeare 

gances, the vigorous way in which he had sown his 
wild oats, had taken the Enghsh fancy, the historic 
personage had been warmed to vivid life by the 
popular emotion. 

Shakespeare was personally interested in this 
princely hero. As we have seen, he dims Hotspur's 
portrait by intrusion of his own peculiarities ; and 
in the case of Prince Henry this temptation will be 
stronger. 

The subject of the play, a young man of noble 
gifts led astray by loose companions, was a favour- 
ite subject with Shakespeare at this time; he had 
treated it already in " Richard II." ; and he han- 
dled it here again with such zest that we are almost 
forced to believe in the tradition that Shakespeare 
himself in early youth had sown wild oats in un- 
worthy company. Helped by a superb model, and 
in full sympathy with his theme, Shakespeare might 
be expected to paint a magnificent picture. But 
Prince Henry is anything but a great portrait ; he 
is at first hardly more than a prig, and later a feeble 
and colourless replica of Hotspur. It is very curious 
that even in the comedy scenes with FalstafF Shake- 
speare has never taken the trouble to realize the 
Prince: he often lends him his own word-wit, and 
now and then his own high intelligence, but he 
never for a moment discovers to us the soul of his 
hero. He does not even tell us what pleasure Henry 
finds in living and carousing with FalstafF. Did 
the Prince choose his companions out of vanity, 
seeking in the Eastcheap tavern a court where he 
might throne ii"^ Or was it the infinite humour of 
Falstaff which attracted him? Or did he break 
bounds merely out of high spirits, when bored by 
the foolish formalities of the palace.? Shakespeare, 
one would have thought, would have given us the 

92 



Hotspur, Prince Henry, and Henry V, 

key to the mystery in the very first scene. But this 
scene, which paints Falstaif to the soul, tells us 
nothing of the Prince; but rather blurs a figure 
which everyone imagines he knows at least in out- 
line. Prince Henry's first speech is excellent as de- 
scription ; FalstaiF asks him the time of day ; he 
replies : 

" Thou art so fat-witted, with drinldng of old sack, 
and unbuttoning thee after supper, and sleeping upon 
benches after noon, that thou hast forgotten to demand 
that truly which thou wouldst truly know . . ." 

This helps to depict Falstaff, but does not show us 
the Prince, for good-humoured contempt of Falstaff 
is universal; it has nothing individual and peculiar 
in it. 

Then comes the speech in which the Prince talks 
of himself in Falstaff 's strain as one of " the moon's 
men," who " resolutely snatch a purse of gold on 
Monday night," and " most dissolutely spend it on 
Tuesday morning." A little later he plays with 
Falstaff by asking: "Where shall we take a purse 
to-morrow, Jack.^^ " It looks as if the Prince were 
ripe for worse than mischief. But when Falstaff 
wants to know if he will make one of the band to 
rob on Gadshill, he cries out, as if indignant and 
surprised: 

"P. Hen, Who, I rob? la thief? Not I, by my 
faith. 

Fal. There's neither honesty, manhood, nor good fel- 
lowship in thee, nor thou camest not of the blood royal, 
if thou darest not stand for ten shillings. 

P. Hen, Well then, once in my days I'll be a mad- 
cap. 

Fal. Why, that's well said. 

P. Hen, Well, come what will, I'll tarry at home." 

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The 'Man Shakespeare 

He is only persuaded at length by Poins's proposal 
to rob the robbers. It may be said that these changes 
of the Prince are natural in the situation: but they 
are too sudden and unmotived ; they are like the 
noddingf of the mandarin's head — they have no 
meaning; and surely, after the Prince talks of him- 
self as one of " the moon's men," it would be more 
natural of him, when the direct proposal to rob is 
made, not to show indignant surprise, which seems 
forced or feigned; but to talk as if repenting a pre- 
vious folly. The scene, in so far as the Prince is 
concerned, is badly conducted. When he yields to 
Poins and agrees to rob FalstafF, his words are: 
" Yea, but I doubt they will be too hard for us," — 
a phrase which hardly shows wild spirits or high 
courage, or even the faculty of judging men, and 
the soliloquy which ends the scene lamely enough 
is not the Prince's, but Shakespeare's, and unfor- 
tunately Shakespeare the poet, and not Shakespeare 
the dramatist: 

" P. Hen. I know you all and will awhile uphold 
The unyoked humour of your idleness. 
Yet herein will I imitate the sun. 
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds 
To smother up his beauty from the world, 
That, when he please again to be himself. 
Being wanted, he may be more wondered at. 
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists 
Pf vapours, that did seem to strangle him. . . ." 

If we could accept this stuff we should take Prince 
Henry for the prince of prigs ; but it is impossible 
to accept it, and so we shrug our shoulders with 
the regret that the madcap Prince of history is not 
illuminated for us by Shakespeare's genius. In this 
" First Part of Henry IV.," when the Prince is not 

94i 



Hotspur, Prince Henry, and Henry V, 

calling names with FalstafF, or playing prig, he 
either shows us a quality of Harry Percy or of 
Shakespeare himself. Everyone remembers the 
scene when Falstaff, carrying Percy's corpse, meets 
the Princes, and tells them he has killed Percy: 

" P. John. This is the strangest tale that e'er I heard. 

P, Hen. This is the strangest fellow^ brother John. — 
Come, bring your luggage nobly on your back: 
For my part, if a lie may do thee grace, 
I'll gild it with the happiest terms I have.** 

Both in manner and in matter these last two lines 
are pure Shakespeare, and Shakespeare speaks to 
us, too, when Prince Plenry gives up Douglas to 
his pleasure " ransomless and free." But not only 
does the poet lend the soldier his own sentiments and 
lilt of phrase, he also presents him to us as a shad- 
ow}^ replica of Hotspur, even during Hotspur's life- 
time. We have already noticed Hotspur's admir- 
able answer when Glendower brags that he can call 
spirits from the vasty deep: 

" Hot. Why, so can I, or so can any man ; 
But will they come, when you do call for them ? " 

The same love of truth is given to Prince Henry 
in the previous act : 

" FaL Owen, Owen, — the same ; — and his son-in-law, 
Mortimer; and old Northumberland; and that sprightly 
Scot of Scots, Douglas, that runs o' horseback up a hill 
perpendicular, — 

P. Hen. He that rides at high speed, and with his 
pistol kills a sparrow flying. 

Fal. You have hit it. 

P. Hen. So did he never the sparrow.'* 

95 



The Man Shakespeare 

But this frank contempt of lying is not the only 
or the chief characteristic possessed by Hotspur 
and Harry Percy in common. Hotspur disdains 
the Prince: 

"Hot. Where is his son. 

The nimble-footed mad-cap Prince of Wales, 
And his comrades that daffed the world aside 
And bid it pass ? " 

and the Prince mimics and makes fun of Hotspur: 

" P, Hen. He that kills me some six or seven dozen 
of Scots at a breakfast, washes his hands and says to 
his wife, ' Fie upon this quiet hf e ! I want work/ " 

Then Hotspur brags of what he will do when he 
meets his rival: 

"^ Hot. Once ere night 

I will embrace him with a soldier's arm. 
That he shall shrink under my courtesy." 

And in precisely the same strain Prince Henry 
talks to his father: 

''P. Hen. The time will come 

That I shall make this northern youth exchange 
His glorious deeds for my indignities." 

It is true that Prince Henry on more than one 
occasion praises Hotspur, while Hotspur is content 
to praise himself, but the differentiation is too slight 
to be significant: such as it is, it is well seen when 
the two heroes meet. 

" Hot. My name is Harry Percy. 
P. Hen. Why, then I see 

A very valiant rebel of that name." 

96 



Hotspur, Prince Henry, and Henry V, 

But Prince Henry immediately doffs this kingly 
mood to imitate Hotspur. He goes on: 

" I am the Prince of Wales^ and think not, Percy, 
To share with me in glory any more; 
Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere. 
Nor can our England brook a double reign 
Of Harry Percy and the Prince of Wales . . /* 

And so the bombast rolls, and one brags against 
the other like systole and diastole which balance 
each other in the same heart. But the worst of the 
matter is, that Prince Henry and Hotspur, as we 
have already noticed, have both the same soul and 
the same inspiring motive in love of honour. They 
both avow this again and again, though Hotspur 
finds the finer expressions for it when he cries that 
he will " pluck bright honour from the pale-faced 



moon." 



To the student of the play it really looks as if 
Shakespeare could not imagine any ,other incentive 
to noble or heroic deeds but this love of glory: for 
nearly all the other serious characters in the play 
sing of honour in the same key. King Henry IV. 
envies Northumberland 

** A son who is the theme of honour's tongue," 

and declares that Percy hath got " never-dying 
honour against renowned Douglas." The Douglas, 
too, can find no other word with which to praise 
Hotspur — " thou art the king of honour " : even 
Vernon, a mere secondary character, has the same 
mainspring : he says to Douglas : 

"If well-respected honour bid me on, 
I hold as little counsel with weak fear 
As you or any Scot that this day lives." 
97 



The Man Shakespeare 

Falstaff himself declares that nothing " pricks him 
on but honour," and bragging Pistol admits that 
" honour is cudgelled " from his weary limbs. The 
French, too, when thej are beaten by Henry V., all 
bemoan their shame and loss of honour, and have 
no word of sorrow for their ruined homesteads and 
outraged women and children. The Dauphin cries : 

" Reproach and everlasting shame 
Sits mocking in our plumes." 

And Bourbon echoes him: 

" Shame and eternal shame, nothing but shame." 

It is curious that Bourbon falls upon the same 
thought which animated Hotspur. Just before the 
decisive battle Hotspur cries : 

" O, gentlemen ! the time of liife is short ; 
To spend that shortness basely were too long." 

And when the battle turns against the French, 
Bourbon exclaims: 

** The devil take order now! I'll to the throng: 
Let life be short; else shame will be too long." 

As Jaques in " As You Like It " says of the soldier : 
they are "jealous in honour" and all seek "the 
bubble reputation, even in the cannon's mouth." 

It is only in Shakespeare that men have no other 
motive for brave deeds but love of honour, no 
other fear but that of shame with which to overcome 
the dread of death. \Ye shall see later that the 
desire of fame v/as the inspiring motive of his own 
youth. 

98 



Hotspur, Prince Henry, and Henry V . 

In the " Second Part of King Henry IV." there 
is very little told us of Prince Henry ; he only a.p- 
pears in the second act, and in the fourth and fifth ; 
and in all he is the mouthpiece of Shakespeare and 
not the roistering Prince : yet on his first appearance 
there are traces of characterization, as when he 
declares that his " appetite is not princely," for he 
remembers " the poor creature, small beer," whereas 
in the last act he is merely the poetic prig. Let us 
give the best scene first: 

" P, Hen, Shall I tell thee one thing, Poins ? 

F, Hen. Marry, I tell thee, — it is not meet that I 
should be sad, now my father is sick; albeit I could tell 
to thee — as to one it pleases me, for fault of a better, 
to call my friend — I could be sad, and sad, indeed, too. 

Poins. Very hardly upon such a subject. 

P. Hen. By this hand, thou think'st me as far in the 
devil's book as thou and FalstafF for obduracy and per- 
sistenc}'': let the end try the man. But I tell thee, my 
heart bleeds inwardly that my father is so sick; and 
keeping such vile company as thou art hath in reason 
taken from me all ostentation of sorrow. 

Poins. The reason? 

P. Hen. What would'st thou think of me if I should 
weep? 

Poins. I would think thee a most princely hypocrite. 

P. Hen. It would be every man's thought; and thou 
art a blessed fellow to think as every man thinks; never 
a man's thought in the world keeps the roadway better 
than thine: every man would think me an hypocrite in- 
deed. And what accites your most worshipful thought 
to think so? 

Poins. Why, because you have been so lewd, and so 
much engraffed to Falstaff." 

By far the best thing in this page — the contempt 

99 



The Man Shakespeare 

for every man's thought as certain to be mistaken — 
is, I need hardly say, pure Shakespeare. Exactly 
the same reflection finds a place in " Hamlet " ; the 
student-thinker tells us of a play which in his opin- 
ion, and in the opinion of the best judges, was ex- 
cellent, but which was only acted once, for it 
" pleased not the million ; 'twas caviare to the gen- 
eral." Very early in life Shakespeare made the dis- 
covery, which all men of brains make sooner or 
later, that the thoughts of the million are worthless, 
and the judgement and taste of the million are 
execrable. 

There is nothing worthy to be called character- 
drawing in this scene; but there's just a hint of it 
in the last remark of Poins. According to his fa- 
vourite companion the Prince was very " lewd," and 
yet Shakespeare never shows us his lewdness in 
action ; does not " moralize " it as Jaques or Ham- 
let would have been tempted to do. It is just men- 
tioned and passed over lightly. It is curious, too, 
that Shakespeare's alter ego, Jaques, was also ac- 
cused of lewdness by the exiled Duke ; Vincentio, too, 
another incarnation of Shakespeare, was charged 
with lechery by Lucio ; but in none of these cases 
does Shakespeare dwell on the failing. Shakespeare 
seems to have thought reticence the better part in 
regard to certain sins of the flesh. But it must be 
remarked that it is only when his heroes come into 
question that he practises this restraint : he is con- 
tent to tell us casually that Prince Henry was a 
sensualist ; but he shows us Falstaff^ and Doll Tear- 
sheet engaged at lips' length. To put it briefly, 
Shakespeare attributes lewdness to his impersona- 
tion, but will not emphasize the fault by instances. 
Nor will Shakespeare allow his " madcap Prince " 
even to play " drawer " with hearty goodwill. While 

100 



Hotspur, Prince Henry, and Henry V. 

consenting to spy on FalstafF In the tavern, the 
Prince tells Poins that " from a Prince to a prentice " 
is " a low transformation," and scarcely has the fun 
commenced when he is called to the wars and takes 
his leave in these terms: 

"P. Hen. By Heaven, Poins, I feel me much to 
blame. 
So idly to profane the precious time 
When tempest of commotion, like the south 
Borne with black vapour, doth begin to melt 
And drop upon our bare, unarmed heads." 

The first two lines are priggish, and the last three 
mere poetic balderdash. But it is in the fourth act, 
when Prince Henry is watching by the bedside of his 
dying father, that Shakespeare speaks through him 
without disguise : 

** Why doth the crown lie there upon his pillow 
Being so troublesome a bedfellow.^ 
O polished perturbation ! golden care ! 
That keep'st the ports of slumber open wide 
To many a watchful night! — Sleep with it now, . 
Yet not so sound and half so deeply sweet 
As he whose brow with homely biggin bound 
Snores out the watch of night." 

In the third act we have King Henry talking in 
precisely the same way: 

" O sleep, O gentle sleep. 
Nature's soft nurse, how have I frighted thee? . . , 
• « ' • • 

Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast 

Seal up the ship-boy's eyes, and rock his brains 

In cradle of the rude imperious surge. . . ." 

The truth is that in both these passages, as in a 

101 



The Man Shakespeare 

hundred similar ones, we find Shakespeare himself 
praising sleep as only those tormented by insomnia 
can praise it. 

When his father reproaches him with " hunger 
for his empty chair," this is how Prince Henry an- 
swers : 

" O pardon me^ my liege^ but for my tears. 
The moist impediments unto my speech, 
I had forestalled this dear and deep rebuke. 
Ere you with grief had spoke and I had heard 
The course of it so far. . . ." 

It might be Alfred Austin writing to Lord Salis- 
bury — " the moist impediments," forsooth — and 
the daredevil j^oung soldier goes on like this for 
forty lines. 

The only memorable thing in the fifth act is the 
new king's contemptuous dismissal of Falstaff: I 
think it appalling at least in matter: 

" I know thee not, old man : fall to thy prayers ; 
How ill white hairs become a fool and j ester ! 
I have long dreamed of such a kind of man. 
So surfeit-swelled, so old and so profane; 
But being awake I do despise my dream. 

Reply not to me with a fool-born jest. 
Presume not that I am the thing I was; 

Till then, I banish thee on pain of death, 
As I have done the rest of my misleaders, 
Not to come near our person by ten mile," 

In the old play, " The Famous Victories," the sent- 
ence of banishment is pronounced; but this bitter 
contempt for the surfeit-swelled, profane old man is 
Shakespeare's. It is true that he mitigates the se- 

102 



Hotspur, Prince Henry, and Henry V. 

verity of the sentence in characteristic generous 
fashion : the King says : 

** For competence of life I will allow you 
That lack of means enforce you not to evil: 
And as we hear you do reform yourselves^ 
We will, according to your strength and qualities. 
Give you advancement." 

There is no mention in the old play of this " compe- 
tence of life." But in spite of this generous fore- 
thought the sentence is painfully severe, and Shake- 
speare meant every word of it, for immediately af- 
terwards the Chief Justice orders FalstafF and his 
company to the Fleet prison ; and in " King Henry 
V." we a,re told that the King's condemnation broke 
FalstafF's heart and made the old jester's banish- 
ment eternal. To find Shakespeare more severe in 
judgement than the majority of spectators and 
readers is so astonishing, so singular a fact, that 
it cries for explanation. I think there can be no 
doubt that the tradition which tells us that Shake- 
speare in his youth played pranks in low company 
finds further corroboration here. He seems to have 
resented his own ignominy and the contemptuous 
estimate put upon him by others somewhat extrava- 
gantly. 

" Presume not that I am the thing I was ; " 

— is a sentiment put again and again in Prince 
Henry's mouth ; he is perpetually assuring us of 
the change in himself, and the great results which 
must ensue from it. It is this distaste for his own 
loose past and " his misleaders," which makes Shake- 
speare so singularly severe toward FalstafF. As v/e 
have seen, he was the reverse of severe with Angelo 

103 



The Man Shakespeare 

in " Measure for Measure," though in that case 
there was better ground for harshness. " Measure 
for Measure," it is true, was written six or seven 
years later than " Henry IV.," and the tragedy of 
Shakespeare's life separates the two plays. Shake- 
speare's ethical judgement was more inclined to 
severity in youth and early manhood than it was 
later when his own sufferings had deepened his sym- 
pathies, and he had been made " pregnant to good 
pity," to use his own words, " by the art of knowing 
and feeling sorrows." B.ut he would never have 
treated old Jack Falstaff as harshly as he did had he 
not regretted the results, at least, of his own youth- 
ful errors. It looks as if Shakespeare, like other 
weak men, was filled with a desire to throw the blame 
on his " misleaders." He certainly exulted in their 
punishment. 

It is difficult for me to write at length about the 
character of the King in " Henry V.," and fortu- 
nately it is not necessary. I have already pointed 
out the faults in the painting of Prince Henry with 
such fullness that I may be absolved from again 
dwelling on similar weakness where it is even more 
obvious than it was in the two parts of " Henry 
IV." But something I must say, for the critics 
in both Germany and England are agreed that 
" ' Henry V.' must certainly be regarded as Shake- 
speare's ideal of manhood in the sphere of practical 
achievement." Without an exception they have all 
buttered this drama with extravagant praise as one 
of Shakespeare's masterpieces, though in reality it 
is one of the worst pieces of work he ever did, 
almost as bad as " Titus Andronicus " or " Timon " 
or " The Taming of the Shrew." Unfortunately 
for the would-be judges, Coleridge did not guide 
their opinions of " Henry V." ; he hardly mentioned 

104 



Hotspur, Prince Henry, and Henry V. 

the play, and so they all write the absurdest non- 
sense about it, praising because praise of Shake- 
speare has come to be the fashion, and also no 
doubt because his bad work is more on the level of 
their intelligence than his good work. 

It can hardly be denied that Shakespeare identi- 
fied himself as far as he could with Henry V. Be- 
fore the King appears he is praised extravagantly, 
as Posthumus was praised, but the eulogy befits 
the poet better than the soldier. The Archbishop 
of Canterbury says: 

. . . " When he speaks. 
The air, a charter'd libertine, is still. 
And the mute wonder lurketh in men's ears 
To steal his sweet and honey'd sentences." 

the Bishop of Ely goes even further in excuse: 

. . . *' The prince obscured his contemplation 
Under the veil of wildness." 

And this is how the soldier-king himself talks: 

*' My learned lord, we pray you to proceed 
And justly and religiously unfold 
Why the law Salique that they have in France 
Or should, or should not bar us in our claim; 
And God forbid, my dear and faithful lord, 
That you should fashion, wrest, or bow your read- 
mg . . . 

All this is plainly Shakespeare and Shakespeare at 
his very worst; and there are hundreds of lines like 
these, jewelled here and there by an unforgettable 
phrase, as when the Archbishop calls the bees : 
" The singing masons building roofs of gold." The 
reply made by the King when the Dauphin sends 

105 



The Man Shakespeare 

him the tennis balls has been greatly praised for 
manliness and modesty; it begins: 

" We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us ; 
His present and your pains we thank you for : 
When we have match'd our rackets to these balls, 
We will, in France, by God's grace, play a set 
Shall strike his father's crown into the hazard." 

The first line is most excellent, but Shakespeare 
found it in the old pla^'', and the bragging which 
follows is hardly bettered by the pious imprecation. 
Nor does the scene with the conspirators seem to 
me any better. The soldier-king would not have 
preached at them for sixty lines before condemn- 
ing them. Nor would he have sentenced them with 
this extraordinary mixture of priggishness and pious 
pity: 

" K, Hen. God quit you in his mercy. Hear your 
sentence. 



Touching our person seek we no revenge; 
But we our kingdom's safety must so tender. 
Whose ruin you have sought, that to her laws 
We do deliver you. Get you therefore hence. 
Poor miserable wretches, to your death. 
The task whereof, God of His mercy give 
You patience to endure, and true repentance 
Of all your dear offences ! " 

This " poor miserable wretches " would go better 
with a generous pardon, and such forgiving would 
be more in Shakespeare's nature. Throughout this 
play the necessity of speaking through the soldier- 
king embarrasses the poet, and the infusion of the 
poet's sympathy and emotion makes the puppet 
ridiculous. Henry's speech before Harfleur has been 

106 



Hotspur, Prince Henry, and Henry V. 

praised on all hands ; not by the professors and 
critics merely, but by those who deserve attention. 
Carlyle finds deathless valour in the saying: "Ye, 
good yeomen, whose limbs were made in England," 
and not deathless valour merely, but " noble pat- 
riotism " as well ; " a true English heart breathes, 
calm and strong through the whole business . . . this 
man (Shakespeare) too had a right stroke in him, 
had it come to that." I find no valour in it, death- 
less or otherwise ; but the make-believe of valour, the 
completest proof that valour was absent. Here are 
the words: 

" K, Hen. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, 

once more; 
Or close the wall up with our English dead. 
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man 
As modest stillness and humility: 
But when the blast of war blows in our ears. 
Then imitate the action of the tiger; 
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood. 
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage; 
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect. 
Let it pry through the portage of the head 
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it 
As fearfully as doth a galled rock 
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base. . . ." 

And so on for another twenty lines. Now consider 
this stuff: first comes the reflection, more suitable 
to the philosopher than the man of action, " in 
peace there's nothing so becomes a man . . ."; then 
the soldier-king wishes his men to " imitate " the 
tiger's looks, to " disguise fair nature," and " lend 
the eye a terrible aspect." But the man who feels 
the tiger's rage tries to control the aspect of it : 
he does not put on the frown — that's Pistol's way, 

107 



The Man Shakespeare 

The whole thing is mere poetic description of how 
an angrj man looks and not of how a brave man 
feels, and that it should have deceived Carlyle, sur- 
prises me. The truth is that as soon as Shakespeare 
has to find, I will not say a magical expression for 
courage, but even an adequate and worthy expres- 
sion, he fails absolutely. And is the patriotism in 
" Ye, good yeomen, whose limbs were made in Eng- 
land " a " noble patriotism " ? or is it the simplest, 
the crudest, the least justifiable form of patriotism? 
There is a noble patriotism founded on the high and 
generous things done by men of one's own blood, 
just as there is the vain and empty self-glorification 
of " limbs made in England," as if English limbs 
were better than those made in Timbuctoo. 

In the third scene of the fourth act, just before 
the battle, Henry talks at his best, or rather Shake- 
speare's best: and we catch the true accent of cour- 
age. Westmoreland wishes 

..." That we now had here 
But one ten thousand of those men in England 
That do no work to-day ! " 

but Henry lives on a higher plane: 

** No, my fair cousin : 
If we are marked to die, we are enow 
To do our country loss; and if to live, 
The fewer men the greater share of honour." 

But this high-couraged sentiment is taken almost 
word for word from Holinshed. The rest of the 
speech shows us Shakespeare, as a splendid rhetori- 
cian, glorifying glory ; and now and then the rhetoric 
is sublimated into poetry: 

108 



Hotspur, Prince Henry, and Henry V. 

" We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. 
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me 
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile. 
This day shall gentle his condition." 

Shakespeare's chief ambition about this time was 
to get a coat of arms for his father, and so gentle 
his condition. In all the play not one word of praise 
for the common archers, who won the battle, no 
mention save of the gentle. 

Again and again in Henry V. the dissonance of 
character between the poet and his soldier-puppet 
jars upon the ears, and this dissonance is generally 
characteristic. For example, in the third act Shake- 
speare, through King Henry, expressly charges his 
soldiers that " there be nothing compelled from 
the villages, nothing taken but paid for, none of 
the French upbraided or abused in disdainful lan- 
guage ; for when lenity and cruelty play for a king- 
dom, the gentler gamester is the soonest winner." 
Wise words, not yet learned even by statesmen; 
drops of wisdom's life-blood from the heart of gen- 
tle Shakespeare. But an act later, when the battle 
is over, on the mere news that the French have 
reinforced their scattered men, Henry V., with tears 
in his eyes for the Duke of York's death, gives 
orders to kill the prisoners : 

"Then every soldier kill his prisoners; 
Give the word through." 

The puppet is not even human: mere wood! 

In the fifth act King Henry takes on the voice 
and nature of buried Hotspur. He woos Kath- 
arine exactly as Hotspur talked to his wife; he 
cannot " mince " it in love, he tells her, in Hotspur's 
very words ; but is forthright plain ; like Hotspur 

109 



The Man Shakespeare 

he despises verses and dancing; like Hotspur he 
can brag, too ; finds it as " easy " to conquer 
kingdoms as to speak French ; can " vault into his 
saddle with his armour on his back"; he is no car- 
pet-soldier ; he never " looks in his glass for love 
of anything he sees there," and to make the likeness 
complete he disdains those " fellows of infinite 
tongue, that can rhyme themselves into ladies' fa- 
vours ... a speaker is but a prater; a rhyme is 
but a ballad." But if Shakespeare had had any 
vital sympathy for soldiers and men of action he 
would not have degraded Henry V. in this fashion, 
into a feeble replica of the traditional Hotspur. In 
those narrow London streets by the river he must 
have rubbed shoulders with great adventurers ; he 
knew Essex; had bowed to Raleigh at the Court; 
must have heard of Drake : inclination was lacking, 
not models. He might even have differentiated be- 
tween Prince Henry and Hotspur without going 
outside his history-books ; but a most curious point 
is that he preferred to smooth away their differences 
and accentuate the likeness. As a mere matter of 
fact Hotspur was very much older than Prince 
Henry, for he fought at Otterbourne in 1388, the 
year of the prince's birth; but Shakespeare pur- 
posely and explicitly makes them both youths. The 
King, speaking of Percy to Prince Henry, says: 

" And being no more in debt to years than thou.** . . . 

It would have been wiser, I cannot but think, and 
more dramatic for Shakespeare to have left the hot- 
headed Percy as the older man who, in spite of 
y^ars, is too impatient-quick to look before he leaps, 
while giving the youthful Prince the calm reflection 
and impersonal outlook which necessarily belong 

110 



Hotspur, Prince Henry, and Henry V, 

to a great winner of kingdoms. The dramatist 
could have further differentiated the rivals by mak- 
ing Percy greedy; he should not only have quar- 
relled with his associates over the division of the 
land, but insisted on obtaining the larger share, 
and even then have grumbled as if aggrieved ; the 
soldier aristocrat has always regarded broad acres 
as his especial reward. On the other hand. Prince 
Henry should have been open-handed and care- 
lessly-generous, as the patron of FalstafF was likely 
to be. Further, Hotspur might have been de- 
picted as inordinately proud of his name and birth; 
the provincial aristocrat usually is, whereas Henry, 
the Prince, would surely have been too certain of 
his own qualities to need adventitious aids to pride. 
Percy might have been shown to us raging over 
imaginary slights ; Worcester says he was " gov- 
erned by a spleen " ; while the Prince could have 
been given that high sense of honour and insatiate 
love of fame which were the poles of chivalry. 
Finally, the dramatist might have painted Hotspur, 
the soldier, as disdainful of women and the arts of 
music and poetry, while gracing Prince Henry with 
a wider culture and sympathy. If I draw attention 
to such obvious points it is only to show how in- 
credibly careless Shakespeare was in making the 
conqueror a poor copy of the conquered. He was 
drawn to Hotspur a little by his quickness and im- 
patience; but he was utterly out of sympathy with 
the fighter, and never took the trouble even to think 
of the qualities which a leader of men must possess. 



Ill 



CHAPTER VI 

Shakespeare's men of action (concluded) : 

KING HENRY VI. AND RICHARD III. 

I THINK it hardly necessary to extend this re- 
view of Shakespeare's historical plays by sub- 
jecting the Three Parts of " King Henry VI." and 
" Richard III." to a detailed and minute criticism. 
Yet if I passed them over without mention it would 
probably be assumed that they made against mj 
theory, or at least that I had some more pertinent 
reason for not considering them than their relative 
unimportance. In fact, however, they help to but- 
tress my argument, and so at the risk of being 
tedious I shall deal with them, though as briefly as 
possible. Coleridge doubted whether Shakespeare 
had had anything to do with the " First Part of 
Henry VI.," but his fellow-actors, Heminge, and 
Condell, placed the Three Parts of " King Henry 
VI." in the first collected edition of Shakespeare's 
plays, and our latest criticism finds good reasons 
to justify this contemporary judgement. Mr. 
Swinburne writes : " The last battle of Talbot 
seems to me as undeniably the master's work as the 
scene in the Temple Gardens, or the courtship of 
Margaret by Suffolk " ; and it would be easy to 
prove that much of what the dying Mortimer says 
is just as certainly Shakespeare's work as any of 
the passages referred to by Mr. Swinburne. Like 
most of those Vvho are destined to reach the heights, 
Shakespeare seems to have grown slowly, and even 



King Henry VI., and Richard III. 

at twenty-eight or thirty years of age his grasp 
of character was so uncertain, his style so Httle 
formed, so apt to waver from blank verse to rhyme, 
that it is difficult to determine exactly what he did 
write. We may take it, I think, as certain that he 
wrote more than we who have his mature work in 
mind are inclined to ascribe to him. 

The " Second Part of King Henry VI." is a 
poetic revision of the old play entitled " The First 
Part of the Contention betwixt the Two Fa^mous 
Houses of Yorke and Lancaster," and so forth. It 
is now generally agreed that Shakespeare's hand 
can be traced in the old drama, and with especial 
certainty in the comic scenes wherein Cade and his 
followers play the chief parts. Notwithstanding 
this, the revision was most thorough. Half the lines 
in the " Second Part of Henry VI." are new, and 
by far the greater number of these are now ascribed 
to Shakespeare on good grounds. But some of the 
changes are for the worse, and as my argument does 
not stand in need of corroboration, I prefer to a.s- 
sume nothing, and shall therefore confine myself 
to pointing out that whoever revised " The Con- 
tention " did it, in the main, as we should have ex- 
pected our youthful Shakespeare to do it. For ex- 
ample, when Humphrey of Gloster is accused of de- 
vising " strange torments for oiFenders," he answers 
in the old play: 

" Why, 'tis well known that whilst I was Protector, 
Pitie was all the fault that was in me," 

and the gentle reviser adds to this: 

" For I should melt at an offender's tears, 
And lowly words were ransom for their fault." 

113 



The Man Shakespeare 

Besides, the reviser adds a great deal to the part 
of the weak King with the evident object of making 
his helplessness pathetic. He gives Henry, too, 
his sweetest phrases, and when he makes him talk 
of bewailing Gloster's case " with sad unhelpful 
tears " we catch the very cadence of Shakespeare's 
voice. But he does not confine his emendations to 
the speeches of one personage : the sorrows of the 
lovers interest him as their affection interested him 
in the " First Part of Henry VI.," and the fare- 
well words of Queen Margaret to Suffolk are espe- 
cially characteristic of our gentle poet: 

** Oh, go not yet ; even thus two friends condemned 
Embrace and kiss and take ten thousand leaves. 
Leather a hundred times to part than die. 
Yet now farewell; and farewell hfe with thee." 

This reminds me almost irresistibly of Juliet's words 
when parting with Romeo, and of Imogen's words 
when Posthumus leaves her. Throughout the play 
Henry is the poet's favourite, and in the gentle 
King's lament for Gloster's death we find a pecul- 
iarity of Shakespeare's art. It was a part of the 
cunning of his exquisite sensibility to invent a new 
word whenever he was deeply moved, the intensity 
of feeling clothing itself aptly in a novel epithet 
or image. A hundred examples of this might be 
given, such as " The multitudinous seas incarna- 
dine " ; and so we find here " paly lips." The pas- 
sage is : 

"Fain would I go to chafe his paly lips 
With twenty thousand kisses and to drain 
Upon his face an ocean of salt tears. 
To tell my love unto his dumb deaf trunk 
And with my finger feel his hand unfeeling." 

114. 



King Henry VI., and Richard III. 

It must be noticed, too, that in this " Second 
Part " the reviser begins to show himself as some- 
thing more than the sweet lyric poet. He trans- 
poses scenes in order to intensify the interest, and 
where enemies meet, like Clifford and York, instead 
of making them rant in mere blind hatred, he allows 
them to show a generous admiration of each 
other's qualities ; in sum, we find here the germs 
of that dramatic talent which was so soon to bear 
such marvellous fruit. No better example of Shake- 
speare's growth in dramatic power and humour 
could be found than the way he revises the scenes 
with Cade. It is very probable, as I have said, that 
the first sketch was his ; when one of Cade's follow- 
ers declares that Cade's " breath stinks," we are re- 
minded that Coriolanus spoke in the same terms 
of the Roman rabble. But though it is his own 
work, Shakespeare evidently takes it up again with 
the keenest interest, for he adds inimitable touches. 
For instance, in the first scene, where the two rebels, 
George Bevis and John Holland, talk of Cade's 
rising and his intention to set a " new nap upon the 
commonwealth," George's remark : 

"Oh, miserable age! virtue is not regarded in handi- 
craftsmen " — 

is an addition, and may be compared with Falstaff's : 

" there is no virtue extant." 

John answers: 

" The nobilitjr think scorn to go in leather aprons/* 

which is in the first sketch. But George's reply — 

115 



The Man Shakespeare 
Nay, more; the King's Council are no good work- 



men 



is only to be found in the revised version. The 
heightened humour of that " Oh, miserable age ! vir- 
tue is not regarded in handicraftsmen," assures us 
that the reviser was Shakespeare. 

What is true of the " Second Part " is true in 
the main of the " Third Part of King Plenry VI." 
Shakespeare's revisions are chiefly the revisions of 
a \jYic poet, and he scatters his emendations about 
without much regard for character. In the Third 
Part, as in the Second, however, he transposes scenes, 
gives deeper life to the marionettes, and in various 
ways quickens the dram.atic interest. This Third 
Part resembles " King John " in some respects and 
a similar inference can be drawn from it. As in 
" King John " we have the sharply contrasted fig- 
ures of the Bastard and Arthur, so in this " Third 
Part " there are two contrasted characters, Richard 
Duke of Gloster and King Henry VI., the one a 
wild beast whose life is action, and who knows 
neither fear, love, pity, nor touch of any scruple ; 
the other, a saint-like King, whose worst fault is 
gentle weakness. In " The True Tragedie of Rich- 
ard," the old play on which this " Third Part " 
was founded, the character of Richard is power- 
fully sketched, even though the human outlines are 
sometimes confused by his devilish malignity. 
Shakespeare takes this character from the old play, 
and alters it but very slightly. Indeed, the most 
splendid piece of character-revealing in his Richard 
is to be found in the old play: 

** I had no father, I am like no father, 
I have no brother, I am like no brother; 
116 



King Henry VI,, and Richard III, 

And this word Love, which greybeards call divine. 
Be resident in men like one another^ 
And not in me: — I am myself alone." 

The Satanic energy of this outburst declares its 
author, Marlowe/ Shakespeare copies it word for 
word, only omitting with admirable art the first line. 
Indeed, though he alters the speeches of Richard and 
improves them, he does nothing more ; he adds no 
new quality ; his Richard is the Richard of " The 
True Tragedie." But King Henry may be regarded 
as Shakespeare's creation. In the old play the out- 
lines of Henry's character are so feebly, faintly 
sketched that he is scarcely recognizable, but with 
two or three touches Shakespeare makes the saint a 
living man. This King is happier in prison than 
in his palace ; this is how he speaks to his keeper, 
the Lieutenant of the Tower: 

*' Nay, be thou sure, I'll well requite thy kindness. 
For that it made my imprisonment a pleasure; 
Ay, such a pleasure as encaged birds 
Conceive, when, after many moody thoughts. 
At last by notes of household harmony 
They quite forget their loss of liberty." 

Just as the bird runs a little before he springs from 
the earth and takes flight, so Shakespeare often 
writes, as in this instance, an awkward weak line 
or two before his song-wings move with freedom. 
But the last four lines are peculiarly his ; his the 
thought ; his, too, the sweetness of the words " en- 
caged birds " and " household harmony." 

1 Mr. Swinburne was the first, I believe, to attribute this 
passage to Marlowe; he praises the verses, too, as they de- 
serve; but as I had written the above before reading his work, 
I let it stand. 

117 



The ^Man Shakespeare 

Finally, Henry is not only shown to us as gentle 
and loving, but as a man who prefers quiet and the 
country to a King's Court and state. Even in 
eager, mounting youth this was Shakespeare's own 
choice : Prince Arthur in " King John " longs to 
be a shepherd: and this crowned saint has the same 
desire. From boyhood to old age Shakespeare pre- 
ferred the " life removed." 

" O God, methinks it were a happy life 
To be no better than a homely swain; 
To sit upon a hill, as I do now. 
To carve out dials quaintly point by point, 
Thereby to see the minutes how they run; 
How many make the hour full complete; 
How many hours bring about the day; 
How many days will finish up the year; 
How many years a mortal man may live. 

• • • • • 

So minutes, hours, days, months, and years. 
Passed over to the end they were created, 
Would bring white hairs unto a quiet grave." 

All this it seems to me is as finely characteristic 
of the gentle melancholy of Shakespeare's youth as 
Jaques' bitter words are of the deeper melancholy 
of his manhood: 

** And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe. 
And then from hour to hour we rot and rot 
And thereby hangs a tale." 

The " Third Part of Henry VI." leads one directly 
to " Richard III." It was Coleridge's opinion that 
Shakespeare " wrote hardly anything of this play 
except the character of Richard. He found the 
piece a stock play and re-wrote the parts which 
developed the hero's character; he certainly did not 

118 



King Henry VI., and Richard III, 

write the scenes in which Lady Anne yielded to 
the usurper's solicitations." In this instance Cole- 
ridge's positive opinion deserves to be weighed re- 
spectfully. At the time when " Richard III." was 
written Shakespeare was still rather a lyric than 
a dramatic poet, and Coleridge was a good judge 
of the peculiarities of his lyric style. Of course, 
Professor Dowden, too, is in doubt whether " Rich- 
ard III." should be ascribed to Shakespeare. He 
says : " Its manner of conceiving and presenting 
character has a certain resemblance, not elsewhere 
to be found in Shakespeare's writings, to the ideal 
manner of Marlowe. As in the plays of Marlowe, 
there is here one dominant figure distinguished by 
a few strongly marked and inordinately developed 
qualities." 

This faulty reasoning only shows how dangerous 
it is for a professor to copy his teacher slavishly: 
in " Coriolanus," too, we have the " one dominant 
figure," and all the rest of it. The truth seems to 
be that in the " Third Part of Henry VI." Shake- 
speare had been working with Marlowe, or, at least, 
revising Marlowe's work; in either case he was so 
steeped in Marlowe's spirit that he took, as we 
have seen, the most splendid piece of Richard's self- 
revealing directly from the older poet. Moreover, 
the words of deepest characterization in Shake- 
speare's " Richard III.," 

** Richard loves Richard — that is, I am 1" 

are manifestly a weak echo of the tremendous 

" I am myself alone " 

of Marlowe's Richard. At least to this extent, then, 
Shakespeare used Marlowe in depicting Richard's 

119 



The Man Shakespeare 

character. But this trait, important as it was, did 
not carry him far, and he was soon forced to draw 
on his own experience of life. Already he seems 
to have noticed that one characteristic of men 
of action is a blunt plainness of speech; their cour- 
age is shown in their frankness, and, besides, words 
stand for realities with them, and are, therefore, 
used with sincerity. Shakespeare's Richard III. 
uses plain speaking as a hypocritical mask, but al- 
ready Shakespeare is a dramatist and in his clever 
hands Richard's plain speaking is so allied with 
his incisive intelligence that it appears to be now a 
mask, now native shamelessness, and thus the char- 
acterization wins in depth and mystery. Every 
now and then, too, this Richard sees things which 
no Englishman has been capable of seeing, except 
Shakespeare himself. The whole of Plato's " Gor- 
gias " is comprised in the two lines : 

" Conscience is but a word that cowards use^ 
Devised at first to keep the strong in awe.'* 

The declaration of the second murderer that con- 
science " makes a man a coward ... it beggars any 
man that keeps it ; it is turned out of all towns and 
cities for a dangerous thing ; and every man that 
means to live well endeavours to trust to himself 
and to live without it," should be regarded as the 
complement of what FalstafF says of honour; in 
both the humour of Shakespeare's characteristic 
irony is not to be mistaken. 

The whole play, I think, must be ascribed to 
Shakespeare; all the memorable words in it are in- 
dubitably his, and I cannot believe that any other 
hand drew for us that marvellous, masterful court- 
ship of Anne which Coleridge, naturally enough, 

120 



King Henry VI., and Richard III. 

was unwilling to appreciate. The structure of the 
play, however, shows all the weakness of Marlowe's 
method: the interest is concentrated on the protag- 
onist ; there is not humour enough to relieve the 
gloomy intensity, and the scenes in which Richard 
does not figure are unattractive and feeble. 

One has only to think of the two characters — 
Richard II. and Richard III. — and to recall their 
handling in order to get a deep impression of 
Shakespeare's nature. He cannot present the vile 
Richard II. at all ; he has no interest in him ; but 
as soon as he thinks of Richard's youth and remem- 
bers that he was led astray by others, he begins to 
identify himself with him, and at once Richard's 
weakness is made amia,ble and his sufferings affect- 
ing. In measure as Shakespeare lets himself go 
and paints himself more and more freely, his por- 
traiture becomes astonishing, till at length the im- 
prisoned Richard gives himself up to melancholy 
philosophic musing, without a tinge of bitterness 
or envy or hate, and every one with eyes to see, is 
forced to recognize in him a younger brother to 
Hamlet and Posthumus. " Richard III." was pro- 
duced in a very different way. It was Marlowe's 
daemonic power and intensity that first interested 
Shakespeare in this Richard ; under the spell of Mar- 
lowe's personality Shakespeare conceived the play, 
and especially the scene between Richard and Anne ; 
but the original impulse exhausted itself quickly, and 
then Shakespeare fell back on his own experience and 
made Richard keen of insight and hypocritically 
blunt of speech — a sort of sketch of lago. A little 
later Shakespeare either felt that the action was un- 
suitable to the development of such a character, or 
more probably he grew weary of the effort to depict 
a fiend ; in any case, the play becomes less and less 

121 



The 'Man Shakespeare 

interesting, and even the character of Richard be- 
gins to waver. There is one astonishing instance of 
this towards the end of the drama. On the eve of 
the decisive battle Richard starts awake from his 
terrif3dng dreams, and now, if ever, one would ex- 
pect from him perfect sincerity of utterance. This 
is what we find: 

"There is no creature loves me; 
And if I die no soul shall pity me; 
Nay, wherefore should they, since that I myself 
Find in myself no pity to myself ? " 

The first two lines bespeak a loving, gentle nature, 
Shakespeare's nature, the nature of a Henry VI. 
or an Arthur, a nature which Richard III. would 
certainly have despised, and the last two lines are 
merely an objective ethical judgement wholly out of 
place and very clumsily expressed. 

To sum up, then, for this is not the place to 
consider Shakespeare's share in "Henry VIII.," I 
find that in the English historical plays the manly 
characters, Hotspur, Harry V., the great Bastard, 
and Richard III., are all taken from tradition or 
from old plays, and Shakespeare did nothing more 
than copy the traits which were given to him ; on the 
other hand, the weak, irresolute, gentle, melancholy 
characters are his own, and he shows extraordinary 
resource in revealing the secret workings of their 
souls. Even in early manhood, and when handling 
histories and men of action, Shakespeare cannot con- 
ceal his want of sympathy for the practical leaders 
of men; he neither understands them deeply nor 
loves them ; but in portraying the girlish Arthur and 
the Hamlet-like Richard 11., and in drawing forth 
the pathos of their weakness, he is already without 
a rival or second in all literature. 

12% 



King Henry VI., and Richard III. 

I am anxious not to deform the truth by exag- 
geration ; a caricature of Shakespeare would offend 
me as a sacrilege, even though the caricature were 
characteristic, and when I find him even In youth 
one-sided, a poet and dreamer, I am minded to tell 
less than the truth rather than more. He was ex- 
traordinarily sensitive, I say to myself, and lived in 
the stress of great deeds ; he treated Henry V., a 
man of action if ever there was one, as an ideal, 
and lavished on him all his admiration, but it will 
not do : I cannot shut my eyes to the fact ; the effort 
is worse than useless. He liked Henry V. because of 
his misled youth and his subsequent rise to highest 
honour, and not because of his practical genius. 
Where in his portrait gallery is the picture of a 
Drake, or even of a Raleigh? The adventurer was 
the characteristic product of that jostling time; but 
Shakespeare turned his head away; he was not in- 
terested in him. In spite of himself, however, he be- 
came passionately interested in the pitiful Richard 
II. and his untimely fate. Notwithstanding the 
praise of the critics, his King Henry V. is a wooden 
marionette; the intense life of the traditional mad- 
cap Prince has died out of him ; but Prince Arthur 
lives deathlessly, and we still hear his childish treble 
telling Hubert of his love. 

Those who disagree with me will have to account 
for the fact that, even in the historical plays written 
in early manhood, all his portraits of men of action 
are mere copies, while his genius shines in the por- 
traits of a gentle saint like Henry VI., of a weak- 
ling like Richard II., or of a girlish youth like 
Arthur — all these favourite studies being alike in 
pathetic helplessness and tender affection. 

It is curious that no one of the commentators 
has noticed this extraordinary one-sidedness of 

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The Man Shakespeare 

Shakespeare. In spite of his miraculous faculty of 
expression, he never found wonderful phrases for 
the virile virtues or virile vices. For courage, re- 
venge, self-assertion, and ambition we have finer 
v/ords in English than any that Shakespeare coined. 
In this field Chapman, Milton, Byron, Carlyle, and 
even Bunyan are his masters. 

Of course, as a man he had the instinct of cour- 
age, and an admiration of courage ; his intellect, 
too, gave him some understanding of its range. 
Dr. Brandes declares that Shakespeare has only de- 
picted physical courage, the courage of the swords- 
man ; but that is beside the truth : Dr. Brandes has 
evidently forgotten the passage in " Antony and 
Cleopatra," when Caesar contemptuously refuses the 
duel with Antony and speaks of his antagonist as 
an " old ruffian." Enobarbus, too, sneers at An- 
tony's proposed duel: 

" yes_, like enough^ high-battled Caesar will 

Unstate his happiness^ and be staked to the show 
Against a sworder." 

Unhelped by memory. Dr. Brandes might have 
guessed that Shakespeare would exhaust the ob- 
vious at first glance. But the soul of courage to 
Shakespeare is, as we have seen, a love of honour 
working on quick generous blood — a feminine rather 
than a masculine view of the matter. 

Carlyle has a deeper sense of this aboriginal vir- 
tue. With the fanatic's trust in God his Luther will 
go to Worms, " though it rain devils " ; and when 
in his own person Carljde spoke of the small, honest 
minority desperately resolved to maintain their ideas 
though opposed by a huge hostile majority of fools 
and the insincere, he found one of the finest expres- 
sions for courage in all our literature. The vast 

124 



King Henry VI., and Richard III. 

host shall be to us, he cried, as " stubble is to fire." 
It may be objected that this is the voice of re- 
ligious faith rather than of courage pure and simple, 
and the objection is valid so far as it goes; but this 
genesis of courage is peculiarly English, and the 
courage so formed is of the highest. Every one re- 
members how Valiant-for-Truth fights in Bunyan's 
allegory : " I fought till my sword did cleave to my 
hand; and when they were joined together, as if a 
sword grew out of my arm, and when the blood ran 
through my fingers, then I fought with most cour- 
age." The mere expression gives us an understand- 
ing of the desperate resolution of Cromwell's Iron- 
sides. 

But if desperate courage is not in Shakespeare, 
neither are its ancillary qualities — cruelty, hatred, 
ambition, revenge. Whenever he talks on these 
themes, he talks from the teeth outwards, as one 
without experience of their violent delights. His 
Gloucester rants about ambition without an illu- 
minating or even a convincing word. Hatred and 
revenge Shakespeare only studied superficially, and 
cruelty he shudders from like a woman. 

It is astounding how ill-endowed Shakespeare was 
on the side of manliness. His intellect was so fine, 
his power of expression so magical, the men about 
him, his models, so brave — founders as they were 
of the British empire and sea-tyranny — that he is 
able to use his Hotspurs and Harrys to hide from 
the general the poverty of his temperament. But 
the truth will out: Shakespeare was the greatest of 
poets, a miraculous artist, too, when he liked; but 
he was not a hero, and manliness was not his forte: 
he was by nature a neuropath and a lover. 

He was a master of passion and pity, and it 
astonishes one to notice how willingly he passed 

125 



The Man Shakespeare 

always to that extreme of sympathy where nothing 
but his exquisite choice of words and images saved 
him from falling into the silly. For example, in 
"Titus Andronicus," with its crude, unmotived 
horrors, Titus calls Marcus a murderer, and when 
Marcus replies : " Alas, my lord, I have but killed 
a fly," Titus answers : 

" But how, if that fly had a father and mother? 
How would he hang his slender gilded wings, 
And buzz lamenting doings in the air? 
Poor harmless fly! 

That with his pretty buzzing melody. 
Came here to make us merry! and thou hast killed 
him." 

Even in his earliest plays in the noontide of lusty 
youth, when the heat of the blood makes most men 
cruel, or at least heedless of others' sorrows, Shake- 
speare was full of sympathy ; his gentle soul wept 
with the stricken deer and sufl^ered through the 
killing of a fly. Just as Ophelia turned " thought 
and affliction, passion, hell itself " to " favour and 
to prettiness," so Shakespeare's genius turned the 
afflictions and passions of man to pathos and to pity. 



1£6 



CHAPTER VII 

SHAKESPEARE AS LYRIC POET : " TWELFTH NIGHT " 

SHAKESPEARE began the work of life as a 
lyric poet. It was to be expected therefore that 
when he took up playwriting he would use the play 
from time to time as an opportunity for a lyric, and 
in fact this was his constant habit. From the be- 
ginning to the end of his career he was as much a 
lyric poet as a dramatist. His first comedies are 
feeble and thin in character-drawing and the lyrical 
sweetness is everywhere predominant. His appren- 
ticeship period may be said to have closed with his 
first tragedy, " Romeo and Juliet." I am usually 
content to follow Mr. FurnivaPs " Trial Table of 
the order of Shakespeare's Plays," in which " Rich- 
ard II.," " Richard III.," and " King John " are all 
placed later than " Romeo and Juliet," and yet in- 
cluded in the first period that stretches from 1585 
to 1595. But " Romeo and Juliet " seems to me to 
be far more characteristic of the poet's genius than 
any of these histories ; it is not only a finer work of 
art than any of them, and therefore of higher prom- 
ise, but in its lyrical sweetness far more truly repre- 
sentative of Shakespeare's youth than any of the 
early comedies or historical plays. Whatever their 
form may be, nearly all Shakespeare's early works 
are love-songs, " Venus and Adonis," " Lucrece," 
" Love's Labour's Lost," " The Two Gentlemen of 
Verona," and he may be said to have ended his ap- 
prenticeship with the imperishable tragedy of first 
love, " Romeo and Juliet." 

127 



The Man Shakespeare 

In the years from 1585 to 1595 Shakespeare 
brought the lyric element into something like due 
subordination and managed to free himself almost 
completely from his early habit of rhyming. ^Ir. 
SwinbuiTie has written of Shakespeare's use of 
rh37^med verse with a fullness of knowledge and sym- 
pathy that leaves little to be desired. He compares 
it aptly to the use of the left hand instead of the 
right, and doubts cogently whether Shakespeare ever 
attained such mastery of rhyme as Marlowe in 
" Hero and Leander." But I like to think that 
Shakespeare's singing quickly became too sincere in 
its emotion and too complex in its harmonies to 
tolerate the definite limits set by rhyme. In any 
case by 1595 Shakespeare had learned to prefer 
blank verse to rhyme, at least for play-writing ; he 
thus made the first great step towards a superb 
knowledge of his instrument. 

The period of Shakespeare's maturity defines itself 
sharply ; it stretches from 1595 to 1608 and falls 
naturally into two parts ; the first part includes the 
trilogy " Plenry IV." and " Henry V." and his golden 
comedies; the second, from 1600 to 1608, is entirely 
filled with his great tragedies. The characteristic 
of this period, so far as regards the instrument, is 
that Shakespeare has come to understand the proper 
function of prose. He sees first that it is the only 
language suited to broad comedy, and goes on to use 
it in moments of sudden excitement, or when dramatic 
truth to character seems to him all important. At 
his best he uses blank verse when some emotion sings 
itself to him, and prose as the ordinary language of 
life, the language of surprise, laughter, strife, and 
of all the commoner feelings. During these twelve 
or fourteen years the lyric note is not obtrusive ; 

138 



Twelfth Night 

it is usually subordinated to character and suited to 
action. 

His third and last period begins with " Pericles " 
and ends with " The Tempest " ; it is characterized, 
as we shall see later, by bodily weakness and by a 
certain contempt for the dramatic fiction. But the 
knowledge of the instrument once acquired never left 
Shakespeare. It is true that the lyric note becomes 
increasingly clear in his late comedies ; but prose too 
is used by him with the same mastery that he showed 
in his maturity. 

In the first period Shakespeare was often unable 
to give his puppets individual life; in maturity he 
w^as interested in the puppets themselves and used 
them with considerable artistry ; in the third period 
he had grown a little weary of them and in " The 
Tempest " showed himself inclined, just as Goethe 
in later life was inclined, to turn his characters into 
symbols or types. 

The place of "Twelfth Night" is as clearly 
marked in Shakespeare's works as " Romeo a.nd 
Juliet " or " The Tempest." It stands on the divid- 
ing line between his light, joyous comedies and the 
great tragedies ; it v/as all done at the topmost 
height of happy hours, but there are hints in it which 
v/e shall have to notice later, which show that when 
writing it Shakespeare had already looked into the 
valley of disillusion which he was about to tread. 
But " Tv/elfth Night" is written in the spirit of 
" As You Like It " or " Much Ado," only it is still 
more personal-ingenuous and less dramatic than 
these; it is, indeed, a lyric of love and the joy of 
living. 

There is no intenser delight to a lover of letters 
than to find Sha-kespeare singing, with happy un- 

129 



(The Man Shakespeare 

concern, of the things he loved best — ^not the Shake- 
speare of Hamlet or Macbeth, whose intellect speaks 
in critical judgements of men and of life, and whose 
heart we are fain to divine from slight indications ; 
nor Shakespeare the dramatist, who tried now and 
again to give life to puppets like Coriolanus and 
lago, with whom he had little sympathy ; but Shake- 
speare the poet, Shakespeare the lover, Shakespeare 
whom Ben Jonson called " the gentle," Shakespeare 
the sweet-hearted singer, as he lived and suffered and 
enjoyed. If I were asked to complete the portrait 
given to us by Shakespeare of himself in Hamlet- 
Macbeth with one single passage, I should certainly 
choose the first words of the Duke in " Twelfth 
Night." I must transcribe the poem, though it will 
be in every reader's remembrance; for it contains 
the completest, the most characteristic, confession 
of Shakespeare's feelings ever given in a few 
lines : 

" If music he the food of love^ play on; 
Give mc excess of it, that surfeiting 
The appetite may sicken, and so die. 
That strain again; — it had a dying fall: 
Oh, it came o'er my ear like the sweet south 
That breathes upon a bank of violets, 
Stealing and giving odour. — Enough! no more; 
'Tis not so sweet now as it was before." 

Every one will notice that Shakespeare as we know 
him in Romeo is here depicted again with insistence 
on a few salient traits ; here, too, we have the poet 
of the Sonnets masquerading as a Duke and the 
protagonist of yet another play. There is still less 
art used in characterizing this Duke than there is 
in characterizing Macbeth; Shakespeare merely lets 
himself go and sings his feelings in the most beauti- 

130 



Twelftli Night 

ful words. This is his philosophy of music and of 
love: 

" Give me excess of it, that surfeiting, 
The appetite may sicken, and so die;'* 

and then: 

" Enough, no more ; 
'Tis not so sweet now as it was before." 

— the quick revulsion of the delicate artist-volup- 
tuary who wishes to keep unblunted in memory the 
most exquisite pang of pleasure. 

Speech after speech discovers the same happy 
freedom and absolute abandonment to the " sense 
of beauty." Curio proposes hunting the hart, and 
at once the Duke breaks out : 

" Why, so I do, the noblest that I have. 
O, when mine eyes did see Olivia first, 
Methought she purged the air of pestilence. 
That instant was I turned into a hart. 
And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds. 
E'er since pursue me." — 

Valentine then comes to tell him that Olivia is 
still mourning for her brother, and the Duke seizes 
the opportunity for another lyric : 

" O, she that hath a heart of that fine frame 
To pay this debt of love but to a brother. 
How will she love, when the rich golden shaft 
Hath killed the flock of all affections else 
That live in her ; when liver, brain, and heart. 
These sovereign thrones, are all supplied and filled — 
Her sweet perfections — ^with one self King! — 
Away before me to sweet beds of flowers. 
Love-thoughts lie rich when canopied with bowers." 

The last two lines show clearly enough that 
Shakespeare was not troubled with any thought of 

131 



The Man Shakespeare 

reality as he wrote: he was transported by Fancy 
into that enchanted country of romance where beds 
of flowers are couches and bowers, canopies of love. 
But what a sensuality there is in him! 

*' When liver, brain, and heart. 
These sovereign thrones, are all supplied and filled — 
Her sweet perfections — ^with one self King! " 

Of course, too, this Duke is inconstant, and 
swings from persistent pursuit of Olivia to love of 
Viola without any other reason than the discovery 
of Viola's sex. In the same way Romeo turns from 
Rosaline to Juliet at first sight. This trait has been 
praised by Coleridge and others as showing singular 
knowledge of a young man's character, but I should 
rather say that inconstancy was a characteristic of 
sensuality and belonged to Shakespeare himself, for 
Orsino, like Romeo, has no reason to change his love ; 
and the curious part of the matter is that Shake- 
speare does not seem to think that the quick change 
in Orsino requires any explanation at all. Moreover, 
the love of Duke Orsino for Olivia is merely the 
desire of her bodily beauty — the counterpart of the 
sensual jealousy of Othello. Speaking from Shake- 
speare's very heart, the Duke says : 

" Tell her, ^ my love/ more noble than the world. 
Prizes not quantity of dirty lands; i^t^-T- ? 

The parts that Fortune hath bestowed upon her, -^ 
Tell her, I hold as giddily as Fortune; 
But '^ that miracle and queen of gems 

1 That nature pranks her in attracts my soul." 

So the body wins the soul according to this Orsino, 
who is, I repeat again, Shakespeare in his most ' 
ingenuous and frankest mood; the contempt of 



Twelfth Night 

wealth — " dirty lands " — and the sensuality — " that 
miracle and queen of gems " — are alike character- 
istic. 

A few more touches and the portrait of this Duke 
will be complete ; he says to the pretended Cesario 
when sending him as ambassador to Olivia : 

" Cesario, 
Thou knowest no less but all; I have unclasped 
To thee the book even of my secret soul; 
Therefore, good youth," — 

and so forth. 

It is a matter of course that this Duke should 
tell everything to his friend ; a matter of course, 
too, that he should love books and bookish meta- 
phors. Without being told, one knows that he de- 
lights in all beautiful things — pictures with their 
faerie false presentment of forms and life ; the flesh- 
firm outline of marble, the warmth of ivory and the 
sea-green patine of bronze — v/as not the poop of the 
vessel beaten gold, the sails purple, the oars silver, 
and the very water amorous.^ 

This Duke shows us Shakespeare's most intimate 
traits even when the action does not suggest the 
self-revelation. When sending Viola to woo Olivia 
for him he adds : 

" Some four or five, attend him ; 
All if you will; for I myself am best 
When least in company." 

Like Vincentio, that other mask of Shakespeare, this 
Duke too loves solitude and " the life removed " ; he 
is " best when least in compan}^" 

If there is any one who still doubts the essential 
identity of Duke Orsino and Shakespeare, let him 

133 



The Man Shakespeare 

consider the likeness in thought and form between 
the Duke's lyric effusions and the Sonnets, and if 
that does not convince him I might use a hitherto 
untried argument. When a dramatist creates a 
man's character he is apt to make him, as the French 
say, too much of a piece — too logical. But, in this 
instance, though Shakespeare has given the Duke 
only a short part, he has made him contradict him- 
self with the charming ease that belongs peculiarly 
to self-revealing. The Duke tells us: 

" For such as I am all true lovers are, — 
Unstaid and skittish in all motions else, 
Save in the constant image of the creature 
That is beloved." 

The next moment he repeats this: 

" For, boy, however we do praise ourselves, 
Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm, 
More longing, wavering, sooner lost and won. 
Than women's are." 

And the moment after he asserts: 

" There is no woman's sides 
Can bide the beating of so strong a passion 
As love doth give my heart; no woman's heart 
So big, to hold so much; they lack retention. 
Alas ! their love may be called appetite, 
'^o motion of the liver] but the palate. 
That suffers surfeit, cloyment, and revolt ! " 

Hamlet contradicts himself, too: at one moment 
he declares that his soul is immortal, and at the 
next is full of despair. But Hamlet is so elaborate 
a portrait, built up of so many minute touches, that . 
self-contradiction is a part, and a necessary part, 
of his many-sided complexity. But the Duke in 



Twelfth Night 

" Twelfth Night " reveals himself as it were acci- 
dentally; we know little more of him than that he 
loves music and love, books and flowers, and that he 
despises wealth and company ; accordingly, when 
he contradicts himself, we may suspect that Shake- 
speare is letting himself speak freely without much 
care for the coherence of characterization. And the 
result of this frankness is that he has given a more 
intimate, a more confidential, sketch of himself in 
Duke Orsino of " Twelfth Night " than he has given 
us in any play except perhaps " Hamlet "! and 
" Macbeth." 

I hardly need to prove that Shakespeare in his 
earliest plays, as in his latest, in his Sonnets as in 
his darkest tragedy, loved flowers and music. In 
almost every play he speaks of flowers with aff"ec- 
tion and delight. One only needs to recall the song 
in " A Midsummer Night's Dream," " I know a 
bank," or Perdita's exquisite words : 

*' Daffodils, 
That come before the swallow dares, and take 
The wind of March with beauty; violets dim. 
But sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes 
Or Cytherea's breath; pale primroses, 
That die unmarried ere they can behold 
Bright Phoebus in his strength, a malady 
Most incident to maids; bold oxlips, and 
The crown-imperial; lilies of all kinds. 
The flower-de-luce being one"; 

or Arviragus' praise of Imogen: 

" Thou shalt not lack 
The flower that's like thy face, pale primrose, nor 
The azured harebell like thy veins; no, nor 
The leaf of eglantine, whom not to slander 
Outsweetened not thy breath." 

135 



The Man Shakespeare 

Shakespeare praises music so frequently and so 
enthusiastically that we must regard the trait as 
characteristic of his deepest nature. Take this play 
which we are handling now. Not only the Duke, but 
both the heroines, Viola and Olivia, love music. Viola 
can sing " in many sorts of music," and Olivia ad- 
mits that she would rather hear Viola solicit love 
than " music from the spheres." Romeo almost con- 
founds music with love, as does Duke Orsino: 

" How silver-sweet sound lovers' tongues by night. 
Like softest music to attending ears ! " 

And again: 

'* And let rich music's tongue 
Unfold the imagin'd happiness that both 
V Receive in either iby this dear encounter." 

It is a curious and characteristic fact that Shake- 
speare gives almost the same words to Ferdinand 
in " The Tempest " that he gave ten years earlier 
to the Duke in " Twelfth Night." In both passages 
music goes with passion to allay its madness : 

" This music crept by me upon the waters, 
Allaying both their fury and my passion 
With its sweet air " 

and Duke Orsino says : 

** That old and antique song we heard last night, 
Methought it did relieve my passion much." 

This confession is so peculiar ; shows, too, so ex- 
quisitely fine a sensibility, that its repetition makes 
me regard it as Shakespeare's. The most splendid 
lyric on music is given to Lorenzo in " The Merchant 
of Venice," and it may be remarked in passing that 

136 



Twelfth Night 

Lorenzo is not a character, but, like Claudio, a mere 
name and a mouthpiece of Shakespeare's feeling. 
Shakespeare was almost as well content, it appears, 
to plaj the lover as to play the Duke. I cannot help 
transcribing the magical verses, though they must 
be familiar to every lover of our English tongue: 

** How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank ! 
Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music 
Creep in our ears ; soft stillness and the night 
Become the touches of sweet harmony. 
Sit, Jessica: Look how the floor of heaven 
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold. 
There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st 
But in his motion like an angel sings. 
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubims. 
Such harmony is in immortal souls; 
But, whilst this muddy vesture of decay 
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.'* 

The first lines of this poem are conceived in the 
very spirit of the poems of " Twelfth Night," and 
in the last lines Shakespeare puts to use that 
divine imagination which lifts all his best verse into 
the higher air of life, and reaches its noblest in 
Prospero's solemn-sad lyric. 

Shakespeare's love of music is so much a part of 
himself that he condemns those who do not share 
it ; this argument, too, is given to Lorenzo : 

" The man that hath no music to himself. 
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, 
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils; 
The motions of his spirit are dull as night. 
And his affections dark as Erebus: 
Let no such man be trusted." 

That this view was not merely the expression of 

137 



'The Man Shakespeare 

a. passing mood is shown by the fact that Shake- 
speare lends no music to his villains ; but Timon gives 
welcome to his friends with music, just as Hamlet 
welcomes the players with music and Portia calls 
for music while her suitors make their eventful choice. 
Titania and Oberon both seek the aid of music to 
help them in their loves, and the war-worn and time- 
worn Henry IV. prays for music to bring some rest 
to his " weary spirit " ; in much the same mood 
Prospero desires music when he breaks his wand and 
resigns his magical powers. 

Here, again, in " Twelfth Night " in full man- 
hood Shakespeare shows himself to us as Romeo, 
in love with flowers and music and passion. True, 
this Orsino is a little less occupied with verbal quips, 
a little more frankly sensual, too, than Romeo ; but 
then Romeo would have been more frankly sensual 
had he lived from twenty-five to thirty-five. As an 
older man, too, Orsino has naturally more of 
Hamlet-Shakespeare's peculiar traits than Romeo 
showed; the contempt of wealth and love of soli- 
tude are qualities hardly indicated in Romeo, while 
in Orsino as in the mature Shakespeare they are 
salient characteristics. To sum up: Hamlet-Mac- 
beth gives us Shakespeare's mind; but in Romeo- 
Orsino he has discovered his heart and poetic tem- 
perament to us as ingenuously, though not, perhaps, 
so completely, as he does in the Sonnets. 



138 



CHAPTER VIII 

Shakespeare's humour: ealstaff 

SHAKESPEARE'S portraits of himself are not 
to be mistaken ; the changes in him caused by 
age bring into clearer light the indestructible indi- 
viduality, and no difference of circumstance or 
position has any effect upon this distinctive char- 
acter : whether he is the lover, Romeo ; the murderer, 
Macbeth ; the courtier, Hamlet ; or the warrior, Post- 
humus ; he is always the same — a gentle yet im- 
pulsive nature, sensuous at once and meditative ; 
half poet, half philosopher, preferring nature and 
his own reveries to action and the life of courts ; a 
man physically fastidious to disgust, as is a delicate 
woman, with dirt and smells and common things ; 
an idealist daintily sensitive to all courtesies, chival- 
ries, and distinctions. The portrait is not yet com- 
plete — far from it, indeed; but already it is mani- 
fest that Shakespeare's nature was so complex, so 
tremulously poised between world-wide poles of 
poetry and philosophy, of what is individual and 
concrete on the one hand and what is abstract and 
general on the other, that the task of revealing him- 
self was singularly difficult. It is not easy even to 
describe him as he painted himself: it may be that, 
wishing to avoid a mere catalogue of disparate 
qualities, I have brought into too great prominence 
the gentle passionate side of Shakespeare's nature ; 
though that would be difficult and in any case no 
bad fault ; for this is the side which has hitherto been 
neglected or rather overlooked by the critics. 

139 



The Man Shakespeare 

My view of Shakespeare can be made clearer by 
examples. I began by taking Hamlet the phi- 
losopher as Shakespeare's most profound and com- 
plex study, and went on to prove that Hamlet is 
the most complete portrait which Shakespeare has 
given of himself, other portraits being as it were 
sides of Hamlet or less successful replicas of him; 
and finally I tried to complete the Hamlet by uniting 
him with Duke Orsino, Orsino the poet-lover being, 
so to speak, Shakespeare's easiest and most nat- 
ural portrait. In Hamlet, if one may dare to say 
so, Shakespeare has discovered too much of him- 
self: Hamlet is at one and the same time philosopher 
and poet, critic and courtier, lover and cynic — the 
extremes that Shakespeare's intellect could cover — 
and he fills every part so easily that he might almost 
be a bookish Admirable Crichton, a type of perfec- 
tion rather than an individual man, were it not for 
his feminine gentleness and forgivingness of nature, 
and particularly for the brooding melancholy and 
disbelief which darkened Shakespeare's outlook at 
the time. But though the melancholy scepticism 
was an abiding characteristic of Shakespeare, to be 
found in his Richard H. as in his Prospero, it did 
not overshadow all his being as it does Hamlet's. 
There was a summer-time, too, in Shakespeare's life, 
and in his nature a capacity for sunny gaiety and 
a delight in life and love which came to full ex- 
pression in the golden comedies, " Much Ado," " As 
You Like It" and "Twelfth Night." The com- 
plement to Hamlet, the sad philosopher-sceptic, is 
the sensuous happy poet-lover Orsino, and when we 
take these seeming antitheses and unite them we have 
a good portrait of Shakespeare. But these two, 
Hamlet and Orsino, are in reality one ; every quality 
of Orsino is to be found or divined in Hamlet, and 

140 



Falstaff 

therefore the easiest and surest way to get at Shake- 
speare is to take Hamlet and deepen those peculiari- 
ties in him which we find in Orsino. 

Some critics are sure to say that I have now 
given a portrait of Coleridge rather than a portrait 
of Shakespeare. This is not altogether the fact, 
though I for one see no shame in acknowledging 
the likeness. Coleridge had a " smack of Hamlet " 
in him, as he himself saw ; indeed, in his rich endow- 
ment as poet and philosopher, and in his gentleness 
and sweetness of disposition, he was more like Shake- 
speare than any other Englishman whom I can think 
of; but in Coleridge the poet soon disappeared, and 
a little later the philosopher in him faded into the 
visionary and sophist ; he became an upholder of the 
English Church and found reasons in the immutable 
constitution of the universe for aprons and shovel- 
hats. Shakespeare, on the other hand, though 
similarly endowed, was far more richly endowed: 
he had stronger passions and greater depth of feel- 
ing ; the sensuousness of Keats was in him ; and this 
richness of nature not only made him a greater lyric 
poet than Coleridge and a far saner thinker, but 
carried him in spite of a constitutional dislike of 
resolve and action to his astounding achievement. 

But even when we thus compare Shakespeare with 
Coleridge, as we compare trees of the same species, 
showing that as the roots of the one go deeper and 
take a firmer hold of earth, so in exact measure the 
crest rises into higher air, still there is something 
lacking to our comparison. Even when we hold 
Hamlet-Orsino before us as the best likeness of the 
master-poet, our impression of him is still incom- 
plete. 

There remains a host of creations from Launce 
to Autolycus, and from Dame Quickly to Maria, 

141 



The Man Shakespeare 

which proves that Shakespeare was something more 
than the gentle lover-thinker-poet whom we have 
shown. It is Shakespeare's humour that differ- 
entiates him, not only from Coleridge and Keats, 
but also from the world-poets, Goethe, Dante, and 
Homer. It is this unique endowment that brings 
him into vital touch with reality and common life, 
and hinders us from feeling his all-pervading ideality 
as disproportioned or one-sided. Strip him of his 
humour and he would have been seen long ago in 
his true proportions. His sympathies are not more 
broad and generous than Balzac's ; his nature is too 
delicate, too sensitive, too sensuous ; but his humour 
blinds us to the truth. Of course his comic charac- 
ters, like his captains and men of action, are due 
originally to his faculty of observation ; but while 
his observation of the fighting men is always super- 
ficial and at times indifferent, his humorous observa- 
tion is so intensely interested and sympathetic that 
its creations are only inferior in artistic value to his 
portraits of the poet-philosopher-lover. 

The intellect in him had little or nothing to go 
upon in the case of the man of action ; he never 
loved the Captain or watched him at work; it is his 
mind and second-hand knowledge that made Henry 
V. and Richard III. ; and how slight and shallow 
are these portraits in comparison v/ith the portrait 
of a Parolles or a Sir Toby Belch, or the ever- 
famous Nurse, where the same intellect has played 
about the humorous trait and heightened the effect 
of loving observation. The critics who have igno- 
rantly praised his Hotspur and Bastard as if he had 
been a man of deeds as well as a man of words have 
only obscured the truth that Shakespeare the poet- 
philosopher, the lover quand meTue, only reached a 
sane balance of nature through his overflowing 

143 



Falstaff 

humour. He whose intellect and sensibilities inspired 
him with nothing but contempt and loathing for the 
mass of mankind, the aristocrat who in a dozen plays 
sneers at the greasy caps and foul breaths of the 
multitude, fell in love with Dogberry, and Bottom, 
Quickly and Tearsheet, clod and clown, pimp and 
prostitute, for the laughter they afforded. His 
humour is rarely sardonic; it is almost purged of 
contempt; a product not of hate but of love; full 
of sympathy; summer-lightning humour, harmless 
and beautiful. 

Sometimes the sympathy fails and the laughter 
grows grim, and these lapses are characteristic. He 
hates false friends and timeservers, the whole tribe 
of the ungrateful, the lords of Timon's acquaint- 
ance and his artists ; he loathes Shylock, whose god 
is greed and who battens on others' misfortunes ; 
he laughs at the self-righteous Malvolio and not with 
him, and takes pleasure in unmasking the pretended 
ascetic and Puritan Angelo ; but for the frailties of 
the flesh he has an ever-ready forgiveness. Like the 
greatest of ethical teachers, he can take the publican 
and the sinner to his heart, but not the hypocrite 
or the Pharisee or the money-lender. 

It does not come within the scope of this essay to 
attempt a detailed criticism of Shakespeare's comic 
characters ; it will be enough for my purpose to show 
that even in his masterpiece of humour, the incom- 
parable Falstaff^, he betrays himself more than once : 
more than once we shall find Shakespeare, the poet, 
or Shakespeare, the thinker, speaking through Fal- 
stafF's mouth. Yet to criticize Falstaff is difficult, 
and if easy, it would still be an offence to those 
capable of gratitude. I would as soon find fault 
with Ariel's most exquisite lyric, or the impeccable 
loveliness of the " Dove Sono," as weigh the rich 

143 



The Man Shakespeare 

words of the Lord of Comedy in small balances of 
reason. But such considerations must not divert 
me from my purpose ; I have undertaken to discover 
the very soul of Shakespeare, and I must, therefore, 
trace him in Falstaff as in Hamlet. 

FalstafF enters and asks the Prince the time. The 
Prince answers that unless " hours were cups of sack 
and so forth, he can't understand why Falstaff 
should care about anything so superfluous as time." 
Falstaff replies : " Indeed you come near me now, 
Hal; for we that take purses go by the moon and 
the seven stars and not by Phoebus, he, ' that wan- 
dering knight so fair.' " Here we have a sort of 
lyrical strain in Falstaff and then a tag of poetry 
which gives food for thought; but his next speech 
is unmistakable: 

" Let us be Diana's foresters, gentlemen of the shade, 
minions of the moon; and let men say we be men of 
good government, being governed, as the sea is, by our 
noble and chaste mistress, the moon, under whose 
countenance we — steal." 

This is Shakespeare speaking, and Shakespeare 
alone : the phrases sing to us in the unmistakable 
music of the master-poet, though the fall at the 
last to " — steal," seems to be an attempt to get into 
the character of Falstaff. It is, of course, difficult 
to make the first words of a person sharply char- 
acteristic ; a writer is apt to work himself into a 
new character gradually ; it is only the sensitive 
self-consciousness of our time that demands an ab- 
solute fidelity in characterization from the first word 
to the last. Yet this scene is so excellent and nat- 
ural, that the uncertainty in the painting of Falstaff 
strikes me as peculiar. But this first speech is not 
the only speech of Falstaff in which Shakespeare 

144 



Falsfaff 

betrays himself; again and again we catch the very 
accent of the poet. It is not FalstafF but Shake- 
speare who says that " the poor abuses of the time 
want countenance " ; and later in the play, when 
the character of Falstaff is fully developed, it is 
Shakespeare, the thinker, who calls Falstaff's ragged 
regiment " the cankers of a calm world and a long 
peace." In just the same way Hamlet speaks of the 
expedition of Fortinbras: 

"This is the imposthume of much wealth and peace, 
That inward breaks." 

But though the belief that Shakespeare sometimes 
falls out of the character and slips phrases of his 
own into Falstaff's mouth is well-founded, it should 
nevertheless be put aside as a heresy, for the true 
faith is that the white-bearded old footpad who 
cheered on his fellow-ruffians with : 

** Strike. . . . Bacon-fed knaves ! they hate us 
youth : down with them ! fleece them ! '* 

and again: 

" On, bacons, on ! What, ye knaves ! young men 
must live! " 

is the most splendid piece of humorous portraiture in 
the world's fiction. 

Who but FalstafF would have found his self- jus- 
tification in his youth? — splendide mendaccf and yet 
the excuse is as true to his sack-heated blood when 
he uses it on Gadshill as it was true also to fact 
when he first used it forty years before. And who 
but FalstafF would have had the words of repent- 
ance always on his lips and never in his heart .^ I 

145 



The Man Shakespeare 

ascribe these illuminating flashes to Falstaff, and 
not to Shakespeare, for no imagination in the v/orld 
has yet accomplished such a miracle ; as a miracle 
of representment Falstaff is astonishing enough, as 
a miracle of creation he is simply unthinkable. I 
would almost as soon believe that Falstaff made 
Shakespeare as that Shakespeare made FalstafF 
without a living model. All hail to thee, inimitable, 
incomparable Jack! Never before or since has poet 
been blessed with such a teacher, as rich and laugh- 
terful, as mendacious and corrupting as life itself. 

I must not be taken to mean that the living 
original of FalstafF was as richly humorous, as in- 
exhaustibly diverting as the dramatic counterfeit 
who is now a citizen a.nd chief personage in that 
world of literature which outlasts all the fleeting 
shows of the so-called real world. It seems to me 
to be possible for a good reader to notice, not only 
Shakespeare's lapses and faults in the drawing of 
this character, but also to make a very fair guess 
at his heightening touches, and so arrive at last at 
the humorous old lewdster who furnished the living 
model for the inimitable portrait. The first scene 
in which FalstafF appears talking with Prince Henry 
will supply examples to illustrate my meaning. 
Falstaff's very first speech after he asks Hal the 
time of day gives us the key; he ends it with: 

" And I pr'ytliee^ sweet wag^ when thou art king, — 
as, God save thy grace — majest}^^, I should say, for 
grace thou wilt have none, " 

Here he is interrupted and breaks ofF, but a minute 
or two later he come back again to his argument, 
and curiously enough uses exactly the same words : 

" But, I pr'ythee, sweet wag, shall there be gallows 

146 



Falstaff 

standing in England when thou art king? and resolu- 
tion thus fobbed as it is with the rusty curb of old 
father Antick, the law ? " 

Now, this question and the hope it expresses that 
justice would be put to shame in England on Prince 
Henry's accession to the throne is taken from a 
speech of the Prince in the old play, " The Famous 
Victories of Henry the Fifth." Shakespeare would 
have done better to leave it out, for Falstaff has far 
too good brains to imagine that all thieves could 
ever have his licence and far too much conceit ever to 
desire so unholy a consummation. And Shakespeare 
must have felt that the borrowed words were too 
shallow-common, for he immediately falls back on 
his own brains for the next phrase and gives us of 
his hoarded best. The second part of the question, 
" resolution thus fobbed," and so forth, is only an- 
other statement of the famous couplet in " Richard 

ni.": 

" Conscience is but a word that cowards use. 
Devised at first to keep the strong in awe." 

These faults show that Shakespeare is at first un- 
sure of his personage; he fumbles a little; yet the 
vivacity, the roaring life, is certainly a quality of 
the original Falstaff, for it attends him as con- 
stantly as his shadow; the pun, too, is his, and the 
phrase " sweet wag " is probably taken from his 
mouth, for he repeats it again, " sweet wag," and 
again " mad wag." The shamelessness, too, and 
the lechery are marks of him, and the love of witty 
word-warfare, and, above all, the pretended re- 
pentance : 

" O, thou hast damnable iteration, and art, indeed, 
able to corrupt a saint. Thou hast done much harm 

147 



The Man Shakespeare 

upon me^ Hal^ — God forgive thee for it. Before I knew 
thee, Hal, I knew nothing; and now am I, if a man 
should speak truly, little better than one of the wicked. 
I must give over this life, and I will give it over ; by the 
Lord, an I do not, I am a villain; I'll be damned for 
never a king's son in Christendom." 

In this first scene between FalstafF and Prince 
Henry, Shakespeare is feeling his way, so to speak, 
blindfold to FalstafF, with gropings of memory and 
dashes of poetry that lead him past the mark. In 
this first scene, as we noticed, he puts fine lyric 
phrases in FalstafF's mouth ; but he never repeats the 
experiment ; Falstaff and high poetry are antipodes 
— all of which merely proves that at first Shake- 
speare had not got into the skin of his personage. 
But the real Falstaff had probably tags of verse 
in memory and lilts of song, for Shakespeare re- 
peats this trait. Here we reach the test: Whenever 
a feature is accentuated by repetition, we may guess 
that it belongs to the living model. There was as- 
suredly a strong dash of Puritanism in the real 
Falstaff, for when Shakespeare comes to render this, 
he multiplies the brush-strokes with perfect confi- 
dence; FalstafF is perpetually repenting. 

After the first scene Shakespeare seems to have 
made up his mind to keep closely to his model and 
only to permit himself heightening touches. 

In order to come closer to the original, I will now 
take another passage later in the play, when Shake- 
speare is drawing FalstafF with a sure hand : 

*' Fal, A plague of all cowards, I say, and a ven- 
geance too ! marry and amen ! — Give n>e a cup of sack, 
boy. — Ere I lead this life long, I'll sew netherstocks, 
and mend them, and foot them, too. A plague of all 
cowards ! — give me a cup of sack, rog^e. — Is there no 
virtue extant.^ IDrinks.] " 

148 



Falstaff 

Here is surely the true Falstaff; he vill not lead 
this life long; this is the soul of himf but the ex- 
quisite heightening phrase, " Is there no virtue ex- 
tant? " is pure Shakespeare, Shakespeare generaliz- 
ing as we saw him generalizing in just the same way 
in the scene where Cade is talked of in the Second 
Part of " King Henry VI." The form too is Shake- 
speare's. Who does not remember the magic line 
in " The Two Noble Kinsmen ".? 

"She is all the beauty extant." 

And the next speech of Falstaff is just as illu- 
minating: 

" Fal. You rogue, here's lime in this sack, too ; there 
is nothing but roguery to be found in villainous man: 
yet a coward is worse than a cup of sack with lime in it 
— a villainous coward. — Go thy ways, old Jack; die 
when thou wilt, if manhood, good manhood, be not 
forgot upon the face of the earth, then am I a shotten 
herring. There live not three good men unhanged in 
England, and one of them is fat and grows old: God 
help the while ! A bad world I say " 

At the beginning the concrete fact, then general- 
ization, and then merely a repetition of the traits 
marked in the first scene, with the addition of brag- 
ging. Evidently Shakespeare has the model in 
memory as he writes. I say " evidently," for Fal- 
staff is the only character in Shakespeare that re- 
peats the same words with damnable iteration, and 
in whom the same traits are shown again and ag^in 
and again. When Shakespeare is painting hims-^^lf 
in Richard XL he depicts irresolution again ard 
again as he depicts it also in Hamlet ; but neitVr 
Hamlet nor Richard repeats the same words, nor i\ 

149 



The Man Shakespeare 

any trait in either of them accentuated so grossly 
as are the principal traits of Falstaff's character. 
The features in FalstafF which are so harped upon, 
are to me the features of the original model. Shake- 
speare did not know Falstaff quite as well as he 
knew himself; so he has to confine himself to certain 
qualities which he had observed, and stick, besides, 
to certain tags of speech, v/hich were probably fa- 
vourites with the living man. 

In another important particular, too, FalstafF is 
unlike any other comic character in Shakespeare: 
he tells the truth about himself in a magical way. 
The passage I allude to is the first speech made by 
FalstafF in the Second Part of "Henry IV."; it 
shows us Shakespeare getting into the character 
again — after a certain lapse of time: 

*' Fat. Men of all sorts take a pride to gird at me ; the 
brain of this foolish-compounded clay, man, is not able 
to invent anything that tends to laughter, more than I 
invent or is invented on me: I am not only witty in my- 
self, but the cause that wit is in other men '* 

Just as in the first act Shakespeare introducing Fal- 
stafF makes him talk poetically, so here there is a 
certain exaltation and lyrical swing which betrays 
the poet-creator. " Foolish-compounded," too, shows 
Shakespeare's hand, but the boast, I feel sure, was 
a boast often made by the original, and thus brings 
Shakespeare into intimate union with the character; 
for after this introduction FalstafF goes on to talk 
pure FalstafF, unmixed with any slightest dash of 
poetry. 

Who was the original of FalstafF .? Is a guess 
possible.^ It seems to me it must have been some 
lover of poetry — perhaps Chettle, the Chettle who 
years before had published Greene's attack upon 

150 



Fal staff 

Shakespeare and who afterwards made amends for 
it. In Dekker's tract, "A Knight's Conjuring," 
Chettle figures among the poets in Elysium : " In 
comes Chettle sweating and blowing by reason of 
his fatness ; to welcome whom, because hee was of 
olde acquaintance, all rose up, and fell presentlie on 
their knees, to drinck a health to all the louers of 
Hellicon." Here we have a fat man greeted with 
laughter and mock reverence by the poets — just such 
a model as Shakespeare needed, but the guess is 
mere conjecture: we don't know enough about 
Chettle to be at all sure. Yet Chettle was by way 
of being a poet, and Falstaff uses tags of verse — still, 
as I say, it is all pure guesswork. The only reason 
I put his name forward is that some have talked of 
Ben Jonson as Falstaff's original merely because he 
was fat. I cannot believe that gentle Shakespeare 
would ever have treated Jonson with such contempt ; 
but Chettle seems to have been a butt by nature. 

That FalstafF was taken from one model is to me 
certain. Shakespeare very seldom tells us what his 
characters look like; whenever he gives us a photo- 
graph, so to speak, of a person, it is always taken 
from life and extraordinarily significant. We have 
several portraits of Falstaff: the Prince gives a pic- 
ture of the " old fat man, . . ." that trunk of 
humours "... that old white-bearded Satan " ; the 
Chief Justice gives us another of his " moist eye, 
white beard, increasing belly and double chin." 
FalstafF himself has another: " a goodly portly 
man, i' faith and a corpulent ; of a cheerful look, a 
pleasing eye, and a most noble carriage." Such 
physical portraiture alone would convince me that 
there was a living model for FalstafF. But there 
are more obvious arguments : the other humorous 
characters of Shakespeare are infinitely inferior to 

151 



The Man Shakespeare 

Falstaff, and the best of them are merely sides of 
Falstaff or poor reflections of him. Autolycus and 
Parolles have many of his traits, but they are not 
old, and taken together, they are only a faint 
replica of the immortal footpad. 

Listening with my heart in my ears, I catch a liv- 
ing voice, a round, fat voice with tags of " pr'ythee," 
" wag," and " marry," and behind the inimitable 
dramatic counterfeit I see a big man with a white 
head and round belly who loved wine and women and 
jovial nights, a Triton among the minnows of boon 
companions, whose shameless effrontery was backed 
by cunning, whose wit though common was abun- 
dant and effective through long practice — a sort 
of licensed tavern-king, whose mere entrance into a 
room set the table in a roar. Shakespeare was 
attracted by the many-sided racy ruffian, delighted 
perhaps most by his easy mastery of life and men ; 
he studied him with infinite zest, absorbed him 
wholly, and afterwards reproduced him with such 
richness of sympathy, such magic of enlarging in- 
vention that he has become, so to speak, the symbol 
of laughter throughout the world, for men of all 
races the true Comic Muse. 

In any case I may be allowed one last argument. 
The Falstaff of " The Merry Wives of Windsor " 
is not the Falstaff of the two parts of " King Henry 
IV." ; it is but a shadow of the great knight that we 
see, an echo of him that we hear in the later comedy. 
Falstaff would never have written the same letter to 
Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page ; there was too much fancy 
in him, too much fertility, too much delight in his 
own mind- and word-wealth ever to show himself so 
painfully stinted and barren. Nor is it credible that 
Falstaff would ever have fallen three times running 
into the same trap ; Falstaff made traps ; he did not 

153 



Falstaff 

fall into them. We know, too, that Falstaff would 
not fight " longer than he saw reason " ; his instinct 
of self-preservation was largely developed; but he 
could face a sword ; he drew on Pistol and chased him 
from the room ; he was not such a pitiful coward as 
to take Ford's cudgelling. Finally, the Falstaff 
whom we all know could never have been befooled by 
the Welshman and his child-fairies. And this ob- 
jection Shakespeare himself felt, for he meets it by 
making Falstaff explain how near he came to dis- 
covering the fraud, and how wit is made " a Jack-a- 
Lent when 'tis upon ill employment." But the fact 
that some explanation is necessary is an admission 
of the fault. Falstaff must indeed have laid his 
brains in the sun before he could have been taken in 
by foppery so gross and palpable. This is not the 
same man who at once recognized the Prince and 
Poins through their disguise as drawers. Yet there 
are moments when the Falstaff of " The Merry 
Wives " resumes his old nature. For example, when 
he is accused by Pistol of sharing in the proceeds 
of the theft, he answers with all the old shameless 
wit: 

"Reason, you rogue, reason; think'st thou I'll en- 
danger my soul gratis ? " 

and, again, when he has been cozened and beaten, 
he speaks almost in the old way : 

" I never prospered since I forswore myself at prim- 
ero. Well, if my wind were but long enough to say 
my prayers, I would repent.'* 

But on the whole the Falstaff of "The Merry 
Wives " is but a poor thin shadow of the Falstaff 
of the two parts of " Henry IV." 

153 



The Man Shakespeare 

Had " The Merry Wives " been produced under 
ordinary conditions, one would have had to rack 
one's brains to account for its feebleness. Not only 
is the genial Lord of Humour degraded in it into a 
buffoon, but the amusement of it is chiefly in situa- 
tion ; it is almost as much a farce as a comedy. 
For these and other reasons I believe in the truth 
of the tradition that Elizabeth was so pleased with 
the character of Falstaff that she ordered Shake- 
speare to write another play showing the fat knight 
in love, and that in obedience to this command 
Shakespeare wrote " The Merry Wives " in a fort- 
night. For what does a dramatist do when he is in 
a hurry to strike while the iron is hot and catch a 
Queen's fancy before it changes ? Naturally he goes 
to his memory for his characters, to that vivid 
memory of youth which makes up by precision of 
portraiture for what it lacks in depth of compre- 
hension. And this is the distinguishing characteris- 
tic of " The Merry Wives," particularly in the be- 
ginning. ^Even without " the dozen white luces " 
in his coat, one would swear that this Justice Shal- 
low, with his pompous pride of birth and his stilted 
stupidity, is a portrait from life, some Sir Thomas 
Lucy or other^ and Justice Shallow is not so deeply 
etched in as' his cousin. Master Slender — " a little 
wee face, with a little yellow beard, — a cane-coloured 
beard." Such physica,l portraiture, as I have said, 
is very rare and very significant in Shakespeare. 
This photograph is slightly malevolent, too, as of 
one whose malice is protected by a Queen's commis- 
sion. Those who do not believe tradition when thus 
circumstantially supported would not believe though 
one rose from the dead to witness to them. " The 
Merry Wives " is worthful to me as the only piece 
of Shakespeare's journalism that we possess; here 

154 



Fal staff 

we find him doing task-work, and doing it at utmost 
speed. Those who wish to measure the difference 
between the conscious, dehberate work of the artist 
and the hurried slap-dash performance of the jour- 
nalist, have only to compare the FalstafF of " The 
Merry Wives " with the FalstafF of the two parts of 
" Henry IV." But if we take it for granted that 
" The Merry Wives " was done in haste and to 
order, can any inference be fairly drawn from the 
feebleness of Falstaff and the unreality of his love- 
making.'^ I think so ; it seems to me that, if FalstafF 
had been a creation, Shakespeare must have repro- 
duced him more efFectively. His love-making in the 
second part of " Henry IV." is real enough. But 
just because FalstafF was taken from life, and 
studied from the outside, Shakespeare having 
painted him once could not paint him again, he 
had exhausted his model and could only echo him. 
The heart of the matter is that, whereas Shake- 
speare's men of action, when he is not helped by 
history or tradition, are thinly conceived and poorly 
painted, his comic characters — FalstafF, Sir Toby 
Belch, and Dogberry ; Maria, Dame Quickly, and 
the Nurse, creatures of observation though they be, 
are only inferior as works of art to the portraits of 
himself which he has given us in Romeo, Hamlet, 
Macbeth, Orsino, and Posthumus. It is his humour 
which makes Shakespeare the greatest of dramatists, 
the most complete of men. 



155 



BOOK II 



CHAPTER I 

shakespeaee's earey attempts to portray 
himself and his wife i 

biron, adriana, valentine 

N the preceding chapters I have considered those 
impersonations of Shakespeare which revealed 
most distinctly the salient features of his character. 
I now regard this part of my work as finished: the 
outlines at least of his nature are established be- 
yond dispute, and I may therefore be permitted to 
return upon my steps, and beginning with the earliest 
works pass in review m_ost of the other personages 
who discover him, however feebly or profoundly. 
Hitherto I have rather challenged contradiction than 
tried to conciliate or persuade ; it was necessary to 
convince the reader that Shakespeare was indeed 
Hamlet-Orsino, plus an exquisite sense of humour; 
and as the proofs of this were almost inexhaustible, 
and as the stability'' of the whole structure depended 
on the firmness of the foundations, I v/as more than 
willing to call forth opposition in order once for all 
to strangle doubt. But now that I have to put in 
the finer traits of the portrait I have to hope for the 
goodwill at least of my readers. Even then my task 
is not easy. The subtler traits of a man's character 
often elude accurate description, to say nothing of 
exact proof ; the differences in tone between a drama- 
tist's own experiences of life and his observation of 
the experiences of others are often so slight as to be 
all but unnoticeable. In the case of some peculiari- 
ties I have only a mere suggestion to go upon, in 

159 



The ^Man Shakespeare 

that of others a bare surmise, a hint so fleeting that 
it may well seem to the judicious as if the meshes 
of language were too coarse to catch such evanes- 
cent indication. 

Fortunately in this work I am not called on to 
limit myself to that which can be proved beyond 
question, or to the ordinary man. I think my reader 
will allow me, or indeed expect me, now to throw off 
constraint and finish my picture as I please. 

In this second book then I shall try to correct 
Shakespeare's portraits of himself by bringing out 
his concealed faults and vices — the shortcomings 
one's vanity slurs over and omits. Above all I shall 
try to notice anything that throws light upon his 
life, for I have to tell here the story of his passion 
and his soul's wreck. At the crisis of his life he 
revealed himself almost without affectation ; in agony 
men forget to pose. And this more intimate under- 
standing of the man will enable us to reconstruct, 
partially at least, the happenings of his life, and so 
trace not only his development, but the incidents of 
his life's journey from his school days in 1575 till 
he crept home to Stratford to die nearly forty years 
later. 

The chief academic critics, such as Professor 
Dowden and Dr. Brandes, take pains to inform us 
that Biron in " Love's Labour's Lost " is nothing 
but an impersonation of Shakespeare. This would 
show much insight on the part of the Professors 
were it not that Coleridge as usual has been before 
them, and that Coleridge's statement is to be pre- 
ferred to theirs. Coleridge was careful to say that 
the whole play revealed many of Shakespeare's char- 
acteristic features, and he added finely, " as in a 
portrait taken of him in his boyhood." This is far 
truer than Dowden's more precise statement that 

160 



Biron, Adriana, Valentine 

" Berowne is the exponent of Shakespeare's own 
thought." For though, of course, Biron is espe- 
cially the mouthpiece of the poet, yet Shakespeare 
reveals himself in the first speech of the King as 
clearly as he does in any speech of Biron : 

** Let Fame, that all hunt after in their lives'. 
Live registered upon our brazen tombs, 
And then grace us in the disgrace of death; 
When, spite of cormorant devouring Time, 
The endeavour of this present breath may buy 
That honour which shall 'bate his scythe's keen edge. 
And make us heirs of all eternity." 

The King's criticism, too, of Armado in the first 
scene is more finely characteristic of Shakespeare 
than Biron's criticism of Boyet in the last act. In 
this, his first drama, Shakespeare can hardly sketch 
a sympathetic character without putting something 
of himself into it. 

I regard " Love's Labour's Lost " as Shake- 
speare's earliest comedy, not only because the 
greater part of it is in rhymed verse, but also be- 
cause he was unable in it to individualize his serious 
personages at all ; the comic characters, on the other 
hand, are already carefully observed and distinctly 
diff^erenced, Biron himself is scarcely more than a 
charming sketch: he is almost as interested in lan- 
guage as in love, and he plays with words till they 
revenge themselves by obscuring his wit; he is filled 
with the high spirits of youth; in fact, he shows us 
the form and pressure of the Renaissance as clearly 
as the features of Shakespeare. It is, however 
Biron-Shakespeare, who understands that the real 
world is built on broader natural foundations than 
the King's womanless Academe, and therefore pre- 
dicts the failure of the ascetic experiment. Another 

161 



The Man Shakespeare 

trait in Biron that brings us close to Shakespeare 
is his contempt for book-learning: 

" Small have continual plodders ever won 
Save bare authority from others' books. 

• • • • ' • 

To much to know is to know nought but fame; 
And every godfather can give a name." 

Again and again he returns to the charge: 

" To study now it is too late. 
Climb o'er the house to unlock the little gate." 

The summing up is triumphant: 

" So^ study evermore is overshot." 

In fine, Biron ridicules study at such length and 
with such- earnestness and pointed phrase that it 
is manifest the discussion was intensely interesting 
to Shakespeare himself. But We should have ex- 
pected Shakespeare's alter ego to be arguing on the 
other side ; for again and again we have had to no- 
tice that Shakespeare was a confirmed lover of books ; 
he was always using bookish metaphors, and Hamlet 
was a student b}^ nature. This attitude on the part 
of Biron, then, calls for explanation, and it seems 
to me that the only possible explanation is to be 
found in Shakespeare's own experience. Those who 
know England as she was in the days of Elizabeth, 
or as she is to-day, will hardly need to be told that 
when Shakespeare first came to London he v/as re- 
garded as an unlettered provincial (" with little 
Latin and less Greek "), and had to bear the mocks 
and flouts of his beschooled fellows, who esteemed 
learning and gentility above genius. In his ver}'- 

163 



Btron, Adriana, Valentine 

first independent play he answered the scorners with 
scorn. But this disdain of study was not Shake- 
speare's real feeling; and his natural loyalty to the 
deeper truth forced him to make Biron contradict 
and excuse his own argument in a way which seems 
to me altogether charming; but is certainly un- 
dramatic : 

** — Though I have for barbarism spoke more 
Than for that angel knowledge you can say." 

Undramatic the declaration is because it is at war 
with the length and earnestness with which Biron 
has maintained his contempt for learning; but here 
undoubtedly we find the true Shakespeare who as a 
youth speaks of " that angel, knowledge," just as 
in " Cymbeline " twenty years later he calls rever- 
ence, " that angel of the world." 

When we come to his " Life " we shall see 
that Shakespeare, who was thrown into the scrim- 
m.age of existence as a youth, and had to win 
his own way in the world, had, naturally enough, 
a much higher opinion of books and book-learning 
than Goethe, who was bred a student and knew life 
only as an amateur : 

" Einen Blick in's Buch hinein und zwei in's Leben 
Das muss die reclite Form dem Geiste geben." 

Shakespeare would undoubtedly have given " two 
glances " to books and one to life, had he been 
free to choose ; but perhaps after all Goethe was 
right in warning us that life is more valuable to the 
artist than any transcript of it. 

To return to our theme ; Biron is not among 
Shakespeare's successful portraits of himself. As 
might be expected in a first essay, the drawing is 

163 



The Man Shakespeare 

now over-minute, now too loose. When Biron talks 
of study, he reveals, as we have seen, personal feel- 
ings that are merely transient; on the other hand, 
when he talks about Boyet he talks merely to hear 
" the music of his own vain tongue." He is, how- 
ever, always nimble-witted and impulsive ; " quick 
Biron " as the Princess calls him, a gentleman of 
charming manners, of incomparable fluent, graceful, 
and witty speech, which qualities afterwards came 
to blossom in Mercutio and Gratiano. The faults 
in portraiture are manifestly due to inexperience: 
Shakespeare was still too youthful-timid to paint 
his chief features boldly, and it is left for Rosaline 
to picture Biron for us as Shakespeare doubtless 
desired to appear: 

" A merrier man. 
Within the limits of becoming mirth, 
I never spent an hour's talk withal. 
His eye begets occasion for his wit; 
For every object that the one doth catch. 
The other turns to a mirth-moving jest, 
Which his fair tongue, conceit's expositor. 
Delivers in such apt and gracious words 
That aged ears play truant at his tales. 
And younger hearings are quite ravished. 
So sweet and voluble is his discourse." 

Every touch of this self-painted portrait deserves to 
be studied: it is the first photograph of our poet 
which we possess — a photograph, too, taken in early 
manhood. Shakespeare's wit we knew, his mirth 
too, and that his conversation was voluble and sweet 
enough to ravish youthful ears and enthrall the 
aged we might have guessed from Jonson's report. 
But it is delightful to hear of his mirth-moving 
words and to know that he regarded himself as the 
best talker in the world. But just as the play at the 

164 



Biron, Adriana, Valentine 

end turns from love-making and gay courtesies to 
thoughts of death and " world-without-end " pledges, 
so Biron's merriment is only the effervescence of 
youth, and love brings out in him Shakespeare's 
characteristic melancholy : 

*' By heaven, I do love, and it hath taught me to 
rhyme, and to be melancholy." 

Again and again, as in his apology to Rosaline, 
and his appeal at the end of the play to " honest 
plain words," he shows a deep underlying seriousness. 
The soul of quick, talkative, mirthful Biron is that 
he loves beauty whether of women or of words, and 
though he condemns " taffeta phrases," he shows 
his liking for the " silken terms precise " in the very 
form of his condemnation. 

Of course all careful readers know that the 
greater seriousness of the last two acts of " Love's 
Labour's Lost," and the frequent use of blank verse 
instead of rhymed verse in them, are due to the fact 
that Shakespeare revised the play in 1597, some 
eight or nine years probably after he had first writ- 
ten it. Every one must have noticed the repetitions 
in Biron's long speech at the end of the fourth act, 
which show the original garment and the later, finer 
embroidery. As I shall have to return to this re- 
vision for other reasons, it will be enough here to 
remark that it is especially the speeches of Biron 
which Shakespeare improved in the second handling. 

Dr. Brandes, or rather Coleridge, tells us that in 
Biron and his Rosaline we have the first hesitating 
sketch of the masterly Benedick and Beatrice of 
" Much Ado about Nothing " ; but in this I think 
Coleridge goes too far. Unformed as Biron is, he 
is Shakespeare in early youth, whereas in Benedick 

165 



The Man Shakespeare 

the likeness is not by any means so clear. In fact, 
Benedick is merely an admirable stage silhouette 
and needs to be filled out with an actor's personality. 
Beatrice, on the other hand, is a woman of a very 
distinct type, whereas Rosaline needs pages of ex- 
planation, which Coleridge never dreamed of. A 
certain similarity rather of situation than of charac- 
ter seems to have misled Coleridge in this instance. 
Boyet jests with Maria and Rosaline just as Biron 
does, and just as Benedick jests with Beatrice: all 
these .scenes simply show how intensely young Shake- 
speare enjoyed a combat of wits, spiced with the 
suggestiveness that nearly always shov/s itself when 
the combatants are of different sexes. 

It is almost certain that " Love's Labour's Lost " 
was wholly conceived and constructed as well as 
written by Shakespeare; no play or story has yet 
been found which might, in this case, have served 
him as a model. For the first and probably the last 
time he seems to have taken the entire drama from 
his imagination, and the result from a playwright's 
point of view is unfortunate ; " Love's Labour's 
Lost " is his slightest and feeblest play. It is 
scarcely ever seen on the stage — is, indeed, prac- 
tically unactable. This fact goes to confirm the 
view already put forth more than once in these pages, 
that Shakespeare was not a good playwright and 
took little or no interest in the external incidents of 
his dramas. The plot and action of the story, so 
carefully worked out by the ordinary playwright 
and so highly esteemed by critics and spectators, 
he always borrows, as if he had recognized the weak- 
ness of this first attempt, and when he sets himself 
to construct a play, it has no action, no plot — is, 
indeed, merely a succession of fantastic occurrences 
that give occasion for light love-making and bril- 

166 



Biron, Adriana, Valentine 

liant talk. Even in regard to the grouping of char- 
acters the construction of his early plays is puerile, 
mechanical ; in " Love's Labour's Lost " the King 
with his three courtiers is set against the Princess 
and her three ladies ; in " The Two Gentlemen of 
Verona " there is the faithful Valentine opposed to 
the inconstant Proteus, and each of them has a comic 
servant ; and when later his plays from this point 
of view were not manufactured but grew, and thus 
assumed the beautiful irregular symmetry of life, 
the incidents were still neglected. Neither the poet 
nor the philosopher in Shakespeare felt much of the 
child's interest in the story ; he chose his tales for 
the sake of the characters and the poetry, and 
whether they were effective stage-tales or not 
troubled him but little. There is hardly more plot 
or action in " Lear " than in " Love's Labour's 
Lost." 

It is probable that " The Comedy of Errors " 
followed hard on the heels of " Love's Labour's 
Lost." It practically belongs to the same period: 
it has fewer lines of prose in it than " Love's 
Labour's Lost " ; but, on the other hand, the in- 
trigue-spinning is clever, and the whole play shows 
a riper knowledge of theatrical conditions. Per- 
haps because the intrigue is more interesting, the 
character-drawing is even feebler than that of the 
earlier comedy : indeed, so far as the men go there is 
hardly anything worth calling character-drawing at 
all. Shakespeare speaks through this or that mask 
as occasion tempts him: and if the women are 
sharply, crudely differentiated, it is because Shake- 
speare, as I shall show later, has sketched his wife 
for us in Adriana, and his view of her character is 
decided enough if not over kind. Still, any and 
every peculiarity of character deserves notice, for in 

167 



The 'Man Shakespeare 

these earliest works Shakespeare is compelled to use 
his personal experience, to tell us of his own life and 
his own feelings, not having any wider knowledge 
to draw upon. Every word, therefore, in these first 
comedies, is important to those who would learn the 
story of his youth and fathom the idiosyncrasies of 
his being. When ^geon, in the opening scenes, 
tells the Duke about the shipwreck in which he is 
separated from his wife and child, he declares that 
he himself " would gladly have embraced immediate 
death." No reason is given for this extraordinary 
contempt of living. It was the " incessant weep- 
ings " of his wife, the " piteous plainings of the 
pretty babes," that forced him, he says, to exert 
himself. But wives don't weep incessantly in danger, 
nor are the " piteous plainings of the pretty babes " 
a feature of shipwreck; I find here a little picture 
of Shakespeare's early married life in Stratford — 
a snapshot of memory. JEgeon concludes his ac- 
count by saying that his life was prolonged in order 

" To tell sad stories of my own mishaps '* 

— which reminds one of similar words used later 
by Richard II. This personal, melancholy note is 
here forced and false, for iEgeon surely lives in hope 
of finding his wife and child and not in order to tell 
of his misfortunes. JEgeon is evidently a breath of 
Shakespeare himself, and not more than a breath, 
because he only appears again when the play is 
practically finished. Deep-brooding melancholy was 
the customary habit of Shakespeare even in youth. 
Just as in " Love's Labour's Lost " we find Shake- 
speare speaking first through the King and then 
more fully through the hero, Biron, so here he first 
speaks through ^geon and then at greater length 

168 



Biron, Adrian a, Valentine 

through the protagonist Antipholus of Syracuse. 
Antipholus is introduced to us as new come to 
Ephesus, and Shakespeare is evidently thinking of 
his own first day in London when he puts in his 
mouth these words: 

*' Within this hour it will be dinner-time : 
Till that, I'll view the manners of the town. 
Peruse the traders, gaze upon the buildings. 
And then return and sleep within mine inn; 
For with long travel I am stiff and weary." 

Though " stiff and weary " he is too eager-young 
to rest ; he will see everything — even " peruse the 
traders " — how the bookish metaphor always comes 
to Shakespeare's lips ! — before he will eat or sleep. 
The utterly needless last line, with its emphatic de- 
scription — " stiff and weary " — corroborates my 
belief that Shakespeare in this passage is telling us 
what he himself felt and did on his first arrival in 
London. In the second scene of the third act An- 
tipholus sends his servant to the port: 

" I will not harbour in this town to-night 
If any bark put forth." 

From the fact that Shakespeare represented An- 
tipholus to himself as wishing to leave Ephesus by 
sea, it is probable that he pictured him coming to 
Ephesus in a ship. But when Shakespeare begins 
to tell us what he did on reaching London he re- 
calls his own desires and then his own feelings ; he 
was " stiff and weary " on that first day because he 
rode, or more probably walked, into London ; one 
does not become " stiff and weary " on board ship. 
This is another snapshot at that early life of Shake- 
speare, and his arrival in London, which one would 

169 



The Man Shakespeare 

not willingly miss. And surely it is the country-bred 
lad from Stratford, who, fearing all manner of town- 
tricks, speaks in this way: 

" They say this town is full of cozenage ; 
As, nimble jugglers that deceive the eye, 
Dark-working sorcerers that change the mind. 
Soul-killing witches that deform the body. 
Disguised cheaters, prating mountebanks. 
And many such-like liberties of sin: 

I • • • • • 

I greatly fear my money is not safe." 

This Antipholus is most ingenuous-talkative; with- 
out being questioned he tells about his servant: 

"A trusty villain, sir; that very oft. 
When I am dull with care and melancholy. 
Lightens my humour with his merry jests." 

And as if this did not mark bis peculiar thoughtful 
temperament sufficiently, he tells the merchant: 

*' I will go lose myself. 
And wander up and down to view the city." 

And when the merchant leaves him, commending 
him to his own content, he talks to himself in this 
strain : 

** He that commends me to mine own content. 
Commends me to the thing I cannot get, 

!•' !•• !•! L»i l»l 

So I, to find a mother and a brother. 

In quest of them^ unhappy, lose myself." 

A most curious way, it must be confessed, to seek 
for any one; but perfectly natural to the refined, 
melancholy, meditative, book-loving temperament 
which was already Shakespeare's. In this " un- 

17a 



Biron, Adriana, Valentine 

happy " and " mother " I think I hear an echo of 
Shakespeare's sorrow at parting from his own 
mother. 

This Antipholus, although very free and open, 
has a reserve of dignity, as we see in the second 
scene of the second act, when he talks with his 
servant, who, as he thinks, has played with him: 

** Because that I familiarly sometimes 
Do use you for my fool, and chat with you. 
Your sauciness will jest upon my love. 
And make a common of my serious hours. 
When the sun shines let foolish gnats make sport, 
But creep in crannies when he hides his beams." 

The self-esteem seems a little exaggerated here ; but, 
after all, it is only natural ; the whole scene is taken 
from Shakespeare's experience: the man who will 
chat familiarly with his servant, and jest with him 
as well, must expect to have to pull him up at times 
rather sharply. Antipholus proceeds to play with 
his servant in a fencing match of wit — a practice 
Shakespeare seems to have delighted in. But it is 
when Antipholus falls in love with Luciana that he 
shows us Shakespeare at his most natural as a lover. 
Luciana has just taken him to task for not loving 
her sister Adriana, who, she thinks, is his wife. 
Antipholus answers her thus: 

" Sweet mistress, — what your name is else, I know not. 
Nor by what wonder you do hit of mine, — 
Less in your knowledge and your face you show not. 
Than our earth's wonder ; more than earth divine. 
Teach me, dear creature, how to think and speak; 
Lay open to my earthy-gross conceit, 
Smother'd in errors, feeble, shallow, weak. 
The folded meaning of your words' deceit. . . .'* 

171 



The Man Shakespeare 

He declares, in fact, that he loves her and not her 
sister : 

"Sing, siren, for thyself and I will dote: 
Spread o'er the silver waves thy golden hairs. 
And as a bed I'll take them and there lie; 

• • • .• • 

It is thyself, mine own self's better part. 

Mine eye's clear ejt, my dear heart's dearer heart." 

And as if this were not enough he goes on : 

" My food, my fortune, and my sweet hope's aim. 
My sole earth's heaven, and my heaven's claim." 

The word-conceits were a fashion of the time; 
but in spite of the verbal affectation, the courting 
shows the cunning of experience, and has, besides, 
a sort of echo of sincere feeling. How Shakespeare 
delights in making love ! It reminds one of the first 
flutings of a thrush in early spring ; over and over 
again he tries the notes with delighted iteration till 
he becomes a master of his music and charms the 
copses to silence with his song: and so Shakespeare 
sings of love again and again till at length we get 
the liquid notes of passion and the trills of joy all 
perfected in " Romeo and Juliet " ; but the voice is 
the voice we heard before in " Venus and Adonis " 
and " The Comedy of Errors." 

Antipholus' other appearances are not important. 
He merely fills his part till in the last scene he as- 
sures Luciana that he will make good his earlier 
protestations of love ; but so far as he has any char- 
acter at all, or distinctive individuality, he is young 
Shakespeare himself and his experiences are Shake- 
speare's. 

Now a word or two about Adriana. Shakespeare 



Biron, Adriana, Valentine 

makes her a jealous, nagging, violent scold, who will 
have her husband arrested for debt, though she will 
give money to free him. But the comedy of the 
play would be better brought out if Adriana were 
pictured as loving and constant, inflicting her in- 
convenient affection upon the false husband as upon 
the true. Why did Shakespeare want to paint this 
unpleasant bitter-tongued wife.'' 

When Adriana appears in the first scene of the 
second act she is at once sketched in her impatience 
and jealousy. She wants to know why her husband 
should have more liberty than she has, and declares 
that none but asses will be bridled so. Then she 
will strike her servant. In the first five minutes 
of this act she is sketched to the life, and Shake- 
speare does nothing afterwards but repeat and 
deepen the same strokes : it seems as if he knew 
nothing about her or would depict nothing of her 
except her jealousy and nagging, her impatience 
and violence. We have had occasion to notice more 
than once that when Shakespeare repeats touches 
in this way, he is drawing from life, from memory, 
and not from imagination. Moreover, in this case, 
he shows us at once that he is telling of his wife, 
because she defends herself against the accusation 
of age, which no one brings against her, though 
every one knows that Shakespeare's wife was eight 
years older than himself. 

** His company must do his minions grace. 
Whilst I at home starve for a merry look. 
Hath homely age the alluring beauty took 
From my poor cheek? then he hath wasted it . . . 

. . . My decayed fair 
A sunny look of his would soon repair: 
But, poor unruly deer, he breaks the pale, 
And feeds from home; poor I am but his stale/* 

ITS 



The Man Shakespeare 

The appeal is pathetic; but Luciana will not see 
it. She cries : 

" Self -harming jealousy! fie^ beat it hence! '* 

In the second scene of this second act Adriana goes 
on nagging in almost the same way. 

In the second scene of the third act there is a 
phrase from the hero, Antipholus of Syracuse, about 
Adriana which I find significant: 

" She that doth call me husband, even my soul 
Doth for a wife abhor ! '* 

There is no reason in the comedy for such strong 
words. Most men would be amused or pleased by 
a woman who makes up to them as Adriana makes 
up to Antipholus. I hear Shakespeare in this un- 
called-for, over-emphatic " even my soul doth for a 
wife abhor." 

In the fifth act Adriana is brought before the 
Abbess, and is proved to be a jealous scold. Shake- 
speare will not be satisfied till some impartial great 
person of Adriana's own sex has condemned her. 
Adriana admits that she has scolded her husband 
in public and in private, too ; the Abbess replies : 

"And thereof came it that the man was mad." 

And she adds: 

" The venom clamours of a jealous woman 
Poisons more deadly than a mad dog's tooth.'* 

Again, a needlessly emphatic condemnation. But 
Adriana will not accept the reproof: she will have 
her husband at all costs. The whole scene discovers 

11^ 



Biron, Adriana, Valentine 

personal feeling. Adriana is the portrait that 
Shakespeare wished to give us of his wife. 

The learned commentators have seemingly con- 
spired to say as little about " The Two Gentlemen 
of Verona " as possible. No one of them identifies 
the protagonist, Valentine, with Shakespeare, 
though all of them identified Biron with Shake- 
speare, and yet Valentine, as we shall see, is a far 
better portrait of the master than Biron. This un- 
timely blindness of the critics is, evidently, due to 
the fact that Coleridge has hardly mentioned " The 
Two Gentlemen of Verona," and they have conse- 
quently been unable to parrot his opinions. 

" The Two Gentlemen of Verona " is manifestly 
a later work than " Love's Labour's Lost " ; there 
is more blank verse and less rhyme in it, and a con- 
siderable improvement in character-drawing. Julia, 
for example, is individualized and lives for us in her 
affection and jealousy; her talks with her maid Lu- 
cetta are taken from life ; they are indeed the first 
sketch of the delightful talks between Portia and 
Nerissa, and mark an immense advance upon the 
wordy badinage of the Princess and her ladies in 
" Love's Labour's Lost," where there w^as no attempt 
at differentiation of character. It seems indubitable 
to me that " The Two Gentlemen of Verona " is also 
later than " The Comedy of Errors," and just as 
far beyond doubt that it is earlier than " A Mid- 
summer Night's Dream," in spite of Dr. Furnival's 
" Trial Table." 

The first three comedies, " Love's Labour's Lost," 
" The Comedy of Errors," and " The Two Gentle- 
men of A^erona," are all noteworthy for the light they 
throw on Shakespeare's early life. 

In " The Two Gentlemen of Verona " Shakespeare 
makes similar youthful mistakes in portraiture to 

175 



The Man Shakespeare 

those we noticed in " Love's Labour's Lost " ; mis- 
takes which show that he is thinking of himself and 
his own circumstances. At the beginning of the 
play the only difference between Proteus and Valen- 
tine is that one is in love, and the other, heart-free, 
is leaving home to go to Milan. In this first scene 
Shakespeare speaks frankly through both Proteus 
and Valentine, just as he spoke through both the 
King and Biron in the first scene of " Love's Labour's 
Lost," and through both ^Egeon and Antipholus of 
Syracuse in " The Comedy of Errors." But whilst 
the circumstances in the earliest comedy are imag- 
inary and fantastic, the circumstances in " The Two 
Gentlemen of Verona " are manifestly, I think, taken 
from the poet's own experience. In the dialogue be- 
tween Valentine and Proteus I hear Shakespeare per- 
suading himself that he should leave Stratford. 
Some readers may regard this assumption as far- 
fetched, but it will appear the more plausible, I 
think, the more the dialogue is studied. Valentine 
begins the argument : 

** Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits/' — 

he will " see the wonders of the world abroad " 
rather than live " dully sluggardiz'd at home," wear- 
ing out " youth with shapeless idleness." But all 
these reasons are at once superfluous and peculiar. 
The audience needs no persuasion to believe that 
a young man is eager to travel and go to Court. 
Shakespeare's quick mounting spirit is in the lines, 
and the needlessness of the argument shows that we 
have here a personal confession. Valentine, then, 
mocks at love, because it was love that held Shake- 
speare so long in Stratford, and when Proteus de- 
fends it, he replies: 

176 



Biron, Adriana, Valentine 

*' Even so by Love tlie young and tender wit 
Is turned to folly; blasting in the bud. 
Losing his verdure even in the prime. 
And all the fair effects of future hopes." 

Here is Shakespeare's confession that his marriage 
had been a failure, not only because of his wife's 
mad jealousy and violent temper, which we have 
been forced to realize in " The Comedy of Errors," 
but also because love and its home-keeping ways 
threatened to dull and imprison the eager artist 
spirit. In the last charming line I find not only the 
music of Shakespeare's voice, but also one of the 
reasons — perhaps, indeed, the chief because the 
highest reason — which drew him from Stratford to 
London. And what the " future hope " was, he told 
us in the very first line of " Love's Labour's Lost." 
The King begins the play with : 

" Let Fame, that all hunt after in their lives." 

Now all men don't hunt after fame; it was Shake- 
speare who felt that Fame pieced out Life's span 
and made us " heirs of all eternity " ; it was young 
Shakespeare who desired fame so passionately that 
he believed all other men must share his immortal 
longing, the desire in him being a forecast of ca- 
pacity, as, indeed, it usually is. If any one is in- 
clined to think that I am here abusing conjecture 
let him remember that Proteus, too, tells us that 
Valentine is hunting after honour. 

When Proteus defends love we hear Shakespeare 
just as clearly as when Valentine inveighs against it: 

" Yet writers say, as in the sweetest bud 
The eating canker dwells, so eating love 
Inhabits in the finest wits of all." 

177 



The Man Shakespeare 

Shakespeare could not be disloyal to that passion 
of desire in him which he instinctively felt was, in 
some way or other, the necessary complement of his 
splendid intelligence. We must take the summing- 
up of Proteus when Valentine leaves him as the other 
half of Shakespeare's personal confession: 

" He after honour hunts, I after love : 
He leaves his friends to dignify them more; 
I leave myself, my friends, and ail for love. 
Thou^ Juha, thou hast metamorphosed me, — 
Made me neglect my studies, lose my time, 
War with good counsel, set the world at naught; 
Made wit with musing weak, heart sick with 
thought." 

Young Shakespeare hunted as much after love as 
after honour, and these verses show that he has 
fully understood what a drag on him his foolish 
marriage has been. That all this is true to Shake- 
speare appears from the fact that it is false to the 
character of Proteus. Proteus is supposed to talk 
like this in the first blush of passion, before he has 
won Julia, before he even knows that she loves him. 
Is that natural .^^ Or is it not rather Shakespeare's 
confession of what two wasted years of married life 
in Stratford had done for him.? It was ambition — 
desire of fame and new love — that drove the tired 
and discontented Shakespeare from Anne Hatha- 
way's arms to London. 

When his father tells Proteus he must to Court on 
the morrow, instead of showing indignation or ob- 
stinate resolve to outwit tyranny, he generalizes in 
Shakespeare's way, exactly as Romeo and Orsino 
generalize in poetic numbers: 

** O, how this spring of love resembleth 
The uncertain glory of an April day." 

178. 



Biron, Adriana, Valentine 

Another reason for believing that this play deals 
with Shakespeare's own experiences is to be found 
in the curious change that takes place in Valentine. 
In the first act Valentine disdains love: he prefers 
to travel and win honour ; but as soon as he reaches 
Milan and sees Silvia, he falls even more desper- 
ately in love than Proteus. What was the object, 
then, in making him talk so earnestly against love 
in the first act? It may be argued that Shakespeare 
intended merely to contrast the two characters in the 
first act ; but he contrasts them in the first act on 
this matter of love, only in the second act to annul 
the distinction himself created. Moreover, and this 
is decisive, Valentine rails against love in the first 
act as one who has experienced love's utmost rage: 

" To be 
In love : when scorn is bought with groans ; coy looks. 
With heart-sore sighs; one fading moment's mirth. 
With twenty watchful, weary, tedious nights." 

The man who speaks like this is not the man who 
despises love and prefers honour, but one who has 
already given himself to passion with an absolute 
abandonment. Such inconsistencies and flaws in 
workmanship are in themselves trivial, but, from my 
point of view, significant ; for whenever Shakespeare 
slips in drawing character, in nine cases out of ten 
he slips through dragging in his own personality 
or his personal experience, and not through careless- 
ness, much less incompetence ; his mistakes, therefore, 
nearly always throw light on his nature or on his 
life's story. From the beginning, too, Valentine, 
like Shakespeare, is a born lover. 

As .soon, moreover, as he has gone to the capital 
and fallen in love he becomes Shakespeare's avowed 
favourite. He finds Silvia's glove and cries: 

179 



The Man Shakespeare 

" Sweet ornament that decks' a thing divine — '* 

the exclamation reminding us of how Romeo talks 
of Juliet's glove. Like other men, Shakespeare 
learned life gradually, and in youth poverty of ex- 
perience compels him to repeat his effects. 

Again, when Valentine praises his friend Proteus 
to the Duke, we find a characteristic touch of Shake- 
speare. Valentine says : 

"His years but young; but his experience old; 
His head unmellowed; but his judgement ripe." 

In " The Merchant of Venice " Bellario, the learned 
doctor of Padua, praises Portia in similar terms : 

** I never knew so young a body with so old a head." 

But it is when Valentine confesses his love that 
Shakespeare speaks through him most clearly: 

" Ay, Proteus, but that life is altered now, 
I have done penance for contemning love; 

For in revenge of my contempt of love 
Love hath chased sleep from my enthralled eyes 
And made them watchers of my own heart's sorrow. 
O gentle Proteus, Love's a mighty lord," — 

and so on. 

Every word in this confession is characteristic of 
the poet and especially the fact that his insomnia is 
due to love. Valentine then gives himself to passion- 
ate praise of Silvia, and ends with the " She is 
alone " that recalls " She is all the beauty extant " 
of " The Two Noble Kinsmen." Valentine the lover 
reminds us of Romeo as the sketch resembles the 
finished picture ; when banished, he cries : 

180 



Biron, Adriana, Valentine 

" And why not death, rather than living torment ? 
To die is to be banished from myself; 
And Silvia is myself: banished from her. 
Is self from self; a deadly banishment. 
What light is light, if Silvia be not seen? 
What joy is joy, if Silvia be not by? 
Unless it be to think that she is by 
And feed upon the shadow of perfection. 
Except I be by Silvia in the night 
There is no music in the nightingale/* 

and so forth. I might compare this with what Romeo 
says of his banishment, and perhaps infer from this 
two-fold treatment of the theme that Shakespeare 
left behind in Stratford some dark beauty who may 
have given Anne Hathaway good cause for jealous 
rage. It must not be forgotten here that Dryasdust 
tells us he was betrothed to another girl when Anne 
Hathaway's relations forced him to marry their 
kinswoman. 

A moment later and this lover Valentine uses the 
very words that we found so characteristic in the 
mouth of the lover Orsino in " Twelfth Night " : 

" O I have fed upon this woe already. 
And now excess of it will make me surfeit." 

Valentine, indeed, shows us traits of nearly all 
Shakespeare's later lovers, and this seems to me in- 
teresting, because of course all the qualities were 
in the youth, which were later differenced into vari- 
ous characters. His advice to the Duke, who pre- 
tends to be in love, is far too ripe, too contemptu- 
ous-true, to suit the character of such a votary of 
fond desire as Valentine was ; it is mellow with ex- 
perience and man-of-the-world wisdom, and the last 
couplet of it distinctly foreshadows Benedick: 

181 



The Man Shakespeare 

" Flatter and praise, commend, extol their graces ; 
Though ne'er so black, say they have angels' faces. 
That man that hath a tongue, I say, is no man 
If with his tongue he cannot win a woman." 

But this is only an involuntary apergu of Valentine, 
as indeed Benedick is only an intellectual mood of 
Shakespeare. And here Valentine is contrasted with 
Proteus, who gives somewhat different advice to 
Thurio, and yet advice which is still more character- 
istic of Shakespeare than Valentine-Benedick's 
counsel. Proteus says: 

" You must lay lime to tangle her desires 
By wailful sonnets, whose composed rhymes 
Should be full fraught with serviceable vows." 

In this way the young poet sought to give expres- 
sion to different views of life, and so realize the 
complexity of his own nature. 

The other traits of Valentine's character that do 
not necessarily belong to him as a lover are all char- 
acteristic traits of Shakespeare. When he is playing 
the banished robber-chief far from his love, this is 
how Valentine consoles himself: 

** This shadowy desert, unfrequented woods, 
I better brook than flourishing peopled towns: 
Here can I sit alone unseen of any. 
And to the nightingale's complaining notes 
Tune my distresses and record my woes." 

This idyllic love of nature, this marked preference 
for the country over the city, however peculiar in a 
highway robber, are characteristics of Shakespeare 
from youth to age. Not only do his comedies lead 
us continually from the haunts of men to the forest 

182 



Biron, Adriana, Valentine 

and stream, but also his tragedies. He turns to 
nature, indeed, in all times of stress and trouble for 
its healing unconsciousness, its gentle changes that 
can be foreseen and reckoned upon, and that yet 
bring fresh interests and charming surprises ; and 
in times of health and happiness he pictures the 
pleasant earth and its diviner beauties with a pas- 
sionate intensity. Again and again we shall have 
to notice his poet's love for " unfrequented woods," 
his thinker's longing for " the life removed." 

At the end of the drama Valentine displays the 
gentle forgivingness of disposition which we have 
already had reason to regard as one of Shake- 
speare's most marked characteristics. As soon as 
'' false, fleeting Proteus " confesses his sin Valentine 
pardons him with words that echo and re-echo 
through Shakespeare's later dramas : 

" Then I am paid^ 
And once again I do receive thee honest. 
Who by repentance is not satisfied 
Is nor of heaven nor earth; for these are pleased; 
By patience the Eternal's wrath's appeased." 

He even goes further than this, and confounds our 
knowledge of human nature by adding: 

" And that my love may appear plain and free 
All that was mine in Silvia I give thee." 

And that the meaning may be made more distinct 
than words can make it, he causes Julia to faint on 
hearing the proposal. One cannot help recalling 
the passage in " The Merchant of Venice " when 
Bassanio and Gratiano both declare they would 
sacrifice their wives to free Antonio, and a well- 
known sonnet which seems to prove that Shakespeare 

183 



The Man Shakespeare 

thought more of a man's friendship for a man than 
of a man's love for a woman. But as I shall have to 
discuss this point at length when I handle the Son- 
nets, I have, perhaps, said enough for the moment. 
Nor need I consider the fact here that the whole of 
this last scene of the last act was manifestly revised 
or rewritten by Shakespeare circa 15'98 — years 
after the rest of the play. 

I think every one will admit now that Shake- 
speare revealed himself in " The Two Gentlemen of 
Verona," and especially in Valentine, much more 
fully than in Biron and in " Love's Labour's Lost." 
The three earliest comedies prove that from the very 
beginning of his career Shakespeare's chief aim was 
to reveal and realize himself. 



184 



CHAPTER II 

SHAKESPEARE AS ANTONIO THE MERCHANT 

NO one, so far as I know, has yet tried to Identify 
Antonio, the Merchant of Venice, with Shake- 
speare, and yet Antonio is Shakespeare himself, and 
Shakespeare in what to us, children of an industrial 
civilization, is the most interesting attitude possible. 
Here in Antonio for the first time we discover Shake- 
speare in direct relations with real life, as real life is 
understood in the twentieth century. From Antonio 
we shall learn what Shakespeare thought of business 
men and business methods — of our modern way of liv- 
ing. Of course we must be on our guard against 
drawing general conclusions from this solitary 
example, unless we find from other plays that 
Antonio's attitude towards practical affairs was 
indeed Shakespeare's. But if this is the case, if 
Shakespeare has depicted himself characteristically 
in Antonio, how interesting it will be to hear his 
opinion of our money-making civilization. It will be 
as if he rose from the dead to tell us what he thinks 
of our doings. He has been represented by this critic 
and by that as a master of affairs, a prudent thrifty 
soul; now we shall see if this monstrous hybrid of 
tradesman-poet ever had any foundation in fact. 

The first point to be settled is : Did Shakespeare 
reveal himself very ingenuously and completely in 
Antonio, or was the " royal merchant " a mere 
pose of his, a mood or a convention .^^ Let us take 

185 



The Man Shakespeare 

Antonio's first words, the words, too, which begin 
the play: 

" In sooth, I know not why I am so sad: 
It wearies me; you say it wearies you; 
But how I caught it_, found it, or came hy it, 
What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born, 
I am to learn; 

And such a want-wit sadness makes of me. 
That I have much ado to know myself." 

It is this very sadness that makes it easy for us 
to know Shakespeare, even when he disguises him- 
self as a Venetian merchant. A little later and 
Jaques will describe and define the disease as 
" humorous melancholy " ; but here it is already a 
settled habit of mind. 

Antonio then explains that his sadness has no 
cause, and incidentally attributes his wealth to for- 
tune and not to his own brains or endeavour. The 
modern idea of the Captain of Industry who enriches 
others as well as himself, had evidently never entered 
into Shakespeare's head. Salarino says Antonio is 
" sad to think upon his merchandise " ; but Antonio 
answers : 

** Believe me, no: I thank my fortune for it. 
My ventures are not in one bottom trusted, 
Nor to one place: nor is my whole estate 
Upon the fortune of this present year: 
Therefore my merchandise makes me not sad." 

This tone of modest gentle sincerity is Shake- 
speare's habitual tone from about his thirtieth year 
to the end of his life : it has the accent of unaffected 
nature. In bidding farewell to Salarino Antonio 
shows us the exquisite courtesy which Shakespeare 

186 



Shakespeare as Antonio the Merchant 

used in life. Salarino, seeing Bassanio approaching, 
says: 

" I would have stayed till I had made you merry. 
If worthier friends had not prevented me." 

Antonio answers : 

** Your worth is very dear in my regard. 
I take it^ your own business calls on you. 
And you embrace the occasion to depart.*' 

More characteristic still is the dialogue between 
Gratiano and Antonio in the same scene. Gratiano, 
the twin-brother surely of Mercutio, tells Antonio 
that he thinks too much of the things of this world, 
and warns him : 

" They lose it that do buy it with much care." 

Antonio replies: 

" I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano ; 
A stage, where every man must play a part. 
And mine a sad one." 

Every one who has followed me so far will admit 
that this is Shakespeare's most usual and most 
ingenuous attitude towards life ; " I do not esteem 
worldly possessions," he says ; " life itself is too 
transient, too unreal to be dearly held." Gratiano's 
reflection, too, is Shakespeare's, and puts the truth 
in a nutshell: 

** They lose it that do buy it with much care." 

We now come to the most salient peculiarity in 

187 



The Man Shakespeare 

this play. When Bassanio, his debtor, asks him for 
more money, Antonio answers : 

" My purse, my person, my extremest means. 
Lie all unlocked to your occasions." 

And, though Bassanio tells him his money is to 
be risked on a romantic and wild adventure, Antonio 
declares that Bassanio's doubt does him more wrong 
than if his friend had already wasted all he has, and 
the act closes by Antonio pressing Bassanio to use 
his credit " to the uttermost." Now, this contempt 
of money was, no doubt, a pose, if not a habit of the 
aristocratic society of the time, and Shakespeare may 
have been aping the tone of his betters in putting 
to show a most lavish generosity. But even if his 
social superiors encouraged him in a wasteful 
extravagance, it must be admitted that Shakespeare 
betters their teaching. The lord was riotously 
lavish, no doubt, because he had money, or could get 
it without much trouble ; but, put in Antonio's posi- 
tion, he would not press his last penny on his friend, 
much less strain his credit " to the uttermost " for 
him as Antonio does for Bassanio. Here we have 
the personal note of Shakespeare : " Your affection," 
says the elder man to the younger, " is all to me, 
and money's less than nothing in the balance. Don't 
let us waste a word on it ; a doubt of me were an 
injury!" But men will do that for affection which 
they would never do in cool blood, and therefore one 
cannot help asking whether Shakespeare really felt 
and practised this extreme contempt of wealth.^ For 
the moment, if we leave his actions out of the account, 
there can be, I think, no doubt about his feelings. 
His dislike of money makes him disfigure reality. No 
merchant, it may fairly be said, either of the six- 

188 



Shakespeare as Antonio the Merchant 

teenth century or the twentieth, ever amassed or kept 
a fortune with Antonio's principles. In our day of 
world-wide speculation and immense wealth it is just 
possible for a man to be a millionaire and generous ; 
but in the sixteenth century, when wealth was made 
by penurious saving, by slow daily adding of coin to 
coin, merchants like this Antonio were unheard of, 
impossible. 

Moreover all the amiable characters in this play 
regard money with unaffected disdain ; Portia no 
sooner hears of Shylock's suit than she cries: 

"Pay him six thousand, and deface the bond; 
Double six thousand, and then treble that. 
Before a friend of this description 
Shall lose a hair through Bassanio's fault." 

And if we attribute this outburst to her love we 
must not forget that, when it comes to the test in 
court, and she holds the Jew in her hand and might 
save her gold, she again reminds him: 

" Shylock, there's thrice thy money offered thee." 

A boundless generosity is the characteristic of 
Portia, and Bassanio, the penniless fortune-hunter, 
is just as extravagant; he will pay the Jew's bond 
twice over, and, 

"If that will not suffice, 
I will be bound to pay it ten times o'er. 
On forfeit of my hands, my head, my heart.'* 

It may, of course, be urged that these Christians 
are all prodigal in order to throw Shylock's avarice 
and meanness into higher light ; but that this dis- 
dain of money is not assumed for the sake of any 
artistic effect will appear from other plays. At 

189 



(The Man Shakespeare 

the risk of being accused of super-subtlety, I must 
confess that I find in Shylock himself traces of 
Shakespeare's contempt of money; Jessica says of 
him: 

** I have heard him swear 
To Tubal and to Chus, his countrymen, 
That he would rather have Antonio's flesh 
Than twenty times the value of the sum 
That he did owe him." 

Even Shylock, it appears, hated Antonio more than 
he valued money, and this hatred, though it may 
have its root in love of money, half redeems him in 
our eyes. Shakespeare could not imagine a man who 
loved money more than anything else ; his hated and 
hateful usurer is more a man of passion than a Jew. 

The same prodigality and contempt of money are 
to be found in nearly all Shakespeare's plays, and, 
curiously enough, the persons to show this disdain 
most strongly are usually the masks of Shakespeare 
himself. A philosophic soliloquy is hardly more 
characteristic of Shakespeare than a sneer at money. 
It should be noted, too, that this peculiarity is not 
a trait of his youth chiefly, as it is with most men 
who are free-handed. It rather seems, as in the 
case of Antonio, to be a reasoned attitude towards 
life, and it undoubtedly becomes more and more 
marked as Shakespeare grows older. Contempt of 
wealth is stronger in Brutus than in Antonio ; 
stronger in Lear than in Brutus, and stronger in 
Timon than in Lear. 

But can we be at all certain that Antonio's view 
of life in this respect was Shakespeare's? It may 
be that Shakespeare pretended to this generosity 
in order to loosen the purse-strings of his lordly 
patrons. Even if his motive for writing in this strain 

190 



Shakespeare as Antonio the Merchant 

were a worthy motive, who is to assure us that he 
practised the generosity he preached? When I come 
to his life I think I shall be able to prove that Shake- 
speare was excessively careless of money ; extrava- 
gant, indeed, and generous to a fault. Shakespeare 
did not win to eminence as a dramatist without 
exciting the envy and jealousy of many of his col- 
leagues and contemporaries, and if these sharp-eyed 
critics had found him in drama after drama advocat- 
ing lavish free-handedness while showing meanness 
or even ordinary prudence in his own expenditure, 
we should probably have heard of it as we heard from 
Greene how he took plaj^s from other playwrights. 
But the silence of his contemporaries goes to confirm 
the positive testimony of Ben Jonson, that he v/as 
of " an open and free nature," — openhanded always, 
and liberal, we may be sure, to a fault. In any case, 
the burden of proof lies with those who wish us to 
believe that Shakespeare was " a careful and prudent 
man of business," for in a dozen plays the personages 
who are his heroes and incarnations pour contempt 
on those who would lock " rascal counters " from 
their friends, and, in default of proof to the con- 
trary, we are compelled to assume that he practised 
the generosity which he so earnestly and sedulously 
praised. At least it will be advisable for the 
moment to assume that he pictured himself as 
generous Antonio, without difficulty or conscious 
self-deception. 

But this Antonio has not only the melancholy, 
courtesy and boundless generosity of Shakespeare ; 
he has other qualities of the master which need to 
be thrown into relief. 

First of all, Antonio has that submission to mis- 
fortune, that resignation in face of defeat and suf- 
fering which we have already seen as characteristics 

191 



The Man Shakespeare 

of Richard II. The resignation might almost be 
called saintly, were it not that it seems to spring 
rather from the natural melancholy and sadness of 
Shakespeare's disposition ; " the world is a hard, 
all-hating world," he seems to say, " and misery is 
the natural lot of man ; defeat comes to all ; why 
should I hope for any better fortune? " At the 
very beginning of the trial he recognizes that he is 
certain to lose ; Bassanio and Gratiano appeal to 
the Duke for him ; but he never speaks in his own 
defence ; he says of his opponent at the outset : 

"I do oppose 
My patience to his furj^, and am arm'd 
To suffer, with a quietness of spirit. 
The very tyranny and rage of his/* 

and again he will not contend, but begs the Court, 

" . . . . with all brief and plain conveniency 
Let me have judgement and the Jew his will." 

Even when Bassanio tries to cheer him, 

" "What, man, courage yet ! 
The Jew shall have my flesh, blood, bones and all. 
Ere thou shalt lose for me one drop of blood." 

Antonio answers : 

" I am a tainted wether of the flock, 
Meetest for death: the weakest kind of fruit 
Drops earliest to the ground: and so let me: 
You cannot better be employed, Bassanio, 
Than to live still and write mine epitaph." 

He will not be saved; he gives him.self at once to 
that " sweet way of despair " which we have found 

103 



Shakespeare as Antonio the Merchant 

to be the second Richard's way and Shakespeare's 
way. 

Just as we noticed, when speaking of Posthumus 
in " Cymbeline," that Shakespeare's hero and alter 
e^o is always praised by the other personages of 
the drama, so this Antonio is praised preposterously 
by the chief personages of the play, and in the 
terms of praise we may see how Shakespeare, even 
in early manhood, liked to be considered. He had 
no ambition to be counted stalwart, or bold, or 
resolute like most young males of his race, much less 
"a good ha.ter," as Dr. Johnson confessed himself; 
he wanted his gentle qualities recognized, and his 
intellectual gifts ; Hamlet wished to be thought a 
courtier, scholar, gentleman ; and here Salarino says 
of Antonio: 

" A kinder gentleman treads not the earth," 

and he goes on to tell how Antonio, when parting 
from Bassanio, had " eyes big with tears " : 

" Turning his face, he put his hand behind him. 
And with affection wondrous sensible 
He wrung Bassanio's hand; and so they parted.*' 

This Antonio is as tender-hearted and loving as 
young Arthur. And Lorenzo speaks of Antonio to 
Portia just as Salarino spoke of him: 

'' hor. But if you knew to whom you show this honour. 
How true a gentleman you send relief. 
How dear a lover of my lord your husband, 
I know you would be prouder of the work 
Than customary bounty can enforce you." 

And finally Bassanio sums Antonio up in enthusias- 
tic superlatives: 

193 



The Man Shakespeare 

" The dearest friend to me, the kindest man. 
The best-condition'd and unwearied spirit 
In doing courtesies, and one in whom 
The ancient Roman honour more appears 
Than any that draws breath in Italy." 

It is as a prince of friends and most courteous 
gentleman that Antonio acts his part from the 
beginning to the end of the play with one notable 
■exception to which I shall return in a moment. It 
is astonishing to find this sadness, this courtesy, 
this lavish generosity and contempt of money, this 
love of love and friendship and affection in any man 
in early manhood; but these qualities were Shake- 
speare's from youtk to old age. 

I say that Antonio was most courteous to all with 
one notable exception, and that exception was Shy- 
lock. 

It has become the custom on the English stage 
for the actor to try to turn Shylock into a hero; 
but that was assuredly not Shakespeare's intention. 
True, he makes Shylock appeal to the common 
humanity of both Jew and Christian. 

" I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes ? hath not a Jew 
hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? 
fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, 
subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, 
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as 
a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you 
tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not 
die ? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge ? " 

But if Shakespeare was far in advance of his age 
in this intellectual appreciation of the brotherhood 
of man; yet as an artist and thinker and poet he 
is particularly contemptuous of the usurer and 

194 



Shakespeare as Antonio the Merchant 

trader in other men's necessities, and therefore, when 
Antonio meets Shylock, though he wants a favour 
from him, he cannot be even decently polite to him. 
He begins by saying in the third scene of the first 
act: 

" Although I neither lend nor borrow 
By taking nor by giving of excess, 
Yet to supply the ripe wants of my friend, 
I'll break a custom/' 

The first phrase here reminds me of Polonius: 
" neither a borrower nor a lender be." When Shy- 
lock attempts to defend himself by citing the way 
Jacob cheated Laban, Antonio answers contempt- 
uously " The devil can cite Scripture for his pur- 
pose." Shylock then goes on: 

** Signer Antonio, many a time and oft. 
In the Rialto you have rated me 
About my moneys and my usances: 
Stilly I have borne it with a patient shrug, 
For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe. 
You call me mis-believer, cut-throat dog, 
And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine. 
And all for use of that which is mine own. 
Well then, it now appears you need my help: 
Go to, then; you come to me, and you say, 
'Shylock, we would have moneys:' you say so; 
You that did void your rheum upon my beard 
And foot me as you spurn a stranger cur 
Over your threshold: moneys is your suit. 
What should I say to you? Should I not say, 
* Hath a dog money ? is it possible 
A cur can lend three thousand ducats ? ' " . . . 

Antonio answers this in words which it would be 
almost impossible to take for Shakespeare's because 
of their brutal rudeness, were it not, as we shall see 

195 






f The Man Shakespeare 

later, thaf Shakespeare loathed the Jew usurer more 
than any character in all his plajs. Here are the 
words : 

" Ant. I am as like to call thee so again. 
To spit on thee again, to spurn thee too. 
If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not 
As to thy friends; for when did friendship take 
A breed for barren metal of his friend? 
But lend it rather to thine enemy 
Who, if he break, thou mayst with better face 
Exact the penalty." 

Then Shylock makes peace, and proposes his modest 
penalty. Bassanio says: 

" You shall not seal to such a bond for me: 
I'll rather dwell in my necessity." 

Antonio is perfectly careless and content : he says : 

" Content, i' faith: I'll seal to such a bond. 
And say there is much kindness in the Jew." 

Antonio's heedless trust of other men and 
impatience are qualities most foreign to the mer- 
chant ; but are shown again and again by Shake- 
speare's impersonations. 

Perhaps it will be well here to prove once for all 
that Shakespeare did really hate the Jew. In the 
first place he excites our sympathy again and again 
for him on the broad grounds of common humanity ; 
but the moment it comes to a particular occasion 
he represents him as hateful, even where a little 
thought would have taught him that the Jew must 
be at his best. It is a peculiarity of humanity which 
Shakespeare should not have, overlooked, that all 
pariahs and outcasts display intense family affec- 

196 



Shakespeare as Antonio the Merchant 

tion ; those whom the world scouts and hates are 
generally at their noblest in their own homes. The 
pressure from the outside, Herbert Spencer would 
say, tends to bring about cohesion among the mem- 
bers of the despised caste. The family affection of 
the Jew, his kindness to his kindred, have become 
proverbial. But Shakespeare admits no such kind- 
ness in Shylock: when his daughter leaves Shylock 
one would think that Shakespeare would picture the 
father's desolation and misery, his sorrow at losing 
his only child ; but here there is no touch of sym- 
pathy in gentle Shakespeare: 

" .... I would my daughter were dead at my foot, 
and the j ewels in her ear ! would she were hearsed at my 
f oot^ and the ducats in her coffin ! " 

But there is even better proof than this : when Shy- 
lock is defeated in his case and leaves the Court 
penniless and broken, Shakespeare allows him to be 
insulted by a gentleman. Shylock becomes pathetic 
in his defeat, for Shakespeare alwa3^s sympathized 
with failure, even before he came to grief himself : 

** Shy. Nay, take my life and all; pardon not that: 
You take my house when you do take the prop 
That doth sustain my house; you take my life 
When you do take the means whereby I live.'* 

" Por. What mercy can you render him, Antonio ? 
" Gra, A halter gratis ; nothing else for God's sake." 

And then Antonio offers to " quit the fine for one- 
half his goods." Utterly broken now, Shylock says : 

** I pray you^ give me leave to go from hence; 
I am not well : send the deed after me. 
And I will sign it. 

197 



The Man Shakespeare 

DuJce. Get thee gone, but do it. 
Gra. In christening shalt thou have two god- 
fathers : 
Had I been judge, thou should'st have had ten 

more. 
To bring thee to the gallows, not the font." 

A brutal insult from a gallant gentleman to the 
broken Jew : it is the only time in all Shakespeare 
when a beaten and ruined man is so insulted. 

Antonio, it must be confessed, is a very charming 
sketch of Shakespeare when he was about thirty 
years of age, and it is amusing to reflect that it is 
just the rich merchant with all his wealth at hazard 
whom he picks out to embody his utter contempt of 
riches. The " royal merchant," as he calls him, 
trained from youth to barter, is the very last man 
in the world to back such a venture as Bassanio's — ■ 
much less would such a man treat money with dis- 
dain. But Shakespeare from the beginning of the 
play put himself quite naively in Antonio's place, 
and so the astounding antinomy came to expression. 



198 



CHAPTER III 

THE sonnets: part I 

EVER since Wordsworth wrote that the sonnets 
were the key to Shakespeare's heart, it has 
been taken for granted (save by those who regard 
even the sonnets as mere poetical exercises) that 
Shakespeare's real nature is discovered in the son- 
nets more easily and more surely than in the plays. 
Those readers who have followed me so far in examin- 
ing his plays will hardly need to be told that I do 
not agree with this assumption. The author whose 
personality is rich and complex enough to create 
and vitalize a dozen characters, reveals himself more 
fully in his creations than he can in his proper per- 
son. It was natural enough that Wordsworth, a 
great lyric poet, should catch Shakespeare's accent 
better in his sonnets than in his dramas ; but that is 
owing to Wordsworth's limitations. And if the 
majority of later English critics have agreed with 
Wordsworth, it only shows that Englishmen in 
general are better judges of lyric than of dramatic 
work. We have the greatest lyrics in the world; 
but our dramas, with the exception of Shakespeare's, 
are not remarkable. And in that modern extension 
of the drama, the novel, we are distinctly inferior to 
the French and Russians. This inferiority must be 
ascribed to the new-fangled prudery of language 
and thought which emasculates all our later fiction : 
but as that prudery is not found in our lyric verse 

199 



The Man Shakespeare 

it is evident that here alone the inspiration is full 
and rich enough to overflow the limits of epicene 
convention. 

Whether the reader agrees with me or not on this 
point, it may be accepted that Shakespeare revealed 
himself far more completely in his plays than as a 
lyric poet. Just as he chose his dramatic subjects 
with some felicity to reveal his many-sided nature, 
so he used the sonnets with equal artistry to discover 
that part of himself which could hardly be rendered 
objectively. Whatever is masculine in a man can 
be depicted superbly on the stage, but his feminine 
qualities — passionate self-abandonment, facile for- 
givingness, self-pity — do not show well in the dra- 
matic struggle. What sort of a drama would that 
be in which the hero would have to confess that when 
in the vale of years he had fallen desperately in love 
with a girl, and that he had been foolish enough to 
send a friend, a young noble, to plead his cause, with 
the result that the girl won the friend and gave her- 
self to him.f^ The protagonist would earn mocking 
laughter and not sympathy, and this Shakespeare no 
doubt foresaw. Besides, to Shakespeare, this story, 
which is in brief the story of the sonnets, was terribly 
real and intimate, and he felt instinctively that he 
could not treat it objectively; it was too near him, 
too exquisitely painful for that. ^^ 

At some time or other life overpowers the strongest 
of us, and that defeat we all treat lyrically ; when 
the deepest depth in us is stirred we cannot feign, 
or depict ourselves from the outside dispassionately ; 
we can only cry our passion, our pain and our 
despair ; this once we use no art, simple truth is all 
we seek to reach. The crisis of Shakespeare's life, 
the hour of agony and bloody sweat when his weak- 
ness found him out and life's handicap proved too y^ 

200 



. Shakespeare's Love-Story 

heavy even for his strength — that is the subject of 
the sonnets. 

Now what was Shakespeare's weakness? his beset- 
ting temptation? " Love is my sin," he says ; " Love 
of love and her soft hours " was his weakness : passion 
the snare that meshed his soul. No wonder Antony 
cries : 

" Whither hast thou led me, Egypt? " 

for his gipsy led Shakespeare from shame to shame, 
to the verge of madness. The sonnets give us the jj 
story, the whole terrible, sinful, magical story of 
Shakespeare's passion. 

As might have been expected, Englishmen like 
Wordsworth, with an intense appreciation of lyric 
poetry, have done good work in criticism of the 
sonnets, and one Englishman has read them with 
extraordinary understanding. Mr. Tyler's work on 
the sonnets ranks higher than that of Coleridge on 
the plays. I do not mean to say that it is on the 
same intellectual level with the work of Coleridge, 
though it shows wide reading, astonishing acute- 
ness, and much skill in the marshalling of argument. 
But Mr. Tyler had the good fortune to be the first to 
give to the personages of the sonnets a local habita- 
tion and a name, and that unique achievement puts 
him in a place by himself far above the mass of 
commentators. Before his book appeared in 1890 
the sonnets lay in the dim light of guess-work. It 
is true that Hallam had adopted the hypothesis of 
Boaden and Bright, and had identified William Her- 
bert, Earl of Pembroke, with the high-born, hand- 
some youth for whom Shakespeare, in the sonnets, 
expressed such passionate affection ; but still, there 
were people who thought that the Earl of Southamp- 
ton filled the requirements even better than William 

201 



The Man Shakespeare 

Herbert, and as I say, the whole subject lay in the 
twilight of surmise and supposition. 

Mr. Tyler, working on a hint of the Rev. W. A. 
Harrison, identified Shakespeare's high-born mis- 
tress, the " dark lady " of the sonnets, with Mistress 
Mary Fitton, a maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth. 

These, then, are the personages of the drama, and 
the story is very simple: Shakespeare loved Mistress 
Fitton and sent his friend, the young Lord Herbert, 
to her on some pretext, but with the design that he 
should commend Shakespeare to the lady. Mistress 
Fitton fell in love with William Herbert, wooed and 
won him, and Shakespeare had to mourn the loss of 
^ both friend and mistress. 

It would be natural to speak of this identification 

of Mr. Tyler's as the best working hypothesis yet 

put forward; but it would be unfair to him; it is 

more than this. Till his book appeared, even the 

date of the sonnets was not fixed ; many critics 

i regarded them as an early work, as early, indeed, 

' ^ as 1591 or 1592 ; he was the first person to prove 

that the time they cover extends roughly from 1598 

^ to 1601. Mr. Tyler then has not only given us the 

names of the actors, but he has put the tragedy in 

its proper place in Shakespeare's life, and he deserves 

all thanks for his illuminating work. 

I bring to this theory fresh corroboration from 
the plays. Strange to say, Mr. Tyler has hardly 
used the plays, yet, as regards the story told in 
the sonnets, the proof that it is a real and not an 
imaginary story can be drawn from the plays. I 
may have to point out, incidentally, what I regard 
as mistakes and oversights in Mr. Tyler's work ; but 
in the main it stands four-square, imposing itself on 
the reason and satisfying at the same time instinct 
and sympathy. 



Shakespeare^s Love-Story 

« 

Let us first see how far the story told in the 
sonnets is borne out by the plays. For a great many 
critics, even to-day, reject the story altogether, and 
believe that the sonnets were nothing but poetic 
exercises. 

The sonnets fall naturally into two parts: from 
1 to 126 they tell how Shakespeare loved a youth 
of high rank and great personal beauty; sonnet 
1S7 is an envoi; from 128 to 152 they tell of Shake- 
speare^s love for a " dark lady." What binds the 
two series together is the story told in both, or at . 
least told in one and corroborated in the other, that " 
Shakespeare first sent his friend to the lady, most 
probably to plead his cause, and that she wooed his 
friend and gave herself to him. Now this is not a 
common or easily invented story. No one would 
guess that Shakespeare could be so foolish as to 
send his friend to plead his love for him. That's 
a mistake that no man who knows women would 
be likely to make; but the unlikelihood of the story 
is part of the evidence of its truth — credo quia 
incredibile has an element of persuasion in it. 

No one has yet noticed that the story of the son- 
nets is treated three times in Shakespeare's plays. 
The first time the story appears it is handled so 
lightly that it looks to me as if he had not then lived 
through the incidents which he narrates. In the 
" Two Gentlemen of Verona " Proteus is asked by 
the Duke to plead Thurio's cause with Silvia, and 
he promises to do so ; but instead, presses his own 
suit and is rejected. The incident is handled so care- 
lessly (Proteus not being Thurio's friend) that it 
seems to me to have no importance save as a mere 
coincidence. When the scene between Proteus and 
Silvia was written Shakespeare had not yet been 
deceived by his friend. Still in " The Two Gentle- 

203 



■^N. 



The Man Shakespeare 

men of Verona " there is one speech which certamly 
betrays personal passion. It is in the last scene 
of the fifth act, when Valentine surprises Proteus 
offering violence to Silyia, 

" Vol. {coming forward) Ruffian, let go that rude 
uncivil touch, — 
Thou friend of an ill fashion! 

Pro, Valentine ! 

Vol. Thou common friend, that's without faith or 
love, — 
For such is a friend now; — ^treacherous man ! 
Thou hast beguiled my hopes : nought but mine eye 
Could have persuaded me. Now I dare not say 
I have one friend alive: thou would'st disprove me. 
Who should be trusted when one's own right hand 
Is perjured to the bosom? Proteus, 
I am sorry I must never trust thee more. 
But count the world a stranger for thy sake. 
The private wound is deepest: time most accurst 
'Mongst all foes that a friend should he the worst! " 

The first lines which I have italicised are too plain 
to be misread ; when they were written Shakespeare 
had just been cheated by his friend; they are his 
passionate comment on the occurrence — " For such 
is a friend now " — can hardly be otherwise explained. 
The last couplet, too, which I have also put in 
italics, is manifestly a reflection on his betrayal: it 
is a twin rendering of the feeling expressed in son- 
net 40: 

" And yet love knows it is a greater grief 
To bear love's wrong than hate's known injury." 

It contrasts " foe and friend," just as the sonnet 
contrasts " love and hate." 

Mr. Israel Gollancz declares that " several critics 

204 



Shakespeare's Love-Story 

are inclined to attribute this final scene to another 
hand," and to his mind " it bears evident signs of 
hasty composition." No guess could be wider from 
the truth. The scene is most manifestly pure Shake- 
speare — I take the soliloquy of Valentine, with which 
the scene opens, as among Shakespeare's most char- 
acteristic utterances — but the whole scene is cer- 
tainly later than the rest of the play. The truth 
probably is that after his friend had deceived him, 
" The Two Gentleman of Verona " was played again, 
and that Shakespeare rewrote this last scene under 
the influence of personal feeling. The 170 lines of it 
are full of phrases which might be taken direct from 
the sonnets. Here's such a couplet: 

** O, 'tis the curse in love, and still approved. 
When women cannot love where they're beloved." 

The whole scene tells the story a little more 
frankly than we find it in the sonnets, as might be 
expected, seeing that Shakespeare's rival was a great 
noble and not to be criticised freely. This fact 
explains to me Valentine's unmotived renunciation 
of Silvia; explains, too, why he is reconciled to his 
friend with such unseemly haste. Valentine's last 
words in the scene are illuminating : 

" 'Twere pity two such friends should be long foes." 

The way this scene in " The Two Gentlemen of 
Verona " is told throws more light on Shakespeare's 
feelings at the moment of his betrayal than the son- 
nets themselves. Under the cover of fictitious names 
Shakespeare ventured to show the disgust and con- 
tempt he felt for Lord Herbert's betrayal more 
plainly than he cared, or perhaps dared, to do when 
speaking in his own person. 

205 



The Man Shakespeare 

There is another play where the same incident 
is handled in such fashion as to put the truth of 
the sonnet-story beyond all doubt. 

In " Much Ado about Nothing " the incident is 
dragged in by the ears, and the whole treatment is 
most remarkable. Every one will remember how 
Claudio tells the Prince that he loves Hero, and asks 
his friend's assistance : " your highness now may do 
me good." There's no reason for Claudio's shyness : 
no reason why he should call upon the Prince for 
help in a case where most men prefer to use their 
own tongues ; but Claudio is young, and so we glide 
over the inherent improbability of the incident. The 
Prince at once promises to plead for Claudio with 
Hero and with her father: 

" And thou shalt have her. Was't not to this end 
That thou began'st to twist so fine a story .^ " 

Now comes the peculiar handling of the incident. 
Claudio knows the Prince is wooing Hero for him, 
therefore when Don John tells him that the Prince 
" is enamoured on Hero," he should at once infer 
that Don John is mistaken through ignorance of this 
fact; but instead of that he falls suspicious, and 
questions : 

"How know you he loves her? 
D, John. I heard him swear his affection. 
Bor, So did I too, and he swore he would marry her 
to-night." 

There is absolutely nothing even in this coiTobora- 
tion by Borachio to shake Claudio's trust in the 
Prince: neither Don John nor Borachio knows what 
he knows, that the Prince is wooing for him 
(Claudio) and at his request. He should therefore 

206 



Shakespeare's Love-Story 

smile at the futile attempt to excite his jealousy. 
But at once he is persuaded of the v/orst, as a man 
would be who had already experienced such dis- 
loyalty : he cries : 

" 'Tis certain so; the prince woos for himself." 

And then we should expect to hear him curse the 
prince as a traitorous friend, and dwell on his own 
loyal service by way of contrast, and so keep turn- 
ing the dagger in the wound with the thought that 
no one but himself was ever so repaid for such 
honesty of love. But, no ! Claudio has no bitterness 
in him, no reproachings ; he speaks of the whole 
matter as if it had happened months and months 
before, as indeed it had ; for " Much Ado about 
Nothing " was written about 1599. Reflection had 
already shown Shakespeare the unreason of revolt, 
and he puts his own thought in the mouth of 
Claudio : 

'* 'Tis certain so ; the prince woos for himself. 
Friendship is constant in all other things 
Save in the office and affairs of love: 
Therefore all hearts in love use their own tongues; 
Let every eye negotiate for itself_, 
And trust no agent; for beauty is a witch. 
Against whose charms faith melteth into blood. 
This is an accident of hourly proof, 
Which I mistrusted not. Farewell^ tlierefore_, Hero." 

The Claudio who spoke like this in the first mad- 
ness of love lost and friendship cheated would be a 
monster. Here we have Shakespeare- speaking in 
all calmness of something that happened to him- 
self a considerable time before. The lines I have 
put in italics admit no other interpretation: they 
show Shakespeare's philosophic acceptance of things 

207 



The Man Shakespeare 

as they are ; what has happened to him is not to be 
assumed as singular but is the common lot of man — 
" an accident of hourly proof " — which he blames 
himself for not foreseeing. In fact, Claudio's tem- 
per here is as detached and impartial as Benedick's. 
Benedick declares that Claudio should be whipped: 

*' D. Pedro. To he whipped! What's his fault? 

Benedick. The flat transgression of a schoolboy^ who 
being overjoyed with finding a bird's nest, shows it his 
companion and he steals it." 

That is the view of the realist who knows life and 
men, and plays the game according to the rules 
accepted. Shakespeare understood this side of life 
as well as most men. But Don Pedro is a prince 
— a Shakespearean prince at that — full of all loyal- 
ties and ideal sentiments ; he answers Benedick from 
Shakespeare's own heart: 

" Wilt thou make a trust a transgression? 
The transgression is in the stealer." 

It is curious that Shakespeare doesn't see that 
Claudio must feel this truth a thousand times more 
keenly than the Prince. As I have said, Claudio's 
calm acceptance of the fact is a revelation of Shake- 
speare's own attitude, an attitude just modified by 
the moral reprobation put in the mouth of the Prince, 
The recital itself shows that the incident was a per- 
sonal experience of Shakespeare, and as one might 
expect in this case it does not accelerate but retard 
the action of the drama; it is, indeed, altogether 
foreign to the drama, an excrescence upon it and 
not an improvement but a blemish. Moreover, the 
reflective, disillusioned, shghtly pessimistic tone of 
the narrative is alien and strange to the optimistic 

208 



Shakespeare's Love-Story 

temper of the play ; finally, this garb of patient sad- 
ness does not suit Claudio, who should be all love 
and eagerness, and diminishes instead of increasing 
our sympathy with his later actions. Whoever con- 
siders these facts will admit that we have here Shake- 
speare telling us what happened to himself, and 
what he really thought of his friend's betrayal. 

" The transgression is in the stealer." 

That is Shakespeare's mature judgement of Lord 
Herbert's betrayal. 

The third mention of this sonnet-story in a play 
is later still: it is in " Twelfth Night." The Duke, 
as we have seen, is an incarnation of Shakespeare 
himself, and, indeed, the finest incarnation we have 
of his temperament. In the fourth scene of the first 
act he sends Viola to plead his cause for him with 
Olivia, much in the same way, no doubt, as Shake- 
speare sent Pembroke to Miss Fitton. The whole 
scene deserves careful reading. 

" Cesario, 
Thou know'st no less but all ; I have unclasp'd 
To thee the book even of my secret soul: 
Therefore^ good youth, address thy gait unto her; 
Be not denied access, stand at her doors. 
And tell them, there thy fixed foot shall grow 
Till thou have audience. 

Vio, Sure, my noble lord. 

If she be so abandon'd to her sorrow 
As it is spoke, she never will admit me. 

Duke, Be clamorous and leap all civil bounds 
Rather than make unprofited return. 

Vio. Say I do speak with her, my lord, what then? 

DuJce. O, then unfold the passion of my love. 
Surprise her with discourse of my dear faith: 
It shall become thee well to act my woes; 

309 



The Man Shakespeare 

She will attend it better in thy youth 
Than in a nuncio*s of more grave aspect. 

Vio, I think not so^ my lord. 

Duke. Dear lad, believe it; 

For they shall yet belie thy happy years. 
That say thou art a man: Diana's lip 
Is no-t more smooth and rubious; thy small pipe 
Is as the maiden's organ, shrill and sound; 
And all is semblative a woman's part. 
I know thy constellation is right apt 
For this affair. Some four or five attend him; 
All if you will; for I myself am best 
When least in company.'* 

I do not want to find more here than is in the 
text: the passage simply shows that this idea of 
sending some one to plead his love was constantly 
in Shakespeare's mind in these years. The curious 
part of the matter is that he should pick a youth 
as ambassador, and a youth who is merely his page. 
He can discover no reason for choosing such a boy 
as Viola, and so simply asserts that youth will be 
better attended to, which is certainly not the fact. 
Lord Herbert's youth was in his mind: but he 
could not put the truth in the play that when he 
chose his ambassador he chose him for his high 
position and personal beauty and charm, and not 
because of his youth. The whole incident is treated 
lightly as something of small import ; the bitterness 
in " Much Ado " has died out : " Twelfth Night " 
was written about 1601, a year or so later than 
" Much Ado." 

I do not want to labour the conclusion I have 
reached; but it must be admitted that I have found 
in the plays, and especially in " The Two Gentle- 
men of Verona " and " Much Ado," the same story 
which is told in the sonnets ; a story lugged into the 



Shakespeare's Love-Story 

plays, where, indeed, its introduction is a grave fault 
in art and its treatment too peculiar to be an3^thing 
but personal. Here in the plays we have, so to speak, 
three views of the sonnet-story ; the first in " The 
Two Gentlemen of Verona," when the betrayal is 
fresh in Shakespeare's memory and his words are 
embittered with angry feeling: 

" Thou common friend that's without faith or love." 

The second view is taken in " Much Ado About 
Nothing " when the pain of the betrayal has been 
a little salved by time. Shakespeare now moralizes 
the occurrence. He shows us how it would be looked 
upon by a philosopher (for that is what the lover, 
Claudio, is in regard to his betrayal) and by a 
soldier and man of the world, Benedick, and by a 
Prince. Shakespeare selects the prince to give effect 
to the view that the fault is in the transgressor and 
not in the man who trusts. The many-sided treat- 
ment of the story shows all the stages through which 
Shakespeare's mind moved, and the result is to me 
a more complete confession than is to be found in 
the sonnets. Finally the story is touched upon in 
" Twelfth Night," when the betrayal had faded into 
oblivion, but the poet lets out the fact that his am- 
bassador was a youth, and the reason he gives for 
this is plainly insufficient. If after these three re- 
citals any one can still believe that the sonnet-story 
is imaginary, he is beyond persuasion by argument. 



311 



CHAPTER IV 

THE sonnets: part n 

NOW that we have found the story of the son- 
nets repeated three times in the plays, it may 
be worth our while to see if we can discover in the 
plays anything that throws light upon the circum- 
stances or personages of this curious triangular 
drama. At the outset, I must admit that save in 
these three plays I can find no mention whatever of 
Shakespeare's betrayer. Lord Herbert. He was " a 
false friend," the plays tell us, a " common friend 
without faith or love," " a friend of an ill fashion " ; 
young, too, yet trusted; but beyond this summary 
superficial characterization there is silence. Me 
judice Lord Herbert made no deep or peculiar im- 
pression on Shakespeare ; an opinion calculated to 
give pause to the scandal-mongers. For there can 
be no doubt whatever that Shakespeare's love, Mis- 
tress Fitton, the " dark lady " of the sonnet-series 
from 128 to 152, is to be found again and again in 
play after play, profoundly modifying the poet's 
outlook upon life and art. Before I take in hand 
this identification of Miss Fitton and her influence 
upon Shakespeare, let me beg the reader to bear in 
mind the fact that Shakespeare was a sensualist by 
nature, a lover, which is as rare a thing as con- 
summate genius. The story of his idolatrous passion 
for Mary Fitton is the story of his life. This is 
what the commentators and critics hitherto have 
failed to appreciate. Let us now get at the facts 
and see what light the dramas throw upon the chief 

212 



Shakespeare's Love-Story 

personage of the story, Mistress Fitton. The study 
will probably teach us that Shakespeare was the 
most impassioned lover and love-poet in all literature. 

History tells us that Mary Fitton became a maid 
of honour to Queen Elizabeth in 1595 at the age of 
seventeen. From a letter addressed by her father to 
Sir Robert Cecil on January 29th, 1599, it is fairly 
certain that she had already been married at the 
age of sixteen ; the union was probably not entirely 
valid, but the mere fact suggests a certain reckless- 
ness of character, or overpowering sensuality, or 
both, and shoAvs that even as a girl Mistress Fitton 
was no shrinking, timid, modest maiden. Wrapped 
in a horseman's cloak she used to leave the Palace 
at night to meet her lover. Lord William Herbert. 
Though twice married, she had an illegitimate child 
by Herbert, and two later by Sir Richard Leveson. 

This extraordinary woman is undoubtedly the sort 
of woman Shakespeare depicted as the " dark lady " 
of the sonnets. Nearly every sonnet of the twenty- 
six devoted to his mistress contains some accusation 
against her; and all these charges are manifestly 
directed against one and the same woman. First of 
all she is described in sonnet 131 as " tyrannous " ; 
then in sonnet 133 as "faithless"; in sonnet 13T 
as " the bay where all men ride . . . the wide 
world's commonplace"; in sonnet 138 as "false"; 
in 139, she is "coquettish"; 140, "proud"; 142, 
"false to the bonds of love"; 147, "black as hell 
dark as night" — in both looks and char- 
acter; 148, "full of foul faults"; 149, "cruel"; 
150, "unworthy," but of "powerful" personalitj^ ; 
152, " unkind — inconstant . . . unfaithful . . . 
forsworn." 

Now, the first question is : Can we find this " dark 
lady " of the sonnets in the plays ? The sonnets 

213 



The Man Shakespeare 

tell us she was of pale complexion with black eyes 
and hair; do the plays bear out this description? 
And if they do bear it out do they throw any new 
light upon Miss Fitton's character? Did Miss Fitton 
seem proud and inconstant, tyrannous and wanton, 
to Shakespeare when he first met her, and before she 
knew Lord Herbert? 

The earliest mention of the poet's mistress in the 
plays is to be found, I think, in " Romeo and Juliet." 
" Romeo and Juliet " is dated by Mr. Furnival 1591- 
1593; it was first mentioned in 1595 by Meres; first 
published in 1597. I think in its present form it 
must be taken to date from 1597. Romeo, who, as 
we have already seen, is an incarnation of Shake- 
speare, is presented to us in the very first scene as 
in love with one Rosaline. This in itself tells me 
nothing ; but the proof that Shakespeare stands in 
intimate relation to the girl called Rosaline comes 
later, and so the first introductory words have a cer- 
tain significance for me. Romeo himself tells us that 
" she hath Dian's wit," one of Shakespeare's fa- 
vourite comparisons for his love, and speaks of her 
chastity, or rather of her unapproachableness ; he 
goes on: 

** O she is rich in beauty, only poor 
That, when she dies, with beauty dies her store." 

which reminds us curiously of the first sonnets. 

In the second scene Benvolio invites Romeo to the 
feast of Capulet, where his love, " the fair Rosaline," 
is supping, and adds : 

" Compare her face with some that I shall shew. 
And I will make thee think thy swan a crow." 

Romeo replies that there is none fairer than his 
love, and Benvolio retorts : 



Shakespeare^s Love-Story 
" Tut ! You saw her f air^ none else being by." 

This bantering is most pointed if we assume that 
Rosaline was dark rather than fair. 

In the second act Mercutio comes upon the scene, 
and, mocking Romeo's melancholy and passion, cries : 

" I conjure thee^ by Rosaline's bright eyes, 
By her high forehead and her scarlet lip. . . ." 

This description surprises me. Shakespeare rarely 
uses such physical portraiture of his personages, and 
Mercutio is a side of Shakespeare himself; a char- 
acter all compact of wit and talkativeness, a char- 
acter wholly invented by the poet. 

A little later my suspicion is confirmed. In the 
fourth scene of the second act Mercutio talks to 
Benvolio about Romeo; they both wonder where he 
is, and Mercutio says : 

" Ah, that same pale-hearted wench, that Rosaline, 
Torments him so that he will sure run mad." 

And again, a moment later, Mercutio laughs at 
Romeo as already dead, " stabbed with a white 
wench's black eye." Now, here is confirmation of 
my suspicion. It is most unusual for Shakespeare to 
give the physical peculiarities of any of his char- 
acters ; no one knows how Romeo looked, or Juliet 
or even Hamlet or Ophelia ; and here he repeats the 
description. 

The only other examples we have as yet found in 
Shakespeare of such physical portraiture is the 
sketching of FalstafF in " Henry IV." and the snap- 
shot of Master Slender in " The Merry Wives of 
Windsor," as a " little wee face, with a little yellow 
beard, — a cane-coloured beard." Both these photo- 

215 



The Man Shakespeare 

graphs, as we noticed at the time, were very signifi- 
cant, and Slender's extraordinarily significant by 
reason of its striking and peculiar realism. Though 
an insignificant character. Slender is photographed 
for us by Shakespeare's contempt and hatred, just a,s 
this Rosaline is photographed by his passionate love, 
photographed again and again. 

Shakespeare's usual way of describing the physical 
appearance of a man or woman, when he allowed 
himself to do it at all, which was seldom, was what 
one might call the ideal or conventional way. A 
good example is to be found in Hamlet's description 
of his father; he is speaking to his mother: 

" Hyperion's curls, the front of Jove himself, 
An eye like Mars, to threaten and command, 
A station like the herald Mercury 
New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill." 

In the special case I am considering Rosaline is 
less even than a secondary character ; she is not a 
personage in the play at all. She is merely men- 
tioned casually by Benvolio and then by Mercutio, 
and even Mercutio is not the protagonist ; yet his 
mention of her is strikingly detailed, astonishingly 
realistic, in spite of its off-hand brevity. We have 
a photographic snapshot, so to speak, of this girl: 
she " torments " Romeo ; she is " hard-hearted " ; a 
" white wench " with " black eyes " ; twice in four 
lines she is called now " pale," now " white " — 
plainly her complexion had no red in it, and was 
in startling contrast to her black eyes and hair. 
Manifestly this picture is taken from life, and it is 
just as manifestly the portrait of the " dark lady " 
of the sonnets. 

As if to make assurance doubly sure, there is an- 

216 



Shakespeare^s Love-Story 

other description of this same Rosaline in another 
play, so detailed and striking, composed as it is of 
contrasting and startling peculiarities that I can 
only wonder that its full significance has not been 
appreciated ages ago. To have missed its meaning 
only proves that men do not read Shakespeare with 
love's fine wit. 

The repetition of the portrait is fortunate for 
another reason: it tells us when the love story took 
place. The allusion to the " dark lady " in " Romeo 
and Juliet " is difficult to date exactly ; the next 
mention of her in a play can be fixed in time with 
some precision. " Love's Labour's Lost " was re- 
vised by Shakespeare for production at Court during 
the Christmas festivities of 1597. When the quarto 
was published in 1598 it bore on its title-page the 
words, " A pleasant conceited comedy called ' Love's 
Labour's Lost.' As it was presented before Her 
Highnes this last Christmas. Newly corrected and 
augmented By W. Shakespeare." It is in the re- 
vised part that we find Shakespeare introducing his 
dark love again, and this time, too, curiously enough, 
under the name of Rosaline. Evidently he enjoyed 
the mere music of the word. Biron is an incarnation 
of Shakespeare himself, as we have already seen, 
and the meeting of Biron and his love, Rosaline, in 
the play is extremely interesting for us as Shake- 
speare in this revised production, one would think, 
would wish to ingratiate himself with his love, more 
especially as she would probably be present when the 
play was produced. Rosaline is made to praise Biron, 
before he appears, as a merry man and a most ex- 
cellent talker; but when they meet they simply in- 
dulge in a tourney of wit, in which Rosaline more 
than holds her own, showing indeed astounding self- 
assurance, spiced with a little contempt of Biron; 

217 



The Man Shakespeare 



a 



hard-hearted " Mercutio called it. Every word de- 
serves to be weighed: 

" Biron. Did not I dance with you in Brabant once ? 

Ros. Did not I dance with you in Brabant once ? 

Biron. I know you did. 

Ros. How needless was it, then, to ask the question? 

Biron. You must not be so quick. 

Ros. 'Tis long of you that spur me with such ques- 
tions. 

Biron. Your wit's too hot, it speeds too fast, 'twill 
tire. 

Ros. Not till it leave the rider in the mire. 

Biron. What time o' day.^ 

Ros. The hour that fools should ask. 

Biron. Now fair befall your mask! 

Ros. Fair fall the face it covers ! 

Biron. And send you many lovers! 

Ros. Amen, so you be none. 

Biron. Nay, then will I be gone." 

Clearly this Rosaline, too, has Dian's wit and is 
not in love with Biron, any more than the Rosaline 
of " Romeo and Juliet " was in love with Romeo. 

The next allusion is even more characteristic. 
Biron and Longaville and Boyet are talking; 
Longaville shows his admiration for one of the Prin- 
cess's women, "the one in the white" he declares, 
" is a most sweet lady. 



?j 



" Biron. What is her name in the cap ? 
Boyet. Rosaline, by good hap. 
Biron. Is she wedded or no? 
Boyet. To her will, sir, or so. 
Biron. You are welcome, sir: adieu." 

This, " To her will, sir, or so," is exactly in the 
spirit of the sonnets: every one will remember the 
first two lines of sonnet 135: 

21S 



Shakespeare^s Love-Story 

*' Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will, 
And Will to boot, and Will in overplus ; " 

That, " To her will, sir, or so," I find astonishingly 
significant, for not only has it nothing to do with the 
play and is therefore unexpected, but the character- 
drawing is unexpected, too ; maids are not usually 
wedded to their will in a double sense, and no other 
of these maids of honour is described at all. 

A little later Biron speaks again of Rosaline in 
a way which shocks expectation. First of all, he 
rages at himself for being in love at all. " And I, 
forsooth in love ! I, that have been love's whip ! " 
Here I pause again, it seems to me that Shakespeare 
is making confession to us, just as when he admitted 
without reason that Jaques was lewd. Be that as it 
may, he certainly goes on in words which are as- 
tounding, so utterly unforeseen are they, and there- 
fore the more characteristic: 

" Nay, to he perjured, which is worst of all; 
And, among three, to love the worst of all ; " 

The first line of this couplet, that he is perjured in 
loving Rosaline may be taken as applying to the 
circumstances of the play ; but Shakespeare also 
talks of himself in sonnet 15£ as " perjured," for 
he only swears in order to misuse his love, or with 
a side glance at the fact that he is married and 
therefore perjured when he swears love to one not 
his wife. It is well to keep this " perjured " in 
memory. 

But it is the second line which is the more aston- 
ishing; there Biron tells us that among the three 
of the Princess's women he loves " the worst of 
all." Up to this moment we have only been told 
kindly things of Rosaline and the other ladies ; we 

219 



The 'Man Shakespeare 

had no idea that any one of them was bad, much 
less that Rosaline was " the worst of all." The sus- 
picion grows upon us, a suspicion which is con- 
firmed immediately afterwards, that Shakespeare is 
speaking of himself and of a particular woman ; else 
we should have to admit that his portraiture of 
Rosaline's character was artistically bad, and bad 
without excuse, for why should he lavish all this 
wealth of unpleasant detail on a mere subsidiary 
character? He goes on, however, to make the fault 
worse ; he next speaks of his love Rosaline as — 

" A whitely wanton with a velvet brow. 
With two pitch-balls stuck in her face for eyes; 

Ay, and by heaven, one that will do the deed; 
Though Argus were her eunuch and her guard: 

And I to sigh for her ! to watch for her ] 
To pray for her! Go to! it is a plague." 

It is, of course, a blot upon the play for Biron 
to declare that his love is a wanton of the worst. 
It is not merely unexpected and uncalled-for; it 
diminishes our sympathy with Biron and his love, 
and also with the play. But we have already found 
the rule trustworthy that whenever Shakespeare 
makes a mistake in art it is because of some strong 
personal feeling and not for want of wit, and this 
rule evidently holds good here. Shakespeare-Biron 
is picturing the woman he himself loves ; for not only 
does he describe her as a wanton to the detriment of 
the play; but he pictures her precisely, and this 
Rosaline is the only person in the play of whom we 
have any physical description at all. Moreover, he 
has given such precise and repeated photographs of 
no other character in any of his plays: 

" A whitely wanton with a velvet brow. 
With two pitch-balls stuck in her face for eyes." 

230 



Shakespeare's Love-Story 

This is certainly the same Rosaline we found depicted 
in " Romeo and Juliet " ; but the portraiture here, 
both physical and moral, is more detailed and pe- 
culiar than it was in the earlier play. Shakespeare 
now knows his Rosaline intimately. The mere facts 
that hiere again her physical appearance is set forth 
with such particularity, and that the " hard-hearted- 
ness " which Mercutio noted in her has now become 
" wantonness " is all-important, especially when we 
remember that Miss Fitton was probably listening 
to the play. Even at Christmas, 1597, Shake- 
speare's passion has reached the height of a sex- 
duel. Miss Fitton has tortured him so that he de- 
lights in calling her names to her face in public when 
the play would have led one to expect ingratiating 
or complimentary courtesies. It does not weaken this 
argument to admit that the general audience would 
not perhaps have understood the allusions. 

It is an almost incredible fact that not a single 
one of his hundreds of commentators has even no- 
ticed any peculiarity in this physical portraiture of 
Rosaline ; Shakespeare uses this realism so rarely one 
v/ould have thought that every critic would have 
been astounded by it ; but no, they all pass over it 
without a word, Coleridge, Mr. Tyler, all of them. 

The fourth act of " Love's Labour's Lost " begins 
with a most characteristic soliloquy of Biron : 

'^ Biron. The king he is hunting the deer ; I am cours- 
ing myself : they have pitched a toil ; I am toiling in a 
pitch — pitch that defiles : defile ! a foul word." 

Here Biron is manifestly playing on the " pitch- 
balls " his love has for eyes, and also on the " foul 
faults " Shakespeare speaks of in the sonnets and 
in Othello. Biron goes on : 

221 



The Man Shakespeare 

" O, but her eye — by this lights but for her eye, I 
would not love her; yes, for her two eyes. Well, I do 
nothing in the world but lie, and lie in my throat. By 
heaven, I do love: and it hath taught me to rhyme, and 
to be melancholy; and here is part of my rhyme, and 
here my melancholy. Well, she hath one o' my sonnets 
already: the clown bore it, the fool sent it, and the lady 
hath it : sweet clown, sweeter fool, sweetest lady ! " 

This proves to me that some of Shakespeare's 
sonnets were written in 1597. True, Mr. Tyler 
would try to bind all the sonnets within the three 
years from 1598 to 1601, the three years which 
Shakespeare speaks about in sonnet 104: 

" Three winters cold 
Have from the forests shook three summers' pride, 
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn'd 
In process of the seasons have I seen. 
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn'd. 
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green." 

Lord Herbert first came to Court in the spring 
of 1598, and so sonnet 104 may have represented 
the fact precisely so far as Herbert was concerned ; 
but I am not minded to take the poet so literally. 
Instead of beginning in the spring of 1598, some 
of the sonnets to the lady were probably written in 
the autumn of 1597, or even earlier, and yet Shake- 
speare would be quite justified in talking of three 
years, if the period ended in 1601. A poet is not 
to be bound to an almanack's exactitude. 

In the fourth act of " Love's Labour's Lost," when 
Biron confesses his love for " the heavenly Rosaline," 
the King banters him in the spirit of the time : 

" King. By heaven, thy love is black as ebony. 
Biron, Is ebony like her? O wood divine! 



Shakespeare's Love-Story 

A wife o£ such wood were felicity. 
O, who can give an oath? Where is a book? 
That I may swear beauty doth beauty lack, 
If that she learn not of her eye to look: 
No face is fair that is not full so black/* 

Here we have Shakespeare again describing his 
mistress for us, though he has done it better earlier 
in the play ; he harps upon her dark beauty here 
to praise it, just as he praised it in Sonnet 1S7; it 
is passion's trick to sound the extremes of blame and 
praise alternately. 

In the time of Elizabeth it was customary for 
poets and courtiers to praise red hair and a fair 
complexion as " beauty's ensign," and so compli- 
ment the Queen. The fiunkeyism, which is a char- 
acteristic of all the Germanic races, was peculiarly 
marked in England from the earliest times, and in- 
duced men, even in those " spacious days," not only 
to overpraise fair hair, but to run down dark hair 
and eyes as ugly. The King replies: 

"O paradox! Black is the badge of hell, 

The hue of dungeons and the school of night; 
And beauty's crest becomes the heavens well." 

Biron answers: 

** Devils soonest tempt, resembling spirits of light. 

O, if in black my lady's brow be deck'd 
It mourns that painting and usurping hair 

Should ravish doters with a false aspect; 
And therefore is she born to make black fair. 

Her favour turns the fashion of the days, 
For native blood is counted painting now; 

And therefore red that would avoid dispraise. 
Paints itself black, to imitate her brow." 

Q2S 



The Man Shakespeare 

Our timid poet is bold enough, when cloaked under 
a stage-name, to uphold the colour of his love's hair 
against the Queen's ; the mere fact speaks volumes 
to those who know their Shakespeare. 

Sonnet 127 runs in almost the same words ; 
though now the poet speaking in his own person is 
less bold: 

" In the old age black was not counted fair, 

Or^ if it were, it bore not beauty's name; 
But now is black beauty's successive heir, 

And beauty slandered with a bastard shame: 
For since each hand hath put on nature's power. 

Fairing the soulwith art's false borrow'd face, 
Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower, 

But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace. 
Therefore my mistress' eyes are raven black, 

Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem 
At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack. 

Slandering creation with a false esteem: 
Yet so they mourn, becoming of their woe 

That every tongue says beauty should look so." 

There can be no doubt that in this Rosaline of 
" Romeo and Juliet " and of " Love's Labour's 
Lost," Shakespeare is describing the " dark lady " 
of the second sonnet-series, and describing her, 
against his custom in play-writing, even more ex- 
actly than he described her in the lyrics. 

There is a line at the end of this act which is very 
characteristic when considered with what has gone 
before ; it is clearly a confession of Shakespeare him- 
self, and a perfect example of what one might call 
the conscience that pervades all his mature work: 

" Light wenches may prove plagues to men forsworn." 

We were right, it seems, in putting some stress 
on that " perjured " when we first met it. 



Shakespeare's Love-Story 

In the second scene of the fifth act, which opens 
with a talk between the Princess and her ladies, our 
view of Rosaline is confirmed. Katherine calls Rosa- 
line light, and jests upon this in lewd fashion; de- 
clares, too, that she is " a merry, nimble, stirring 
spirit," in fact, tells her that she is 

" A light condition in a beauty dark." 

All these needless repetitions prove to me that Shake- 
speare is describing his mistress as she lived and 
moved. Those who disagree with me should give 
another instance in which he has used or abused the 
same precise portraiture. But there is more in this 
light badinage of the girls than a description of 
Rosaline. When Rosaline says that she will torture 
Biron before she goes, and turn him into her vassal, 
the Princess adds, 

" None are so surely caught when they are catch'd 
As wit turned fool." 

Rosaline replies, 

" The blood of youth burns not with such excess 
As gravity's revolt to wantonness." 

This remark has no pertinence or meaning in Rosa- 
line's mouth. Biron is supposed to be young in the 
play, and he has never been distinguished for his 
gravity, but for his wit and humour: the Princess 
calls him " quick Biron." The two lines are clearly 
Shakespeare's criticism of himself. When he wrote 
the sonnets he thought himself old, and certainly 
his years (thirty-four) contrasted badly with those 
of Mary Fitton who was at this time not more than 
nineteen. 

2U 



The Man Shakespeare 

Late in 1597 then, before William Herbert came 
upon the scene at all, Shakespeare knew that his mis- 
tress was a wanton: 

" Aj, and by heaven, one that will do the deed ; 
Though Argus were her eunuch and her guard." 

Shakespeare has painted his love for us in these 
plays as a most extraordinary woman : in person she 
is tall, with pallid complexion and black eyes and 
black brows, " a gipsy," he calls her ; in nature im- 
perious, lawless, witty, passionate — a " wanton " ; 
moreover, a person of birth and position. That a 
girl of the time has been discovered who united all 
these qualities in herself would bring conviction to 
almost any mind ; but belief passes into certitude 
when we reflect that this portrait of his mistress is 
given with greatest particularity in the plays, where 
in fact it is out of place and a fault in art. When 
studying the later plays we shall find this gipsy wan- 
ton again and again ; she made the deepest impres- 
sion on Shakespeare ; was, indeed, the one love of his 
life. It was her falseness that brought him to self- 
knowledge and knowledge of life, and turned him 
from a light-hearted writer of comedies and histories 
into the author of the greatest tragedies that have 
ever been conceived. Shakespeare owes the greater 
part of his renown to Mary Fitton. 



226 



CHAPTER V 

THE sonnets: part III 

THE most interesting question in the sonnets, the 
question the vital importance of which dwarfs 
all others, has never yet been fairly tackled and de- 
cided. As soon as English critics noticed, a hundred 
years or so ago, that the sonnets fell into two series, 
and that the first, and longer, series was addressed 
to a young man, they cried, " shocking! shocking! " 
and registered judgement with smug haste on evi- 
dence that would not hang a cat. Hallam, " the 
judicious," held that " it would have been better for 
Shakespeare's reputation if the sonnets had never 
been written," and even Heine, led away by the con- 
sensus of opinion, accepted the condemnation, and 
regretted " the miserable degradation of humanity " 
to be found in the sonnets. But before giving our- 
selves to the novel enjoyment of moral superiority 
over Shakespeare, it may be worth while to ask, is the 
fact proved? is his guilt established? 

No one, I think, who has followed me so far will 
need to be told that I take no interest in white-wash- 
ing Shakespeare: I am intent on painting him as he 
lived and loved, and if I found him as vicious as 
Villon, or as cruel as a stoat, I would set it all down 
as faithfully as I would give proof of his generosity 
or his gentleness. 

Before the reader can fairly judge of Shake- 
speare's innocence or guilt, he must hold in mind 
two salient peculiarities of the man which I have 

227 



The Man Shakespeare 

already noted; but which must now be relieved out 
into due prominence so that one will make instinctive 
allowance for them at every moment, his sensuality 
and his snobbishness. 

His sensuality is the quality, as we have seen, 
which unites the creatures of his temperament with 
those of his intellect, his poets with his thinkers, 
and proves that Romeo and Jaques, the Duke of 
" Twelfth Night " and Hamlet, are one and the same 
person. If the matter is fairly considered it will be 
found that this all-pervading sensuality is the 
source, or at least a natural accompaniment of his 
gentle kindness and his unrivalled sympathy. 

Shakespeare painted no portrait of the hero or 
of the adventurer ; found no new word for the virile 
virtues or virile vices, but he gave immortal expres- 
sion to desire and its offspring, to love, jealousy, 
and despair, to every form of pathos, pleading and 
pity, to all the gentler and more feminine qualities. 
Desire in especial has inspired him with phrases 
more magically expressive even than those gasped 
out by panting Sappho when lust had made her body 
a lyre of deathless music. Her lyric to the beloved 
is not so intense as Othello's: 

" O, thou weed 
Who art so lovely fair and smell'st so sweet 
That the sense aches at thee " ; 

or as Cleopatra's astonishing: 

" There is gold, and here 
My bluest veins to kiss " ; 

— the revelation of a lifetime devoted to vanity and 
sensuality, sensuality pampered as a god and adored 
with an Eastern devotion. 

238 



Shakespeare's Love-Story 

I do not think I need labour this point further; 
as I have already noticed, Orsino, the Duke of 
" Twelfth Night," sums up Shakespeare's philosophy 
of love in the words : 

" Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, 
The appetite may sicken, and so die." — 

Shakespeare told us the truth about himself when 
he wrote in sonnet 142, " Love is my sin." We can 
expect from him new words or a new method in the 
painting of passionate desire. 

The second peculiarity of Shakespeare which we 
must establish firmly in our minds before we attempt 
to construe the sonnets is his extraordinary snob- 
bishness. 

English snobbishness is like a London fog, in- 
tenser than can be found in any other country ; it 
is so extravagant, indeed, that it seems different in 
kind. One instance of this : when Mr. Gladstone was 
being examined once in a case, he w as asked by coun- 
sel. Was he a friend of a certain lord? Listead of 
answering simply that he was, he replied that he did 
not think it right to say he was a friend of so great 
a noble : " he had the honour of his acquaintance." 
Only in England would the man w^ho could make 
noblemen at will be found bowing before them with 
this humility of soul. 

In Shakespeare's time English snobbishness was 
stronger than it is to-day; it was then supported 
by law and enforced by penalties. To speak of a 
lord without his title was regarded as defamation, 
and was punished as such more than once by the 
Star Chamber. Shakespeare's position, too, explains 
how this native snobbishness in him was heightened 
to iiunkeyism. He was an aristocrat born, as we have 

229 



The Man Shakespeare 

seen, and felt in himself a kinship for the courtesies, 
chivalries, and generosities of aristocratic life. This 
tendency was accentuated by his calling. The mid- 
dle class, already steeped in Puritanism, looked upon 
the theatre as scarcely better than the brothel, and 
showed their contempt for the players in a thousand 
ways. The groundlings and common people, with 
their " greasy caps " and " stinking breath " were as 
loathsome to Shakespeare as the crop-headed, gain- 
loving citizens who condemned him and his like piti- 
lessly. He was thrown back, therefore, upon the 
young noblemen who had read the classics and loved 
the arts. His works show how he admires them. He 
could paint you Bassanio or Benedick or Mercutio 
to the life. Everybody has noticed the predilection 
with which he lends such characters his own poetic 
spirit and charm. His lower orders are all food for 
comedy or farce : he will not treat them seriously. 

His snobbishness carries him to astounding lengths. 
One instance: every capable critic has been aston- 
ished by the extraordinary fidelity to fact he shows 
in his historical plays ; he often takes whole pages 
of an earlier play or of Plutarch, and merely varying 
the language uses them in his drama. He is punc- 
tiliously careful to set down the fact, whatever it 
may be, and explain it, even when it troubles the flow 
of his story ; but as soon as the fact comes into con- 
flict with his respect for dignitaries, he loses his nice 
conscience. He tells us of Agincourt without ever 
mentioning the fact that the English bowmen won 
the battle ; he had the truth before him ; the chroni- 
cler from whom he took the story vouched for the 
fact; but Shakespeare preferred to ascribe the vic- 
tory to Henry and his lords. Shakespeare loved a 
lord with a passionate admiration, and when he 
paints himself it is usually as a duke or prince. 

230 



Shakespeare^s Love-Story 

Holding these truths in our mind, Shakespeare's 
intense sensitiveness and sensuahty, and his almost 
inconceivable snobbishness, we may now take up the 
sonnets. 

The first thing that strikes one in the sonnets is 
the fact that, though a hundred and twenty-five of 
them are devoted to a young man, and Shakespeare's 
affection for him, and only twenty-six to the v/oman, 
every one of those to the woman is characterized by 
a terrible veracity of passion, whereas those ad- 
dressed to the youth are rather conventional than 
convincing. He pictures the woman to the life; 
strong, proud, with dark eyes and hair, pale com- 
plexion — a wanton with the rare power of carrying 
off even a wanton's shame. He finds a method new 
to literature to describe her. He will have no poetic 
exaggeration ; snow is whiter than her breasts ; 
violets sweeter than her breath : 

" And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare 
As any she belied with false compare.'* 

His passion is so intense that he has no desire to 
paint her seduction as greater than it was. She has 
got into his blood, so to speak, and each drop of it 
under the microscope would show her image. Take 
any sonnet at haphazard, and you will hear the rage 
of his desire. 

But what is the youth like? — " the master-mis- 
tress " of his passion, to give him the title which 
seems to have convinced the witless of Shakespeare's 
guilt. Not one word of description is to be found 
anywhere; no painting epithet — nothing. Where is 
the cry of this terrible, shameless, outrageous pas- 
sion that mastered Shakespeare's conscience and en- 
slaved his will.f^ Hardly a phrase that goes beyond 

231 



The 'Man Shakespeare 

affection — such affection as Shakespeare at thirty- 
four might well feel for a gifted, handsome aristo- 
crat like Lord Herbert, who had youth, beauty, 
wealth, wit to recommend him. Herbert was a poet, 
too : a patron unparagoned ! " If Southampton 
gave me a thousand pounds," Shakespeare may well 
have argued, " perhaps Lord Herbert will get me 
made Master of the Revels, or even give me a higher 
place." An aristocratic society tends to make para- 
sites even of the strong, as Dr. Johnson's famous 
letter to Lord Chesterfield proves. 

But let us leave supposition and come to the 
sonnets themselves, which are addressed to the youth. 
The first sonnet begins: 

" From fairest creatures we desire increase. 
That thereby beauty's rose might never die." 

This is a very good argument indeed when ad- 
dressed to a woman ; but when addressed to a man 
by a man it rings strained and false. Yet it is the 
theme of the first seventeen sonnets. It is precisely 
the same argument which Shakespeare set forth in 
" Venus and Adonis " again and again : 

" Seeds spring from seeds and beauty breedeth beauty ; 
Thou wast begot; to get it is thy duty." 

(167-8.) 
" And so, in spite of death, thou dost survive. 
In that thy likeness still is left alive . . ." 

(173-4.) 
" Foul cankering rust the hidden treasure frets. 
But gold that's put to use more gold begets." 

(767-8.) 

At the end of the third sonnet we find the same 
argument : 

S39 



Shakespeare's Love-Story 

" But if thou live, remember'd not to be. 
Die single, and thine image dies with thee." 

Again, in the fourth, sixth, and seventh sonnets 
the same plea is urged. In the tenth sonnet the 
poet cries : 

" Make thee another self, for love of me. 
That beauty still may live in thine or thee.'* 

And again at the end of the thirteenth sonnet: 
** You had a father ; let your son say so." 

Every one of these sonnets contains simply the 
argument which is set forth with equal force and 
far superior pertinence in " Venus and Adonis." 

That is, Shakespeare makes use of the passion 
he has felt for a woman to give reality to the ex- 
pression of his affection for the youth. No better 
proof could be imagined of the fact that he never 
loved the youth with passion. 

In sonnet 18 Shakespeare begins to alter his note. 
He then tells the youth that he will achieve im- 
mortality, not through his children, but through 
Shakespeare's verses. Sonnet 19 is rounded with 
the same thought: 

" Yet do thy worst, old Time : despite thy wrong. 
My love shall in my verse ever live young." 

Sonnet 20 is often referred to as suggesting inti- 
macy : 

" A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted, 
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion; 
A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted 
With shifting change, as is false woman's fashion; 

233 



The Man Shakespeare 

An eye more bright than theirs^ less false in rolling 

Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth; 

A man in hue, all * hues ' in his controlling. 

Which steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth. 

And for a woman wert thou first created; 

Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting, 

And by addition me of thee defeated. 

By adding one thing to my purpose nothing. 

But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure 
Mine be thy love, and thy love's use their treasure.'* 

The sextet of this sonnet absolutely disproves guilty 
intimacy, and is, I believe, intended to disprove it; 
Shakespeare had already fathomed the scandal-lov- 
ing minds of his friends and wanted to set forth the 
noble disinterestedness of his affection. 

Sonnet 22 is more sincere, though not so pas- 
sionate ; it neither strengthens nor rebuts the argu- 
ment. Sonnet 23 is the sonnet upon which all those 
chiefly rely who wish to condemn Shakespeare. 
Here it is: 

" As an unperfect actor on the stage. 
Who with his fear is put beside his part. 
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage. 
Whose strength's abundance weakens his own heart; 
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say 
The perfect ceremony of love's rite. 
And in mine own love's strength seem to decay, 
O'ercharged with burthen of mine own love's might 
O, let my looks be then the eloquence 
And dumb presages of my speaking breast; 
Who plead for love, and look for recompense. 
More than that tongue that more hath more express'd. 
O, learn to read what silent love hath writ: 
To hear with eyes belongs to love's fine wit." 

We can interpret the phrases, " the perfect cere- 
mony of love's rite " and " look for recompense " 

234 



Shakespeare's Love-Story 

as we will ; but it must be admitted that even when 
used to the uttermost they form an astonishingly 
small base on which to raise so huge and hideouS' 
a superstructure. 

But we shall be told that the condemnation of 
Shakespeare is based, not upon any sonnet or any 
line ; but upon the way Shakespeare speaks as soon 
as he discovers that his mistress has betrayed him 
in favour of his friend. One is inclined to expect 
that he will throw the blame on the friend, and, 
after casting him off, seek to win again the affec- 
tions of his mistress. Nine men out of ten would 
act in this way. But the sonnets tell us with itera- 
tion and most peculiar emphasis that Shakespeare 
does not condemn the friend. As soon as he hears 
of the traitorism he cries (sonnet 33) : 

" Full many a glorious morning have I seen 
Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye. 
Kissing with golden face the meadows green. 
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy; 
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride 
With ugly rack on his celestial face. 
And from the forlorn world his visage hide. 
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace: 
Even so my sun one early morn did shine 
With all triumphant splendour on my brow; 
But out ! alack ! he was but one hour mine. 
The region cloud hath mask'd him from me now. 

Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth; 

Suns of the world may stain, when heaven's sun 
staineth." 

It is the loss of his friend he regrets, rather than 
the loss of his mistress ; she is not mentioned save 
by comparison with " base clouds." Yet even when 
read by Gradgrind and his compeers the thirteenth 

235 



The Man Shakespeare 

line of this sonnet is utterly inconsistent with pas- 
sion. 

In the next sonnet the friend repents, and weeps 
the " strong' offence," and Shakespeare accepts the 
sorrow as salve that " heals the wound " ; his friend's 
tears are pearls that " ransom all ill deeds." The 
next sonnet begins with the line: 

*' No more be griev'd at that which thou hast done " ; 

Shakespeare will be an " accessory " to his friend's 
" theft," though he admits that the robbery is still 
sour. Then come four sonnets in which he is con- 
tent to forget all about the wrong he has suffered, 
and simply exhausts himself in praise of his friend. 
Sonnet 40 begins: 

" Take all my loves, my love, yea, take them all ; 
What hast thou then more than thou hadst before? 
No love, my love, that thou may'st true love call; 
All mine was thine, before thou hadst this more." 

This is surely the very soul of tender affection ; but 
it is significant that even here the word " true " is 
emphasized and not " love " ; he goes on : 

** I do forgive thy robbery, gentle thief, 
Although thou steal thee all my poverty; 
And yet love knows it is a greater grief 
To bear love's wrong, than hate's known injury." 

Never before was a man so gentle-kind; we might 
be listening to the lament of a broken-hearted 
woman who smiles through her tears to reassure her 
lover; yet there is no attempt to disguise the fact 
that Herbert has done " wrong." The next sonnet 
puts the poet's feeling as strongly as possible. 

2SG 



Shakespeare's Love-Story 

" Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits. 
When I am sometime absent from thy heart. 
Thy beauty and thy years full well befits. 
For still temptation follows where thou art. 
Gentle thou art, and therefore to be won. 
Beauteous thou art, therefore to be assail'd; 
And when a woman woos, what woman's son 
Will sourly leave her till she have prevail'd? 
Ay me ! but yet thou might'st my seat forbear. 
And chide thy beauty and thy straying youth. 
Who lead thee in their riot even there 
Where thou art forced to break a twofold truth; 
Hers, by thy beauty tempting her to thee. 
Thine by thy beauty being false to me." 

The first lines show that Shakespeare is pretend- 
ing; he attempts not only to minimize the offence, 
but to find it charming. A mother who caught her 
young son kissing a girl would reproach him in this 
fashion ; to her his faults would be the " pretty 
wrongs that liberty commits." But this is not the 
way passion speaks, and here again the sextet con- 
demns Herbert in the plainest terms. At length 
we have the summing-up: 

** That thou hast her, it is not all my grief. 
And yet it may be said I lov'd her dearly; 
That she hath thee, is of my wailing chief, 
A loss in love that touches me more nearly. 
Loving offenders, thus I will excuse ye: 
Thou dost love her, because thou know'st I love her;; 
And for my sake even so doth she abuse me. 
Suffering my friend for my sake to approve her. 
If I lose thee, my loss is my love's gain. 
And losing her, my friend hath found that loss; 
Both find each other, and I lose both twain. 
And both for my sake lay on me this cross: 

But here's the joy; my friend and I are one; 

Sweet flattery! then she loves but me alone." 

237 



The Man Shakespeare 

This sonnet, with its affected word-play and wire- 
drawn consolation, leaves one gaping: Shakespeare's 
verbal affectations had got into his very blood. To 
my mind the whole sonnet is too extravagant to be 
sincere ; it is only to be explained by the fact that 
Shakespeare's liking for Herbert was heightened by 
snobbishness and by the hope of patronage. None 
of it rings true except the first couplet. Yet the 
argument of it is repeated, strange to say, and 
emphasized in the sonnets addressed to the " dark 
lady " whom Shakespeare loved. Sonnet 144! is 
clear enough: 

" Two loves I have of comfort and despair. 
Which like two spirits do suggest me still: 
The better angel is a man, right fair. 
The worser spirit a woman, colour'd ill. 
To win me soon to hell, my female evil 
Tempteth my better angel from my side. 
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil. 
Wooing his purity with her foul pride. 
And whether that my angel be turn'd fiend 
Suspect I may, yet, not directly tell; 
But being both from me, both to each friend, 
I guess one angel in another's hell: 

Yet this shall I ne'er know, but live in doubt. 
Till my bad angel fire my good one out." 

As soon as his mistress comes on the scene Shake- 
speare's passionate sincerity cannot be questioned. 
The truth is the intensity of his passion leads him 
to condemn and spite the woman, while the absence 
of passion allows him to pretend affection for the 
friend. Sonnet 133, written to the woman, is de- 
cisive : 

" Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan 
For that deep wound it gives my friend and me! 

238 



Shakespeare's Love-Story 

Is't not enough to torture me alone, 
But slave to slavery my sweet'st friend must be? 
Me from myself thy cruel eye hath taken, 
And my next self thou harder hast engross'd: 
Of him, myself, and thee, I am forsaken; 
A torment thrice threefold thus to be cross'd. 
Prison my heart in thy steel bosom's ward. 
But then my friend's heart let my poor heart bail; 
Whoe'er keeps me, let my heart be his guard; 
Thou canst not then use rigour in my gaol: 
And yet thou wilt; for I, being pent in thee. 
Perforce am thine, and all that is in me.'* 

The last couplet is to me " perforce " conclusive. 

But let us take it that these sonnets prove the 
contention of the cry of critics that Shakespeare 
preferred friendship to love, and held his friend 
dearer than his mistress, and let us see if the plays 
corroborate the sonnets on this point. We may pos- 
sibly find that the plays only strengthen the doubt 
which the sonnets implant in us. 

" The Merchant of Venice " has always seemed 
to me important as helping to fix the date of the 
sonnets. Antonio, as I have shown, is an impersona- 
tion of Shakespeare himself. It seems to me Shake- 
speare would have found it impossible to write of 
Antonio's self-sacrificing love for Bassanio after he 
himself had been cheated by his friend. This play 
then must have been written shortly before his be- 
trayal, and should give us Shakespeare's ordinary 
attitude. Many expressions in the play remind us 
of the sonnets, and one in especial of sonnet 41. In 
the sixth scene of the second act, Jessica, when es- 
caping from her father's house, uses Shakespeare's 
voice to say: 

** But love is blind and lovers cannot see 
The pretty follies that themselves commit." 
239 



The Man Shakespeare 

Here we have " the pretty follies " which is used 
again as " pretty wrongs " in sonnet 41. Imme- 
diately afterwards Lorenzo, another mask of Shake- 
speare, praises Jessica as " wise, fair, and true," just 
as in sonnet 105 Shakespeare praises his friend as 
" kind, fair, and true," using again words which his 
passion for a woman has taught him. 

The fourth act sets forth the same argument we 
find in the sonnets. When it looks as if Antonio 
would have to give his life as forfeit to the Jew, 
Bassanio exclaims : 

" Antonio, I am married to a wife 
Which is as dear to me as life itself; 
But life itself, my wife and all the world 
Are not with me esteem'd above thy life. 
I would lose all_, ay, sacrifice them all 
Here to this devil to deliver you." 

This is the language of passionate exaggeration, one 
might say. Antonio is suffering in Bassanio's place, 
paying the penalty, so to speak, for Bassanio's 
happiness. No wonder Bassanio exaggerates his 
grief and the sacrifice he would be prepared to make. 
But Gratiano has no such excuse for extravagant 
speech, and yet Gratiano follows in the self-same 
vein : 

** I have a wife whom, I protest, I love: 
I would she were in heaven, so she could 
Entreat some power to change this currish Jew." 

The peculiarity of this attitude is heightened by the 
fact that the two wives, Portia and Nerissa, both 
take the ordinary view. Portia says: 

" Your wife would give you little thanks for that 
If she were by to hear you make the offer." 

240 



Shakespeare's Love-Story 

And Nerlssa goes a little further: 

" 'Tis well you offer it behind her back, 
The wish would make else an unquiet house.** 

The blunder is monstrous ; not only is the friend pre- 
pared to sacrifice all he possesses, including his wife, 
to save his benefactor, but the friend's friend is con- 
tent to sacrifice his wife too for the same object. 
Shakespeare then in early manhood was accustomed 
to put friendship before love; we must find some ex- 
planation of what seems to us so unnatural an at- 
titude. 

In the last scene of " The Two Gentlemen of Ve- 
rona," which is due to a later revision, the sonnet- 
case is emphasized. And at this time Shakespeare 
has suffered Herbert's betrayal. As soon as the 
false friend Proteus says he is sorry and asks for- 
giveness, Valentine, another impersonation of Shake- 
speare, replies: 

" Then I am paid; 
And once again I do receive thee honest: 
Who by repentance is not satisfied. 
Is nor of heaven nor earth, for these are pleas'd; 
By penitence the Eternal's wrath's appeased; 
And that my love may appear plain and free. 
All that was mine in Silvia I give thee.'* 

This incarnation of Shakespeare speaks of repent- 
ance in Shakespeare's most characteristic fashion, 
and then coolly surrenders the woman he loves to 
his friend without a moment's hesitation, and with- 
out even considering whether the woman would be 
satisfied with the transfer. The words admit of no 
misconstruction ; they stand four-square, not to be 
shaken by any ingenuity of reason, and Shakespeare 
supplies us with further corroboration of them, 

2^1 



The Man Shakespeare 

*' Coriolanus " was written fully ten years after 
'' The Merchant of Venice," and long after the re- 
vision of " The Two Gentlemen of Verona." And 
yet Shakespeare's attitude at forty-three is, in re- 
gard to this matter, just what it was at thirty- three. 
When Aufidius finds Coriolanus in his house, and 
learns that he has been banished from Rome and is 
now prepared to turn his army against his country- 
men, he v/elcomes him as " more a friend than e'er 
an enemy," and this is the way he takes to show 
his joy: 

** Know thou first, 
I loved the maid I married: never man 
Sigh'd truer breath; but that I see thee here, 
Thou noble thing! more dances my rapt heart 
Than when I first my wedded mistress saw 
Bestride my threshold.'* 

Here's the same attitude; the same extravagance; 
the same insistence on the fact that the man loves 
the maid and yet has more delight in the friend. 
What does it mean.^^ When we first find it in " The 
Merchant of Venice " it must give the reader pause ; 
in " The Two Gentlemen of Verona " it surprises 
us ; in the sonnets, accompanied as it is by every 
flattering expression of tender affection for the 
friend, it brings us to question ; but its repetition in 
" Coriolanus " must assure us that it is a mere 
pose. Aufidius was not such a friend of Coriolanus 
that we can take his protestation seriously. The 
argument is evidently a stock argument to Shake- 
speare : a part of the ordinary furniture of his mind : 
it is like a fashionable dress of the period — the 
wearer does not notice its peculiarity. 

The truth is, Shakespeare found in the literature 
of his time, and in the minds of his contemporaries, 

24^ 



Shakespeare's Love-Story \ 

a fantastically high appreciation of friendship, 
coupled with a corresponding disdain for love as we 
moderns understand it. In " Wit's Commonwealth," 
published in 1598, we find: "The love of men to 
women is a thing common and of course, but the 
friendship of man to man, infinite and immortal." 
Passionate devotion to friendship is a sort of mark 
of the Renaissance, and the words " love " and 
*' lover " in Elizabethan English were commonly 
used for " friend " and " friendship." Moreover, 
one must not forget that Lyly, whose euphuistic 
speech affected Shakespeare for years, had handled 
this same incident in his " Campaspe," where Alex- 
ander gives up his love to his rival, Apelles. Shake- 
speare, not to be outdone in any loyalty, sets forth 
the same fantastical devotion in the sonnets and 
plays. He does this, partly because the spirit of the 
time infected him, partly out of sincere admiration 
for Herbert, but oftener, I imagine, out of self-in- 
terest. It is pose, flunkeyism and the hope of bene- 
fits to come and not passion that inspired the first 
series of sonnets. 

Whoever reads the scene carefully in " Much Ado 
About Nothing," cannot avoid seeing that Shake- 
speare at his best not only does not minimize his 
friend's offence, but condemns it absolutely: 

" The transgression is in the stealer.'* 

And in the sonnets, too, in spite of himself, the 
same true feeling pierces through the snobbish and 
affected excuses. 

** Ay me ! but yet thou might'st my seat forbear. 
And chide thy beauty and thy straying youth. 
Who lead thee in their riot even there 



The Man Shakespeare 

Where thou art forced to break a twofold truth, 
Hers, by thy beauty tempting her to thee. 
Thine, by thy beauty being false to me." 

Shakespeare was a sycophant, a flunkey if you 
will, but nothing worse. 

Further arguments suggest themselves. Shake- 
speare lived, as it were, in a glass house with a score 
of curious eyes watching everything he did and with 
as many ears pricked for every word he said; but 
this foul accusation was never even suggested by 
any of hisj rivals. In especial Ben Jonson was 
always girding at Shakespeare, now satirically, now 
good-humouredly. Is it not manifest that if any 
such sin had ever been attributed to him, Ben Jonson 
would have given the suspicion utterance? There 
is a passage in his " Bartholomew Fair " which I 
feel sure is meant as a skit upon the relations we 
find in the Sonnets. In Act V., scene iii., there is a 
puppet-show setting forth " the ancient modern his- 
tory of Hero and Leander, otherwise called the 
Touchstone of true Love, with as true a trial of 
Friendship between Damon and Pythias, two faith- 
ful friends o' the Bankside." Hero is a " wench o' 
the Bankside," and Leander swims across the 
Thames to her. Damon and Pythias meet at her 
lodgings, and abuse each other violently, only to 
finish as perfect good friends. 

" Damon. Whore-master in thy face ; 
Thou hast lain with her thyself, I'll prove it in this place. 

Leatherhead. They are whore-masters both, sir, that's 
a plain case. 

Pythias. Thou lie like a rogue. 

Leatherhead. Do I lie like a rogue? 

Pythias. A pimp and a scab. 

Leatherhead. A pimp and a scab! 
I say, between you you have both but one drab. 

2M 



Shakespeare's Love-Story 

Pythias and Damon. Come, now we'll go together to 

breakfast to Hero. 
Leatherhead. Thus, gentles, you perceive without 
any denial 
'Twixt Damon and Pythias here friendship's true trial." 

Rare Ben Jonson would have been delighted to set 
forth the viler charge if it had ever been whis- 
pered. 

Then again, it seems to me certain that if Shake- 
speare had been the sort of man his accusers say 
he was, he would have betrayed himself in his plays. 
Consider merely the fact that young boys then 
played the girls' parts on the stage. Surely if 
Shakespeare had had any leaning that way, we 
should have found again and again ambiguous or 
suggestive expressions given to some of these boys 
when aping girls ; but not one. The temptation 
was there; the provocation was there, incessant and 
prolonged for twenty-five years, and yet, to my 
knowledge, Shakespeare has never used one word 
that malice could misconstrue. Yet he loved sug- 
gestive and lewd speech. 

Luckily, however, there is stronger proof of Shake- 
speare's innocence than even his condemnation of 
his false friend, proof so strong, that if all the argu- 
ments for his guilt were tenfold stronger than they 
are, this proof would outweigh them all and bring 
them to nought. Nor should it be supposed, because 
I have only mentioned the chief arguments for and 
against, that I do not know all those that can be 
urged on either side. I have confined myself to 
the chief ones simply because by merely stating 
them, their utter weakness must be admitted by 
every one who can read Shakespeare, by every one 
who understands his impulsive sensitiveness, and 

345 



The Man Shakespeare 

the facility with which affectionate expressions came 
to his hps. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that 
while the sonnets were being written he was in 
rivalry with Chapman for this very patron's favour, 
and this rivalry alone would explain a good deal of 
the fervour, or, should I say, the affected fervour 
he put into the first series of sonnets; but now for 
the decisive and convincing argument for Shake- 
speare's innocence. 

Let us first ask ourselves how it is that real 
passion betrays itself and proves its force. Surely 
it is by its continuance; by its effect upon the 
life later. I have assumed, or inferred, as my 
readers may decide, that Shakespeare's liking for 
Heiibert was chiefly snobbish, and was deepened by 
the selfish hope that he would find in him a patron 
even more powerful and more liberally disposed 
than Lord Southampton. He probably felt that 
young Herbert owed him a great deal for his com- 
panionship and poetical advice; for Herbert was 
by way of being a poet himself. If my view is cor- 
rect, after Shakespeare lost Lord Herbert's affec- 
tion, we should expect to hear him talking of man's 
forgetfulness and ingratitude, and that is just what 
Lord Herbert left in him, bitterness and contempt. 
Never one word in all his works to show that the 
loss of this youth's affection touched him more 
nearly. As we have seen, he cannot keep the inci- 
dent out of his plays. Again and again he drags 
it in; but in none of these dramas is there any 
lingering kindness towards the betrayer. And as 
soon as the incident was past and done with, as 
soon as the three or four years' companionship 
with Lord Herbert was at an end, not one word 
more do we catch expressive of affection. Again 
and again Shakespeare rails at man's ingratitude, 
but nothing more. Think of it. Pembroke, under 

^0 



Shakespeare's Love-Story 

James, came to great power; was, indeed, made 
Lord Chamberlain, and set above all the players, 
so that he could have advanced Shakespeare as he 
pleased with a word: with a word could have made 
him Master of the Revels, or given him a higher post. 
He did not help him in any way. He gave books 
every Christmas to Ben Jonson, but we hear of no 
gift to Shakespeare, though evidently from the dedi- 
cation to him of the first folio, he remained on terms 
of careless acquaintance with Shakespeare. Ingrati- 
tude is what Shakespeare found in Lord Pembroke; 
ingratitude is what he complains of in him. 

What a different effect the loss of Mary Fitton 
had upon Shakespeare. Just consider what the plays 
teach us when the sonnet-story is finished. The 
youth vanishes ; no reader can find a trace of him, 
or even an allusion to him. But the woman comes 
to be the centre, as we shall see, of tragedy after 
tragedy. She flames through Shakespeare's life, a 
fiery symbol, till at length she inspires perhaps 
his greatest drama, " Antony and Cleopatra," fill- 
ing it with the disgrace of him who is " a strumpet's 
fool," the shame of him who has become " the 
bellows and the fan to cool a harlot's lust." 

The passion for Mary Fitton was the passion of 
Shakespeare's whole life. The adoration of her, 
and the insane desire of her, can be seen in every 
plays he wrote from 1597 to 1608. After he lost 
her, he went back to her; but the wound of her 
frailty cankered and took on proud flesh in him, and 
tortured him to nervous breakdown and madness. 
When at length he won to peace, after ten years, it 
was the peace of exhaustion. His love for his 
" gipsy-wanton " burned him out, as one is burnt to 
ashes at the stake, and his passion only ended with 
his life. 

There is no room for doubt in my mind, no faint- 

247 



The Man Shakespeare 

est suspicion. Hallam and Heine, and all the cry 
of critics, are mistaken in this matter. Shakespeare 
admired Lord Herbert's youth and boldness and 
beauty, hoped great things from his favour and 
patronage; but after the betrayal, he judged him 
inexorably as a mean traitor, " a stealer " who had 
betrayed " a twofold trust " ; and later, cursed him 
for his ingratitude, and went about with wild 
thoughts of bloody revenge, as we shall soon see 
in " Hamlet " and " Othello," and then dropped him 
into oblivion without a pang. 

It is bad enough to show that Shakespeare, the 
sweetest spirit and finest mind* in all literature, 
should have degraded himself to pretend such an 
affection for the profligate Herbert as has given 
occasion for misconstruction. It is bad enough, I 
say, to know that Shakespeare could play flunkey 
to this extent ; but after all, that is the worst that 
can be urged against him, and it is so much better 
than men have been led to believe that there may 
be a certain relief in the knowledge. 



S4d 



CHAPTER VI 

THE FIRST-FRUIT OF THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE! 

BRUTUS 

THE play of " Julius Caesar " was written about 
1600 or 1601. As " Twelfth Night " was the 
last of the golden comedies, so " Julius Caesar " is 
the first of the great tragedies, and bears melan^ 
choly witness to us that the poet's young-eyed 
confidence in life and joy in living are dying, if 
not dead. " Julius Caesar " is the first outcome of 
disillusion. Before it was written Shakespeare had 
been deceived by his mistress, betrayed by his 
friend ; his eyes had been opened to the fraud and 
falsehood of life; but, like one who has just been 
operated on for cataract, he still sees realities as 
through a mist, dimly. He meets the shock of 
traitorous betrayal as we should have expected 
Valentine or Antonio or Orsino to meet it — with 
pitying forgiveness. Suffering, instead of .steeling 
his heart and drying up his sympathies, as it does 
with most men, softened him, induced him to give 
himself wholly to that " angel. Pity." He will not 
believe that his bitter experience is universal; in 
spite of Herbert's betrayal, he still has the courage 
to declare his belief in the existence of the ideal. 
At the very last his defeated Brutus cries : 

" My heart doth joy that yet in all my life 
I found no man but he was true to me.'* 

The pathos of this attempt still to believe in man 

249 



The 'Man Shakespeare 

and man's truth is over the whole play. But the 
belief was fated to disappear. No man who lives 
in the world can boast of loyalty as Brutus did; 
even Jesus had a Judas among the Twelve. But 
when Shakespeare wrote " Julius Caesar " he still 
tried to believe, and this gives the play an important 
place in his life's story. 

Before I begin to consider the character of 
Brutus I should like to draw attention to three 
passages which place Brutus between the melan- 
choly Jaques of "As You Like It," whose melan- 
choly is merely temperamental, and the almost 
despairing Hamlet. Jaques says: 

" Invest me in my motley ; give me leave 
To speak my mind, and I will through and through 
Cleanse the foul body of the infected world. 
If they will patiently receive my medicine." 

This is the view of early manhood which does not 
doubt its power to cure all the evils which afflict 
mortality. Then comes the later, more hopeless 
view, to which Brutus gives expression: 

" Till then, my noble friend, chew upon this ; 
Brutus had rather be a villager 
Than to repute himself a son of Rome 
Under these hard conditions as this time 
Is like to lay upon us.** 

And later still, and still more bitter, Hamlet's : 

** The time is out of joint; O cursed spite, 
That ever I was born to set it right ! " 

But Shakespeare is a meliorist even in Hamlet, 
and believes that the ailments of man can all be 
set right. 

@50 



Tree of Knowledge: Brutus 

The likenesses between Brutus and Hamlet are 
so marked that even the commentators have noticed 
them. Professor Dowden exaggerates the similari- 
ties. "Both (dramas)," he writes, "are tragedies 
of thought rather than of passion; both present in 
their chief characters the spectacle of noble natures 
which fail through some weakness or deficiency 
rather than through crime; upon Brutus as upon 
Hamlet a burden is laid which he is not able to bear ; 
neither Brutus nor Hamlet is fitted for action, yet 
both are called to act in dangerous and difficult 
affairs." Much of this is Professor Dowden's view 
and not Shakespeare's. When Shakespeare wrote 
" Julius Caesar " he had not reached that stage in 
self-understanding when he became conscious that 
he was a man of thought rather than of action, and 
that the two ideals tend to exclude each other. In 
the contest at Philippi Brutus and his wing win 
the day; it is the defeat of Cassius which brings 
about the ruin; Shakespeare evidently intended to 
depict Brutus as well " fitted for action." 

Some critics find it disconcerting that Shake- 
speare identified himself with Brutus, who failed, 
rather than with Caesar, who succeeded. But even 
before he himself came to grief in his love and 
trust, Shakespeare had always treated the failures 
with peculiar sympathy. He preferred Arthur to 
the Bastard, and King Henry VI. to Richard III., 
and Richard II. to proud Bolingbroke. And after 
his agony of disillusion, all his heroes are failures 
for years and years 3 Brutus, Hamlet, Macbeth, 
Lear, Troilus, Antony, and Timon — all fail as he 
himself had failed. 

There is some matter for surprise in the fact 
that Brutus is an ideal portrait of Shakespeare. 
Disillusion usually brings a certain bitter sincerity, 

251 



The Man Shakespeare 

a measure of realism, into artistic work ; but its 
first effect on Shakespeare was to draw out all the 
kindliness in him ; Brutus is Shakespeare at his 
sweetest and best. Yet the soul-suiFering of the 
man has assuredly improved his art: Brutus is a 
better portrait of him than Biron, Valentine, Romeo, 
or Antonio, a more serious and bolder piece of self- 
reveahng even than Orsino. Shakespeare is not 
afraid now to depict the deep underlying kindness 
of his nature, his essential goodness of heart. A 
little earlier, and occupied chiefly with his own 
complex growth, he could only paint sides of him- 
self; a little later, and the personal interest absorbed 
all others, so that his dramas became Ija^ics of 
anguish and despair. Brutus belongs to the best 
time, artistically speaking, to the time when passion 
and pain had tried the character without benumbing 
the will or distracting the mind: it is a masterpiece 
of portraiture, and stands in even closer relation 
to Hamlet than Romeo stands to Orsino. As 
Shakespeare appears to us in Brutus at thirty- 
seven, so he was when they bore him to his grave at 
fifty-two — -the heart does not alter greatly. 

Let no one say or think that in all this I am 
drawing on my imagination ; what I have said is 
justified by all that Brutus says and does from 
one end of the play to the other. According to 
his custom, Shakespeare has said it all of himself 
very plainly, and has put his confession into the 
mouth of Brutus on his very first appearance (Act 
i. sc. 2) : 

*' Cassius 
Be not deceived : if I have veiled my look 
I turn the trouble of my countenance 
Merely upon myself. Vexed I am 
Of late with passions of some difference, 

253 



Tree of Knowledge: Brutus 

Conceptions only proper to myself, 

Which gives some soil, perhaps, to my behaviours. 

But let not therefore my good friends be grieved, — 

Among which number, Cassius, be you one, — 

Nor construe any further in neglect. 

Than that poor Brutus, with himself at war. 

Forgets the shows of love to other men." 

What were these " different passions," complex 
personal passions, too, which had vexed Brutus and 
changed his manners even to his friends? There is 
no hint of them in Plutarch, no word about them 
in the play. It was not " poor Brutus," but poor 
Shakespeare, racked by love and jealousy, tortured 
by betrayal, who was now " at war with himself." 
I assume the identity of Brutus with Shake- 
speare before I have absolutely proved it because 
it furnishes the solution to the difficulties of the 
play. As usual, Coleridge has given proof of his 
insight by seeing and stating the chief difficulty, 
without, however, being able to explain it, and as 
usual, also, the later critics have followed him as 
far as they can, and in this case have elected to 
pass over the difficulty In silence. Coleridge quotes 
some of the words of Brutus when he first thinks 
of killing Caesar, and calls the passage a speech 
of Brutus, but it is in reality a soliloquy of Brutus, 
and must be considered in its entirety. Brutus 
says: 

" It must be by his death: and for my part, 
I know no personal cause to spurn at him 
But for the general. He would be crowned: — 
How that might change his nature, there's the 

question ? 
It is the bright day that brings forth the adder. 
And that craves wary walking. Crown him.f* — ^that; 

253 



The Man Shakespeare 

And then, I grant, we put a sting in him 

That at his' will he may do danger with. 

The abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins 

Remorse from power: and to speak truth of Caesar, 

I have known his affections swayed 

More than his reason. But 'tis a common proof. 

That lowliness is young ambition's ladder, 

Whereto the climber-upwards turns his face; 

But when he once attains the topmost round. 

He then unto the ladder turns his back. 

Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees 

By which he did ascend. So Caesar may: 

Then, lest he may, prevent. And since the quarrel 

Will bear no colour for the thing he is. 

Fashion it thus : that, what he is, augmented. 

Would run to these and these extremities: 

And therefore think him as a serpent's egg. 

Which, hatched, would as his kind grow mischievous; 

And kill him in the shell." 

Coleridge's comment on this deserves notice. 
He wrote : " This speech is singular ; at least, I do 
not at present see into Shakespeare's motive, his 
rationale, or in what point of view he meant 
Brutus' character to appear. For surely . . . noth- 
ing can seem more discordant with our historical 
preconceptions of Brutus, or more lovt^ering to the 
intellect of the Stoico-Platonic tyrannicide, than 
the tenets here attributed to him — to him, the stern 
Roman republican ; namely, that he would have no 
objection to a king, or to Caesar, a monarch in 
Rome, would Caesar but be as good a monarch as 
he now seems disposed to be ! How, too, could 
Brutus say that he found no personal cause — none 
in Caesar's past conduct as a man.^^ Had he not 
passed the Rubicon .f* Had he not entered Rome 
as a conquerer.P Had he not placed his Gauls in 
the Senate.^ Shakespeare, it may be said, has not 

254 



{Tree of Knowledge: Brutus 

brought these things forward. True ; — and this is 
just the ground of mj perplexity. What character 
did Shakespeare mean his Brutus to be? " 

All this i-s sound criticism, and can only be 
answered by the truth that Shakespeare from the 
beginning of the pla}'' identified himself with Brutus, 
and paid but little attention to the historic Brutus 
whom he had met in Plutarch. Let us push criticism 
a little further, and we shall see that this is the 
only possible way to read the riddle. We all know 
why Plutarch's Brutus killed Caesar; but why does 
Shakespeare's Brutus kill the man he so esteems.'* 
Because Caesar may change his nature when king; 
because like the serpent's egg he may " grow mis- 
chievous ".^ But when he speaks " truth " of Caesar 
he has to admit Caesar's goodness. The " serpent's 
egg " reason then is inapplicable. Besides, when 
speaking of himself on the plaints of Philippi, 
Shakespeare's Brutus explicitly contradicts this 
false reasoning: 

*' I know not how 
But I do find it cowardly and vile. 
For fear of what might fall, so to prevent 
The term of life." 

It would seem, therefore, that Brutus did not kill 
Caesar, as one crushes a serpent's egg, to prevent 
evil consequences. It is equaJly manifest that he 
did not do it for " the general," for if ever " the 
general " were shown to be despicable and worth- 
less it is in this very play, where the citizens 
murder Cinna the poet because he has the same 
name as Cinna the conspirator, and the lower 
classes are despised as the " rabblement," " the 
common herd," with " chapped hands," " sweaty 
night-caps," and " stinking breath." 

255 



The Man Shakespeare 

It is Dr. Brandes' idea and not Shakespeare's 
that Brutus is a " man of uncompromising char- 
acter and principle." That is the Brutus of Plu- 
tarch, who finds in his stem republican love of 
the common good an ethical motive for killing the 
ambitious Caesar. But Shakespeare had no under- 
standing of the republican ideal, and no sympathy 
with the public ; accordingly, his Brutus has no 
adequate reason for contriving Caesar's death. 
Shakespeare followed Plutarch in freeing Brutus 
from the suspicion of personal or interested motive, 
but he didn't see that by doing this he made his 
Brutus a conspirator without a cause, a murderer 
without a motive. The truth is our gentle poet 
could never find a convincing ground for cold- 
blooded murder. It will be remembered that Mac- 
beth only murders, as the deer murders, out of fear, 
and the fact that his Brutus can find no justification 
of any sort for killing Caesar, confirms our view of 
Shakespeare's gentle kindness. The " uncompromis- 
ing character and principle " of the severe repub- 
lican we find in Plutarch, sit uneasily on Shake- 
speare's Brutus ; it is apparent that the poet had 
no conception of what we call a fanatic. His diffi- 
culties arise from this limitation of insight. He 
begins to write the play by making Brutus an 
idealized portrait of himself; he, therefore, dwells 
on Brutus' perfect nobility, sincerity, and unselfish- 
ness, but does not realize that the more perfect he 
makes Brutus, the more clear and cogent Brutus' 
motive must be for undertaking Caesar's assas- 
sination. 

In this confusion Shakespeare's usually fine 
instinct is at fault, and he blunders from mistake 
to mistake. His idealizing tendency makes him 
present Brutus as perfect, and at the same time he 

256 



Tree of Knowledge : Brutus 

uses the historical Incident of the anonymous letters, 
which goes to show Brutus as conceited and vain. 
If these letters influenced Brutus — and they musij 
be taken to have done .so, or else why were they 
introduced? — we have a noble and unselfish man 
murdering out of paltry vanity. In Plutarch, where 
Brutus is depicted as an austerei* republican, the 
incident of the letters only throws a natural shade 
of doubt on the rigid principles by which alone he 
is supposed to be guided. We all feel that rigid 
principles rest on pride, and may best be led astray 
through pride. But Shakespeare's Brutus is pure 
human sweetness, and the letters are worse than 
out of place when addressed to him. Shakespeare 
should never have used this incident ; it is a blot 
on his conception. 

All through the first acts of the play Brutus is 
incredible, for he is in an impossible position. 
Shakespeare simply could not find any valid reason 
why his alter ego, Brutus, should kill Caesar. But 
from the moment the murder is committed to the 
end of the play Brutus-Shakespeare is at peace 
with himself. And as soon as the dramatist lets 
himself go and' paints Brutus with entire freedom 
and frankness, he rises to the height of tragic 
pathos, and we can all recognize the original of the 
portrait. At first Brutus is merely ideal; his per- 
fect unsuspiciousness — ^he trusts even Antony; his 
transparent honesty — ^he will have no other oath 
among the conspirators 

" Than honesty to honesty engaged " ; 

his hatred of bloodshed — he opposes Cassius, who 
proposes to murder Antony ; all these noble qualities 
may be contrasted with the subtler short-comiiigs 

257 



The Man Shakespeare 

which make of Hamlet so vital a creation. Hamlet 
is suspicious even of Ophelia ; Hamlet is only " indif- 
ferent honest " ; Hamlet makes his friends swear to 
keep the ghost's appearance a profound secret ; 
Hamlet lives from the beginning, while Brutus at 
first is a mere bundle of perfections individualized 
only by that personal intimate confession which 1 
have already quoted, which, however, has nothing 
to do with the play. But later in the drama Shake- 
speare begins to lend Brutus his own weaknesses, 
and forthwith Brutus lives. His insomnia is pure 
Shakespeare : 

** Since Cassius first did whet me against Caesar, 
I have not slept." 

The character of Brutus is superbly portrayed in 
that wonderful scene with Cassius in the fourth act. 
With all the superiority of conscious genius he 
treats his confederate as a child or madman, much 
as Hamlet treats Rosencrantz and Guildenstern : 

** Shall I be frighted when a madman stares .^ " 

Cassius is mean, too, whereas Brutus is kindly and 
generous to a degree: 

" For I can raise no money by vile means : 
By heaven, I had rather coin my heart, 
And drop my blood for drachmas, than to wring 
From the hard hands of peasants their vile trash 
By any indirection. . . . 

* • • • • 

When Marcus Brutus grows so covetous, 
To lock such rascal counters from his friends. 
Be ready, gods, with all your thunderbolts. 
Dash him to pieces." 

^58 



Wree of Knowledge: Brutus 

And, above all, as soon as Cassius appeals to his 
affection, Brutus is disarmed: 

** O Cassius, you are yoked with a Iamb 
That carries anger, as the flint bears fire ; 
Who, much enforced, shows a hasty spark. 
And straight is cold again." 

This is the best expression of Shakespeare's tem- 
per ; the " hasty spark " is Hamlet's temper, as we 
have seen, and Macbeth's, and Romeo's. 

And now everything that Brutus does or says is 
Shakespeare's best. In a bowl of wine he buries 
" all unkindness." His affection for Cassius is not 
a virtue to one in especial. The scene in the fourth 
act, in which he begs the pardon of his boy Lucius, 
should be learned by heart by those who wish to 
understand our loving and lovable Shakespeare. 
This scene, be it remarked, is not in Plutarch, but 
is Shakespeare's own invention. His care for the 
lad's comfort, at a time when his own life is striking 
the supreme hour, is exquisitely pathetic. Then 
come his farewell to Cassius and his lament over 
Cassius' body; then the second fight and the nobly 
generous words that hold in them, as flowers their 
perfume, all Shakespeare's sweetness of nature: 

" My heart doth joy, that yet in all my life 
I found no man, but he was true to me.** 

And then night hangs upon the weary, sleepless 
eyes, and we are all ready to echo Antony's mar- 
vellous valediction: 

** This was the noblest Roman of them all ; 

• • • • • 

His life was gentle; and the elements 
So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up 
And say to all the world, * This was a man ! * '* 

^59 



The Man Shakespeare 

But this Brutus was no murderer, no conspirator, 
no narrow republican fanatic, but simply gentle 
Shakespeare discovering to us his own sad heart 
and the sweetness which suffering had called forth 
in him. 



260 



CHAPTER VII 

DRAMAS OF REVENGE AND JEALOUSY : " HAMLET " 

*' A beautiful^ pure and most moral nature, without 
the strength of nerve which makes the hero, sinks be- 
neath a burden which it can neither bear nor throw off; 
every duty is holy to him, — this too hard. The impos- 
sible is required of him, — not the impossible in itself, 
but the impossible to him. How he winds, turns, 
agonizes, advances and recoils, ever reminded, ever re- 
minding himself, and at last almost loses his purpose 
from his thoughts, without ever again recovering his 
peace of mind. . . ." — '* Hamlet " hy Goethe, 

GOETHE'S criticism of " Hamlet " is so much 
finer than any English criticism that I am glad 
to quote it. It will serve, I think, as a standard to 
distinguish the best criticism of the past from what 
I shall set forth in the course of this analysis. In 
this chapter I shall try to shovv'^ what new light our 
knowledge of Shakespeare throv.^s on the play, and 
conversely what new light the play throws on its 
maker. 

The first moment of disillusion brought out, as 
we have seen in Brutus, all the kindness in Shake- 
speare's nature. He will believe in men in spite 
of experience ; but the idealistic pose could not be 
kept up; sooner or later Shakespeare had to face 
the fact that he had been befooled and scorned 
by friend and mistress — bow did he meet it ? " Ham- 
let " is the answer : Shakespeare went about nursing 
dreams of revenge and murder. Disillusion had 

mi 



The Man Shakespeare 

deeper consequences ; forced to see other men as 
they were, he tried for a moment to see himself as 
he was. The outcome of that objective vision was 
Hamlet — a masterpiece of self-revealing. 

Yet, when he wrote " Hamlet," nothing was clear 
to him; the significance of the catastrophe had 
only dawned upon him; he had no notion how 
complete his soul-shipwreck was, still less did he 
dream of painting himself realistically in all his 
obsequious flunkeyism and ungovernable sensuality. 
He saw himself less idealistically than heretofore, 
and, trying to look at himself fairly, honestly, he 
could not but accuse himself of irresolution at the 
very least; he had hung on with Herbert, as the 
sonnets tell us, hoping to build again the confidence 
which had been ruined by betrayal, hoping he knew 
not what of gain or place, to the injury of his own 
self-respect ; while brooding all the time on quite 
impossible plans of revenge, impossible, for action 
had been " sicklied o'er with the pale cast of 
thought." Hamlet could not screw his courage to 
the sticking point, and so became a type for ever 
of the philosopher or man of letters who, by thinking, 
has lost the capacity for action. 

Putting ourselves in Shakespeare's place for the 
moment we see at once why he selected this story 
for treatment at this time. He knew, none better, 
that no young aristocrat would have submitted 
patiently to the wrong he had suffered from Lord 
Herbert ; he created Laertes to show how instant 
and determined such a man would be in taking 
murderous revenge ; but he still felt that what others 
would regard as faults, his irresolution and shrink- 
ing from bloodshed were in themselves nobler, and 
so, whilst half excusing, half realizing himself, he 
brought forth a masterpiece. This brooding on 

26.9 



Revenge and Jealousy: Hamlet 

revenge, which is the heart and explanation of his 
great play, shows us how little Shakespeare cared 
for Herbert, how completely he had condemned 
him. The soliloquy on this point in " Hamlet " is 
the most characteristic thing in the drama: 

" This is most brave_, 
That I, the son of a dear father murder'd 
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell^ 
Must^ like a whore^ unpack my heart with words. 
And fall a-cursing like a very drab." 



a 



Shakespeare is thinking of Herbert's betrayal: 
here I am," he says, " prompted to revenge by 
reason and custom, yet instead of acting I fall 
a-cursing like a drab." But behind his irresolution 
is his hatred of bloodshed: he could whip out his 
sword and on a sudden kill Polonius, mistaking 
him for the king (Herbert), but he could not, in 
cold blood, make up his mind to kill and proceed 
to execution. Like his own Hubert, Shakespeare 
had to confess : 

** Within this bosom never enter'd yet 
The dreadful motion of a murderous thought." 

He had none of the direct, passionate, con- 
scienceless resolution of Laertes. He whips him- 
self to anger against the king by thinking of Her- 
bert in the king's place; but lackey-like has to 
admit that mere regard for position and power 
gives him pause: Lord Herbert was too far above 
him: 

** There's such divinity doth hedge a king. 
That treason can but peep to what it would." 

Shakespeare's personal feeling dominates and 

263 



The Man Shakespeare 

inspires the whole pla}^ One crucial instance will 
prove this. Why did Hamlet hate his mother's 
lechery? Most men would hardly have condemned 
it, certainly would not have suffered their thoughts 
to dwell on it beyond the moment ; but to Hamlet 
his mother's faithlessness was horrible, shameful, 
degrading, simply because Hamlet-Shakespeare had 
identified her with Miss Fitton, and it was Miss 
Fitton's faithlessness, it was her deception he was 
condemning in the bitterest words he could find. He 
thus gets into a somewhat unreal tragedy, a pas- 
sionate Intensity which is otherwise wholly inexpli- 
cable. This is how he talks to his mother: 

" Have you eyes ? 
Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed, 
And batten on this moor } Ha ! have you eyes . . . 

What devil was't 

That thus cozen'd you at hoodman-blind ? 
Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight. 
Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all, 
Or but a sickly part of one true sense 
Could not so mope. 
O, shame ! where is thy blush ? '* 

If anyone can imagine that this is the way a son 
thinks of a mother's slip he is past my persuading. 
In all this Shakespeare is thinking of himself in 
comparison with Herbert ; and his advice to his 
mother is almost as self-revealing, showing, as it 
does, what he would wish to say to Miss Fitton: 

"Repent what's past; avoid what is to come; 
And do not spread the compost on the weeds 
To make them ranker. 
Assume a virtue if you have it not. . . ." 

In his description of the king and queen we get 

264 



Revenge and Jealousy: Hamlet 

Shakespeare's view of Lord Herbert and Miss 
Fitton: the king (Herbert) is " mildew'd " and foul 
in comparison with his modest poet-rival — " A satyr 
to Hyperion." 

Hamlet's view of his mother (Miss Fitton), though 
bitterer still, is yet the bitterness of disappointed 
love: he will have her repent, refrain from the adul- 
tery, and be pure and good again. When the Queen 
asks : 

*'What shall I do?" 
Hamlet answers: 

" Not this, by no means, that I bid you do: 
Let the king tempt you again to bed ; 
Pinch wanton on your cheek; call you his mouse; 
And let him, for a pair of reechy kisses. 
Or paddling in your neck with his damned fingers . . ." 

Maddened with jealousy he sees the act, scourges 
himself with his own lewd imagining as Posthumus 
scourges himself. No one ever felt this intensity of 
jealous rage about a mother or a sister. The mere 
idea is absurd; it is one's own passion-torture that 
speaks in such words as I have here quoted. 

Hamlet's treatment of Ophelia, too, and his 
advice to her are all the outcome of Shakespeare's 
own disappointment: 

" Get thee to a nunnery : why wouldst thou be a 
breeder of sinners ? " 

We all expect from Hamlet some outburst of 
divine tenderness to Ophelia ; but the scenes with 
the pure and devoted girl whom he is supposed to 
love are not half realized, are nothing like so 
intense as the scenes with the guilty mother. It 

^Q5 



The Man Shakespeare 

is jealousy that is blazing in Shakespeare at this 
time, and not love; when Hamlet speaks to the 
Queen we hear Shakespeare speaking to his own 
faithless, guilty love. Besides, Ophelia is not even 
realized ; she is submissive affection, an abstrac- 
tion, and not a character. Shakespeare did not 
take interest enough in her to give her flesh and 
blood. 

Shakespeare's jealousy and excessive sensuality 
come to full light in the scene between Hamlet 
and Ophelia, when they are about to witness the 
play before the king: he persists in talking smut 
to her, which she pretends not to understand. The 
lewdness, we all feel, is out of place in " Hamlet," 
horribly out of place when Hamlet is talking to 
Ophelia, but Shakespeare's sensuality has been 
stung to ecstasy by Miss Fitton's frailty, and he 
cannot but give it voice. As soon as Ophelia goes 
out of her mind she, too, becomes coarse — all of 
which is but a witness to Shakespeare's tortured 
animality. Yet Goethe can talk of Hamlet's " pure 
and most moral nature." A goat is hardly less 
pure, though Hamlet was moral enough in the high 
sense of the word. 

There are one or two minor questions still to be 
considered, and the chief of these is how far, even 
in this moment of disillusion, did our Shakespeare 
see himself as he was ? Hamlet says : 

" I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious ; with more 
offences at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, 
imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in. 
What should such fellows as I do crawling between 
heaven and earth? We are arrant knaves, all; believe 
none of us." 

All this is mere rhetoric, and full of clever self- 

266 



Revenge and Jealousy: Hamlet 

excusing. Hamlet is not very revengeful or 
ambitious ; he is weaklj^-irresolute, and excessively 
sensual, with all the faults that accompany these 
frailties. Even at this moment, when he must know 
that he is not very revengeful, that forgiveness were 
easier to him, Shakespeare will pose to himself, and 
call himself revengeful: he is such an idealist that 
he absolutely refuses to see himself as he is. In later 
dramas we shall find that he grows to deeper self- 
knowledge. Hamlet is but the half-way house to 
complete understanding. 

Fortunately we have each of us an infallible 
touchstone by which we can judge of our love of 
truth. Any of us, man or woman, would rather be 
accused of a mental than a physical shortcoming. 
Do we see our bodily imperfections as they are.^^ 
Can we describe ourselves pitilessly with snub nose, 
or coarse beak, bandy legs or thin shanks ; gross 
paunch or sedgy beard .f^ Shakespeare in Hamlet 
can hardly bear even to suggest his physical imper- 
fections. Hamlet lets out inadvertently that he 
was fat, but he will not say so openly. His mother 
says to Hamlet: 

"You are fat and scant of breath." 

Many people, especially actors, have been so deter- 
mined to see Hamlet as slight and student-like, that 
they have tried to criticize this phrase, and one of 
them, Mr. Beerbohm Tree, even in our day, went so 
far as to degrade the text to " faint and scant of 
breath." But the fatness is there, and comes to 
view again in another phrase of Hamlet: 

" O, that this too, too solid flesh would melt. 
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew.'* 

267 



The Man Shakespeare 

No thin man ever spoke of his flesh in that way. 

Shakespeare was probably small, too. We know 
that he used to play Adam in " As You Like it," 
and in the play Orlando has to take Adam up and 
carry him off the stage, a thing no actor would 
attempt if the Adam had been a big man. Shake- 
speare was probably of middle height, or below it, 
and podgy. I always picture him to myself as 
very like Swinburne. Yet even in Hamlet he 
would make himself out to be a devil of a fellow: 
" valiant Hamlet," a swordsman of the finest, a 
superb duellist, who can touch Laertes again and 
again, though lacking practice. At the last push of 
fate Shakespeare will pose and deceive himself. 

It is curiously characteristic of Shakespeare that 
when Hamlet broods on retaliation he does not 
brood like a brave man, who gloats on challenging 
his enemy to a fair fight, and killing him by sheer 
force or resolution ; his passion, his revenge, is 
almost that of an Italian bravo. Not once does 
Hamlet think of forcing the king (Herbert) to 
a duel; he goes about with ideas of assassination, 
and not of combat. 

" Now might I do it pat " 

he cries as he sees the king praying; and he does 
not do it because he would thus send the king's 
soul to Heaven — ^.shrill wordy intensity to excuse 
want of nerve. Whenever we get under the skin, it 
is Shakespeare's femininity which startles us. 

One cannot leave this great picture of Hamlet- 
Shakespeare without noticing one curious fact, 
which throws a flood of light on the relations of 
literary art to life. Shakespeare, as we have seen, 
is boiling with jealous passion, brooding continually 

£68 



Revenge and Jealousy: Hamlet 

on murderous revenge, and so becomes conscious 
of his own irresolution. He dwells on this, and 
makes this irresolution the chief feature of Hamlet's 
character, and yet because he is writing about him- 
self he manages to suggest so many other qualities, 
and such amiable and noble ones, that we are all 
in love with Hamlet, in spite of his irresolution, 
erotic mania and bloody thoughts. 

In later dramas Shakespeare went on to deal 
with the deeper and more elemental things in his 
nature, with jealousy in " Othello," and passionate 
desire in " Antony and Cleopatra " ; but he never, 
perhaps, did much better work than in this drama 
where he chooses to magnify a secondary and 
ancillary weakness into the chief defect of his whole 
being. The pathos of the drama is to be found in 
the fact that Shakespeare realizes he is unable to 
take personal vengeance on Herbert. " Hamlet " 
is a drama of pathetic weakness, strengthened by a 
drama of revenge and jealousy. In these last 
respects it is a preparatory study for " Othello." 

In " Hamlet " Shakespeare let out some of the 
foul matter which Herbert's mean betrayal had 
bred in him. Even in " Hamlet," however, his 
passion for Mary Fitton, and his jealousy of her, 
constitute the real theme. We shall soon see how 
this passion coloured all the rest of his life and art, 
and at length brought about his ruin. 



S69 



CHAPTER VIII 

DRAMAS OF REVENGE AND JEALOUSY: PART II 
" OTHELLO " 

THERE is perhaps no single drama which 
throws such Hght on Shakespeare and his 
method of work as " Othello " : it is a long conflict 
between the artist in him and the man, and, in the 
struggle, both his artistic ideals and his passionate 
soul come to clearest view. From it we see that 
Shakespeare's nature gave itself gradually to 
jealousy and revenge. The fire of his passion 
burned more and more fiercely for years ; was 
infinitely hotter in 1604, when " Othello " was 
written, than it had been when " Julius Caesar " 
was written in 1600. This proves to me that 
Shakespeare's connection with Mary Fitton did 
not come to an end when he first discovered her 
unfaithfulness. The intimacy continued for a dozen 
years. In sonnet 136 he prays her to allow him 
to be one of her lovers. That she was liberal 
enough to consent appears clearly from the growth 
of passion in his plays. It is certain, too, that she 
went on deceiving him with other lovers, or his 
jealousy would have waned away, ebbing with ful- 
filled desire. But his passion increases in intensity 
from 1597 to 1604, whipped no doubt to ecstasy 
by continual deception and wild jealousy. Both 
lust and jealousy swing to madness in " Othello." 
But Shakespeare was so great an artist that, when he 

270 



Revenge and Jealousy: Othello 

took the story from Cinthio, he tried to realize 
it without bringing in his own personality : hence 
arises a conflict between his art and his passion. 

At first sight " Othello " reminds one of a picture 
by Titian or Veronese ; it is a romantic conception ; 
the personages are all in gala dress ; the struggle 
between lago and the Moor is melodramatic ; the 
whole picture aglow with a superb richness of 
colour. It is Shakespeare's finest play, his supreme 
achievement as a playwright. It is impossible to 
read " Othello " without admiring the art of it. 
The beginning is so easy: the introduction of the 
chief characters so measured and impressive that 
when the action really begins, it develops and 
increases in speed as by its own weight to the inevi- 
table end ; inevitable — for the end in this case is 
merely the resultant of the shock of these various 
personalities. But if the action itself is superbly 
ordered, the painting of character leaves much to 
be desired, as we shall see. There is one notable 
difl^erence between " Othello " and those dramas, 
•^^ Hamlet," " Macbeth," and " Cymbeline," wherein 
Shakespeare has depicted himself as the protag- 
onist. In the self-revealing dramas not only does 
Shakespeare give his hero licence to talk, in and 
out of season, and thus hinder the development 
of the story, but he also allows him to occupy the 
whole stage without a competitor. The explanation 
is obvious enough. Dramatic art is to be congratu- 
lated on the fact that now and then Shakespeare 
left himself for a little out of the play, for then not 
only does the construction of the play improve but 
the play grows in interest through the encounter of 
evenly-matched antagonists. The first thing we 
notice in " Othello " is that lago is at least as 
important a character as the hero himself. " Ham- 

271 



The Man Shakespeare 

let," on the other hand, is almost a lyric; there is 
no counterpoise to the student-prince. 

Now let us get to the play itself. Othello's first 
appearance in converse with lago in the second 
scene of the first act does not seem to me to deserve 
the praise that has been lavished on it. Though 
Othello knows that " boasting is (not) an honour," 
he nevertheless boasts himself of royal blood. We 
have noticed already Shakespeare's love of good 
blood, and belief in its wondrous efficacy ; it is one 
of his permanent and most characteristic traits. 
The passage about royal descent might be left out 
with advantage; if these three lines are omitted, 
Othello's pride in his own nature — his " parts and 
perfect soul " — is far more strongly felt. But such 
trivial flaws are forgotten when Brabantio enters 
and swords are drawn. 

'* Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust 
them." 

is excellent in its contemptuous irony. A little 
later, however, Othello finds an expression v/hich 
is intensely characteristic of a great man of action: 

" Hold your hands, 
Both you of my inclining, and the rest; 
Were it my cue to fight, I should have known it 
Without a prompter.*' 

This last line and a half is addressed especially 
to lago who is bent on provoking a fight, and is, 
I think, the best piece of character-painting in all 
" Othello " ; the born general knows instinctively 
the moment to attack just as the trained boxer's 
hand strikes before he consciously sees the open- 
ing. When Othello speaks before the Duke, too, he 

273 



Revenge and Jealousy: Othello 

reveals himself with admirable clearness and truth 
to nature. His pride is so deep-rooted, his self- 
respect so grea,t, that he respects all other digni- 
taries : the Senators are his " very noble and 
approved good masters." Every word weighed and 
effectual. Admirable, too, is the expression " round 
unvarnished tale." 

But pride and respect for others' greatness are 
not qualities peculiar to the man of action ; they 
belong to all men of ability. As soon as Othello 
begins to tell how he won Desdemona, he falls out 
of his character. Feeling certain that he has placed 
his hero before us in strong outlines, Shakespeare 
lets himself go, and at once we catch him speaking 
and not Othello. In " antres vast and deserts idle " 
I hear the poet, and when the verse swings to — 

**.... men whose heads 
Do grow beneath their shoulders^" 

it is plain that Othello, the lord and lover of reali- 
ties, has deserted the firm ground of fact. But 
Shakespeare pulls himself in almost before he has 
yielded to the charm of his own words, and again 
Othello speaks: 

" This to hear 
Would Desdemona seriously incline^ 
But still the house-affairs would draw her thence/' 

and so forth. 

The temptation, however, was overpowering, and 
again Shakespeare yields to it: 

" And often did beguile her of her tears 
When I did speak of some distressful stroke 
That my youth suffered." 

273 



The Man Shakespeare 

It is a characteristic of the man of action that 
he thinks lightly of reverses ; he loves hard buffets 
as a swimmer high waves, and when he tells his 
life-story he does not talk of his " distress." This 
" distressful stroke that my youth suffered " Is mani- 
festly pure Shakespeare — tender-hearted Shake- 
speare, who pitied himself and the distressful 
strokes his youth suffered very profoundly. The 
characterization of Othello in the rest of this scene 
is anything but happy. He talks too much; I 
miss the short sharp words which would show the 
man used to command, and not only does he talk 
too much, but he talks in images like a poet, and 
exaggerates : 

" The tyrant Custom, most grave senators, 
Hath made the flinty and steel couch of war 
My thrice-driven bed of down." 

Even the matter here is insincere ; this is the 
poet's explanation of the Captain's preference for 
a hard bed and hard living : " he has been accus- 
tomed to it," says Shakespeare, not understanding 
that there are born hunter and soldier natures who 
absolutely prefer hardships toi effeminate luxury. 
Othello's next speech is just as bad; he talks too 
much of things particular and private, and the 
farther he goes, the worse he gets, till we again 
hear the poet speaking, or rather mouthing: 

'* No, when light-winged toj^^s 
Of feathered Cupid seel with wanton dullness 
My speculative and officed instruments, 
That my disports corrupt and taint my business 
Let housewives make a skillet of my helm, 
And all indign and base adversities 
Make head against my estimation." 

274 



Revenge and Jealousy: Othello 
Again when he says — 

" Come, Desdemona: I have but an hour 
Of love, of worldly matters and direction 
To spend with thee; we must obey the time/* 

I find no sharp impatience to get to work such as 
Hotspur felt, but a certain reluctance to leave his 
love — a natural touch which indicates that the poet 
was thinking of himself and not of his puppet. 

The first scene of the second act shows us how 
Shakespeare, the dramatist, worked. Cassio is 
plainly Shakespeare the poet ; any of his speeches 
taken at haphazard proves it. When he hears 
that lago has arrived he breaks out: 

" He has had most favourable and happy speed ; 
Tempests themselves, high seas, and howling winds. 
The guttered rocks and congregated sands — 
Traitors ensteeped to clog the guiltless keel — 
As having sense of beauty, do omit 
Their mortal natures, letting go safely by 
The divine Desdemona." 

And when Desdemona lands, Cassio's first exclama- 
tion is sufficient to establish the fact that he is 
merely the poet's mask: 

" O, behold. 
The riches of the ship is come on shore ! " 

And just as clearly as Cassio is Shakespeare, the 
lyric poet, so is lago, at first, the embodiment of 
Shakespeare's intelligence. lago has been described 
as immoral; he does not seem to me to be immoral, 
but amoral, as the intellect always is. He says to 
the women: 

275 



The Man Shakespeare 

" Come on^ come on ; you're pictures out of doors. 
Bells in your parlours, wild cats in your kitchens, 
Saints in your injuries, devils being offended, 
Players in your housewifery, and housewives in 
your beds." 

lago sees things as they are, fairly and not 
maliciously ; he is " nothing if not critical," but 
his criticism has a touch of Shakespeare's erotic 
mania in it. Think of that " housewives in your 
beds " ! He will not deceive himself, however ; in 
spite of Cassio's admiration of Desdemona lago does 
not imagine that Cassio is in love with her ; " well 
kissed," he says, " an excellent courtesy," finding 
at once the true explanation/ 

But having taken up this intellectual attitude in 
order to create lago, Shakespeare tries next to make 
his puppet concrete and individual by giving him 
revenge for a soul, but in this he does not succeed, 
for intellect is not maleficent. At moments lago 
lives for us ; " drown cats and blind puppies . . . 
put money in your purse " — his brains delight us ; 
but when he pursues Desdemona to her end, we 
revolt ; such malignity is inhuman. Shakespeare 
was so little inclined to evil, knew so little of hate 
and revenge that his villain is unreal in his cruelty. 
Again and again the reader asks himself why lago 

1 At the end of this scene lago says : 

" That Cassio loves her I do well believe it," 

but that is merely one of the many inconsistencies in Shake- 
speare's drawing of lago. There are others; at one time he 
talks of Cassio as a mere book soldier, at another equals him 
with Caesar. Had Coleridge noted these contradictions he 
would have declared them to be a higher perfection than logical 
unity, and there is something to be said for the argument, 
though in these instances I think the contradictions are due to 
Shakespeare's carelessness rather than to his deeper insight. 

376 



Revenge and Jealousy: Othello 

is so venomous. He hates Othello because Othello 
has passed him over and preferred Cassio ; because 
he thinks he has had reason to be jealous of Othello, 
because — but everyone feels that these are reasons 
supplied by Shakespeare to explain the inexplicable ; 
taken altogether they are inadequate, and v/e arc 
apt to throw them aside with Coleridge as the 
" motive hunting of motiveless malignity." But 
such a thing as " motiveless malignity " is not in 
nature. lago's villainy is too cruel, too steadfast to 
be human ; perfect pitiless malignity is as impossible 
to man as perfect innate goodness. 

Though lago and Othello hold the stage for nine- 
tenths of the play Shakespeare does not realize 
them so completely as he realizes Cassio, an alto- 
gether subordinate character. The drinking episode 
of Cassio was not found by Shakespeare in Cinthio, 
and is, I think, clearly the confession of Shakespeare 
himself, for though aptly invented to explain Cas- 
sio's dismissal, it is unduly prolonged, and thus com- 
stitutes perhaps the most important fault in the 
construction of the plaj^ Consider, too, how the 
moral is applied by lago to England in especial, 
with which country neither. lago nor the story has 
anything whatever to do. 

Othello's appearance stilling the riot, his words 
to lago and his dismissal of Cassio are alike honest 
work. The subsequent talk between Cassio and 
lago about " reputation " is scarcely more than a 
repetition of what FalstafF said of *' honour." 

Coleridge has made a great deal of the notion 
that Othello was justified in describing himself as 
" not easily jealous "; but poor Coleridge's perverse 
ingenuity never led him further astray. The exact 
contrary must, I think, be admitted; Othello was 
surely very quick to suspect Desdemona; he 

277 



The Man Shakespeare 

remembers lago's first suspicious phrase, ponders it 
and asks its meaning; he is as quick as Posthumus 
was to beheve the worst of Imogen, as quick as 
Richard II. to suspect his friends Bagot and Green 
of traitorism, and this proneness to suspicion is the 
soul of jealousy. And Othello is not only quick to 
suspect but easy to convince — impulsive at once 
and credulous. His quick wits jump to the con- 
clusion that lago, " this honest creature ! " doubtless 

" Sees and knows more, much more, than he unfolds.** 

On hinted imputation he is already half persuaded, 
and persuaded as only a sensualist would be that it 
is lust which has led Desdemona astray: 

" O curse of marriage ! 
That we can call these delicate creatures ours. 
And not their appetite.'* 

He is, indeed, so disposed to catch the foul infec- 
tion that lago cries: 

" Trifles light as air 
Are to the jealous confirmations strong 
As proofs of holy writ." 

And well he may, for before he uses the hand- 
kerchief or any evidence, on mere suspicion Othello 
is already racked with doubt, distraught with 
jealousy, maddened with passion; "his occupation's 
gone " ; he rages against lago and demands proof, 
lago answers : 

** I do not like the office ; 
But, sith I am entered in this cause so far 

I will go on.** 

278 



Revenge and Jealousy: Othello 

This is the same paltry reason Richard III. and 
Macbeth adduced for adding to the number of their 
crimes, the truth being that Shakespeare could find 
no reason in his own nature for effective hatred. 

Othello gives immediate credence to lago's dream, 
thinks it " a shrewd doubt " ; he is a " credulous 
fool," as lago calls him, and it is only our sense of 
lago's devilish cleverness that allows us to excuse 
Othello's folly. The strawberry-spotted handker- 
chief is not needed : the magic in its web is so strong 
that the mere mention of it blows his love away and 
condemns both Cassio and Desdemona to death. If 
this Othello is not easily jealous then no man is 
prone to doubt and quick to turn from love to 
loathing. 

The truth of the matter is that in the beginning 
of the play Othello is a marionette fairly well shaped 
and exceedingly picturesque; but as soon as jealousy 
is touched upon, the mask is thrown aside ; Othello, 
the self-contained captain, disappears, the poet 
takes his place and at once shows himself to be the 
aptest subject for the green fever. The emotions 
then put into Othello's mouth are intensely realized ; 
his jealousy is indeed Shakespeare's own confession, 
and it would be impossible to find in all literature 
pages of more sincere and terrible self-revealing. 
Shakespeare is not more at home in showing us the 
passion of Romeo and Juliet or the irresolution of 
Richard II. or the scepticism of Hamlet than in 
depicting the growth and paroxysms of jealousy; 
his overpowering sensuality, the sensuality of 
Romeo and of Orsino, has sounded every note of 
love's mortal sickness : 

" 0th. I had been happy if the general camp, 
Pioneers and all, had tasted her sweet body, 

279 



The 'Man Shakespeare 
So I had nothing known. 

Damn her, lewd minx ! O, damn her ! ** 

We have here the proof that the jealousy of 
Othello was Shakespeare's jealousy; it is all com- 
pounded of sensuality. But, and this is the imme- 
diate point of my argument, the captain, Othello, is 
not presented to us as a sensualist to whom such a 
suspicion would be, of course, the nearest thought. 
On the contrary, Othello is depicted as sober ^ and 
solid, slow to anger, and master of himself and his 
desire ; he expressly tells the lords of Venice that 
he does not wish Desdemona to accompany him: 

** To please the palate of my appetite 
Nor to comply with heat — the young affects, 
In me defunct — and proper satisfaction." 

Shakespeare goes out of his way to put this unneces- 
sary explanation in Othello's mouth ; he will not 
have us think of him as passion's fool, but as pas- 
sion's master ; Othello is not to be even suspicious ; 
he tells lago: 

" 'Tis not to make me jealous 
To say — ^my wife is fair, feeds well, loves company. 
Is free of speech, sings, plays and dances well; 
Where virtue is, these are more virtuous: 
Nor from mine own weak merits will I draw 
The smallest fear or doubt of her revolt; 
For she had eyes and chose me." 

1 Shakespeare makes Lodovico speak of Othello's " solid 
virtue " — " the nature whom passion could not shake." Even 
lago finds Othello's anger ominous because of its rarity: 

"There's matter in't, indeed, if he be angry." 

280 



Revenge and Jealousy: Othello 

It was all this, no doubt, that misled Coleridge. 
He did not realize that this Othello suddenly changes 
his nature ; the sober lord of himself becomes in an 
instant very quick to suspect, and being jealous, 
is nothing if not sensual ; he can think of no reason 
for Desdemona's fall but her appetite ; the imagina- 
tion of the sensual act throws him into a fit ; it is 
this picture which gives life to his hate. The con- 
clusion is not to be avoided ; as soon as Othello be- 
comes jealous he is transformed by Shakespeare's 
own passion. For this is the way Shakespeare con- 
ceived jealousy and the only way. The jealousy 
of Leontes in " The Winter's Tale " is precisely 
the same; H'ermione gives her hand to Polixenes, 
and at once Leontes suspects and hates, and his 
rage is all of " paddling palms ^ and pinching 
fmgers." The jealousy of Posthumus, too, is of the 
same kind: 

" Never talk on't ; 
She hath been colted by him." 

It is the imagining of the sensual act that drives 
him to incoherence and the verge of madness, as 
it drove Othello. ■ In all these characters Shakespeare 
is only recalling the stages of the passion that 
desolated his life. 

The part that imagination usually plays in tor- 
menting the jealous man with obscene pictures is 
now played by lago ; the first scene of the fourth 
act is this erotic self-torture put in lago's mouth. 
As Othello's passion rises to madness, as the self- 
analysis becomes more and more intimate and per- 

1 lago's expression, too; cf. "Othello," II. 1, and "Ham- 
let," III. 4. 

281 



The Man Shakespeare 

sonal, we have Shakespeare's re-lived agony clothing 
itself in his favourite terms of expression : 

" O ! it comes o'er my memory^ 
As doth the raven o'er the infected house^ 
Boding to all, — he had my handkerchief." 

The interest swings still higher ; the scene in which 
lago uses Cassio's conceit and laughter to exasper- 
ate further the already mad Othello is one of the 
notable triumphs of dramatic art. But just as the 
quick growth of his jealousy, and its terrible sensu- 
ality, have shown us that Othello is not the self- 
contained master of his passions that he pretends 
to be and that Shakespeare wishes us to believe, so 
this scene, in which the listening Othello rages in 
savagery, reveals to us an intense femininity of 
nature. For generally the man concentrates his 
hatred upon the woman who deceives him, and is 
only disdainful of his rival, whereas the woman for 
various reasons gives herself to hatred of her rival, 
and feels only angry contempt for her lover's trai- 
torism. But Othello — or shall we not say Shake- 
speare? — discovers in the sincerest ecstasy of this 
passion as much of the woman's nature as of the 
man's. After seeing his handkerchief in Bianca's 
hands he asks : 

" How shall I murder him, lago ? " 

Manifestly, Shakespeare is thinking of Herbert and 
his base betrayal. Othello would have Cassio thrown 
to the dogs, would have him " nine years a-kill- 
ing " ; and though he adds that Desdemona shall 
'' rot and perish and be damned to-night," imme- 
diately afterwards we see what an infinite affection 
for her underlies his anger: 

282 



Revenge and Jealousy: Othello 

" O, the world hath not a sweeter creature : she might 
lie by an emperor's side and command him tasks.'* 

And then Shakespeare uses his brains objectively, 
so to speak, to excuse his persistent tenderness, and 
at once he reveals himself and proves to us that he 
is thinking of Mary Fitton, and not of poor Desde- 
mona : 

" Hang her ! I do but say what she is. — So delicate 
with her needle ! — An admirable musician ! O, she will 
sing the savageness out of a bear. — Of so high and 
plenteous wit and invention." 

Shakespeare himself speaks in this passage. For 
when has Desdemona shown high and plenteous wit 
or invention .^^ She is hardly more than a symbol of 
constancy. It is Mary Fitton who has " wit and 
invention," and is " an admirable musician." 

The feminine tenderness in Shakespeare comes to 
perfect expression in the next lines ; no woman has a 
more enduring affection : 

'' lago. She's the worse for all this. 

0th. O ! a thousand, a thousand times. And, then of 
so gentle a condition ! 

lago. Ay, too gentle. 

0th. Nay, that's certain: — ^but yet the pity of it, 
lago ! — O, lago, the pity of it, lago ! " 

The tenderness shrills to such exquisite poignancy 
that it becomes a universal cry, the soul's lament 
for traitorism : " The pity of it, lago ! O, lago, 
the pity of it!" Othello's jealous passion is at its 
height in the scene with Desdemona when he gives 
his accusations precise words, and flings money to 
Emilia as the guilty confidante. And yet even here, 

283 



The Man Shakespeare 

where he delights to soil his love, his tenderness 
reaches its most passionate expression: 

*' O thou weed, 
Who art so lovely fair, and smell'st so sweet. 
That the sense aches at thee — would thou hadst ne'er 
been born ! " 

As soon as jealousy reaches its end, and passes 
into revenge, Shakespeare tries to get back into 
Othello the captain again. Othello's first speech 
in the bedchamber is clear enough in all conscience, 
but it has been so mangled by unintelligent actors 
such as Salvini that it cries for explanation. Every 
one v/ill remember how Salvini and others playing 
this part stole into the room like murderers, and 
then bellowed so that they would have w^aked the 
dead. And when the foolish mummers were criticized 
for thus misreading the character, they answered 
boldly that Othello was a Moor, that his passion was 
Southern, and I know not what besides. It is clear 
that Shakespeare's Othello enters the room quietly 
as a justice with a duty to perform: he keeps his 
resolution to the sticking-point by thinking of the 
offence ; he says solemnly : 

" It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul " 



and. Englishman-like, finds a moral reason for his 
intended action : 

" Yet she must die, else she'll betray more men." 

But the reason fades and the resolution wavers 
in the passion for her " body and beauty," and the 
tenderness of the lover comes to hearing again : 

284 



Revenge and Jealousy: Othello 

" [Kissing her.] O balmy breathy — that dost almost per- 
suade 
Justice to break her sword ! one more, one more. — 
Be thus when thou art dead, and I will kill thee. 
And love thee after. — One more, and this the last. 
So sweet was ne'er so fatal. I must weep. 
But they are cruel tears ; this sorrow's heavenly ; 
It strikes where it doth love. — She wakes." 

So gentle a murderer was never seen save Mac- 
beth, and the " heavenly sorrow " that strikes where 
it doth love is one of the best examples in literature 
of the Englishman's capacity for hypocritical self- 
deception. The subsequent dialogue shows us in 
Othello the short, plain phrases of immitigable reso- 
lution ; in this scene Shakespeare comes nearer to 
realizing strength than anywhere else in all his work. 
But even here his nature shows itself; Othello has to 
be misled by Desdemona's w^eeping, which he takes 
to be sorrow for Cassio's death, before he can pass 
to action, and as soon as the murder is accom- 
plished, he regrets : 

" O, insupportable ! O heavy hour ! " 

His frank avowal, however, is excellently char- 
acteristic of the soldier Othello : 

" 'Twas I that killed her." 

A moment later there is a perfect poetic expres- 
sion of his love: 

*' Nay, had she been true 
If Heaven would make me such another world 
Of one entire and perfect chrysolite, 
I'd not have sold her for it." 

Then comes a revelation of sensualit}^ and physical 

285 



The Man Shakespeare 

fastidiousness so peculiar that by itself it proves 
much of what I have said of Shakespeare : 

" 0th. . . . Ay, 'twas he that told me first; 
An honest man he is, and hates the sHme 
That sticks on filthy deeds." 

For a breathing-space now before he is convinced 
of his fatal error, Othello speaks as the soldier, but 
in spite of the fact that he has fulfilled his revenge, 
and should be at his sincerest, we have no word of 
profound self-revealing. But as soon as he realizes 
his mistake, his regret becomes as passionate as a 
woman's and magical in expression: 

" Cold, cold, my girl ! 
Even like thy chastity." 

Another proof that Shakespeare discards the 
captain, Othello, in order to give utterance to his 
own jealousy and love, is to be found in the simi- 
larity between this speech of Othello and the cor- 
responding speech of Posthumus in " Cymbeline." 
As soon as Posthumus is convinced of his mistake, 
he calls lachimo " Italian fiend " and himself " most 
credulous fool," " egregious murderer," and so forth. 
He asks for " some upright justicer " to punish him 
as he deserves with " cord or knife or poison," nay, 
he will have " tortures ingenious." He then praises 
Imogen as " the temple of virtue," and again shouts 
curses at himself and finally calls upon his love: 

** O Imogen ! 
My queen, my life, my wife! O Imogen, 
Imogen, Imogen ! " 

Othello behaves in precisely the same manner; he 

286 



Revenge and Jealousy : Othello 

calls lago that " demi-devil," and himself " an hon- 
ourable murderer " ; and lago calls him a " credu- 
lous fool." Othello, too, cries for punishment; in- 
stead of " tortures ingenious," he will have " devils " 
to " whip " him, and " roast him in sulphur." He 
praises Desdemona as chaste, " ill-starred wench," 
" my girl," and so forth ; then curses himself lustily 
and ends his lament with the words : 

** O Desdemon ! dead^ Desdemon ! dead ! O ! " 

The same changes in mood, the same words even 
— the likeness is so close that it can only be ex- 
plained as I have explained it ; from beginning to 
end of " Cymbeline " Posthumus is Shakespeare, and 
as soon as jealousy, pity, remorse, or any tender 
emotion seizes Othello he becomes Shakespeare too, 
and speaks v/ith Shakespeare's voice. 

From here on, it is all good work if not great 
work to Othello's last speech, which merits particu- 
lar consideration. He begins as the captain, but 
soon passes into the poet ; and then towards the end 
talks again in quick measure as the man of action. 
I quote the whole speech,^ putting into italics the 
phrases in which the poet betrays himself: 

" Othr Soft you; a word or two, before you go. 
I have done the State some service, and they know it; 
No more of that. — I pray you in your letters. 
When you shall these unlucky deeds relate. 
Speak of in£ as I am; nothing extenuate. 
Nor set dorvn aught in malice; then must you speaJc 
Of one that loved not wisely, but too well; 

1 This speech is curiously like the long speech of Richard II. 
which I have already noticed; at the beginning Shakespeare 
speaks as a king for a few lines, then naturally as a poet, and 
at the end pulls himself up and tries to resume the character. 

287 



The Man Shakespeare 

Of one not easily jealous, hut being wrought 

Perplexed in the extreme; of one whose hand. 

Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away 

Richer than all his tribe; of one whose subdued eyes. 

Albeit unused to the melting mood, 

Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees 

Their medicinal gum. Set you down this; 

And saj, besides, that in Aleppo once^ 

When a malignant and a turban'd Turk 

Beat a Venetian^ and traduced the State, 

I took by the throat the circumcized dog 

And smote him — thus." 

All the memorable words here are the words of the 
gentle poet revealing his own nature ingenuously. 
The relief given by tears is exquisitely expressed, 
but the relief itself is a feminine experience ; men 
usually find that tears humiliate them, and take 
refuge from their scalding shame in anger. The 
deathless phrases of the poet's grief must be con- 
trasted with the braggart mouthings of the captain 
at the end in order to realize how impossible it was 
for Shakespeare to depict a man of deeds. 

In the first two acts Shakespeare has tried to 
present Othello with some sincerity and truth to the 
dramatic fiction. But as soon as jealousy touches 
Othello, he becomes the transparent vessel of Shake- 
speare's own emotion, and is filled with it as with his 
heart's blood. All the magical phrases in the play 
are phrases of jealousy, passion, and pity. The 
character of the captain in Othello is never deeply 
realized. It is a brave sketch, but, after all, only 
the merest sketch when compared with Hamlet or 
Macbeth. We know what they thought of life and 
death, a.nd of all things in the world a.nd over it ; 
but vv^hat do v^e know of Othello's thoughts upon the 
deepest matters that concern man? Did he believe 

288 



Revenge and Jealousy: Othello 

even in his stories to Desdemona? — in the men whose 
heads do grow beneath their shoulders? in his magic 
handkerchief? in what lago calls his " fantastical 
lies"? This, I submit, is another important indi- 
cation that Shakespeare drew Othello, the captain, 
from the outside; the jealous, tender heart of him is 
Shakespeare's, but take that away and we scarcely 
know more of him than the colour of his skin. What 
interests us in Othello is not his strength, but his 
weakness, Shakespeare's weakness — his passion and 
pity, his torture, rage, jealousy and remorse, the 
successive stages of his soul's Calvary! 



CHAPTER IX 

DRAMAS OF LUST : PART I 

Troilus and Cressida 

" He probed from hell to hell 
Of human passions, but of love deflowered 
His wisdom was not. . . ." 

— Meredith's Sonnet on Shakespeare. 

WITH " Hamlet " and his dreams of an im- 
possible revenge Shakespeare got rid of some 
of the perilous stufr which his friend's traitorism 
had bred in him. In " Othello " he gave deathless 
expression to the madness of his jealous rage and 
so cleared his soul, to some extent, of that poisonous 
infection. But passion in Shakespeare survived 
hatred of the betrayer and jealousy of him; he had 
quickly finished with Herbert ; but Mary Fitton lived 
still for him and tempted him perpetually — the lust 
of the flesh, the desire of the eye, insatiable, cruel 
as the grave. He will now portray his mistress for 
us dramatically — unveil her very soul, show the 
gipsy-wanton as she is. He who has always painted 
in high lights is now going to paint French fashion, 
in blackest shadows, for with the years his passion 
and his bitterness have grown in intensity. Mary 
Fitton is now " false Cressid."* Pandarus says of 
her in the first scene of the first act : 

"An her hair were not somewhat darker than Helen's 
— ^well, go to — there were no more comparison between 
the women." 

Mary Fitton's hair, we know, was raven-black, but 

290 



Troilus and Cressida 

the levidence connecting Shakespeare's mistress with 
" false Cressid " is stronger, as we shall see, than any 
particular line or expression. 

" Troilus and Cressida " is a wretched, inverte- 
brate play without even a main current of interest. 
Of course there are fine phrases in it, as in most of 
the productions of Shakespeare's maturity ; but the 
characterization is worse than careless, and at first 
one wonders why Shakespeare wrota the tedious, 
foolish stuff except to get rid of his own bitterness 
in the railing of Thersites, and in the depicting of 
Cressida's shameless wantonness. It is impossible 
to doubt that " false Cressid " was meant for Mary 
Fitton. The moment she appears the play begins 
to live ; personal bitterness turns her portrait into a 
caricature; every fault is exaggerated and lashed 
with rase : it is not so much a drama as a scene 
where Shakespeare insults his mistress. 

Let us look at this phase of his passion in per- 
spective. Almost as soon as he became acquainted 
with Miss Fitton, about Christmas 1597, Shake- 
speare wrote of her as a wanton; yet so long as 
she gave herself to him he appears to have been 
able to take refuge in his tenderness and endure her 
strayings. But passion in him grew with what it 
i^d on, and after she faulted with Lord Herbert, we 
find him in a sonnet threatening her that his " pity- 
wanting pain " may induce him to write of her as 
she was. No doubt her pride and scornful strength 
revolted under this treatment and she drew away 
from him. Tortured by desire he would then praise 
her with some astonishing phrases ; call her " the 
heart's blood of beauty, love's invisible soul," and 
after some hesitation she would yield again. No 
sooner was the " ruined love " rebuilt than she would 
offend again, and again he v/ould curse and threaten, 

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The Man Shakespeare 

and so the wretched, half-miserable, half-ecstatic life 
of passion stormed along, one moment in Heaven, 
the next in Hell. 

All the while Shakespeare was longing, or thought 
he was longing, for truth and constancy, and at 
length he gave form and name to his desire for win- 
nowed purity of love and perfect constancy, and 
this consoling but impalpable ideal he called Ophelia, 
Desdemona, Cordelia. But again and again Miss 
Fitton reconquered him and at length his accumu- 
lated bitterness compelled him to depict his mistress 
realistically. Cressida is his first attempt, the first 
dramatic portrait of the mistress who got into 
Shakespeare's blood and infected the current of his 
being, and the portrait is spoiled by the poet's 
hatred and contempt just as the whole drama is 
spoiled by a passion of bitterness that is surely the 
sign of intense personal suffering. Cressida is de- 
picted as a vile wanton, a drab by nature; but it is 
no part even of this conception to make her soulless 
and devilish. On the contrary, an artist of Shake- 
speare's imaginative sympathy loves to put in high 
relief the grain of good in things evil and the taint 
of evil in things good that give humanity its curious 
complexity. Shakespeare observed this rule of dra- 
matic presentation more consistently than any of his 
predecessors or contemporaries — more consistently, 
more finely far than Homer or Sophocles, whose 
heroes had only such faults as their creators thought 
virtues ; why then did he forget nature so far as to 
picture " false Cressida " without a redeeming 
quality? He first shows her coquetting with Troilus, 
and her coquetry even is unattractive, shallow, and 
obvious ; then she gives herself to Troilus out of 
passionate desire; but Shakespeare omits to tell us 
why she takes up with Diomedes immediately after- 

292 



> 



Trot I us and C res si da 

wards. We are to understand merely that she is 
what Ulysses calls a " sluttish spoil of opportunity," 
and " daughter of the game." But as passionate 
desire is not of necessity faithless we are distressed 
and puzzled by her soulless wantonness. And when 
she goes on to present Diomedes with the scarf that 
Troilus gave her, we revolt ; the woman is too full 
of blood to be so entirely heartless. Here is the 
scene embittered by the fact that Troilus witnesses 
Cressida's betrayal : 

^^ Diomedes. I had your heart before, this follows it. 

Troilus. [Aside.l I did swear patience. 

Cressida. You shall not have it, Diomed, faith you 
shall not; 
I'll give you something else. 

Diomedes. I will have this: whose was it? 

Cressida. It is no matter. 

Diomedes. Come, tell me whose it was? 

Cressida. 'Twas one that loved me better than you 
will. 
But, now you have it, take it." 

The scene is a splendid dramatic scene, a piece 
torn from life, so realistic that it convinces, and 
yet we revolt; we feel that we have not got to the 
heart of the mystery. There is so much evil in 
Cressida that we want to see the spark of goodness 
in her, however fleeting and ineffective the spark 
may be. But Shakespeare makes her attempt at 
justification a confession of absolute faithlessness: 

" Troilus, farewell ! one eye yet looks on thee 
But with my heart the other eye doth see. 
Ah ! poor our sex ! This fault in us I find. 
The error of our eye directs our mind." 

This is plainly Shakespeare's reflection and not 

293 



The Man Shakespeare 

% 
Cressida's apology, and if we contrast this speech 
with the dialogue given above, it becomes plain, I 
think, that the terrible scene with Diomedes is taken 
from life, or is at least Shakespeare's vision of the 
way Mary Fitton behaved. - There's a magic in those 
devilish words of Cressida that outdoes imagination : 

" 'Twas one that loved me better than you will, 
But^ now you have it, take it/* 

And then: 

** Sweet, honey Greek, tempt me no more to folly : '* 

The very power of the characterization makes the 
traitress hateful. If Mary Fitton ever gave any 
gift of Shakespeare to Lord Herbert, the dramatist 
should have known that she no longer loved him, 
had in reality already forgotten him in her new pas- 
sion ; but to paint a woman as remembering a lover, 
indeed as still loving him, and yet as giving his gift 
to another, is an offence in art though it may be 
true to nature. It is a fault in art because it is 
impossible to motive it in a few lines. The fact of 
the gift is bad enough ; without explanation it is 
horrible. For this and other reasons I infer that 
Shakespeare took the fact from his own experience: 
he had suffered, it seems to me, from some such 
traitorism on the part of his mistress, or he ascribed 
to Mary Fitton some traitorism of his own. 

In sonnet 12^ he finds weighty excuse for having 
given away the table-book which his friend had given 
to him. His own confessed shortcoming might have 
taught him to exercise more lenient judgement to- 
wards his frail love. 

But when Shakespeare wrote *^ Troilus and Cres- 

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Troilus and Cressida 

sida " a passion of bitterness possessed him ; he not 
only viHfied Cressida but all the world, Agamemnon, 
Nestor, Achilles, Ajax; he seems indeed to have 
taken more pleasure in the railing of Thersites than 
in any other part of the work except the scourging 
of Cressida. He shocks us by the picture of Achilles 
and his myrmidons murdering Hector when they 
come upon him unarmed. 

One or two incidental difficulties must be settled 
before we pass to a greater play. 

" Troilus and Cressida " has always been regarded 
as a sort of enigma. Professor Dowden asks : " With 
what intention and in what spirit did Shakespeare 
write this strange comedy? All the Greek heroes 
who fought against Troy are pitilessly exposed to 
ridicule." And from this fact and the bitterness 
of " Timon " some German critics have drawn the 
inference that Shakespeare was incapable of com- 
prehending' Greek life, and that indeed he only 
realized his Romans so perfectly because the Roman 
was very like the Briton in his mastery of practical 
affairs, of the details of administration and of gov- 
ernment. This is an excellent instance of German 
prejudice. No one could have been better fitted 
than Shakespeare to understand Greek civilization 
and Greek art with its supreme love of plastic 
beauty, but his master Plutarch gave him far better 
pictures of Roman life than of Greek life, partly 
because Plutarch lived in the time of Roman domi- 
nation and partly because he was in far closer sym- 
pathy with the masters of practical affairs than 
with artists in stone like Phidias or artists in 
thought like Plato. The true explanation of Shake- 
speare's caricatures of Greek life, whether Homeric 
or Athenian, is to be found in the fact that he was 
not only entirely ignorant of it but prejudiced 

295 



The Man Shakespeare 

against it. And this prejudice in him had an 
obvious root. Chapman had just translated and 
published the first books of his Iliad, and Chapman 
was the poet whom Shakespeare speaks of as his 
rival in Sonnets 78-86. He cannot help smiling at 
the " strained touches " of Chapman's rhetoric and 
his heavy learning. Those who care to remember 
the first scene of " Love's Labour's Lost " will recall 
how Shakespeare in that early work mocked at learn- 
ing and derided study. When he first reached Lon- 
don he was no doubt despised for his ignorance of 
Greek and Latin ; he had had to bear the sneers and 
flouts of the many who appraised learning, an uni- 
versity training and gentility above genius. He 
took the first opportunity of answering his critics: 

" Small have continual plodders ever won^, 
Save bare authority from others' books." 

But the taunts rankled, and when the bitter days 
came of disappointment and disillusion he took up 
that Greek life which his rival had tried to depict 
in its fairest colours, and showed what he thought 
was the seamy side of it. But had he known any- 
thing of Greek life and Greek art it would have 
been his pleasure to outdo his rival by giving at 
once a truer and a fairer presentation of Greece than 
Chapman could conceive. It is the rivalry of Chap- 
man that irritates Shakespeare into pouring con- 
tempt on Greek life in " Troilus and Cressida." As 
Chapman was for the Greeks, Shakespeare took sides 
with the Trojans: 

But why do I assume that " Troilus and Cres- 

^ sida " is earlier than "Antony and Cleopatra?" 

^^ Some critics, and among them Dr. Brandes, place 

it later, and they have some reason for their belief. 

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Troilus and Cressida 

The bitterness in " Troilus and Cressida," they say 
rightly, is more intense; and as Shakespeare's dis- 
appointment with men and things appears to have 
increased from " Hamlet " to " Timon," or from 
1602 to 1607-8, they put the bitterer play later. 
Cogent as is this reasoning, I cannot believe that 
Shakespeare could have painted Cressida after hav- 
ing painted Cleopatra. The same model has evi- 
dently served for both women ; but while Cleopatra 
is perhaps the most superb portrait of a courtesan 
in all literature, Cressida is a crude and harsh sketch 
such as a Dumas or a Pinero might have conceived. 

It is more than probable, I think, that " Troilus 
and Cressida " was planned and the love-story at 
least written about 1603, while Shakespeare's mem- 
ory of one of his mistress's betrayals was still vivid 
and sharp. The play was taken up again four or 
five years later and the character of Ulysses deepened 
and strengthened. In this later revision the out- 
look is so piercing-sad, the phrases of such preg- 
nancy, that the work must belong to Shakespeare's 
ripest maturity. Moreover, he has grown compara- 
tively careless of characterization as in all his later 
work; he gives his wise sayings almost as freely to 
Achilles as to Ulysses. 

" Troilus and Cressida " is interesting because it 
establishes the opinion that Chapman was indeed 
the rival poet whom Shakespeare referred to in the 
sonnets, and especially because it shows us the poet's 
mistress painted in a rage of erotic passion so 
violent that it defeats itself and the portrait be- 
comes an incredible caricature — that way madness 
lies : " Troilus and Cressida " points to " Lear " 
and " Timon." 



297 



CHAPTER X 

DRAMAS OF LUST I PAET H 

Antony and Cleopatra 

WE now come to the finest work of Shake- 
speare's maturity, to the drama in which his 
passion for Mary Fitton finds supreme expression. 

" Antony and Cleopatra " is an astonishing pro- 
duction not yet fairly appreciated even in England, 
and perhaps not likely to be appreciated anywhere 
at its full worth for many a year to come. But 
when we English have finally left that dark prison 
of Puritanism and lived for some time in the sunlight 
where the wayside crosses are hidden under climbing 
roses, we shall probably couple " Antony and Cleo- 
patra " with " Hamlet " in our love as Shakespeare's 
supremest works. It was fitting that the same man 
who wrote " Romeo and Juliet," the incomparable 
symphony of first love, should also write " Antony 
and Cleopatra," the far more wonderful and more 
terrible tragedy of mature passion. 

Let us begin with the least interesting part of the 
play, and we shall see that all the difiiculties in it 
resolve themselves as soon as we think of it as Shake- 
speare's own confession. Wherever he leaves Plu- 
tarch, it is to tell his own story. 

Some critics have reproached Shakespeare with 
the sensualism of " Romeo and Juliet " ; no one, so 
far as I can remember, has blamed the Sapphic 
intensity of " Antony and Cleopatra," where the lust 
of the flesh and desire of the eye reign triumphant. 
Professor Dowden indeed says : " The spirit of the 

298 



Antony and Cleopatra 

play, though superficially it appear voluptuous, is 
essentially severe. That is to say, Shakespeare is 
faithful to the fact." Antony and Cleopatra kill 
themselves, forsooth, and thus conventional virtue is 
justified by self-murder. So superficial and false a 
judgement is a quaint example of mid- Victorian 
taste: it reminds me of the horsehair sofa and the 
antimacassar. Would Professor Dowden have had 
Shakespeare alter the historical facts, making An- 
tony conquer Caesar and Cleopatra triumph over 
death? Would this have been sufficient to prove to 
the professor that Shakespeare's morals are not his, 
and that the play is certainly the most voluptuous 
in modern literature? Well, this is just what Shake- 
speare has done. Throughout the play Caesar is a 
subordinate figure while Antony is the protagonist 
and engages all our sympathies ; whenever they meet 
Antony shows as the larger, richer, more generous 
nature. In every act he conquers Caesar; leaving 
on us the gorgeous ineff^aceable impression of a great 
personality whose superb temperament moves every- 
one to admiration and love ; Caesar, on the other 
hand, aff'ects one as a calculating machine. 

But Shakespeare's fidelity to the fact is so extra- 
ordinary that he gives Caesar one speech which 
shows his moral superiority to Antony. When his 
sister weeps on hearing that Antony has gone back 
to Cleopatra, Caesar bids her dry her tears, 
<( 

But let determined things to destiny 
Hold unbewailed their way . . .** 

This line alone suffices to show why Antony was 
defeated ; the force of imperial Rome is in the great 
phrase ; but Shakespeare will not admit his fa- 
vourite's inferiority, and in order to explain An- 

299 



The Man Shakespeare 

tony's defeat Shakespeare represents luck as being 
against him, luck or fate, and this is not the only 
or even the chief proof of the poet's partiality. 
Pompey, who scarcely notices Caesar when Antony 
is by, says of Antony; 

" his soldiership 
Is twice the other twain." 

And, indeed, Antony in the play appears to be 
able to beat Caesar whenever he chooses or when- 
ever he is not betrayed. 

All the personages of the play praise Antony, 
and when he dies the most magnificent eulogy of 
him is pronounced by Agrippa, Caesar's friend: 

"A rarer spirit never 
Did steer humanity ; hut you^ Gods^ will give us 
Some faults to make us men." 

Antony is even permitted at the last to console 
himself; he declares exultantly that in the other 
world the ghosts shall come to gaze at him and 
Cleopatra, and: 

" Dido and her Aeneas shall want troops." 

Shakespeare makes conquering Caesar admit the 
truth of this boast: 

** No grave upon the earth shall clip in it 
A pair so famous." 

To win in life universal admiration and love, and 
in death imperishable renown, is to succeed in spite 
of failure and suicide, and this is the lesson which 
Shakespeare read into Plutarch's story. Even Eno- 
barbus is conquered at the last by Antony's noble 

300 



Antony and Cleopatra 

magnanimit3^ But why does Shakespeare show this 
extraordinary, this extravagant liking for him who 
was " the bellows and the fan to cool a gipsy's lust," 
for that Marc Antony who might have been the 
master of the world, and who threw away empire, 
life, and honour to be " a strumpet's fool " ? There 
is only one possible explanation : Shakespeare felt 
the most intense, the most intimate sympathy with 
Antony because he, too, was passion's slave, and 
had himself experienced with his dark mistress, Mary 
Fitton, the ultimate degradation of lust. For this 
reason he took Plutarch's portrait of Antony, and, 
by emphasizing the kingly traits, transformed it. 
In the play, as Dr. Brandes sees, Antony takes on 
something of the " artist-nature." It is Antony's 
greatness and weakness ; the spectacle of a high 
intellect struggling with an overpowering sensuality ; 
of a noble nature at odds with passionate human 
frailty, that endeared him to Shakespeare. The 
pomp of Antony's position, too, and his kingly per- 
sonality pleased our poet. As soon as Shakespeare 
reached maturity, he began to depict himself as a 
monarch ; from " Twelfth Night " on he assumed 
royal state in his plays, and surely in this figure of 
Antony he must for the moment have satisfied his 
longing for regal magnificence and domination. 
From the first scene to the last Antony is a king of 
men by right divine of nature. 

It is, however, plain that Antony's pride,^ his 
superb mastery of life, the touch of imperious bru- 
tality in him, are all traits taken from Plutarch, and 
are indeed wholly inconsistent with Shakespeare's 
own character. Had Shakespeare possessed these 
qualities his portraits of men of action would have 
been infinitely better than they are, while his por- 
traits of the gentle thinker and lover of the arts, 

301 



The Man Shakespeare 

his Hamlets and his Dukes, would have been to 
seek. 

The personal note of every one of his great trag- 
edies is that Shakespeare feels he has failed in life, 
failed lamentably. His Brutus, we feel, failed of 
necessity because of his aloofness from practical 
life ; his Coriolanus, too, had to fail, and almost 
forgoes sympathy by his faults ; but this Antony 
ought not to have failed : we cannot understand why 
the man leaves the sea-battle to follow Cleopatra's 
flight, who but an act or two before, with lesser 
reason, realized his danger and was able to break off 
from his enchantress. Yet the passion of desire that 
sways Antony is so splendidly portrayed ; is, too, so 
dominant in all of us, that we accept it at once as 
explaining the inexplicable. 

In measure as Shakespeare ennobled Antony, the 
historical fact of ultimate defeat and failure allowed 
him to degrade Cleopatra. And this he did willingly 
enough, for from the moment he took up the sub- 
ject he identified the Queen of Egypt with his own 
faithless mistress, Mary Fitton, whom he had al- 
ready tried to depict as " false Cressid." This 
identification of himself and his own experience of 
passion with the persons and passions of the story 
explains some of the faults of the drama ; while be- 
ing the source, also, of its singular splendour. 

In this play we have the finest possible example 
of the strife between Shakespeare's yielding poetic 
temperament and the severity of his intellect. He 
heaps praises on Antony, as we have seen, from all 
sides ; he loved the man as a sort of superb alter ego, 
and yet his intellectual fairness is so extraordinary 
that it compelled him to create a character who 
should uphold the truth even against his heart's 
favourite. Dr. Brandes speaks of Enobarbus as a 

303 



Antony and Cleopatra 

" sort of chorus " ; he is far more than that ; he is 
the intellectual conscience of the play, a weight, so 
to speak, to redress the balance which Shakespeare 
used this once and never again. What a confession 
this is of personal partiality ! A single instance will 
suffice to prove my point : Shakespeare makes An- 
tony cast the blame for the flight at Actium on Cleo- 
patra, and manages almost to hide the unmanly 
weakness of the plaint by its infinitely pathetic 
wording : 

"Whither hast thou led me, Egypt?" 
A little later Cleopatra asks : 

" Is Antony or we in fault for this ? '* 
and at once Enobarbus voices the exact truth: 

** Antony only, that would make his will 
Lord of his reason. What though you fled 
• ••«.« 

why should he follow ? " 

Again and again Antony reproaches Cleopatra, 
and again and again Enobarbus is used to keep 
the truth before us. Some of these reproaches, it 
seems to me, are so extravagant and so ill-founded 
that they discover the personal passion of the poet. 
For example, Antony insults Cleopatra: 

** You have been a boggier ever." 

And the proof forsooth is : 

" I found you as a morsel cold upon 
Dead Caesar's trencher." 

But to have been Caesar's mistress was Cleopatra's 

303 



The Man Shakespeare 

chief title to fame. Shakespeare is here probably re- 
viling Mary Fitton for being deserted by some early 
lover. Curiously enough, this weakness of Antony 
increases the complexity of his character, while the 
naturalistic passion of his words adds enormously 
to the eiFect of the play. Again and again in this 
drama Shakespeare's personal vindictiveness serves 
an artistic purpose. The story of " Trollus and 
Cressida " is in itself low and vile, and when loaded 
with Shakespeare's bitterness outrages probability ; 
but the love of Antony and Cleopatra is so over- 
whelming that it goes to ruin and suicide and be- 
yond, and when intensified by Shakespeare's per- 
sonal feeling becomes a world's masterpiece. 

We have already seen that the feminine railing 
Shakespeare puts in the mouth of Antony increases 
the realistic effect, and just in the same way the 
low cunning, temper, and mean greed which he at- 
tributes to Cleopatra, transform her from a some- 
what incomprehensible historical marionette into the 
most splendid specimen of the courtesan in the 
world's literature. Heine speaks of her contemptu- 
ously as a " kept woman," but the epithet only shows 
how Heine In default of knowledge fell back on his 
racial gift of feminine denigration. Even before she 
enters we see that Shakespeare has not forgiven his 
dark scornful mistress ; Cleopatra is the finest pic- 
ture he ever painted of Mary Fitton; but Antony's 
friends tell us, at the outset, she is a " lustful gipsy," 
a " strumpet," and at first she merely plays on An- 
tony's manliness ; she sends for him, and when he 
comes, departs. A little later she sends again, tell- 
ing her messenger: 

" I did not send you : if you find him sad. 
Say, I am dancing; if in mirth, report 
That I am sudden sick: quick, and return.'* 

304 



Antony and Cleopatra 

And when Cbarmlan, her woman, declares that 
the way to keep a man is to " cross him in nothing," 
she rephes scornfully: 

" Thou teachest, like a fool, the way to lose him." 

She uses a dozen taunts to prevent her lover from 
leaving her ; but when she sees him resolved, she 
wishes him victory and success. And so through 
a myriad changes of mood and of cunning wiles we 
discover that love for Antony which is the anchor 
to her unstable nature. 

The scene with the eunuch Mardian is a little 
gem. She asks: 

" Hast thou affections ? 

Mar. Yes, gracious madam. 

Cleo. Indeed ? 

Mar. Not in deed, madam; for I can do nothing. 
But what indeed is honest to be done; 
Yet have I fierce affections, and think 
What Venus did with Mars. 

Cleo. O, Charmian! 

Where think'st thou he is now ? Stands he, or sits he ? *' 

She is with her lover again, and recalls his phrase 
for her, " my serpent of old Nile," and feeds herself 
with love's " delicious poison." 

No sooner does she win our sympathy by her 
passion for Antony than Shakespeare chills our 
admiration by showing her as the courtesan : 

'' Cleo. Did I, Charmian, 

Ever love Caesar so? 

Char. O, that brave Caesar ! 

Cleo. Be choked with such another emphasis ! 
Say, the brave Antony. 

Char, The valiant Caesar! 

305 



The Man Shakespeare 

Cleo. By Isis, I will give thee bloody teeth 
If thou with Caesar paragon again 
My man of men. 

Char. By your most gracious pardon, 

I sing but after you. 

Cleo. My salad days. 

When I was green in judgement: cold in blood, 
To say as I said then ! " 

Already we see and know her, her wiles, her pas- 
sion, her quick temper, her chameleon-like changes, 
her subtle charms of person and of word, and yet 
we have not reached the end of the first act. Next to 
FalstafF and to Hamlet, Cleopatra is the most as- 
tonishing piece of portraiture in all Shakespeare. 
Enobarbus gives the soul of her: 

"Ant. She is cunning past man's thought. 

Eno. Alack, sir, no; her passions are made of nothing 
but the finest part of pure love . . . 

Ant. Would I had never seen her! 

Eno. O, sir, you had then left unseen a wonderful 
piece of work ; which not to have been blest withal would 
have discredited your travel." 

Here Shakespeare gives his true opinion of Mary 
Fitton: then comes the miraculous expression: 

** Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale 
Her infinite variety. Other women cloy 
The appetites they feed ; but she makes hungry 
Where most she satisfies." 

Act by act Shakespeare makes the portrait more 
complex and more perfect. In the second act she 
calls for music, like the dark lady of the Sonnets : 

" Music — moody food of us that trade in love/* 

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Antony and Cleopatra 

and then she'll have no music, but will play billiards, 
and not billiards either, but will fish and think every 
fish caught an Antony. And again she flies to 
memory : 

"That time — O times! — 
I laughed him out of patience ; and that night 
I laughed him into patience; and next morn. 
Ere the ninth hour, I drunk him to his bed; 
Then put my tires and mantles on him, whilst 
I wore his sword Philippan." 

The charm of it all, the deathless charm and the 
astounding veracity ! The messenger enters, and 
she promises him for good news " gold and her 
bluest veins to kiss." When she hears that Antony 
is well she pours more gold on him, but when he 
pauses in his recital she has a mind to strike him. 
When he tells that Caesar and Antony are friends, 
it is a fortune she'll give; but when she learns 
that Antony is betrothed to Octavia she turns to her 
women with " I am pale, Charmian," and when she 
hears that Antony is married she flies into a fury, 
strikes the messenger down and hales him up and 
down the room by his hair. When he runs from her 
knife she sends for him: 

** I will not hurt him. 
These hands do lack nobility, that they strike 
A meaner than myself." 

She has the fascination of great pride and the 
magic of manners. When the messenger returns 
she is a queen again, most courteous-wise: 

" Come hither, sir. 
Though it be honest, it is never good 
To bring bad news." 
307 



The Man Shakespeare 

She wants to know the features of Octavia, her 
years, her inclination, the colour of her hair, her 
height — everything. 

A most veracious full-length portrait, with the 
minute finish of a miniature; it shows how Shake- 
speare had studied every fold and foible of M-iiTj 
Fitton's soul. In the third act Cleopatra takes up 
again the theme of Octavia's appearance, only to 
run down her rival, and so salve her wounded vanity 
and cheat her heart to hope. The messenger, too, 
who lends himself to her humour now becomes a 
proper man. Shakespeare seizes every opportunity 
to add another touch to the wonderful picture. 

Cleopatra appears next in Antony's camp at 
Actium talking with Enobarbus: 

" Cleo, I will be even with thee, doubt it not. 
Eno. But why, why, why? 

Cleo. Thou hast forspoke my being in these warS;, 
And say'st it is not fit." 

Each phrase of the dialogue reveals her soul, 
dark fold on fold. 

She is the only person who strengthens Antony 
in his quixotic-foolish resolve to fight at sea. 

" Cleo. I have sixty sails, Caesar none better." 

And then the shameful flight. 

I have pursued this bald analysis thus far, not 
for pleasure merely, but to show the miracle of that 
portraiture the traits of which can bear examina- 
tion one by one. So far Cleopatra is, as Enobarbus 
calls her, " a wonderful piece of work," a woman of 
women, inscrutable, cunning, deceitful, prodigal, 
with a good memory for injuries, yet as quick to 
forgiveness as to anger, a minion of the moon, fleet- 

308 



Antony and Cleopatra 

ing as water yet loving-true withal, a sumptuous 
bubble, whose perpetual vagaries are but perfect 
obedience to every breath of passion. But now 
Shakespeare without reason makes her faithless to 
Antony and to love. In the second scene of the 
third act Thyreus comes to her with Caesar's mes- 
sage: 

" Thyr. He knows that you embrace not Antony 
As you did love but as you feared him. 

Cleo. O ! 

Thyr. The scars upon your honour therefore lie 
Does pity as constrained blemishes. 
Not as deserved. 

Cleo. He is a god, and knows 

What is most right. Mine honour was not yielded. 
But conquered merely. 

Eno. [Aside.'] To be sure of that 

I will ask Antony. — Sir, sir, thou'rt so leaky 
That we must leave thee to thy sinking, for 
Thy dearest quit thee." 

And when Thyreus asks her to leave Antony and 
put herself under Caesar's protection, who " desires 
to give," she tells him: 

** I am prompt 
To lay my crown at his feet, and there to kneel." 

Thyreus then asks for grace to lay his duty on 
her hand. She mves it to him with the words : 



to" 



" Your Caesar's father oft, 
When he hath mused of taking kingdoms in. 
Bestowed his hps on that unworthy place 
As it rained kisses.'* 

It is as if Antony were forgotten, clean wiped 

309 



The Man Shakespeare 

from her mind. The whole scene is a libel upon 
Cleopatra and upon womanhood. When betrayed, 
women are faithless out of anger, pique, desire of 
revenge; they are faithless out of fear, out of am- 
bition, for fancy's sake — for fifty motives, but not 
without motive. It would have been easy to justify 
this scene. All the dramatist had to do was to 
show us that Cleopatra, a proud woman and scorned 
queen, could not forget Antony's faithlessness in 
leaving her to marry Octavia; but she never men- 
tions Octavia, never seems to remember her after 
she has got Antony back. This omission, too, im- 
plies a slur upon her. Nor does she kiss Caesar's 
" conquering hand " out of fear. Thyreus has told 
her it would please Caesar if she would make of his 
fortunes a staff to lean upon; she has no fear, and 
her ambitions are wreathed round Antony: Caesar 
has nothing to offer that can tempt her, as we shall 
see later. The scene is a libel upon her. The m.ore 
one studies it, the clearer it becomes that Shake- 
speare wrote it out of wounded personal feeling. 
Cleopatra's prototype, Mar}^ Fitton, had betrayed 
him again and again, and the faithlessness rankled. 
Cleopatra, therefore, shall be painted as faithless, 
without cause, as Cressid was, from incurable vice 
of nature. Shakespeare tried to get rid of his 
bitterness in this way, and if his art suffered, so 
much the worse for his art. Curiously enough, in 
this instance, for reasons that will appear later, 
the artistic effect is deepened. 

The conclusion of this scene, where Thyreus is 
whipped and Cleopatra overwhelmed with insults by 
Antony, does not add much to our knowledge of 
Cleopatra's character: one may notice, however, that 
it is the reproach of cold-heartedness that she catches 
up to answer. The scene follows in which she plays 

310 



Antony and Cleopatra 

squire to Antony and helps to buckle on his armour. 
But this scene (invented by Shakespeare), which 
might bring out the sweet woman-weakness in her, 
and so reconcile us to her again, is used against her 
remorselessly by the poet. When Antony wakes and 
cries for his armour she begs him to " sleep a lit- 
tle " ; the touch is natural enough, but coming after 
her faithlessness to her lover and her acceptance of 
Caesar it shows more than human frailty. It is plain 
that, intent upon ennobling Antony, Shakespeare is 
willing to degrade Cleopatra beyond nature. Then 
comes Antony's victory, and his passion at length 
finds perfect lyrical expression : 

" O thou day o* the worlds 
Chain mine armed neck; leap thou, attire and all, 
Through proof of harness to my hearty and there 
Ride on the pants triumphing." 

At once Cleopatra catches fire with that respon- 
sive flame of womanhood which was surely her 
chief est charm: 

** Lord of lords ! , 
O infinite virtue! Com'st thou smiling from 
The world's great snare uncaught ? " 

What magic in the utterance, what a revelation of 
Cleopatra's character and of Shakespeare's ! To 
Cleopatra's feminine weakness the world seems one 
huge snare .which only cunning may escape. 

Another day, and final irremediable defeat drives 
her in fear to the monument and to that pretended 
suicide which is the immediate cause of Antony's 
despair : 

" Unarm, Eros : the long day's task is done. 
And we must sleep." 

311 



The Man Shakespeare 

When Antony leaves the stage, Shakespeare's 
idealizing vision turns to Cleopatra. About this 
point, too, the historical fact fetters Shakespeare 
and forces him to realize the other side of Cleo- 
patra. After Antony's death Cleopatra did kill her- 
self. One can only motive and explain this suicide 
by self -immolating love. It is natural that at first 
Shakespeare will have it that Cleopatra's nobility 
of nature is merely a reflection, a light borrowed 
from Antony. She will not open the monument to 
let the dying man enter, but her sincerity and love 
enable us to forgive this: 

** I dare not^ dear, — 
Dear my lord, pardon, — I dare not. 
Lest I be taken. . . ." 

Here occurs a fault of taste which I find inex- 
plicable. While Cleopatra and her women are draw- 
ing Antony up, he cries: 

** O quick, or I am gone." 

And Cleopatra answers: 

" Here's sport, indeed ! — How heavy weighs my lord ! 
Our strength has all gone into heaviness. 
That makes the weight.'* 

The " Here's sport, indeed ! " seems to me a ter^ 
rible fault, an inexcusable lapse of taste. I should 
like to think it a misprint or misreading, but it is 
unfortunately like Shakespeare in a certain mood, 
possible to him, at least, here as elsewhere. 

Cleopatra's lament over Antony's dead body is 
a piece of Shakespeare's self-revealing made lyrical 
by beauty of word and image. The allusion to his 

312 



Antony and Cleopatra 

boy-rival, Pembroke, is unmistakable ; for women are 
not contemptuous of youth: 

" Young boys and girls 
Are level now with men; the odds is gone. 
And there is nothing left remarkable 
Beneath the visiting moon." 

When Cleopatra comes to herself after swooning, 
her anger is characteristic because wholly unex- 
pected ; it is one sign more that Shakespeare had 
a living model in his mind: 

" It were for me 
To throw my sceptre at the injurious gods; 
To tell them that this world did equal theirs 
Till they had stolen our jewel. All's but naught." 

Her resolve to kill herself is borrowed: 

** We '11 bury him; and then, what's brave, what's noble. 
Let's do it after the high Roman fashion. 
And make death proud to take us." 

But the resolution holds : 

" It is great 
To do that thing that ends all other deeds, 
Which shackles accidents and bolts up change." 

It is this greatness of soul in Cleopatra which 
Shakespeare has now to portray. Caesar's mes- 
senger, Proculeius, whom Antony has told her to 
trust, promises her everything in return for her 
" sweet dependency." On being surprised she tries 
to kill herself, and when disarmed shows again that 
characteristic petulant anger: 

313 



The Man Shakespeare 

" Sir^ I will eat no meat, I'll not drink, sir; 
This mortal house I'll ruin. 
Do Caesar what he can." 

And her reasons are all of pride and hatred of 
disgrace. She'll not be " chastised with the sober 
eye of dull Octavia," nor shown " to the shouting 
varletry of censuring Rome." Her imagination is 
at work now, that quick forecast of the mind that 
steels her desperate resolve: 

" Rather on Nilus* mud 
Lay me stark nak'd, and let the water-flies 
Blow me into abhorring." 

The heroic mood passes. She tries to deceive 
Caesar as to her wealth, and is shamed by her 
treasurer Seleucus. The scene is appalling; poor 
human nature stripped to the skin — all imperfec- 
tions exposed; Cleopatra cheating, lying, raging 
like a drab ; her words to Seleucus are merciless while 
self-revealing : 

" O slave, of no more trust 
Than love that's hired." 

This scene deepens and darkens the impression 
made by her unmotivedi faithlessness to Antony. 
It is, however, splendidly characteristic and I think 
needful ; but it renders that previous avowal of faith- 
lessness to Antony altogether superfluous, the sole 
fault in an almost perfect portrait. For, as I have 
said already, Shakespeare's mistakes in characteriza- 
tion nearly always spring from his desire to idealize ; 
but here his personal vindictiveness comes to help 
his art. The historical fact compels him now to give 
his harlot, Cleopatra, heroic attributes; in spite of 

314. 



Antony and Cleopatra 

Caesar's threats to treat her sons severely if she 
dares to take her own life and thus deprive his 
triumph of its glory, she outwits him and dies a 
queen, a worthy descendant, as Charmian says, of 
" many ro3^al kings." Nothing but personal bitter- 
ness could have prevented Shakespeare from ideal- 
izing such a woman out of likeness to humanity. 
But in this solitary and singular case his personal 
suiFering bound him to realism though the history 
justified idealization. The high lights were for once 
balanced by the depths of .shadow, and a master- 
piece was the result. 

Shakespeare leaves out Caesar's threats to put 
Cleopatra's sons to death ; had he used these 
menaces he would have made Caesar more natural 
in my opinion, given a touch of characteristic bru- 
tality to the calculating intellect ; but he omitted 
them probably because he felt that Cleopatra's 
pedestal was high enough without that addition. 

The end is very characteristic of Shakespeare's 
temper. Caesar becomes nobly generous ; he ap- 
, proves Cleopatra's wisdom in swearing falsehoods 
about her treasure; he will not reckon with her like 
" a merchant," and Cleopatra herself puts on the 
r^yal robes, and she who has played wanton before 
us so long becomes a queen of queens. And yet 
her character is wonderfully maintained ; no cunning 
can cheat this mistress of duplicity: 

" He words me, girls, he words me that I should not 
Be noble to myself." 

She holds to her heroic resolve ; she will never 
be degraded before the base Roman public; she will 
not see 

** Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness." 

315 



The Man Shakespeare 

It is, perhaps, worth noting- here that Shake- 
speare lends Cleopatra, as he afterwards lent Corio- 
lanus, his own delicate senses and neuropathic loath- 
ing for mechanic slaves with " greasy aprons " and 
" thick breaths rank of gross diet " ; it is Shake- 
speare too and not Cleopatra who speaks of death 
as bringing " liberty." In " Cymbeline," Shake- 
speare's mask Posthumus dwells on the same idea. 
But these lapses are momentary ; the superb decla- 
ration that follows is worthy of the queen : 

" My resolution's placed^ and I have nothing 
Of woman in me: now from head to foot 
I am marble-constant; now the fleeting moon 
No planet is of mine/* 

The scene with the clown who brings the " pretty 
worm " is the solid ground of reality on which Cleo- 
patra rests for a breathing space before rising into 
the blue : 

'^Cleo. Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have 
Immortal longings in me. Now no more 
The juice of Egypt's grape shall moist this lip. — 
Yare, yare, good Iras! quick. — Methinks I hear 
Antony call; I see him rouse himself 
To praise my noble act; I hear him mock 
The luck of Caesar, which the gods give men 
To excuse their after-wrath. Husband, I come. 
Now to that name my courage prove my title ! 
I am fire and air; my other elements 
I give to baser life." 

The whole speech is miraculous in speed of mount- 
ing emotion, and when Iras dies first, this Cleopatra 
finds again the perfect word in which truth and 
beauty meet: 

316 



Antony and Cleopatra 

*' This proves me base: 
If she first meet the curled Antony 
He'll make demand of her, and spend that kiss 
Which is my heaven to have. Come, thou mortal wretch, 
[^To the asp, which she applies to her breast. 
With thy sharp teeth this knot intrinsicate 
Of life at once untie: poor venomous fool, 
Be angry, and despatch. O, could'st thou speak. 
That I might hear thee call great Caesar, ass 
Unpolicied ! " 

The cliaracteristic high temper of Mary Fitton 
breaking out again — " ass unpolicied " — and then 
the end: 

" Peace, peace ! 
Dost thou not see my baby at my breast,- 
That sucks the nurse asleep? " 

The final touch is of soft pleasure: 

" As sweet a balm, as soft as air, as gentle, — 
O, Antony! — Nay, I will take thee too. 

[Applying another asp to her arm. 
What should I stay " 

For ever fortunate in her self-inflicted death 
Cleopatra thereby frees herself from the ignominy 
of certain of her actions : she is woman at once and 
queen, and if she cringes lower than other women, 
she rises, too, to higher levels than other women 
know. The historical fact of her self-inflicted death 
forced the poet to make false Cressid a Cleopatra — • 
and his wanton gipsy-mistress was at length re- 
deemed by a passion of heroic resolve. 

The majority of critics are still debating whether 
indeed Cleopatra is the " dark lady " of the sonnets 
or not. Professor Dowden puts forward the theory 

317 



The Man Shakespeare 

as a daring conjecture; but the identity of the two 
cannot be doubted. It is impossible not to notice 
that Shakespeare makes Cleopatra, who was a fair 
Greek, gipsy-dark like his sonnet-heroine. He says, 
too, of the " dark lady " of the sonnets : 

** Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill. 
That in the very refuse of thy deeds 
There is such strength and warrantise of skill. 
That in my mind, thy worst all best exceeds ? " 

Enobarbus praises Cleopatra in precisely the same 
words : 

" Vilest things. 
Become themselves in her." 

Antony, too, uses the same expression: 

" Fie, wrangling queen ! 
Whom everything becomes — to chide, to laugh. 
To weep; whose every passion fully strives 
To make itself, in thee, fair and admired." 

These professors have no distinct mental image 
of the " dark lady " or of Cleopatra, or they would 
never talk of " daring conjecture " in regard to this 
simple identification. The points of likeness are 
numberless. Ninety-nine poets and dramatists out 
of a hundred would have followed Plutarch and made 
Cleopatra's love for Antony the mainspring of her 
being, the causa causans of her self-murder. But 
Shakespeare does not do this ; he allows the love of 
Antony to count with her, but it is imperious pride 
and hatred of degradation that force his Cleopatra 
to embrace the Arch-fear. And just this same 
quality of pride is attributed to the " dark lady." 
Sonnet 131 begins : 

318 



Antony and Cleopatra 

" Thou art as tyrannous, so as thou art. 
As those whose beauties proudly make them cruel." 

Both are women of Infinite cunning and small 
regard for faith or truth ; hearts steeled with an in- 
sane pride, and violent tempers suited with scold- 
ing slanderous tongues. Prolonged analysis is not 
needed. A point of seeming difference between them 
establishes their identity. Cleopatra is beautiful, 
'^ a lass unparalleled," as Charmian calls her, and 
accordingly we can believe that all emotions became 
her, and that v,^hen hopping on the street or pre- 
tending to die she was alike bewitching ; beauty has 
this magic. But how can all things become a Avoman 
who is not beautiful, whose face some say " hath not 
the power to make love groan," who cannot even 
blind the senses with desire? And yet the "dark 
lady " of the sonnets who is thus described, has the 
" powerful might " of personality in as full meas- 
ure as Egypt's queen. The point of seeming unlike- 
ness is as convincing as any likeness could be ; the 
peculiarities of both women are the same and spring 
from the same dominant quality. Cleopatra is cun- 
ning, wily, faithless, passionately unrestrained in 
speech and proud as Lucifer, and so is the sonnet- 
heroine. We may be sure that the faithlessness, 
scolding, and mad vanity of his mistress were de- 
fects in Shakespeare's eyes as in ours ; these, indeed, 
were " the things ill " which nevertheless became her. 
What Shakespeare loved in her was what he himself 
lacked or possessed in lesser degree — that daemonic 
power of personality which he makes Enobarbus 
praise in Cleopatra and vfhich he praises directly in 
the sonnet-heroine. Enobarbus says of Cleopatra: 

** I saw her once 
Hop forty paces through the public street, 

319 



The Man Shakespeare 

Andj having lost her breath, she spoke and panted. 
That she did make defect perfection, 
And, breathless, power breathe forth." 

One would be willing to wager that Shakespeare 
is here recalling a performance of his mistress ; but 
it is enough for mj purpose now to draw attention 
to the unexpectedness of the attribute " power." 
The sonnet fastens on the same word: 

" O, from what power hast thou this powerful might 
With insufficiency my heart to sway ? " 

In the same sonnet he again dwells upon her 
" strength " : she v/as bold, too, to unreason, and of 
unbridled tongue, for, " twice forsworn herself," she 
had yet urged his " amiss," though guilty of the 
same fault. What he admired most in her was force 
of character. Perhaps the old saying held in her 
case: ex forti dulcedo; perhaps her confident 
strength had abandonments more flat'cering and 
complete than those of weaker women ; perhaps in 
those moments her forceful dark face took on a soul- 
ful beauty that entranced his exquisite susceptibil- 
ity; perhaps — but the suppositions are infinite. 

Though a lover and possessed by his mistress 
Shakespeare was still an artist. In the sonnets he 
brings out her overbearing will, boldness, pride — the 
'elemental force of her nature ; in the play, on the 
other hand, while just mentioning her " povi-er," he 
lays the chief stress upon the cunning wiles and 
faithlessness of her whose trade was love. But just 
as Cleopatra has power, so there can be no doubt 
of the wily cunning — " the warrantise of skill " — of 
the sonnet-heroine, and no doubt her faithlessness 
was that " just cause of hate " which Shakespeare 
bemoaned. 

S.€0 



Antony and Cleopatra 

It is worth while here to notice his perfect com- 
prehension of the powers and Hmits of the different 
forms of his art. Just as he has used the sonnets 
in order to portray certain intimate weaknesses and 
maladies of his own nature that he could not present 
dramatically without making his hero ridiculously 
effeminate, so also he used the sonnets to convey to 
us the domineering will and strength of his mistress 
— qualities which if presented dramatically would 
have seemed masculine-monstrous. 

By taking the sonnets and the play together we 
get an excellent portrait of Shakespeare's mistress. 
In person she was probably tall and vain of her 
height, as Cleopatra is vain of her superiority in 
this respect to Octavia, with dark complexion, black 
ej^ebrows and hair, and pitch-black eyes that mir- 
rored emotion as the lakelet mirrors the ever-chang- 
ing skies ; her cheeks are " damask'd white " ; her 
breath fragra.nt with health, her voice melodious, 
her movements full of dignity — a superb gipsy to 
whom beauty may be denied but not distinction. 

If we have a very good idea of her person we 
have a still better idea of her mind and soul. I 
must begin by stating that I do not accept impli- 
citly Shakespeare's angry declarations that his mis- 
tress ?was a mere strumpet. A nature of great 
strength and pride is seldom merel}^ wanton ; but the 
fact sta.nds that Shakespeare makes a definite charge 
of faithlessness against his mistress ; she is, he tells 
us, " the bay where all men ride " ; no " several plot," 
but " the wide world's common place." The accu- 
sation is most explicit. But if it were well founded 
why should he devote two sonnets (135 and 136) 
to imploring her to be as liberal as the sea and to 
receive his love-offering as well as the tributes of 
others ? 

321 



The Man Shakespeare 

"Among a number one is reckon'd none 
Then in the number let me pass untold." 

It is plain that Mistress Fitton drew away from 
Shakespeare after she had given herself to his 
friend, and this fact throws some doubt upon his 
accusations of utter wantonness. A true " daughter 
of the game," as he says in " Troilus and Cressida," 
is nothing but " a sluttish spoil of opportunity " 
who falls to Troilus or to Diomedes in turn, know- 
ing no reserve. It must be reckoned to the credit of 
Mary Fitton, or to her pride, that she appears to 
liaA^e been faithful to her lover for the time being, 
and able to resist even the solicitings of Shakespeare. 
But her desires seem to have been her sole restraint, 
and therefore we must add an extraordinary lewd- 
ness to that strength, pride, and passionate temper 
which Shakespeare again and again attributes to 
her. Her boldness is so reckless that she shows her 
love for his friend even before Shakespeare's face ; 
she knows no pity in her passion, and always de- 
fends herself by attacking her accuser. But she is 
cunning in love's w^ays and dulls Shakespeare's re- 
sentment v/ith " I don't hate you." Unwilling, per- 
haps, to lose her empire over him and to forego the 
sweetness of his honeyed flatteries, she blinded him 
to her faults by occasional caresses. Yet this crea- 
ture, with the soul of a strumpet, the tongue of a 
fishwife and the " proud heart " of a queen, was the 
crown and flower of womanhood to Shakespeare, his 
counterpart and ideal. Hamlet in love with Cleo- 
patra, the poet lost in desire of the wanton — that 
is the tragedy of Shakespeare's life. 

In this wonderful world of ours dramatic writers 
are sure to live dramatic lives. Again and again 
in his disgrace Antony cries : 



Antony and Cleopatra 
"Whither hast thou led me, Egypt?*' , 

Shakespeare's passion for Mary Fitton led him 
to shame and madness and despair ; his strength 
broke down under the strain and he never won 
back again to health. He paid the price of passion 
with his very blood. It is Shakespeare and not 
Antony who groans : 

** O this false soul of Egypt ! this grave charm, — 

Like a right gipsy, hath, at fast and loose, 
Beguil'd me to the very heart of loss." 

Shakespeare's love for Mary Fitton is to me one 
of the typical tragedies of life — a sjaiibol for ever. 
In its progi^ess through the world genius is inevit- 
ably scourged and crowned with thorns and done 
to death; inevitably, I say, for the vast majority 
of men hate and despise what is superior to them : 
Don Quixote, too, was trodden into the mire by the 
swine. But the worst of it is that genius suffers 
also through its own excess ; is bound, so to speak, 
to the stake of its own passionate sensibilities, and 
consumed, as with fire. 



32S 



CHAPTER XI 

THE DEAMA OF MADNESS : " LEAH " 

EVER since Lessing and Goethe it has been 
the fashion to praise Shakespeare as a demi- 
god; whatever he wrote is taken to be the rose 
of perfection. This senseless hero-worship, which 
reached idolatry in the superlatives of the " Ency- 
clopaedia Britannica " and elsewhere in England, 
was certain to provoke reaction, and the reaction 
has come to vigorous expression in Tolstoi, who 
finds nothing to praise in any of Shakespeare's 
works, and everything to blame in most of them, 
especially in " Lear." Lamb and Coleridge, on the 
other hand, have praised " Lear " as a world's mas- 
terpiece. Lamb says of it: 

" While we read it, we see not Lear ; but we are Lear, 
— ^we are in his mind, we are sustained by a grandeur 
which baffles the malice of daughters and storms; in the 
aberrations of his reason we discover a mighty irregular 
power of reasoning, immethodised from the ordinary 
purposes of life, but exerting its powers, as the wind 
bloweth where it listeth, at will upon the corruptions and 
abuses of mankind." 

Coleridge calls " Lear," " the open and ample 
playground of Nature's passions." 

These dithyrambs show rather the lyrical power 
of the writers than the thing described. 

Tolstoi, on the other hand, keeps his eyes on the 

324 



Drama of Madness: Lear 

object, and sets himself to describe the story of 
" Lear " " as impartially as possible." He says of 
the first scene: 

" Not to mention the pompons, characterless lan- 
guage of King Lear, the same in which all Shake- 
speare's kings speak, the reader or spectator cannot 
conceive that a king, however old and stupid he may 
be, could believe the words of the vicious daughters 
with whom he had passed his whole life, and not be- 
lieve his favourite daughter, but curse and banish her; 
and therefore, the spectator or reader cannot share the 
feelings of the persons participating in this unnatural 
scene." 

He goes on to condemn the scene between 
Gloucester and his sons in the same way. The 
second act he describes as " absurdly foolish." The 
third act is " spoiled, by the characteristic Shake- 
spearean language." The fourth act is " marred in 
the making," and of the fifth act, he says : " Again 
begin Lear's awful ravings, at which one feels 
ashamed, as at unsuccessful jokes." He sums up in 
these words : 

" Such is this celebrated drama. However absurd it 
may appear in my rendering (which I have endeav- 
oured to make as impartial as possible), I msij con- 
fidently say that in the original it is yet more absurd. 
For any man of our time — if he v/ere not under the 
hypnotic suggestion that this drama is the height of 
perfection — it would be enough to read it to its end 
(were he to have sufficient patience for this) in order 
to be convinced that, far from being the height of per- 
fection, it is a very bad, carelessly-composed produc- 
tion, which, if it could have been of interest to a cer- 
tain public at a certain time, cannot evoke amongst us 
anything but aversion and weariness. Every reader 

325 



The Man Shakespeare 

of our time who is free from the influence of sugges- 
tion will also receive exactly the same impression from 
all the other extolled dramas of Shakespeare, not to 
mention the senseless dramatized tales, ' Pericles/ 
* Twelfth Night; * The Tempest/ * Cymbeline/ and 
' Troilus and Cressida.' " 



Every one must admit, I think, that what Tolstoi 
has said of the hypothesis of the play is justified. 
Shakespeare, as I have shown, was nearly always 
an indifferent playwright, careless of the architec- 
tural construction of his pieces, contemptuous of 
stage-craft. So much had already been said in 
England, if not with the authority of Tolstoi. 

It may be conceded, too, that the language which 
Shakespeare puts into Lear's mouth in the first act is 
" characterless and pompous," even silly ; but 
Tolstoi should have noticed that as soon as Lear 
realises the ingratitude of his daughters, his lan- 
guage becomes more and more simple and pathetic. 
Shakespeare's kings usually rant and mouth when 
first introduced; he appears to have thought that 
pomp of speech went with rojral robes ; but as soon 
as the action is engaged even his monarchs speak 
naturally. 

The truth is, that just as the iambics of Greek 
drama were lifted above ordinary conversation, so 
Shakespeare's language, being the language mainly 
of poetic and romantic drama, is a little more 
measured and, if you will, more pompous than the 
small talk of everyday life, which seems to us, accus- 
tomed as we are to prose plays, more natural. 
Shakespeare, however, in his blank verse, reaches 
heights which are not often reached by prose, and 
when he pleases, his verse becomes as natural-easy 
as any prose, even that of Tolstoi himself. 



Drama of Madness: Lear 

Tolstoi finds everything Lear says " pompous," 
" artificial," " unnatural," but Lear's words : 

*' Pray do not mock me_, 
I am a very foolish-fond old man 
Fourscore and upward^ not an hour more nor less, 
And, to deal plainly 
I fear I am not in my perfect mind/* 

touch us poignantly, just because of their childish 
simplicity ; we feel as if Lear, in them, had reached 
the heart of pathos. Tolstoi, I am afraid, has 
missed all the poetry of Lear, all the deathless 
phrases. Lear says: 

** I am a man. 
More sinn'd against than sinning," 

and the new-coined phrase passed at once into the 
general currency. Who, too, can ever forget his 
description of the poor.^ 

** Poor naked wretches, wheresoever you are, 
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm. 
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides. 
Your looped and windowed raggedness, defend you 
From seasons such as these ? " 

The like of that " looped and windowed ragged- 
ness " is hardly to be found in any other literature. 
Li the fourth and fifth acts Lear's speech is sim- 
plicity itself, and even in that third act which Tol- 
stoi condemns as " incredibly pompous and arti- 
ficial," we find him talking naturally : 

"Ha! here's three on's are sophisticated: thou art 
the thing itself, unaccommodated man is no more but 
such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art." 

327 



The Man Shakespeare 

There is still another reason why some of us can- 
not read " Lear " with the cold eyes of reason, 
contemptuously critical. " Lear " marks a stage in 
Shakespeare's agony. We who know the happy 
ingenuousness of his youth undimmed by doubts 
of man or .suspicions of woman, cannot help sym- 
pathizing with him when we see him cheated and 
betrayed, drinking the bitter cup of disillusion to 
the dregs. In " Lear " the angry brooding leads to 
madness ; and it is only fitting that the keynote of 
the tragedy, struck again and again, should be the 
cry: 

" O^ let me not he mad, not mad, sweet Heaven ! 
Keep me in temper: I would not be mad." 

" Lear " is the first attempt in all literature to 
paint madness, and not the worst attempt. 

In " Lear," Shakespeare was intent only on 
expressing his own disillusion and naked misery. 
How blind Lear must have been, says Tolstoi ; how 
incredibly foolish not to know his daughters better 
after living with them for twenty years ; but this is 
just what Shakespeare wishes to express: How blind 
I was, he cries to us, how inconceivably trusting and 
foolish! How could I have imagined that a young 
noble would be grateful, or a wanton true ? " Lear " 
is a page of Shakespeare's autobiography, and the 
faults of it are the stains of his blistering tears. 

" Lear " is badly constructed, but worse was to 
follow. The next tragedy, " Timon," is merely a 
scream of pain, and yet it, too, has a deeper than 
artistic interest for us as marking the utmost limit 
of Shakespeare's suffering. The mortal malady of 
perhaps the finest spirit that has ever appeared 

328 



Drama of Madness: Lear 

among men has an interest for us profounder than 
any tragedy. And to find that in Shakespeare's 
agony and bloody sweat he ignores the rules of 
artistry is simply what might have been expected, 
and, to some of us, deepens the personal interest in 
the drama. 

In " Lear " Edgar is peculiarly Shakespeare's 
mouthpiece, and to Edgar Shakespeare gives some 
of the finest words he ever coined: 

*' The gods are just^ and of our pleasant vices 
Make instruments to plague us." 

Here, too, in what Edgar says of himself, is the 
moral of all passion: it is manifestly Shakespeare's 
view of himself: 

** A most poor man, made tame to Fortune's blows. 
Who by the art of knowing and feeling sorrows 
Am pregnant to good pity." 

Then we find the supreme phrase — perhaps the 
finest ever written: 

** Men must endure 
Their going hence even as their coming hither. 
Ripeness is all." 

Of course Shakespeare speaks through Lear in 
the last acts as plainly as through Edgar. Li the 
third scene of the fifth act Lear talks to Cordelia in 
the very words Shakespeare gave to the saint Henry 
VL at the beginning of his career. Compare the 
extracts on pages 117-8 with the following passage 
and you will see the similarity and the astonishing 
growth in his art: 

329 



The Man Shakespeare 

"Lear. Come, let's away to prison; 

We two alone will sing like birds i' the cage: 
When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down 
And ask of thee forgiveness; so we'll live 
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh 
At gilded butterflies and hear poor rogues 
Talk of Court news. . . ." 

More characteristic still of Shakespeare is the 
fact that when Lear is at his bitterest in the fourth 
act, he shows the erotic mania which is the source 
of all Shakespeare's bitterness and misery ; but which 
is utterly out of place in Lear. The reader will 
note how " adultery " is dragged in : 

"Ay, every inch a King, 
When I do stare see how the subject quakes. 
I pardon that man's life. What was thy cause? 
Adultery ? 

Thou shalt not die: die for adultery ! No: 
The wren goes to't, and the small gilded fly 
Does lecher in my sight. 
Let copulation thrive; . . . 

• ■ • • • 

Down from the waist they are Centaurs, 
Though women all above; 
But to the girdle do the gods inherit. 
Beneath is all the fiends' . . ." 

Thus Lear raves for a whole page: Shakespeare 
on his favourite hobby: in the same erotic spirit he 
makes both Goneril and Regan lust after Edmund. 

The note of this tragedy is Shakespeare's under- 
standing of his insane blind trust in men ; but 
the passion of it springs from erotic mania and from 
the consciousness that he is too old for love's lists. 
Perhaps his imagination never carried h^m higher 

330 



Drama of Madness: Lear 

than when Lear appeals to the heavens because they 

too are old: 

" . . , O heavens, 
If you do love old men, if your sweet sway 
Allow obedience, if yourselves are old. 
Make it your cause." 



331 



CHAPTER XII 

THE DRAMA OF DESPAIR : '' TIMON OF ATHENS " 



tt 



TIMON " marks the extremity of Shakespeare's 
suffering. It is not to be called a work of 
art, it is hardly even a tragedy; it is the causeless 
ruin of a soul, a ruin insufficiently motived by com- 
plete trust in men and spendthrift generosity. If 
there was ever a man who gave so lavishly as Timon, 
if there was ever one so senseless blind in trusting, 
then he deserved his fate. There is no gradation 
in his giving, and none in his fall; no artistic cres- 
cendo. The whole drama is, as I have said, a 
scream of suffering, or rather, a long curse upon all 
the ordinary conditions of life. The highest quali- 
ties of Shakespeare are not to be found in the play. 
There are none of the magnificent phrases which 
be jewel "Lear"; little of high wisdom, even in the 
pages which are indubitably Shakespeare's, and no 
characterization worth mentioning. The honest 
steward, Flavius, is the honest Kent again of 
'' Lear," honest and loyal beyond nature ; Apemantus 
is another Thersites. Words which throw a high 
light on Shakespeare's character are given to this 
or that personage of the play without discrimina- 
tion. One phrase of Apemantus is as true of Shake- 
speare as of Timon and is worth noting: 

" The middle of humanity thou never knewest, but 
the extremity of both ends." 

Tlie tragic sonnet-note is given to Flavius: 

332 



Drama of Despair: Timon of Athens 

" What viler thing upon the earth than friends 
Who can bring noblest minds to basest ends ! ** 

In so far as Timon Is a character at all he is 
manifestly Shakespeare, Shakespeare who raves 
against the world, because he finds no honesty in 
men, no virtue in women, evil everywhere — " bound- 
less thefts in limited professions." This Shake- 
speare- Timon swings round characteristically as 
soon as he finds that Flavius is honest : 

** Had I a steward 
So true, so just, and now so comfortable? 
It almost turns my dangerous nature mild. 
Let me behold thy face. Surely this man 
Was born of woman. 

Forgive my general and exceptless rasTiness, 
You perpetual- sober gods! I do proclaim 
One honest man — ^mistake me not — ^but one.*' . . . 

I cannot help putting the great and self -revealing 
line ^ in italics ; a line Tolstoi would, no doubt, think 
pompous. Timon ought to have known his .steward, 
one might say in Tolstoi's spirit, as Lear should 
have known his daughters ; but this is still the 
tragedy, which Shakespeare wishes to emphasize, 
that his hero was blind in trusting. 

Towards the end Shakespeare speaks through 
Timon quite unfeignedly. Richard 11. said charac- 
teristically : 

" Nor I nor any man that but man is 
With nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased 
With being nothing." 

And Timon says to Flavius: 

1 This passage is among those rejected by the commenta- 
tors as un-Shakespearean: " It does not stand the test," 
says the egregious GoUancz. 

333 



The Man Shakespeare 

" My long sickness 
Of health and living now begins to mend 
And nothing brings me all things." 

Then the end: 

" Timon hath made his everlasting mansion 
Upon the beached verge of the salt flood . . ." 

We must not leave this play before noticing the 
overpowering erotic strain in Shakespeare which 
suits Timon as little as it suited Lear. The long 
discussion with Phrynia and Timandra is simply 
dragged in : neither woman is characterized : Shake- 
speare-Timon eases himself in pages of erotic rav- 
ing: 

..." Strike me the counterfeit matron ; 

It is her habit only that is honest, 

Herself's a bawd. . . .'* 

And then: 

" Consumptions sow 

In hollow bones of man 

Down with the nose, 

Down with it flat ; take the bridge quite away." 

The " damned earth " even is the common whore 
of mankind. 

" Timon " is the true sequel to " The Merchant of 
Venice." Antonio gives lavishly, but is saved at 
the crisis by his friends. Timon gives with both 
hands ; but when he appeals to his friends, is treated 
as a bore. Shakespeare had travelled far in the 
dozen years which separate the two plays. 

All Shakespeare's tragedies are phases of his own 
various weaknesses, and each one brings the hero to 
defeat and ruin. Hamlet cannot carry revenge to 

334., 



Drama of Despair: Timon of Athens 

murder and fails through his own irresolution. 
Othello comes to grief through mad jealousy. 
Antony fails and falls through excess of lust ; Lear 
through trust in men, and Timon through heedless 
generosity. All these are separate studies of Shake- 
speare's own weaknesses ; but the ruin is irretrievable, 
and reaches its ultimate in Timon. Trust and 
generosity, Shakespeare w^ould like to tell us, were 
his supremest faults. In this^ he deceived himself. 
Neither " Lear " nor " Timon " is his greatest 
tragedy ; but " Antony and Cleopatra," for lust was 
his chief weakness, and the tragedy of lust his 
greatest play. 

Much of " Timon " is not Shakespeare's, the 
critics tell us, and some of it is manifestly not his, 
though many of the passages rejected with the best 
reason have, I think, been touched up by him. The 
second scene of the first act is as bad as bad can be ; 
but I hear his voice in the line: 

" Methinks^ I could deal kingdoms to my friends. 
And ne'er be weary." 

At any rate, this is the keynote of the tragedy, 
which is struck again and again. Shakespeare 
probably exaggerated his own generosity out of 
aristocratic pose ; but that he v/as careless of money 
and freehanded to a fault, is, I think, certain from 
his writings, and can be proved from the facts known 
to us of his life. 



334i 



CHAPTER XIII 

Shakespeare's last romances: all copies 

" Winter's Tale "; " Cymheline ": " The Tempest " 

THE wheel has swung full circle: Timon is 
almost as weak as " Titus Andronicus " ; the 
pen falls from the nerveless hand. Shakespeare 
wrote nothing for some time. Even the critics 
make a break after " Timon," which closes what they 
are pleased to call his third period ; but they do 
not seem to see that the break was really a break- 
down in health. In " Lear " he had brooded and 
raged to madness ; in " Timon " he had spent him- 
self in futile, feeble cursings. His nerves had gone 
to pieces. He was now forty-five years of age, the 
forces of youth and growth had left him. He was 
prematurely old and feeble. 

His recovery, it seems certain, was very slow, and 
he never again, if I am right, regained vigorous 
health. I am almost certain he went down to Strat- 
ford at this crisis and spent some time there, prob- 
ably a couple of years, trying, no doubt, to staunch 
the wound in his heart, and win back again to life. 
The fear of madness had frightened him from brood- 
ing: he made up his mind to let the dead past bury 
its dead ; he would try to forget and live sanely. 
After all, life is better than death. 

It was probably his daughter who led him back 
from the brink of the grave. Almost all his latest 
works show the same figure of a young girl. He 

336 



The Last Romances 

seems now, for the first time, to have learned that 
a maiden can be pure, and in his old idealizing way 
which went with him to the end, he deified her. 
Judith became a symbol to him, and he lent her 
the ethereal grace of abstract beauty. In " Per- 
icles " she is Marina ; in " The Winter's Tale " Per- 
dita ; in " The Tempest " Miranda. It is probable, 
when one comes to think of it, that Ward was right 
when he says that Shakespeare spent his " elder 
years " in Stratford ; he was too broken to have 
taken up his life in London again. 

The assertion that Shakespeare broke down in 
health, and never won back to vigorous life, will be 
scorned as my imagining. The critics who have 
agreed to regard " Cymbeline," " The Winter's 
Tale," and " The Tempest " as his finest works are 
all against me on this point, and they will call for 
" Proofs, proofs. Give us proofs," they will cry, 
" that the man who went mad and raved with Lear, 
and screamed and cursed in ' Timon ' did really 
break down, and was not imagining madness and 
despair." The proofs are to be found in these works 
themselves, plain for all men to read. 

The three chief works of his last period are 
romances and are all copies ; he was too tired to 
invent or even to annex; his own story is the only 
one that interests him. The plot of " The Winter's 
Tale " is the plot of " Much Ado about Nothing." 
Hero is Hermione. Another phase of " Much Ado 
About Nothing " is written out at length in " Cym- 
beline " ; Imogen suffers like Hero and Hermione, 
under unfounded accusation. It is Shakespeare's 
own history turned from this world to fairyland: 
what would have happened, he asks, if the woman 
whom I believed false, had been true? This, the 
theme of " Much Ado," is the theme also of " The 

337 



The Man Shakespeare 

Winter's Tale " and of " Cymbeline." The idealism 
of the man is inveterate: he will not see that it was 
his own sensuality which gave him up to suffering, 
and not Mary Fitton's faithlessness. " The Tem- 
pest " is the story of " As you Like it." We have 
again the two dukes, the exiled good Duke, who 
is Shakespeare, and the bad usurping Duke, Shake- 
speare's rival. Chapman, who has conquered for a 
time. Shakespeare is no longer able or willing to 
discover a new play: he can only copy himself, and 
in one of the scenes which he wrote into " Henry 
VIII." the copy is slavish. 

I allude to the third scene in the second act; the 
dialogue between Anne Bullen and the Old Lady 
is extraordinarily reminiscent. When Anne Bullen 
says — 

** *Tis better to be lowly born, 
And range with humble livers in content. 
Than to be perk'd up in a glistening grief 
And wear a golden sorrow " 

I am reminded of Henry VI. And the contention 
between Anne Bullen and the Old Lady, in which 
Anne Bullen declares that she would not be a 
queen, and the Old Lady scorns her: 

" Beshrew me, I would. 
And venture maidenhead for't; and so would you. 
For all this spice of your hypocrisy." 

is much the same contention, and is handled in the 
same way as the contention between Desdemona 
and Emilia in " Othello." 

There are many other proofs of Shakespeare's 
weakness of hand throughout this last period, if 
further proofs were needed. The chief character- 

338 



The Last Romances 

istics of Shakespeare's health p.re his humour, his 
gaiety, and wit — his love of life. A correlative 
characteristic is that all his women are sensuous 
and indulge in coarse expressions in and out of 
season. This is said to be a fault of his time; but 
only professors could use an argument which shows 
such ignorance of life. Homer was clean enough, 
and Sophocles, Spenser, too; sensuality is a quality 
of the individual man. Still another characteristic 
of Shakespeare's maturity is that his characters, in 
spite of being idealized, live for us a vigorous, 
pulsing life. 

All these characteristics are lacking in the works 
after " Timon." There is practically no humour, no 
wit, the clowns even are merely boorish-stupid with 
the solitary exception of Autolycus, who is a pale 
reflex of one or two characteristics of Falstaff. 
Shakespeare's humour has disappeared, or is so faint 
as scarcely to be called humour ; all the heroines, 
too, are now vowed away from sensuality : Marina 
passes through the brothel unsoiled ; Perdita might 
have milk in her veins, and not blood, and Miranda 
is but another name for Perdita. Imogen, too, has 
no trace of natural passion in her: she is a mere 
washing-list, so to speak, of sexless perfections. In 
this last period Shakespeare will have nothing to 
do with sensuality, and his characters, and not the 
female characters alone, are hardly more than 
abstractions ; they lack the blood of emotion ; there 
is not one of them could cast a shadow. How is it 
that the critics have mistaken these pale, bloodless 
silhouettes for Shakespeare's masterpieces.'^ 

In his earliest works he was compelled, as we have 
seen, to use his own experiences perpetually, not 
having had any experience of life, and in these, his 
latest plays, he also uses when he can his own 

339 



The Man Shakespeare 

experiences to give his pictures of the world from 
which he had withdrawn, some sense of vivid life. 
For example, in " The Winter's Tale " his account of 
the death of the boy Mamillius is evidently a reflex 
of his own emotion when he lost his son, Hamnet, 
an emotion which at the time he pictured deathlessly 
in Arthur and the grief of the Queen-mother, Con- 
stance. Similarly, in " Cymbeline," the joy of the 
brothers in finding the sister is an echo of his own 
pleasure in getting to know his daughter. 

I have an idea about the genesis of these last 
three plays as regards their order which may be 
wholly false, though true, I am sure, to Shake- 
speare's character. I imagine he was asked by the 
author to touch up " Pericles." On reading the 
play, he saw the opportunity of giving expression 
to the new emotion which had been awakened in 
him by the serious sweet charm of his young 
daughter, and accordingly he wrote the scenes in 
which Marina figures. Judith's modesty was a per- 
petual wonder to him. 

His success induced him to sketch out " The 
Winter's Tale," in which tale he played sadly with 
what might have been if his accused love, Mary 
Fitton, had been guiltless instead of guilty. I 
imagine he saw that the play was not a success, or, 
supreme critic as he was, that his hand had grown 
weak, and seeking for the cause he probably came 
to the conclusion that the comparative failure was 
due to the fact that he did not put himself into 
" The Winter's Tale," and so he determined in the 
next play to draw a full-length portrait of himself 
again, as he had done in " Hamlet," and accord- 
ingly he sketched Posthumus, a staider, older, 
idealized Hamlet, with lymph in his veins, instead 
of blood. In the same idealizing spirit, he pictured 

340 



The Last Romances 

his rose of womanhood for us in Imogen, who is, 
however, not a living woman at all, any more than 
his earliest ideal, Juliet, was a woman. The con- 
trast between these two sketches is the contrast 
between Shakespeare's strength and his weakness. 
Here is how the fourteen-year-old Juliet talks of 
love: 

" Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night, 
That runaways' eyes may wink, and Romeo 
Leap to these arms, untalk'd of and unseen. 
Lovers can see to do their amorous rites 
By their own beauties.'' 

And here what Posthumus says of Imogen: 

*' Me of my lawful pleasure she restrain'd. 
And pray'd me oft forbearance; did it with 
A pudency so rosy, the sweet view on't 
Might well have warmed old Saturn." 

When Shakespeare praises restraint in love he 
must have been very weak ; in full manhood he prayed 
for excess of it, and regarded a surfeit as the only 
rational cure. 

I think Shakespeare liked Posthumus and Imo- 
gen ; but he could not have thought " Cymbeline " 
a great work, and so he pulled himself together 
for a masterpiece. He seems to have said to him- 
self, " All that fighting of Posthumus is wrong ; 
men do not fight at forty-eight ; I will paint myself 
simply in the qualities I possess now; I will tell 
the truth about myself so far as I can." The result 
is the portrait of Prospero in " The Tempest." 

Let me just say before I begin to study Prospero 
that I find the introduction of the Masque in the 
fourth act extraordinarily interesting. Ben Jonson 

341 



The Man Shakespeare 

had written classic masques for this and that occa- 
sion ; masques which were very successful, we are 
told ; they had " caught on," in fact, to use our 
modern slang. Shakespeare will now show us that 
he, too, can write a masque with classic deities in 
it, and better Jonson's example. It is pitiful, and 
goes to prove, I think, that Shakespeare was but 
little esteemed by his generation. 

Jonson answered him conceitedly, as Jonson 
would, in the Introduction to his " Bartholomew 
Fair" (1612-14), " If there be never a Servant 
monster i' the Fayre, who can help it, he sayes ; nor 
a nest of Antiques. He is loth to make nature afraid 
in his PlayeSy like those that beget Tales, Tempests, 
and such like Drolleries J'^ 

At the very end, the creator of Hamlet, the finest 
mind in the world, was eager to show that he could 
write as well in any style as the author of " Every 
Man in his Humour." To me the bare fact is full 
of interest, and most pitiful. 

Let us now turn to " The Tempest," and see how 
our poet figures in it. It is Shakespeare's last work, 
and one of his very greatest ; his testament to the 
English people ; in wisdom and high poetry a 
miracle. 

The portrait of Shakespeare we get in Prospero 
is astonishingly faithful and ingenuous, in spite of 
its idealization. His life's day is waning to the end, 
and shadows of the night are drawing in upon him, 
yet he is still the same bookish, melancholy student, 
the lover of all courtesies and generosities, whom we 
met first as Biron in " Love's Labour's Lost." The 
gaiety is gone and the sensuality ; the spiritual out- 
look is infinitely sadder — that is what the years have 
done with our gentle Shakespeare. 

Prospero's first appearance in the second scene 

342 



The Last Romances 

of the first act is as a loving father and magician; 
he says to Miranda: 

" I have done nothing but in care of thee, 
Of thee^ my dear one! thee, my daughter." 

He asks Miranda what she can remember of her 
early life, and reaches magical words: 

*' What seest thou else 
In the dark backward and abysm of time ? " 

Miranda is only fifteen years of age. Shakespeare 
turned Juliet, it will be remembered, from a girl of 
sixteen into one of fourteen ; now, though the sen- 
suality has left him, he makes Miranda only fifteen; 
clearly he is the same admirer of girlish youth at 
forty-eight as he was twenty years before. Then 
Prospero tells Miranda of himself and his brother, 
the " perfidious " Duke : 

** And Prospero, the prime Duke, being so reputed 
In dignity, and for the liberal arts 
Without a parallel; those being all my study." 



He will not only be a Prince now, but a master 
" without a parallel " in the liberal arts. He must 
explain, too, at undue length, how he allowed him- 
self to be supplanted by his false brother, and speaks 
about himself in Shakespeare's very words: 

" I thus neglecting worldly ends, all dedicate 
To closeness, and the bettering of my mind 
With that, which, but by being so retired, 
O'erprized all popular rate, in my false brother 
Awaked an evil nature: and my trust. 
Like a good parent, did beget of him, 
A falsehood, in its contrary as great 
As my trust was; which had, indeed, no limit, 
A confidence sans bound." 

343 



[The ^Man Shakespeare 

Shakespeare, too, " neglecting worldly ends," had 
dedicated himself to " bettering of his mind," we 
may be sure. Prospero goes on to tell us explicitly 
how Shakespeare loved books, which we were only 
able to infer from his earlier plays : 

" Me, poor man, my library 
Was dukedom large enough." 

And again, Gonzalo (another name for Kent and 
Flavius) having given him some books, he says : 

" Of his gentleness. 
Knowing I loved my books, he furnished me 
From my own library, with volumes that 
I prize above my dukedom." 



From my own library, with 
I prize above my dukedom. 



His daughter grieves lest she had been a trouble 
to him: forthwith Shakespeare-Prospero answers: 

" O, a cherubim 
Thou wast, that did preserve me. Thou didst smile 
Infused with a fortitude from heaven. 
When I have deck'd the sea with drops full salt 
Under my burden groan'd; which raised in me 
An undergoing stomach, to bear up 
Against what should ensue." 

But why should the magician weep or groan under 
a burden.'^ had he no confidence in his miraculous 
powers? All this is Shakespeare's confession. 
Every word is true ; his daughter did indeed " pre- 
serve " Shakespeare, and enable him to bear up 
under the burden of life's betrayals. 

No wonder Prospero begins to apologize for this 
long-winded confession, which indeed is " most imper- 
tinent " to the play, as he admits, though most 
interesting to him and to us, for he is simply 



The Last Romances 

Shakespeare telling us his own feelings at the time. 
The gentle magician then hears from Ariel how the 
shipwreck has been conducted without harming a 
hair of anyone. 

The whole scene is an extraordinarily faithful 
and detailed picture of Shakespeare's soul. I 
find significance even in the fact that Ariel wants 
his freedom " a full year " before the term Prosper© 
had originally proposed. Shakespeare finished 
" The Tempest," I believe, and therewith set the 
seal on his life's work a full year earlier than he 
had intended; he feared lest death might surprise 
him before he had put the pinnacle on his work. 
Ariel's torment, too, is full of meaning for me; for 
Ariel is Shakespeare's " shaping spirit of imagina- 
tion," who was once the slave of " a foul witch," 
and by her " imprisoned painfully " for " a dozen 
years." 

That " dozen years " is to me astonishingly true 
and interesting; it shows that my reading of the 
duration of his passion-torture was absolutely cor- 
rect — Shakespeare's " delicate spirit " and best 
powers bound to Mary Fitton's " earthy " service 
from 1597 to 1608. 

We can perhaps fix this latter date with some as- 
surance. Mistress Fitton married for the second 
time a Captain or Mr. Polwhele late in 1607, or 
some short time before March, 1608, when the fact 
of her recent marriage is mentioned in the will of 
her great-uncle. It seems to me probable, or at 
least possible, that this event marks her complete 
separation from Shakespeare; she may very hkely 
have left the Court and London on ceasing to be a 
Maid of Honour. 

Shakespeare is so filled with himself in this last 
play, so certain that he is the most important per- 

345 



The Man Shakespeare 

son in the world, that this scene is more charged 
with intimate self-revealing than any other in all 
his works. And when Ferdinand comes upon the 
stage Shakespeare lends him, too, his own peculiar 
qualities. His puppets no longer interest him ; he 
is careless of characterization. Ferdinand says: 

" This music crept by me upon the waters 
Allaying both their fury and my passion 
With its sweet air." 

Music, it will be remembered, had precisely the 
same peculiar effect upon Duke Orsino in " Twelfth 
Night." Ferdinand, too, is extraordinarily con- 
ceited : 

" I am the best of them that speak this speech. 
. . . Myself am Naples." 

Shakespeare's natural aristocratic pride as a Prince 
reinforced by his understanding of his own real 
importance. Ferdinand then declares that he will 
be content with a prison if he can see Miranda in it : 

" Space enough 
Have I in such a prison." 

Which is Hamlet's : 

" I could be bounded in a nutshell^ and count myself 
a king of infinite space." 

The second act, with its foiled conspiracy, is 
wretchedly bad, and the meeting of Caliban and 
Trinculo with Stephanio does not improve it much. 
Shakespeare has little interest now in anything out- 
side himself : age and greatness are as self-centred as 
youth. 

In the third act the courtship of Ferdinand and 
Miranda is pretty, but hardly more. Ferdinand is 

346 



The Last Romances 

bloodless, thin, and Miranda swears; " by her 
modesty," as the jewel in her dower, which takes 
away a little from the charming confession of girl- 
love: 

** I would not wish 
Any companion in the world but you." 

The comic relief which follows, is unspeakably 
dull; but the words of Ariel, warning the King of 
Naples and the usurping Duke that the wrong they 
have done Prospero is certain to be avenged unless 
blotted out by " heart-sorrow and a clear life ensu- 
ing," are most characteristic and memorable. 

In the fourth act Prospero preaches, as we have 
seen, self-restraint to Ferdinand in words which, in 
their very extravagance, show how deeply he 
regretted his own fault with his wife before mar- 
riage. I shall consider the whole passage when 
treating of Shakespeare's marriage as an incident 
in his life. Afterwards comes the masque, and the 
marvellous speech of Prospero, which touches the 
highest height of poetry: 

*' These our actors^ 
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and 
Are melted into air, into thin air: 
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision 
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces. 
The solemn temples, the great globe itself. 
Yea, all which it inhabit, shall dissolve 
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded. 
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff 
As dreams are made of; and our little life 
Is rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am vex'd; 
Bear with my weakness; my old brain is troubled: 
Be not disturb'd with my infirmity: 
If you be pleased, retire into my cell. 
And there repose: a turn or two I'll walk^ 
To still my beating mind." 

347 



The Man Shakespeare 

I have given the verses to the very end, for I 
find the insistence on his age and weakness (which 
are not in keeping with the character of a magician), 
a confession of Shakespeare himself: the words 
" beating mind " are extraordinarily characteristic, 
proving as they do that his thoughts and emotions 
were too strong for his frail body. 

In the fifth act Shakespeare-Prospero shows 
himself to us at his noblest : he will forgive his 
enemies : 

" Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the 
quick, 
Yet with my nobler reason 'gainst my fury 
Do I take part: the rarer action is 
In virtue than in vengeance: they being penitent. 
The sole drift of my purpose doth extend 
Not a frown further." 

In " The Two Gentlemen of Verona " we saw 
how Shakespeare-Valentine forgave his faithless 
friend as soon as he repented: here is the same creed 
touched to nobler expression. 

And then, with all his wishes satisfied, his heart's 
desire accomplished, Prospero is ready to set out 
for Milan again and home. We all expect .some 
expression of joy from him, but this is what we get: 

" And thence retire me to my Milan, where 
Every third thought shall be my grave." 

The despair is wholly unexpected and out of 
place, as was the story of his weakness and infirmity, 
his " beating mind." It is evidently Shakespeare's 
own confession. Aft@r writing " The Tempest " he 
intends to retire to Stratford, where " every third 
thought shall be my grave." 

348 



The Last Romances 

I have purposely drawn special attention to 
Shakespeare's weakness and despair at this time, 
because the sad, rhymed Epilogue which has to be 
spoken by Prospero has been attributed to another 
hand by a good many scholars. It is manifestly 
Shakespeare's, out of Shakespeare's very heart 
indeed; though Mr. Israel Gollancz follows his 
leaders in saying that the " Epilogue to the play 
is evidently by some other hand than Shake- 
speare's " : " evidently " is good. Here it is : 

** Now my charms are all o'erthrown. 
And what strength I have's mine own. 
Which is most faint: now, 'tis true, 
I must be here confined by you. 
Or sent to Naples. Let me not 
Since I have my dukedom got. 
And pardon'd the deceiver, dwell 
In this bare island by your spell; 
But release me from my bands 
With the help of your good hands: 
Gentle breath of yours my sails 
Must fill, or else my project fails. 
Which was to please. Now I want. 
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant; 
And my ending is despair. 
Unless I be relieved by prayer. 
Which pierces so that it assaults 
Mercy itself, and frees all faults. 
As you from crimes would pardon'd be 
Let your indulgence set me free." 

From youth to age Shakespeare occupied himself 
with the deepest problems of human existence; 
again and again we find him trying to pierce the 
darkness that enshrouds life. Is there indeed noth- 
ing beyond the grave — nothing? Is the noble fabric 
of human thought, achievement and endeavour to 

349 



The Man Shakespeare 

fade into nothingness and pass away like the 
pageant of a dream ? He will not cheat himself with 
unfounded hopes, nor delude hirnself into belief; he 
resigns himself with a sigh — it is the undiscovered 
country, from whose bourn no traveller returns. But 
Shakespeare always believed in repentance and for- 
giveness, and now, world-weary, old and weak, he 
turns to prayer,^ prayer that — 

" Assaults 
Mercy itself and frees all faults.'* 

Poor, broken Shakespeare ! " My ending is de- 
spair " : the sadness of it, and the pity, lie deeper 
than tears. 

What a man ! to produce a masterpiece in spite 
of such weakness. What a play is this " Tem- 
pest " ! At length Shakespeare sees himself as he 
is, a monarch without a country, but master of a very 
" potent art," a great magician, with imagination as 
an attendant spirit, that can conjure up shipwrecks, 
or enslave enemies, or create lovers at will ; and all 
his powers are used in gentle kindness. Ariel is 
a higher creation, more spiritual and charming than 
any other poet has ever attempted ; and Caliban, 
the earth-born, half-beast, half-man — these are the 
poles of Shakespeare's genius. 

1 Hamlet, too, after speaking with his father's ghost, 
cries: " I'll go pray.'* 



350 



CHAPTER XIV 



SHAKESPEARE S LIFE 



OUR long travail is almost at an end. We 
have watched Shakespeare painting himself 
at various periods of his life, and at full length in 
twenty dramas, as the gentle, sensuous poet-thinker. 
We have studied him when given over to wild 
passion in the sonnets and elsewhere, and to insane 
jealousy in "Othello"; we have seen him as Ham- 
let brooding on revenge and self-murder, and in 
" Lear," and " Timon " raging on the verge of 
madness, and in these ecstasies, when the soul is 
incapable of feigning, we have discovered his true 
nature as it differed from the ideal presentments 
which his vanity shaped and coloured. We have 
corrected his personal estimate by that " story of 
faults conceal'd " Avhich Shakespeare himself referred 
to in sonnet 88. It only remains for me now to give 
a brief account of his life and the incidents of it 
to show that my reading of his character is borne 
out by the known facts, and thus put the man in 
his proper setting, so to speak. 

On the other hand, our knowledge of Shake- 
speare's character v/ill help us to reconstruct his 
life-story. What is known positively of his life 
could be given in a couple of pages ; but there are 
traditions of him, tales about him, innumerable 
scraps of fact and fiction concerning him which 
are more or less interesting and authentic ; and 
now that we know the man, we shall be able to 

351 



'The Man Shakespeare 

accept or reject these reports with some degree of 
confidence, and so arrive at a credible picture of 
his life's journey, and the changes which Time 
wrought in him. In all I may say about him I 
shall keep close to the facts as given in his works. 
When tradition seems consonant with what Shake- 
speare has told us about himself, or with what Ben 
Jonson said of him, I shall use it with confidence. 

Shakespeare was a common name in Warwick- 
shire; other Shakespeares besides the poet's family 
were known there in the sixteenth century, and at 
least one other William Shakespea^re in the neigh- 
bourhood of Stratford. The poet's father, John 
Shakespeare, was of farmer stock, -and seems to 
have had an adventurous spirit : he left Snitterfield, 
his birthplace, as a young man, for the neighbour- 
ing town of Stratford, where he set up in business 
for himself. Aubrey says he was a butcher ; he cer- 
tainly dealt in meat, skins, and leather, as well as 
in com, wool, and malt — an adaptable, quick man, 
who turned his hand to anything — a Jack-of-all 
trades. He appears to have been successful at first, 
for in 1556, five years after coming to Stratford, he 
purchased two freehold tenements, one with a garden 
in Henley Street, and the other in Greenhill Street, 
with an orchard. In 156T he was elected burgess, 
or town councillor, and shortly afterwards did the 
best stroke of business in his life by marrying Mary 
Arden, v/hose father had been a substantial farmer. 
Mary inherited the fee simple of Asbies, a house with 
some fifty acres of land at Wilmcote, and an interest 
in property at Snitterfield; the whole perhaps worth 
some £80 or £90, or, say, £600 of our money. His 
marriage turned John Shakespeare into a well-to-do 
citizen ; he filled various offices in the borough, and 
in 1568 became a bailiif, the highest position in the 

352 



Shakespeare's Life 

corporation. During his year of office, we are told, 
he entertained two companies of actors at Stratford. 

Mary Arden seems to have been her father's 
favourite child, and though she could not sign her 
own name, must have possessed rare qualities ; for 
the poet, as we learn from " Coriolanus," held her 
in extraordinary esteem and affection, and mourned 
her after her death as " the noblest mother in the 
world." 

William Shakespeare, the first son and third child 
of this couple, was bom on the S2nd or 23rd April, 
1564,, no one knows which day ; the Stratford parish 
registers prove that he was baptized on 26th April. 
Alid if the date of his birth is not known, neither is 
the place of it ; his father owned two houses in Hen- 
ley Street, and it is uncertain which he was bom in. 

John Shakespeare had, fortunately, nothing to 
pay for the education of his sons. They had free 
tuition at the Grammar School at Stratford. The 
poet went to school when he was seven or eight 
years of age, and received an ordinary educa- 
tion together with some grounding in Latin. He 
probably spent most of his time at first making 
stories out of the frescoes on the walls. There 
can be no doubt that he learned easily all he was 
taught, and still less doubt that he was not taught 
much. He mastered Lyly's " Latin Grammar," and 
was taken through some conversation books like 
the " Sententiae Pueriles," and not much further, for 
he puts Latin phrases in the mouth of the school- 
masters, H'olofernes in " Love's Labour's Lost," and 
Hugh Evans in " The Merry Wives of Windsor," 
and all these phrases are taken word for word either 
from Lyly's Grammar or from the " Sententiae 
Pueriles." Li " Titus Andronicus," too, one of 
Tamora's sons, on reading a Latin couplet, says it 

353 



The Man Shakespeare 

is a verse of Horace, but he " read it in the gram- 
mar," which was probably the author's case. Ben 
Jonson's sneer was well-founded, Shakespeare had 
" little Latine and lesse Greeke." His French, as 
shown in his " Henry V.," was anything but good, 
and his Italian was probably still slighter. 

It Avas lucky for Shakespeare that his father's 
increasing poverty withdrew him from school early, 
and forced him into contact with life. Aubrey says 
that " when he was a boy he exercised his father's 
trade [of butcher] ; but when he kill'd a calfe he 
would doe it in high style and make a speech." I 
daresay young Will flourished about with a knife 
and made romantic speeches ; but I am pretty sure 
he never killed a calf. Killing a calf is not the 
easiest part of a butcher's business ; nor a task 
which Shakespeare at any time would have selected. 
The tradition is simply sufficient to prove that the 
town folk had already noticed the eager, quick, 
spouting lad. 

Of Shakespeare's life after he left school, say 
from thirteen to eighteen, we know almost nothin.s:^. 
He probably did odd jobs for his father from time 
to time ; but his father's business seems to have run 
rapidly from bad to worse; for in 1586 a creditor 
informed the local Court that John Shakespeare 
had no goods on which distraint could be levied, 
and on 6th September of the same year he was 
deprived of his alderman's gown. During this 
period of steadily increasing poverty in the house 
it was only to be expected that young Will Shake- 
speare would run wild. 
I ^he tradition as given by Rowe says that he 
I fell " into low company, and amongst them some 
that made a frequent practice of deer-stealing 
engaged him with them more than once in robbing 

354 



Shakespeare^ s Life 

the park of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecot, near 
Stratford. For this he was prosecuted by that 
gentleman, as he then thought somewhat too 
severely, and in order to revenge that ill-usage he 
made a ballad upon him." 

Another story has it that Sir Thomas Lucy got 
a lawyer from Warwick to prosecute the boys, and 
that Shakespeare stuck his satirical ballad to the 
park gates at Charlecot. The ballad is said to have 
been lost, but certain verses were preserved which 
fit the circumstances and suit Shakespeare's char- 
acter so perfectly that I for one am content to 
accept them. I give the first and the last verses as 
most characteristic: 

SONG 

" A parliament member, a Justice of peace, 
At home a poor scarecrow, in London an asse. 
If Lowsie is lucy, as some volke miscalle it 
Then Lucy is lowsie, whatever befalle it. 

He thinks himself greate 

Yet an asse in his state, 
We allowe by his ears but with asses to mate. 
If Lucy is lowsie, as some volke miscalle it 
Sing lowsie Lucy whatever befalle it. 

• • • • 

**If a juvenile frolick he cannot forgive. 
We'll sing lowsie Lucy as long as we live. 
And Lucy, the lowsie, a libel may calle it 
Sing lowsie Lucy whatever befalle it. 

He thinks himself greate 

Yet an asse in his state. 
We allowe by his ears but with asses to mate. 
If Lucy is lowsie, as some volke miscalle it 
Sing lowsie Lucy, whatever befalle it." 

The last verse, so out of keeping in its curious 

355 



The Man Shakespeare 

impartiality with the scurrilous refrain, appears to 
me to carry its own signature. There can be no 
doubt that the verses give us young Shakespeare's 
feelings in the matter. It was probably reading 
ballads and tales of " Merrie Sherwood " that first 
inclined him to deer-stealing; and we have already 
seen from his " Richard IL" and " Henry IV." and 
" Henry V." that he had been led astray by low 
companions. 

In his idle, high-spirited youth, Shakespeare did 
worse than break bounds and kill deer; he was at 
a loose end and up to all sorts of mischief. At 
eighteen he had already courted and won Anne 
Hathaway, a farmer's daughter of the neighbouring 
village of Shottery. Anne was nearly eight years 
older than he was. Her father had died a short 
time before and left Anne, his eldest daughter, 
£6 135. 4^., or, say, £50 of our money. The house 
at Shottery, now shown as Anne Hathaway's cot- 
tage, once formed part of Richard Hathaway's farm- 
house, and there, and in the neighbouring lanes, the 
lovers did their courting. The wooing on Shake- 
speare's side was nothing but pastime, though it led 
to marriage. 

His marriage is perhaps the first serious mistake 
that Shakespeare made, and it certainly influenced 
his whole life. It is needful, therefore, to under- 
stand it as accurately as may be, however we may 
judge it. A man's life, like a great river, may be 
limpid-pure in the beginning, and v/hen near its 
source; as it grows and gains strength it is inevit- 
ably sullied and stained with earth's soilure. 

The ordinary apologists would have us believe 
that the marriage was happy ; they know that 
Shakespeare was not married in Stratford, and, 
though a minor, his parents' consent to the marriage 

356 



Shakespeare's Life 

was not obtained ; but they persist in talking about 
his love for his wife, and his wife's devoted affection 
for him. Mr. H'alliwell-Phillipps, the bell-wether of 
the flock, has gone so far as to tell us how on the 
morning of the day he died " his wife, who had 
smoothed the pillow beneath his head for the last 
time, felt that her right hand was taken from her." 
Let us see if there is any foundation for this senti- 
mental balderdash. Here are some of the recorded 
facts. 

In the Bishop of Worcester's register a licence was 
issued on 2Tth November, 158S, authorizing the mar- 
riage of William Shakespeare with Anne Whately, 
of Temple Grafton. On the very next day in the 
register of the same Bishop there is a deed, wherein 
Fulk Sandells and John Richardson, farmers of 
Shottery, bound themselves in the Bishop's court 
under a surety of £40 to free the Bishop of all 
liability should a lawful impediment — " by reason 
of any pre-contract or consanguinity " — be subse- 
quently disclosed to imperil the validity of the mar- 
riage, then in contemplation, of William Shakespeare 
with Anne Hathaway. 

Dryasdust, of course, argues that there is no con- 
nection whatever between these two events. He is 
able to persuade himself easily that the William 
Shakespeare who got a licence to marry Anne 
Whately, of Temple Grafton, on 27th November, 
1582, is not the same William Shakespeare who is 
being forced to marry Anne Hathaway on the next 
day by two friends of Anne Hathaway's father. 
Yet such a coincidence as two William Shakespeares 
seeking to be married by special licence in the same 
court at the same moment of time is too extra- 
ordinary to be admitted. Besides, why should San- 
delis and Richardson bind themselves as sureties 

357 



The Man Shakespeare 

in £40 to free the Bishop of liability by reason of 
any pre-contract if there wei^e no pre-contract? 
The two William Shakespeares are clearly one and 
the same person. Sandells was a supervisor of the 
will of Richard Hathaway, and was described in 
the will as " my trustie friende and neighbour." He 
showed himself a trusty friend of the usual sort to 
his friend's daughter, and when he heard that loose 
Will Shakespeare was attempting to marry Anne 
Whately, he forthwith went to the same Bishop's 
court which had granted the licence, pledged him- 
self and his neighbour, Richardson, as sureties that 
there was no pre-contract, and so induced the 
Bishop, who no doubt then learned the unholy cir- 
cumstances for the first time, to grant a licence in 
order that the marriage with Anne Hathaway could 
be celebrated, " with once asking of the bannes," 
and without the consent of the father of the bride- 
groom, which was usually required when the bride- 
groom was a minor. 

Clearly Fulk Sandells v/as a masterful man ; 
young Will Shakespeare was' forced to give up 
Anne Whatelj^, poor lass, and marry Anne Hatha- 
way, much against his will. Like many another man, 
Shakespeare married at leisure, and repented in 
hot haste. Six months later a daughter was born 
to him, and was baptized in the name of Susanna 
at Stratford Parish Church on the S6th of Ma}^ 
1583. There was, therefore, an importunate reason 
for the wedding, as Sandells, no doubt, made the 
Bishop understand. 

The whole story, it seems to me, is in perfect 
consonance with Shakespeare's impulsive, sensn^'l 
nature ; is, indeed, an excellent illustration of it. 
Hot, impatient, idle Will got Anne Hathaway into 
trouble, was forced to marry her, and at once came 

358 ' 



Shake sp ear e^s Life 

to regret. Let us see how far these inferences from 
plain facts are borne out from his works. 

The most important passages seem to have 
escaped critical scholarship. I have already said 
that the earliest works of Shakespeare, and the 
latest, are the most fruitful in details about his 
private life. In the earliest works he was com- 
pelled to use his own experience, having no observa- 
tion of life to help him, and at the end of his life, 
having said almost everything he had to say, he 
again went back to his early experience for little 
vital facts to lend a colour to the fainter pictures 
of age. In " The Winter's Tale," a shepherd finds 
the child Perdita, who has been exposed ; one would 
expect him to stumble on the child by chance and 
express surprise ; but this shepherd of Shakespeare 
begins to talk in this way : 

** I would there were no age between ten and three- 
and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for 
there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with 
child^ wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting. Hark 
you now ! Would any but these boiled brains of nineteen 
and two-and-twenty hunt this weather .^^ " 

Now this passage has nothing to do with the play, 
nor with the shepherd's occupation ; nor is it at all 
characteristic of a shepherd boy. Between ten and 
three-and-twenty a poor shepherd boy is likely to 
be kept hard at work ; he is not idle and at a loose 
end like young Shakespeare, free to rob the 
ancientry, steal, fight, and get wenches with child. 
That, in my opinion, is Shakespeare's own con- 
fession. 

Of course, every one has noticed how Shakespeare 
again and again in his plays declares that a woman 
should take in marriage an " elder than herself," 

359 



The Man Shakespeare 

and that intimacy before marriage Is productive of 
nothing' but " barren hate and discord." In 
" Twelfth Night " he says : 

" Let still the woman take 
An elder than herself; so wears she to him 
So sways she level in her husband's heart." 

In " The Tempest " he writes again : 

** If thou dost break her virgin knot before 
All sanctimonious ceremonies may 
With full and holy rite be minister'd. 
No sweet aspersions shall the heavens let fall 
To make this contract grow; but barren hate, 
Sour-ey'd disdain_, and discord, shall bestrew 
The union of your bed with weeds so loathly 
That you^shall hate it both." 

These admonitions are so far-fetched and so 
emphatic that they plainly discover personal feeling. 
We have, besides, those quaint, angry passages in 
*' The Comedy of Errors," to which we have already 
drawn attention, which show that the poet detested 
his wife. 

The known facts, too, all corroborate this infer- 
ence: let us consider them a little. The first child 
was born within six months of the marriage ; twins 
followed in 1585 ; a little later Shakespeare left 
Stratford not to return to it for eight or nine years, 
and when he did return there was probably no 
further intimacy with his wife ; at any rate, there 
were no more children. Yet Shakespeare, one fan- 
cies, was fond of children. When his son Hamnet 
died his grief showed itself in his work — in " King 
John " and in " The Winter's Tale." He was fuU 
of loving kindness to his daughters, too, in later 

360 



Shakespeare's Life 

life ; it was his wife alone for whom he had no affec- 
tion, no forgiveness. 

There are other facts which establish this con- 
clusion. While Shakespeare was in London he 
allowed his wife to suffer the extremes of poverty. 
Sometime between 1585 and 1595 she appears to 
have borrowed forty shillings from Thomas Whitt- 
ington, who had formerly been her father's shep- 
herd. The money was still unpaid when Whittington 
died, in 1601, and he directed his executor to recover 
the sum from the poet, and distribute it among 
the poor of Stratford. Now Shakespeare was rich 
when he returned to Stratford in 1595, and always 
generous. He paid off his father's heavy debts ; 
how came it that he did not pay this trifling debt 
of his wife.'' The mere fact proves beyond doubt 
that Shakespeare disliked her and would have noth- 
ing to do with her. 

Even towards the end of his life, when suffering 
from increasing weakness, which would have made 
most men sympathetic, even if it did not induce 
them completely to relent, Shakespeare shows the 
same aversion to his poor wife. In 1613, when on a 
short visit to London, he bought a house in Black- 
friars for £140 ; in the purchase he barred his v/ife's 
dower, which proceeding seems even to Dryasdust 
" pretty conclusive proof that he had the intention 
of excluding her from the enjoyment of his posses- 
sions after his death." 

In the first draft of his will Shakespeare did not 
mention his wife. The apologists explain this by 
saying that, of course, he had already given her all 
that she ought to have. But if he loved her he 
would have mentioned her with affection, if only to 
console her in her widowhood. Before the will was 
signed he inserted a bequest to her of his " second- 

361 



The Man Shakespeare 

best bed," and the apologists have been at pains to 
explain that the best bed was kept for guests, and 
that Shakespeare willed to his wife the bed they 
both occupied. How inarticulate poor William 
Shakespeare must have become ! Could the master 
of language find no better word than the contemptu- 
ous one? Had he said " our bed " it would have 
been enough ; " the second-best bed " admits of but 
one interpretation. His daughters, who had lived 
with their mother, and who had not been afflicted 
by her jealousy and scolding tongue, begged the 
dying man to put in some mention of her, and he 
wrote in that " second-best bed" — bitter to the last. 
If his own plain words and these inferences, drawn 
from indisputable facts, are not sufficient, then let us 
take one fact more, and consider its significance; 
one fact, so to speak, from the grave. 

When Shakespeare died he left some lines to be 
placed over his tomb. Here they are: 

" Good friend for Jesus sake f orbeare 
To Digg the dust enclosed heare. 
Blessed be ye man yt spares thes stones 
And Curst be ye yt moves my bones." 

Now, why did Shakespeare make this peculiar 
request.-^ No one seems to have seen any meaning 
in it. It looks to me as if Shakespeare wrote the 
verses in order to prevent his wife being buried v\^ith 
him. He wanted to be free of her in death as in 
life. At any rate, the fact is that she was not 
buried with him, but apart from him ; he had seen 
to that. His grave was never opened, though his 
wife expressed a desire to be buried with him. The 
man who needs further proofs would not be per- 
suaded though one came from the dead to convince 
him. 

362 



Shakespeare's Life 

The marriage was an unfortunate one for many 
reasons, as an enforced marriage is apt to be, even 
when it is not the marriage of a boy in his teens to 
a woman some eight years his senior. Shakespeare 
takes trouble to tell us in " The Comedy of Errors " 
that his wife was spitefully jealous, and a bitter 
scold. She must have injured him, poisoned his life 
with her jealous nagging, or Shakespeare would 
have forgiven her. There is some excuse for him, if 
excuse be needed. At the time the marriage must 
have seemed the wildest folly to him, seething as he 
was with inordinate conceits. He was wise beyond 
his years, and yet he had been forced to give hos-^ 
tages to fortune before he had any means of liveli- 
hood, before he had even found a place in life. What 
a position for a poet — penniless, saddled with a 
jealous wife and three children before he was twenty- 
one. And this poet was proud, and vain, and in 
love with all distinctions. 

But why did Shakespeare nurse such persistent 
enmity all through his life to jealous, scolding Anne 
Hathaway.? Shakespeare had wronged her; the 
keener his moral sense, the more certain he was to 
blame his partner in the fault, for in no other way 
could he excuse himself. 

It was overpowering sensuality and rashness 
which had led Shakespeare into the noose, and now 
there was nothing for it but to cut the rope. He 
had either to be true to his higher nature or to the 
conventional view of his duty; he was true to him- 
self and fled to London, and the world is the richer 
for his decision. The only excuse he ever made is 
to be found in the sonnet-line: 

" Love is too young to know what conscience is." 

For my part I do not see that any excuse is 

363 



The 'Man Shakespeare 

needed: if Shakespeare had married Anne Whately 
he might never have gone to London or written a 
play. Shakespeare's hatred of his wife and his 
regret for having married her were ahke fooHsh. 
Our brains are seldom the wisest part of us. It was 
well that he made love to Anne Hathaway; well, 
too, that he was forced to marry her; well, finally, 
that he should desert her. I am sorry he treated 
her badly and left her unsupplied with money ; that 
was needlessly cruel; but it is just the kindliest men 
who have these extraordinary lapses ; Shakespeare's 
loathing for his wife was measureless, was a part of 
his own self-esteem, and his self-esteem was founded 
on snobbish non-essentials for many years, if not, 
indeed, throughout his life. 

There is a tradition preserved by Rowe that be- 
fore going to London young Shakespeare taught 
school in the country; it may be; but he did not 
teach for long, we can be sure, and what he had to 
teach there were few scholars in the English country 
then or now capable of learning. Another tradition 
asserts that he obtained employment as a lawyer's 
clerk, probably because of the frequent use of legal 
phrases in his plays. But these apologists all forget 
that they are speaking of men like themselves, and 
of times like ours. Politics is the main theme of 
talk in our day ; but in the time of Elizabeth it was 
rather dangerous to show one's wisdom by criticizing 
the government: law was then the chief subject of 
conversation: every educated man was therefore 
familiar with law and its phraseology, as men are 
familiar in our day with the jargon of politics. 

When did Shakespeare fly to London? Some say 
when he was twenty-one, as soon as his wife pre- 
sented him with twins, in 1585. Some say as soon as 
Sir Thomas Lucy's persecution became intolerable. 

364 



-'m--' 



Shakespeare^ s Life 

Both causes no doubt worked together, and yet an- 
other cause, given in " The Two Gentlemen of Ver- 
ona," was the real causa causans. Shakespeare was 
naturally ambitious ; eager to measure himself with 
the best and try his powers. London was the arena 
where all great prizes were to be won : Shakespeare 
strained towards the Court like a greyhound in leash. 
But when did he go ? Again in doubt I take the shep- 
herd's words in " The Winter's Tale " as a guide. 
Most men would have said from fourteen to twenty 
was the dangerous age for a youth ; but Shakespeare 
had perhaps a personal reason for the peculiar " ten 
to twenty-three." He was, no doubt, astoundingly 
precocious, and probably even at ten he had learned 
everj^thing of value that the grammar school had to 
teach, and his thoughts had begun to play truant. 
Twenty-three, too, is a significant date in his life; 
in 1587, when he was twenty-three, two companies 
of actors, under the nominal patronage of the Queen 
and Lord Leicester, returned to London from a pro- 
vincial tour, during which they visited Stratford. 
In Lord Leicester's company were Burbage and 
Heminge, with whom we know that Shakespeare was 
closely connected in later life. It seems to me prob- 
able that he returned with this company to London, 
and arrived in London, as he tells us in " The Comedy 
of Errors," " stiff and weary with long travel," and 
at once went out to view the town and " peruse the 
traders." 

There is a tradition that when he came to London 
in 1587 he held horses outside the doors of the 
theatre. This story was first put about by the com- 
piler of " The Lives of the Poets," in 1753. Accord- 
ing to the author the story was related by D'Ave- 
nant to Betterton ; but Rowe, to whom Betterton 
must have told it, does not transmit it. Rowe was 

365 



The Man Shakespeare 

perhaps right to forget it or leave it out ; though the 
story is not in itself incredible. Such work must have 
been infinitely distasteful to Shakespeare, but neces- 
sity is a hard master, and Greene, who talks of him 
later as " Shake-scene," also speaks in the same con- 
nection of these " grooms." Dr. Johnson's amplified 
version of the story that Shakespeare organized a 
service of boys to hold the horses is hardly to be 
believed. The great Doctor was anything but a poet, 
or a good judge of the poetic temperament. 

The Shakespeares of this world are not apt to 
take up menial employs, and this one had already 
shown that he preferred idle musings and parasitic 
dependence to uncongenial labour. Whoever reads 
the second scene of the second act of " The Comedy 
of Errors," will see that Shakespeare, even at the 
beginning, had an uncommonly good opinion of him- 
self. He plays gentleman from the first, and de- 
spises trade ; he snubs his servant and will not brook 
familiarity from him. In " The Two Gentlemen of 
Verona," he tells us that he left the country and 
came to London seeking " honour," intending, no 
doubt, to make a name for himself by his writings. 
He had probably " Venus and Adonis " in his pocket 
when he first reached London. This would inspire 
a poet with the self-confidence which a well-filled 
purse lends to an ordinary man. 

I am inclined to accept Rowe's statement that 
Shakespeare was received into an actor-company at 
first in a very mean rank. The parish clerk of Strat- 
ford at the end of the seventeenth century used to 
tell the visitors that Shakespeare entered the play- 
house as a servitor; but, however he entered it, it is 
pretty certain he was not long in a subordinate 
position. 

What manner of man was William Shakespeare 

366 



Shakespeare's Life 

when he first fronted life in London somewhere about 
1587? Aubrey tells us that he was " a handsome, 
well-shap't man, very good company, and of a very 
readie and pleasant smooth witt." The bust of him 
in Stratford Church was coloured ; it gave him light 
hazel eyes, and auburn hair and beard. Howe says 
of him that " besides the advantages of his vntt, 
he was in himself a good-natured man, of too great 
sweetness in his manners, and a most agreeable com- 
panion." 

I picture him to myself very like Swinburne — of 
middle height or below it, inclined to be stout ; the 
face well-featured, with forehead domed to reverence 
and quick, pointed chin ; a face lighted with hazel- 
clear vivid eyes and charming with sensuous-full 
mobile lips that curve easily to kisses or gay ironic 
laughter ; an exceedingly sensitive, eager speak- 
ing face that mirrors every fleeting change of emo- 
tion. 

I can see him talking, talking with extreme fluency 
in a high tenor voice, the reddish hair flung back 
from the high forehead, the eyes now dancing, now 
aflame, every feature quick with the " beating 
mind." 

And such talk — the groundwork of it, so to speak, 
very intimate-careless ; but gemmed with thoughts, 
diamonded with wit, rhythmic with feeling: don't we 
know how it ran — " A hundred and fifty tattered 
prodigals. . . . No eye hath seen such scare- 
crows, . . . discarded, unjust serving-men, younger 
sons to younger brothers, revolted tapsters, and 
ostlers trade-fallen : the cankers of a calm world and 
a long peace." And after the thought the humour 
again — " food for powder, food for powder." 

Now let us consider some of his other qualities. 
- In 1592 he published his "Venus and Adonis 

367 



5? 
3 



The Man Shakespeare 

which he had no doubt written in 1587 or even 
earlier, for he called it " the first heir of my inven- 
tion " when he dedicated it to Lord Southampton. 
This work is to me extremely significant. It is all 
concerned with the wooing of young Adonis by 
Venus, an older woman. Now, goddesses have no 
age, nor do women, as a rule, woo in this sensual 
fashion. The peculiarities point to personal experi- 
ence. " I, too," Shakespeare tells us practically, 
*' was wooed by an older woman against my will." 
He seems to have wished the world to accept this 
version of his untimely marriage. Young Shake- 
speare in London was probably a little ashamed of 
being married to some one whom he could hardly 
introduce or avow. The apologists who declare that 
he made money very earl}'- in his career give us no 
explanation of the fact that he never brought his 
wife or children to London. Wherever we touch 
Shakespeare's intimate life, we find proof upon proof 
that he detested his wife and was glad to live with- 
out her. 

Looked at in this light " Venus and Adonis " is 
not a very noble thing to have written ; but I am 
dealing with a young poet's nature, and the majority 
of young poets would like to forget their Anne 
Hathaway if they could ; or, to excuse themselves, 
put the blame of an ill-sorted union upon the partner 
to it. 

There is a certain weakness, however, shown in 
the whole story of his marriage ; a weakness of char- 
acter, as well as a weakness of morale, which it is 
impossible to ignore ; and there were other weaknesses 
in Shakespeare, especially a weakness of body which 
must necessarily have had its correlative delicacies 
of mind. 

I have pointed out in the first part of this book 



Shakespeare* s Life 

that sleeplessness was a characteristic of Shake- 
speare, even in youth ; he attributes it to Henry IV. 
in old age, and to Henry V., a youth at the time, 
who probably never knew what a sleepless night 
meant. Shakespeare's alter ego, Valentine, in " The 
Two Gentlemen of Verona," suffers from it, and so do 
Macbeth and Hamlet, and a dozen other of his chief 
characters, in particular his impersonations — all of 
which shows, I think, that from the beginnning the 
rnind of Shakespeare was too strong for his body. 
As we should say to-day, he was too emotional, and 
lived on his nerves. I always think of him as a ship 
over-engined ; when the driving-power is working at 
full speed it shakes the ship to pieces. 

One other weakness is marked in him, and that 
is that he could not drink, could not carry his liquor 
like a man — to use our accepted phrase. Hamlet -^-fj 
thought drinking a custom more honoured itl the 
breach than in the observance ; Cassiilf, Shakespeare's 
incarnation in " Othello," confessed that he had 
" poor unhappy brains for drinking " : tradition in- 
forms us that Shakespeare himself died of a " feav- 
our" from drinking — all of which confirms my 
opinion that Shakespeare was delicate rather than 
robust. He was, also, extraordinarily fastidious : in 
drama after drama he rails against the " greasy " 
caps and " stinking " breath of the common people. 
This overstrained disgust suggests to me a certain 
delicacy of constitution. 

But there is still another indication of bodily 
weakness which in itself would be convincing to those 
accustomed to read closely ; but which would carry 
little or no weight to the careless. In sonnet 129 
Shakespeare tells us of lust and its effects, and the 
confession seems to me purely personal. Here are 
four lines of it: 

369 



U'he Man Shakespeare 

** Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight; 
Past reason hunted; and no sooner had. 
Past reason hated, as a swallowed bait, 
On purpose laid to make the taker mad." 

Now, this is not the ordinary man's experience 
of passion and its effects. " Past reason hunted," 
such an one might say, but he would certainly not 
go on " No sooner had. Past reason hated." He is 
not moved to hate by enjoyment, but to tenderness; 
it is your weakling who is physically exhausted by 
enjoyment who is moved to hatred. This sonnet 
was written hj Shakespeare in the prime of man- 
hood at thirty-four or thirty-five at latest. 

Shakespeare was probably healthy as a young 
man, but intensely sensitive and highly strung; too 
finely constituted ever to have been strong. One 
notices that he takes no pleasure in fighting; his 
heroes are, of course, all " valiant," but he shows no 
loving interest in the game of fighting as a game. 
In fact, we have already seen that he found no 
wonderful phrase for any of the manly virtues ; he 
was a neuropath and a lover, and not a fighter, even 
in youth, or Fulk Sandells might have rued his in- 
terference. 

The dominating facts to be kept ever in mind 
about Shakespeare are that he was delicate in body, 
and over-excitable ; yielding and irresolute in char- 
acter; with too great sweetness of manners and in- 
ordinately given to the pleasures of love. 

How would such a man fare in the world of 
London in 1587? It was a wild and wilful age; 
eager English spirits were beginning to take a part 
in the opening up of the new world ; the old, limit- 
ing horizons were gone ; men dared to think for 
themselves and act boldly ; ten years before Drake 
had sailed round the world — the adventurer was the 

370 



Shakespeare^ s Life 

characteristic product of the time. In ordinary com- 
pany a word led to a blow, and the fight was often 
brought to a fatal conclusion with dagger or sword 
or both. In those rough days actors were almost 
outlaws ; Ben Jonson is known to have killed two or 
three men ; Marlowe died in a tavern brawl. Courage 
has always been highly esteemed in England, like 
gentility and a university training. Shakespeare 
possessed none of these passports to public favour. 
He could not shoulder his way through- the throng. 
The wild adventurous life of the time was not to 
his liking, even in early manhood; from the begin- 
ning he preferred " the life removed " and his books ; 
all given over to the " bettering of his mind " he 
could only have been appreciated at any time by the 
finer spirits. 

Entering the theatre as a servitor he no doubt 
made such acquaintances as offered themselves, and 
spent a good deal of his leisure perforce vfith second- 
rate actors and writers in common taverns and 
studied his Bardolph and Pistol, and especially his 
FalstafF at first hand. Perhaps Marlowe was one 
of his ciceroni in rough company. Shakespeare had 
almost certainly met Marlowe very early in his 
career, for he worked with him in the " Third Part 
of Henry VI.," and his " Richard III." is a conscious 
imitation of Marlowe, and Marlowe was dissipated 
enough and wild enough to have shown him the 
wildest side of life in London in the '80's. It was 
the very best thing that could have happened to 
delicate Shakespeare, to come poor and unknown to 
London, and be soused in common rowdy life like 
this against his will by sheer necessity; for if left 
to his own devices he would probably have grown 
up a bookish poet — a second Coleridge. Fate takes 
care of her favourites. 

371 



The Man Shakespeare 

It was all in his favour that he should have been 
forced at first to win his spurs as an actor. He must 
have been too intelligent, one would think, ever to 
have brought it far as a mummer ; he looked upon the 
half-art of acting with disdain and disgust, as he 
tells us in the sonnets, and if in Hamlet he conde- 
scends to give advice to actors, it is to admonish 
them not to outrage the decencies of nature by tear- 
ing a passion to tatters. He had at hand a surer 
ladder to fame than the mummer's art. As soon 
as he felt his feet in London he set to work adapting 
plays, and writing plays, while reading his own 
poetry to all and sundry who would listen, and I 
have no doubt that patrons of the stage, who were 
also men of rank, were willing to listen to Shake- 
speare from the beginning. He was of those who 
require no introductions. 

In 1592, four or five years after his arrival in 
London, he had already come to the front as a 
dramatist, or at least as an adapter of plays, for 
Robert Greene, a scholar and playwright, attacked 
him in his " Groatsworth of Wit " in this fashion : 

" There is an upstart Crow, beautified in our feathers 
that, with his tiger's heart wrapt in a player's hide, sup- 
poses he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as 
the best of you_, and, being an absolute Johannes fac- 
totum, is, in his own conceit, the only Shakescene in a 
country. Oh, that I might intreat your rare wits to be 
employed in more profitable courses, and let these apes 
imitate your past excellence, and never more acquaint 
them with your admired inventions." 

It is plain from this weird appeal that Shake- 
speare had already made his mark. 

There are further proofs of his rapid success. 
One of Chettle's references to Shakespeare (I take 

372 



Shakespeare's Life 

Chettle to be the original of Falstaff ) throws light 
upon the poet's position in London in these early 
days. Shortly after Greene had insulted Shake- 
speare as " Shake-scene " Chettle apologized for 
the insult in these terms : 

** I am as sorry/* Chettle wrote, " as if the original 
fault had beene my fault, because myselfe have seen his 
(i. e., Shakespeare's) demeanour no less civill than he 
(is) exelent in the qualitie he professes. Besides, divers 
of worship have reported his uprightnes of dealing, 
which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in 
writing thataprooves his art." 

In 1592, then, Shakespeare was most " civill in 
demeanour," and had won golden opinions from peo- 
ple of importance. 

Actors and poets of that time could not help 
knowing a good many of the young nobles who came 
to the theatre and sat round the stage listening to 
the performances. And Shakespeare, with his aristo- 
cratic sympathies and charming sweetness of nature, 
must have made friends with the greatest ease. Chet- 
tle's apology proves that early in his career he had 
the art or luck to win distinguished patrons who 
spoke well of him. While still new to town he came 
to know Lord Southampton, to whom he dedicated 
" Venus and Adonis " ; the fulsome dedication of 
" Lucrece " to the same nobleman two years later 
shows that deference had rapidly ripened into 
affectionate devotion ; no wonder Rowe noticed the 
" too great sweetness in his manners." 

Thinking of his intimacy w^th Southampton on 
the one hand and Bardolph on the other, one is con- 
strained to say of Shakespeare what Apemantus 
says of Timon : 

3T3 



iThe 'Man Shakespeare 

" The middle of humanity thou never knewest. 
But the extremity of both ends." 

In the extremes characters show themselves more 
clearly than they do in the middle classes ; at both 
ends of society speech and deed are unrestrained. 
FalstafF and Bardolph and the rest were free of 
convention by being below it, just as Bassanio and 
Mercutio were free because they were above it, and 
made the rules. The young lord did what he pleased, 
and spoke his mind as plainly as the foot-pad. Life 
at both ends was the very school for quick, sympa- 
thetic Shakespeare. But even in early manhood, as 
soon as he came to himself and found his work, one 
other quality is as plain in Shakespeare as even his 
humour — high impartial intellect with honest ethical 
judgement. He judges even Falstaff severely, to 
the point of harshness, indeed; a-s he judged himself 
later in Enobarbus. This high critical faculty per- 
vades all his work. But it must not be thought 
that his conduct was as scrupulous as his principles, 
or his will as sovereign as his intelligence. That he 
was a loose-liver while in London is well attested. 
Contemporary anecdotes generally hit off a man's 
peculiarities, and the only anecdote of Shakespeare 
that is known to have been told about hira in his 
lifetime illustrates this master trait of his character. 
Burbage, vve are told, when playing Richard III., 
arranged with a lady in the audience to visit her after 
the performance. Shakespeare overheard the rendez- 
vous, anticipated the fellow's visit, and m^et Burbage 
on his arrival with the jibe that " William the Con- 
queror came before Richard III." The lightness is 
no doubt as characteristic of Shakespeare as the im- 
pudent humour. 

There is another fact in Shakespeare's life which 

3T4 



Shakespeare's Life 

throws almost as much light on his character as 
his marriage. He seems to have come to riches very 
early and very easily. As we have seen, he was 
never able to paint a miser, which confirms Jonson's 
testimony that he was " of an open and free nature." 
In 1597 he went down to Stratford and bought New 
Place, then in ruinous condition, but the chief house 
in the town, for £60 ; he spent at least as much more 
between 1597 and 1599 in rebuilding the house and 
stocking the barns with grain. In 1602 we find that 
he purchased from William and John Combe, of 
Stratford, a hundred and seven acres of arable land 
near the town, for which he paid £320 ; in 1605, too, 
he bought for £440 a moiety of the tithes of Strat- 
ford for an unexpired term of thirty-one years, which 
investment seems to have brought him in little ex- 
cept a wearisome lawsuit. 

Now how did the poet obtain this thousand pounds 
or so.^ English apologists naturally assume that he 
was a " good business man " ; with delicious uncon- 
scious irony they one and all picture the man who 
hated tradesmen as himself a sort of thrifty trades- 
man-soul — a master of practical life who looked after 
the pennies from the beginning. These commen 
tators all treat Shakespeare as the Hebrews treateil 
God ; they make him in their own likeness. In Shake- 
speare's case this practice leads to absurdity. Let 
us take the strongest advocate of the accepted view. 
Dryasdust is at pains to prove that Shakespeare's 
emoluments, even as an actor in the '90's, were not 
likely to have fallen below a hundred a year; but 
even Dryasdust admits that his large earnings came 
after 1599, from his shares in the Globe Theatre, 
and is inclined " to accept the tradition that Shake- 
speare received from the Earl of Southampton a 
large gift of money." As Southampton came of 

3T5 



The Man Shakespeare 

age in 1595, he may well out of his riches have 
helped the man who had dedicated his poems to him 
with servile adulation. Moreover, the statement is 
put forward by Rowe, who is certainly more trust- 
worthy than the general run of gossip-mongers, and 
his account of the matter proves that he did not 
accept the story with eager credulity, but as one 
compelled by authority. Here is what he says : 

" There is one story so singular in magnificence of 
this patron of Shakespeare that if I had not been assured 
that the story was handed down by Sir Y^m. D'Avenant^ 
who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, 
I should not have ventured to insert that my lord South- 
ampton, at one time, gave him a thousand pounds to 
enable him to go through with a purchase to which he 
heard he had a mind. A bounty very great, and very 
rare at any time, almost equal to that profuse gen- 
erosity the present age has shown to French dancers 
and Italian Eunuchs.'* 

It seems to me a great deal more likely that this 
munificent gift of Southampton was the source of 
Shakespeare's wealth than that he added coin to 
coin in saving, careful fashion. It may be said at 
once that all the evidence we have is in favour of 
Shakespeare's extravagance, and against his thrift. 
As we have seen, when studying " The Merchant 
of Venice," the presumption is that he looked upon 
saving with contempt, and was himself freehanded 
to a fault. The Rev. John Ward, who was Vicar of 
Stratford from 1648 to 1679, tells us "that he 
spent at the rate of a thousand a year, as I have 
heard." 

It is impossible to deny that Shakespeare got rid 
of a great deal of money -even after his retirement 
to Stratford; and men accustomed to save are not 
likely to become prodigal in old age. 

376 



Shakespeare^s Life 

On the 10th March, 1613, Shakespeare bought a 
house in Blackfriars for £140; the next day he 
executed another deed, now in the British Museum, 
which stipulated that £60 of the purchase-money 
was to remain on mortgage until the following 
Michaelmas : the money was unpaid at Shakespeare's 
death, which seems to me to argue a certain care- 
lessness, to say the least of it. 

Dryasdust makes out that Shakespeare, in the 
years from 1600 to 1612, was earning about six hun- 
dred a year in the money of the period, or nearly 
^\Q thousand a year of our money, and yet he was 
unable or unwilling to pay off a paltry £60. 

After passing the last five years of his life 
in village Stratford, where he could not possibly 
have found many opportunities of extravagance, he 
was only able to leave a little more than one year's 
income. He willed New Place to his elder daughter, 
Susanna Hall, together with the land, barns, and 
gardens at and near Stratford (except the tenement 
in Chapel Lane), and the house in Blackfriars, Lon- 
don, all together equal, at the most, to five or six 
hundred pounds ; and to his younger daughter, 
Judith, he bequeathed the tenement in Chapel Lane, 
£150 in money, and another £150 to be paid if she 
was alive three years after the date of the will. Nino 
hundred pounds, or so, of the money of the period, 
would cover all he possessed at death. When we 
consider these things, it becomes plain, I think, that 
Shakespeare was extravagant to lavishness even in 
cautious age. While in London he no doubt earaed 
and was given large sums of money ; but he was free- 
handed and careless, and died far poorer than one 
would have expected from an ordinarily thrifty man. 
The loose-liver is usually a spendthrift. 

There are worse faults to be laid to his account 
than lechery and extravagance. Every one who has 

377 



The Man Shakespeare 

read his works with any care must admit that 
Shakespeare was a snob of the purest English 
water. Aristocratic tastes were natural to him; 
inherent, indeed, in the delicate sensitiveness of his 
beauty-loving temperament ; but he desired the 
outward and visible signs of gentility as much as 
any podgy millionaire of our time, and stooped as 
low to get them as man could stoop. In 1596, his 
young son, Hamnet, died at Stratford, and was 
buried on 11th August in the parish church. This 
event called Shakespeare back to his village, and 
while he was there he most probably paid his father's 
debts, and certainly tried to acquire for himself and 
his successors the position of gentlefolk. He in- 
duced his father to make application to the College 
of Heralds for a coat of arms, on the ground not 
only that his father was a man of substance, but 
that he had also married into a " worshipful " 
family. The draft grant of arms was not executed 
at the time. It may have been that the father's 
pecuniary position became known to the College, or 
perhaps the profession of the son created difficulties ; 
but in any case nothing was done for some time. 
In 1597, however, the Earl of Essex became Earl 
Marshal and Chief of the Heralds' College, and the 
scholar and antiquary, William Camden, joined the 
College as Clarenceux King of Arms. Shakespeare 
must have been known to the Earl of Essex, who was 
an intimate friend of the Earl of Southampton; he 
was indeed almost certainly a friend and admirer of 
Essex. The Shakespeares' second application to be 
admitted to the status of gentlefolk took a new form. 
They asserted roundly that the coat as set out in 
the draft of 1596 had been assigned to John Shake- 
speare while he was bailiff, and the heralds were 
asked to give him a " recognition " of it. At the 

378 



Shakespeare^ s Life 

same time John Shakespeare asked for permission to 
quarter on his " ancient coat of arms " that of the 
Ardens of Wihuscote, his wife's family. But this 
was going too far, even for a friend of Essex. To 
grant such a request might have got the College into 
trouble with the influential Warwickshire family of 
Arden, and so it was refused ; but the grant was 
" recognized," and Shakespeare's peculiar ambition 
was satisfied. 

Every single incident in his life bears out what 
we have learned from his works. In all his writings 
he praises lords and gentlemen, and runs down the 
citizens and common people, and in his life he 
spent some years, a good deal of trouble, and many 
impudent lies in getting for his father a grant of 
arms and recognition as a gentleman — a very 
pitiful ambition, but peculiarly English. Shake- 
speare, one fancies, was a gentleman by nature, and 
a good deal more. 

But his snobbishness had other worse results. 
Partly because of it he never got to know the middle 
classes in England. True, even in his time they were 
excessively Puritanical, which quality hedged them 
off*, so to speak, from the playwright-poet. With 
his usual gentleness or timidity, Shakespeare never 
tells us directly what he thought of the Puritans, 
but his half-averted, contemptuous glance at them in 
passing, is very significant. Angelo, the would-be 
Puritan ruler, was a " false seemer," Malvolio was 
a " chough." The peculiar virtues of the English 
middle class, its courage and sheepishness ; its good 
conduct and respect for duties ; its religious sense 
and cocksure narrow-mindedness, held no attraction 
for Shakespeare, and, armoured in snobbishness, he 
utterly missed what a knowledge of the middle classes 
might have given him. 

379' 



The Man Shakespeare 

Let us take one instance of his loss. Though he 
lived in an age of fanaticism, he never drew a 
fanatic or reformer, never conceived a man as swim- 
ming against the stream of his time. He had but 
a vague conception of the few spirits in each age 
who lead humanity to new and higher ideals ; he 
could not understand a Christ or a Mahomet, and 
it seems as if he took but small interest in Jeanne 
d'Arc, the noblest being that came within the ken 
of his art. For even if we admit that he did not 
write the first part of " Henry VI.," it is certain that 
it passed through his hands, and that in his youth, 
at any rate, he saw nothing to correct in that vile 
and stupid libel on the greatest of women. Even the 
English fanatic escaped his intelligence ; his Jack 
Cade, as I have already noticed, is a wretched cari- 
cature; no Cade moves his fellows save by appeal- 
ing to the best in them, to their sense of justice, or 
what they take for justice. The Cade who will 
wheedle men for his own gross ambitions may make 
a few dupes, but not thousands of devoted followers. 
These elementary truths Shakespeare never under- 
stood. Yet how much greater he would have been 
had he understood them ; had he studied even one 
Puritan lovingly and depicted him sympathetically. 
For the fanatic is one of the hinges which swing the 
door of the modern world. Shakespeare's " univer- 
sal sympathy " — to quote Coleridge — did not include 
the plainly-clad tub-thumper who dared to accuse 
him to his face of serving the Babylonish Whore. 
Shakespeare sneered at the Puritan instead of study- 
ing him ; with the result that he belongs rather to the 
Renaissance than to the modem world, in spite even 
of his Hamlet. The best of a Wordsworth or a Tur- 
genief is outside him ; he would never have understood 
a Mariana or a Bazarof, and the noble faith of the 

380 



Shake^peare*s Life 

sonnet to " Toussaint POuverture " was quite beyond 
him. He could never have written : 

" Thou hast left behind 
Powers that will work for thee^ air, earth and skies; 
There's not a breathing of the common wind 
That will forget thee; thou hast great allies; 
Thy friends are exultations, agonies, 
And love, and man's unconquerable mind." 

It is time to speak of him frankly; he was gentle, 
and w^itty ; gay, and sweet-mannered, very stu- 
dious, too, and fair of mind ; but at the same time 
he was weak in body and irresolute, hasty and wordy, 
and took habitually the easiest way out of difficul- 
ties ; he was ill-endowed in the virile virtues and 
virile vices. When he showed arrogance it was 
always of intellect and not of character ; he was a 
parasite by nature. But none of these faults would 
have brought him to ruin ; he was snared again in 
full manhood by his master-quality, his overpower- 
ing sensuality, and thrown in the mire^ 



S81 



CHAPTER XV 

shakespeaee's life — continued 

SHAKESPEARE'S life seems to fall sharply 
into two halves. Till he met Mistress Fitton, 
about 1597, he must have been happy and well con- 
tent, I think, in spite of his deep underlying melan- 
choly. According to my reckoning he had been in 
London about ten years, and no man has ever done 
so much in the time and been so successful even as 
the world counts success. He had not only written 
the early poems and the early plays, but in the last 
three or four years half-a-dozen masterpieces : " A 
Midsummer Night's Dream," " Romeo and Juliet," 
" Richard IL," " King John," " The Merchant of 
Venice," " The Two Parts of Henry IV." At thirty- 
three he was already the greatest poet and dramatist 
of whom Time holds any record. 

Southampton's bounty had given him ease, and 
allowed him to discharge his father's debts, and 
place his dearly loved mother in a position of com- 
fort in the best house in Stratford. 

He had troops of friends, we may be sure, for 
there was no gentler, gayer, kindlier creature in all 
London, and he set store by friendship. Ten years 
before he had neither money, place, nor position ; 
now he had all these, and was known even at Court. 
The Queen had been kind to him. He ended the 
epilogue to the " Second Part of ELenry IV.," which 
he had just finished, by kneeling " to pray for the 
Queen." Essex or Southampton had no doubt 

38^ 



Shakespeare^ s Life 

brought his work to Elizabeth's notice: she had 
approved his " FalstafF " and encouraged him to 
continue. Of all his successes, this royal recogni- 
tion was surely the one which pleased him most. He 
was at the topmost height of happy hours when he 
met the woman who was to change the world for him. 

In the lives of great men the typical tragedies 
are likely to repeat themselves. Socrates vfas con- 
demned to drain many a poisoned cup before he 
was given the bowl of hemlock: Shakespeare had 
come to grief with many women before he fell with 
Mary Fitton. It was his ungovernable sensuality 
which drove him in youth to his untimely and 
unhappy marriage; it was his ungovernable sen- 
suality, too, which in his maturity led him to worship 
Mary Fitton, and threw him into those tv/elve years 
of bondage to earthy, coarse service which he re- 
gretted so bitterly when the passion-fever had burned 
itself out. 

One can easily guess how he came to know the 
self-willed and wild-living maid-of-honour. Like 
many of the courtiers, Mistress Fitton affected the 
society of the players. Kemp, the clown of his com- 
pany, knew her, and dedicated a book to her rather 
familiarly. I have always thought that Shakespeare 
resented Kemp's intimacy with Mistress Fitton, for 
w^hen Hamlet advises the players to prevent the 
clown from gagging, he adds, with a snarl of per- 
sonal spite: 

" a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it." 

Mary Fitton's position, her proud, dark beauty, 
her daring of speech and deed took Shakespeare by 
storm. She was his complement in every failing ; 
her strength matched his weakness ; her resolution 

383 



The Man Shakespeare 

his hesitation, her boldness his timidity; besides, 
she was of rank and place, and out of pure snobbery 
he felt himself her inferior. He forgot that humble 
worship was not the way to win a high-spirited 
girl. He loved her so abjectly that he lost her; and 
it was undoubtedly his overpowering sensuality and 
snobbishness which brought him to his knees, and 
his love to ruin. He could not even keep her after 
winning her; desire blinded him. His love was too 
fleshly-coarse to be perfect. He would not see that 
Mary Fitton was not a wanton through mere lust. 
As soon as her fancy was touched she gave herself ; 
but she v/as true to the new lover for the time. We 
know that she bore a son to Pembroke and two 
daughters to Sir Richard Leveson. Her slips v/ith 
these m.en wounded Shakespeare's vanity, and he per- 
sisted in underrating her. Let us probe to the root 
of the secret sore. Here is a page of " Troilus and 
Cressida," a page from that terrible fourth scene of 
the fourth act, when Troilus, having to part with 
Cressida, warns her against the Greeks and their 
proficience in the arts of love : 

'^ Troilus. I cannot sing 

Nor heel the high lavolt, nor sweeten talk^ 
Nor play at subtle games; fair virtues all, 
To which the Grecians are most prompt and pregnant: 
But I can tell thee in each grace of these 
There lurks a still and dumb-discoursive devil 
That tempts most cunningly: but be not tempted. 

Cressida. Do you think I will? 

Troilus. No: but something may be done that we will 
not." 

The first lines show that poor Shakespeare often 
felt out of it at Court. The suggestion I have put 
in italics, is unspeakable. Shakespeare made use of 
every sensual bait in hope of winning his love, liming 

384 



Shakespeare^ s Life 

himself and not the woman. His vanity was so 
inordinate that instead of saying to himself, " it's 
natural that a high-bom girl of nineteen should 
prefer a great lord of her own age to a poor poet of 
thirty-four " : he strives to persuade himself and us 
that Mary Fitton was won away from him by " subtle 
games," and in his rage of wounded vanity he wrote 
that tremendous libel on her, which he put in the 
mouth of Ulysses : 

" Fie, fie upon her ! 
There's language in her eye, her cheek, her lip, 
Nay, her foot speaks; her wanton spirits look out 
At every joint and motive of her body. 
O, these enconnterers, so glib of tongue. 
That give accosting welcome ere it comes. 
And wide unclasp the tables of their thoughts 
To every ticklish reader ! set them down 
For sluttish spoils of opportunity 
And daughters of the game." 

His tortured sensuality caricatures his mistress : 
that " ticklish reader " reveals him ; Mary Fitton 
was finer than his portraits ; v/e want her soul, and 
do not get it from him even in Cleopatra. It was 
the consciousness of his own age and physical in- 
feriority that drove him to jealous denigration of 
his mistress. 

Mary Fitton did not beguile Shakespeare to " the 
very heart of loss," as he cried ; but to the inner- 
most shrine of the temple of Fame. It was this 
absolute abandonment to passion which made Shake- 
speare the supreme poet. If it had not been for 
his excessive sensuality, and his mad passion for 
his " gipsy?" we should never have had from him 
"Hamlet," "Macbeth," "Othello," "Antony and 
Cleopatra," or " Lear." Fle would still have been a 
poet and a dramatic writer of the first rank ; but he 



The Man Shakespeare 

would not have stood alone above all others : he 
would not have been Shakespeare. 

His passion for Mary Fitton lasted some twelve 
years. Again and again he lived golden hours with 
her like those Cleopatra boasted of and regretted. 
Life is wasted quickly in such orgasms of passion; 
lust whipped to madness by jealousy. Mary Fitton 
was the only woman Shakespeare ever loved, or 
at least, the only woman he loved with such inten- 
sity as to influence his art. She was Rosaline, Cres- 
sid, Cleopatra, and the " dark lady " of the sonnets. 
All his other women are parts of her or reflections 
of her, as all his heroes are sides of Hamlet, or reflec- 
tions of him. Portia is the first full-length sketch of 
Mary Fitton, taken at a distance : Beatrice and Rosa- 
lind are mere reflections of her high spirits, her 
aristocratic pride and charm : her strength and reso- 
lution are incarnate in Lady Macbeth. Ophelia, 
Desdemona, Cordelia, are but abstract longings for 
purity and constancy called into life by his mis- 
tress's faithlessness and passion. 

Shakespeare admired Mary Fitton as intensely 
as he desired her, yet he could not be faithful to 
her for the dozen years his passion lasted. Love 
and her soft hours drew him irresistibly again and 
again : he was the ready spoil of opportunity. Here 
is one instance: it was his custom, Aubrey tells us, 
to visit Stratford every year, probably every sum- 
mer: on his way he was accustomed to put up at 
an inn in Oxford, kept by John D'Avenant. Mrs. 
D'Avenant, we are told, was " a very beautiful 
woman, and of a ver}^ good witt and of conversation 
extremely agreeable." No doubt Shakespeare made 
up to her from the first. Her second son, William, 
who afterwards became the celebrated playwright, 
was born in March, 1605, and according to a tradi- 

SS6 



Shakespeare's Life 

tion long current in Oxford, Shakespeare was his 
father. In later life Sir Willia^m D'Avenant himself 
was " contented enough to be thought his (Shake- 
speare's) son." There is every reason to accept the 
story as it has been handed down. Shakespeare, as 
Troilus, brags of his constancy ; talks of himself as 
*' plain and true " ; but it was all boasting : from 
eighteen to forty-five he was as inconstant as the 
wind, and gave himself to all the " subtle games " 
of love with absolute abandonment, till his health 
broke under the strain. 

In several of the Sonnets, notably in 86 and 3T, 
Shakespeare tells us that he was " poor and despised 
. . . made lame by fortune's dearest spite." He 
will not even have his friend's name coupled with 
his for fear lest his " bewailed guilt " should do him 
shame : 

" Let me confess that we two must be twain. 
Although our undivided loves are one: 
So shall those blots that do with me remain 
Without thy help, by me be borne alone. . . ." 

Spalding and other critics believe that this " guilt " 
of Shakespeare refers to his profession as an actor, 
but that stain should not prevent Lord Herbert 
from honouring him with " public kindness." It is 
clear, I think, from the words themselves, that the 
guilt refers to the fact that both Herbert and he 
were in love with the same woman. Jonson, as we 
have seen, had poked fun at their connection, and 
this is how Shakespeare tries to take the sting out 
of the sneer. 

Shakespeare had many of the weaknesses of the 
neurotic and artistic temperament, but he had as- 
suredly the noblest virtues of it: he was true to his 
friends, and more than generous to their merits. 

387 



The Man Shakespeare 

If his ethical conscience was faulty, his aesthetical 
conscience was of the very highest. Whenever we 
find him in close relations with his contemporaries 
we are struck with his kindness and high impartial 
intelligence. Were they his rivals, he found the per- 
fect word for their merits and shortcomings. How 
can one better praise Chapman than by talking of 

" The proud full sail of his great verse " ? 

How can one touch his defect more lightly than by 
hinting that his learning needed feathers to lift it 
from the ground? And if Shakespeare was fair even 
to his rivals, his friends could always reckon on his 
goodwill and his unwearied service. All his fine 
qualities came out when as an elder he met churlish 
Ben Jonson. Jonson did not influence him as much 
as Marlowe had influenced him ; but these were the 
two greatest living men with whom he v/as brought 
into close contact, and his relations with Jonson 
show him as in a glass. Rowe has a characteristic 
story which must not be forgotten: 

" His acquaintance with Ben Jonson began with a re- 
markable piece of liumanitj?' and good-nature; Mr. Jon- 
son, who was at that time altogether unknown^ had 
offered one of his playes to the Players, in order to 
have it acted; but the persons into whose hands it was 
put, after having turned it carelessly and superciliously 
over, were just upon returning it to him, with an ill- 
natured answer, that it would be of no service to their 
company, when Shakespeare luckily cast his eye upon it, 
and found something so well in it as to encourage him 
to read through and afterwards to recommend Ben 
Jonson and his writings to the publick. After this they 
were professed friends; though I don't know whether 
the other ever made him an equal return of gentleness 
and sincerity. Ben was naturally proud and indolent, 

388 



Shakespeare^ s Life 

and in the days of his reputation did so far take upon 
him the premier in witt that he could not but look with 
an evil eye upon anyone that seemed to stand in compe- 
tition with him. And if at times he has affected to 
commend him, it has always been with some reserve, 
insinuating his incorrectness, a careless manner of writ- 
ing and a want of judgment; the praise of seldom 
altering or blotting out what he writt which was given 
him by the players over the first publish of his works 
after his death was what Jonson could not bear. . . ." 

The story reads exactly like the story of Goethe 
and Schiller. It was Schiller who held aloof and 
was full of fault-finding criticism: it was Goethe 
w^ho made all the advances and did all the kind- 
nesses. It was Goethe who obtained for Schiller that 
place as professor of history at Jena which gave 
Schiller the leisure needed for his dramatic work. 
It is always the greater who gives and forgives. 

I believe, of course, too, in the traditional account 
of the unforgettable evenings at the Mermaid. 
**■ Many were the wit-combats," wrote Fuller of 
Shakespeare in his "Worthies" (1662), "betwixt 
him and Ben Jonson, which too I behold like a 
Spanish great galleon and an English man-of-war. 
Master Jonson (like the former) was built far higher 
in learning, solid but slow in his performances. 
Shakespeare, with the English man-of-v/ar, lesser in 
bulk, but lighter in sailing, could turn with all sides, 
tack about, and take advantas^e of all winds by the 
quickness of his wit and invention." 

It was natural for the onlooker to compare Ben 
Jonson and his " mountainous belly " to some 
Spanish galleon, and Shakespeare, with his quicker 
wit, to the more active English ship. It was Jon- 
son's great size — a quality which has aWays been 
too highly esteemed in England — his domineering 

389 



The Man Shakespeare , 

temper and desperate personal courage that induced 
the gossip to even him with Shakespeare. 

Beaumont described these meetings, too, in his 
poetical letter to his friend Jonson : 

** What things have we seen 
Done at the Mermaid? Heard words that have been 
So nimble and so full of subtle flame, 
As if that every one from whence they came 
Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest. 
And had resolved to live a fool the rest 
Of his dull hfe." 

In one respect at least the two men were antith- 
eses. Jonson was exceedingly combative and 
quarrelsome, and seems to have taken a chief part 
in all the bitter disputes of his time between actors 
and men of letters. He killed one actor in a duel 
and attacked Marston and Dekker in " The Poet- 
aster " ; they replied to him in the " Satiromastix." 
More than once he criticized Shakespeare's writings ; 
more than once jibed at Shakespeare, unfairly try- 
ing to wound him ; but Shakespeare would not retort. 
It is to Jonson's credit that though he found fault 
with Shakespeare's " Julius Caesar " and " Pericles," 
he yet wrote of him in the " Poetaster " as a peace- 
maker, and, under the name of Virgil, honoured him 
as the greatest master of poetry. 

Tradition gives us one witty story about the 
relations between the pair which seems to me extra- 
ordinarily characteristic. Shakespeare was godfather 
to one of Ben's children, and after the christening, 
being in a deep study, Jonson came to cheer him 
up, and asked him why he was so melancholy. " No, 
faith, Ben," says he ; " not I, but I have been con- 
sidering a great while what should be the fittest 
gift for me to bestow upon my godchild and I have 

390 



Shakespeare^s Life 

resolved at last." "I pr'ythee, what?" says he. 
" I' faith, Ben, I'll e'en give him a dozen good Lattin 
spoons, and thou shalt translate them." Lattin, as 
everybody knows, was a mixed metal resembling 
brass: the play upon words and sly fun poked at 
Jonson's scholarship are in Shakespeare's best 
manner. The story must be regarded as Shake- 
speare's answer to Jonson's sneer that he had " little 
Latine and lesse Greeke." 

Through the mist of tradition and more or less 
uncertain references in his poetry, one sees that he 
had come, probably through Southampton, to admire 
Essex, and the fall and execution of Essex had an 
immense effect upon him. It is certain, I think, that 
the noble speech on mercy put into Portia's mouth 
in " The Merchant of Venice," was primarily an 
appeal to Elizabeth for Essex or for Southampton. 
It is plainly addressed to the Queen, and not to a 
Jew pariah: 

"... It becomes 
The throned monarch better than his crown; 
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power. 
The attribute to awe and majesty. 
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings ; 
But mercy is above this scepter'd sway. 
It is enthroned in the heart of kings. 
It is an attribute of God Himself, 
And earthly power doth then show likest God's, 
When Mercy seasons Justice." 

All this must have seemed the veriest irony when 
addressed to an outcast Jew. It was clearly intended 
as an appeal to Elizabeth, and shows how far gentle 
Shakespeare would venture in defence of a friend. 
Like a woman, he gained a certain courage through 
his affections. 

391 



The Man Shakespeare 

I feel convinced that he resented the condemna- 
tion of Essex and the imprisonment of Southamp- 
ton very bitterly, for thoug^h he had praised 
Elizabeth in his salad days again and again, talked 
about her in " A Midsummer Night's Dream " as a 
'' fair vestal throned by the west " ; walking in 
" maiden meditation, fancy-free " ; yet, v^^hen she 
died, he could not be induced to write one word 
about her. His silence was noticed, and Chettle 
challenged him to write in praise of the dead sover- 
eign, because she had been kind to him ; but he 
would not: he had come to dislike the harsh nature 
of Elizabeth, and he detested her ruthless cruelties. 
Like a woman, he found it difficult to forgive one 
who had injured those he loved. 

Now that I have discussed at some length Shake- 
speare's character, its powers and its weaknesses, 
let us for a moment consider his intellect. All sorts 
and conditions of men talk of it in superlatives ; 
but that does not help us much. It is as easy to sit 
in Shakespeare's brain and think from there, as it 
is from Balzac's. If we have read Shakespeare 
rightly, his intelligence was peculiarly self-centred; 
he was wise mainly through self-knowledge, and 
not, as is commonly supposed, through knowledge 
of others and observation ; he was assuredly any- 
thing but worldly-wise. Take one little point. In 
nearly every play he discovers an intense love of 
music and of flowers ; but he never tells you any- 
thing about the music he loves, and he only men- 
tions a dozen flowers in all his works. True, he 
finds exquisite phrases for his favourites ; but he 
only seems to have noticed or known the commonest. 
His knowledge of birds and beasts is similarly 
limited. But when Bacon praises flowers he shows 
at once the naturalist's gift of observation ; he men- 

392 



Shakespeare^ s Life 

tlons hundreds of different kinds, enumerating them 
month by month ; in April alone he names as many 
as Shakespeare has mentioned in all his writings. 
He used his eyes to study things outside himself, 
and memory to recall them ; but Shakespeare's eyes 
were turned inward; he knew little of the world out- 
side himself. 

Shakespeare's knowledge of men and women has 
been overrated. With all his sensuality he only knew 
one woman, Mary Fitton, though he knew her in 
every mood, and^only one man, himself, profoundly 
apprehended in every accident and moment of 
growth. 

He could not construct plays or Invent stories, 
though he selected good ones with considerable 
certainty. He often enriched the characters, seldom 
or never the incidents ; even the characters he creates 
are usually sides of himself, or humorous masks 
without a soul. He must have heard of the states- 
man Burleigh often enough ; but nowhere does he 
portray him ; no hint in his v/orks of Drake, or 
Raleigh, or Elizabeth, or Sidney. He has no care 
either for novelties ; he never mentions forks or even 
tobacco or potatoes. A student by nature if ever 
there was one, all intent, as he tells us, on better- 
ing his mind, he passes through Oxford a hundred 
times and never even mentions the schools : Oxford 
men had disgusted him with their ahna mater. 

The utmost reach of this self-student is extra- 
ordinary ; the main puzzle of life is hidden from us 
as from him ; but his word on it is deeper than most 
of ours, though we have had three centuries in 
which to climb above him. 

" Men must abide 
Their going hence even as their coming hither. 
Ripeness is all." 

393 



The Man Shakespeare 

And If It be said that the men of the Renaissance 
occupied themselves more with such questions than 
we do, and therefore show better in relation to them, 
let us take another phrase which has always seemed 
to me of extraordinary insight. Antony has beaten 
Caesar, and returns to Cleopatra, who greets him 
>vith the astounding words : 

" Lord of lords, 
O, infinite virtue, com'st thou smiling from 
The world's great snare uncaught ? " 

This is all more or less appropriate In the mouth 
of Cleopatra ; but it is to me Shakespeare's own 
comment on life ; he is conscious of his failure ; he 
has said to himself : " if I, Shakespeare, have failed, 
it is because every one fails ; life's handicap searches 
out every weakness ; to go through life as a con- 
queror would require ' infinite virtue.' " This is per- 
haps the furthest throw of Shakespeare's thought. 

But his worldly wisdom is to seek. After he had 
been betrayed by Lord Herbert he raves of man's 
ingratitude, in play after play. Of course men are 
ungrateful ; it is only the rarest and noblest natures 
who can feel thankful for help without any injury 
to vanity. The majority of men love their inferiors, 
those whom they help ; to give flatters self-esteem ; 
but they hate their superiors, and lend to the word 
" patron " an intolerable smirk of condescension. 
Shakespeare should have understood that at thirty. 

When his vanity was injured, his blindness was 
almost inconceivable. He should have seen Mary 
Fitton as she was and given us a deathless-true 
portrait of her; but the noble side of her, the soul- 
side a lover should have cherished, is not even sug- 
gested. He deserves to lose her, seeking only the 

394 



Shakespeare's Life 

common, careless of the " silent, silver lights " she 
could have shown him. He was just as blind with 
his wife; she had been unwillingly the ladder to his 
advancement ; he should have forgiven her on that 
ground, if not on a higher. 

He was inordinately vain and self-centred. He 
talked incontinently, as he himself assures us, and 
as Ben Jonson complains. He was exceedingly 
quick and witty and impatient. His language shows 
his speed of thought; again and again the images 
tumble over each other, and the mere music of his 
verse is breathlessly rapid, just as the movement of 
Tennyson's verse is extremely slow. 

More than once in his works I have shown how, 
at the crisis of fate, he jumps to conclusions like 
a woman. He seems often to have felt the faults of 
his own haste. His Othello says : 

** How poor are they that have not patience." 

With this speed of thought and wealth of lan- 
guage and of wit, he naturally loved to show off in 
conversation; but as he wished to get on and make 
a figure in the world, he should have talked less 
and encouraged his patrons to show off. Poor heed- 
less, witty, charming Shakespeare! One threat which 
he used again and again, discovers all his world- 
blindness to me. Gravely, in sonnet 140, he w^ams 
Mary Fitton that she had better not provoke him 
or he will write the truth about her — just as if the 
maid of honour who could bear bastard after bas- 
tard, while living at court, cared one straw what 
poor Shakespeare might say or write or sing of her. 
And Hamlet runs to the same weapon: he praises 
the players to Polonius as 

" Brief chronicles of the time ; after your death you 

395 



The Man Shakespeare 

were better have a bad epitaph than their ill report while 
you live." 

It is all untrue; actors were then, as now, only 
mummers without judgement. Shakespeare was 
thinking of himself, the dramatist-poet, who was 
indeed a chronicle of the time ; but the courtier Lord 
Polonius would not care a dam for a rhymester's 
praise or blame. Posthumus, too, will write against 
the wantons he dislikes. Shakespeare's weapon of 
offence was his pen; but though he threatened, he 
seldom used it maliciously ; he was indeed a " harm- 
less opposite," too full of the milk of human kind- 
ness to do injury to any man. But these instances 
of misapprehension in the simple things of life, 
show us that gentle Shakespeare is no trustworthy 
guide through this rough all-hating world. 

The time has now come for me to consider how 
Shakespeare was treated by the men of his own 
time, and how this treatment affected his character. 
The commentators, of course, all present him as 
walking through life as a sort of uncrowned king, 
feted and reverenced on all sides during his resi- 
dence in London, and in the fullness of years and 
honours retiring to Stratford to live out the re- 
mainder of his days in the bosom of his family as 
" a prosperous country gentleman," to use Dowden's 
unhappy phrase. As I have already shown, his 
works give the lie to this flattering fiction, which in 
all parts is of course absolutely incredible. It is 
your Tennyson, who is of his time and in perfect 
sympathy with it; Tennyson, with his May Queens, 
prig heroes and syrupy creed, who passes through 
life as a conqueror, and after death is borne in state 
to rest in the great Abbey. 

The Shakespeares, not being of an age, but for 

396 



Shakespeare's Life 

all time, have another guess sort of reception. From 
the moment young Will came to London, he was 
treated as an upstart, without gentle birth or college 
training : to Greene he was " Maister of Artes in 
Neither University." He won through, and did his 
work; but he never could take root in life; his 
children perished out of the land. He was in high 
company on sufferance. On the stage he met the 
highest, Essex, Pembroke, Southampton, on terms of 
equality ; but at court he stood among the menials 
and was despitefully treated. Let no one misunder- 
stand me: I should delight in painting the other 
picture if there were anj^ truth in it: I should have 
joyed in showing how the English aristocracy for 
this once threw off their senseless pride and hailed 
the greatest of men at least as an equal. Frederic 
the Great would have done this, for he put Voltaire 
at his own table, and told his astonished chamber- 
lains that " privileged spirits rank with sovereigns." 
Such wisdom was altogether above the English 
aristocracy of that or any time. Yet they might 
have arisen above the common in this one instance. 
For Shakespeare had not only supreme genius to 
commend him, but all the graces of manner, all the 
sweetness of disposition, all the exquisite courtesies 
of speech that go to ensure social success. His 
imperial intelligence, however, was too heavy a handi- 
cap. Men resent superiority at all times, and thero 
is nothing your aristocrat so much dislikes as intel- 
lectual superiority, and especially intellect that is 
not hall-marked and accredited: the Southaraptons 
and the Pembrokes must have found Shakespeare's 
insight and impartialitj^ intolerable. It was Ben 
Jonson whom Pembroke made Poet Laureate; it 
was Chapman the learned, and not Shakespeare, who 
was regarded with reverence. How could these gen- 

39r 



The Man Shakespeare 

tlemen appreciate Shakespeare when it was his 
" Venus and Adonis " and his " Lucrece " that they 
chiefly admired? " Venus and Adonis " went through 
seven editions in Shakespeare's lifetime, while 
" Othello " was not thought worthy of type till the 
author had been dead six years. 

JBut badly as the aristocrats treated Shakespeare 
they yet treated him better than any other class. 
The shopkeepers in England are infinitely further 
removed from art or poetry than the nobles ; now 
as in the time of Elizabeth they care infinitely more 
for beef and beer and broadcloth than for any 
spiritual enjoyment; while the masses of the people 
prefer a dog-fight to any masterpiece in art or 
letters. 

Some will say that Shakespeare was perhaps con- 
demned for dissolute living, and did not come to 
honour because of his shortcomings in character. 
Such a judgement misapprehends life altogether. 
Had Shakespeare's character been as high as his 
intellect he would not have been left contemptu- 
ously on one side ; he would have been hated and 
persecuted, pilloried or thrown into prison as Bunyan 
was. It was his dissolute life that commended him 
to the liking of the loose-living Pembroke and Essex. 
Pembroke, we know from Clarendon, v/as " immod- 
erately given to women." Four maids of honour, 
we learn, were enceintes to Essex at the same time. 
Shakespeare was hardly as dissolute as his noble 
patrons. The truth was they could not understand 
his genius ; they had no measure wherewith to 
measure it, for no one can see above his own head; 
and so they treated him with much the same con- 
descending familiarity that nobles nowadays show to 
a tenor or a ballet dancer. In March, 1604, after 

39d 



Shakespeare's Life 

he had written " Hamlet " and " Macbeth," Shake- 
speare and some other actors walked from the Tower 
of London to Westminster in the procession which 
accompanied King James on his formal entry into 
London. Each of the actors received four and a 
half yards of scarlet cloth to wear as a cloak on the 
occasion. The scarlet cloak to Shakespeare must 
have been a sort of Nessus' shirt, or crown of thorns 
— the livery of derision. 

Shakespeare, who measured both enemies and 
friends fairly, measured himself fairly, too. He 
usually praises his impersonations : Hamlet is " a 
noble heart " ; Brutus " the noblest Roman of them 
all " ; and speaking directly he said of him.self in a 
sonnet : 

" I am that I am^ and they that level 
At my abuses reckon up their own; 
I may be straight though they themselves be bevel.'* 

He knew his own greatness, none better, and as 
soon as he reached middle age and began to take 
stock of himself, he must have felt bitterly that he, 
the best mind in the world, had not brought it far 
in the ordinary estimation of men. No wonder he 
showed passionate sympathy with all those who had 
failed in life; he could identify himself with Brutus 
and Anton}^, and not with the Caesars. 

Shakespeare's view of England and of English- 
men was naturally affected by their treatment of 
him. He is continually spoken of as patriotic, and it 
is true that he started in youth with an almost lyrical 
love of country. His words in " Richard II." are 
often quoted; but they were written before he had 
any experience or knowledge of men. 

399 



The 'Man Shakespeare 

" Gaunt, This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd 

isle, 
• • • • • 

This happy breed of men, this little world; 

This precious stone set in the silver sea. 

Which serves it in the office of a wall. 

Or as a moat, defensive to a house. 

Against the envy of less happier lands; 

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England/* 

The apologists who rejoice in his patriotism never 
realize that Shakespeare did not hold the same 
opinions throughout his life ; as he grew and devel- 
oped, his opinions developed with him. In " The 
Merchant of Venice " we find that he has already 
come to saner vision ; when Portia and Nerissa talk 
of the English suitor, Portia says: 

** You know I say nothing to him ; for he understands 
not me, nor I him: he hath neither Latin, French, nor 
Italian ; and you will come into the court and swear that 
I have a poor pennyworth in the Englishman. He is a 
proper man's picture ; but, alas, who can converse with a 
dumb show ? How oddly he is suited ! I think he 
bought his doublet in Italy, his round hose in France, 
his bonnet in Germany, and his behaviour everywhere." 

What super-excellen^t criticism it all is ; true, now 
as then, " a proper man's picture but ... a dumb 
show." It proves conclusively that Shakespeare was 
able to see around and over the young English 
noble of his day. From this time on I find no praise 
of England or of Englishmen in any of his works, 
except " Henry V.," which was manifestly written 
to catch applause on account of its jingoism. In 
his maturity Shakespeare saw his countrymen as 
they were, and mentioned them chiefly to blame their 
love of drinking. Imogen says : 

400 '^ 



Shakespeare's Life 

Hath Britain all the sun that shines? Day, night. 
Are they not but in Britain 

prithee, think 
There's livers out of Britain." 



Whoever reads " Coriolanus " carefully will see 
how Shakespeare loathed the common Englishman ; 
there can be no doubt at all that he incorporated 
his dislike of him once for all in Caliban. The 
qualities he lends Caliban are all characteristic. 
Whoever will give him drink is to Caliban a god. 
The brutish creature would violate and degrade art 
without a scruple, and the soul of him is given in 
the phrase that if he got the chance he would people 
the world with Calibans. Sometimes one thinks 
that if Shakespeare were living to-day he would be 
inclined to say that his prediction had come true. 

One could have guessed without proof that in 
the course of his life Shakespeare, like Goethe, 
would rise above that parochial vanity which is so 
much belauded as patriotism. He was in love with 
the ideal and would not confine it to any country. 

There is little to tell of his life after he met Mary 
Fitton, or rather the history of his life afterwards 
is the history of his passion and jealousy and mad- 
ness as he himself has told it in the great tragedies. 
He appears to have grown fat and scant of breath 
when he was about thirty-six or seven. In 1608 
his mother died, and " Coriolanus " was written as 
a sort of monument to the memory of " the noblest 
mother in the world." His intimacy with Mary 
Fitton lasted, I feel sure, up to his breakdown in 
1608 or thereabouts, and was probably the chief 
cause of his infirmity and untimely death. 

It only remains for me now to say a word or 
two about the end of his life. Howe says that " the 

401 



'The Man Shakespeare 

latter part of his life was spent as all men of good 
sense will that theirs may be, in ease, retirement, 
and the conversation of his friends. He had the 
good fortune to gather an estate equal to his occa- 
sion, and, in that, to his wish, and is said to have 
spent some years before his death at his native 
Stratford." Rowe, too, tells us that it is a story 
" well remembered in that country, that he had a 
particular intimacy with Mr. Combe, an old gentle- 
man noted thereabouts for his wealth and usury ; 
it happened that in a pleasant conversation amongst 
their common friends Mr. Combe told Shakespeare, 
in a laughing manner, that he fancied he intended 
to write his epitaph, if he happened to outlive him ; 
and since he did not know what might be said of 
him when he was dead, he desired it might be done 
immediately; upon which Shakespeare gave him 
these four lines : 

' Ten in the Hundred lies here ingrav'd 
'Tis a Hundred to Ten his soul is not sav*d: 
If any Man ask^ * Who lies in this tomb/ 
Oh ! ho ! quoth the Devil, 'tis my John-a-Combe.* 

But the sharpness of the Satw is said to have 
stung the man so severely that he never forgave 
him." 

I have given all this because I want the reader 
to have the sources before him, and because the 
contempt of tradesman-gain and usury, even at the 
very end, is so characteristic. 

It appears, too, from the Stratford records, and 
is therefore certain, that as early as the year 1614 
a preacher was entertained at New Place — " Item, 
one quart of sack, and one quart of claret wine, 
given to a preacher at the New Place, twenty 

402 



Shakespeare's Life 

pence." The Reverend John Ward, who was vicar 
of Stratford, in a manuscript memorandum book 
written in the year 1664, asserts that " Shakespeare, 
Drayton and Ben Jhonson had a merie meeting, 
and itt seems drank too hard, for Shakespeare died 
of a feavour there contracted." 

Shakespeare, as we have seen from " The Tem- 
pest," retired to Stratford — " where every third 
thought shall be my grave " — in broken health and 
in a mood of despairing penitence. I do not sup- 
pose the mood lasted long; but the ill-health and 
persistent weakness explain to me as nothing else 
could his retirement to Stratford. It is incredible 
to me that Shakespeare should leave London at 
forty-seven or forty-eight years of age, in good 
health, and retire to Stratford to live as a " pros- 
perous country gentleman " ! What had Stratford 
to offer Shakespeare— village Stratford with a mid- 
den in the chief street and the charms of the village 
usurer's companionship tempered by the ministra- 
tions of a wandering tub-thum.per.? 

There is abundant evidence, even in " The Win- 
ter's Tale " and " Cymbeline," to prove that the 
storm which wrecked Shakespeare's life had not 
blown itself out even when these last works were 
written, in 1611-12; the jealousy of Leontes is as 
wild and sensual as the jealousy of Othello ; the 
attitude of Posthumus towards women as bitter as 
anything to be found in " Troilus and Cressida " : 

"Could I find out 
The woman's part in me ! For there's no motion 
That tends to vice in man but I affirm 
It is the woman's part: be it lyings note it^ 
The woman's; flattering, hers; deceiving;, hers; 
Lust and rank thoughts, hers, hers; revenges, hers; 
Ambitions, covetings, change of prides, disdain, 

403 




The Man Shakespeare 

Nice longing, slanders, mutability, 

All faults that may be named, nay, that hell knows. 

Why, hers, in part or all, but rather all; 

For even to vice 

They are not constant, but are changing still 

One vice, but of a minute old, for one 

Not half so old as that." 

The truth is, that the passions of lust and jealousy 
and rage had at length worn out Shakespeare's 
strength, and after trying in vain to win to serenity 
in " The Tempest," he crept home to Stratford to 
die. 

In his native air, I imagine, his health gradually 
improved; but he was never strong enough to ven- 
ture back to residence in London. He probably 
returned once or twice for a short visit, and during 
his absence his pious daughter, Mrs. Hall, enter- 
tained the wandering preacher in New Place. 

As Shakespeare grew stronger he no doubt talked 
with Combe, the usurer, for want of any one better. 

It is probable, too, that on one of his visits to 
London he took up Fletcher's " Henry VIII." and 
wrote in some scenes for him and touched up others, 
or Fletcher may have visited him in Stratford and 
there have begged his help. 

His youngest daughter, Judith, was married early 
in 1616; it seems probable to me that this was the 
occasion of the visit of Jonson and Dra3'^ton to 
Stratford. No doubt Shakespeare was delighted to 
meet them, talked as few men ever talked before 
or since, and probably drank too much with those 
'j)oor unhappy brains for drinking " which his 
Cassitrs deplored. Thus fanned, the weak fiame of 
his life wasted quickly a,nd guttered out. It is all 
comprehensible enough, and more than likely, that 
the greatest man in the world, after the boredom of 

404 



Shakespeare^ s Life 

solitary years spent in Stratford, died through a 
merry meeting with his friends; in his joy and 
excitement he drank a glass or so of wine, which 
brought on a fever. It is all true, true to character, 
and pitiful beyond words. 

Shakespeare to me is the perfect type of the 
artist, and the artist is gradually coming to his 
proper place in the world's esteem. In the introduc- 
tion to one of his " Lives," Plutarch apologizes for 
writing about a painter, a mere artist, instead of 
about some statesman or general, who would be a 
worthy object of ambition for a well-born youth. 
But since Plutarch's time our view of the relative 
merits of men has changed and developed : to-day we 
put the artist higher even than the saint. Indeed, it 
seems to us that the hero or statesman, or saint, 
only ranks in proportion to the artist-faculty he 
may possess. The winning of a battle is not enough 
to engage all our admiration ; it must be won b}^ an 
artist. In every department of life this faculty is 
beginning to be appreciated as the finest possession 
of humanity, and Shakespeare was an almost perfect 
example of the self-conscious artist. 

People talk as if his masterpieces were produced 
at haphazard or by unconscious fruition ; but mas- 
terpieces are not brought forth in this happy-go- 
lucky fashion. They are of the sort that only come 
to flower with perfect tendance. Even if we did not 
know that Shakespeare corrected his finest verses 
again and again with critical care, v/e should have 
to assume it. But we know that he spared no pains 
to better his finer inspirations, and he has told us in 
a sonnet how anxiously he thought about his art 
and the art of his rivals : 

" Desiring this man's art^ and that man's scope 
With what I most enjoy contented least." 

405 



The Man Shakespeare 

He Las all the qualities and all the shortcomings 
of the reflective, humane, sensuous artist tempera- 
ment, intensified by the fact that he had not had 
the advantage of a middle-class training. 

In a dozen ways our Puritan discipline and the 
rubs and buffets one gets in this work-a-day world 
where money is more highly esteemed than birth 
or sainthood or genius, have brought us beyond 
Shakespeare in knowledge of men and things. The 
courage of the Puritan, his self-denial and self- 
control, have taught us invaluable lessons ; Puri- 
tanism tempered character as steel is tempered with 
fire and ice, and the necessity of getting one's bread, 
not as a parasite, but as a fighter, has had just as 
important results on character. Shakespeare is no 
longer an ideal to us ; no single man can now fill our 
mental horizon ; we can see around and above the 
greatest of the past: the overman of to-day is only 
on the next round of the ladder, and our children 
will smile at the fatuity of his conceit. 

But if we can no longer worship Shakespeare, it 
is impossible not to honour him, impossible not to 
love him. All men — Spenser as well as Jonson — 
found him gentle and witty, gay and generous. He 
was always willing to touch up this man's play or 
write in an act for that one. He never said a bitter 
an cruel word about any man. Compare him with 
Dante or even with Goethe, and you shall find him 
vastly superior to either of them in loving-kind- 
,ness. He was more contemptuousl}'' treated in life 
than even Dante, and yet he never fell away to 
bitterness as Dante did : he complained, it is true ; 
but he never allowed his fairness to be warped; he 
Vv'as of the noblest intellectual temper. 

It is impossible not to honour him, for the truth 
is he had more virtue in him than any other son of 

406 



Shakespeare's Life 

man. " By their fruits ye shall know them." He 
produced more masterpieces than any other writer, 
and the finest sayings in the world's literature are 
his. Think of it: Goethe was perfectly equipped; 
he had a magnificent mind and body and tempera- 
ment: he was born in the better middle classes; he 
was well off ; splendidly handsome ; thoroughly edu- 
cated; his genius was recognized on all hands when 
he was in his teens ; and it was developed by travel 
and princely patronage. Yet what did Goethe do 
in proof of his advantages ? " Faust " is the only 
play he ever wrote that can rank at all with a dozen 
of Shakespeare's. Poor Shakespeare brought it 
further in the sixteenth century than even Goethe 
at full strain could bring it in the nineteenth. I 
find Shakespeare of surpassing virtue. Cervantes 
ranks with the greatest because he created Don 
Quixote and Sancho Panza ; but Hamlet and Falstaff 
are more significant figures, and take Hamlet and 
Falstaff away from Shakespeare's achievement, and 
more still remains than any other poet ever pro- 
duced. 

Harvest after harvest Shakespeare brought forth 
of astounding quality. Yet he was never strong, and 
he died at fifty-two, and the last six years of his life 
were wasted with weakness and ill-health. No braver 
spirit has ever lived. After " Hamlet " and " Antony 
and Cleopatra " and " Lear " and " Timon " he 
broke down; yet as soon as he struggled back to 
sanity, he came to the collar again and dug " The 
Winter's Tale " out of himself, and " Cymbeline," 
and seeing they were not his best, took breath, and 
brought forth " The Tempest " — another master- 
piece, though written with a heart of lead and with 
the death-sweat dank on his forehead. Think of it; 
the noblest autumn fruit ever produced; all kindly- 

407 



The Man Shakespeare 

sweet and warm, bathed so to speak in love's golden 
sunshine ; his last word to men : 

" The rarer action is 
In virtue than in vengeance. . . ." 

And then the master of many styles, Including the 
simple, wins to a childlike simplicit}^, and touches 
the source of tears : 

**.... We are such stuff 
As dreams are made on, and our little life 
Is rounded with a sleep." 

True, Shakespeare was not the kind of man Eng- 
lishmen are accustomed to admire. By a curious 
irony of fate Jesus was sent to the Jews, the most 
unworldly soul to the most material of peoples, and 
Shakespeare to Englishmen, the most gentle sensuous 
charmer to a masculine, rude race. It may be well 
for us to learn what infinite virtue lay in that frail, 
sensual singer. 

This dumb struggling world, all in travail be- 
tween Thought and Being, longs above everything 
to realize itself and become articulate, and never has 
it found such width of understanding, such melody 
of speech, as in this Shakespeare. " I have often 
said, and will often repeat," writes Goethe, "that 
the final cause and consummation of all natural and 
human activity is dramatic poetry." Englishmen do 
not appear yet to understand what arrogance and 
what profound wisdom there is in this saying; but 
in a dull, half conscious way they are beginning 
dimly to realize that the biggest thing they have 
done in the world yet is to produce Shakespeare. 
When I think of his paltry education, his limiting 
circumstances, the scanty appreciation of his con- 

408 



Shakespeare's Life 

temporaries, his indifferent health, and recall his 
stupendous achievement, I am fain to apply to him, 
as most appropriate, the words he gave to his alter 
ego, Antony, Antony who, like himself, was world- 
worn and passion-weary: 

" A rarer spirit never 
Did steer humanity ; but you, gods, will give us 
Some faults to make us men." 



409 



Index 



411 412 



Index 



Abbess, 174. 

Acaxieme, 161. 

AchiUes, 295, 297. 

Actium, 303, 308. 

Adam, 72, 268. 

Adonis, 367, 368. 

Adriana, 167, 171, 172, 173, 174, 
175. 

JEgeon, 69, 168, 176. 

iEneas, 300. 

Agamemnon, 295. 

Agincourt, 230. 

Agrippa, 300. 

Ajax, 295. 

Albany, The Duke of (in 
"Lear"), 66. 

Aleppo, 288. 

Alexander, 243. 

Angelo, 36, 38, 40, 43, 44, 45, 53, 
103, 143, 379. 

Anne, Lady, 119, 120, 121. 

Antigone, 56. 

Antipholus, 169, 170, 171, 172, 
174, 176. 

Antonio, 183, 185, 186, 187, 188, 
189, 190, 191, 192, 193, 194, 
195, 196, 197, 198, 239, 240, 
249 252 334. 

Antonio (Duke, in " The Tem- 
pest"), 338, 343, 347. 

Antony, Marc, 124, 201, 251, 257, 
259, 299, 300, 301, 302, 303, 
304, 305, 306, 307, 308, 309, 
310, 311, 312, 313, 314, 316, 
317, 318, 322, 323, 335, 394, 
399, 409. 

"Antony and Cleopatra," 10, 
124, 247, 269, 296, 298, 335, 
385, 407. 

Apelles, 243. 

Apemantus, 332, 373. 

"Arabian Nights' Entertain- 
ment," 45. 



Arden, Mary, 352, 35S. 

Arden, the family of, 379. 

Argus, 226. 

Ariel, 143, 345, 347. 

Armado, 161. 

Arnold, Matthew, 3. 

Arthur, Prince, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 

62, 76, 77, 78, 116, 118, 122, 

123, 193, 251, 340. 
Arviragus, 135. 
Asbies 352. 
"As You Like It," 14, 37, 54, 98, 

129, 140, 250, 268, 338. 
Aubrey, 352, 354, 367, 386. 
Aufidius, 242. 
Aumerle, 68. 
Austin, Alfred, 102. 
Autolycus, 141, 152, 339. 

"Babes in a Wood," XVm. 

Bacon, 5, 392. 

Bagot, 67, 68, 278. 

Balzac, XVIII, 61, 142, 392. 

Bankside, 244. 

Banquo, 17, 22, 26, 27, 29. 

Bardolph, 371, 373, 374. 

Bamardine, 44. 

Bartholomew Fair, 244, 342. 

Bassanio, 183, 187, 188, 189, 192, 

193, 196, 198, 230, 239, 240, 

374. 
Bastard (the), 55, 56, 57, 59, 62, 

116, 122, 142, 251. 
Bazarof, 380. 
Beatrice, 166, 386. 
Beaumont, 390. 
Beckett, Ernest, dedication. 
Belarius, 52. 

Belch, Sir Toby, 142, 155. 
Bellario, 180. 
Benedick, 165, 166, 181, 182, 

208, 211, 230. 
Benvolio, 215, 216. 



413 



Index 



Berowne, 161. 

Bertillon, M., 6. 

Betterton, 365. 

Pevis, George, 115. 

Bianca, 282. 

Birnam Wood, 32. 

Biron, 160, 161, 162, 163, 164, 

165, 166, 168, 175, 176, 217, 

218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 223, 

225, 252, 342. 
Blackfriars, 361, 377. 
Blount, Sir Walter, 88, 89. 
Boaden, 201. 
Bolingbroke, 65, 67, 68, 70, 71, 

72, 74, 75, 81, 82, 251. 
Borachio, 206. 
Bottom, 143. 
Bourbon, 98. 
Boyet, 161, 164, 166, 218. 
Brabant, 218. 
Brabantio, 272. 
Brandes, 16, 35, 124, 160, 165, 

256, 296, 301, 302. 
Bright, 201. 
Britain, 401. 
Browning, 3. 
Brutus, 39, 76, 190, 249, 250, 251, 

252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 257, 

258, 259, 260, 261, 302, 399. 
Bullen, Anne, 338. 
Bunyan, 124, 125, 398. 
Burbage, 365, 374. 
Bushy, 67, 68. 
Byron, 124. 

Cade, 113, 115, 149, 380. 

Caesar, 124, 251, 253, 254, 255, 
256, 257, 258, 276, 299, 300, 
303, 305, 306, 307, 308, 309, 
310, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 
394, 399. 

Caliban, 346, 350, 401. 

Camden, William, 378. 

"Campaspe," 243. 

Canterbury, Archbishop of, 105. 

Capulet, 11, 214. 

Cariyle, Thomas, X, XIV, 4, 55, 
107, 108, 124. 

Cassio, 275, 276, 277, 279, 282, 
285. 



Cassius, 251, 252, 253, 257, 258, 
259, 369, 404. 

Cecil, Sir Robert, 213. 

Cervantes, XIII, 407. 

Cesario, 133. 209. 

Chamberiain, the Lord, 247. 

Chapel Lane, 377. 

Chapman, 124, 246, 296, 297, 
338, 388, 397. 

Chariecot, 355. 

Charmian, 305, 306, 307, 315, 319. 

Chesterfield, 232. 

Chettle, 150, 151, 372, 373, 392. 

Chief Justice, 103, 151. 

Chus, 190. 

Cinna, 255. 

Cinthio, 271, 277. 

Clarenceux (King of Arms), 378 

Clarendon, 398. 

Claudio, 37, 38, 39, 40, 44, 137, 
206, 207, 208, 211. 

Claudius, King of Denmark, 19, 
265, 266. 

Cleopatra, XII, 8, 32, 228, 297, 
299, 300, 302, 303, 304, 305, 
306, 307, 308, 309, 310, 311, 
312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 
318, 319, 320, 321, 322, 385, 
386, 394. 

Clifford, 115. 

Cloten, 49. 

"Colbourn's Magazine," 40. 

Coleridge, XI, XII, 5, 6, 7, 9, 35, 
45, 55, 63, 72, 104, 112, 118, 
119, 120, 132, 141, 142, 160, 
165, 166, 175, 201, 221, 253, 
254, 276, 277, 281, 324, 371, 
380. 

College of Heralds, 378, 379. 

Combe, John, 375, 402, 404. 

"Comedy of Errors," 69, 167, 
172, 175, 176, 177, 360, 363, 
365. 

Comic Muse, 152. 

Condell, 112. 

"Confessio Amantis," 64. 

Constance, 340. 

Cordelia, 292, 386. 

"Coriolanus," 115, 119, 130, 242, 
302, 316, 353, 401. 



414 



Index 



Cressida, XII, 290, 291, 292, 293, 
294, 295. 297, 302, 310, 317, 
384, 386. 

Crichton, Admirable, 140. 

CromweU, X, XIV, 4, 125. 

Cupid, 274. 

"Cymbeline," 35, 36, 45, 46, 75, 
163, 193, 271, 286, 287, 316, 
326, 337, 338, 340, 341, 403, 
407. 

Cytherea, 136. 

Damon, 244, 245. 

Dante, X, 32, 142, 406. 

Dark Lady (of the Sonnets), 

XII, 386. 
Dauphin, 98, 106. 
D'Avenant, John, 365, 386. 
D'Avenant, Mrs., 386. 
D'Avenant, Sir William, 376, 

386, 387. 
Dekker, 151, 390. 
Desdemona, 53, 273, 275, 276, 

277, 278, 279, 280, 281, 282, 

283, 285, 287, 289, 292, 338, 

386. 
Diana and Dian. 144, 214, 218. 
Dido, 300. 

Diomedes, 292, 293, 322. 
Dogberry, 143, 155. 
Don John, 206. 
Don Pedro, 208. 
Don Quixote, 323, 407. 
Douglas, 85, 86, 95, 97. 
Dowden, Professor, 8, 9, 119, 

160, 251, 295, 298, 299, 317, 

396. 
Drake, 110, 123, 370, 393. 
Drayton, 403, 404. 
Dryasdust, 10, 181, 357, 361, 375. 
Diilve (the Exiled, in "As You 

Like It"), 100. 
Duke of York, 109. 
Duke of Milan ("Two Gentle- 
men of Verona"), 180, 181, 203. 
Duke of Venice ("The Merchant 

of Venice"), 192, 198. 
Duke of Venice ("Othello"), 272. 
Dumas, 297. 
Duncan, King, 19, 20, 26, 27, 28. 



Eachin, 77. 

Eastcheap, tavern, 92. 

Ecclesiastes, 21 

Edgar, 329. 

Egypt 316. 

Egypt, Queen of, 201, 302, 303, 

323. 
Elizabeth, Queen, XII, 5, 46, 

154, 162, 202, 213, 223, 224, 

364, 382, 391, 392, 393, 398. 
Ely, Bishop of , 105. 
Elysium, 151. 
Emerson, XIII. 
Emilia, 283, 338. 
"Encyclopaedia Britannica," 324. 
England, 67, 84, 97, 104, 107, 

108, 147, 149, 162, 223, 229, 

277, 298, 324, 326, 371, 389, 

398, 399, 400. 
Enobarbus, 124, 300, 302, 303, 

306, 308, 309, 318, 319, 374. 
Ephesus, 169. 
Erebus, 137. 
Eros, 311. 
Escalus, 42, 43. 
Esmond, 61. 
Essex, Earl of, 110, 378, 379, 382, 

391, 392, 397, 398. . 
Evans, Hugh, 353. 
"Every Man in his Humour," 

342. 

"Fair Maid of Perth, The," 76. 

Falstaif, 4, 8, 67, 79, 92, 93, 94, 
95, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 
104, 111, 115, 120, 143, 144, 
145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 
151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 215, 
277, 306, 339, 371, 373, 374, 
383, 407. 

"Famous Victories of Henry V., 
The," 79, 91, 102, 147. 

Fauconbridge, Philip, 57. 

"Faust," 407. 

Ferdinand, 136, 346, 347. 

First Gentleman, 47. 

"First Part of the Contention 
betwixt the Two Famous 
Houses of Yorke and Lancas- 
ter, The," 113. 



415 



Indi 



ex 



Fitton, Mary, 202, 209, 212, 213, 
214, 221, 225, 226, 247, 264, 
265, 266, 269, 270, 283, 290, 
291, 292, 294, 298, 301, 302, 
304, 306, 308, 310, 317, 322, 
323, 338, 340, 345, 382, 383, 
384, 385, 386, 393, 394, 395, 
401. 

Flavius, 332, 333, 344. 

Fleance, 22. 

Fleet Prison, 103. 

Fletcher (the poet), 404. 

Ford, 153. 

Ford, Mrs., 152. 

Forman's Diary, 63. 

Fortinbras, 145. 

France, 106, 400. 

Frederic the Great, 397. 

Fuller, 389. 

Furnival, Mr., 127, 175, 214. 

Gadshill, 93, 145. 

Gauls, 254. 

Gaunt, John of, 64, Q5, 72, 400. 

Germany, 104, 400. 

Gertrude (Queen: "Hamlet"), 

265, 266. 
Gill, Sir David, XVII. 
Gladstone, 229. 
Glendower, 84, 85, 95. 
Globe Theatre, 375. 
Gloster, 64, 113, 114, 116. 
Glostershire, 82. 
Gloucester, 125, 325. 
God, 64, 67, 68, 69, 70, 77, 86, 

105, 106, 124, 146, 148, 149, 

197, 375, 391. 
Goethe, XI, XII, 7, 49, 55, 129, 

142, 163, 261, 266, 324, 389, 

401, 407. 
Gollancz, Israel, 204, 333, 349. 
Gonzalo, 344. 
"Gorgias," 120. 
Goneril ("Lear"), XII. 
Gower, 64. 
Gratiano, 183, 187, 192, 197, 198, 

240. 

Green '("Richard II"), 67. 68, 
278. 



Greene, Robert (the playwright), 

150, 191, 366, 372, 397. 
Greenhill Street, 352. 
"Groatsworth of Wit, The," 372. 
Guildenstern, 36, 76, 258. 

Hal, Prince, 91, 144, 146, 148. 

Hall, Susanna, 358, 377, 404. 

Hallam, 3, 201, 227, 248. 

Halliwell-Phillipps, 357. 

Hamlet, XI, XIII, XIV, 4, 7, 8, 
9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 
18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 28, 
29, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 39, 
40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 48, 49, 
50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 68, 69, 70, 
73, 75, 76, 77, 89, 90, 100, 121, 
122, 130, 134, 135, 138, 139, 
140, 141, 144, 145, 149, 155, 
159, 162, 193, 215, 228, 248, 
250, 251, 252, 258, 259, 261, 
262, 263, 264, 265, 266, 267, 
268, 269, 271, 272, 279, 281, 
288, 290, 297, 298, 302, 306, 
322, 334, 340, 342, 346, 350, 
351, 369, 372, 380, 385, 395, 
399 407. 

Hamnet, 58, 340, 360, 378. 

Harfleur, 106. 

Haroun-al-Raschid, 45. 

Harrison, Rev. W. A., 202. 

Hathaway, Anne, 178, 356, 357, 
358, 363, 364, 368. 

Hathaway, Richard, 356, 358. 

Hazlitt, 10, 16, 35. 

Hector, 295. 

Heine, 227, 248, 304. 

Helen, 290. 

Hellicon, 151. 

Heminge, 112, 365. 

Henley Street, 352, 353. 

Henry IV., King, 64, 66, 67, 79, 
81, 83, 88, 89, 97, 101, 104, 110, 
128, 138, 215, 356, 369. 

First Part, 94, 152, 153, 155, 

382. 



Second Part, 99, 150, 152, 

153, 155, 382. 

Henry V., King, 98, 102, 103, 

104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 



416 



Indi 



ex 



110, 122, 123, 128, 142, 230, 

354, 356, 369, 400. 
Henry VI., King, 63, 112, 114, 

116, 117, 118, 122, 123, 251, 

338. 

First Part, 112, 114, 380. 

Second Part, 113, 115, 116, 

149. 



Third Part, 116, 118, 119, 

371. 

Henry VIH., 122, 338, 404. 

Henry, Prince, 50, 79, 90, 91, 92, 
93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 99, 100, 101, 
102, 103, 104, 110, 111, 123, 
144, 146, 147, 148, 151, 153. 

Herbert, Lord William (Earl of 
Pembroke), 201, 205, 210, 212, 
213, 214, 222, 226, 232, 236, 
237, 238, 241, 243, 246, 247, 
248, 262, 263, 264, 265, 268, 
269, 282, 290, 291, 294, 313, 
387, 394, 397, 398. 

Hermione, 281, 337. 

Hero, 206, 207, 244, 245, 337. 

"Hero and Leander," 128, 244. 

Holland, John, 115. 

Holofernes, 353. 

Homer, X, 142, 292, 339. 

Horace, 354. 

Hotspur, Harry, 50, 55, 56, 79, 
80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 
88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 95, 96, 97, 
98, 109, 110, 111, 122, 125, 
142, 275. 

Hubert, 30, 59, 60, 61, 123, 263. 

Humphrey, Duke of Gloster, 

113, 114. 
Hyperion, 216, 265. 

lachimo, 46, 49, 50, 53, 286. 
lago. 121, 271. 272, 275, 276, 277, 

278, 279, 280, 281, 282, 283, 

287, 289. 
Imogen, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 

114, 135, 278, 286, 339, 341, 
400. 

Iras, 316. 
Ironsides, 125. 
Irving, Sir Henry, 33. 
Isabella, 40, 41, 44. 



Isis, 306. 
Ismene, 5Q. 
Italy, 194, 400. 

Jack, 146, 149. 

Jack-a-Lent, 153. 

Jacob, 195. 

James, King, 247, 399. 

Jaques, 13, 14, 15, 34, 44, 49, 
54, 55, 56, 98, 100, 186, 219, 
228, 250. 

Jeanne d'Arc, 380. 

Jena, 389. 

Jessica, 137, 190, 240. 

Jesus, 250, 362, 408. 

Jews, XV, 408. 

John, King, 30, 57, 58, 62, 77, 
116, 118, 127, 360, 382. 

John, Prince ("Henry IV"), 95. 

Johnson, Dr., 6, 193, 232, 366. 

Jonson, Ben, XI, XII, XIII, 5, 
6, 7, 130, 151, 164, 191, 244, 
245, 247, 341, 342, 352, 354, 
371, 375, 387, 388, 389, 390, 
391, 395, 397, 403, 404, 413. 

Joubert, XI. 

Jove, 216. 

Judas, 250. 

Judith, 337, 340, 404. 

Julia, 175, 178, 183. 

Juliet, 10, 11, 114, 132, 180, 215, 
217, 279, 341, 343. 

Julius Csesar, 76, 249, 250, 251, 
270, 390. 

Juno, 135. 

Kate, 83. 

Katharine ("King Henry VII."), 

109. 
Katherine ("Love's Labour's 

Lost"), 225. 
Keats, 141, 142. 
Kemp, 383. 
Kent, 75, 332, 344. 
King (See "Henry," etc.). 
King's Council, 116. 
King of Naples, 347. 
King of Navarre (Ferdinand), 

161, 167, 176, 177, 222, 223- 
"Knight's Conjuring, A," 151. 



417 



Indi 



ex 



Laban, 195. 

Laertes, 12, 18, 32, 33, 42, 262, 268. 

Lamb, 324. 

Langland, William, 64. 

Lamice, 141. 

Leander, 244. 

Lear, King, X, 17, 26, 40, 66, 70, 
75, 167, 190, 251, 324, 325, 326, 
327, 328, 329, 330, 331, 332, 
333, 334, 335, 336, 337, 351, 
385, 407. 

Leatherhead, 244, 245. 

Lee, Sidney, 45. 

Leicester, Lord, 365. 

Leontes, 281, 403. 

Lessing, 324. 

Leveson, Sir Richard, 213. 

Lieutenant of the Tower, 117. 

"Lives" (Plutarch), 405. 

"Lives of the Poets, The," 365. 

Lodge, 14. 

Lodovico, 280. 

London, X, 77, 110, 162, 169, 
177, 178, 229, 296, 337, 355, 
361, 363, 364, 365, 366, 368, 
370, 371, 372, 374, 377, 382, 
396, 397, 399, 404. 

Longaville, 218. 

Lope de Vega, XIII. 

Lord Governor of England, 65. 

Lord of Comedy, 144. 

Lord of Humour, 154. 

Lorenzo, 136, 137, 193, 240. 

"Love's Labour's Lost," 127, 160, 
161, 165, 166, 167, 168, 175, 
176, 177, 184, 217, 222, 224, 
296, 342, 353. 

Lucetta, 175. 

Luciana, 171, 172, 174. 

Lucifer, 319. 

Lucio, 41, 42, 44, 45, 100. 

Lucius ("Julius Caesar"), 259. 

"Lucrece," 127, 373, 398. 

Lucy, Sir Thomas, 154, 355, 364. 

Luther, 124. 

Lyiy, 243, 353. 

Macbeth, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 
22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 
30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 39, 40, 44, 45, 



49, 54, 55, 70, 130, 135, 138, 

139, 155, 251, 256, 259, 271, 

279, 285, 288, 369, 385, 399. 
Macbeth, Lady, 18, 19, 20, 23, 

24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31. 
Macduff, 27, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33. 
Malcolm, 30, 31. 
Malvolio, 143, 379. 
Mamillius, 340. 
Marcus ("Titus Andronicus"), 

126. 
Mardian ("Antony and Cleo- 
patra"), 305. 
Margaret, 112. 
Maria, 141, 155, 166. 
Mariana, 380. 
Marie, 57. 

Marina, 337, 339, 340. 
Marlowe, 5, 117, 119, 121, 128, 

371, 388. 
Mars, 216, 305. 
Marston, 390. 
Masque, 342. 

Master of the Revels, 232, 247. 
May Queen, 61, 396. 
"Measure for Measure," 35, 36, 

37, 45, 54, 76, 104. 
"Merchant of Venice, The," 136, 

180, 183, 185, 239, 242, 334, 

376, 382, 391, 400. 
Mercury, 216. 
Mercutio, 164, 187, 215, 216, 218, 

221, 230, 374. 
Meredith, George, 290. 
Meres, 214. 
Mermaid, 389, 390. 
"Merry Wives of Windsor, The," 

153, 154, 155, 215, 353. 
"Midsummer Night's Dream, 

A," 135, 175, 382, 392. 
Milan, 176, 179, 348. 
Milton, 88, 124. 

Miranda, 337, 339, 343, 346, 347. 
Moliere, XVIII. 
Montaigne, 4. 

Mortimer, 80, 81, 82, 95, 112. 
Motley, 14. 
"Much Ado About Nothing," 

129, 140, 165, 206, 207, 210, 

211, 243, 337. 



418 



Indi 



ex 



Naples, 346, 349. 
Neptune, 25. 

Nerissa, 175, 240, 241, 400. 
Nessus, 399. 
Nestor, 295. 

New Place, 375, 377, 402, 404. 
Northumberland, 71, 73, 95, 97. 
Nurse ("Romeo and Juliet"), 
142, 158. 

Oberon, 138. 

Octavia, 307, 308, 310, 314, 321. 

Old Lady ("Henry VIII."), 338. 

Olivia, 131, 132, 133, 136, 209. 

Ophelia, 24, 42, 49, 126, 215, 258, 
265, 266, 292, 386. 

Orlando, 268. 

Orsino, Duke (in "Twelfth 
Night"), 130, 131, 132, 133, 
134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 140, 
141, 155, 159, 178, 181, 209, 
210, 228, 229, 249, 252, 279, 
346. 

Othello, 16, 50, 53, 87, 132, 221, 
228, 248, 269, 270, 271, 272, 
273, 274, 277, 278, 279, 280, 
281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 
287, 288, 289, 290, 335, 338, 
351, 369, 385, 395, 398, 403. 

Otterbourne, 110. 

Oxford, 386, 387, 393. 

Padua, 180. 

Page, Mrs., 152. 

Palace, 213. 

Pandarus, 290. 

Paris, 33. 

ParoUes, 142, 152. 

Paul, 3. 

Pedro (Prince, in " Much Ado 
About Nothing"), 206, 207, 
208, 211. 

Pembroke, Earl of (See "Her- 
bert"). 

Pembroke ("King John"), 62. 

Percy, Harry (See "Hotspur"). 

Percy, Lady, 83. 

Perdita, 135, 337, 339, 359. 

"Pericles," 129, 326, 337, 340, 
390. 



Phidias, 295. 

Philario, 50. 

Philippan, 307. 

Philippi, 251, 255. 

Phoebus, 135, 144. 

Pinero, 297. 

Pisanio, 49, 50, 51. 

Pistol, 98, 107, 153, 371. 

Plantaginet, 57. 

Plato, 120, 295. 

Plutarch, 32, 230, 253, 255, 256, 

257, 259, 295, 298, 300, 301, 

318, 405. 
Poet Laureate, 397. 
Poins, 94, 99, 100, 101, 153. 
Polixenes, 281. 

Polonius, 19, 195, 263, 395, 396. 
Polwhele, 345. 
Pompey, 41. 
Portia, 138, 175, 180, 189, 193, 

197, 240, 386, 391, 400. 
Posthumus, 35, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 

50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 75, 105, 

114, 121, 139, 155, 193, 265, 

278, 281, 286, 287, 316, 340, 

341, 396, 403. 
Princess of France (in "Love's 

Labour's Lost "), 164, 167, 175, 

218, 219, 225. 
Proculeius, 313. 
Prospero, Duke, 37, 40, 137, 138, 

140, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 

347, 348, 349. 
Proteus, 5, 167, 176, 177, 178, 

179, 180, 182, 183, 203, 204, 

241. 
Pythias, 244, 245. 

Queen Margaret, 114. 

Queen to King Richard II., 72, 

74. 
Quickly, Dame, 141, 143, 155. 

Raleigh, 110, 123, 393. 
Regan, XII. 
Rembrandt, XVIII, 54. 
Renaissance, 39, 161, 243, 380, 

394. 
Renascence, XII. 
Rialto, 195. 



419 



Indi 



ex 



Richard Coeur de Lion, 57. 

Richard II., King, 39, 63, 64, 65, 
66, 67, 68, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 
76, 77, 78, 81, 82, 92, 121, 122, 
123, 127, 140, 149, 168, 192, 
193, 251, 278, 279, 287, 356, 
382, 399. 

Richard III., King, 29, 55, 112, 
116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 
122, 127, 142, 147, 251, 279, 
371, 374. 

Richardson, John, 357, 358. 

Roman, 115, 254, 313. 

Rome, 242, 250, 254, 299, 314. 

Romeo, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 21, 
33, 34, 44, 45, 48, 49, 54, 55, 70, 
114, 130, 132, 136, 138, 139, 
155, 178, 180, 181, 214, 215, 
216, 228, 252, 259, 279, 341. 

"Romeo and Juhet," 113, 127, 
129, 172, 214, 218, 221, 224, 
298, 382. 

Rosalind, 386. 

Rosaline, 132, 164, 165, 166, 214, 
215, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 
221, 222, 224, 225, 386. 

"Rosalynde," 14. 

Rosencrantz, 36, 258. 

Rowe, 354, 364, 365, 366, 373, 
376, 388, 401, 402. 

Rubicon, 254. 

Salarino, 186, 187, 193. 
Salique, 105. 

Salisbury (in "King John"), 62. 
Salisbury (in "King Richard 

II."), 67. 
Salisbury, Lord, 102. 
Salvini, 284. 

Sandells, Fulk, 357, 358, 370. 
Sappho, 228. 
Satan, 88, 151. 
"Satiromastix," 390. 
Sancho Panza, 407. 
"Saturday Review, The," IX. 
Saturn, 341. 
Schiller, 389. 
Scott, Walter, 77. 
Scroop, 68, 70. 
Second Gentleman, 47. 



Seleucus, 314. 

Senate, 254. 

"Sententiae Pueriles," 353. 

Severn, 80, 85. 

Shake-scene, 366, 372, 373. 

Shakespeare, IX, X, XII, XIII, 
XVI, XVII, XVIII, 3, 4, 5, 6, 
7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16, 
18, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 
31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 
40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 
49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 
58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, Q5, 66, 
67, 69, 70, 71, 72, 74, 75, 76, 77, 
78, 79, 80, 81, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 
88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 94, 95, 97, 98, 
99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 



106 
112 
118 
124 
130 
136 
142 
148 
154 
163 
169 
175 
181 
187, 
194 
201 
208 
214 
221 
227 
233 
239 
245 
251 
257, 
263 
269 
275 
282 
288, 
294 
300 
3P6 



107 
113 
119 
125 
131 
137 
143 
149 
155 
164 
170 
176 
182 
188 
196 
202 
209 
215 
222, 
228, 
234 
240 
246 
252, 
258 
264 
270 
276 
283 
289 
295 
301 
308 



108 
114 
120 
126 
132 
138 
144 
150 
159 
165 
171 
177 
183 
190 
197 
203 
210 
216 
223 
229 
235 
241 
247, 
253 
259 
265 
271 
277, 
284 
290 
296 
302 
309 



109 
115 
121 
127 
133 
139 
145 
151 
160 
166 
172 
178, 
184 
191 
198 
204 
211 
217 
224, 
230 
236 
242 
248 
254 
260 
266 
272, 
279 
285 
291 
297 
303 
310 



110 
116 
122 
128 
134 
140 
146 
152 
161 
167 
173 
179 
185 
192 
199 
205 
212 
219 
225 
231 
237 
243 
249 
255 
261 
267 
273 
280 
286 
292 
298 
304 
311 



111, 
117, 
123, 
129, 
135, 
141, 
147, 
153, 
162, 
168, 
174, 
180, 
186, 
193, 
200, 
207, 
213, 
220, 
226, 
232, 
238, 
244, 
250, 
256, 
262, 
268, 
274. 
281, 
287, 
293, 
299, 
305, 
312, 



420 



Indi 



ex 



313, 314, 315, 316, 318, 319, 
320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 
326, 328, 329, 330, 332, 333, 
334, 335, 336, 337, 338, 339, 
340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 
346, 347, 348, 349, 350, 351, 
352, 353, 354, 355, 356, 357, 
358, 359, 360, 361, 362, 363, 
364, 365, 366, 368, 369, 370, 
371, 372, 373, 374, 375, 376, 

377, 378, 379, 380, 382, 383, 
384. 385, 386, 387, 388, 389, 
390, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 
396, 397, 398, 399, 400, 401, 
402, 403, 404, 405, 406, 407, 
408. 

Shakespeare, John, 352, 353, 354, 

378, 379. 
Shallow, Justice, 154. 
Sherwood, 356. 
Shottery, 356, 357. 

Shylock, 143, 189, 190, 194, 195, 

196, 197. 
Sidney, 393. 
Silvia, 179, 180, 181, 183, 203, 

204, 241. 
Slender, Master, 154, 215. 
Snitterfield, 352. 
Socrates, 383. 
Solinus (Duke, in "The Comedy 

of Errors"), 168. 
Sonnets: 

(18), 233. 

(19), 233. 

(20), 233. 

(22), 234. 

(23), 234. 

(33), 235. 

(36), 42, 387. 

(37). 387. 

(40), 204, 236. 

(41), 239. 

(78), 296. 

(86), 296. 

(88), 351. 

(104), 222. 

(105), 240. 

(122), 294. 

(127), 223, 224. 

(129), 369, 370. 



(131), 318, 319. 

(133), 238, 239. 

(135), 321. 

(136), 270, 321. 

(140), 51, 395. 

(142), 229. 

(144), 238. 

(Sonnets in brackets are men- 
tioned especially on the 
pages marked opposite.) 
Sophocles, 292, 339. 
Southampton, Earl of, 201, 232, 

246, 368, 373, 375, 376, 378, 

382, 391, 392, 397. 
Spalding, 387. 
Spencer, Herbert, 197. 
Spenser, 5, 46, 339, 406. 
Star Chamber, 229. 
Stephanie, 346. 
Stratford, X, 58, 160, 168, 176, 

178, 181, 336, 337, 348, 352, 

353, 355, 356, 360, 361, 365, 

366, 375, 376, 377, 378, 382, 

386, 396, 402, 403, 404, 405. 
Stratford Parish Church, 358, 

367. 
Suffolk, 112, 114. 
Susanna (See "Hall, Susanna"). 
Swinburne, 3, 45, 112, 117, 128, 

268, 367. 
Sycorax, 345. 
Syracuse, 169, 174, 176. 

Talbot, 112. 

"Taming of the Shrew, The," 

104. 
Tamora, XH, 353. 
Tearsheet, Doll, XII, 100, 143. 
"Tempest, The," 37, 43, 129, 

136, 326, 337, 338, 341, 342, 

345, 348, 350, 360, 403, 404, 

407. 
Temple Gardens, 112. 
Temple Grafton, 357. 
Tennyson, 61, 395, 396. 
Thackeray, 61. 
Thames, 244. 
Thane of Cawdor, 17. 
Thersites, 291, 295, 332. 
Thurio. 182, 203. 



421 



Index 



Thyreus, 309, 310. 

Timbuctoo, 108. 

Timon, 104, 138, 143, 190, 251, 

295, 297, 328, 332, 333, 334, 

335, 336, 337, 339, 351, 373, 

407. 
Titania, 138. 
Titian, XVIII, 271. 
Titus, 126. 
"Titus Andronicus," XIII, 69, 

104, 126, 336, 353. 
Tolstoi, XVIII, 324, 326, 327, 

328, 333, 
Tourgenief, 61, 380. 
Toussaint I'Ouverture, 381. 
Tower of London, 399. 
Tree, Beerbohm, 267. 
"Trial Table of the order of 

Shakespeare's Plays," 127, 175. 
Trinculo, 346. 
Triton, 152. 
Troilus, 251, 292, 293, 322, 384, 

387. 
"Troilus and Cressida," 291, 

294, 295, 296, 297, 304, 322, 

326, 384, 403. 
Trojans, 296. 
"Troublesome Raigne of King 

John, The," 57, 58, 59. 
Troy, 295. 
"True Tragedie of Richard," 

116, 117. 
Tubal, 190. 
"Twelfth Night," 129, 130, 135, 

136, 137, 138, 140, 181, 210, 

211, 228, 229, 249, 301, 326, 

346, 360. 
"Two Gentlemen of Verona, 

The," 127, 167, 175, 176, 184, 

203, 204, 210, 211, 241, 242, 

348, 365, 366, 369. 
"Two Noble Kinsmen, The," 

149, 180. 
Tyler, Mr., 201, 202, 221. 



Ulysses, 293, 297, 385. 

Valentine, 131, 167, 175, 176, 

177, 178, 179, 180, 181, 182, 

183, 184, 204, 205, 241, 249, 

252, 348. 
Valiant-for-Truth, 125. 
Venice, 280. 
Venus, 305, 368. 
"Venus and Adonis," 127, 172, 

232, 233, 366, 367, 368, 373, 

398. 
Vernon, 97. 
Veronese, 271. 
Vienna, 36. 
Villon, 227. 
Vincentio, Duke, 35, 36, 37, 38, 

39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 49, 

53, 76, 100, 133. 
Viola, 132, 133, 136, 210. 
Virgil, 390. 

"Vision of Piers Plowman," 64. 
Voltaire, 397. 

Ward, Rev. John, 337, 376, 403. 
Warwick, 355. 
Warwickshire, 352, 379. 
Watts-Dunton, Theodore, 40. 
Westminster, 399. 
Westmoreland, 108. 
Whately, Anne, 357, 358, 364. 
Whittington, Thomas, 361. 
William the Conqueror, 374. 
Wilmcote, 352, 379. 
"Winter's Tale, The," 281, 337, 

338, 340, 359, 360, 365, 403, 

407. 
"Wit's Commonwealth," 243. 
Wittenberg, 18, 19, 31. 
Worcester, Bishop of, 357, 358. 
Worcester, Lord, 82, 85, 87, 

111. 
Wordsworth, 3, 199, 201, 380. 
"Worthies" (Fuller's). 389.