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Edwin Gordon Lawrence 




"how to master THE SPOKEN WORD" 

"how to improve THE MEMORY" 



The Stratford Company, Publishers 

Copyright 1918 

The STRATFORD CO., Publishers 

Boston, Mass. 

The Alpine Press, Boston. Mass., U. S. A. 

'Tjhe Immortal Spirit of William Shakespeare 







*^his Book 's Tiedicated 





I. Shakespeare's Knowledge and Por- 
trayal of Human Nature . 

II. Types of Shakespeare's Characters 

III. Classes of Shakespeare's Plays 

IV. Shakespeare's Revelation of Himself in 

His Characters .... 

V. The Bible in Shakespeare 

VI. Oratory in Shakespeare 

VII. How to Study Shakespeare . 

VIII. The Disputed Plays . 

IX. The Authorship of the Works Known 
as Shakespeare's 

X. The Genius of Shakespeare . 










Shakespeare's Knowledge and Por- 
trayal of Human Nature 

As WITH a wave of a wand, Shakespeare mys- 
teriously called into being men and women of 
all lands, all climes, all temperaments, and all ages. 
He could not have known the originals of all the 
types that he produced. How then did he accom- 
plish his task? Through an understanding of the 
nature of man. He knew that the emotions of men 
are similar the world over and that only in the 
expression of these emotions do men differ. It is 
this difference in the mode of expressing the feelings 
that move the heart and mind of humanity that pro- 
duces the different types of men and women. 

Different persons see the same things in different 
lights and express their emotions concerning them 
in different ways. It is this difference in perception 
and action that indicates the difference in charac- 
ters. Perceiving this in human nature, Shakespeare 
drew the characters of Macbeth and Richard III. 
He represents both men as actuated by ambition, 
and yet so dissimilar are these characters in speech, 
action, and mode of procedure while in pursuit of 
their object as to appear to be impelled by different 
motives. They are both murderers, both usurpers, 
both actuated by the same motives, and both work 



according to the same principles but along lines 
peculiar to the characteristics of each individual. 

The peculiar characteristic possessed by Macbeth 
that colored his ambition was the philosophical 
trend of his mind, therefore was he continually de- 
bating with himself on the wisdom and the conse- 
quences of his acts. On the other hand, the ambi- 
tion of Richard III. was directed by his belief in the 
superiority of the intellect over all other powers, but 
his intellect was so saturated with cruelty that it 
prompted him to perform deeds that brought about 
his ruin. It was the misdirection of Richard's 
mental powers, and not his possession of them, that 
made him a murderer and a villain. These side- 
lights are necessary to a clear perception of character. 

Thus Shakespeare depicts two beings of different 
temperaments who are representative types of char- 
acters governed by the same emotions but differing 
in the expression of them. This reveals what con- 
stitutes the difference in Shakespeare's characters, 
and partly accounts for his marvelous portrayal of 

The grasping of this great truth that there is an 
underlying principle in human nature that governs 
the emotions and their expressions, enabled Shake- 
speare to produce two types of the wicked woman — 
Lady Macbeth and Goneril. One, intellectually 
immoral ; the other, physically depraved. 

Lady Macbeth 's wickedness was tinged with 
determination. She would go on in any course, no 
matter what the penalty, provided she had made 



up her mind to do so. Determination was the main 
characteristic that colored the trait in the type of 
wicked woman represented by Lady Macbeth. Self- 
ishness entered so largely into the making of 
Goneril that it produced in her a kind of wickedness 
different from that typified by Lady Macbeth. In 
order to gain a share in the kingdom, she lied to 
her father; to satisfy her passion, she was false to 
her husband; to possess the man of her choice, she 
murdered her sister; and when she found that her 
plans had miscarried, she took her own life. Both 
of these characters are women, both wicked, but 
because of the peculiar characteristics possessed by 
each they are different types of women who show 
their wickedness in different waj^s. 

So also with two pure women of his creation — 
Desdemona and Cordelia. He lays hold of the basic 
trait that is the foundation to the characters of 
both these women and then develops those charac- 
ters along different lines. Desdemona was of that 
type of women who will gladly lie in order to shield 
a loved one — lie, as it were, in the performance of a 
duty. Shakespeare understood that such women 
exist, therefore he made Desdemona a character 
true to nature when he caused her to lie in an 
endeavor to prevent the discovery of Othello's 
crime. On the other hand, there are women who will 
not tell a lie even though the heavens fall. Shake- 
speare knew there were such women in the world, 
consequently when he gave that trait to Cordelia he 
produced a different woman to Desdemona, but one 



just as natural. Thus Shakespeare depicts the 
difference between the conception of right and 
wrong of these two noble women. The same princi- 
ple actuates both — the desire to do right, and the 
moral courage to do that right as they understand 
it, irrespective of the consequences. This same 
principle is apparent in both and is the governing 
force in both, the trait in each character showing the 
standpoint from which each viewed her duty. The 
main trait in Desdemona's character is obedience to 
her husband; that of Cordelia's obedience to truth. 
The knowledge that it was a difference in view- 
point that produced the different types in human 
nature enabled Shakespeare to depict murders with- 
out being a murderer, to characterize madness with- 
out being mad, to draw women to perfection without 
being a woman, to create representative kings, peas- 
ants, philosophers and fools without being, in turn, 
a king, a peasant, a philosopher, or a fool. Instead 
of possessing all the traits that go to the making of 
these diverse types of humanity (the murderer, the 
madman, the woman), instead of being a complex 
character such as Nature never created, Shakespeare 
was merely the dramatist who saw the principles 
that govern human nature and applied them when 
creating the children of his brain. Through his 
ability to see and apply Nature's laws he was able 
to produce counterfeits that resemble closely the 
men and women of reality, and it is because he so 
saw and applied these laws that his productions have 



lived for over three hundred years and bid fair 
to exist until the end of time. 

In life there is a predominating trait in all human 
beings, the exercise of which forms their characters 
and directs the current of their lives. Selfishness is 
the governing power in some; lust of power in 
others; desire for worldly wealth, love, fear, cour- 
age, virtue, sensuality, religion, in still others; but 
in every human being there is some one predomi- 
nating and peculiar trait that singles out one person 
from another and gives each his individuality. 

A strong proof that Shakespeare was aware of 
this principle in human nature, and knowingly ap- 
plied it to his creatures of the stage, is discernible 
in his emphasizing the fact that the failure of King 
Henry VI. as a monarch was due to the fact that he 
was over conscientious regarding his behavior to- 
ward others but very lax in demanding and exacting 
conscientious treatment from them. He believed 
himself bound by his oath, but lost sight of the fact 
that his enemies were morally equally bound by 
their oaths. He held himself to a strict account, but 
he made excuses for others. This is why he was 
a weak king, and this is why he lost his crown to 
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. Shakespeare 
realized that any trait or characteristic carried to 
an extreme is the means of unbalancing a character, 
consequently he used the goodness of Henry VI. 
for his undoing, and the wickedness of Richard III. 
for his. This was merely carrying out the principle 
that pervades all nature both material and human. 



If there is a superabundance of any mineral in a 
given piece of earth, that portion of the earth will 
be incapable of bringing forth certain fruits ; if any 
trait is unduly developed in man, it unbalances him 
and makes him unable to control himself properly or 
to do his best work. It matters not whether the 
trait is good or bad, it will be productive of evil if 
it is composed of unequal proportions. Shakespeare 
himself says : 

! mickle is the powerful grace that lies 
In herbs, plants, stones, and their true qualities: 
For naught so vile that on the earth doth live 
But to the earth some special good doth give; 
Nor aught so good, but, strain'd from that fair use, 
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse : 
Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied; 
And vice sometimes by action dignified. '^ 

Thus virtue, in the person of Henry VI., being mis- 
applied, turns vice; whereas vice, represented by the 
lie told by Desdemona to shield her husband, becomes, 
because of the virtuous intent, dignified. In like man- 
ner, the goodness of Henry VI., carried to unreason- 
able ends, was productive of evil ; the intellectual 
strength of Richard III. and lago, applied to evil 
purposes, turned these strong men into villains. 
Shakespeare was as immutable as Nature, causing 
all his characters to bear the consequences of their 
acts, and moving them on the stage of the theatre 
in accordance with the same principles that move 
men and women upon earth. 
This natural principle was seized upon by Shake- 

1 "Romeo and Juliet," Act II. Scene III. 



speare and applied bj^ him in the delineation of all 
his characters. Love of truth is the dominating trait 
in the character of Cordelia ; determination or fixed- 
ness of purpose that of Lady Macbeth ; cruelty that 
of Queen Margaret ; belief in intellectual superiority 
over all other powers is the main trait in the char- 
acter of lago ; ambition controls Macbeth ; lust of 
power governs Cassius ; religion predominates in 
Henry VI., while patriotism animates Brutus. Thus 
we see that Shakespeare placed in his characters 
traits that govern them in accordance with the laws 
of human nature, and as the causes that control 
them are similar to the causes that animate mankind 
they speak and act like human beings. 

Nothing has been said in this chapter regarding 
Ariel, Caliban, and the Weird Sisters, because they 
are not natural characters, and Shakespeare could 
not have intended them to be. They are imaginary 
creations that typify the emotions, passions, and 
spirits of man. These embodiments of the fates, 
furies, and mysteries that are supposed to hover 
over mankind are purely the creations of Shake- 
speare's mind for which he is in no way indebted to 
Nature. They are wonderful creations of fancy, 
thoroughly Shakespearean in every way, but a con- 
sideration of them is not germane to the subject of 
this chapter. 

While the author has stated that in his opinion 
Shakespeare was governed by no fixed rule, he is 
convinced that he was always controlled by a princi- 
ple, exactly in the same manner that Nature is gov- 



erned. By principle is meant a power that acts 
inflexibly, continuously, and unif ormally ; a cause 
that is fundamental and necessarily produces results 
along certain lines; a power that brushes aside all 
rules. Whereas the word rule signifies a method of 
procedure through customary channels that is sub- 
ject to change. Rules must give way to principles; 
they are qualified, principles are not. The laws of 
Nature are immutable, but when man works in 
harmony with them they never thwart or hinder him. 
So with the laws of Shakespeare. He looked into 
Nature and learned the secret of her power. He 
applied the selfsame principles she uses, and the 
result was that he produced creatures of his brain 
so lifelike, and apparently so little circumscribed, 
as to make them seem the work of Nature herself. 

True, Shakespeare follows the arch-like develop- 
ment in the construction of his plays — that is, there 
is a gradual rise to the middle of the play and then 
as gradual a fall to the end in most of his works. 
This, however, cannot be called a rule in the sense 
that that word is commonly used. It is, on the 
other hand, distinctly a principle, as it underlies all 
his creations. As Nature, in all her works, is gov- 
erned by the principle of growth and decay, so 
Shakespeare, in his dramas, is governed by the prin- 
ciple of the rise and fall of development. He seized 
on the law of Nature and worked it out in his plays. 
He was not fettered by rules, but was governed by 
a principle as fixed as that of gravitation. No rule 
of dramatic construction can be cited that Shake- 



speare has not broken, but no principle of Nature has 
ever been violated by him. He had no rules for fash- 
ioning his villains — Richard III. is not like lago, nor 
is Lady Macbeth like Goneril. He had no rules for 
creating his kings — Richard II. is not like Claudius. 
He had no rules for drawing his lovers — Romeo is 
not like Benedick. But he did have principles, by 
means of which he drew all his characters and con- 
structed all his plays. And it is because he was 
governed by principles and not by rules that his 
characters are dissimilar and yet all equally true, 
his plays unlike one another and yet each one the 
most perfect of its kind. No other dramatist has 
ever produced a comedy to equal The Tempest, a 
historical play to equal Henry V., or a tragedy to 
equal Macbeth. In all these fields of dramatic litera- 
ture Shakespeare reigns supreme, because he created 
by principle while others manufactured by rule. 

"When it is stated that Shakespeare was controlled 
by a governing principle in all his work, it is in- 
tended to mean that he worked in accordance with 
the laws of Nature and not from any preconceived 
plan such as the Aristotelian rules of unity. There 
is in Nature a great principle known as undulation 
which manifests itself in the ebb and flow of the 
tide, in hunger and satisfaction, in inhalation and 
exhalation. This is the principle that Shakespeare 
seized upon and used in the building of his plays. 
He did not deliberately set forth to employ the arch- 
like mode of plot construction, he did not measure 
each play to find the exact spot that was to indi- 



cate the center of the arch, but he understood the 
laws of Nature, and when he decided to write a 
play dealing with a particular subject, he gathered 
his material, and then proceeded to accomplish his 
object. Just as the ocean rises and falls in obedi- 
ence to the principle of undulation, so do the plays 
of Shakespeare develop. Call this what you will — 
skill, chance, genius — it matters not by what name 
it is known, it is a force that worked as unerringly 
as the force of Nature. Nowhere throughout the 
Plays is any restraint apparent such as would surely 
arise from the use of rules. Precisely as when the 
inequality of the English language stood in the way 
of the expression of his thought and he supplied the 
deficiency by creating new words or altering old 
ones, when a strict compliance with the rules of 
iambic poetry would harden and mechanize his lines 
and the rule went by the board and not the purpose 
of the Poet, so also all rules had to give way to the 
building and unfolding of the plot. This is one of 
the great secrets of Shakespeare's power as shown 
in the construction of his plays, and it accounts for 
his ability to accomplish so much with the little 
material in the way of schooling that he possessed. 
Our own Lincoln had this same insight into Nature 
and her works, therefore was he able to construct 
the immortal Gettysburg address even though he 
had received less than one year's schooling. It is 
not schooling that developes the mind of man, it 
is education; and the best way to gain this educa- 
tion is by a study of Nature and of man. This 



Shakespeare did, and because he did it, he is Shake- 
speare. Very few persons received an education 
equal to that of the great Dramatist, but thousands 
upon thousands spent more time in artificial school- 
rooms than he. His place of study was the world — 
his ear close to the mouth of Nature, his finger upon 
the pulse of man. He loved Nature and she spoke to 
him in her manifold voices and told him her secrets. 
He was a child of the immortal spirit of Nature, and 
this same spirit passing into the children of his brain 
impregnated them with a similar immortality. In 
no other way can the author account for the being 
who was known upon earth as William Shakespeare. 



Types of Shakespeare's Characters 

IT is a mighty task to attempt to analyze and de- 
scribe the characters of Shakespeare. They are 
all so human, all so moved and controlled by the mani- 
fold emotions of mankind, that it is a difficult matter 
to fathom their mysteries and peer into their souls 
unless one understands the workings of Nature. In 
his earlier plays Shakespeare shows the influence that 
external nature had upon him, but in his later plays 
he devotes his genius to creating types of human 
nature. He turns from the trees, the flowers, the 
clouds, the streams, and the heavenly planets to a 
contemplation of the love, hate, remorse, jealousy, 
ambition, joy, and sorrow of the human mind and 
human heart. The marvelous power of Shakespeare 
is nowhere more apparent than in his lifelike por- 
trayal of character. His men and women, his kings 
and queens, his philosophers and his fools all wear 
such a human garb that it requires little stretch of 
the imagination to make one feel, while poring over 
the pages of the great magician, that the characters 
really live and breathe and that one is actually com- 
muning with them and not with the pages of a book. 
It would not be surprising if Shakespeare created 
merely great men characters, he was himself a man 
and experienced the many emotions common to men, 
but it is almost incomprehensible that he should also 



have had the power of bringing into being the marvel- 
ously lifelike characters of his women. 

He accomplished this through his knowledge of 
Nature's laws and his almost godlike power of 
imagination — the power of taking a speck of knowl- 
edge and turning it, by the magnifying quality ot 
the poet's eye, into a world of reality. No matter 
what means he employed for creating these beings 
of fancy, that are as real as actual material creatures, 
the characters are here for our enjoyment, and our 
gratitude for the gift need not be less deep because 
of our inability to fathom fully the source of their 
being. As God breathed the breath of life into the 
inanimate clay and man became thereby a living 
soul, so also Shakespeare placed the life of his genius 
into dead words and they sprang into living charac- 
ters. He, of all men, was, in reality, a creator, as 
he brought into existence dramatic personages en- 
dowed with his own living force. We will turn from 
surmises regarding the causes that led to the birth 
of these characters to gaze upon them as actualities. 
Let us enter the charmed circle of comradeship 
through becoming personally acquainted with the 
characters by studying their attributes, their motives, 
and their actions. 

The Chaeacter of Hamlet 

In all English literature no dramatic character has 
been so much written about as has that of Hamlet, 
Prince of Denmark. Of no other have the opinions 
of scholars, editors, doctors and actors so differed. 



By some it has been claimed that he was insane, some 
that the imaginative powers were overbalanced, some 
that he was a coward, lacked energy, and was devoid 
of action. But the contrary of all this is indicated 
^3» by the text if it is read with an unbiased and intelli- 
gent mind. 

First, consider the question of his sanity. There 
is but one place to go for evidence on this point — the 
play. Doctors may argue on the acts and sayings 
of Hamlet and conclude from their study of them 
that a human being responsible for them would un- 
questionably be insane, but doctors should not take 
all these acts and sayings at their face value unless 
they are corroborated by other facts, especially when 
it is distinctly stated in the play that the character 
is acting a part. Many will claim that the statement 
of the character in question that he is merely pre- 
tending insanity is a sure indication of his being so 
in realit}'^, pointing to the fact that the insane rarely, 
if ever, realize their mental state. But this is only 
the case when attending circumstances disprove the 
contention of the insane one by showing his opinion 
to be a delusion. 

The first we see of Hamlet is in Act I. Scene II. 
where he is represented as coming upon the stage in 
attendance on the King and Queen. Surely in this 
scene no indication of insanity appears. He replies 
sanely to the request of his mother to remain at 
Elsinore and not go to Wittenberg. On the exit of 
the other characters he remains and gives expression 
to his thoughts regarding the second marriage of his 



mother in the words of that pathetic soliloquy, 
"O, that this too, too solid flesh would melt!" No 
indication whatever of insanity here. At its close, 
Horatio, Bernardo and Marcellus enter and impart 
to him the information of the ghostly visit paid to 
them by the spirit of Hamlet's father. This naturally 
amazes the Prince, but throughout the dialogue that 
follows between him and his friends there is not the 
least sign of mental derangement. Hamlet now 
realizes that something is radically wrong regarding 
the death of his father, and he looks anxiously for 
the coming of the hour when he is to go forth to meet 
the ghostly visitor. 

We next see Hamlet upon the platform of the castle 
awaiting the coming of his father's spirit. He con- 
verses normally with Horatio and Marcellus, no symp- 
toms of insanity being visible. On the appearance 
of the Ghost he is naturally excited, but no more so 
than were Horatio and his companions when they first 
beheld it. Horatio pictures the scene thus: 

A figure like your father, 
Arm'd at all points, exactly, cap-a-pe, 
Appears before them, and with solemn march 
Goes slow and stately by them; thrice he walk'd 
By their oppress'd and fear-surprised eyes, 
Within his truncheon's length ; whilst they, distill'd 
Almost to jelly with the act of fear, 
Stand dumb, and speak not to him.^ 

If these soldiers were so strangely affected by what 
they saw, why should one marvel if Hamlet's nerves 
had been shaken on beholding his father's ghost ? And 

lAct I. Scene II. 



yet, up to the close of Scene IV. Act I., during which 
Hamlet addresses the Ghost but it does not reply to 
him in words, he has borne himself with remarkable 
fortitude. So far, then, no reason has been discovered 
in the play for considering Hamlet at all irrational. 
The scene now changes to a more removed part of 
the platform of the castle, and the interview here 
takes place between Hamlet and the Ghost that ac- 
quaints the Prince with the circumstances of his 
father's death. Hamlet suspected that his father did 
not die a natural death, this is attested by the 
following : 


— but know, thou noble youth, 

The serpent that did sting thy father's life 

Now wears his crown. 

O, my prophetic soul! my uncle !^ 

This clearly denotes that suspicion regarding the 
manner of his father's taking off had dwelt in the 
mind of Hamlet previous to the opening of the play, 
and accounts for his extreme expression of his grief 
in Scene II. Act I. Had his father surrendered up 
his life at the call of Nature, Hamlet would have 
mourned his death as became the son of a noble parent ; 
but when suspicion entered his mind that the death 
was brought about by foul means instigated by the 
brother of this righteous king his soul was sorely dis- 
tressed and he mourned, not only the death of his 
father, but the baseness of his uncle and the perfidy 

2Act I. Scene V. 



of his mother. Thus, then, there are substantial 
CfiaSQlJS.iQr. Hamlet doiming a cloak of inky blackness. 
It is not to be wondered at that Hamlet was momen- 
tarily overcome by emotion at the recital of the Ghost 's 
harrowing tale, and that he should exclaim : 

Hold, hold, my heart! 
And you, my sinews, gi'ow not instant old, 
But bear me stiffly up.^ 

What son would not be so affected by like circum- 
stances? Were he not, he would indeed be either a 
strange specimen of humanity or else a fit candidate 
for an asylum. 

It should be remembered that Hamlet lived in a 
barbarous age, was a resident of a state whose king 
had conunitted murder in order to gain the crown 
and w^ho would not hesitate to do other murders to 
retain it. He knew his life was in danger, and there- 
fore he decided "to put an antic disposition on" the 
better to hide his purpose from the King and to 
safeguard his life. Note the oath to which Horatio 
and Marcellus subscribe: 

Here, as before, never, so help you mercy, 
How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself; — 
As I, perchance, hereafter shall think meet 
To put an antic disposition on; — 
That you, at such times seeing me, never shall, 
With arms encumber'd thus, or this head-shake, 
Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase, 
As, "Well, well, we know;'" — or, "We could, 

an if we would;" — 
Or, "If we list to speak;" — or, "There be, 

an if they might;" — 

'Act I. Scene V. 



Or such ambiguous giving-out, to note 

That you know aught of me : — this not to do, 

So grace and mercy at your most need help you.* 

Thus does Hamlet tell his two friends that he intends 
to assume the mask of madness, and binds them not to 
divulge his secret. Tlie language and all the attendant 
circumstances are so plain as to shut out the necessity 
for further comment as to the assumption of madness. 
Up to this point he has acted in a quiet, calm and 
controlled manner, but henceforth he puts "an antic 
disposition on ' ' when it suits his purpose to do so. 
Such an occasion is described by Ophelia when she 

says : 


My lord, as I was sewing in my chamber, 

Lord Hamlet, — with his doublet all unbrac'd; 

No hat upon his head; his stockings foul'd, 

Ungarter'd, and down-gyved to his ankle; 

Pale as his shirt; his knees knocking each other; 

And with a look so piteous in purport, 

As if he had been loosed out of hell, 

To speak of horrors, — he comes before me.^ 

Hamlet appeared thus before Ophelia with the pur- 
pose of testing her loyalty to him. He knew the King 
to be the murderer of his father, that his mother was 
false to her marriage vows and had linked her for- 
tunes with those of her paramour by wedding him, 
that Polonius was a man who could serve two masters 
and would stoop to any act that would further his 
own cause. Thus was he surrounded by his enemies 
and compelled to move with great caution. It,.was 
his desire to find out whether the woman of his heart 

*Act I. Scene V. 
^Act II. Scene I. 



would stand with him in the battle he was about to 
wage to avenge his father's wrongs or would ally her- 
self with his enemies that caused him to go thus 
habited into the chamber of Ophelia. That she could 
not be relied upon is attested by the fact that she im- 
mediately carried the story in all its detail to her 
father and thence to the King and Queen, finally 
allowing herself to be used as a decoy to lure Hamlet 
into the hands of his enemies. 

The scene between Hamlet and Polonius, and later 
the one that introduces Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, 
are on their face so clearly ones of strategy on the 
part of Hamlet, indicating unmistakably that he is 
fencing with his adversaries, that little comment is 
necessary. It may be well, however, to call attention 
to the situation that is developed by Hamlet conjur- 
ing his two associates by the rights of fellowship to 
be honest with him. By putting the "antic disposi- 
tion on" he has thrown both Rosencrantz and Guil- 
denstern off their guard and they confess that they 
were sent by the King and Queen to fathom Hamlet. 
Then follows that poetically beautiful passage com- 
mencing, ' ' I will tell you why. ' ' * 

"We have now come to the cjueial test of Ophelia's 
character, and to the point that demonstrates clearly 
the sanity of Hamlet. 

The scene is set for the trapping of Hamlet. The 
King and Polonius are behind the arras, Ophelia is 
given a book and told to walk in the Prince's path 
in order that a meeting may be brought about within 
sight and hearing of the two hidden watchers. Hamlet 

8Act II. Scene II. 



enters, debating with himself the problems of life 
as they then confront him. He turns and beholds 
Ophelia, meditating, as he supposes, over a book of 
prayers, and salutes her gravely: 

N3rmph, in thy orisons 
Be all my sins remember'd.^ 

ffi^en, however, she offers to return to him the gifts 
of love he had bestowed upon her, he immediately 
Inspects her loyalty to him and resumes his role of 
Inadness. When he asks her the whereabouts of her 
father and she guiltily replies that he is at home, he 
sees through her falsehood and assumes more closely 
the mask of insanity. The King, however, has pierced 
the mask, and toward the close of the scene sagely 
remarks to Polonius: 

Love! his affections do not that way tend; 
Nor what he spake, though it lack'd form a little, 
Was not like madness. There's something in his soul. 
O'er which his melancholy sits on brood.* 

In the scene that follows, we have Hamlet 's wonder- 
ful address to the players. No insane man could ever 
possess such illuminating thoughts, let alone express 
them, as are uttered in this instructive speech. 

During the enacting of the play arranged to dis- 
cover the guilt of King Claudius, the behavior of 
Hamlet is watchful and penetrating, showing the 
keenness of the alert, healthy-^flaifwi', and not the cun- 
ning of the diseased one. The same may be said of 
the interview that follows with Rosencrantz and 
Guildeustern where, after playing with these spies 

' Act III. Scene I. 
8 Ibid. 



of the King, he asks them to play the recorders, and, 
on their confession of inability to do so, strips the 
mask of deceit from them and lets them understand 
that he knows they have been lying to him. No trace 
of insanity in all this. Rather the masterful control 
of the well-balanced intellect. 

We now come to the interview between Hamlet and 
his mother, Scene IV. Act III. Here he throws aside 
kll pretense and is simply the indignant son upbraid- 
ing the mother for her shameful conduct and urging 
per to repent and reform, save at the moment when 
Polonius, in answer to the call of the Queen, cries 
out for help. Hamlet, believing that it is the King 
who is eavesdropping, dons his "antic disposition" 
ind kills the listener. On learning that Polonius is 
Ihe victim, he discards his disguise and returns once 
more to his own character of the outraged son. There 
is no indication of madness in this highly dramatic 
scene, one of the strongest and most active in the 
play, unless Hamlet's seeing of the Ghost be con- 
strued into one. This, however, would be a false 
construction. Shakespeare, for the purposes of his 
drama and because at the time its action is supposed 
to take place the people believed in ghosts and spirits, 
makes the unearthly visitor visible to Horatio, Mar- 
cellus and Bernardo, and unless we agree that be- 
cause of this these three are insane, we cannot justly 
assign it as evidence of the insanity of Hamlet. 

In Scene 11. Act IV. Hamlet puts on his "antie 
dispositioa.!-- the better to puzzle and confound Rosen- 



crantz and Guildenstern, this being indicated by his 
talking in riddles to them, thus: 

Kos. What have you done, my lord, with the 
dead body? 

Ham. Compounded it with dust, whereto 'tis kin. 

Ros. Tell me where 'tis; that we may take it 
And bear it to the chapel. 

Ham. Do not believe it. 

Ros. Believe what? 

Ham. That I can keep your counsel, and not mine 
own. Besides, to be demanded of a 
sponge, what replication should be made 
by the son of a king? 

Ros. Take you me for a sponge, my lord? 

Ham. Ay, sir; that soaks up the king's coun- 
tenance, his rewards, his authorities. 
But such ofiicers do the king best serv- 
ice in the end: he keeps them, as an 
ape doth nuts, in the corner of his jaw ; 
first mouth'd, to be last swallowed: 
When he needs what you glean'd, it as 
but squeezing you, and, sponge, you 
shall be dry again. 

Ros. I understand you not, my lord. 

Ham. I am glad of it : a knavish speech sleeps 
in a foolish ear. 

In the interview between Hamlet and the King 
which takes place in the scene that follows (Scene III. 
Act. IV.), the same reasons exist for the assumption 
of madness as were pointed out in Scene II., and 
Hamlet adopts a like way of showing it. 

When Hamlet meets with the army of Norway 
under command of young Fortinbras, he enters into 
conversation with one of the captains and questions 
him sanely regarding the purpose of the expedition, 



ajid . a.tthe_ close of the intervicAV soliloquizes sagely 
oil his own conduct. Here there is no need to dis- 
semble, and Hamlet talks and acts as a perfectly 
normal being. 

From this point there is nothing in the play that 
can be forced into even an appearance of madness 
in Hamlet, so the question will be pursued no further. 
Those who do not at first reading agree with the 
conclusions here set down are requested to study the 
tragedy itself with an unprejudiced mind, thus pre- 
venting the entrance of a third estate between them- 
selves and the matter. The truth is within the text, 
so "seek and ye shall find." 

Hamlet was no coward, he did not lack will power, 
and he was not deficient in action. 

He bravely went forth to meet the Ghost, and per- 
sisted in following it to a more removed part of the 
platform, even though Horatio and Marcellus im- 
plored him not to do so, and warned him that the 
Ghost perhaps purposed to do him harm. He hesi- 
tated not to face Laertes in the bout, and he bore 
himself like a soldier and a gentleman throughout it. 

It was not lack of courage that caused Hamlet to 
)ut off the satisfaction of his revenge, but a noble and 
lofty spirit of morality that would not permit him 
to become a common assassin. He believed in a future 
Existence, and ' ' that dread of something after death ' ' 
\e\d him in check until he was convinced of his uncle 's 
lilt. His conscience was acute and warned him the 
istant that his passion was about to carry him into 
bror. The injunction of the Ghost was that he 



should avenge the foul murder of his father, but there 
'7as another injunction laid upon him by command 
( f God, ' ' Thou shalt do no murder, ' ' which held him 
11 restraint until he satisfied himself that he was the 
^venging minister of Heaven. He could be an avenger, 
But he would not be a murderer. 

There was no lack of will power in Hamlet as he 
is drawn by Shakespeare. Those who claim that the 
character evinces such a weakness err in their con- 
ception of the meaning of the word "wiU." What 
does the word signify? It means the power of con- 
verting thought into action. The essentials of will 
are (1) Choice: the power by which, after considera- 
tion, one selects an end of action; (2) Purpose: an 
act of the will deciding on the accomplishing of a 
choice; and (3) Volition: the faculty of the wdll, 
whereby the powers are centered on the attainment 
of the chosen and determined end. In few words, 
Will is the power of the mind to control action. 

To will does not signify merely the doing of an 
act. It means also refraining from the doing. Just 
as much will-power is required to keep one from 
action as is necessary to force one to it; therefore 
when Hamlet determined to satisfy himself that the 
Ghost was an honest one before he would take its 
word, and to refrain from killing the King while on 
his knees in prayer beseeching forgiveness, he was 
exercising the power of will to a greater extent than 
if he rushed blindly forward to positive action. 

This is the man that the author conceives Shake- 
speare to have drawn in his character of Hamlet : A 



man of deep sensibilities, great intellect and noble? 
qualities. A man shouldered with responsibilities that 
he dared not escape and yet dreaded to perform. A 
man to whom all, save one,* were disloyal. A man of 
whom it might be truly said: 

Now cracks a noble heart! Good night, sweet prince; 
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.^* 

The Character of Macbeth 

One of the principal traits in the character of 
Macbeth was his imagination. While he was a 
soldier and a man of action, still he was a thinker 
and a poet, and possessed those finer and higher 
qualities of the mind which, had they not been crushed 
or set aside by material ambition, would have made 
him a refined and noble being. Had he been left to 
himself he never would have killed his king, nor in 
any manner departed from the path of honor; but 
his nature was receptive, he was easily influenced by 
a will stronger than his own, and he finally became 
a puppet in the hands of the masterful woman who 
dominated his life. It is not the intention of the 
author to shield Macbeth from the consequences of his 
acts, nor to place, without reason, the blame for his 
fall upon the woman, repeating the words of Adam, 
"The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she 
gave me of the tree, " ^ ^ but to analyze and weigh the 
character as it is depicted to his mind by the Dram- 
atist, and to find the causes that governed it. In 

^ Horatio. 

i<" 'Hamlet," Act V. Scene II. 

^'Genesis II. 12. 



thus looking beyond the effects and tracing them back 
to their source we can plainly see that the pencil of 
fate that wrote the life of Macbeth was held within 
the fingers of his wife. 

That Macbeth entertained the hope of being king 
of Scotland before the play actually opens is no doubt 
true, it is reflected in his attitude in the first interview 
with the Witches when he starts on being hailed as 
"king hereafter," ^^ but that he purposed to murder 
Duncan is nowhere apparent until after his wife has 
suggested "the nearest way." ^' Thus is the parable 
of the fall of man further followed in that Lady 
Macbeth devilishly injects the virus of evil into the 
mind of her husband as did the serpent whisper the 
temptation into the ear of Eve. 

In the early scenes of the play there is a tre- 
mendous struggle in the mind of Macbeth which 
shows the workings of his conscience, and this con- 
science would have won the victory had not the powers 
of evil been reinforced by the o'er mastering influence 
of the wife. In these early scenes Macbeth is de- 
picted as more conscientious than his wife, she 
stronger intellectually than he ; but in the later scenes, 
after he has taken the plunge into sin, she appears 
the weaker mentally and he the stronger, although 
both are now dead to the voice of conscience — save 
Lady Macbeth when lost in sleep. After Macbeth 
once embarks in crime, after he has befouled his hands 
in the innocent blood of his fellowman, once he is 

i^Act I. Scene III. 
13 Act I. Scene V. 



launched on the sea of infamy, he knows no bounds 
but rushes from crime to crime, fairly swimming in 
blood, and is finally overwhelmed by the forces which 
he himself created by his wickedness and cruelty. 
Being recreant to his own duties, false to his own 
king and to his own conception of right, he thinks 
everyone else is base and false. He thus suspects 
those around him, loses control over himself, permits 
his mind to deal with confused metaphors, and be- 
comes a wretched creature blown hither and thither 
by the winds of doubt. Macbeth was a brave man 
physically, but he was an arrant coward mentally. 
He could fight to the death with Macduff, but he fled 
from his better self. 

Deftly and accurately Lady Macbeth draws the 
character of her husband: 

Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be 

What thou art proinis'd. — Yet do I fear thy nature: 

It is too full o' the milk of human kindness 

To catch the nearest way: Thou wouldst be great; 

Art not without ambition; but without 

The illness should attend it : what thou wouldst highly, 

That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false, 

And yet wouldst wrongly win.^* 

There is no getting around this passage by claiming, 
as some editors do, that Lady Macbeth in thus de- 
scribing Macbeth is revealing her own character. She 
has her husband in mind when speaking the lines, 
has been poring over the letter containing the proph- 
esy of the Witches, and has been devising means 
for bringing about the end she so fervently desires. 

i*Act I. Scene V. 



In her cogitations she has analyzed her husband's 
nature, sees all his traits and then gives voice to them. 
It is because she finds him full of ' ' human kindness, ' ' 
understands that he is ambitious, but sees also that 
he is not basely ambitious, and knows his conscien- 
tious scruples, that she longs for his early home com- 
ing in order that she may saturate him with her views 
and control him by means of her strong mentality. 
Therefore she exclaims : 

Hie thee hither, 
That I may pour my spirits in thine ear. 
And chastise with the valor of my tongue 
All that impedes thee from the golden round, 
Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem 
To have thee crown'd withal.^ ^ 

This is all so plain that further comment as to Lady 
Macbeth 's conception of her husband's character 
would be superfluous. 

Macbeth was much of a philosopher, resembling in 
this respect, strange though it may appear, the char- 
acter of Hamlet. He traces the processes of the mind, 
studies the consequences of evil, weighs the effects of 
actions, and is decidedly of a meditative nature. He 
thinks before he acts, and, even though the thinking 
does not prevent the action, it shows the motion of 
the aroused conscience and the application of the 
mental faculty. The fact that he fails to control his 
mentality at the behest of conscience, but listens, in- 
stead, to the voice of the temptress, giving way 
before her scourging tongue and surrendering his 
convictions at her command, is but evidence of his 

11^ Act I. Scene V. 



mental cowardice. We can feel no admiration for 
such a creature, but we can, and do, experience pity 
at the failure of such a character to fulfill its fair 
promise. Macbeth possessed all the attributes that 
go to the making of a man, save one — mental courage. 
Lacking this, all the others availed him nothing. 
Proof of this assertion might be produced from the 
pages of the play until piled "mountain high," but 
to cite such evidence would be a waste of space and 
time when the student in search of it has only to 
turn to Macbeth 's soliloquies and speeches to find it 
for himself. 

Macbeth is a masterful creation, evincing, with 
Hamlet and Lear, the marvelous knowledge of meta- 
physics, so far as that science applies to the mind, 
that Shakespeare possessed. The Dramatist shows 
us the mind in all its phases and actions; lays bare 
its workings when debating a thought, weighing its 
effects, or discounting its influence ; planning a deed, 
mapping out the mode of procedure, or anticipating 
its accomplishment — in fact, he reveals to us the mind 
and heart, yea, the very soul of man and woman as 
though he were a creator of them in reality and not 
merely of their "counterfeit presentments." 

Macbeth does not shirk responsibility for his acts, 
he does not throw the fault upon fate, he blames not 
the Witches for his entrance upon crime. No, he 
does none of those things, but considers himself a 
free agent and acts accordingly. He is not aware 
of the great influence wielded over him by his wife, 
but he loves her, has implicit faith in her, respects her 



mental powers, her great will and her keenness of 
vision, and gladly lends himself to her guidance. 
Their married state was happy, their domestic life 
free from strife, and their two dissimilar natures 
seemed to weld together into a congenial whole, mak- 
ing the one harmonious being. Sad, indeed, that 
crime should have entered such a tranquil abode to 
mar its peace. Had it been absent, we should have 
heard the song of the lark and not the screeching of 
the owl. But the evil-disposed will of the woman and 
the moral weakness of the man brought about the 
awful story as told in The Tragedy of Macbeth. 

The Character of Othello 

Othello, thou perplexed soul, what judgment shall 
be rendered against thee ? Let the words of thy mouth 
pronounce it: 

Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate, 

Nor set down aught in malice; then, must you speak 

Of one that lov'd, not wisely, but too well; 

Of one not easily jealous, but, being wrought, 

Perplex'd 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.^' 

Seldom is it given a person to read his own 
character as OtheUo here reads his. He was of a 
loving nature, possessed great faith in the purity of 
woman, never speaking of her in the sneering, sensual 

lo' 'Othello," Act V. Scene II. 



lan^age of lago, nor even of Cassio ; prized his honor 
more than his life, and loved his wife better than 
himself. How comes it, then, that such a noble crea- 
ture became the tool of a scheming, unscrupulous 
villain? Through his faith in the honesty of others. 
It might then be asked. Why did he not show his 
faith by trusting in the purity and loyalty of 
Desdemona? This he did until his jealousy had been 
aroused by lago and every circumstance of time, place 
and person confirmed suspicion. The very innocence 
of Desdemona, her concern for Othello, her pleading 
in behalf of Cassio, the stolen handkerchief, all seem- 
ingly confirmed the tale of baseness that lago poured 
into Othello's unlistening ears and convinced him of 
his wife 's wantonness even against his own love, faith, 
and judgment. When the scheming villain fiirst in- 
timates the disloyalty of Othello's wife, the noble- 
hearted Moor spurns belief in its possibility from him 
as a thing incredible ; when lago continues to thrust 
it before his unwilling mind, he takes the scoundrel 
by the throat and well-nigh strangles him. But the 
intellectual villainy of lago is too much for the pure- 
heartedness of Othello and he soon after succumbs to 
the baleful influence of the plotting scoundrel. When 
this occurs we come to the turning point of the play — 
the center of the arch. 

Othello was not jealous by nature, but he became 
rich ground for the sowing of the seeds of jealousy 
at the cunning hand of the crafty lago because of 
his great love for Desdemona. His speech, his mind, 
his heart, were all open, and they were all pure until 



the doubt of the honesty of the woman who was dearer 
to him than life itself changed his entire being and 
made him as putty in the hands of the intelligent liar 
who posed as his faithful officer and loving friend, 
lago undoubtedly exercised great influence over 
Othello, and because of this influence we are com- 
pelled to study the character of lago in order that 
we may understand that of Othello. The Moor's 
every act that succeeded his marriage was the effect 
of some cause that had its origin in the fertile brain 
of the Ancient, and in order that we may under- 
stand the effect we must study the cause. It there- 
fore appears as though lago was the greater person. 
He was, so far as intelligent cunning is concerned; 
but in integrity of purpose, love of truth, and kind- 
ness of heart, Othello made him kick the beam. When 
we compare the intellect of the two men, lago does 
not suffer in comparison with Othello; but when we 
come to weigh their characters, it is as though a feather 
were placed in the balance against a nugget of gold. 
The character of Othello is well expressed by lago in 
the following lines : 

The Moor is of a free and open nature, 
That thinks men honest that but seem to be.^' 

He certainly was generous, frank, open and confiding, 
thinking men honest until they proved themselves 
otherwise, and because he possessed a nature such as 
this he became the ready tool of one who looked upon 
all men as false and all women as fickle. 

The great battle that Othello had to fight was not 

IT Act I. Scena III. 



against jealousy, but, as he himself states it, against 
the foes who would tarnish his honor. Therefore, 
when he believes Desdemona has become his worst 
enemy by besmirching his sacred honor which he had 
placed in her keeping, he turns upon her as he would 
upon one who dared advise him to be a traitor to his 
country. She was his all in all so long as she was 
worthy of his love; but when he became persuaded 
that she had tarnished his honor, then his love died 
and the stern avenger sprang into life. Thus does 
he voice his thought : 

I'll see, before I doubt; when I doubt, prove; 
And, on the proof, there is no more but this, — 
Away at once with love or jealousy.^* 

There are some natures that when once they love they 
continue to do so even after the attributes that caused 
them to love have passed from the beloved object, but 
with Othello it was different. He could love only 
those worthy to be loved; and as soon as the worthi- 
ness departed, the love ceased to exist. Here is his 

She's gone; I am abus'd; and my relief 
Must be to loathe her.^' 

She in whom he had placed his greatest trust had, 
to his mind, proved recreant to it, therefore his sense 
of honor compelled him to spurn her from him. His 
way of looking upon this question is revealed to us 
in his expressive words to Cassio, spoken to that officer 

i»Act III. Scene III. 



when he learned he had been false to the trust imposed 

in him: 

Cassio, I love thee; 
But never more be officer of mine/" 

Thus the captain, jealous of his honor as a soldier, 
dismisses the lieutenant whom he loves because of his 
failure in the line of duty. So also the husband, 
jealous of his honor as a man, banishes the wife when 
he is convinced of her disloyalty. 

That Othello was not naturally of a jealous dis- 
position is attested by many circumstances, viz. : his 
failure to heed Brabantio's warning, "She has de- 
ceived her father, and may thee,""^ his faith in Desde- 
mona, his confidence in Cassio, and his belief in the 
honesty of lago. It is not until lago recalls to his 
mind the fact that Desdemona's father has bid him 
beware of the deceit of the woman he had just taken 
to wife that Othello pays any attention to the warn- 
ing, showing that he was not jealous of Desdemona 
until lago spoke those fateful words, 

Iago. She did deceive her father, marrying you; 

And, when she seem'd to shake, and fear 
your looks, 

She lov'd them most. 
Othello. And so she did.^^ 

Here is where suspicion regarding the actions of 
Desdemona enters Othello's mind, the poison of 
jealousy passes like a drug through his system, his 
mental balance is lost, and he falls a prey to the 
knavery of lago. 

'"Act II. Scene III. 
'lAct I. Scene III. 
'2 Act III. Scene III. 



The character of Othello is wonderfully well drawn, 
and it stands in its majestic grandeur towering above 
those that cluster around it. The whole interest of 
the play centers in Othello, all the other characters 
contribute to the telling of his story, and each in its 
turn throws its light upon him, revealing some trait 
in his nature or something charaetistic of his per- 
sonality. His is a sad story: He loved deeply, was 
sorely tried, sinned grievously (although unknow- 
ingly), and paid an awful penalty. His life was 
tempestuous from his first appearance on the stage un- 
til his death, and as the final curtain falls upon him we 
cannot help feeling that "he was more sinned against 
than sinning." 

The Character of Desdemona 

True it is that "what we are, that only can we 
see." Desdemona was pure in heart and in mind, 
pure in body and in soul, and because she was herself 
pure she saw purity in others. Not only did she 
make of Othello a god of purity, but she even raised 
the devil lago into the same sublime atmosphere. Her 
innocence, sad though it may be, was founded on 
ignorance, for she did not know that there was vile- 
ness in man as well as purity, and because of this 
ignorance she was blind to the snares of lago and 
allowed her purity of thought to be the cause of her 

Desdemona was of an impressionable nature and 
easily affected by outside influences. Reared in the 
seclusion of her father's palace, shielded from the 



evils and the temptations of the world, she grew to 
womanhood believing that all creatures were pure 
like herself, so when Othello appeared as her father's 
guest and repeated his tales of adventures, she saw 
in him a reflex of her own being and allowed her 
heart to be enfolded in his. She never questioned 
the truth of his story, she did not heed the dark com- 
plexion of his skin ; she saw only the whiteness of 
herself, felt her being respond to the romantic call 
of his manhood, and immediately acknowledged him 
as her lord and master. It is here the one blot upon 
her character appears: she was an undutiful child. 
When she felt her heart drawn toward Othello she 
gave no thought to her father — the father who had 
devoted his life to loving and protecting her. She 
allowed herself to be governed by this new love — 
this mysterious feeling that unconsciously changed 
the current of her life — and gave no heed to any call 
but that of the one within her that cried for a realiza- 
tion of that new life which Othello's magic voice and 
strong personality had awakened. Had she been true 
to her father, had she opened her heart by confiding 
to him a knowledge of the influence Othello was 
exerting over her (not drugs, nor charms, but a mighty 
magic greater than these), she would have been saved 
from the terrible catastrophe that her silence and 
deceit imposed upon her. True, had she done this, 
we should have lost one of the great tragedies, her 
deceit being necessary to its growth, but because of 
this deceit we have an imperfect woman in the char- 
acter of Desdemona. She was true to her husband, 



but she was false to her father, and this falsehood 
brought upon her all the suffering of her young mar- 
ried life, her untimely death, the misery of her people, 
and the ruin and suicide of her husband. Sad, indeed, 
that one so pure should be the cause of so much evil, 
but ignorance always carries a train of misery in its 
wake. Thus is our Dramatist true to nature in de- 
picting the character of Desdemona and showing the 
effect of her actions. Had she not hidden her heart 
from her father, had he not uttered those words of 

Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see: 
She has deceiv'd her father, and may thee,^' 

the mind of Othello would never have been open to the 
poison of lago's lying tongue, and the married happi- 
ness of Desdemona 's life would not have been marred. 

The Character of Iago 

lago has been pronounced unnatural and impossi- 
ble by many Shakespearean writers. On the contrary, 
he appears to the author to be as natural and as 
possible as Othello himself; than which, no character 
in ancient or modern drama is more natural and more 
possible. He is the antithesis of Othello, the opposite 
to him in everything, — in stature, complexion, mode 
of life, conception of honor, and all that goes to the 
making of character. It is because of this polarity 
of their natures that we must study both characters 
before we can know either. 

2 3 Act I. Scene IH. 



The one great trait in the character of lago is his 
intellectuality. Had it been used in the proper direc- 
tion he would have been a great man, but as it was 
employed in the wrong direction he became a great 
scoundrel. The influences that acted on his intellect 
and made him a cunning, diabolical villain, are : His 
love of money; his utter lack of confidence in the 
honesty of man and woman ; his determination to use 
others for his own advancement, irrespective of the 
consequence to them. Acting on these lines he became 
a selfish, cruel, and wicked man, devoid of honesty, 
unworthy of the sacred trust reposed in him by Othello 
and of the innocent confidence of Desdemona. 

He loved money, and he also loved to acquire it 
by means of his clever manipulation of the weaknesses 
of those he imposed upon. He gloried in making his 
fool his purse, praising his own dexterity in wheedling 
money from the poor creature and treating his tool 
witli scorn for being thus imposed upon. He does 
not scruple to use underhand methods for gaining 
his purpose, but he would respect the prowess of one 
who could beat him at his own game. He looks upon 
virtue as belonging to fools, honesty as non-existent, 
and the accomplishing of one's purpose legitimate 
under any and all circumstances. ' ' Put money in thy 
purse" is his cry. No matter what means you em- 
ploy, "put money in thy purse." Gain your aim 
no matter what injustice you do others or what mis- 
fortunes you bring down upon them. This is the 
policy he both preached and practiced. 

Why did he seek the ruin of Othello? For two 



reasons: (1) To get money out of Roderigo; (2) to 
have revenge on Othello. Why did he desire revenge 
on Othello? For two reasons: (1) Because Othello 
had not advanced him in the military service as he 
considered he deserved; (2) for the reason that he 
suspected Othello had been unlawfully intimate with 
his wife Emilia. No matter that his reasons were 
merely suspicions. He took his suspicions as actuali- 
ties and determined to get even with the Moor wife 
for wife. 

lago is absolutely dishonest in character; vain by 
nature, his vanity is aggravated by disappointment; 
envious of the success of Othello, his envy turns bitter 
as gall. His mind was depraved, ever dwelling on 
lascivious pictures which he delighted to create. He 
looked for the worst in everyone, and if he did not 
succeed in finding it, convinced himself by his evil 
reasoning of its existence. These attributes made 
him a dangerous man, a cunning schemer, and an 
infamous villain, but he is true to nature and a won- 
derful product of the great Dramatist. 

It is true that lago despised all power but that of 
the intellect, but it is not because of this that he was 
of a b£Lse nature. Will power is capable of great good 
or great evil — the result depending entirely on the 
direction given the will — and it is because lago chose 
to devote his mental powers to the cause of depravity 
that he brought about the misery of himself and 
others. Had he devoted his efforts to a righteous cause, 
he would have been as successful in creating happiness 



as he was in producing misery. Mighty, indeed, is 
the power of the will. It is godlike when properly 
directed, but devilish when working in behalf of evil. 

The Chabacter of Lady Macbeth 

The character of Lady Macbeth has been studied and 
analyzed by all students of Shakespeare. Teachers 
and writers have dissected her character, and many 
editors of the plays of Shakespeare have given their 
views concerning it. The Tragedy of Macbeth is a 
part of the English course in most preparatory 
schools, and it is one of the most widely read of all 
Shakespeare's plays. Despite these facts there is a 
tendency on the part of writers to soften the inflexible 
hardness of character of this remarkable woman in 
a manner not warranted by the facts as stated by the 
Dramatist. Attributes of femininity are claimed for 
her that are nowhere revealed in the text of the play, 
and editors read into the character traits that they 
assign to her through sympathy, seeing not those that 
are given to her by her creator. Some even go so far 
as to reject absolutely all evidence she gives against 
herself. True, we should not always take the words 
as spoken by a character at their face value, but when 
a description of the nature of a person is given by a 
character itself, and this description is corroborated 
by other characters and circumstances, it should be 
accepted with as much faith as is the evidence of a 
witness that is confirmed by the testimony of other 

Following the evidence of the play, we find 



that there is little that is womanly — that is, sweetly 
feminine — in the nature of Lady Macbeth. She shows 
little real heart-love for her husband, no love for her 
children, no conception of the duties of a hostess, no 
consideration of the rights of others. But, on the 
other hand, ambition is her governing motive — not for 
her husband, but for herself. She would sacrifice 
parent, husband, child, all and everything for posi- 
tion and power, and in this she is true to nature, only 
forecasting the attitude of many women of modem 
times who sacrifice all that the true woman holds 
dear in order that they may gain social recognition 
and advancement. Hers was a vaulting ambition that 
o'erleaped itself and led to her spiritual extinction, 
her madness, and her physical death. This is a severe 
arraignment, and a wicked one if not borne out by 
the facts. Here is the evidence. 

That she had little love for her husband is shown 
in the greeting she bestows upon him after his return 
from a successful war: 

Great Glamis! worthy Cawdor! 
Greater than both, by the all-hail hereafter! 
Thy letters have transported me beyond 
This ignorant present, and I feel now 
The future in the instant."* 

No wifely greeting here. No joy at her hus- 
band's safe return. Nothing but a bold reception to 
the successful captain who, by his prowess, has won 
fresh laurels for himself — and her. Macbeth 's saluta- 
tion for his wife possesses more affection than does 

2* Act I. Scene V. 



hers for him. He addresses her as ' * my dearest love ' ' 
and in many ways shows a loving concern for her, 
but nowhere in the play does she show any such feel- 
ing toward him. 

She lacks the mother-heart — the one great indica- 
tion of womanliness — the heart that prizes the child 
above all other earthly possessions. She would kill 
her infant, dash its brains against a wall, merely be- 
cause she had vowed to do so : 

I have given suck, and know 
How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me: 
I would, while it was smihng in my face, 
Have pluck'd my nipple from its boneless gums, 
And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you 
Have done to this.^® 

Is this the language of a woman, a mother? Nay, a 
fiend rather. A womanly woman could not have even 
imagined doing such a thing, could not have voiced 
such a thought, would not have possessed a brain 
capable of giving birth to such a horrible idea. No, 
Lady Macbeth was devoid of love of husband and 
love of child. This being the case, how can she be 
considered as possessing the qualities of a woman? 

She even goes so far as to threaten her husband 
with a withdrawal of what she terms her love if he 
refuses to carry out the proposed plan to remove 
Duncan and unlawfully secure the crown of Scotland 
to themselves: 

From this time, 
Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard 
To be the same in thine own act and valor, 
As thou art in desire?^' 

2 5 Act I. Scene VII. 
«• Ibid. 



Could anything be more base than for a wife to 
threaten to divorce her husband from her person 
unless he does what she desires, even though his con- 
science tells him that to comply with her request would 
be a sin or a crime? Would a womanly woman so 
debase her womanhood as to hold her love over her 
husband as a club to enforce requests? Well Lady 
Macbeth knows that no weapon is sharper than a 
woman's envenomed tongue, therefore she sneers at 
Macbeth and goads him to a compliance with her 
demands. Here is one of the strongest bits of evidence 
in the whole play as to the true character of Lady 
Macbeth, a piece of evidence passed over by those 
who proclaim the womanliness of her character but 
of such a nature that, like Banquo's ghost, it will not 
down. Surely, Lady Macbeth cannot be termed a 
woman who was a wife for love's sake. 

She gave no consideration to the performance of 
the main duty of a hostess — the welfare of the guest. 
As soon as she learns of the intended visit of Duncan 
to her castle she decrees that he shall die there, and 
even plans on committing the deed of murder herself. 
She prays to the powers of darkness to take from her 
that which she does not possess — womanly qualities. 
She implores them to unsex her, little thinking that 
by giving utterance to such a prayer, harboring such 
thoughts, she had unsexed herself. Let her tell the 
story in her own words : 

Come, you spirits 
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, 
And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full 
Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood, 



Stop up the access and passage to remorse; 
That no compunctious visitings of nature 
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between 
The effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts 
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers, 
Wherever in your sightless substances 
You wait on nature's mischief! Come, thick night. 
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell! 
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes. 
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, 
To cry, "Hold, Hold!"^' 

Is not this a horrible, a fiendish passage? Could a 
human being express such thoughts without possess- 
ing attributes that would cause them to take voice? 
Assuredly no. The trait must be in the character 
before the thought, the wish, can enter the brain. 
After such evidence, can it be said that Lady Macbeth 
is anything else than absolutely bad? Perhaps it 
may be thought that she is merely playing a part, 
merely trying to make herself believe that she is this 
stern-visaged, unsexed creature. Very well, let us 
seek further evidence regarding the truth of the pic- 
ture she draws of herself. She convinces her hus- 
band of its truth, and he was well informed by close 
association as to her character. After she has outlined 
to Macbeth her plan for disposing of Duncan and 
turning suspicion from themselves, he says : 

Bring forth men-children only; 
For thy undaunted mettle should compose 
Nothing but males.** 

Thus does Macbeth clearly express his conviction that 
there is nothing feminine in her nature and that there- 

2 ''Act I. Scene V. 
2 8 Act I. Scene VII. 



fore she should bring forth nothing but males because 
the attributes she displays are unsuited to the feminine 
nature. After this can it be said that Lady Macbeth 
is aught womanly? 

She has no consideration for the rights of others — 
anything that stands between her and her ..will must 
be ruthlessly cast aside, no matter what may be the 
suffering of the innocent impediment. When she de- 
termines that Duncan shall die she looks about for 
some one to bear the blame for the crime so that no 
suspicion may rest upon herself and her husband. 
Thus she plans it : 

his two chamberlains 

Will I with wine and wassel so convince, 
That memory, the warder of the brain, 
Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason 
A limbeck only: When in swinish sleep 
Their drenched natures lie, as in a death, 
What cannot you and I perform upon 
The unguarded Duncan ? What not put upon 
His spongy officers, who shall bear the guilt 
Of our great quell?'" 

Only once in the entire play does Lady Macbeth 's 
conscience make itself known during her waking 
hours. The solitary instance occurring in Act II. 
Scene II. where, on hearing a noise in Duncan's cham- 
ber, she fears that Macbeth has failed in his intent 
to kill the king, she thinks aloud : 

Had he not resembled 
My father as he slept, I had done't. 

This was the voice of conscience speaking to her soul, 
but she heeded it no further than to pass the doing 

2»Act I. Scene VII. 



of the deed of murder on to her husband. Thus she 

feared what she later called "a painted devil" when 

Macbeth refused to look again upon the face of the 

dead king: 

The sleeping, and the dead, 
Are but as pictures : 'Tis the eye of childhood 
That fears a painted devil/" 

She would have stabbed the old king to the heart had 
he not resembled her father. Conscience thus held 
back the raised knife, just as it forbade Macbeth to 
return to the chamber of horror. 

It is claimed by some that the mental dissolution 
of Lady Macbeth showed her to be of such a sensa- 
tive, moral nature that her mind broke under the un- 
natural strain that was placed upon it through her 
entrance upon the course of evil. Here, according 
to the text of the play, they are also wrong. When 
Macebeth is about the murder of Duncan, and a noise 
is heard within, she cries: 

Alack! I am afraid they have awak'd. 

And 'tis not done: — the attempt, and not the deed, 

Confounds us."*^ 

It was the fear of failure, not sorrow for the murder, 
that troubled her. So also, it was the failure to 
successfully seize and hold the crown, and not re- 
morse for sin, that caused her mind to give way. It 
was because the guilty pair failed to get upon the 
firm ground of security, but wallowed in the mire 
of suspicion and danger, that Lady Macbeth was 
troubled unto death. It will be observed, though, that 

^'"Act II. Scene II. 
^ 1 Ibid. 



it was only when she was not herself, when she was 
in the foreign land of sleep, that her thoughts trou- 
bled her. When awake, she had that power of will 
that made her master of herself; but when asleep, 
when that will no longer existed, she felt all the pangs 
of a sleeping conscience awakened by the bodily sleep, 
and then she suffered the tortures of the damned soul, 
staggering under its load of unrepented sin, and mad- 
ness was the logical result. Had she not stifled the 
cry of her conscience during the day, had she given 
it voice by repenting her crimes, it would not have 
haunted her at night and enforced disclosure even 
against her knowledge of disclosing it. 

Lady Macbeth is one of the most immoral characters 
in Shakespeare — not immoral physically, but devoid 
of morality spiritually. Her body was pure, but her 
mind was as black as the impenetrable night. Hers 
was not of the same class of immorality to which 
Regan 's and Goneril 's belonged, but it was as baneful 
to herself and far more dangerous to others. Hers 
was a spiritual illness, not springing, as did Regan's 
and Goneril's, from the lusts of the body, but from 
an inherent baseness of the mind. She had the power 
to live a pure and noble life, to make others happy 
and to be happy herself; but she chose the baser 
part; she allowed selfishness to be her guide, and she 
became a malign influence, poisoning all that she 
touched. In many respects she resembled lago. Both 
were intellectually great, both despised all power but 
that of the intellect, both misdirected their tremendous 
mental forces, and both came to a wretched end. Pity 



we can feel for one who goes astray through love, but 
nothing else than contempt and detestation should be 
felf for those who go astray through selfishness. This 
was the besetting sin of both lago and Lady Macbeth, 
and both justly suffered because of it. 

Lady Macbeth is one of the greatest of Shakespeare 's 
marvelous creations, and ranks with those master 
characters of the other sex, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, 
and Lear. In the estimation of the author, it is the 
greatest of all his female characters. Not great, like 
some, in goodness; not great merely in its badness; 
but great because of the insight it gives to the work- 
ings of the human heart and brain, and its absolute 
truth to nature. 



Classes of Shakespeare's Plays 

WHAT a mine of literary wealth we possess in 
the plays of Shakespeare! Blot out these 
dramatic poems and a greater gap would be made 
in literature than by the destruction of all else 
purely dramatic in character that has been written 
in the English language. Any one of his four great 
tragedies, Othello, Hamlet, Lear and Macbeth, 
represents more to English literature than the entire 
production of any other dramatic author. His 
works have entered into the very being of most sub- 
sequent writers and made an impression on Litera- 
ture second to that of only one other work — the 
Bible. The reason that the influence of these plays 
has been so far reaching is that they are true to 
Nature. Shakespeare's descriptions of scenery, his 
pictures of plant and animal life, analyses of the 
mind and heart of man are so vivid, so true, and so 
masterful as to give them the force of reality. This 
is why his plays appeal to men of all lands and of all 
ages, and stand as the monumental intellectual pro- 
duction of the English race. He had no fixed mode 
of procedure, he was governed by no set rules. He 
took the dust of other writers, breathed into it the 
breath of his genius and it became a living thing. 
He was indebted to French, Italian and English 



authors for his plots and most of his characters. 
When the matter came to his hands it was nothing 
more than material ; but when it passed out of them, 
it was a magnificent edifice. He was the greatest 
literary borrower of all times but he paid his debts 
with usurious interest. Whatever he took he 
returned a hundred fold, and whatever he touched 
he awakened to greater life. Whenever the English 
language failed to contain words expressive of his 
thoughts he created them, and thus he became pos- 
sessed of a vocabulary of over fifteen thousand 
words, larger by far than that used by any other 
writer. In the handling of this immense number of 
words he was a magician, juggling with them in a 
most charming and marvelous manner, arranging 
them in so masterful a way as to make his phrases 
and sentences pregnant with the life of his thought. 
This wonderful arrangement of words is one of the 
main beauties of Shakespeare. In him it is the per- 
fection of art, because nowhere in his work is the 
art apparent, nowhere does it intrude between the 
reader and the thought. This ability to preserve 
the thought in spite of the multiplicity of words that 
encase them, is one of the marvels of Shakespeare. 
He used words as a means and not as an end. He 
employed them to convey his ideas and not to dis- 
play the extent of his vocabulary. Here is a striking 
example : 

Therefore, to be possess'd with double pomp, 
To guard a title that was rich before, 
To guild refined gold, to paint the lily, 



To throw a perfume on the violet, 

To smooth the ice, or add another hue 

Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light 

To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish. 

Is wasteful and ridiculous excess/ 

One who could so plainly perceive the futility of the 
excessive use of any means as to pen the above senti- 
ment, would never have used words for the mere 
sake of using them. 

There were no "periods'' in Shakespeare's art 
such as the "immature," "maturing," and "ma- 
tured." His was a steady climb from the first to the 
last, showing a broadening and a strengthening of 
his mental powers that were gradual and sure, and 
his progress cannot be confined within periods. 

Commencing his education at the Parish school at 
Stratford, he continued it by a communion with 
Nature along the banks of the Avon and through the 
fields of Warwickshire, and completed it by a study 
of mankind in the city of London. In addition to 
this, he was an omnivorous reader, devouring all the 
important printed matter of the day, whether it per- 
tained to his own land or those foreign climes t?iat 
the navigators of England were then bringing to the 
light of civilization. His connection with the theatre 
placed in his hands the productions of other dram- 
atists, and he did not hesitate to take suggestions 
from these works any more than he did from the 
stories of Holinshed's Chronicles. And if Greene 
and others are correct in their statements, he took 
more than suggestions. Thus it was, from Nature, 

i"King John," Act IV. Scene II. 



from man, from books, from his feUow dramatists, 
that Shakespeare gained his education, and it is 
because his training was so diversified and the 
sources of his knowledge so many, that he was able 
to produce his wonderful plays. A mere bookworm 
could not have done the work of Shakespeare, nor 
could a mere child of Nature, but it was a blending 
of the two that produced the master playwright. 

"We do not possess a single manuscript of Shake- 
speare's, nor any printed form of any play that is 
known to have received his sanction, consequently 
it is not to be wondered at that his plays have come 
down to us in a very incomplete and defective form. 
Much credit is due the able and patient scholars who 
compared and arranged the material that has 
reached us, and who have given us Shakespeare as 
we know him today. 

The original printed copies are, as a rule, full of 
typographical errors, and where there are several 
diiferent printings of a play they often disagree in 
many important particulars. In some, the text dif- 
fers materially; while in others, speeches, and even 
entire scenes, are omitted. In only a few are the 
acts and scenes clearly marked. 

Some of the plays were printed in quarto pam- 
phlet form either from incomplete copies obtained by 
the actors or from manuscripts made by persons who 
attended the performances and took down the mat- 
ter as best they could. The First Folio gives what pur- 
ports to be "all his comedies, histories, and trage- 
dies, truly set forth according to their first original. ' ' 



This collection of Shakespeare's plays was edited by 
his fellow actors Heminge and Condell, and was is- 
sued in 1623. 

The First Folio contains fourteen plays that are 
set down as comedies, ten that are listed as histories, 
and twelve that are grouped as tragedies, making a 
total of thirty-six plays ascribed to Shakespeare by 
Heminge and Condell, being one less than the num- 
ber allotted him by most modern editors. Pericles, 
Prince of Tyre, is the tragedy omitted in The First 

Shakespeare's plays are divided into three dis- 
tinct classes : tragedies, comedies and histories. This 
is the classification as used in The First Folio, and as 
there is no good reason for departing from it, it will 
be followed here. Of the tragedies, Othello, Hamlet, 
Lear, and Macbeth will be discussed ; of the com- 
edies. As You Like It, Twelfth Night, and Much Ado 
About Nothing; of the histories, Henry V., thus 
presenting to the consideration of students charac- 
teristic types of all Shakespeare's plays. 

The Tragedy of Othello first appeared in quarto 
form in 1622; was among the collection of plays as 
issued by Heminge and Condell in 1623 ; was again 
printed in quarto form in 1630; and is included 
among the plays in The Second Folio of 1632, which 
is practically a reprint of The First Folio. These 
several versions of the same play differ from each 
other, some slightly, others to a considerable extent. 
That of The First Folio is the most complete, con- 
taining over a hundred and fifty lines that are want- 



ing in the first quarto, but some few lines absent in 
the folio are supplied by this quarto. The play was 
not printed during its author's lifetime, and there 
is nothing to prove that any of the printed copies is 
strictly authentic, further than the fact that 
Heminge and Condell are supposed by some editors 
to have had access to the author's manuscripts of 
such plays as they included in The First Folio. This 
again is merely conjecture, there being no legal evi- 
dence to sustain it, and the fact that this folio is full 
of errors and blemishes would tend to disprove the 

The Tragedy of Hamlet first appeared in quarto 
form in 1603. This no doubt was printed from notes 
taken down during the performance of the play and 
from memory, as it is imperfect in many ways. In 
1604 a second quarto was issued, a great improve- 
ment over the first, which is today our main author- 
ity for the text of this wonderful play. In The First 
Folio it appears without arrangement into scenes 
and acts, many of the best portions are omitted, and 
the whole play is in a garbled state, indicating clear- 
ly that in this particular instance Heminge and 
Condell could not have had access to Shakespeare's 

The Tragedy of Lear is supposed to have been 
written in 1606. It was first printed in 1608 and 
again issued the same year. Both issues were in 
quarto form, and both were full of errors and poorly 
printed. It appeared in The First Folio in 1623 and 
again in quarto form in 1655. 



The text of The Tragedy of Macbeth as it ap- 
peared originally in The First Folio is wonderfully 
free from errors. The acts and scenes are uniform- 
ly arranged, the play being in every way complete. 
In so perfect a form does this play come down to us 
as to appear to have been revised and arranged for 
publication by the hand of the Dramatist himself. 

The comedy of As You Like It was first printed, 
so far as is known, in The First Folio, although it 
is supposed to have been written in 1599. The struc- 
tural work is faulty, indicating either haste or care- 
lessness on the Dramatist's part. 

Twelfth Night was written about the year 1600, 
and originally appeared in The First Folio. The 
play is made up of two distinct parts, comic and 
serious. There are, besides the main story of 
Viola's love for the Duke, three stories: (1) Olivia 
and the Duke; (2) Viola and Sebastian; (3) Mal- 
volio, and the fun of which he is the center. 

Much Ado About Nothing is supposed to have 
been written in 1599. It was first printed in quarto 
form in 1600. The text is remarkably accurate, but 
neither the scenes nor acts are marked. It appears 
in The First Folio much as it is in the quarto, except 
that the acts are marked and there are a few unim- 
portant variations in the text. 

The Life of Henry the Fifth, as it is styled in The 
First Folio, is supposed to have been written in 
1598. The earliest known edition of the play ap- 
peared in 1600. This edition was reprinted in 1602 
and 1608. All these editions were in quarto form. 



In the folio of 1623 it differs materially from the 
quartos, being fully twice as long, 

Shakespeare's genius is displayed best by his trag- 
edies. As plays, the comedies are not in the same 
class with the tragedies. Three of the comedies, by 
general agreement of critics, stand out pre-emi- 
nently from the others: Much Ado About Nothing, 
Twefth Night, and As You Like It. While The Tem- 
pest and A Winter's Tale are both generally classed 
as comedies, they are considered by some editors as 
not distinctly so, being classed by them as romantic 
dramas, but as the principal characters in both 
plays succeed and the plays have a happy ending, 
they are properly considered comedies. With the 
exception of The Tempest, all the comedies are de- 
ficient in plot and construction, not being compar- 
able in these respects with the principal tragedies, 
but they all contain wonderful examples of the 
Dramatist's art in the delineation of the comic char- 

Shakespeare was at his best when he depicted 
great things and events in man and nature. His was 
an exceptional talent and it required unusual events 
for its display in its grandest and highest form. 
This requirement was met in depicting the philoso- 
phy of the human mind in Hamlet, Macbeth and 
Lear, not only in the development of the main char- 
acter in each play but in all those minor ones that 
the play included, and in the construction of the 
play itself. But when it came to telling the stories 
depicting the sprightliness of Rosalind, the timidity 



of Viola, and the wit of Beatrice, he appears to have 
been guilty of a carelessness not to be found in his 
serious dramas. Not that the characters are not 
well drawn — for they are, in their way, as perfect 
as any of the tragic characters — but the plays them- 
selves are founded on weaker foundations, the plots 
being developed with less care and the structural 
work not so masterfully put together. Action is 
less apparent in the comedies than in the tragedies. 
In the comedies, more depends on the wit and 
sprightliness of the dialogue than on the movement 
of the story, the merriment of many of the scenes 
depending on the quaintness of individual charac- 
ters such as Dogberry, whose comedy element is 
depicted by words and not by action. On the other 
hand, the tragedies stand upon massive foundations, 
the plots are deep and the development moves along 
in an impressive, strong and sure manner. It is only 
as plays that the comedies are weaker than the 
tragedies, for as far as the limning of the characters 
is concerned there is not much choice between Rosa- 
lind and Desdemona, Viola and Ophelia, Beatrice and 
Cordelia. But as plays, there is all the difference in 
the world between As You Like It and Othello, 
Twelfth Night and Hamlet, Much Ado About Noth- 
ing and Lear. This difference, so far as their value 
as plays is concerned, consists in the superiority of 
the structural work of the tragedies over that of the 

The stories of all the comedies were borrowed by 
Shakespeare but the characters are his own. In 



every instance the plots are weak but the characters 
wondrous in their lifelike portraiture. In the trag- 
edies, also, the Dramatist drew from outside sources, 
but the characters that give them their form and life 
were the children of his own brain. Therefore we 
see that what is truly great in the plays of Shake- 
speare was original with him. His characters pass 
through the plays as do men and women in life, and 
it is the lifelike portrayal of the traits of human 
beings in the characters of the stage that gives his 
plays their everlasting life. It is Hamlet, Othello, 
Lear and Macbeth who move us ; it is Beatrice, Rosa- 
lind and Viola whom we love; it is Harry of Mon- 
mouth who thrills us, while the tragedies and com- 
edians are only the bodies that contain the souls of 
these immortal characters. 

The Tragedy of Othello 

What suggested the idea of Othello to the mind 
of Shakespeare appears to have been a work by the 
Italian novelist, Giraldi Cinthio, entitled II Moro Di 
Venezia. It is not known whether Shakespeare 
possessed sufficient knowledge of Italian to enable 
him to read the novel in the original tongue or 
whether there was an English translation of it previ- 
ous to the writing of his Tragedy. It is possible that 
a play on the same subject by another author pre- 
ceded that of Shakespeare's Othello, but as this is 
mere surmise there is no use in following it further. 

The plot is complex, being made up of several 



separate actions which, however, finally blend into 
the main one — that of the love and death of Othello 
and Desdemona. The other sections, or, as they 
might better be termed, threads, consist of (1) the 
story of Bianca and Cassio; (2) Roderigo's attach- 
ment for Desdemona; (3) lago's compact with Rod- 
erigo; (4) lago's scheming to get Cassio 's place; (5) 
lago's plan to bring about the death of Cassio; (6) 
lago's intrigue to separate Othello and Desdemona. 
These secondary stories, however, all pertain to the 
main one, flowing into it as do many small streams 
into a larger one. 

The Tragedy of Othello ranks as one of Shake- 
speare's masterpieces, being placed by all editors and 
scholars alongside Lear, Hamlet and Macbeth. All 
agree that it is one of the greatest, and some* claim 
that it is the greatest, of all Shakespeare's plays. It 
certainly shows that it is the work of a master 
hand : the style is even and elegant, all its parts are 
logical and admirably joined, and there is unity of 
action throughout. Its theme is purely domestic, the 
play dealing with the love, marriage, estrangement, 
and death of Othello and Desdemona. It holds 
closely to the unity of place, remarkably so for a 
play by Shakespeare, the action taking place in 
Cyprus, except the first act which is laid in Venice. 
This slight transgression from the law of unity of 
place is wise, because it shows the events leading 
up to the tragedy instead of having them told by the 
actors. Thus by breaking one law of the play- 

* "Othello" is perhaps the greatest work in the world. 

— T. B. Macaulay. 



Wright's art the Dramatist emphasizes another — 
showing by action instead of telling by words. The 
first act gives us an insight into the characters of the 
principal personages of the drama that could never 
have been gained unless we had been admitted into 
this close relationship. It was necessary to allow 
lago and Desdemona to show their traits of charac- 
ter in order that the nature of Othello might be un- 
derstood and his actions made to appear logical. 
The reasons for Desdemona 's love for the Moor 
could not have been made convincingly apparent in 
any manner except by unfolding them to the gaze 
of the audience as the Dramatist has done in the 
first act. Shakespeare was severely censured by 
some critics for doing the very thing that made his 
tragedy so appealing, even Doctor Johnson sug- 
gested that had the scene opened in Cyprus, the 
events of the first act being told by the characters 
from time to time, the action of the play would have 
been greatly improved. Here the learned Doctor 
certainly erred, because it would have been neces- 
sary on several occasions to halt the action of the 
play while some of the facts were being narrated 
by the characters, thus turning the actors into ora- 
tors and making them directly address the audience 
— a procedure which is against all the laws of dra- 
matic art. 

The pivotal point of the play, or the center of the 
arch, is at the close of the third act when Othello, 
convinced of the guilt of his wife, takes lago to his 
heart and exclaims, "Now art thou my lieutenant." 



The play is marvelously well constructed, the plot 
being one of the best that has ever been developed. 
Many incidents are introduced that pertain primarily 
to other actions than that of the pivotal one, 
but they all work into the main structure as do in- 
dividual threads into a piece of cloth. All the 
several incidents are important elements that lend 
to the unfolding of the story. The construction of 
the Tragedy of Othello required the experienced 
actor's trained hand as well as that of the able 
writer and thinker. 

The characters are all strikingly dissimilar, won- 
derful effects being produced by setting one type 
against another; as, Desdemona and Emelia, and 
Othello and lago. It delineates marvelously the 
workings of the mental faculties and analyzes 
keenly the feelings of the heart. Othello is in every 
respect a remarkable production of the dramatist's 
art, and had Shakespeare written nothing else, this 
one play would have given him literary immortality. 

The Tragedy of Hamlet 

The story that is the foundation of this wonderful 
creation of Shakespeare's genius is ancient, having 
been known to the people of Iceland for many cen- 
turies before the magic pen of Shakespeare made it 
known to the civilized world. It is presumed that 
the Dramatist obtained his information regarding 
it after it had passed thr-^ugh many forms and 
finally appeared in the works of the French author, 



Francis de Belleforest. Whether he took it directly 
from the French or from an English translation is 
not known. The play, however, indicates that its 
source was that of the story as related by Belle- 
forest in his Histoires Tragiques, who, in his turn, 
had taken it from the Danish author Saxo Gram- 
maticus, who lived in the early period of the thir- 
teenth century, and drew many of his stories from 
the sagas of Iceland. 

The story as narrated by these men is one of 
rapine, murder and lust. It is horrible and barbar- 
ous in the extreme, without a suggestion of romance. 
As it passed through the many languages it im- 
proved little in narrative or diction until Shake- 
speare incorporated it into his splendid dramatic 
poem. He is indebted to the early authors for noth- 
ing more than the plain facts, and these he softened 
and subdued to his purpose. 

The plot is a simple one, dealing, as it does, solely 
with the story of Hamlet. Every action revolves 
around him and all incidents point particularly to 
him. There is nothing in the plot to detract in the 
slightest from the one story. 

Two parts are plainly discernable to this play: 
contemplation and action. The author cannot agree 
with those who claim that in it "philosophy over- 
flows all bounds, and sweeps onward unchecked.'"* 
True, it is a tragedy of thought, but it is also a 
'tragedy of action. "Were this not the ease it could 
not have proceeded from the brain of Shakespeare, 

* Hudson's Introduction to "The Tragedy of Hamlet." 



for all his plays possess this great requisite that 
constitutes a literary composition a play. There is 
action all through the tragedy, from the appearance 
of the Ghost to the men on watch until the soul of 
Hamlet takes its flight and rejoins that of his 
revered father. This phase of the subject is dealt 
with at length in the analysis of the character ot 
Hamlet, so we will not linger on it here. 

There are more than twenty characters in the 
play, all drawn in a masterful manner. Laertes and 
Horatio are well contrasted — one being a social fa- 
vorite with many vices, the other an all-round manly 
man. ^ng Claudius in endeavoring to bring about 
the death of Hamlet insures his own ruin, and the 
successive steps leading to this are strongly built. 
Polonius, a man trained in diplomacy, one on whom 
two kings depended, is a sneak and a babbler who 
is finally caught in his trickery and brought to an 
account. Queen Gertrude, a mixture of goodness 
and baseness, of loyalty and deceit, who is bad be- 
cause she is weak and not from any liking she has 
for evil itself, finally awakens to the villainy of 
Claudius and repents her sins. Ophelia is a charac- 
ter of sweetness, one who loved fondly but without 
strength, one controlled by the minds of others and 
not bj^ the consciousness of duty to herself and her 
lover, one naturally constituted to rely on a pro- 
tector and not on herself. Therefore, when left 
alone, she sinks under the burden of hor sorrows 
and comes to an untimely but logical endf All these 
characters are deftly painted, and by tkeir truth to 



Nature and appropriateness to the purpose of the 
story they give the tragedy an atmosphere of reality, 
despite the fact that the story itself, with its Ghost 
and the brooding melancholy of its principal char- 
acter, is, in the main, imaginative. 

Hamlet is the soul of the tragedy, not merely 
because of the many lines he has to speak and the 
length of time that he occupies the stage, but for the 
reason that he is continuously the subject of the 
conversation of the other characters and thus kept 
ever before the minds of the auditors. He is almost 
as much the object of attention when off the stage 
as he is when on, the creation of interest in this char- 
acter being one of the marked traits of genius as 
shown to us by the Dramatist. 

The versification is excellent throughout, some of 
the passages, such as Hamlet's remarks to Horatio, 
"Nay, do not think I flatter," (Act III. Scene II.), 
and the famous soliloquy, "To be or not to be" (Act 
III. Scene I.) being splendid specimens of verse, while 
the prose matter in the speech commencing ' ' I will tell 
you why" (Act II. Scene II.), is animated with the 
very spirit of poetry. Nothing more poetical than this 
passage is anywhere to be found. 

The play reaches its climax, the center of its 
development, in Act III., at the moment when King 
Claudius betrays his guilt, being brought to this 
betrayal by witnessing the play as arranged by 
Hamlet for the special purpose of unmasking the 
King. From the opening of the tragedy Hamlet has 
suspected that all is not well. This suspicion is 



strengthened by the Ghost, and it is confirmed by 
the behavior of Claudius. Here we have the upward 
tendency of the plot : the first half of the arch. Now 
commences the bringing about of the circumstances 
that shall lead to the fulfilment of Hamlet's vow to 
the Ghost, the punishment of Claudius. Here begins 
the unravelling of the plot: the other half of the 
arch. Thus in the development of the tragedy is 
plainly discerned the arch-like form of construction 
that is common to the works of Shakespeare. 

The Tragedy of King Lear 

The first act of this play is a masterful one, as are 
the great majority of Shakespeare's first acts. It 
opens with a conversation between Kent and Gloster 
which immediately suggests to the reader the story 
upon which the play is founded, and introduces 
three of the important characters. This first act 
is like a premise upon which an argument is 
founded, conveying, as it does, an insight into the 
many characters who have the weaving of the plot 
in their hands. Soon after the rise of the curtain 
the all-important character is presented, surrounded 
by the group which is to fashion the tale. The first 
scene of this awful tragedy makes known the char- 
acteristics of all the persons represented, no mask 
being thick enough to keep their true characters 
from being known. The foolish, stubborn strength 
of Lear, the bluntness of Kent, the deceitfulness of 
Goneril and Regan, the truthful firmness of Cordelia 



are all made clear, and thus are sufficient reasons 
furnished for what transpires in the play. It is this 
early insight into the characters permitted the 
reader that makes the outcome of the tragedy so 
logical. Such a vain, stubborn (not strong) char- 
acter as Lear could not help foolishly parting with 
his sovereign powers. He must ruthlessly and 
remorselessly turn his hatred and anger upon his 
child because she showed a trait in her character 
so like one possessed by her father, trusting to the 
breathy protestations of his- two other daughters ; 
and after they had cast him out (as previously he 
had without cause banished his youngest child from 
his heart and home), turning on them in such awful 
anger and cursing them so horribly that the reader 
or spectator cannot help but feel that the curses 
must fall upon his own head. This wonderful por- 
trayal of character is, in the author's opinion, the 
greatest of the many great reasons for the stupen- 
dous grandeur of this dramatic composition. 

In this chapter, stress is laid upon Shakespeare's 
delineation of the characters in The Tragedy of 
King Lear because the author believes that the high 
state of their development was one of the principal 
means employed by the Dramatist in creating a 
play that must rank among the greatest of the great. 
Another reason for so doing is that the author de- 
parts so fundamentally from the general conception 
of these characters that he feels called upon to make 
his purpose as clear as possible. 

Regan and Goneril are dreadful creatures, devilish 



in their wickedness, and yet the insight that the 
Dramatist gives us into all the characters of this 
play show these women to be so influenced by 
heredity and environment as to be the logical pro- 
duction of plainly discernable natural causes and 
not monstrosities. Take away from the reader the 
knowledge that Lear was a peevish, vain, stubborn 
old man who loved profession more than perform- 
ance, and both these women would be so horrible 
in their lust, their cruelty, and their general wick- 
edness as to make them monsters of unreality. But 
with this character of Lear clearly depicted, we see 
it was necessary for his daughters to lie to him in 
order to receive at his hands any consideration, to 
deceive him at every turn in order that their lives 
might be made bearable. They could plainly see 
that their father was unjust to them, that he had 
them in his power and could enforce his will upon 
them, consequently the repetition of their deceits 
and lies formed their habits, these habits fashioned 
their characters, and when they got their father 
into their power they treated him with injustice 
because they themselves had been brought up under 
it. Shakespeare understood that likes begets like, 
consequently he gave Regan and Goneril such a 
father as Lear. 

Much the same reasoning accounts for Cordelia's 
character, but she was so disgusted with the false- 
hood of the life her sisters lived that she refused 
to share it with them. She was, however, her 
father's true daughter in that she possessed that 



stubborn (or determined) trait of character that 
enabled her to hold to her purpose, even though 
she lost the third of a kingdom. The same spirit 
that caused Lear to disinherit Cordelia, animated 
her in her refusal to flatter him. Her disposition, 
however, had been softened by the influence of her 
mother who, according to the few hints given by 
Lear, must have been a sweet and noble woman. 

In an interesting and instructive Life of Shake- 
speare by Oliphent Smeaton, M. A., it is stated that 
Regan and Goneril "in a fury of jealousy killed each 
other."* In another portion of the work it is stated, 
"they perish miserably, each by the hand of the 
other."" This is wrong, as a reference to Scene III. 
Act V. of the play will show. Goneril poisons her 
sister Regan and stabs herself to the heart. The 
text reads thus : 

Yet Edmund was belov'd: 
The one the other poison'd for my sake, 
And after slew herself." 

Reference is made to this error because of the bear- 
ing it has on the characters themselves. 

The center of developmept in The Tragedy of 
King Lear is toward the close of the second act, 
at the point where Lear realizes that he is on the 
verge of madness, at the time he utters the pathetic, 
heart-breaking words, "0 fool! I shall go mad." 
While this occurs in the second act, whereas in 
most of Shakespeare's plays the climax, or turning 

* "Shakespeare, His Life and Work," page 416. 
^ "Shakespeare, His Life and Work," page 422. 
"King Lear," Act V. Scene IIL 



point, is reached in the third, it is almost in the 
middle of the tragedy. 

The plot is complex, being composed of the stories 
of (1) Lear, (2) Kent, (3) Gloster, with other second- 
ary threads running into them, all of which are 
bound together by the character of Cordelia, despite 
the fact that the story is dominated by the towering 
character of King Lear. 

The versification is strong, solid, and right to 
the point. It bears the impress of having been 
boiled down almost to an essence. 

King Lear is supposed to have reigned in Britain 
some eight hundred years before the coming of 
Christ, and the story as employed by Shakespeare 
was handed down through the ages as history. 

In the awfulness of its theme Lear is surpassed by 
no other drama; as a tragedy it is second only to 
Macbeth; in the perfection of its characterization 
it stands supreme. 

The Tragedy of Macbeth 

Macbeth, from beginning to end, is bustle, tur- 
moil, and strife. It opens with the peal of thunder 
and the crash of lightning; passes to the armed 
camp, the blast of the trumpet, and the roll of the 
drum; and finally depicts the great struggle be- 
tween conscience and wicked ambition. This air of 
strife permeates the entire drama, and is its keynote. 

From a historical standpoint the play covers a 
period of about fifteen years — from the murder of 



Duncan in 1039 to the killing of Macbeth in 1054. 
The historical facts used in this tragedy are 
gathered from the chronicles of Raphael Holinshed 
to whom Shakespeare was indebted for most of the 
historical information he used in the plays that 
deal with events that transpired in Great Britain. 

The action of the play takes place in Scotland, 
except Scene III. Act IV., which transpires in Eng- 

The characters are vividly and accurately 
drawn, even the unimportant ones, such as the 
Porter, the Wounded Soldier, and the Doctor, are 
clearly depicted. This trait of drawing vividly all 
characters, great and small, is one of the striking 
characteristics of Shakespeare's handiwork. 

The plot is simple, consisting of the story of the 
murder of King Duncan. All that takes place in 
the play flows into that tragic story or ebbs from it. 

Some editors class the play of Macbeth with the 
histories, but it is so intensely dramatic throughout, 
so purely tragic in character, its very air being 
pregnant with awful events, as to stamp this classi- 
fication as erroneous. The historical facts, in some 
instances incorrect, are secondary in importance, 
Shakespeare bending everything to the successful 
creation of his tragedy. The main feature of the 
play is the tragic story of the murder of King 
Duncan and the attendant circumstances. Why it 
should be classed as a history cannot be seen by the 
author any more than can a reason be assigned for 
the like classification of Lear. Both deal with his- 



torical incidents but in both cases the incidents are 
subordinate to the stories, which are highly and 
purely tragic. 

In this tragedy Shakespeare gives free rein to his 
imagination and permits it to run wild. The meta- 
phors are so far drawn as to almost amount to 
hyperboles, but always does the Dramatist keep 
within poetic bounds. When Macbeth is contemplat- 
ing the murder of Duncan, and is inclined to retire 
from the awful compact with his wife, he solilo- 
quizes thus : 

Besides, 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; 
And pity, like a naked new-born babe, 
Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubin, hors'd 
Upon the sightless couriers of the air, 
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye, 
That tears shall drown the wind.^ 

This language shows the excited state of Macbeth 's 
mind brought about by the terrific combat between 
his conscience and his ambition. The passage is not 
far-fetched. Macbeth was in an extraordinary 
frame of mind and it required extraordinary terms 
to describe it. Thus is it with many other passages 
in this great tragedy of action — action that rushes 
on so tumultuously as to almost bring about confu- 
sion — passages that have been called in question by 
some critics, but they are all as reasonable as the 
passage just quoted and all as easily explained, 

^"Macbeth," Act I. Scene VII. 



The versification throughout the play is magnifi- 
cent, fully up to Shakespeare's highest standard, 
and absolutely in keeping with the awfulness of the 

The dialogue is wonderfully sustained, some 
scenes, notably those between Macbeth and Lady 
Macbeth, being without peer. The high point of 
development in this tragedy is reached in Act III. 
Scene IV. Up to the appearance of the Ghost of 
Banquo all has gone with Macbeth as he desired: 
the crown is on his brow and he is King of Scotland. 
From the appearance of the Ghost, however, the 
decline in his fortunes begins and continues without 
change to his death at the hands of Macduff. 

The domestic aspect of the tragedy equals that of 
Othello; its philosophical phase is comparable with 
that of Hamlet ; while in the awfulness of its catas- 
trophe it is not exceeded even by Lear. 

Macbeth stands pre-eminently at the head of 
Shakespeare 's tragedies ; and as he was the greatest 
dramatist of all known times, Macbeth is the master 
tragedy of the ages. 

As You Like It 

The tone of this sweet woodland play is as fra- 
grant as the odor of a breeze blowing through a gar- 
den of unseen roses and bearing the fragrance of the 
lovely flowers throughout the land. Whence comes 
this fragrance it is hard to tell, but that it is there, is 
perceptible to all who read this charming play. It 

[72 J 


possesses the odor of the glade, the joy of the danc- 
ing brook, the song of the bird, and a general air 
of perfect naturalness. Of all Shakespeare's com- 
edies it is the one that is most restful and exhilar- 
ating — restful in the charm of the idealistic atmos- 
phere of the play, and exhilarating in the portrayal 
by the characters of some of the noblest traits of 
humanity. It is purely a pastoral drama; and, as 
with many others of Shakespeare's plays, we are in- 
debted for our interest and entertainment more to the 
characters and their expressions of sentiments than 
to the development of the plot. 

As You Like It is supposed to have been written in 
1599, but was not printed until it appeared in The 
First Folio. It is presumed that Shakespeare is 
indebted to a novel by Thomas Lodge, published in 
1590, entitled Rosalynd; Euphues' Golden Legacies, 
for the story out of which he constructed this 

The plot is complex. The main thread of the 
plot is the story of Rosalind and Orlando. The 
secondary ones are, (1) Oliver and Orlando; (2) 
The usurping Duke; (3) The banished Duke and his 
companions; (4) Rosalind and Phoebe; (5) Touch- 
stone and Audrey. 

The play contains some of the gems of Shake- 
speare. (1) "Now, my co-mates, and brothers in 
exile," "Indeed, my lord, etc.," and "0! yes, into 
a thousand similes" (Act II. Scene I.) ; (2) "A fool! 
a fool! — I met a fool in the forest" and "All the 



world's a stage (Act II. Scene VII.); (3) "Think 
not. I love him" (Act III. Scene V.). 

The characters fit into the story beautifully, they 
are drawn with the best skill of the Dramatist, and 
show distinctive traits that mark and individualize 
every one. 

As You Like It, taken for all in all, is the best 
of Shakespeare 's plays that can be distinctly termed 
comedies. The plot is sustained throughout, the 
versification in places excellent, and the character- 
ization superb. It is a favorite on the stage and is 
equally enjoyable in the closet. 

Twelfth Night 

This delightful comedy was written about the 
year 1600. It is not known to have been printed 
until its appearance in The First Folio in 1623. 

It is impossible to say where Shakespeare got the 
story for this play. He may have taken it from a 
tale by Barnaby Rich who, in his turn, most likely, 
took it from the Italian of Bandello, but there is 
such scant evidence at hand as to the source of the 
plot that no one can do more than hazard a guess. 

The play sparkles with wit and has an atmosphere 
of poetry. The style of composition is almost flaw- 
less, being simple and chaste; harmless intrigue, 
whimsicalities and accidents being interwoven in 
an amusing and interesting manner. There are two 
distinct parts to the play, one serious the other 
comic, but Viola enters into both and thus binds 
them together. 



Three threads form the plot, (1) Love of Orsino 
for the Countess Olivia; (2) The story of Sebastian 
and Viola; (3) Malvolio and the group of characters 
surrounding him. 

Twelfth Night is particularly strong in the bold 
comedy portion, the characters that are there intro- 
duced being wonderfully well drawn. Malvolio, 
Sir Toby, and Sir Andrew comparing favorably with 
Falstaff, Bardolph, and Pistol. 

The romantic element of the play, introduced by 
Viola, is soothingly sweet, being best expressed by 
the Dramatist's own lines which he puts in the mouth 
of Orsino : 

! it came o'er my ear like the sweet south, 
That breathes upon a bank of violets, 
Stealing and giving odor.* 

There are many poetical passages in this play, 
one of the tenderest and sweetest being Viola's 
description of the love "her father's daughter" en- 
tertained for a man (Act II. Scene IV.). The 
refined, womanly character of Viola, one of the 
best of Shakespeare's creations, permeates the en- 
tire play and gives it most of its beauty. The 
comedy has always been considered one of Shake- 
speare's happiest productions. 

Much Ado About Nothing 

The play aptly carries out its title, for it is truly 
founded upon nothing and it makes much ado. It 
is pregnant with life, bright in dialogue, but defi- 

8Act I. Scene I. 



cient in reason for all the commotion that it por- 

It was probably written in 1599, printed in quarto 
form in 1560, and reprinted, with few modifications, 
in The First Folio. In the quarto it appears with 
neither the acts nor scenes marked, while in the 
folio the matter is arranged into acts but not scenes. 
The text, in both printings, is very accurate. It is 
written mainly in prose, only 643 out of the 2823 
lines that compose it being in blank verse. 

The sources of its plot are Italian, being mainly 
taken from a novel by Bandello entitled Timbreo di 
Cardona. The work of the Italian writer was trans- 
lated into French and appears in Belief orest's His- 
toires Tragiques. It was used by Aristo in his Orlando 
Furioso, and this was transferred into English by 
Peter Beverly in 1565 and by Sir John Harrington 
in 1591. Whether Shakespeare took the material 
directly from the Italian, or from the French or 
English translation, is not known. 

The entire action of the play takes place at 

The plot is exceedingly thin, the play depending 
entirely on the characters for its action and interest. 
The characters are drawn with Shakespeare 's accus- 
tomed skill, all of them, even the unimportant ones, 
standing out in lifelike proportions, and no two are 

There are two distinct threads to the story which 
are bound together by the main agent of the plot, 
John, the bastard brother of Don Pedro, Prince of 



Arragon. These threads are (1) the love of Bene- 
dick and Beatrice, and (2) the story of Hero. 

The interest of the play consists of (1) the witty 
passages between Benedick and Beatrice; (2) the 
almost tragic experience of Hero; and (3) the drol- 
lery of Dogberry and Verges. There is no depth 
to the plot nor the characters, all the beauties of 
this excellent play being on the surface. 

The plot development is in the main, catastrophic, 
moving steadily along to the happy ending. Shake- 
speare had only to make Hero die in reality, instead 
of appearance, in order to turn his comedy into a 

King Henry V 

This play is purely historical, depicting events 
in the life of a monarch who typifies all that is noble 
and heroic in the nation he was intended by its 
author to represent. 

The scene of this patriotic drama is England in 
the vicinity of London, and then on the battlefields 
of France and the palace of the French King. 

As to plot proper, there is very little to this play. 
The story consists of episodes in the life of King 
Henry V. that are strung together in an inspiring 
manner, but the plot lacks the strength and gran- 
deur that goes with unity. Its episodes are interest- 
ing, stirring and brilliant, and in this lies the princi- 
pal charm of the patriotic fervor of the English 
nation typified in the person of its king. This 
fervor runs through the entire play, and is about 



all there is in the way of a plot. At the close of the 
battle of Agincourt, when victory has perched on 
the banners of England, the play practically ends, 
but the Dramatist, as though with the express pur- 
pose of showing the soldier-king in love, adds the 
scene depicting his wooing of Katherine. 

While there is not a great amount of action in 
the play, save what pertains to the individual scenes, 
Henry himself is action personified and injects this 
quality, by reflection, into the play itself. 

The play is supposed to have been written in 1598, 
was printed in quarto form in 1600, and reprinted in 
1602 and 1608. Shakespeare's name, however, does 
not appear to have been attached to the play until 
it appeared in The First Folio, where it is about 
double the length of the quartos. 

The materials that enter into the making of this 
play are taken from two sources: (1) The second 
edition of Holinshed 's Chronicles, which was printed 
in 1587, and (2) an old play entitled The Famous 
Victories of Henry V. 



Shakespeare's Revelation of Himself 
in His Characters 

THE greater the mystery that attaches to a per- 
son the more interesting that person is to 
others, and while it is mainly because of Shake- 
speare's genius that interest is drawn to him, this 
interest is often promoted, and is generally en- 
hanced, by the mystery that surrounds his life. 

Of Shakespeare the man very little is known. Some 
of his fellow actors speak of him as a charming 
companion, a lovable friend, and a marvelous writer, 
and Ben Jonson tells us that he was "honest and 
of an open and free nature; had an excellent phan- 
tasy, brave notions, and gentle expressions," but 
nowhere can we find positive and comprehensive 
information concerning his habits, his motives, his 
appearance, and his character. As far as his physical 
parts are concerned we know nothing, no two pic- 
tures of him agreeing in any important particular, 
nor do the different descriptions given his height, 
the cut of his beard, the color of his hair and eyes, 
correspond. These, of course, are unimportant par- 
ticulars, and do not affect his standing as an author, 
yet the absence of all accuracy concerning them 
shows how little is known regarding the physical 
parts of the man. 



In regard to his spiritual parts we know no more 
than we do concerning his material parts, and we 
have no source of information concerning his ideas 
of life, his temperament and his actions, unless it 
is furnished by himself in his plays and in the son- 
nets. It is claimed that he did reveal himself in 
his works, that he identified himself with his char- 
acters, spoke through them, and thus portrayed his 
nature. Is this the fact? Let us call upon the dif- 
ferent characters for their testimony, and see how 
they will agree. 

What were Shakespeare's religious convictions? 
Was Shakespeare a Catholic? Many claim that he 
was, and they give as their reasons for this belief 
his knowledge of the forms and observances of that 
religion as shown in his plays, and the utterances of 
the characters therein depicted. Now let us cite 
evidence to prove that he gives ample reasons for 
supposing that he was a non-Catholic. 

Laertes, after his sister's body has been denied 
the full offices of the church, on account of the 
circumstances attending her death, has this to say: 

I tell thee churlish priest, 
A ministering angel shall my sister be, 
When thou liest howling. 

— Hamlet, Act V. Scene I. 

Does this sound as though it came from the mouth 
of a true Catholic? Would such a one tell a priest, 
of his church that a suicide would be an angel in 
heaven while the priest was howling in hell ? Hardly. 



In The First Part of King Henry VI. the Duke of 
Gloucester thus addresses Cardinal Beaufort: 

What! am I dared and bearded to my face? 

Draw, men, for all this privileged place; 

Blue coats to tawny coats. Priest, beware your beard; 

I mean to tug it and to cuff you soundly: 

Under my feet I stamp thy cardinal's hat : 

In spite of pope or dignities of church, 

Here by the cheeks I'll drag thee up and down. 

— First Part of King Henry VI., Act I. Scene III. 

It may be that Shakespeare was a Catholic, but if 
he spoke through his characters, these two incidents 
would go to prove that he was not. But no, he did 
not hide behind "the children of his brain," he 
merely put into their mouths the words that ex- 
pressed the emotions they were pictured as laboring 
under at the time. Thus he causes the hot-headed 
youth, Laertes, smarting under what he imagined 
an indignity and a wrong done to his sister, to cry 
out against those responsible for his grievance with- 
out considering their office or station. In like 
manner, he permitted him to speak his mind to the 
King freely when he thought him responsible for his 
sister's death, or, at least, conniving at it. He 
allowed the ambitious Richard, who had respect 
neither for God nor man, to give vent to his hatred 
for the Cardinal. The passages quoted express the 
sentiments of Laertes and Gloucester, but in no way 
do they reflect the opinions of William Shakespeare. 
Was Shakespeare a believer in the liberties of the 
people, or did he think them only creatures to be 



governed and used by their betters? In Corio- 
lanus he says : 

This double worship 
Where one part does disdain with cause, the other 
Insult without all reason; where gentry, title, wisdom, 
Cannot conclude but by the yea and no 
Of general ignorance, — it must omit 
Real necessities, and give way the while 
To unstable slightness: purpose so bar'd, it follows, 
Nothing is done to purpose. Therefore, beseech you, — 
You that will be less feared than discreet; 
That love the fundamental part of state 
More than you doubt the change on't; that prefer 
A noble life before a long, and wish 
To jump a body with a dangerous physic 
That's sure of death without it, — at once pluck out 
The multitudinous tongue; let them not lick 
The sweet that is their poison, 

— Coriolanus, Act III. Scerh I. 

Or did he believe in Jack Cade's conception of 
liberty ? 

And you that love the commons, follow me. 
Now show yourselves men; 'tis for liberty. 
We will not leave one lord, one gentleman : v 

Spare none but such as go in clouted shoon; 
For they are thrifty honest men, and such 
As would, but that they dare not, take our parts. 
— Second Part of King Henry VI., Act IV. Soene II. 

Was Shakespeare pure in heart or base? He 
places in the mouth of Hamlet these w^ords descrip- 
tive of those who are of a well-balanced and noble 
nature : 

Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice. 
And could of men distinguish, her election 
Hath seal'd thee for herself : for thou hast been 
As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing; 



A man that fortune's buifets and rewards 
Hast ta'en with equal thanks : and blest are those 
Whose blood and judgment are so well commingled 
That they are not a pipe for fortune's finger 
To sound what stop she please. Give me that man 
That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him 
In my heart's core, ay, in mj- heart of heart, 
As I do thee. 

— Hamlet, Act III. Scene II. 

Does the above description fit tihe character of 
Shakespeare, or is his portrait depicted in the fol- 
lowing passage from the Tragedy of Richard III.? 

And therefore since I cannot prove a lover, 
To entertain these fair well-spoken days, 
I am determined to prove a villain, 
And hate the idle pleasures of these days. 
Plots have I lain, inductions dangerous. 
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams, 
To set my brother Clarence and the king 
In deadly hate the one against the other; 
And if King Edward be as true and just 
As I am subtle, false and treacherous. 
This day should Clarence closely be mew'd up. 

— Richard III., Act I. Scene I. 

How are we to judge whether Shakespeare revealed 
himself as 

"A man that fortune's buffets and rewards 
Hast ta'en with equal thanks," 

or as the hunchback tyrant railing against the world 
and picturing himself as "subtle, false and treach- 
erous?" Here are two portraits drawn by the same 
hand, depicting two distinct individuals, but where 
is the warrant for the belief that a third person is 
revealed in either one or both? 

' [83] 


Did Shakespeare believe in the purity of woman? 
Let us call on Isabella for her testimony. 

As much for my poor brother as myself: 

That is, were I under the terms of death, 

The impression of keen whips I'd wear as rubies. 

And strip myself to death, as to a bed 

That longing I've been sick for, ere I'd yield 

My body up to shame. 

— Measure for Measure, Act II. Scene IV. 

Thus speaks the noble maiden when her brother's 
life is offered to her in exchange for her own chasity. 
Now we will ask Cressida for her voice regarding 
the virtue of her sex. This is her reply : 

Troilus, farewell ! one eye yet looks on thee, 
But with my heart the other eye doth see. 
Oh, poor our sex! this fault in us I find. 
The error of our eye directs our mind : 
What error leads, must err : ! then conclude. 
Minds, sway'd by eyes, are full of turpitude. 

—Troilus and Cressida, Act V. Scene II. 

Is this evidence to show that Shakespeare had any- 
thing further in mind than depicting the pure, 
steadfast character of one type of woman in Isabella, 
and the impure, changeful character of another type 
in Cressida? In order to make it appear as though 
he had, we must attribute to him intentions that he 
does not tell us nor show us that he possessed. 

Did Shakespeare believe in the honesty of man, 
or did he consider him absolutely mercenary? If 
we hold that he revealed himself in his characters, 
and cite Brutus to bear witness for him, we must 
decide that he not only believed in the integrity of 



man, but that he himself was most loyal and honora- 
ble. Listen to the testimony of Brutus: 

If it be aught toward the general good, 
Set honor in one eye and death i' the other, 
And I will look on both indifferently : 
For let the Gods so speed me as I love 
The name of honor more than I fear death, 

— Julius Caesar, Act I. Scene II. 

This would be all very well if Brutus were the only 
witness examined, but here is another come into 
court and anxious to be heard. Note the testimony 
of Cassius : 

Well, Brutus, thou art noble; yet, I see, 
Thy honorable metal may be wrought 
From that it is dispos'd: therefore, 'tis meet 
That noble minds keep ever with their likes ; 
For who so firm that cannot be seduc'd? 

— Julius Caesar, Act I. Scene II. 

How are we to reconcile the opposing testimony of 
these two capable witnesses? Is there any way to 
do so and still hold the belief that Shakespeare 
revealed himself in his characters? 

Here we have produced eight witnesses to testify 
regarding the characteristics of the man Shake- 
speare as revealed in his work. "We find that four 
state that he honored the people, was pure in heart, 
and believed in the purity of woman and the honesty 
of man; while the other four picture him as being 
an aristocrat who depised the common people, was 
impure in heart, and a believer in the frailty of 
woman and the perfidy of man. WTiich are we to 
accept? It seems the wiser plan to believe neither 



set of witnesses but to throw the whole case out 
of court and look upon Shakespeare as a special 
advocate pleading in behalf of the individual char- 
acter and keeping himself entirely out of the scene 
except as the advocate urging the cause of his client. 
Thus does he represent Shylock demanding the for- 
feit according to the bond ; English Harry inspiring 
his nobles and yeomen once more to attempt to 
carry the walled town of Harfleur ; the guilty Scotch 
queen vainly striving to wash the blood from her 
little hand; the scheming lago; the melancholy 
Jacques; the lovesick Romeo; the ambitious Mac- 
beth ; the eloquent Antony, and the many other 
characters of different times, complexions and de- 
grees, which, in a marvelously natural manner, ' ' strut 
their hour upon the stage." 

A Shakespearean scholar,^ contending that the 
Dramatist revealed himself in his characters, has 
this to say: "If anybody could have doubt about 
the liveliness of Shakespeare, let them consider the 
liveliness of Falstaff. When a man has created 
that without a capacity for laughter, then a blind man 
may succeed in describing colors." Would it not 
be just as reasonable to say. If anybody could have 
doubt about the melancholy of Shakespeare, let him 
consider the melancholy of Hamlet? Might we not, 
with as much right, claim that he was a murderer 
at heart because he so vividly portrays the blood- 
thirsty villain when he depicts Macbeth treating 
with the two ruffians for the untimely cutting off of 

^ AValter Bagehot in "Shakespeare — the Man." 



Banquo and his son Fleance, and when Richard III. 
fiendishly arranges for the murder of the young 
princes? Might one not, with equal reason, argue 
that Shakespeare was a woman because he so mar- 
velously portrays her sweet characteristics in Juliet, 
Desdemona and Cordelia, while with equal skill he 
pictures her baser nature in Goneril, Regan, and 
Lady Macbeth? It was not necessary that Shake- 
speare should be of a lively disposition in order to 
draw the character of Falstaff, nor that he should be 
melancholy that he might depict Hamlet, nor that 
he should be a woman that he might delineate the 
traits common to that sex. But it was necessary 
that he should know human nature, should possess 
a knowledge of the many emotions and characters 
before he could reproduce them, and this knowledge 
he certainly possessed to a greater extent than any 
other human being the world has ever known. 

That come before the swallow dares, and take 
The winds of March with beauty; violets dim, 
But sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes 
Or Cythera's breath. 

—The Wititer's Tale, Act IV. Scene III. 

Are these charming lines descriptive of Shake- 
speare's love of nature, or are they but expressive 
of the love of Perdita for her prince of Bohemia, 
couched in terms that were made familiar to her 
through intercourse with nature? If the latter is 
not the case, how are we to account for the follow- 



For brave Macbeth — well he deserves that name — 
Disdaining fortune, with his brandish'd steel 
Which smoked with bloody execution, 
Like valor's minion carved out his passage 
Till he faced the slave; 

Which never shook hands, nor bade farewell to him, 
Till he unseam'd him from the nave to the chaps, 
And fix'd his head upon our battlements. 

— Macbeth, Act I. Scene II. 

Could a bloody encounter be more vividly por- 
trayed? This passage is certainly as truely pic- 
tured as is the one of the daffodils and the violets, 
and it would be just as correct for us to say that 
the passage from Macbeth denotes Shakespeare's 
blood-thirsty disposition as it is to claim, that the 
extract from The Winter's Tale demonstrates his 
love of nature. 

Does a playvrright indicate his own character in 
the puppets he creates? One writer" on this subject 
says: "A dramatist lets us know, and cannot help 
letting us know, what is his general view of his 
fellow creatures and of the world in which they live. 
It is his very function to do so, and though the 
indication may be indirect, it is not the less signifi- 
cant of the observer's own peculiarities." Wherever 
a playwright obtrudes his personal opinions, or 
endeavors to project himself into his characters, 
we have a poor play. A playwright should develop 
characters along fixed lines, and reason out that 
because they are of certain natures they should ex- 
press certain ideas and portray certain emotions, 
but never should he parade himself upon the stage. 

'Leslie Stephen in "Self-Revelation of Shakespeare." 



The playwright differs from the poet in the same 
manner that the actor differs from the orator. The 
playwright studies man and aims to reproduce him 
and not to create him, he does not endeavor to 
fashion images of himself and trot them out upon the 
stage to sermonize, but he looks out into the world 
and produces distinct and individual characters 
which he allows to lell their stories. The poet gazes 
into his own heart and reveals its contents, showing 
how Nature acts upon him and influences him. He 
calls upon his imagination, and by means of it he 
sees things as he thinks they should be and not as 
they are. In fact, the poet is the antithesis of the 
playwright, because the former is fanciful and the 
latter is realistic, and as soon as the playwright 
ceases to be realistic he ceases to be a playwright. 
He must hold, ''as 'twere, the mirror up to nature," 
being a reflector, or copyist, and not an originator, 
but always a realist. 

In the same manner we distinguish the actor from 
the orator. The actor should never be himself, he 
should lose his identity in his character, and unless 
he does this, he is real, and consequently cannot be 
acting, for to act is to be other than oneself. The 
orator, however, is an orator only so long as he is 
himself, so long as he is giving expression to his own 
views and is absolutely sincere in all he says and 

Shakespeare w^^s an actor and a playwright who 
thoroughly understood the principles underlying 
those arts, consequently it is only fair to assume that 



he had no desire to reveal himself i-n his plays, that 
he did not attempt to do so, and that nowhere in 
his writings does he speak excep'i as the character 
he is representing should speak in order that it 
may be developed along effective and natural lines. 

Shakespeare does not reveal his sympathies 
through his characters, but he caiases them to speak 
and move as will best suit his purpose from the 
standpoint of the stage, and he does not reward or 
punish them according to their deserts. Otherwise 
the fair Ophelia would not have perished a suicide, 
Desdemona would not have been murdered, Romeo 
and Juliet would not have been parked, nor would 
such terrible affliction have been visited upon the 
head of poor old Lear. The hand of fate apparently 
controlled the creations of Shakespeare just as the 
hand of Providence regulates the lives of mortals 
and ''directs our ends rough hew them as we will." 
He moved his characters in the mimic world in order 
that he might produce a powerful play that would 
attract audiences to the theatre, and not to indicate 
his own character. 

Shakespeare depicted all the emotior'> the human 
being is capatsle of feeling, and he dre^v^ true to life 
the men and women of all climes and s ations. The 
Italian Romeo, the French Katherine", Othello the 
Moor, English Harry, Shylock the Jew, Hamlet the 
Dane, and all his other characters ao makes stand 
out on the printed page as thoui^h brought back 
from the grave to revisit, at the call of the reader, 
"the glimpses of the moon." The crafty, cynical 



villain speaks in lago; the open, buoyant spirit in 
Mercutio; the physically courageous but mentally 
cowardly in Macbeth; the vain, sorely punished in 
Lear; and the far-seeing politician in Marc Antony. 
In Juliet he depicts the warm-hearted, trusting girl ; 
in Rosalind one whose deep affectionate nature is 
masked by her mirth and wit ; in Lady Macbeth the 
ambitious, unscrupulous woman ; and in Cordelia the 
faithful child who would rather sacrifice her share 
in her father's kingdom than flatter his ears with 
meaningless and exaggerated protestations of affec- 
tion which her true heart told her should not be 
uttered. Shakespeare puts into the mouth of prince 
and peasant words appropriate to each, and depicts 
accurately the scenes of camp, palace, and hovel. 
In fact, his genius swept the gamut of passion from 
foundation to apex, and created all kinds, classes 
and conditions of beings so true to nature as to 
make one almost believe that in his person lived the 
magician Prospero armed with his fabled wand. 



The Bible in Shakespeare 

THAT Shakespeare was familiar with the Bible 
is attested by the fact that in most of his plays 
some mention is made of persons or events that are 
spoken of or described in it. What particular version 
of the Bible he used is not known, but it was most 
likely either the first complete English Bible of Myles 
Coverdale issued in 1535, the Geneva Bible published 
in 1560, or what is known as the Bishop 's Bible which 
appeared in 1568. It certainly was not the version 
known as the King James, because this was not pub- 
lished until 1611, five years before the death of 
Shakespeare, or about the time he ceased his labors 
as a playwright. But what evidence we possess points 
to its having been the Geneva Bible. The evidence 
consists of the similarity of words and phrases used 
by Shakespeare and those found in the Geneva Bible. 

Let us first examine The Merchant of Venice to see 
what influence the Bible had on the writings of Shake- 

Gratiano, in Act I. Scene I., expresses himself thus : 

my Antonio, I do know of these 

That therefore only are reputed wise 

For saying nothing; when, I am sure. 

If they should speak, would almost damn those ears 

Which, hearing them, would call their brothers fools. 



"Would caU their brothers fools" was inspired by 
Matthew V., 22, which is as follows: 

But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry 
with his brother without cause shall be in danger of 
the judgment : and whosoever shall say to his 
brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: 
but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in dan- 
ger of heU fire. 

In Act I. Scene III. Shylock says : 

Yes, to smell pork; to eat of the habitation 
which your prophet, the Nazarite, conjured the 
devil into. 

The parable of the casting out of the devils from 
the man possessed of an unclean spirit into the swine 
is to be found in Matthew VIII., 28-34; Mark V., 2-20 ; 
Luke VIIL, 26-39. 

In the same scene of The Merchant of Venice 
appears this extract: 

When Jacob grazed his uncle Laban's sheep — 
This Jacob from our holy Abram was. 
As his wise mother wrought in his behalf, 
The third possessor; ay, he was the third — 

Herein does Shakespeare show how deep was his 
knowledge of the Bible. Many persons fairly familiar 
with the Bible, might not, on reading this passage, 
immediately place the reference, but on examination 
it is clearly s§en that the Dramatist was fully conver- 
sant with the story of Jacob and his brother Esau as 
told in the 27th chapter of Genesis. Abraham was 
the first possessor under the covenant with God, Isaac 
the second, and Esau would have been the third had 



it not been for the deceit Rebekah practiced upon 
Isaac in behalf of Jacob, thereby causing the blessing 
to go to the second son, Jacob, and making him the 
head of the family, before whom all the other mem- 
bers were to bow down. Thus was Esau, by the 
scheming of Rebekah, deprived of his inheritance and 
made subserviant to his younger brother; and thus 
did Jacob, because "his wise mother wrought in his 
behalf," become "the third possessor." The story 
which Shylock tells in this same scene of Jacob's bar- 
gain with his uncle Laban in reference to a division 
of the sheep, and how he craftily got the better of him, 
is narrated in the 30th chapter of Genesis. 
In the same scene Antonio says : 

Mark you this, Bassanio, 
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. 

This is a reference to the temptation of Christ by 
Satan as narrated in Matthew IV., 6 : 

If thou be the son of God, cast thyself down: 
for it is written. He shall give his angels charge 
concerning thee: and in their hands they shall 
bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot 
against a stone. 

The passage cited by Satan is in the XCI. Psalm, 
11-12 : 

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, 
to keep thee in all thy ways. 

They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou 
dash thy foot against a stone. 

In Act IV. Scene I. of this same play is that sweet 



appeal of Portia's known as the Quality of Mercy 

Speech wherein she says: 

Therefore, Jew, 
Though justice be thy plea, consider this, — 
That, in the course of justice, none of us 
Should see salvation; we do pray for mercy. 
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render 
The deeds of mercy. 

Shakespeare here has reference to the Lord's 
prayer, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our 
debtors," and also to the 14th and 15th verses of 
the 6th chapter of Matthew which immediately fol- 
low this prayer: 

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your 
heavenly Father will forgive you: 

But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, 
neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. 

In Act II. Scene V. Shylock says: 

What says that fool of Hagar's offspring, ha? 

The word Hagar means stranger. She was an 

Egyptian bondmaid in the household of Sarah, 

Abraham's wife, and her story is told in Genesis 


In Act IV. Scene I. the following reference is 

made to Barabbas by Shylock: 

These be the Christian husbands. I have a daughter; 

Would any of the stock of Barrabas^ 

Had been her husband rather than a Christian! 

Barabbas was a noted robber in the time of Christ, 
who was in prison under sentence of death for sedi- 
tion and murder. It was a custom of the Roman 
government to conciliate the Jews by releasing one 

^The robber's name is thus spelt in. Shakespeare. 



Jewish prisoner at the yearly Passover, the Jews 
being permitted to select the prisoner who was to 
be released. Pilate was anxious to release Jesus, 
but the Jews demanded that Barabbas should be 
released and that Jesus should be executed upon the 
cross. The narrative is found in Matthew XXVII., 

Thus, in one play, we find eight important refer- 
ences to passages in the Bible, and they are all of 
such a nature as to prove that it was not a super- 
ficial knowledge that Shakespeare possessed of this 
book of great sorrows and of great joys. 

In The Tempest, Act III, Scene II., these lines are 
spoken by Caliban: 

Yea, yea, my lord: I'll yield him thee asleep, 
Where thou mayst knock a nail into his head. 

The story of Jael driving the nail into the temples 
of Sisera, the general of the army of Jabin, king 
of Hazor, who, after being defeated by Barak, 
escaped on foot to the tent of Jael, wife of Heber, 
the Kenite, is to be found in Judges IV,, 17-23. In 
the 23rd verse we are told : 

Then Jael, Heber's wife, took a nail of the tent, 
and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly 
into him [Sisera], and smote the nail into his 
temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he 
was fast asleep and weary. So he died. 

This is the only reference to the Bible that is to 
be found in The Tempest. 

There are five references in Hamlet to Biblical 



Act I. Scene II. contains the first line in the 
tragedy of Hamlet that owes its origin to the Bible. 
Hamlet, dwelling on the circumstances of the death 
of his father and the hasty second marriage of his 
mother, thus cries out : 

0, that this too, too solid flesh would melt, 
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew! 
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd 
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! . . . 

This canon is to be found in Exodus XX., 13 : 
Thou shalt not kill. 
In Act II. Scene II. the following dialogue takes 
place : 

Hamlet. Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a 

treasure hadst thou ! 
PoLONnjs. What a treasure had he, my lord? 
Hamlet. Why 

One fair daughter and no more. 

The which he loved passing well. 

POLONius (Aside). ■ Still on my daughter. 

Hamlet. Am I not in the right, old Jephthah? 

PoLONnis. If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I 

have a daughter that I love passing 


In Judges, Chapters XI. and XII,, is given the his- 
tory of Jephthah, the son of Gilead, who was a 
Judge of Israel for six years. The touching story of 
his offering up his only child, a daughter, as a burnt 
offering to the Lord is told in Judge XI., 30-40, 

Hamlet, in his advice to the players, Act III. Scene 
II., says: 

I could have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing 
Termagant; it out-herods Herod: pray you, avoid 



There were four princes of the name of Herod, 
Idumaeans by descent, who, under the Romans, gov- 
erned either the whole or a part of Judea. It was 
Herod the Great who ruled at the time of the birth 
of Jesus, and it was by his order that all children of 
two years old and under, living in Bethlehem, should 
be destroyed. He was a cruel king, an unnatural 
father, and an utterly odious man ; and Shakespeare 
possibly had this particular Herod in mind when he 
penned the words "out-herod Herod." The narra- 
tive is to be found in Matthew II., 1-17. 

In Act V. Scene I. the two clowns, or grave-dig- 
gers, thus converse : 

1st Clown. There is no ancient gentlemen but 
gardeners, ditchers, and grave- 
makers, they hold up Adam's 

2nd Clown. Was he a gentleman? 

1st Clown. He was the first that ever bore arms. 

2nd Clown. Why, he had none. 

1st Clown. What, art thou a heathen? How 
dost thou understand the Scrip- 
ture? The Scripture says 
"Adam digged;" could he djg 
without arms? 

In Genesis III. is described the temptation of Eve 
by the serpent and the subsequent fall of herself and 
Adam, and in the 23rd verse is found the passage 
referred to by the clown : 

Therefore the Lord God sent him [Adam] forth 
from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from 
whence he was taken. 



In the same scene Hamlet, in discussing the skull 
cast up by the clown, makes this remark: 

That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing 
once ; how the knave jowls it to the ground, as if it 
were Cain's jaw-bone, that did the tirst murder. 

The story of the murder of Abel by his brother 
Cain is told in Genesis IV,, 3-17. It is stated that 
the brothers brought offerings unto the Lord, that 
He accepted of Abel's but that Cain's did not find 
favor in His sight. Cain then rose against Abel and 
slew him; thereby committing the first murder. 

Richard II. is rich in references to persons and 
incidents of the Bible. In Act I. Scene I. we find: 

Which blood, like sacrificing Abel's, cries. 
Even from the tongueless caverns of the eai'th, 
To me for justice, and rough chastisement. 

This refers to the murder of Abel directly after 
having sacrificed unto the Lord, as told in Genesis 
IV., and particularly to the 10th verse : 

And he said, what hast thou done? the voice of 
thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the 

In the same scene occurs this dialogue : 

Richard. Rage must be withstood. 

Give him his gage : — Lions make leopards tame. 
Norfolk, Yea, but not change his spots. 

This expression is found in Jeremiah XIH., 23 : 

Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard 
his spots? 

In Act III. Scene II. of this play Richard thus 



rails against the supposed traitorous conduct of 
three of his lords : 

0, villains, vipers, damn'd without redemption! 
Dogs, easily won to fawn on any man! 
Snakes in my heart-blood warm'd, that sting my heart ! 
Three Judases, each one thrice worse than Judas! 
Would they make peace? terrible hell make war 
Upon their spotted souls for this offence. 

The Judas referred to here is Judas I., Iscariot. The 
story, in its entirety, is found in Matthew XXVI., 

Queen Isabella, in Act III. Scene IV., thus replies 
to the gardener whom she has overheard : 

Thou, old Adam's likeness, set to dress this garden. 
How dares thy harsh rude tongue sound this 

unpleasing news? 
What Eve, what serpent, hath suggested thee 
To make a second fall of cursed man ? 

The story of Eve, the serpent, the curse placed 
upon Adam by the Lord God, and the fall of man is 
told in Genesis III. 

In Act IV. Scene I., Bolingbroke, speaking of the 
death of the Duke of Norfolk, says : 

Sweet peace conduct his sweet soul to the bosom 
Of good Old Abraham ! 

In Luke XVI., 22 it is stated that Lazarus was car- 
ried to Abraham's bosom, or to a state of heavenly 
felicity in that paradise to which the soul of the 
father of the faithful had departed: 

And it came to pass, that the begger died, and 
was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: 
the rich man also died, and was buried. 



A little further the Bishop of Carlisle, speaking 
in behalf of Richard and prophesying what the 
result will be in case the lords persist in their deter- 
mination to depose their lawful king and crown 
Bolingbroke in his place, thus refers to the spot 
where Christ was crucified : 

Disorder, horror, fear and mutiny, 
Shall here inhabit, and this land be call'd 
The field of Golgotha, and dead men's skulls. 

Golgotha, which is the Hebrew word for Calvary, 
means the place of a skull or a place shaped like a 
skull, and was the scene of the crucifying of Christ. 
Matthew XXVII., 33-51. 

In the same scene Richard, on being sent for to 
surrender his crown to Bolingbroke, thus bewails 
the treachery of his nobles : 

Yet I well remember 
The favors of these men: Were they not mine? 
Did they not sometime cry. All hail! to me? 
So Judas did to Christ: but He, in twelve, 
Found truth in all but one ; I, in twelve thousand, none. 

The story of Judas and his betrayal of his Lord is 
in Matthew XXVI., XXVII. 

A little further in the scene is found this refer- 

Nay, all of you, that stand and look upon me. 
Whilst that my wretchedness doth bait myself, — 
Though some of you, with Pilate, wash your hands. 
Showing an outward pity; yet you Pilates 
Have here delivered me to my sour cross. 
And water cannot wash away your sin. 

In the 27th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, 24th 
verse, it is said : 



When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, 
but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, 
and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, 
I am innocent of the blood of this just person: 
see ye to it. 

In Act V. Scene V., is this passage : 

The better sort, 
As thoughts of things divine, are intermix'd 
With scruples, and do set the word itself 
Against the word : 

As thus, — "Come, little ones ;" and then again, — 
"It is as hard to come, as for a camel 
To thread the postern of a needle's eye." 

Richard is here contrasting one passage of Holy 
Writ against another. It is stated in Matthew XIX. 
that when little children were brought unto Christ 
that he might lay his hands on them, they were 
rebuked by the disciples, and that Jesus said: 

Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to 
come unto me; for such is the kingdom of 
heaven. — Matthew XIX., 14. 

In the 24th verse of the same chapter we find : 

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a 
needle, than for a rich man to enter into the king- 
dom of God. 

This is what Richard terms "set the word against 
the word." The invitation to come is given, and 
then, he says, we are told that it is an impossibility 
for us to do so. He, of course, loses sight of the 
fact that the Scriptures state that the impossibility 
attaches to the rich man, and the invitation to come 
is extended to the children. 



Bolingbroke, Act V. Scene VI., after he has been 
informed of the murder of Richard, thus addresses 
Sir Pierce of Exton, the murderer: 

The guilt of conscience take thou for thy labor, 
But neither my good word nor princely favor: 
With Cain go wander through the shades of night, 
And never show thy head by day nor light. 

Cain's banishment from the garden of Eden is told 
in Genesis IV., 11-12 : 

And now art thou cursed from the earth, which 
hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's 
blood from thy hand. 

When thou tillest the ground, it shall not hence- 
forth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and 
a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. 

Here we have ten references in one play to pass- 
ages and persons mentioned in the Bible, and col- 
lectively they show a deep insight into its contents. 

In Love's Labor's Lost there are brief references 
to Adam (Act IV. Scene 11.) , Eve (Act I. Scene I.), 
Cain (Act IV. Scene II.), Solomon (Act I. Scene 
II.), Judas (Act V. Scene II.) ; and in Act I. Scene 
II. is the following mention of an event in the life 
of Samson : 

Samson, master : he was a man of good carriage, 
great carriage ! for he carried the town-gates on his 
back, like a porter; and he was in love. 

In Judges XIV., 3-4 we find : 

And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at mid- 
night, and took the doors of the gate of the city, 
and the two posts, and went away with them, bar 
and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and car- 



ried them up to the top of a hill that is before 

And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a 
woman in the valley of the Sorek, whose name was 

As You Like It (Act I. Scene I.) contains this 
reference to the parable of The Prodigal Son: 

Shall I keep your hogs, and eat husks with them? 
What prodigal portion have I spent, that I should 
come to such penury? 

The Parable is in Luke XV., 11-32. 

In Act II. Scene III. Adam, on offering his sav- 
ings to Orlando, says : 

Take that; and He that doth the ravens feed, 
Yea providently caters for the sparrow, 
Be comfort to my age ! 

This was no doubt suggested by Psalm CXLVII., 9 : 

He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young 
ravens which cry. 

In the same play are mentioned Adam (Act II. 
Scene I.), the Ark (Act V. Scene IV.), and Judas 
(Act IIL Scene IV.). 

The Comedy of Errors contains allusions to the 
Flood (Act III. Scene II.), Adam (Act IV. Scene 
IIL), The Prodigal Son (Act IV. Scene III.). 

In Anthony and Cleopatra Herod is spoken of 
four times: Act I. Scene II., Act IIL Scene IIL, 
Act IIL Scene VI. In Act III. Scene XL Antony 

0, that I were 
Upon the hill of Basan,^ — to outroar 

'^ Bashan (fat, fruitful), a rich hilly district lying east of the Jordan. 



The horned herd! for I have savage cause; 
And to proclaim it civilly, were like 
A halter'd neck, which does the hangman thank 
For being yare* about him. 

Antony here is railing against being made a sacri- 
fice by Cleopatra unto Octavius Caesar, and has in 
mind the offering up of the cattle as a sacrifice at 
Bashan, the horned herd roaring against the slaugh- 
ter, which is thus stated in Ezekiel XXXIX., 18 : 

Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink 
the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams, of 
lambs, and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fat- 
lings of Bashan. 

In Macbeth there is but one direct Biblical refer- 
ence, and that is to Golgotha, in Act I. Scene II., 
where the soldier, speaking of the contest between 
the loyal and the rebel armies, says : 

If I say sooth, I must report they were 

As cannons overcharged with double cracks: 

So they doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe: 

Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds, 

Or memorize another Golgotha, 

I cannot tell. 

This reference to Golgotha was to emphasize the 
terrors of the battle, and to make clear the deter- 
mination of Banquo and Macbeth to pile up the 
skulls of their enemies until the}^ formed a mount. 
"While in Othello there are several expressions that 
might owe their origin to the Bible, there is but one 
that is direct. This is the remark of Othello to 
Emilia, Act IV. Scene II., wherein he accuses her of 
holding the keys to the gate of hell. 

* That is, ready, nimble, active. 



You, mistress, 
That have the office opposite Saint Peter, 
And keep the gate of hell ; you, you, ay, you ! 

Saint Peter is supposed to hold the keys to the 
gate of heaven, consequently the one who occupies 
**the office opposite" to him — that is, the office op- 
posed to the office of the Saint as the keeper of the 
keys of heaven — must be the keeper of the keys of hell. 
The Bible account of the bestowal of the keys of 
heaven upon Peter is as follows : 

And I give unto thee [Peter] the keys of the 
kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt 
bind on earth shall be bound in heaven ; and what- 
soever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in 

This reference is to be found in Matthew XVI., 19. 
In Measure for Measure, Act I. Scene II., Claudio 
thus speaks : 

The words of Heaven; — on whom it will, it willj 
On whom it will not, so ; yet still 'tis just. 

Allusion is here made to Paul's Epistle to the 
Romans IX., 15: 

For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom 
I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on 
whom I will have compassion. 

Also in the same chapter, verse 18: 

Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have 
mercy, and whom be will he hardeneth. 

In Act II. Scene II. of the same play we find this 

dialogue : 

Isabel. Hark, how I'll bribe you : Good my lord, 
turn back. 



Angelo. How! Bribe me? 
Isabel. Ay, with such gifts that Heaven shall 
share with you. 

Not with fond shekels of the tested gold, 
Or stones, whose rates are either rich or poor 
As fancy values them : but with true prayers, 
That shall be up at heaven, and enter there, 
Ere sunrise; prayers from preserved souls. 
From fasting maids, whose minds are dedicate 
To nothing temporal. 

Angelo. Well : come to me 


Isabel. Heaven keep your honor safe! 

Angelo. . (Aside) Amen; 

For I am that way going to temptation, 
Where prayers cross. 

When Isabella says ''Heaven keep your honor safe," 
she is addressing Angelo according to his title; but 
his guilty mind sees in it reference to the danger his 
honor is in, and he says amen to her pious saluta- 
tion. In the Lord's Prayer is the petition, "Lead us 
not into temptation," and Angelo knows that in 
making an appointment to meet Isabella on the mor- 
rovr he is going directly in the path of temptation, 
and in doing this, he is travelling in a direction that 
is crossed or intercepted by the prayer. This causes 
him to say: 

For I am that way going to temptation, 
Where prayers cross. 
The Lord's Prayer is to be found in Matthew VI,, 

9-13, and Luke XI., 2-4. 

A little further in the same scene Angelo solilo- 
quizes thus regarding his base passion for the pure 
Isabella : 



Can it be 
That modesty may more betray our sense 
Than woman's lightness? Having waste ground enough, 
Shall we desire to raise the sanctuary, 
And pitch our evils there? 

In Eastern countries it was the custom to treat with 
abomination the houses of worship of those who 
differed with the parties in power, thus desecrating 
them and mortifying the worshippers. In II, Kings 
X., it is stated that when Jehu wished to destroy 
the worshippers of Baal he caused them to gather in 
the temple dedicated to his worship and there com- 
manded them to be slain. Not content with the de- 
struction of the worshippers he caused the temple 
to be desecrated as told in the 27th verse : 

And they brake down the image of Baal, and 
brake the house of Baal, and made it a draught 
house unto this day. 

The word draught, meaning a cess-pool or recepta- 
cle for filth, signifies how Jehu showed his contempt 
for Baal. 

In Act II. Scene III. the Duke, speaking to the 
Provost, refers to the "spirits in prison" thus: 

Bound by my charity, and my bless'd order, 
I come to visit the afflicted spirits 
Here in the prison. 

The reference here is to I. Peter III., 19, where, after 
speaking of the suffering of Christ for the sins of 
the unjust, it is written: 

By which also he went and preached unto the 
spirits in prison. 



In Much Ado About Nothing there are three un- 
important references to Biblical characters : St. 
Peter and Adam in Act II. Scene I,, and Pharaoh in 
Act III. Scene III. 

The First Part of Henry IV. contains a few im- 
portant references that may be traced to the Bible. 
In Act I. Scene II. we find Prince Henry saying to 
Falstaff : 

Thou didst well; for wisdom cries out in the 
streets, and no man regards it. 

In Proverbs I., 20 is the following: 

Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice 
in the streets. 

The 24th verse of the same chapter is: 

Because I have called, and ye refused: I have 
stretched out my hand, and no man regarded. 

In Act II. Scene IV. Falstaff uses this expression : 

If to be fat be to be hated, then Pharaoh's lean 
kine are to be loved. 

The story of Pharaoh's kine is told in Genesis 
XLI., 1-4 : 

And it came to pass at the end of two full years, 
that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by 
the river. 

And, behold, there came up out of the river seven 
well favoured kine and fat fleshed ; and they fed in 
a meadow. 

And, behold, seven other kine came up after them 
out of the river, ill favoured and lean fleshed ; and 
stood by the other kine upon the brink of the 

And the ill favoured and lean fleshed kine did 



eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So 
Pharaoh awoke. 

In the same act and scene, and also in Act III. 
Scene III., Adam is casually mentioned. 

In Act III. Scene III. Falstaff, addressing Bar- 
dolph, uses this expression: 

I never see thy face, but I think upon hell-fire, 
and Dives that lived in purple. 

And in Act IV. Scene II. Falstaff uses these 

words : 

. . . and now my whole charge consists of 
ancients, corporals, lieutenants, gentlemen of com- 
panies, slaves as ragged as Lazarus in the painted 
cloth, where the glutton's dogs licked the sores. 

The parable of Dives and Lazarus is told in Luke 
XVI., 19-31; the passage referred to by Falstafl 
being verses 20 and 21 : 

And there was a certain begger named Lazarus, 
which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 

And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which 
fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs 
came and licked his sores. 

In the same speech is found the following: 

. . . and such have I, to fill up the rooms 
of them that have bought out their services, that 
you would think, that I had a hundred and fifty 
tatter'd prodigals, lately come from swine-keeping, 
from eating draff* and husks. . . . 

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is in Luke XV., 
11-32; the portion referred to by Falstaff being 
verses 15 and 16: 

* Refuse grain from breweries and distilleries. 



And he went and joined himself to a citizen of 
that country ; and he sent him into his fields to feed 

And he would fain have filled his belly with the 
husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave 
unto him. 

The Second Part of Henry IV. is rich in Biblical 

references. In Act I. Scene I. Northumberland says : 

Let heaven kiss earth: now let not nature's hand 
Keep the wild flood confin'd: let order die: 
And let this world no longer be a stage, 
To feed contention in a lingering act; 
But let one spirit of the first-born Cain 
Reign in all bosoms, that, each heart being set 
On bloody courses, the rude scene may end. 
And darkness be the burier of the dead ! 

How murder entered the heart of Cain and caused 

him to kill his brother Abel is told in Genesis IV., 

verse 8, stating: 

And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it 
came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain 
rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. 

In Scene II. of the same act we find: 

Let him be damn'd like the glutton! may his 
tongue be hotter! 

This alludes to the rich man who feasted and drank 
daily ; who finally died, thirsted for a drop of water, 
and prayed that Lazarus might be permitted to 
bring it to him. The account is found in Luke XVI., 
20-31. The particular passage being verse 24: 

And he cried and said. Father Abraham, have 
mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip 
the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; 
for I am tormented in this flame. 



A little further in the same scene is found this 
reference : 

I am as poor as Job, mj^ lord, but not so 

The story of Job, his wealth and happiness, his trials 
and tribulations, his losses and his pains, his poverty 
and his patience, is told in the Book of Job. 

In the same speech, Falstaff applies the term Achi- 
tophel to the tailor Dumbleton on being informed by 
his page that he has refused him credit. The Bib- 
lical character whom Falstaff had in mind was 
Ahithophel, a native of Giloh, a near friend to David, 
who, however, became his bitter enemy and joined 
Absalom when that young prince rose in rebellion 
against his father. The narrative is to be found in 
II. Samuel XV., XVI., XVII. 

Lord Scroop, Archbishop of York, in Act I. Scene 
III., uses this language : 

So, so, thou common dog, didst thou disgorge 
Thy glutton bosom of the royal Richard; 
And now thou wouldst eat thy dead vomit up, 
And howl'st to find it. 

In the Second Epistle of Peter II., 22, those who 

turned from righteousness are thus likened unto the 


But it is happened unto them according to the 
true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit e 

A reference to the story of the Prodigal Son is 
found in Act II. Scene I. The parable is in Luke 
Xy., 11-32. 



In Act II. Scene II. Prince Henry says: 

Nay, they will be kin to us, or they will fetch it 
from Japhet. 

Japhet is no doubt used for Japheth, and Henry must 
have had in mind the meaning of the word, which is 
enlargement, when he referred to those who claimed 
kindred with the king. The passage in the Bible 
to which the reference of Prince Henry applies is in 
Genesis IX., 27 : 

God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in 
the tents of Shem. 

A reference is made to David in Act III. Scene II. 
in the following words spoken by Shallow : 

Certain, 'tis certain ; ven,' sure ; very sure ; death, 
as the Psalmist saith, is certain to all; all shall 

David sings of the shortness and vanity of life in 
Psalm XXXIX., of death and the vanity of 
worldly possessions in Psalm XLIX., and in Psalm 
LXXXIX., 47-48, he cries out : 

Remember how short my time is : wherefore hast 
thou made all men in vain? 

What man is he that liveth, and shall not see 
death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the 
grave? Selah. 

Henry V. contains six Biblical references, three 
neither novel nor extensive in application : a refer- 
ence to Adam, Act I. Scene I. ; The fall of man, Act 
II. Scene II. ; Return to vomit. Act III. Scene VII. ; 
and three of considerable importance: The Book of 



Numbers quoted, Act I. Scene II.; reference to the 
Devil, Act II. Scene II.; and to Herod, Act III. 
Scene III. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Act I. Scene II., 
advising King Henry as to his rights in France, 
quotes the Bible as an authority to uphold the stand 
he advises the king to take : 

For in the Book of Numbers it is writ, — 
When the son dies, let the inheritance 
Descend unto the daughter. 

The passage referred to is in the Book of Numbers 
XXVIL, 8: 

And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, 
sajdng. If a man die, and have no son, then ye 
shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daugh- 

King Henry, in reproving Lord Scroop for his 
treachery. Act II. Scene II., speaks thus: 

If that same demon, that hath gull'd thee thus, 
Should with his lion gait walk the whole world, 
He might return to vast Tartar back. 
And tell the legions — I can never win 
A soul so easy as that Englishman's. 

The passage that suggested the idea of ' ' demon with 
his lion gait" is in I. Peter V., 8 : 

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary 
the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking 
whom he may devour. 

In addressing the Governor of Harfleur, and ad- 
vising him to surrender to the English, among 
other dire consequences that will befall the inhabi- 



tants unless his counsel is followed, King Henry, in 
Act ni. Scene III., mentions this: 

Your naked infants spitted upon pikes, 
While the mad mothers with their howls confus'd 
Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry 
At Herod's bloody-hunting slaughtermen. 

The story of the massacre of children by order of 
King Herod is told in Matthew II., the particular 
passage to which King Henry refers being in verses 
16-18 : 

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked 
of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent 
forth, and slew all the children that were in Beth- 
lehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two 
years old and under, according to the time which 
he had diligently inquired of the wise men. 

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken of by 
Jeremy the prophet, saying, 

In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, 
and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping 
for her children, and would not be comforted, 
because they are not. 

The Historical plays abound in Biblical references, 
the seven Henries containing no less than thirty-six. 
In The First Part of Henry VI., Act I. Scene II., 
mention is made of Samsons and Goliases (Goliaths) 
for expressing the prowess of the English: 

For none but Samsons and Goliases 

It sendeth forth to skirmish. One to ten! 

Lean raw-boned rascals! who would e'er suppose 

They had such courage and audacity? 

The story of Samson displaying his great strength in 
battle is told in Judges XV., the 15th verse, stating: 



And he [Samson] found a new jawbone of an 
ass and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew 
a thousand men therewith. 

The fighting qualities of Goliath, a giant of Gath, 
supposed to have been nine feet and a half in height, 
are depicted in I. Samuel XVII., the 24th verse tell- 
ing how the men of Israel feared him: 

And all the men of Israel, when they saw the 
man [Goliath], fled from him, and were sore afraid. 

In the same scene are these lines: 

Stay, stay thy hands! thou art an Amazon, 
And flghtest with the sword of Deborah. 

Deborah was a prophetess, and she judged the 
people of Israel. The narrative is in Judges IV., 
4-24. It was she who prevailed upon Barak to arm 
and go against Sisera; urging him by her counsel 
and strengthening him with her courage. In verses 
8-9 it is stated: 

And Barak said unto her. If thou wilt go with 
me, then will I go : but if thou wilt not go with me, 
then I will not go. 

And she said, I will surely go with thee: not- 
withstanding the journey that thou takest shall not 
be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera 
into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, 
and went with Barak to Kedesh. 

A little further we find the following: 

Was Mahomet inspired with a dove? 
Thou with an eagle art inspired then. 
Helen, the mother of great Constantine, 
Nor yet St. Philip's daughters, were like thee. 



This mention of St. Philip's daughters was no doubt 
prompted by Acts XXI., 9 : 

And the same man [Philip the evangelist] had 
four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. 

In Scene III. of the same act Cardinal Beaufort, 
addressing the Duke of Gloucester, speaks thus: 

This be Damascus, be thou cursed Cain, 
To slay thy brother Abel, if thou wilt. 

Shakespeare apparently had in mind the old Chroni- 
cles which stated that Damascus was in the Garden 
of Eden, and upon the very spot where Cain slew 
Abel. In The Travels of Sir John Mandeville it is 
stated : 

In that place where Damascus was founded, 
Kayn sloughe Abel his brother. 

The story of the first murder is told in Genesis IV., 
the 8th verse reading: 

And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and 
it came to pass, when they were in the field, that 
Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew 

A few speeches further Gloucester thus addresses 
himself to Cardinal Beaufort: 

Thee I'll chase hence thou wolf in sheep's ar- 

In Matthew VII., 15, Jesus says: 

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in 
sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening 



The Second Part of Henry VI. possesses four 
thoughts the sources of which may be traced to the 
Bible. In Act II. Scene I. King Henry thus reproves 
his queen for encouraging the quarrels of the nobles : 

I pr'y thee, peace 
Good queen! and whet not on these furious peers, 
For blessed are the peacemakers on earth. 

The seventh Beatitude, Matthew V., 9, is thus: 

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be 
called the children of God. 

Cardinal Beaufort, replying to the threat of the 
Duke of Gloucester, Act II. Scene I., advises him in 
these words: 

Medice, teipsum: 
Protector, see to't well, protect yourself. 

Medice, teipsum (Physician, thyself.) comes from 
Luke IV., 23: 

Physician, heal thyself. 

In Scene III. of this act King Henry, addressing 
those found guilty of practicing witchcraft against 
his person, speaks thus: 

Receive the sentence of the law, for sins 
Such as by God's Book are adjudg'd to death. 

The Bible, Exodus XXII., 18, contains this com- 

Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. 

The final Biblical reference in this play is in Act 
IV. Scene II. where Cade, replying to the taunts of 
Sir Humphrey Stafford, answers him thus: 
And Adam was a gardener. 


We are told in Genesis III., 22-23, that after Adam 
had eaten of the tree of knowledge, God rebuked 
him, saying : 

Behold, the man is become one of us, to know 
good and evil : and now, lest he put forth his hand, 
and take also of the tree of life, and eat and live 
for ever: 

Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the 
garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence 
he was taken. 

The Third Part of Henry VI. contains only three 
Biblical references, but all of them are important. 
In Act V. Scene I. Clarence, on deciding to be false 
to the oath he made to Warwick, thus expresses 
himself : 

Why, trow'st thou, Warwick, 
That Clarence is so harsh, so blunt, unnatural, 
To bend the fatal instruments of war 
Against his brother, and his lawful king? 
Perhaps thou wilt object my holy oath : 
To keep that oath were more impiety 
Than Jephtha's when he sacrific'd his daughter. 

The pathetic story is told in Judges XI., 30-31 : 

And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and 
said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children 
of Ammon into mine hands. 

Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth 
of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return 
in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely 
be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt 

In the second scene of the same act Warwick, 

wounded unto death, speaks these lines: 

Thus yields the cedar to the axe's edge. 
Whose arms gave shelter to the princely eagle, 



Under whose shade the ramping lion slept ; 
Whose top-branch overpeer'd Jove's spreading tree, 
And kept low shrubs from winter's powerful wind, 

A passage like unto this is found in Ezekiel 
XXXI., 6 : 

All the fowls of heaven made their nests in his 
boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts 
of the field bring forth their young, and under his 
shadow dwelt all great nations. 

The entire speech of Warwick's indicates that 
Shakespeare drew upon the w^hole 31st chapter of 
Ezekiel for his inspiration, for as Warwick likens 
himself unto the cedar yielded to the axe's edge, 
so also is the Assyrian likened unto the cedar of 
Lebanon, with its fair branches and towering form, 
by the Lord when instructing His prophet Ezekiel. 
In the last scene of this play Gloucester, after 
kissing his nephew, the young Prince of Wales, turns 
aside and mutters : 

To say the truth, so Judas kissed his master. 
And cried all hail whereas he meant, all harm. 

The betrayal of Christ by Judas is told in Matthew 
XXVI., 45-54; verse 49 being the particular one re- 
ferred to by Gloucester: 

And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said. Hail, 
Master; and kissed him. 

Richard III. contains many important Biblical 
references, indicative of the Poet's vast knowledge 



of Holy Writ. In Act I. Scene III. Lord Rivers thui 
replies to the Duke of Gloucester : 

A virtuous and a Christian-like conclusion, 
To pray for them that have done seath^ to us. 

The passage in Scripture that suggested this re- 
mark is in Matthew V,, 44: 

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless 
them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, 
and pray for them which despitefully use you, and 
persecute you. 

When arguing with the murderers as to the jus- 
"tice of the sentence of death which they propose to 
carry out upon him, the Duke of Clarence, In Act 
I. Scene IV., thus addresses them: 

Erroneous vassels! the great King of kings 
Hath in the table of His Law commanded. 
That thou shalt do no murder. 

The table of the Law, the ten commandments given 
by God through Moses to the children of Israel, is 
in Exodus XX., 3-17 ; verse 13, the sixth command- 
ment, reading : 

Thou shalt not kill. 

In Act I. Scene IV. of this tragedy the 1st Mur- 
derer makes use of the expression : 

Right; as snow in harvest. — Come, you deceive yourself; 
'Tis he that sends us to destroy you here. 

A like passage is found in Proverbs XXV., 13: 

As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is 
a faithful messenger to them that send him. 

^ Injury. 



A short distance further in the same scene the 
2nd Murderer exclaims: 

A bloody deed and desperately despatch'd! 
How, fain, like Pilate, would I wash my hands 
Of this most grievous guilty murder done! 

In Matthew XXVII., 24, Pilate thus absolves himself : 

When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, 
but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, 
and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, 
I am innocent of the blood of this just person: 
see ye to it. 

Act II. Scene III. contains this reference, spoken 
by one of the citizens when discussing his country's 
prospects under the young king : 

Woe to that land that's govem'd by a child! 

This is clearly traced to Ecclesiastes X., 16 : 

Woe to thee, land, when thy king is a child ! 

The final Biblical reference in Richard III. is in 
Act IV. Scene III. : 

The sons of Edward sleep in Abraham's Bosom, 
And Anne my wife hath bid the world good night. 

The reference to sleeping in Abraham's bosom is 
from Luke XVI., 22 : 

And it came to pass, that the begger died, and 
was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. 

King John possesses but two expressions that are 
traceable to the Bible. In Act II. Scene I. Constance, 
upbraiding Eleanor for her treatment of Arthur, 
thus addresses her: 



This is thy eldest son's son, 
Infortunate in nothing but in thee: 
Thy sins are visited in this poor child; 
The canon of the law is laid on him, 
Being but the second generation 
Removed from thy sin-conceiving womb. 

The particular portion of the Law of God referred to 
by Constance is that part of the second command- 
ment contained in Exodus XX., 5 : 

I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting 
the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto 
the third and fourth generation of them that hate 

The second reference is in Act III. Scene IV. and 

is nothing more than the mention of Cain as being 

the first male child : 

For since the birth of Cain, the first male child, 
To him that did but yesterday suspire,* 
There was not such a gracious creature bom. 

In Genesis IV., I. it is stated: 

And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she con- 
ceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a 
man from the Lord. 

Henry VIII. adds three Biblical references to 
the list. In Act I. Scene II. Queen Katherine, speak- 
ing in behalf of the Duke of Buckingham, requests 
that his words and actions be not misinterpreted, 
and thus chides Cardinal "Wolsey for his apparent 
enmity : 

My learn'd lord cardinal. 
Deliver all with charity. 

That is, 

« Breathe. 

Speaking the truth in love. 

— Ephesians IV., 15. 



Act V. Scene I. has this matter which points clearly 
to the Bible as its source : 

Ween' you of better luck, 
I mean in perjur'd witness, than your Master, 
Whose minister you are, whiles here He liv'tl 
Upon this naughty earth? 

The story of the trial of Jesus before Caiaphas, the 
high priest, is told in Matthew XXVI., 57-68. The 
passage bearing on the false witnesses is in verses 
59-61 : 

Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the 
council sought false witness against Jesus, to put 
him to death; 

But found none: yea, though many false wit- 
nesses came, yet found they none. At the last came 
two false witnesses. 

And said. This fellow said, I am able to destroy 
the temple of God, and to build it in three days, 

Cranmer, Act V. Scene IV., prophesies great 

things for the infant Princess Elizabeth, among 

them being a desire for wisdom and a love for 

virtue : 

Saba was never 
More covetous of wisdom and fair virtue, 
Than this pure soul shall be. 

The Queen of Sheba is supposed to have been the 
Saba of Strabo, situated toward the southern part 
of Arabia, close to the coast of the Red Sea, Her 
visit to King Solomon is narrated in I. Kings X., 
1-13 ; her desire for wisdom causing her to take the 
expensive trip to the laud of the Israelites in order 

' Imagine. 



to commune with Solomon at Jerusalem. In Mat- 
thew XII., 42, it is stated : 

The queen of the south shall rise up in the 
judgment with this generation, and shall condemn 
it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the 
earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, 
a greater than Solomon is here. 

The Two Gentlemen of Verona contains but one 
mention of a Biblical character, that of Eve, which 
is in Act III. Scene I : 

Out with that too: it was Eve's legacy, and 
cannot be ta'en from her. 

All's "Well That Ends Well contains a speech in 
Act II. Scene I. that breathes the very air of the 
Bible, and could only have been penned by one 
thoroughly familiar with its wondrous pages. The 
speech is that of Helena's addressed to the king, a 
portion of which is as follows : 

He that of greatest works is finisher, 

Oft does them by the weakest minister: 

So holy writ in babes hath judgment shown, 

When judges have been babes. Great floods have flown 

From simple sources; and great seas have dried, 

When miracles have by the greatest been denied. 

The passage, 

So holy writ in babes hath judgment shown, 
When judges have been babes, 

refers to Matthew XI., 25: 

At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank 
thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because 
thou hast hid these things from the wise and pru- 
dent, and hast revealed them unto babes. 



The thought contained in the words, 

Great floods have flown 
From simple sources, 

appears to refer to Moses smiting the rock in Horeb 
and causing the water to flow. This miraculous 
supplying of water is told in Exodus XVII., 1-7; 
verse 6 reading: 

Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the 
rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and 
there shall come water out of it, that the people 
may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the 
elders of Israel. 

The words, 

and great seas have dried, 
When miracles have by the greatest been denied, 

no doubt alludes to the Israelites passing through 
the Red Sea, which divided at the word of God to 
permit of their passage and then came together and 
destroyed the hosts of Pharaoh. The miracle is 
recorded in Exodus XIV.; verse 22 reads: 

And the children of Israel went into the midst of 
the sea upon the dry ground : and the waters were 
a wall unto them on their right hand and on their 

In Act IV. Scene V. the Clown makes this remark : 
I am no great Nebuchadnezzar, sir; I have not 
much skill in grass. 

The story of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, and Daniel's 
interpretation of it, is told in Daniel IV.; verse 33 
states : 

The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon 
[ 126 ] 


I Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, 
and did eat grass as oxen. . . . 

The Biblical references in All's Well That Ends 
Well are of such a nature as to show that the user 
of them was familiar with their spirit and was not 
merely employing the form as would a quoter. They 
appear to spring spontaneously from the writer's 
brain, as though the thoughts were first engendered 
there, showing that they had passed into him by 
being thoroughly learned and not merely skimmed 
over. Some of the Biblical references in the plays 
are superficial, but there are a vast number that 
show clearly that the Bible was an open book to 
Shakespeare. This phase of the subject will be 
dwelt upon at the close of this chapter. 

The Merry Wives of Windsor contains five refer- 
ences traceable to the Bible, but all of them appear 
in other plays and have been commented upon be- 
fore. In Act rV. Scene II. there is mention of Eve ; 
in Scene V. of the same act a painting of the story 
of the Prodigal Son is mentioned ; in Act V. Scene I. 
Goliah [Goliath] is spoken of; and in Scene V. of 
this act Job is referred to. In Act V. Scene I. is the 
only significant Biblical reference that this play con- 
tains : 

. . . because I know also, life is a shuttle. 

In the Book of Job VII., 6, is to be found : 

My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and 
are spent without hope. 

Twelfth Night is poor in Biblical topics, contain- 
ing but four scanty references : Eve, Act I. Scene V. ; 


Jezebel, Act II. Scene V.; Noah, Act III. Scene II., 
and "possessed of Devils," Act III. Scene IV. 

Here is offered the sum and substance of Shake- 
speare's indebtedness to the Bible for many of his 
references and some of his noblest thoughts. Take 
the Bible out of Shakespeare and a great gap will 
appear. Not considering the mere references in the 
plays to persons and events that are recorded in the 
Great Book, the sentiments expressed therein in a 
vast number of instances show that the author's 
mind was influenced and his thoughts directed by 
knowledge that was gained from its pages. Note, 
for instance, the use of the idea contained in the 

. . . would almost damn those ears 
Which, hearing them, would call their brothers fools. 
— The Merchant of Venice, Act I. Scene I. 

Herein is clearly shown the subconscious use of a 
statetment that had been thoroughly digested until 
it entered into the very being of the user and be- 
came his own. Had Shakespeare been asked where 
he found the expression, the chances are that he 
could not have answered that it was to be found in 
Matthew V., 22, because he had not memorized it as 
a verse in the Gospel, but he had grasped it as a liv- 
ing truth and transplanted it into the garden of his 
own mind. So with the lines in Act I. Scene III. 
of this comedy, 

Yes, to smell pork ; to eat of the habitation which 
your prophet, the Nazarite, conjured the devil into. 

He had no doubt often read the story of the miracu- 
lous driving forth of the devils from the man into 


the swine; so when he had occasion to draw the 
character of the Jew, what more natural than that 
the story of the act of the Nazarite should come 
to his mind and he should make use of it? It is em- 
ployed not as one paraphrasing with the narrative 
before him, but as one making use of an incident 
that had been experienced. In like manner, though 
to a greater extent, this point is demonstrated in the 
passage where it is stated that Jacob was the third 
possessor — the passage which reads: 

When Jacob grazed his uncle Laban's sheep, — 
This Jacob from our holy Abram was, 
As his wise mother wrought in his behalf. 
The third possessor; ay, he was the third — 

What a world of thought is contained in the paren- 
thetical phrase "as his wise mother wrought in his 
behalf." In order to have uttered it, it was neces- 
sary for the Dramatist to have known the whole 
story of the covenant into which God entered with 
Abraham, and all the circumstances that followed 
it. He must have known that Abraham was the first 
possessor, Isaac the second, and Esau, by right of 
inheritance, the third; but by the wisdom (or schem- 
ing) of Rebekah, the mother both of Esau and Jacob, 
the inheritance was diverted from Esau, the first 
born, and bestowed upon Jacob, his younger brother. 
It is by such passages as these three from The Mer- 
chant of Venice that Shakespeare's deep knowledge 
of the Bible is shown, and his great indebtedness to 
it demonstrated. 

The single instance of the use of a Biblical narra- 



tive contained in The Tempest goes far to still fur- 
ther show this knowledge and indebtedness. How 
many readers of the Bible can recall the story of the 
death of Sisera? The question was put to several 
of the author's acquaintances and few remembered 
the details, and yet a remembrance of the details was 
absolutely essential to the making of the lines. 

Yea, yea, my lord: I'll yield him thee asleep, 
Where thou mayst knock a nail into his head. 

It was necessary for the Dramatist to know that 
Sisera died from having a nail driven into his head, 
and that execution was done unto him while he was 
asleep. This is one of the passages in the plays that 
best displays Shakespeare's Biblical knowledge. 

The ten references to subjects that are Biblical in 
their nature contained in Richard II. are all signi- 
ficant, the play being particularly rich in Biblical 
references, but the speech of Richard at the open- 
ing of Act V. contains a passage that shows inti- 
mate acquaintance with the Scriptures. It is this: 

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. The better sort, 
As thoughts of things divine, are intermix'd 
With scruples, and do set the word itself 
Against the word: 

As thus, — "Come, little on&s;" and then again, — 
"It is as hard to come, as for a camel 
To thread the postern of a needle's eye." 

The "Word," of course, means the Bible; and the 

setting of the word against the word is illustrated 



by the two quotations — the invitation to come, and 
the impossibility of coming — which are used to show 
the conflict that is taking place in Richard's mind. 
And though the reasoning is erroneous — there being, 
in reality, no setting of the word against the word — 
the error is Richard's and not Shakespeare's. The 
idea of the Dramatist being to show the troubled 
nature of the King's thoughts and not to correctly 
interpret the Scriptures. 

The use Shakespeare made of the Bible, culling 
from it thoughts that he might use in working out 
his characters, but illustrates one of the greatest 
traits of his genius — the capacity of using material 
produced by others in such a way as to give it 
added beauty and strength in its new setting. This 
is not saying that Shakespeare improved on the 
Bible, but merely that the incidents he used lost 
nothing by being transplanted into other soil. The 
subject might be followed to far greater length than 
has been here attempted, but the author trusts that 
enough has been accomplished to enable the earnest 
student in search of further enlightenment to un- 
cover it for himself. 



Oratory in Shakespeare 

WHILE there is no direct reference to oratory, 
and only three references to orator,* in the 
plays of Shakespeare, yet they abound with speci- 
mens of the many classes into which oratory may 
be divided. The passages in the plays where the 
characters soliloquize, or where the speech is merely 
a part of the dialogue, will not be discussed in this 
chapter, only such being considered as answer the 
requirements of a speech by possessing the necessary 
form of construction and are addressed to collective 
audiences. For the purpose of convenience the 
speeches will be placed in their appropriate classes, 
and one specimen of each class considered. The five 
classes of oratory are : Philosophic, Demonstrative, 
Argumentative, Deliberative, and Social. 

Space is not given in this chapter to the different 
examples cited. The reader who wishes to study 
them further can turn to his copy of Shakespeare. 

Let us first consider what oratory is. In its 
proper sense it is the art of public speaking; the 
ability to instruct, arouse, move, please, convince 
and persuade by means of the spoken word. By 
extension the word oratory is used to describe a com- 

^ I am no orator. "Julius Caesar," Act III. Scene II. 
I can better play the orator. "III. Henry VI.," Act I. Scene II. 
I'll play tlie orator. "Richard III.," Act III. Scene V. 



position which is read, or one that is printed in 
order to be circulated and thus influence other 
minds. It is in its proper, or restricted, sense that 
it is discussed here. 

In the second place let us consider what an ora- 
tion is. Strictly speaking it is an elaborate utter- 
ance, delivered by word of mouth, in a public place, 
and in accordance with the rules of oratory. In its 
strict sense it is here considered. 

In the third place let us settle in our minds what 
an orator is. He is one who speaks effectively in 
public ; one who has the power of conveying thought 
by means of word of mouth; one who is able to 
entertain, move, convince, and persuade. Only 
those who successfully stand this test will be in- 
cluded among the characters selected to illustrate 
the work of this chapter. 

Philosophic Oratory 

The first class of oratory is known as philosophic. 
Its province is to teach, and it must therefore be, 
above all other things, instructive. Its effort should 
be directed to the intellect, its sole aim being to 
influence the mind, and while it need not be devoid 
of feeling it must not be vehement in character, nor 
must its aim be to move through the feelings. 

One of the best specimens of philosophic oratory 
to be found in the English language is the address 
of Hamlet to the Players."* The construction, the 
delivery, the address, and the speaker all conform 

""Hamlet," Act III. Scene II. 



to the requirements before set forth. Its aim is to 
instruct the plaj^ers in the delivery of the lines set 
down for them; the instructions are delivered to a 
grpup of persons; and the delivery is that of the 

Demonstrative Oratory 

The second class of oratory is known as demon- 
strative. It is passionate in nature, and its province 
is to move the listener through the emotions without 
consideration as to whether the motive that inspires 
the speech or controls the speaker is right or wrong, 
true or false. 

An excellent example of this form of oratory is 
the speech of Henry V.' to his soldiers before the 
town of Harfleur. Its sole purpose was to cause the 
English army once more to attempt to carry the 
walled town, so King Henry appealed to the valor, 
pride, and passions of his soldiers, but said nothing 
as to the justice of their king's cause in behalf of 
which they were called upon to fight. 

Argumentative Oratory 

The third class of oratory is known as argumenta- 
tive. It is presumed to found its cause on right and 
justice, it appeals only to the reason, and its prov- 
ince is to convince and persuade. 

Of this class of oratory the speech of Othello,* 
made in his own defense before the Duke and Sena- 
tors of Venice, furnishes an excellent example. It 

3 "King Henry V.." Act III. Scene I. 
* ••Othello," Act I. Scene III. 



is clearly argumentative in nature, its object being 
to free Othello from the charge of having used un- 
lawful means in winning Desdemona for his wife. 
The facts are clearly stated, the argument is logical, 
and the conclusion reasonable. The speech thus 
complies with the rules of argumentation, and de- 
notes clearly the class of oratory to which it belongs. 

Deliberative Oratory 

The fourth class of oratory is known as delibera- 
tive. It pertains principally to legislative assemblies, 
and embraces the principles of both argumentative 
and demonstrative oratory. Its governing ideas are 
expediency and usefulness. 

Marc Antony's Oration** over the body of Caesar 
is selected to illustrate this class. In making this 
selection the author is departing from the opinion 
of many writers who present it as a piece of argu- 
mentation. On close examination he believes that 
his judgment will be sustained, because the address 
is as much demonstrative as it is argumentative, the 
speaker is interrupted by members of the assembly 
who express their views and ask questions of the 
speaker, and the speech, in many ways, partakes of 
the nature of a debate. For these reasons it is 
placed in the deliberative class. 

Social Oratory 
The fifth class of oratory is known as social. Its 
one aim is to entertain, its functions being wholly 
of a social nature. 

■^ "Julius Caesar," Act III. Scene II. 



This form of oratory is well illustrated by the 
speech of the Banished Duke' to his companions in 
the Forest of Arden. All that pertains to social 
oratory is apparent in this speech: the Duke's 
friends forming the assembly, the subject is pleasing 
and of a social nature, and the speaker's bearing 
toward his audience is that of a comrade. 

Here is a goodly array of orations, the authorship 
of which would be enough to make a man famous 
even though he produced no other work of a like 
nature, but the plays of Shakespeare abound with 
other specimens. What are here given are deemed 
sufficient to demonstrate Shakespeare's knowledge 
of the essentials of oratory and the requirements of 
orators, and as these two objects are what the author 
set out to show, further testimony would be super- 

« "As You Like It," Act II. Scene I. 



How to Study Shakespeare 

THE way to study Shakespeare is to examine the 
means whereby he produces his effects. While 
many of the beauties are apparent at first glance, 
many more must' be dug for and brought to the 
light before they are comprehended. The injunc- 
tion "seek, and ye shall find" is true as regards the 
finding of the store of wealth contained in Shake- 
speare, just as it is true concerning the gaining of 
spiritual knowledge. 

Let us examine the following extract from Ham- 
let's soliloquy: 

To be, or not to be, that is the question: 

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer 

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; 

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, 

And, by opposing, end them? — To die, — to sleep, — 

No more; — and, by a sleep, to say we end 

The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks 

That flesh is heir to, — 'tis a consummation 

Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, — to sleep; — 

To sleep ! perchance, to dream ; — ay, there's the rub ; 

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come. 

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, 

Must give us pause.' 

Read the above passage again carefully, aiming to 
find out all that it contains. 

1 "Hamlet," Act III. Scene I. 



Now read it when so marked as to show some of 
the means Shakespeare employed in producing his 
effects : 

To be, or not to be, that is the question : 

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind, to suffer 

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; 

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, 

And, by opposing, end them? — To die, — to sleep, — 

No more; — and, by a sleep, to say we end 

The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks 

That flesh is heir to, — 'tis a consummation 

Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, — to sleep; — 

To sleep ! perchance, to dream ; — ay, there's the rub ; 

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, 

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil. 

Must give us pause. 

When reading this passage the first time did you 
see all the points that you do after reading the 
second copy? 

Let us examine more closely the peculiar arrange- 
ment of the words employed by the Dramatist, the 
arrangement that adds so much in stamping his 
meaning upon the passage, and we will then see 
how necessary it is to understand his mode of con- 
struction before we can comprehend fully all that 
the language contains. 

There is a contrast between "to be" and "not to 
be," the question in Hamlet's mind being whether 
he should continue to live, or end his life with his 
own hand. He then reasons as to the nobler course 
for him to pursue, setting one plan against another : 
basely submitting to the injustice of fortune or end- 
ing the submission by committing suicide. The thought 



then enters his mind that to die is only to sleep — 
nothing more than to fall into slumber. But wait, 
did he say to sleep? Why, then, one may dream, 
and dreams may be both good and bad, and because 
of this uncertainty as to the kind of dreams (the 
thought being brought out by placing emphasis on 
the qualifying word "what") he hesitates to pass 
into the slumber of death. Many of these points will 
not be seen by the casual reader, but none of them 
can be missed by the reader who understands the 
means employed by writers and speakers in producing 
their effects and who reads with an enquiring mind. 

Look for contrasts — one thought placed against 
another — examine the thought to find out whether 
it is negative or positive, note the qualifying word, 
and, above all, lay hold of the thought word; as, 
To sleep! perchance, to dream; ay, there's the rub. 

Examine the following extract from Hamlet's 
advice to the players: 

! there be players, that I have seen play, — and 
heard others praise, and that highly, — not to speak 
it profanely, that, neither having the accent of 
Christians, nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor 
man, have so strutted and bellowed, that I have 
thought some of nature's journeymen had made 
men, and not made them well, they imitated human- 
ity so abominably.'' 

Much discussion has occurred regarding the mean- 
ing of the latter part of this passage. One critic 
suggested that "men" should have "the" before it. 
The Shakespearean scholar Malone changes "men" 

' "Hamlet." Act III. Scene II. 



into ''them." H. N. Hudson, one of the best of the 
many editors of Shakespeare 's works, inclines to the 
belief that the Dramatist intended his meaning to be 
that men in general were so unnatural as to appear 
to have been made by nature's journeymen. None of 
these explanations seems necessary or correct. The 
reference appears to refer clearly to the players of 
the period, whose mode of acting brought down the 
censure of the prince. "I have thought some of 
Dature's journeymen had made men, and not made 
them well, they imitated humanity so abominably" 
must be taken in conjunction with what precedes 
it. ". . . there be players, that I have seen play." 
Hamlet's meaning apparently is that the actors 
whom he had seen play did their work so poorly as 
to make one think that the actors had been made by 
the hand of men, that they were mannikins, because 
they reproduced nature so poorly — enacted the 
parts in such an exaggerated and unnatural manner. 
"Players," "men," "them" and "they" all refer 
to the players that Hamlet had seen play. The 
word "men" as here used does not mean men in 
general but men in particular — the players. 

Macbeth, after he has murdered Duncan, is re- 
quested by his wife to return to the chamber where 
lies the body of the late king and deposit there the 
daggers of the grooms upon whom the guilty pair 
aim to fasten the crime. He declines to do so. She 
then says to him: 

Infirm of purpose! 
Give me the daggers. The sleeping, and the dead, 



Are but as pictures : 'tis the eye of childhood, 
That fears a painted devil.' 

By this, Lady Macbeth tells her lord that his fears 
are imaginary, and she chides him for his weakness. 
She reminds him that the dead are not real, that 
they are as pictures and consequently incapable of 
injuring him in any manner, and that his being 
afraid of them is like the child's fear of a painted 
(unreal) devil. By placing emphasis on the word 
"painted" the idea of this passage is conveyed by 
the speaker, and the only way that the reader will 
be able to grasp its meaning is by noting the fact 
that the word "painted" qualifies the word "devil" 
and tells us what kind of a devil it is that frightens 
the eye of childhood. 

From what has been here written it will be ob- 
served that one of the important aids to grasping 
the meaning of Shakespeare is a study of his ar- 
rangements of the words that carry his thought. 
It signifies much whether Lady Macbeth says 'tis 
the eye of childhood that fears a devil, or whether 
she qualifies the meaning by using the word 
"painted." Therefore when studying Shakespeare 
look for the qualifying words that color so vividly 
the words they act upon. For instance : 

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

Give me that man 
That is not passions slave, and I will wear him 

* "Macbeth," Act II. Scene II. 

* "Macbeth," Act I. Scene V. 



In my hearts core, ay in my heart of heart, 
As I do thee.^ 

Note that Lady Macbeth does not say to catch the 
way, but ''to catch the nearest way;" that Hamlet 
does not say he will wear Horatio in his heart, but 
that he wUl wear him in his ''heart of heart" — the 
very innermost recesses of his affections. 

Shakespeare often employs the contrast for con- 
veying his thought, and by this means he instantly 
flashes his idea upon the mind of the studious and 
capable reader; as, 

Is this a dagger that I see before me, 

The handle toward my hand ? 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 f^ 

I cannot tell what you and other men 
Think of this life; but, for my single self, 
I had as lief not be, as live to Ue 
In awe of such a thing as I myself.'' 

From the foregoing instructions it must not be 
supposed that students of Shakespeare are advised 
to look upon words as words. Far from it. The 
advice is to heed the arrangement of the words and 
to look through the words into the thought they 
are used to express. But the position of a word has 
its value, and it is important that the reader should 
observe whether a word is qualified, or contrasted, 
or in opposition; in short, what its relationship is 
to the other words of the clause, phrase, or sentence. 

» "Hamlet," Act III. Scene II. 

" "Macbeth," Act II. Scene I. 

' "Julius Caesar," Act I. Scene II. 



Look for the thought word in all groups of words 
— the important word that conveys the ideas ; as, 

Is this a dagger that I see before me? 
The idea here is expressed by the word dagger. 
The question being, is it a real dagger, or merely 
an imaginary one. The thought in a phrase or sen- 
tence may be varied as many times as there are 
words in the group ; as, 

7s this a dagger that I see before me? 

Is this a dagger that I see before me? 

Is this a dagger that I see before me? 

Is this a dagger that I see before me? 

and etc., but there is only one way of interpreting 

correctly this line, and that is by laying hold of 

the thought word and thus presenting the idea to 

the reader's own mind, or conveying it to the mind 

of the listener by means of the voice — stress being 

placed upon the emphatic word. 

Note how the important words in the following 

extracts are responsible for the thought: 

'Tis not my profit that does lead mine honor; 
Mine honor, it.^ 

Who seeks, and will not take when once 'tis offered 
Shall never find it more.^ 

Go to, then ; you come to me, and you say, 
"Shylock, we would have monies :" You say so ! 
You, that did void your rheum upon my beard, 
And foot me as you spurn a stranger cur 
Over your threshold : monies is your suit. 
What should / say to youf Should I not say, 
"Hath a dog money? is it possible, 
A cur can lend three thousand ducats?'"" 

8 "Antony and Cleopatra," Act II. Scene VII. 

» Ibid. 

i" "The Merchant of Venice," Act I. Scene III. 



Be sure you understand the meaning of the words 
themselves. In case any are obscure or obsolete, look 
them up in the dictionary, and have a good glossary 
at hand for reference. While studying Shakespeare, 
and not reading him for entertainment alone, it 
will be found that the notes of some editors are 
helpful, but the student should not accept them as 
authoritative and above appeal under any circum- 
stances. Some of the notes meant to elucidate the 
works of the Dramatist are ridiculous in the ex- 
treme, even when used by such editors as Johnson, 
Malone, Theobald, White, Rolfe and Hudson. In 
order that the word ridiculous may not appear too 
scathing when used in connection with the able men 
just mentioned, let us turn to the play of Julius 
Caesar as edited by H. N. Hudson and see what he 
has to say regarding the line, "His coward lips did 
from their color fly.*^ This seems so simple, and the 
meaning is so clear on the face, that it is strange 
that any editor should think a note necessary, and 
yet, this is what Hudson has to say regarding it: 
* ' This is oddly expressed ; but a quibble, alluding to 
a coward flying from his colors, was intended." Is 
ridiculous too strong a word to apply to the use of 
such a note as this? The expression of the thought 
has no oddity about it. It is not a quibble. It means 
merely that because of fear the color left the lips 
of Caesar. Nothing more was meant by the Dram- 
atist. Why, then, should editors read into the lines 
meanings that are foreign to them? If editors per- 

11 Act I. Scene II. 



sist in so doing, students must learn to discard notes 
—especially, when such notes are intended to inter- 
pret the author's meaning. The reader should 
search for the thought himself, should do his own dig- 
ging, for, by so doing, he will strengthen his percep- 
tion and improve his mentality generally. 

Here are some notes, lacking in wisdom, to say 
the least, which are more apt to confuse the reader 
than to enlighten him. 

Thou didst smile, 
Infused with a fortitude from heaven, 
When I have deck'd the sea with drops full salt/^ 

What is wrong with the word deck'd as here used? 

Some say it is doubtful as to what is meant by it; 

one editor suggested that an old English word, 

degg'd, meaning to sprinkle, be substituted for it. 

''Deck'd the sea with drops full salt" needs no 

editing. It means, I have adorned (or bedecked) the 

sea with tears as salt as its own water. 

This precious book of love, this unbound lover, 
To beautify him, only lacks a cover. 
The fish Uves in the sea; and 'tis much pride, 
For fair without the fair within to hide.^^ 

As regards this passage Hudson says: ''It is not 
quite clear what is meant by this. Dr. Farmer ex- 
plains it. The fish is not yet caught and thinks there 
is a reference to the ancient use of the fish-skins 
for book-covers. . . . Malone thinks we should read, 
'The fish lives in the shell;' and he adds that 'the 
sea cannot be said to be a beautiful cover to a fish, 
though a shell may.' " 

12 "The Tempest," Act I. Scene II. 

13 "Romeo and Juliet," Act I. Scene III. 



How unnecessary are all these surmises, annota- 
tions and emendations of the wise men who would 
rewrite Shakespeare. It is well for them to define 
obscure phrases, translate idioms, give the meaning 
that obsolete words possessed in the days of their 
use, but to thrust aside the clear meaning of Shake- 
speare by "reading in" one of their own is abso- 
lutely wrong, and it is because of this ''reading in" 
that so many editors are worse than useless. The 
note above quoted illustrates this point. Let us 
examine Shakespeare's lines that appear to have 
mystified so many of these gentlemen: 

This precious book of love, this unbound lover, 
To beautify him, only lacks a cover. 
The fish lives in the sea; and 'tis much pride, 
For fair without the fair within to hide. 

Lady Capulet desires Juliet to marry Paris. She 
has been extolling his beauty of form and charm of 
character, and in the lines quoted she states that he 
lacks only one thing to make him a perfect man — a 
wife. She is decrying bachelorhood and praising 
the married state, cleverly coloring her narrative so 
as to catch the romantic fancy of her young daughter. 
Here is an explanation of a passage that is clear 
on its face: "This precious book of love, this un- 
bound lover" refers to Paris, a handsome young 
man who is unmarried (unbound). "To beautify 
him, only lacks a cover" means that he needs a wife 
to make him a perfect man as printed matter re- 
quires a cover to make it a book. "The fish lives 
in the sea" as man and woman live on the earth, 



''and 'tis much pride for fair without the fair 
within to hide," simply means that it is a great 
error for man or woman to hide within oneself 
and exist as a single being. They should live within 
one another as "the fish lives in the sea," immersed 
in love as the fish is enveloped by the water. 

In King Lear, Act I. Scene IV., when the King 
demands to know of Goneril's steward the where- 
abouts of his daughter, and is treated with scant 
courtesy, he becomes enraged and demands to see 
her. When she finally appears she is much pro- 
voked, causing her father to exclaim: 

How now, daughter! What makes that frontlet on? 
Metbinks, you are too much of late i' the frown. 

This is explained by Hudson thus: ''A frontlet, or 
forehead cloth, was worn by ladies of old to prevent 
wrinkles," This may be true, but it is very ques- 
tionable that Shakespeare had any such idea of 
the word frontlet when he used it. Goneril came 
into the presence of her father with a frown on her 
face, therefore he reproved her for having such a 
front (or face) when in his company, telling her that 
too often of late has she had a frown upon her brow. 
If Shakespeare intended to use the word frontlet in 
the manner suggested by Hudson, he surely made 
a pretty mess of it. If, indeed, a frontlet is some- 
thing worn to prevent wrinkles, and Lear is dis- 
pleased at the wrinkles on Goneril's brow (her 
frown), why should he censure her for wearing a 
frontlet? Better take the words at their face value 



and not smother the thought by burying it in a far- 
fetched conclusion. 

It may appear that the author has labored unnec- 
essarily on this point, using a cannon, as it were, 
to kill a fly, but his object is to show the senseless- 
ness of much of the editing of Shakespeare, so as 
to warrant him in advising students not to be gov- 
erned by the opinions of editors but to form them 
for themselves by a studious examination of the 

Much credit is due the thoughtful men who 
labored so long and so hard to correct the errors that 
had crept into the printed works of Shakespeare, 
and the author has no intention to detract from the 
meed of praise to which they are entitled. But he 
feels called upon to register a protest against critics 
and editors injecting their own thoughts into the 
Dramatist's matter. He hopes his doing so cannot 
justly be considered an impertinence. 

The advice so far given deals only with individual 
thoughts, but now we will consider them collectively 
as forming scenes, acts and plays. Remember, we 
are now dealing with the subject of studying Shake- 
speare as distinguished from reading him, therefore 
in order that we may know his works we must 
observe all their characteristics and become familiar 
with his workmanship. 

There are several things for us to learn before 
we can intelligently know an author, among these 
being his manner of construction, the source of his 
plot (original or borrowed), and the powers he wields 



for producing his effects. It is these things that 
stamp an author's individuality upo"n his work and 
show it to have come from his brain. 

In dealing with Shakespeare's construction of his 
plays we are to consider how far he is governed by 
what is known as the law of unity. This law of 
dramatic unity embraces the unity of time, the unity 
of place, and the unity of action. 

So far as the plot is concerned it is well to know 
whether it is original or borrowed. If the latter, we 
should learn something of its source. A plot may 
be either simple or complex. It is simple when it 
deals with one story, and complex when it weaves 
several stories into a whole. The method of devel- 
opment of the plot may consist of a rise and fall 
of action, interest, or storj^, the crisis appearing in 
the middle of the play; or it may rush on to the 
culmination in the form of a catastrophe. 

The third point to consider is what peculiar means 
Shakespeare employs for producing his effects. 
Here we should study his manner of telling his 
story, whether by the action of the characters, or 
by their speeches; the peculiar arrangement of the 
scenes; and his manipulation of the characters. 

The law of dramatic unity means this: A drama 
must possess unity of action, unity of time, and 
unity of place. By unity of action is meant that the 
life of a play, its action, must proceed from one 
controlling cause and be governed by one purpose. 
By unity of time is meant that the development of 
the action must take place within the space of time 

[ 149 ] 


that the actual occurrence would occupy. By unity 
of place is meant that the scene must transpire in 
one location. 

Shakespeare was not governed by these laws, but 
generally acted so free of them that at first thought 
one is apt to think he was ignorant of them, but in 
the The Tempest he keeps so close to these unities 
as to indicate, at least, a knowledge of them. The 
fact that he was aware of the existence of the laws 
of unity is apparent in some of his earlier plays, but 
by refusing to be governed by them in his later mas- 
ter-pieces, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth and Lear, it 
looks as though he did not entertain a very high 
opinion of them. It may be that his genius refused 
to be bound by any law and took its flight whither- 
soever his fancy led him. True, in the great majority 
of his plays he is controlled by some power respecting 
the unity of action, as they all spring from some 
particular motive and are governed by it throughout 
the whole play, but, as a rule, he pays little atten- 
tion to the rules of unity of time and place. If we 
are governed by the Aristotelian definition of the 
law of the unity of action, that nothing must be 
admitted into a play that does not primarily per- 
tain to the development of the plot, then we must 
acknowledge that Shakespeare, in many instances, 
discarded even the law of unity of action. But if, 
on the other hand, we hold this law to mean that 
many stories or themes may be developed in a plot 
provided these stories are so interwoven as to blend 
into the one main story or theme, as in The Mer- 



chant of Venice, then must we confess that Shake- 
speare respected such a law. In other words, he was 
not bound by inflexible rules but worked under 
pliable ones — he was governed by a principle. 

Shakespeare's plots were, in the main, borrowed. 
So far as the stories go there is little that is original 
in his plays. Many of his characters, notably Mer- 
cutio, are of his creation, but the plots of his plays 
he gathered from many sources, taking the material 
of others he "touched it to finer issues." 

Plot, in the sense in which it is used when speak- 
ing of a play, means the story around which the 
drama is constructed. The plot is worked out by 
incidents complex and confusing, twisting in and 
out, across and around at the choice of the author, 
until all is made clear in the last act. 

Shakespeare uses principally the plot develop- 
ment that has been likened to an arch, as in most 
of his plays he has a rise in the incidents forming 
his plots up to the middle of the play and then a 
decline. This form of construction is emphasized in 
Macbeth, Richard HI., The Merchant of Venice, 
Hamlet, Lear, and Othello, and is used in most of the 
plays that are, in the main, the work of Shakespeare. 

The arch-like structure of plot is magnificentlj'" 
illustrated in the tragedy of Othello. The story 
commences in the first act, rises to its height in the 
third act, and then passes down to its close at the 
end of the fifth act. At the moment in the third act 
that Othello says to lago, "Now art thou my lieu- 
tenant," showing that he is convinced of the guilt 



of his wife, the climax, or the center of the arch, 
has been reached, and from that point the fateful 
story passes along to the catastrophe of Desdemona's 
murder, the unveiling of lago, and the suicide of the 
broken-hearted Othello. 

The form of plot may be either simple or complex. 
The Merchant of Venice and Lear are examples of 
the complex plot, as they are made of many stories, 
distinct combinations and separate actions that are 
woven together into a play, while The Tragedy of 
Hamlet, telling but one story that has Hamlet for 
its center, typifies clearly the simple plot. Shylock 
and Lear are likewise the pivots of The Merchant 
of Venice and of Lear, but in both these plays sev- 
eral stories are introduced pertaining to other char- 
acters and interwoven into a whole, while in Hamlet 
and in Julius Caesar no story is introduced that has 
not the central character for its object. This it is 
that makes a plot either complex or simple. 

The plays of Shakespeare are written in iambic 
pentameter and prose, with other verse interspersed. 
For the information of the young student of these 
pages it may be well to state that an iambus is a 
foot of two syllables, an unaccented followed by an 
accented one ; as presume, contain, etc. Pentameter 
is a line of verse having five feet, each foot contain- 
ing two syllables or beats; as, 

The qual | i ty | of mer | cy is | not strain'd. 

Iambic pentameter, therefore, is a line of verse con- 



taining five feet, each foot having two syllables, the 
first one unaccented and the second accented ; as, 
0, par I don me, | thou bleed ] ing piece | of earth, 

Shakespeare did not follow blindly this rule of 
metrical construction, therefore we find in his 
works many double endings; such as, 

This was | your hus | band. Look | you now | what fol | lows. 

Here there is half a foot too much in the line, mak- 
ing eleven beats instead of ten, one more than is 
called for by the meter. This excess of syllables is 
also termed hypermetrical because of the excess in 
the measure, and is to be found most often in those 
plays that are supposed to have been written in the 
later period of Shakespeare's work. Hamlet contains 
many instances of this excess of measure, the fam- 
ous soliloquy opening with a hypermetrical line : 

To be I or not | to be | that is | the ques | tion. 

The double ending is also known as the female end- 

It has been held by several editors that the ap- 
proximate date of the birth of each play can be 
determined by internal evidence disclosing the fre- 
quency of double endings, the occurrence of "end- 
stopped" lines, the appearance of rhyme, the fre- 
quency of classical allusions, and the use of puns. 
These unquestionably are aids in determining the 
period when a play was written, but they are not 
infallible, and should only be accepted as conclusive 
when re-enforced by evidence of a different nature. 



The "end-stopped" line or couplet is one where 
the thought finishes with the line or the couplet; as, 

Can no man tell me of my unthrifty son? 
'Tis full three months since I did see him last: 
If any plague hang over us, 'tis he/* 

The "run-on" line, known technically as the 

enjamhed, carries the idea through two or more lines ; 


Here is your husband; like a mildew'd ear, 
Blasting his wholesome brother. Have you eyes? 
Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed. 
And batten on this moor? Ha! have you eyes? 
You cannot call it love; for, at your age, 
The hey-day in the blood is tame; it's humble, 
And waits upon the judgment; and what judgment 
Would step from this to this?'" 

There are also lines in Shakespeare where the 
number of actual feet is insufficient to make a com- 
plete verse of iambic pentameter, the deficiency being 
made up by a pause as. 

Under my battlements. Come, you spirits 

In this line, the pause after the word "come" takes 
the place of half a foot in the meter, giving the time 
that belongs to a whole foot to this monosyllable. 
Some editors advise repeating the word "come" 
in order to make the five feet. It is, however, unnec- 
essary to do so, as the pause takes the place of the 
half foot. In some lines an extra word will be 
found; as, 
And fill I me, from | the crown | to the toe, | top-full 

1* "King Richard II.," Act V. Scene III. 
IS "Hamlet," Act III. Scene IV. 



but this apparent error is remedied by blending the 
two words "to the" into one half of a foot. It is 
this refusal of Shakespeare to be bound by hard set 
rules that gives his poetry its wonderful power, 
flexibility and smoothness. 

. . . The raven | himself I is hoarse, | 
That croaks | the fa | tal en \ trance of | Duncan I 
Under | my laat | tlements. | Come, 1 1 you spirits | 
That tend | on mor | tal thoughts, | unsex | me here | 
And fill I me, from | the crown | to the toe, | top-full | 
Of dir I est eru | elty Ml'' 

This pause is termed the Caesura, or sense, pause. 

It is often used in the manner indicated in this 

example. It is also employed by Shakespeare in 

the middle of a foot and in the center of the verse ; 


It is I the bright | day 1 1 that ] brings forth | the adder. ' ' 

What is known as the "speech-ending" test, the 
ending of the speech with the line, is also of value in 
deciding the probable time of the writing of a play. 
Those of the supposed early period possess many 
speeches that end with the line, whereas those of 
the later period possess few. Here is an example of 
a speech ending on the line, taken from Love's 
Labor's Lost: 

A -wither'd hermit, five score winters worn. 
Might shake off fifty, looking in her eye: 
Beauty doth varnish age, as if new-born. 
And gives the crutch the cradle's infancy. 
0, 'tis the sun that maketh all things shine!'* 

1* "Macbeth," Act I. Scene V. 

^ '' "Julius Caesar," Act II. Scene I. 

1* "Love's Labor's Lost," Act IV. Scene III. 



The following extract from King Lear illustrates 
the speech ending in the middle of a line : 

Lear, Sir, there she stands: 

If aught within that little seeming substance, 
Or all of it, with our displeasure piee'd. 
And nothing more, may fitly like your grace. 
She's there, and she is yours. 

Burgundy, I know no answer. 

Lear, Will you, with those infirmities she owes. 
Unfriended, new-adopted to our hate, 
Dower'd with our curse, and stranger'd with our oath, 
Take her, or leave her? 

Burgundy, Pardon me, royal sir; 

Election makes not up on such conditions.^' 

Light endings are words of one syllable at the 

close of a line whereon the voice can rest only in a 

slight degree. Light endings are such words as — 

are, art, am, can, could, hath, thou, he, she, they, 

shall, will, etc; as. 

Out, treacherous villain ! 
Thou call'st on him that hates thee: it was he 
That made the overture of thy treason to us,'" 

Weak endings are words of one syllable at the 
close of a line whereon the voice does not rest but 
passes on quickly to the next line. Weak endings 
are words such as — at, of, from, in, on, by, if, and, 
or, but, nor, etc. Weak endings are generally preposi- 
tions or conjunctions ; as. 

Let's see his pockets : these letters that he speaks of 
May be my friends. ^ ^ 

"•' "King Lear," Act I. Scene I. 

»o "King Lear," Act III. Scene VII. 

2 1 "King Lear," Act IV. Scene VI. 




He hath commission from thy wife and me 
To hang Cordelia in the prison, and 
To lay the blame upon her own despair 
That she fordid herself." 

The student of the plays of Shakespeare should 
not fail to note the plot development, grasp the 
central theme, and study carefully the bearing the 
characters have upon one another. One of Shake- 
speare's great principles was to always have a fixed 
purpose apparent in his work. Let the student ex- 
amine each play with the object of finding this pur- 
pose. When found, it will make clear the object 
the Dramatist had for the creation of the drama 
along the lines he adopted. 

As the author hopes this work will fall into the 
hands of young students, as well as those of mature 
years, he deems it well to explain some terms that, 
while perfectly plain to a large majority, may be 
obscure to a few. The words folio and quarto are 
used many times in this work, so in order that their 
meaning may be perfectly clear to all who read 
these pages, the following definitions are given: 
The word folio means having two leaves. When it 
is used in reference to printed matter, it signifies 
that the sheet of paper on which the printing ap- 
pears has been folded once, thus making two leaves, 
each being one half of the sheet. Quarto means that 
the sheet has been folded twice, each sheet making 
four leaves. 

2 3 "King Lear," Act V. Scene III. 



The author trusts that the hints and suggestions 
contained in this chapter will prove a source of 
inspiration to all who would know how to study 
Shakespeare. The plays of the Bard of Avon are a 
priceless gift to humanity, and will prove to the 
faithful student, next to the study of Nature herself, 
the best of all means for gaining intellectual devel- 
opment along broad and natural lines. 



The Disputed Plays 

IT IS evident to the author that in the collected 
works of Shakespeare there are plays that he 
merely ''touched up" and others with which he had 
nothing whatever to do. Thirty-seven plays are in- 
cluded in most of the modem editions of the Dram- 
atist's works, but from both internal and external 
evidence it appears that The First Part of King Henry 
VI., King Henry VIII., and The Taming of the Shrew 
are the productions of more than one mind, Shake- 
speare in these plays merely elaborating and embel- 
lishing the Avorks of others. 

There is conclusive external evidence to show 
that plays dealing with the subjects contained in 
The First Part of King Henry VI. existed long before 
the commencement of Shakespeare's career as a 
dramatist, and there is unmistakable internal evi- 
dence to show that much of this old matter is in the 
play that is now ascribed to him. In all his known 
works Shakespeare was fair in his estimation of 
the French, but in this play they are depicted as 
mean and cowardly. There are also passages that 
must have been added at a later day than when the 
play was originally written, as the versification in 
parts is more smooth, the imagery richer, and the 
emotions more deftly depicted. In fact, the play is 



so uneven in quality and style as to stamp it as being 
the work of at least two minds. This point can be 
demonstrated by comparing the well-constructed 
scene showing the dramatic rupture among the 
nobles in The Temple Garden, Act II. Scene IV., 
with the scene that precedes, or the one that follows 

Much the same reasons given for declaring the major 
portion of The First Part of King Henry VI. to be 
the work of other hands than Shakespeare's apply 
to both King Henry VIII. and The Taming of the 
Shrew. Portions of these three plays are undeniably 
Shakespearean in their character, some passages 
clearly denoting that they emanated from the same 
mind that produced the master plays that are known 
to be Shakespeare's, one character in particular, 
Cardinal Wolsey, bearing the impress of his genius 
and showing that it came from the same source as 
did Hamlet and Macbeth, but the presence of these 
genuine portions only emphasizes the spuriousness 
of the remainder. 

Pericles, Titus Andronicus, and Timon of Athens 
show little sign of his handiwork. In the opinion 
of the author, these three plays were entirely written 
by other men. It is likely that they were presented 
by their authors to the theatre for production, that 
Shakespeare did no more than rearrange them., and 
that they were attributed to him because it was to 
the interest of the management of the theatre to 
have them appear as the works of a known writer. 
This opinion is founded on a careful study of the 

[ 160 ] 


plays and all the known circumstances surrounding 
them. It is here given for what it is worth in order 
that the student in studying Shakespeare may ac- 
count in a plausible manner for the inequality of 
the work throughout certain of the plays that are 
ascribed to him. 

With the stroke of a pen three works should not 
be stricken from the list of supposed Shakespearean 
plays, a fitting respect for the opinions of others 
demanding that reasons be assigned for their re- 
moval, so the author will here present what he con- 
siders his warrant for not including Timon of 
Athens, Pericles, and Titus Andronicus among the 
accepted works of the Dramatist. 

Timon of Athens in no wise resembles the known 
works of Shakespeare. It possesses none of the 
characteristics of his style, his diction, his vocabu- 
lary, or his construction. It is almost devoid of 
action, so much so as to make it unsuited for the 
stage. It is a fact that Shakespeare wrote his plays 
for stage purposes — to be acted, and not read — why, 
then, should he compose a piece utterly unsuited 
for stage uses? Shakespeare was an actor and ap- 
preciated to the full the necessity of action in a 
play. He never neglected its introduction even into 
philosophical tragedies such as Hamlet or fanciful 
comedies such as The Tempest. Therefore, unless 
some sufficient reason is given for his having pur- 
posely omitted action in Timon of Athens, its ab- 
sence, coupled with the failure to produce direct 
evidence to the contrary, constitutes good ground 



for deciding that the play was not of his making. 
As it appears in the original edition it has no 
arrangement into acts and scenes, nor are the stage 
directions at all explicit. The whole of some scenes 
and portions of others might he omitted without 
loss to the play, while many of the characters are 
weakly drawn and others are unnecessary. All 
these things are so un-Shakespearean, not appearing 
even in the Dramatist's earliest works, as to greatly 
strengthen the absence of action as a reason for the 
rejection of this play. 

Titus Andronicus is the next play to consider. A 
play of this name is known to have been in existence 
when Shakespeare was a very young man, possibly 
not more than twenty years of age. Ben Jonson, 
writing in 1614, plainly states that Androiiicus was 
known to the theatre-going public twenty-five or 
thirty years previous to that date, when Shakespeare 
was in his early twenties, or about the time he left 
Stratford. This early play may reasonably be set 
down as not coming from Shakespeare either in 
whole or in part. The first known edition of this 
play, a quarto published in 1600, does not credit the 
play to Shakespeare, but it appears in The First 
Folio among the tragedies. The hand of Shake- 
speare is nowhere to be seen from the opening to the 
close of the play, the versification being artificial 
and the characters unnatural. It seems to the 
author that there are sufficient inelegancies of style 
and manner in the play itself, so little evidence of 



Shakespeare in it, as to not only warrant but to 
demand its exclusion from his works. 

Pericles, Prince of Tyre, is more Shakespearean 
than either Timon or Andronicus, but there is no 
more outward evidence to warrant its assignment 
to the Dramatist than that which can be furnished 
for the other two plays and very little that is con- 
tained in the play itself. It does not appear in The 
First Folio, but was printed in quarto form in 1609, 
and reissued in 1611, 1619, 1630 and 1635. The play 
possesses some good passages but the early acts are 
weak and the entire play, except for these particular 
passages, bears no resemblance to the handiwork of 
Shakespeare. It is not in his style, nor does it bear 
the impress of his genius at any stage of his career. 

Some editors claim that these three plays were 
written by Shakespeare during his early life as a 
dramatist, others say they are in the main the work 
of other men and that Shakespeare rearranged and 
improved them, but to the author's mind the plays 
themselves cry out against both decisions. Let a 
person familiar with the known works of Shake- 
speare, divesting himself of prejudice, read the three 
rejected plays, and he will, in all probability, reach 
the conclusion that they are no more the product of 
the Shakespearean mind than are The London 
Prodigal, The Life of Sir John Oldcastle, The Two 
Noble Kinsmen, and the other plays that were 
falsely attributed to him. The hand of Shakespeare 
is clearly seen tracing the lineaments of Rosalind, 
Juliet, Portia, Hamlet, Othello, Lear, Macbeth, and 



his other known productions, but nowhere can its 
influence be perceived in Andronicus, Tamora, Peri- 
cles, or Timon. 

The opening of Scene III. Act II. of Macbeth is 
believed by many critics and editors to have been 
interpolated by the actors. It is, on the contrary, 
thoroughly Shakespearean and serves the purpose 
of emphasizing the fact that all the members of the 
household of Macbeth were made drunk in order 
that the murder of Duncan might the better be 
accomplished. Even Macbeth and his wife drank 
heavily that night so as to harden themselves to do 
the deed of murder, Lady Macbeth saying: 

That which hath made them drunk, hath made me bold : 
What hath quench'd them, hath given me fire — 

We find a warrant for claiming that entire plays 
and portions of others that have been credited to 
Shakespeare do not properly belong to him from the 
following facts: (1) There is a certain peculiarity 
of style running through all his productions that is 
strictly Shakespearean — that is, common to him and 
foreign to all others. (2) There is a harmony in his 
meter that gives it a character that produces smooth- 
ness or ruggedness as befits the impression to be 
conveyed. (3) The marvelous skill with which his 
characters are developed, distinct traits being shown 
in all. (4) Vividness of imagery that is invariably 
in accordance with Nature. (5) The strength of 
action that animates all his plays. (6) Perfect con- 
trol over the coloring of the emotions by the char- 



acters. (7) A movement of characters as though 
governed by Nature and not by man. 

Judging the thirty-seven plays by these standards 
it appears to the author that Pericles, Timon, and 
Andronicus should be wholly rejected, and that The 
First Part of King Henry VI., King Henry VIII., 
and The Taming of the Shrew should be accepted 
only in part. 



The Authorship of the Works Known 
as Shakespeare' s 

IT WAS not until 1856, two hundred and forty 
years after the death of William Shakespeare, 
that his right to be considered the author of plays 
which for so many years bore his name was called 
in question. In January, 1856, there appeared in 
Putnam 's Magazine an article by Delia Bacon claim- 
ing that she had discovered the hidden fact that 
the writings known as Shakespeare's were really 
the work of Francis Bacon. 

Delia Bacon was a woman of education and refine- 
ment, the daughter of Rev. David Bacon, an early 
Western Missionary, but no relation to Francis 
Bacon, She was born in Tallmage, Ohio, February 
2, 1811. She early conceived the notion that Francis 
Bacon was the author of the works ascribed to Wil- 
liam Shakespeare, and she became so possessed with 
the idea that she put aside all other pursuits and 
went to England in 1853 in search of facts to sup- 
port her contention. She remained there five years, 
underwent many privations, and after going to 
Stratford-on-Avon with the avowed intention of 
opening the tomb of William Shakespeare in search 
of papers which she believed to be buried there, she 
went insane, was returned to her friends in Hart- 



ford, Conn., in April, 1858, and died there, September 
2, 1859. 

When about thirty-five years of age Miss Bacon 
had a love affair with a Rev. Alexander McWhorter, 
a clergyman ten years her junior, which turned out 
unfortunately for her, and had a distressing effect 
upon her mentality. This affair was gossiped about 
in every village, town and city in New England, and 
the experiences she then underwent undoubtedly 
account for her subsequent insanity. It is the opin- 
ion of many good judges that her mind became 
unbalanced at the time of this affair, and finally 
gave way under her privations and sufferings while 
in England. The mantle of charity, the charity of 
the world's silence concerning this epoch in the sad 
life of this well-meaning woman, should be thrown 
over her, for if she erred, she certainly suffered, and 
it should be borne in mind that she "loved not 
wisely but too well." 

The result of her research and labors regarding 
the authorship of Shakespeare is told in a book en- 
titled The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare 
Unfolded, and it certainly must appear to an un- 
prejudiced reader that this work contains many 
and strong indications that its author's mind was 
unbalanced at the time she was engaged in writing 

At about the same time that Delia Bacon voiced 
her claimed-discovery, William Henry Smith, an 
Englishman, put forth the same idea in a paper 
he read before a debating society, which he after- 



wards put in the form of a letter and sent to Lord 
Ellesmere, the chairman of the Shakespearean 
Society. Mr, Smith then wrote a more detailed 
account of his version of the authorship of Shake- 
speare's plays and issued it in book form. This 
aroused a controversy which continues to this day. 

It remained for an American, Ignatius Donnelly, 
to put forth a claim that he had discovered a cipher 
in the plays of Shakespeare that disclosed the fact 
that William Shakespeare was an illiterate, gross, 
sensuous creature, and that the plays were written 
by Francis Bacon. 

Ignatius Donnelly was a politician, humorist, 
author and orator. He was born in Philadelphia, 
Pa., Nov. 3, 1831, and died in Minneapolis, Minn., 
Jan. 2, 1901. He was educated in the public schools 
of his native city, studied law, and was admitted to the 
Bar in 1852. In 1856 he removed to Minnesota, where 
he was elected successively lieutenant-governor and 
governor of that state. In 1863 he was elected to Con- 
gress and served three terms. These facts are given 
in order that it may be seen that Mr. Donnelly was 
a man of education and experience, and to show that 
if he erred in his conclusions it was not through 
ignorance. He was, however, a man who was in- 
clined to wander after strange gods, for in 1872 he 
left his political party and followed the leadership 
of Peter Cooper, being chairman of the National 
Anti-Monopoly Convention that nominated Cooper 
for President of the United States, and in 1899 he 



was the nominee of the Anti-Fusion wing of the 
People 's party for Vice-President. 

Now let us consider the claims as set forth by 
Ignatius Donnelly in what he calls The Great 

The Learning of Shakespeare. It is claimed by 
Donnelly and others that Shakespeare had little 
schooling, and they delight in quoting Ben Jonson's 
"small Latin and less Greek;" some others say that 
he possessed natural wit but no art, and that it was 
the general wonder he should be so excellent a poet 
with so little learning. 

The known facts as to Shakespeare's schooling are 
these : His education was received at the grammar 
school of his native town. Here he studied the 
English branches and gained some knowledge of 
Latin. He is supposed to have attended this school 
for about six years. The information regarding the 
school life of Shakespeare is exceedingly meager, 
and nothing more regarding it than is here set down 
can honestly be claimed. There was, however, a 
period of five years in his life, soon after he went 
to London, during which we have absolutely no 
information concerning him. The fact is, that he 
apparently dropped out of existence between the 
years 1587 and 1592 except for his name being 
attached to a petition addressed to the Privy Council 
under date of November 1589. He may have been 
in London all that time, and it is surmised he was, 
and it is supposed that during this gap in his known 
life he was bettering his education generally, and 



particularly studying French and Italian. On March 
3, 1592, Henry VI. was acted at the Rose Theatre, 
and it is considered by able authorities that this 
play was Shakespeare's First Part of King Henry 
VI. If this is correct, the year 1592 marks the 
known opening of Shakespeare's career as an 
author. In support of this contention, Israel Gol- 
lancz, in his Annals of the Life of Shakespeare, cites 
the following: 

In this same year, 1592, on September 4, died, 
Robert Greene; on the 20th day of the month his 
Groatsworth of Wit was published, edited by Chet- 
tle. In this work there is an address to his "quon- 
dam acquaintance that spend their wits in making 
plays, R. G. wisheth a better exercise and wisdom 
to prevent his extremities." Marlowe, Nash, and 
Peele, are probably the scholar-plajnyrights warned 
by Greene no longer to trust the players. "Base- 
minded men all three of you, if by my misery ye be 
not warned : for unto none of j'ou, like me, sought 
those burrs to cleave — those puppets, I mean, 
that speak from our mouth, those antics garnished 
in our colors. Is it not strange that I, to whom 
they have all been beholding : is it not like that you, 
to whom they have all been beholding, shall (were 
ye in that case that I am now) be both at once of 
them forsaken? Yes, trust them not: for there 
is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, 
that with his Tiber's heart wrapt in a player's hide 
supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank- 
verse as the best of you : and being an absolute Jo- 
hannes fac-totum, is in his own conceit the only 
shake-scene in a country. that I might entreat 
your rare wits to be employed in more profitable 
courses: and let these apes imitate your past ex- 
cellence, and never more acquaint them with your 
admired inventions. 

. . . Yet whilst you may, seek your better 



masters! for it is a pity men of such rare wits 
should be subject to such rude grooms," 

The original of the travestied line is to be found 
in The Third Part of King Henry VI, "0 tiger's 
heart wrapt in a woman's hide," and there can be 
no doubt that here we have the first direct evidence 
of Shakespeare's growing pre-eminence as an actor 
and as a playwright. 

The reason for Greene's writing thus bitterly of 
Shakespeare was that the latter had made use of 
some of the former's material and worked it into 
his plays. After the appearance of the Groats- 
worth of Wit, Shakespeare undoubtedly was 
indebted to Greene for much of the material of The 
Winter's Tale and The Taming of the Shrew, and 
previous to this period, during Greene's life, Shake- 
speare had not hesitated to work over some of 
Greene's ideas, and for this reason he called him 
"an upstart crow beautified with our feathers." 

Three months after the appearance of the Groats- 
worth of Wit, its publisher, Chettle, issued this 
apology : 

"I am as sorry as if the original fault had been 
my fault, because myself have seen his [i. e. Shake- 
speare's] demeanor no less civil than he excellent 
in the quality he professes, besides divers of wor- 
ship have reported his uprightness of dealing, 
which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace 
in writing that approves his art." 

The schooling of Shakespeare may have been 
limited, but extensive schooling is not necessary to 
the making of a poet, a prose writer or a dramatist. 
That Shakespeare had schooling enough to enable 



him to read and write is conceded, that he read 
studiously is shown in his extensive knowledge of 
the characters and events mentioned and narrated 
in the Bible, and the fact that he was a close ob- 
server of Nature and a student of man is attested 
throughout his writings. He was, moreover, an 
omnivorous reader, and in his position of part owner 
of the Blackfriars and the Globe theatres he was 
brought in contact with the works of other dram- 
atists whose ideas he did not hesitate to adopt and 
embellish; and it was his great ability to beautify 
and enlarge the ideas of others that constituted an 
important part of his peculiar genius. Take this 
trait away from Shakespeare and little remains, 
consequently the works known as Shakespeare's 
cannot justly be attributed to a purely original 
thinker and writer. He gathered information from 
^11 sources, worked the material over in his own 
mind, gave it out in his own manner, and it became, 
in its new garb, his own matter. It took many 
minds to furnish the mind of Shakespeare — his was 
a reservoir into which many tributaries flowed — ^but 
it required not the trained mind of a great scholar 
to fashion his plays. It demanded rather the quali- 
ties of a deep thinker, a keen observer and a clever 
workman ; and these attributes William Shakespeare 
possessed. "The question is not who furnished the 
stone, or who owned the quarry, but who chiselled 
the statue."^ 

The question is then asked. Where are the books 

1 From a lecture on Shakespeare by Robert G. Ingersoll. 



that he read, and from which he gained the informa- 
tion that was worked into his plays? This question 
cannot be fully answered. We know, however, that 
such books as he possessed would not be found at his 
house in Stratford, because most of his literary 
labors were performed in London and his books 
would naturally be where his work was done. In 
his native town, Rowe tells us, ''the latter part of 
his life was 3pent, as all men of sense will wish theirs 
may be, in ease, retirement, and the conversation 
of his friends," which tends to show that little of 
his literary work was done outside of London. 

The Globe Theatre, of which Shakespeare was 
part owner, and where, most likely, much of his 
literary labor was performed, was destroyed by fire 
on June 29, 1613, and it is possible that Shake- 
speare's manuscripts and books were then destroyed. 
The fire was very rapid, and practically nothing 
was saved from the playhouse. 

In Shakespeare's will he appoints his son-in-law, 
John Hall, and his daughter Susanna his executors, 
consequently if his books and papers were then in 
existence and under his control they would pass into 
their hands. After Shakespeare's death his daugh- 
ter Susanna and her husband became puritanical in 
their religious views and turned against the theatre 
and all that related to it. It is likely they then de- 
stroyed all books and papers pertaining to the stage 
that had come into their possession by the will of 

Here, then, are two reasonable explanations for 



the inability to produce the books and manuscripts 
of Shakespeare. 

If Shakespeare had been a disreputable, unedu- 
cated person such as the Baconians picture him, 
would it not have been ridiculous for him to put 
forth claims to the authorship of those wonderful 
productions? Would his fellow authors have 
acknowledged his claims? Would men like Essex 
and Southampton have associated with him and 
allowed him the use of their names and money? Is 
it not preposterous to even suppose that Bacon 
would select such a man as his mask? Look at the 
question from any or all of these standpoints, and 
it must appear that Shakespeare was a man of edu- 
cation and refinement, who was associated with 
gentlemen, and was capable of producing the works 
that have for so many years been ascribed to him. 

It is known that Shakespeare placed no value, 
except a pecuniary one, upon his plays, and after 
they had served their purpose at the theatre he 
cared not what became of them. On the other hand, 
Bacon carefully and methodically arranged his 
written matter, much of it being preserved to this 
day, consequently it is but fair to assume that if 
Bacon had produced works far superior to any 
which he acknowledged as his, he would have re- 
tained the manuscripts and made some mention of 
them in his will, bequeathing them as a rich legacy 
unto his issue,* On this question Donnelly says:' 

* And, dying, mention it within their wills, 
Bequeathing it as a rich legacy 

Unto their issue. — "Julius Caesar," Act III. Scene II. 

* "The Great Cryptogram," page 99. 



When the crushing blow of shame and humili- 
ation fell ujjon Francis Bacon in 1621, and he ex- 
pected to die under it, he hurriedly drew a short 
will. It does not exceed in length one page of 
Spedding's book, and yet in this brief document 
he found time to say: 

"My compositions unpublished, or the frag- 
ments of them, I require my servant HaiTis to de- 
liver to my brother Constable, to the end that if 
any of these be fit, in his judgment, to be pub- 
lished, he may accordingly dispose of them. And 
in particular I wish the Elogium I wrote. In 
felicem memoriam Eeginae EUzahetJiae, may be 
published. And to my brother Constable I give 
all my books; and to my servant Harris for his 
service and care fifty pieces of gold, pursed up." 

And when Bacon came to draw his last will and 
testament, he devoted a large part of it to the 
preservation of his writings. He says: 

"For my name and memory, I leave it to men's 
charitable speeches, and to foreign nations, and 
the next ages. But as to the durable part of my 
memory, which consisteth of my works and writ- 
ings, I desire my executors and especially Sir John 
Constable, and my very good friend Mr. Bosvile, to 
take care that of all my writings, both of English 
and of Latin, there may be books fair bound and 
placed in the King's libraiy, and in the library 
of the University of Cambridge, and in the library 
of Trinity College, where myself was bred, and in 
the library of the University of Oxonford, and in 
the library of my lord of Canterbury, and in the 
library of Eaton." 

Then he bequeaths his register books of orations 
and letters to the Bishop of Lincoln ; and he further 
directs his executors to "take into their hands all 
my papers whatsoever, which are either in cabinets, 
boxes or presses, and them to seal up until they 
may at their leisure peruse them." 

Not a word here regarding any plays or dramatic 

writings, no mention of any hidden cipher whereby 



his ownership to works far greater than any men- 
tioned or disposed of in his will is to be proved. Is 
it not reasonable to suppose that, if for any reason 
he desired to hide his connection with the plays 
from the world during his life, he would, at the 
approach of death, have made public the fact that 
would have cast greater renown upon his life than 
any other of his performances? Would not this 
man who directs that all his writings shall be pub- 
lished in book form and deposited in libraries have 
mentioned the fact that he was the author of Hamlet, 
Macbeth, Othello, and Lear, if such had been the case ? 
Would he not have directed that all these wonderful 
plays should be gathered together and put in endur- 
ing shape? Surely he would not have mentioned the 
Elogium and remained silent regarding the plays. 
A man as jealous of his literary reputation as Bacon 
was would never have bequeathed his register books 
of orations and letters to the Bishop of Lincoln, and 
made no disposition of the greatest dramatic litera- 
ture of all times. Bacon lived until 1626, ten years 
after the death of Shakespeare, and yet he put forth 
no claim to the authorship of the plays while he 
lived, nor left any written claim to any title in them 
on his death. Such would not be consistent with 
our knowledge of the character of Bacon, if the 
plays had been the product of his mind. 

The claim put forth by the Baconians that Shake- 
speare was a Catholic, Bacon a Protestant, and that 
the plays contain evidence to show that the author 
was a Protestant and that consequently Bacon 



wrote Shakespeare, is dealt with in another chapter 
of this book; but here a reply will be made to the 
outside evidence they offer concerning Shakespeare's 

We are told that William Shakespeare of Strat- 
ford died a Catholic, We have this upon the au- 
thority of Rev. Mr. Davies, who says, writing after 
1688, "he died a Papist." Upon the question of 
the politics of a great man, the leader of either one 
of the political parties of his neighborhood is likely 
to be well informed; it is in the line of his inter- 
ests and thoughts. Upon the question of the one 
great man of Stratford we may trust the testimony 
of the clergjonan of the parish. He could hardly 
be mistaken. There can be little doubt that Wil- 
liam Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon died a 

This certainly is specious reasoning. At first 
glance it looks plausible, but when we consider that 
the evidence of the Reverend gentleman is written 
"after 1688," seventy-two years after the death of 
Shakespeare, and that he gives no authority for his 
statement, merely saying, "he died a Papist," the 
thing becomes a trifle "light as air" and should be 
given no credence. In the Presidential campaign of 
1908 it was openly charged by several clergymen 
that William H. Taft was a heretic, a non-Christian, 
and therefore unworthy to be the chief magistrate of 
a Christian nation. Is the evidence of these men to 
be accepted as proof of the fact that President Taft 
did not believe in the teachings of Christ? These 
men, however, were contemporary with President 

* "The fireat Cryptogram," Chapter V. page 196. 



Taft, whereas the Rev. Mr. Davies gives his evidence 
seventy-two years after Shakespeare has ''shuffled 
off this mortal coil." What, in reality, did the 
reverend gentleman know of the facts? Nothing. 
His evidence, therefore, amounts to nothing. Had 
it been cited that Shakespeare was thoroughly fa- 
miliar with the services of the Roman Catholic 
Church, that he pictured her priests as good and 
holy men, depicting them in the characters of 
Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet and Friar 
Francis in Much Ado About Nothing as priests who 
would relflect honor upon any church, the evidence 
would have been worthy of consideration, but when it 
is merely stated that a Rev. Mr, Davies says ''he 
died a Papist" it deserves only the consideration 
that is given hearsay testimony. The Baconians 
would make "William Shakespeare a Catholic, 
Francis Bacon a liberal Protestant; and they claim 
that the characters of the Friars are the production 
of the mind of the tolerant Protestant. 

The known facts regarding the religious training 
and belief of William Shakespeare are as follows: 

The teacher of the school at Stratford at the time 
the boy Shakespeare attended it was the Rev. 
Thomas Hunt, Episcopal curate of the parish of Lud- 
dington which adjoined Stratford. He was in 
charge of this school from 1572 until 1580, conse- 
quently Shakespeare was under this Protestant 
clergyman from the time he was eight years of age 
until he left school. 

Richard Bifield was vicar of the Stratford parish 



church where William Shakespeare and all his 
brothers and sisters were baptized. He was not only 
a Protestant, he was also a Puritan, being known 
throughout the country for the severity of his doc- 
trines and his zeal in carrying them out. Within 
this Protestant church, within its chancel, lie buried 
Shakespeare, his wife, his daughter, his son-in-law. 
This certainly is strong evidence to show that the 
poet was not a Catholic. 

It is not safe even to assume that John Shake- 
speare, the father of William, died a Roman Catholic. 
He was undoubtedly bom a Roman Catholic, most 
Englishmen of his time were members of that 
church, the break between Henry VHI. and the Pope 
not occurring until 1531, but he held office under 
Queen Elizabeth, being chief burgess of Stratford, 
and was compelled to conform to the new religion in 
order to do so. By the statute of Elizabeth, 1558-9, 
all civil magistrates were compelled to take the 
oath known as the oath of supremacy, swearing to 
conform to the then established or reformed reli- 
gion, and John Shakespeare must have done this 
before entering upon his duties as chief magistrate 
of Stratford. From all the evidence at hand it is 
only fair to assume that William Shakespeare was, 
in religion, what is known as a Protestant, though 
he never could have been a Puritan. 

Now who was this Francis Bacon, this "tolerant 

Francis Bacon was born in London, England, 
January 22, 1561, and died there April 9, 1626. He 



was the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon by his second 
wife, Anne, daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke, form- 
erly tutor to Edward VI. During the reign of 
Henry VIII. the Bacons were supposed to be Protes- 
tants, but when Mary ascended the throne they con- 
formed to the Catholic religion, heard mass and took 
the sacraments. When Elizabeth became queen 
they renounced the Catholic Church and became 
professed Protestants, thus suiting their religious 
professions to the exigencies of the times. 

Sir Nicholas Bacon was a famous English states- 
man who was renowned for the clearness of his views, 
his knowledge of ecclesiastical matters, his learning, 
and his wisdom. He was Lord Keeper of the great 
seal in Queen Elizabeth's reign. 

The mother of Francis Bacon was a woman of 
considerable force of character, much skiU in the 
classical studies, well cultured, and a staunch mem- 
ber of the Puritan Church. From this stock, then, 
came the "tolerant Protestant." 

Francis Bacon was undoubtedly a remarkable 
man. He possessed, perhaps, the greatest philo- 
sophical mind of modern times. He was a man of 
education, refinement and deep learning, but he was 
false to friendship and morally corrupt. When he 
was struggling for recognition at the court of Eliza- 
beth, and well-nigh discouraged over his failure to 
secure advancement, the Earl of Essex interested 
himself in his behalf and made a strenuous effort in 
1595 to have him appointed Attorney-General and, 
failing in this, petitioned the queen to appoint him 



to the solicitorship made vacant by the promotion 
of Coke. Failing in this also, he presented him with 
a piece of land worth about £1800. This, in those 
days, was a princely sum, and was given to Bacon 
by the noble Earl to allay the disappointment he 
experienced at his failure to secure office under the 
crown. How did Bacon repay this friend? When 
Essex, in 1601, was on trial for his life, charged 
with high treason. Bacon was present as one of the 
Queen's counsel, and when the evidence was appar- 
ently much in favor of the accused. Bacon, who was 
only a secondary counselor, unnecessarily took 
part in the discussion and attacked the evidence of 
the Earl of Essex who claimed that he had only 
done what was essential to the preservation of his 
life from the attacks of his enemies. Thus were the 
efforts of Coke, the principal counsel, who had en- 
deavored to open up a means of escape for Essex, 
brought to naught, and thus did Bacon go out of 
his way to blast the life of the man who had many 
times befriended him when nothing more than his 
silence was necessary to his salvation. 

Bacon's moral turpitude is shown in his behavior 
as judge when he accepted bribes to silence or con- 
trol his convictions. In 1617 Bacon became Lord 
Chancellor and was entrusted with the great seal, 
under the title of Lord Keeper, but it was not long 
before he as basely betrayed the confidence of 
King James as he had previously betrayed the friend- 
ship of the Earl of Essex. This chapter in his life is 
described thus in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, an 



account which is made as favorable for Bacon as 
the circumstances could possibly allow: 

On March 14th (1621) one Aubrey appeared 
at the bar of the House, and charged Bacon with 
having received from him a sum of money while his 
suit was going on, and with having afterwards de- 
cided against him. Bacon's letter on this occasion 
is worthy of serious attention ; he evidently thought 
the charge was but part of the deliberate scheme 
to ruin him which had alreadj' been in progress. 
A second accusation (Egerton's case) followed im- 
mediately after, and was investigated by the House, 
who, satisfied that thej' had just matter for repre- 
hension, appointed the 19th for a conference with 
the Lords. On that day Bacon, as he feared, was 
too ill to attend. He wrote to the Lords excusing 
his absence, requesting them to appoint a con- 
venient time for his defense and cross-examination 
of witnesses, and imploring them not to allow their 
minds to be prejudiced against him, at the same 
time declaring that he would not "trick up an in- 
nocency with cavilations, but plainly and ingen- 
uously declare what he knew or remembered." The 
charges rapidly accumulated, but Bacon still looked 
upon them as party moves, and was in hopes of 
defending himself. Nor did he seem to have lost 
his courage, if we are to believe the common re- 
ports of the day, though certainly they do not ap- 
pear worthy of very much credit. 

The notes bearing upon the interview which he 
obtained with the king, show that he had begun to 
see more clearly the nature and extent of the of- 
fences with which he was charged, that he now felt 
it impossible altogether to exculpate himself, and 
that his hopes were directed towards obtaining 
some mitigation of his sentence. The long roll of 
charges made upon the 19th of April finally de- 
cided him, he gave up all idea of defense, and wrote 
to the king begging him to show him favor in 
this emergency. The next day he sent in a general 



confession to the Lords, trusting that this would 
be considered satisfucto^3^ The Lords, however, 
decided that it was not sufficient as a ground for 
their censure, and demanded a detailed and par- 
ticular confession. A list of twenty-eight charges 
was then sent him, to which an answer by letter 
was required. On the 30th April his "confession 
and humble submission" was handed in. In it, af- 
ter going over the several instances, he says, "I do 
again confess, that on the points charged upon me, 
although they should be taken as myself have de- 
clared them, there is a great deal of corruption 
and neglect ; for which I am heartily and penitently 
sorry, and submit myself to the judgment, grace, 
and mercy of the court." On the 3rd May after 
considerable discussion, the Lords decided upon the 
sentence, which was, That he should undergo fine 
and ransom of £40,000; that he should be im- 
prisoned in the tower during the king's pleasure; 
that he should be forever incapable of any office, 
place, or employment in the state or common- 
wealth; that he should never sit in parliament; or 
come within the verge of the court. 
This is the man, then, according to the Baconians, 
who wrote : 

Set honor in one eye and death i' the other. 
And I will look on both indifferently. 

— Julius Caesar, Act I. Scene II. 

What a farce for a confessed bribe-taker, a seller 

of justice, to prate of honor ! 

Mine honor keeps the weather of my fate: 
Life every man holds dear; but the dear man 
Holds honor far more precious-dear than life. 
— Troilus and Cressida, Act V. Scene III. 
For life, I prize it 
As I weigh grief, which I would spare : For honor, 
'Tis a derivative from me to mine. 
And only that I stand for. 

— The Winter's Tale, Act III. Scene II. 



Does this sound as though it came from the man 
who penned, "I do again confess, that on the points 
charged upon me, although they should he taken as 
myself declared them, there is a great deal of cor- 
ruption and neglect?"^ Would one who stands only 
for honor, beseech his king to mitigate the just pun- 
ishment of a confessed crime? The two characters 
as here depicted will not blend. Bacon was not 

1. "No nobler soul, no broader mind ever existed 
than that revealed in the Plays."* 

2. Bacon did not possess a noble soul. 

3. Therefore, Bacon did not write the Plays. 
Donnelly, in his Cryptogram, aims to prove 

Bacon's right to the authorship of the Plays by 
means of the similarity of expressions used in the 
plays and those used by Bacon in his known writ- 
ings. Let us examine some of Donnelly's compari- 

We turn to Bacon, and we find him referring 
to the common people as a scum. The same word 
is used in Shakespeare.^ 

Here is certainly a great discovery! Just think! 
Bacon refers to the common people as scum, Shakes- 
peare also uses the word. Therefore, Bacon wrote 
Shakespeare ! Would it not be as logical to say that 
Shakespeare wrote Bacon? This same false reason- 
ing pervades the whole of Donnelly's claim. For 
instance : 

^Bacon's "Confession and Humble Submission." 

* "The Great Crypotgram," Chapter IV. page 174. 

" "The Great Cryptogram," Cliapter IV. page 176. 



"Bacon speaks of 

'The vulgar, to whom nothing moderate is 
"This is the same thought we find in Shakespeare : 

'What would you have, your curs, 

That like nor peace nor war.' "* 

Where is there anything analagous in these two 
expressions? One states that nothing that is mod- 
erate is grateful to the vulgar, while the other asks 
what they, who like neither peace nor war, would 
have. Surely there is no such similarity of expres- 
sion here as to warrant any one in claiming that 
both extracts emanated from the same mind. 

In The Great Cryptogram, pages 176 and 177, we 

"Again Bacon says: 

'The ignorant and rude multitudes.'^" 
*If fame be from the common people, it is 
commonly false and naught.' ^^ 
"This is very much the thought expressed in 
Shakespeare : 

'The fool multiude that choose by show, 
Not learning, more than the fond eye doth 
teach.' ^' 
"And also in 

'He's loved of the distracted multitude. 
Who like not in their judgment, but their 

Where is the connection or the similarity? 

"Bacon says: 

'For in all times, in the opinion of the mul- 
titude, witches and old women and im- 

* "Wisdom of the Ancients" — Diomedes. 

• "Coriolanus, " Act I. Scene I. 
^0 "Wisdom of the Ancients." 
n "Essay of Praise." 

12 "Merchant of Venice," Act II. Scene IX. 
'» "Hamlet," Act IV. Scene III. 



posters have had a competition with 
"And again he says: 

'The envious and malignant disposition of the 
vulgar, for when fortune's favorites and 
great potentates come to ruin, then do 
the common people rejoice, setting, as it 
were, a crown upon the head of revenge.' ^^ 
"And again he says: 

'The nature of the vulgar, always swollen and 
malignant, still broaching new scandals 
against superiors; . . . the same natural 
disposition of the people still leaning to 
viler sort, being impatient of peace and 
"Says Shakespeare: 

'That like not peace nor war.'^'' 
"And Bacon says again : 

'He would never endure that the base multi- 
tude should frustrate the authority of 
"See how the same words are employed by both. 
Bacon says: 

'The base multiude.' 
"Shakespeare says : 

'The rude multitude — the base vulgar.'"*' 

Now wliat is there in all this to bolster up the claim 
that Bacon wrote Shakespeare? Absolutely noth- 
ing. It is astonishing that a man of intelligence 
should cite such instances as are here given as proof 
of similarity between the writings of the two men, 
because that quality is certainly lacking in all the 
examples that he quotes. 

^* "Advancement of Learning," Book II. 

1^ "Wisdom of the Ancients" — Nemesis. 

16 "Wisdom of the Ancients." 

^'' "Coriolanus," Act I. Scene I. 

''■^ "History of Henry VII." 

i» "The Tempest," Act I. Scene II. 



The silliness of Donnelly's reasoning is beautifully 
illustrated by Shakespeare in Act IV., Scene II., of 
The Second Part of King Henry VI. 

Enter some, briny ing forward the clerk of Chatham. 

Smith. The clerk of Chatliam: he can write and 

read and cast aecompt. 


We took him setting of boys' copies. 
Here's a villain! 
Has a book in his pocket with red letters 

in 't. 
Nay, then, he is a conjuror. 
Nay, he can make obligations, and write 


1 am sorry for 't: the man is a proper 
man, of mine honour; unless I find 
him guilty, he shall not die. 

Come hither, sirrah, I must examine thee : 
what is thy name? 


They used to write it on the top of let- 
ters : 'twill go hard with you. 
Let me alone. Dost thou use to write 
thy name? or hast thou a mark to 
thyself, like an honest plain-dealing 

Sir, I thank God, I have been so well 
brought up that I can write my 

He hath confessed: away with him! he's 
a villain and a traitor. 

Away with him, I say! hang him with 
his pen and ink-horn about his neck. 









The Author op the Plays Was an Actor 

Let us consider what evidence there is in the plays 
of Shakespeare to justify the assertion that their 
author was an actor. 



The writer of the plays evinces in their construc- 
tion an intimate knowledge of the art of playwrit- 
ing. He displays an insight into stagecraft that 
equals the beauty of his poetry and the brilliancy 
of his philosophy. He shows by the phraseology, 
the use of technical terms, and in the many refer- 
ences to the stage and to players, by the very atmos- 
phere that envelopes the plays, that they are the 
product of one who lived in the mimic world. The 
plays show their author understood so thoroughly 
the drawing and characterizing of parts, the ar- 
rangement of incidents and scenes, the development 
of a plot, and the presentation of a play as to prove 
that the knowledge was such as could be gained only 
by one who had lived the life of an actor and studied 
the workings of the art of acting at first hand. Here 
is the proof: 

Hamlet abounds with references to the stage and 
the actor's art, and contains the "advice to the 
players" which is an epitome of instruction in the 
art of acting. Here we have the sage, direct advice 
of the seasoned player, and not the m.ere empty 
general admonition of the critic. Ponder over this 
passage : 

Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it 
to you, trippingly on the tongue : but if you mouth 
it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the 
town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the 
air too much with your hands, thus; but use all 
gently: for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as 
I may say, whirlwind of your passion, you must 
acquire and beget a temperance that may give it 
smoothness. 0, it offends me to the soul to hear a 



robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to 
tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the ground- 
lings, who, for the most part, are capable of noth- 
ing but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise: I 
would have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing 
Termagant; it out-herods Herod: pray you, avoid 

Be not too tame neither, but let your own dis- 
cretion be your tutor: suit the action to the word, 
the word to the action ; with this special observance, 
that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature: for 
anything so overdone is from the purpose of play- 
ing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and 
is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature; to 
show virtue her own featui'e, scorn her own image, 
and the very age and body of the time his form and 
pressure. Now this overdone, or come tardy off, 
though it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but 
make the judicious grieve; the censure of the which 
one must, in your allowance, o'erweigh a whole 
theatre of others. 0, there be players that I have 
seen play, and heard others praise, and that highly, 
not to speak it profanely, that, neither having the 
accent of Christians, nor the gait of Christian, 
pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed, that 
I have thought some of nature's journe^^men had 
made men, and not made them well, they imitated 
humanity so abominably. 

. . . And let those that play your clowns 
speak no more than is set down for them : for there 
be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on 
some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too, 
though in the meantime some necessary question of 
the play be then to be considered; that's villainous, 
and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that 
uses it.^° 

Here we have the most perfect lesson in dramatic 

art that ever was penned. No one not thoroughly 

versed in the principles of acting could have written 

2 "Hamlet," Act III. Scene II. 



it. A critic, accustomed to witnessing plays from 
the auditorium, would not have possessed an insight 
into the technique of acting sufficient to enable him 
to express himself so clearly regarding the purpose 
of the player's art. The man who wrote these in- 
structions to the players was not only a critic, nor 
only an actor, but he was accustomed to drilling 
actors. He was a stage director who was proficient 
in all the requirements of staging a play; he knew 
how an actor should make his "points" and he 
knew how to drill him in order that these "points" 
should be made. He tells the player to "speak the 
speech trippingly on the tongue, ' ' none but a person 
accustomed to using his voice in public would be apt 
to so express himself. A speaker knows how nec- 
essary it is to get the voice out of the mouth on to 
the lips, for only by so doing can the "mouthing" 
be avoided, and the "mouthing" is aptly compared 
with the bellowing of the town-crier who lustily 
cries out, making much noise but producing little 
speech. A writer might advise against "mouthing" 
but he would not possess the expert knowledge nec- 
essary for him to give the positive instruction to 
speak "trippingly on the tongue." The advice "nor 
do not saw the air too much" is such as would be 
given by an able stage-manger to an actor who was 
inclined to "overdo" his part; and the statement 
that he "must acquire and beget a temperance that 
may give it smoothness" is such a wise one, that its 
wisdom would not likely be discovered except by a 
man practiced in the art of holding "the mirror up 



to nature." It has been claimed that the knowl- 
edge of the law shown in the plays of Shakespeare 
indicate that their author was a lawyer, but this 
advice to the players could never have originated 
in the brain of a man unless that man was a master 
of the art of acting. It is true that the author of the 
plays shows a knowledge of law and legal procedure, 
but nowhere in his works is to be found so keen an 
insight into legal questions as is displayed regarding 
matters pertaining to the stage. The legal informa- 
tion might have been gained from books, but the 
dramatic knowledge could have been obtained by 
stage experience alone. 

1. The author of Shakespeare's plays was an actor. 

2. Bacon was not an actor. 

3. Therefore, Bacon did not write Shakespeare. 
Not only does Shakespeare display his knowledge 

of acting, but he shows the influence the actor's life 
had on him by referring in many of the plays to 
things that pertain to the stage. For instance: He 
introduces a play in Hamlet, The Murder of Gon- 
zago; in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Pyramus and 
Thisbe; in Love's Labor's Lost, The Nine Worthies; 
and in The Taming of the Shrew, the players in 
the Induction. 

In Hamlet, Act II. Scene II., Hamlet, speaking of 
the players, remarks: 

How chances it they travel ? their residence, both 
in reputation and profit, was better both ways. 

Here we have evidence that the writer of these lines 

was aware of the fact that an actor suffered in 



prestige and profit when forced to leave the city 
and go into the smaller places in search of audiences. 
This fact might be known by some not connected 
with the theatres, but they would not be apt to 
make note of it. 

Shakespeare puts into the mouth of Polonius the 
following : 

The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, 
comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, histori- 
cal-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical- 
historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem un- 
limited; Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus 
too light. For the law of writ and the liberty, 
these are the only men. 

Here we have the different kinds of plays defined in 
such a manner as to show the definer to be versed 
in the many styles of plays. After enumerating the 
principal classes, such as tragedy, comedy, etc., the 
playwright mentions individable (that is, not to be 
classed as either tragedy, or comedy) and unlimited 
(that is, not limited by a definition), and this par- 
ticular classification undoubtedly shows a know- 
ledge of the technical terms of the playwright's art 
such as could only be obtained by one experienced 
in its practice. "For the law of writ and the lib- 
erty" is also a professional term; meaning, speaking 
the lines as they are set down (writ) by the author 
or extemporizing (liberty) as the actor recites. 
The word "gag" is now used among actors 
to signify the idea that "liberty" conveyed in the 
days of Shakespeare. Actors now often speak of 
gagging a part; that is, putting one's own words 



or speeches into a part or introducing business into 
a scene other than as arranged by the author or 
stage manager. 

In Act II, Scene II. Hamlet speaks of the players 
as being "the abstract and brief chronicles of the 
time," and states that "after your death you were 
better have a bad epitaph, than their ill report while 
you live." He also in the same scene describes the 
feigned passion of an actor, and states that he has 
heard that remorse has often been aroused in the 
breast of a guilty person by attendance at a play 
where, "by the very cunning of the scene," they 
have confessed their transgression. The scene ends 
with the sentence: 

The play's the thing 
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king. 

Thus, in The Tragedy of Hamlet, we find a mar- 
velous lesson in the art of acting, a composition that 
bears the strongest evidence of having been written 
by one thoroughly conversant with the staging of 
plays; the use of many words common only to 
actors; and a general atmosphere surrounding the 
entire play that is indicative of its author's close 
association with players. 

Other references in the Plays to the stage, the 
actor, and the actor's art are as follows: 

Macbeth, Act. V. Scene V. 

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. 



Troilus and Cressida, Act I, Scene III. 

Sometime, great Agamemnon, 
Thy topless deputation he puts on; 
And, like a strutting player, — whose conceit 
Lies in his hamstring, and doth think it rich 
To hear the wooden dialogue and sound 
'Twixt his stretched footing and the scaffoldage, — 
Such to-be-pitied and o'er-wrested seeming 
He acts thy greatness in : 

The Merchant of Venice, Act I. Scene I. 

I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano; 
A stage, where every man must play a part, ' 
And mine a sad one. 

The Taming of the Shrew, Induction, Scene II. 

Your honor's players, hearing your amendment. 
Are come to play a pleasant comedy; 
For so your doctors hold it very meet, 
Seeing too much sadness hath eonereal'd your blood, 
And melancholy is the nurse of frenzy : 
Therefore, they thought it good you hear a play, 
And frame your mind to mirth and merriment. 
Which bars a thousand harms, and lengthens life. 

As You Like It, Act 11. Scene VII. 

All the world's a stage. 
And all the men and women merely players: 
They have their exits, and their entrances; 
And one man in his time plays many parts. 
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant. 
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms: 
Then, the whining school-boy, with his satchel, 
And shining morning face, creeping like snail 
Unwillingly to school : And then the lover. 
Sighing like furnace, with a woful ballad 
Made to his mistress' eyebrow: Then, a soldier. 
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard, 
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel. 
Seeking the bubble reputation 
Even in the cannon's mouth: And then, the justice, 



In fair round belly, with good capon lin'd, 

With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut, 

Full of wise saws and modern instances; 

And so he plays his part: The sixth age shifts 

Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon, 

With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side; 

His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide 

For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice, 

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes 

And whistles in his sound : Last scene of all. 

That ends this strange eventful history. 

Is second childishness, and mere oblivion; 

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. 

The strongest proof that William Shakespeare 
wrote the plays attributed to him is to be found 
within the plays themselves, but it is well to answer 
with outside evidence some of the assertions made 
by those who would rob him of his honors. One 
assertion is that there is no eontempory reference to 
him at all except as an actor; another, that he was 
looked upon as a "deserving man" a "Joannes Fac- 
totum" among the players. It is easy to prove both 
these statements false. 

Ben Jonson knew William Shakespeare as a man, 
an actor, and an author, in his Timber of Discov- 
eries, Being Observations on Men and Manners, 
written about 1620, but not printed until 1641, on 
De Shakespeare nostrati, he has this to say : 

I remember the players have often mentioned it 
as an honor to Shakespeare, that in his writing 
(whatsoever he penned) he never blotted out a line. 
My answer hath been, 'Would he had blotted a 
thousand,' which they thought a malevolent speech. 
I had not told posterity this but for their ignorance 
who chose that circumstance to commend their 



friend by wherein he most faulted; and to justify 
mine own candor, for I loved the man, and do 
honor his memory on this side idolatry as much as 
any. He was, indeed, honest, and of an open and 
free nature; had an excellent phantasy, brave no- 
tions, and gentle expressions, wherein he flowed 
with that facility that sometimes it was necessary 
he should be stopped. 'Sufflaminandus erat,"^ as 
Augustus said of Haterius. His wit was in his own 
power; would the rule of it had been so, too! 
Many times he fell into those things, could not 
escape laughter, as when he said in the person of 
Caesar, one speaking to him, 'Caesar, thou dost me 
wrong.' He replied, 'Caesar did never wrong but 
with just cause;"" and such like, which were ridic- 
ulous. But he redeemed his vices with his virtues. 
There was ever more in him to be praised than to 
be pardoned. 

This certainly is contemporary reference to him as 
an author. Ben Jonson was intimately acquainted 
with Shakespeare the actor, sang praises to Shake- 
speare the author, and never intimated but that he 
knew the man with whom he associated to be both 
the actor and the author. 

In 1598, Francis Meres issued a book entitled 
^^Palladis Tamia, Wit's Treasury, being the Second 
Part of Wit's Common-wealth." One section of this 

*i "He ought to have been clogged." — Seneca. 
2 2 The passage now reads thus: 

Know, Caesar doth not wrong; nor without cause 
will he be satisfied. 

— "Julius Caesr, " Act III. Scene I. 
In reference to this point Hudson says : 

Some question has been made whether this passage has reached 
us the same as originally written ; and the doubt has grown 
from a remark in Ben Jonson 's Discoveries. We agree with 
Mr. Collier that Jonson was speaking only from memory, which, 
so himself confesses, was "shaken with age now and sloth;" 
and so misquoted the Poet. Still it is not impossible that he 
may have quoted rightly from the play as he had heard it on 
the stage, and that Shakespeare may have afterwards corrected 
the passage. 



work is headed "A Comparative Discourse of our 
English Poets, with the Greek, Latin, and Italian 
Poets," and among many other references to Shake- 
speare is the following: 

As the soul of Euphorbus was thought to live 
in Pythagoras, so the sweet, witty soul of Ovid Kves 
in mellifuous and honey-tongued Shakespeare: 
witness his Venus and Adonis, his Luerece, his 
sugared Sonnets among his private friends, etc. ! 

Here is an author, writing at the period when the 
actor Shakespeare was making his reputation as a 
poet and dramatist, who testifies to his (the actor's) 
being known as the "honey-tongued Shakespeare," 
and to the fact that he distributed **his sugared 
Sonnets among his private friends." These friends 
knew the man Shakespeare intimately, and no ques- 
tion was raised during his lifetime regarding the 
identity of the actor with that of the author, and it 
remained for a poor, distracted, and mistaken 
woman, two hundred and forty years after the death 
of William Shakespeare, to put forth a wild theory, 
made of "trifles light as air," which has been seized 
upon and expanded by succeeding writers who 
would long ago have been forgotten had it not been 
for attaching themselves (even in an inglorious man- 
ner) to the undying name of the matchless poet and 
master playwright of all ages. 

Shakespeare accumulated what, in his day, was 
considered a large sum of money, whereas, had he 
earned only the salary of an ordinary actor, were 
he the mere "deserving man" and "Johannes facto- 

[ 197 ] 


turn" as stated by Greene in his spleen, and harped 
upon by the Baconians, he never could have done 
so. During the life of Shakespeare no special value 
was placed on the plays as literary property, nor 
was any serious effort made to preserve them. Had 
Bacon been the author of these plays, is it not fair 
to assume that he would have profited pecuniarily 
from their production and retained copies of them? 
He certainly loved money sufficiently well to lay 
hold of it at every opportunity, and was exceedingly 
jealous of his literary productions. From all the 
evidence and circumstances at hand we are justified 
in thinking that the man who wrote the works 
known as Shakespeare's did so for a money consid- 
eration and no other. As soon as Shakespeare 
received his financial reward by producing the plays 
on the stage he cared not what became of them, but 
was content to allow them to pass out of existence ; 
and had it not been that some of his fellow actors'^ 
took the pains to gather these plays together, and 
to issue them in 1623, seven years after the death 
of their author, such most likely would have been 
their fate. 

The writings that are known to be Bacon's differ 
in every conceivable manner from those ascribed to 
Shakespeare, and were there absolute proof that 
William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon did not 
write the plays attributed to him, it would be im- 
possible, from a comparison of those plays with the 

'^ Heming and Condell, in their dedication of the folio of 1623, say 
they have collected the plays "only to keep the memory of so 
worthy a friend and fellow alive, as was our Shakespeare." 



known writings of Bacon, to attribute to Bacon 
their authorship. It is plainly seen that the author 
of King Lear was the author of Hamlet, but there is 
no internal evidence to show that the author of 
Novum Organum wrote those plays. 

In conclusion : Bacon never claimed the authorship 
of the plays ; from an examination of his known pro- 
ductions it is plain that he could not have written 
them; while, on the other hand, they bear every 
internal evidence to show they emanated from a 
man such as we know Shakespeare to have been; 
it was acknowledged by his contemporary writers 
and his fellow actors that he did produce them, 
and he had been in undisputed possession of them 
for two hundred and forty years. It seems clear 
that, taking all these facts into consideration, it 
should be conceded that William Shakespeare wrote 
the plays ascribed to him. 



The Genius of Shakespeare 

IN considering the genius of Shakespeare we should 
weigh carefully the meaning of that word, be- 
cause upon the premise thus laid down depends the 
conclusion that may be deduced from the evidence 
upon which the verdict must be rendered. If genius 
means the possession of an extraordinary faculty for 
original creation, then Shakespeare was no genius. 
But if, on the other hand, it means, as Emerson is 
inclined to define it, being receptive, then must we 
pronounce him one of the greatest geniuses of all 
time. He exemplified, as never did man before or 
since, that undulating power in Nature which is so 
eloquently described by Emerson in The American 
Scholar. That principle in Nature which is shown 
throughout all her works: in light and darkness; in 
heat and cold ; in health and sickness ; in hunger and 
satisfaction; in life and death. Shakespeare drank 
into his being the stories that Nature told him, he 
appropriated the songs of other men, but he gave them 
back again to the world enriched with the warmth of 
his own soul. Thus did he inhale the glories and 
truths of Nature, the productions of Plutarch, Mar- 
lowe and Greene, the plots of Italian and French 
authors, and the chronicles of Holinshed, but his ex- 
halations gave us his own immortal works. His ability 
to learn from the book of Nature and to tell her 



stories anew, his capacity to extract from the works 
of men the grains of value that were encased in masses 
of matter, his power of smelting these scattered grains 
of thought and causing them to assume a form large 
enough to be of marketable value in the literature of 
the world, may surely be considered to constitute 

In his descriptions of material nature he was in 
harmony with all its works. AVhen he speaks of the 
heavens, "this brave o'erhanging firmament, this 
majestical roof fretted with golden fire," we feel 
their presence bending over us; when he talks of the 
winds, we hear them howling around us ; and when he 
pictures a flower, we smell its fragrance and behold 
its beauty. 

His knowledge of man was equal to his knowledge 
of nature. He showed the workings of the mind and 
the emotions of the heart. With unerring skill he 
analyzed man, and with matchless ability he pictured 
Dature. So boundless were his resources, and so in- 
tense was his instinct, that he employed hitherto un- 
known richness of language with which to clothe his 
thoughts. All this is tangible proof that no error is 
committed in ascribing genius to Shakespeare. 

Thirty-seven plays, five poems, and one hundred 
and fifty-four sonnets are generally assigned to 
Shakespeare as the sum and substance of his work. 
His fame would have suffered very little had he writ- 
ten nothing but the plays, as his poems are far in- 
ferior to his dramas, and as his powers are best seen 



in his dramatic writings, they alone should be con- 
sidered when analyzing his genius. 

After all has been said in reference to what con- 
stitutes the genius of Shakespeare, it seems that it 
is best reflected in the fact that his great productions 
appear to have sprung spontaneously from his brain, 
and that he was not conscious of using any particular 
means, such as rules or set plans, in bringing them 
into being. He worked in conjunction with the 
principles of Nature, but it is not likely that he con- 
sciously did so. He wrote with the object of pro- 
ducing plays suitable for presentation on the stage, 
and in doing so, reproduced the impressions that 
Nature, in its twofold character of material and 
human, had made upon him. It is not likely even that 
he was aware of the fact that he was bringing forth 
creations that would exert an influence upon English 
literature greater than the works of all his contem- 
poraries, not to speak of the productions of authors 
before and since his time. We have nothing to show 
that he valued his literary work except as a means 
of pecuniary profit; and that he was unaware of 
the value of the plays as literature, is attested by 
the fact that he took no pains to presence them for 
coming generations. He could have little dreamed 
that the plays that possessed only pecuniary value 
to him, would be looked upon by succeeding genera- 
tions as priceless treasures, enriching the English 
language and acting as sources of inspiration to all 
subsequent writers. This absence of appreciation of 
his work by Shakespeare is one of the surest indica- 



tions of his genius, as it is evidence to show that he 
must have produced his effects with that ease which 
is indicative of genius in all fields of endeavor. Had 
he set forth to produce a wonderfvil work, had he been 
governed by rules of time, place and action, had he 
measured and weighed every line, he might have been 
a skilled playwright, but he never could have been 
a genius. This is not to say that genius does not 
exercise care, that genius does not labor^ because 
thoughtful application is one of the attributes of 
genius, but it is meant to declare that genius such as 
is shown in the plays of Shakespeare could only come 
from a mind that was absolutely unfettered. It is 
useless to search for the causes of his genius; it is 
impossible to show by designation wherein he was 
a genius. As the causes are lost in the graveyard 
of the past, and the effects, in the shape of his plays, 
alone survive, so also are the reasons that might be 
assigned as proof of his genius buried within the 
plays themselves. We know that the reasons are 
there, because we feel their presence; but being, as 
they are, so much a part and parcel of the plays them- 
selves, it is impossible to detach them and bring them 
to the light of day and, in their individual forms, 
offer them as evidence of his genius. It does not 
suffice to show that he constructed his plots with great 
skill, that he drew his characters true to life, that his 
philosophy is beyond dispute, that his indicated knowl- 
edge of law is marvelous, that the expressive power 
of his words is beyond compare, and the beauty of 
his diction nowhere surpassed. These things are not 



individual indications of his genius to such an extent 
as to permit us to say, herein lies his transcendent 
power. Collectively, they may be called the means he 
employed for demonstrating his genius ; but in them- 
selves, they do not constitute it. 

Of these things we may be assured: Shakespeare 
knew not how well he labored; Nature alone was his 
guide ; he can be comprehended best by those who 
understand Nature, and his works are a priceless 
blessing to toilers in every field of effort. 

A mystery surrounds the life of Shakespeare, and 
it is well that it should not be dispelled. An ex- 
planation of his works is impossible, because no ex- 
planation will satisfy the wants of all. Each must go 
to the fountain direct, and as he drinks of its won- 
drous waters he will find therein the properties that 
Avill satisfy his thirst. It is useless to analyze these 
properties; it is a waste of time to separate their in- 
gredients. Let us preserve undefiled the spring whence 
flow these magic waters, and thank the God of Shake- 
speare and of us all for bestowing the sweet singer, 
the Bard of Avon, upon humanity. 



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