By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Montaigne and Shakspere
Author: Robertson, J. M. (John Mackinnon), 1856-1933
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Montaigne and Shakspere" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

| Transcribers note: Old spellings of the |
| words have been retained as well as the |
| doubtful use of colons instead of       |
| semicolons in many places for the sake  |
| of fidelity to the original text.       |







For a good many years past the anatomic study of Shakspere, of which a
revival seems now on foot, has been somewhat out of fashion, as compared
with its vogue in the palmy days of the New Shakspere Society in
England, and the years of the battle between the iconoclasts and the
worshippers in Germany. When Mr. Fleay and Mr. Spedding were hard at
work on the metrical tests; when Mr. Spedding was subtly undoing the
chronological psychology of Dr. Furnivall; when the latter student was
on his part undoing in quite another style some of the judgments of Mr.
Swinburne; and when Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps was with natural wrath
calling on Mr. Browning, as President of the Society, to keep Dr.
Furnivall in order, we (then) younger onlookers felt that literary
history was verily being made. Our sensations, it seemed, might be as
those of our elders had been over Mr. Collier's emendated folio, and
the tragical end thereof. Then came a period of lull in things
Shaksperean, partly to be accounted for by the protrusion of the
Browning Society and kindred undertakings. It seemed as if once more men
had come to the attitude of 1850, when Mr. Phillipps had written: "An
opinion has been gaining ground, and has been encouraged by writers
whose judgment is entitled to respectful consideration, that almost if
not all the commentary on the works of Shakspere of a necessary and
desirable kind has already been given to the world."[1] And, indeed, so
much need was there for time to digest the new criticism that it may be
doubted whether among the general cultured public the process is even
now accomplished.

To this literary phase in particular, and to our occupation with other
studies in general, may be attributed the opportunity which still exists
for the discussion of one of the most interesting of all problems
concerning Shakspere. Mr. Browning, Mr. Meredith, Ibsen, Tolstoi--a host
of peculiarly modern problem-makers have been exorcising our not
inexhaustible taste for the problematic, so that there was no very
violent excitement over even the series of new "Keys" to the sonnets
which came forth in the lull of the analysis of the plays; and yet, even
with all the problems of modernity in view, it seems as if it must be
rather by accident of oversight than for lack of interest in new
developments of Shakspere-study that so little attention has been given
among us to a question which, once raised, has a very peculiar literary
and psychological attraction of its own--the subject, namely, of the
influence which the plays show their author to have undergone from the
Essays of Montaigne.

As to the bare fact of the influence, there can be little question. That
Shakspere in one scene in the TEMPEST versifies a passage from the prose
of Florio's translation of Montaigne's chapter OF THE CANNIBALS has been
recognised by all the commentators since Capell (1767), who detected the
transcript from a reading of the French only, not having compared the
translation. The first thought of students was to connect the passage
with Ben Johnson's allusion in VOLPONE[2] to frequent "stealings from
Montaigne" by contemporary writers; and though VOLPONE dates from 1605,
and the TEMPEST from 1610-1613, there has been no systematic attempt to
apply the clue chronologically. Still, it has been recognised or
surmised by a series of writers that the influence of the essayist on
the dramatist went further than the passage in question. John Sterling,
writing on Montaigne in 1838 (when Sir Frederick Madden's pamphlet on
the autograph of Shakspere in a copy of Florio had called special
attention to the Essays), remarked that "on the whole, the celebrated
soliloquy in HAMLET presents a more characteristic and expressive
resemblance to much of Montaigne's writings than any other portion of
the plays of the great dramatist which we at present remember"; and
further threw out the germ of a thesis which has since been disastrously
developed, to the effect that "the Prince of Denmark is very nearly a
Montaigne, lifted to a higher eminence, and agitated by more striking
circumstances and a severer destiny, and altogether a somewhat more
passionate structure of man."[3] In 1846, again, Philarète Chasles, an
acute and original critic, citing the passage in the TEMPEST, went on to
declare that "once on the track of the studies and tastes of Shakspere,
we find Montaigne at every corner, in HAMLET, in OTHELLO, in CORIOLANUS.
Even the composite style of Shakspere, so animated, so vivid, so new, so
incisive, so coloured, so hardy, offers a multitude of striking
analogies to the admirable and free manner of Montaigne."[4] The
suggestion as to the "To be or not to be" soliloquy has been taken up by
some critics, but rejected by others; and the propositions of M.
Chasles, so far as I am aware, have never been supported by evidence.
Nevertheless, the general fact of a frequent reproduction or
manipulation of Montaigne's ideas in some of Shakspere's later plays
has, I think, since been established.

Twelve years ago I incidentally cited, in an essay on the composition of
HAMLET, some dozen of the Essays of Montaigne from which Shakspere had
apparently received suggestions, and instanced one or two cases in which
actual peculiarities of phrase in Florio's translation of the Essays are
adopted by him, in addition to a peculiar coincidence which has been
pointed out by Mr. Jacob Feis in his work entitled SHAKSPERE AND
MONTAIGNE; and since then the late Mr. Henry Morley, in his edition of
the Florio translation, has pointed to a still more remarkable
coincidence of phrase, in a passage of HAMLET which I had traced to
Montaigne without noticing the decisive verbal agreement in question.
Yet so far as I have seen, the matter has passed for little more than a
literary curiosity, arousing no new ideas as to Shakspere's mental
development. The notable suggestion of Chasles on that head has been
ignored more completely than the theory of Mr. Feis, which in comparison
is merely fantastic. Either, then, there is an unwillingness in England
to conceive of Shakspere as owing much to foreign influences, or as a
case of intelligible mental growth, or else the whole critical problem
which Shakspere represents--and he may be regarded as the greatest of
critical problems--comes within the general disregard for serious
criticism, noticeable among us of late years. And the work of Mr. Feis,
unfortunately, is as a whole so extravagant that it could hardly fail to
bring a special suspicion on every form of the theory of an intellectual
tie between Shakspere and Montaigne. Not only does he undertake to show
in dead earnest what Sterling had vaguely suggested as conceivable, that
Shakspere meant Hamlet to represent Montaigne, but he strenuously argues
that the poet framed the play in order to discredit Montaigne's
opinions--a thesis which almost makes the Bacon theory specious by
comparison. Naturally it has made no converts, even in Germany, where,
as it happens, it had been anticipated.

In France, however, the neglect of the special problem of Montaigne's
influence on Shakspere is less easily to be explained, seeing how much
intelligent study has been given of late by French critics to both
Shakspere and Montaigne. The influence is recognised; but here again it
is only cursorily traced. The latest study of Montaigne is that of M.
Paul Stapfer, a vigilant critic, whose services to Shakspere-study have
been recognised in both countries. But all that M. Stapfer claims for
the influence of the French essayist on the English dramatist is thus

  "Montaigne is perhaps too purely French to have exercised
  much influence abroad. Nevertheless his influence on England
  is not to be disdained. Shakspere appreciated him (_le
  goûtait_); he has inserted in the TEMPEST a passage of the
  chapter DES CANNIBALES; and the strong expressions of the
  ESSAYS on man, the inconstant, irresolute being, contrary to
  himself, marvellously vain, various and changeful, were
  perhaps not unconnected with (_peut être pas étrangères à_)
  the conception of HAMLET. The author of the scene of the
  grave-diggers must have felt the savour and retained the
  impression of this thought, humid and cold as the grave:
  'The heart and the life of a great and triumphant emperor
  are but the repast of a little worm.' The translation of
  Plutarch, or rather of Amyot, by Thomas North, and that of
  Montaigne by Florio, had together a great and long vogue in
  the English society of the seventeenth century."[5]

So modest a claim, coming from the French side, can hardly be blamed on
the score of that very modesty. It is the fact, however, that, though
M. Stapfer has in another work[6] compared Shakspere with a French
classic critically enough, he has here understated his case. He was led
to such an attitude in his earlier study of Shakspere by the slightness
of the evidence offered for the claim of M. Chasles, of which he wrote
that it is "a gratuitous supposition, quite unjustified by the few
traces in his writings of his having read the Essays."[7] But that
verdict was passed without due scrutiny. The influence of Montaigne on
Shakspere was both wider and deeper than M. Stapfer has suggested; and
it is perhaps more fitting, after all, that the proof should be
undertaken by some of us who, speaking Shakspere's tongue, cannot well
be suspected of seeking to belittle him when we trace the sources for
his thought, whether in his life or in his culture. There is still,
indeed, a tendency among the more primitively patriotic to look
jealously at such inquiries, as tending to diminish the glory of the
worshipped name; but for anyone who is capable of appreciating
Shakspere's greatness, there can be no question of iconoclasm in the
matter. Shakspere ignorantly adored is a mere dubious mystery; Shakspere
followed up and comprehended, step by step, albeit never wholly
revealed, becomes more remarkable, more profoundly interesting, as he
becomes more intelligible. We are embarked, not on a quest for
plagiarisms, but on a study of the growth of a wonderful mind. And in
the idea that much of the growth is traceable to the fertilising contact
of a foreign intelligence there can be nothing but interest and
attraction for those who have mastered the primary sociological truth
that such contacts of cultures are the very life of civilisation.


The first requirement in the study, obviously, is an exact statement of
the coincidences of phrase and thought in Shakspere and Montaigne. Not
that such coincidences are the main or the only results to be looked
for; rather we may reasonably expect to find Shakspere's thought often
diverging at a tangent from that of the writer he is reading, or even
directly gainsaying it. But there can be no solid argument as to such
indirect influence until we have fully established the direct influence,
and this can only be done by exhibiting a considerable number of
coincidences. M. Chasles, while avowing that "the comparison of texts is
indispensable--we must undergo this fatigue in order to know to what
extent Shakspere, between 1603 and 1615, became familiar with
Montaigne"--strangely enough made no comparison of texts whatever beyond
reproducing the familiar paraphrase in the TEMPEST, from the essay OF
CANNIBALS; and left absolutely unsupported his assertion as to HAMLET,
OTHELLO, and CORIOLANUS. It is necessary to produce proofs, and to look
narrowly to dates. Florio's translation, though licensed in 1601, was
not published till 1603, the year of the piratical publication of the
First Quarto of HAMLET, in which the play lacks much of its present
matter, and shows in many parts so little trace of Shakspere's spirit
and versification that, even if we hold the text to have been
imperfectly taken down in shorthand, as it no doubt was, we cannot
suppose him to have at this stage completed his refashioning of the
older play, which is undoubtedly the substratum of his.[8] We must
therefore keep closely in view the divergencies between this text and
that of the Second Quarto, printed in 1604, in which the transmuting
touch of Shakspere is broadly evident. It is quite possible that
Shakspere may have seen parts of Florio's translation before 1603, or
heard passages from it read; or even that he might have read Montaigne
in the original. But as his possession of the translation is made
certain by the preservation of the copy bearing his autograph, and as it
is from Florio that he is seen to have copied in the passages where his
copying is beyond dispute, it is on Florio's translation that we must

I. In order to keep all the evidence in view, we may first of all
collate once more the passage in the TEMPEST with that in the Essays
which it unquestionably follows. In Florio's translation, Montaigne's
words run:

  "They [Lycurgus and Plato] could not imagine a genuity so
  pure and simple, as we see it by experience, nor ever
  believe our society might be maintained with so little art
  and human combination. It is a nation (would I answer Plato)
  that hath no kind of traffic, no knowledge of letters, no
  intelligence of numbers, no name of magistrate, nor of
  politic superiority; no use of service, of riches, or of
  poverty; no contracts, no successions, no dividences, no
  occupations, but idle; no respect of kindred, but common; no
  apparel, but natural; no manuring of lands, no use of wine,
  corn, or metal. The very words that import lying, falsehood,
  treason, dissimulation, covetousness, envy, detraction, and
  passion, were never heard of amongst them. How dissonant
  would he find his imaginary commonwealth from this

Compare the speech in which the kind old Gonzalo seeks to divert the
troubled mind of the shipwrecked King Alonso:

 "I' the commonwealth I would by contraries
  Execute all things: for no kind of traffic
  Would I admit; no name of magistrate;
  Letters should not be known; no use of service,
  Of riches, or of poverty; no contracts,
  Succession; bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none:
  No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil:
  No occupation, all men idle, all;
  And women too: but innocent and pure:
  No sovereignty...."

There can be no dispute as to the direct transcription here, where the
dramatist is but incidentally playing with Montaigne's idea, proceeding
to put some gibes at it in the mouths of Gonzalo's rascally comrades;
and it follows that Gonzalo's further phrase, "to excel the golden age,"
proceeds from Montaigne's previous words: "exceed all the pictures
wherewith licentious poesy hath proudly embellished the golden age." The
play was in all probability written in or before 1610. It remains to
show that on his first reading of Florio's Montaigne, in 1603-4,
Shakspere was more deeply and widely influenced, though the specific
proofs are in the nature of the case less palpable.

II. Let us take first the more decisive coincidences of phrase.
Correspondences of thought which in themselves do not establish their
direct connection, have a new significance when it is seen that other
coincidences amount to manifest reproduction. And such a coincidence we
have, to begin with, in the familiar lines:

  "There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
   Rough-hew them how we will."[9]

I pointed out in 1885 that this expression, which does not occur in the
First Quarto HAMLET, corresponds very closely with the theme of
REASON,[10] in which occurs the phrase, "Fortune has more judgment[11]
than we," a translation from Menander. But Professor Morley, having had
his attention called to the subject by the work of Mr. Feis, who had
suggested another passage as the source of Shakspere's, made a more
perfect identification. Reading the proofs of the Florio translation for
his reprint, he found, what I had not observed in my occasional access
to the old folio, not then reprinted, that the very metaphor of
"rough-hewing" occurs in Florio's rendering of a passage in the
Essays:--[12] "My consultation doth somewhat roughly hew the matter, and
by its first shew lightly consider the same: the main and chief point of
the work I am wont to resign to Heaven." This is a much more exact
coincidence than is presented in the passage cited by Mr. Feis from the
essay OF PHYSIOGNOMY:--[13] "Therefore do our designs so often
miscarry.... The heavens are angry, and I may say envious of the
extension and large privilege we ascribe to human wisdom, to the
prejudice of theirs, and abridge them so much more unto us by so much
more we endeavour to amplify them." If there were no closer parallel
than that in Montaigne, we should be bound to take it as an expansion of
a phrase in Seneca's AGAMEMNON,[14] which was likely to have become
proverbial. I may add that the thought is often repeated in the Essays,
and that in several passages it compares notably with Shakspere's lines.
These begin:

  --And praised be rashness for it--Let us know
  Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well
  When our deep plots do pall; and that should learn us
  There's a divinity" etc.

Compare the following extracts from Florio's translation:--

  "The _Dæmon_ of Socrates were peradventure a certain
  impulsion or will which without the advice of his discourse
  presented itself unto him. In a mind so well purified, and
  by continual exercise of wisdom and virtue so well prepared
  as his was, it is likely his inclinations (though rash and
  inconsiderate) were ever of great moment, and worthy to be
  followed. Every man feeleth in himself some image of such
  agitations, of a prompt, vehement, and casual opinion. It is
  in me to give them some authority, that afford so little to
  our wisdom. And I have had some (equally weak in reason and
  violent in persuasion and dissuasion, which was more
  ordinary to Socrates) by which I have so happily and so
  profitably suffered myself to be transported, as they might
  perhaps be thought to contain some matter of divine

  "Even in our counsels and deliberations, some chance or good
  luck must needs be joined to them; for whatsoever our
  wisdom can effect is no great matter."[16]

  "When I consider the most glorious exploits of war, methinks
  I see that those who have had the conduct of them employ
  neither counsel nor deliberation about them, but for fashion
  sake, and leave the best part of the enterprise to fortune;
  and on the confidence they have in her aid, they still go
  beyond the limits of all discourse. Casual rejoicings and
  strange furies ensue among their deliberations."[17] etc.

Compare finally Florio's translation of the lines of Manilius cited by
Montaigne at the end of the 47th Essay of the First Book:

  "'Tis best for ill-advis'd, wisdom may fail,[18]
  Fortune proves not the cause that should prevail,
  But here and there without respect doth sail:
  A higher power forsooth us overdraws,
  And mortal states guides with immortal laws."

It is to be remembered, indeed, that the idea expressed in Hamlet's
words to Horatio is partly anticipated in the rhymed speech of the
Player-King in the play-scene in Act III., which occurs in the First

 "Our wills, our fates do so contrary run
  That our devices still are overthrown;
  Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own."

Such a passage, reiterating a familiar commonplace, might seem at first
sight to tell against the view that Hamlet's later speech to Horatio is
an echo of Montaigne. But that view being found justified by the
evidence, and the idea in that passage being exactly coincident with
Montaigne's, while the above lines are only partially parallel in
meaning, we are forced to admit that Shakspere may have been influenced
by Montaigne even where a partial precedent might be found in his own or
other English work.

III. The phrase "discourse of reason," which is spoken by Hamlet in his
first soliloquy,[19] and which first appears in the Second Quarto, is
not used by Shakspere in any play before HAMLET; and he uses it again in
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA;[20] while "discourse of thought" appears in
OTHELLO;[21] and "discourse," in the sense of reasoning faculty, is used
in Hamlet's last soliloquy.[22] In English literature this use of the
word seems to be special in Shakspere's period,[23] and it has been
noted by an admirer as a finely Shaksperean expression. But the
expression "discourse of reason" occurs at least four times in
Montaigne's Essays, and in Florio's translation of them: in the
close of the essay[25] _A demain les affaires_; again in the first
paragraph of the APOLOGY OF RAIMOND SEBONDE[26]; and yet again in the
chapter on THE HISTORY OF SPURINA;[27] and though it seems to be
scholastic in origin, and occurs once or twice before 1600 in English
books, it is difficult to doubt that, like the other phrase above cited,
it came to Shakspere through Florio's Montaigne. The word _discours_ is
a hundred times used singly by Montaigne, as by Shakspere in the phrase
"of such large discourse," for the process of ratiocination.

IV. Then again there is the clue of Shakspere's use of the word
"consummation" in the revised form of the "To be" soliloquy. This, as
Mr. Feis pointed out,[28] is the word used by Florio as a rendering of
_anéantissement_ in the speech of Socrates as given by Montaigne in the
essay[29] OF PHYSIOGNOMY. Shakspere makes Hamlet speak of annihilation
as "a consummation devoutly to be wished." Florio has: "If it (death) be
a consummation of one's being, it is also an amendment and entrance into
a long and quiet night. We find nothing so sweet in life as a quiet and
gentle sleep, and without dreams." Here not only do the words coincide
in a peculiar way, but the idea in the two phrases is the same; the
theme of sleep and dreams being further common to the two writings.

Beyond these, I have not noted any correspondences of phrase so precise
as to prove reminiscence beyond possibility of dispute; but it is not
difficult to trace striking correspondences which, though falling short
of explicit reproduction, inevitably suggest a relation; and these it
now behoves us to consider. The remarkable thing is, as regards HAMLET,
that they almost all occur in passages not present in the First Quarto.

V. When we compare part of the speech of Rosencrantz on sedition[30]
with a passage in Montaigne's essay, OF CUSTOM,[31] we find a somewhat
close coincidence. In the play Rosencrantz says:

                  "The cease of Majesty,
  Dies not alone; but like a gulf doth draw
  What's near with it: it is a massy wheel
  Fix'd on the summit of the highest mount,
  To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things
  Are mortised and adjoined; which, when it falls,
  Each small annexment, petty consequence,
  Attends the boisterous ruin."

Florio has:

  "Those who attempt to shake an Estate are commonly the first
  overthrown by the fall of it.... The contexture and
  combining of this monarchy and great building having been
  dismissed and dissolved by it, namely, in her old years,
  giveth as much overture and entrance as a man will to like
  injuries. Royal _majesty_ doth more hardly fall from the top
  to the middle, than it tumbleth down from the middle to the

The verbal correspondence here is only less decisive--as regards the use
of the word "majesty"--than in the passages collated by Mr. Morley;
while the thought corresponds as closely.

VI. The speech of Hamlet,[32] "There is nothing either good or bad but
thinking makes it so"; and Iago's "'tis in ourselves that we are thus or
thus,"[33] are expressions of a favourite thesis of Montaigne's, to
which he devotes an entire essay.[34] The Shaksperean phrases echo
closely such sentences as:--

  "If that which we call evil and torment be neither torment
  nor evil, but that our fancy only gives it that quality, it
  is in us to change it.... That which we term evil is not so
  of itself." ... "Every man is either well or ill according as
  he finds himself."

And in the essay[35] OF DEMOCRITUS AND HERACLITUS there is another close

  "Therefore let us take no more excuses from external
  qualities of things. To us it belongeth to give ourselves
  account of it. Our good and our evil hath no dependency but
  from ourselves."

VII. Hamlet's apostrophe to his mother on
the power of custom--a passage which, like the
others above cited, first appears in the Second
Quarto--is similarly an echo of a favourite
proposition of Montaigne, who devotes to it the
RECEIVED LAW. In that there occur the typical

  "Custom doth so blear us that we cannot distinguish the
  usage of things.... Certes, chastity is an excellent virtue,
  the commodity whereof is very well known; but to use it, and
  according to nature to prevail with it, is as hard as it is
  easy to endear it and to prevail with it according to
  custom, to laws and precepts." "The laws of conscience,
  which we say are born of nature, are born of custom."

Again, in the essay OF CONTROLLING ONE'S WILL[37] we have: "Custom is a
second nature, and not less potent."

Hamlet's words are:--

 "That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat
  Of habits devil, is angel yet in this
  That to the use of actions fair and good
  He likewise gives a frock or livery
  That aptly is put on....
  For use can almost change the stamp of nature."

No doubt the idea is a classic commonplace; and in the early TWO
GENTLEMEN OF VERONA[38] we actually have the line, "How use doth breed a
habit in a man;" but here again there seems reason to regard Montaigne
as having suggested Shakspere's vivid and many-coloured wording of the
idea in the tragedy. Indeed, even the line cited from the early comedy
may have been one of the poet's many later additions to his text.

VIII. A less close but still a noteworthy resemblance is that between
the passage in which Hamlet expresses to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
the veering of his mood from joy in things to disgust with them, and the
paragraph in the APOLOGY OF RAYMOND SEBONDE in which Montaigne sets
against each other the splendour of the universe and the littleness of
man. Here the thought diverges, Shakspere making it his own as he always
does, and altering its aim; but the language is curiously similar.
Hamlet says:

  "It goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly
  frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory: this
  most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave
  o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with
  golden fire, why it appears no other thing to me than a foul
  and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work
  is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in
  form and moving, how express and admirable! in action, how
  like an angel! in apprehension, how like a God! the beauty
  of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet to me what is
  this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me."

Montaigne, as translated by Florio, has:

  "Let us see what hold-fast or free-hold he (man) hath in
  this gorgeous and goodly equipage.... Who hath persuaded
  him, that this admirable moving of heaven's vaults, that the
  eternal light of these lamps so fiercely rolling over his
  head ... were established ... for his commodity and service?
  Is it possible to imagine anything so ridiculous as this
  miserable and wretched creature, which is not so much as
  master of himself, exposed and subject to offences of all
  things, and yet dareth call himself Master and Emperor of
  this universe?... [To consider ... the power and domination
  these (celestial) bodies have, not only upon our lives and
  conditions of our fortune ... but also over our dispositions
  and inclinations, our discourses and wills, which they rule,
  provoke, and move at the pleasure of their influences.] ...
  Of all creatures man is the most miserable and frail, and
  therewithal the proudest and disdainfullest. Who perceiveth
  himself placed here, amidst the filth and mire of the world
  ... and yet dareth imaginarily place himself above the
  circle of the Moon, and reduce heaven under his feet. It is
  through the vanity of the same imagination that he dare
  equal himself to God."

The passage in brackets is left here in its place, not as suggesting
anything in Hamlet's speech, but as paralleling a line in MEASURE FOR
MEASURE, to be dealt with immediately. But it will be seen that
the rest of the passage, though turned to quite another purpose than
Hamlet's, brings together in the same way a set of contrasted ideas of
human greatness and smallness, and of the splendour of the midnight

IX. The nervous protest of Hamlet to Horatio on the point of the
national vice of drunkenness,[40] of which all save the beginning is
added in the Second Quarto just before the entrance of the Ghost, has
several curious points of coincidence with Montaigne's essay[41] on THE
HISTORY OF SPURINA, which discusses at great length a matter of special
interest to Shakspere--the character of Julius Cæsar. In the course of
the examination Montaigne takes trouble to show that Cato's use of the
epithet "drunkard" to Cæsar could not have been meant literally; that
the same Cato admitted Cæsar's sobriety in the matter of drinking. It is
after making light of Cæsar's faults in other matters of personal
conduct that the essayist comes to this decision:

  "But all these noble inclinations, rich gifts, worthy
  qualities, were altered, smothered, and eclipsed by this
  furious passion of ambition.... To conclude, this only vice
  (in mine opinion) lost and overthrew in him the fairest
  natural and richest ingenuity that ever was, and hath made
  his memory abominable to all honest minds."

Compare the exquisitely high-strung lines, so congruous in their excited
rapidity with Hamlet's intensity of expectation, which follow on his
notable outburst on the subject of drunkenness:

 "So oft it chances in particular men,
  That for some vicious mode of nature in them,
  As in their birth (wherein they are not guilty,
  Since nature cannot choose its origin),
  By the o'ergrowth of some complexion,
  Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason;
  Or by some habit that too much o'er-leavens
  The form of plausive manners; that these men,--
  Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect;
  Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,--
  Their virtues else (be they as pure as grace,
  As infinite as man may undergo)
  Shall in the general censure take corruption
  From that particular fault...."

Even the idea that "nature cannot choose its origin" is suggested by the
context in Montaigne.[42] Shakspere's estimate of Cæsar, of course,
diverged from that of the essay.

X. I find a certain singularity of coincidence between the words of King
Claudius on kingship:

 "There's such divinity doth hedge a king,
  That treason can but peep to what it would,
  Acts little of his will,"

and a passage in the essay[43] OF THE INCOMMODITY OF GREATNESS:

  "To be a king, is a matter of that consequence, that only by
  it he is so. That strange glimmering and eye-dazzling light,
  which round about environeth, over-casteth and hideth from
  us: our weak sight is thereby bleared and dissipated, as
  being filled and obscured by that greater and
  further-spreading brightness."

The working out of the metaphor here gives at once to Shakspere's terms
"divinity" and "can but peep" a point not otherwise easily seen; but the
idea of a dazzling light may be really what was meant in the play; and
one is tempted to pronounce the passage a reminiscence of Montaigne.
Here, however, it has to be noted that in the First Quarto we have the

 "There's such divinity doth wall a king
  That treason dares not look on."

And if Shakspere had not seen or heard the passage in Montaigne before
the publication of Florio's folio--which, however, he may very well have
done--the theory of reminiscence here cannot stand.

XI. In Hamlet's soliloquy on the passage of the army of Fortinbras--one
of the many passages added in the Second Quarto--there is a strong
general resemblance to a passage in the essay OF DIVERSION.[44] Hamlet
first remarks to the Captain:

 "Two thousand souls and twenty thousand ducats
  Will not debate the question of this straw:
  This is the imposthume of much wealth and peace;"

and afterwards soliloquises:

            "Examples gross as earth exhort me:
  Witness, this army of such mass and charge,
  Led by a delicate and tender prince,
  Whose spirit, by divine ambition puff'd,
  Makes mouths at the invisible event;
  Exposing what is mortal and unsure
  To all that fortune, death, and danger dare,
  Even for an egg-shell. Rightly to be great,
  Is not to stir without great argument,
  But greatly to find quarrel in a straw.
  When honour is at stake....

                 ....to my shame I see
  The imminent death of twenty thousand men,
  That for a fantasy and trick of fame,
  Go to their graves like beds; fight for a plot
  Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause...."

Montaigne has the same general idea in the essay OF DIVERSION:

  "If one demand that fellow, what interest he hath in such a
  siege: The interest of example (he will say) and common
  obedience of the Prince: I nor look nor pretend any benefit
  thereby ... I have neither passion nor quarrel in the
  matter. Yet the next day you will see him all changed, and
  chafing, boiling and blushing with rage, in his rank of
  battle, ready for the assault. It is the glaring reflecting
  of so much steel, the flashing thundering of the cannon, the
  clang of trumpets, and the rattling of drums, that have
  infused this new fury and rancour in his swelling veins. A
  frivolous cause, will you say? How a cause? There needeth
  none to excite our mind. A doting humour without body,
  without substance, overswayeth it up and down."

The thought recurs in the essay, OF CONTROLLING ONE'S WILL.[45]

  "Our greatest agitations have strange springs and ridiculous
  causes. What ruin did our last Duke of Burgundy run into,
  for the quarrel of a cart-load of sheep-skins?... See why
  that man doth hazard both his honour and life on the fortune
  of his rapier and dagger; let him tell you whence the cause
  of that confusion ariseth, he cannot without blushing; so
  vain and frivolous is the occasion."

And the idea in Hamlet's lines "rightly to be great," etc., is suggested
in the essay OF REPENTING,[46] where we have:

  "The nearest way to come unto glory were to do that for
  conscience which we do for glory.... The worth of the mind
  consisteth not in going high, but in going orderly. Her
  greatness is not exercised in greatness; in mediocrity it

In the essay OF EXPERIENCE[47] there is a sentence partially expressing
the same thought, which is cited by Mr. Feis as a reproduction:

  "The greatness of the mind is not so much to draw up, and
  hale forward, as to know how to range, direct, and
  circumscribe itself. It holdeth for great what is
  sufficient, and sheweth her height in loving mean things
  better than eminent."

Here, certainly, as in the previous citation, the idea is not identical
with that expressed by Hamlet. But the elements he combines are there;
and again, in the essay OF SOLITARINESS[48] we have the picture of the
soldier fighting furiously for the quarrel of his careless king, with
the question: "Who doth not willingly chop and counter-change his
health, his ease, yea his life, for glory and reputation, the most
unprofitable, vain, and counterfeit coin that is in use with us."

And yet again the thought crops up in the APOLOGY OF RAYMOND SEBONDE:

  "This horror-causing array of so many thousands of armed
  men, so great fury, earnest fervour, and undaunted courage,
  it would make one laugh to see on how many vain occasions it
  is raised and set on fire.... The hatred of one man, a
  spite, a pleasure ... causes which ought not to move two
  scolding fishwives to catch one another, is the soul and
  motive of all this hurly-burly."

XII. Yet one more of Hamlet's sayings peculiar to the revised form of
the play seems to be an echo of a thought of Montaigne's. At the outset
of the soliloquy last quoted from, Hamlet says:--

                   "What is a man
  If his chief good and market of his time,
  Be but to sleep and feed? A beast; no more.
  Sure He that made us with such large discourse,
  Looking before and after, gave us not
  That capability and godlike reason
  To fust in us unused."

The bearing of the thought in the soliloquy, where Hamlet spasmodically
applies it to the stimulation of his vengeance, is certainly never given
to it by Montaigne, who has left on record[49] his small approbation of
revenge; but the thought itself is there, in the essay[50] ON GOODS AND

  "Shall we employ the intelligence Heaven hath bestowed upon
  us for our greatest good, to our ruin, repugning nature's
  design and the universal order and vicissitude of things,
  which implieth that every man should use his instrument and
  means for his own commodity?"

Again, there is a passage in the essay OF THE AFFECTION OF FATHERS TO
THEIR CHILDREN,[51] where there occurs a specific coincidence of phrase,
the special use of the term "discourse," which we have already traced
from Shakspere to Montaigne; and where at the same time the contrast
between man and beast is drawn, though not to the same purpose as in the
speech of Hamlet:--

  "Since it hath pleased God to endow us with some capacity of
  discourse, that as beasts we should not servilely be
  subjected to common laws, but rather with judgment and
  voluntary liberty apply ourselves unto them, we ought
  somewhat to yield unto the simple authority of Nature, but
  not suffer her tyrannically to carry us away; only reason
  ought to have the conduct of our inclinations."

Finally we have a third parallel, with a slight coincidence of terms, in
the essay[52] OF GIVING THE LIE:

  "Nature hath endowed us with a large faculty to entertain
  ourselves apart, and often calleth us unto it, to teach us
  that partly we owe ourselves unto society, but in the better
  part unto ourselves."

It may be argued that these, like one or two of the other sayings above
cited as echoed by Shakspere from Montaigne, are of the nature of
general religious or ethical maxims, traceable to no one source; and if
we only found one or two such parallels, their resemblance of course
would have no evidential value, save as regards coincidence of terms.
For this very passage, for instance, there is a classic original, or at
least a familiar source, in Cicero,[53] where the commonplace of the
contrast between man and beast is drawn in terms that come in a general
way pretty close to Hamlet's. This treatise of Cicero was available to
Shakspere in several English translations;[54] and only the fact that we
find no general trace of Cicero in the play entitles us to suggest a
connection in this special case with Montaigne, of whom we do find so
many other traces. It is easy besides to push the theory of any
influence too far; and when for instance we find Hamlet saying he fares
"Of the chameleon's dish: I eat the air, promise-crammed," it would be
as idle to assume a reminiscence of a passage of Montaigne on the
chameleon[55] as it would be to derive Hamlet's phrase "A king of shreds
and patches" from Florio's rendering in the essay[56] OF THE INCONSTANCY

  "We are all framed of flaps and patches, and of so
  shapeless and diverse a contexture, that every piece and
  every moment playeth his part."

In the latter case we have a mere coincidence of idiom; in the former a
proverbial allusion.[57] An uncritical pursuit of such mere accidents of
resemblance has led Mr. Feis to such enormities as the assertion that
Shakspere's contemporaries knew Hamlet's use of his tablets to be a
parody of the "much-scribbling Montaigne," who had avowed that he made
much use of his; the assertion that Ophelia's "Come, my coach!" has
reference to Montaigne's remark that he has known ladies who would
rather lend their honour than their coach; and a dozen other
propositions, if possible still more amazing. But when, with no
foregone conclusion as to any polemic purpose on Shakspere's part, we
restrict ourselves to real parallels of thought and expression; when we
find that a certain number of these are actually textual; when we find
further that in a single soliloquy in the play there are several
reproductions of ideas in the essays, some of them frequently recurring
in Montaigne; and when finally it is found that, with only one
exception, all the passages in question have been added to the play in
the Second Quarto, after the publication of Florio's translation, it
seems hardly possible to doubt that the translation influenced the
dramatist in his work.

Needless to say, the influence is from the very start of that high sort
in which he that takes becomes co-thinker with him that gives,
Shakspere's absorption of Montaigne being as vital as Montaigne's own
assimilation of the thought of his classics. The process is one not of
surface reflection, but of kindling by contact; and we seem to see even
the vibration of the style passing from one intelligence to the other;
the nervous and copious speech of Montaigne awakening Shakspere to a
new sense of power over rhythm and poignant phrase, at the same time
that the stimulus of the thought gives him a new confidence in the
validity of his own reflection. Some cause there must have been for this
marked species of development in the dramatist at that particular time:
and if we find pervading signs of one remarkable new influence, with no
countervailing evidence of another adequate to the effect, the inference
is about as reasonable as many which pass for valid in astronomy. For it
will be found, on the one hand, that there is no sign worth considering
of a Montaigne influence on Shakspere before HAMLET; and, on the other
hand, that the influence to some extent continues beyond that play.
Indeed, there are still further minute signs of it there, which should
be noted before we pass on.

XIII. Among parallelisms of thought of a less direct kind, one may be
traced between an utterance of Hamlet's and a number of Montaigne's
sayings on the power of imagination and the possible equivalence of
dream life and waking life. In his first dialogue with Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern, where we have already noted an echo of Montaigne, Hamlet

  "O God! I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a
  king of infinite space; were it not that I have bad dreams;"

and Guildenstern answers:

  "Which dreams, indeed, are ambition; for the very substance
  of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream."

The first sentence may be compared with a number in Montaigne,[58] of
which the following[59] is a type:

  "Man clean contrary [to the Gods] possesseth goods in
  imagination and evils essentially. We have had reason to
  make the powers of our imagination to be of force, for all
  our felicities are but in conceipt, and as it were in a

while the reply of Guildenstern further recalls several of the passages
already cited.

XIV. Another apparent parallel of no great importance, but of more
verbal closeness, is that between Hamlet's jeering phrase:[60] "Your
worm is your only emperor for diet," and a sentence in the APOLOGY: "The
heart and the life of a great and triumphant emperor are the dinner of a
little worm," which M. Stapfer compares further with the talk of Hamlet
in the grave-diggers' scene. Here, doubtless, we are near the level of
proverbial sayings, current in all countries.

XV. As regards HAMLET, I can find no further parallelisms so direct as
any of the foregoing, except some to be considered later, in connection
with the "To be" soliloquy. I do not think it can be made out that, as
M. Chasles affirmed, Hamlet's words on his friendship for Horatio can be
traced directly to any of Montaigne's passages on that theme. "It would
be easy," says M. Chasles, "to show in Shakspere the _branloire
perenne_[61] of Montaigne, and the whole magnificent passage on
friendship, which is found reproduced (_se trouve reporté_) in HAMLET."
The idea of the world as a perpetual mutation is certainly prevalent in
Shakspere's work; but I can find no exact correspondence of phrase
between Montaigne's pages on his love for his dead friend Etienne de la
Boëtie and the lines in which Hamlet speaks of his love for Horatio. He
rather gives his reasons for his love than describes the nature and
completeness of it in Montaigne's way; and as regards the description
of Horatio, it could have been independently suggested by such a
treatise as Seneca's DE CONSTANTIA SAPIENTIS, which is a monody on the
theme with which it closes: _esse aliquem invictum, esse aliquem in quem
nihil fortuna possit_--"to be something unconquered, something against
which fortune is powerless." In the fifth section the idea is worded in
a fashion that could have suggested Shakspere's utterance of it; and he
might easily have met with some citation of the kind. But, on the other
hand, this note of passionate friendship is not only new in Shakspere
but new in HAMLET, in respect of the First Quarto, in which the main
part of the speech to Horatio does not occur, and in view of the
singular fact that in the first Act of the play as it stands Hamlet
greets Horatio as a mere acquaintance; and it is further to be noted
that the description of Horatio as "one in suffering all that suffers
nothing" is broadly suggested by the quotation from Horace in
Montaigne's nineteenth chapter (which, as we have already seen,
impressed Shakspere), and by various other sayings in the Essays. After
the quotation from Horace (_Non vultus instantis tyranni_), in the
Nineteenth Essay, Florio's translation runs:

  "She (the soul) is made mistress of her passions and
  concupiscences, lady of indigence, of shame, of poverty, and
  of all fortune's injuries. Let him that can, attain to this
  advantage. Herein consists the true and sovereign liberty,
  that affords us means wherewith to jest and make a scorn of
  force and injustice, and to deride imprisonment, gyves, or

Again, in the essay OF THREE COMMERCES OR SOCIETIES,[62] we have this:

  "We must not cleave so fast unto our humours and
  dispositions. Our chiefest sufficiency is to supply
  ourselves to diverse fashions. It is a being, but not a
  life, to be tied and bound by necessity to one only course.
  The goodliest minds are those that have most variety and
  pliableness in them.... Life is a motion unequal, irregular,
  and multiform....

  " ... My fortune having inured and allured me, even from my
  infancy, to one sole, singular, and perfect amity, hath
  verily in some sort distasted me from others.... So that it
  is naturally a pain unto me to communicate myself by halves,
  and with modification....

  "I should commend a high-raised mind that could both bend
  and discharge itself; that wherever her fortune might
  transport her, she might continue constant.... I envy those
  which can be familiar with the meanest of their followers,
  and vouchsafe to contract friendship and frame discourse
  with their own servants."

Again, la Boëtie is panegyrised by Montaigne for his rare poise and
firmness of character;[63] and elsewhere in the essays we find many
allusions to the ideal of the imperturbable man, which Montaigne has in
the above cited passages brought into connection with his ideal of
friendship. It could well be, then--though here we cannot argue the
point with confidence--that in this as in other matters the strong
general impression that Montaigne was so well fitted to make on
Shakspere's mind was the source of such a change in the conception and
exposition of Hamlet's relation to Horatio as is set up by Hamlet's
protestation of his long-standing admiration and love for his friend.
Shakspere's own relations with one or other of his noble patrons would
make him specially alive to such suggestion.

XVI. We now come to the suggested resemblance between the "To be or not
to be" soliloquy and the general tone of Montaigne on the subject of
death. On this resemblance I am less disposed to lay stress now than I
was on a first consideration of the subject thirteen years ago. While I
find new coincidences of detail on a more systematic search, I am less
impressed by the alleged general resemblance of tone. In point of fact,
the general drift of Hamlet's soliloquy is rather alien to the general
tone of Montaigne on the same theme. That tone, as we shall see,
harmonises much more nearly with the speech of the Duke to Claudio, on
the same theme, in MEASURE FOR MEASURE. What really seems to subsist in
the "To be" soliloquy, after a careful scrutiny, is a series of echoes
of single thoughts; but there is the difficulty that some of these occur
in the earlier form of the soliloquy in the First Quarto, a circumstance
which tends--though not necessarily[64]--to throw a shade of doubt on
the apparent echoes in the finished form of the speech. We can but weigh
the facts as impartially as may be.

First, there is the striking coincidence of the word "consummation"
(which appears only in the Second Quarto), with Florio's translation of
_anéantissement_ in the essay OF PHYSIOGNOMY, as above noted. Secondly,
there is a curious resemblance between the phrase "take arms against a
sea of troubles" and a passage in Florio's version of the same essay,
which has somehow been overlooked in the disputes over Shakspere's line.
It runs:

  "I sometimes suffer myself by starts to be surprised with
  the pinchings of these unpleasant conceits, which, whilst I
  arm myself to expel or wrestle against them, assail and beat
  me. Lo here another huddle or tide of mischief, that on the
  neck of the former came rushing upon me."

There arises here the difficulty that Shakspere's line had been
satisfactorily traced to Ælian's[65] story of the Celtic practice of
rushing into the sea to resist a high tide with weapons; and the matter
must, I think, be left open until it can he ascertained whether the
statement concerning the Celts was available to Shakspere in any
translation or citation.[66]

Again, the phrase "Conscience doth make cowards of us all" is very like
the echo of two passages in the essay[67] OF CONSCIENCE: "Of such
marvellous working power is the sting of conscience: which often
induceth us to bewray, to accuse, and to combat ourselves"; "which as it
doth fill us with fear and doubt, so doth it store us with assurance and
trust;" and the lines about "the dread of something after death" might
point to the passage in the Fortieth Essay, in which Montaigne cites the
saying of Augustine that "Nothing but what follows death, makes death to
be evil" (_malam mortem non facit, nisi quod sequitur mortem_) cited by
Montaigne in order to dispute it. The same thought, too, is dealt with
in the essay[68] on A CUSTOM OF THE ISLE OF CEA, which contains a
passage suggestive of Hamlet's earlier soliloquy on self-slaughter. But,
for one thing, Hamlet's soliloquies are contrary in drift to Montaigne's
argument; and, for another, the phrase "Conscience makes cowards of us
all" existed in the soliloquy as it stood in the First Quarto, while the
gist of the idea is actually found twice in a previous play, where it
has a proverbial ring.[69] And "the _hope_ of something after death"
figures in the First Quarto also.

Finally, there are other sources than Montaigne for parts of the
soliloquy, sources nearer, too, than those which have been pointed to in
the Senecan tragedies. There is, indeed, as Dr. Cunliffe has pointed
out,[70] a broad correspondence between the whole soliloquy and the
chorus of women at the end of the second Act of the TROADES, where the
question of a life beyond is pointedly put:

 "Verum est? an timidos fabula decepit,
  Umbras corporibus vivere conditis?"

It is true that the choristers in Seneca pronounce definitely against
the future life:

 "Post mortem nihil est, ipsaque mors nihil....
  Rumores vacui verbaque inania,
  Et par sollicito fabula somnio."

But wherever in Christendom the pagan's words were discussed, the
Christian hypothesis would be pitted against his unbelief, with the
effect of making one thought overlay the other; and in this fused form
the discussion may easily have reached Shakspere's eye and ear. So it
would be with the echo of two Senecan passages noted by Mr. Munro in the
verses on "the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller
returns." In the HERCULES FURENS[71] we have:

 "Nemo ad id sero venit, unde nunquam
  Quum semel venit potuit reverti;"

and in the HERCULES OETÆUS[72] there is the same thought:

               "regnum canis inquieti
  Unde non unquam remeavit ullus."

But here, as elsewhere, Seneca himself was employing a standing
sentiment, for in the best known poem of Catullus we have:

 "Qui nunc it per iter tenebricosum
  Illuc, unde negant redire quemquam."[73]

And though there was in Shakspere's day no English translation of
Catullus, the commentators long ago noted[74] that in Sandford's
translation of Cornelius Agrippa (? 1569), there occurs the phrase, "The
countrie of the dead is irremeable, that they cannot return," a fuller
parallel to the passage in the soliloquy than anything cited from the

Finally, in Marlowe's EDWARD II.,[75] written before 1593, we have:

               "Weep not for Mortimer,
  That scorns the world, and, as a traveller,
  Goes to discover countries yet unknown."[76]

So that, without going to the Latin, we have obvious English sources for
notable parts of the soliloquy.

Thus, though Shakspere may (1) have seen part of the Florio translation,
or separate translations of some of the essays, before the issue of the
First Quarto; or may (2) easily have heard that very point discussed by
Florio, who was the friend of his friend Jonson, or by those who had
read the original; or may even (3) himself have read in the original;
and though further it seems quite certain that his "consummation
devoutly to be wished" was an echo of Florio's translation of the
Apology of Socrates; on the other hand we are not entitled to trace the
soliloquy as a whole to Montaigne's stimulation of Shakspere's thought.
That Shakspere read Montaigne in the original once seemed probable to
me, as to others; but, on closer study, I consider it unlikely, were it
only because the Montaigne influence in his work begins, as aforesaid,
in HAMLET. Of all the apparent coincidences I have noticed between
Shakspere's previous plays and the essays, none has any evidential
value. (1) The passage on the music of the spheres in the MERCHANT OF
VENICE[77] recalls the passage on the subject in Montaigne's essay of
CUSTOM;[78] but then the original source is Cicero, IN SOMNIUM
SCIPIONIS, which had been translated into English in 1577. (2)
Falstaff's rhapsody on the virtues of sherris[79] recalls a passage in
the essay OF DRUNKENNESS,[80] but then Montaigne avows that what he says
is the common doctrine of wine-drinkers. (3) Montaigne cites[81] the old
saying of Petronius, that "all the world's a stage," which occurs in AS
YOU LIKE IT; but the phrase itself, being preserved by John of
Salisbury, would be current in England. It is, indeed, said to have been
the motto of the Globe Theatre. Thus, while we are the more strongly
convinced of a Montaigne influence beginning with HAMLET, we are bound
to concede the doubtfulness of any apparent influence before the Second
Quarto. At most we may say that both of Hamlet's soliloquies which touch
on suicide evidently owe something to the discussions set up by
Montaigne's essays.[82]

XVII. In the case of the Duke's exhortation to Claudio in MEASURE FOR
MEASURE, on the contrary, the whole speech may be said to be a synthesis
of favourite propositions of Montaigne. The thought in itself, of
course, is not new or out-of-the-way; it is nearly all to be found
suggested in the Latin classics; but in the light of what is certain for
us as to Shakspere's study of Montaigne, and of the whole cast of the
expression, it is difficult to doubt that Montaigne is for Shakspere the
source. Let us take a number of passages from Florio's translation of
the Nineteenth Essay, to begin with:

  "The end of our career is death: it is the necessary object
  of our aim; if it affright us, how is it possible we should
  step one foot further without an ague?"

  "What hath an aged man left him of his youth's vigour, and
  of his fore past life?... When youth fails in us, we feel,
  nay we perceive, no shaking or transchange at all in
  ourselves: which is essence and verity is a harder death
  than that of a languishing and irksome life, or that of age.
  Forasmuch as the leap from an ill being into a not being is
  not so dangerous or steepy as it is from a delightful and
  flourishing being into a painful and sorrowful condition. A
  weak bending and faint stopping body hath less strength to
  bear and undergo a heavy burden: So hath our soul."

  "Our religion hath no surer human foundation than the
  contempt of life. Discourse of reason doth not only call and
  summon us unto it. For why should we fear to lose a thing,
  which being lost, cannot be moaned? But also, since we are
  threatened by so many kinds of death, there is no more
  inconvenience to fear them all than to endure one: what
  matter it when it cometh, since it is unavoidable?... Death
  is a part of yourselves; you fly from yourselves. The being
  you enjoy is equally shared between life and death ... The
  continual work of your life is to contrive death; you are in
  death during the time you continue in life ... during life
  you are still dying."

The same line of expostulation occurs in other essays. In the Fortieth
we have:

  "Now death, which some of all horrible things call the most
  horrible, who knows not how others call it the only haven of
  this life's torments? the sovereign good of nature? the only
  stay of our liberty? and the ready and common receipt of our

  " ... Death is but felt by discourse, because it is the
  emotion of an instant. A thousand beasts, a thousand men,
  are sooner dead than threatened."

Then take a passage occurring near the end of the APOLOGY OF RAYMOND

  "We do foolishly fear a kind of death, whereas we have
  already passed and daily pass so many others.... The flower
  of age dieth, fadeth, and fleeteth, when age comes upon us,
  and youth endeth in the flower of a full-grown man's age,
  childhood in youth, and the first age dieth in infancy; and
  yesterday endeth in this day, and to-day shall die in

Now compare textually the Duke's speech:

 "Be absolute for death: either death or life
  Shall thereby be the sweeter. Reason thus with life:--
  If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing
  That none but fools would keep: a breath thou art,
  (Servile to all the skiey influences)
  That dost this habitation, where thou keep'st,
  Hourly afflict: merely, thou are death's fool;
  For him thou labour'st by thy flight to shun,
  And yet run'st towards him still: Thou art not noble;
  For all the accommodations that thou bear'st
  Are nursed by baseness: Thou art by no means valiant,
  For thou dost fear the soft and tender fork
  Of a poor worm: Thy best of rest is sleep,
  And that thou oft provok'st; yet grossly fear'st
  Thy death, which is no more. Thou art not thyself;
  For thou exist'st on many thousand grains
  Which issue out of dust: Happy thou art not;
  For what thou hast not, still thou striv'st to get,
  And what thou hast forget'st: Thou art not certain,
  For thy complexion shifts to strange effects,
  After the moon: If thou art rich, thou art poor;
  For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows,
  Thou bear'st thy heavy riches but a journey,
  And death unloads thee: Friend hast thou none;
  For thine own bowels, which do call thee sire,
  Do curse the gout, serpigo, and the rheum,
  For ending thee no sooner: Thou hast no youth nor age,
  But, as it were, an after-dinner's sleep,
  Dreaming on both: for all thy blessed youth
  Becomes as aged, and doth beg the alms
  Of palsied eld; and when thou art old and rich,
  Thou hast neither heat, affection, limbs, nor beauty,
  To make thy riches pleasant. What's yet in this,
  That bears the name of life? Yet in this life
  Lie hid more thousand deaths: yet death we fear,
  That makes these odds all even."[83]

Then collate yet further some more passages from the Essays:

  "They perceived her (the soul) to be capable of diverse
  passions, and agitated by many languishing and painful
  motions ... subject to her infirmities, diseases, and
  offences, even as the stomach or the foot ... dazzled and
  troubled by the force of wine; removed from her seat by the
  vapours of a burning fever.... She was seen to dismay and
  confound all her faculties by the only biting of a sick dog,
  and to contain no great constancy of discourse, no virtue,
  no philosophical resolution, no contention of her forces,
  that might exempt her from the subjection of these

  "It is not without reason we are taught to take notice of
  our sleep, for the resemblance it hath with death. How
  easily we pass from waking to sleeping; with how little
  interest we lose the knowledge of light, and of

  "Wherefore as we from that instant take a title of being,
  which is but a twinkling in the infinite course of an
  eternal night, and so short an interruption of our perpetual
  and natural condition, death possessing whatever is before
  and behind this moment, and also a good part of this moment,

  "Every human nature is ever in the middle between being born
  and dying, giving nothing of itself but an obscure
  appearance and shadow, and an uncertain and weak

Compare finally the line "Thy best of rest is sleep" (where the word
rest seems a printer's error) with the passage "We find nothing so sweet
in life as a quiet and gentle sleep," already cited in connection with
our fourth parallel.

XVIII. The theme, in fine, is one of Montaigne's favourites. And the
view that Shakspere had been impressed by it seems to be decisively
corroborated by the fact that the speech of Claudio to Isabella,
expressing those fears of death which the Duke seeks to calm, is
likewise an echo of a whole series of passages in Montaigne. Shakspere's
lines run:

 "Ay, but to die, and go we know not where,
  To lie in cold obstruction and to rot:
  This sensible warm motion to become
  A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
  To bathe in fiery floods or to reside
  In thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice,
  To be imprisoned in the viewless winds,
  And blown with restless violence round about
  The pendent world; or to be worse than worst
  Of those, that lawless and incertain thoughts
  Imagine howling!--'tis too horrible!..."

So far as I know, the only idea in this passage which belongs to the
current English superstition of Shakspere's day, apart from the natural
notion of death as a mere rotting of the body, is that of the
purgatorial fire; unless we assume that the common superstition as to
the souls of unbaptised children being blown about until the day of
judgment was extended in the popular imagination to the case of executed
criminals. He may have heard of the account given by Empedocles, as
cited in Plutarch,[88] of the punishment of the offending dæmons, who
were whirled between earth and air and sun and sea; but there is no
suggestion in that passage that human souls were so treated. Dante's
INFERNO, with its pictures of carnal sinners tossed about by the winds
in the dark air of the second circle,[89] and of traitors punished by
freezing in the ninth,[90] was probably not known to the dramatist; nor
does Dante's vision coincide with Claudio's, in which the souls are
blown "about the pendent world." Shakspere may indeed have heard some of
the old tales of a hot and cold purgatory, such as that of Drithelm,
given by Bede,[91] whence (rather than from Dante) Milton drew his idea
of an alternate torture.[92] But there again, the correspondence is only
partial; whereas in Montaigne's APOLOGY OF RAIMOND SEBONDE we find,
poetry apart, nearly every notion that enters into Claudio's speech:

  "The most universal and received fantasy, and which
  endureth to this day, hath been that whereof Pythagoras is
  made author ... which is that souls at their departure from
  us did but pass and roll from one to another body, from a
  lion to a horse, from a horse to a king, incessantly
  wandering up and down, from house to mansion.... Some added
  more, that the same souls do sometimes ascend up to heaven,
  and come down again.... Origen waked them eternally, to go
  and come from a good to a bad estate. The opinion that Varro
  reporteth is, that in the revolutions of four hundred and
  forty years they reconjoin themselves unto their first
  bodies.... Behold her (the soul's) progress elsewhere: He
  that hath lived well reconjoineth himself unto that star or
  planet to which he is assigned; who evil, passeth into a
  woman. And if then he amend not himself, he transchangeth
  himself into a beast, of condition agreeing to his vicious
  customs, and shall never see an end of his punishments until
  ... by virtue of reason he have deprived himself of those
  gross, stupid, and elementary qualities that were in him....
  They (the Epicureans) demand, what order there should be if
  the throng of the dying should be greater than that of such
  as be born ... and demand besides, what they should pass
  their time about, whilst they should stay, until any other
  mansion were made ready for them.... Others have staved the
  soul in the deceased bodies, wherewith to animate serpents,
  worms, and other beasts, which are said to engender from the
  corruption of our members, yea, and from our ashes....
  Others make it immortal without any science or knowledge.
  Nay, there are some of ours who have deemed that of
  condemned men's souls devils were made...."[93]

It is at a short distance from this passage that we find the suggestion
of a frozen purgatory:

  "Amongst them (barbarous nations) was also found the belief
  of purgatory, but after a new form, for what we ascribe unto
  fire they impute unto cold, and imagine that souls are both
  purged and punished by the vigor of an extreme

And over and above this peculiar correspondence between the Essays and
the two speeches on death, we may note how some of the lines of the Duke
in the opening scene connect with two of the passages above cited in
connection with Hamlet's last soliloquy, expressing the idea that nature
or deity confers gifts in order that they should be used. The Duke's
lines are among Shakspere's best:

            "Thyself and thy belongings
  Are not thine own so proper as to waste
  Thyself upon thy virtues, them on thee.
  Heaven doth with us as we with torches do,
  Not light them for themselves: for if our virtues
  Did not go forth of us, 'twere all alike
  As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely touched
  But to fine issues: nor nature never lends
  The smallest scruple of her excellence,
  But, like a thrifty goddess, she determines
  Herself the glory of a creditor,
  Both thanks and use...."

Here we have once more a characteristically Shaksperean transmutation
and development of the idea rather than a reproduction; and the same
appears when we compare the admirable lines of the poet with a homiletic
sentence from the APOLOGY OF RAYMOND SEBONDE:--

  "It is not enough for us to serve God in spirit and soul; we
  owe him besides and we yield unto him a corporal
  worshipping: we apply our limbs, our motions, and all
  external things to honour him."

But granting the philosophic as well as the poetic heightening, we are
still led to infer a stimulation of the poet's thought by the Essays--a
stimulation not limited to one play, but affecting other plays written
about the same time. Another point of connection between HAMLET and
MEASURE FOR MEASURE is seen when we compare the above passage, "Spirits
are not finely touched but to fine issues," with Laertes' lines[95]:

 "Nature is fine in love, and when 'tis fine
  It sends some precious instance of itself
  After the thing it loves."

And though such data are of course not conclusive as to the time of
composition of the plays, there is so much of identity between the
thought in the Duke's speech, just quoted, and a notable passage in
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA, as to strengthen greatly the surmise that the
latter play was also written, or rather worked-over, by Shakspere about
1604. The phrase:

                      "if our virtues
  Did not go forth of us, 'twere all the same
  As if we had them not,"

is developed in the speech of Ulysses to Achilles[96]:

                  "A strange fellow here
  Writes me that man--how dearly ever parted
  How much in having, or without, or in--
  Cannot make boast to have that which he hath,
  Nor feels not what he knows, but by reflection;
  As when his virtues shining upon others
  Heat them, and they retort their heat again
  To the first giver."

I do not remember in Montaigne any such development of the idea as
Shakspere here gives it; indeed, we have seen him putting forth a
contrary teaching; and looking to the context, where Ulysses admits the
thesis to be "familiar," we are bound to infer a direct source for it.
In all probability it derives from Seneca, who in his treatise DE
BENEFICIIS[97] throws out the germ of the ideas as to Nature demanding
back her gifts, and as to virtue being nothing if not reflected; and
even suggests the principle of "thanks and use."[98] This treatise, too,
lay to Shakspere's hand in the translation of 1578, where the passages:
"Rerum natura nihil dicitur perdere, quia quidquid illi avellitur, ad
illam redit; nec perire quidquam potest, quod quo excidat non habet, sed
eodem evolvitur unde discedit"; and "quaedam quum sint honesta,
pulcherrima summae virtutis, nisi cum altero non habent locum," are

  "The nature of a thing cannot be said to have foregone
  aught, because that whatsoever is plucked from it returneth
  to it again; neither can anything be lost which hath not
  whereout of to pass, but windeth back again unto whence it


  "Some things though they be honest, very goodly and right
  excellently vertuous, yet have they not their effect but in
  a co-partner."

Whether it was Shakspere's reading of Montaigne that sent him to Seneca,
to whom Montaigne[99] avows so much indebtedness, we of course cannot
tell; but it is enough for the purpose of our argument to say that we
have here another point or stage in a line of analytical thought on
which Shakspere was embarked about 1603, and of which the starting point
or initial stimulus was the perusal of Florio's Montaigne. We have the
point of contact with Montaigne in HAMLET, where the saying that reason
is implanted in us to be used, is seen to be one of the many
correspondences of thought between the play and the Essays. The idea is
more subtly and deeply developed in MEASURE FOR MEASURE, and still more
subtly and philosophically in TROILUS AND CRESSIDA. The fact of the
process of development is all that is here affirmed, over and above the
actual phenomena of reproduction before set forth.

As to these, the proposition is that in sum they constitute such an
amount of reproduction of Montaigne as explains Jonson's phrase about
habitual "stealings." There is no justification for applying that to the
passage in the TEMPEST, since not only is that play not known to have
existed in its present form in 1605,[100] when VOLPONE was produced, but
the phrase plainly alleges not one but many borrowings. I am not aware
that extracts from Montaigne have been traced in any others of the
English contemporary dramatists. But here in two plays of Shakspere,
then fresh in memory--the Second Quarto having been published in 1604
and MEASURE FOR MEASURE produced in the same year--were echoes enough
from Montaigne to be noted by Jonson, whom we know to have owned, as did
Shakspere, the Florio folio, and to have been Florio's warm admirer. And
there seems to be a confirmation of our thesis in the fact that, while
we find detached passages savouring of Montaigne in some later plays of
the same period, as in one of the concluding period, the TEMPEST, we do
not again find in any one play such a cluster of reminiscences as we
have seen in HAMLET and MEASURE FOR MEASURE, though the spirit
of Montaigne's thought, turned to a deepening pessimism, may be said to
tinge all the later tragedies.

(a) In OTHELLO (? 1604) we have Iago's "'tis in ourselves that we are
thus or thus," already considered, to say nothing of Othello's phrase--

 "I saw it not, thought it not, it harmed not me....
  He that is robb'd, not wanting what is stolen,
  Let him not know it, and he's not robb'd at all."

--a philosophical commonplace which compares with various passages in
the Fortieth Essay.

(b) In LEAR (1606) we have such a touch as the king's lines[101]--

 "And take upon's the mystery of things
  As if we were God's spies;"

--which recalls the vigorous protest of the essays, THAT A MAN OUGHT
Montaigne avows that if he dared he would put in the category of
imposters the

  "interpreters and ordinary controllers of the designs of
  God, setting about to find the causes of each accident, and
  to see in the secrets of the divine will the
  incomprehensible motives of its works."

This, again, is a recurrent note with Montaigne; and much of the
argument of the APOLOGY is typified in the sentence:--

  "What greater vanity can there be than to go about by our
  proportions and conjectures to guess at God?"

(c) But there is a yet more striking coincidence between a passage in
the essay[103] of JUDGING OF OTHERS' DEATH and the speech of Edmund[104]
on the subject of stellar influences. In the essay Montaigne sharply
derides the habit of ascribing human occurrences to the interference of
the stars--which very superstition he was later to support by his own
authority in the APOLOGY, as we have seen above, in the passage on the
"power and domination" of the celestial bodies. The passage in the
thirteenth essay is the more notable in itself, being likewise a protest
against human self-sufficiency, though the bearing of the illustration
is directly reversed. Here he derides man's conceit: "We entertain and
carry all with us: whence it followeth that we deem our death to be some
great matter, and which passeth not so easily, nor without a solemn
consultation of the stars." Then follow references to Cæsar's sayings as
to his star, and the "common foppery" as to the sun mourning his death a

  "And a thousand such, wherewith the world suffers itself to
  be so easily cony-catched, deeming that our own interests
  disturb heaven, and his infinity is moved at our least
  actions. 'There is no such society between heaven and us
  that by our destiny the shining of the stars should be as
  mortal as we are.'"

There seems to be an unmistakable reminiscence of this passage in
Edmund's speech, where the word "foppery" is a special clue:

  "This is the excellent foppery of the world! that when we
  are sick in fortune (often the surfeit of our own
  behaviour), we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the
  moon, and the stars: as if we were villains by necessity;
  fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and traitors
  by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers
  by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all
  that we are evil in, by divine thrusting on...."

(d) Again, in MACBETH (1606), the words of Malcolm to Macduff[105]:

 "Give sorrow words: the grief that does not speak,
  Whispers the o'erfraught heart and bids it break"

--an idea which also underlies Macbeth's "this perilous stuff, which
weighs upon the heart"--recalls the essay[106] OF SADNESS, in which
Montaigne remarks on the

  "mournful silent stupidity which so doth pierce us when
  accidents surpassing our strength overwhelm us," and on the
  way in which "the soul, bursting afterwards forth into tears
  and complaints ... seemeth to clear and dilate itself";
  going on to tell how the German Lord Raisciac looked on his
  dead son "till the vehemency of his sad sorrow, having
  suppressed and choked his vital spirits, felled him stark
  dead to the ground."

The parallel here, such as it is, is at least much more vivid than that
drawn between Shakspere's lines and one of Seneca:

  Curae leves loquuntur: ingentes stupent[107]--"Light
  troubles speak: the great ones are dumb."

Certainly no one of these latter passages would singly suffice to prove
that Shakspere had read Montaigne, though the peculiar coincidence of
one word in Edgar's speech with a word in Florio, above noted, would
alone raise the question. But even had Shakspere not passed, as we shall
see cause to acknowledge, beyond the most melancholy mood of Montaigne
into one of far sterner and more stringent pessimism, an absence or
infrequency of suggestions of Montaigne in the plays between 1605 and
1610 would be a very natural result of Jonson's gibe in VOLPONE. That
gibe, indeed, is not really so ill-natured as the term "steal" is apt to
make it sound for our ears, especially if we are prepossessed--as even
Mr. Fleay still seems to be--by the old commentators' notion of a deep
ill-will on Jonson's part towards Shakspere. There was probably no such
ill-will in the matter, the burly scholar's habit of robust banter being
enough to account for the form of his remark. As a matter of fact, his
own plays are strewn with classic transcriptions; and though he
evidently plumed himself on his power of "invention"[108] in the matter
of plots--a faculty which he knew Shakspere to lack--he cannot
conceivably have meant to charge his rival with having committed any
discreditable plagiarism in drawing upon Montaigne. At most he would
mean to convey that borrowing from the English translation of Montaigne
was an easy game as compared with his own scholar-like practice of
translating from the Greek and Latin, and from out-of-the-way authors,

However that might be, the fact stands that Shakspere did about 1604
reproduce Montaigne as we have seen; and it remains to consider what the
reproduction signifies, as regards Shakspere's mental development.


But first there has to be asked the question whether the Montaigne
influence is unique or exceptional. Of the many literary influences
which an Elizabethan dramatist might undergo, was Montaigne's the only
one which wrought deeply upon Shakspere's spirit, apart from those of
his contemporary dramatists and the pre-existing plays, which were then
models and points of departure? It is clear that Shakspere must have
thought much and critically of the methods and the utterance of his
co-rivals in literary art, as he did of the methods of his
fellow-actors. The author of the advice to the players in HAMLET was
hardly less a critic than a poet; and the sonnet[109] which speaks of
its author as

  "Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,"

is one of the least uncertain revelations that these enigmatic poems
yield us. We may confidently decide, too, with Professor Minto,[110]
that the Eighty-sixth Sonnet, beginning:

  "Was it the full, proud sail of his great verse?"

has reference to Chapman, in whom Shakspere might well see one of his
most formidable competitors in poetry. But we are here concerned with
influences of thought, as distinct from influences of artistic example;
and the question is: Do the plays show any other culture-contact
comparable to that which we have been led to recognise in the case of
Montaigne's Essays?

The matter cannot be said to have been very fully investigated when even
the Montaigne influence has been thus far left so much in the vague. As
regards the plots, there has been exhaustive and instructive research
during two centuries; and of collations of parallel passages, apart from
Montaigne, there has been no lack; but the deeper problem of the
dramatist's mental history can hardly be said to have arisen till our
own generation. As regards many of the parallel passages, the ground
has been pretty well cleared by the dispassionate scholarship brought to
bear on them from Farmer onwards; though the idolatry of the Coleridgean
school, as represented by Knight, did much to retard scientific
conclusions on this as on other points.

Farmer's Essay on the Learning of Shakspere (1767) proved for all
open-minded readers that much of Shakspere's supposed classical
knowledge was derived from translations alone;[111] and further
investigation does but establish his general view.[112] Such is the
effect of M. Stapfer's chapter on Shakspere's Classical Knowledge;[113]
and the pervading argument of that chapter will be found to hold good as
against the view suggested, with judicious diffidence, by Dr. John W.
Cunliffe, concerning the influence of Seneca's tragedies on Shakspere's.
Unquestionably the body of Senecan tragedy, as Dr. Cunliffe's valuable
research has shown, did much to colour the style and thought of the
Elizabethan drama, as well as to suggest its themes and shape its
technique. But it is noteworthy that while there are in the plays, as we
have seen, apparent echoes from the Senecan treatises, and while, as we
have seen, Dr. Cunliffe suggests sources for some Shaksperean passages
in the Senecan tragedies, he is doubtful as to whether they represent
any direct study of Seneca by Shakspere.

  "Whether Shakspere was directly indebted to Seneca," he
  writes, "is a question as difficult as it is interesting. As
  English tragedy advances, there grows up an accumulation of
  Senecan influence within the English drama, in addition to
  the original source, and it becomes increasingly difficult
  to distinguish between the direct and the indirect influence
  of Seneca. In no case is the difficulty greater than in that
  of Shakspere. Of Marlowe, Jonson, Chapman, Marston, and
  Massinger, we can say with certainty that they read Seneca,
  and reproduced their readings in their tragedies; of
  Middleton and Heywood we can say with almost equal certainty
  that they give no sign of direct indebtedness to Seneca; and
  that they probably came only under the indirect influence,
  through the imitations of their predecessors and
  contemporaries. In the case of Shakspere we cannot be
  absolutely certain either way. Professor Baynes thinks it is
  probable that Shakspere read Seneca at school; and even if
  he did not, we may be sure that, at some period of his
  career, he would turn to the generally accepted model of
  classical tragedy, either in the original or in the

This seems partially inconsistent; and, so far as the evidence from
particular parallels goes, we are not led to take with any confidence
the view put in the last sentence. The above-noted parallels between
Seneca's tragedies and Shakspere's are but cases of citation of
sentences likely to have grown proverbial; and the most notable of the
others that have been cited by Dr. Cunliffe is one which, as he notes,
points to Æschylus as well as to Seneca. The cry of Macbeth:

 "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
  Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
  The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
  Making the green one red:"

certainly corresponds closely with that of Seneca's Hercules:[115]

 "Quis Tanais, aut quis Nilus, aut quis persica
  Violentus unda Tigris, aut Rhenus ferox
  Tagusve ibera turbidus gaza fluens,
  Abluere dextram poterit? Arctoum licet
  Mæotis in me gelida transfundat mare,
  Et tota Tethys per meas currat manus,
  Haerebit altum facinus"

and that of Seneca's Hippolytus:[116]

 "Quis eluet me Tanais? Aut quae barbaris,
  Mæotis undis pontico incumbens mari.
  Non ipso toto magnus Oceano pater
  Tantum expiarit sceleris."

But these declamations, deriving as they do, to begin with, from
Æschylus,[117] are seen from their very recurrence in Seneca to have
become stock speeches for the ancient tragic drama; and they were
clearly well-fitted to become so for the mediæval. The phrases used were
already classic when Catullus employed them before Seneca:

 "Suscipit, O Gelli, quantum non ultima Thetys
  Non genitor Nympharum, abluit Oceanus."[118]

In the Renaissance we find the theme reproduced by Tasso;[119] and it
had doubtless been freely used by Shakspere's English predecessors and
contemporaries. What he did was but to set the familiar theme to a
rhetoric whose superb sonority must have left theirs tame, as it leaves
Seneca's stilted in comparison. Marston did his best with it, in a play
which may have been written before, though published after,

 "Although the waves of all the Northern sea
  Should flow for ever through those guilty hands,
  Yet the sanguinolent stain would extant be"

--a sad foil to Shakspere's

 "The multitudinous seas incarnadine."

It is very clear, then, that we are not here entitled to suppose
Shakspere a reader of the Senecan tragedies; and even were it otherwise,
the passage in question is a figure of speech rather than a reflection
on life or a stimulus to such reflection. And the same holds good of the
other interesting but inconclusive parallels drawn by Dr. Cunliffe.

                "Diseases desperate grown
  By desperate appliance are relieved,
  Or not at all,"[121]

which he compares with Seneca's

 "Et ferrum et ignis sæpe medicinæ loco est.
  Extrema primo nemo tentavit loco,"[122]

--a passage that may very well be the original
for the modern oracle about fire and iron--is
really much closer to the aphorism of Hippocrates,
that "Extreme remedies are proper for
extreme diseases," and cannot be said to be
more than a proverb. In any case, it lay to
Shakspere's hand in Montaigne,[123] as translated
by Florio:

 "To extreme sicknesses, extreme remedies."

Equally inconclusive is the equally close parallel between Macbeth's

 "Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased?"

and the sentence of Hercules:

                    "Nemo polluto queat
  Animo mederi."[124]

Such a reflection was sure to secure a proverbial vogue, and in THE TWO
NOBLE KINSMEN (in which Shakspere indeed seems to have had a hand), we
have the doctor protesting: "I think she has a perturbed mind, which I
cannot minister to."[125]

And so, again, with the notable resemblance between Hercules' cry:

 "Cur animam in ista luce detineam amplius,
  Morerque, nihil est. Cuncta jam amisi bona,
  Mentem, arma, famem, conjugam, natos, manus,
  Etiam furorem."[126]

and Macbeth's:

 "I have lived long enough: my way of life
  Is fallen into the sear, the yellow leaf;
  And that which should accompany old age,
  As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,
  I must not look to have."[127]

Here there is indeed every appearance of imitation; but, though the
versification in Macbeth's speech is certainly Shakspere's, such a
lament had doubtless been made in other English plays, in direct
reproduction of Seneca; and Shakspere, in all probability, was again
only perfecting some previous declamation.

There is a quite proverbial quality, finally, in such phrases as:

 "Things at the worst will cease, or else climb upward
  To that they were before;"[128]


        "We but teach
  Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
  To plague the inventor."[129]

--which might be traced to other sources nearer Shakspere's hand than
Seneca. And beyond such sentences and such tropes as those above
considered, there was really little or nothing in the tragedies of
Seneca to catch Shakspere's eye or ear; nothing to generate in him a
deep philosophy of life or to move him to the manifold play of
reflection which gives his later tragedies their commanding
intellectuality. Some such stimulus, as we have seen, he might indeed
have drawn from one or two of Seneca's treatises, which do, in their
desperately industrious manner, cover a good deal of intellectual
ground, making some tolerable discoveries by the way. But by the tests
alike of quantity and quality of reproduced matter, it is clear that the
indirect influence of the Senecan tragedies and treatises on Shakspere
was slight compared with the direct influence of Montaigne's essays. Nor
is it hard to see why; even supposing Shakspere to have had Seneca at
hand in translation. Despite Montaigne's own leaning to Seneca, as
compared with Cicero, we may often say of the former what Montaigne
says of the latter, that "his manner of writing seemeth very tedious."
Over the DE BENEFICIIS and the DE IRA one is sometimes moved to say, as
the essayist does[130] over Cicero, "I understand sufficiently what
death and voluptuousness are; let not a man busy himself to anatomise
them." For the swift and penetrating flash of Montaigne, which either
goes to the heart of a matter once for all or opens up a far vista of
feeling and speculation, leaving us newly related to our environment and
even to our experience, Seneca can but give us a conscientious
examination of the ground, foot by foot, with a policeman's lantern,
leaving us consciously footsore, eyesore, and ready for bed. Under no
stress of satisfaction from his best finds can we be moved to call him a
man of genius, which is just what we call Montaigne after a few pages.
It is the broad difference between industry and inspiration, between
fecundity and pregnancy, between Jonson and Shakspere. And, though a man
of genius is not necessarily dependent on other men of genius for
stimulus, we shall on scrutiny find reason to believe that in
Shakspere's case the nature of the stimulus counted for a great deal.

Even before that is made clear, however, there can be little hesitation
about dismissing the only other outstanding theory of a special
intellectual influence undergone by Shakspere--the theory of Dr. Benno
Tschischwitz, that he read and was impressed by the Italian writings of
Giordano Bruno. In this case, the bases of the hypothesis are of the
scantiest and the flimsiest. Bruno was in England from 1583 to 1586,
before Shakspere came to London. Among his patrons were Sidney and
Leicester, but neither Southampton nor Pembroke. In all his writings
only one passage can be cited which even faintly suggests a coincidence
with any in Shakspere; and in that the suggestion is faint indeed. In
Bruno's ill-famed comedy IL CANDELAJO, Octavio asks the pedant Manfurio,
"Che e la materia di vostri versi," and the pedant replies, "Litteræ,
syllabæ, dictio et oratio, partes propinquæ et remotæ," on which Octavio
again asks: "Io dico, quale e il suggetto et il proposito."[131] So far
as it goes this is something of a parallel to Polonius's question to
Hamlet as to what he reads, and Hamlet's answer, "Words, words." But the
scene is obviously a stock situation; and if there are any passages in
HAMLET which clearly belong to the pre-Shaksperean play, the fooling of
Hamlet with Polonius is one of them. And beyond this, Dr. Tschischwitz's
parallels are flatly unconvincing, or rather they promptly put
themselves out of court. He admits that nothing else in Bruno's comedy
recalls anything else in Shakspere;[132] but he goes on to find
analogies between other passages in HAMLET and some of Bruno's
philosophic doctrines. Quoting Bruno's theorem that all things are made
up of indestructible atoms, and that death is but a transformation, Dr.
Tschischwitz cites as a reproduction of it Hamlet's soliloquy:

 "O, that this too, too solid flesh would melt!"

It is difficult to be serious over such a contention; and it is quite
impossible for anybody out of Germany or the Bacon-Shakspere party to
be as serious over it as Dr. Tschischwitz, who finds that Hamlet's
figure of the melting of flesh into dew is an illustration of Bruno's
"atomic system," and goes on to find a further Brunonian significance in
Hamlet's jeering answers to the king's demand for the body of Polonius.
Of these passages he finds the source or suggestion in one which he
translates from Bruno's CENA DE LE CENERI:--

  "For to this matter, of which our planet is formed, death
  and dissolution do not come; and the annihilation of all
  nature is not possible; but it attains from time to time, by
  a fixed law, to renew itself and to change all its parts,
  rearranging and recombining them; all this necessarily
  taking place in a determinate series, under which everything
  assumes the place of another."[133]

In the judgment of Dr. Tschischwitz, this theorem, which anticipates so
remarkably the modern scientific conception of the universe,
"elucidates" Hamlet's talk about worms and bodies, and his further
sketch of the progress of Alexander's dust to the plugging of a
beer-barrel. It seems unnecessary to argue that all this is the idlest
supererogation. The passages cited from HAMLET, all of them found in the
First Quarto, might have been drafted by a much lesser man than
Shakspere, and that without ever having heard of Bruno or the theory of
the indestructibility of matter. There is nothing in the case
approaching to a reproduction of Bruno's far-reaching thought; while on
the contrary the "leave not a wrack behind," in the TEMPEST, is an
expression which sets aside, as if it were unknown, the conception of an
endless transmutation of matter, in a context where the thought would
naturally suggest itself to one who had met with it. Where Hamlet is
merely sardonic in the plane of popular or at least exoteric humour, Dr.
Tschischwitz credits him with pantheistic philosophy. Where, on the
other hand, Hamlet speaks feelingly and ethically of the serious side of
drunkenness,[134] Dr. Tschischwitz parallels the speech with a sentence
in the BESTIA TRIONFANTE, which gives a merely Rabelaisian picture of
drunken practices.[135] Yet again, he puts Bruno's large aphorism, "Sol
et homo generant hominem," beside Hamlet's gibe about the sun breeding
maggots in a dead dog--a phrase possible to any euphuist of the period.
That the parallels amount at best to little, Dr. Tschischwitz himself
indirectly admits, though he proceeds to a new extravagance of

  "We do not maintain that such expressions are philosophemes,
  or that Shakspere otherwise went any deeper into Bruno's
  system than suited his purpose, but that such passages show
  Shakspere, at the time of his writing of HAMLET, to have
  already reached the heights of the thought of the age
  (Zeitbewusstsein), and to have made himself familiar with
  the most abstract of the sciences. Many hitherto almost
  unintelligible passages in HAMLET are now cleared up by the
  poet's acquaintance with the atomic philosophy and the
  writings of the Nolan."

All this belongs to the uncritical method of the German
Shakspere-criticism of the days before Rümelin. It is quite possible
that Shakspere may have heard something of Bruno's theories from his
friends; and we may be sure that much of Bruno's teaching would have
profoundly interested him. If Bruno's lectures at Oxford on the
immortality of the soul included the matter he published later on the
subject, they may have called English attention to the Pythagorean lore
concerning the fate of the soul after death,[136] above cited from
Montaigne. We might again, on Dr. Tschischwitz's lines, trace the
verses on the "shaping fantasies" of "the lunatic, the lover, and the
poet," in the MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM,[137] to such a passage in Bruno
as this:--

  "The first and most capital painter is the vivacity of the
  phantasy; the first and most capital poet is the inspiration
  that originally arises with the impulse of deep thought, or
  is set up by that, through the divine or akin-to-divine
  breath of which they feel themselves moved to the fit
  expression of their thoughts. For each it creates the other
  principle. Therefore are the philosophers in a certain sense
  painters; the poets, painters and philosophers; the
  painters, philosophers and poets: true poets, painters, and
  philosophers love and reciprocally admire each other. There
  is no philosopher who does not poetise and paint. Therefore
  is it said, not without reason: To understand is to perceive
  the figures of phantasy, and understanding is phantasy, or
  is nothing without it."[138]

But since Shakspere does not recognisably echo a passage which he would
have been extremely likely to produce in such a context, had he known
it, we are bound to decide that he had not even heard it cited, much
less read it. And so with any other remote resemblances between his
work and that of any author whom he may have read. In regard even to
passages in Shakspere which come much nearer their originals than any of
these above cited come to Bruno, we are forced to decide that Shakspere
got his thought at second or third hand. Thus the famous passage in
HENRY V.,[139] in which the Archbishop figures the State as a divinely
framed harmony of differing functions, is clearly traceable to Plato's
REPUBLIC and Cicero's DE REPUBLICA; yet rational criticism must decide
with M. Stapfer[140] that Shakspere knew neither of these treatises, but
got his suggestion from some English translation or citation.

In fine, we are constrained by all our knowledge concerning Shakspere,
as well as by the abstract principles of proof, to regard him in general
as a reader of his own language only, albeit not without a smattering of
others; and among the books in his own language which we know him to
have read in, and can prove him to have been influenced by, we come back
to Montaigne's Essays, as by far the most important and the most
potential for suggestion and provocation.


To have any clear idea, however, of what Montaigne did or could do for
Shakspere, we must revise our conception of the poet in the light of the
positive facts of his life and circumstances--a thing made difficult for
us in England through the transcendental direction given to our
Shakspere lore by those who first shaped it sympathetically, to wit,
Coleridge and the Germans. An adoring idea of Shakspere, as a mind of
unapproachable superiority, has thus become so habitual with most of us
that it is difficult to reduce our notion to terms of normal
individuality, of character and mind as we know them in life. When we
read Coleridge, Schlegel, and Gervinus, or even the admirable essay of
Charles Lamb, or the eloquent appreciations of Mr. Swinburne, or such
eulogists as Hazlitt and Knight, we are in a world of abstract æsthetics
or of abstract ethics; we are not within sight of the man Shakspere, who
became an actor for a livelihood in an age when the best actors played
in inn-yards for rude audiences, mostly illiterate and not a little
brutal; then added to his craft of acting the craft of play-patching and
refashioning; who had his partnership share of the pence and sixpences
paid by the mob of noisy London prentices and journeymen and idlers that
filled the booth theatre in which his company performed; who sued his
debtors rigorously when they did not settle-up; worked up old plays or
took a hand in new, according as the needs of his concern and his
fellow-actors dictated; and finally went with his carefully collected
fortune to spend his last years in ease and quiet in the country town in
which he was born. Our sympathetic critics, even when, like Dr.
Furnivall, they know absolutely all the archæological facts as to
theatrical life in Shakspere's time, do not seem to bring those facts
into vital touch with their æsthetic estimate of his product; they
remain under the spell of Coleridge and Gervinus.[141] Emerson, it is
true, protested at the close of his essay that he "could not marry this
fact," of Shakspere's being a jovial actor and manager, "to his verse;"
but that deliverance has served only as a text for those who have
embraced the fantastic tenet that Shakspere was but the theatrical
agent and representative of Bacon; a delusion of which the vogue may be
partly traced to the lack of psychological solidity in the ordinary
presentment of Shakspere by his admirers. The heresy, of course, merely
leaps over the difficulty, into absolute irrelevance. Emerson was
intellectually to blame in that, seeing as he did the hiatus between the
poet's life and the prevailing conception of his verse, he did not try
to conceive it all anew, but rather resigned himself to the solution
that Shakspere's mind was out of human ken. "A good reader can in a sort
nestle into Plato's brain and think from thence," he said; "but not into
Shakspere's; we are still out of doors." We should indeed remain so for
ever did we not set about patiently picking the locks where the
transcendentalist has dreamily turned away.

It is imperative that we should recommence vigilantly with the concrete
facts, ignoring all the merely æsthetic and metaphysic syntheses. Where
Coleridge and Schlegel more or less ingeniously invite us to acknowledge
a miraculous artistic perfection, where Lamb more movingly gives forth
the intense vibration aroused in his spirit by Shakspere's ripest work,
we must turn back to track down the youth from Stratford; son of a
burgess once prosperous, but destined to sink steadily in the world;
married at eighteen, under pressure of circumstances, with small
prospect of income, to the woman of twenty-five; ill at ease in that
position; and at length, having made friends with a travelling company
of actors, come to London to earn a living in any tolerable way by means
of his moderate education, his "small Latin and less Greek," his knack
of fluent rhyming, and his turn for play-acting. To know him as he began
we must measure him narrowly by his first performances. These are not to
be looked for in even the earliest of his plays, not one of which can be
taken to represent his young and unaided faculty, whether as regards
construction or diction. Collaboration, the natural resort of the modern
dramatist, must have been to some extent forced on him in those years by
the nature of his situation; and after all that has been said by adorers
of the quality of his wit and his verse in such early comedies as
is apt to be left pretty evenly balanced between the two reflections
that the wit and the versification have indeed at times a certain happy
naturalness of their own, and that nevertheless, if they really be
Shakspere's throughout, the most remarkable thing in the matter is his
later progress. But even apart from such disputable issues, we may
safely say with Mr. Fleay that "there is not a play of his that can be
referred even on the rashest conjecture to a date anterior to 1594,
which does not bear the plainest internal evidence of having been
refashioned at a later time."[142] These plays, then, with all their
evidences of immaturity, of what Mr. Bagehot called "clever
young-mannishness," cannot serve us as safe measures of Shakspere's mind
at the beginning of his career.

But it happens that we have such a measure in performances which, since
they imply no technical arrangement, are of a homogenous literary
substance, and can be shown to be the work of a man brought up in the
Warwickshire dialect,[143] are not even challenged, I believe, by the
adherents of the Baconian faith. The tasks which the greatest of our
poets set himself when near the age of thirty, and to which he
presumably brought all the powers of which he was then conscious, were
the uninspired and pitilessly prolix poems of VENUS AND ADONIS and THE
RAPE OF LUCRECE, the first consisting of some 1,200 lines and the second
of more than 1,800; one a calculated picture of female concupiscence and
the other a still more calculated picture of female chastity: the two
alike abnormally fluent, yet external, unimpassioned, endlessly
descriptive, elaborately unimpressive. Save for the sexual attraction of
the subjects, on the commercial side of which the poet had obviously
reckoned in choosing them, these performances could have no unstudious
readers in our day and few warm admirers in their own, so little sign do
they give of any high poetic faculty save the two which singly go so
often without any determining superiority of mind--inexhaustible flow of
words and endless observation of concrete detail. Of the countless
thrilling felicities of phrase and feeling for which Shakspere is
renowned above all English poets, not one, I think, is to be found in
those three thousand fluently-scanned and smoothly-worded lines: on the
contrary, the wearisome succession of stanzas, stretching the succinct
themes immeasurably beyond all natural fitness and all narrative
interest, might seem to signalise such a lack of artistic judgment as
must preclude all great performance; while the apparent plan of
producing an effect by mere multiplication of words, mere extension of
description without intension of idea, might seem to prove a lack of
capacity for any real depth of passion. They were simply manufactured
poems, consciously constructed for the market, the first designed at the
same time to secure the patronage of the Mæcenas of the hour, Lord
Southampton, to whom it was dedicated, and the second produced and
similarly dedicated on the strength of the success of the first. The
point here to be noted is that they gained the poet's ends. They
succeeded as saleable literature, and they gained the Earl's favour.

And the rest of the poet's literary career, from this point forward,
seems to have been no less prudently calculated. Having plenty of
evidence that men could not make a living by poetry, even if they
produced it with facility; and that they could as little count on living
steadily by the sale of plays, he joined with his trade of actor the
business not merely of playwright but of part-sharer in the takings of
the theatre. The presumption from all we know of the commercial side of
the play-making of the times is that, for whatever pieces Shakspere
touched up, collaborated in, or composed for his company, he received a
certain payment once for all;[144] since there was no reason why his
partners should treat his plays differently in this regard from the
plays they bought of other men. Doubtless, when his reputation was made,
the payments would be considerable. But the main source of his income,
or rather of the accumulations with which he bought land and house and
tithes at Stratford, must have been his share in the takings of the
theatre--a share which would doubtless increase as the earlier partners
disappeared. He must have speedily become the principal man in the
firm, combining as he did the work of composer, reviser, and adaptor of
plays with that of actor and working partner. We are thus dealing with a
temperament or mentality not at all obviously original or masterly, not
at all conspicuous at the outset for intellectual depth or seriousness,
not at all obtrusive of its "mission;" but exhibiting simply a gift for
acting, an abundant faculty of rhythmical speech, and a power of minute
observation, joined with a thoroughly practical or commercial handling
of the problem of life, in a calling not usually taken-to by
commercially-minded men. What emerges for us thus far is the conception
of a very plastic intelligence, a good deal led and swayed by immediate
circumstances; but at bottom very sanely related to life, and so
possessing a latent faculty for controlling its destinies; not much
cultured, not profound, not deeply passionate; not particularly
reflective though copious in utterance; a personality which of itself,
if under no pressure of pecuniary need, would not be likely to give the
world any serious sign of mental capacity whatever.

In order, then, that such a man as this should develop into the
Shakspere of the great tragedies and tragic comedies, there must concur
two kinds of life-conditions with those already noted--the fresh
conditions of deeply-moving experience and of deep intellectual
stimulus. Without these, such a mind would no more arrive at the highest
poetic and dramatic capacity than, lacking the spur of necessity or of
some outside call, it would be moved to seek poetic and dramatic
utterance for its own relief. There is no sign here of an innate burden
of thought, bound to be delivered; there is only the sensitive plate or
responsive faculty, capable of giving back with peculiar vividness and
spontaneity every sort of impression which may be made on it. The
faculty, in short, which could produce those 3,000 fluent lines on the
bare data of the stories of Venus and Adonis and Tarquin and Lucrece,
with only the intellectual material of a rakish Stratford lad's
schooling and reading, and the culture coming of a few years'
association with the primitive English stage and its hangers-on, was
capable of broadening and deepening, with vital experience and vital
culture, into the poet of LEAR and MACBETH. But the vital culture must
come to it, like the experience: this was not a man who would go out of
his way to seek the culture. A man so minded, a man who would bear
hardship in order to win knowledge, would not have settled down so
easily into the actor-manager with a good share in the company's
profits. There is almost nothing to show that the young Shakspere read
anything save current plays, tales, and poems. Such a notable book as
North's PLUTARCH, published in 1579, does not seem to have affected his
literary activity till about the year 1600: and even then the subject of
JULIUS CÆSAR may have been suggested to him by some other play-maker, as
was the case with his chronicle histories. In his contemporary, Ben
Jonson, we do have the type of the young man bent on getting scholarship
as the best thing possible to him. The bricklayer's apprentice,
unwillingly following the craft of his stepfather, sticking obstinately
all the while to his Horace and his Homer, resolute to keep and to add
to the humanities he had learned in the grammar school, stands out
clearly alongside of the other, far less enthusiastic for knowledge and
letters, but also far more plastically framed, and at the same time far
more clearly alive to the seriousness of the struggle for existence as a
matter of securing the daily bread-and-butter. It may be, indeed--who
knows--that but for that peculiarly early marriage, with its consequent
family responsibilities, Shakspere would have allowed himself a little
more of youthful breathing-time: it may be that it was the existence of
Ann Hathaway and her three children that made him a seeker for pelf
rather than a seeker for knowledge in the years between twenty and
thirty, when the concern for pelf sits lightly on most intellectual men.
The thesis undertaken in LOVE'S LABOUR LOST--that the truly effective
culture is that of life in the world rather than that of secluded
study--perhaps expresses a process of inward and other debate in which
the wish has become father to the thought. Scowled upon by jealous
collegians like Greene for presuming, actor as he was, to write dramas,
he must have asked himself whether there was not something to be gained
from such schooling as theirs.[145] But then he certainly made more than
was needed to keep the Stratford household going; and the clear shallow
flood of VENUS AND ADONIS and the RAPE OF LUCRECE stands for ever to
show how far from tragic consciousness was the young husband and father
when close upon thirty years old. It was in 1596 that his little Hamnet
died at Stratford; and there is nothing to show, says Mr. Fleay,[146]
that Shakspere had ever been there in the interval between his departure
in 1587 and the child's funeral.

But already, it may be, some vital experience had come. Whatever view we
take of the drama of the sonnets, we may so far adopt Mr. Fleay's
remarkable theory[147] as to surmise that the central episode of
faithless love occurred about 1594. If so, here was enough to deepen and
impassion the plastic personality of the rhymer of VENUS AND ADONIS; to
add a new string to the heretofore Mercurial lyre. All the while, too,
he was undergoing the kind of culture and of psychological training
involved in his craft of acting--a culture involving a good deal of
contact with the imaginative literature of the Renaissance, so far as
then translated, and a psychological training of great though little
recognised importance to the dramatist. It seems obvious that the
practice of acting, by a plastic and receptive temperament, capable of
manifold appreciation, must have counted for much in developing the
faculties at once of sympathy and expression. In this respect Shakspere
stood apart from his rivals, with their merely literary training. And in
point of fact, we do find in his plays, year by year, a strengthening
sense of the realities of human nature, despite their frequently
idealistic method of portraiture, the verbalism and factitiousness of
much of their wit, and their conventionality of plot. Above all things,
the man who drew so many fancifully delightful types of womanhood must
have been intensely appreciative of the charm of sex; and it is on that
side that we are to look for his first contacts with the deeper forces
of life. What marks off the Shakspere of thirty-five, in fine, from all
his rivals, is just his peculiarly true and new[148] expression of the
living grace of womanhood, always, it is true, abstracted to the form of
poetry and skilfully purified from the blemishes of the actual, but none
the less convincing and stimulating. We are here in presence at once of
a rare receptive faculty and a rare expressive faculty: the plastic
organism of the first poems touched through and through with a hundred
vibrations of deeper experience; the external and extensive method
gradually ripening into an internal and intensive; the innate facility
of phrase and alertness of attention turned from the physical to the
psychical. But still it is to the psychics of sex, for the most part,
that we are limited. Of the deeps of human nature, male nature, as apart
from the love of woman, the playwright still shows no special
perception, save in the vivid portrait of Shylock, the exasperated Jew.
The figures in which we can easily recognise his hand in the earlier
historical plays are indeed marked by his prevailing sanity of
perception; always they show the play of the seeing eye, the ruling
sense of reality which shaped his life; it is this visible actuality
that best marks them off from the non-Shaksperean figures around them.
And in the wonderful figures of Falstaff and his group we have a
roundness of comic reality to which nothing else in modern literature
thus far could be compared. But still this, the most remarkable of all,
remains comic reality; and, what is more, it is a comic reality of
which, as in the rest of his work, the substratum was pre-Shaksperean.
For it is clear that the figure of Falstaff, as Oldcastle, had been
popularly successful before Shakspere took hold of it:[149] and what he
did here, as elsewhere, with his uninventive mind, in which the faculty
of imagination always rectified and expanded rather than originated
types and actions, was doubtless to give the hues and tones of perfect
life to the half-real inventions of others. This must always be insisted
on as the special psychological characteristic of Shakspere. Excepting
in the doubtful case of LOVE'S LABOUR LOST, he never invented a plot;
his male characters are almost always developments from an already
sketched original; it is in drawing his heroines, where he is most
idealistic, that he seems to have been most independently creative, his
originals here being doubtless the women who had charmed him, set living
in ideal scenes to charm others. And it resulted from this specialty of
structure that the greater reality of his earlier male historic figures,
as compared with those of most of his rivals, is largely a matter of
saner and more felicitous declamation--the play of his great and growing
faculty of expression--since he had no more special knowledge of the
types in hand than had his competitors. It is only when his unequalled
receptive faculty has been acted upon by a peculiarly concentrated and
readily assimilated body of culture, the English translation by Sir
Thomas North of Amyot's French translation of Plutarch's Lives, that we
find Shakspere incontestably superior to his contemporaries in the
virile treatment of virile problems no less than in the sympathetic
rendering of emotional charm and tenderness and the pathos of passion.
The tragedy of ROMEO AND JULIET, with all its burning fervours and
swooning griefs, remains for us a picture of the luxury of woe: it is
truly said of it that it is not fundamentally unhappy. But in JULIUS
CÆSAR we have touched a further depth of sadness. For the moving tragedy
of circumstance, of lovers sundered by fate only to be swiftly joined in
exultant death, we have the profounder tragedy of mutually destroying
energies, of grievously miscalculating men, of failure and frustration
dogging the steps of the strenuous and the wise, of destiny searching
out the fatal weakness of the strong. To the poet has now been added the
reader; to the master of the pathos of passion the student of the
tragedy of universal life. It is thus by culture and experience--culture
limited but concentrated, and experience limited but intense--that the
man Shakspere has been intelligibly made into the dramatist Shakspere as
we find him when he comes to his greatest tasks. For the formation of
the supreme artist there was needed alike the purely plastic organism
and the special culture to which it was so uniquely fitted to respond;
culture that came without search, and could be undergone as
spontaneously as the experience of life itself; knowledge that needed no
more wooing than Ann Hathaway, or any dubious angel in the sonnets. In
the English version of Plutarch's LIVES, pressed upon him doubtless by
the play-making plans of other men, Shakspere found the most effectively
concentrated history of ancient humanity that could possibly have
reached him; and he responded to the stimulus with all his energy of
expression because he received it so freely and vitally, in respect
alike of his own plasticity and the fact that the vehicle of the
impression was his mother tongue. It is plain that to the last he made
no secondary study of antiquity. He made blunders which alone might warn
the Baconians off their vain quest: he had no notion of chronology:
finding Cato retrospectively spoken of by Plutarch as one to whose ideal
Coriolanus had risen, he makes a comrade of Coriolanus say it, as if
Cato were a dead celebrity in Coriolanus' day; just as he makes Hector
quote Aristotle in Troy. These clues are not to be put aside with
æsthetic platitudes: they are capital items in our knowledge of the man.
And if even the idolator feels perturbed by their obtrusion, he has but
to reflect that where the trained scholars around Shakspere reproduced
antiquity with greater accuracy in minor things, tithing the mint and
anise and cumin of erudition, they gave us of the central human forces,
which it was their special business to realise, mere hollow and tedious
parodies. Jonson was a scholar whose variety of classic reading might
have constituted him a specialist to-day; but Jonson's ancients are
mostly dead for us, even as are Jonson's moderns, because they are the
expression of a psychic faculty which could neither rightly perceive
reality, nor rightly express what it did perceive. He represents
industry in art without inspiration. The two contrasted pictures, of
Jonson writing out his harangues in prose in order to turn them into
verse, and of Shakspere giving his lines unblotted to the
actors--speaking in verse, in the white heat of his cerebration, as
spontaneously as he breathed--these historic data, which happen to be
among the most perfectly certified that we possess concerning the two
men, give us at once half the secret of one and all the secret of the
other. Jonson had the passion for book knowledge, the patience for hard
study, the faculty for plot-invention; and withal he produced dramatic
work which gives little or no permanent pleasure. Shakspere had none of
these characteristics; and yet, being the organism he was, it only
needed the culture which fortuitously reached him in his own tongue to
make him successively the greatest dramatic master of eloquence, mirth,
charm, tenderness, passion, pathos, pessimism, and philosophic serenity
that literature can show, recognisably so even though his work be almost
constantly hampered by the framework of other men's enterprises, which
he was so singularly content to develop or improve. Hence the critical
importance of following up the culture which evolved him, and above all,
that which finally touched him to his most memorable performance.


It is to Montaigne, then, that we now come, in terms of our preliminary
statement of evidence. When Florio's translation was published, in 1603,
Shakspere was thirty-seven years old, and he had written or refashioned
THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, and JULIUS CÆSAR. It is very likely that he
knew Florio, being intimate with Jonson, who was Florio's friend and
admirer; and the translation, long on the stocks, must have been
discussed in his hearing. Hence, presumably, his immediate perusal of
it. Portions of it he may very well have seen or heard of before it was
fully printed (necessarily a long task in the then state of the
handicraft); but in the book itself, we have seen abundant reason to
believe, he read largely in 1603-4.

Having inductively proved the reading, and at the same time the fact of
the impression it made, we may next seek to realise deductively what
kind of impression it was fitted to make. We can readily see what
North's Plutarch could be and was to the sympathetic and
slightly-cultured playwright; it was nothing short of a new world of
human knowledge; a living vision of two great civilisations, giving to
his universe a vista of illustrious realities beside which the charmed
gardens of Renaissance romance and the bustling fields of English
chronicle-history were as pleasant dreams or noisy interludes. He had
done wonders with the chronicles; but in presence of the long
muster-rolls of Greece and Rome he must have felt their insularity; and
he never returned to them in the old spirit. But if Plutarch could do so
much for him, still greater could be the service rendered by Montaigne.
The difference, broadly speaking, is very much as the difference in
philosophic reach between JULIUS CÆSAR and HAMLET, between CORIOLANUS
and LEAR.

For what was in its nett significance Montaigne's manifold book, coming
thus suddenly, in a complete and vigorous translation, into English life
and into Shakspere's ken? Simply the most living book then existing in
Europe. This is not the place, nor am I the person, to attempt a
systematic estimate of the most enduring of French writers, who has
stirred to their best efforts the ablest of French critics; but I must
needs try to indicate briefly, as I see it, his significance in general
European culture. And I would put it that Montaigne is really, for the
civilised world at this day, what Petrarch has been too enthusiastically
declared to be--the first of the moderns. He is so as against even the
great Rabelais, because Rabelais misses directness, misses universality,
misses lucidity, in his gigantic mirth; he is so as against Petrarch,
because he is emphatically an impressionist where Petrarch is a framer
of studied compositions; he is so against Erasmus, because Erasmus also
is a framer of artificial compositions in a dead language, where
Montaigne writes with absolute spontaneity in a language not only
living but growing. Only Chaucer, and he only in the Canterbury Tales,
can be thought of as a true modern before Montaigne; and Chaucer is
there too English to be significant for all Europe. The high figure of
Dante is decisively mediæval: it is the central point in mediæval
literature. Montaigne was not only a new literary phenomenon in his own
day: he remains so still; for his impressionism, which he carried to
such lengths in originating it, is the most modern of literary
inspirations; and all our successive literary and artistic developments
are either phases of the same inspiration or transient reactions against
it. Where literature in the mass has taken centuries to come within
sight of the secret that the most intimate form of truth is the most
interesting, he went, in his one collection of essays, so far towards
absolute self-expression that our practice is still in the rear of his,
which is quite too unflinching for contemporary nerves. Our _bonne foi_
is still sophisticated in comparison with that of the great Gascon. Of
all essayists who have yet written, he is the most transparent, the most
sincere even in his stratagems, the most discursive, the most
free-tongued, and therefore the most alive. A classic commonplace
becomes in his hands a new intimacy of feeling: where verbal
commonplaces have, as it were, glazed over the surface of our sense, he
goes behind them to rouse anew the living nerve. And there is no theme
on which he does not some time or other dart his sudden and searching
glance. It is truly said of him by Emerson that "there have been men
with deeper insight; but, one would say, never a man with such abundance
of thoughts: he is never dull, never insincere, and has the genius to
make the reader care for all that he cares for. Cut these words and they
bleed; they are vascular and alive." Such a voice, speaking at
Shakspere's ear in an English nearly as racy and nervous as the
incomparable old-new French of the original, was in itself a revelation.

I have said above that we seem to see passing from Montaigne to
Shakspere a vibration of style as well as of thought; and it would be
difficult to overstate the importance of such an influence. A writer
affects us often more by the pulse and pressure of his speech than by
his matter. Such an action is indeed the secret of all great literary
reputations; and in no author of any age are the cadence of phrases and
the beat of words more provocative of attention than in Montaigne. They
must have affected Shakspere as they have done so many others; and in
point of fact his work, from HAMLET forth, shows a gain in nervous
tension and pith, fairly attributable to the stirring impact of the
style of Montaigne, with its incessancy of stroke, its opulence of
colour, its hardy freshness of figure and epithet, its swift, unflagging
stride. Seek in any of Shakspere's plays for such a strenuous rush of
idea and rhythm as pulses through the soliloquy:

 "How all occasions do inform against me,"

and you will gather that there has been a technical change wrought, no
less than a moral and an intellectual. The poet's nerves have caught a
new vibration.

But it was not merely a congenial felicity and energy of utterance that
Montaigne brought to bear on his English reader, though the more we
consider this quality of spontaneity in the essayist the more we shall
realise its perennial fascination. The culture-content of Montaigne's
book is more than even the self-revelation of an extremely vivacious and
reflective intelligence; it is the living quintessence of all Latin
criticism of life, and of a large part of Greek; a quintessence as fresh
and pungent as the essayist's expression of his special individuality.
For Montaigne stands out among all the humanists of the epochs of the
Renaissance and the Reformation in respect of the peculiar directness of
his contact with Latin literature. Other men must have come to know
Latin as well as he; and hundreds could write it with an accuracy and
facility which, if he were ever capable of it, he must, by his own
confession, have lost before middle life,[150] though he read it
perfectly to the last. But he is the only modern man whom we know to
have learned Latin as a mother tongue; and this fact was probably just
as important in psychology as was the similar fact, in Shakspere's case,
of his whole adult culture being acquired in his own language. It seems
to me, at least, that there is something significant in the facts: (1)
that the man who most vividly brought the spirit or outcome of classic
culture into touch with the general European intelligence, in the age
when the modern languages first decisively asserted their birthright,
learned his Latin as a living and not as a dead tongue, and knew Greek
literature almost solely by translation; (2) that the dramatist who of
all of his craft has put most of breathing vitality into his pictures of
ancient history, despite endless inaccuracies of detail, read his
authorities only in his own language; and (3) that the English poet who
in our own century has most intensely and delightedly sympathised with
the Greek spirit--I mean Keats--read his Homer only in an English
translation. As regards Montaigne, the full importance of the fact does
not seem to me to have been appreciated by the critics. Villemain,
indeed, who perhaps could best realise it, remarked in his youthful
éloge that the fashion in which the elder Montaigne had his child taught
Latin would bring the boy to the reading of the classics with an eager
interest where others had been already fatigued by the toil of grammar;
but beyond this the peculiarity of the case has not been much
considered. Montaigne, however, gives us details which seem full of
suggestion to scientific educationists. "Without art, without book,
without grammar or precept, without whipping, without tears, I learned a
Latin as pure as my master could give;" and his first exercises were to
turn bad Latin into good.[151] So he read his Ovid's Metamorphoses at
seven or eight, where other forward boys had the native fairy tales; and
a wise teacher led him later through Virgil and Terence and Plautus and
the Italian poets in the same freedom of spirit. Withal, he never
acquired any facility in Greek,[152] and, refusing to play the
apprentice where he was accustomed to be master,[153] he declined to
construe in a difficult tongue; read his Plutarch in Amyot; and his
Plato, doubtless, in the Latin version. It all goes with the peculiar
spontaneity of his mind, his reactions, his style; and it was in virtue
of this undulled spontaneity that he was fitted to be for Shakspere, as
he has since been for so many other great writers, an intellectual
stimulus unique in kind and in potency.

This fact of Montaigne's peculiar influence on other spirits,
comparatively considered, may make it easier for some to conceive that
his influence on Shakspere could be so potent as has been above
asserted. Among those whom we know him to have acted upon in the highest
degree--setting aside the disputed case of Bacon--are Pascal,
Montesquieu, Rousseau, Flaubert, Emerson, and Thoreau. In the case of
Pascal, despite his uneasy assumption that his philosophy was contrary
to Montaigne's, the influence went so far that the _Pensées_ again and
again set forth Pascal's doctrine in passages taken almost literally
from the ESSAYS. Stung by the lack of all positive Christian credence in
Montaigne, Pascal represents him as "putting all things in doubt;"
whereas it is just by first putting all things in doubt that Pascal
justifies his own credence. The only difference is that where Montaigne,
disparaging the powers of reason by the use of that very reason, used
his "doubt" to defend himself alike against the atheists and the
orthodox Christians, Catholic or Protestant, himself standing simply to
the classic theism of antiquity, Pascal seeks to demolish the theists
with the atheists, falling back on the Christian faith after denying the
capacity of the human reason to judge for itself. The two procedures
were of course alike fallacious; but though Pascal, the more austere
thinker of the two, readily saw the invalidity of Montaigne's as a
defence of theism, he could do no more for himself than repeat the
process, disparaging reason in the very language of the essayist, and
setting up in his turn his private predilection in Montaigne's manner.
In sum, his philosophy is just Montaigne's, turned to the needs of a
broken spirit instead of a confident one--to the purposes of a chagrined
and exhausted convertite instead of a theist of the stately school of
Cicero and Seneca and Plutarch. Without Montaigne, one feels, the
_Pensées_ might never have been written: they represent to-day, for all
vigilant readers, rather the painful struggles of a wounded intelligence
to fight down the doubts it has caught from contact with other men's
thought than any coherent or durable philosophic construction.

It would be little more difficult to show the debt of the _Esprit des
Lois_ to Montaigne's inspiration, even if we had not Montesquieu's
avowal that "In most authors I see the man who writes: in Montaigne, the
man who thinks."[154] That is precisely Montaigne's significance, in
sociology as in philosophy. His whole activity is a seeking for causes;
and in the very act of undertaking to "humble reason" he proceeds to
instruct and re-edify it by endless corrective comparison of facts. To
be sure, he departed so far from his normal _bonne foi_ as to affect to
think there could be no certainties while parading a hundred of his own,
and with these some which were but pretences; and his pet doctrine of
daimonic fortune is not ostensibly favourable to social science; but in
the concrete, he is more of a seeker after rational law than any
humanist of his day. In discussing sumptuary laws, he anticipates the
economics of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as in discussing
ecclesiastical law he anticipates the age of tolerance; in discussing
criminal law, the work of Beccaria; in discussing _à priori_ science,
the protest of Bacon; and in discussing education, many of the ideas of
to-day. And it would be difficult to cite, in humanist literature before
our own century, a more comprehensive expression of the idea of natural
law than this paragraph of the APOLOGY:

  "If nature enclose within the limits of her ordinary
  progress, as all other things, so the beliefs, the
  judgments, the opinions of men, if they have their
  revolutions, their seasons, their birth, and their death,
  even as cabbages; if heaven doth move, agitate, and roll
  them at his pleasure, what powerful and permanent authority
  do we ascribe unto them. If, by uncontrolled experience, we
  palpably touch [orig. "Si par experience nous touchons à la
  main," _i.e._, nous maintenons, nous prétendons: an idiom
  which Florio has not understood] that the form of our being
  depends of the air, of the climate, and of the soil wherein
  we are born, and not only the hair, the stature, the
  complexion, and the countenance, but also the soul's
  faculties ... in such manner that as fruits and beasts do
  spring up diverse and different, so men are born, either
  more or less war-like, martial, just, temperate, and docile;
  here subject to wine, there to theft and whoredom, here
  inclined to superstition, there addicted to misbelieving....
  If sometimes we see one art to flourish, or a belief, and
  sometimes another, by some heavenly influence; ... men's
  spirits one while flourishing, another while barren, even as
  fields are seen to be, what become of all those goodly
  prerogatives wherewith we still flatter ourselves?"[155]

All this, of course, has a further bearing than Montaigne gives it in
the context, and affects his own professed theology as it does the
opinions he attacks; but none the less, the passage strikes at the
dogmatists and the pragmatists of all the preceding schools, and hardily
clears the ground for a new inductive system. And in the last essay of
all he makes a campaign against bad laws, which unsays many of his
previous sayings on the blessedness of custom.

In tracing his influence elsewhere, it would be hard to point to an
eminent French prose-writer who has not been affected by him.
Sainte-Beuve finds[156] that La Bruyère "at bottom is close to
Montaigne, in respect not only of his style and his skilfully
inconsequent method, but of his way of judging men and life"; and the
literary heredity from Montaigne to Rousseau is recognised by all who
have looked into the matter. The temperaments are profoundly different;
yet the style of Montaigne had evidently taken as deep a hold of the
artistic consciousness of Rousseau as had the doctrines of the later
writers on whom he drew for his polemic. But indeed he found in the
essay on the Cannibals the very theme of his first paradox; in
Montaigne's emphatic denunciations[157] of laws more criminal than the
crimes they dealt with, he had a deeper inspiration still; in the essay
on the training of children he had his starting-points for the
argumentation of _Emile_; and in the whole unabashed self-portraiture of
the ESSAYS he had his great exemplar for the _Confessions_. Even in the
very different case of Voltaire, we may go at least as far as Villemain
and say that the essayist must have helped to shape the thought of the
great freethinker; whose _Philosophe Ignorant_ may indeed be connected
with the APOLOGY without any of the hesitation with which Villemain
suggests his general parallel. In fine, Montaigne has scattered his
pollen over all the literature of France. The most typical thought of La
Rochefoucauld is thrown out[158] in the essay[159] _De l'utile et de
l'honneste_; and the most modern-seeming currents of thought, as M.
Stapfer remarks, can be detected in the passages of the all-discussing

Among English-speaking writers, to say nothing of those who, like Sterne
and Lamb, have been led by his example to a similar felicity of freedom
in style, we may cite Emerson as one whose whole work is coloured by
Montaigne's influence, and Thoreau as one who, specially developing one
side of Emerson's gospel, may be said to have found it all where Emerson
found it, in the Essay on Solitude.[160] The whole doctrine of
intellectual self-preservation, the ancient thesis "flee from the press
and dwell in soothfastness," is there set forth in a series of ringing
sentences, most of which, set in Emerson or Thoreau, would seem part of
their text and thought. That this is no random attribution may be
learned from the lecture on "Montaigne: the Sceptic," which Emerson has
included in his REPRESENTATIVE MEN. "I remember," he says, telling how
in his youth he stumbled on Cotton's translation, "I remember the
delight and wonder in which I lived with it. It seemed to me as if I had
myself written the book in some former life, so sincerely it spoke to
my thought and experience." That is just what Montaigne has done for a
multitude of others, in virtue of his prime quality of spontaneous
self-expression. As Sainte-Beuve has it, there is a Montaigne in all of
us. Flaubert, we know, read him constantly for style; and no less
constantly "found himself" in the self-revelation and analysis of the

After all these testimonies to Montaigne's seminal virtue, and after
what we have seen of the special dependence of Shakspere's genius on
culture and circumstance, stimulus and initiative, for its evolution,
there can no longer seem to an open mind anything of mere paradox in the
opinion that the essays are the source of the greatest expansive
movement of the poet's mind, the movement which made him--already a
master of the whole range of passional emotion, of the comedy of mirth
and the comedy and tragedy of sex--the great master of the tragedy of
the moral intelligence. Taking the step from JULIUS CÆSAR to HAMLET as
corresponding to this movement in his mind, we may say that where the
first play exhibits the concrete perception of the fatality of things,
"the riddle of the painful earth"; in the second, in its final form, the
perception has emerged in philosophic consciousness as a pure
reflection. The poet has in the interim been revealed to himself; what
he had perceived he now conceives. And this is the secret of the whole
transformation which the old play of HAMLET has received at his hands.
Where he was formerly the magical sympathetic plate, receiving and
rectifying and giving forth in inspired speech every impression, however
distorted by previous instruments, that is brought within the scope of
its action, he is now in addition the inward judge of it all, so much so
that the secondary activity tends to overshadow the primary. The old
HAMLET, it is clear, was a tragedy of blood, of physical horror. The
least that Shakspere, at this age, could have done with it, would be to
overlay and transform the physical with moral perception; and this has
already been in part done in the First Quarto form. The mad Hamlet and
the mad Ophelia, who had been at least as much comic as tragic figures
in the older play, are already purified of that taint of their barbaric
birth, save in so far as Hamlet still gibes at Polonius and jests with
Ophelia in the primitive fashion of the pretended madman seeking his
revenge. But the sense of the futility of the whole heathen plan, of the
vanity of the revenge to which the Christian ghost hounds his son, of
the moral void left by the initial crime and its concomitants, not to be
filled by any hecatomb of slain wrongdoers--the sense of all this, which
is the essence of the tragedy, though so few critics seem to see it,
clearly emerges only in the finished play. The dramatist is become the
chorus to his plot, and the impression it all makes on his newly active
spirit comes out in soliloquy after soliloquy, which hamper as much as
they explain the action. In the old prose story, the astute barbarian
takes a curiously circuitous course to his revenge, but at last attains
it. In the intermediate tragedy of blood, the circuitous action had been
preserved, and withal the revenge was attained only in the general
catastrophe, by that daimonic "fortune" on which Montaigne so often
enlarges. For Shakspere, then, with his mind newly at work in reverie
and judgment, where before it had been but perceptive and reproductive,
the theme was one of human impotence, failure of will, weariness of
spirit in presence of over-mastering fate, recoil from the immeasurable
evil of the world. Hamlet becomes the mouthpiece of the all-sympathetic
spirit which has put itself in his place, as it had done with a hundred
suggested types before, but with a new inwardness of comprehension, a
self-consciousness added to the myriad-sided consciousness of the past.
Hence an involution rather than an elucidation of the play. There can be
no doubt that Shakspere, in heightening and deepening the theme, has
obscured it, making the scheming barbarian into a musing pessimist, who
yet waywardly plays the mock-madman as of old, and kills the "rat"
behind the arras; doubts the Ghost while acting on his message;
philosophises with Montaigne and yet delays his revenge in the spirit of
the Christianised savage, who fears to send the praying murderer to
heaven. There is no solution of these anomalies: the very state of
Shakspere's consciousness, working in his subjective way on the old
material, made inevitable a moral anachronism and contradiction,
analogous in its kind to the narrative anachronisms of his historical
plays. But none the less, this tragedy, the first of the great group
which above all his other work make him immortal, remains perpetually
fascinating, by virtue even of that "pale cast of thought" which has
"sicklied it o'er" in the sense of making it too intellectual for
dramatic unity and strict dramatic success. Between these undramatic,
brooding soliloquies which stand so aloof from the action, but dominate
the minds of those who read and meditate the text, and the old
sensational elements of murder, ghost, fencing and killing, which hold
the interest of the crowd--between these constituents, HAMLET remains
the most familiar Shaksperean play.

This very pre-eminence and permanence, no doubt, will make many students
still demur to the notion that a determining factor in the framing of
the play was the poet's perusal of Montaigne's essays. And it would be
easy to overstate that thesis in such a way as to make it untrue.
Indeed, M. Chasles has, to my thinking, so overstated it. Had I come to
his main proposition before realising the infusion of Montaigne's ideas
in HAMLET, I think I should have felt it to be as excessive in the
opposite direction as the proposition of Mr. Feis. Says M.

  "This date of 1603 (publication of Florio's translation) is
  instructive; the change in Shakspere's style dates from this
  very year. Before 1603, imitation of Petrarch, of Ariosto,
  and of Spenser is evident in his work: after 1603, this
  coquettish copying of Italy has disappeared; no more
  crossing rhymes, no more sonnets and concetti. All is
  reformed at once. Shakspere, who had hitherto studied the
  ancients only in the fashion of the fine writers of modern
  Italy, ... now seriously studies Plutarch and Sallust, and
  seeks of them those great teachings on human life with which
  the chapters of Michael Montaigne are filled. Is it not
  surprising to see Julius Cæsar and Coriolanus suddenly taken
  up by the man who has just (tout à l'heure) been describing
  in thirty-six stanzas, like Marini, the doves of the car of
  Venus? And does not one see that he comes fresh from the
  reading of Montaigne, who never ceased to translate,
  comment, and recommend the ancients ...? The dates of
  incontestable. These dramas follow on from 1606 to 1608,
  with a rapidity which proves the fecund heat of an
  imagination still moved."

All this must be revised in the light of a more correct chronology.
Shakspere's JULIUS CÆSAR dates, not from 1604 but from 1600 or 1601,
being referred to in Weever's MIRROR OF MARTYRS, published in 1601, to
say nothing of the reference in the third Act of HAMLET itself, where
Polonius speaks of such a play. And, even if it had been written in
1604, it would still be a straining of the evidence to ascribe its
production, with that of CORIOLANUS and ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, to the
influence of Montaigne, when every one of these themes was sufficiently
obtruded on the Elizabethan theatre by North's translation of Amyot's
PLUTARCH. Any one who will compare CORIOLANUS with the translation in
North will see that Shakspere has followed the text down to the most
minute and supererogatory details, even to the making of blunders by
putting the biographer's remarks in the mouths of the characters. The
comparison throws a flood of light on Shakspere's mode of procedure; but
it tells us nothing of his perusal of Montaigne. Rather it suggests a
return from the method of the revised HAMLET, with its play of reverie,
to the more strictly dramatic method of the chronicle histories, though
with a new energy and concision of presentment. The real clue to
Montaigne's influence on Shakspere beyond HAMLET, as we have seen, lies
not in the Roman plays, but in MEASURE FOR MEASURE.

There is a misconception involved, again, in M. Chasles' picture of an
abrupt transition from Shakspere's fantastic youthful method to that of
HAMLET and the Roman plays. He overlooks the intermediate stages
represented by such plays as ROMEO AND JULIET, HENRY IV., KING JOHN, the
MERCHANT OF VENICE, and AS YOU LIKE IT, all of which exhibit a great
advance on the methods of LOVE'S LABOUR LOST, with its rhymes and
sonnets and "concetti." The leap suggested by M. Chasles is exorbitant;
such a headlong development would be unintelligible. Shakspere had first
to come practically into touch with the realities of life and character
before he could receive from Montaigne the full stimulus he actually did
undergo. Plastic as he was, he none the less underwent a normal
evolution; and his early concreteness and verbalism and externality had
to be gradually transmuted into a more inward knowledge of life and art
before there could be superimposed on that the mood of the thinker,
reflectively aware of the totality of what he had passed through.

Finally, the most remarkable aspect of Shakspere's mind is not that
presented by CORIOLANUS and ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, which with all their
intense vitality represent rather his marvellous power of reproducing
impressions than the play of his own criticism on the general problem of
life. For the full revelation of this we must look rather in the great
tragedies, notably in LEAR, and thereafter in the subsiding movement of
the later serious plays. There it is that we learn to give exactitude to
our conception of the influence exerted upon him by Montaigne, and to
see that, even as in the cases of Pascal and Montesquieu, Rousseau and
Emerson, what happened was not a mere transference or imposition of
opinions, but a living stimulus, a germination of fresh intellectual
life, which developed under new forms. It would be strange if the most
receptive and responsive of all the intelligences which Montaigne has
touched should not have gone on differentiating itself from his.


What then is the general, and what the final relation of Shakspere's
thought to that of Montaigne? How far did the younger man approve and
assimilate the ideas of the elder, how far did he reject them, how far
modify them? In some respects this is the most difficult part of our
inquiry, were it only because Shakspere is firstly and lastly a dramatic
writer. But he is not only that: he is at once the most subjective, the
most sympathetic, and the most self-witholding of dramatic writers.
Conceiving all situations, all epochs, in terms of his own psychology,
he is yet the furthest removed from all dogmatic design on the opinions
of his listeners; and it is only after a most vigilant process of moral
logic that we can ever be justified in attributing to him this or that
thesis of any one of his personages, apart from the general ethical
sympathies which must be taken for granted. Much facile propaganda has
been made by the device of crediting him in person with every religious
utterance found in his plays--even in the portions which analytical
criticism proves to have come from other hands. Obviously we must look
to his general handling of the themes with which the current religion
deals, in order to surmise his attitude to that religion. And in the
same way we must compare his general handling of tragic and moral
issues, in order to gather his general attitude to the doctrine of

At the very outset, we must make a clean sweep of the strange
proposition of Mr. Jacob Feis--that Shakspere deeply disliked the
philosophy of Montaigne, and wrote HAMLET to discredit it. It is hard to
realise how such a hopeless misconception can ever have arisen in the
mind of anyone capable of making the historic research on which Mr. Feis
seeks to found his assertion. If there were no other argument against
it, the bare fact that the tragedy of HAMLET existed before Shakspere,
and that he was, as usual, simply working over a play already on the
boards, should serve to dismiss such a wild hypothesis. And from every
other point of view, the notion is equally preposterous.

No human being in Shakspere's day could have gathered from HAMLET such a
criticism of Montaigne as Mr. Feis reads into it by means of violences
of interpretation which might almost startle Mr. Donnelly. Even if they
blamed Hamlet for delaying his revenge, in the manner of the ordinary
critical moralist, they could not possibly regard that delay as a kind
of vice arising from the absorption of Montaignesque opinions. In the
very year of the appearance of Florio's folio, it was a trifle too soon
to make the assumption that Montaigne was demoralising mankind, even if
we assume Shakspere to have ever been capable of such a judgment. And
that assumption is just as impossible as the other. According to Mr.
Feis, Shakspere detested such a creed and such conduct as Hamlet's, and
made him die by poison in order to show his abhorrence of them--this,
when we know Hamlet to have died by the poisoned foil in the earlier
play. On that view, Cordelia died by hanging in order to show
Shakspere's conviction that she was a malefactor; and Desdemona by
stifling as a fitting punishment for adultery. The idea is outside of
serious discussion. Barely to assume that Shakspere held Hamlet for a
pitiable weakling is a sufficiently shallow interpretation of the play;
but to assume that he made him die by way of condign punishment for his
opinions is merely ridiculous. Once for all, there is absolutely nothing
in Hamlet's creed or conduct which Shakspere was in a position to regard
as open to his denunciation. The one intelligible idea which Mr. Feis
can suggest as connecting Hamlet's conduct with Montaigne's philosophy
is that Montaigne was a quietest, preaching and practising withdrawal
from public broils. But Shakspere's own practice was on all fours with
this. He sedulously held aloof from all meddling in public affairs; and
as soon as he had gained a competence he retired, at the age of
forty-seven, to Stratford-on-Avon. Mr. Feis's argument brings us to the
very crudest form of the good old Christian verdict that if Hamlet had
been a good and resolute man he would have killed his uncle out of hand,
whether at prayers or anywhere else, and would then have married
Ophelia, put his mother in a nunnery, and lived happily ever after.[162]
And to that edifying assumption, Mr. Feis adds the fantasy that
Shakspere dreaded the influence of Montaigne as a deterrent from the
retributive slaughter of guilty uncles by wronged nephews.

In the hands of Herr Stedefeld, who in 1871 anticipated Mr. Feis's view
of HAMLET as a sermon against Montaigne, the thesis is not a whit more
plausible. Herr Stedefeld entitles his book[163]: "Hamlet: a
Drama-with-a-purpose (TENDENZDRAMA) opposing the sceptical and
cosmopolitan view of things taken by Michael de Montaigne"; and his
general position is that Shakspere wrote the play as "the apotheosis of
a practical Christianity," by way of showing how any one like Hamlet,
lacking in Christian piety, and devoid of faith, love, and hope, must
needs come to a bad end, even in a good cause. We are not entitled to
charge Herr Stedefeld's thesis to the account of religious bias, seeing
that Mr. Feis in his turn writes from the standpoint of a kind of
Protestant freethinker, who sees in Shakspere a champion of free inquiry
against the Catholic conformist policy of Montaigne; while strictly
orthodox Christians have found in Hamlet's various allusions to deity,
and in his "as for me, I will go pray," a proof alike of his and of
Shakspere's steadfast piety. Against all such superficialities of
exegesis alike our safeguard must be a broad common-sense induction.

We are entitled to say at the outset, then, only this, that Shakspere at
the time of working over HAMLET and MEASURE FOR MEASURE in 1603-1604 had
in his mind a great deal of the reasoning in Montaigne's Essays; and
that a number of the speeches in the two plays reproduce portions of
what he had read. We are not entitled to assume that these portions are
selected as being in agreement with Shakspere's own views: we are here
limited to saying that he put certain of Montaigne's ideas or statements
in the mouths of his characters where they would be appropriate. It does
not follow that he shared the feelings of Claudio as to the possible
life of the soul after death. And when Hamlet says to Horatio, on the
strangeness of the scene with the Ghost:

 "And therefore as a stranger give it welcome!
  There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
  Than are dreamt of in our philosophy"--

though this may be said to be a summary of the whole drift of
OUR SUFFICIENCY; and though we are entitled to believe that Shakspere
had that essay or its thesis in his mind, there is no reason to suppose
that the lines express Shakspere's own belief in ghosts. Montaigne had
indicated his doubts on that head even in protesting against sundry
denials of strange allegations: and it is dramatically fitting that
Hamlet in the circumstances should say what he does. On the other hand,
when the Duke in MEASURE FOR MEASURE, playing the part of a friar
preparing a criminal for death, gives Claudio a consolation which does
not contain a word of Christian doctrine, not a syllable of sacrificial
salvation and sacramental forgiveness, we are entitled to infer from
such a singular negative phenomenon, if not that Shakspere rejected the
Christian theory of things, at least that it formed no part of his
habitual thinking. It was the special business of the Duke, playing in
such a character, to speak to Claudio of sin and salvation, of
forgiveness and absolution. Such a singular omission must at least imply
disregard on the part of the dramatist. It is true that Isabella,
pleading to Angelo in the second Act, speaks as a believing Christian on
the point of forgiveness for sins; and the versification here is quite
Shaksperean. But a solution of the anomaly is to be found here as
elsewhere in the fact that Shakspere was working over an existing
play;[165] and that in ordinary course he would, if need were, put the
religious pleading of Isabella into his own magistral verse just as he
would touch up the soliloquy of Hamlet on the question of killing his
uncle at prayers--a soliloquy which we know to have existed in the
earlier forms of the play. The writer who first made Isabella plead
religiously with Angelo would have made the Duke counsel Claudio
religiously. The Duke's speech, then, is to be regarded as Shakspere's
special insertion; and it is to be taken as negatively exhibiting his

In the same way, the express withdrawal of the religious note at the
close of HAMLET--where in the Second Quarto we have Shakspere making the
dying prince say "the rest is silence" instead of "heaven receive my
soul," as in the First Quarto--may reasonably be taken to express the
same agnosticism on the subject of a future life as is implied in the
Duke's speech to Claudio. It cannot reasonably be taken to suggest a
purpose of holding Hamlet up to blame as an unbeliever, because Hamlet
is made repeatedly to express himself, in talk and in soliloquy, as a
believer in deity, in prayer, in hell, and in heaven. These speeches are
mostly reproductions of the old play, the new matter being in the nature
of the pagan allusion to the "divinity that shapes our ends." What is
definitely Shaksperean is just the agnostic conclusion.

Did Shakspere, then, derive this agnosticism from Montaigne? What were
really Montaigne's religious and philosophic opinions? We must consider
this point also with more circumspection than has been shown by most of
Montaigne's critics. The habit of calling him "sceptic," a habit
initiated by the Catholic priests who denounced his heathenish use of
the term "Fortune," and strengthened by various writers from Pascal to
Emerson, is a hindrance to an exact notion of the facts, inasmuch as the
word "sceptic" has passed through two phases of significance, and may
still have either. In the original sense of the term, Montaigne is a
good deal of a "sceptic," because the main purport of the APOLOGY OF
RAYMOND SEBONDE appears to be the discrediting of human reason all
round, and the consequent shaking of all certainty. And this method
strikes not only indirectly but directly at the current religious
beliefs; for Montaigne indicates a lack of belief in immortality,[166]
besides repeatedly ignoring the common faith where he would naturally
be expected to endorse it, as in the nineteenth and fortieth essays
hereinbefore cited, and in his discussion of the Apology of Socrates. As
is complained by Dean Church:[167] "His views, both of life and death,
are absolutely and entirely unaffected by the fact of his profession to
believe the Gospel." That profession, indeed, partakes rather obviously
of the nature of his other formal salutes[168] to the Church, which are
such as Descartes felt it prudent to make in a later generation. His
profession of fidelity to Catholicism, again, is rather his way of
showing that he saw no superiority of reasonableness in Protestantism,
than the expression of any real conformity to Catholic ideals; for he
indicates alike his aversion to heretic-hunting and his sense of the
folly of insisting on the whole body of dogma. When fanatical
Protestants, uncritical of their own creed, affected to doubt the
sincerity of any man who held by Catholicism, he was naturally piqued.
But he was more deeply piqued, as Naigeon has suggested, when the few
but keen freethinkers of the time treated the THEOLOGIA NATURALIS of
Sebonde, which Montaigne had translated at his father's wish, as a
feeble and inconclusive piece of argumentation; and it was primarily to
retaliate on such critics--who on their part no doubt exhibited some
ill-founded convictions while attacking others--that he penned the
APOLOGY, which assails atheism in the familiar sophistical fashion, but
with a most unfamiliar energy and splendour of style, as a manifestation
of the foolish pride of a frail and perpetually erring reason. For
himself, he was, as we have said, a classic theist, of the school of
Cicero and Seneca; and as regards that side of his own thought he is not
at all sceptical, save in so far as he nominally protested against all
attempts to bring deity down to human conceptions, while himself doing
that very thing, as every theist needs must.

Shakspere, then, could find in Montaigne the traditional deism of the
pagan and Christian world, without any colour of specifically Christian
faith, and with a direct lead to unbelief in a future state. But,
whether we suppose Shakspere to have been already led, as he might be
by the initiative of his colleague Marlowe, an avowed atheist, to
agnostic views on immortality, or whether we suppose him to have had his
first serious lead to such thought from Montaigne, we find him to all
appearance carrying further the initial impetus, and proceeding from the
serene semi-Stoicism of the essayist to a deeper and sterner conception
of things. It lay, indeed, in the nature of Shakspere's psychosis, so
abnormally alive to all impressions, that when he fully faced the darker
sides of universal drama, with his reflective powers at work, he must
utter a pessimism commensurate with the theme. This is part, if not the
whole, of the answer to the question "Why did Shakspere write
tragedies?"[169] The whole answer can hardly be either Mr. Spedding's,
that the poet wrote his darkest tragedies in a state of philosophic
serenity,[170] or Dr. Furnivall's, that he "described hell because he
had felt hell."[171] But when we find Shakspere writing a series of
tragedies, including an extremely sombre comedy (MEASURE FOR MEASURE),
after having produced mainly comedies and history-plays, we must
conclude that the change was made of his own choice, and that whereas
formerly his theatre took its comedies mostly from him, and its
tragedies mostly from others, it now took its comedies mostly from
others and its tragedies from him. Further, we must assume that the
gloomy cast of thought so pervadingly given to the new tragedies is
partly a reflex of his own experience, but also in large part an
expression of the philosophy to which he had been led by his reading, as
well as by his life. For we must finally avow that the pervading thought
in the tragedies outgoes the simple artistic needs of the case. In
OTHELLO we have indeed a very strictly dramatic array of the forces of
wrong--weakness, blind passion, and pitiless egoism; but there is
already a full suggestion of the overwhelming energy of the element of
evil; and in LEAR the conception is worked out with a desperate
insistence which carries us far indeed from the sunny cynicism and
prudent scepticism of Montaigne. Nowhere in the essays do we find such a
note of gloom as is struck in the lines:

 "As flies to wanton boys are we to the Gods:
  They kill us for their sport."

And since there is no pretence of balancing that mordant saying with any
decorous platitude of Christian Deism, we are led finally to the
admission that Shakspere sounded a further depth of philosophy than
Montaigne's unembittered "cosmopolitan view of things." Instead of
reacting against Montaigne's "scepticism," as Herr Stedefeld supposes,
he produced yet other tragedies in which the wrongdoers and the wronged
alike exhibit less and not more of Christian faith than Hamlet,[172] and
in which there is no hint of any such faith on the part of the
dramatist, but, on the contrary, a sombre persistence in the presentment
of unrelieved evil. The utterly wicked Iago has as much of religion in
his talk as anyone else in OTHELLO, using the phrases "Christian and
heathen," "God bless the mark," "Heaven is my judge," "You are one of
those that will not serve God, if the devil bid you," "the little
godliness I have," "God's will," and so forth; the utterly wicked Edmund
in LEAR, as we have seen, is made to echo Montaigne's "sceptical"
passage on the subject of stellar influences, spoken with a moral
purpose, rather than the quite contrary utterance in the APOLOGY, in
which the essayist, theistically bent on abasing human pretensions,
gives to his scepticism the colour of a belief in those very
influences.[173] There is here, clearly, no pro-religious thesis. The
whole drift of the play shows that Shakspere shares the disbelief in
stellar control, though he puts the expression of the disbelief in the
mouth of a villain; though he makes the honest Kent, on the other hand,
declare that "it is the stars ... that govern our conditions;"[174] and
though he had previously made Romeo speak of "the yoke of inauspicious
stars," and the Duke describe mankind as "servile to all the skiey
influences," and was later to make Prospero, in the TEMPEST[175] express
his belief in "a most auspicious star." In the case of Montaigne, who
goes on yet again to contradict himself in the APOLOGY itself,
satirising afresh the habit of associating deity with all human
concerns, we are driven to surmise an actual variation of opinion--the
vivacious intelligence springing this way or that according as it is
reacting against the atheists or against the dogmatists. Montaigne, of
course, is not a coherent philosopher; the way to systematic philosophic
truth is a path too steep to be climbed by such an undisciplined spirit
as his, "sworn enemy to obligation, to assiduity, to constancy";[176]
and the net result of his "Apology" for Raimond Sebonde is to upset the
system of that sober theologian as well as all others. Whether
Shakspere, on the other hand, could or did detect all the
inconsistencies of Montaigne's reasoning, is a point on which we are not
entitled to more than a surmise; but we do find that on certain issues
on which Montaigne dogmatises very much as did his predecessors,
Shakspere applies a more penetrating logic, and explicitly reverses the
essayist's verdicts. Montaigne, for instance, carried away by his master
doctrine that we should live "according to nature," is given to talking
of "art" and "nature" in the ordinary manner, carrying the primitive
commonplace indeed to the length of a paradox. Thus in the essay on the
Cannibals,[177] speaking of "savages," he protests that

  "They are even savage, as we call those fruits wild which
  nature of herself and of her ordinary progress hath
  produced, whereas indeed they are those which ourselves have
  altered by our artificial devices, and diverted from their
  common order, we should rather call savage. In those are the
  true and more profitable virtues and natural properties most
  lively and vigorous;"[178]

deciding with Plato that

  "all things are produced either by nature, by fortune, or by
  art; the greatest and fairest by one or other of the two
  first; the least and imperfect by this last."

And in the APOLOGY,[179] after citing some as arguing that

  "Nature by a maternal gentleness accompanies and guides" the
  lower animals, "as if by the hand, to all the actions and
  commodities of their life," while, "as for us, she abandons
  us to hazard and fortune, and to seek by art the things
  necessary to our conservation,"

though he proceeds to insist on the contrary that "nature has
universally embraced all her creatures," man as well as the rest, and to
argue that man is as much a creature of nature as the rest--since even
speech, "if not natural, is necessary"--he never seems to come within
sight of the solution that art, on his own showing, is just nature in a
new phase. But to that point Shakspere proceeds at a stride in the
WINTER'S TALE, one of the latest plays (? 1611), written about the time
when we know him to have been reading or re-reading the essay on the
Cannibals. When Perdita refuses to plant gillyflowers in her garden,

                 "For I have heard it said
  There is an art which in their piedness shares
  With great creating nature,"

the old king answers:

                       "Say there be:
  Yet nature is made better by no mean,
  But nature makes that mean; so o'er that art
  Which you say adds to nature, is an art
  That nature makes. You see, sweet maid, we marry
  A gentle scion to the wildest stock
  And make conceive a bark of baser kind
  By bud of nobler race: This is an art
  Which does mend nature--change it rather; but
  The art itself is nature."[180]

It is an analysis, a criticism, a philosophic demonstration; and the
subtle poet smilingly lets us see immediately that he had tried the
argument on the fanatics of "nature," fair or other, and knew them
impervious to it. "I'll not put," says Puritan Perdita, after demurely
granting that "so it is"--

                          "I'll not put
  The dibble in earth to set one slip of them."

The mind which could thus easily pierce below the inveterate fallacy of
three thousand years of conventional speech may well be presumed capable
of rounding Montaigne's philosophy wherever it collapses, and of setting
it aside wherever it is arbitrary. Certain it is that we can never
convict Shakspere of bad reasoning in person; and in his later plays we
never seem to touch bottom in his thought. The poet of VENUS AND ADONIS
seems to have deepened beyond the plummet-reach even of the
deep-striking intelligence that first stirred him to philosophise.

And yet, supposing this to be so, there is none the less a lasting
community of thought between the two spirits, a lasting debt from the
younger to the elder. Indeed, we cannot say that at all points
Shakspere outwent his guide. It is a curious reflection that they had
probably one foible in common; for we know Montaigne's little weakness
of desiring his family to be thought ancient, of suppressing the fact of
its recent establishment by commerce; and we have evidence which seems
to show that Shakspere sought zealously,[181] despite rebuffs, the
formal constitution of a coat-of-arms for his family. On the other hand,
there is nothing in Shakspere's work--the nature of the case indeed
forbade it--to compare in democratic outspokenness with Montaigne's
essay[182] OF THE INEQUALITY AMONG US. The Frenchman's hardy saying[183]
that "the souls of emperors and cobblers are all cast in one same mould"
could not well be echoed in Elizabethan drama; and indeed we cannot well
be sure that Shakspere would have endorsed it, with his fixed habit of
taking kings and princes and generals and rich ones for his personages.
But then, on the other hand, we cannot be sure that this was anything
more than a part of his deliberate life's work of producing for the
English multitude what that multitude cared to see, and catching London
with that bait of royalty which commonly attracted it. It remains a fine
question whether his extravagant idealisation and justification of Henry
V.--which, though it gives so little pause to some of our English
critics, entitled M. Guizot to call him a mere John Bull in his ideas of
international politics--it remains disputable whether this was exactly
an expression of his own thought. It is notable that he never again
strikes the note of blatant patriotism. And the poets of that time,
further, seem to have had their tongues very much in their cheeks with
regard to their Virgin Queen; so that we cannot be sure that Shakspere,
paying her his fanciful compliment,[184] was any more sincere about it
than Ben Jonson, who would do as much while privately accepting the
grossest scandal concerning her.[185] It is certainly a remarkable fact
that Shakspere abstained from joining in the poetic out-cry over her
death, incurring reproof by his silence.[186]

However all that may have been, we find Shakspere, after his period of
pessimism, viewing life in a spirit which could be expressed in terms of
Montaigne's philosophy. He certainly shaped his latter years in
accordance with the essayist's ideal. We can conceive of no other man in
Shakspere's theatrical group deliberately turning his back, as he did,
on the many-coloured London life when he had means to enjoy it at
leisure, and seeking to possess his own soul in Stratford-on-Avon, in
the circle of a family which had already lived so long without him. But
that retirement, rounding with peace the career of manifold and intense
experience, is a main fact in Shakspere's life, and one of our main
clues to his innermost character. Emerson, never quite delivered from
Puritan prepossessions, avowed his perplexity over the fact "that this
man of men, he who gave to the science of mind a new and larger subject
than had ever existed, and planted the standard of humanity some
furlongs forward into Chaos--that he should not be wise for himself: it
must even go into the world's history that the best poet led an obscure
(!) and profane life, using his genius for the public amusement." If
this were fundamentally so strange a thing, one might have supposed that
the transcendentalist would therefore "as a stranger give it welcome."
Approaching it on another plane, one finds nothing specially perplexing
in the matter. Shakspere's personality was an uncommon combination; but
was not that what should have been looked for? And where, after all, is
the evidence that he was "not wise for himself"?[187] Did he not make
his fortune where most of his rivals failed? If he was "obscure," how
otherwise could he have been less so? How could the bankrupt tradesman's
son otherwise rise to fame? Should he have sought, at all costs, to
become a lawyer, and rise perchance to the seat of Bacon, and the
opportunity of eking out his stipend by bribes? If it be conceded that
he must needs try literature, and such literature as a man could live
by; and if it be further conceded that his plays, being so marvellous in
their content, were well worth the writing, where enters the "profanity"
of having written them, or of having acted in them, "for the public
amusement"? Even wise men seem to run special risks when they discourse
on Shakspere: Emerson's essay has its own anomaly.

It is indeed fair to say that Shakspere must have drunk a bitter cup in
his life as an actor. It is true that that calling is apt to be more
humiliating than another to a man's self-respect, if his judgment remain
sane and sensitive. We have the expression of it all in the

 "Alas! 'tis true, I have gone here and there,
  And made myself a motley to the view,
 _Gored mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear_,
 _Made old offences of affections new_."

It is impossible to put into fewer and fuller words the story, many a
year long, of sordid compulsion laid on an artistic nature to turn its
own inner life into matter for the stage. But he who can read Shakspere
might be expected to divine that it needed, among other things, even
some such discipline as that to give his spirit its strange universality
of outlook. And he who could esteem both Shakspere and Montaigne might
have been expected to note how they drew together at that very point of
the final retirement, the dramatic caterer finally winning, out of his
earnings, the peace and self-possession that the essayist had inherited
without toil. He must, one thinks, have repeated to himself Montaigne's
very words[189]: "My design is to pass quietly, and not laboriously,
what remains to me of life; there is nothing for which I am minded to
make a strain: not knowledge, of whatever great price it be." And when
he at length took himself away to the quiet village of his birth, it
could hardly be that he had not in mind those words of the essay[190] on

  "We should reserve a storehouse for ourselves ... altogether
  ours, and wholly free, wherein we may hoard up and establish
  our true liberty, the principal retreat and solitariness,
  wherein we must go alone to ourselves.... We have lived long
  enough for others, live we the remainder of all life unto
  ourselves.... Shake we off these violent hold-fasts which
  elsewhere engage us, and estrange us from ourselves. The
  greatest thing of the world is for a man to know how to be
  his own. It is high time to shake off society, since we can
  bring nothing to it...."

A kindred note is actually struck in the 146th Sonnet,[191] which tells
of revolt at the expenditure of inner life on the outward garniture, and
exhorts the soul to live aright:

    "Then soul live thou upon thy servant's loss,
  And let that live to aggravate thy store;
    Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
  Within be fed; without be rich no more:
    So shalt thou feed on death that feeds on men,
    And death once dead, there's no more dying then"--

an echo of much of Montaigne's discourse, herein before cited.[192]

In perfect keeping with all this movement towards peace and
contemplation, and in final keeping, too, with the deeper doctrine of
Montaigne, is the musing philosophy which lights, as with a wondrous
sunset, the play which one would fain believe the last of all. At the
end, as at the beginning, we find the poet working on a pre-existing
basis, re-making an old play; and at the end, as at the beginning, we
find him picturing, with an incomparable delicacy, new ideal types of
womanhood, who stand out with a fugitive radiance from the surroundings
of mere humanity; but over all alike, in the TEMPEST, there is the
fusing spell of philosophic reverie. Years before, in HAMLET, he had
dramatically caught the force of Montaigne's frequent thought that
daylight life might be taken as a nightmare, and the dream life as the
real. It was the kind of thought to recur to the dramatist above all
men, even were it not pressed upon him by the essayist's reiterations:

  "Those which have compared our life unto a dream, have
  happily had more reason so to do than they were aware. When
  we dream, our soul liveth, worketh, and exerciseth all her
  faculties, even and as much as when it waketh.... We wake
  sleeping, and sleep waking. In my sleep I see not so clear,
  yet can I never find my waking clear enough, or without
  dimness.... Why make we not a doubt whether our thinking
  and our working be another dreaming, and our waking some
  kind of sleeping?"[193]

  "Let me think of building castles in Spain, my imagination
  will forge me commodities and afford means and delights
  wherewith my mind is really tickled and essentially gladded.
  How often do we pester our spirits with anger or sadness by
  such shadows, and entangle ourselves into fantastical
  passions which alter both our mind and body?... Enquire of
  yourself, where is the object of this alteration? Is there
  anything but us in nature, except subsisting nullity? over
  whom it hath any power?... Aristodemus, king of the
  Messenians, killed himself upon a conceit he took of some
  ill presage by I know not what howling of dogs.... It is the
  right way to prize one's life at the right worth of it, to
  forego it for a dream."[194]

  " ... Our reasons do often anticipate the effect and have
  the extension of their jurisdiction so infinite, that they
  judge and exercise themselves in inanity, and to a not
  being. Besides the flexibility of our invention, to frame
  reasons unto all manner of dreams; our imagination is
  likewise found easy to receive impressions from falsehood,
  by very frivolous appearances."[195]

Again and again does the essayist return to this note of mysticism, so
distinct from the daylight practicality of his normal utterance. And it
was surely with these musings in his mind that the poet makes Prospero
pronounce upon the phantasmagoria that the spirits have performed at his
behest. We know, indeed, that the speech proceeds upon a reminiscence of
four lines in the Earl of Stirling's DARIUS (1604), lines in themselves
very tolerable, alike in cadence and sonority, but destined to be
remembered by reason of the way in which the master, casting them into
his all-transmuting alembic, has remade them in the fine gold of his
subtler measure. The Earl's lines run:

 "Let greatness of her glassy scepters vaunt;
    Not scepters, no, but reeds, soon bruised, soon broken;
  And let this worldly pomp our wits enchant;
    All fades, and scarcely leaves behind a token.
  Those golden palaces, those gorgeous halls,
    With furniture superfluously fair;
  Those stately courts, those sky-encountering walls,
    Evanish all like vapours in the air."

The sonorities of the rhymed verse seem to have vibrated in the poet's
brain amid the memories of the prose which had suggested to him so much;
and the verse and prose alike are raised to an immortal movement in the
great lines of Prospero:

                    "These our actors,
  As I foretold you, are all spirits, and
  Are melted into air, into thin air.
  And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
  The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
  The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
  Yea, all which it inherits, shall dissolve
  And, like this unsubstantial pageant faded,
  Leave not a wrack behind. _We are such stuff
  As dreams are made on_, and our little life
  Is rounded with a sleep."

In the face of that vast philosophy, it seems an irrelevance to reason,
as some do, that in the earlier scene in which Gonzalo expounds his
Utopia of incivilisation, Shakspere so arranges the dialogue as to
express his own ridicule of the conception. The interlocutors, it will
be remembered, are Sebastian and Antonio, two of the villains of the
piece, and Alonso, the wrecked usurper. The kind Gonzalo talks of the
ideal community to distract Alonso's troubled thoughts; Sebastian and
Antonio jeer at him; and Alonso finally cries, "Pr'ythee, no more, thou
dost talk nothing to me." Herr Gervinus is quite sure that this was
meant to state Shakspere's prophetic derision for all communisms and
socialisms and peace congresses, Shakspere being the fore-ordained
oracle of the political gospel of his German commentators, on the
principle of "Gott mit uns." And it may well have been that Shakspere,
looking on the society of his age, had no faith in any Utopia, and that
he humorously put what he felt to be a valid criticism of Montaigne's in
the mouth of a surly rascal--he has done as much elsewhere. But he was
surely the last man to have missed seeing that Montaigne's Utopia was no
more Montaigne's personal political counsel to his age than AS YOU LIKE
IT was his own; and, as regards the main purpose of Montaigne's essay,
which was to show that civilisation was no unmixed gain as contrasted
with some forms of barbarism, the author of CYMBELINE was hardly the man
to repugn it, even if he amused himself by putting forward Caliban[196]
as the real "cannibal," in contrast to Montaigne's. He had given his
impression of certain aspects of civilisation in HAMLET, Measure for
Measure, and KING LEAR. As his closing plays show, however, he had
reached the knowledge that for the general as for the private wrong, the
sane man must cease to cherish indignation. That teaching, which he
could not didactically impose, for such a world as his, on the old
tragedy of revenge which he recoloured with Montaigne's thought, he
found didactically enough set down in the essay on Diversion:[197]

  "Revenge is a sweet pleasing passion, of a great and natural
  impression: I perceive it well, albeit I have made no trial
  of it. To divert of late a young prince from it, I told him
  not he was to offer the one side of his cheek to him who had
  struck him on the other in regard of charity; nor displayed
  I unto him the tragical events poesy bestoweth upon that
  passion. There I left him and strove to make him taste the
  beauty of a contrary image; the honour, the favour, and the
  goodwill he should acquire by gentleness and goodness; I
  diverted him to ambition."

And now it is didactically uttered by the wronged magician in the

 "Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the quick,
  Yet with my nobler reason, 'gainst my fury
  Do I take part; the rarer action is
  In virtue than in vengeance...."

The principle now pervades the whole of Prospero's society; even the
cursed and cursing Caliban is recognised[198] as a necessary member of

 "We cannot miss him; he does make our fire,
  Fetch in our wood; and serves in offices
  That profit us."

It is surely not unwarrantable to pronounce, then, finally, that the
poet who thus watchfully lit his action from the two sides of passion
and sympathy was in the end at one with his "guide, philosopher, and
friend," who in that time of universal strife and separateness could of
his own accord renew the spirit of Socrates, and say:[199] "I esteem all
men my compatriots, and embrace a Pole even as a Frenchman,
subordinating this national tie to the common and universal." Here, too,
was not Montaigne the first of the moderns?

  [1] Preface to Eng. trans. of Simrock on _The Plots of
  Shakespere's Plays_, 1850.

  [2] _Lady Politick Would-be._ All our English writers,
      I mean such as are happy in the Italian,
      Will deign to steal out of this author [_Pastor Fido_] mainly
      Almost as much as from Montaignie;
      He has so modern and facile a vein,
      Fitting the time, and catching the court ear.

                                           --Act iii. sc. 2.

  [3] _London and Westminster Review_, July, 1838, p. 321.

  [4] Article in _Journal des Débats_, 7 November, 1846,
  reprinted in _L'Angleterre au Seizième Siècle_, ed. 1879, p.

  [5] _Montaigne_ (Série des _Grands Ecrivains Français_),
  1895, p. 105.

  [6] _Molière et Shakspere._

  [7] _Shakspere and Classical Antiquity_, Eng. tr. p. 297.

  [8] See this point discussed in the _Free Review_ of July,
  1895: and compare the lately published essay of Mr. John
  Corbin, on _The Elizabethan Hamlet_, (Elkin Matthews, 1895).

  [9] _Hamlet_, Act V, scene 2.

  [10] Book I, Essay 33.

  [11] _Advice_ in Florio.

  [12] B. III, Ch. 8. _Of the art of conferring._

  [13] B. III, Ch. 12.

  [14] Act II, Sc. 1, 144.

  [15] Book I, ch. II, _end_.

  [16] Book I, ch. 23.

  [17] _Ibid._

  [18] Some slip of the pen seems to have occurred in this
  confused line. The original _Et male consultis pretium est:
  prudentia fallax_--is sufficiently close to Shakspere's

  [19] "O heaven! a beast that wants discourse of reason" (Act
  I, Scene 2.)

  [20] Act II, Sc. 2.

  [21] Act IV, Scene 2.

  [22] Act IV, Scene 4.

  [23] See Furniss's Variorum edition of _Hamlet, in loc._

  [24] B. I, Chap. 19; Edit. Firmin-Didot, vol. i, p. 68.

  [25] B. II, Chap. 4; Ed. cited, p. 382.

  [26] B. II, Chap. 12; _Ibid_, p. 459.

  [27] B. II, Chap. 33.

  [28] _Shakespere and Montaigne_, 1884, p. 88.

  [29] B. III, Chap. 12.

  [30] Act III, Scene 3.

  [31] B. I, ch. 22.

  [32] Act II, Scene 2.

  [33] _Othello_, Act II, Scene 3.

  [34] B. I, ch. 40, "That the taste of goods or evils doth
  greatly depend on the opinion we have of them."

  [35] B. I, ch. 50.

  [36] B. I, ch. 22.

  [37] B. III, ch. 10.

  [38] Act V, Scene 4.

  [39] On reverting to Mr. Feis's book I find that in 1884 he
  had noted this and others of the above parallels, which I
  had not observed when writing on the subject in 1883. In
  view of some other parallels and clues drawn by him, our
  agreements leave me a little uneasy. He decides, for
  instance (p. 93) that Hamlet's phrase "foul as Vulcan's
  stithy" is a "sly thrust at Florio" who in his preface calls
  himself "Montaigne's Vulcan"; that the Queen's phrase
  "thunders in the index" is a reference to "the Index of the
  Holy See and its thunders"; and that Hamlet's lines "Why let
  the stricken deer go weep" are clearly a satire against
  Montaigne, "who fights shy of action." Mr. Feis's book
  contains so many propositions of this order that it is
  difficult to feel sure that he is ever judicious. Still, I
  find myself in agreement with him on some four or five
  points of textual coincidence in the two authors.

  [40] Act I, Scene 4.

  [41] B. II, Chap. 33.

  [42] It is further relevant to note that in the essay _Of
  Drunkenness_ (ii. 2) Montaigne observes that "drunkenness
  amongst others appeareth to me a gross and brutish vice,"
  that "the worst estate of man is where he loseth the
  knowledge and government of himself," and that "the grossest
  and rudest nation that liveth amongst us at this day, is
  only that which keepeth it in credit." The reference is to
  Germany: but Shakspere in _Othello_ (Act II, Sc. 3) makes
  Iago pronounce the English harder drinkers than either the
  Danes or the Hollanders; and the lines:

   "This heavy-headed revel, east and west,
    Makes us traduced and taxed of other nations;
    They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase,
    Soil our addition."

  might also be reminiscent of Montaigne, though of course
  there is nothing peculiar in such a coincidence.

  [43] B. III, Chap. 7.

  [44] B. III, Chap. 4.

  [45] B. III, Chap. 10.

  [46] B. III, Chap. 2.

  [47] B. III, Chap. 13.

  [48] B. I, Chap. 38.

  [49] B. III, Chap. 4.

  [50] B. I, Chap. 40.

  [51] B. II, Chap. 8.

  [52] B. II, Chap. 18.

  [53] _De Officus_ i, 4: _cf._ 30.

  [54] 1534, 1558, 1583, 1600. See also the compilation
  entitled _A Treatise of Morall Philosophie_ by W. Baudwin,
  4th enlargement by T. Paulfreyman. 1600, pp. 44-46, where
  there is a closely parallel passage from Zeno as well as
  that of Cicero.

  [55] Mr. Feis makes this attribution.

  [56] B. II, Chap. 1.

  [57] This may fairly be argued, perhaps, even of the
  somewhat close parallel, noted by Mr. Feis, between Laertes'
  lines (I, 3):

   "For nature, crescent, does not grow alone
    In thews and bulk, but as this temple waxes
    The inward service of the mind and soul
    Grows wide withal,"

  and Florio's rendering of an extract from Lucretius in the

   "The mind is with the body bred, we do behold.
    It jointly grows with it, it waxeth old."

  Only the slight coincidence of the use of the (then
  familiar) verb "wax" in both passages could suggest
  imitation in the case of such a well-worn commonplace.

  [58] See some cited at the close of this essay in another

  [59] B. II, Chap. 12.

  [60] Act IV, Scene 3.

  [61] "_Le monde est un branloire perenne_" (Book III, Essay
  2). Florio translates that particular sentence: "The world
  runs all on wheels" a bad rendering.

  [62] B. III, Chap. 3.

  [63] B. II, Chap. 17.

  [64] It may fairly be laid down as practically certain, from
  what we know of the habit of circulating works in manuscript
  at that period, and from what Florio tells us in his
  preface, that translations of some of the essays had been
  passed about before Florio's folio was printed. [65] _Varia
  Historia_, XII, 23.

  [66] The story certainly had a wide vogue, being found in
  Aristotle, _Eudemian Ethics_, iii, 1, and in Nicolas of
  Damascus; while Strabo (vii, ii. § 1) gives it further
  currency by contradicting it as regards the Cimbri.

  [67] B. II, Chap. 5.

  [68] B. II, Chap. 3.

  [69] Richard III, I, 4; V, 3.

  [70] _The Influence of Seneca on Elizabethan Tragedy_, 1893,
  p. 80-5.

  [71] Actus III, 865-866.

  [72] Actus IV, 1526-7.

  [73] This in turn is an echo from the Greek. See note in
  Doering's edition.

  [74] See Boswell's edition of Malone's Shakspere, _in loc._

  [75] Yet again, in Marston's _Insatiate Countess_, the
  commentators have noticed the same sentiment.

  "Death, From whose stern cave none tracks a backward path."

  It was in fact a poetic commonplace.

  [76] Act 5, Scene 6.

  [77] Act v, sc. 1.

  [78] I, 22.

  [79] 2 _H. IV_, iv. 3

  [80] ii, 2

  [81] ii, 10.

  [82] So far as I remember, the idea of suicide as a
  desertion of one's post without the deity's permission is
  first found, in English literature, in Sidney, and he would
  find it in Montaigne's essay on the _Custom of the Isle of
  Cea_ (edit. Firmin-Didot, i. 367).

  [83] When this is compared with the shorter speech of
  similar drift in the anonymous play of _Edward III._ ("To
  die is all as common as to live" etc., Act iv., sc. 4) it
  will be seen that the querying form as well as the
  elaboration constitutes a special resemblance between the
  speech in Shakspere and the passages in Montaigne


  [85] ii, 6, _Of Exercise or Practice_.

  [86] _Apology._

  [87] _Ibid._, near end.

  [88] _On Isis and Osiris_, c. 26.

  [89] Canto v.

  [90] Canto xxxii.

  [91] It would seem to be from those early monkish legends
  that the mediæval Inferno was built up. The torture of cold
  was the northern contribution to the scheme. Compare Warton,
  _History of English Poetry_, sec. 49, and Wright's _Saint
  Patrick's Purgatory_, 1844, p. 18.

  [92] _Paradise Lost_, B. II, 587-603.

  [93] Edit. Firmin-Didot. i, 597-598.

  [94] _Ibid._ p. 621.

  [95] Act iv, sc. 5.

  [96] iii, 3.

  [97] B. v, cc. 8, 9, 10. _Cf._ vi, 2, 3.

  [98] B. v, cc. 22-25.

  [99] ii, 32.

  [100] The arguments of Dr. Karl Elze, in his _Essays on
  Shakspere_ (Eng. tr., p. 15), to show that the _Tempest_ was
  written about 1604, seem to me to possess no weight
  whatever. He goes so far as to assume that the speech of
  Prospero in which Shakspere transmutes four lines of the
  Earl of Stirling's _Darius_ must have been written
  immediately after the publication of that work. The argument
  is (1) that Shakspere must have seen _Darius_ when it came
  out, and (2) that he would imitate the passage then or

  [101] Act v, sc. 3.

  [102] i, 31.

  [103] ii, 13.

  [104] Act i, sc. 2.

  [105] Act iv, sc. 3.

  [106] i, 2.

  [107] _Hippolytus_, 615 (607).

  [108] See the Prologue to _Every Man in His Humour_, first
  ed., preserved by Gifford.

  [109] The 29th.

  [110] See his _Characteristics of English Poets_, 2nd. ed.
  p. 222.

  [111] The most elaborate and energetic attempt to prove
  Shakspere classically learned is that made in the _Critital
  Observations on Shakspere_ (1746) of the Rev. John Upton, a
  man of great erudition and much random acuteness (shown
  particularly in bold attempts to excise interpolations from
  the Gospels), but as devoid of the higher critical wisdom as
  was Bentley, whom he congenially criticised. To a reader of
  to-day, his arguments from Shakspere's diction and syntax
  are peculiarly unconvincing.

  [112] It may not be out of place here to say a word for
  Farmer in passing, as against the strictures of M. Stapfer,
  who, after recognising the general pertinence of his
  remarks, proceeds to say (_Shakspere and Classical
  Antiquity_, Eng. trans, p. 83) that Farmer "fell into the
  egregious folly of speaking in a strain of impertinent
  conceit: it is as if the little man for little he must
  assuredly have been--was eaten up with vanity." This is in
  its way as unjust as the abuse of Knight. M. Stapfer has
  misunderstood Farmer's tone, which is one of banter against,
  not Shakspere, but those critics who blunderingly ascribed
  to him a wide and close knowledge of the classics. Towards
  Shakspere, Farmer was admiringly appreciative--and in the
  preface to the second edition of his essay he wrote:
  "Shakspere wanted not the stilts of languages to raise him
  above all other men."

  [113] Ch. iv, of vol. cited.

  [114] _The Influence of Seneca on Elizabethan Tragedy_, pp.

  [115] _Hercules Furens_, ad fin. (1324-1329.).

  [116] _Hippolytus_, Act. II, 715-718 (723-726.)

  [117] _Choephori_, 63-65.

  [118] Carm. lxxxviii, _In Gellium_. See the note in
  Doering's edition.

  [119] _Gerusalemme_, xviii, 8.

  [120] _The Insatiate Countess_, published in 1613.

  [121] _Hamlet_, Act iv, sc. 3.

  [122] _Agamemnon_, 152-153.

  [123] ii, 3 (near beginning.)

  [124] _Hercules Furens_, Act. V. 1261-2.

  [125] Act iv, Sc. 3.

  [126] _Hercules Furens_, 1258-61.

  [127] _Macbeth_, Act v, Sc. 2.

  [128] _Ibid._ Act iv, Sc. 2.

  [129] _Ibid._ Act i, sc. 7.

  [130] B. ii, ch. 10.

  [131] Tschischwitz, _Shakspere-Forschungen_, i. 1868, S. 52.

  [132] "Es ist ubrigens nicht zu bedauern dass Shakspere
  Brunos Komodie nicht durchweg zum Muster genommen, den sie
  enthält so masslose Obscönitaten, dass Shakspere an seinen
  stärksten Stellen daneben fast jungfräulich erscheint" (Work
  cited, S. 52).

  [133] Work cited, S. 57. I follow Dr. Tschischwitz's
  translation, so far as syntax permits.

  [134] Act i, Sc. 4.

  [135] Work cited, Sc. 59.

  [136] See Frith's _Life of Giordano Bruno_, 1889, pp.

  [137] Act v. Sc. 1.

  [138] Cited by Noack, art. _Bruno_, in
  _Philosophie-geschichtliches Lexikon_.

  [139] Act i, Sc. 2.

  [140] Work cited, p. 90.

  [141] It would be unjust to omit to acknowledge that Dr.
  Furnivall seeks to frame an inductive notion of Shakspere,
  even when rejecting good evidence and proceeding on
  deductive lines; that in the works of Professor Dowden on
  Shakspere there is always an effort towards a judicial
  method, though he refuses to take some of the most necessary
  steps; and that the work of Mr. Appleton Morgan, President
  of the New York Shakspere Society, entitled _Shakspere in
  Fact and Criticism_ (New York, 1888), is certainly not open
  to the criticism I have passed. Mr. Morgan's essentially
  rationalistic attitude is indicated in a sentence of his
  preface: "My own idea has been that William Shakspere was a
  man of like passions with ourselves, whose moods and veins
  were influenced, just as are ours, by his surroundings,
  employments, vocations ... and that, great as he was, and
  oceanic as was his genius, we can read him all the better
  because he was, after all, a man...." In recognising the
  good sense of Mr. Morgan's general attitude, I must not be
  understood to endorse his rejection of the "metrical tests"
  of Mr. Fleay and other English critics. These seem to me to
  be about the most important English contribution to the
  scientific comprehension of Shakspere. On the other hand, it
  may be said that the naturalistic conception of Shakspere as
  an organism in an environment was first closely approached
  in the present century by French critics, as Guizot and
  Chasles (Taine's picture of the Elizabethan theatre, adopted
  by Green, having been founded on a study by Chasles); that
  the naturalistic comprehension of _Hamlet_, as an incoherent
  whole resulting from the putting of new cloth into an old
  garment, was first reached by the German Rümelin (_Shakspere
  Studien_); and that the structural anomalies of _Hamlet_ as
  an acting play were first clearly put by the German Benedix
  (_Die Shakspereomanie_) these two critics thus making amends
  for much vain discussion of _Hamlet_ by their countrymen
  before and since; while the naturalistic conception of the
  man Shakspere is being best developed at present in America.
  The admirable work of Messrs. Clarke and Wright and Fleay in
  the analysis of the text and the revelation of its
  non-Shaksperean elements, seems to make little impression on
  English culture; while such a luminous manual as Mr. Barrett
  Wendell's _William Shakspere: a Study in Elizabethan
  Literature_ (New York, 1894), with its freshness of outlook
  and appreciation, points to decided progress in rational
  Shakspere-study in the States, though, like the _Shakspere
  Primer_ of Professor Dowden, it is not consistently
  scientific throughout.

  [142] _Life of Shakspere_, 1886, p. 128.

  [143] See Mr. Appleton Morgan's _Shakspere's Venus and
  Adonis: a Study in Warwickshire Dialect_.

  [144] Professor Dowden notes in his _Shakspere Primer_ (p.
  12) that before 1600 the prices paid for plays, by Henslowe,
  the theatrical lessee, vary from £4 to £8, and not till
  later did it rise as high as £20 for a play by a popular

  [145] Compare the 78th Sonnet, which ends;--

    But thou art all my art, and dost advance
    As high as learning my rude ignorance.

  [146] _Life of Shakspere_, pp. 29, 128.

  [147] See it in his _Life of Shakspere_, pp. 120-124. Mr.
  Fleay's theory, though perhaps the best "documented" of all,
  has received little attention in comparison with Mr.
  Tyler's, which has the attraction of fuller detail.

  [148] Only in Chaucer (_e.g._, _The Book of the Duchess_) do
  we find before his time the successful expression of the
  same perception; and Chaucer counted for almost nothing in
  Elizabethan letters.

  [149] See Fleay's _Life of Shakspere_, pp. 130-1.

  [150] Cp. the _Essays_, ii, 17: iii, 2. (Edit. cited, vol.
  ii, pp. 40, 231.)

  [151] _Essays_, i, 25; _cf._ i, 48. (Edit. cited, vol. i,
  pp. 304, 429.)

  [152] ii, 4. (Edit. cited, i, 380.)

  [153] ii, 10. (Edit. cited, i, 429.)

  [154] _Pensées Diverses._ Less satisfying is the further
  _pensée_ in the same collection:--"Les quatre grand poëtes,
  Platon, _Malebranche_, _Shaftesbury_, Montaigne."

  [155] Edition cited, i, 622-623.

  [156] _Port Royal_, 4ième édit., ii. 400, _note_.

  [157] B. iii, Chap. 13.

  [158] "In the midst of our compassion, we feel within I know
  not what bitter sweet touch of malign pleasure in seeing
  others suffer." (Comp. La Rochefoucauld, _Pensée_ 104.)

  [159] B. iii, Chap. 1.

  [160] i, Chap. 38.

  [161] _L'Angleterre au Seizième Siècle_, p. 133.

  [162] This seems to be the ideal implied in the criticisms
  even of Mr. Lowell and Mr. Dowden.

  [163] _Hamlet: ein Tendenzdrama Sheakspere's_ [_sic_
  throughout book] _gegen die skeptische und cosmopolitische
  Weltanschanung des Michael de Montaigne_, von G. F.
  Stedefeld, Kreisgerichtsrath, Berlin. 1871.

  [164] B. i, Chap. 26.

  [165] It is not disputed that the plot existed beforehand in
  Whetstone's _Promos and Cassandra_; and there was probably
  an intermediate drama.

  [166] Edit. Firmin-Didot, i, 590.

  [167] _Oxford Essays_, p. 279. Sterling, from his
  Christian-Carlylese point of view, declared of Montaigne
  that "All that we find in him of Christianity would be
  suitable to apes and dogs rather than to rational and moral
  beings" (_London and Westminster Review_, July, 1838, p.

  [168] Sainte-Beuve has noted how in the essay on Prayer he
  added many safeguarding clauses in the later editions.

  [169] See Mr. Spedding's essay, so entitled, in the
  _Cornhill Magazine_, August, 1880.

  [170] Art. cited, _end_.

  [171] Note cited by Mr. Spedding. Cp. Introd. to _Leopold_
  Shakspere p. lxxxvii.

  [172] Lear once (iii. 4) says he will pray; but his religion
  goes no further.

  [173] See the passage cited above in section iii in
  connection with _Measure for Measure_.

  [174] Act iv, Sc. 2.

  [175] Act i, Sc. 2.

  [176] B. i, Chap. 20.

  [177] B. i, Chap. 30.

  [178] Edit. Firmin-Didot, i, 202.

  [179] _Ibid._, pp. 477-478.

  [180] _Here_, it may be said, there is a trace of the
  influence of Bruno's philosophy; and it may well be that
  Shakspere did not spontaneously strike out the thought for
  himself. But I am not aware that any parallel passage has
  been cited.

  [181] Fleay's _Life_, pp. 138, &c.

  [182] B. i, Chap. 42.

  [183] B. ii, Chap. 12. (Edit. cited, i. 501.)

  [184] _Midsummer Nights Dream_, Act ii. Sc. 2.

  [185] See his Conversations with Drummond of Hawthornden

  [186] Halliwell-Phillipps, _Outlines of the Life of
  Shakspere_, 5th ed., p. 175.

  [187] I find even Mr. Appleton Morgan creating a needless
  difficulty on this head. In his _Shakspere in Fact and
  Criticism_, already cited, he writes (p. 316): "I find him
  ... living and dying so utterly unsuspicious that he had
  done anything of which his children might care to hear, that
  he never even troubled himself to preserve the manuscript of
  or the literary property in a single one of the plays which
  had raised him to affluence." As I have already pointed out,
  there is no reason to suppose that Shakspere could retain
  the ownership of his plays any more than did the other
  writers who supplied his theatre. They belonged to the
  partnership. Besides, he could not possibly have published
  as _his_ the existing mass, so largely made up of other
  men's work. His fellow-players did so without scruple after
  his death, being simply bent on making money.

  [188] Sonnet 110. Compare the next.

  [189] B. ii, Chap. 10.

  [190] B. i, Chap. 38.

  [191] This may be presumed to have been written between 1603
  and 1609, the date of the publication of the Sonnets. As Mr.
  Minto argues, "the only sonnet of really indisputable date
  is the 107th, containing the reference to the death of
  Elizabeth" (_Characteristics_, as cited, p. 220). As the
  first 126 sonnets make a series, it is reasonable to take
  those remaining as of later date.

  [192] It more particularly echoes, however, two passages in
  the nineteenth essay: "There is no evil in life for him that
  hath well conceived, how the privation of life is no evil.
  To know how to die, doth free us from all subjection and
  constraint." "No man did ever prepare himself to quit the
  world more simply and fully ... than I am fully assured I
  shall do. The deadest deaths are the best"

  [193] ii, 12.

  [194] iii, 11.

  [195] iii, 4.

  [196] In all probability this character existed in the
  previous play, the name being originally, as was suggested
  last century by Dr. Farmer, a mere variant of "Canibal."

  [197] iii, 4.

  [198] Act ii, Sc. 2.

  [199] iii, 9.




New Series.



in Economics.

CHRIST AND KRISHNA: A Study in Mythology.
Etc. Etc.


16, John Street, Bedford Row, London, W.C.

Now Ready 2s. 6d. net.


_An Anatomy of the Disease and a Theory of Curative Treatment._



_Pall Mall Gazette_, MAY 31, 1897:

" ... That, of a surety, is an unpleasant indictment; and, having thus
genially introduced himself to his reader, the author goes bald-headed
for Mrs. Grundy, Mr. Podsnap, and public opinion as voiced according to
the oracles of Mrs. Smith and Brown, of Little Muddleton Road, and for
all the cherished fetishes of Suburbia."

_Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper_, MAY 30, 1897:

"To persons who like hard hitting, vigorous English levelled at the cant
of Grundyism, this book will come as a great treat."

_Weekly Times and Echo_, MAY 30, 1897:

"'The Blight of Respectability,' by Geoffrey Mortimer, is well worth
reading, and by more of us, perhaps, than imagine it. The shoddy god has
votaries in England, where one would least expect to find them."


16. John Street, Bedford Row, London, W.C.

Now Ready. 8s. net,




_Daily Chronicle_:

Although the title of this book defines its scope, it does not indicate
its main purpose. That is to show that the Celtic race has been
misrepresented by a number of historians, from Mommsen to Froude, as
incapable of self-government; and to prove, by inference, its fitness
for Home Rule.... The major argument is based by Mommsen and his school
on the assumption of permanent distinctions among races; and therefore
Mr. Robertson applies himself, with a large measure of success, to the
task of showing that the theory of innate persistent qualities marking
off one people from another has no ethnological justification.... Mr.
Robertson is able to make short and easy work of the loose writing which
sums up those (imaginary) characters in epithet or epigram.... Mr.
Robertson's lively style and happy allusiveness keep the reader
interested to the end....


16, John Street, Bedford Row, London, W.C.

Just published, 10s. net,





_The Sun_, MARCH 31, 1897:

The author of "Pseudo-Philosophy" handles his weapons well, and seems to
us in many instances to occupy positions which, with our present human
intelligence, are almost unassailable. On the other hand, of course,
champions of orthodoxy, as a rule, frankly admit that some of their
tenets and the justice of certain aspects of the divine policy cannot be
comprehended by the natural man. But Mr. Cecil's strong feelings
occasionally carry him too far, as when in the preface he seems to use
"religious obscurantism" as a synonym for religion generally. The former
may have been opposed to social progress, as he says. To contend that
the same charge will stand against the latter is only to ignore the
fact, if not indeed the law, that the great social awakenings have
almost invariably followed hard upon the great religious revivals.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Montaigne and Shakspere" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.