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Title: William Shakespeare
Author: Masefield, John, 1878-1967
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 "William Shakespeare" ***

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

Transcriber's note

Minor punctuation errors have been corrected without notice. Obvious
printer errors have been corrected, and are listed at the end.

For the chapter heading, "The Second Part of King Henry IV", the Table
of Contents lists it as "King Henry IV, Part II"; this was not changed.
In addition other inconsistencies are as in the original. The author's
spelling has been maintained.













        LL.D., F.B.A.


        (Columbia University, U.S.A.)











    CHAP.                                       PAGE

      I THE LIFE OF SHAKESPEARE                    9

     II THE ELIZABETHAN THEATRES                  18

    III THE PLAYS                                 23

          Love's Labour's Lost                    24

          The Two Gentlemen of Verona             34

          The Comedy of Errors                    43

          Titus Andronicus                        49

          King Henry VI, Part I                   51

           "     "    "    "  II                  54

           "     "    "    "  III                 60

          A Midsummer Night's Dream               63

          Romeo and Juliet                        67

          King John                               75

          King Richard II                         86

          King Richard III                        93

          The Merchant of Venice                 102

          The Taming of the Shrew                105

          King Henry IV, Part I                  109

           "     "    "   "   II                 114

          King Henry V                           120

          The Merry Wives of Windsor             123

          As You Like It                         128

          Much Ado About Nothing                 133

          Twelfth Night                          138

          All's Well that Ends Well              144

          Julius Cæsar                           149

          Hamlet, Prince of Denmark              157

          Troilus and Cressida                   168

          Measure for Measure                    174

          Othello, the Moor of Venice            180

          King Lear                              186

          Macbeth                                195

          Antony and Cleopatra                   202

          Coriolanus                             208

          Timon of Athens                        214

          Pericles, Prince of Tyre               218

          Cymbeline                              223

          The Winter's Tale                      226

          The Tempest                            231

          King Henry VIII                        235


        THE POEMS:

          Venus and Adonis                       241

          The Rape of Lucrece                    242

          The Passionate Pilgrim                 244

          The Sonnets                            244

          The Phoenix and the Turtle             249

        AUTHOR'S NOTE                            250

        INDEX                                    253




Stratford-on-Avon is cleaner, better paved, and perhaps more populous
than it was in Shakespeare's time. Several streets of mean red-brick
houses have been built during the last half century. Hotels, tea rooms,
refreshment rooms, and the shops where the tripper may buy things to
remind him that he has been where greatness lived, give the place an air
at once prosperous and parasitic. The town contains a few comely old
buildings. The Shakespeare house, a detached double dwelling, once the
home of the poet's father, stands on the north side of Henley Street. A
room on the first floor, at the western end, is shown to visitors as the
room in which the poet was born. There is not the slightest evidence to
show that he was born there. One scanty scrap of fact exists to suggest
that he was born at the eastern end. The two dwellings have now been
converted into one, which serves as a museum. New Place, the house where
Shakespeare died, was pulled down in the middle of the eighteenth
century. For one museum the less let us be duly thankful.

The church in which Shakespeare, his wife, and little son are buried
stands near the river. It is a beautiful building of a type common in
the Cotswold country. It is rather larger and rather more profusely
carved than most. Damp, or some mildness in the stone, has given much of
the ornament a weathered look. Shakespeare is buried seventeen feet down
near the north wall of the chancel. His wife is buried in another grave
a few feet from him.

The country about Stratford is uninteresting, pretty, and well watered.
A few miles away the Cotswold hills rise. They have a bold beauty, very
pleasant after the flatness of the plain. The wolds towards Stratford
grow many oaks and beeches. Farther east, they are wilder and barer.
Little brooks spring up among the hills. The nooks and valleys are
planted with orchards. Old, grey Cotswold farmhouses, and little, grey,
lovely Cotswold villages show that in Shakespeare's time the country was
prosperous and alive. It was sheep country then. The wolds were sheep
walks. Life took thought for Shakespeare. She bred him, mind and bone,
in a two-fold district of hill and valley, where country life was at its
best and the beauty of England at its bravest. Afterwards she placed him
where there was the most and the best life of his time. Work so calm as
his can only have come from a happy nature, happily fated. Life made a
golden day for her golden soul. The English blessed by that soul have
raised no theatre for the playing of the soul's thanksgiving.

Legends about Shakespeare began to spring up in Stratford as soon as
there was a demand for them. Legends are a stupid man's excuse for his
want of understanding. They are not evidence. Setting aside the legends,
the lies, the surmises and the imputations, several uninteresting things
are certainly known about him.

We know that he was the first son and third child of John Shakespeare, a
country trader settled at Stratford, and of Mary his wife; that he was
baptised on the 26th April, 1564; and that in 1582 he got with child a
woman named Anne or Agnes Hathaway, eight years older than himself. Her
relatives saw to it that he married her. A daughter (Susanna) was born
to him in May 1583, less than six months after the marriage. In January
1585 twins were born to him, a son (Hamnet, who died in 1596) and a
daughter (Judith).

At this point he disappears. Legend, written down from a hundred to a
hundred and sixty years after the event, says that he was driven out of
the county for poaching, that he was a country school-master, that he
made a "very bitter" ballad upon a landlord, that he tramped to London,
that he held horses outside the theatre doors, and that at last he was
received into a theatrical company "in a very mean rank." This is all
legend, not evidence. That he was a lawyer's clerk, a soldier in the Low
Countries, a seaman, or a printer, as some have written books to attempt
to show, is not evidence, nor legend, but wild surmise. It might be
urged, with as great likelihood, that he became a king, an ancient
Roman, a tapster or a brothel keeper.

It is fairly certain that the company which first received him was the
Earl of Leicester's company, then performing at The Theatre in
Shoreditch. The company changed its patron and its theatre several
times, but Shakespeare, having been admitted to it, stayed with it
throughout his theatrical career. He acted with it at The Theatre, at
the Rose and Globe Theatres, at the Court, at the Inns of Court, and
possibly on many stages in the provinces. For many years he professed
the quality of actor. Legend says that he acted well in what are called
"character parts." Soon after his entrance into the profession he began
to show a talent for improving the plays of others.

Nothing interesting is known of his subsequent life, except that he
wrote great poetry and made money by it. It is plain that he was a
shrewd, careful, and capable man of affairs, and that he cared, as all
wise men care, for rank and an honourable state. He strove with a noble
industry to obtain these and succeeded. He prospered, he bought New
Place at Stratford, he invested in land, in theatre shares and in
houses. During the last few years of his life he retired to New Place,
where he led the life of a country gentleman. He died there on the 23rd
April, 1616, aged fifty-two years. The cause of his death is not known.
His wife and daughters survived him.

Little is known of his human relationships. He is described as "gentle."
Had he been not gentle we should know more of him. Ben Jonson "loved
the man," and says that "he was, indeed, honest and of an open and free
nature." John Webster speaks of his "right happy and copious industry."
An actor who wrote more than thirty plays during twenty years of
rehearsing, acting, and theatre management, can have had little time for
mixing with the world.

That we know little of his human relationships is one of the blessed
facts about him. That we conjecture much is the penalty a nation pays
for failing to know her genius when he appears.

Three portraits--a bust, an engraving, and a painting--have some claim
to be considered as genuine portraits of Shakespeare. The first of these
is the coloured half-length bust on the chancel wall in Stratford
Church. This was made by one Gerard Janssen, a stonemason of some
repute. It was placed in the church within seven years of the poet's
death. It is a crude work of art; but it shows plainly that the artist
had before him (in vision or in the flesh) a man of unusual vivacity of
mind. The face is that of an aloof and sunny spirit, full of energy and
effectiveness. Another portrait is that engraved for the title page of
the first folio, published in 1623. The engraving is by Martin
Droeshout, who was fifteen years old when Shakespeare died, and
(perhaps) about twenty-two when he made the engraving. It is a crude
work of art, but it shows plainly that the artist had before him the
representation of an unusual man.

It is possible that the representation from which he engraved his plate
was a painting on panel, now at Stratford. This painting (discovered in
1840) is now called "the Droeshout portrait." It is supposed to
represent the Shakespeare of the year 1609. In the absence of proof, all
that can be said of it is that it is certainly a work of the early
seventeenth century, and that it looks as though it were the original of
the engraving. No other "portrait of Shakespeare" has any claim to be
considered as even a doubtful likeness.

There are, unfortunately, many graven images of Shakespeare. They are
perhaps passable portraits of the languid, half-witted, hydrocephalic
creatures who made them. As representations of a bustling, brilliant,
profound, vivacious being, alive to the finger tips, and quick with an
energy never since granted to man, they are as false as water.



The Elizabethan theatres were square, circular, or octagonal structures,
built of wood, lath and plaster, on stone or brick foundations. They
stood about forty or forty-five feet high. They were built with three
storeys, tiers, or galleries of seats which ran round three sides of the
stage and part of the fourth. On the fourth side, at the back of the
stage, was a tiring house in which the actors robed. The upper storeys
of the tiring house could be used in the action, for a balcony, the
upper storeys of a house, etc., according to the needs of the scene. It
is possible, but not certain, that the tiring house itself was used in
some plays to represent an inner chamber. The three storeys of seats
were divided by partitions into "gentlemen's roomes" and "Twoe pennie
roomes." The top storey was roofed in, either with thatch or tiles. The
stage was roofed over in the same way. The space or yard between the
stage and the galleries which surrounded it, was open to the sky. It
contained no seats, but it held many spectators who stood. "Standing
room" cost a penny. Those who stood could press right up to the stage,
which was a platform four or five feet high projecting well out from the
back of the house "to the middle of the yarde." It was possible to see
the actors "in the round," instead of, as at present, like people in a
picture. The audience got their emotions from the thing done and the
thing said; not, as with us, from the situation. It was the custom of
gallant gentlemen to hire stools placed on the stage itself. They sat
and took tobacco there during the performance. Rank had then a greater
privilege of impertinence than it has to-day. The performances took
place by daylight. They were announced by the blowing of a trumpet.
During a performance, a banner was hung from the theatre roof. The plays
were played straight through, without waits. The only waits necessary in
a theatre are (_a_) those which rest the actors and (_b_) those which
give variety to the moods of the spectators. The double construction of
Shakespeare's plays provided a sub-plot which held or amused the
audience while the actors of the main plot rested. It is possible, but
not certain, that the scenes were played on alternate halves of the
stage, and that when one half of the stage was being cleared of its
properties, or fitted with them, the play continued on the other half.
It is not possible to speak of the general quality of the acting.
Acting, like other dependent art, can only be good when it has good art
to interpret. The acting was probably as good and as bad as the plays.
Careful and impressive speaking and thoughtful, restrained gesture were
qualities which Shakespeare and Ben Jonson praised. It is likely that
the acting of the time was much quicker than modern acting. The plays
were played very swiftly, without hesitation or dawdling over

There was little or no scenery to most plays. The properties, _i.e._
chairs, beds, etc., were simple and few. The play was the thing. The aim
of the play was to give not a picture of life, but a glorified vision of
life. The object was not realism but illusion. The costumes were of
great splendour. In some productions (as in _Henry VIII_) they were of
an excessive splendour. Music and singing added much to the beauty of
many scenes.

Women were not then allowed upon the stage. Women's parts were played by
boys. Some have thought that this must have taken from the excellence of
the performances. It is highly likely that it added much to it. Nearly
all boys can act extremely well. Very few men and women can.

The playing of women's parts by boys may have limited Shakespeare's art.
His women are kept within the range of thought and emotion likely to be
understood by boys. This may account for their wholesome, animal
robustness. There is no trace of the modern heroine, the common woman
overstrained, or the idle woman in her megrims, in any Shakespearean
play. The people of the plays are alive and hearty. They lead a vigorous
life and go to bed tired. They never forget that they are animals. They
never let any one else forget that they are also divine.



Three plays belong to Shakespeare's first period of original creative
writing. It is fair to suppose that the least dramatically sound of the
three was the one first written. We therefore take _Love's Labour's
Lost_ as his first play. It is commonly said by critics that _Love's
Labour's Lost_ is "the work of a young man." It might more justly be
said of it that it is the work of a new kind of young man. The young man
knows all the trick of the theatre and uses it, as a master always uses
technique, for the statement of something new to the human soul. The
play no longer speaks to the human soul; for though it is the work of a
master, it is the work of a master not yet alive to the depths and still
doubtful among the temptations to which intellect is subject. It is one
of those works of art which remind us of Blake's saying, that "the best
water is the newest." When it came out, with all the glitter of newness
on it, the mind of man was flattered by a new possession. To us, the
persons of the play are not much more than Time's toys, who never really
lived, but only glittered a little.

_Love's Labour's Lost._

     _Written._ Between 1589 and 1592.

     _Published_, after correction and augmentation, from a badly
     corrected copy, 1598.

     _Source of the Plot._ It is thought that Shakespeare created the
     plot. The names of some of the characters were taken from people
     then living. The incident in Act V, scene ii (the entrance of the
     King of Navarre and his men, in Russian habits), was perhaps
     suggested by the visit of some Russians to Queen Elizabeth in 1584.

     _The Fable._ The King of Navarre and his three courtiers, Biron,
     Dumaine and Longaville, have sworn to study for three years under
     the usual collegiate conditions of watching, fasting, and keeping
     from the sight and speech of women. They are forced to break this
     vow. The Princess of France comes with her Court to discuss State

     At the discussion, the King falls in love with the Princess, his
     three courtiers fall in love with the ladies of her train.

     The lovers send vows of love to their ladies. They plot to visit
     them in disguises of masks and Russian clothes. The ladies, hearing
     of this plot in time, mask themselves. The men fail to recognise
     them. Each disguised lover makes love-vows to the wrong woman.

     The ladies twit the men with a double perjury: that they have
     broken their vow to study, and their love vows.

     The play is kept within the bounds of fantastic comedy by the
     members of the sub-plot, who intrude with their fun whenever the
     action tends to become real. They intrude here, to impersonate the
     Nine Worthies before the two Courts. The farce of their performance
     is heightened by ragging from the courtiers. When it is at its
     height, two of the members of the sub-plot begin to quarrel. One
     blow would ruin the play by making it real. At the crisis the
     violence is avoided; the reality is brought unexpectedly, by
     beauty. A messenger enters to tell the Princess that her father is

     The ladies bid the men test their love by waiting for twelve
     months. The trifling of the earlier acts is shown at its moral
     value against a background of tragic happening. Accomplishments are
     compared with life.

     The members of the sub-plot enter. They end the play with the
     singing of a lyric.

The play gives the reader the uncanny feeling that something real inside
the piece is trying to get out of the fantasy. The lip-love rattles like
a skeleton's bones. The love of Biron for Rosaline is real passion. The
conflict throughout is the conflict of the unreal with the real.

The play seems to have been written in a literary or sentimental mood,
and revised in a real mood. There is little in the early version that is
not fantastic. The situation is fantastic, the people are fantastic, the
language is fantastic with all a brilliant young master's delight in the
play and glitter of cunning writing. The later version was written
during the passionate years of Shakespeare's growth, after something had
altered the world to him. The two versions are carelessly stuck
together, with the effect of a rose-bush growing out of bones.

The Biron scenes, as we have them, seem to be the fruit of the mood that
caused the sonnets. We do not know what caused that mood. The sonnets,
like the plays, are as likely to be symbol as confession. The sonnets
suggest that he loved an unworthy woman who robbed him of a beloved
friend. _Love's Labour's Lost_ and several other early plays suggest
that he knew too well how love for the unworthy woman smirches honour,
wakens, but holds captive, the reason, and wastes the spiritual gift in
the praise of a form of death.

The dramatic method is dual. He presents in the plot something eternal
in human life, and in the sub-plot something temporal in human fashion.
In the plot of this play, his intention seems to have been this--to show
intellect turned from a high resolve, from a consecration to mental
labour, by the coming of women, who represent, perhaps, untutored,
natural intelligence. Later in the play the high resolve of intellect is
betrayed again, indirectly by women; but more by the sexual emotions
which distort the vision till even the falsest, loosest woman appears
beautiful and "celestial," and worth the sacrifice of intellect. The end
of the play is not so much an end as a clearing of the road of life.

It often happens that the setting down of a doubt in careful words
resolves it. This play seems to free Shakespeare's mind from doubts as
to the right use and preparation of intellect. He presents with extreme
care the different types of literary intellect: the man who shuts
himself up to study, the man who sparkles in society, the man whom books
have made stupid and the man whom style has made mad.

The play is full of the problem of what to do with the mind. Shall it be
filled with study, or spent in society, or burnt in a passion, or
tortured by strivings for style, or left as it is? Intellect is a
problem to itself. Something of the problem seems (it would be wrong to
be more certain) to have made this play not quite impersonal, as good
art should be.

The problems are settled wisely, though not without a feeling of
sacrifice. The beauty and the worth of learning are baits by which many
intellects are lured from wisdom. The knowledge that life is the book to
study, life at its liveliest, in the wits of women

    Above the sense of sense,"

and that style is a poor thing beside the "honest plain words" which
pierce, only comes with a sense of loss. Youth desires all the powers. A
man with great gifts desires all the mental gifts. Youth with nothing
but great gifts is never sure that the gifts will be sufficient. When
this play was written, the stage was supplied with plays by men of
trained intellects, who set more store upon the training than upon the
intellect itself. The society of well-taught men, who know and quote and
criticise, always makes the untaught uncertain and ill at ease.
Shakespeare seems to have risen from the writing of this play, certain
that poetry is not given to the trained mind, nor to the untrained mind,
but to the quick and noble nature, earnest with the passion which stands
the touchstone of death. "Subtlety," so Cromwell wrote, "may deceive
you, integrity never will." The mind is her own armour. She will not
fail for the want of a little learning or a little grace.

In the sub-plot, among much low comedy, this truth is emphasised by the
triumph of Costard, a natural mind, in an encounter with Armado, an
artificial mind. At the end of the play the "learned men" are made to
compile a dialogue "in praise of the owl and the cuckoo." The dialogue
is of a kind not usual among learned men, but the choice of the birds is
significant. The last speech of the play: "The words of Mercury are
harsh after the songs of Apollo," seems to refer to Marlowe, as though
Shakespeare found it hard to justify an art so unlike his master's.
Marlowe climbs the peaks in the sun, his bow never off his shoulders. I
walk the roads of the earth among men.

There is little character drawing in the piece. The Princess is a
gracious figure; but hardly real to us till the last scene of the play,
when she speaks wisely. Biron is more of a person. He presents his point
of view in a moment of pleasant poetry--

    "For where is any author in the world,
     Teaches such beauty as a woman's eye?"

He shows a prejudice against Boyet, the courtier in attendance on the
Princess. This prejudice is expressed bitterly--

    "This is the flower that smiles on every one,"

with the bitterness usual in Shakespeare when treating of the flunkey
mind. The ladies of the Princess's train all talk exactly alike, with
sharp feminine wit, infinitely swift in thrust. None of them has
personality; but Rosaline is described for us, body and disposition. The
members of the sub-plot are mental fashions well observed. Costard alone
has life. Shakespeare came from the country. In the country a thinking
man is reminded daily of the shrewdness of unspoiled minds. Armado,
Costard's opponent, lives for us by one phrase--

     "The sweet war-man is dead and rotten: sweet chucks, beat not the
     bones of the buried: when he breathed, he was a man."

It is interesting to see Shakespeare's mind trying for vividness. In his
maturity he had supremely the power of giving life. In this early play
one can see his first conscious literary efforts towards the obtaining
of the power. Longaville (in Act II, sc. i) makes the scene alive by the

    "I beseech you a word. What is she in the white?"

(Who is the woman in the white dress?) The simple but telling means of
giving reality is repeated a few lines later in Biron's question--

    "What's her name in the cap?"

In Act V, sc. ii, the vividness is given in a strangely pathetic
passage, that haunts, after the play is laid down. Two of the ladies are
talking of Cupid--

     _Rosaline._ You'll ne'er be friends with him: he killed your

     _Katharine._ He made her melancholy, sad, and heavy;
     And so she died: had she been light, like you,
     Of such a merry, nimble, stirring spirit,
     She might have been a granddam ere she died.

The power of giving life in a line is seen in the remark of Dumaine (Act
IV, sc. iii)--

    "To look like her, are chimney-sweepers black."

The play is full of experiments. Some of it is written in a loose,
swinging couplet, some in quatrains, some in blank verse, some in the
choice, picked prose made the fashion by Lyly. It contains more lyrics
than any other Shakespearean play. One of the lyrics, a sonnet in
Alexandrines, is the fruit of a real human passion. The lyric at the end
of the play is the loveliest thing ever said about England. If this play
and most of the other plays were modern works, the Censor would not
allow them to be performed publicly. The men and women converse with a
frankness and suggestiveness not now usual, except among the young.
Shakespeare is blamed for not conforming to standards unknown to his

He is blamed for not being delicate-minded like the great Greek tragic
poets. The Greek tragic poets wrote about the heroic life of legend.
Shakespeare wrote about life. A man who writes about life must accept
life for what it is, as largely an animal thing. Those who pretend that
life is only lived in boudoirs, are in peril, and the world is in peril
through them.

_The Two Gentlemen of Verona._

     _Written._ Before 1592.

     _Published_, in the first folio, 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ The story of a woman who follows her lover in
     the disguise of a page-boy, hears him serenade another woman, and
     acts as a go-between in his suit to this other woman, is to be
     found in the second book of _La Diana Enamorada_, a pastoral
     romance, in prose, freely sprinkled with lyrics, by Jorge de
     Montemayor, a Portuguese who wrote in Spanish about the middle of
     the sixteenth century. De Montemayor's story is not complicated by
     a Valentine. He calls the girl Felismena, her lover Felix, and the
     second woman Celia. His tale ends with Celia dying for love of the
     supposed page-boy.

     A play based on this story was acted in England in 1584. It is now
     lost. The gist of the story was published in lame English verses,
     by Barnabe Googe, in 1563.

     _The Fable._ Valentine and Proteus, the two gentlemen, are friends.
     Valentine is about to travel. Proteus, in love with Julia, will not
     go with him. Antonio, Proteus' father, sends Proteus after
     Valentine. Julia resolves to follow him in boy's clothes. Valentine
     at Milan falls in love with the Duke's daughter, Silvia, whom the
     Duke plans to marry to one Thurio. Proteus, arriving at Milan, also
     falls in love with Silvia. He becomes jealous of Valentine.

     Valentine tells him that he has planned to escape with Silvia that
     night. Proteus betrays this plot to the Duke. The Duke banishes
     Valentine and sends Proteus to Silvia to press the suit of Thurio.

     Valentine joins a gang of outlaws.

     Proteus woos Silvia for himself, and is rejected by her.

     Julia, who has come in boy's dress from Verona to look for Proteus,
     finds him still unsuccessfully courting Silvia. She enters his
     service as a page. He sends her on a message to Silvia.

     On her way to deliver the message, Julia meets Silvia flying from
     home in search of Valentine.

     In her search for Valentine, Silvia is caught by the gang of

     Proteus rescues her, and threatens to resume his suit with

     Valentine, entering, stops this.

     Proteus sues for pardon to Valentine and Julia. He is received to
     mercy. The Duke after dismissing Thurio, pardons Valentine, and
     grants him Silvia's hand in marriage.

_Love's Labour's Lost_ is fantasy. The _Two Gentlemen of Verona_ deals
with real human relationships. It is a better play than the fantasy,
though the fantasy has moments of better poetry. It carries on one of
the problems raised in _Love's Labour's Lost_. It is the work of a
troubled mind. It comes from the mood in which the sonnets were written.

Twice in _Love's Labour's Lost_ the act of oath-breaking, of being
forsworn, is important to the play's structure. Though the vows broken
in that play are fantastic, the characters feel real dishonour at the
breaking of them. The play shows that though the idea of vow-breaking
was in Shakespeare's mind, he had not then the power, or the human
experience, or the mental peace, to grapple with it fairly, or see it
truly. The idea, that the person for whom the vows are broken brings
with her the punishment of the sin of vow-breaking, haunts the mind of
Biron (in Act IV, sc. iii)--

                "Sow'd cockle reap'd no corn:
    And justice always whirls in equal measure:
    Light wenches may prove plagues to men forsworn."

In the _Two Gentlemen of Verona_, this idea, the idea that treachery
caused by some obsession is at the root of most tragedy, was treated by
him at length, perhaps for the first time.

That it haunted him then, and remained all through his life as the
pole-star of dramatic action is evident to all who read his works as
poetry should be read. It is the law of his imagination.

Passion, not weakness of will, but strength of will blinded, is the
commonest cause of treachery among us. The great poets have agreed that
anything that distorts the mental vision, anything thought of too much,
is a danger to us. Passion that with the glimmer of a new drunkenness
blinds the mature to the life and death memories of marriage, and kills
in the immature the memory of love, friendship, and past benefits, is a
form of destruction. In its action as a destroyer, it is the subject of
Shakespeare's greatest plays. In the _Two Gentlemen of Verona_ he is
interested less in the destruction than in the moral blindness that
leads to it.

Shakespeare's method is simple. He shows us two charming young men
becoming morally blind with passion, in a company not so blinded. The
only other "inconstant" person in the play (Sir Thurio) is inconstant
from that water-like quality in the mind that floods with the full moon,
and ebbs like a neap soon after. Even the members of the sub-plot, the
two servants, are constant, the one to his master, who beats him, the
other to the dog that gets him beaten. A lesser mind would sit in
judgment in such a play. The task of genius is not to sit in judgment.

    "Our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together."

Shakespeare neither praises nor blames. His task is to see justly. It is
we who conclude that treachery looks ugly beside its opposite.

Of the fine scenes in the play, sc. iv in Act II, where Valentine and
Sir Thurio walk with Silvia, with whom they are both in love, is the
liveliest. The two men bicker across the lady, as though the next word
would bring blows. The demure pleasure of Silvia in being quarrelled
for, is indicated most masterly in less than thirty words. Act III, sc.
i, where the Duke discovers Valentine's plot to escape with Silvia, is a
passage of noble dramatic power, doubly interesting because it shows the
justice of Shakespeare's vision. Valentine, the constant friend and
lover, is exposed in an act of treachery to his benefactor. The scenes
in which the disguised Julia witnesses her lover's falseness, and the
scene in which the play is brought to an end, are deeply and nobly
affecting. Theatre managers play Shakespeare as though he were an old
fashion of the mind instead of the seer of the eternal in life. They
should play this play as a vision of something that is eternally
treacherous, bringing misery to the faithful, the noble, and the
feeling. One of the noblest things in the play is the forgiveness at the
end. Passion has taken Proteus into strange byways of treachery. He has
been false to Julia, to Valentine, to the Duke, to Thurio, one falseness
leading to another, till he is in a wood of the soul, tangled in sin. It
only wants that he be false to Silvia, too. Passion makes his eyes a
little blinder for an instant. He adds that treachery to the others.
Power to see clearly is the only cure for passion. Discovery gives that
power. Valentine's words--

    "Who should be trusted now, when one's right hand
     Is perjured to the bosom? Proteus,
     I am sorry I must never trust thee more,
     But count the world a stranger for thy sake.
     The private wound is deepest...."

followed so soon by Julia's words--

    "Behold her that gave aim to all thy oaths,
     And entertained them deeply in her heart:
     How oft hast thou with perjury cleft the root....
     It is the lesser blot, modesty finds,
     Women to change their shapes, than men their minds"--

rouse Proteus to the confounding instant of self-recognition. His answer
is like a voice from one of the later plays. It is in Shakespeare's
grand manner. It does not read like a piece of revision done in the
poet's maturity; but as though Shakespeare suddenly found his utterance
in a moment of vision--

    "Than men their minds! 'tis true. O heaven! Were man
     But constant, he were perfect: that one error
     Fills him with faults; makes him run through all the sins:
     Inconstancy falls off, ere it begins."

A word of excuse would brand him as base. He is ashamed and guilty; but
not base. He cannot say more than that he is sorry, and this only to
Valentine. Valentine accepts sorrow with the utterance of one of the
religious ideas which seem to have been constantly in Shakespeare's

    "By penitence the Eternal's wrath's appeased."

His conduct towards Proteus after this forgiveness is so wise with
delicate tact that the reader is reminded of Shelley's treatment of
Hogg, in a similar case.

The suggestion of the character of Silvia has an austere beauty. The two
gentlemen are limited by the play's needs. The figure of Valentine is
the more complete of the two. He is an interesting study of one of those
grave young men who, when tested by life, show themselves wise beyond
their years. Among the minor characters, that of Eglamour, an image of
constancy to a dead woman, is the most beautiful. He is one of the
strange, many-sorrowed souls, vowed to an idea, to whom Shakespeare's
characters so often turn when the world bears hard. The low comedy of
Launce could hardly be lower; but his phrase "the other squirrel" (in
Act IV, sc. iv) is a good stroke. The great mind is full of vitality on
all the planes.

There is little superb verse in the play. The lyric, "Who is Silvia?"
shows a marvellous lyrical art, working without emotion to imitate an
effect of music. The proverb, "make a virtue of necessity," occurs in
Act IV, sc. ii. The fine lines--

    "O, how this spring of love resembleth
     The uncertain glory of an April day"--

and the pretty speech of Julia in Act II, sc. vii--

    "I'll be as patient as a gentle stream,
     And make a pastime of each weary step,
     Till the last step have brought me to my love;
     And there I'll rest, as, after much turmoil,
     A blessed soul doth in Elysium"--

are memorable.

Man is so eager to know about Shakespeare that he is tempted to find
personal confession in the plays. It is true that the art of a young man
is too immature to be impersonal. In an achieved style we see the man;
in all striving for style we see what hurts him. But in poetry, human
experience is wrought to symbol, and symbol is many virtued, according
to the imaginative energy that broods upon it. It is said that
Shakespeare holds a mirror up to life. He who looks into a mirror
closely generally sees nothing but himself.

_The Comedy of Errors._

     _Written._ Before 1594.

     _Published_, in the first folio, 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ The plot was taken from the _Menæchmi_ of
     Plautus. Whether Shakespeare read the play in Latin, or in a
     translation, or heard it from a friend, or saw it acted, is not
     known. All four are possible.

     The sub-plot, in this case a duplication of the plot, was suggested
     by a part of the _Amphitruo_ of Plautus.

     The play is brought on to the plane of human feeling by the
     character of Ægeon. This character was suggested by a story in _Gli
     Suppositi_ (The Supposes) of Ariosto.

     _The Fable._ Like all comedies of mistake, the _Comedy of Errors_
     has an extremely complicated plot. The play consists of a number of
     ingeniously contrived situations in which either the Antipholus
     and the Dromio of Ephesus are mistaken for the Antipholus and
     Dromio of Syracuse, or those of Syracuse are mistaken for those of
     Ephesus. The comedy of mistake is touched with beauty by the
     romantic addition of the restoration of old Ægeon to his long-lost

Poets are great or little according to the nobleness of their endeavour
to build a mansion for the soul. Shakespeare, like other poets, grew by
continual, very difficult mental labour, by the deliberate and prolonged
exercise of every mental weapon, and by the resolve to do not "the
nearest thing," precious to human sheep, but the difficult, new and
noble thing, glimmering beyond his mind, and brought to glow there by
toil. We do not know when the play was written, nor why it was written.
If it were not written by special request, for reward, it must have been
chosen either for the rest given by a subject external to the mind, or
as a self-set exercise in the difficult mental labour of comic dramatic
construction. Every playwright sees the comic opportunity of the
_Menæchmi_ fable. A playwright not yet sure of his art sees and admires
behind the comedy the firm, intricate mental outline that has kept the
play alive for more than two thousand years.

The _Menæchmi_ of Plautus is a piece of very skilful theatrical craft.
It is almost heartless. In bringing it out of the Satanic kingdom of
comedy into the charities of a larger system Shakespeare shows for the
first time a real largeness of dramatic instinct. In his handling of the
tricky ingenious plot he achieves (what, perhaps, he wrote the play to
get) a dexterous, certain play of mind. He strikes the ringing note,
time after time. It cannot be said that the verse, or the sense of
character, or the invention is better than in the other early plays. It
is not. The play is on a lower plane than any of his other works. It is
the only Shakespearean play without a deep philosophical idea. If it be
not a special commission, or an exercise in art, it is perhaps another
instance of the price great men pay for being happy. It is certainly the
fruit of a happier mood than that which bore the other early plays. It
is also the first play that shows a fine, sustained power of dramatic

It is so well constructed (for the simple Elizabethan theatre and the
bustle of the Elizabethan speech) that any unspoiled mind is held by it,
when it is acted as Shakespeare meant it to be acted. The closeness and
firmness of the dramatic texture is the work of an acutely clear mind
driven at white heat and mercilessly judged at each step. Those who do
not understand the nature of dramatic art should read the ninety odd
verses in which Ægeon tells his story (in Act I, sc. i). They would do
well to consider the power of mind that has told so much in so few
words. They will find an instance of Shakespeare's happy use of stage
trick, in the final scene, where, after the general recognition, Dromio
of Syracuse again mistakes Antipholus of Ephesus for his master.

Rare poetical power is shown in the making of the play. Little beauty
adorns the action. The speech of Adriana (in Act II, sc. ii) against the
obsession of passion that leads to treachery in marriage, is passionate
and profound. It is the most deeply felt speech in the early plays.
Adriana's husband is frequenting another woman who, having the charm
that so often goes with worthlessness, has a power of attracting that is
sometimes refused to the noble. Adriana beseeches him not to break the
tie that binds them. Two souls that have been each other's are not to be
torn apart without death to one of them. With that sympathy for the
suffering mind which gives Shakespeare all his power--

    ("My deepest sense, how hard true sorrow hits")

he gives to her speech an unendurable reality. Reality, however
obtained, is the only cure for an obsession. As far as words can teach
in such a case Adriana's words teach the reality of her husband's sin.

    "How dearly it would touch thee to the quick,
     Shouldst thou but hear I were licentious,
     And that this body, consecrate to thee,
     By ruffian lust should be contaminate!
     Wouldst them not spit at me and spurn at me,
     And hurl the name of husband in my face,
     And tear the stain'd skin off my harlot brow,
     And from my false hand cut the wedding-ring...?
     My blood is mingled with the crime of lust:
     For, if we two be one, and thou play false,
     I do digest the poison of thy flesh."

There is no other poetry of this intensity in the play.

It is interesting to compare Shakespeare's mind with Plautus's in the
description of Epidamnum. Plautus says--

     "This is the home of the greatest lechers and drunkards.

     "Very many tricksters and cheaters live in this city.

     "Nowhere are wheedling whores more cunning at bilking people."

Shakespeare gives the horror a spiritual turn that adds much to the
intensity of the farce.

    "They say, this town is full of cozenage:
     As, nimble jugglers that deceive the eye,
     Dark-working sorcerers that change the mind,
     Soul-killing witches that deform the body,
     Disguised cheaters, prating mountebanks,
     And many such like liberties of sin."

The play is amusing. The plot is intricate. The interest of the piece is
in the plot. When a plot engrosses the vitality of a dramatist's mind,
his character-drawing dies; so here. It is sufficient to say that the
character of Ægeon is the best in the play

_Titus Andronicus._

     _Written._ (?)

     _Published._ (?)

     _Source of the Plot._ (?)

     _The Fable._ Tamora, Queen of the Goths, whose firstborn son is
     sacrificed by Titus Andronicus, determines to be revenged. She
     succeeds in her determination. Titus and his daughter are
     mutilated. Two of the Andronici, his sons, are beheaded.

     Titus determines to be revenged. He bakes the heads of two of
     Tamora's sons in a pasty, and serves them up for her to eat. He
     then stabs her, after stabbing his daughter. He is himself stabbed
     on the instant; but his surviving son stabs his murderer. Tamora's
     paramour is then sentenced to be buried alive, and the survivors
     (about half the original cast) move off (as they say) "to order
     well the State."

This play shows an instinct for the stage and a knowledge of the
theatre. It seems to have been a popular piece. A knowledge of the
theatre will often make something foolish theatrically effective. So

The piece is nearly worthless. The turning of the tide of revenge, from
Tamora against Andronicus, and then from Andronicus against Tamora, is
the theme. It is a simple theme. Man cannot have simplicity without hard
thought, and hard thought is never worthless, though it may be applied

There can be no doubt that Shakespeare wrote a little of this tragedy;
it is not known when; nor why. Poets do not sin against their art unless
they are in desperate want. Shakespeare certainly never touched this job
for love. There is only one brief trace of his great, rejoicing
triumphant manner. It is possible that the play was brought to him by
his theatre-manager, with some such words as these: "This piece is very
bad, but it will succeed, and I mean to produce it, if I can start
rehearsals at once. Will you revise it for me? Please do what you can
with it, and write in lines and passages where you think it is wanting.
And whatever happens please let me have it by Monday."

The only poetry in the play comes in the three lines--

    "You sad-fac'd men, people and sons of Rome,
     By uproar sever'd, like a flight of fowl
     Scatter'd by winds and high tempestuous gusts."

_King Henry VI, Part I._

     _Written._ 1589-91.

     _Produced._ 1591.

     _Published_, in the first folio, 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ Raphael Holinshed's _Chronicles_.

     _The Fable._ The play begins shortly after the death of King Henry
     V. Henry VI is too young to rule. There is a feud between
     Gloucester, the Lord Protector, and Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of
     Winchester. In France, where Talbot is besieging Orleans, the
     English have had many losses. Joan of Arc begins her conquering
     progress by causing Talbot to raise the siege.

     A feud between the Duke of York (the white rose faction) and the
     Earl of Somerset (the red rose faction) becomes acute, in spite of
     King Henry's personal intercession. It intensifies the feud between
     the Lord Protector and the Cardinal. In France, Talbot is killed in
     battle. The English are beaten from their possessions. Joan of Arc
     is taken, tried, and burned.

     The menace of civil trouble hangs over King Henry's court. The feud
     between the factions of the roses threatens to break into war. The
     Earl of Suffolk (one of the red rose faction) schemes to marry King
     Henry to Margaret of Anjou. It is made plain that he means to
     become Margaret's lover so that he may rule England through her. A
     disgraceful peace is concluded with France. The play ends with
     Suffolk's departure to arrange the King's marriage with Margaret.

It is plain that this play is not the work of one mind. Part of it is
the work of a man who saw a big tragic purpose in events. The rest is
the work of at least two mechanical (sometimes muddy) minds, who neither
criticised nor understood, but had some sense of the pageant. There are
bright marks in the play where Shakespeare's mind touched it.

    "Glory is like a circle in the water,
     Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself,
     Till, by broad spreading, it disperse to nought."

    "If underneath the standard of the French
     She carry armour."

    "Now thou art come unto a feast of death."

    "Thus, while the vulture of sedition
     Feeds in the bosom of such great commanders,
     Sleeping neglection doth betray to loss
     The conquest of our scarce-cold conqueror,
     That ever-living man of memory,
     Henry the Fifth."

The work as a whole is one of the old formless chronicle plays, which
inspired the remark that if an English dramatist were to make a play of
St. George he would begin with the birth of the Dragon. In Act II
Shakespeare's mind both directs and explains the welter. The scene in
the Temple Gardens, where the men of the two factions pluck the red and
white roses, is like music after discord. The play is lifted into
poetry. The big tragic purpose broods; something fateful quickens. The
next scene, where Mortimer dies in prison, is another instance of the
power of great intellect to give life. The dying Mortimer is carried in,
to show how the imminent tragedy has been for long years preparing, in
countless passionate men, each of whom has shaped it, little by little,
out of lust and hate, till the spiritual measure tips towards justice.

The only other scenes that bear marks of Shakespeare's mind are those
in Act IV, in which Talbot meets his death. The verse of these scenes is
often careless, but it has a bright variety, pleasant to the mind after
the strutting verse (wearily reiterating one prosodic effect, like
choppy water) of the other authors. Some people claim that Shakespeare
wrote the whole of this play. The intellect changes much in life; but
never in kind, only in degree. Shakespeare's mind could play with dirt
and relish dirt, but it was never base and never blunt. The base mind is
betrayed by its conceptions, not by its amusements. Shakespeare's mind
could never, at any stage of his career, have sunk to conceive the
disgusting scene in which Joan of Arc pleads. Nor could he at any time
have planned a play in which the moral idea is a trapping to physical

_King Henry VI, Part II._

     _Written._ 1591-2.

     _Produced._ 1592.

     _Published_, in the crude original form, 1593. When first
     published, the play was called "The First part of the Contention
     betwixt the two famous houses of Yorke and Lancaster." This
     version seems to have been written by Greene and Peele. It contains
     passages (improving additions) that resemble Shakespeare's work;
     but the work is very crude. The version as a whole reads like a
     long scenario.

     After the first production of this version, Shakespeare and some
     other writer, possibly Marlowe, revised, improved and enlarged it.
     This revised version, the _Second Part of King Henry VI_, as we now
     have it, was first published in the first folio in 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ Edward Hall's _Chronicle_.

     _The Fable._ The play begins with the arrival of Margaret of Anjou
     at the Court of King Henry VI. An altercation among the Lords in
     scene i. explains the political situation to those who have not
     seen the first part of the trilogy. The subject is the gradual
     ascent to power of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. The play is
     turbulent with passions. The subject is obscured and made grander
     by the war of interests and lusts among the nobles of the Court.
     The Queen's party, the Duke Humphrey's party, and Cardinal
     Beaufort's party, make a welter of hate and greed, against which
     the Duke of York's cool purpose stands out, as Augustus stands out
     against the wreck of old Rome. The action is interrupted and
     lightened by the cheat of Simpcox and by the rebellion of Jack
     Cade. In modern theatres the passage of time is indicated by the
     dropping of a curtain and by a few words printed on a programme.
     The Elizabethan theatre had neither curtain nor programme. The
     passage of time was suggested by some action on the stage as here.
     The play advances the tragedy of the King by removing the figures
     of Duke Humphrey, the Cardinal, and the Earl of Suffolk. It ends
     with the first triumph of the white rose faction, under the Duke of
     York, at the battle of St. Albans.

It is plain that Shakespeare worked upon the revision of this play with
a big tragic conception. The first half of the piece is very fine. He
makes the crude, muddy, silly welter of the Contention significant and
complete. He reduces it to a simple, passionate order, deeply
impressive. The poet who worked with him, worked in sympathy with his
dramatic intention. If this poet were Marlowe, as some believe (and the
clearness of the man's brain seems to point to this), it is another
proof that the two great poets were friends during the last months of
Marlowe's life. It is plain that something stopped the revision before
it was finished. The latter half of the play is only half written. It
has flesh and blood but no life. It reads like work that has been
wrought to a pitch by two or three re-writings, and then left without
the final writing that turns imagination into vision. It would be
interesting to know why Shakespeare left the play in this state. Perhaps
there was no time to make it perfect before the rehearsals began.
Perhaps the murder of Marlowe upset the plans of the capitalist who was
speculating in the play. If it had been finished in the spirit of the
first two and a half acts it would have been one of the grandest of the
historical plays.

The poetry of the two completed acts is often noble. The long speech of
York, in Act I, coming, as it does, after a clash of minds turbid with
passion, is most noble. It gives a terror to what follows. The calm mind
makes no mistake. The judgment of a man without heart seems as
infallible as fate, as beautiful, and as ghastly. All happens as he
foresees. All the cruelty and bloodiness of the latter half of the play
come from that man's beautifully clear, cool brain. He stands detached.
One little glimmer of heart in him would alter everything. The glimmer
never comes. Humphrey is poisoned, Suffolk is beheaded, the Cardinal
dies. Cade, in that most awful scene of the mob in power, looks at two
heads on pikes with the remark--

    "Is not this braver? Let them kiss one another, for they loved
     well when they were alive....

       Now part them again."

These are some of the results of the working of a fine intellect in

    "Faster than spring-time showers comes thought on thought,
     And not a thought but thinks on dignity."

There is a terrible scene at the Cardinal's death-bed. The Cardinal is
discovered in bed "raving and staring as if he were madde." He has
poisoned his old enemy, the Duke Humphrey. Now he is dying; the murder
is on his soul, and nothing has been gained by it. The path is made
clearer for his enemies perhaps. That is the only result. Now he is
dying, the waste of mind is at an end, and the figure of the victim is
at the foot of the bed.

    "Bring me unto my trial when you will.
     Died he not in his bed? where should he die?
     Can I make men live, whe'r they will or no?
     O, torture me no more, I will confess.
     Alive again? then show me where he is:
     I'll give a thousand pound to look upon him.
     He hath no eyes, the dust hath blinded them.
     Comb down his hair: Look! look! it stands upright.
     Like lime-twigs set to catch my winged soul.
     Give me some drink."

Some people find humour in the Simpcox and Cade scenes. There is more
sadness and horror of heart than humour. The minds of the two great
poets were brooding together on life. They saw man working with
intellect to bring ruin, and working without intellect to bring
something beastlier than man should know. In its unfinished state the
play is without the exaltation of great tragedy. It would be one of the
hopeless plays, were it not for the passionate energy of mind with which
the nobles alter life. There is little human feeling in the play.
Warwick by Gloucester's corpse shows the sense of rectitude of a police
inspector. At the death-bed of the Cardinal, he makes the remark of a

    "See how the pangs of death do make him grin."

The one human, tender figure is that of the King, who betrays his
friend, his only true friend--

    "With sad unhelpful tears; and with dimm'd eyes
     Looks after him, and cannot do him good."

This gentle, bewildered soul makes the only human remarks in the play.
In Shakespeare's vision it is from such souls, planted, to their own
misery, among spikes and thorns, that the flower of human goodness

_King Henry VI, Part III._

     _Written._ (?)

     _Published_, in the crude original form, 1595. When first
     published, the play was called "The True Tragedie of Richard Duke
     of Yorke, and the Death of good King Henrie the Sixt, with the
     whole contention betweene the two Houses of Lancaster and Yorke."
     This version seems to have been by Greene, Peele, Marlowe, or by
     some combination among the three. There are some marks of
     Shakespeare's hand upon it; but not many. Afterwards the piece was
     revised and enlarged to its present form by some unknown hand.
     Shakespeare added a few touches to this revision. It was printed in
     the first folio as his original work.

     _Source of the Plot._ Edward Hall's _Chronicle_. Raphael
     Holinshed's _Chronicle_.

     _The Fable._ The play describes the rise to power of Edward, Duke
     of York, afterwards Edward IV. It carries on the story of the reign
     of Henry VI from the time of his deposition by Richard, Duke of
     York, to the time of his murder by Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
     Various other tragedies are developed by the plot. Richard, Duke of
     York, is defeated and put to death. The Earl of Warwick rises to
     power, makes Edward, Duke of York, King, revolts from him, restores
     Henry VI, is attacked, defeated, and killed in battle. Richard,
     Duke of Gloucester, begins to cherish ambition, and sets bloodily
     to work to gratify it. Edward, Duke of York, after one deposition,
     due to his own treachery, obtains the supreme power, and rules as

Shakespeare had little hand in this ruthless chronicle. The idea of the
piece seems to be this, that--

    "It is war's prize to take all vantages,"

that mercy has no place in war, that an act of mercy in war is more
fatal than defeat, and that the parfit gentle knight, if he wish to
prosper, must greet his father after battle with some such remark as--

    "I cleft his beaver with a downright blow;
     That this is true, father, behold his blood."

There are three scenes that rouse human emotion: that in Act I, sc. iv,
where Margaret of Anjou taunts the captured York before putting him to
death; that in Act II, sc. v, where King Henry wishes himself either
dead, or called to some gentler trade than kingship; and that at the
end, after the battle of Tewkesbury, where the Prince of Wales is
murdered in his mother's presence. The second of these, the lamentation
of King Henry, is an enlargement, done in leisure, from a suggestion in
the early version. It is a very beautiful example of the quiet, limpid
running rhetoric that marks Shakespeare's best moments in the days
before he attained to power.

    "So minutes, hours, days, moneths and years,
     Pass'd over to the end they were created,
     Would bring white hairs unto a quiet grave.
     Ah, what a life were this. How sweet. How lovely.
     Gives not the hawthorn-bush a sweeter shade
     To shepherds looking on their silly sheep,
     Than doth a rich-embroidered canopy
     To kings that fear their subjects' treachery."

_A Midsummer Night's Dream._

     _Written._ 1595 (?)

     _Published._ 1600.

     _Source of the Plot._ The fantasy is of Shakespeare's making. Some
     of it was perhaps current in popular belief. Names and lesser
     incidents were suggested by various books. He took little bits from
     various sources, added them to the vision, and turned upon the
     whole the light of his mind. If any author laid under contribution
     were to recognise his bantling, he could only cry to it, "Bless
     thee, Bottom, thou art translated." Shakespeare did never this
     particular kind of wrong but with just cause.

     _The Fable._ Theseus, Duke of Athens, is about to marry Hippolyta.
     Bottom, the weaver, and his friends, plan to play the tragedy of
     Pyramus and Thisbe before the Duke after the wedding.

     Hermia and Lysander, two lovers, whose match is opposed, plan to
     escape from Athens to a state where they can marry.

     Demetrius, in love with Hermia, is loved by Helena.

     Oberon, King of the fairies, planning to punish his Queen Titania,
     orders Puck to procure a juice that will make her dote upon the
     next thing seen by her.

     Helena pursues Demetrius into the wood of the fairies. Titania,
     anointed with the juice, falls in love with Bottom. Lysander,
     anointed with the juice, falls in love with Helena. The confusion
     caused by these enchantments (accidentally) makes the main action
     of the play. When the purpose of Oberon is satisfied, the
     enchantments are removed. The cross purposes of the lovers cease.
     Theseus causes Hermia to wed Lysander, and Helena to wed Demetrius.
     Bottom and his company perform their tragedy, and all ends happily.

It is a strange and sad thing that the English poets have cared little
for England; or, caring for England, have had little sense of the spirit
of the English. Many of our poets have written botanical verses, and
braggart verses, many more have described faithfully the appearance of
parts of the land at different seasons. Only two or three show the
mettle of their pasture in such a way that he who reads them can be sure
that the indefinable soul of England has given their words something
sacred and of the land.

Shakespeare attained to all the spiritual powers of the English. He made
a map of the English character. We have not yet passed the frontiers of
it. It is one of his humanities that the English country, which made
him, always meant much to him, so that, now, wherever his works go,
something of the soul of that country goes too, to comfort exiles over
the sea. Man roams the world, wandering and working; but he is not
enough removed from the beasts to escape the prick in the heart that
turns the tired horse homeward, and sets the old fox padding through the
woods to die near the earth where he was whelped. Shakespeare's heart
always turned for quiet happiness to the country where he lived as a
boy. In this play, he turned not to the squires and farm-folk, but to
the country itself, and to those genii of the country, the fairies,
believed in, and often seen by country people, and reverenced by them as
the cause of mishaps. Imagination in a work of art is a transmuting of
the known by understanding. For some reason, perhaps home-sickness,
perhaps weariness of the city-jostle, that those who have lived the
country life cannot call life, or it may be, perhaps, from an exultation
in the bounty of the world to give pleasure to the mind, the country
meant very much to Shakespeare in the months during which he wrote the
last of the English plays. In writing this play, his imagination
conceived Athens as an English town, possibly Stratford, or some other
more pleasant place, with a wood, haunted by fairies, only a league
away, where the mind could be happy listening to the voice of the

    "More tuneable than lark to shepherd's ear,
     When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear."

There was a memory of happiness about the wood. It was

         "the wood, where often you and I
    Upon faint primrose-beds were wont to lie,
    Emptying our bosoms of their counsel sweet."

In this wood, where Theseus goes a-hunting, Shakespeare, in his fantasy,
allows the fairies to vex the life of mortals. For a little while he
fancied, or tried to fancy, that those who are made mad and blind by the
obsessions of passion are made so at the whim of powers outside life,
and that the accidents of life, bad seasons, personal deformities, etc.,
are due to something unhappy in a capricious immortal world, careless of
this world, but easily offended and appeased by mortal action.

All the earth of England is consecrated by the intense memories of the
English. In this play Shakespeare set himself free to tell his love for
the earth of England that had ministered to his mind with beauty through
the years of youth. Walking in the Cotswold country, when

         "russet-pated choughs, many in sort
    Rising and cawing at the gun's report,
    Sever themselves and madly sweep the sky,"

gives to the passenger a sense of the enduringness of the pageant upon
which those seeing eyes looked more than three centuries ago.

_Romeo and Juliet._

     _Written._ 1591-96.

     _Published_, in a mutilated form, 1597.

     _Source of the Plot._ The story existed in many forms, mostly
     Italian. Shakespeare took it from Arthur Broke's metrical version
     (_Romeus and Juliet_), and possibly consulted the prose version in
     William Painter's _Palace of Pleasure_. The tale had been
     dramatised and performed before Arthur Broke published his poem in
     1562. The play (if it existed a generation later) may have helped
     Shakespeare. It is now lost.

     _The Fable._ The houses of Montague and Capulet are at feud in

     Romeo, of the house of Montague, falls in love with Juliet, of the
     house of Capulet. She returns his love. A friar marries them.

     In a street brawl, which Romeo does his best to stop, Mercutio,
     Romeo's friend, is killed by Tybalt, Juliet's cousin. Carried away
     by passion, Romeo kills Tybalt. He is banished from Verona.

     The Capulets plan to marry Juliet to the Count Paris.

     Juliet, in great distress, consults the Friar who married her to
     Romeo. He gives her a potion to create an apparent death in her, to
     the end that she may be buried in the family vault, taken thence
     and restored to life by himself, and then conveyed to Romeo. He
     writes to Romeo, telling him of the plan; but the letter
     miscarries. Juliet takes the potion, and is laid in the tomb as

     The Count Paris comes by night to the tomb, to mourn her there.
     Romeo, who has heard only that his love is dead, also comes to the
     tomb. The two lovers fight, and Romeo kills Paris. He then takes
     poison and dies at Juliet's side.

     The Friar enters to restore Juliet to life. Juliet awakens to find
     her lover dead. The Friar, being alarmed, leaves the tomb. Juliet
     stabs herself with Romeo's dagger and dies.

     The feud of the Montagues and Capulets is brought to an end. The
     leaders of the two houses are reconciled over the bodies of the

This play is one of the early plays, written, perhaps, before
Shakespeare was thirty years old. It was much revised during the next
few years; but a good deal of the early work remains. Much of the early
work is in rhymed couplets. Much is in picked prose full of quibbles and
mistakings of the word. Another sign of early work is the mention of
the dark lady, the Rosaline of the _Comedy of Errors_, here called by
the same name, and described in similar terms: viz. a high forehead, a
hard heart, a white face, big black eyes and red lips. Perhaps she
appeared as one of the characters in the early drafts of the play. In
the play as we have it she is only talked of as a love of Romeo's who is
easily thrown aside when Juliet enters.

The play differs slightly from the other plays, which deal, as we have
said, with the treacheries caused by obsessions. The subject of this
play is not so much the treachery as the obsession that causes it. The
obsession is the blind and raging one of sudden, gratified youthful
love. That storm in the blood has never been so finely described. It
takes sudden hold upon two young passionate natures, who have hardly met
each other. It drives out instantly from Romeo a sentimental love that
had made him mopish and wan. It brings to an end in two hearts, filial
affection and that perhaps stronger thing, attachment to family. It
makes the charming young man a frantic madman, careless of everything
but his love. It makes the sweet-natured girl a deceitful, scheming
liar, less frantic, but not less devoted than her lover. It
results almost at once in five violent deaths, and a legacy of
broken-heartedness not easily told. The only apparent good of the
disease is that it destroys its victims swiftly. It may also be said of
it that it teaches the old that there is something in life, some power
not dreamed of in their philosophy.

Shakespeare saw the working of the fever. He also saw behind it the
working of fate to avenge an obsession that had blinded the eyes of men
too long. The feud of the two houses had long vexed Verona. The blood of
those killed in the feud was crying out for the folly to stop, so that
life might be lived. What business had sparks like Mercutio, and rebels
like Tybalt, with Death? Both are life's bright fire: they ought to
live. Fate seemed to plot to end the folly by letting Romeo fall in love
with Juliet. Let the two houses be united by marriage, as at the end of
_Richard III_. But love is a storm, sudden love a madness, and the fire
of youth a disturber of the balances. Hate and hot blood put an end to
all chance of marriage. There is nothing left but the desperate way,
which is yet the wise way, recommended by the one wise man in the cast.
With a little patience, this way would lead the couple to happiness.
Impatience, the fever in the blood that began these coils, makes the way
lead them to death. Accident, or rather the possession by others of that
prudence wanting in himself, keeps Romeo from the knowledge of the
friar's plans. A too hasty servant tells him that Juliet is dead. He too
hastily believes the news. He takes horse at once in a state of frenzy,
hardly heeding what his man says. He comes to the tomb in Verona, and
finds there a lover as desperate as himself. They fight there, madly.
The less mad of the two is killed, the more frantic (Romeo) kills
himself. The friar, coming to this death-scene, comes a moment too late.
Juliet wakes from her trance a moment too late. Theirs are the only
delays in this drama of fever, in which everybody hurries so that he
stumbles. Their delays are atoned for an instant later, his, by his too
great haste to be gone, she by her thirst for death. The men of the
watch come too late to save her. The parents learn too late that they
have been blind. They have to clasp hands over dead bodies, that have
missed of life through their hurry to seize it.

The play tells the story of a feud greater than that of the Verona
houses. There is always feud where there is not understanding. There is
eternal feud between those two camps of misunderstanding, age and youth.
This play, written by a young man, shows the feud from the point of view
of youth. The play of King Lear shows it from the point of view of age.
This play of youth is as lovely and as feverish as love itself. Youth is
bright and beautiful, like the animals. Age is too tired to care for
brightness, too cold to care for beauty. The bright, beautiful
creatures dash themselves to pieces against the bars of age's forging,
against law, custom, duty, and those inventions of cold blood which
youth thinks cold and age knows to be wise.

Man cannot quote a minute from some hour of passion when the moon shone
and many nightingales were singing. He can hold out some flower that
blossomed then, saying, "this scent will tell you." The beauty of this
play is of that kind. The lines--

                   "Come, civil night,
    Thou sober-suited matron, all in black"--

and the most exquisite, unmatchable lines--

    "Death, that hath suck'd the honey of thy breath,
     Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty:
     Thou art not conquer'd; beauty's ensign yet
     Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,
     And death's pale flag is not advancèd there"--

show with what a tender beauty the great mind feels when touched.

The Nurse gives an animal comedy to some of the scenes. She is a
tragical figure. She is the person to whom Juliet has to turn for help
at dangerous moments. There are few things sadder than the sight of the
fine soul turning to the vulgar soul in moments of need. One of the few
things sadder is the sight of wisdom failing to stop tragedy, as it
fails here, through hotness of the blood and unhappy chance. Some have
felt that the spark, Mercutio, is drawn from Shakespeare's self. Every
character in the play is drawn from Shakespeare's self. Shakespeare
found Goneril and Juliet in his mind, just as he found Mercutio and
Friar Laurence. If he may be identified with any of his characters, it
must be with those whose wisdom is like the many-coloured wisdom that
gives the plays their unity. He is in calm, wise, gentle people who
speak largely, from a vision detached from the world, as Friar Laurence

    "For nought so vile that on the earth doth live
     But to the earth some special good doth give;
     Nor aught so good, but, strain'd from that fair use,
     Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse:
     Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied,
     And vice sometimes by action dignified."

_King John._

     _Written._ (?)

     _Published_, in the first folio, 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ Shakespeare's tragedy is founded on a play
     called _The Troublesome Raigne of King John_ (author not known),
     which was printed (after stage performance) in 1591. Some people
     think that Shakespeare wrote _The Troublesome Raigne_. There are
     some glimmerings of his mind here and there in it; but not many.
     Whether he wrote it or not he certainly made free use of it in
     writing _King John_. He took from it with a bold hand, whenever he
     wished to spare himself mechanical labour. His other sources were
     the historians, Raphael Holinshed, Edward Hall, and Fabian.

     _The Fable._ King John has made himself King of England. Prince
     Arthur, who claims to be the rightful king (he is the son of King
     John's elder brother), causes the French King to support his claim.
     King John declares war against the French King.

     After some fighting in France the two kings patch up a peace.
     Arthur's claim is set aside. King John's niece is to marry the
     French King's son.

     At this point the Pope's legate causes the French King to break off
     the negotiations. The war begins again. King John captures Prince
     Arthur, and gives order that secretly he be put to death. England
     is in a disturbed condition. The French resolve to attempt the
     conquest of England.

     The report that Arthur has been murdered by the King's order sets
     England in turmoil. The French land in Kent. The lords find
     Arthur's dead body outside Northampton castle. They are convinced
     that King John has caused him to be murdered.

     King John finds that he cannot fight longer. He makes his
     submission to the Pope's legate, trusting that the legate may make
     the French King come to terms. The French King cannot be moved to
     peace. John summons up his forces, and gives successful battle to
     him. The English lords, who have allied themselves to the French
     King, break off and make their submission to King John. Without
     their help, the army is too weak. The French invasion comes to
     nothing. The Pope's legate makes peace. King John dies of poison
     given to him by a monk.

Like the best Shakespearean tragedies, _King John_ is an intellectual
form in which a number of people with obsessions illustrate the idea of
treachery. The illustrations are very various. Perhaps the most
interesting of them are those subtle ones that illustrate treachery to
type, or want of conformity to a standard imagined or established.

In the historical plays, Shakespeare's mind broods on the idea that our
tragical kings failed because they did not conform to a type lower than
themselves. Henry V conforms to type. He has the qualities that impress
the bourgeoisie. He is a success. Henry VI does not conform to type. He
has the qualities of the Christian mystic. He is stabbed in the Tower.
Edward IV conforms to type. He has the qualities that impress the
rabble. He is a success. Richard II does not conform to type. He is a
man of ideas. He is done to death at Pomfret. King John does not conform
to type. His intellect is bigger than his capacity for affairs. He is
poisoned by a monk at Swinstead.

King John presents that most subtle of all the images of treachery, a
man who cannot conform to the standard of his own ideas. He fails as a
king because his intellect prompts him to attempt what is really beyond
the powers of his nature to perform. By his side, with an irony that is
seldom praised, Shakespeare places the figure of the Bastard, the man
who ought to have been king, the man fitted by nature to rule the
English, the man without intellect but with a rough capacity, the man
whom we meet again, as a successful king, in the play of _Henry V_.

King John is placed throughout the play in treacherous relations with
life. He is a traitor to his brother's son, to his own ideas, to the
English idea, and to his oath of kingship. He has a bigger intellect
than any one about him. His brain is full of gusts and flaws that blow
him beyond his age, and then let him sink below it. Persistence in any
one course of treachery would give him the greatness of all well-defined
things. He remains a chaos shooting out occasional fire.

The play opens with a scene that displays some of the human results of
treachery. John's mother, Elinor, has been treacherous to one of her
sons. John has usurped his brother's right, and, in following his own
counsel, has been treacherous to his mother. These acts of treachery
have betrayed England into a bloody and unjust war. The picture is
turned suddenly. Another of the results of human treachery appears in
the person of the Bastard, whose mother confesses that she was seduced
by the "long and vehement suit" of Coeur de Lion. The Bastard's
half-brother, another domestic traitor, does not scruple to accuse his
mother of adultery in the hope that, by doing so, he may obtain the
Bastard's heritage.

The same breaking of faith for advantage gives points to the second act,
where the French and English Kings turn from their pledged intention to
effect a base alliance. They arrange to marry the Dauphin to Elinor's
niece, Blanch of Castile. In the third act, before the fury of the
constant has died down upon this treachery, the French King adds another
falseness. He breaks away from the newly-made alliance at the bidding of
the Pope's legate. The newly-married Dauphin treacherously breaks with
his wife's party. In the welter of war that follows, the constant, human
and beautiful figures come to heartbreak and death. The common people of
England begin to betray their genius for obedience by preparing to rise
against the man in power.

The fourth act begins with the famous scene in which Hubert fails to
blind Prince Arthur. Even in the act of mercy he is treacherous. He
breaks faith with King John, to whom he has vowed to kill the Prince.
Later in the act, King John, thinking that the murder has been done,
breaks faith with Hubert, by driving him from his presence. In the last
act, the English nobles, who have been treacherous to John, betray their
new master, the French King. King John is a broken man, unable to make
head against misfortune. He betrays his great kingly idea, that the Pope
shall not rule here, by begging the Legate to make peace. At this point
death sets a term to treachery. A monk treacherously poisons John at a
moment when his affairs look brighter. The play ends with the Bastard's
well-known brag about England--

              "Naught shall make us rue
    If England to itself do rest but true."

This thought is one among many thoughts taken by Shakespeare from the
play of _The Troublesome Raigne_, and taken by the author of that play
direct from Holinshed's _Chronicles_.

Comedy deals with character and accident; tragedy with passionate moods
of the soul in conflict with fate. In this play, as in nearly all
poetical plays, the characters that are most minutely articulated are
those commoner, more earthy characters, perceived by the daily mind, not
uplifted, by brooding, into the rare state of passionate intellectual
vision. These characters are triumphant creations; but they come from
the commoner qualities in Shakespeare's mind. He did them easily, with
his daily nature. What he did on his knees, with contest and bloody
sweat, are his great things. The great scheme of the play is the great
achievement, not the buxom boor who flouts the Duke of Austria, and
takes the national view of his mother's dishonour.

Shakespeare, like other sensitive, intelligent men, saw that our
distinctive products, the characters that we set most store by, are very
strange. That beautiful kindness, high courage, and devoted service
should go so often with real animal boorishness and the incapacity to
see more than one thing at a time (mistaken for stupidity by stupid
people) puzzled him, as it puzzles the un-English mind to-day. A reader
feels that in the figure of the Bastard he set down what he found most
significant in the common English character. With the exceptions of Sir
Toby Belch and Justice Shallow, the Bastard is the most English figure
in the plays. He is the Englishman neither at his best nor at his worst,
but at his commonest. The Englishman was never so seen before, nor
since. An entirely honest, robust, hearty person, contemptuous of the
weak, glad to be a king's bastard, making friends with women (his own
mother one of them) with a trusty, good-humoured frankness, fond of
fighting, extremely able when told what to do, fond of plain
measures--the plainer the better, an honest servant, easily impressed by
intellect when found in high place on his own side, but utterly
incapable of perceiving intellect in a foreigner, fond of those sorts of
humour which generally lead to blows, extremely just, very kind when
not fighting, fond of the words "fair play," and nobly and exquisitely
moved to deep, true poetical feeling by a cruel act done to something
helpless and little. The completeness of the portrait is best seen in
the suggestion of the man's wisdom in affairs. The Bastard is trying to
find out whether Hubert killed Arthur, whose little body lies close
beside them. He says that he suspects Hubert "very grievously." Hubert
protests. The Bastard tests the protest with one sentence: "Go bear him
in thine arms." He utters the commonplace lines--

    "I am amaz'd, methinks, and lose my way
     Among the thorns and dangers of the world"--

while he watches Hubert's face. Hubert stands the test (the emotional
test that none but an Englishman would apply), he picks up the body.
Instantly the Bastard is touched to a tenderness that lifts Hubert to a
spiritual comradeship with him--

    "How easy dost thou take all England up."

This tragedy of the death of a child causes nearly all that is nobly
poetical in the play.

All the passionately-felt scenes are about Arthur or his mother. Some
have thought that Shakespeare wrote the play in 1596, shortly after the
death of his little son Hamnet, aged eleven. The supposition accuses
Shakespeare of a want of heart, of a want of imagination, or of both
wants together. He wrote like every other writer, from his sense of what
was fitting in an imagined situation. It was no more necessary for him
to delay the writing of Prince Arthur till his son had died than it was
for Dickens to wait till he had killed a real Little Dorrit by slow

There is a great change in the manner of the poetical passages. The
poetry of the _Henry VI_ plays is mostly in bright, sweetly running
groups of rhetorical lines. In _King John_ it is either built up
elaborately into an effect of harmony several lines long, or it is put
into a single line or couplet.

The rhetoric is compressed--

    "That shakes the rotten carcase of old Death,"


    "O death, made proud with pure and princely beauty,"


    "Old Time the clock-setter, that bald sexton Time."

The finest poetry is intensely compressed--

    "I will instruct my sorrows to be proud,
     For grief is proud,"


    "I have heard you say,
     That we shall see and know our friends in heaven.
     If that be true, I shall see my boy again,"


    "When I shall meet him in the court of heaven
     I shall not know him."

The characters in this truly noble play daunt the reader with a sense of
their creator's power. It is difficult to know intimately any human
soul, even with love as a lamp. Shakespeare's mind goes nobly into these
souls, bearing his great light. It is very wonderful that the mind who
saw man clearest should see him with such exaltation.

_King Richard II._

     _Written._ (?)

     _Published._ 1597.

     _Source of the Plot._ The lives of King Richard II and King Henry
     IV in Raphael Holinshed's _Chronicles_.

     _The Fable._ I. The Duke of Gloucester, uncle of King Richard, has
     died under suspicious circumstances at Calais, after an accusation
     of treachery. Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford, the King's
     cousin, accuses Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, of treachery to
     the King and of the murder of the Duke of Gloucester. The King
     appoints a day on which the two disputants may try their cause by
     combat. On their arrival at the lists he banishes them both,
     Bolingbroke for six years, Mowbray for ever. After they have gone
     to fulfil their sentence, the King plans to subdue the rebels in
     Ireland. He prays that the death of his uncle, John of Gaunt, the
     wisest man about him, may occur, so that he may take his money to
     equip soldiers.

     II. Gaunt dies. Richard seizes his estate (lawfully the property of
     Bolingbroke) and proceeds upon his Irish war. Bolingbroke lands
     from exile to claim his father's estate and title. Richard's Welsh
     forces grow weary of waiting for their king. They disband

     III. Bolingbroke's party prospers. Richard is taken and deposed.

     IV. Bolingbroke makes himself king.

     V. Richard, after sorrowing alone, and inspiring a hopeless attempt
     at restoration, is killed, desperately fighting, at Pomfret.

Treachery in some form is at the root of all Shakespearean tragedy. In
this play it takes many forms, among which two are principal, the
treachery of a king to his duty as a king, and the treachery of a
subject to his duty as a subject. As usual in Shakespearean tragedy, the
play is filled full by the abundant mind of the author with
illustrations of his idea. The apricocks at Langley are like King
Richard, the sprays of the trees like Bolingbroke, the weeds like the
King's friends. Everybody in the play (even the horse in the last act)
is in passionate relation to the central idea.

King Richard is of a type very interesting to Shakespeare. He is wilful,
complex, passionate, with a beauty almost childish and a love of
pleasure that makes him greedy of all gay, light, glittering things. He
loves the music that does not trouble with passion and the thought not
touched with the world. He loves that kind of false, delicate beauty
which is made in societies where life is too easy. There is much that is
beautiful in him. He has all the charm of those whom the world calls the
worthless. His love is a woman, as beautiful and unreal as himself. He
fails because, like other rare things, he is not common. The world cares
little for the rare and the interesting. The world calls for the rough
and common virtue that guides a plough in a furrow, and sergeantly
chaffs by the camp fires. The soul that suffers more than other souls is
little regarded here. The tragedy of the sensitive soul, always acute,
becomes terrible when that soul is made king here by one of the
accidents of life. As a king, Richard neglects his duties with that kind
of wilfulness which the world never fails to punish. The wilfulness
takes the form of a shutting of the eyes to all that is truly kingly. He
rebukes devotion to duty by banishing Bolingbroke, who tries to rid him
of a traitor. He rebukes old age and wisdom in the truly great person
of old John of Gaunt. Worst, and most unkingly of all, he is incapable
of seeing and rewarding the large generosity of mind that makes
sacrifices for an idea. Richard, who likes beautiful things, cannot see
the beauty of old, rough, dying Gaunt, who condemns his own son to exile
rather than betray his idea of justice. Bolingbroke, who cares intensely
for nothing but justice (and could not give even that caring a name, if
questioned), is deeply and nobly generous to York, who would condemn his
own son, and to the Bishop of Carlisle, who would die rather than not
speak his mind. Men who sacrifice themselves are a king's only props.
Richard allies himself with men who prefer to sacrifice the country.

It is a proof of the greatness of Shakespeare's vision, that Richard is
presented to us both as the traitor and the betrayed. He is the anointed
king false to his coronation oaths; he is the anointed king deposed by
traitors. He is not fitted for kingship, but life has made him a king.
Life, quite as much as temperament, is to blame for his tragedy. When
life and temperament have thrust him from kingship, this wilful,
passionate man, so greedy and heady in his hurry to be unjust, is unlike
the monster that office made him. He is no monster then, but a man, not
even a man like ourselves, but a man of singular delicacy of mind,
sensitive, strangely winning, who wrings our hearts with pity by his
sense of his tragedy--

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

Part of his tragedy is due to his being too late. Had he landed from
Ireland one day earlier he would have found a force of Welshmen ready to
fight for him. At the end of the play he discovers, too late, that he is
weary of patience. He strikes out like a man, when he has no longer a
friend to strike with him. He is killed by a man who finds, too late,
that the murder was not Bolingbroke's intention.

As in all the tragedies, there is much noble poetry. John of Gaunt's
speech about England is often quoted. Shakespeare's mind is our triumph,
not a dozen lines of rhetoric. Less well known are the couplets--

    "My inch of taper will be burnt and done,
     And blindfold death not let me see my son."


          " ... let him not come there,
    To seek out sorrow that dwells everywhere."

Those scenes in the last acts which display the mind of the deposed king
are all exquisite, though their beauty is not obvious to the many. There
is a kind of intensity of the soul, so intense that it is obscure to the
many till it is interpreted. Writers of plays know well how tamely words
intensely felt may read. They know, too, how like fire upon many souls
those words will be when the voice and the action give them their
interpretation. _Richard II_, like other plays of spiritual tragedy,
needs interpretation. When he wrote it, Shakespeare had not wholly the
power that afterwards he achieved, of himself interpreting his vision
by many-coloured images. It is not one of the beloved plays.

Bolingbroke has been praised as a manly Englishman, who is not "weak"
like Richard, but "strong" and a man of deeds. In Act IV he shows his
English kindness of mind and love of justice by a temperate wisdom in
the trying of a cause and by saying that he will call back from exile
his old enemy Norfolk. The Bishop of Carlisle tells him that that cannot
be. Norfolk having worn himself out in the wars in Palestine has retired
himself to Italy, and there, at Venice, given

    "His body to that pleasant country's earth,
     And his pure soul unto his captain Christ,
     Under whose colours he had fought so long."

It is instructive to note how Bolingbroke takes the news--

    _Bol._ Why, bishop, is Norfolk dead?

    _Carl._ As surely as I live, my lord.

    _Bol._ Sweet peace conduct his sweet soul to the bosom
           Of good old Abraham. Lords appellants,
           Your differences, etc.

The feeling that the poet's mind saw the clash as the clash between the
common and the uncommon man is strengthened by the Queen's speech to
Richard as he is led to prison--

            "thou most beauteous inn,
    Why should hard-favour'd grief be lodged in thee,
    When triumph is become an alehouse guest?"

_King Richard III._

     _Written._ 1594 (?)

     _Published._ 1597.

     _Source of the Plot._ The play is founded on the lives of Edward
     IV, Edward V, and Richard III, as given (on the authorities of
     Edward Hall and Sir Thomas More) in Holinshed's _Chronicles_.
     Shakespeare may have seen a worthless play (_The True Tragedy of
     Richard III_) which was published in 1594, by an unknown author.

     _The Fable._ Act I. The play begins in the last days of King Edward
     IV, when the King's two brothers, Clarence and Gloucester, are
     debating who shall succeed to the throne when the King dies. In the
     first scene Clarence is led to the Tower under suspicion of
     plotting to succeed. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the cause of the
     committal, pretends to grieve for him, but hastens to compass his
     death. In the next scene Richard woos the Lady Anne (widow of the
     dead son of Henry VI, and daughter of the Earl of Warwick), who is
     likely to be useful to him for the moment as an ally (she being of
     the house of Lancaster). The third scene displays the passionate
     quarrelling of the Court factions. The Queen, her brothers and
     Richard's party, are cursed by Margaret of Anjou. In the fourth
     scene Clarence is murdered in the Tower.

     Act II. King Edward IV dies, having patched up a seeming truce
     between the factions. His son is to succeed him. Before this can
     happen, Richard strikes down the leaders of the Queen's party, and
     lays a deep scheme to secure the crown for himself.

     Act III. There is a deeply tragical scene in which the unsuspecting
     Hastings, who is faithful to Edward's memory, is hurried out of
     life. Afterwards, through the management of Buckingham, Richard is
     proclaimed King.

     Act IV. Richard makes himself sure by casting off Buckingham and
     causing the murder of Edward's sons in the Tower. He plots to marry
     Edward's daughter. But by this time the land is in upheaval against
     him. Buckingham and Richmond lead forces against him.

     Act V. Buckingham is taken and put to death; but Richmond's forces
     gather head. Richard leads his army to oppose them. The armies
     front each other at Bosworth Field near Leicester. The night before
     the battle the ghosts of the many slain during the progress of the
     Wars of the Roses menace Richard and promise victory to Richmond.
     In the battle that follows Richard is slain. Richmond takes oath to
     end the Wars of the Roses by marrying Edward's daughter, so that
     the two royal houses may at last be joined.

_Richard III_ is the last of the great historical plays about the Wars
of the Roses. The subject of the wars had occupied Shakespeare's mind
for many months. He had traced them from their beginning in the long ago
to their end among the dead at Bosworth. All that bloodiness of misery
was due to a forgotten marriage and the chance that Edward III had seven
sons, the eldest of whom died before his father. In this great tragic
vision Shakespeare saw the wheel come full circle, with that giving of
justice which life renders at last, though it may be to the dead, or the
mad, or the broken.

Largely, this play deals with the coming of that justice. Much that is
most wonderful in the play comes from the faith that blood cruelly or
unjustly spilt cries from the ground, and that the human soul, wrought
to an ecstasy, has power, as the blood has power, to draw God's hand
upon the guilty. But Shakespeare's mind was also occupied with the
knowledge that self-confident intellect is terrible and tragical. One of
the truths of the play is the very sad one that being certain is in
itself a kind of sin, sure to be avenged by life. The obsession of
self-confidence betrays person after person, to misery or death. All
the heads that lift themselves proudly go bloody to the dust or bow in
anguish. Only one man moves by other light than his own. He is the only
one who achieves quiet triumph. Nothing in the play is more impressive
than the speech in which the intellect that has ended the bloodshed
prays humbly that God may bless and help England with peace.

It was said of Napoleon that he was as great as a man can be without
virtue. The intellect of Richard III is like that of Napoleon. It is
restless, swift, and sure of its power. It is sure, too, that the world
stays as it is from something stupid in the milky human feelings.
Richard is a "bloody dog" let loose in a sheep-fold. It is a part of the
tragedy that he is nobler than the sheep that he destroys. His is the
one great intellect in the play. Intellect is always rare. In kings it
is very rare. When a great intellect is made bitter by being cased in
deformity one has the tragedy of intellect turned upon itself. Had
Richard been born without his deformed shoulder he could have known
human sympathy, and human intercourse. Without human intercourse he goes
gloating, clutching himself, biting his lip, muttering at the twist in
his shadow. This warped, starved mind knows himself stronger than the
minds near him. It is tragical to be deformed, it is tragical to have an
intellect too great for people to understand. But the deformed and
bitter intellect would suffer tragedy indeed if he, the one constant
Yorkist, were to be ruled by a gentle, half-witted Lancastrian saint
like Henry VI, or by Clarence the perjurer, or by the upstart Woodville,
a commoner made noble because his sister took the King's fancy, or by
the Queen herself, the housewife who caused great Warwick's death, or by
one of her sons, who are pert to the man who had spilt his blood to make
their father king. The snarling intellect bites rather than suffer that.
It is very terrible, but how if he had not bitten? The vision of all
this bloodiness is less terrible than that vision of the sheep
triumphing, so dear to us moderns--

    "Strength by limping sway disabled,
     And art made tongue-tied by authority,
     And folly (doctor-like) controlling skill."

As in all Shakespeare's greater plays, a justice brings evil upon the
vow breaker. Curses called down in the solemn moment come home to roost
when the solemnity is forgotten or thrust aside. Clarence, who broke his
oath to the House of Lancaster, is done to death by his brother. Anne,
cursing the killer of her husband, curses the woman who shall marry him,
is, herself, that woman, and dies wretchedly. Grey, Rivers, Dorset,
Buckingham and Hastings make oaths of amity, call down curses on him
that breaks them, themselves break them, and die wretchedly. Richard,
too wise to make oaths, too strong to curse, dies, as his mother
foretells, "by God's just ordinance," when the measure of the blood of
his victims becomes too great, and when his victims' curses, after
wandering from heart to heart, get them into human bodies and walk the
world, executing justice.

All through the play there are warnings against human certainty. Of all
the dangerous pronouncements of man that to the fountain, "Fountain, of
thy water I will never drink," is one of the most dangerous. There are
terrible examples of certainty betrayed. Richard is certain as only fine
intellect can be that he will triumph. It is a part of his tragedy that
it is not intellect that triumphs in this world, but a stupid, though a
righteous something, incapable of understanding intellect. Rivers and
Grey are certain that Richard is friendly to them. They are hurried to
Pomfret and put to death. Hastings "Knows his state secure," and "goes
triumphant." He is rushed out of life at a moment's notice, one hour a
lord, giving his opinion at a council, the next a corpse in its grave.
Buckingham thinks himself secure. A moment's nicety of conscience sends
him flying to death. The little Princes lay down to sleep--

                   "girdling one another
    Within their innocent alabaster arms.
    Their lips were four red roses on a stalk
    Which in their summer beauty kissed each other"--

when their waking time came they were stamped down under the stones at
the stair foot.

The poetry of this play is that of great and high spiritual invention.
There is much that stays in the mind as exquisitely said and beautifully
felt. But the wonder of the work is in the greatness of the conception.
That is truly great, both as poetry and as drama. The big and burning
imaginings do not please, they haunt.

The dream of Clarence, the wooing of the Lady Anne, the scene in
Baynard's Castle, and the ghost scene in the tents at Bosworth, have
been praised and re-praised. They are in Shakespeare's normal mood,
neither greater nor less than twenty other scenes in the mature plays.
The really grand scene of the calling down of the curses (Act I, sc.
iii), when the man's mind, after brooding on this event for months, sees
it all, for a glowing hour, as the just God sees it, is the wonderful
achievement. Think of this scene, and think of the scenes played nightly
now in the English theatres, and ask whether all is well with the
nation's soul.

There are many superb Shakespearean openings. No poet in history opens a
play with a more magnificent certainty. The opening of this play--

    "Now is the winter of our discontent
     Made glorious summer by this sun of York,"

is one of the most splendid of all. There is no need to pick out
fragments from the rest of the play, but the march of the line--

    "Your fire-new stamp of honour is scarce current"--

the lines--

            "then came wandering by
    A shadow like an angel, with bright hair
    Dabbled in blood; and he squeaked out aloud,
    'Clarence is come; false, fleeting, perjured Clarence,
    That stabbed me in the field by Tewkesbury'"--

the exquisitely tender lines--

    "And there the little souls of Edward's children
     Whisper the spirits"--

and the orders of Richard in the last act, for white Surrey to be
saddled, ink and paper to be brought, and a bowl of wine to be filled,
show that the poet's great confident manner was formed, on all the four
sides of its perfection. The years only brought it to a deeper glow.

_The Merchant of Venice._

     _Written._ (?)

     _Published._ 1600.

     _Source of the Plot._ The ancient story of the merciless Jew is
     told in the _Gesta Romanorum_, and re-told, with delicate grace, by
     Giovanni Fiorentino, a fourteenth-century Italian writer, in his
     _Il Pecorone_ (the simpleton), a collection of novels, or, as we
     should call them, short stories. The story of the three caskets is
     also told in the _Gesta Romanorum_. Other incidents in the play are
     taken from other sources, possibly from other plays. It is thought
     by some that the character of Shylock was suggested by the case of
     the Spanish Jew, Lopez, who was hanged, perhaps unjustly, for
     plotting to poison Queen Elizabeth, in 1594. The main source of the
     dramatic fable is Fiorentino's story.

     _The Fable._ Portia, the lady of Belmont, has three caskets, one of
     gold, one of silver, one of lead. She is vowed to marry the man
     who, on viewing the caskets, guesses which of them contains her
     portrait. Various attempting suitors fail to guess rightly.

     Bassanio, eager to try the hazard, obtains money from his friend
     Antonio, to equip him. Antonio borrows the money from the Jew,
     Shylock, on condition that, should he fail to repay the debt by a
     fixed day, a pound of his flesh shall be forfeit to the Jew.

     Bassanio guesses rightly and weds Portia.

     Antonio fails to repay the debt, and is lodged in prison. Bassanio
     hears of his friend's disaster. Portia bids him fly to Antonio with
     money enough to pay the debt threefold. Shylock refuses the offer.
     He clamours for his pound of flesh. The case comes to trial.

     At the hearing of the case in the Duke's court, Portia, disguised
     as a judge, gives sentence, that Shylock may have his pound of
     flesh; but that if he shed Christian blood in the taking of it, his
     life will be forfeit. Shylock is confounded further by a charge of
     endangering a Christian's life. He is fined and humbled. Portia,
     still in disguise, asks as her fee a ring that she has given to
     Bassanio. Bassanio, hesitating, at last gives the ring, and returns
     home without it. Portia's pretended indignation at the loss of the
     ring ends the last act with comedy.

The play resolves itself into a simple form. It illustrates the clash
between the emotional and the intellectual characters, the man of heart
and the man of brain. The man of heart, Antonio, is obsessed by a
tenderness for his friend. The man of brain is obsessed by a lust to
uphold intellect in a thoughtless world that makes intellect bitter in
every age. Shylock is a man of intellect, born into a despised race. It
is his tragedy that the generous Gentiles about him can be generous to
everything except to intellect and Jewish blood. Intellect and Jewish
blood are too proud to attempt to understand the Gentiles who cannot

Shylock is a proud man. The Gentiles, who are neither proud nor
intellectual, spit upon him and flout him. One of them beguiles his
daughter and teaches her to rob him. Another of them signs a mad bond to
help an extravagant friend to live in idleness. Bitter, lonely brooding
upon these things strengthen the Jew's obsession, till the words, "I can
cut out the heart of my enemy," become the message of his entire nature.
Half the evils in life come from the partial vision of people in states
of obsession. Shylock's obsession grows till he is in the Duke's court,
whetting his knife upon his shoe, before what Pistol calls "incision."

Portia has been much praised during two centuries of criticism. She is
one of the smiling things created in the large and gentle mood that
moved Shakespeare to comedy. The scene in the fifth act, where the two
women, coming home from Venice by night, see the candle burning in the
hall, as they draw near, is full of a naturalness that makes beauty
quick in the heart. Shakespeare enjoyed the writing of this play. The
construction of the last two acts shows that his great happy mind was at
its happiest in the saving of these creatures of the sun from something

_The Taming of the Shrew._

     _Written._ (?)

     _Published._ 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ The induction and that part of the play which
     treats of Petruchio and Katharina is based upon a play, published
     in 1594, under the title _The Taming of A Shrew_, author not known.
     The other part is based on _The Supposes_ of George Gascoigne, a
     comedy adapted from Ariosto's _I Suppositi_.

     _The Fable._ Christopher Sly, a tinker lying drunk by a tavern, is
     found by a lord, who causes him to be put to bed and treated, on
     waking, as a nobleman newly cured of madness. Part of the treatment
     is the performance of this play before him.

     The play has two plots. In one of them, Petruchio woos and tames
     the shrew Katharina; in the other, Katharina's sister Bianca is
     wooed by lovers in disguise. The two plots have little connection
     with each other. That which relates to Petruchio and Katharina is
     certainly by Shakespeare. The other seems to be by a dull man who
     did not know his craft as a dramatist.

In the Induction, and in the speech of Biondello (in Act III)
Shakespeare enters a mood of memory of the country. In the song at the
end of _Love's Labour's Lost_ he showed a matchless sense of country
life. That sense, at once robust and sweet, now gives life to a few
scenes in the plays. These scenes are mostly in prose; but they have the
rightness of poetry. In writing them, he wrought with his daily nature,
from something intimately known, or inbred in him, during childhood. Man
can only write happily from a perfect understanding. All men can
describe with point and colour what they knew as children. These country
scenes in Shakespeare are happier than anything else in the plays
because they come, not from anything read or heard, but from the large,
genial nature made by years of life among the farms and sheep-walks at
the western end of the Cotswolds.

     _Sly._ Y' are a baggage: the Slys are no rogues; look in the
     chronicles; we came in with Richard Conqueror. Therefore _paucas
     pallabris_; let the world slide: _Sessa!_

     _Hostess._ You will not pay for the glasses you have burst?

     _Sly._ No, not a denier. Go by, Jeronimy: go to thy cold bed, and
     warm thee.

In the third act, Biondello's description of the appearance of
Petruchio's horse has the abundance of the great mind.

     " ... possessed with the glanders and like to mose in the chine;
     troubled with the lampass, infected with the fashions, full of
     wind-galls, sped with spavins, rayed with the yellows, past cure of
     the fives, stark spoiled with the staggers, begnawn with the bots,
     swayed in the back and shoulder-shotten; near legged before and
     with a half-cheeked bit and a headstall of sheep's leather."

It is something no longer possible in a city theatre. Neither the
dramatist nor the audience of to-day knows a horse as the Elizabethan
had to know him. The speech sets one wondering at the art of the unknown
Elizabethan actor who first spoke hurriedly this speech of strange words
full of sibilants.

Shakespeare's share in the play (the scenes in which the shrew and her
tamer appear) is farce with ironic philosophical intention. He indicates
the tragedy that occurs when a manly spirit is born into a woman's body.
Katharina is vexed and plagued by forced submission to a father who
cannot see her merit, and by jealousy of a gentle, useless sister. She,
who is entirely honest, sees the brainless Bianca, whom no amount of
schooling will make even passably honest, preferred before her. Lastly,
she is humbled into the state of submissive wifely falsehood by a boor
who cares only for his own will, her flesh, and her money. In a page and
a half of melancholy claptrap broken Katharina endeavours to persuade us

    "Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
     Even such a woman oweth to her husband."

Perhaps it is the way of the world. Women betray womanhood as much by
mildness as by wiles. Meanwhile, what duty does a man owe to a fine,
free, fearless spirit dragged down to his by commercial bargain with a
father who is also a fool?

_King Henry IV, Part I._

     _Written._ (?)

     _Published._ 1598.

     _Source of the Plot._ Most of the comic scenes are the fruit of
     Shakespeare's invention. A very popular play, _The Famous Victories
     of Henry V_, by an unknown hand, gave him the suggestion for an
     effective comic scene. In the historical scenes he follows closely
     the _Chronicles_ of Holinshed.

     _The Fable._ The play treats of the rising of Henry Hotspur, Lord
     Percy, against Henry IV of England, and of the turning of the mind
     of Henry, Prince of Wales, from low things to things more worthy
     his birth. It ends with the killing of Hotspur, by the Prince of
     Wales, on the battlefield at Shrewsbury. Hotspur is an uncommon
     man, whose uncommonness is unsupported by his father at a critical
     moment. Henry, Prince of Wales, is a common man, whose commonness
     props his father, and helps him to conquer. The play is about a son
     too brilliant to be understood, and a son too common to understand.

The play treats of a period some four years after the killing of King
Richard II. It opens at a time when the oaths of Henry Bolingbroke, to
do justice, have been broken on all sides, lest the injustice of his
assumption of kingship should be recognised and punished by those over
whom he usurps power. The King is no longer the just, rather kind, man
of affairs who takes power in the earlier, much finer play. He is a
swollen, soured, bullying man, with all the ingratitude of a king and
all the baseness of one who knows his cause to be wrong. Opposed to him
is a passionate, quick-tempered man, ready to speak his mind, on the
instant, to any whom he believes to be unjust or false.

This quick-tempered man, Lord Percy, has done the King a signal service.
Instead of asking for reward he tries to persuade the King to be just to
a man who has suffered wounds and defeat for him. The King calls him a
liar for his pains.

Percy, stung to the quick, rebels. Others rebel with him, among them
some who are too wise to be profitable on a council of war. War does not
call for wisdom, but for swiftness in striking. Percy, who is framed
for swiftness in striking, loses half of his slender chance because his
friends are too wise to advise desperate measures. Nevertheless, his
troops shake the King's troops. The desperate battle of Shrewsbury is
very nearly a triumph for him. Then the Prince meets him and kills him.
He learns too late that a passionate longing to right the wrong goes
down before the rough and stupid something that makes up the bulk of the
world. He learns that

    "Thought's the slave of life, and life, time's fool;
     And time, that takes survey of all the world,
     Must have a stop"--

and dies. The man who kills him says a few trite lines over his body,
and leaves the stage talking of Falstaff's bowels.

Prince Henry, afterwards Henry V, has been famous for many years as
"Shakespeare's only hero." Shakespeare was too wise to count any man a
hero. The ways of fate moved him to vision, not heroism. If we can be
sure of anything in that great, simple, gentle, elusive brain, we can be
sure that it was quickened by the thought of the sun shining on the just
and on the unjust, and shining none the less golden though the soul like
clay triumph over the soul like flame. Prince Henry is not a hero, he is
not a thinker, he is not even a friend; he is a common man whose
incapacity for feeling enables him to change his habits whenever
interest bids him. Throughout the first acts he is careless and callous
though he is breaking his father's heart and endangering his father's
throne. He chooses to live in society as common as himself. He talks
continually of guts as though a belly were a kind of wit. Even in the
society of his choice his attitude is remote and cold-blooded. There is
no good-fellowship in him, no sincerity, no whole-heartedness. He makes
a mock of the drawer who gives him his whole little pennyworth of sugar.
His jokes upon Falstaff are so little good-natured that he stands upon
his princehood whenever the old man would retort upon him. He impresses
one as quite common, quite selfish, quite without feeling. When he
learns that his behaviour may have lost him his prospective crown he
passes a sponge over his past, and fights like a wild cat for the right
of not having to work for a living.

There is little great poetry in the play. The magnificent image--

    "Baited like eagles having lately bathed"--

the speech of Worcester (in Act V, sc. i) when he comes with a trumpet
to speak with the King, and the call of Hotspur to set on battle--

    "Sound all the lofty instruments of war,
     And by that music let us all embrace"--

are all noble.

To many, the play is remarkable because it introduces Sir John Falstaff,
the most notable figure in English comedy. Falstaff is that deeply
interesting thing, a man who is base because he is wise. Our justest,
wisest brain dwelt upon Falstaff longer than upon any other character
because he is the world and the flesh, able to endure while Hotspur
flames to his death, and the enemies of the devil are betrayed that the
devil may have power to betray others.

_The Second Part of King Henry IV._

     _Written._ 1597 (?)

     _Published._ 1600.

     _Source of the Plot._ The play of _The Famous Victories of Henry
     V_. Holinshed's _Chronicles_.

     _The Fable._ Northumberland and the other conspirators against the
     King learn that Hotspur, their associate, whom they failed to
     support, has been defeated and killed. The King's forces are now
     free to act against themselves. Northumberland retires to Scotland.
     The others under a divided command, make head against the King's
     troops under John of Lancaster. They are betrayed, taken and put to
     death. Northumberland, venturing out from Scotland, is defeated.
     King Henry's position is assured.

     His safety comes too late to be pleasant to him. He is dying, and
     the conduct of his son gives him anxiety. He sees no chance of
     permanent peace. He counsels his son to begin a war abroad, to
     distract the attention of his subjects. Having done this, he dies.

     Prince Henry begins his reign as Henry V by casting off all his old

The second part of the play of _King Henry IV_ is Shakespeare's ending
of the tragedy of _Richard II_. The deposition of Richard was an act of
violence, unjust, as violence must be, and offensive, as injustice is,
to the power behind life. The blood of the dead king, and of all those
killed in fighting for him, calls upon that power, and asks justice of
it. Slowly, in many secret ways, the tide sets against the slayer, till
he is a worn, old, heart-broken, haunted man, dying with the knowledge
that all the bloodshed has been useless, because the power so hardly won
will be tossed away by his successor, the youth with "a weak mind and an
able body," the "good, shallow young fellow," who "would have made a
good pantler," who comes in noisily to his father's death-bed with news
of the beastliest of all the treacheries of the reign. Just as the play
of _Richard III_ completes the action of the Wars of the Roses, this
play completes the action of the killing of the Duke of Gloucester at
Calais. The wheel comes full circle, crushing many that looked to be
brought high, making friends enemies and enemies friends. Life was
never so brooded on since man learned to think, as in this cycle of
tragedies. In this fragment of the whole we are shown the two classes in
human life, the people of instinct and the people of intellect, being
preyed on by two men, one of them greedy for present ease, the other for
temporal power. Both men obtain their will. Those who give up everything
for one thing often obtain that thing. But it is a law of life that
nothing must be paid for with too great a share of the imaginative
energy. All excess of the kind is unjust, as violence must be, and
offensive, as injustice is, to the power behind life. King Henry IV
fails in the hour of his triumph from his manifold failures in life
during the struggle for triumph. Falstaff fails in the same way. The
prize of life falls to the careless and callous man who has struggled
only in two minutes of his life, once, when he played a practical joke
upon some thieves, and a second time when he killed Hotspur, the
brilliant intellect, the "miracle of men."

Many scenes in this play are great. Shakespeare's instinctive power was
as large and as happy as his intellectual power. In this play he
indulged it to the full. The Falstaff scenes are all wonderful. That in
which the drunken Pistol is driven downstairs is the finest tavern scene
ever written. Those placed in Gloucestershire are the perfect poetry of
English country life. The talk of old dead Double, who could clap "i'
the clout at twelvescore," and is now dead, as we shall all be soon; the
casting back of memory to Jane Nightwork, still alive, though she
belongs to a time fifty-five years past, when a man, now old, heard the
chimes at midnight; the order to sow the headland, Cotswold fashion,
with red Lammas wheat; the kindness and charm of the country servants,
so beautiful after the drunken townsmen, are like the English country
speaking. The earth of England is a good earth and bears good fruit,
even the apple of man. These scenes are like an apple-loft in some old
barn, where the apples of last year lie sweet in the straw.

All of those scenes seem to have been written easily, out of the fulness
of an instinctive power. In the other scenes Shakespeare wrote with
intense mental effort after brooding intensely on human destiny--

           "how chances mock,
    And changes fill the cup of alteration
    With divers liquors,"

and on the truth that--

    "There is a history in all men's lives,
     Figuring the nature of the times deceased;
     The which observed, a man may prophesy,
     With a near aim, of the main chance of things
     As not yet come to life."

There are two scenes of deep tragedy in the play, both awful.
Shakespeare never wrote anything more terrible. They are the scene in
the fourth act, where John of Lancaster tricks and betrays the rebels,
and the scene at the end where the young King cuts his old friends, with
a word to the Lord Justice to have them into banishment. The words of
Scripture, "Put not your trust in princes," must have rung in
Shakespeare's head as he wrote these scenes.

Richard II flung down his warder at Coventry rather than let his friend
venture in battle for him. From that act of mercy came his loss of the
crown, his death, Mowbray's death, Hotspur's death, the murder of the
leaders at Gaultree and the countless killings up and down England. At
the end of this play the slaughter stops for a while so that a callous
young animal may bring his country into a foreign war to divert men's
minds from injustice at home.

At the end of the play there is an epilogue in prose, touching for this
reason, that it is one of the few personal addresses that Shakespeare
has left to us. In the plays the characters speak with a detachment
never relaxed. They belong to the kingdom of vision, not to the mind
through which they came. In this epilogue Shakespeare speaks for all
time directly to his hearers, whoever they may be.

Who are his hearers? Not the English.

Our prophet is not honoured here. This series of historical plays is one
of the most marvellous things ever done by man. The plays of which it is
composed have not been played in London, in their great processional
pageant of tragedy, within the memory of man.

_King Henry V._

     _Written._ 1598 (?)

     _Published_, imperfectly, 1600; as we now have it, 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ The play of _The Famous Victories of Henry
     V_. Holinshed's _Chronicles_. (Possibly) an earlier play, now lost.

     _The Fable._ The play describes the determination of Henry V to
     fight with France, his progress in France, the battle of Agincourt,
     the articles of peace between the French and English, and the
     courtship of the King with Katharine, daughter of the French King.
     It is a chronicle of the coming, seeing, and conquering of the
     "fellow" "whose face was not worth sun-burning."

The play bears every mark of having been hastily written. Though it
belongs to the great period of Shakespeare's creative life, it contains
little either of clash of character, or of that much tamer thing,
comparison of character. It is a chronicle or procession, eked out with
soldiers' squabbles. It seems to have been written to fill a gap in the
series of the historical plays. Perhaps the management of the Globe
Theatre, where the play was performed, wished to play the series
through, from _Richard II_ to _Richard III_, and persuaded Shakespeare
to write this play to link _Henry IV_ to _Henry VI_. The lines of the
epilogue show that Shakespeare meant the play to give an image of
worldly success between the images of failure in the other plays.

The play ought to be seen and judged as a part of the magnificent tragic
series. Detached from its place, as it has been, it loses all its value.
It is not greatly poetical in itself. It is popular. It is about a
popular hero who is as common as those who love him. But in its place it
is tremendous. Henry V is the one commonplace man in the eight plays. He
alone enjoys success and worldly happiness. He enters Shakespeare's
vision to reap what his broken-hearted father sowed. He passes out of
Shakespeare's vision to beget the son who dies broken-hearted after
bringing all to waste again.

    "Hear him but reason in divinity,"

cries the admiring archbishop. Yet this searcher of the spirit woos his
bride like a butcher, and jokes among his men like a groom. He has the
knack of life that fits human beings for whatever is animal in human

His best friend, Scroop, plots to kill him, but is detected and put to
death. Henry accuses Scroop of cruelty and ingratitude. He forgets those
friends whom his own cruelty has betrayed to death and dishonour.
Falstaff dies broken-hearted. Bardolph, whose faithfulness redeems his
sins, is hanged. Pistol becomes a cutpurse. They were the prince's
associates a few months before. He puts them from his life with as
little feeling as he shows at Agincourt, when he orders all the
prisoners to be killed.

He has a liking for knocks. Courage tempered by stupidity (as in the
persons of Fluellen, etc.) is what he loves in a man. He, himself, has
plenty of his favourite quality. His love of plainness and bluntness
makes him condemn sentiment in his one profound speech--

    "All other devils that suggest by treasons
     Do botch and bungle up damnation
     With patches, colours, and with forms being fetch'd
     From glistering semblances of piety."

The scenes between Nym and Pistol, and the account of Falstaff's death,
are the last of the great English scenes. This (or the next) was
Shakespeare's last English play, for Lear and Cymbeline are British, not
English. When he laid down his pen after writing the epilogue to this
play he had done more than any English writer to make England sacred in
the imaginations of her sons.

_The Merry Wives of Windsor._

     _Written._ 1599 (?)

     _Published_, in a mutilated form, 1602; in a complete form, 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ A tale in Straparola's _Notti_ (iv. 4).
     Tarleton's _News out of Purgatorie_. Giovanni Florentino's _Il
     Pecorone_. Kinde Kit of Kingston's _Westward for Smelts_.

     _The Fable._ Falstaff makes love to Mistress Ford, the wife of a
     Windsor man. Mistress Ford, despising Falstaff, plots with her
     friend, Mrs. Page, to make him a mock. News of Falstaff's passion
     is brought to Ford, who, needlessly jealous, resolves to search the
     house for him.

     Falstaff woos Mrs. Ford. She holds him in play till she hears that
     her husband is coming. Falstaff, alarmed at his approach, bundles
     into a clothes basket, is carried past the unsuspecting husband,
     and soused in the river.

     He is gulled into the belief that Mrs. Ford expects him again. He
     goes, is nearly caught by Ford, but escapes, disguised as an old
     woman, at the cost of a cudgelling.

     Still believing in Mrs. Ford's love for him, he keeps a third
     assignation, this time in Windsor Forest, in the disguise of Herne
     the hunter. On this occasion he is pinched and scorched by little
     children disguised as fairies. He learns that Mrs. Ford has tricked
     him, is mocked by all, and then forgiven.

     The play is eked out by other actions. Chief of these is the wooing
     of Anne Page, Mrs. Page's daughter, by three men--a foreigner, Dr.
     Caius; an idiot, Master Slender; and the man of her heart, Fenton.
     There are also scenes between Falstaff, Nym, Bardolph and Pistol,
     and between Dr. Caius, Sir Hugh Evans, Shallow, Slender, the Host
     and Mrs. Quickly.

An old tradition says that this play was written in a fortnight by
command of Queen Elizabeth. There can be no doubt (_a_) that it was
written hurriedly, (_b_) that it nicely suited the Tudor sense of
humour. It is the least interesting of the genuine plays. It is almost
wholly the work of the abundant instinctive self working in the high
spirits that so often come with the excitement of hurry. None of the
characters has time for thought. The play is full of external energy.
The people bustle and hurry with all their animal natures.

It is the only Shakespearean play which treats exclusively of English
country society. As a picture of that society it is true and telling.
Country society alters very little. It is the enduring stem on which the
cities graft fashions. It is given to few to see English country society
so much excited as it is in this play, but drama deals with excessive
life. Shakespeare's people are always intensely excited or interested or
passionate. Each play tells of the great moments in half-a-dozen lives.
The method of this play is the same, though the lives chosen are lower
and the interests stupider. Falstaff is interested in cuckoldry, Mrs.
Ford in mockery, Ford, Evans and Caius in jealousy and rivalry, Bardolph
is going to be a tapster, the others are plying their suits. Even in
this his most trivial play, Shakespeare's idea that punishment follows
oath-breaking is expressed (whimsically enough) by Falstaff--

    "I never prospered since I forswore myself at primero."

His other idea, that obsession is a danger to life, is expressed later
in the words--

     "See now, how wit may be made a Jack-a-Lent, when 'tis upon ill

There is little poetry in the play. The most poetical passage is the
account of Herne the hunter--

    "There is an old tale goes, that Herne the Hunter,
     Some time a keeper here in Windsor Forest,
     Doth all the winter-time, at still midnight,
     Walk round about an oak, with great ragg'd horns;
     And there he blasts the tree, and takes the cattle;
     And makes milch-kine yield blood, and shakes a chain
     In a most hideous and dreadful manner."

Modern poets would describe Herne's dress and appearance. The creative
poet describes his actions.

It is possible that when this play was written Shakespeare had thoughts
of consecrating himself to the writing of purely English plays. There
are signs that he had reached a point of achievement that is always a
critical point to imaginative men. He had reached the point at which the
personality is exhausted. He had worked out his natural instincts, the
life known to him, his predilections, his reading. He had found a
channel in which his thoughts could express themselves. Writing was no
longer so pleasant to him as it had been. He had done an incredible
amount of work in a few years. The personality was worn to a husk. It
may be that a very little would have kept him on this side of the line,
writing imitations of what he had already done. He was at the critical
moment which separates the contemplative from the visionary, the good
from the excellent, the great from the supreme. All writers, according
to their power, come to this point. Very few have the fortune to get
beyond it. Shakespeare's mind stood still for a moment, in this play and
in the play that followed, before it went on triumphant to the supreme

_As You Like It._

     _Written._ (?)

     _Published._ 1600 (?)

     _Source of the Plot._ Thomas Lodge's novel of _Rosalynde_, Euphues'
     _Golden Legacie_ (published in 1590) supply the fable. The tale is
     that tale of Gamelyn, wrongly attributed to Chaucer. The _Practise_
     (Saviolo's "Practise") of Vincentio Saviolo, an Italian master of
     arms, gave hints for Touchstone's account of the lie. The rest of
     the play seems to have been the fruit of Shakespeare's invention.

     _The Fable._ Orlando, basely used by his elder brother Oliver,
     leaves home, annoys the usurping Duke Frederick, and is advised to
     leave the country.

     Rosalind, child of the rightful Duke, and Celia, the child of Duke
     Frederick, fly from home together in search of the rightful Duke,
     who has taken to the wild wood. Rosalind, dressed as a man, gives
     out that Celia is her sister. They set up as shepherds in Arden.

     Orlando joins the rightful Duke in Arden. He is in love with
     Rosalind. He meets her in the forest, but does not recognise her in
     her disguise. Oliver, cast out by Frederick, comes to Arden, is
     reconciled to Orlando, and falls in love with Celia. There are a
     few passages of the comedy of mistake, due to Rosalind's disguise.
     In the end, the rightful Duke and Oliver are restored to their
     possessions. Orlando marries Rosalind; the minor characters are
     married as their hearts desire, and all ends happily.

The play treats of the gifts of Nature and the ways of Fortune. Orlando,
given little, is brought to much. Rosalind and Celia, born to much, are
brought to little. The Duke, born to all things, is brought to nothing.
The usurping Duke, born to nothing, climbs to much, desires all, and at
last renounces all. Oliver, born to much, aims at a little more, loses
all, and at last regains all. Touchstone, the worldly wise, marries a
fool. Audrey, born a clown, marries a courtier. Phebe, scorning a man,
falls in love with a woman.

Jaques, the only wise one, is the only one not moved by Fortune. Life
does not interest him; his interest is in his thoughts about life. His
vision of life feasts him whatever life does. Passages in the second
act, in the subtle seventh scene, corrupt in a most important line, show
that in the character of Jaques Shakespeare was expounding a philosophy
of art. The philosophy may not have been that by which he, himself,
wrought; but it is one set down by him with an extreme subtlety of care,
and opposed, as all opinions advanced in drama must be, by an extreme
earnestness of opposition.

The wisest of Shakespeare's characters are often detached from the
action of the play in which they appear. Jaques holds aloof from the
action of this play, though he is perhaps the best-known character in
the cast. His thought is the thought of all wise men, that wisdom, being
always a little beyond the world, has no worldly machinery by which it
can express itself. In this world the place of chorus, interpreter or
commentator is not given to the wise man, but to the fool who has
degraded the office to a profession. Jaques, the wise man, finds the
place occupied by one whose comment is platitude. Wisdom has no place in
the social scheme. The fool, he finds, has both office and uniform.

Seeing this, Jaques wishes, as all wise men wish, not to be counted
wise but to have as great liberty as the fool to express his thought--

              "weed your better judgments
    Of all opinion that grows rank in them
    That I am wise. I must have liberty
    Withal, as large a charter as the wind,
    To blow on whom I please; for so fools have.

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

He is answered that, having learned of the world's evil by libidinous
living, he can only do evil by exposing his knowledge. He replies,
finely expressing Shakespeare's invariable artistic practice, that his
aim will be at sin, not at particular sinners.

In the middle of his speech Orlando enters, raging for food. It is
interesting to see how closely Shakespeare follows Jaques' mind in the
presence of the fierce animal want of hunger. He is too much interested
to be of help. The Duke ministers to Orlando. Jaques wants to know "of
what kind this cock should come of." He speaks banteringly, the Duke
speaks kindly. The impression given is that Jaques is heartless. The
Duke's thought is "here is one even more wretched than ourselves."
Jaques' thought, always more for humanity than for the individual, is a
profound vision of the world.

The play is a little picture of the world. The contemplative man who is
not of the world, is yet a part of the picture. We are shown a company
of delightful people, just escaped from disaster, smilingly taking the
biggest of hazards. The wise man, dismissing them to their fates with
all the authority of wisdom, gives up his share in the game to listen to
a man who has given up his share of the world. Renunciation of the world
is attractive to all upon whom the world presses very heavily, or very

Rosalind and Phebe are of the two kinds of woman who come much into
Shakespeare's early and middle plays. Rosalind, like Portia, is a
golden woman, a daughter of the sun, smiling-natured, but limited.
Phebe, like Rosalind, is black-haired, black-eyed, black-eyebrowed, with
the dead-white face that so often goes with cruelty. Shortly after this
play was written he began to create types less external and less

_Much Ado about Nothing._

     _Written._ (?)

     _Published._ 1600.

     _Source of the Plot._ The greater part of the fable seems to have
     been invented by Shakespeare. The Hero and Claudio story is found
     in the twenty-second novel of Bandello, and in at least three other
     books (one of them Spenser's _Faerie Queene_). It was also known to
     the Elizabethans in a play now lost.

     _The Fable._ Benedick, a lord of Padua, pledges himself to
     bachelorhood. Beatrice, a disdainful lady, is scornful of men.

     Claudio plans to marry Hero.

     Don John, enemy of Claudio, plans to thwart the marriage by letting
     it appear that Hero is unchaste.

     Don Pedro and Claudio make Benedick believe that Beatrice is dying
     of love for him.

     Ursula and Hero make Beatrice believe that Benedick is dying of
     love for her.

     The disdainful couple make friends. Don John thwarts the marriage
     of Claudio by his tale of Hero's unchastity. Claudio casts off Hero
     at the altar. Hero swoons, and is conveyed away as dead. Beatrice
     and Benedick are brought into close alliance by their upholding of
     Hero's cause.

     Proof is obtained that Hero has been falsely accused. She is
     recovered from her swoon. Claudio marries her. Benedick and
     Beatrice plight troth.

In this play Shakespeare writes of the power of report, of the thing
overheard, to alter human destiny. Antonio's man, listening behind a
hedge, overhears Don Pedro telling Claudio that he will woo Hero. The
report of his eavesdropping conveys no notion of the truth, and leads,
no doubt, to a bitter moment for Hero. Borachio, hiding behind the
arras, overhears the truth of the matter. The report of his
eavesdropping leads to the casting off of Hero at the altar. Don John
and Borachio vow to Claudio that they overheard Don Pedro making love to
Hero. The report gives Claudio a bitter moment. Benedick, reporting to
the same tune, intensifies his misery.

Benedick, overhearing the report of Beatrice's love for him, changes his
mind about marriage. Beatrice, hearing of Benedick's love for her,
changes her mind about men. Claudio, hearing Don John's report of Hero,
changes his mind about his love. The watch, overhearing Borachio's
report of his villainy, are able to change the tragedy to comedy.
Leonato, hearing Claudio's report of Hero, is ready to cast off his
child. Report is shown to be stronger than any human affection and any
acquired quality, except the love of one unmarried woman for another,
and that strongest of all earthly things, the fool in authority. The
wisdom of Shakespeare is greater and more various than the brains of
little men can imagine. It is one of the tragical things, that this
great man, who interpreted the ways of fate in glorious, many-coloured
vision, should be set aside in our theatres for the mockers and the
accusers, whose vision scatters dust upon the brain and sand upon the
empty heart.

Though the play is not one of the most passionate of the plays, it
belongs to Shakespeare's greatest creative period. It is full of great
and wonderful things. The character-drawing is so abundant and precise
that those who know how hard it is to convey the illusion of character
can only bow down, thankful that such work may be, but ashamed that it
no longer is. Every person in the play is passionately alive about
something. The energy of the creative mood in Shakespeare filled all
these images with a vitality that interests and compels. The wit and
point of the dialogue--

     _Don Pedro._ I think this is your daughter.

     _Leonato._ Her mother hath many times told me so.

     _Benedick._ Were you in doubt, sir, that you asked her?

     _Leonato._ Signior Benedick, no; for then you were a child;

or (as in the later passage)--

     _Beatrice._ I may sit in a corner and cry heigh ho for a husband.

     _Don Pedro._ Lady Beatrice, I will get you one.

     _Beatrice._ I would rather have one of your father's getting. Hath
     your Grace ne'er a brother like you? Your father got excellent
     husbands, if a maid could come by them.

     _Don Pedro._ Will you have me, lady?

     _Beatrice._ No, my lord, unless I might have another for working
     days: your Grace is too costly to wear every day--

is plain to all; but it is given to few to see with what admirable,
close, constructive art this dialogue is written for the theatre. Of
poetry, of understanding passionately put, there is comparatively
little. The one great poetical scene is that at the opening of the fifth
act. The worst lines of this scene have become proverbial; the best are

         "'tis all men's office to speak patience
    To those that wring under the load of sorrow,
    But no man's virtue nor sufficiency,
    To be so moral when he shall endure
    The like himself."

There is little in the play written thus, but there are many scenes
throbbingly alive. The scene in the church shows what power to
understand the awakened imagination has. The scene is a quivering eight
minutes in as many lives. Shakespeare passes from thrilling soul to
thrilling soul with a touch as delicate as it is certain.

Shakespeare's fun is liberally given in the comic scenes. In the last
act there is a beautiful example of the effect of lyric to heighten a
solemn occasion.

_Twelfth Night._

     _Written._ 1600 (?)

     _Published_, in the first folio, 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ The story of Orsino, Viola, Olivia and
     Sebastian is to be found in the "Historie of Apolonius and Silla"
     as told by Barnabe Riche in the book _Riche his Farewell to
     Militarie Profession_. Riche took the tale from Bandello's Italian,
     or from de Belleforest's French translation from it. Three
     sixteenth-century Italian plays are based on this fable. All of
     these sources may have been known to Shakespeare.

     The sub-plot, and the characters contained in it, seem to be
     original creations.

     _The Fable._ Viola, who thinks that she has lost her brother
     Sebastian by shipwreck, disguises herself as a boy, and calls
     herself Cesario. She takes service with the Duke Orsino, who is in
     love with the lady Olivia. She carries love messages from the Duke
     to Olivia.

     Olivia, who is in mourning for her brother, refuses the Duke's
     suit, but falls in love with Cesario.

     In her house is Malvolio, the steward, who reproves her uncle, Sir
     Toby Belch, for rioting at night with trivial companions. The
     trivial companions forge a letter, which causes Malvolio to think
     that his mistress is in love with him. The thought makes his
     behaviour so strange that he is locked up as a madman.

     Sir Toby Belch finds further solace for life in making his gull,
     Sir Andrew, challenge Cesario to a duel. The duel is made dangerous
     by the sudden appearance of Sebastian, who is mistaken for Cesario.
     He beats Sir Andrew and Sir Toby, and encounters the lady Olivia.
     Olivia woos him as she has wooed Cesario, but with better fortune.

     They are married. The Duke marries Viola. Malvolio is released from
     prison. Sir Toby marries Maria, Olivia's waiting-woman. Sir Andrew
     is driven out like a plucked pigeon. Malvolio, unappeased by his
     release, vows to be revenged for the mock put upon him.

This is the happiest and one of the loveliest of all the Shakespearean
plays. It is the best English comedy. The great mind that mixed a
tragedy of intellect with a tragedy of stupidity, here mixes mirth with
romantic beauty. The play is so mixed with beauty that one can see it
played night after night, week after week, without weariness, even in a
London theatre.

The play presents images of self-deception, or delusional
sentimentality, by means of a romantic fable and a vigorous fable. It
shows us three souls suffering from the kind of sickly vanity that feeds
on day-dreams. Orsino is in an unreal mood of emotion. Love is an
active passion. Orsino is in the clutch of its dangerous passive enemy
called sentimentality. He lolls upon a couch to music when he ought to
be carrying her glove to battle. Olivia is in an unreal mood of mourning
for her brother. Grief is a destroying passion. Olivia makes it a form
of self-indulgence, or one sweet the more to attract flies to her.
Malvolio is in an unreal mood of self-importance. Long posing at the
head of ceremony has given him the faith that ceremony, of which he is
the head, is the whole of life. This faith deludes him into a life of
day-dreams, common enough among inactive clever people, but dangerous to
the indulger, as all things are that distort the mental vision. At the
point at which the play begins the day-dream has brought him to the
pitch of blindness necessary for effective impact on the wall.

The only cure for the sickly in the mind is reality. Something real has
to be felt or experienced. Life that is over-delicate and remote
through something unbalanced in the mind is not life but decay. The
knife, the bludgeon, the practical joke, and the many-weaponed figure of
Sorrow are life's remedies for those who fail to live. We are the
earth's children; we have no business in limbo. Living in limbo is like
living in the smoke from a crater: highly picturesque, but too near
death for safety.

Orsino is cured of sentiment by the sight of Sebastian making love like
a man. He rouses to do the like by Viola. Olivia is piqued out of
sentiment by coming to know some one who despises her. She falls in love
with that person. Malvolio is mocked out of sentiment by the knowledge
that other minds have seen his mind. He has not the happiness to be
rewarded with love at the end of the play; but he has the alternative of
hate, which is as active a passion and as real. All three are roused to
activity by the coming of something real into their lives; and all
three, in coming to the active state, cease to be interesting and
beautiful and pathetic.

Shakespeare's abundant power created beings who look before and after,
even while they keep vigorous a passionate present. It is difficult to
praise that power. Even those who know how difficult art is find it hard
to praise perfect art. Art is not to be praised or blamed, but
understood. This play will stand as an example of perfect art till a
greater than Shakespeare set a better example further on. It is

    "All beauty and without a spot."

The scene of the roisterers, rousing the night-owl in a catch, rouses
the heart, as all real creation does, with the thought that life is too
wonderful to end. The next, most lovely scene, where the Duke and Viola
talk of love that keeps life from ending, and so often brings life down
into the dust, assures the heart that even if life ends for us it will
go on in others.

            "the song we had last night.
    Mark it, Cesario, it is old and plain;
    The spinsters and the knitters in the sun
    And the free maids that weave their thread with bones
    Do use to chant it: it is silly sooth,
    And dallies with the innocence of love,
    Like the old age."

In his best plays Shakespeare used a double construction to express by
turn the twofold energy of man, the energy of the animal and of the
spirit. The mind that brooded sadly in

    "For women are as roses, whose fair flower
     Being once display'd, doth fall that very hour,"

and in

                  "She never told her love,
    But let concealment, like a worm i' the bud,
    Feed on her damask cheek: she pined in thought,"

belonged to earth, and got a gladness from earth. Within two minutes of
the talk of the woman who died of love he showed Contemplation making a
rare turkey-cock of the one wise man in his play.

_All's Well that Ends Well._

     _Written._ (?)

     _Published._ 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ The story of Helena's love for Bertram is
     found in the _Decamerone_ of Boccaccio (giorn. 3, nov. 9).
     Shakespeare may have read it in the _Palace of Pleasure_.

     _The Fable._ Helena, orphan daughter of a physician, has been
     brought up, as a dependant, in the house of the Countess of
     Rousillon. She falls in love with Bertram, the son of the Countess
     and the King's ward.

     Bertram goes to the French Court, on his way to the wars. He finds
     the King dangerously ill. Helena, hearing of the King's illness,
     comes to the Court as a physician. She offers to cure the King with
     one of her father's remedies, on condition that, when cured, he
     will give her in marriage the man of her choice. The King accepts
     these conditions; she cures him; she chooses for her husband

     Bertram, the King's ward, has to do the King's bidding. He
     grudgingly accepts her; they are married. He leaves her, and goes
     to the wars in the service of the Duke of Florence, designing to
     see her no more. Helena withdraws from the Countess's house, and
     comes to Florence disguised.

     Bertram woos Diana, a maid of Florence. Helena impersonates her,
     receives her unsuspecting husband at night, takes from him a ring,
     and gives, in exchange, a ring given to her by the King of France.
     At the end of the war, Bertram, hearing that Helena is dead,
     returns to France, wearing the ring. The King sees it and
     challenges it. Bertram can give no just account of how he got it.
     Helena, quick with child by him, confronts him, with the ring that
     he left with her at Florence. Diana, the Florentine maid, gives
     evidence that Helena impersonated her on the night of Bertram's
     visit at Florence. Bertram accepts Helena as his wife, and the play
     ends happily.

This play (whenever written) was extensively revised during the ruthless
mood that gave birth to _Measure for Measure_. The alterations were made
in a mood so much deeper than the mood of its first composition that
they make the play uneven. Something, perhaps some trick of health, that
made the mind clearer than the imagination, gave to Shakespeare for a
short time another (and pitiless) view of human obsessions.

It was a part of his belief that treachery is generally caused by
blindness, blindness generally by some obsession of passion. In this
play he treats of the removal of an obsession by making plain to the
obsessed, by pitiless judicial logic, the ugliness of the treachery it

Bertram is a young man fresh from home. He does not want to marry. He is
eager to see the world and to win honour. He has been accustomed to look
down on Helena as a poor dependant. He does not like her, and he does
not like being ordered. He is suddenly ordered to marry her. He has been
trapped by a woman's underhand trick. He sees himself brought into
bondage with all the plumes of his youth clipped close. There is no way
of escape; he has to marry her; but the King's order cannot quench his
rage against the woman who has so snared him. His rage burns inward into
a brooding, rankling ill-humour that becomes an obsession. It is one of
the tragedies of life that an evil obsession blinds the judgment on more
sides than one. The obsessed are always without criticism. A way of
destruction may be as narrow as a way of virtue; but all the other ways
of destruction run into it. Bertram in blinkers to the good in Helena is
blind to the faults in himself and in Parolles his friend. Wilfully, as
the sullen do, he thinks himself justified in doing evil because evil
has been done to him. Hot blood is running in him. Temptation, never far
from youth, is always near the unbalanced. He takes an unworthy
confidant, as the obsessed do, and goes in over the ears. His sin is
the giving of salutation to sportive blood, it is love, it is "natural
rebellion," it is young man's pastime. But looked at coldly and
judicially, with the nature of the confidant laid bare, and the lies of
the sinner made plain, it is an ugly thing. Passion is sweet enough to
seem truth, the only truth. Let the eyes be opened a little, and it will
blast the heart with horror. What man thought true is then seen to be
this, this thing, this devil of falseness who gives man this kind of
friend, makes him tell this kind of lie, and brands him with this kind
of shame.

Shakespeare is just to Bertram. The treachery of a woman is often the
cause of a man's treachery to womanhood. Helena's obsession of love
makes her blind to the results of her actions. She twice puts the man
whom she loves into an intolerable position, which nothing but a king
can end. The fantasy is not made so real that we can believe in the
possibility of happiness between two so married. Helena has been praised
as one of the noblest of Shakespeare's women. Shakespeare saw her more
clearly than any man who has ever lived. He saw her as a woman who
practises a borrowed art, not for art's sake, nor for charity, but,
woman fashion, for a selfish end. He saw her put a man into a position
of ignominy quite unbearable, and then plot with other women to keep him
in that position. Lastly, he saw her beloved all the time by the
conventionally minded of both sexes.

The play is full of effective theatrical situations. It contains much
fine poetry. Besides the poetry there are startling moments of insight--

    "My mother told me just how he would woo
     As if she sat in's heart...."

    "Now, God delay our rebellion! as we are ourselves,
     What things are we! Merely our own traitors."

    "I would gladly have him see his company anatomised,
     That he might take a measure of his own judgments."

    "The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together."

                              "Our rash faults
    Make trivial price of serious things we have,
    Not knowing them until we know their grave:
    Oft our displeasures, to ourselves unjust,
    Destroy our friends and after weep their dust."

_Julius Cæsar._

     _Written._ 1601 (?)

     _Produced._ (?)

     _Published_, in the first folio, 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ The Lives of Antonius, Brutus and Julius
     Cæsar in Sir Thomas North's _Plutarch_.

     A tragedy of Julius Cæsar, now lost, was performed by Shakespeare's
     company in 1594. Shakespeare must have known this play.

     _The Fable._ Cassius, fearing that Julius Cæsar is about to
     extinguish all trace of Republican rule in Rome, persuades Brutus
     and others to plot a change. They decide to murder Cæsar.

     On the morning chosen for the murder, Cæsar is warned by many omens
     not to stir abroad. He is persuaded to ignore the omens. He goes to
     the Senate House, and is there killed. Mark Antony, his friend,
     obtains leave from the murderers to make a public oration over the

     In his speech he so inflames the populace against the murderers
     that they are compelled to leave Rome.

     Joining himself to Octavius, he takes the field against Brutus and
     Cassius, and helps to defeat them at Philippi.

     Cassius is killed by his servant when he sees that all is lost.
     Brutus, seeing the battle go against him, kills himself.

The modern play climbs to its culmination by a series of interruptions
or crises. The modern playwright tries to end his acts at an arresting
or splendid moment, artfully delayed, and carefully prepared. He tries
to end his play by a gradual knitting together of all the energies of
his characters into a situation, happier or more haunting, than any that
has preceded it in the course of the action. The art by which this is
done, when it is done, is called dramatic construction. There are many
kind of dramatic construction. Each age tends to form a new one. Each
writer uses many. In art a subject can only be expressed in the form
most fitting to it. In the art of the theatre a mistake in the choice of
the form, or in the right handling of it when chosen leads infallibly to
the irritation of the audience and the failure of the play. When a play
is badly constructed the actors cannot so interpret the author's emotion
that it will dominate the collective emotion in the audience.

It is often said, by those who ought to know better (it was said to
Racine by Frenchmen), that dramatic construction cannot matter, if the
passion or spirit with which the author writes, be abundant and sincere.
The powder in a cartridge may be abundant and the bullet at the end may
be sincerely meant, yet neither will do execution till they are put
properly into the proper weapon, rightly aimed, and judgingly fired. So
with passion in the arts. Without art, inspiration is breath and a
feeding of the wind. In the theatre, inspiration without art is as a
sounding brass and as a tinkling cymbal.

It is sometimes maintained in print, by those saddened or maddened by
bad modern performances of the plays, that Shakespeare "could not
construct," that he is constantly "rambling," "chaotic," or
"intolerable," and that he is only played to-day because of his
"poetry." Those who maintain these things forget that an Elizabethan
play was constructed for a theatre much unlike the modern theatre, and
performed in a manner suited to that theatre, but less well suited to
the theatre of our times. Shakespeare's plays were constructed closely
and carefully to be effective on the Elizabethan stage. On that stage
they were highly and nobly effective. On the modern stage, produced in
the modern manner, they are less effective. There are many reasons why
they should be less effective on the modern stage. During the last
thirty years there has been a tendency towards naturalism in the
theatre. Modern audiences have learned not to care for poetry on the
stage unless it is made "natural" by realistic scenery. Modern audiences
are accustomed to the modern forms of dramatic construction, which are
unlike the Elizabethan forms. They know that modern playwrights put a
strong scene at the end of an act and a great scene at the end of the
play. They have learned to expect a play to be arranged in that manner,
and to count as ill constructed the play not so arranged. As it is
frequently said that the last acts of _Julius Cæsar_ make anti-climax
and spoil the play, it is necessary to consider Shakespeare's
constructive practice in this and in some other plays.

The Greek tragic poets ended the action of their plays in the modern
manner, at the great scene, but, unlike us, they delayed the departure
of the audience for some minutes more, generally by a chorus of men and
women who expounded the moral value of the action in noble verse. The
audience came away calmed. If a Greek had constructed _Julius Cæsar_, he
would have ended the action at the murder. A chorus of senators would
then have chanted something noble about the results of pride, the vanity
of human glory, and the strangeness of the ways of the gods. A modern
writer would have caused the curtain to fall at the murder, for to-day,
when the brains are out the play dies and there an end. Shakespeare
carries on his play for two acts after Cæsar is dead. In _Macbeth_ he
constructs the last half of his play in much the same manner.

In both plays he is considering the conception, the doing, and the
results of a violent act. In both plays this act is the murder of the
head of a State. In neither case is he deeply interested in the victim.
Duncan, in _Macbeth_, is a generous gentleman; Cæsar, in this play, is a
touchy man of affairs whose head is turned. Shakespeare's imagination
broods on the fact that the killers were deluded into murder, Macbeth by
an envious wife and the belief that Fate meant him to be king, Brutus by
an envious friend and the belief that he was saving Rome. In both cases
the killers show base personal ingratitude and treachery. In both plays,
an avenging justice makes even the scales. The mind of the poet follows
them from the moment when the guilty thought is prompted, through the
agony and exultation of dreadful acts, to the unhappiness that dogs the
treacherous, till Fate's just sword falls in vengeance. His imagination
is most keenly stirred just as ours is, by the great event, the murder
of the victim: but his subject is not the murder, nor yet the tragical
end of a ruler. His subject in both plays is the working of Fate who
prompts to murder, uses the murderer, and then destroys him. We are
interested in crisis and in topic. The Elizabethans, with a wider
vision, could not detach an act from its place in the pageant of
history. In a modern play the heroine is put into an unpleasant
position, or an evil is exposed, or our faults are made visible and
laughable. The point of view is that of the sympathiser, reformer, and
moralist looking on from the window near by. The field of vision is
restricted and the object brought near. In this great play, as in
_Macbeth_, Shakespeare strove to present a violent act and its
consequences from the point of view of a great just spirit outside life.

The play is generally considered to be the earliest of the supreme
plays. Little more can be said of it at this time than that it is
supreme. There is a majesty in the conception that makes it like
gathering and breaking storm. The cause of the murder is a great
personal treachery inspired by an unselfish idea. Though it seems
inevitable, it is a very little thing that makes it possible. Both
Cæsar's murder and Brutus' downfall are almost prevented. A hand
stretches out to save both of them. A little domestic treachery inspired
by a selfish idea puts aside the interposing hand in both instances.
Cæsar will not listen to his wife because he is sure of himself. Brutus
will not answer his wife for the same reason. They go on to the
magnificent hour which makes the one fine soul in the play a haunted and
unhappy soul till he snatches at Death at Philippi.

The verse is calm, like the noble art that shapes the scenes. It is full
of majesty. Lines occur in which single unusual words are charged with
an incalculable power of meaning.

    "Against the Capitol I met a lion,
     Who glazed upon me and went surly by."

    "It is the bright day that brings forth the adder."

Shakespeare's intensest and most solemn thought, the Law that directed
the creation of some of his greatest work, is spoken by Brutus--

    "Between the acting of a dreadful thing
     And the first motion, all the interim is
     Like a phantasma or a hideous dream:
     The Genius and the mortal instruments
     Are then in council, and the state of man,
     Like to a little kingdom, suffers then
     The nature of an insurrection."

_Hamlet, Prince of Denmark._

     _Written._ 1601-2.

     _Published_, in an imperfect form, 1603; more perfectly, 1604.

     _Source of the Plot._ A play upon the subject of Hamlet, now lost,
     seems to have been popular in London during the last decades of the
     sixteenth century. Some think that it was an early work of
     Shakespeare's. No evidence supports this theory. He probably knew
     the play, and may have acted in it.

     The story is told by Saxo Grammaticus in his _Historia Danica_.
     Francis de Belleforest printed a version of it in his _Histoires
     Tragiques_. An English translation from de Belleforest, called the
     _Hystorie of Hamblet_, was published (or perhaps reprinted) in
     London in 1608. Shakespeare seems to have known both de Belleforest
     and the _Hystorie_.

     _The Fable._ Claudius, brother to the King of Denmark, conniving
     with Gertrude the Queen, poisons his brother, and seizes the
     throne. Soon afterwards he marries Gertrude. At this point the play

     Hamlet, son of the murdered king, sick at heart at his mother's
     hasty re-marriage, and troubled by his love for Ophelia, returns to
     Denmark. The ghost of his father reveals the manner of the murder
     to him, and makes him swear to be revenged. The revelation so
     affects him that the murderers begin to fear him. He cannot bring
     himself to kill Claudius. In a play he shows them that he knows
     their guilt.

     While speaking with his mother, he discovers and kills a spy hidden
     behind the arras. The spy is Polonius, father of Laertes and of

     Claudius causes Hamlet to sail for England, on the pretext that the
     killing of Polonius has brought him into danger with the populace.
     He plans that Hamlet shall be killed on his arrival. Hamlet
     discovers the treacherous purpose and returns unhurt to Denmark.

     During Hamlet's absence at sea, Laertes learns how Polonius was
     killed and swears to be revenged on Hamlet. Hamlet's return gives
     him his opportunity.

     Claudius suggests that the revenge be taken at a fencing-bout.
     Laertes shall fence with Hamlet, using a poisoned foil. If this
     fails, Hamlet shall be given poisoned wine.

     In a scuffle during the fencing-bout the fencers change foils.
     Gertrude, by mistake, drinks the poisoned wine and dies. Laertes,
     hurt by the poisoned foil, dies. Hamlet, also hurt by the poisoned
     foil, kills Claudius and dies too.

_Hamlet_ is the most baffling of the great plays. It is the tragedy of a
man and an action continually baffled by wisdom. The man is too wise.
The dual action, pressing in both cases to complete an event, cannot get
past his wisdom into the world. The action in one case is a bad one. It
is simply murder. In the other, and more important case, it is,
according to our scheme, also a bad one. It is revenge, or, at best, the
taking of blood for blood. In the Shakespearean scheme it is not
revenge, it is justice, and therefore neither good nor bad but
necessary. The situation which causes the tragedy is one very common in
Shakespeare's system. Life has been wrenched from her course. Wrenching
is necessary to bring her back to her course or to keep her where she
is. Hamlet is a man who understands too humanly to wish to wrench either
this way or that, and too shrewdly to be himself wrenched by grosser
instruments of Fate.

The action consists in the baffling of action. Mostly, it consists in
the baffling of life's effort to get back to her course. All through the
play there is the uneasiness of something trying to get done, something
from outside life trying to get into life, but baffled always because
the instrument chosen is, himself, a little outside life, as the wise
must be. This baffling of the purpose of the dead leads to a baffling
of the living, and, at last, to something like an arrest of life, a
deadlock, in which each act, however violent, makes the obscuring of
life's purpose greater.

The powers outside life send a poor ghost to Hamlet to prompt him to an
act of justice. After baffled hours, often interrupted by cock-crow, he
gives his message. Hamlet is charged with the double task of executing
judgment and showing mercy. It is a charge given to many people
(generally common people) in the system of the plays. It is given to two
other men in this play. It is nothing more than the fulfilling of the
kingly office, so bloodily seized by Claudius before the opening of the
play. At this point, it may be well to consider the society in which the
kingly office is to be exercised.

The society is created with Shakespeare's fullest power. It is not an
image of the world in little, like the world of the late historical
plays. It is an image of the world as intellect is made to feel it. It
is a society governed by the enemies of intellect, by the sensual and
the worldly, by deadly sinners and the philosophers of bread and cheese.
The King is a drunken, incestuous murderer, who fears intellect. The
Queen is a false woman, who cannot understand intellect. Polonius is a
counsellor who suspects intellect. Ophelia is a doll without intellect.
Laertes is a boor who destroys intellect. The courtiers are parasites
who flourish on the decay of intellect. Fortinbras, bright and noble,
marching to the drum to win a dunghill, gives a colour to the folly. The
only friends of the wise man are Horatio, the schoolfellow, and the
leader of a cry of players.

The task set by the dead is a simple one. All tasks are simple to the
simple-minded. To the delicate and complex mind so much of life is bound
up with every act that any violent act involves not only a large
personal sacrifice of ideal, but a tearing-up by the roots of half the
order of the world. Wisdom is founded upon justice; but justice, to the
wise man, is more a scrupulous quality in the mind than the doing of
expedient acts upon sinners. Hamlet is neither "weak" nor
"unpractical," as so many call him. What he hesitates to do may be
necessary, or even just, as the world goes, but it is a defilement of
personal ideals, difficult for a wise mind to justify. It is so great a
defilement, and a world so composed is so great a defilement, that death
seems preferable to action and existence alike.

The play at this point presents a double image of action baffled by
wisdom. Hamlet baffles the dealing of the justice of Fate, and also the
death plotted for him by his uncle. His weapon, in both cases, is his
justice, his precise scrupulousness of mind, the niceness of mental
balance which gives to all that he says the double-edge of wisdom. It is
the faculty, translated into the finer terms of thought, which the ghost
seeks to make real with bloodshed. Justice, in her grosser as in her
finer form, is concerned with the finding of the truth. The first half
of the play, though it exposes and develops the fable, is a dual image
of a search for truth, of a seeking for a certainty that would justify
a violent act. The King is probing Hamlet's mind with gross human
probes, to find out if he is mad. Hamlet is searching the King's mind
with the finest of intellectual probes, to find out if he is guilty. The
probe used by him, the fragment of a play within a play, is the work of
a man with a knowledge of the impotence of intellect--

    "Our wills and fates do so contrary run
     That our devices still are overthrown"--

and a faith in the omnipotence of intellect--

    "Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own."

To this man, five minutes after the lines have exposed the guilty man,
comes a chance to kill his uncle. Hamlet "might do it pat" while he is
at prayers. The knowledge that the sword will not reach the real man,
since damnation comes from within, not from without, arrests his hand.
Fate offers an instant for the doing of her purpose. Hamlet puts the
instant by, with his baffling slowness, made up of mercy and wisdom.
Fate, or the something outside life which demands the King's blood, so
that life may go back to her channel, is foiled. The action cannot bring
itself to be. A wise human purpose is, for the moment, stronger than the
eternal purpose of Nature, the roughly just.

It is a part of this play's ironic teaching that life must not be
baffled; but that, when she has been wrenched from her course, she must
either be wrenched back to it or kept violently in the channel to which
she has been forced.

In _Macbeth_, a not dissimilar play, the life violently altered is kept
in the strange channel by a succession of violent acts. In _Hamlet_,
when Hamlet's merciful wisdom has decided that the life violently
altered shall not be wrenched back, his destroying wisdom decides that
she shall not be kept in the strange channel. The King, just in his way,
seeks to find out if Hamlet be sane. If Hamlet be sane, he must die. His
death will secure the King's position. By his death life will be kept
in the strange channel. Polonius, the King's agent, learns that Hamlet
is sane and something more. Fate demands violence this way if she may
not have it in the other. She offers an instant for the doing of her
purpose. Hamlet puts the instant by with his baffling swiftness, which
strikes on the instant, when the Queen's honour and his own life depend
on it. The first bout in this play of the baffling of action falls to
Hamlet. The second bout, in which the King's purpose is again baffled,
by the sending of the two courtiers to their death in England, also
falls to Hamlet. The bloody purpose from outside life and the bloody
purpose from within life are both baffled and kept from being by the two
extremes so perfectly balanced in the wise nature.

Extremes in the Shakespearean system are tragical things. In
Shakespeare, the pathway of excess leads, not as with Blake, to the
palace of wisdom, but to destruction. The two extremes in Hamlet, of
slowness and swiftness, set up in life the counter forces which destroy
extremes, so that life, the common thing, may continue to be common. The
mercy of Hamlet leaves the King free to plot his death. The swiftness of
Hamlet gives to the King a hand and sword to work his will.

In other plays, the working of extremes to the punishment dealt by life
to all excess is simple and direct. In this play, nothing is simple and
direct. Fate's direct workings are baffled by a mind too complex to be
active on the common planes. The baffling of Fate's purpose leads to a
condition in life like the "slack water" between tides. Laertes, when
his father is killed, raises the town and comes raving to the presence
to stab the killer. He is baffled by the King's wisdom. Ophelia,
"incapable of her own distress," goes mad and drowns herself. The play
seems to hesitate and stand still while the energies spilled in the
baffling of Fate work and simmer and grow strong, till they combine with
Fate in the preparation of an end that shall not be baffled. Even so,
"the end men looked for cometh not." The end comes to both actions at
once in the squalor of a chance-medley. Fate has her will at last. Life,
who was so long baffled, only hesitated. She destroys the man who
wrenched her from her course, and the man who would neither wrench her
back nor let her stay, and the women who loved these men, and the men
who loved them. Revenge and chance together restore life to her course,
by a destruction of the lives too beastly, and of the lives too hasty,
and of the lives too foolish, and of the life too wise, to be all
together on earth at the same time.

It is difficult to praise the poetry of _Hamlet_. Nearly all the play is
as familiar by often quotation as the New Testament. The great, wise,
and wonderful beauty of the play is a part of the English mind for ever.
It is difficult to live for a day anywhere in England (except in a
theatre) without hearing or reading a part of _Hamlet_. Lines that are
little quoted are the lines to quote here--

             "this fell sergeant, death,
    Is strict in his arrest."

                     "O proud death!
    What feast is toward in thine eternal cell,
    That thou so many princes, at a shot,
    So bloodily hast struck?"

The last speech, great as the speech at the end of Timon, and noble,
like that, with a music beyond the art of voices, is constructed on a
similar metrical basis.

                        "Let four captains
    Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage;
    For he was likely, had he been put on,
    To have proved most royally: and, for his passage,
    The soldier's music and the rites of war
    Speak loudly for him.
    Take up the bodies: such a sight as this
    Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.
    Go, bid the soldiers shoot."

_Troilus and Cressida._

     _Written._ (?)

     _Produced._ After publication.

     _Published._ 1609.

     _Source of the Plot._ Geoffrey Chaucer's poem of _Troilus and
     Creseide_. John Lydgate's _Troy Boke_. William Caxton's translation
     of the French book of the _Recuyels of Troy_. George Chapman's
     translation of Homer's _Iliad_.

     Among many other possible sources may be mentioned a now lost play
     of _Troilus and Cressida_ (produced in 1599) by the poets Thomas
     Dekker and Henry Chettle.

     _The Fable._ The scene is Troy. Cressida is a Trojan woman, whose
     father, Calchas, has gone over to the Greeks. She is beloved by the
     youth Troilus. Her uncle, Pandarus, seeks to bring her to accept
     Troilus. Hector, brother to Troilus, challenges a Greek champion to
     single combat.

     In the Greek camp there is much disaffection. Achilles, the chief
     Greek champion, conceiving himself wronged, makes a mock of the
     other leaders. To teach him his place the leaders plan that Ajax
     shall be chosen in his stead to take up Hector's challenge.

     Pandarus succeeds in bringing Cressida to love Troilus.

     Calchas, in the Greek camp, sends to Troy for Cressida. She is
     delivered over to the Greeks. Forgetting Troilus, she entangles one
     of the Greeks with her wiles.

     Ajax takes up Hector's challenge. They fight a friendly bout and
     then go to feast, where the moody Achilles insults Hector.

     The next day, Hector and Troilus come to the field, the one to
     avenge Achilles' insults, the other to kill the man who has won
     Cressida. Hector is cruelly and cowardly killed by Achilles.
     Troilus is left unhurt, cursing.

_Troilus and Cressida_ is the dialogue scenario of a play that was never
finished. It seems to have been written before 1603, then laid aside,
incomplete, until the mood that inspired it had died. Conflicting
evidence makes it doubtful whether it was acted during Shakespeare's
life. It was published, under mysterious circumstances, a year or two
before he retired to Stratford.

Two or three scenes are finished. The rest is indicated in the crudest
dialogue, written so hastily that it is often undramatic and nearly
always without wit or beauty. The finished scenes are among the grandest
ever conceived by Shakespeare, but the grandeur is that of thought, not
of action. They make it plain to us why the play was never completed.
The subject is this: a light woman throwing over a boy. The setting, the
Trojan war: a light woman overthrowing a city, is so much bigger than
the subject that it overshadows it. Another subject arises in the
circumstance of the Trojan war. Achilles, the man of action, without
honour or imagination, sulks. The wise man, Ulysses, suggests that he be
brought from his sulks by mockery. The result of this wise counsel is
that Hector, the one bright and noble soul in the play, is killed
cruelly and sullenly, by the boor thus mocked.

The two subjects and the setting are not and cannot be brought into
unity. Shakespeare's mind wandered from his real subject to brood upon
the obsession of Helen that betrayed Troy to the fire, and upon the
tragical working of wisdom that brought about an end so foul. Other, and
bigger, subjects for plays tempted him from the work. He put it aside
before it was half alive. As it stands, it has neither life nor meaning.
It oppresses the mind into making gloomy interpretation. Tragedy in its
imperfect form cannot but be gloomy. It is nothing but the record of a
fatal event. But Shakespearean tragedy is tragedy in its perfect form.
It is an exultation of the soul over the husks of life and the winds
that blow them. This play, had it ever been finished, would have been
like the other tragedies of the great years. That it is not finished is
our misfortune.

The finished scenes are full of wisdom--

    "Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back,
     Wherein he puts alms for oblivion,
     A great-sized monster of ingratitude:
     Those scraps are good deeds past, which are devour'd
     As fast as they are made, forgot as soon
     As done: perseverance, dear my lord,
     Keeps honour bright: to have done, is to hang
     Quite out of fashion."

            "O, let not virtue seek
    Remuneration for the thing it was."

    "Those wounds heal ill that men do give themselves."

    "And sometimes we are devils to ourselves."

Some have thought that this play was written by Shakespeare to ridicule
the two poets, Ben Jonson (in the person of Ajax) and John Marston (in
the person of Thersites). Those two poets were engaged, with others, in
the years 1601-2, in what is called the War of the Theatres, that is,
they wrote plays to criticise and mock each other. These plays are often
scurrilous and seldom amusing. During the course of the war the two
chief combatants came to blows.

It is sad that Shakespeare should be credited with the paltriness of
lesser men. His view of his task is expressed in _Timon of Athens_ with
the perfect golden clearness of supreme power--

                        "my free drift
    Halts not particularly, but moves itself
    In a wide sea of wax: no levell'd malice
    Infects one comma in the course I hold;
    But flies an eagle flight, bold, and forth on,
    Leaving no tract behind."

He held that view throughout his creative life, as a great poet must. At
the time during which this play was written his thought was more rigidly
kept to the just survey of life than at any other period. Creative art
has been so long inglorious that the practice and ideas of supreme poets
have become incomprehensible to the many. This play is a great hint of
something never, now, to be made clear. Those who count it a mark of
Shakespeare's littleness expose their own.

_Measure for Measure._

     _Written._ 1603-4 (?)

     _Produced._ (?)

     _Published._ 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ The story is founded on an event that is said
     to have taken place in Ferrara, during the Middle Ages. Shakespeare
     took it from a collection of novels, the _Hecatomithi_, by Giraldi
     Cinthio; from the play, _The rare Historie of Promos and
     Cassandra_, founded on Cinthio's novel, by one George Whetstone,
     and from Whetstone's prose rendering of the story in his book _The
     Heptameron of Civil Discourses_.

     _The Fable._ The Duke of Vienna, going on a secret mission, leaves
     his power in the hands of Angelo, a man of strict life.

     Angelo enforces old laws against incontinence. He arrests Claudio
     and sentences him to be beheaded. Claudio's sister, Isabella,
     pleads with Angelo for her brother's life. Being moved to lust,
     Angelo tempts Isabella. He offers to spare Claudio if she will
     submit to him. Claudio begs her to save him thus. She refuses.

     The Duke returns to Vienna disguised, hears Isabella's story, and
     resolves to entrap Angelo. He causes her to make an appointment to
     that end. He causes Mariana, a maid who has been jilted by Angelo,
     to personate Isabella, and keep the appointment. Mariana does so.

     He contrives to check Angelo's treachery, that would have caused
     Claudio's death in spite of the submission.

     Lastly he reveals himself, exposes Angelo's sin, compels him to
     marry Mariana, pardons Claudio, and makes Isabella his Duchess.

This play is now seldom performed. It is one of the greatest works of
the greatest English mind. It deals justly with the case of the man who
sets up a lifeless sentimentality as a defence against a living natural
impulse. The spirit of Angelo has avenged itself on Shakespeare by
becoming the guardian spirit of the British theatre.

In this play Shakespeare seems to have brooded on the fact that the
common prudential virtues are sometimes due, not to virtue, but to some
starvation of the nature. Chastity may proceed from a meanness in the
mind, from coldness of the emotions, or from cowardice, at least as
often as from manly and cleanly thinking. Two kinds of chastity are set
at clash here. The one springs from a fire in the personality that
causes Isabella to think death better than contamination, and gives her
that whiteness of generosity which fills nunneries with living
sacrifice; the other comes from the niggardliness that makes Angelo jilt
Mariana rather than take her without a dower. Both are obsessions; both
exalt a part of life above life itself. Like other obsessions, they
come to grief in the presence of something real.

These two characters make the action. The play is concerned with the
difficulty of doing justice in a world of animals swayed by rumour. The
subject is one that occupied Shakespeare's mind throughout his creative
life. Wisdom begins in justice. But how can man be just, without the
understanding of God? Who is so faultless that he can sit in judgment on
another? Who so wise that he can see into the heart, weigh the act with
the temptation and strike the balance?

Sexual sin is the least of the sins in Dante. It is allied to love. It
is an image of regeneration. No sin is so common, none is more glibly
blamed. It is so easy to cry "treacherous," "base," and "immoral." But
who, while the heart beats, can call himself safe from the temptation to
this sin? It is mixed up with every generosity. It is a flood in the
heart and a blinding wave over the eyes. It is the thorn in the side
under the cloak of the beauty of youth. In Shakespeare's vision it is a
natural force, incident to youth, as April is incident to the year. The
young men live as though life were oil, and youth a bonfire to be burnt.
Life is always wasteful. Youth is life's test for manhood. The clown
finds in the prison a great company of the tested and rejected, calling
through the bars for alms. In spite of all this choice, another victim
is picked by tragical chance. Lucio, a butterfly of the brothel, a
dirtier soul than Claudio, is spared. Claudio is taken and condemned.
The beautiful, vain, high-blooded youth, so quick with life and glad of
the sun, is to lie in earth, at the bidding of one less full of April.

Angelo, the man whose want of sympathy condemns Claudio, is in the state
of security that precedes so much Shakespearean tragedy. He has received
the name of being more than human because (unlike his admirers) he has
not shown himself to be considerably less. He has come through youth
unsinged. He has not been betrayed by his "gross body's treason." Both
he and those about him think that he is proof against temptation to
sexual sin. Suddenly his security is swept away. He is betrayed by the
subtler temptation that would mean nothing to a grosser man. He is moved
by the sight of the beauty of a distressed woman's mind. The sight means
nothing to Claudio, and less than nothing to Lucio. The happy animal
nature of youthful man has a way of avoiding distressed women. The
cleverer man, who has shut himself up in the half life of sentiment,
cannot so escape. He is attacked suddenly by the unknown imprisoned side
of him as well as by temptation. He falls, and, like all who fall, he
falls not to one sin, but to a degradation of the entire man. The sins
come linked. "Treason and murder ever kept together." When he is once
involved with lust, treachery and murder follow. He is swiftly so
stained that when the wise Duke shows him as he is, he shrinks from the
picture, with a cry that he may be put out of the way by some swift
merciful death so that the horror of the knowledge of himself may end,

The play is a marvellous piece of unflinching thought. Like all the
greatest of the plays, it is so full of illustration of the main idea
that it gives an illusion of an infinity like that of life. It is
constructed closely and subtly for the stage. It is more full of the
ingenuities of play-writing than any of the plays. The verse and the
prose have that smoothness of happy ease which makes one think of
Shakespeare not as a poet writing, but as a sun shining.

    " ... It deserves with characters of brass
     A forted residence 'gainst the tooth of time."

The thought of the play is penetrating rather than impassioned. The
poetry follows the thought. There are cold lines like Death laying a
hand on the blood. The faultless lyric, "Take, O take those lips away"
occurs. Some say Fletcher wrote it, some Bacon. "Love talks with better
knowledge, and knowledge with dearer love." The music of the great
manner rings--

    "Merciful Heaven!
     Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt
     Splitt'st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak,
     Than the soft myrtle; but man, proud man,
     Drest in a little brief authority,
     Most ignorant of what he's most assur'd,
     His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
     Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven,
     As make the angels weep."

The prose accompaniment to what is unrestrained in youth provides a
cruel comedy.

_Othello, the Moor of Venice._

     _Written._ 1604 (?)

     _Published_, in quarto, and in the first folio, 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ The tale appears in _The Hecatomithi_ of
     G. B. Giraldi Cinthio. Shakespeare follows Cinthio in the main; but a
     few details suggest that he knew the story in an ampler version.

     _The Fable._ Iago, ensign to Othello, the Moor of Venice, is
     jealous of Cassio, his lieutenant. He plots to oust Cassio from the

     Othello marries Desdemona, and sails with her to the wars in
     Cyprus. Iago resolves to make use of Desdemona to cause Cassio's

     He procures Cassio's discharge from the lieutenancy by involving
     him in a drunken brawl. Cassio beseeches Desdemona to intercede
     with Othello for him. Iago hints to Othello that she has good
     reason to wish Cassio to be restored. He suggests that Cassio is
     her lover. Partly by fortune, partly by craft, he succeeds in
     establishing in Othello's mind the conviction that Desdemona is

     Othello smothers Desdemona, learns, too late, that he has been
     deceived, and kills himself. Cassio's character is cleared. Iago is
     led away to torture.

A man's greatest works differ from his lesser works in degree, not in
kind. They may be more perfect, but they express similar ideas. "A man
grows, he does not become a different man." In this play of _Othello_
the ideas are those that inspire nearly all the plays, that life seeks
to preserve a balance, and that obsessions, which upset the balance,
betray life to evil.

These ideas are in the earliest work of all, in _Venus and Adonis_. In
_Othello_ they are expressed with the variety and power of the great
period. The obsession chosen for illustration is that of jealous
suspicion. It is displayed at work in a mean mind and in a generous
mind. The varying quality of its working makes the action of the play.

As in _The Merchant of Venice_, the chief character is a man of
intellect who has been warped out of humanity by the world's injustice.
Iago is a man of fine natural intellect who has not been trained in the
personal qualities that bring preferment. An educated man is advanced
above him, as in life it happens. He broods over the injustice and
schemes to be revenged. A groundless suspicion that the Moor has wronged
him further, determines him to be revenged upon his employer as well as
upon his supplanter. A weak intellect who comes to him for help serves
him as a tool. He begins to persuade his employer that the supplanter
and the newly-married wife are lovers.

He succeeds in this, through his natural adroitness, the working of
chance, and the generosity of Othello, who has too much passion to be
anything but blind under passionate influence like love or jealousy. The
mean man's want of emotion keeps always the conduct of the vengeance
precise and clear. Cassio is disgraced. Roderigo, having been fooled to
the top of his bent, is killed. Desdemona is smothered. Othello is

That working of an invisible judge, which we call Chance, "life's
justicer," lays the villainy bare at the instant of its perfection.
Emilia, Iago's wife, a common nature, with no more intelligence than a
want of illusion, enters a moment too late to stay the slaughter, but
too soon for Iago's purpose. She is the one person in the play certain
to be loyal to Desdemona. She is the one person in the play who, judging
from her feelings, will judge rightly. The finest part of the play is
that scene in which her passionate instinct sees through the web woven
about Othello by an intellect that has put aside all that is passionate
and instinctive.

The influence and importance of the little thing in the great event is
marked in this scene as in half-a-dozen other scenes in the greater
tragedies. We are all or may at any time become immensely important to
the play of the world. Had Emilia come a minute sooner or a minute
later the end of the play would have been very different. Desdemona
would have lived to repent her marriage at leisure, or she would have
gone to her grave branded.

Shakespeare brooded much upon all the tragedies of intellect. In this
play, as in _Richard III_ and _The Merchant of Venice_, he brooded upon
the power of a warped intellect to destroy generous life. When he
created Iago he wrote in a cooler spirit than when he created the
earlier characters. Iago is therefore much more perfectly a living being
but much less passionately alive than the soul burnt out at Bosworth, or
the soul flouted in the Duke's Court. He is drawn with a sharp and wiry
line. Like all sinister men, he tells nothing of himself. We see only
his intellect. What he is in himself is as mysterious as life. Life is
clear, up to a point, but beyond that point it is always baffling.
Shakespeare's task was to look at life clearly. Looking at it clearly he
was as baffled by what he saw, as we, who only see by his aid. He found
in Iago an image like life itself, a power and an activity, prompted by
something secret and silent.

Much ink has been wasted about the "duration of time" in this play. The
action of the play is one. It matters not if the time be divided into
ten or fifty. In London and the University towns where writing is mostly
practised, the play is seldom played. It is almost never played as
Shakespeare meant it to be played. Those who write about it write after
reading it. This is a reading age. Shakespeare's was an active age. That
those who care most for his tragedies should be ignorant of the laws
under which he worked is our misfortune and our fault and our disgrace.

The point is not insisted on; but some passages in the play suggest that
when Shakespeare began to write it he was minded to make the action the
falling of a judgment upon Desdemona for her treachery to her father.
The treachery caused the old man's death. The too passionate and hasty
things always bring death in these plays. Violent delights have violent
ends and bring violent ends to others.

The poetry of _Othello_ is nearly as well known as that of _Hamlet_.
Many quotations from the play have passed into the speech of the people.
A play of intrigue does not give the fullest opportunity for great
poetry; but supreme things are spoken throughout the action. Othello's

    "It is the very error of the moon.
     She comes more near the earth than she was wont
     And drives men mad,"

is one of the most perfect of all the perfect things in the tragedies.

_King Lear._

     _Written._ 1605-6.

     _Published._ 1608.

     _Source of the Plot._ The story of Lear is told in Holinshed's
     _Chronicles_, in a play by an unknown hand, _The True Chronicle
     History of King Leir_, and in a few stanzas of the tenth canto of
     the second Book of Spenser's _Faerie Queene_.

     The character of Gloucester seems to have been suggested by the
     character of a blind king in Sir Philip Sidney's _Arcadia_.

     _The Fable._ King Lear, in his old age, determines to give up his
     kingdom to his three daughters. Before he does so, he tries to
     assure himself of their love for him. The two elder women, Goneril
     and Regan, vow that they love him intensely; the youngest,
     Cordelia, can only tell him that she cares for him as a daughter
     should. He curses and casts off Cordelia, who is taken to wife by
     the King of France.

     Gloucester, deceived by his bastard Edmund, casts off Edgar his

     King Lear, thwarted and flouted by Goneril and Regan, goes mad, and
     wanders away with his Fool. Gloucester, trying to comfort him
     against the wishes of Goneril and Regan, is betrayed by his bastard
     Edmund, and blinded. He wanders away with Edgar, who has disguised
     himself as a madman.

     Regan's husband is killed. Seeking to take Edmund in his stead, she
     rouses the jealousy of Goneril, who has already made advances to

     Cordelia lands with French troops to repossess Lear of his kingdom.
     She finds Lear, and comforts him. In an engagement with the
     sisters' armies, she and Lear are captured.

     Edmund's baseness is exposed. He is attainted and struck down.
     Goneril poisons Regan, and kills herself. Edmund, before he dies,
     reveals that he has given order for Lear and Cordelia to be killed.
     His news comes too late to save Cordelia. She is brought in dead.
     Lear dies over her body.

     Albany, Goneril's husband, Kent, Lear's faithful servant, and
     Edgar, Edmund's slayer, are left to set the kingdom in order.

The play of _King Lear_ is based upon a fable and a fairy story. It
illustrates the most terrible forms of treachery, that of child against
father, and father against child. It is the most affecting and the
grandest of the plays.

The evil which makes the action springs from two sources, both fatal.
One is the blindness or fatuity in Lear, which makes him give away his
strength and cast out Cordelia. The other, equally deadly, but more
cruel in its results, springs from an unrepented treachery, done long
before by Gloucester, when he broke his marriage vows to beget Edmund.
Memory of the sweetness of that treachery gives to Gloucester a
blindness to the boy's nature, just as a sweetness, or ease, in the
treachery of giving up the cares of kingship (against oath and the
kingdom's good) helps to blind Lear to the natures of his daughters.

The blindness in the one case is sentimental, in the other wilful. Being
established, fate makes use of it. One of the chief lessons of the plays
is that man is only safe when his mind is perfectly just and calm. Any
injustice, trouble or hunger in the mind delivers man to powers who
restore calmness and justice by means violent or gentle according to the
strength of the disturbing obsession. This play begins at the moment
when an established blindness in two men is about to become an
instrument of fate for the violent opening of their eyes. The blindness
in both cases is against the course of nature. It is unnatural that Lear
should give his kingship to women, and that he should curse his youngest
child. It is unnatural that Gloucester should make much of a bastard son
whom he has hardly seen for nine years. It is deeply unnatural that both
Lear and Gloucester should believe evil suddenly of the youngest, best
beloved, and most faithful spirits in the play. As the blindness that
causes the injustice is great and unnatural, so the working of fate to
purge the eyes and restore the balance is violent and unnatural. Every
person important to the action is thrust into an unnatural way of life.
Goneril and Regan rule their father, commit the most ghastly and beastly
cruelty, lust after the same man, and die unnaturally (having betrayed
each other), the one by her sister's hand, the other by her own. Lear is
driven mad. The King of France is forced to war with his wife's sisters.
Edmund betrays his half-brother to ruin and his father to blindness.
Cornwall is stabbed by his servant. Edgar kills his half-brother.
Gloucester, thrust out blind, dies when he finds that his wronged son
loves him. Cordelia, fighting against her own blood, is betrayed to
death by one who claims to love her sisters. The honest mild man,
Albany, and the honest blunt man, Kent, survive the general ruin. Had
Kent been a little milder and Albany a little blunter in the first act,
before the fates were given strength, the ruin would not have been. All
the unnatural treacherous evil comes to pass, because for a few fatal
moments they were true to their natures.

The play is an excessive image of all that was most constant in
Shakespeare's mind. Being an excessive image, it contains matter nowhere
else given. It is all schemed and controlled with a power that he shows
in no other play, not even in _Macbeth_ and _Hamlet_. The ideas of the
play occur in many of the plays. Many images, such as the blasted oak,
water in fury, servants insolent and servile, old honest men and young
girls faithful to death, occur in other plays. That which each play
added to the thought of the world is expressed in the single figure of
someone caught in a net. Macbeth is a ruthless man so caught. Hamlet is
a wise man so caught. Othello is a passionate and Antony a glorious man
so caught. All are caught and all are powerless, and all are superb
tragic inventions. King Lear is a grander, ironic invention, who hurts
far more than any of these because he is a horribly strong man who is
powerless. He is so strong that he cannot die. He is so strong that he
nearly breaks the net, before the folds kill him.

No image in the world is so fierce with imaginative energy. The stormy
soul runs out storming in a night of the soul as mad as the elements.
With him goes the invention of the Fool, the horribly faithful fool,
like conscience or worldly wisdom, to flick him mad with ironic comment
and bitter song.

The verse is as great as the invention. It rises and falls with the
passion like music with singing. All the scale of Shakespeare's art is
used; the terrible spiritual manner of

    "You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
     Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,"

as well as the instinctive manner of a prose coloured to the height with
all the traditions of country life.

Dramatic genius has the power of understanding half-a-dozen lives at
once in tense, swiftly changing situations. This power is shown at its
best in the last act of this play. One of the most wonderful and least
praised of the inventions in the last scene is that of the dying Edmund.
He has been treacherous to nearly every person in the play. His last
treachery, indirectly the cause of his ruin, is still in act, the
killing of Cordelia and the king. He has been stricken down. "The wheel
has come full circle." He has learned too late that

    "The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
     Make instruments to plague us."

He can hardly hope to live for more than a few minutes. The death of his
last two victims cannot benefit him. A word from him would save them. No
one else can save them. Yet at the last minute, his one little glimmer
of faithfulness keeps the word unspoken. He is silent for Goneril's
sake. If he ever cared for any one in the world, except himself, he may
have cared a little for Goneril. He thinks of her now. She has gone from
him. But she is on his side, and he trusts to her, and acts for her. He
waits for some word or token from her. He waits to see her save him or
avenge him. The death of Lear will benefit her. It will be to her
something saved from the general wreck, something to the good, in the
losing bout. An impulse stirs him to speak, but he puts it by. He keeps
silent about Lear, till one comes saying that Goneril has killed
herself. Still he does not speak. The news pricks the vanity in him. He
strokes his plumes with a tender thought for the brightness of the life
that made two princesses die for love of him. When he speaks of Lear, it
is too late, the little, little instant which alters destiny has passed.
Cordelia is dead. No mist stains the stone. She will come no more--

    "Never, never, never, never, never."

The heart-breaking scene at the end has been blamed as "too painful for
tragedy." Shakespeare's opinion of what is tragic is worth that of all
his critics together. He gave to every soul in this play an excessive
and terrible vitality. On the excessive terrible soul of Lear he poured
such misery that the cracking of the great heart is a thing of joy, a
relief so fierce that the audience should go out in exultation singing--

               "O, our lives' sweetness!
    That we the pain of death would hourly die
    Rather than die at once!"

Tragedy is a looking at fate for a lesson in deportment on life's
scaffold. If we find the lesson painful, how shall we face the event?


     _Written._ 1605-6 (?)

     _Published_, in the first folio, 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ Raphael Holinshed tells the story of Macbeth
     at length in his _Chronicle of Scottish History_. He indicates the
     character of Lady Macbeth in one line.

     When Shakespeare wrote the play, London was full of Scotchmen,
     brought thither by the accession of James I. Little details of the
     play may have been gathered in conversation.

     _The Fable._ Macbeth, advised by witches that he is to be a king,
     is persuaded by his wife to kill his sovereign (King Duncan) and
     seize the crown. King Duncan, coming to Macbeth's castle for a
     night, is there killed by Macbeth and his lady. Duncan's sons fly
     to England. Macbeth causes himself to be proclaimed king.

     Being king, he tries to assure himself of power by destroying the
     house of Banquo, of whom the witches prophesied that he should be
     the father of a line of kings. Banquo is killed; but his son

     The witches warn Macbeth to beware of Macduff.

     Macduff escapes to England, but his wife and children are killed by
     Macbeth's order.

     Macduff persuades Duncan's son, Malcolm, to attempt the recovery of
     the Scottish crown.

     Malcolm and Macduff make the attempt. They attack Macbeth and kill

Macbeth is one of the seven supreme Shakespearean plays. In the order
of composition it is either the fourth or the fifth of the seven. In
point of merit it is neither greater nor less than the other six. It is
different from them, in that it belongs more wholly to the kingdom of

Like most Shakespearean tragedy, Macbeth is the tragedy of a man
betrayed by an obsession. Cæsar is betrayed by an obsession of the
desire of glory, Antony by passion, Tarquin by lust, Wolsey by worldly
greed, Coriolanus and Timon by their nobleness, Angelo by his
righteousness, Hamlet by his wisdom. All fail through having some hunger
or quality in excess. Macbeth fails because he interprets with his
worldly mind things spiritually suggested to him. God sends on many men
"strong delusion, that they shall believe a lie." Othello is one such.
Many things betray men. One strong means of delusion is the half-true,
half-wise, half-spiritual thing, so much harder to kill than the lie
direct. The sentimental treacherous things, like women who betray by
arousing pity, are the dangerous things because their attack is made in
the guise of great things. Tears look like grief, sentiment looks like
love; love feels like nobility; spiritualism seems like revelation.

Among these things few are stronger than the words spoken in unworldly
states, in trance, in ecstasy, by oracles and diviners, by soothsayers,
by the wholly excited people who are also half sane, by whoever obtains
a half knowledge of the spirit by destruction of intellectual process.

               "to win us to our harm,
    The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
    Win us with honest trifles, to betray's
    In deepest consequence."

Coming weary and excited from battle, on a day so strange that it adds
to the strangeness of his mood, Macbeth hears the hags hail him with
prophecy. The promise rankles in him. The seed scattered in us by the
beings outside life comes to good or evil according to the sun in us.
Macbeth, looking on the letter of the prophecy, thinks only of the
letter of its fulfilment, till it becomes an obsession with him.
Partial fulfilment of the prophecy convinces him that all will be
fulfilled. The belief that the veil over the future has been lifted for
him gives him the recklessness of one bound in the knots of fate. So
often, the thought that the soul is in a trap, playing out something
planned of old, makes man take the frantic way, when the smallest belief
in life would lead to peace. This thought passes through his mind. Then
fear that it is all a contriving of the devils makes him put it manfully
from his mind. The talk about the Cawdor whose place he holds is a
thrust to him. That Cawdor was a traitor who has been put to death for
treachery. The king had an "absolute trust" in him; but there is no
judging by appearances. This glimpse of the ugliness of treachery makes
Macbeth for an instant free of all temptation to it. Then a word stabs
him again to the knowledge that if he take no step the king's young son
will be king after Duncan. Why should the boy rule? From this point he
goes forward, full of all the devils of indecision, but inclining
towards righteousness, till his wife, girding and railing at him with
definite aim while all his powers are in mutiny, drives him to the act
of murder.

The story of the double treachery of the killing of a king, who is also
a guest, is so written that we do not feel horror so much as an
unbearable pity for Macbeth's mind. The horror is felt later, when it is
made plain that the treachery does not end with that old man on the bed,
but proceeds in a spreading growth of murder till the man who fought so
knightly at Fife is the haunted awful figure who goes ghastly, killing
men, women and little children, till Scotland is like a grave. At the
end, the "worthy gentleman," "noble Macbeth," having fallen from depth
to depth of degradation, is old, hag-haunted, sick at heart, and weary.
He has no friends. He knows himself silently cursed by every one in his
kingdom. His queen is haunted. There is a curse upon the pair of them.
The birds of murder have come to roost. All that supports him is his
trust in his reading of the words of the hags. He knows himself secure.

    "And you all know security
     Is mortal's chiefest enemy,"

He has supped full with horrors. His bloody base mind is all a blur with
gore. But he is resolute in evil still. At the end he sees too late that
he has been tricked by--

        "the equivocation of the fiend
    That lies like truth."

His queen has killed herself. All the welter of murder has been useless.
All that he has done is to damn his soul through the centuries during
which the line of Banquo will reign. He dies with a courage that is half
fury against the fate that has tricked him.

No play contains greater poetry. There is nothing more intense. The mind
of the man was in the kingdom of vision, hearing a new speech and seeing
what worldly beings do not see, the rush of the powers, and the fury of
elemental passions. No play is so full of an unspeakable splendour of

                           "his virtues
    Will plead like angels trumpet-tongued."

    "And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
    Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubin, horsed
    Upon the sightless couriers of the air."

    "Our chimneys were blown down, and, as they say,
     Lamentings heard i' the air, strange screams of death,
     And prophesying with accents terrible."

    "In the great hand of God I stand."

    "A falcon towering in her pride of place
     Was by a mousing owl hawk'd at and killed.
     And Duncan's horses--a thing most strange and certain--
     Beauteous and swift, the minions of their race,
     Turn'd wild in nature, broke their stalls, flung out,
     Contending 'gainst obedience, as they would make
     War with mankind.
                'Tis said they eat each other."

                "the time has been
    That, when the brains were out, the man would die."

All the splendours and powers of this great play have been praised and
re-praised. Noble inventions, like the knocking on the door and the
mutterings of the hags, have thrilled thousands. One, not less noble, is
less noticed. It is in Act IV, sc. i, Macbeth has just questioned the
hags for the last time. He calls in Lennox, with the words--

                            "I did hear
    The galloping of horse: who was't came by?"

It was the galloping of messengers with the news that Macduff, who is to
be the cause of his ruin, has fled to England. An echo of the galloping
stays in the brain, as though the hoofs of some horse rode the night,
carrying away Macbeth's luck for ever.

_Antony and Cleopatra._

     _Written._ 1607-8 (?)

     _Published_, in the folio, 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ The life of Antonius in Sir Thomas North's
     translation of Plutarch's _Lives_.

     _The Fable._ Antony, entangled by the wiles of Cleopatra, shakes
     himself free so that he may attend to the conduct of the world. He
     makes a pact with the young Cæsar, by marrying Cæsar's sister
     Octavia. Soon afterwards, being tempted from his wife by Cleopatra,
     he falls into wars with Cæsar. Being unhappy in his fortune and
     deserted by his friends, he kills himself. Cleopatra having lost
     her lover, and fearing to be led in triumph by Cæsar, also kills

In this most noble play, Shakespeare applies to a great subject his
constant idea, that tragedy springs from the treachery caused by some

                      "Strange it is
    That nature must compel us to lament
    Our most persisted deeds."

It cannot be said that the play is greater than the other plays of this
period. It can be said that it is on a greater scale than any other
play. The scene is the Roman world. The men engaged are struggling for
the control of all the power of the world. The private action is played
out before a grand public setting. The wisdom and the beauty of the
poetry answer the greatness of the subject.

Shakespeare's later tragedies, _King Lear_, _Coriolanus_, _Othello_, and
this play differ from some of the early tragedies in that the subject is
not the man of intellect, hounded down by the man of affairs, as in
_Richard II_, _Richard III_, and _Henry IV_, but the man of large and
generous nature hounded down by the man of intellect. In all four plays
the destruction of the principal character is brought about partly by a
blindness in a noble nature, but very largely by a cool, resolute,
astute soul who can and does take advantage of the blindness. Edmund,
the tribunes, Iago, and (in this play) Octavius Cæsar are such souls.
All of them profit by the soul they help to destroy. They leave upon the
mind the impression that they have a tact for the gaining of profit from
human frailty. All of them show the basest ingratitude under a
colourable cloak of human excuse.

The obsession of lust is illustrated in half-a-dozen of Shakespeare's
plays; but in none of them so fully as here. The results of that
obsession in treachery and tragedy brim the great play. Antony is
drunken to destruction with a woman like a raging thirst. A fine stroke
in the creation of the play sweeps him clear of her and offers him a
way of life. He uses the moment to get so far from her that his return
to her is a deed of triple treachery to his wife, to Cæsar, and to his
country. His intoxication with the woman degrades him to the condition
of blindness in which the woman-drunken staggers. It is a part of all
drunkenness that the drunkard thinks himself a king, though he looks and
is a sot. Shakespeare's marvellous illustration of this blindness (in
the third act) is seldom praised as it should be. Antony, crushingly
defeated, owing to the treachery of all debauched natures, calls upon
Octavius to meet him in single combat.

                        "men's judgments are
    A parcel of their fortunes, and things outward
    Do draw the inward quality after them,
    To suffer all alike."

      "when we in our viciousness grow hard,
    O misery on't--the wise gods seel our eyes;
    In our own filth drop our clear judgments; make us
    Adore our errors; laugh at's while we strut
    To our confusion."

The cruel bungling suicide which leaves him lingering in dishonour is
one of the saddest things in the plays. This was Antony who ruled once,
this mutterer dying, whom no one loves enough to kill. Once before, in
Shakespeare's vision, he came near death, in the proud scene in the
senate house, before Cæsar's murderers. He was very great and noble
then. Now

                   "The star is fall'n
    And time is at his period."

    "The god Hercules, whom Antony loved,"

has moved away with his hautboys and all comes to dust again.

The minds of most writers would have been exhausted after the creation
of four such acts. The splendour of Shakespeare's intellectual energy
makes the last act as bright a torch of beauty as the others. The cry--

    "We'll bury him; and then, what's brave, what's noble,
     Let's do it after the high Roman fashion,
     And make Death proud to take us ...
                  .... we have no friend
     But resolution and the briefest end,"

begins a song of the welcoming of death, unlike anything in the plays.
Shakespeare seldom allows a woman a great, tragical scene. Cleopatra is
the only Shakespearean woman who dies heroically upon the stage. Her
death scene is not the greatest, nor the most terrible, but it is the
most beautiful scene in all the tragedies. The words--

    "Finish, good lady; the bright day is done,
     And we are for the dark,"

and those most marvellous words, written at one golden time, in a gush
of the spirit, when the man must have been trembling--

              "O eastern star!
                              Peace, peace!
    Dost thou not see my baby at my breast,
    That sucks the nurse asleep?"

are among the most beautiful things ever written by man.


     _Written._ 1608 (?)

     _Published._ 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ The life of Coriolanus in Sir Thomas North's
     translation of Plutarch's _Lives_.

     _The Fable._ Marcius, a noble Roman, of an excessive pride,
     bitterly opposes the rabble.

     In the war against the Volscians he bears himself so nobly that he
     wins the title of Coriolanus. On his return from the wars he seeks
     the Consulship, woos the voices of the multitude, is accepted, and
     then cast by them. For his angry comment on their behaviour the
     tribunes contrive his banishment from the city.

     Being banished, he makes league with the Volscians. He takes
     command in the Volscian army and invades Roman territory.

     Coming as a conqueror to the walls of Rome, his mother and wife
     persuade him to spare the city. He causes the Volscians to make
     peace. The Volscians return home dissatisfied.

     On his return to the Volscian territory Coriolanus is impeached as
     a traitor, and stabbed to death by conspirators.

Shakespeare's tragical characters are all destroyed by the excess of
some trait in them, whether good or ill matters nothing. Nature cares
for type, not for the excessive. Sooner or later she checks the
excessive so that the type may be maintained. She is stronger than the
excessive, though she may be baser. To Nature, progress, though it be
infinitesimal, must be a progress of the whole mass, not a sudden
darting out of one quality or one member.

Timon of Athens is betrayed by an excessive generosity. Coriolanus is
betrayed by an excessive contempt for the multitude. He is one born into
a high tradition of life. He has the courage, the skill in arms, and the
talent for affairs that come with high birth in the manly races. He has
also the faith in tradition that makes an unlettered upper class narrow
and obstructionist. Like the rich in France before the Revolution, he
despises the poor. He denies them the right to complain of their hunger.
Rather than grant them that right, or the means of urging redress, he
would take a short way with them, as was practised here, at Manchester
and elsewhere.

    "Would the nobility lay aside their ruth,
     And let me use my sword, I'ld make a quarry
     With thousands of these quarter'd slaves, as high
     As I could pick my lance."

Like all conservative, aristocratic men, he sees in the first granting
of political power to the people the beginning of revolution.

                          "It will in time
    Win power upon and throw forth greater themes
    For insurrection's arguing."

He regards the people as a necessary, evil-smelling, many-headed beast,
good enough, under the leadership of men like himself, to make inferior
troops to be spent as the State pleases. It is possible that Napoleon
and Bismarck looked upon the mob with similar scorn. The ideas are those
of an absolute monarch or super-man. The country squire holds those
ideas, though want of power and want of intellect combine to keep him
from applying them. The sincerity of the ideas is tested from time to
time, in free countries, by general elections.

Much of the pride of Coriolanus springs from a sense of his superiority
to others in the gifts of fortune. Much of it comes from the knowledge
that he is superior in himself. Leading, as becomes his birth, in the
war against the Volscians he shows himself so much superior to others
that the campaign is his triumph. He is "the man" whom Napoleon counted
"everything in war." The knowledge of his merit is so bright within
himself that he is unable to see that it is less bright in others. He is
willing to become the head of the State if the post may be given to him
as a right due to merit, not as a favour begged. He has no lust for
power. But knowing himself to be the best man in Rome, he thinks that
his merit is sufficiently great to excuse him from the indignity of
sueing for it. The laws of free countries prescribe that he who wishes
to be elected must appeal to the electors whether he love them or loathe
them. Instead of appealing to them, Coriolanus insults them with such
arrogance that they drive him from the city.

He fails as a traitor, because he is too noble to be fiercely
revengeful. A lesser man, a Richard III, or an Iago, would have exacted
a bloody toll from Rome. Coriolanus cannot bring himself to be stern, in
the presence of his old mother and his wife. Something generous and
truly aristocratic in him makes him a second time a traitor, this time
to his hosts the Volscians. He spares Rome by the sacrifice of those who
have given him a shelter and a welcome. Treachery (even from a noble
motive) is never forgiven in these plays. It is always avenged, seldom
mercifully. The Volscians avenge themselves on Coriolanus by an act of
treachery that brings the noble heart under the foot of the traitor.

_Coriolanus_ is one of the greatest of Shakespeare's creations. Much of
the glory of the creation is due to Plutarch. There can be no great art
without great fable. Great art can only exist where great men brood
intensely on something upon which all men brood a little. Without a
popular body of fable there can be no unselfish art in any country.
Shakespeare's art was selfish till he turned to the great tales in the
four most popular books of his time, Holinshed, North's Plutarch,
Cinthio, and De Belleforest. Since the newspaper became powerful, topic
has supplanted fable, and subject comes to the artist untrimmed and
unlit by the vitality of many minds. In reading _Coriolanus_ and the
other plays of the great period a man feels that Shakespeare fed his
fire with all that was passionate in the thought about him. He appears
to be his age focussed. The great man now stands outside his age, like

_Coriolanus_ is a play of the clash of the aristocratic temper with the
world. It contains most of the few speeches in Shakespeare which ring
with what seems like a personal bitterness. Hatred of the flunkey mind,
and of the servile, insolent mob mind, "false as water," appears in
half-a-dozen passages. Some of these passages are ironic inventions, not
prompted by Plutarch. The great mind, brooding on the many forms of
treachery, found nothing more treacherous than the mob, and nothing more
dog-like, for good or evil, than the servant.

Greatness is sometimes shown in very little things. Few things in
Shakespeare show better the fulness of his happy power than the

    (_Corioli. Enter certain Romans with spoils._)

    _1st Roman._ This will I carry to Rome.

    _2nd Roman._ And I this.

    _3rd Roman._ A murrain on't. I took this for silver.

_Timon of Athens._

     _Written._ 1606-8 (?)

     _Published._ 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ William Paynter's _Palace of Pleasure_.
     Plutarch's _Life of Antonius_. Lucian's _Dialogue_.

     _The Fable._ Timon of Athens, a wealthy, over-generous man, gives
     to his friends so lavishly that he ruins himself. He finds none
     grateful for his bounty. In his ruin all his friends desert him.
     None of them will lend to him or help him. He falls into a loathing
     of the world and retires to die alone. Alcibiades of Athens,
     finding a like ingratitude in the State, openly makes war upon it,
     reduces it to his own terms, and rules it. He finds Timon dead.

_Timon of Athens_ is a play of mixed authorship. Shakespeare's share in
it is large and unmistakable; but much of it was written by an unknown
poet of whom we can decipher this, that he was a man of genius, a
skilled writer for the stage, and of a marked personality. It cannot
now be known how the collaboration was arranged. Either the unknown
collaborated with Shakespeare, or the unknown wrote the play and
Shakespeare revised it.

Ingratitude is one of the commonest forms of treachery. It is the form
that leads most quickly to the putting back of the world, because it
destroys generosity of mind. It creates in man the bitter and
destructive quality of misanthropy, or a destroying passion of revenge.
In this play the two authors show the different ways in which the human
mind may be turned to those bitter passions.

Apemantus is currish, because others are not. He has wit without
charity. Alcibiades makes war on his city because others have not the
rough-and-ready large practical justice of men used to knocks. He has a
large good humour without idealism. Timon, the great-natured, truly
generous man, whose mind is as beneficial as the sun, cannot be currish,
nor stoop to the baseness of revenge. Finding men base, he removes
himself from them, and ministers with bitter contempt to the baseness
that infects them. The flaming out of his anger against whatever is
parasitic in life makes the action of the last two acts. The exhibition
of the baseness of parasites and of the wrath of a noble mind
embittered, is contrived, varied and heightened with intense dramatic
energy. The character of Flavius, Timon's steward, his only friend,
shows again, as in so many of the plays, Shakespeare's deep sense of the
noble generosity in faithful service.

Some think the play gloomy, others that it is autobiography.
Shakespeare's completed work is never gloomy. A great mind working with
such a glory of energy cannot be gloomy. This generation is gloomy and
unimaginative in its conception of art. Shakespeare, reading the story
of Timon, saw in him an image of tragic destiny that would flood the
heart of even an ingrate with pity. Great poets have something more
difficult and more noble to do than to pin their hearts on their
sleeves for daws to peck at. Shakespeare wrought the figure of Timon
with as grave justice as he wrought Alcibiades. He wrought both from
something feeling within himself, as he wrought Cleopatra, and Macbeth,
and Sir Toby Belch. They are as much autobiographical, and as little, as
the hundred other passionate moods that built up the system of his soul.

The poetry of the play is that of the great late manner--

                       "will these moss'd trees,
    That have outlived the eagle, page thy heels,
    And skip when thou point'st out?"

    "Come not to me again: but say to Athens,
     Timon hath made his everlasting mansion
     Upon the beached verge of the salt flood:
     Who, once a day with his embossed froth
     The turbulent surge shall cover."

The final speech, spoken by Alcibiades after he has read the epitaph,
with which Timon goes down to death, like some hurt thing shrinking even
from the thought of passers, is one of the most lovely examples of the
power and variety of blank verse as a form of dramatic speech.

    _Alcib._ (reading) _Pass by and curse thy fill; but pass, and
    stay not here thy gait._

    These well express in thee thy latter spirits:
    Though thou abhorr'dst in us our human griefs,
    Scorned'st our brain's flow and those our droplets which
    From niggard nature fall, yet rich conceit
    Taught thee to make vast Neptune weep for aye
    On thy low grave, on faults forgiven. Dead
    Is noble Timon: of whose memory
    Hereafter more. Bring me into your city,
    And I will use the olive with my sword,
    Make war breed peace, make peace stint war, make each
    Prescribe to other as each other's leech.
    Let our drums strike.

_Pericles, Prince of Tyre._

     _Written._ 1607-8 (?)

     _Published._ 1608.

     _Source of the Plot._ The plot is taken from an English prose
     version of a Latin translation of a fifth century Greek romance.
     This version was published by Lawrence Twine, in the year 1576,
     under the name of _The Patterne of Paynfull Adventures_ (etc.,
     etc.). It was reprinted in 1607. An adaptation from the Latin story
     was made by John Gower for the eighth book of his _Confessio
     Amantis_. This adaptation was known to the authors of the play.

     _The Fable._ Act I. Pericles, Prince of Tyre, comes to Antioch to
     guess a riddle propounded by the King. If he guess rightly, he will
     be rewarded by the hand of the Princess in marriage. If he guess
     wrongly, he will be put to death. The riddle teaches him that the
     Princess is living incestuously with her father. He flies from
     Antioch to Tyre, and there takes ship to avoid the King's
     vengeance. Coming to Tarsus he relieves a famine by gifts of corn.

     Act II. He is wrecked near Pentapolis, recovers his armour, goes
     jousting at the King's court, wins the King's daughter Thaisa, and
     marries her.

     Act III. While bound for Tyre, Thaisa gives birth to a daughter,
     dies, and is thrown overboard. The body drifts ashore at Ephesus,
     and is restored to life by a physician. Thaisa, thinking Pericles
     dead, becomes a votaress at Diana's temple. Pericles leaves Marina,
     the newly born babe, in the care of the King and Queen of Tarsus.
     He then returns to Tyre.

     Act IV. The years pass. Marina grows up to such beauty and charm
     that she passes the Queen of Tarsus' own daughter. The Queen,
     deeply jealous for her own child, hires a murderer to kill Marina.
     Pirates surprise him in the act and carry off Marina to a brothel
     in Mitylene, from which she escapes. She becomes a singer and

     Act V. Pericles, wandering, by sea, to Mitylene, in great
     melancholy for the loss of wife and child, hears Marina sing. He
     learns that she is his daughter. The goddess Diana bids him go to
     her temple at Ephesus. He goes, and finds Thaisa. The play ends
     happily with the reuniting of the family.

The acts are opened by rhyming prologues designed to be spoken by John
Gower. The prologues to each of the three first acts are followed by
Dumb Shows, an invention of the theatre to explain those things not
easily to be shown in action. The prologues, the invention of the dumb
shows, and the first two acts, are not by Shakespeare. They are like the
poetical work of George Wilkins, who published a prose romance of _The
Painfull Adventures of Pericles Prince of Tyre_ in the year 1608,
probably after the play had been produced.

The construction of the last three acts makes it likely that the play
(in its original state) was by the constructor of the first two acts. It
is not known how it came to pass that Shakespeare took the play in hand.
From the comparative feebleness of his work upon it, it may be judged
that it was not a labour of love. The impression given is that nothing
in the piece is wrought with more than the mechanical power of the great
mind, that Shakespeare was not deeply interested in the play, but that
he re-wrote the last three acts so that his company might play the piece
and make money by it. The play has often succeeded on the stage, and the
knowledge that it would succeed may have weighed with the manager of a
theatre on which many depended for bread.

There is little that is precious in the play. The scenes in the brothel
at Mitylene (in Act IV) have power. Many find their unpleasantness an
excuse for saying that Shakespeare never wrote them. They are certainly
by Shakespeare. Cant would always persuade itself that the power to see
clearly ought not to be turned upon evil. Those who can read--

    _Bawd._ ... they are so pitifully sodden.

    _Pandar._ ... The poor Transylvanian is dead, that lay with the
    little baggage.

    _Boult._ Ay ... she made him roast-meat for worms--

with disgust at Shakespeare's foulness, yet without horror of heart that
the evil still goes on among human beings, must be strangely made. These
scenes, the very vigorous sea scenes, including the account of the storm
at sea, put into the mouth of Marina--

    "My father, as nurse said, did never fear,
     But cried 'Good seamen!' to the sailors, galling
     His kingly hands, haling ropes;
     And, clasping to the mast, endured a sea
     That almost burst the deck....
     Never was waves nor wind more violent:
     And from the ladder-tackle washes off
     A canvas-climber. 'Ha,' says one, 'wilt out?'
     And with a dropping industry they skip
     From stem to stern; the boatswain whistles, and
     The master calls and trebles their confusion"--

and the scene in which Cerimon, the man withdrawn from the world to
study the bettering of man, revives the body of Thaisa, are the most
lovely things in the play.


     _Written._ (?)

     _Published_, in the folio, 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ Holinshed's _Chronicles_ tell of Cymbeline
     and the Roman invasion. A story in Boccaccio's _Decameron_ (giorn.
     2, nov. ix) retold in English in Kinde Kit's _Westward for Smelts_,
     and popular in many forms and many literatures, tells of the woman
     falsely accused of adultery.

     _The Fable._ Cymbeline, King of Britain, has lost his two sons. His
     only remaining child, a daughter named Imogen, is married to
     Posthumus. His second wife, a cruel and scheming woman, plots to
     destroy Posthumus so that her son, the boorish Cloten, may marry

     Posthumus in Rome wagers with Iachimo that Imogen is of an
     incomparable chastity. Iachimo comes to England, and by a trick
     obtains evidence that convinces Posthumus that Imogen is unchaste.
     Imogen, cast off by her husband, comes to the mountains where
     Belarius rears Cymbeline's two lost sons. Cloten, pursuing her, is
     killed by one of the sons.

     The Romans land to exact tribute. The valour of Belarius and the
     two boys obtains a British victory. The Romans are vanquished.
     Cymbeline's queen kills herself. Posthumus is taught that Iachimo
     deceived him. Imogen is restored to him. The lost sons are restored
     to Cymbeline. Prophecy is fulfilled and pardon given. All ends

It seems possible that Cymbeline was begun as a tragedy during the great
mood of tragical creation, then laid aside unfinished, from some
failure in the vision, or change in the creative mood, and brought to an
end later in a new spirit, perhaps in another place, in the country,
away from the life which makes writing alive. It is the least perfect of
the later plays. The least soft of Shakespeare's critics calls it
"unresisting imbecility." It is perhaps the first composed of the
romantic plays with which Shakespeare ended his life's work.

Though the writing is so careless and the construction so loose that no
one can think of it as a finished play, it has dramatic scenes, one
faultless lyric, and many marks of beauty. It deals with the
Shakespearean subject of craft working upon a want of faith for personal
ends, and being defeated, when almost successful, by something simple
and instinctive in human nature. It is thus not unlike _Othello_; but in
_Othello_ the subject is simple, and the treatment purely tragic. In
_Cymbeline_ the subject is only partly extricated, and the treatment is
coloured with romance, with that strange, touching, very Shakespearean
romance, of the thing long lost beautifully recovered before the end,
so that the last years of the chief man in the play may be happy and
complete. The end of life would be as happy as the beginning if the dead
might be given back to us. Shakespeare had lost a child.

There can be no doubt that when the play was first conceived, the craft
of the queen, working upon the insufficient faith of Cymbeline, was
designed to be as important to the action as the craft of Iachimo
working upon the insufficient faith of Posthumus. This was never wrought
out. The play advances and halts. As in all unfinished works of art one
sees in it something fine trying to get free but failing.

The lyric "Fear no more the heat o' the sun" is the most lovely thing in
the play. The most powerful moment is that which exposes the poisoning
of a generous mind by false report. Posthumus believes Iachimo's lie and
breaks out railing against women.

                    "For there's no motion
    That tends to vice in man but I affirm
    It is the woman's part."

Noble instants are marked in the lines--

    "Be not, as in our fangled world, a garment
     Nobler than that it covers,"

and in the symbol of the eagle--

                         "the Roman eagle,
    From south to west on wing soaring aloft,
    Lessen'd herself and in the beams o' the sun
    So vanished."

_The Winter's Tale._

     _Written._ 1610-11.

     _Published_, in the first folio, 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ The story appears in Robert Greene's romance
     of _Pandosto_. Shakespeare greatly improves the fable by completing
     it. Greene ends it. Greene makes the story an accident with an
     unhappy end. Shakespeare makes it a vision of the working of fate
     with the tools of human passion.

     _The Fable._ Leontes, King of Sicilia, suspecting that his wife
     Hermione is guilty of adultery with Polixenes, King of Bohemia,
     tries her on that count. He causes her daughter to be carried to a
     desert place and there exposed.

     The oracle of Apollo declares to him that Hermione is innocent,
     that he himself is a jealous tyrant, and that he will die without
     an heir should he fail to recover the daughter lost. The truth of
     the oracle is confirmed by the (apparent) death of Hermione and the
     real death of Mamillius, his son. Repenting bitterly of his
     obsession of jealousy he goes into mourning.

     The little daughter is found by country people who nourish and
     cherish her. She grows up to beautiful and gracious girlhood.
     Florizel, the son of Polixenes, falls in love with her, and seeks
     to marry her without his father's knowledge. Being discovered by
     Polixenes, he flies with her to the sea. Taking ship, the couple
     come to Leontes' court, where it is proved that the girl is the
     lost princess. She is married to Florizel. Leontes is reconciled to
     Polixenes. Hermione completes the general happiness by rejoining
     the husband who has so long mourned her.

Dr. Simon Forman, the first critic of this play, made note to "remember"
two things in it, "how he sent to the orakell of Appollo," and "also the
rog that cam in all tottered like Coll Pipci." He drew from it this
moral lesson, that one should "Beware of trustinge feined beggars or
fawninge fellouse."

The moral lesson is still of value to the world, and it is most
certainly one which Shakespeare strove to impress. Shakespeare's mind
was always brooding on the working of fate. He was always watching the
results of some obsession upon an individual and the people connected
with him. He saw that a blindness falling upon a person suddenly, for no
apparent reason, except that something strikes the something not quite
sound in the nature, has the power to alter life violently. It was his
belief that life must not be altered violently. Life is a thing of
infinitely gradual growth, that would perfect itself if the blindness
could be kept away. Any deceiving thing, like a passion or a feigned
beggar, is a cause of the putting back of life, indefinitely.

In this play, he followed his usual practice, of showing the results of
a human blindness upon human destiny. The greater plays are studies of
treachery and self-betrayal. This play is a study of deceit and
self-deception. Leontes is deceived by his obsession, Polixenes by his
son, the country man by Autolycus, life, throughout, by art. In the last
great scene, life is mistaken for art. In the first great scene a true
friendship is mistaken for a false love.

It may be called the gentlest of Shakespeare's plays. It is done with a
tenderer hand than the other works. The name, _A Winter's Tale_, is
taken from a scene in the second act. Hermione sits down with her son,
by the winter fire, to listen to his story. It is the last time she ever
sees her son. He has hardly opened his lips when Leontes enters to
accuse her of adultery. She is hurried off to prison, and Mamillius dies
before the oracle's message comes to clear her. The sudden shocks and
interruptions of life, which play so big a part in the action of these
late romances, have full power here. The winter's tale is interrupted.
The rest of the play results from the interruption. Much of it is very
beautiful. To us, the wonderful thing is the strangeness of the
tenderness which makes some scenes in the fifth act so passionate with
grief for old injustice done to the dead. The cry of Leontes remembering
the wronged dead woman's eyes--

                  "Stars, stars,
    And all eyes else dead coals,"

is haunting and heart-breaking. All his longing of remorse gives to the
last great scene, before the supposed statue, an intensity of beauty
hardly endurable.

The passion of remorse is a romantic, not a tragic passion. It is the
mood which follows the tragic mood. Shakespeare's creative life is like
a Shakespearean play. It ends with an easing of the strain and a making
of peace.

It is said that an old horse near to death turns towards the pastures
where he was foaled. It is true of human beings. Man wanders home to the
fields which bred him. A part of the romance of this poem is the turning
back of the poet's mind to the Cotswold country, of which he sang so
magically, in his first play, sixteen or eighteen years before. There
are fine scenes of shepherds at home, among the sheep bells and clean
wind. There is a very lovely talk of flowers--

    That come before the swallow dares, and take
    The winds of March with beauty; violets dim,
    But sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes
    Or Cytherea's breath; pale primroses,
    That die unmarried, ere they can behold
    Bright Phoebus in his strength."

To Shakespeare, the magically happy man, the going back to them must
have been a time for thanksgiving. But to the supremely happy man all
times are times of thanksgiving, deep, tranquil and abundant, for the
delight, the majesty and the beauty of the fulness of the rolling world.

_The Tempest._

     _Written._ 1610-11.

     _Published_, in the folio, 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ It is likely that many sources contributed to
     the making of this plot. If Shakespeare took the fable from a
     single source, that source is not now known. He may have taken
     suggestions for it from the following books:--

     1st. From a little collection of novels by Antonio de Eslava, a
     Spanish writer, whose book, _Noches de Invierno_, was published in
     Barcelona in 1609. Three tales in this collection seem to have
     given hints for the play. The fourth chapter, about "The Art Magic
     of King Dardano," helped him more than the others. Whether the
     title of the book suggested the title of _A Winter's Tale_ is not

     2nd. From a German play, _Die schöne Sidea_, by a Nuremberg
     dramatist, named Jacob Ayrer.

     3rd. From the tracts relating to the discovery of the Bermuda
     Islands in 1609. Of the known tracts, _A Discovery of the Bermuda
     Islands_, by Sylvester Jourdain, gave Shakespeare the most hints.

     Several other books may have suggested lines and passages.

     _The Fable._ Prospero, Duke of Milan, having been driven from his
     dukedom by Antonio his brother, flies to sea with his daughter
     Miranda, lands on an island, and there lives, served by two
     creatures, one an airy spirit, the other a loutish monster.

     By art magic, he brings to the island his usurping brother and the
     king and heir of Naples. Miranda falls in love with the heir of
     Naples. Prospero dismisses his spirits, reconciles himself with his
     brother, and plans to sail at once for Milan.

In this play, as in the two other original romantic plays, Shakespeare
follows the workings of a treacherous act from its performance to the
repentance of the sinner and the granting of the victim's forgiveness.
In the great plays the victim dies and the sinner does not repent.
Presently the wheel comes full circle, and a justice from outside life
smites him dead. In these plays the betrayed live to forgive 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: they being penitent,
     The sole drift of my purpose doth extend
     Not a frown further."

In this play, as in the other two and in _Pericles_, much is made of the
chances and accidents of life, and of the sudden changes of worldly
circumstance due to them. In this play, for the first and last time,
Shakespeare treats of the power of the resolved imagination to command
the brutish, the base, the noble and the spiritual for wise human ends.

It is easy to interpret the play as allegory. Youth in this country has
reason to regard allegory as a clumsy man's way of introducing Sunday on
a weekday. It is so seldom successful that it may be called the literary
method of creative minds below the first rank. Shakespeare's method was
never allegorical. The _Tempest_ is perhaps no more allegorical than
any other good romance. But the thought of it is so clear that the first
impression given is that it is thin. It is the study of a man of
intellect, who has been forced from power by a treacherous brother.
Living alone with his bright, unspoiled daughter, he attains, by
intellectual labour, to a power over destiny. Like the wise man of the
proverb, he learns to master his stars. He uses this power nobly to put
an end to ancient hatred and old injustice.

The minor vision of the play is a study, often very amusing, but deeply
earnest, of the coming of the fifth part civilised to the mostly brutal.
In Shakespeare's time, men like the quite thoughtless and callous
Stephano and Trinculo, the "sea-dogs" who manned our ships, and of whom
Raleigh wrote that it was an offence to God to minister oaths to the
generality of them, were "spreading civilisation" in various parts of
the world. Shakespeare, looking at them gravely, saw them to be,
perhaps, more dangerous to the needs of life, to wisdom, and to unlit
animal strength than the base Sebastian and the treacherous Antonio.

The exquisite lyrics, and the masque of the goddesses, show that the
taste of the audience of 1610-11 needed to be tickled. Times had changed
since the lion-like and ramping days, eighteen years before, when
"Jeronimy" was a new word, and Tamora a serious invention. The man who
had changed the times was thinking, like Prospero, that he had "got his
dukedom," and that now, having "pardoned the deceiver," he might go to
Stratford to enjoy it.

_King Henry VIII_, or _All is True_.

     _Written._ 1611-13 (?)

     _Produced._ (?)

     _Published_, in the first folio, 1623.

     _Source of the Plot._ Holinshed's _Chronicles_. Hall's
     _Chronicles_. Foxe's _Book of Martyrs_.

     _The Fable._ Act I. Two of the scenes in this act are by
     Shakespeare. In the first, Cardinal Wolsey contrives the attainting
     of his enemy, the Duke of Buckingham. In the other he procures to
     bring Queen Katharine into disfavour.

     Act II. In this act, Buckingham is beheaded, the King shows favour
     to Anne Bullen, and Queen Katharine is brought to trial. It is hard
     to believe that Shakespeare wrote any part of this act. He is often
     credited with the third scene, apparently on the ground that though
     it is bad it is still too good to be by Bacon.

     Act III. In this act, the King shows Wolsey that he has discovered
     his plottings. About half of the second scene (all the masculine
     part of it) is by Shakespeare. The rest (very beautiful) is by

     Act IV. Anne Bullen is crowned. Wolsey dies. Queen Katharine dies.
     None of this act is by Shakespeare.

     Act V. Cranmer escapes from his enemies in time to be godfather at
     the christening of Anne Bullen's daughter Elizabeth. If any of this
     act be by Shakespeare it can only be the first scene.

Little of this play is by Shakespeare. The greater part of it is by John
Fletcher. Some scenes bear the marks of a third hand, like that of
Philip Massinger. The play reads as though the two lesser poets had
worked from a scenario of Shakespeare's less complete than the draft of
_Troilus and Cressida_. It is certain that they received no hint of the
lines on which Shakespeare meant to proceed after the end of Act III.
Not knowing what to do, they patched up a piece without any central
tragical idea, and hid their want of thought with much effective
theatrical invention, pageants, a trial, a coronation, a christening,
etc., and with bright, facile, vinous dialogue, of the kind that will
hold an uncritical audience. The play, when done, was mounted with
extreme splendour at the Globe Theatre. Wadding from the cannons
discharged in the first act set fire to the theatre, and burned it to
the ground, June 29, 1613.

Shakespeare's dramatic intention is indicated in the scenes written by
him. Knowing his practice, and having before us Holinshed, his
authority, it is easy to sketch out the kind of play that he would have
written by himself. Wolsey, eaten up by his obsession for worldly power,
betraying Buckingham to his fall, breaking the power of the Queen, and
ruling England, would have filled the first two acts. The third act
would have told (much more subtly than Fletcher has told) of his
downfall. Fletcher attributes the downfall to the chance discovery of
his attempt to thwart the king's marriage with Anne Bullen. That
discovery would have been put to full dramatic use by Shakespeare; but
it would have been represented as something working from beyond the
grave, the result of many unjust acts that have cried to God for justice
till God hears. The last acts would have exposed other sides of Wolsey's
character. The play would have been a fuller, nobler work than _Richard
II_, and of an ampler canvas than _Timon_. Shakespeare's share in the
play as we have it is all noble work. Wolsey, Katharine and the King are
drawn with the great, sharp, ample line of a master. The difference
between genius and supreme genius is shown very clearly in the first
act, where a great work, greatly begun, with the masterly power of
exposition that makes Shakespeare's first acts like daybreaks, is ended
by another spirit, without vision, but with a tremendous sense of Vanity


A play called _Cardenno_, or _Cardenna_, was acted at Court by
Shakespeare's company in 1613. It is thought that this play was the
_History of Cardenio_, described as "by Fletcher and Shakespeare," which
was licensed for publication in 1653 but never published. The play is
now lost. It was attributed to Fletcher and Shakespeare on very poor

_Arden of Feversham_ is a domestic tragedy founded on a story told by
Holinshed. It was published anonymously in 1592. It is held by some to
be an early work of Shakespeare's, on the ground that no other known
poet, then living, could have written it. It is a strong play, but it is
the work of a joyless mind. It bears no single trace of Shakespeare's
mind. It could not have been written by him at any stage in his career.

_Edward III_ is an historical chronicle play by at least two unknown
hands. It was published anonymously in 1596. Some think that part of Act
I and the whole of Act II (dealing with the King's obsession of passion
for the Countess of Salisbury) were by Shakespeare, on the grounds that
the writing is too good to be by anybody else then living, and that the
unknown author makes use of a line and a phrase which occur in the
genuine sonnets of Shakespeare. The scenes attributed to Shakespeare
contain several beautiful lines in something of the Shakespearean
manner. The construction of the scenes, and their relation to the rest
of the play is un-Shakespearean. It is unlikely that Shakespeare wrote

_The Spanish Tragedy_, a play by Thomas Kyd, published in 1592 and
reprinted with many additions ten years later, contains in the additions
several magnificent scenes of the passion of grief raised to madness.
Some think that Ben Jonson wrote these scenes; others, that they are too
good to be by any one but Shakespeare. They are not like Shakespeare's

_The Two Noble Kinsmen_, a romantic tragedy on the subject of Chaucer's
_Knight's Tale_, was first published in 1634. It was described on the
title-page as the joint work of Fletcher and Shakespeare. Shakespeare's
hand is plainly marked upon the play; but it seems likely that most of
the scenes usually credited to him are by Massinger. Few can have ears
dull enough to credit Shakespeare with all the scenes that are plainly
not by Fletcher.

About a dozen other plays and parts of plays have been attributed to
Shakespeare, either by lying publishers, anxious to make money, or by
foolish critics eager to make a noise. "Evil men understand not
judgment: and he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent."
There is not a glimmer of evidence in any line or scene to show that
Shakespeare had a hand in any of them.


_Venus and Adonis._--This poem was published in 1593 with a dedication
to the Earl of Southampton, then a youth. In the dedication Shakespeare
speaks of the poem as "the first heire of my invention," from which
some conclude that it was the first poem ever made public by him.

Though it may be his earliest poem, the thought expressed by it is the
thought expressed in the greatest of the plays, that evil comes of

Venus, a lustful woman, pursuing her opposite, a chaste youth, comes to
misery. Adonis, a chaste youth, fleeing from her, comes to death.

The poem is beautiful and wild blooded. It is fierce with the excelling
animal zest of something young and untainted.

    "The sun ariseth in his majesty
     Who doth the world so gloriously behold,
     That cedar-tops and hills seem burnish'd gold."

It is full of the images of delicate quick-blooded things going swiftly
and lustily from the boiling of the April in them.

       *       *       *       *       *

_The Rape of Lucrece._--This poem was published in 1594, with a
dedication to the Earl of Southampton. Like so many of the works of
Shakespeare, it describes at length the prompting, acting, and results
of a treachery inspired by an obsession. Tarquin, hearing of Lucrece's
chastity, longs to attempt her. Coming stealthily to her home, in her
lord's absence, he foully ravishes her. She kills herself and he is
banished from Rome. The subject is not unlike that of _Venus and
Adonis_, with the sexes reversed. In both poems the subject is sexual
obsession and its results.

_Lucrece_ is a wiser and a finer poem than _Venus and Adonis_. It is
constructed with the art of a man familiar with the theatre. The
delaying of the great moments so as to heighten the expectation, is
contrived with rapturous energy. The poem is heaped and overflowing with
the abundance of imaginative power. The wealth of the young man's mind
is poured out like life in June.

It is strange that both Lucrece and Hamlet, in their moments of
distraction, turn to the image of Troy blazing with the punishment of

_The Passionate Pilgrim._--This little collection of poems was published
in 1599, under Shakespeare's name, by William Jaggard, a dishonest
bookseller. It contains poems by Richard Barnfield, Bartholomew Griffin,
Christopher Marlowe, and one or more unknown hands. It also contains two
genuine Shakespearean sonnets, three more from the text of _Love's
Labour's Lost_, and three (less certainly his) on the subject of _Venus
and Adonis_, which have the ring of his freshest youthful manner.
Whether any others in the collection be by Shakespeare can only be a
matter of opinion. The nineteenth poem has a smack of his mind about it.
If it be by him it must be his earliest extant work.

       *       *       *       *       *

_The Sonnets._--_Written_ between 1592 and 1609. _Published_
(piratically) 1609.

These personal poems have puzzled many readers. Many writers have tried
to interpret them. Although their first editor tells us that they are
"serene, cleare, and elegantlie plaine (with) no intricate and cloudie
stuffe to trouble and perplex the intellect," much good and bad brain
work has been spent on them. Some have held that they are poetical
exercises. Others find that they are confessions. Others wrest from dark
lines dark meanings, till they have laid bare a story from them. Others
interpret spiritually. Others find evidence in them that Shakespeare was
guilty of an abnormal form of passion. The facts about them may be

     1. They are personal poems. Some of them are of great beauty;
     others are unsuccessful.

     2. They were written in many moods. Some were written in a mood of
     the intensest tranquil ecstasy, others in a fit of earthly passion,
     others in a trivial mood.

     3. They were written to more than one person. Many were written to
     an attractive, handsome, young, unmarried man, Shakespeare's dear
     friend. Men with imagination enjoy sweeter and closer friendships
     than the many know. The many, mulish as ever, therefore imagine

     4. Some of the sonnets were written to a woman, of the kind
     described in two or three of the plays, viz. a black-haired,
     black-eyed, white-faced, witty wanton, false to her marriage vows
     and the cause of similar falseness in Shakespeare himself, and in
     his friend.

     5. Many of them show that Shakespeare, loving this woman, against
     his better nature, was wilfully betrayed by her to all the devils
     of jealousy, craving and self-loathing, which follow the banner of
     lechery. Among the objects of the jealousy another poet figured.

No one knows who the friend, the lady and the rival poet were. The
discovery of letters and manuscripts may some day remove the mystery.
"Against that time, if ever that time come," men of intellect would do
well to accept the sonnets as beautiful poems, and try to write as good
ones to their wives.

Beautiful as many of the sonnets are, they are less wonderful
achievements and less important to the soul of man than the plays. Few
people thought much of them until the degradation of the English theatre
had hidden from English minds the greater glory of the creative system.
That they are now widely read while the plays are seldom acted, is
another proof that this age cares more for what was perishing and
personal in Shakespeare than for that which went winging on, in the
great light, surveying the eternal in man.

What Shakespeare thought of his perishing self is expressed in the
noblest of the sonnets. Two syllables are missing from the second line.

    "Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
     (   ) these rebel powers that thee array,
     Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
     Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?
     Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
     Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?
     Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,
     Eat up thy charge? is this thy body's end?
     Then, soul, live thou upon thy servant's loss,
     And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
     Buy terms divine with 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."

The sonnets were piratically published in a quarto volume in 1609. At
the end of the volume a narrative poem was printed, under the name _A
Lover's Complaint_. It tells in the first person the story of a girl who
has been seduced by a plausible villain. It is a work of Shakespeare's
youth, fresh and felicitous as youth's work often is, and very nearly
as empty.

       *       *       *       *       *

_The Phoenix and The Turtle._--This strange, very beautiful poem was
published in 1601 in an appendix to Robert Chester's _Love's Martyr, or
Rosalin's Complaint_, to which several famous poets contributed. In dark
and noble verse it describes a spiritual marriage, suddenly ended by
death. It is too strange to be the fruit of a human sorrow. It is the
work of a great mind trying to express in unusual symbols a thought too
subtle and too intense to be expressed in any other way. Spiritual
ecstasy is the only key to work of this kind. To the reader without that
key it can only be so many strange words set in a noble rhythm for no
apparent cause.

Poetry moves in many ways. It may glorify and make spiritual some action
of man, or it may give to thoughts such life as thoughts can have, an
intenser and stranger life than man knows, with forms that are not
human and a speech unintelligible to normal human moods. This poem gives
to a flock of thoughts about the passing of truth and beauty the mystery
and vitality of birds, who come from a far country, to fill the mind
with their crying.


Shakespeare's plays were printed carelessly, often from imperfect, torn,
ill-written or stolen copies. When printed, they were seldom corrected.
When reprinted, the original errors were often made much worse. Thus,
"he met the night-mare," or "a met the night-mare," in the original
manuscript, was printed "a nellthu night more," and reprinted "anelthu
night Moore." Those who lightly read the modern editions seldom know
that years of mental toil went to the preparation of the texts so easily
read to-day.

Many English minds have paid tribute to Shakespeare. Few of them deserve
more praise than the Cambridge Editors, whose six years of labour
cleared the text of countless errors and corruptions. The correction of
a corrupt text by collation and conjecture, is one of the most difficult
and least amusing tasks that a fine mind can have. The Cambridge
_Shakespeare_, the work of William George Clark and Dr. William Aldis
Wright, gives a text not likely to be improved until the poet's
corrected manuscripts are found.

The _Life of William Shakespeare_ has been ably written by Dr. Sidney
Lee, whose judgment equals his learning.

Some of the dramatic methods of Shakespeare have been nobly studied by
Dr. A. C. Bradley in his _Shakespearean Tragedy_.

To these books and to the Shakespearean Essays in Mr. W. B. Yeats's
_Ideas of Good and Evil_, I am deeply indebted, as all modern students
of Shakespeare must be.

Our knowledge of Shakespeare is imperfect. It can only be increased by
minute and patient study, by the rejection of surmise about him, and by
the constant public playing of his plays, in the Shakespearean manner,
by actors who will neither mutilate nor distort what the great mind
strove to make just.


Achilles, 169, 170

Adonis, 241, 242

Adriana, 46, 47

Ægeon, 44, 46, 49

Aguecheek, Sir Andrew, 139

Ajax, 169, 172

Albany, Duke of, 187, 190

Alcibiades, 214, 215, 217, 218

Angelo, 174, 175, 177, 196

Anne Bullen, 236, 237

Anne, Lady, 93, 100

Antipholus of Ephesus, 44, 46

Antipholus of Syracuse, 44

Antonio (_Merchant of Venice_), 103

Antonio (_Tempest_), 232, 235

Antonio (_Two Gentlemen of Verona_), 34

Apemantus, 215

Armado, 30, 31

Arthur, Prince, 75, 80, 83, 84

Audrey, 129

Austria, Lymoges, Duke of, 81

Autolycus, 228

Banquo, 195, 200

Bardolph, 122, 124, 125

Bassanio, 103

Beatrice, 133, 134, 136, 137

Beaufort, Cardinal, 51, 55, 57, 58, 59

Belarius, 223

Belch, Sir Toby, 82, 138, 139, 217

Benedick, 133, 134, 136

Bertram, 144, 145, 146

Bianca, 105, 108

Biondello, 107

Biron, 24, 25, 32, 36

Blanch of Spain, 75, 79

Borachio, 134, 135

Bottom, 63

Boyet, 30

Brutus, 149, 150, 154, 156

Buckingham, Duke of (_Richard III_), 94, 98, 99

Buckingham, Duke of (_Henry VIII_), 235, 237

Cade, Jack, 55, 57

Caius, Dr., 124, 125

Calchas, 169

Carlisle, Bishop of, 89, 92

Cassio, 180, 181, 183

Cassius, 149

Cawdor, 198

Celia, 128, 129

Cerimon, 222

Clarence, George, Duke of, 93, 94, 98, 100

Claudio (_Measure for Measure_), 174, 177, 178

Claudio (_Much Ado_), 133, 134, 135

Claudius (_Hamlet_), 157, 158, 160, 161, 163, 164, 165, 166

Cleopatra, 202, 203, 207, 217

Cloten, 223

Cordelia, 187, 188, 190, 192

Coriolanus, 196, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212

Cornwall, Duke of, 190

Costard, 30, 31

Cranmer, 236

Cressida, 169

Cymbeline, 223, 225

Demetrius, 63

Desdemona, 180, 181, 183, 184, 185

Diana (_All's Well_), 144

Diana (_Pericles_), 219, 220

Don John, 133, 134, 135

Don Pedro, 133, 134, 136

Dorset, Marquess of, 98

Dromio of Ephesus, 44

Dromio of Syracuse, 44, 46

Dumaine, 24, 32

Duncan, King, 154, 195, 198, 201

Edgar, 187, 190

Edmund, 187, 188, 189, 190, 192, 204

Edward III, 239

Edward IV, 93, 94

Edward, Prince of Wales (_Henry VI_), 62

Edward, Prince of Wales (_Richard III_), 99

Eglamour, 41

Elinor, Queen, 78

Elizabeth, wife of Edward IV, 94

Elizabeth, Princess, 236

Emilia, 183, 184

Evans, Sir Hugh, 124, 125

Falstaff, Sir John, 112, 113, 116, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126

Flavius, 216

Florizel, 227

Fluellen, 123

Fool (_Lear_), 192

Ford, Mistress, 124, 125

Fortinbras, 161

Frederick, Duke, 128, 129, 132

Friar Laurence, 68, 71, 74

Gertrude, Queen, 157, 158, 161, 165

Ghost (_Hamlet_), 158

Gloucester, Earl of, 187, 188, 189, 190

Gloucester, Humphrey, Duke of, 51, 55, 57, 58, 59

Gloucester, Richard, Duke of, (_Henry VI_), 61

Gloucester, Richard, Duke of, (_Richard III_), 93, 115

Goneril, 187, 189, 193

Grey, Lord, 98, 99

Hamlet, 158, 160, 162, 163, 164, 165, 166, 191, 196, 243

Hastings, Lord, 99

Hector, 169, 170

Helen, 171

Helena (_Midsummer Night's Dream_), 63

Helena (_All's Well_), 144, 145, 147

Henry IV, 109, 110, 111, 113, 114, 116

Henry V, 120, 121

Henry VI, 51, 52, 60, 61, 62

Henry VIII, 235, 236, 237, 238

Henry, Prince of Wales, 109, 111, 112, 114, 118

Henry Bolingbroke, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 92

Hermia, 63

Hermione, 226, 227, 229

Hero, 133, 134, 135

Hippolyta, 63

Hotspur, Henry Percy, surnamed, 109, 110, 111, 113, 114, 116, 119

Hubert de Burgh, 80, 83

Iachimo, 223, 225

Iago, 181, 182, 181, 185, 204, 211

Imogen, 223

Isabella, 174, 175

Jaques, 129, 131, 132

Joan of Arc, 51, 54

John, King of England, 75, 76, 77, 78, 80

John of Gaunt, 86, 89, 91

John of Lancaster, 114, 118

Julia, 34, 35, 39, 40, 42

Juliet, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71

Julius Cæsar, 149, 153, 154, 156, 196

Katharina, 106, 108

Katharine, 32

Katharine of France, 120

Katharine, Queen, 235, 236, 237, 238

Kent, 187, 190

Laertes, 158, 161

Launce, 42

Lear, King, 187, 188, 189, 190, 191, 193, 194

Lennox, 202

Leonato, 135, 136

Leontes, King of Sicilia, 226, 227, 228, 229

Lewis the Dauphin, 75, 79

Longaville, 24, 32

Lucio, 177,178

Lucrece, 243

Lysander, 63

Macbeth, 191, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 200, 202, 217

Macbeth, Lady, 195, 199, 200

Macduff, 195, 202

Malcolm, 195

Malvolio, 138, 139, 140, 141

Mamillius, 227, 229

Marcius, 208

Margaret of Anjou, 52, 55, 62, 94

Maria, 139

Mariana, 174, 175

Marina, 219, 220, 222

Mark Antony, 149, 191, 196, 202, 204, 206

Mercutio, 68, 70

Milan, Duke of, 34, 35, 38, 39

Miranda, 232

Mortimer, 53

Norfolk, Thomas Mowbray, Duke of, 86, 119

Northumberland, Henry Percy, Earl of, 114

Nurse to Juliet, 74

Nym, 123, 124

Oberon, 63

Octavia, 202

Octavius Cæsar, 149, 202, 203, 205

Olivia, 138, 140, 141

Oliver, 128, 129

Ophelia, 157, 158, 166

Orlando, 128, 129, 131

Orsino, 138, 139, 140, 141, 142

Othello, 180, 181, 182, 183, 186, 191, 196

Page, Anne, 124

Page, Mistress, 124

Pandarus, 169

Pandulph, Cardinal, 75

Paris, 68

Pericles, Prince of Tyre, 213, 219, 220

Petruchio, 105, 107

Phebe, 129, 132, 133

Philip the Bastard, 77, 78, 80, 82, 83

Philip of France, 75, 80

Pistol, 117, 122, 123, 124

Polixenes, King of Bohemia, 226, 227, 228

Polonius, 158, 161

Portia, 102, 103, 104, 132

Posthumus, 223, 225

Prospero, Duke of Milan, 232, 235

Proteus, 34, 35, 39, 40, 41

Puck, 63

Pyramus, 63

Queen (_Cymbeline_), 223, 225

Quickly, Mrs., 124

Regan, 187, 189

Richard II, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 92, 115, 119

Richard III, 93, 94, 96, 98, 99, 102, 211

Richard, Duke of York, 99

Rivers, Earl, 98, 99

Roderigo, 183

Romeo, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71

Rosalind, 128, 129, 132

Rosaline, 25, 31, 32, 69, 133

Salisbury, Countess of, 239

Scroop, Lord, 122

Sebastian (_Tempest_), 235

Sebastian (_Twelfth Night_), 138

Shallow, Justice, 82, 124

Shylock, 103, 104

Silvia, 34, 35, 38, 39, 41

Simpcox, 65, 59

Slender, Master, 124

Sly, Christopher, 105, 107

Somerset, Earl of, 51

Stephano, 234

Suffolk, Earl of, 52, 55, 57

Talbot, 51, 54

Tamora, 49, 50

Tarquin, 196, 243

Thaisa, 219, 220, 222

Thersites, 172

Theseus, 63, 66

Thisbe, 63

Thurio, 34, 35, 37, 38

Timon of Athens, 196, 209, 213, 214, 215, 216, 217, 218

Titania, 63

Titus Andronicus, 49, 50

Touchstone, 129

Trinculo, 234

Troilus, 169

Tybalt, 68, 70

Ulysses, 170

Ursula, 133

Valentine, 34, 35, 38, 39, 41

Venus, 241, 242

Vienna, Duke of, 174, 178

Viola, 138, 139, 141, 142

Warwick, Earl of, 59, 61

Wolsey, Cardinal, 196, 235, 236, 237, 238

York, Edmund of Langley, Duke of, 89, 92

York, Edward, Duke of, 61

York, Richard, Duke of, 51, 55, 57, 62

_Printed by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury._

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modern historian,"--_Christian World._ "One more illustration of the
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14. _THE PAPACY & MODERN TIMES_ (1303-1870)

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what it did for the world."--_The Spectator._ "It has all the lucidity
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_Literature and Art_


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wise."--_Manchester Guardian._


By G. H. MAIR, M.A. "Altogether a fresh and individual


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difficult tasks that a man of letters can undertake, and Mr Strachey is
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hundred and fifty small pages than he has given here."--_The Times._


By Prof. W. R. LETHABY. (Over forty Illustrations.) "Popular guide-books
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_And of all Bookshops and Bookstalls._

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note

Minor punctuation errors have been corrected without notice. Obvious
printer errors have been corrected, and are listed below.

For the chapter heading, "The Second Part of King Henry IV", the Table
of Contents lists it as "King Henry IV, Part II"; this was not changed.
In addition other inconsistencies are as in the original. The author's
spelling has been maintained.

Page 36: "obession is at the root" changed to "obsession is at the

Page 94: "great historical play" changed to "great historical plays".

Page 253: "Aegon" changed to "Ægeon".

Page 256: Index entry for page 133 of "Rosaline" was moved to

Page 256: Index entry for page 92 of "York, Edmund of Langley, Duke" was

Page 262: "Py Prof. R. Medola" changed to "By Prof. R. Medola".

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