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Title: Shakspere and Montaigne
 - An Endeavour to Explain the Tendency of 'Hamlet' from Allusions in Contemporary Works
Author: Feis, Jacob
Language: English
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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 "Shakspere and Montaigne
 - An Endeavour to Explain the Tendency of 'Hamlet' from Allusions in Contemporary Works" ***

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Editorial note: "Shakspere" is the spelling used by the author and
                therefore was not changed



SHAKSPERE AND MONTAIGNE

An Endeavour to Explain the Tendency of 'Hamlet'
from Allusions in Contemporary Works

BY JACOB FEIS



CONTENTS.

I.

INTRODUCTION

II.

THE BEGINNINGS OF THE ENGLISH DRAMA

THE STAGE A MEDIUM FOR POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS CONTROVERSIES

SHAKSPERE'S POLITICAL CREED

FLORIO'S TRANSLATION OF MONTAIGNE'S ESSAYS

III.

MONTAIGNE

IV.

HAMLET

V.

THE CONTROVERSY BETWEEN BEN JONSON AND DEKKER

MENTION OF A DISPUTE BETWEEN BEN JONSON AND SHAKSPERE
IN 'THE RETURN FROM PARNASSUS'

CHARACTERISTIC OF BEN JONSON

BEN JONSON'S HOSTILE ATTITUDE TOWARDS SHAKSPERE

DRAMATIC SKIRMISH BETWEEN BEN JONSON AND SHAKSPERE

BEN JONSON'S 'POETASTER'

DEKKER'S 'SATIROMASTIX'

VI.

'VOLPONE,' BY BEN JONSON

'EASTWARD HOE,' BY CHAPMAN, BEN JONSON, AND MARSTON

'THE MALCONTENT,' BY JOHN MARSTON



I.

INTRODUCTION.

It has always been a daring venture to attempt finding out Shakspere's
individuality, and the range of his  philosophical and political ideas,
from his poetical productions. We come nearest to his feelings in his
'Sonnets;' but only a few heavy sighs, as it were, from a time of
languish in his life can be heard therefrom. All the rest of those
lyrical effusions, in spite of the zealous exertions of commentators
full of delicate sentiment and of deep thought, remain an unsolved
secret.

In his historical dramas, a political creed has been pointed out, which,
with some degree of certainty, may be held to have been his. From his
other dramas, the most varied evidence has been drawn. A perfect maze of
contradictions has been read out of them; so much so that, on this
ground, we might almost despair of trustworthy results from further
inquiry.

The wildest and most incongruous theories have been founded upon 'Hamlet'
--the drama richest in philosophical contents. Over and over again men
have hoped to be able to ascertain, from this tragedy, the great
master's ideas about religion. It is well-nigh impossible to say how
often such attempts have been made, but the reward of the exertions
has always remained unsatisfactory. On the feelings which this masterwork
of dramatic art still excites to-day--nearly three hundred years after
its conception--thousands have based the most different conclusions;
every one being convinced of the correctness of his own impressions.
There is a special literature, composed of such rendering of personal
impressions which that most enigmatical of all dramas has made upon
men of various disposition. Every hypothesis finds its adherents among
a small group, whilst those who feel differently smile at the
infatuation of their antagonists. Nothing that could give true and final
satisfaction has yet been reached in this direction.

It is our intention to regard 'Hamlet' from a new point of view, which
seems to promise more success than the critical endeavours hitherto
made. We propose to enter upon a close investigation of a series of
circumstances, events, and personal relations of the poet, as well
as of certain indications contained in other dramatic works--all of
the period in which 'Hamlet' was written and brought into publicity.
This valuable material, properly arranged and put in its true connection,
will, we believe, furnish us with such firm and solid stepping-stones
as to allow us, on a perfectly trustworthy path, to approach the real
intentions of this philosophical tragedy. It has long ago been felt
that, in it, Shakspere has laid down his religious views. By the means
alluded to we will now explain that _credo_.

We believe we can successfully show that the tendency of 'Hamlet' is of
a controversial nature. In closely examining the innovations by which
the augmented second quarto edition [1](1604) distinguishes itself
from the first quarto, published the year before (1603), we find that
almost every one of these innovations is directed against the principles
of a new philosophical work--_The Essays of Michel Montaigne_--which
had appeared at that time in England, and which was brought out under
the high auspices of the foremost noblemen and protectors of literature
in this country.

From many hints in contemporary dramas, and from some clear passages in
'Hamlet' itself, it follows at the same time that the polemics carried
on by Shakspere in 'Hamlet' are in most intimate connection with a
controversy in which the public took a great interest, and which, in
the first years of the seventeenth century, was fought out with much
bitterness on the stage. The remarkable controversy is known, in
the literature of that age, under the designation of the dispute
between Ben Jonson and Dekker. A thorough examination of the dramas
referring to it shows that Shakspere was even more implicated in
this theatrical warfare than Dekker himself.

The latter wrote a satire entitled 'Satiromastix,' in which he replies
to Ben Jonson's coarse personal invectives with yet coarser abuse.
'Hamlet' was Shakspere's answer to the nagging hostilities of the
quarrelsome adversary, Ben Jonson, who belonged to the party which
had brought the philosophical work in question into publicity. And
the evident tendency of the innovations in the second quarto of
'Hamlet,' we make bold to say, convinces us that it must have been
far more Shakspere's object to oppose, in that masterly production
of his, the pernicious influence which the philosophy of the work
alluded to threatened to exercise on the better minds of his nation,
than to defend himself against the personal attacks of Ben Jonson.

The controversy itself is mentioned in 'Hamlet.' It is a disclosure
of the poet, which sheds a little ray of light into the darkness in
which his earthly walk is enveloped. The master, who otherwise is
so sparing with allusions as to his sphere of action, speaks [2]
bitter words against an 'aery of children' who were then 'in fashion,'
and were 'most tyrannically clapped for it.' We are further told that
these little eyases cry out on the top of the question and so berattle
the common stages (so they call them), that many, wearing rapiers,
are afraid of goose-quills, and dare scarce come thither.' The
'goose-quills' are, of course, the writers of the dramas played by
the 'little eyases.' We then learn 'that there was for a while no
money bid for argument' (Shakspere, we see, was not ashamed of honest
gain) 'unless the poet and the player went to cuffs in the question.'
Lastly, the reproach is made to the nation that it 'holds it no sin to
tarre them (the children) to controversy.' This satire is undoubtedly--all
commentators agree upon this point--directed against the performances of
the children who at that time flourished. The most popular of these
juvenile actors were the Children of Paul's, the Children of the Revels,
the Children of the Chapel Royal.

Shakspere's remarks, directed against these forward youngsters, may
appear to us to-day as of very secondary importance in the great drama.
To the poet, no doubt, it was not so. The words by which he alludes
to this episode in his life come from his very heart, and were written
for the purpose of reproving the conduct of the public in regard to
himself.

'Hamlet' was composed in the atmosphere of this literary feud, from
which we draw confirmatory proof that our theory stands on the solid
ground of historical fact.

Even should our endeavour to finally solve the great problem of
'Hamlet' be made in vain, we believe we shall at least have pointed
out a way on which others might be more successful. In contradistinction
to the manner hitherto in use of drawing conclusions from impressions
only, our own matter-of-fact attempt will have this advantage, that the
time spent in it will not be wholly wasted; for, in looking round on
the scene of that eventful century, we shall become more intimate with
its literature and the characters of Shakspere's contemporaries.

Before entering upon the theme itself, it is necessary to cast a rapid
glance at the condition of the dramatic art of that period.


 1: 'Enlarged to almost as much-againe as it was.'

 2: Act ii. sc. 2.



II.

THE BEGINNINGS OF THE ENGLISH DRAMA.

THE STAGE A MEDIUM FOR POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS CONTROVERSIES.

SHAKSPERE'S POLITICAL CREED.

FLORIO'S TRANSLATION OF MONTAIGNE'S ESSAYS.

Long before Shakspere, perhaps with fardel on his back, travelled to
London, the stage, not only in the capital, but in the whole country,
had begun to exercise its attractive power upon the people's imagination.

In the year 1586, a Protestant zealot, a soldier, [1] writes:--'When the
belles tole to the Lectorer, the trumpetts sound to the Stages, whareat
the wicked faction of Rome lawgeth for joy, while the godly weepe for
sorrowe. Woe is me! the play houses are pestered when the churches are
naked. At the one it is not possible to gett a place; at the other voyde
seates are plentie.... Yt is a wofull sight to see two hundred proude
players jett in their silks where five hundred pore people sterve
in the streets.'

Already in the reign of Henry VIII. a 'Master of the Revels' was required,
whose task it was to control the public representations and amusements.
Queen Elizabeth had to issue several special ordinances to define more
closely the functions, and provide with fresh power this office, which had
been created by her father.

Like all other great achievements of the English nation, the drama, too,
developed itself in this country unhampered by foreign influence. Its
rapid growth was owing to the free and energetic spirit of Englishmen,
to their love for public life. Every event which in some way attracted
public attention, furnished the material for a new ballad, or a new drama.

Among the dramatists of that time, there was a specially active group
of malcontents--men of culture, who had been at the colleges and
universities; such as Peel, Greene, Marlowe, Chapman, Marston, Ben
Jonson, and others. If we ask ourselves how it came about that these
disciples of erudition turned over to a calling so despised in their
days (for the dramatist, with few exceptions, was then mostly held
in as low a repute as the player), the cause will be found in the
peculiar circumstances of that epoch.

The revival of classical studies, and the art of printing, were, in
the hands of the peace-loving citizen, fresh means for strengthening
his position in the State. The handicraftsman or the merchant, who
had gained a small fortune, was no longer satisfied with the modest
prospects which he could offer to his talented son in an ordinary
workshop, or in his narrow store-rooms. Since Rome no longer
exercised her once all-powerful influence in every walk of life,
university men, owing to their superior education, saw before them
a brighter, a more hopeful, future.

In the sixteenth century the number of students in colleges and
at theuniversities increased in an astonishing degree, especially
from the middle classes. The sons of simple burghers entered upon
the contests of free, intellectual aspirations with a zeal mostly
absent in those whose position is already secured by birth. At Court,
no doubt, the feudal aristocracy were yet powerful indeed. They could
approach their sovereign according to their pleasure; influence him;
and procure, by artful intrigue, positions of dignity and useful
preferments for themselves and their favourites. Against these abuses
the written word, multiplied a thousandfold, was a new weapon. Whoever
could handle it properly, gained the esteem of his fellow-men; and a
means was at his disposal for earning a livelihood, however scanty.

Towards the middle and the end of the sixteenth century there were many
students and scholars possessing a great deal of erudition, but very
little means of subsistence. Nor were their prospects very encouraging.
They first went through that bitter experience, which, since then,
so many have made after them--that whoever seeks a home in the realm
of intellect runs the risk of losing the solid ground on which the
fruits for maintaining human life grow. The eye directed towards the
Parnassus is not the most apt to spy out the small tortuous paths of
daily gain. To get quick returns of interest, even though it be small,
from the capital of knowledge and learning, has always been, and still
is, a question of difficult solution.

These young scholars, grown to manhood in the Halls of Wisdom, were
unable, and even unwilling, to return to simple industrial pursuits,
or to the crafty tactics of commerce. Alienated from practical
activity, and too shy to take part in the harder struggles of life,
many of them rather contented themselves with a crust of bread, in
order to continue enjoying the 'dainties of a book.' The manlier and
bolder among them, dissatisfied with the prospect of such poor fare,
looked round and saw, in the hands of incapables, fat livings and
lucrative emoluments to which they, on account of their superior
culture, believed they had a better claim.

There were yet many State institutions which by no means corresponded
to the ideal gathered from Platon, Cicero, and other writers of
antiquity. Men began expressing these feelings of dissatisfaction
in ballads and pamphlets. Even as the many home and foreign products
of industry were distributed by commerce, so it was also the case with
these new products of the intellectual workshop, which were carried to
the most distant parts of the land. At the side of his other wares, the
pedlar, eager for profit, offered the new and much-desired achievements
of the Muse to the dwellers in the smallest village, in the loneliest
farm.

Moreover, the cunning stationers had their own men, to whom they lent
'a dossen groates worth of ballads.' If these hucksters--as Henry
Chettle relates--proved thrifty, they were advanced to the position
of 'prety (petty) chapman,' 'able to spred more pamphlets by the
State forbidden, then all the bookesellers in London; for only in
this Citie is straight search, abroad smale suspition, especially
of such petty pedlars.' [2]

Chettle speaks strongly against these 'intruders in the printings
misserie, by whome that excelent Art is not smally slandered, the
government of the State not a little blemished, nor Religion in the
least measure hindred.'

Besides the profit to be derived from the Press by the malcontent
travelling scholars, there was yet another way of acquiring the means
of sustenance and of making use of mental culture; and in it there
existed the further advantage of independence from grumbling
publishers. This was the Stage. For it no great preparations were
necessary, nor was any capital required. A few chairs, some boards;
in every barn there was room. Wherever one man was found who could
read, there were ten eager to listen.

A most characteristic drama, 'The Return from Parnassus,' depicts
some poor scholars who turn away from pitiless Cambridge, of which
one of them says--

  For had not Cambridge been to me unkind,
  I had not turn'd to gall a milky mind. [3]

After having long since completed their studies, they go to London
to seek for the most modest livelihood. Bitter experience had taught
these disciples of learning that the employment for which they waited
could only be gained by bribery; and bribe they certainly could not,
owing to their want of means. Some of them already show a true
Werther-like yearning for solitude:--

  We will be gone unto the downs of Kent....

  STUDIOSO.

  So shall we shun the company of men,
  That grows more hateful as the world grows old.
  We'll teach the murm'ring brooks in tears to flow,
  And sleepy rocks to wail our passed woe. [4]

Another utters sentiments of grief, coming near the words of despair
of Faust. There is a tone in them of what the Germans call
_Weltschmerz_:--

  Curs'd be our thoughts, whene'er they dream of hope,
  Bann'd be those haps that henceforth flatter us,
  When mischief dogs us still and still for aye,
  From our first birth until our burying day. [5]

In the difficult choice of a calling which is to save them from need
and misery, these beggar-students also think of the stage:--

  And must the basest trade yield us relief?

So Philomusus, in a woebegone tone, asks his comrade Studioso; and
the latter looks with the following envious words upon the players
whose prospects must have been brighter and more enticing than those
of the learned poor scholars:--

  England affords those glorious vagabonds,
  That carried erst their fardles on their backs,
  Coursers to ride on through the gazing streets,
  Sweeping it in their glaring satin suits,
  And pages to attend their masterships:
  With mouthing words that better wits have framed,
  They purchase lands, and now esquires are made. [6]

Shakspere, as well as Alleyn, bought land with the money earned by
their art. For many, the stage was the port of refuge to which they
fled from the lonely habitations of erudition, where they--

  ... sit now immur'd within their private cells,
  Drinking a long lank watching candle's smoke,
  Spending the marrow of their flow'ring age
  In fruitless poring on some worm-eat leaf. [7]

Many of these beggar students sought a livelihood by joining the
players. That which the poor scholar had read and learnt in books
old and new; all that he had heard from bold, adventurous warriors
and seamen returning from foreign lands or recently discovered
islands; in short, everything calculated to awaken interest and
applause among the great mass, was with feverish haste put on the
stage, and, in order to render it more palatable, mixed with a
goodly dose of broad humour.

The same irreconcilable spirit of the Reformation, which would not
tolerate any saint's image in the places of worship, also destroyed
the liking for Miracle Plays. The tendency of the time was to turn
away from mysteries and abstract notions, and to draw in art and
poetry nearer to real life. Where formerly 'Miracles and Moralities'
were the delight of men, and Biblical utterances, put in the mouth
of prophets and saints, served to edify the audience, there the wordy
warfare and the fisticuffs exchanged between the Mendicant Friar and
the Seller of Indulgences [8] or Pardoner, whose profane doings
were satirised on the stage, became now the subject of popular
enjoyment and laughter. Every question of the day was boldly handled,
and put in strong language, easily understood by the many, before
a grateful public of simple taste.

The drama, thus created anew, soon became the most popular amusement
in the whole country. Every other sport was forgotten over it. In
every market town, in every barn, a crowd of actors met. In those
days no philosophical hair-splitting was in vogue on the boards.
Everything was drawn from real life; a breath of freedom pervaded
all this exuberant geniality. That which a man felt to-day, tomorrow
he was able to communicate to his public. The spoken word was freer
than the printed one. The latter had to pass a kind of censorship; the
author and the publisher could be ascertained, and be made responsible.
But who would be so severe against an extemporised satirical hit,
uttered perhaps by a clown? Who would, for that sake, be the denouncing
traitor?

Yet it must not be thought that poets and players could do exactly as
they listed. They, too, had their enemies. More especially, the austere
Puritans were their bitter foes; they never ceased bringing their
influence to bear upon highly-placed persons, in order to check the
daring and forward doings of the stage, whose liberty they on every
occasion wished to see curtailed, and its excesses visited by
punishment. The ordinary players, if they did not possess licences
from at least two justices of the peace, might be prosecuted, in
accordance with an old law, as 'rogues and vagabonds,' and subjected
to very hard sentences. It was not so easy to proceed against the
better class of actors, who, with a view of escaping from the
chicanery which their calling rendered them liable to, had placed
themselves under the protection of the first noblemen, calling
themselves their 'servants.' An ordinance of the Privy Council was
required in order to bring actors who were thus protected, before
a court of justice.

Nevertheless, these restless people got into incessant conflicts with
the authorities. Actors would not allow themselves to be deprived of
the right of saying a word on matters of the State and the Church;
and what did occupy men's minds more than the victory of the
Reformation?

Already, in the year 1550, Cardinal Wolsey felt bound to cast an author,
Roo, [9] and 'a fellow-player, a young gentleman,' into prison, because
they had put a piece on the stage, the aim of which was to show that
'Lord Governaunce (Government) was ruled by Dissipation and Negligence,
by whose misgovernment and evil order Lady Public-Weal was put from
Governaunce; which caused Rumor-populi, Inward Grudge, and Disdain of
Wanton Sovereigntie to rise with a great multitude to expel Negligence
and Dissipation, and to restore Publike-weal again to her estate--which
was so done.'

The reproaches made to the bishops about the year 1544 prove, that the
stage had already long ago boldly ventured upon the territory of
religion, in order to imbue the masses with anti-ecclesiastical
tendencies. In this connection the following words of an actor,
addressed to the clerics, are most significant. 'None,' he says,
'leave ye unvexed and untroubled; no, not so much as the poor
minstrels and players of interludes. So long as they played lies
and sang bawdy songs, blaspheming God, and corrupting men's
consciences, ye never blamed them, but were very well contented;
but since they persuaded the people to worship the Lord aright,
according to His holy laws and not yours, ye never were pleased
with them.' [10]

The first Act of Parliament for 'the controul and regulation of stages
and dramatic representations' was passed in the reign of Henry VIII.
(1543). Its title is, 'An Act for the Advancement of True Religion
and the Punishment of the Contrary.'

In 1552 Edward VI. issued a further proclamation both in regard to the
stage and the sellers of prints and books; this time mainly from
political reasons.

Whilst poets and players under Henry VIII. and his youthful successor
could bring out, without hindrance, that which promoted their ideas of
'true religion,' they ran great risk, in the reign of Queen Mary, with
any Protestant tendencies; for, scarcely had this severe queen been a
month on the throne than she issued an ordinance (August 16, 1553)
forbidding such dramas and interludes as were calculated to spread the
principles and doctrines of the Reformation.

Under this sovereign, spectacles furthering the Roman Catholic cause
were of course favoured. On the other hand, it may be assumed that,
during the long and popular reign of Queen Elizabeth, Protestant
tendencies on the stage often passed the censorship, although from
the first years of her government there is an Act prohibiting any
drama in which State and Church affairs were treated, 'being no
meete matters to be written or treated upon but by men of authoritie,
nor to be handled before any audience, but of grave and discreete
persons.'

However, like all previous ordinances, proclamations, and Acts of
Parliament, this one also remained without effect. The dramatists
and the disciples of the mimic art continued busying themselves, in
their customary bold manner, with that which awakened the greatest
interest among the public at large; and one would think that at a
certain time they had become a little power in the State, against which
it was no longer possible to proceed in arbitrary fashion, but which,
on the contrary, had to be reckoned with.

Only such measures, it appears, were afterwards passed which were
calculated to harmonise the religious views uttered on the stage with
the tenets of the Established Church. This follows from a letter of Lord
Burleigh, addressed, in 1589, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, in which
he requests him to appoint 'some fytt person well learned in divinitie.'
The latter, together with the Master of the Revels and a person chosen
by the Lord Mayor of the City of London, were to form a kind of
Commission, which had to examine all pieces that were to be publicly
acted, and to give their approval.

It would be an error to believe that this threefold censorship had any
greater success than the former measures. The contrary was the case;
matters rather became worse. Actors were imprisoned; whereupon they
drew up beautiful petitions to their august protectors who brought
about their deliverance--that is, until they were once more clapped
into prison. Then they were threatened with having their ears and noses
cut off; [11] but still they would not hold their tongues. We know
from a letter of the French ambassador (1606)--who himself had several
times to ask at the Court of James I. for the prohibition of pieces in
which the Queen of France and Mademoiselle Verneuil, as well as the Duke
of Biron, were severely handled--that the bold expounders of the
dramatic art dared to bring their own king on the stage. Upon this
there came an ordinance forbidding all further theatrical representations
in London.

In the words of the French ambassador:--'I caused certain players to be
forbid from acting the history of the Duke of Biron. When, however,
they saw that the whole Court had left the town, they persisted in acting
it; nay, they brought upon the stage the Queen of France and Mademoiselle
de Verneuil.... He (the King) has upon this made order that no play shall
henceforth be acted in London; for the repeal of which order they (the
players) have offered 100,000 livres. Perhaps the permission will
be again granted, but upon condition that they represent no recent
history, nor speak of the present time.' [12]

From this sum--a very large one at that time--the importance of the
theatre of those days may be gathered.

The Corporation of the City of London was among those most hostile to
all theatrical representations. It exerted itself to the utmost in
order to render them impossible in the centre of the capital; issuing,
with that object, the most whimsical decrees. Trying, on their part,
to escape from the despotic restrictions, the various players'
companies settled down beyond the boundary of the Lord Mayor's
jurisdiction. The citizens of London, wishing to have their share
of an amusement which had become a national one, eagerly flocked
to Bankside, to Blackfriars, to Shoreditch, or across green fields
to the more distant Newington Butts.

Comparatively speaking, very little has come down to us from the
hey-day of the English drama. That which we possess is but an
exceedingly small portion of the productions of that epoch. Henslowe's
'Diary' tells us that a single theatre (Newington Butts) in about
two years (June 3, 1594, to July 18, 1596) brought out not less than
forty new pieces; and London, at that time, had already more than a
dozen play-houses. The dramas handed down to us are mostly purged
of those passages which threatened to give offence in print.
The dramatists did not mean to write books. When they went to the
press at all, they often excused themselves that 'scenes invented
merely to be spoken, should be inforcibly published to be read.'
They were well aware that this could not afford to the reader the
same pleasure he felt 'when it was presented with the soule
of living action.' [13]

The stage was the forum of the people, on which everything was expressed
that created interest amidst a great nation rising to new life. The
path towards political freedom of speech was not yet opened in
Parliament; and of our important safety-valve of to-day, the public
press, there was yet only the first vestige, in the shape of pamphlets
secretly hawked about. The stage as rapidly decayed as it had grown,
when the chief interest on which it had thriven for a while--namely,
the representation of affairs of public interest--obtained more practical
expression in other spheres. In the meantime, however, it remained the
platform on which everything could be subjected to the criticism and
jurisdiction of public opinion.

In Chettle's 'Kind-Harte's Dreame' (1592) the proprietor of a house of
evil fame concludes his speech with reproaches against actors on
account of their spoiling his trade; 'for no sooner have we a tricke
of deceipt, but they make it common, singing jigs, and making jeasts
of us, that everie boy can point out our houses as they passe by.'
Again, in Ben Jonson's 'Poetaster,' we read that 'your courtier cannot
kiss his mistress's slippers in quiet for them; nor your white innocent
gallant pawn his revelling suit to make his punk a supper;' or that
'an honest, decayed commander cannot skelder, cheat, nor be seen in a
bawdy house, but he shall be straight in one of their wormwood comedies.'
[14]

Not less boldly than social affairs were political matters treated; but
in order to avoid a prosecution, these questions had to be cautiously
approached in parable fashion. Never was greater cleverness shown
in this respect than at Shakspere's time. Every poet, every statesman,
or otherwise highly-placed person, was 'heckled' under an allegorical
name--a circumstance which at present makes it rather difficult for us
to fully fathom the meaning of certain dramatic productions.

In order to attract the crowd, the stage-poets had to present their
dishes with the condiments of actual life; thus studying more the
taste of the guests than showing that of the cook. Prologues and
Epilogues always appealed more to the public at large as the highest
judge; its verdict alone was held to be the decisive one.
Manuscripts--the property of companies whose interest it was not
to make them generally known in print--were continually altered
according to circumstances. Guided by the impressions of the public,
authors struck out what had been badly received; whilst passages
that had earned applause, remained as the encouraging and deciding
factor for the future.

At one time dramas were written almost with the same rapidity as leading
articles are to-day. Even as our journalists do in the press, so the
dramatists of that period carried on their debates about certain
questions of the day on the stage. In language the most passionate,
authors fell upon each other--a practice for which we have to thank them,
in so far as we thereby gain matter-of-fact points for a correct
understanding of 'Hamlet.'

In the last but one decennium of the sixteenth century, the first
dramatists arose who pursued fixed literary tendencies. Often their
compositions are mere exercises of style after Greek or Roman models
which never became popular on the Thames. The taste of the English
people does not bear with strange exotic manners for any length of
time. It is lost labour to plant palm-trees where oaks only can thrive.
Lily and others endeavoured to gain the applause of the mass by words
of finely-distilled fragrance, to which no coarse grain, no breath
or the native atmosphere clung. A fruitless beginning, as little
destined to succeed as the exertions of those who tried to shine by
pedantic learning and hollow glittering words.

Marlowe's powerful imagination attempts marshalling the whole world, in
his booth of theatrical boards, after the rhythm of drumming
decasyllabon and bragging blank-verse. In his dramas, great conquerors
pass the frontiers of kingdoms with the same ease with which one steps
over the border of a carpet. The people's fancy willingly follows
the bold poet. In the short space of three hours he makes his
'Faust' [15] live through four-and-twenty years, in order 'to conquer,
with sweet pleasure, despair.' The earth becomes too small for this
dramatist. Heaven and Hell, God and the Devil, have to respond to
his inquiries. Like some of his colleagues, Marlowe is a sceptic:
he calls Moses a 'conjurer and seducer of the people,' and boasts
that, if he were to try, he would succeed in establishing a
better religion than the one he sees around himself. The apostle of
these high thoughts, not yet thirty years old, breathed his last,
in consequence of a duel in a house of evil repute.

Another hopeful disciple of lyric and dramatic poetry and prose-writer,
Robert Greene, once full of similar free-thinking ideas, lay on his
deathbed at the age of thirty-two, after a life of dissipation.
Thence he writes to his forsaken wife:--

'All my wrongs muster themselves about me; every evill at once plagues
me. For my contempt of God, I am contemned of men; for my swearing and
forswearing, no man will believe me; for my gluttony, I suffer hunger;
for my drunkenesse, thirst; for my adulterie, ulcerous sores. Thus God
has cast me downe, that I might be humbled; and punished me, for
examples of others' sinne.'

Greene offers his own wretched end to his colleagues as a warning
example; admonishing them to employ their 'rare wits in more profitable
courses;' to look repentingly on the past; to leave off profane
practices, and not 'to spend their wits in making plaies.' He
especially warns them against actors--because these, it seems, had
given him up. His rancorous spite against them he expresses in the
well-known words:--'Yes, trust them not: for there is an upstart
Crow, beautified with our feathers, that _with his Tygers heart
wrapt in a Players hide_, supposes he is as well able to bumbast
out a blank verse as the best of you; and being an absolute _Johannes
Fac-totum_, is in his owne conceit the onely 'SHAKE-SCENE in a
countrie.'

This satirical point, directed, without doubt, against Shakspere, is
the only thing reliable which, down to the year 1592, we know of his
dramatic activity. He had then been only about four years in London.
Yet he must already have wielded considerable authority, seeing that
he is publicly, though with sneering arrogance, called a complete
Johannes Fac-totum--a man who has laid himself out in every direction.

It is the divine mission of a genius to bring order out of chaos, to
regulate matters with the directing force of his superior glance.
Certainly, Shakspere, from the very beginning of his activity, sought,
with all the energy of his power, to rule out all ignoble, anarchical
elements from the stage, and thus to obtain for it the sympathies of
the best of his time. Fate so willed it, that one of the greatest
minds which Heaven ever gave to mankind, entered, on this occasion,
the modest door of a playhouse, as if Providence had intended showing
that a generous activity can effect noble results everywhere, and
that the most despised calling (such, still, was that of the actors
then) can produce most excellent fruits.

Shakspere's life is a beneficial harmony between will and deed; no
attempt to draw down Heaven to Earth, or to raise up Earth to Heaven.
His are rather the ways and manners peculiar to a people which likes
to adapt itself to given circumstances, to make use of the existing
practical good, in order to produce from it that which is better.

It is an ascertained fact that Shakspere, who had received some training
at school--but no University education--began, at the age of twenty-four,
to arrange the pieces of other writers, to make modest additions to
them; in short, to render them fit and proper for stage purposes. This
may have been one of the causes why Greene dubbed him a 'Johannes
Fac-totum.' Others, too, have accused him, during his lifetime, of
'application' (plagiarism), because he took his subjects mostly from
other authors. Among those who so charged him, were, as we shall show,
more especially Ben Jonson and Marston.

Shakspere never allowed himself to be induced by these reproaches to
change his mode of working. Down to his death it remained the same.
Is his merit, on that account, a lesser one? Certainly not: in the
Poetical Art, in the Realm of Feeling and Thought, there are no
regular boundary-stones. No author has the right to say: 'Thou must
not step into the circle drawn by me; thou hast to do thy work wholly
outside of it!'

An author who so expresses an idea, or so describes a situation as to
fix it most powerfully in men's imagination, is to be looked upon as
the true owner or creator of the image: to him belongs the crown.
The Greeks reckoned it to be the highest merit of the masters of
their plastic art when they retained the great traits with which their
predecessors had invested a conception; only endeavouring to better
those parts in which a lesser success had been achieved--until that
section of the work, too, had attained the highest degree of
perfection. Thus arose the Jupiter of Pheidias, a Venus of Milo, an
Apollo of Belvedere. Thus the noblest ideal of beauty as created,
and in this wise the Greek national epic became the model of all
kindred poetry.

There is a most characteristic fact which shows how greatly the drama
had risen in universal esteem after Shakspere had devoted to it twelve
years of his life. It is this. The Corporation of the City of London,
once so hostile to all theatrical representations, and which had used
every possible chicanery against the stage, had become so friendly to it
towards the year 1600, that, when it was asked from governmental
quarters to enforce a certain decree which had been launched against
the theatre, it refused to comply with the request. On the contrary,
the Lord Mayor, as well as the other magistrates, held it to be an
injustice towards the actors that the Privy Council gave a hearing
to the charges brought forward by the Puritans. Truly, the feelings
of this conservative Corporation, as well of a large number of those
who once looked down upon the stage with the greatest contempt,
must, in the meanwhile, have undergone a great change.

Unquestionably the Company of the Lord Chamberlain--which in summer
gave its masterly representations in the Globe Theatre, beyond the
Thames, and in winter in Black-Friars--had been the chief agency
in working that change. The first noblemen, the Queen herself, greatly
enjoyed the pieces which Shakspere, in fact, wrote for that society;
but the public at large were not less delighted with them.

When, the day after such a representation, conversation arose in the
family circle as to the three happy hours passed in the theatre, an
opportunity was given for discussing the most important events of the
past and the present. The people's history had not yet been written
then. Solitary events only had been loosely marked down in dry folios.
The stage now brought telling historical facts in vivid colours before
the eye. The powerful speeches of high and mighty lords, of learned
bishops, and of kings were heard--of exalted persons, all different
in character, but all moved, like other mortals, by various passions,
and driven by a series of circumstances to definite actions. It was
felt that they, too, were subject to a certain spirit of the time,
the tendency of which, if the poet was attentively listened to, could
be plainly gathered. In this way conclusions might be drawn which shed
light even upon the events of the present.

True, it was forbidden to bring questions of the State and of religion
upon the stage. But has Shakspere really avoided treating upon them?

Richard Simpson has successfully shown that Shakspere, in his historical
plays, carried on a political discussion easily understood by his
contemporaries. [16] The maxims thus enunciated by the poet have been
ascertained by that penetrating critic in such a manner that the results
obtained can scarcely be subjected to doubt any more.

On comparing the older plays and chronicles of which the poet made use
for his historical dramas, with the creations that arose on this basis
under his powerful hand, one sees that he suppresses certain tendencies
of the subject-matter before him, placing others in their stead.
Taking fully into account all the artistic technicalities calculated to
produce a strong dramatic effect, we still find that he has evidently
made a number of changes with the clear and most persistent intention
of touching upon political questions of his time.

If, for instance, Shakspere's 'King John' is compared with the old play,
'The Troublesome Raigne,' and with the chronicles from which (but more
especially from the former piece) the poet has drawn the plan of
his dramatic action, it will be seen that very definite political
tendencies of what he had before him were suppressed. New ones are
put in their place. Shakspere makes his 'King John' go through two
different, wholly unhistorical struggles: _one against a foe at
home, who contests the King's legitimate right; the other against
Romanists who think it a sacred duty to overthrow the heretic_.
These were not the feuds with which the King John of history had to
contend.

But the daughter from the unhappy marriage of Henry VIII. and the
faithless Anne Boleyn--Queen Elizabeth--had, during her whole lifetime,
to contend against rebels who held Mary Stuart to be the legitimate
successor; and it was Queen Elizabeth who had always to remain armed
against a confederacy of enemies who, encouraged by the Pope, made war
upon the 'heretic' on the throne of England.

Thus, in the Globe Theatre, questions of the State were discussed; and
politics had their distinct place there. Yet who would enforce the rules
of censorship upon such language as this:--

  This England never did, and never shall,
  Lie at the proud feet of a Conqueror
  But when it first did help to wound itself.
  ... Nought shall make us rue
  If England to herself do rest but true?

Such thoughts were not taken from any old chronicle, but came from the
very soul of the age that had gained the great victory over the Armada.
They emphasized a newly-acquired independent position, which could only
be maintained by united strength against a foreign foe.

Even as 'King John,' so all the other historical plays contain a clearly
provable political tendency. Not everything done by the great queen met
with applause among the people. Dissatisfaction was felt at the
prominence of personal favourites, who made much abuse of commercial
monopolies granted to them. The burdens of taxation had become heavier
than in former times. In 'Richard the Second' a king is produced,
who by his misgovernment and by his maintenance of selfish favourites
loses his crown.

Shakspere's sympathies are with a prince whom Nature has formed into a
strong ruler; and such an aristocrat of the intellect is depicted in his
'Henry the Fifth.' In this ideal of a king, all the good national
qualities attain their apotheosis. This hero combines strength of
character with justice and bravery. With great severity he examines
his own conscience before proceeding to any action, however small.
War he makes with all possible humanity, and only for the furtherance
of civilisation. Nothing is more hated by Shakspere than a government
of weak hands. From such an unfortunate cause came the Wars of the
Two Roses. It seems that, in order to bring this fact home to the
understanding of the people, Shakspere put the sanguinary struggles
between the Houses of York and Lancaster on the stage. (See Epilogue
of 'King Henry the Fifth.')

More strongly even than in his plays referring to English history, the
deep aversion he felt to divided dominion pierces through his Roman
tragedies; for in Shakspere the aristocratic vein was not less developed
than in Goethe. To him, too, the multitude--

  ...This common body,
  Like to a vagabond flag upon the stream,
  Goes to, and back, lackeying the varying tide
  To rot itself with motion. [17]

As in politics, so also in the domain of religion (of all things the
most important to his contemporaries), Shakspere has made his
profession of faith. For its elucidation we believe we possess a
means not less sure than that which Richard Simpson has made use of
for fixing the political maxims of the great master.

'Hamlet' first appeared in a quarto edition of the year 1603. The
little book thus announces itself:--

'The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke, By William
Shakespeare. As it hath been diverse times acted by his Highnesse
servants in the Cittie of London: as also in the two Vniversities
of Cambridge & Oxford, and elsewhere.'

This drama is different, in most essential traits, from the piece we
now possess, which came out a year later (1604), also in quarto edition.
The title of the latter is:--

'The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. By William
Shakespeare, Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much-againe as
it was, according to the true & perfect coppie.'

The most diverse hypotheses have been started as to the relation between
the older 'Hamlet' and the later  one. [18] We share the view of those
who maintain that the first quarto edition was a rough-draught, advanced
to a certain degree, and for which the poet, as is the case with so many
of his other plays, had used an older play as a kind of model. A
'rough-draught advanced to a certain degree' may be explained as a
piece already produced on the stage. The public, always eager to
see novelties, allowed the dramatists little time for fully working out
their conceptions. The plays matured, as it were, on the stage itself;
there they received their final shape and completion. As mentioned
before, that which had displeased was struck out, whilst the passages
that had obtained applause were often augmented, in order to confer
upon the play the attraction of novelty. 'Enlarged to almost as
much-againe as it was' is an expression which shows that 'Hamlet' had
drawn from the very beginning. The poet, thereby encouraged, then worked
out this drama into the powerful, comprehensive tragedy which we now
possess.

Now, in closely examining the changes and additions made in the second
'Hamlet,' we find that most of the freshly added philosophical thoughts,
and many characteristic peculiarities, have clear reference to the
philosophy of a certain book and the character of its author--namely,
to Michel Montaigne and his 'Essais.' This work first appeared in an
English translation in 1603, after it had already been entered at
Stationers' Hall for publication in 1599. The cause which may have
induced Shakspere to confer upon his 'Hamlet' the thoughts and
the peculiarities of Montaigne, and to give that play the shape in which
we now have it, will become apparent when we have to explain the
controversy between Jonson and Dekker. We have thus the advantage
over Simpson's method, that our theory will be confirmed from other
sources.

Montaigne's 'Essais' were a work which made a strong mark, and created
a deep sensation, in his own country. There, it had already gone through
twelve editions before it was introduced in England--eleven years after
the death of its author--by means of a translation. Here it found its
first admirers among the highest aristocracy and the patrons of
literature and art. Under such august auspices it penetrated into
the English public at large. The translator was a well-known teacher
of the Italian language, John Florio.

From the preface of the first book of the 'Essais' we learn that,
at the request of Sir Edward Wotton, Florio had first Englished one
chapter, doing it in the house of Lady Bedford, a great lover of art.
In that preface, Florio, in most extravagant and euphuistic style,
describes how this noblewoman, after having 'dayned to read it (the
first chapter) without pitty of my fasting, my fainting, my
laboring, my langishing, my gasping for some breath ... yet commaunded
me on'--namely, to turn the whole work into English. It was a heavy
task for the poor schoolmaster. He says:--'I sweat, I wept, and I went
on sea-tosst, weather-beaten ... shippe-wrackt--almost drowned.'
'I say not,' the polite maestro adds, 'you took pleasure at shore'
(as those in this author, iii. 1). No; my lady was 'unmercifull,
but not so cruell;' she ever and anon upheld his courage, bringing
'to my succour the forces of two deare friends.' One of them
was Theodore Diodati, tutor of Lady Bedford's brother, the eldest
son of Lady Harrington whose husband also was a poet.

The grateful Florio calls this worthy colleague, 'Diodati as in name,
so indeed God's gift to me,' and a 'guide-fish' who in this
'rockie-rough ocean' helped him to capture the 'Whale'--that is,
Montaigne. He also compares him to a 'bonus genius sent to
me, as the good angel to Raimond in "Tasso," for my assistant to
combat this great Argante.'

The other welcome fellow-worker was 'Maister Doctor Guinne;' according
to Florio, 'in this perilous, crook't passage a monster-quelling
Theseus or Herkules;' aye, in his eyes the best orator, poet,
philosopher, and medical man (_non so se meglior oratore e poeta,
o philosopho e medico_), and well versed in Greek, Latin, Italian,
and French poetry. It was he who succeeded in tracing the many
passages from classic and modern writers which are strewn all over
Montaigne's Essays to the divers authors, and the several places
where they occur, so as to properly classify them.

Samuel Daniel, a well-known and much respected poet of that time, and a
brother-in-law of Florio, also made his contribution. He opens this
powerful, highly important work with a eulogistic poem. Florio, in his
bombastic style, says:--'I, in this, serve but as Vulcan to hatchet
this Minerva from that Jupiter's bigge braine.' He calls himself 'a
fondling foster-father, having transported it from France to England,
put it in English clothes, taught it to talke our tongue, though many
times with a jerke of French jargon.'

The 'Essais' consist of three different books. Each of them is
dedicated to two noblewomen, the foremost of this country. The
first book isdedicated to Lucy, Countess of Bedford, and her mother,
Lady Anne Harrington. The second to Elizabeth, Countess of Rutland,
daughter of the famous poet Sir Philip Sidney, therefore a near
relation of Shakspere's youthful friend, William Herbert, the later
Earl of Pembroke ('the only begetter' of the 'Sonnets'), whose mother
also was a daughter of that much-admired poet.

The second book is dedicated to the renowned as well as evilly notorious
Lady Penelope Rich, sister of the unfortunate Earl of Essex. She shone
by her extraordinary beauty as well as by her intellectual gifts. Of
her Sir Philip Sidney was madly enamoured, but she married a Croesus,
Lord Rich. This union was a most unhappy one. Her husband, a man far
below her in strength of mind, did not know how to value the jewel
that had come into his possession. A crowd of admirers flocked around
her, among whom was William Herbert, much younger in years than herself.
It is suspected that Shakspere's last sonnets (127-152) touch upon
this connection, with the object of warning the friend against the
true character of that sinful woman.

The last book is dedicated to Lady Elizabeth Grey, the wife of Henry
Grey, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury, and to Lady Mary Nevill,
the latter being the daughter of the Chancellor of the Exchequer,
and wife of Sir Henry Nevill of Abergavenny.

Each of the noblewomen mentioned is praised in a sonnet. No book of
that period had such a number of aristocratic sponsors. Yet it was
of foreign origin, and for the first time a French philosopher had
appeared in an English version on this side of the Channel. His easy,
chatty tone must have created no small sensation. The welcome given
to him by a great number of men is proved by the fact of the 'Essais'
soon reaching their third edition, a rare occurrence with a book so
expensive as this. [19]

We will endeavour to sketch the character of Michel Montaigne and his
writings. His individuality, owing to the minute descriptions he gives
of his own self in the Essays, comes out with rare distinctness from
the dark environs of his time--more clearly so than the personality
of any other author, even of that seventeenth century which is so much
nearer to us.

This French nobleman devoted the last thirty years of his life to
philosophical speculations, if that expression is allowable; for
fanciful inclination and changing sentiment, far more than strict
logic and sound common sense, decided the direction of his thoughts.
The book in which he tries to render his ideas is meant to be the
flesh and blood of his own self. The work and the author--so he
says--are to be one. 'He who touches one of them, attacks both.'
In the words of Florio's translation, he observes:--'Authors communicate
themselves unto the world by some speciall and strange marke, I the
first by my generall disposition as Michael Montaigne; not as a
Grammarian, or a Poet, or a Lawyer.'

Few writers have been considered from such different points of view as
Montaigne. The most passionate controversies have arisen about him.
Theologians have endeavoured to make him one of their own; but the
more far seeing ones soon perceived that there was too much scepticism
in his work. Some sceptics would fain attach him to their own ranks;
but the more consistent among them declined the companionship of one
who was too bigoted for them. The great mass of men, as usual, plucked,
according to each one's taste and fancy, some blossom or leaf from his
'nosegay of strange flowers,' [20] and then classified him from that
casual selection.

Montaigne, a friend of truth, admonishes posterity, if it would judge
him, to do so truthfully and justly. With gladsome heart, he says,
he would come back from the other world in order to give the lie to
those who describe him different from what he is, 'even if it were
done to his honour.'

We shall strive to comply with his wish by drawing the picture of this
most interesting, and in his intellectual features thoroughly modern,
man, from the contours furnished by his own hand. We shall exert
ourselves to lay stress on those characteristics by which he must
have created most surprise among his logically more consistent
contemporaries on the other side of the Channel.

In taking up Montaigne's 'Essais' for perusal we are presently under
the spell of a feeling as though we were listening to the words of a
most versatile man of the world, in whom we become more and more
interested. We find in him not only an amiable representative of the
upper classes, but also a man who has deeply entered into the spirit
of classic antiquity. Soon he convinces us that he is honestly
searching after truth; that he pursues the noble aim of placing
himself in harmony with God and the world. Does he succeed in this?
Does he arrive at a clear conclusion? What are the fruits of his
thoughts? what his teachings? In what relation did he stand to his
century?

As in no other epoch, men had, especially those who came out into the
fierce light of publicity, to take sides in party warfare during the
much-agitated time of the Reformation. To which party did Montaigne
belong? Was he one of the Humanists, who, averse to all antiquated
dogmas, preached a new doctrine, which was to bring mankind once more
into unison with the long despised laws of Nature?

We hope to show successfully that Shakspere wrote his 'Hamlet' for
the great and noble object of warning his contemporaries against the
disturbing inconsistencies of the philosophy of Montaigne who preached
the rights of Nature, whilst yet clinging to dogmatic tenets which
cannot be reconciled with those rights.

We hope to prove that Shakspere who made it his task 'to hold the mirror
up to Nature,' and who, like none before him, caught up her innermost
secrets, rendering them with the chastest expression; that Shakspere,
who denied in few but impressive words the vitality of any art or
culture which uses means not consistent with the intentions of Nature:

  Yet Nature is made better by no mean,
  But Nature makes that mean; so o'er that art
  Which, you say, adds to Nature, is an art
  That Nature makes; [21]--

we hope to prove successfully that Shakspere, this true apostle of
Nature, held it to be sufficient, ay, most godly, to be a champion
of 'natural things;' that he advocated a true and simple obedience
to her laws, and a renunciation of all transcendental dogmas,
miscalled 'holy and reverent,' which domineer over human nature,
and hinder the free development of its nobler faculties.

Let us then impartially examine the character and the work of Montaigne.
If we discover contradictions in both, we shall not endeavour to argue
them away, but present them with matter-of-fact fidelity; for it is
on those very contradictions that the enigmatic, as yet unexplained,
character of Hamlet reposes.


 1: Collier's _Drama_, i. 265.

 2: _Kind-hartes Dreame_, 1592.

 3: Act v. sc. 4.

 4: Act v sc. 4.

 5: Act iii sc. 5.

 6: _The Return from Parnassus_, act v. sc. I.

 7: _Ibid._, act iv. sc. 3.

 8: _The Pardoner and the Friar_: 1533.

 9: Collier's _Drama_, i. 104.

10: _The Political Use of the Stage in Shakspere's Time_.
  New Shakspere Society: 1874, ii. p. 371.
    Henry Stalbrydge, _Epistle Exhortatory_, &c.: 1544.

11: This threat was uttered against Chapman, Ben Jonson, and Marston
  on account of _Eastward Hoe_.

12: Von Raumer, ii. p. 219.

13: Marston's _Malcontent_: Dedication.

14: Act i. sc. I.

15: It is very characteristic that, in this serious piece also, low
  humour was still largely employed. In printing--the publisher
  remarks--the passages in question were left out, as derogatory 'to
  so honourable and stately a history.'

16: _The Politics of Shakspere's Historical Plays_. New
  Shakspere Society, ii. 1874.

17: _Antonius and Cleopatra_, act i. sc. 4.

18: We mean the usually received text, seeing that the folio edition
  of 1623 contains some passages which are wanting in the quarto
  edition, and _vice versâ_.

19: Montaigne's _Essays_, which were published in folio, may have
  had the same price as Shakspere's folio of 1623. The latter was only
  re-issued in 1632 and 1664, whilst the former came out in new
  editions in 1613 and 1632.

20: 'Icy un amas de fleur estrangieres, n'y ayant fourny du mien
  que le filet à les lier' (iii. 12).

21: _Winter's Tale_, act iv. sc. 3.



III.

MONTAIGNE.

Michel Montaigne was favoured by birth as few writers have been. He
was the son of a worthy nobleman who gave him, from early childhood, a
most carefully conducted education. He never tires in praising
the good qualities of his father, who had followed Francis I. to his
Italian campaigns, and, like that monarch, had conceived a preference
for those classical studies which were then again reviving. Even as
his king, he, too, wished to promote the new knowledge, and was bent
upon so initiating young Michel into it as to make him in the fullest
manner conversant with the conquests of Greece and Rome in the realm
of intellect.

In this, as a practical man who felt the greatest respect for erudition
without personally possessing a proper share of it, he allowed himself
to be thoroughly guided by 'men of learning and judgment.' He had been
told that the only reason why we do not 'attain to the greatness
of soul and intellect of the ancient Greeks and Romans was the length of
time we give to learning these languages which cost them nothing.' In
bringing up the boy, to whom the best masters were given, the procedures
chosen were therefore such that young Michel, in his sixth year, spoke
Latin thoroughly before he was able to converse in his own mother-tongue.

Montaigne relates [1] that he was much more at home on the banks of the
Tiber than on the Seine. Before he knew the Louvre, his mind's eye
rested on the Forum and the Capitol. He boasts of having always been
more occupied with the life and the qualities of Lucullus, of Metellus,
and Scipio, than with the fate of any of his own countrymen. Of the
hey-day of classic Rome he, who otherwise uses such measured terms,
speaks with a glowing enthusiasm. He often avers that he belongs to
no special school of thought; that he advocates no theory; that he is
not the adherent of any party or sect. To him--so he asserts--an
unprejudiced examination of all knowledge is sufficient. His endeavour
was, to prove the devise of his escutcheon: 'Que sçais-je?'

Have the humanistic studies not given to him, as to so many of his
contemporaries, a distinctive mental bent? Have Greek and Roman
philosophy and poetry remained without any influence upon him? Has
his character not been formed by them? Does he not once reckon himself
among 'nous autres naturalistes?' [2]

Once only, it is true, he does this; but even if he who would not belong
to any special school of thought, and who would rather be 'a good
equerry than a logician,' [3] had not ascribed to himself this
designation, a hundred passages of his work would bear witness to
the fact of his having been one of the Humanists, on whose banner
'Nature' was written as the parole. Ever and anon he says (I here
direct attention more specially to his last Essays) that we ought
willingly to follow her prescriptions; and incessantly he asserts
that, in doing so, we cannot err. He designates her as a guide as
mild as she is just, whose footprints, blurred over as they are by
artificial ones, we ought everywhere to trace anew. 'Is it not folly,'
he asks with Seneca, [4] 'to bend the body this way, and the mind that
way, and thus to stand distorted between two movements utterly at
variance with each other?'

To bring up and to guide man in accordance with his capacities, is
with him a supreme law. 'Le glorieux chef-d'oeuvre de l'homme,
c'est de vivre a propos.' He, the sage, is already so much in advance
of his century that he yearns for laws and religions which are not
arbitrarily founded, but drawn from the roots and the buds of a
universal Reason, contained in every person not degenerate or
divorced from nature _desnature_. A mass of passages in the
Essays strengthen the opinion that Montaigne was an upright,
noble-minded Humanist, a disciple of free thought, who wished to
fathom human nature, and was anxious to help in delivering mankind
from the fetters of manifold superstitions. Read his Essay on Education;
and the conviction will force itself upon you that in many things he
was far in advance of his time.

But now to the reverse of the medal--to Montaigne as the adherent of
Romanist dogmas!

'The bond,' he says--and here we quote Florio's translation, [5] only
slightly changed into modern orthography--'which should bind our
judgment, tie our will, enforce and join our souls to our Creator,
should be a bond taking his doublings and forces, not from our
considerations, reasons, and passions, but from a divine and
supernatural compulsion, having but one form; one countenance, and
one grace; which is the authority and grace of God.' The latter, be
it well understood, are to Montaigne identical with the Church of
Rome, to which he thinks it best blindly to submit.

Men--he observes--who make bold to sit in judgment upon their judges,
are never faithful and obedient to them. As a warning example he points
to England, which, since his birth, had already three or four times
changed its laws, not only in matters political, in which constancy is
not insisted upon, but in the most important matter imaginable--namely,
in religion. He declares himself all the more ashamed of, and vexed by,
this, as his own family were allied by close private ties with the
English nation.

An attempt has been made to show [6] that in Montaigne's 'Apologie
de Raymond Sebond,' in which he expounds his theological opinions
in the most explicit manner, a hidden attack is contained upon the
Church. But it bespeaks an utter misconception of the character of
this writer to hold him capable of such perfidious craftiness; for
he calls it 'a cowardly and servile humour if a man disguises and
hides his thoughts under a mask, not daring to let himself be seen
under his true aspect.' [7]

We know of not a few, especially Italian, Humanists who publicly
made a deep bow before the altar, whilst behind it they cynically
laughed, in company with their friends; making sport of the silly
crowd that knelt down in profound reverence. Montaigne was no such
double-dealer. We can fully believe him when he states that it is to
him no small satisfaction and pleasure to 'have been preserved from
the contagion of so corrupt an age; to have never brought affliction
and ruin upon any person; not to have felt a desire for vengeance,
or any envy; nor to have become a defaulter to his word.' [8]

His word, his honour, were to him the most sacred treasure. He never
would have descended so low as to fling them to the winds. Let us,
therefore, not endeavour to deny any logical inconsistencies in his
writings--inconsistencies which many other men since his time have
equally shown. Let us rather institute a strict and close inquiry
into these two modes of thought of his, which, contradictory as they
are, yet make up his very character and individuality.

We can fully believe in Montaigne's sincerity when elsewhere he asserts
that we must not travel away from the paths marked down by the Roman
Catholic Church, lest we should be driven about helplessly and aimlessly
on the unbounded sea of human opinions. He tells us [9] that 'he, too,
had neglected the observance of certain ceremonies of the Church,
which seemed to him somewhat vain and strange; but that, when he
communicated on that subject with learned men, he found that these
things had a very massive and solid foundation, and that it is only
silliness and ignorance which make us receive them with less reverence
than the other doctrines of religion.' Hence he concludes that we must
put ourselves wholly under the protection of ecclesiastical authority,
or completely break with it.

He never made a single step to withdraw himself from that authority.
He rather prides himself on having never allowed himself, by any
philosophy, to be turned away from his first and natural sic
opinions, and from the condition in which God had placed him; being
well aware of his own variability _volubilité_. 'Thus I have,
by the grace of God, remained wholly attached, without internal
agitation and troubles of conscience, to the ancient beliefs of our
religion, during the conflict of so many sects and party divisions
which our century has produced.' [10]

Receiving the holy Host, he breathed his last.

In the 'Apologie de Raymond Sebond,' Montaigne defends the 'Theologia
Naturalis' of the latter--a book in which the author, who was a medical
man, a philosopher, and a theologian, endeavours to prove that the Roman
Catholic dogmas are in harmony with the laws of nature. That which is
to be received in full faith, Sebond exerts himself to make
comprehensible by arguments of the reason. This book--so Montaigne
relates--had been given to his father, at the time when Luther's new
doctrines began to be popular, by a man of great reputation for
learning, Pierre Bunel, who 'well foresaw, by his penetration, [11]
that this budding disease would easily degenerate into an execrable
atheism.' Old Pierre Montaigne, a very pious man, esteemed this work
very highly; and a few days before his death, having fortunately found
it among a lot of neglected papers, commanded his son to translate it
from 'that kind of Spanish jargon with Latin endings,' in which it
was written.

Michel, with filial piety, fulfilled his task. He translated the work,
and in the above-mentioned Essay--the largest of the series--he
advocates its philosophy. The essence of this panegyric of the Church
(for logic would in vain be sought for in that Essay) is: that
knowledge and curiosity are simply plagues of mankind, and that the
Roman Catholic religion, therefore, with great wisdom, recommends
ignorance. Man would be most likely to attain happiness if, like
the animal, he were to allow himself to be guided by his simple
instinct. All philosophising is declared to be of no use. Faith only
is said to afford security to the weakest of all beings, to man, who
more than any other creature is exposed to the most manifold dangers.
No elephant, no whale, or crocodile, was required to overcome him who
proudly calls himself the 'lord of creation.' 'Little lice are
sufficient to make Sylla give up his dictatorship. The heart and the
life of a mighty and triumphant emperor form but the breakfast of a
little worm.' [12] (Compare 'Hamlet,' iv. 3).

Montaigne, who, in his thirty-eighth year, 'long weary of the bondage
of Court and of public employment, while yet in the vigour of life,
hath withdrawn himself into the bosom of the Learned Virgins (Doctarum
Virginum),' [13] so as to be able to spend the rest of his days in
his ancestral home, in peaceful, undisturbed devotion to ennobling
studies, and to present the world with a new book, in which he means
to give expression to his innermost thoughts--Montaigne, in his Essay
'On Prayers,' calls his writings 'rhapsodies,' which he submits
to the judgment of the Church, so that it may deal with anything he,
'either ignorantly or unadvisedly, may have set down contrary to the
sacred decrees, and repugnant to the holy prescriptions of the Catholic,
Apostolic, and Roman Church, wherein I die, and in which I was born.'

Let us not dwell too long on the contradictions of a man who professes
to think independently, and who yet is content with having a
mind-cramping dogmatic creed imposed upon him. Let us look at a few
other, not less irreconcilable, inconsistencies of his logic.

Montaigne, the Humanist, advocates toleration. Justice, he says, is
to be done to every party, to every opinion. 'Men are different in
feeling and in strength; they must be directed to their good, according
to themselves, and by diverse ways.' [14] He bears no grudge to anyone
of heterodox faith; he feels no indignation against those who differ
from him in ideas. The ties of universal humanity he values more than
those of national connection. He has some good words for the Mexicans,
so cruelly persecuted by the Spaniards. 'I hold all men to be my
compatriots; I feel the same love for a Pole as for a Frenchman.' [15]

But when we read what the Roman Catholic Montaigne writes, there is a
different tone:--

'Now that which, methinks, brings so much disorder into our
consciences--namely, in these troubles of religion in which we are--is
the easy way with which Catholics treat their faith. They suppose they
show themselves properly moderate and skilful when they yield to
their adversaries some of the articles that are under debate.
But--besides that they do not see what an advantage it is to your
antagonist if you once begin making a concession, thus encouraging
him to follow up his point--it may further be said that the articles
which they choose as apparently the lightest, are sometimes most
important indeed.' [16]

Again, the humane nobleman who looks with pity and kindliness upon
'the poor, toiling with heads bent, in their hard work;' he who calls
the application of the torture 'a trial of patience rather than of
truth'--he maintains that 'the public weal requires that one should
commit treachery, use falsehoods, and perform massacres.' [17]
Personally, he shrinks from such a mission. His softer heart is not
strong enough for these deeds. He relates [18] that he 'never could
see without displeasure an innocent and defenceless beast pursued
and killed, from which we have received no offence at all.' He is
moved by the aspect of 'the hart when it is embossed and out of
breath, and, finding its strength gone, has no other resource left
but to yield itself up to us who pursue it, asking for mercy from us by
its tears. He calls this 'a deplorable spectacle.'

Yet, this sentimental nobleman advocates the commission of treachery
and cruelty, in the interest of the State, by certain more energetic,
less timorous men. Nor does he define their functions so as to raise a
bar against a second St. Bartholomew massacre. A deed of this kind he
would submissively take to be an act of Heaven, shirking all
responsibility for, or discussion of, anything that 'begins to molest
him.' He merely says:--'Like those ancients who sacrificed their lives
for the welfare of their country, so they (the guardians of the State)
must be ready to sacrifice their honour and their conscience. We who
are weaker, take easier, less risky parts.' [19]

In Montaigne, the Humanist, we read that beautiful passage (in his last
Essay [20]) where he says that 'those who would go beyond human nature,
trying to transform themselves into angels, only make beasts of
themselves.' [21] Yet, elsewhere [22] he writes that he shall be
exalted, who, renouncing his own natural means, allows himself to be
guided by means purely celestial--by which he clearly understands
the dogmas of Roman Catholicism.

As a humanistic thinker, Montaigne fears nothing more than any strivings
after transcendentalism. Such yearnings terrify him like inaccessible
heights. In the life of Sokrates, of that sage for whom he felt a special
preference, the 'ecstasies and daimons' greatly repel him. Nevertheless,
Montaigne, the mystic, attributes a great magic power to such daimons;
for he says: 'I, too, have sometimes felt within myself an image of such
internal agitations, as weak in the light of reason as they were violent
in instinctive persuasion or dissuasion (a state of mind more ordinary to
Sokrates), by which I have so profitably, and so happily, suffered myself
to be drawn on, that these mental agitations might perhaps be thought to
contain something of divine inspiration.' [23]

Montaigne, the admirer of classic antiquity, says that serving the
Commonwealth is the most honourable calling. [24] Acts without some
splendour of freedom have, in his eyes, neither grace, nor do they merit
being honoured. [25] But elsewhere [26] we come upon his other view,
less imbued with the spirit of antiquity--namely, that 'man alone,
without other help, armed only with his own weapons, and unprovided with
the grace and knowledge of God, in which all his honour, his strength,
and the whole ground of his being are contained,' is a sorry specimen of
force indeed. His own reason gives him no advantage over other
creatures; the Church alone confers this privilege upon him!

During several years, Montaigne was Mayor of Bordeaux. With great
modesty, he relates [27] that in his mere passive conduct lay
whatever little merit he may have had in serving his town. This
fully harmonises with the view expressed in his last but one Essay,
in which he declares that we are to be blamed for not sufficiently
trusting in Heaven; expecting from ourselves more than behoves us:
'Therefore do our designs so often miscarry. Heaven is envious of
the large extent which we attribute to the rights of human wisdom,
to the prejudice of its own rights; and it curtails ours all the
more that we endeavour to enlarge them.' [28]

Montaigne by no means ignores the troublous character of the times
in which he lived. He often alludes to it. He thinks astrologers cannot
have any great difficulty in presaging changes and revolutions near at
hand:--'Their prophetic indications are practically in our very
midst, and most palpable; one need not search the Heavens for that.'

'Cast we our eyes about us' (here again we follow Florio's translation),
'and in a generall survay consider all the world: all is tottring;
_all is out of frame_. Take a perfect view of all great states,
both in Christendome and where ever else we have knowledge of, and
in all places you shall finde a most evident threatning of change
and ruine ... Astrologers may spout themselves, with warning us,
as they doe of iminent alterations and succeeding revolutions: their
divinations are present and palpable, we need not prie into the
heavens to find them out.' [29]

But Montaigne, always resigned to the will of God, inactively stands by.
Not even a manly counsel comes from his lips. He believes he has
fulfilled his Christian duty by trusting in Heaven for the conduct
of human affairs, and trying to comfort his fellow-men by the hollow
words that he 'sees no cause for despair. Perchance we have not yet
arrived at the last stage. The maintenance of states is most probably
something that goes beyond our powers of understanding.' [30]

Montaigne, the Humanist, says that 'it is an absolute perfection, and,
as it were, a divine accomplishment for a man to know how to loyally
enjoy his existence.' The most commendable life for him is 'that which
adapts itself, in an orderly way, to a common human model, without
miracle, and without extravagance.' [31]

But Montaigne, the Christian, relates that he has 'never occupied
himself with anything more than with ideas of death, even at the most
licentious time of his youth.' With touching ingenuousness he confesses
his weaknesses and his vanities, of which he scarcely dares to think any
longer. The descriptions he often gives of himself--such as, 'a dreamer'
(_songe-creux_), 'soft' (_molle_), 'heavy' (_poisante_), 'pensive,' and so
forth [32]--prove that he cannot have arrived at a pure enjoyment of
life. He questions the happiness of being a husband and father. We
shall touch upon his views as regards woman, and many other peculiarities
of his, in the passages of 'Hamlet' referring to them.

In nothing does Montaigne arrive at any clear conclusion within himself.
Though he knows how to speak much and well about everything, it is all
mere _bel esprit_, a display of glittering words, hollow verbiage,
which only lands us in a labyrinth of contradictions, from which we
seek an issue as vainly as the author himself. Striving, through all his
life, to arrive at a knowledge of himself, he at last lays down his arms,
considering the attempt a fruitless and impossible task, and, in his last
Essay, [33] he makes this avowal:--

'That which in Perseus, the King of Macedon, was remarked as a rare
thing--viz. that his mind, not settling down into any kind of condition,
went wandering through every manner of life, thus showing such flighty
and erratic conduct that neither he nor others knew what sort of man he
was: this seems to me to apply nearly to the whole world, and more
especially to one of that ilk whom this description would eminently fit.
This, indeed, is what I believe of him (he speaks of himself):--"No
average attitude; being always driven from one extreme to the other by
indivinable chances; no manner of course without cross-runnings and
marvellous controversies; no clear and plain faculty, so that the
likeliest idea that could one day be put forth about him will be this:
that he affected and laboured to make himself known by the
impossibility of really knowing him" ('qu'il affectoit et estudioit
de se rendre cogneu par estre mecognoissable').' This is Montaigne
all over.

In the British Museum there is a copy of the Essays of Montaigne, in
Florio's translation, with Shakspere's name, it is alleged, written
in it by his own hand, and with notes which possibly may in part have
been jotted down by him. Sir Frederick Madden, one of the greatest
authorities in autographs, has recognised Shakspere's autograph as
genuine. [34] Whatever disputes may be carried on on this particular
point, we think we shall be able to prove that Shakspere about the year
1600 must have been well acquainted with Montaigne. We shall show
that in the first text of 'Hamlet,' which, it is assumed, was
represented on the stage between 1601 and 1602, there are already
to be found some allusions to Montaigne, especially as far as the
middle of the second and towards the end of the fifth act. In all
likelihood, Shakspere knew the 'Essais' even in the original French
text or perhaps from the manuscript of the translation which, as
above stated, had been begun towards the year 1599; for Shakspere,
it is to be supposed, had access to the houses of, at least, two
of the noble ladies to whom the Italian teacher dedicated his
translation.

In the 'Tempest,' assumed to be of later date than 'Hamlet,' there is
a passage unmistakably taken from Florio's version of Montaigne. [35]

Ben Jonson, the most quarrelsome and the chief adversary of Shakspere,
was an intimate friend of Florio. When Montaigne, in 'Hamlet'--as
Jonson says--became the target of 'railing rhetoric,' the latter
took sides with Florio and his colleagues; launching out against
Shakspere in his comedy, 'Volpone.' This play, as well as an
Introduction in which it is dedicated to the two Universities, gives
us a clue to a great many things otherwise difficult to understand.

A new book, especially a philosophical work like that of Michel
Montaigne, was then still a remarkable event. [36] To counteract the
pernicious influence which the frivolous, foreign talker threatened to
exercise, in large circles, through an English translation--this, in
our opinion, was the object which Shakspere had when touching upon
ground interdicted, as a rule, to the stage--namely, upon questions of
religion. We shall find that it was not through any preference for ghost
and murder scenes that, a year after the second quarto, in 1605,
'Hamlet' was reprinted--a circumstance occurring with but one other
drama of Shakspere; which testifies that this particular play attained
great popularity from its first appearance. [37]

A very instructive insight into the intellectual movement of the great
Reformation epoch here opens itself to us. In this case, also, we shall
gain the conviction that a true genius takes the liveliest interest in
the fate of his own nation, and does not occupy himself with distant,
abstruse problems (such as fussy metaphysicians would fain philosophise
into 'Hamlet'), whilst the times are going out of joint. The greatest
Englishman remained, in the most powerful drama of his, within the
sphere of the questions that agitated his time. In 'Hamlet' he
identifies Montaigne's philosophy with madness; branding it as a
pernicious one, as contrary to the intellectual conquests his own
English nation has made, when breaking with the Romanist dogmas.

What sense of duty do Montaigne's Essays promote? What noble deed can
ripen in the light of the disordered and discordant ideas they contain?
All they can do is, to disturb the mind, not to clear it; to give rise
to doubts, not to solve them; to nip the buds from which great actions
may spring, not to develop them. Instead of furthering the love for
mankind, they can only produce despair as to all higher aims and ideals.

In 'Hamlet,' Shakspere personified many qualities of the complex
character of Montaigne. Before all, he meant to draw this conclusion:
that whoever approaches a high task of life with such wavering
thoughts and such logical inconsistencies, must needs suffer
shipwreck. Hamlet's character has only remained an enigma to us for
so long a time because he is flesh of our flesh, blood of our blood;
'but, to knew a man well, were to know himself.'


 1: Essay III. 9.

 2: Essay III. 12, 235.

 3: _Ibid_. 9.

 4: Essay III. 13 (_Edition Variorum_, par Charles Louandre,
   Paris; which we always refer to).

 5: The _Essayes, or Morall, Politike, and Millitarie Discourses_
   of Lo. Michaell de Montaigne, London, 1603, p. 256.

 6: Sainte-Beuve.

 7: Essay II. 17, p. 71.

 8: III. 2, 330.

 9: Essay I. 26, 257.

10: II. 12, 487-8.

11: Montaigne, _Discours de Raison_ (Discourse of Reason). Florio,
   252.

12: Essay II. 12, 297. Florio, 266.

13: Part of an inscription still legible in Montaigne's castle.

14: Essay II. 12.

15: III. 9.

16: I. 26.

17: Essay III. 1

18: II. 11.

19: III. 1.

20: III. 13.

21: Essay III. 13.

22: II. 12.

23: I. 11.

24: III. 9.

25: _Ibid_.

26: II. 12.

27: Essay III. 10.

28: _Ibid_. 12.

29. Florio, 575.

30: Essay III. 9.

31: III. 13.

32: Essay II. 12.

33: III. 13.

34: _Observations on an Autograph of Shakspere_. London, 1838.

35: This is the passage, which occurs in the _Tempest_, act ii.
   sc. I:

      '_Gonzalo_.--I' the commonwealth I would by contraries
      Execute all things: for no kind of traffic
      Would I admit; no name of magistrate:
      Letters should not be known; riches, poverty,
      And use of service, none; contract, succession,
      Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none;
      No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil;
      No occupation: all men idle, all;
      And women too.'

   This passage is almost literally taken from Essay I. 30, 'On
   Cannibals.' We shall later on show Shakspere's reason for giving
   us this fanciful description of such an Utopian commonwealth.

36: Florio, after enumerating the difficulties he encountered in the
   translation of the _Essays_, concludes his preface to the
   courteous reader with the following words:--

   'In summe, if any think he could do better, let him trie, then
   will he better think of what is done. Seven or eight of great wit
   and worth have assayed, but found those Essais no attempt for
   French apprentises or Littletonians. If thus done it may please
   you, as I wish it may and I hope it shall, and I with you shall be
   pleased: though not, yet still I am.'

   We learn, from this remark, of what great importance the _Essais_
   must have been considered in literary circles, and it is not
   improbable that a few attempts 'of the seven or eight of great wit
   and worth' may have appeared in print long before Florio's
   translation. We may well ask: Is it likely that the greatest
   literary genius of his age should have been unaware of the
   existence of a work which was considered of such importance that
   'seven or eight of great wit and worth' thought it worth while to
   attempt to translate it? Shakspere, who in _King Henry the Fifth_
   (1599) wrote some scenes in French, must surely have had sufficient
   knowledge of this language to read it.

37: Besides the quartos of 1603 and 1604, thee were reprints of the
   latter in 1605 and 1611; also another edition without date.



IV.

HAMLET.

In the foregoing sketch of Montaigne our especial object was to point
out the inconsistency of the French writer in advising us to follow
Nature as our guide, yet at the same time maintaining a strict
adherence to tenets and dogmas which qualify the impulses and
inclinations of nature as sinful, and which even declare war against
them.

Let us see how Shakspere incarnates these contrasts in the character
of Hamlet.

He makes the Danish Prince come back from the University of Wittenberg.
There, we certainly may assume, he has become imbued with the new spirit
that then shook the world. We refrain from mentioning it by name,
because the designation we now confer upon it has become a lifeless
word, comprising no longer those free thoughts of the Humanist, for
which Shakspere, in this powerful tragedy, boldly enters the lists.

Hamlet longs to be back to Wittenberg. This desire represents his
inclination towards free, humanistic studies. On the other hand, his
adherence to old dogmatic views can be deduced from the fact of his
being so terribly impressed by the circumstance of his father having
had to die

  Unhousel'd, disappointed, unaneled;

a fact recorded with a threefold outcry:--

  Oh, horrible! Oh, horrible! most horrible!

Again, we must direct the reader's attention to this very noteworthy
point, that the first quarto edition of 'Hamlet' was already worked out
tolerably well as far as the middle of the second act. For the completion
of this part, only a few details were necessary. From them, we must all
the more be enabled to gather Shakspere's intention.

In the speech of the Ghost in the second quarto--otherwise of well-nigh
identical contents with the one in the first edition--there is only
one new line, but one which deserves the closest consideration.
It is that which we have quoted--

  Unhousel'd, disappointed, unaneled.

The effect this statement has on the course of the dramatic action we
shall explain later on. In act iii. sc. 3, where Hamlet's energy is
paralysed by this disclosure of the Ghost, we afterwards again come upon
a short innovation, and a most characteristic one, though but consisting
of two lines.

In the first quarto we see Hamlet, in the beginning of the play,
seized with an unmanly grief which makes him wish that heaven and
earth would change back into chaos. But a new addition to this
weariness of life is the contempt of all earthly aspirations: the
aversion to Nature as the begetter of sin. The following passages
are not to be found in the first quarto:--

  Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
  His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
  How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
  Seem to me all the uses of this world!
  Fie on't! Ah fie! 't is an unweeded garden,
  That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
  Possess it merely.

The scene between Hamlet and Horatio (act i. sc. 4), which in both
texts is about the same, contains an innovation in which the Prince's
mistrust of nature is even more sharply expressed. These lines are new:--

  This heavy-headed revel east and west
  Makes us traduced and tax'd of other nations--

as far as--

  ... The dram of eale (evil)
  Doth (drawth) all the substance of a doubt
  To his own scandal.

The contents of this interpolated speech may concisely be thus given:
that the virtues of man, however pure and numerous they may be, are
often infected by 'some vicious mole of Nature,' wherein he himself
is guiltless; and that from such a fault in the chance of birth a stamp
of defect is impressed upon his character, and thus contaminates the
whole.

These innovations are evidently introduced for the purpose of making
us understand why Hamlet does not trust to the excitements of his own
reason and his own blood, in order to find out by natural means whether
it be true what his 'prophetic soul' anticipates--namely, that his
uncle may 'smile and smile, and yet be a villain.'

Man, says Montaigne, has no hold-fast, no firm and fixed point, within
himself, in spite of his apparently splendid outfit. [1]

Man can do nothing with his own weapons alone without help from outside.
In the Essay 'On the Folly of Referring the True and the False to the
Trustworthiness of our Judgment,' [2] he maintains that 'it is a
silly presumption to go about despising and condemning as false that
which does not seem probable to us; which is a common fault of those who
think they have more self-sufficiency than the vulgar. So was I formerly
minded; and if I heard anybody speak either of ghosts coming back, or of
the prophecy of coming things, of spells, of witchcraft, or of any other
tale I could not digest--

  Somnia, terrores magicos, miracula, sagas,
  Nocturnos lemures, portentaque Thessala--

I felt a kind of compassion for the poor people who were made the
victims of such follies. And now I find that I was, at least, to be
as much pitied myself.... Reason has taught me that, so resolutely
to condemn a thing as false and impossible, is to boldly assume that
we have in our head the bounds and limits of the will of God and of
our common mother, Nature; and I now see that there is no more notable
folly in the world than to reduce them to the measure of our capacity
and of our self-sufficient judgment.' [3]

Not less weak than Montaigne's trust in human reason is that of Hamlet
when he fears 'the pales and forts of reason' may be broken down--

  by the o'ergrowth of some complexion.

With such a mode of thought it is not to be wondered at that he should
welcome the first occasion when the task of his life may be revealed
to him by a heavenly messenger. Hoping that 'the questionable shape'
would not let him 'burst in ignorance,' but tell him why 'we fools of
Nature so horridly shake our disposition with thoughts beyond the
reaches of our souls,' he follows the spectral apparition. Good Horatio
does his best to restrain his friend, who has waxed 'desperate with
imagination,' from approaching the 'removed ground,' that might deprive
him of the 'sovereignity of reason,' and whither the Ghost beckons him.

Here there are several new lines:--

  Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff....
  The very place puts toys of desperation,
  Without more motive, into every brain
  That looks so many fathoms to the sea,
  And hears it roar beneath.

Here we have one of those incipient ecstasies of which Montaigne says
that 'such transcending humours affright me as much as _steep,
high, and inaccessible places_.' [4]

In the following scene between Hamlet and the Ghost the introduction is
new:--

  _Ghost_. My hour is almost come,
  When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
  Must render up myself.
  _Hamlet_. Alas, poor ghost!
  _Ghost_. Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing
  To what I shall unfold.
  _Hamlet_. Speak; I am bound to hear.
  _Ghost_. So art thou to revenge, when thou shall hear.

This picturing of the torments of hell--how very characteristic! It
is forbidden to the Ghost to communicate to 'ears of flesh and blood'
the secrets of its fiery prison-house. Yet it knows how to tell enough
of the horrors of that gruesome place to make the hair of a stronger
mortal than Hamlet is, stand on end, 'like quills upon the fretful
porcupine.'

With masterly hand, the poet depicts the distance which henceforth
separates Hamlet's course of thought from that of his friends who have
remained on the firm ground of human reason. Hamlet cannot say more
than--

  that there's ne'er a villain dwelling in all Denmark
  But he's an arrant knave.

When Horatio answers that 'there needs no ghost, my lord, come from
the grave to tell us this,' [5] Hamlet asks his friends to shake hands
with him and part, giving them to understand that every man has his
own business and desire, and that--

  for my own poor part,
  Look you, I'll go pray.

Horatio calls this 'wild and whirling words.' The Prince who at this
moment, no doubt, expresses his own true inclination, says:--'I am
sorry they offend you--heartily; yes, 'faith, heartily.' It is difficult
for him to justify his own procedure. He feels unable to explain
his thoughts and sentiments to the clear, unwarped reason of a Horatio,
to whom the Ghost did not reply, and to whom no ghost would.

Hamlet assures his friend, for whose sympathy he greatly cares, that
the apparition is a true one, an honest ghost. He advises Horatio to
give the 'wondrous strange' a welcome even as to 'a stranger;' and,
lest he might endeavour to test the apparition by human reason, he speaks
the beautiful words:--

  There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
  Than are dreamt of in your philosophy

Hamlet tells his friends that in future he will put on 'an antic
disposition.' Towards them he has, in fact, already done so. His desire
for a threefold oath; his repeated shifting of ground; his swearing
by the sword on which the hands are laid (a custom referable to the
time of the Crusades, and considered tantamount to swearing by the
cross, but which, at the same time, is an older Germanic, and hence
Danish, custom); his use of a Latin formula, _Hic et ubique_--all
these procedures have the evident object of throwing his comrades into
a mystic frame of mind, and to make them keep silence ('so help you
mercy!') as to what they have seen. These are the mysterious means
which those have to use that would make themselves the medium of a
message supernaturally revealed. [5]

A perusal of the fifty-sixth chapter of the first Essay of Montaigne
will show with what great reverence he treated ceremonial customs
and hollow formulas; for instance, the sign of the cross, of which he
'continually made use, even if he be but yawning' (_sic_). It is
not a mere coincidence, but a well-calculated trait in the character of
Hamlet, that in his speech he goes through a scale of exclamations and
asseverations such as Shakspere employs in no other of his poetical
creations. Hamlet incessantly mentions God, Heaven, Hell, and the
Devil, the Heavenly Hosts, and the Saints. He claims protection from
the latter at the appearance of the Ghost. He swears 'by St. Patrick,'
by his faith, by God's wounds, by His blood, by His body, by the
Cross, and so forth. [6]

Stubbs, in his 'Anatomy of Abuses' (1583), [7] lays stress, among other
characteristics of the Papists, upon their terrible inclination to
swearing: 'in so muche, as if they speake but three or fower words,
yet must thei needes be interlaced with a bloudie othe or two, to the
great dishonour of God and offence of the hearers.'

An overwhelming grief and mistrust in his own nature filled Hamlet's
bold imagination with the desire of receiving a complete mandate
for his mission from the hands of superior powers. So he enters the
realm of mysticism, where mind wields no authority, and where no
sound fruit of human reason can ripen.

Between the first and the second act there is an interval of a few
months. The poet gives us no other clue to the condition and the
doings of his hero than that, in the words of Polonius, [8] he 'fell
into sadness; then into a fast; thence to a watch; thence into a
weakness,' and so forth. We may therefore assume that he has followed
his inclination to go to pray; that he tries by fasting, watching,
and chastising, as so many before him, to find his way in the dreamland
which he has entered following the Ghost; sincerely striving to remain
true to his resolution to 'wipe from the table of his memory all
pressures past.'

A new passage in the monologue of Hamlet, after the Ghost has left him,
is this:--

  And thy commandment all alone shall live
  Within the book and volume of my brain,
  Unmix'd with baser matter; yes, by Heaven!
  O most pernicious woman!

We next hear about the Prince from Ophelia after the interval which, as
mentioned above, lies between the first and the second act. [9] In the
old play she relates that, when 'walking in the gallery all alone,' he,
the lover, came towards her, altogether 'bereft of his wits.' In the
scene of the later play he comes to her closet with a purpose, appearing
before her in a state of mental struggle. No doubt, he then approaches
her with the intention, which afterwards he carries out, of renouncing
woman, the begetter of all evil in the world, which makes such monsters
of wise men. The sight of his true love has shaken him. He stands before
her: [10]

  ... with a look so piteous in purport
  As if he had been loosed out of hell
  To speak of horrors...
  And thrice his head thus waving up and down,
  He raised a sigh so piteous and profound
  As it did seem to shatter all his bulk
  And end his being.

Thus he leaves her, not daring to speak the word which is to separate him
from her.

In the following scene between Hamlet and Polonius (act ii. sc. 2 [11])
there is again a new passage which equally proves that Hamlet's thoughts
only dwell upon one theme; that is, the sinfulness of our human nature:--

    _Hamlet_. For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a
    god, kissing carrion--Have you a daughter?
    _Polonius_. I have, my lord.
    _Hamlet_. Let her not walk i' the sun. Conception is a blessing;
    but not as your daughter may conceive:--friend, look to't.

Hamlet said before, that 'To be honest, is to be one man picked out of
ten thousand.' There is method in Hamlet's madness. With correct logic
he draws from dogmas which pronounce Nature to be sinful, the conclusion
that we need not wonder at the abounding of evil in this world, seeing
that a God himself assists in creating it. He, therefore, warns Polonius
against his daughter, too, becoming 'a breeder of sinners.'

Before we follow Hamlet now to the scene with Ophelia, where, 'in an
ecstasy of divine inspiration, equally weak in reason, and violent in
persuasion and dissuasion,' [12] he calls upon her to go to a nunnery,
we must direct attention to the concluding part of an Essay [13] of
Montaigne. It is only surprising that nobody should as yet have pointed
out how unmistakeably, in that famous scene, the inconsistencies of the
whimsical French writer are scourged. In that Essay the following thought
occurs, which one would gladly accept as a correct one: 'Falsely do we
judge the _honesty_ and the _beauty_ of an action from its usefulness.
Equally wrong it is to conclude that everyone is bound to do the
same, and that it is an honest action for everybody, if it be a
useful one.'

Now, Montaigne endeavours to apply this thought to the institution of
marriage; and he descends, in doing so, to the following irrational
argument:--'Let us select the most necessary and most useful institution
of human society: _it is marriage_. Yet the counsel of the saints
deems the contrary side to be more _honest_; thus excluding the most
venerable vocation of men.'

The satire of that famous scene in 'Hamlet' is here apparent. It will
now be understood why the Danish Prince comes with a warning to his
beloved, 'not to admit _honesty_ in discourse with _beauty_,' and why
his resolution is that 'we will have no more _marriage_.' Those words
of Hamlet, too, '_this was sometime a paradox, but now the time gives
it proof_,' are easy of explanation. It was not yet so long ago that
celibacy had been abolished in England. The 'time' now confirms
celibacy once more in this French book.

Most characteristic is the following passage: in this scene the only new
one. It goes far to show the intention with which the poet partly
re-wrought the play. I mean the words in which Hamlet confesses to
Ophelia that he has deceived her. The repentant sinner says: '_You
should not have believed me: for virtue cannot so inoculate our old
stock but we shall relish of it_.'

Can a poet who will not convert the stage into a theological Hall of
Controversy, make the soul-struggle of his hero more comprehensible?
Hamlet has honestly tried (we have seen with what means) to inoculate
and improve the sinful 'old stock.' But how far away he still feels
himself from his aim! He calls himself 'proud, revengeful, ambitious.'
These are the three sins of which he must accuse himself, when listening
to the voice of Nature which admonishes him to fulfil the duty of his
life--the deed of blood--that inner voice of his nobler nature which
impels him to seize the crown in order to guide the destinies of his
country; given over, as the latter is, to the mischievous whims of a
villain.

Yet he cries out against Ophelia, 'We are arrant knaves all; believe
none of us!' He reproaches this daughter of Eve with her own weaknesses
and the great number of her sins in words reminding us of Isaiah, [14]
where the wantonness of the daughters of Zion is reproved. He, the
ascetic, calls out to his mistress: 'Go thy ways to a nunnery!... Why
wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?'

Let us hear what his mistress says about him. This passage also,
explaining Hamlet's madness, is new:--

  Now see that noble and most sovereign reason,
  Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh;
  That unmatched form and feature of blown youth,
  Blasted with ecstasy. [15]

With what other word can Hamlet's passionate utterances be designated
than that of religious ecstasy?

From the first moment when he sees Ophelia, and prays her to remember
his sins in her 'orisons,' down to the last moment when he leaves her,
bidding her to go to a nunnery, there is method in his madness--the
method of those dogmas which brand nature and humanity as sinful,
whose impulses they do not endeavour to lead to higher aims, but which,
by certain mysteries and formulas, they pretend to be able to overcome.
The soul-struggle of Hamlet arises from his divided mind; an inner
voice of Nature calling, on the one hand:--

  Let not the royal bed of Denmark be
  A couch for luxury and damned incest;

whilst another voice calls out that, howsoever he pursues his act, he
should not 'taint his mind.'

In the English translation of the 'Hystorie of Hamblet,' from which
Shakspere took his subject, the art of dissembling is extolled, in
most naive language, as one specially useful towards great personages
not easily accessible to revenge. He who would exercise the arts of
dissembling (it is said there) must be able to 'kisse his hand whome
in hearte hee could wishe an hundredfoot depth under the earth, so hee
mighte never see him more, if it were not a thing _wholly to bee
disliked in a Christian, who by no meanes ought to have a bitter
gall, or desires infected with revenge_.'

We shall find later on that Hamlet's gall also claims its rights; all
the more so as he endeavours, by an unnatural and superstitious use of
dogmatism, to suppress and to drive away the 'excitements of the reason
and of the blood.' We have heard from Polonius that the Prince,
after his 'sadness,' fell into a 'fast.' And everything he says to
his schoolfellows Rosencrantz and Guildenstern [16] about his frame of
mind, confirms us in the belief that he has remained faithful to the
intention declared in the first act--'Look you, I will go pray'--so
as to prepare himself, like many others, to contemplate passively
a world sinful from its very nature, and therefore not to be changed
and bettered.

This scene is, in the first quarto, a mere hasty sketch, but faintly
indicated. In the second quarto it is, so to say, a new one; and a
comparison between the two need, therefore, not be instituted.

Before his friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet, for a few
moments, gives up his brain-racking thoughts of penitence; he even
endeavours to philosophise, as he may have done at the University
of Wittenberg before he allowed himself to be lured into dreamland.
He utters a thought--'There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking
makes it so'--which occurs in an Essay of Montaigne, and is thus given
by Florio (127):--

'If that what we call evil and torment be neither torment nor evil,
but that our fancy only gives it that quality, is it in us to change
it?' [17]

Hamlet then pictures his mental condition in words of deepest sincerity.
In order to fully understand this description, we have once more to
refer to an Essay of Montaigne, [18] in which he asserts that man is
not furthered by his reason, his speculations, his passions; that
they give him no advantage over other creatures. A divinely appointed
authority--the Church--confers upon him 'those great advantages and
odds he supposes to have over other creatures.' It is she that seals
to him the patent and privilege which authorises him to 'keep account
both of the receipts and layings-out of the world.' Ay, it is she who
convinces him that '_this admirable swinging-round of the heavenly
vaults, the eternal light of those constellations rolling so nobly over
our heads_, the terrible commotions of this infinite ocean, were
established, and have continued for so many ages, for his advantage and
his service.' To her authority he must wholly surrender himself; by her
he must allow himself to be guided. And in doing so, it is 'better for
us to have a weak judgment than a strong one; better to be smitten with
blindness than to have one's eyes open and clear-sighted.'

Striving to live up to similar views, Hamlet 'lost all his mirth.'
This is the cause of his heavy disposition; of his having 'foregone
all custom of exercise'--so 'that this goodly frame, the earth,' seems
to him 'a sterile promontory,' a mere place of preparation for gaining
the next world through penance and prayer. Verily, '_this brave
o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden
fire_,' appears to him no better 'than a foul and pestilent
congregation of vapours.' Quite in accordance with such tenets which
we need not qualify by name, Man, to him, is but a 'quintessence of
dust.'

Both man, and still more sinful woman, displease Hamlet. Yet he has
not succeeded in so wholly subjugating Nature within himself as to be
fully secured against her importunate claims. Now we would point out
here that Montaigne [19] mentions a tyrant of antiquity who 'could not
bear seeing tragedies acted in the theatre, from fear that his subjects
should see him sob at the misfortunes of Hecuba and Andromache--him
who, without pity, caused daily so many people to be cruelly killed.'
Again, Montaigne [20] speaks of actors, mentioned by Quinctilian, who
were 'so deeply engaged in a sorrowful part that they wept even after
having returned to their lodgings;' whilst Quinctilian reports of
himself that, 'having undertaken to move a certain passion in others,
he had entered so far into his part as to find himself surprised, not
only with the shedding of tears, but also with a paleness of countenance
and the behaviour of a man truly weighed down with grief.'

Hamlet has listened to the player. In the concluding monologue of the
second act--which is twice as long in the new quarto--we are told of the
effect produced upon his mind when seeing that an actor, who merely holds
a mirror up to Nature--

  ... but in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
  Could force his soul so to his own conceit
  That from her working all his visage wann'd....
  ... And all for nothing!--For Hecuba?

whilst he (Hamlet), 'a dull and muddy-mettled rascal,' [21] like
John-a-dreams, in spite of his strong 'motive and the cue for passion,'
mistrusts them and is afraid of being guided by them.

All at once, Hamlet feels the weight and pressure of a mode of thought
which declares war against the impulses of Nature, calling man a born
sinner.

  Who calls me villain? ...
  ... Gives me the lie i' the throat,
  As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this?
  Ha!
  'S wounds,[1] I should take it: for it cannot be.
  But I am pigeon-liver'd, and lack gall
  To make oppression bitter; or ere this
  I should have fatted all the region kites
  With this slave's offal. [22]

The feelings of Hamlet, until then forcibly kept down, now get the
mastery over him. He gives vent to them in oaths of which he is himself
at last ashamed, when he compares himself to 'a very drab, a scullion,'
who 'must fall a-cursing.'

He now will set to work and get more natural evidence of the King's
guilt. He begins to entertain doubts as to those mystic views by
which he meant to be guided. He mistrusts the apparition which he
had called an honest ghost ('true-penny'):--

  The spirit that I have seen
  May be the Devil: and the Devil hath power
  To assume a pleasing shape. Yea, perhaps
  Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
  As he is very potent with such spirits,
  Abuses me to damn me: I'll have grounds
  More relative than this. [23]

Over weakness the Devil is potent; all flesh is weak. What mode of
thought is this? What philosophy taught this doctrine? Hamlet's
weakness, if we may believe Polonius, [24] has been brought on by
fasting and watching.

Over melancholy, too, the Devil is powerful. Are we not here in the
sombre atmosphere of those who turn away their reason from ideal
aspirations; who denounce the impulses of nature as sinful excitements;
who would fain look upon the earth as 'a sterile promontory'--having
dark death more before their mind's eye than beautiful life? Are
such thoughts not the forerunners of melancholy?

Hamlet's incessant thoughts of death are the same as those of his
model, Montaigne. In an Essay, [25] entitled 'That to Philosophise
is to Learn how to Die,' the latter explains that the Christian
religion has no surer basis than the contempt for the present life,
and that we are in this world only to prepare ourselves for death.
His imagination, he says, has occupied itself with these thoughts
of death more than with anything else. Referring to a saying of
Lykurgos, he approves of graveyards being laid out close to churches
and in the most frequented places of a city, so as to accustom the
common people, women, and children not to be scared at the sight of
a dead person, and to forewarn everyone, by this continual spectacle
of bones, tombs, and funerals, as to our real condition.

Montaigne also, like Hamlet, ponders over suicide. He devotes a whole
Essay [26] to it. Life, he observes, would be a tyranny if the liberty
to die were wanting. For this liberty, he thinks, we have to thank
Nature, as for the most favourable gift which, indeed, deprives us
of all right to complain of our condition. If--as Boiocal, the German
chieftain, [27] said--earth is wanting to us whereon to live, earth
is never wanting to us for death. [28]

That is the wisdom of Montaigne, the admirer of antiquity. But
Montaigne, the modern man, introduces the Essay in which he dares to
utter such bold thoughts with the following restriction:--

'If, as it is said, to philosophise be to doubt, with much more reason
to play pranks (_niaiser_) and to rave, as I do, must be to doubt.
For, to inquire and to discuss, behoves the disciples. The decision
belongs to the chairman (_cathédrant_). My chairman is the
authority of the divine will which regulates us without contradiction,
and which occupies its rank above those human and vain disputes.'
This chairman, as often observed, by which Montaigne's thoughts are
to be guided, is an ecclesiastic authority.

In 'Hamlet,' also, it is a 'canon' [29] fixed against self-slaughter,
which restrains him from leaving, out of his own impulse, this whilom
paradise, this 'unweeded garden' of life.

Montaigne, whose philosophy aims at making us conversant with death
as with a friend, is yet terrified by it. Altogether, he says, he would
fain pass his life at his ease; and if he could escape from blows,
even by taking refuge under a calf's skin, [30] he would not be the
man who would shrink from it.

In a few graphic words Shakspere brands this cowardly clinging to life.
In the scene where Hamlet gives to Polonius nothing more willingly
than his leave, the new quarto (in every other respect the conclusion
of this scene is identical in both editions) contains these additional
words:--'Except my life, except my life, except my life.' Of the 'calf's
skin' we hear in the first scene of act v., where those are called sheep
and calves, who seek out assurance in parchments which are made of
sheep-skins and of calves-skins too.

Montaigne, who does not cease pondering over the pale fellow, Death,
looks for consolation from the ancients. He takes Sokrates as the
model of all great qualities; and he reproduces, in his own manner,
the speech this sage, who was fearless of death, made before his
judges. First of all, he makes him say that the qualities of death
are unknown to him, as he has never seen anybody who could instruct
him in them. 'Those who fear death, presuppose that they know it....
Perhaps death may be an indifferent thing; perhaps a desirable one.
However, one may believe that, if it be a transmigration from one
place to another, it will be an amelioration ... and free us from
having any more to do with wicked and corrupt judges. If it be a
consummation (_anéantissement_) [31] of our being, it is also
an amelioration to enter into a long and quiet night. We find nothing
so sweet in life as a quiet rest--a tranquil and profound sleep without
dreams.'

Now compare the monologue, 'To be or not to be,' of the first quarto
with the one contained in the second. It will then be seen that those
Sokratic ideas, rendered by Montaigne in his own manner, have been
worked into the first quarto. In the latter we hear nothing at all
about the end of our being (a complete destruction or _consummation_)
producing an amelioration. [32] Shakspere expresses this thought by
the words that if we could say that, by a sleep, we 'end the heartache
and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to--'tis a consummation
devoutly to be wished.' [33]

Keen commentators have pointed out the contradiction in Hamlet's
monologue, where he speaks of--

  The undiscovered country from whose bourn
  No traveller returns,

whilst he saw such a traveller in his father's ghost. Certainly there
were then, even as there are now, besides the logical thinkers, also
a considerable number of inconsistent persons who believed in
supernaturally revealed messages, and who, nevertheless, now and then,
felt contradictory thoughts rising within themselves. Why should the
great master, who exhausted in his dramatic personages almost all
types of human nature, not have put such a character also on the stage?

To the poet, whose object it was to show 'to the very age and body of
time his form and pressure' (this passage is wanting in the first
quarto), the presentation of such a psychological problem of
contradictory thoughts must have been of far greater attraction than
an anticipatory description of a metaphysician aching under the heavy
burden of his philosophic speculations. The latter is the character
attributed, by some, to Hamlet. But we think that such an utterly
strange modern creature would have been altogether incomprehensible
to the energetic English mind of this period.

In the course of the drama, Shakspere makes it sufficiently clear that
the thoughts by which Hamlet's 'native hue of resolution is sicklied
o'er,' have come from the narrow cells of a superstitious Christianity,
not from the free use of his reason. According to Montaigne, however,
we ought to 'use our reason only for strengthening our belief.'

Hamlet, with Purgatory and Hell, into which he has cast a glance,
before his eyes, would fain fly, like Montaigne, from them. In his
Essay I. 19 [34] the latter says that our soul must be steeled against
the powers of death; 'for, as long as Death frightens us, how is it
possible to make a single step without feverish agitation?'

Hamlet as little attains this condition of quiet equanimity as the
pensive and pondering Montaigne. The latter, however, speaks of souls
that know no fear. It is true, he has to go to the ancients in order
to meet with this frame of mind. Quoting Horace [35]--

  Non vultus instantis tyranni
  Mente quatit solida, neque Auster,
  Dux inquieti turbidus Adriae,
  Nec fulminantis magna Jovis manus--

he describes such a soul as being made '_mistress over her passions
and concupiscence; having become proof against poverty and disgrace,
and all the other injuries of fortune_. Let those who can, gain this
advantage. Herein lies true and sovereign freedom that allows us to
scorn force and injustice, and to deride prisons and fetters.'

To a friend with such a soul, to a living Horace or Horatio, Hamlet
addresses himself. Horatio also is his fellow-student and friend
from the University days at Wittenberg, and he has made the views
of the new philosophical school quite his own. He does not tremble
before the fire of Purgatory and Hell. Despising death, he wishes,
in the last scene, to empty the cup of poison from which his friend
Hamlet has drunk, in order to follow him. When the latter keeps him
back, Horatio makes answer--

  I am more an antique Roman than a Dane.

Hamlet, trusting more to this firmer and truly antique character than
to his own, requests Horatio to aid him during the play-scene in
watching the King, so as to procure more natural evidence of his guilt.
This school-friend--how often may he have philosophised with him!--is
to him

  as just a man
  As e'er my conversation coped withal.

The following passage, [36] in which Horatio's character is described
by Hamlet, is wanting in the first quarto:--

  Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice,
  And could of men distinguish, her election
  Hath seal'd thee for herself; for thou hast been
  As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing;
  A man that fortune's buffets and rewards
  Hath ta'en with equal thanks: and blest are those
  Whose blood and judgment are so well commingled
  That they are not a pipe for Fortune's finger
  To sound what stop she please. Give me that man
  That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him
  In my heart's core, ay, in my heart of heart,
  As I do thee.

How near these words of Shakspere come to those with which Montaigne
describes an intrepid man after the poem of Horace!

But, in spite of subtle reasoning, the French philosopher cannot fathom
the cause why he himself does not attain any mind's ease, and why he
has no plain and straightforward faculty (_nulle faculté simple_)
within himself. He once [37] uses the expression, 'We trouble death
with the care of life, and life with the care of death;' but he does
not succeed in firmly attaching himself to life with all the fibres of
his nature, and gathering strength from the mother-earth, like Antaeus.
He oscillates between two antagonistic views, and feels unable to decide
for either the one or the other.

We have explained the elements of which Hamlet's complex character is
made up. He is an adherent of old superstitions and dogmas; he believes
in Purgatory, a Hell, and a Devil, and in the miraculous powers of
confession, holy communion, and the extreme unction. Yet, to some
degree, he is a Humanist, and would fain grant to Nature certain
rights. Scarcely has he yielded to the impulses of his blood, than
doubts begin to rise in him, and he begins to fear the Devil, who
might lure him into perdition. This inner discord, creating, as it does,
a mistrust in his own self, induces him, in the most important task of
his life, to appeal to Horatio. To him he says that, if the King's
occulted guilt does not come out ('unkennel itself'), he (Hamlet) will
look upon the apparition as a damned ghost, and (this is new) will
think that his 'imaginations are as foul as Vulcan's stithy.' [38]

By the interlude, Hamlet--and in this he is confirmed by Horatio--becomes
convinced of the King's guilt. All that he thereupon does is--to recite
a little ditty!

We have already made the acquaintance of Montaigne the soft-hearted,
who, as above mentioned, always was touched when seeing innocent
animals hunted to death, and who felt much emotion _at the tears
of the hart asking us for mercy_. At the same time we have
directed the reader's attention to the fact of his having said that
the 'common weal requires some to betray, some to lie, and some to
massacre,' [39] and that this task must be left to those who are
ready to sacrifice their honour and their conscience, and that men
who do not feel up to such deeds must leave their commission to the
stronger ones. This French nobleman naïvely avows that he has resolved
upon withdrawing into private life, not because he is averse to
public life--for the latter, he says, would 'perhaps equally suit
him'--but because, by doing so, he hopes to serve his Prince all the
more joyfully and all the more sincerely, thus following the free
choice of his own judgment and reason, and not submitting to any
restraint (_obligation particulière_), which he hates in every
shape. And he adds the following curious moral doctrine:--'This is
the way of the world. We let the laws and precepts follow their way,
but we keep another course.' [40]

Who could mistake Shakspere's satire against this sentimental nobleman,
who fights shy of action, in making Hamlet recite a little ditty at a
moment when he has become convinced of the King's guilt:--

  Why, let the stricken deer go weep,
  The hart ungalled play;
  For some must watch, while some must sleep:
  Thus runs the world away.

This gifted Frenchman, Montaigne, was a new, a strange, phenomenon
in the eyes of Shakspere and his active and energetic countrymen.
A man, a nobleman too, who lives for no higher aim; who allows himself
to be driven about, rudderless, by his feelings and inclinations;
who even boasts of this mental disposition of his, and sends a vain
book about it into the world! What is it to teach? What good is it
to do? It gives mere words, behind which there is no manly character.
Are there yet more _beaux esprits_ to arise who, in Epicurean
fashion, enjoy the beautiful thoughts of others, whilst they themselves
remain incapable for action, letting the time go out of joint?

Let us further study the character of Hamlet, and we shall find that
the satire against Montaigne becomes more and more striking--a veritable
hit.

The Queen asks for her son. Before he fulfils her wish and comes to her,
he utters a lullaby of superstition (these lines are new), wherewith to
tide over the excitement of his nature:--

  'Tis now the very witching time of night,
  When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
  Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood,
  And do such bitter business as the day
  Would quake to look on.

Hamlet, always shrinking back from the impulses of his blood, fears
that the Devil might once more gain power over him:--

  Soft! now to my mother!
  O heart, lose not thy nature!

This nature of his, inclining to mildness and gentleness, he wishes
to preserve, and he resolves upon being 'cruel, not unnatural.' In
vain one seeks here for logic, and for the boundary between two words
which to ordinary common sense appear synonymous. In Montaigne,
however, we discover the clue of such a senseless argumentation.
In one of his Essays, [41] which contains a confusion of ideas that
might well make the humane Shakspere shudder, he writes:--

'Our condition, both public and private, is full of imperfections;
yet there is nothing useless in Nature, not even uselessness
itself.... Our being is cemented with sickly qualities: ambition,
jealousy, envy, vengeance, superstition, despair dwell in us, and
hold there so natural a possession that their counterfeit is also
recognised in beasts; for instance, cruelty--so unnatural a vice.
Yet he who would root out the seed of these qualities from the human
breast would destroy the fundamental conditions of our life.'

Now, Hamlet's resolution to be 'cruel, but not unnatural,' is but a
fresh satire against Montaigne's train of thoughts, who would fain be
a Humanist, but who does not break with the reasoning of Loyola and
of the Church, by which he permits himself to be guided as by
the competent authority, and which tolerates cruelty--nay, orders its
being employed for the furtherance of what it calls the 'good aim.'

The idea that cruelty is a necessary but useful evil, no doubt
induced Montaigne [42] to declare that to kill a man from a feeling
of revenge is tantamount to our protecting him, for we thus 'withdraw
him from our attacks.' Furthermore, this Humanist argues that revenge
is to be regretted if its object does not feel its intention; for,
even as he who takes revenge intends to derive pleasure from
it, so he upon whom revenge is taken must perceive that intention,
in order to be harrowed with feelings of pain and repentance. 'To kill
him, is to render further attacks against him impossible; not to
revenge what he has done.'

Shakspere already gives Hamlet an opportunity in the following scene
to prove to us that there is no boundary between cruel and unnatural
conduct; and that one cannot be cruel and yet remain natural. In
the most telling words, the cause of Hamlet's want of energy is
substantiated. Fate gives the criminal, the King, into the hands of
Hamlet. It is the most important moment of the drama. A stroke of
the sword would be enough to do the deed of revenge. The cause
which makes Hamlet hesitate is, that the criminal is engaged in
prayer, and that--

    He took my father grossly, full of bread,
    With all his crimes broad-blown, as flush as May;
    And how his audit stands, who knows save Heaven?

Does Hamlet, then, _not_ act with refined cruelty?

Here, a new thought is inserted, which we mentioned already in the
beginning, and which turns the balance at the decisive moment:--

    But in our circumstance and course of thought
    It is heavy with him. [43]

A Shaksperean hero, with drawn sword, allows himself to be restrained
from action by the thought that, because 'it is heavy' with his own
murdered father, who is suffering in Purgatory, he (Hamlet) ought not
to kill the criminal now, but later on, when the latter is deeply
wading in sin--

  When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage, ...
  And that his soul may be as damn'd and black
  As Hell, whereto it goes.

Hamlet has been called a philosopher whose energy has been paralysed
by too great a range of thought. For the sovereignty of human reason
this is a most dangerous premiss. Do we not owe to the full and free
use of that reason everything great which mankind has created?
History speaks of a thousand heroes (only think of Alexander, of Julius
Caesar, of Frederick the Great!) whose doings convince us that a strong
power of thought and action can go hand in hand, nay, that the latter
cannot be successful without the former.

But, on the other hand, there is a way of thinking with preconceived
supernatural conclusions--or rather, we must call it an absence of
thinking--when men allow themselves to be moved by the circumstances
of a traditional course of thought. Against such intellectual
slavery the great century of the Reformation rose. And the greatest
Humanist, Shakspere, scourges that slavery in the catharsis of his
powerful drama.

Questions of religion were not permitted to be treated on the stage.
But not merely the one deeply intelligent person for whom Shakspere
asks the players to act, and for whom the great master certainly
endeavoured to write--no, the public at large, too, will have
understood that the 'course of thought' which induced Hamlet to forego
action from a subtle refinement of cruelty, was not the course of
thought prevalent on this side of the Channel, and held up, in this
important scene, as that of a hero to be admired.

Hamlet resolved upon keeping out the soul of Nero from his 'firm bosom.'
(What a satire there is in this adjective 'firm'!) He means to be cruel,
but not unnatural; he will 'speak daggers, but use none.' A man who
lets himself be moved by extraneous circumstances is not his own
master. In cruel, unnatural manner, for no object whatever, he
murders poor Polonius. Then he begins to speak daggers in such a
manner as to get into a perfect ecstasy. Nor need any priest have
been ashamed of the sermon he preaches to his own mother.

In the first edition of 'Hamlet,' the scene between mother and son is
rather like a sketch in which most things are merely indicated, not
worked out. Only the part of the Ghost, with the exception of the line:--

  Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works,

which is wanting in the first edition, and  Hamlet's address to the
Ghost, are in both quartos the same. Even as in the first act, so this
time also, Hamlet, on seeing the Ghost, calls upon the saints:--

  Save me, and hover o'er me with your wings,
  You heavenly guards!

This was the usual course on the occasion of such doubtful apparitions,
of which one did not know whether they were 'airs of heaven' or 'blasts
from hell.'

A new intercalation is (in the first quarto there is no vestige of it),
that Hamlet reproaches his mother with having degraded 'sweet religion'
to 'a rhapsody of words;' that he says 'the Devil hath conquered her at
hoodman blind ;' that she should confess herself to Heaven, and 'assume
a virtue if she have it not;' that 'virtue itself of vice must pardon
beg in the fatness of these pursy times, yea, curb and woo, for leave
to do him good.' So also is the Queen's question new:--

  Ay me, what act,
  That roars so loud, and thunders in the _index_? [44]

There is no trace, in the first quarto, of the following most
characteristic thoughts:--

  For, use almost can change the stamp of Nature [45]
  And either curb (?) the Devil, or throw him out
  With wondrous potency....
  And when you are desirous to be blest,
  I'll blessing beg of you.

Let us figure to ourselves before what public Hamlet first saw the
wanderer from Purgatory; before what youth he bade Ophelia go to
a nunnery; before what men he remained inactive at the critical
moment simply because the criminal is engaged in his prayers,
whilst his own murdered father died without Holy Communion, without
having confessed and received the Extreme Unction. Let us remember
before what audience he purposely made the thunders of the Index
roar so loud; at what place he gets into ecstasy; and where he first
preaches to his mother that the Devil may be mastered and thrown out.

Here, certainly, we have questions of religion!

Shakspere's genius has known how to transport these most important
questions of his time, away from the shrill contact with contemporary
disputes, into the harmonious domain of the Muses. He, and his friends
and patrons, did not look upon the subjects discussed in this tragedy
with the passionless, indifferent eyes of our century. Many men, no
doubt, were filled with the thought, to which Bacon soon gave a
scientific form, that the human mind can only make true progress if
it turns towards the inquiry into Nature, keeping far away from the
hampering influence of transcendental dogmas. The liberal, intellectual
tendencies of the Reformation were not yet fettered in England with
the new dogmatic strait waistcoat of a narrow-minded, melancholy sect.
And Shakspere's views, which he has embodied in 'Hamlet,' were not in
divinatory advance of his age; they were easily comprehensible to the
best of his time.

Our chief argument will be contained in the chapter in which we shall
hear Shakspere's adversaries launch out furiously against the tendency
of this drama. Meanwhile, we will exhaust the course of its action.

Hamlet has already come very near to that point of view where Reason
at last ceases to guide his conduct, and where he becomes convinced that
indiscretion often is of better service than deep planning.

Now in Montaigne's Essay [46] already mentioned we read:--'When an
urgent circumstance, or any violent or unexpected accident of State
necessity, induces a Prince to break his word and faith, or otherwise
forces him out of his ordinary duty, he is to ascribe that compulsion
to a lash of God's rod.'

The passage in which Hamlet consoles himself in regard to the murder
committed against Polonius is new:--

  I do repent: but heaven hath pleased it so,
  To punish me with this, and this with me,
  That I must be their scourge and minister.

Hamlet, beholding the victim of his indiscretion, excuses himself thus:--

  I must be cruel, only to be kind.

The cruel deed he has done, he palliates with the remark that
lovingkindness has forced him to it. Love of her God also forced
Catherine of Medicis to the massacre of St. Bartholomew.

  Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind.

Yes; worse is coming! Hamlet knows that he is to be sent to England;
that the letters are sealed; that his two schoolfellows whom he trusts
as he will adders, bear the mandate. What does he do to prevent further
misfortune?

He rejoices that--

  they must sweep my way,
  And marshall me to knavery. [47]

He enjoys, in advance, the sweet presentiment of revenge which he
intends taking upon them. He lets things go without hindrance:--

  Let it work!
  For 'tis sport to have the engineer
  Hoist with his own petard.

He enjoys his own crafty policy which shall blow his school-friends,
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (who yet, so far as he knows, have not
been guilty in any way towards him!) 'at the moon:'--

  O, 'tis most sweet
  When in one line two crafts directly meet.

Because Hamlet gives utterance to high-sounding thoughts, to
sentimental dreams, and melancholy subtleties, it has been assumed
that his character is one nourished with the poet's own heart's blood.
A thousand times the noble sentiment of duty has been dwelt upon,
which it is alleged he is inspired with; and on account of his fine
words he has been more taken a fancy to than any other Shaksperian
figure. But that was not the poet's object. Great deeds were more
to him than the finest words. His contemporaries understood him;
for Montaigne--as we shall prove--was given over to the lowest scorn
of the age through 'Hamlet,' because the whole reasoning of Hamlet not
only was a fruitless, but a pernicious one.

In the fourth scene of the fourth act, the poet describes the frame of
mind of the hero before he steps on board ship. 'Excitements of his
reason and his blood' once more call him to revenge. This monologue,
in which Hamlet gives expression to his feelings and thoughts, is only
in the quarto of 1604. The folio of 1623 does not contain it. Shakspere,
in later years, may have thought that the soul-struggle of his hero had
been ended; and so he may have regarded the passage as a superfluous one,
in which Hamlet's better self once more asks him to seize the reins of
destiny with his own hands.

He sees how young Fortinbras, the delicate and tender prince, 'puff'd
with divine ambition, mouthes the invisible event for a piece of land not
large enough to hide the slain.' Hamlet philosophises that the man who
uses not his god-like reason is but a beast; for--

  --He that made us with such large discourse
  Looking before and after, gave us not
  That capability and god-like reason,
  To fust in us unused.

We further hear how Hamlet reasons about the question as to how 'to
be rightly great.' All the thoughts he produces, seem to flow from
the pen of the French philosopher. In Essay III. (13) of Montaigne
we read the beautiful words that 'the noblest master-work of man is to
live for a purpose (yivre d fropos),' and:--'The greatness of the soul
does not consist so much in drawing upwards, and haling forwards,
than in knowing how to range and to circumscribe itself. It holds
everything to be great, which is sufficient in itself. It shows
its superiority in more loving humble things than eminent ones.'

To the majesty of the human reason also, Montaigne, in spite of his so
often condemning it, knows how to render justice. In Essay I. (40)
he remarks: 'Shall we then dare to say that this advantage of reason
at which we rejoice so very much, and out of respect for which
we hold ourselves to be lords and emperors of all other creatures, has
been put into us for our torment? Why strive for the knowledge of things
if we become more cowardly thereby? if we lose, through it, the rest and
the tranquillity in which we should be without it? ... Shall we use the
intellect that has been given to us for our greatest good, to effect
our ruin; combating the designs of Nature and the general order of
things which implies that everyone should use his tools and means for
his own convenience?'

Noble thoughts! But it is not enough to play an aesthetic game with
them. The energetic English genius wishes that they should regulate
our life; that we should act in accordance with them, so that no tragic
complication should form itself, which could only be solved by the ruin
and death of the innocent together with the guilty. The monologue
concludes thus:--

    O, from this time forth,
    My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!

Nevertheless, Hamlet continues his voyage.

The reader will remember that Montaigne spoke of an instinctive impulse
of the will--a daimon--by which he often, and to his final advantage,
had allowed himself to be guided, so much so that such strong impulses
might be attributed to divine inspiration. A daimon of this kind,
under whose influence Hamlet acts, is described in the second scene of
the fifth act. The passage is wanting in the first quarto. [48] Hamlet
tells Horatio how he lay in the ship, and how in his heart there was a
kind of fighting which would not let him sleep. This harassing condition,
the result of his unmanly indecision, he depicts in these words:--

Methought I lay
Worse than the mutines in the bilboes.

Then all at once (how could an impulsive manner of action be better
described?), before he could 'make a prologue to his brains,' Hamlet
lets himself be overcome by such a daimonic influence. He breaks open
the grand commission of others, forges a seal with a signet in his
possession, becomes a murderer of two innocent men, and draws the evil
conclusion therefrom:--

Let us know,
Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well,
When our deep plots do pall; and that should learn us,
There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will.

This view we have already quoted from Essay III. (12). In Florio's
translation (632):--'Therefore do our dessigns so often miscarry....
The heavens are angry, and I may say envious of the extension
and large privilege we ascribe to human wisdome, to the prejudice of
theirs: and abridge them so more unto us, by so much more we endeavour
to amplifie them.'

Hamlet takes the twofold murder committed against Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern as little to heart as the 'indiscreet' deed by which
Polonius was killed. Then the consolation was sufficient for him that
lovingkindness had forced him to be cruel. This time, his conscience
is not touched, because--

  't is dangerous when the baser nature comes
  Between the pass and fell incensed points
  Of mighty opposites.

With such argumentation every tyranny may be palliated, especially by
those who, like Hamlet, think that--

  A man's life 's no more than to say 'One.'

Yet another peculiarity of Montaigne's complex being is depicted by
Shakspere in the graveyard scene. He shows us every side of this
whimsical character who says of himself that he has no staying power
for any standpoint, but that he is driven about by incalculable
emergencies.

Let us read a passage in Essay II (12), and compare it with Hamlet's
enigmatic conduct towards Laertes. Montaigne describes himself in
these sentences:--'Being of a soft and somewhat heavy temperament, I
have no great experience of those violent agitations which mostly
come like a surprise upon our mind without allowing it leisure to
collect itself.' In spite of the resistance--he further says--which
he endeavoured to offer, even he, however, was occasionally thus
seized. He felt these agitations rising and growing in, and becoming
master over, himself. As in drunkenness, things then appeared to him
otherwise than he usually saw them. 'I manifestly saw the advantages
of the object which I sought after, augmenting and growing; and I felt
them becoming greater and swelling by the wind of my imagination.
I felt the difficulties of my enterprise becoming easier and simpler,
my reasoning and my conscience drawing back. But, that fire being gone,
all of a sudden, as with the flash of lightning, my mind resumed another
view, another condition, another judgment.'

In this manner Hamlet conducts himself towards Laertes. A great grief
takes possession of him when he hears of the death of Ophelia: he leaps,
like Laertes, into her grave; he grapples with him; he warns him that,
though 'not splenetive and rash,' he (Hamlet) yet has 'something
dangerous' in him. (He means the daimon which so fatally impelled
him against Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.) Hamlet and Laertes wrestle,
but they are parted by the attendants. Hamlet begins boasting, in
high-flown language, of what great things he would be able to do.

The Queen describes Hamlet's rage in these words:--

  And thus awhile the fit will work on him;
  Anon, as patient as the female dove,
  When that her golden couplets are disclosed,
  His silence will sit drooping. [49]

In the meantime, the fire with which Hamlet's soul had been seized,
is gone, like a flash of lightning. He changes to another point of
view--probably that one according to which everything goes its way
in compliance with a heavenly decree. The little verse he recites in
parting:--

Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew and dog will have his day,

quite corresponds to such a passive philosophy which has gained the
mastery over him, and to which he soon falls a victim.

We are approaching the conclusion of the great drama. Here, again, in
order to explain Hamlet's action, or rather his yielding to influences
around him, we have to direct the attention of the reader to Essay
(III. 10), in which Montaigne tells how easily he protects himself
against the dangers of inward agitation by dropping the subject which
threatens to become troublesome to him before he is drawn on and carried
along by it. The doughty nobleman says that he has escaped from
many difficulties by not staking frivolously, like others, happiness
and honour, life and everything, on his 'rapier and his dagger.' [50]

There may be some truth in Montaigne's charge that the cause of not a
few struggles he has seen, was often of truly pitiful origin, and that
such struggles were only carried on from a mistaken feeling of
self-respect. It may be true also that it is a bad habit--as he
maintains--to proceed still further in affairs of this kind simply
because one is implicated. But how strange a confession of a nobleman
from whom we at all times expect bravery: 'For want of judgement our
hearte fails us.' [51]

Hamlet is engaged in such a struggle with Laertes through the graveyard
scene. The King, who has had good cause to study Hamlet's character
more deeply than anyone else, reckons upon his vanity in order to
decide him to the fencing-match. 'Rapier and dagger' are forced upon
weak-willed Hamlet by Osric. [52] How subtle is this satire! For
appearance' sake, in order to outshine Laertes, the Prince accepts
the challenge. [53] Happiness and life, which he ought long ago to
have risked for the purpose of avenging his father and his honour,
are now staked from sheer vanity. The 'want of prudence' Hamlet displays
in accepting a challenge which he must 'carry out from a (mistaken)
feeling of self-respect,' has the 'intolerable' consequence that,
shortly before he crosses swords with Laertes, he confesses to
Horatio:--'But thou would'st not think how ill all's here about my
heart.'

Again, Shakspere, very briefly, but not less pointedly, depicts the
way in which Hamlet allows himself to be influenced and driven to a
decision. This time the poet does so by bringing in a clearly expressed
dogmatic tenet whereby Hamlet's fate is sealed. It is 'ill all about
his heart.' He would prefer not going to meet Laertes. [54]

  _Horatio_. If your mind dislike anything, obey it. I will
  forestal their repair hither, and say you are not fit.

The fatalist Hamlet, whom we have seen coming ever closer to the doctrine
of Predestination, answers as follows:--

  'Not a whit; we defy augury; there is special providence in
  the fall of a sparrow. [55] If it be now, 'tis not to come;
  if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet
  it will come; the readiness is all. Since no man has aught
  of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes? Let be.'

This time it is a 'Let be!'--even as it was a 'Let it go' when he was
sent to England.

Now let us read Montaigne's Essay, [56] 'To Philosophise is to Learn
how to Die:'--

'Our religion has had no surer human foundation than the contempt of
life. Not only does the course of our reason lead us that way; for,
why should we fear to lose a thing which, when lost, cannot be
regretted?--but also, seeing that we are threatened by so many kinds
of death, is it not a greater inconvenience to fear them all than to
endure one? What does it matter when Death comes, since it is
inevitable?... Moreover, nobody dies before his hour. The time you
leave behind was no more yours than that which was before your birth,
and concerns you no more.'

No further comment is needed to prove that Hamlet's and Montaigne's
thoughts are in so close a connection that it cannot be a mere accident.
And the nearer we come to the conclusion of the drama, the more
striking become Shakspere's satirical hits.

Hamlet allows his hand to be put into that of Laertes by the King. He
does not think of the wrong he has done to Laertes--of the murder of
the latter's father, or the unhappiness he has criminally brought
upon Laertes' sister. In most cowardly manner, hoping that Laertes
would desist from the combat, Hamlet endeavours to excuse his conduct
at the grave of Ophelia, by pleading his own madness. Laertes insists
on the combat; adding that he would stand aloof 'till by some elder
masters of known honour' the decision were given.

Hamlet avenges the death of his father; he kills the criminal, the
enemy, when his wrath is up and aflame, and every muscle of his is
swelled with indignation--but it is _too late_. Together with
himself, he has dragged them all into the grave. It is blind passion,
unbridled by reason, which does the deed: a sublime satire upon the
words of Montaigne in Essay II. (12), 'that the most beautiful actions
of the soul proceed from, and have need of, this impulse of passion;
valour, they say, cannot become perfect without the help of wrath; and
that nobody pursues the wicked and the enemies with sufficient energy,
except he be thoroughly in anger.'

Even the kind of death by which Shakspere makes Hamlet lose his life,
looks like a satire against Montaigne. The latter, always a coward in
regard to death, and continually pondering over it, says: [57]--'I
would rather have chosen to drink the potion of Sokrates than wound
myself as Cato did.' Their 'virtuous deeds' he calls [58] 'vain and
fruitless ones, because they were done from no love of, or obedience
to, the true Creator of all things.'

Hamlet dies wounded and poisoned, as if Shakspere had intended expressing
his abhorrence of so vacillating and weak-willed a character, who places
the treacherous excesses of passion above the power of that human
reason in whose free service alone Greeks and Romans did their most
exalted deeds of virtue. [59]

The subtlety of the best psychologists has endeavoured to fix the limits
of Hamlet's madness, and to find the proper name for it. No agreement
has been arrived at. We think we have solved the problem as to the
nature of Hamlet's madness, and to have shown why thought and action,
in him, cannot be brought into a satisfactory harmony. Every fibre
in Shakspere's artistic mind would have rebelled against the idea
of making a lunatic the chief figure of his greatest drama. He wished
to warn his contemporaries that the attempt of reconciling two opposite
circles of ideas--namely, on the one hand, the doctrine that we are
to be guided by the laws of Nature; and on the other, the yielding
ourselves up to superstitious dogmas which declare human nature to be
sinful--must inevitably produce deeds of madness.

The main traits of Montaigne's character Shakspere confers upon the
Danish Prince, and places him before a difficult task of life. He is to
avenge his father's death. (Montaigne was attached to his father with
all his soul, and speaks of him almost in the same words as Hamlet
does of his own.) He is to preserve the State whose legitimate sovereign
he is. The materials for a satire are complete. And it is written in
such a manner as to remain the noblest, the most sublime poetical
production as long as men shall live.

The two circles of ideas which in the century of the Reformation began
a struggle that is not yet brought to an end, are, in that drama,
represented on the stage. The poet shows, by making the gifted
Prince perish, on which side every serious thinker ought to place
himself. That these intentions of Shakspere were understood by his more
intelligent contemporaries and friends, we shall prove when we come to
the camp of his adversaries, at whose head a Roman Catholic stood,
who launches out in very marked language against the derision of
Montaigne as contained in the character of Hamlet.

The noblemen who went to the theatre for the sake of the intellectual
attractions (the fairer sex being still excluded from acting on the
stage and therefore not forming a point of attraction) were initiated
into the innermost secret of what authors meant by their productions.
Dekker, in his 'Gulls Horn Book' (c. 6), reports that 'after the play
was over, poets adjourned to supper with knights, where they, in private,
unfolded the secret parts of their drama to them.'

As in no other of his plays, there is in Shakspere's 'Hamlet'--the drama
richest in philosophy--a perfect wealth of life. Argument is pitted
against argument; every turn of a phrase is a missile, sharp, and
hitting the mark. In not a few cases, the aim and object is no longer
recognisable. Here and there we believe we shall be able to shed the
light of day upon some dark passages of the past.

To the doughty friends of Shakspere, this French Knight of the Order of
St. Michael, who says [60] that, if his freedom were in the least
encroached upon, or 'if the laws under which he lives threatened
merely the tip of his finger, he would at once betake himself to
any other place to find better ones;' but who yet lets everything
around him go out of joint without offering a helping hand for repair,
because 'the maintenance of States is probably something beyond our
powers of understanding' [61]--verily, to Shakspere's doughty friends,
such a specimen of humanity as Montaigne must have been quite a new and
strange phenomenon. They were children of an age which achieved great
things because its nobler natures willingly suffered death when the
ideals of their life were to be realised. In them, the fire of
enthusiasm of the first Reformation, of the glorious time of Elizabeth,
was still glowing. They energetically championed the cause of Humanism.
The sublime conceptions of their epoch were not yet marred by that
dark and gloomy set of men whose mischievous members were just
beginning to hatch their hidden plans in the most remote manors of
England.

The friends of Shakspere well understood the true meaning of Hamlet's
words: [62]--'What should such fellows as I do crawling between earth
and heaven?' [63] They easily seized the gist and point of the answer
given to the King's question: [64]--'How fares our cousin Hamlet?'
when Hamlet replies:--

  Excellent, i' faith; of the chameleon's dish!

Surely, some of them had read the Essay 'On the Inconsistency of our
Actions,' and had smiled at the passage:--

'Our ordinary manner is, to follow the inclination of our appetite--this
way, that way; upwards, downwards; even as the wind of the occasion
drives us. We never think of what _we would have_, but at the moment
we _would have it_; and _we change like that animal_ (the chameleon)
of which it is said that it takes the colour of the place where it
is laid down.' [65]

Shakspere's teaching is, that if the nobler-gifted man who stands at
the head of the commonwealth, allows himself to be driven about by every
wind of the occasion, instead of furthering his better aims with all
his strength and energy of will, the wicked, on their part, will all
the more easily carry out their own ends. He therefore makes the King
say: [66]--

  That we would do,
  We should do when we would; for this 'would' changes...

Shakspere's friends understood the allusion contained in the first act,
after the apparition of the Ghost, when Hamlet calls for his 'tablets.'
They knew that the much-scribbling Montaigne was meant, who, as he
avows, had so bad a memory that he could not receive any commission
without writing it down in his 'tablets' (_tablettes_). This defect of
his, Montaigne mentions over and over again, and may have been the
cause of his many most ludicrous contradictions. [67]

After Hamlet has written down the important fact that 'one may smile,
and smile, and be a villain--at least, I am sure it may be so in
Denmark,' he exclaims:--'Now to my word!' That 'word' undoubtedly
consists of the admonition addressed to him by the Ghost, that Hamlet,
after having heard his duty, also should fulfil it--that is:--

  'So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear.'

But he only recollects the last words of the Ghost; and Hamlet's parole,
therefore, is only this:--

  Adieu, adieu, adieu! Remember me!

The value of Montaigne's book is harshly treated in the second scene of
the second act. To the question of Polonius as to what he is reading,
Hamlet replies:--'Words, words, words!' Indeed, Shakspere did not think
it fair that 'the satirical rogue' should fill the paper with such
remarks (whole Essays of Montaigne consist of similar useless prattle)
as 'that old men have grey beards; that their faces are wrinkled; their
eyes purging thick amber and plum-tree gum; and that they have a
plentiful lack of wit, together with most weak hams.' [68]

The ideas of Shakspere as to the duties of a writer were different,
indeed, from the contents of the book which Hamlet characterises by
his exclamation.

As to Polonius' answer: 'Though this be madness, yet there's method in
it,' the public had no difficulty in finding out what was meant by
that 'madness,' and to whom it applied.

What may the great master have thought of an author who, as Montaigne
does, jots down everything in kaleidoscopic manner, just as changeful
accident brings it into his head? In Essay III. (2) we read:--

  'I cannot get a fixed hold of my object. It moves
  and reels as if with a natural drunkenness. I just seize
  it at some point, such as I find it at the moment, when I
  amuse myself with it. I do not describe its essence, but
  its volatile passage ... from one minute to the other.'

Elsewhere he prides himself on his method of being able to write as long
as there is paper and ink.

Hamlet says to the players: 'We'll e'en to it like French falconers: fly
at anything we see.' Montaigne's manner of spying out and pouncing upon
things cannot be better depicted than by comparing it with a French
falconer's manner. In the first act already, Hamlet, after the
ghost-scene, answers the friends who approach, with the holla-call of
a falconer:--

  Hillo, ho, ho, boy; come, bird, come!

Furthermore, Hamlet says in act ii. sc. 2:--'I am but mad
north-north-west. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a
handshaw (heronshaw!).' Now, the north-west wind would drive Montaigne
back into his native province, Perigord, where, very likely according
to Shakspere's view, he ought to have remained with his sham logic.
The south wind, on the contrary, brings the able falconer to England.
The latter possesses such a penetrating glance for the nature of
things as to be able to distinguish the bird (the heronshaw) that is
to be pursued from the hawk that has been unhooded and cast.

In the second scene of the fifth act, between Hamlet and Horatio
(to the weak-minded Osrick the words spoken there are incomprehensible),
the excellent qualities of Laertes are apparently judged. [69] This
whole discussion is meant against Montaigne; and in the first quarto
the chief points are wanting. Florio calls Montaigne's Essays 'Moral,
Political, and Military Discourses.' [70] Osrick praises the qualities
of the cavalier who has returned from France; and Hamlet replies that
'to divide him inventorily would dizzy the arithmetic of memory.'

The further, hitherto utterly unexplained, words ('and  yet but yaw
neither in respect of his quick sail') seem to have reference to the
sonnet [71] by which the third book of the Essays is dedicated by
Florio to Lady Grey. Montaigne is praised therein under the guise
of Talbot's name, who, 'in peace or war, at sea or land, for princes'
service, countries' good, sweetly sails before the wind.' In act ii.
sc. 2, the north-north-west and the south wind were already alluded
to, which are said to influence Hamlet's madness.

The translators and admirers of Montaigne are meant when Hamlet says
that 'to make true diction of him, his semblable' must be 'his mirror;
and, who else would trace him, his umbrage--nothing more.' That is,
one must be Montaigne, or become his absolute admirer, 'his umbrage,'
'his semblable,' in order to do justice to him. The whole scene is
full of allusions, easily explainable from the point of view we have
indicated. So also, the reference to self-knowledge ('to know himself)
--an art which Montaigne never learnt and the 'two weapons' with which
he fights, are full of deep meaning.

It was probably no small number of men that took delight in the French
essayist. No doubt, the jest of the gravedigger is directed against
them, when he says that if the mad Hamlet does not recover his wits
in England, it is no great matter there, because there the men are
as mad as he.

Montaigne, especially in Essay III. (2) and III. (5), brings forward
indecencies of the most shameless kind. We quite bear in mind what
period it was when he wrote. Our manners and ideas are totally
different from those of the sixteenth century. But what indignation
must Shakspere have felt--he who had already created his noblest female
characters, Helena and Olivia; and who had sung his paean of love,
'Romeo and Juliet'--when he read the ideas of the French nobleman
about love and women! Nowhere, and on no occasion, does Shakspere in
his dramas, in spite of phrases which to-day we qualify as obscene ones,
lower the ideal of the womanly character--of the _ewig Weibliche_.

But let us read Montaigne's view: [72]--

'I find that love is nothing else than a thirst of enjoying a desired
subject; nor that Venus is anything else but the pleasure of emptying
one's seminary vessels, similar to the pleasure which Nature has given
us in discharging other parts.'

Now, this significant quality also, of saying indecencies without shame,
Hamlet has in common with Montaigne. No character in Shakspere's dramas
uses such language as Hamlet; and in this case, let it be observed, it
is not used between men, but towards the beloved one! We shall remark
upon his relations with Ophelia later on.

The frivolous Montaigne speaks of love as one might do of a good dish to
be enjoyed at every degree of age, according to taste and inclination.
In Essay III.(4) we learn how, in his youth, 'standing in need of a
vehement diversion for the sake of distraction, he made himself
amorous by art and study.' Elsewhere he tells what great things he was
able, as a young man, to achieve in this line. [73] He, therefore,
does not agree with the sage who praises age because it frees us from
voluptuousness. [74]

He, on the contrary, says:--'I shall never take kindly to impotence,
whatever good it may do me.'

Montaigne, the old and young lover, is lashed in act v. sc. I, in
disfigured verses of a song sung by the grave-digger, which dates about
from the year 1557, and at Shakspere's time probably was very popular.
In the original, where the image of death is meant to be represented,
an old man looks back in repentance, and with great aversion, upon
his youthful days when he found pleasure in love. The original verse
stood thus:--

  I lothe that I did love,
  In youth that I thought swete,
  As time requires for my behove,
  Methinks they are not mete.

Until now, no sense could be made of the first verse which the
gravedigger sings. It runs thus:--

  In youth, when I did love, did love,
  Methought it was very sweet,
  To contract, OH! the time, for, AH! my behove,
  O, methought, there was nothing meet.

Let it be observed what stress is laid on the 'Oh!'--the proper time,
and the 'Ah!'--the delight felt at the moment of enjoyment. The meaning
of the old verse is changed in such a manner as to show that old
Montaigne looks back with pleasure upon the time of his dissolute youth,
whilst the author of the original text shrinks back from it.

The second verse [75] is a further persiflage of the old song. Its
reading, too, is changed. It is said there that age, with his stealing
steps, as clawed the lover in his clutch [76] and shipped him into the
land as if he 'never had been such.'

By none has the relation between Ophelia and Hamlet been better felt and
described than by Goethe. He calls her 'the good child in whose soul,
secretly, a voice of voluptuousness resounds.' Hamlet who--driven
rudderless by his impulse, his passion, his daimon, from one extreme to
the other--drags everything that surrounds him into the abyss, also
destroys the future of the woman that might truly make him happy. He
disowns and rejects her whom Nature has formed for love. At a moment when
fanatical thoughts have mastered his reason, he bids her go to a nunnery.

Once more we must point to the Essay in which Montaigne lays down his
ideas about woman and love. French ladies, he says, study Boccaccio
and such-like writers, in order to become skilful (_habiles_). 'But
there is no word, no example, no single step in that matter which
they do not know better than our books do. That is a knowledge bred
in their very veins ... Had not this natural violence of their desires
been somewhat bridled by the fear and a feeling of honour wherewith
they have been provided, we would be dishonoured (_diffamez_).' Montaigne
says he knows ladies who would rather lend their honour than their
'_coach_.' [77]

'At last, when Ophelia has no longer any power over her own mind,' says
Goethe, 'her heart being on her tongue, that tongue becomes a traitor
against her.' [78]

In the scene of Ophelia's madness, we hear songs, thoughts, and
phrases probably caught up by her from Hamlet. The ideal which man
forms of woman, is the moral altitude on which she stands. Now, let
the language be called to mind, which Hamlet, before the players'
scene, uses towards his beloved!

Ophelia's words: 'Come, my _coach_ [79]' will be understood
from the passage in Montaigne above quoted. The meaning of: 'Oh, how
the _wheel_ becomes it!' has reference to a thought developed
by Montaigne in Essay III. (11), [80] which we cannot render here,
as it is opposed to every feeling of decency.

All commentators agree in thinking that the character of Laertes is in
direct contrast to that of Hamlet. In the first quarto, the figure of
Laertes is but rapidly indicated. Only that scene is worked out where
he cries out against the priest who will not follow his sister to
the grave:--

  A ministering angel shall my sister be.
  When thou liest howling.

In the second quarto only, we meet with the most characteristic speeches
in which the strong-willed Laertes, [81] unmindful of any future world,
calls for revenge with every drop of his indignant blood:--

  To Hell, allegiance! Vows, to the blackest devils!
  Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit!
  I dare damnation....
  ... Both the worlds I give to negligence,
  Let come what comes ...
  ... to cut his throat i' the church.

That passage, too, is new, in which Ophelia's madness is explained as
the consequence of blighted love:--

  Nature is fine in love, and where 't is fine,
  It sends some precious instance of itself
  After the thing it loves.

Her own reason, which succumbs to her love, is the precious token.

In the same way, those words are not in the first quarto, in which
Laertes gives vent to the oppressed feelings of his heart, on hearing
of the death of his sister:--

  Nature her custom holds,
  Let shame say what it will. When these (the tears) are gone,
  The woman will be out.

All those beautiful precepts, also, which Laertes gives to his sister,
are wanting in the quarto of 1603. [82]

Hamlet is the most powerful philosophical production, in the domain of
poetry, written at the most critical epoch of mankind--the time of the
Reformation. The greatest English genius recognised that it was
everyone's duty to set a time out of joint to right. Shakspere showed
to his noble friends a gifted and noble man whose life becomes a
scourge for him and his surroundings, because he is not guided by manly
courage and conscience, but by superstitious notions and formulas.

This colossal drama ranges from the thorny, far-stretching fields which
man, only trusting in himself, has to work with the sweat of his brow,
to that wonder-land of mystery--

  Where these good tidings of great joy are heard. [83]

If the principles that are fought out in this drama, in tragic conflict,
were to be described by catchwords, we might say: Reason stands against
Dogma; Nature against Tradition; Self-Reliance against Submission.
The great elementary forces are here at issue, which the Reformation
had unchained, and with which we all have to reckon.

Shakspere's loving, noble heart beautifully does justice to the defeated
Hamlet by making him be borne to his grave 'like a soldier,' with all
the honouring 'rites of war.' The poet who knew the human heart so
well, no doubt had seen many brave and gifted men who, after having
been to Wittenberg's Halls of Intellectual Freedom, and become disciples
of Humanism, once more were turned into slaves of dogmas which, under
a new guise, not less restricted the free use of reason than the tenets
of the old faith had done:--

  Sure, he that made us with such large discourse,
  Looking before and after, gave us not
  The capability and god-like reason
  To fust in us unused.

The life of the most gifted remains fruitless if, through fear of what
may befall us in a future world, we cravenly shrink back from following
the dictates of our reason and our conscience. From them we must take
the mandate and commission for the task of our life; not from any
mysterious messenger, nor from any ghost out of Purgatory. On the way
to action, no 'goblin damned' must be allowed to cross our path with
his assumed terrors. That which we feel to be right we must do, even if
'it be the very witching time of night, and hell breathes contagion into
the world.'

Shakspere broke with all antiquated doctrines. He was one of the
foremost Humanists in the fullest and noblest meaning of the word. [84]

 1: Essay II. 12.

 2: Essay I. 26.

 3: The whole contents of this chapter may be said to be condensed
   into two lines of Shakspere:--

     'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
     Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'

 4: Essay III. 13.

 5: See Bacon's Essay 'Of Simulation and Dissimulation,' where
   he says that 'dissimulation followeth many times upon secrecy by
   a necessity: so that he that will be secret must be a dissembler in
   some degree,' &c.

 6: The following are Hamlet's modes of asseveration:--
   'Angels and ministers of grace,' 'All you host of Heaven,' 'God's
   love,' 'God and mercy,' 'God's willing,' 'Help and mercy,' 'God's
   love,' 'By St. Patrick,' 'God-a-mercy,' 'By my fay (_ma foi_),'
   'S' blood (God's blood),' 'S' wounds,' 'God's bodykins,' 'By'r Lady,'
   'Perdy (_Pardieu_),' 'By the rood (Cross),' 'Heavenly guards,' 'For
   love and grace,' 'By the Lord,' 'Pray God,' &c.

 7: New Shakspere Society (Stubbs, _Abuses in England_), 1879,
   p. 131.

 8: Act ii. sc. 2.

 9: Act ii. sc. i.

10: This description is wanting in the first quarto. The passages
   there are essentially different; there is no allusion to Hamlet's
   mental struggle.

11: About various allusions and satirical hints in this scene later on.

12: Florio, 21; Montaigne, I. ii.

13: Essay III. i.

14: Isaiah, ch. iii. v. 16.

15: The word 'ecstasy,' which is often used in the new quarto, is
   wanting in the first edition where only madness, lunacy, frenzy--the
   highest degrees of madness--are spoken of.

16: In the old play their names are 'Rosencroft' and 'Guilderstone.'
   _Reynaldo_, in the first quarto, is called '_Montano_.'
   This change of name in a _dramatis persona_ of minor importance
   indicates, in however a trifling manner, that the interest excited
   by the name of Montaigne (to which 'Montano' comes remarkably near
   in English pronunciation) was now to be concentrated on another point.

17: Essay I. 40.

18: II. 12.

19: Essay II. 27, p. 142.

20: Essay III. 4, p. 384.

21: Rather sharp translations of _songe-creux_, as Montaigne
   calls himself (Florio, i. 19, p. 34). 'I am given rather to
   dreaming and sluggishness.'

22: ''S wounds' (God's wounds)--a most characteristic expression;
   used by Shakspere only in _Hamlet_, in this scene, and again
   in act v. sc. 2.

23: As yet, Hamlet has but one ground of action--namely, the one
   which, after the apparition of the Ghost, he set down in his tablets:
   'that one may smile, and smile, and be a villain; at least, I am sure,
   it may be so in Denmark.'

24: Act ii. sc. 2.

25: Essay I. 19.

26: II. 3.

27: Tacitus, _annal_. xiii. 56.

28: Essay I. 19.

29: Act. i. sc. 2.

30: Shakspere already uses this expression in _King John_ (1595) for
   purposes of mirthful mockery. He makes the Bastard say to the
   Archduke of Austria (act iii. sc. i):--'Hang a calf's skin on
   those recreant limbs!'--a circumstance which convinces us that
   Shakspere knew the Essays of Montaigne from the original at an
   early time. We think it a fact important enough to point out that
   Florio translates _peau d'un veau_ by 'oxe-hide' (fo. 34). We
   cannot think of any other explanation than that the phrase in
   question had become so popular through _King John_ as to render
   it advisable for Florio to steer clear of this rock. Jonson, in his
   _Volpone_ (act. i. sc. i), makes Mosca the parasite say in
   regard to his master: 'Covered with hide, instead of skin.'

31: Florio's translation: 'If it be a _consummation_ of one's being'
   (p. 627). Shakspere: 'a _consummation_ devoutly to be wished.' This
   word is only once used by Shakspere in such a sense. It occurs in
   another sense in _King Lear_ (iv. 6) and _Cymbeline_ (iv. 2), but
   nowhere else in his works.

32: Monologue of the first quarto:--

      'To be, or not to be, I there's the point,
      To Die, to sleepe, is that all? I all:
      No, to sleepe, to dreame, I, mary there it goes,
      For in that dreame of death, when wee awake,
      And borne before an everlasting judge,
      From whence no passenger ever returned,
      The undiscovered country, at whose sight
      The happy smile, and the accursed damned.
      But for this, the joyful hope of this,
      Whol'd beare the scornes of flattery of the world,
      Scorned by the right rich, the rich curssed of the poore?
      The widow being oppress'd, the orphan wronged,
      The taste of hunger, or a tyrants raigne,
      And thousand more calamities besides,
      To grunte and sweate under the weary life,
      When that he may his full quietus make,
      With a bare bodkin, who would this indure,
      But for a hope of something after death?
      Which pushes the brain and doth connfound the sence,
      Which makes us rather beare those evilles we have,
      Than flie to others that we know not of.
      I that, O this conscience makes cowardes of us all.
      Lady in thy orizons, be all my sinnes remembered.

33: On closely examining the copy of Montaigne's Essays in the British
   Museum, which bears Shakspere's autograph on the title-page, we
   found--long after our treatise had been completed--that on the
   fly-leaf at the end of the volume is written: _Mors incrta_,
   (Written somewhat indistinctly, meaning probably _incerta_.
   It might also be an abbreviation of 'incertam horam' [_incr.
   ho_.], as contained in the Latin verse on p. 626:--

     Incertam frustra, mortales, funeris horam
     Quaeritis, et qua sit mors aditura via.)

   626, 627. These two numbers, apparently, refer to the corresponding
   pages of Montaigne's work, which contain nothing but thoughts
   about the uncertainty of the hour of death and the hereafter. On
   p. 627 there is the speech of Sokrates, which in Florio's
   translation, as shown above, bears such striking resemblance to
   Hamlet's monologue. There are other Latin sentences on the same
   fly-leaf, pronounced by Sir Frederic Madden to be written by a
   later pen than Shakspere's. To us, at any rate, the above words
   and numbers appear to proceed from a different hand than the other
   sentences. Judgments thereon from persons well versed in the
   writings of that time would be of great interest.

34: P. 103.

35: I. 19.

36: Act iii. sc. 2.

37: III. 12 (Florio, 626).

38: We do not doubt that this is a sly thrust at Florio, who, in the
   preface to his translation, calls himself 'Montaigne's Vulcan,' who
   hatches out Minerva from that 'Jupiter's bigge brain'.

39: Florio, 476.

40: Florio, 592: 'Thus goe the world, and so goe men.'

41: III. 1.

42: II. 27.

43: Clarendon: 'Circumstance of thought' means here the details
   over which thought ranges, and from which its conclusions are
   formed.

44: '_Index_,' in our opinion, does not signify here either the
   title, or prologue, or the indication of the contents of a book,
   but is an allusion to the Index of the Holy See and its thunders.

45: Montaigne, III. 10; Florio, 604: 'Custome is a second nature,
   and no less powerfull.... To conclude, I am ready to finish this
   man, not to make another. By longe custome this forme is changed
   into substance, Fortune into Nature.'

46: III. 1.

47: This is wanting in the first quarto, like the whole conclusion
   of this scene.

48: This whole scene between Horatio and Hamlet consists of the
   following four lines in the old quarto:--

     _Hamlet_. Beleeuve me, it greeuves me much, Horatio,
     That to Laertes I forgot myselfe:
     For by myselfe methinkes I feel his greefe,
     Though there's a difference in each other's way.

   Does this not look like a draught destined to be the kernel of a
   scene? The end of the scene where Osrick comes in, is also much
   shorter in the older play.

49: Florio, 330: 'We amend ourselves by privation of reason and
   by her drooping.' Hamlet's conduct is only to be explained by his
   quietly sitting down until his reason should droop.--II. 12.

50: Florio, 608.

51: Florio, 609.

52: This whole scene is nearly new (in the first quarto it is a mere
   sketch). There are in it several direct allusions to Montaigne's
   book, on which we shall touch later on.

53: Here the dramatist, in order to paint a trait of vanity in Hamlet's
   character, uses a device. He makes the latter say that, since Laertes
   went into France, he (Hamlet) has been in continual practice. Yet we
   know (act ii. sc. 2) that he had given up his accustomed exercise.
   In that scene the poet wishes to describe Hamlet's melancholy; in
   the other, his vanity. He chooses the colours which are apt to
   produce quickest impressions among the audience.

54: Act v. sc. 2.

55: See St. Matthew x.29.

56: I. 19.

57: III. 9.

58: II. 12.

59: The Queen describes Hamlet as 'fat, and scant of breath.' Here
   is Montaigne's description of himself (Essai II. 27):--'J'ay,
   au demourant, la taille forte et ramassee; le visage non pas
   gras, mais plein, la complexion entre le jovial et le melancholique,
   moyennement sanguine et chaude.' Florio's translation, p. 372:--'As
   for me, I am of a strong and well compact stature, my face is not
   fat, but full, my complexion betweene joviall and melancholy,
   indifferently sanguine and hote--('_not splenetive and rash_').

60: III. 13

61: III. 9.

62: Act iii. sc. 1.

63: We shall now oftener touch upon satirical passages uttered by
   the character himself against whom they are directed. The true
   dramatist gives the public no time to think over an incident in full
   leisure. Every means--as we have already shown before--is welcome to
   him, which aids in rapidly bringing out the telling traits of his
   figures. No surprise need therefore be felt that Hamlet, though
   representing Montaigne, sneers at, and morally flagellates, himself.

64: Act iii. sc. 2.

65: II. 1.

66: Act iv. sc. 7.

67: I. 9, 25; II. 10, &c. If an attentive reader will take the
   trouble to closely examine that part of the scene in Shakspere's
   _Tempest_ (act ii. sc. 1) wherein the passage occurs, which he
   borrowed from Essay I. 30--'On Cannibals'--and compare it with
   this most 'strange Essay,' he will clearly convince himself that
   Shakspere can only have made use of it as a satire on Montaigne's
   defective memory, which entangles this author in the most ludicrous
   contradictions. Gonzala declares that, if he were king of the isle
   on which he and his companion were wrecked, he would found a
   commonwealth as described in the above passage. He concludes this
   description, saying he would have 'no sovereignty.'

   Sebastian justly remarks: 'Yet he would be king on't;' and
   Antonio continues by saying: 'The latter end of his commonwealth
   forgets the beginning.'

   Even such is the contradiction in Montaigne's fanciful Essay 'On
   Cannibals,' where, towards the end, he speaks of a captain who
   holds authority over these savages, not only in war, but also in
   peace, 'that when he went to visit the village of his dependence,
   they cut him paths through the thick of their woods, through which
   he might pass at ease.' The beginning of this Essay described the
   commonwealth of these cannibals as tolerating no politic superiority,
   no use of service, no occupation, &c. 'What short memory!
   much wanting tablets!'

   In the above-mentioned scene of the _Tempest_ Sebastian makes
   the remark: 'No marrying 'mong his subjects,' which evidently is
   also meant as a hit against Montaigne's anti-matrimonial ideas,
   which we dwelt upon in the scene between Hamlet and Ophelia.

68: Jonson, long afterwards, had not forgotten this hit against
   Montaigne. In _Epicoene_ (1609) he makes Cleremont say:--'When
   we come to have grey heads and weak hams, moist eyes and shrunk
   members ... then we'll pray and fast.'

69: This whole passage of act v. sc. 2 (106-138) is again
   only to be found in the quarto of 1604, not in the folio edition of
   1623. In later years the poet may have struck it out, as being only
   comprehensible to a smaller circle of his friends. In the same way
   that passage of act iv. sc. 4, which only contains thoughts
   of Montaigne, was not received into the folio of 1623.

70: This is their title in Florio's translation: _Morall, Politike,
   Millitarie Discourses of Lo. Michaell de Montaigne, Knight of the
   noble order of Saint Michaell, and one of the Gentlemen in ordinary
   of the French King Henry III. his Chamber_.

71: The sonnet runs thus:--

      _To the Right Honourable Ladie Elizabeth Grey_. (She was a
      daughter of Count Shrewsbury, a Talbot.)
      Of honorable TALBOT honored farre,
      The forecast and the fortune, by his WORD
      _Montaigne_ here descrives; what by his Sword,
      What by his wit; this, as the guiding starre;
      That, as th' Aetolian blast, in peace or warre,
      At sea, or land, as cause did use afforde,
      _Avant le vent_, to tacke his sails aboarde,
      So as his course no orethwart crosse might barre,
      But he would sweetly sail _before the wind_;
      For Princes service, Countries good, his fame.
      Heire-Daughter of that prudent, constant kinde,
      Joyning thereto of GREY as great a name, Of
      both chief glories shrining in your minde,
      Honour him that your Honor doth proclaime.'

   We have already learned from the preface of the first book of the
   _Essais_ how Florio was 'sea-tosst, weather-beaten,' 'ship-wrackt,'
   'almost drowned,' when exerting himself to capture the
   whale--Montaigne--and drag him through 'the rocke-rough Ocean'
   with the assistance of his colleague Diodati, whom he compares to
   'a guide-fish.' Hamlet calls Polonius a fish-monger. The latter
   fools Hamlet by pretending that yonder cloud is in the shape of a
   whale, which just before appeared to him like the back of a weasel.
   Every word almost in this wonderful drama is a well-directed hit.

72: Essay III. 5.

73: _Ibid_. 13.

74: _Ibid_. 2.

75: The quarto of 1623 has only the third verse.

76: The old song has the word 'crouch.'

77: Essay III. 5, p. 460. Florio, p. 529.

78: We think it is worth while to quote the following verse Montaigne
   (III. 5) mentions when speaking of that nature of woman, which
   he thinks suggests to her every possible act of libidinousness:--

     Nec tantum niveo gavisa est ulla columbo
     Compar, vel si quid dicitur improbius,
     Oscula mordenti semper decerpere rostro,
     Quantum praecipue multivola est mulier.

   Florio translates (514):--

     No Pigeons hen, or paire, or what worse name
     You list, makes with hir Snow-white cock such game,
     With biting bill to catch when she is kist,
     As many-minded women when they list.

   Is not this the character of Ophelia, as described by Shakspere--the
   virgin inclining to voluptuousness in Goethe's view?

79: Hamlet, act iv. sc. 5. In _Eastward Hoe_, Marston, Chapman,
   and Jonson make capital out of this word, and use it as a sneer
   against Hamlet and Ophelia. We shall return to this point later on.

80: Florio, 617.

81: Act iv. sc. 5.

82: Laertes, act i. sc. 3:--

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

    Montaigne, II. 12; Florio, 319:

     The mind is with the body bred we do behold,
     It jointly growes with it, it waxeth old.--Lucr. xliii. 450.

83: Goethe's _Faust_.

84: We must mention that John Sterling, in an essay on Montaigne
   (_Westminster Review_, 1838), makes the following introductory
   remarks:--'On the whole, the celebrated soliloquy in _Hamlet_
   presents a more characteristic and expressive resemblance to much of
   Montaigne's writings than any other portion of the plays of the great
   dramatist which we at present remember, though it would doubtless be
   easy to trace many apparent transferences from the Frenchman into the
   Englishman's works, as both were keen and many-sided observers in the
   same age and neighbouring countries. But Hamlet was in those days no
   popular type of character; nor were Montaigne's views and tone
   familiar to men till he himself had made them so. Now, the Prince
   of Denmark is very nearly a Montaigne, lifted to a higher eminence,
   and agitated by more striking circumstances and severer destiny,
   and altogether a somewhat more passionate structure of man. It is
   not, however, very wonderful that Hamlet, who was but a part of
   Shakspere, should exhibit to us more than the whole of Montaigne,
   and the external facts appear to contradict any notion of a French
   ancestry for the Dane, as the play is said to have been produced
   in 1600, and the translation of the English not for three years later.'

   During our long search through the Commentaries written on
   _Hamlet_, we also met with the following treatise: 'HAMLET;
   _ein Tendenzdrama Sheakspeare's_ (sic!!) _gegen die skeptische
   und kosmopolitische Weltanschauung des Michael de Montaigne, von G.
   F. Stedefeld, Kreisgerichtsrath_. Berlin, 1871.'

   The author of the latter-mentioned little book holds it to be
   probable that Shakspere wrote his _Hamlet_ for the object
   of freeing himself from the impressions of the famous French sceptic.
   He regards this masterwork as 'the Drama of the Doubter;' as 'the
   apotheosis of a practical Christianity.' Hamlet, he says, is wanting
   in Christian piety. He has no faith, no love, no hope. His last words,
   'The rest is silence,' show that he has no expectation of a future
   life. He must perish because he has given up the belief in
   a divine government of the world and in a moral order of things.

   We believe we have read the Essays of Michel Montaigne with
   great attention. We not only do not regard him as a 'sceptic' in
   the sense meant by Mr. Stedefeld, but we hold him, as well as
   Hamlet, to be an adherent of the so-called 'practical Christianity'
   --at least, of what both Montaigne and Hamlet reckon to be such.
   This 'practical Christianity,' however, is a notion somewhat
   difficult to define.



V.

THE  CONTROVERSY  BETWEEN   BEN  JONSON  AND DEKKER.

MENTION OF A DISPUTE BETWEEN BEN JONSON AND SHAKSPERE IN 'THE RETURN
FROM PARNASSUS.'

CHARACTERISTIC OF BEN JONSON.

BEN JONSON'S HOSTILE ATTITUDE TOWARDS SHAKSPERE.

DRAMATIC SKIRMISH BETWEEN BEN JONSON AND SHAKSPERE.

BEN JONSON'S 'POETASTER.'

DEKKER'S 'SATIROMASTIX.'

We now proceed to an inquiry into the 'controversy between Jonson
and Dekker,' which has been repeatedly mentioned before.

Shakspere, we shall find, was implicated in it in a very large degree.
Instead of indicating, however, that controversy by the designation
under which it is known in literature, it would be more correct to
put SHAKSPERE'S name in the place of that of Dekker. Many a reader
who perhaps does not fully trust yet our bold assertion that Hamlet
is a counterfeit of Montaigne's individuality, will now, we hope, be
convinced by vouchers drawn from dramas published in 1604 and 1605,
and which are in the closest connection with that controversy. We
intend partly making a thorough examination of, partly consulting in
a cursory manner, the following pieces:--

1. 'Poetaster' (1601), by Ben Jonson.
2. 'Satiromastix' (1602), by Thomas Dekker.
3. 'Malcontent' (1604), by John Marston.
4. 'Volpone' (1605), by Ben Jonson.
5. 'Eastward Hoe' (1605), by Ben Jonson, Chapman,
and Marston.

In 'The Poetaster' Ben Jonson makes his chief attack upon Dekker and
Shakspere. In 'Satiromastix,' Dekker defends himself against that attack.
In doing so, he sides with Shakspere; and we thereby gain an insight
into the noble conduct of the latter. Between Jonson and Shakspere
there had already been dramatic skirmishes during several years before
the appearance of 'The Poetaster.' We shall only be able to touch
rapidly upon their meaning, considering that we confine ourselves,
in the main, to a statement of that which concerns 'Hamlet.'

After Jonson, in his 'Poetaster,' had exceeded all bounds of decent
behaviour with most intolerable arrogance, Shakspere seems to have
become weary of these malicious personal onslaughts; all the more so
because they were apparently put into the mouth of innocent children.
So he wrote his 'Hamlet,' showing up, therein, the loose and perplexing
ideas of his chief antagonist, who belonged to the party of
Florio-Montaigne.

Hamlet, as we shall prove beyond the possibility of cavil, is the
hitherto unexplained 'purge' in 'The Return from Parnassus,' which
'our fellow Shakspere' administered to Ben Jonson in return for the
'pill' destined for himself in 'The Poetaster.' After the publication
of 'Hamlet,' Jonson wrote his 'Volpone' as a counterblast to this drama.
Now 'Volpone,' and the Preface in which the author dedicates it to the
two Universities, furnish us with the evidence that our theory must be
a fact; for Jonson therein defended both the party of Florio-Montaigne
and himself.

Moreover, we shall adduce a series of proofs from 'The Malcontent' and
from 'Eastward Hoe.'

A drama, written by an unknown author, and printed in 1606, offers us
a valuable material wherewith to make it clear that, at that time, a
very bitter feud must have raged between Jonson and Shakspere; for it
is scarcely to be believed that it would have been brought on the
stage had a larger public not been deeply interested in the controversy.
'The Return from Parnassus, or the Scourge of Simony,' [1] is the title
of the play, mentioned several times before, in which this controversy
is referred to in clear words. Philomusus and Studioso, two poor scholars
who in vain had sought to pursue their calling as medical men, resolve
upon going to the more profitable stage. They are to be prepared for
it by two of the most famous actors from the Globe Theatre (Shakspere's
company), Burbage and Kemp. Whilst these are waiting for their new
pupils, [2] they converse about the capabilities of the students for
the histrionic art. Kemp, in words which show that the author must have
had great knowledge of the stage, condemns their ways and manners,
mocking the silly kind of acting which he had once seen in a performance
of the students at Cambridge. Burbage thinks they might amend their
faults in course of time, and that, at least, advantage could be taken
of them in so far as to make them write a part now and then; which
certainly they could do. To this Kemp replies:--

'Few of the University pen plaies well; they smell too much of that
writer _Ovid_ and that writer _Metamorphosis_, and talk too much of
_Proserpina_ and _Jupiter_. Why, here's our fellow _Shakespeare_ puts
them all down--I, and _Ben Jonson_ too. O that _Ben Jonson_ is a pestilent
fellow; he brought up Horace giving the poets a pill; [3] but our
fellow Shakespeare hath given him spurge that made him bewray his
credit.'

Burbage answers:--'It's a shrewd fellow indeed.'

For the better understanding of this most interesting controversy, the
centre of which Hamlet forms, it is necessary that we should give a
characteristic of Shakspere's adversary, Ben Jonson, whose individuality
and mode of action are too little known among the general reading
public.

Ben Jonson, born in 1573, in the neighbourhood of Westminster, was
the posthumous child of a Scot who had occupied a modest position at
the Court of Henry VIII., but who, under Queen Mary, had to suffer
long imprisonment, probably on account of his religious opinions.
His estates were confiscated by the Crown. After having obtained his
liberation, he became a priest of the Reformed Church of England.
Two years after his death, his widow, the mother of Ben, again
married: this time her husband was a master bricklayer. The education
of the boy from the first marriage, who at an early age showed talent
for learning, was not neglected. It is assumed that friends of his
father, seeing Ben's ability, rendered it possible for him to enter
Westminster School, and afterwards to study at the University of
Cambridge. In his seventeenth or eighteenth year, probably from a want
of means, he had to give up the career of learning, in order to follow
the simple calling of his stepfather. It may be easily understood that
Ben was little pleased with the use of the trowel; he fled to the
Netherlands, became a soldier, and took part in a campaign. After a year,
the youthful adventurer, then only nineteen years old, came back to
London. He talks of a heroic deed; but the truthfulness of his account
may well be doubted. He pretends having killed an enemy, in the face
of both camps, and come back to the ranks, laden with his spoils.

After his return to London, Jonson first tried to earn his livelihood
as an actor. His figure [4] and his scorbutic face were, however, sad
hindrances to his success. Soon he gave up the histrionic attempts and
began to write additions to existing plays, at the order of a theatrical
speculator, of the name of Philip Henslowe. The only further detail we
have of Jonson's doings, down to 1598, [5] is, that he fell out with
one of his colleagues, an actor (Jonson's quarrelsome disposition as
regards his comrades commenced very early), and that finally he killed
his antagonist. We then find him in prison where a Catholic priest
induced him to become a convert to the Roman Church which, after the
lapse of about twelve years, he again left, returning to the Established
Protestant Church of England. Jonson himself afterwards said once that
'he was for any religion, as being versed in both.' [6] It is, therefore,
not to be assumed that he once more changed from conviction. His
reconversion appears rather to have been a prudential act on his part,
in order to conform to the religious views of the pedantic James I.,
and thus to obtain access at Court, which aim he indeed afterwards
reached; whereas he had not been able to obtain that favour under
Elizabeth. [7]

It is not known by what, or by whom, Ben Jonson was saved from the near
prospect of the gallows. In 1598 his name is mentioned as one of the
better-known writers of comedies, by Francis Meres, in his 'Palladis
Tamia.' His first successful comedy was, 'Every Man in his Humour.' Fama
says that the manuscript which the author had sent in to the Lord
Chamberlain's Company, was on the point of being rejected when Shakspere
requested to have the play given to him, read it, and caused its being
acted on the stage. This anecdote belongs, however, to the class of
traditional tales of that age, whose value for fixing facts is a most
doubtful one. It is more certain that Ben, at the age of twenty, took
a  wife; which contributed very little to the lessening of his chronic
poverty with which he constantly had to struggle. It does not appear that
the union was a very happy one; for he relates that he once left his wife
for five years.

A diary written by an unknown barrister informs us, February 12, 1602:
'Ben Jonson, the poet, nowe lives upon one Townesend and scornes the
world.' [8] In the society of gallants and lords, the young poet felt
himself most at home. All kinds of mendicant epistles, sonnets,
dedications, petitions, and so forth, which he addressed to high
personages, and which have been preserved, convince us that Jonson
neglected nothing that could give an opportunity to the generosity
of liberal noblemen to prove themselves patrons of art in regard to
him. He boasts on the stage of being more in the enjoyment of the
favour of the great ones than any of his literary contemporaries. [9]
Modesty was certainly not a mitigating trait in the character of
hot-tempered Jonson, whose wrath was easily roused.

Convinced of the power of his own genius, he most eagerly wanted to see
the value of his work acknowledged. Not satisfied with the slow judgment
his contemporaries might come to, or the niggardly reward they might
confer; nor content with the prospects of a laurel wreath which grateful
Posterity lays on the marble heads of departed eminent men, this
pretentious disciple of the Muse importunately claimed his full recompense
during his own life. For the applause of the great mass, the dramatist,
after all, has to contend. Jonson strove hard for it; but in vain. A more
towering genius was the favourite of the age. Ben, however, laid the
flattering unction to his soul that he was above Shakspere, [10] even
as above all other contemporary authors; and he left nothing unattempted
to gain the favour of the great public. All his endeavours remained
fruitless. On every occasion he freely displays the rancour he felt at
his ill-success; for he certainly was not master of his temper. In poems,
epistles, and epigrams, as well as in his dramas, and in the dedications,
prologues, and epilogues attached thereto, he shows his anger against the
'so-called stage poets.' We shall prove that his fullest indignation is
mainly directed against one--the very greatest: need we name him?

Jonson, resolved upon making the most of his Muse in a remunerative
sense, well knew how to obtain the patronage of the highest persons
of the country; and his ambition seems to have found satisfaction when,
afterwards, a call was made upon him, on the part of the Court, to
compose 'Masques' for Twelfth-Night and similar extraordinary occasions.
He produced a theatrical piece in consonance with the barbaric taste
prevailing in Whitehall, which gave plenty to do to the machinists,
the decorators, and the play-dresser of the stage. With such a division
of labour in the domain of art, it is not easy, to-day, to decide to
whom the greater merit belongs, among those concerned, of having
afforded entertainment to the courtiers. Dramatic or poetical value
is wanting in those productions of Jonson.

From his poems, as well as from the 'Conversations with Drummond,'
we know that among the patronesses of Jonson there were Lucie Countess
of Bedford and Elizabeth Countess of Rutland--two ladies to whom
Florio dedicated a translation of Montaigne. Lady Rutland's marriage
was a most unhappy one. In the literary intercourse with prominent men
of her time she appears to have sought consolation and distraction.

Jonson's relations with this lady must have been rather friendly ones,
for 'Ben one day being at table with my Lady Rutland, her husband
coming in, accused her that she keept table to poets, of which she
wrott a letter to him (Jonson), which he answered. My lord intercepted
the letter, but never chalenged him.' [11]

From the same source which makes this statement we take the following
trait in Jonson's character, which is as little calculated as his
passionate quarrelsomeness to endear him to us. Sir Thomas Overbury
had become enamoured of unhappy Lady Rutland. Jonson was asked by this
nobleman, who at the same time was a poet, to read to the adored one
a lyrical effusion of his; evidently for the purpose of fomenting her
inclinations towards the friend who was languishing for her. Ben Jonson
relates that he fulfilled Overbury's wish 'with excellent grace,' at the
same time praising the author. Next morning he fell out with Overbury,
who would have him to make an unlawful proposal to Lady Rutland.

But how, we may ask, was it possible that Jonson's noble friend could at
all think of trying to use him as a go-between in this shameful manner?
Are we not reminded here of the position of thirsty Toby Belch towards
the simple Aguecheek, if not even of honest [12] Iago in his dealings
with the liberal Rodrigo? Neither in Olivia's uncle, nor in Othello's
Ancient is it reckoned a merit to have omitted doing pimp service to
friends. Their policy of taking advantage of amorous inclinations,
although they did not even try to promote them by the reading of
poetical productions, remains not the less contemptible.

As to Jonson's passion for the cup that does more than cheer, neither
he himself conceals it, nor is evidence to the same effect wanting
on the part of his contemporaries. Drayton says that he was in the
habit of 'wearing a loose coachman's coat, frequenting the Mermaid
Tavern, where he drank seas of Canary; then reeling home to bed, and,
after a profuse perspiration, arising to his dramatic studies.' [13]

At a certain time, Jonson accompanied a son of Sir Walter Raleigh as
tutor during a voyage to France. The young hopeful pupil, 'being
knavishly inclined,' and not less quick in the execution of practical
jokes than in spying out human weaknesses, had no difficulty in
understanding his tutor's bent, and succeeded in making Jonson 'dead
drunk.' He then 'laid him on a carr, which he made to be drawen by
pioners through the streets, at every corner showing his governour
stretched out, and telling them, that was a more lively image of
the Crucifix than any they had.' The mother of young Raleigh greatly
relished this sport. It reminded her of similar tricks her husband had
been addicted to in his boyish days, 'though the father abhorred it.'

With habits of the kind described, Jonson had a hard but fruitless
struggle against oppressing poverty and downright misery during his
whole life. When age was approaching, he addressed himself to his
highborn patrons with petitions in well-set style. His needy condition
was, however, little bettered, even when Charles I., in 1630, conferred
upon him, seven years before his death, an annual pension of 100
pounds, with a terse of Spanish wine yearly out of his Majesty's
store at Whitehall.

A letter of Sir Thomas Hawkins describes one of the last circumstances
of Jonson's life. At 'a solemn supper given by the poet, when good
company, excellent cheer, choice wine, and jovial welcome had opened
his heart and loosened his tongue, he began to raise himself at the
expense of others.'

Wine, joviality, good company, and bitter satire--these were the elements
of Ben Jonson's happiness.

'O rare Ben Jonson!' Sir John Young, [14] who, walking through
Westminster Abbey, saw the bare stone on the poet's grave, gave
one of the workmen eighteenpence to cut the words in question, and
posterity is still in doubt whether the word 'rare' was meant for
the valuable qualities of the poet or for those of the boon-companion.

We will give a short abstract of Jonson's character from the notes of a
contemporary whose guest he had been during fully a month in 1619. One
might doubt the sincerity of this judgment if Sir William Drummond, his
liberal host, had made it public for the purpose of harming Jonson.
There was, however, no such intention, for it remained in manuscript
for fully two hundred years.

Only then, a copy of this incisive characteristic came before the world
at large. The Scottish nobleman and poet had written it down, together
with many utterances of Jonson, after his guest who most freely and
severely criticised his contemporaries had left. The perspicacity
of Drummond, and the truthful rendering of his impressions, are fully
confirmed by Jonson's manner of life and the contents of his literary
productions. [15] Drummond concludes his notes thus:--

'He' (Jonson) 'is a great lover and praiser of himself; a contemner and
scorner of others; given rather to loose a friend than a jest; jealous
of every word and action of those about him (especially after drink,
which is one of the elements in which he liveth): a dissembler of ill
parts which reigne in him; a bragger of some good that he wanteth;
thinking nothing well but what either himself or some of his friends
and countrymen have said or done. He is passionately kind and angry;
careless either to gain or keep; vindicative, but, if he be well
answered, at himself. For any religion, as being versed in both;
interpreteth best sayings and deeds often to the worst. Oppressed
with fantasie, which has ever mastered his reason: a general disease
in many poets.'

It will easily be understood that between two natures of so opposite a
bent as that of the quarrelsome Jonson and 'gentle Shakspere,'
friendship for any length of time could scarcely be possible. [16]

The creations of the dramatist obtain their real value by the poet's
own character. He who breathes a soul into so many figures destined
for action must himself be gifted with a greatness of soul that
encompasses a world. In the dramatic art, such actions only charm which
are evolved out of clearly defined passions; and such characters only
awake interest which bear human features strongly marked. If, however,
we cast a glance at the dramatic productions of Ben Jonson, we in vain
look among the many figures that crowd his stage for one which could
inspire us with sympathy. Time has pronounced its verdict against his
creations: they are lying in the archive of mere curiosities. Even the
inquirer feels ill at ease when going for them to their hiding-place.
Jonson's characters do not speak with the ever unmistakeable and
touching voice of human passions. In his comedies he produces the
strangest whims, caprices, and crotchets, by which he probably points
to definite persons. The clue to these often malignant dialectics
is very difficult to find.

The action of his plays--if incidental quarrels, full of sneering
allusions, are left aside--is generally of such diminutive proportions
that one may well ask, after the perusal of some of his dramas, whether
they contain any action at all. No doubt the satirist, too, has his
legitimate place in the dramatic art; but he must know how to hit the
weaknesses of human nature in certain striking types. Jonson, however,
is far from being able to lay a claim to such dramaturgic merit. At
'haphazard he took certain individualities from the idly gossiping crowd
that congregated in the central nave of St. Paul's Church, and put them
on the stage. Whoever had been strutting about there to-day in his
silken stockings, proudly displaying the nodding feathers in his hat,
his rich waist-coat and mantle, and boasting a little too loud before
some other gallant of his love adventures, ran great danger--like all
those whose demeanour in St. Paul's gave rise to backbiting gossip--of
being pourtrayed in the 'Rose,' in the 'Curtain,' or in the theatres
of the 'little eyases,' in such a manner that people were able, in
the streets, to point them out with their fingers.

Like so many other novelties, this kind of comedy, too, may for a while
have found its admirers. Soon, however, this degradation of the Muse
brought up such a storm that Jonson had to take refuge in another
domain of the dramatic art (1601). He himself confesses:--

  And since the Comic Muse
  Hath proved so ominous to me, I will try
  If Tragedy have a more kind aspect. [17]

But he is nothing if not satirical. The persons that are to enliven his
tragedies are not filled with the true breath of life. They are mere
phantoms or puppets of schoolcraft, laboriously put together by a
learning drawn from old folios. In his tragedies, 'Sejanus' and
'Cataline,' he seeks to describe Romans whose whole bearing was to be
in pedantically close harmony with the time in which the dramatic
action occurs. Only a citizen from a certain period of ancient Rome
would be able to decide whether this difficult but thankless problem
had been solved. These cold academic treatises--for such we must,
practically, take them to be--were not relished by the public. There
is no vestige of human passion in the bookish heroes thus put on the
stage. For their sorrows the audience has no feeling of fear or anguish
and no tear of compassion.

Jonson, indignant at the small estimate in which his arduously composed
works were received, ill-humoured by their want of success, looked
enviously upon Shakspere, who had not been academically schooled; who
audaciously overthrew the customs of the antique drama; who made his
own rules, or rather, who made himself a rule to others; who created
metrics that were peculiarly his; who chose themes hitherto considered
non-permissible, and unusual with Greeks and Romans; who flung the
'three unities' to the winds; and who, nevertheless, had an unheard-of
success!

This favourite of the public, Jonson seems to have looked upon as the
main obstacle barring the way to his own genius. Against this towering
rival, Jonson directed a hail of satirical arrows. Only take, for
instance, the prologue to 'Every Man in his Humour.' [18] There, Jonson,
with the most arrogant conceit, tries to make short work of various
dramas of Shakspere's--for instance, of his historical plays, in which
he dared--

  ... with three rusty swords,
  And help of some few foot and half-foot words,
  Fight over York and Lancaster's long jars,
  And in the tyring-house bring wounds to scars.

In 'The Poetaster,' which in 1601 was acted by the children of the Queen's
Chapel, Jonson made an attack upon three poets. We hope to be able to
prove that the one most bitterly abused, and who is bidden to swallow
the 'pill,' is no other than Shakspere, whilst the two remaining ones
are John Marston and Thomas Dekker. From the 'Apologetical Dialogue'
which Jonson wrote after 'The Poetaster' had already passed over the
stage, we see that this satire had excited the greatest indignation
and sensation in the dramatic world. It was a new manner of falling
out with a colleague before the public. The conceited presumption
of the author, who in the play itself assumes the part of Horace,
seriously proclaiming himself as the poet of poets, as the worthiest
of the worthy, is not less enormous and repulsive than the way in
which he proceeds against his rivals.

Quite innocently, Jonson asks in that dialogue (which was spoken on the
stage after 'The Poetaster' had given rise to a general squabble), how
it came about that such a hubbub was made of that play, seeing that it
was free from insults, only containing 'some salt' but 'neither tooth,
nor gall,' whilst his antagonists, after all, had been the cause of
whatever remarks he himself had made:--

  ... But sure I am, three years
  They did provoke me with their petulant styles,
  On every stage. And I at last, unwilling,
  But weary, I confess, of so much trouble,
  Thought I would try if shame could win upon 'em.

In some comedies of Shakspere, which appeared between the years 1598
and 1601, there are characters markedly stamped with Jonsonian
peculiarities. We may be convinced that 'gentle Shakspere' had
received many a provocation [19] before he took notice of the obscure
dramatist who was younger by ten years than himself, and publicly
gave him a strong lesson. 'All's Well that Ends Well' contains a
figure, Parolles, whose peculiarities are too closely akin to those
of Ben Jonson to be regarded as a mere fortuitous accident; especially
when we find that Jonson, in 'The Poetaster,' again tries to ridicule
this hit by a characteristic expression. [20]

Parolles is a follower of Count Rousillon. His position is not further
defined than that he follows Bertram; he is a cross between a gentleman
and a servant. We hear the old Lord Lafeu reproaching him in act ii.
sc. 3:--

'Why dost thou garter up thy arms o' this fashion? dost make hose of thy
sleeves? Do other servants do so?'

Again he calls him--'a vagabond, no true traveller: you are more saucy
with lords and honourable personages than the heraldry of your birth and
virtue gives you commission.' [21]

Parolles boasts of being born under the sign of Mars, and up to every
heroic deed; and it is certainly an allusion to Jonson's bravado of
having in the Low Countries, in the face of both camps, killed an enemy
and taken _opima spolia_ from him, that Shakspere lets this
character make the attempt to retake, single-handed, from the enemy, a
drum that had been lost in the battle. Of course, Parolles finally comes
out a coward and a traitor. Parolles also mentions that he understands
'Low Dutch.'

In the character of Malvolio ('Twelfth Night; or What You Will,'
1600-1601), the quarrelsome Ben has long ago been suspected, who,
puffed up with braggart pride, contemptuously looks down upon his
colleagues, and impudently exerts himself to gain access to high social
circles; thus assuming, like Parolles, a position that does not properly
belong to him. Even as Lord Lafeu takes Parolles a peg lower, so Sir
Toby (act. ii. sc. 3) reminds the haughty Malvolio that he is nothing
more than a steward. The religion of Malvolio also is several times
discussed. Merry Maria relates that he is a 'Puritan or anything
constantly but a time-pleaser.' Nor is the priest wanting who is to
drive out the hyperbolical fiend from the captive Malvolio: an
unmistakeable allusion to Ben Jonson's conversion in prison. The Fool
who represents the Priest, puts a question referring to Pythagoras to
Malvolio who is groaning 'in darkness' and yearning for freedom. He
receives an evasive answer from the prisoner. In 'Volpone,' as we
shall see, Jonson answers it very fully. [22]

Altogether, there are allusions in 'The Poetaster,' and in 'Volpone,'
to 'All's Well that Ends Well,' and to 'What You Will,' which we shall
have to touch upon in speaking of those plays.

The scene of 'The Poetaster' is laid at the court of Augustus Caesar.
Jonson therein describes himself under the character of Horace. The
whole drift of the play is, to take the many enemies of the latter
to task for their calumnies and libels against him. Rome is the place
of action, and the persons of the drama bear classic names. There are,
besides Augustus and Horace, Mecaenas (_sic_), Virgil, Propertius,
Trebatius, Ovid, Demetrius Fannius, _Rufus Laberius Crispinus_, and
so forth. The characters whom they are to represent are mostly
authors of the dramatic world around Ben Jonson. They are depicted
with traits so easily recognisable that--as Dekker says in his
'Satiromastix'--of five hundred people four hundred could 'all point
with their fingers in one instant at one and the same man.'

More especially against two disciples of the Muse is Jonson's 'gally
ink' directed. Let us give a few instances of the lampoons and
calumnious squibs by which Horace pretends having been insulted on
the part of envious colleagues who, he maintains, look askance at
him because 'he keeps more worthy gallants' company' than they can get
into. In act iv. sc. I, Demetrius tells Tucca:--

'Alas, Sir, Horace! he is a mere sponge; nothing but humours and
observation; he goes up and down, sucking from every society, and
when he comes home, squeezes himself dry again.'

Tucca adds:--'He will sooner lose his best friend than his least jest.'

Crispinus is found guilty of having composed a libel against Horace,
of which the following may serve as a specimen:--

  Ramp up my genius, be not retrograde;
  But boldly nominate a spade a spade.
  What, shall thy lubrical and glibbery muse
  Live, as she were defunct, like punk in stews?
  Alas! that were no modern consequence,
  To have cothurnal buskins frighted hence.
  No, teach thy Incubus to poetize;
  And throw abroad thy spurious snotteries....
  O poets all and some! for now we list
  Of strenuous vengeance to clutch the fist.

Such was the language the contemporaries of Shakspere used. Are we to
wonder, then, if here and there we find in his works an offensive
expression?

The two persons who are specially taken to task, and most harshly
treated, are Demetrius Fannius, 'play-dresser and plagiarius,' and
RUFUS LABERIUS CRISPINUS, '_poetaster and plagiarius_.' In 'Satiromastix,'
Demetrius clearly comes out as Dekker. Crispinus is the chief character
of the play:--'the poetaster.' Against him the satire is mainly directed,
and for his sake it seems to have been written, for the title runs
thus: 'The Poetaster, or His Arraignment.' From all the characteristic
qualities of Crispinus we draw the conclusion that this figure
represented SHAKSPERE.

From the above-mentioned passage in 'The Return from Parnassus' it would
seem as if a '_pill_' had been administered in the play to several poets.
That is, however, not so. Then, as now, the plural form was a favourite
one with writers afraid to attack openly. Horace administers a pill
only to one poet--to Crispinus. And as Kemp says that Shakspere,
thereupon, gave a '_purge_,' the conclusion is obvious that he who took
revenge by administering the purge, must have been the one to whom
the pill had been given. 'Volpone,' a play directed against the
'purge'--that is, 'Hamlet'--will convince us that the chief controversy
lay between Jonson and Shakspere, and not between Jonson and Dekker.

The following points will, we think, make it still clearer that we are
warranted in believing that the figure of Crispinus was intended by
Jonson for Shakspere.

When, in presence of Augustus, as well as of the high jurors Maecenas,
Tibullus, and Virgil, the two poetasters have been heard; when Horace
has forgiven Demetrius, [23] and Crispinus, under the sharp effects of
the pill, has thrown up, amidst great pain, [24] the disgraceful
words which he had used against Horace, he is dismissed by the latter
with the admonition to observe, in future, a strict and wholesome diet;
to take each morning something of Cato's principles; then taste a
piece of Terence and suck his phrase; to shun Plautus and Ennius as
meats too harsh for his weak stomach, and to read the best Greeks,
'but not without a tutor.'

This fits in with Shakspere's 'small Latin and less Greek'--a
circumstance of which Jonson himself, in his poem in memory of
Shakspere (1623), thought he should remind the coming generations.

It is, no doubt, a little revenge for the 'dark chamber' in which
Malvolio [25] is imprisoned, that, after Horace has concluded his
speech in which the study of Latin and Greek is recommended to
Crispinus as something very necessary for him, Virgil should add the
further advice:--

  And for a week or two see him locked up
  In some dark place, removed from company;
  He will talk idly else after his physic.

The full name given by Jonson to Crispinus is--RUFUS LABERIUS CRISPINUS.
John Marston already, in 1598, designates Shakspere with the nickname
'_Rufus_.' Everyone can convince himself of this by first reading
Shakspere's  'Venus and Adonis,' and immediately afterwards John
Marston's 'Metamorphosis of Pigmalion's Image.' [26] We do not know
whether it has struck anyone as yet that this poem of Marston is a
most evident satire, written even in the same metre as Shakspere's
first, and at that time most popular, poem. [27] In his sixth satire
of 'The Scourge of Villanie,' Marston explains why he had composed
his  'Pigmalion's Image:'--

  Yet deem'st that in sad seriousnesse I write
  such nasty stuff as in Pigmalion?
  Such maggot-tainted, lewd corruption! ...
  Hence, thou misjudging censor: know I wrot
  Those idle rimes to note the odious spot
  and blemish that deformes the lineaments
  of modern poesies habiliments.

At the end of his satire ('Pigmalion's Image'), Marston
self-complacently tacks on a concluding piece: 'The Author in Praise
of his Precedent Poem.' Whom else does he address there than him
whose poetical manner he wished to mock--namely, Shakspere's--when
he begins with these words:--

  Now, Rufus! by old Glebron's fearfull mace,
  Hath not my Muse deserv'd a worthy place? ...
  Is not my pen compleate? Are not my lines
  Right in the swaggering humour of these times?

The name of 'Rufus' has two peculiarities which may have induced
Marston to confer it upon Shakspere. First of all, like the English
king of that name, Shakspere's pre-name was William. Secondly, the
best-preserved portrait of Shakspere shows him with hair verging upon
a reddish hue.

But not only the colour of the hair, but also its thinness (according
to all pictures and busts we have of Shakspere, he was bald-headed),
seems to have been satirised by Jonson in his 'Poetaster.' In act ii.
sc. 1, Chloe asks Crispinus, who, excited by her love and her beauty,
pretends becoming a poet, whether, as a poet, he would also change his
hair? To which Crispinus replies, 'Why, a man may be a poet, and yet not
change his hair.'

Now Dekker, in his 'Satiromastix, in which all personal insults are to be
avenged [28](for which reason the chief personages of 'The Poetaster' are
introduced under the same name), makes Horace give forth a long song in
praise of 'heades thicke of hair,' whilst Crispinus gives another in
honour of 'balde heads;' from which we conclude that Chloe's remark on
Crispinus' hair has reference to a bald pate, but the name of 'Rufus'
to the colour of whatever hair there is.

'Rufus Laberius Crispinus' might truly be thus rendered: 'The red-haired
SHAK-erius, with the crisp-head, who cribs like St. Crispin.' The word
Rufus, as already explained, reminds us both of Shakspere's red
hair and his pre-name 'William.' Laberius (from _labare_, to shake;
hence Shak-erius, a similar nickname as Greene's SHAKE-_scene_)
is clearly an indication of the poet's family name. The Roman custom
of placing the name of the _gens_, or family, in the middle of a
person's name, leaves no doubt as to Jonson's intention. Laberius
was a dramatic poet, even as Shakspere. Laberius was an actor (Suet. c.i.
39). So was Shakspere. Laberius played in his own dramas. Shakspere did
the same. Laberius' name corresponds etymologically, as regards meaning,
to the root-syllable in Shakspere's name. Could Jonson, who was so well
versed in classics, have made his satirical allusion plainer or more
poignant? In Crispinus, both Shakspere's curly hair and the offence of
application, plagiarism, or literary theft, with which he is charged
by his antagonist, are manifestly marked; St. Crispin being noted among
the saints for his filching habits. He made shoes for the poor from
materials stolen from the rich.

Crispinus approaches Horace quite as a 'Johannes Factotum,' as Greene
had designated Shakspere in 1592. Jonson makes him assert that he, too,
is a scholar, a writer conversant with every kind of poetry, and a
Stoic. He also declares that he is studying architecture, and that,
if he builds a house, [29] it must be similar to one before which
they are standing.

In Dekker's 'Satiromastix,' Crispinus is described as being of a most
gentle nature. This is in harmony with the well-known quality generally
attributed to Shakspere. In the beginning of 'Satiromastix,' Crispinus
approaches Horace for the object of peace and reconciliation. The latter
excuses himself, in words similar to those of the 'Apologetical
Dialogue,' that even if he should 'dip his pen in distilde Roses,'
or strove to drain out of his ink all gall, [30] yet his enemies would
look at his writings 'with sharpe and searching eyes.' Nay--

  When my lines are measur'd out as straight
  As even parallels, 'tis strange that still,
  Still some imagine they are drawne awry.
  The error is not mine, but in their eye;
  That cannot take proportions.

  _Crispinus_. Horrace, Horrace!
  To stand within the shot of galling tongues,
  Proves not your gilt, for could we write on paper,
  Made of these turning leaves of heaven, the cloudes,
  Or speak with Angels tongues: yet wise men know,
  That some would shake the head, tho' saints should sing,
  Some snakes must hisse, because they're borne with stings.

  _Horace_. 'T is true.

  _Crispinus_. Doe we not see fooles laugh at heaven? and mocke
  The Makers workmanship?

Crispinus goes on telling Horace that none are safe from such calumnies;
but that, if his 'dastard wit' will 'strike at men in corners,' if he
will 'in riddles folde the vices' of his best friends, then he must
expect also that they will 'take off all gilding from their pilles,'
and offer him 'the bitter coare' (core). [31] With great emphasis,
Crispinus admonishes Horace not to swear that he did not intend whipping
the private vices of his friends while his '_lashing jestes make all
men bleed_.' Crispinus concludes his mild, conciliatory speech with
the words:--

  We come like your phisitions (physicians) to purge
  Your sicke and daungerous minde of her disease.

A peace is then concluded, which Horace (Jonson) again breaks, for which
he receives his punishment towards the end of 'Satiromastix.' Dekker,
who brings in the chief personages of 'The Poetaster' under the same
name, makes, in this counter-piece, two parts of the figure of Rufus
Laberius Crispinus--namely, that of William Rufus, the king, at whose
court he lays the scene (Jonson's drama has the court of Augustus), and
that of Crispinus, the poet. The part of the king is a very unimportant
one; and it may be assumed that Dekker intended the king and the poet
to be looked upon as the same person. The object of the play-dresser
Demetrius (Dekker) was, no doubt, to do homage in this way to his
chief Crispinus--that is, Shakspere. When the accused Horace is to be
judged, the King says to Crispinus:--

  Not under us, but next us take thy seate;
  Artes nourished by Kings make Kings more great.

Crispinus declares Horace guilty of having 'rebelled against the sacred
laws of divine Poesie,' not out of love of virtue, but--

  Thy pride and scorn made her turne saterist.

Horace, on account of his crimes against the sacred laws of divine
poesy, is not 'lawrefyed,' but 'nettlefyed:' not crowned with laurels,
but with a wreath of nettles, and afterwards, in Sancho Panza manner,
tossed in a blanket. He then is told:--'You shall not sit in a
Gallery when your Comedies and Enterludes have entred their Actions,
and there make vile faces at everie lyne, to make Gentlemen have an eye
to you, and to make Players afraide to take your part.' Furthermore,
he 'must forsweare to venter on the stage when your Play is ended, and
to exchange courtezies and complements with Gallants in the Lordes
roomes, to make all the house rise up in Armes, and to cry that's
Horace, that's he, that's he, that's he, that pennes and purges
Humours and diseases.' He must promise 'not to brag in Bookebinders
shops that your Vize-royes or Tributorie Kings have done homage to
you, or paide Quarterage.' And--'when your Playes are misse-likt at
Court, you shall not Crye Mew like a Pusse-Cat, and say you are
glad you write out of the Courtiers Elements.' [32]

In his Preface to 'Satiromastix' ('To the World '), Dekker says that
in this play he did '_only whip his_ (Horace's) _fortunes and
condition of life, where the more noble_ REPREHENSION _had bin of
his_ MINDES DEFORMITIE.' [33]

This nobler reprehension, as we have sufficiently shown, was undertaken
by Shakspere in his 'Hamlet.' [34] Dekker, in his Epilogue to
'Satiromastix' (he there speaks of the 'Heretical Libertine Horace'),
asks the public for its applause; for Horace would thereby be induced
to write a counter-play: which, if they hissed his own 'Satiromastix,'
would not be the case. By applauding, they would thus, in fact, get
more sport; for we 'will untrusse him agen, and agen, and agen.'

Shakspere may have been tired of this fruitless pastime, of those
pitiful squabbles, as appears also from the reproach he makes in
'Hamlet'to his people. By the '_more noble_ REPREHENSION' which
he administered to Jonson and his party, he became absorbed in the
profounder problems concerning mankind. The time of the lighter
comedies is now past for him. There follow now his grandest
master-works. Henceforth the poet stands in a relation created by
himself to his God and to the world.

We proceed to an examination of 'Volpone,' of that play which Jonson
sent as a counter-thrust after 'Hamlet,' and from which, as regards
our Hamlet-Montaigne theory, we hope to convince our readers in the
clearest manner possible.

 1: Arber's _English Scholars Library_, 1879, shows that this highly
   interesting drama was for the first time given at Cambridge in
   1602. If so, the manuscript has unquestionably received additions
   during the four years before its appearance in print. The fact is,
   we find in the play certain evident allusions which could not
   possibly have been added before the years 1603-4; for instance,
   references to the translators of Montaigne--John Florio, and the
   friends who aided him;--references which must have been made after
   the _Essais_ were published.

   In act i. sc. 2, Judicio speaks of the English 'Flores Poetarum,
   against whom can-quaffing hucksters shoot their pellets.' These
   '_Flores_ Poetarum' are _Florio_ and his fellow-workers, among whom Ben
   Jonson is also to be reckoned; and we shall see farther on that the
   latter abuses these offensive hucksters as 'vernaculous orators,'
   because they make Montaigne the target of their sneers. Again,
   in act iv. sc. 2, Furor Poeticus, Ingenioso, and Phantasma indulge
   in expressions which can only apply to the Dedications and the
   Sonnets of Florio's translation. Phantasma, for instance, addresses
   an Ode of Horace to himself:--

     'Maecenas, atavis edite regibus,
     O et praesidium et dulce decus meum
     Dii faciant votis vela secunda tuis.'

   The latter line ought to run:--

     Sunt, quos curriculo pulverem Olympicum,

   and if we take into consideration that Juror says in the same
   scene:--

     And when thy swelling vents amain,
     Then Pisces be thy sporting chamberlain,

   it is not asserting too much that these are manifest hits at Florio,
   who, to please his Maecenas, tries with Dr. Diodati, his 'guide-fish'
   to capture the 'whale' in the 'rocke rough ocean.'

   Florio's way of translating the Latin classic writers into
   indifferent English rhymes is also repeatedly ridiculed. The
   latter (Florio, p. 574.) once gives a passage from Plautus
   (_The Captives_, Prologue, v. 22) correctly enough: 'The Gods,
   perdye (_pardieu_), doe reckon and racket us men as their
   tennis balls.' Furor Poeticus, in one of his fits of fine frenzy,
   accuses Phoebus:--

     The heavens' promoter that doth peep and prey
     Into the acts of mortal tennis balls.

   This he says after having, in the same highly comic speech,
   travestied Florio's Dedication of the third book, in which that
   gallant compares himself to 'Mercury between the radiant orbs of
   Venus and the Moon'--that is, the two ladies to whom he dedicates
   the book in question, and before whom he alleges he 'leads a
   dance.' A further sneer is directed by Furor Poeticus against the
   lazy manner with which Florio's Muse rises from her nest.

   Additional allusions to dramatic publications from the years
   1603-4 will be found on pp. 201, 202. Another proof that the play
   (_The Return from Parnassus_) cannot be of a uniform cast,
   is this: In act i. sc. 2 a list of the poets is given, that are to
   be criticised. The list is kept up in proper succession as far as
   'John Davis.' Then there are variations, and names not contained
   in that list. These additions mostly refer to dramatic authors,
   whilst the previous names, as far as 'John Davis,' only refer to
   lyric poets.

   We believe the intention of the first writer of _The Return
   from Parnassus_ was only to criticise lyric poets. Moreover,
   Monius says in the Prologue:--'What is presented here, is an old
   musty show, that has lain this twelvemonth in the bottom of a
   coal-house amongst brooms and old shoes.' Our opinion is that
   _The Return from Parnassus_, after having been acted before
   a learned public at Cambridge, came into the hands of players
   who applied the manner in which lyric poets had been criticised
   in it, to dramatic writers. The authors of the additions must
   have been friends of Shakspere; for, as we shall find, the enemies
   of the latter are also theirs.

 2: Act iv. sc. 3.

 3: In _The Poetaster_, of which we shall speak farther on.

 4: According to certain indications in _Satiromastix_,
   he had an 'ambling' walk, or dancing kind of step. (See _note_
   28.)

 5: Collier's _Memoirs of Alleyn_, pp. 50 and 51.

 6: _Conversations with Drummond_.

 7: _Satiromastix_, 1602.

 8: Collier's _Drama_, i. 334.

 9: _Poetaster_.

10: Compare his Dedication in _Volpone_, of which we shall have
   more to say.

11: _Drummond's Conversations_.

12: Of all styles, Jonson liked best to be named 'Honest;' and he
   'hath ane hundred letters so naming him.'--_Conversations with
   Drummond_.

13: _Life of Dryden_, p. 265.

14: By Aubrey called 'Jack Young.'

15: As if the whole world had made it a point to conspire against
   Jonson, Gifford laboriously exerts himself to defend him against the
   numberless attacks of all the previous commentators, critics, and
   biographers. The endeavour of Gifford to whitewash him seems to me
   as fruitless a beginning as that of the little innocent represented
   in a picture as trying to change, with sponge and soap, the African
   colour of her nurse's face.

16: Jonson's _Eulogy of Shakspere_ was composed seven years after the
   death of the latter. Having most probably been requested by
   Heminge and Condell not to withhold his tribute from the departed,
   to whom both his contemporaries as well as posterity had done homage,
   Jonson may readily have seized the occasion to do amends for the
   wrong he had inflicted upon the great poet during his lifetime. A
   later opinion of Jonson in regard to Shakspere (_Timber; or
   Discoveries made upon Men and Matter_, 1630-37) is of a more moderate
   tone, and on some points in contradiction to the words of praise
   contained in the published poem.

17: _Poetaster_, Apol. Dialogue.

18: This Prologue is not contained in the first edition (1598), but
   only in the second (1616). It may, therefore, have been written
   in the meantime. It is supposed that it was so in 1606. (See
   _Shakspere's Century of Praise_, 1879, pp. 118, 119.)

19: Only a few of the earliest productions of Jonson have come
   down to us. Some of them are: _Every Man in His Humour_
   (1598); _Every Man out of His Humour_ (1599); and _Cynthia's
   Revels_ (1600), all of them full of personal allusions. Many of
   these are meant against Shakspere. We cannot, however, enter more
   fully upon that, as we have to confine ourselves to the chief
   controversy out of which _Hamlet_ arose. Neither on Jonson's
   nor on Shakspere's part did the controversy cease after the
   appearance of _Hamlet_. It was still carried on through several
   dramas, which, however, we leave untouched, as not belonging
   to our theme.

20: See _note_ 25.

21: In _Satiromastix_ this reproach is made to Ben Jonson:--'Horace
   did not screw and wriggle himselfe into great Mens famyliarity,
   impudentlie as thou doost.'

22: Gifford, in his nervous anxiety to parry every reproach
   against his much-admired, and, in his eyes, blameless Jonson whose
   quarrelsomeness had from so many parts been properly charged, and
   particularly desirous of shielding him against the accusation of
   having taken up an attitude hostile to Shakspere, declares, in
   contradiction to the opinion of all previous commentators, that
   _Crispinus_ is to represent John Marston. Since then, Gifford's
   assertion has been taken for granted, without deeper inquiry. The
   authority of this fond editor of Jonson has, however, proved an
   untrustworthy one in many things, especially in matters relating to
   Shakspere. Thanks to the exertions of more recent inquirers, not a
   a few things are now seen in a better perspective than Gifford was
   able to offer. We admit the difficulty of reconstructing facts from
   productions like _The Poetaster_, which had been dictated by the
   overwrought feelings of the moment. But in a satire which bred so much
   'tumult,' which 'could so deeply offend,' and 'stir so many hornets'
   (four hundred persons out of five hundred being able to point with
   their fingers, in one instant, at one and the same man), the
   characters must have been very broadly drawn for general
   recognition. By such broad traits we must still be guided in our
   judgment to-day. All the characteristic qualities of Crispinus,
   which we shall explain farther on, prove that Gifford's idea about
   Crispinus being John Marston is not tenable.

   This latter poet was very well versed in Greek and Latin, and had a
   complete classic education. The admonition of Horace to perfect
   himself in both languages, is therefore not applicable to him.
   Furthermore, Marston, at the time The Poetaster was composed (this
   may have been towards the end of the year 1600, or the beginning of
   1601), had scarcely yet written anything for the stage. Only his
   _Metamorphosis of Pigmalion's Image and Certaine Satyres_ (1598),
   and his _Scourge of Villanie_ (1599) had been published. His first
   tragedy came out in print in 1602; it may just have been in course
   of becoming known on the stage. We have no means of ascertaining
   whether it had already been acted when _The Poetaster_ appeared.
   This much is however certain, that when this latter satire obtained
   publicity, Marston's relations to the drama and the stage must yet
   have been of the most insignificant kind; for Philip Henslowe, in
   his Diary (pp. 156, 157), expressly speaks of him, even in 1599, as
   a 'new' poet to whom he had lent, through an intermediary, the sum
   of forty shillings 'in earneste of a Boocke,' the title of which is
   not mentioned. Is it, then, conceivable that such a dramatist who
   in 1601 certainly was yet very insignificant, should have been made
   the subject, in 1601, in Jonson's _Poetaster_, of the following
   very characteristic remark--assuming Crispinus to have been
   intended for Marston?

   Tucca says, in regard to the former, to a poor player (act
   iii. sc. i):--'If he pen for thee once, thou shalt not need to travel
   with thy pumps full of gravel any more, after a blind jade and a
   hamper, and stalk upon boards and barrel-heads to an old cracked
   trumpet.'

   Does this not quite fit Shakspere's popularity and dramatic
   success?

   Jonson, it is true, tells Drummond that he had written his
   _Poetaster_ against Marston. (According to his declaration in the
   'Apologetical Dialogue,' there is nothing personal in the whole
   _Poetaster!_ 'I can profess I never writt that piece more innocent
   or empty of offence.') However, we form our judgment in this
   matter from the clear, well-marked, and indubitably characteristic
   traits of the play, as well as from the results of modern criticism,
   which are fully in harmony with those traits. Everything points
   to the figure of Ovid being a mask for Marston. Jonson perhaps
   chose the name of Ovid for him because he, too, had written
   _Metamorphoses_. Besides the before-mentioned _Metamorphosis
   of Pigmalion's Image_, it is not improbable that Marston is the
   author of the manuscript preserved in the British Museum:--_The
   New Metamorphosis; or, A Feaste or Fancie of Poeticall Legendes.
   The first parte divided into twelve books. Written by I. M.,
   gent._, 1600. Ovid--Marston--in the _Poetaster_, is described as the
   younger son of a gentleman of considerable position. He is
   dependent on a stipend allowed to him by his father. After having
   absolved his studies, he is to become an advocate, but secretly he
   devotes his time to poetry. The father warns him that poverty will
   be his lot if he does not renounce poetry. Ovid senior makes the
   following reproach to his son (which probably has reference to
   Marston's first tragedy, _Antonio and Mellida_):--'I hear of a
   tragedy of yours coming forth for the common players there, called
   _Medea_. By my household gods, if I come to the acting of it, I'll
   add one tragic part more than is yet expected to it.... What?
   shall I have my son a stager now? an enghle for players?... Publius,
   I will set thee on the funeral pile first!'

   All this harmonises with the few facts we know of Marston's
   career, who is said to have been the son of a counsellor of the
   Middle Temple, who was at Corpus Christi College at Oxford,
   and who was made a _baccalaureus_ there on February 23, 1592. In
   comparison with Crispinus and Demetrius, Ovid is but mildly
   chaffed; and this, again, is in accord with the relations which soon
   after arose, in a very friendly manner, between Jonson and Marston. It
   is scarcely to be thought that, if Marston had been derided as
   Crispinus, he would already have composed, as early as 1603, his
   eulogistic poem on Jonson's _Sejanus_, and dedicated to him in
   1604, in such hearty words, his own _Malcontent_.

   From some pointed words in the libel composed by Crispinus
   against Horace, Gifford concludes that the former must be Marston,
   because we meet with these pointed words in some satires and
   dramas of Marston. We, on our part, go, in these controversial
   plays, by the main and most prominent characteristics; and these
   show that Crispinus is Shakspere, and Ovid Marston.

   The latter even once says (_Scourge of Villanie_, sat. vi.) that
   many a one, in reading his _Pigmalion_, has compared him to Ovid.
   In order to make out Crispinus to be guilty before Augustus, strong
   language is required. For this purpose, Jonson may have used the
   way and manners of Marston, and applied some of his newly coined
   graphic words. But this proves nothing for the identity of characters.
   The libel also contains a pointed word of Shakspere--'retrograde'--an
   expression little employed by the latter, and which is hurled as a
   reproach against Parolles, the figure which in all likelihood is
   to represent Jonson; Helena (act i. sc. 2) says to him, that he was
   born under Mars, 'when he was retrograde.'

   The remark in _The Return from Parnassus_ that few of the University
   can pen plays well, smelling too much of that writer Ovid and
   that writer _Metamorphosis_, has, in our opinion, also reference to
   John Marston whose first dramatic attempts--although he, like
   Jonson, may be called a 'University man'--do not admit of any
   comparison with those of Shakspere.

23: Demetrius repentingly admits that it was from envy he had
   ill-treated Horace, because 'he kept better company for the most
   part than I, better men loved him than loved me; and his writings
   thrived better than mine, and were better liked and graced.'

24: The little word 'clutcht' for a long time 'sticks strangely' in
   Crispinus' throat; it is only thrown up with the greatest difficulty.
   In _Hamlet_ (act v. sc. i, in the second verse of the grave-digger's
   song) we hear, 'Hath claw'd me in his _clutch_. In the original song,
   which is here travestied, the words are, 'Hath claw'd me with his
   crouch'.

25: The following allusion in _The Poetaster_ (act iv. sc. 3) also has
   reference to _Twelfth Night_:--'I have read in a book that to play
   the fool wisely is high wisdom.' For Viola (act iii. sc. i) says:--

     This fellow 's wise enough to play the fool;
     And, to do that well, craves a kind of wit...
     As full of labour as a wise man's art.

   There are several indications in _The Poetaster_ pointing to
   Shakspere's _Julius Caesar_ which had appeared in the same year
   (1601). Not only does Horace say to Trebatius that 'great Caesar's
   wars cannot be fought with words,' but he also corrects Shakspere,
   who makes Antony (act iii. sc. 2) speak of Caesar's gardens on this
   side of the Tiber, by putting into the mouth of Horace (act iii.
   sc. i) the words:--' On the far side of all Tyber yonder.' In this
   scene, where the two Pyrgi are examined, there are some more
   allusions to _Julius Caesar_. Even the boy, whose instrument Brutus
   takes away when he is asleep, is not wanting. In _The Poetaster_
   it is a drum, instead of a lyre (the drum in _All's Well that Ends
   Well_). And are the following words of the same scene no satire
   upon act i. sc. 3 of _Julius Caesar_, where Casca and Cicero meet
   amidst thunder and lightning?

     2 _Pyrgi_. Where art thou, boy? where is Calipolis?
     Fight earthquakes in the entrails of the earth,
     And eastern whirlwinds in the hellish shades;
     Some foul contagion of the infected heavens
     Blast all the trees, and in their cursed tops
     The dismal night-raven and tragic owl
     Breed and become forerunners of my fall!

   Casca dwells especially on the 'bird of night.'

26: The y, in Pygmalion, seems to us not without cause to be changed
   by Marston into an i.

27: The number of metaphors used by Shakspere in 'Venus and Adonis,'
   which Marston travesties, is strikingly large.

28: A few instances may here be given of the coarseness with which
   Dekker pays back Jonson for his personal allusions. In _The Poetaster_,
   Crispinus is told that his 'satin-sleeve begins to fret at the rug
   that is underneath it.' In _Satiromastix_, Tucca cries out against
   Horace (Jonson):--'Thou never yet fel'st into the hands of sattin.'
   And again:--'Thou borrowedst a gowne of Roscius the stager, and
   sentest it home lousie.' Crispinus, in _The Poetaster_, is derided
   on account of his short legs. In _Satiromastix_, Horace is laughed at
   for his 'ambling' walk; wherefore he had so badly played mad
   Jeronimo's part. Jonson is reproached with all his sins: that he
   had killed a player; that he had not thought it necessary to keep
   his word to those whom he held to be _heretics_ and _infidels_, and
   so forth. His face, which, as above mentioned, had scorbutic
   marks, is stated to be 'like a rotten russet apple when it is
   bruiz'd'; or, like the cover of a warming-pan, 'full  of oylet-holes.'
   He is called an 'uglie Pope Bonifacius;' also a 'bricklayer;' and
   he is asked why, instead of building chimneys and laying down
   bricks, he makes 'nothing but railes'--'filthy rotten railes'--upon
   which alone his Muse leans. ('Railes' has a double meaning here:
   rails for fencing in a house; and gibes.) He is told that his feet
   stamp as if he had mortar under them--an allusion to his metrics,
   as well as to his ambling walk.

29: Shakspere was already then the proprietor of a house--New
   Place, in Stratford. In this scene Horace also asks
   Crispinus:--'You have much of the mother in you, sir? Your father
   is dead?' John Shakspere, the father, died in the year when
   _The Poetaster_ was first performed--in September, 1601.

30: _Twelfth Night_, act iii. sc. 2. _Sir Toby_:--'Let there
   be gall in thy ink, though thou write with a goose-pen.'

31: Here Crispinus threatens Horace with the 'purge' (a word
   that may be used as a noun or a verb), which, in _The Return from
   Parnassus_, is mentioned as having been administered by Shakspere
   to Jonson. It is highly probable that the reconciliation between
   Crispinus and Horace, which is described in the beginning of
   _Satiromastix_, had taken place between Shakspere and Ben Jonson,
   and that, during this period of peace, the performance of _Sejanus_
   occurred, in which Shakspere actively co-operated. After that,
   traces of hostility only are to be discovered between the two
   poets.

   Even when Horace, in the 'Satiromastix,' has again broken the peace,
   the gentle Crispinus says to him:--

     Were thy warpt soule put in a new molde,
     I'd weare thee as a jewell set in golde.

32: The _Satiromastix_ was performed in 1602, probably in the
   beginning of the year, as the Epilogue speaks of cold weather, and
   Dekker scarcely would have waited a year with his answer to _The
   Poetaster_. Queen Elizabeth died in 1603. Another decennium had to
   pass (Shakspere had long since withdrawn to his Stratford) before
   the taste of Whitehall had been so much lowered that Jonson could
   become a favourite of the courtly element.

33: In such type it is printed in the original.

34: In _Satiromastix_, Captain Tucca once  bawls out against Horace,
   'My name's Hamlet Revenge!' as if it had become known already then
   in the dramatic world that Shakspere was preparing his reply to
   _The Poetaster_. In the latter play (act iii. sc. I) which was
   probably added after _The Poetaster_ had already been acted, and
   Jonson had heard that Dekker was writing his _Satiromastix_),
   Jonson makes a player from the other side of the Tiber say:--'We
   have hired him to abuse Horace, and bring him in, in a play, with
   all his gallants, as Tibullus, Mecaenas, Cornelius Gallus, and the
   rest....O, it will get us a huge deal of money, Captain, and we have
   need on't; for this winter has made us all poorer than so many starved
   snakes. Nobody comes at us, not a gentleman, nor a--'

   In the same scene Tucca utters curses, before that player, against
   the theatres on the other side of the Tiber. The actor he addresses
   belongs to one of them. Tucca mentions two theatres by name--'your
   Globes, and your Triumphs.' He says to the actor:--'Commend me
   to seven shares and a half.' Shakespere and his colleagues had
   certain fixed shares in the 'Globe;' and the words of the actor, as
   regards the poor winter they had, confirm that which Shakspere gives
   to understand in _Hamlet_, that 'there was, for a while, no money
   bid for argument, unless the poet and the player went to cuffs in the
   question.'



VI.

'VOLPONE,' by Ben Jonson.

'EASTWARD HOE,' by Chapman, Ben Jonson, and Marston.

'THE MALCONTENT,' by John Marston.

Ben Jonson's 'Volpone' was first acted in 1605; and on February 11, 1607,
it appeared in print. [1] It is preceded by a Dedication, in which the
author dedicates 'both it and himself' to 'the most noble and most
equal sisters, the two famous Universities,' in grateful acknowledgment
'for their love and acceptance shown to this Poem in the presentation.'

In this Dedication the most passionate language is used against all
contemporary poets--especially against those who now, he says, practise
'in dramatic, as they term it: stage-poetry, nothing but ribaldry,
profanation,' and 'all licence of offence to God and man.' Their
petulancy, he continues, 'hath not only rapt me to present indignation,
but made me studious heretofore;' for by them 'the filth of the time
is uttered, and with such impropriety of phrase, such plenty of
solecisms, such dearth of sense, so bold prolepses, so racked metaphors,
with brothelry able to violate the ear of a pagan, and blasphemy to
turn the blood of a Christian to water.'

Jonson expresses his purpose of standing off from them (the stage-poets)
'by all his actions.' Solemnly he utters this vow:--'I shall raise the
despised head of poetry again, and, stripping her out of those rotten
and base rags wherewith the times have adulterated her form, restore
her to her primitive habit, feature, and majesty, and render her worthy
to be embraced and kist of all the great and master-spirits of our
world.' This object of his--he adds--'may most appear in this my latest
work ('Volpone'), which you, most learned Arbitresses, have seen, judged,
and, to my crown, approved; wherein I have laboured for their instruction
and amendment, to reduce, not only the ancient forms, but manners of the
scene, the easiness, the propriety, the innocence, and last, the doctrine,
which is the principal end of poesie, to inform men in the best reason of
living.'

All contemporary dramatists are most pitilessly condemned by Ben Jonson,
and the cause of his present indignation is clearly stated: '_A name
so full of authority, antiquity, and all great mark, is, through their
insolence, become the lowest scorn of the age_;' moreover, '_my_
(Jonson's) _fame, and the reputation of divers honest and learned,
are the question_--that is to say, have been injured.

As in 'Volpone,' wherein Jonson, as he states, 'laboured for their
(the contemporary poets') instruction and amendment,' we shall find
most numerous allusions to Shakspere and 'Hamlet,' we feel justified
in asserting that Jonson's whole fury is, in his 'present indignation,'
roused against this particular author and against this special drama.
Therein, as we have shown, a name of authority, antiquity, and all
great mark--Montaigne--has been tampered with, and, through this
satire, divers honest and learned (John Florio and his coadjutors
in the translation--all friends of Jonson) have been injured, as well
as the latter's own fame. In 'Hamlet,' Shakspere brought his own
ideal of friendship in the figure of Horatio on the stage, in contrast
to the Horace of 'The Poetaster.' Jonson was not the man to be edified
by the beautiful examples and the nobler words of his gentle adversary,
Shakspere, or to alter his sentiments in accordance with them. He rather
welcomed every opportunity for a quarrel. That was the element in which
he lived; for thus he got the materials and the spicy condiments for his
dramas. Now in 'Hamlet' there were motives enough for lighting up a fire
of hatred against Shakspere, and to entertain the public therewith.

Jonson, always ready for battle, willingly takes up the pen in their
defence. In doing so, the favour of a nobleman and of some high-born
ladies could be earned, at whose wish and request Montaigne had been
Englished. Besides, every occasion was relished for opposing Shakspere,
who had attacked Montaigne whose religious creed was the same as that
of Jonson.

The British Museum possesses a copy of 'Volpone,' on which Jonson has,
with his own hand, written the words:--'_To his loving father and
loving freind, Mr. John Florio, the ayde of his Muses: Ben Jonson seals
this testemony of freindship and love_.' Not the gift of this little
book, however, but its contents--namely, the attack which Jonson made,
both for the sake of his friend and for himself, against the great
antagonist (Shakspere)--must be held to be the token or '_testemony
of freindship and love_.'

In the very beginning of the Dedication, Jonson says that every author
ought to be heedful of his fame:--'Never, most equal sisters, had any
man a wit so presently excellent as that it could raise itself, but
there must come both matter, occasion, commenders, and favourers to it.
If this be true, and that the fortune of all writers doth daily prove
it, it behoves the careful to provide well towards these accidents;
and, having acquired them, to preserve that part of reputation most
tenderly, wherein the benefit of a friend is also defended.' He then
asserts that this is an age in which poetry, and the professors of it,
are so ill-spoken of on all sides because, in their petulancy, they
have yet to learn that one cannot be a good poet without first being
a good man.

In the following passage, curiously enough, a certain person is extolled
as the model of a good man, against whom the stage dramatists, who
themselves, according to Jonson, are not good men ('nothing remaining
with them of the dignity of the poet'), have, as he thinks, grievously
sinned:--'_He that is said to be able to inform young men to all good
disciplines, inflame grown men to all great virtues, keep old men in
their best and supreme state, or, as they decline to childhood, recover
them to their first strength;_ [2] _that comes forth the interpreter and
arbiter of nature, a teacher of things divine no less than human,_ [3]
_a master in manners; and can alone, or with a few, effect the business
of mankind:_ [4] _this, I take him, is no subject for pride and ance
to exercise their railing rhetoric upon._'

In this description we again see Montaigne, against whom 'railing
rhetoric' has been used.

Ben Jonson proudly points to himself as having never done such mischief:
'For my particular, I can, and from a most clear conscience, affirm
that I have ever trembled to think toward the least profaneness.'
Though--he says--he cannot wholly escape 'from some the imputation of
sharpness,' he does not feel guilty of having offered insult to anyone,
'except to a mimic, cheater, bawd, or buffoon.' But--'I would ask of
these supercilious politics, _what nation, society, or general order_
of state I have provoked? ... What public person?_ Whether I have not,
in all these, preserved their dignity, as mine own person, safe? ...
Where have I been particular? where personal?'

Who does not see in the following words a reproach launched against
Shakspere, that he has taken his materials from other writers? Who
does not feel that the warning addressed to 'wise and noble persons'
has reference to the highly placed protectors of the great rival whose
favour Ben Jonson, in spite of his Latin and Greek, was not able to
obtain? He says:--

'Application' (that is, plagiarism) 'is now grown a trade with many;
and there are that profess to have a key for the decyphering of
everything: but let wise and noble persons take heed how they be too
credulous, or give leave to these invading interpreters to be
over-familiar with their fames, who cunningly, and often, utter
their own virulent malice under other men's simplest meanings.'

Jonson then approves of those 'severe and wise patriots' who, in order
to provide against 'the hurts these licentious spirits may do in a State,'
rather desire to see plays full of 'fools and devils,' and 'those
antique relics of barbarism' (he means 'Masques,' which he wrote
with great virtuosoship) acted on the stage, than 'behold the wounds
of private men, of princes and nations.'

And now we come to the passage, partly already quoted, which more than
anything else shows that the '_purge_' which 'our fellow Shakspere
gave him'--'Hamlet'--must have greatly damaged, in the eyes of
the public, both the reputation of Jonson and of his friends. He
confesses it in these remarkable words:--

'_I cannot but be serious in a cause of this nature, wherein my fame,
and the reputation of divers honest and learned are the question; when
a name so full of authority, antiquity, and all great mark, is, through
their insolence, become the lowest scorn of the age; and those men
subject to the petulancy of every vernaculous orator, that were wont
to be the care of kings and happiest monarchs_.' [5]

Is there a character, we may ask, not only in Shakspere's dramas, but
in any play of that period, to which the description given by Jonson
could apply?--of course, Hamlet always excepted, who is but a mask
for Montaigne. And who else but Montaigne is designated by the
expressions: 'a name so full of authority, antiquity, and all great
mark;' 'the care of kings and happiest monarchs?'

That the 'railing rhetoric' in which such a character was derided, could
not be contained in a satirical poem, but had reference to a drama, is
proved, as already explained, by the fact of Jonson's wrath being
directed against the stage-poets. He says expressly, that henceforth,
by all his actions, he will 'stand off from them.' To the most learned
authorities, the two Universities, he announces that, by his own regular
art, he intends giving these wayward disciples of Dramatic Poesy proper
instruction and amendment. Had his object not been to strike the most
popular of the stage-poets--Shakspere--he would have been bound to make
an exception for that name of which everyone must have thought first
when stage-poets were subjected to reproof. We repeat: Jonson only
intended measuring himself against him who was the greatest of his time.
This was fully in accordance with his disputatious inclination. [6]

The person once '_wont to be the care of kings and happiest monarchs_'
[7] must have been a foreigner, for we do not know of any favourite
'_full of authority and antiquity_' who enjoyed such high privilege
from English kings. However, if a dramatist had been bold enough to
put such a favourite on the stage, he would have met with the most
severe punishment long before Jonson had pointed out his reprehensible
audacity. By the '_happiest monarchs_,' Henry III. and Henry IV.
of France are meant. The latter, at that time, yet stood in the zenith
of his good fortune. Again, the expression: '_of every vernaculous
orator_,' points to the circumstance of the mockery being directed
against a foreigner; and the same may be said of Jonson's question,
addressed to supercilious politicians, as to what nation, society, or
general order of State he had provoked? Clearly, another nation, a
society of different modes of thought than the English one, and foreign
institutions, are here indicated.

We now come to some hints contained in 'Volpone,' which partly consist
of an endeavour to expose Shakspere on account of plagiarisms committed
against other writers, partly of references to irreligious tendencies,
against which Jonson warns, and which he strives to ridicule.

Under the existing strict laws which forbade religious questions being
discussed on the stage, the latter references had to be made in parable
manner, but still not too covertly, so that they might be understood by
a certain audience--namely, the members of the Universities of Oxford
and Cambridge. [8]

Already, in the Prologue of his 'Volpone,' Jonson says of himself that--

  In all his poems still hath been this measure,
  To mix profit with your pleasure.

He also despises certain deceptive tricks of composition:--

  Nor hales he in a gull old ends reciting,
  To stop gaps in his loose writing;
  With such a deal of monstrous and forced action,
  As might make Bethlem a faction:
  Nor made he his play for jests stolen from each table,
  But makes jests to fit his fable....
  The laws of time, place, persons he observeth,
  From no needful rule he swerveth.

In the observance of the technical rules of the classic drama--this
much Jonson could certainly prove to the world--he was superior to
Shakspere. The severe words: 'monstrous and forced action,' can only
refer to a drama written not long before; for, in 'Volpone,' Jonson
wishes to give to the stage-poets of his time his own ideal of a
drama. 'Bethlem' (Bedlam) indicates madness round which all kinds of
lunatics might gather as factionaries or adherents of the kind of
drama which Jonson wishes to stigmatise.

Do we go too far in thinking that 'Hamlet' is the play which is made
the target of allusions in this very Prologue?

However, we proceed at once to the Interlude which follows after the
first scene of the first act of 'Volpone.' In it, Shakspere himself
is practically put on the stage, by being asked:

  how of late thou hast suffered translation,
  And shifted thy coat in these days of reformation.

This Interlude is in no connection with the course of
the dramatic action.

Mosca, a parasite, brings in, for the entertainment of his master
(Volpone), three merry Jack Andrews. One of them, Androgyno, must be
held to be SHAKSPERE.

Here we have to note that Francis Meres, a scholar of great repute,
and M.A. of both Universities, wrote in 1598 a book, entitled 'Palladis
Tamia,' which in English he calls 'Wit's Treasury.' It contains, so far
as the sixteenth century is concerned, the most valuable statements
as regards Shakspere: nay, the only trustworthy ones dating from that
century. In that work, Meres classifies and criticises the poets of his
time and country by comparing each of them with some Greek or Roman
poet, kindred to the corresponding English one in the line of production
chosen and in quality. Ben Jonson is only mentioned once, at a very modest
place; his name stands last, after Chapman and Dekker.

Meres confers upon Shakspere most enthusiastic but just praise:--

'As the soule of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras: so the
sweete, wittie soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and hony-tongued
Shakespeare; witness his 'Venus and Adonis;' his 'Lucrece;' his sugred
'Sonnets' among his private friends.... As Plautus and Seneca are
accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy amongst the Latines: so
Shakspere among the English is the most excellent in both kinds for
the stage.'

He then mentions twelve of his plays, [9] and thus concludes his
eulogy:--

'As Epius Stolo said that the Muses would speake with Plautus tongue,
if they would speak Latin: so I say that the Muses would speak with
Shakespeare's fine filed phrases if they would speake English.'

The envious Jonson who pledges himself, in the Dedication to the two
Universities, to give back to Poesy its former majesty, may have
considered it necessary, before all, to deride, before a learned
audience, the enthusiastic praise conferred by Francis Meres upon
Shakspere, as well as Shakspere himself on account of the free
religious tendencies he had expressed in 'Hamlet' This is done, as
we said, in the Interlude prepared by Mosca for the entertainment
of his master. Volpone boasts of the clever manner with which he
gains riches:--

  I use no trade, no venture;
  I wound no earth with ploughshares, fat no beasts
  To feed the shambles; have no mills for iron,
  Oil, corn, or men, to grind them into powder:
  ... expose no ships
  To threatenings of the furrow-faced sea;
  I turn no monies in the public bank,
  Nor usure private.

Mosca, in order to flatter his master, continues the speech of the latter
in the same strain:--

  ... No, sir, nor devour
  Soft prodigals. You shall have some will swallow
  A melting heir as glibly as your Dutch
  Will pills of butter, and ne'er purge for it; [10]
  Tear forth the fathers of poor families
  Out of their beds, and coffin them alive
  In some kind clasping prison, where their bones
  May be forthcoming, when the flesh is rotten:
  But your sweet nature doth abhor these courses;
  You lothe the widow's or the orphan's tears
  Should wash your pavements, or their piteous cries
  Ring in the roofs, and beat the air for vengeance.

We have here an allusion to Hamlet, [11] where he asks the Ghost why
the sepulchre has opened its 'ponderous and marble jaws' to cast him
up again; also to the Queen and whilom widow; and, furthermore, to
the orphans, Ophelia and Laertes, and to the tears shed by the latter
at his sister's death. The cry of vengeance refers to the similar
utterances of the Ghost, of Hamlet, and of Laertes, who all seek revenge.

Mosca, with a view of preparing for his master a pleasure more suitable
to his taste than that which a play like 'Hamlet,' we suppose, could
afford him, brings in the three gamesters:--Nano, a dwarf; Castrone,
a eunuch; and Androgyne, a hermaphrodite. [12] The latter is meant to
represent Shakspere; for he is introduced by Nano as a soul coming from
Apollo, which migrated through Euphorbus and Pythagoras (Meres uses
these two names in his eulogy of the soul of Shakspere). [13]
After having recounted several other stages in the migration of Androgyne's
soul (we shall mention them further on), the latter has to give an
answer why he has 'shifted his coat in these days of reformation,'
and why his 'dogmatical silence' has left him. He replies that an
obstreperous 'Sir Lawyer' had induced him to do so. From this it may
be concluded that Bacon had some influence on Shakspere's 'Hamlet.'
Are not, in poetical manner, the same principles advocated in 'Hamlet,'
which Bacon promoted in science? [14]

After the Hermaphrodite has admitted that he has become 'a good dull
mule,' [15] he avows that he is now a very strange beast, an ass, an
actor,a hermaphrodite, and a fool; and that he more especially relishes
this latter condition of his, for in all other forms, as Jonson makes
him confess, he has 'proved most distressed.' [16]

Let us now quote from this Interlude some highly-spiced satirical passages.

Nano, the dwarf, coming in with Androgyno and Castrone, asks for room for
the new gamesters or players, and says to the public:--

  They do bring you neither play, nor university show;
  And therefore do intreat you that whatsoever they rehearse,
  May not fare a whit the worse, for the false pace of the verse. [17]
  If you wonder at this, you will wonder more ere we pass,
  For know, here [18] is inclosed the soul of Pythagoras, [19]
  That juggler divine, as hereafter shall follow;
  Which soul, fast and loose, sir, came first from Apollo.

It is explained how that soul afterwards transmigrated into 'the
goldy-locked Euphorbus who was killed, in good fashion, at the siege
of old Troy, by the cuckold of Sparta;' how it then passed into
Hermotimus, 'where no sooner it was missing, but with one Pyrrhus
of Delos [20] it learned to go a-fishing;' [21] how thence it did
enter the Sophist of Greece, Pythagoras. After having been changed
into whom,

  she became a philosopher,
  Crates the cynick, as itself doth relate it: [22]
  Since kings, knights and beggars, knaves, lords, and fools get it,
  Besides ox and ass, camel, mule, goat, and brock, [23]
  In all which it has spoke, as in the cobbler's cock. [24]


Nano's present intention, however, is not to refer to such things:--

  But I come not here to discourse of that matter,
  Or his one, two, or three, or his great oath, BY QUATER, [25]
  His musics,[26] his trigon, his golden thigh, [27]
  Or his telling how elements [28] shift: but I
  Would ask, how of late thou hast suffered translation
  And shifted thy coat in these days of Reformation.

  _Androgyno_. Like one of the reformed, a fool, as you see,
  COUNTING ALL OLD DOCTRINE HERESIE.

  _Nano_. But not on thine own forbid meats hast thou ventured.

  _Androgyno_. On fish, when first a Carthusian I entered.[29]

  _Nano_. Why, then thy dogmatical silence hath left thee?

  _Androgyno_. Of that an _obstreperous_ lawyer bereft me.

  _Nano_.  O wonderful change, when sir lawyer forsook thee!
  For Pythagore's sake, what body then took thee?

  _Androgyno_.  A good dull mule.

  _Nano_.  And how! by that means Thou wert brought to allow of
  the eating of beans?

  _Androgyno_.  Yes.

  _Nano_.  But from the mule into whom didst thou pass?

  _Androgyno_.  Into a very strange beast, by some writers called
  an ass;
  By others, a precise, pure, _illuminate brother_,
  Of those devour flesh, and sometimes one another;
  And will drop you forth a libel, or a sanctified lie,
  Betwixt every spoonful of a Nativity [30] pie.

Nano then admonishes Androgyno to quit that profane nation. Androgyno
answers that he gladly remains in the shape of a fool and a hermaphrodite.
To the question of Nano, as to whether he likes remaining a hermaphrodite
in order to 'vary the delight of each sex,' Androgyno replies:--

  Alas, those pleasures be stale and forsaken;
  No 't is your fool wherewith I am so taken,
  The only one creature that I can called blessed;
  For all other forms I have proved most distressed.

  _Nano_.  Spoke true, as thou wert in Pythagoras still.
  This learned opinion we celebrate will,...

With a song, praising fools, the Interlude closes.

In act ii. sc. 2, after Mosca and Volpone have erected a stage upon
the stage, Volpone enters, disguised as a mountebank, and abuses those
'ground ciarlatani' (charlatans, impostors) 'who come in lamely, with
their mouldy tales out of Boccaccio.' Then there is a most clear
allusion to Hamlet (act iv. sc. 6), where he informs his friend Horatio,
by letter, of his voyage to England when he was made prisoner by
pirates, who dealt with him 'like thieves of mercy.' A further remark
of Volpone on 'base pilferies,' and 'wholesome penance done for it,'
may be taken as a hit against Hamlet's 'fingering' the packet to 'unseal
their grand commission;' for which, in Jonson's view, he would be forced
by his father confessor, in a well-regulated Roman Catholic State, to
do penance.

This is what Volpone says:--

'No, no, worthy gentlemen; to tell you true, I cannot endure to see
the rabble of these ground ciarlatani, that ... come in lamely, with
their mouldy tales out of Boccaccio, like stale Tabarine, the fabulist;
some of them discoursing their travels; and of their tedious captivity
[31] in the Turks' galleys, when, indeed, were the truth known, they
were the Christians' gallies, where very temperately they eat bread
and drunk water, as a wholesome penance, [32] enjoined them by their
confessors for base pilferies.'

Shakspere, as we have already explained, got a 'pill' in 'The Poetaster,'
whereupon 'our fellow Shakespeare,' as is maintained in the 'Return from
Parnassus,' 'has given him' (Jonson) 'a purge that made him bewray his
credit' Now Ben, clearly enough, calls this answer of the great
adversary--a 'finely wrapt-up antimony,' whereby minds 'stopped with
earthy oppilations,' are purged into another world.

Volpone says:--'These turdy-facy, nasty-paty, lousy-fartical rogues,
with one poor groat's worth of unprepared antimony, finely wrapt up in
several scartoccios (covers), [33]  are able, very well, to kill their
twenty a week, and play; yet these meagre, starved spirits, who have
stopt the organs of their minds with earthy oppilations, want not their
favourers among your shrivelled sallad-eating artizans, [34] who are
overjoyed that they may have their half-pe'rth of physic; though it
purge them into another world, it makes no matter.'

Jonson then continues his satire against 'Hamlet' by making Volpone,
disguised as a mountebank, sell medicine which is to render that 'purge'
('Hamlet') perfectly innocuous. He calls his medicine 'Oglio del Scoto:'
[35] good for strengthening the nerves; a sovereign remedy against all
kinds of illnesses; and, 'it stops a dysenteria, immediately.'

Nano praises its miraculous effects in a song:--

  Had old Hippocrates, or Galen,
  That to their books put med'cines all in,
  But known this secret, they had never
  (Of which they will be guilty ever)
  Been murderers of so much paper,
  Or wasted many a hurtless taper;
  No Indian drug had e'er been famed,
  Tobacco, sassafras not named;
  Ne yet of guacum one small stick, sir,
  Nor Raymund Lully's great elixir.
  Ne had been known the _Danish Gonswart_,
  Or Paracelsus, with his long sword.

Is not HAMLET here as good as indicated by name?

The Danish Prince appears on the stage in his 'inky cloak.' No doubt,
Jonson picked up the word 'Gonswart' (_gansch-zwart_, in Flemish)
among his Flemish, Dutch, and other Nether-German comrades of war in
the Low  Countries. Surely, the Danish Prince 'All-Black' is none else
but Hamlet clad in black.

In the same scene, the connection between Hamlet and Ophelia also is
satirically pulled to pieces. In 'Eastward Hoe' (1605), Jonson and
his party do the same in the most indecent and most despicable manner.

Nano, praising the sublime virtues of the 'Oglio del Scoto,' sings:--

  Would you live free from all diseases?
  Do the act your mistress pleases,
  Yet fright all aches from your bones?
  Here's a medicine for the nones. [36]

The scene of the action in 'Volpone' is laid in Venice. During the
whole scene above-mentioned, Sir Politick Would-Be and a youthful
gentleman-traveller are present Others have already pointed out that,
by the former, Shakspere is meant. [37] The traveller, Peregrine, is
a youth whom the jealous Lady Politick once declares to be 'a female
devil in a male outside,'--again an allusion to Shakspere's 'two
loves' which he himself describes in Sonnet 144.

The words, also, with which Hamlet (act iii. sc. 3) praises his friend
Horatio (the Shaksperian ideal of a Horace) are ridiculed by Jonson in
this scene. Sir Politick Would-Be says to Peregrine:--

  Well, if I could but find one man, one man,
  To mine own heart, whom I durst trust, I would--

When the stage is raised on the theatre for Volpone, who is disguised
as a quacksalver, Sir Politick wishes to enlighten Peregrine as to the
fellows that 'mount the bank.' [38] We need not explain that this is
directed against the 'so-called stage-poets' and players. It will
easily be perceived that the meaning of the subsequent conversation
is the same as in the Preface of 'Volpone,' where Jonson says that
'wis and noble persons 'ought to' take heed how they be too credulous,
or give leave to these invading interpreters to be over-familiar with
their fames.'

Sir Politick (describing the fellows, one of which is to mount the
bank) says:--

  They are the only knowing men of Europe!
  Great general scholars, excellent physicians, [39]
  Most admired statesmen, profest favourites,
  And Cabinet counsellors to the greatest princes;
  The only languaged men of all the world!

  _Peregrine_. And I have heard, they are most lewd [40] impostors
  Made all of terms and shreds, no less beliers
  Of great men's favours, than their own vile med'cines...

In act iv. sc. 1, Sir Politick gives counsels to the young Peregrine,
which are a manifest satire upon Polonius' fatherly farewell speech to
Laertes; and here again, let it be observed, religious tendencies are
made the subject of persiflage.

  _Sir Politick_. First, for your garb, it must
  be grave and serious
  Very reserved and locked; not tell a secret
  On any terms, not to your father; scarce
  A fable, but with caution; make sure choice
  Both of your company and your discourse; beware
  You never speak a truth--....
  And then, for your religion, profess none,
  But wonder at the diversity of all;
  And, for your part, protest, were there no other
  But simply the laws o' th' land, you could content you.
  Nic Machiavel and Monsieur Bodin, both
  Were of this mind.

In act iii. sc. 2, it is openly said that English authors namely, such
as understand Italian, have stolen from Pastor Fido 'almost as much as
from MONTAIGNIÉ' (Montaigne). In vain we have looked for traces of
Montaigne's Essays in other dramas that have come down to us from that
epoch. That Shakspere must have been conversant with the Italian tongue,
Charles Armitage Brown has tried to prove, and according to our opinion
he has done so successfully. [41]

The talkative Lady Politick wishes to offer some distraction to the
apparently sick Volpone. She recommends him an Italian book in these
words:--

    All our English writers,
    I mean such as are happy in the Italian,
    Will deign to steal out of this author mainly;
    Almost as much as from _Montagnié_: [42]
    He has so modern and facile a vein,
    Fitting the time, and catching the court-ear! [43]

When Sir Politick (act v. sc. 2) is to be arrested (he is suspected of
having got up a conspiracy, and betrayed the Republic of Venice to the
Turks), he asserts his innocence; and when his papers are to be examined,
he exclaims:--

  Alas, Sir! I have none but notes
  Drawn out of play-books--
  And some essays. [44]

Mosca (act i-v. sc. 2), spurring on his counsel, says:--

  Mercury sit upon your thundering tongue,
  Or the _French Hercules_ [45] and make your language
  As conquering as his club, to beat along,
  As with a tempest, flat, our adversaries.

Hamlet, when asked by the King how he 'calls the play, answers:--'_The
Mouse-trap_.' Mosca calls his own cunningness with which he thinks
he can overreach his master, the '_Fox-trap_.'

If our intention were not to restrict this treatise to desirable limits,
many more satirical passages might be pointed out in 'Volpone,' which are
manifestly directed against 'Hamlet' and Shakspere. Those who take a
deeper interest in the subject, will discover not a few passages of this
kind in 'Volpone.'

In 1605--we believe, a few months before 'Volpone' [46]--'Eastward Hoe'
came out, a comedy written by Ben Jonson, Chapman, and Marston, in which,
as already stated, the connection between Hamlet and Ophelia is derided
in a low, burlesque manner.

Shakspere, in order to flagellate Montaigne's mean views about womankind,
puts into the mouth of Ophelia, when she has no longer the control of her
tongue, the hideous words:--'Come, my coach!' and 'Oh, how the wheel
become it!' [47] This is a satirical hit, rapidly indicated, but only
understood by those who had carefully read Montaigne's book. Ben Jonson,
Chapman, and Marston try to make capital out of these expressions,
by deriding and denouncing them to the crowd, in order to defame
Shakspere.

Girtred (Gertrud, name of Hamlet's mother, the Queen,) is the figure
under which Ophelia is ridiculed in 'Eastward Hoe.' [48] The first is a
girl of loosest manners. Her ambition torments her to marry a nobleman,
in order to obtain a 'coach.' To her mother (Mrs. Touchstone) she
incessantly speaks words of most shameless indecency, which cannot be
repeated; more especially as regards her 'coach,' for which she asks
ever and anon. A lackey, called _Hamlet_, must procure it to her.
We will give some fragments of that scene. The remainder cannot be offered
to a modern circle of general readers.

  _Enter_ Hamlet, _a Foote-man, in haste_.

  _Hamlet_. What coachman--my ladye's coach! for shame!
  Her ladiship's readie to come down.

  _Enter_ Potkinne, _a Tankard-bearer_.

  _Potkinne_. 'Sfoote! Hamlet, are you madde? Whither run
  you nowe? You should brushe up my olde mistresse!

Thereupon neighbours come together, all impelled by the greatest
curiosity 'to see her take coach,' and wishing to congratulate her.

  _Gertrud_. Thank you, good people! My coach for the love of
  Heaven, my coach! In good truth, I shall swoune else.

  _Hamlet_. Coach, coach, my ladye's coach! [_Exit_ Hamlet.

After a little conversation between mother and daughter, which we must
leave out, Hamlet enters again:

  _Hamlet_. Your coach is coming, madam.

  _Gertrud_. That's well said. Now Heaven! methinks I am eene up
  to the knees in preferment....
  But a little higher, but a little higher, but a little higher!
  There, there, there lyes Cupid's fire!

  _Mrs. Touchstone_. But must this young man (Hamlet), an't
  please you, madam, run by your coach all the way a foote?

  _Gertrud_. I by my faith, I warrant him; hee gives no other
  milke, as I have another servant does.

  _Mrs. Touchstone_. Ahlas! 'tis eene pittie meethinks; for God's
  sake, madam, buy him but a hobbie horse; let the poore youth have
  something betwixt his legges to ease 'hem. Alas! we must doe as we
  would be done too.

That is all we dare to quote from this comedy; but it quite suffices
to characterise the meanness of the warfare which Jonson's clique
carried on against Shakspere.

However, the lofty ideas contained in 'Hamlet' could not be lowered by
such an attack; they became the common property of the best and noblest.
Those ideas were of too high a range, too abstract in their nature, to
be easily made a sport of before the multitude. A few pleasantries,
used by Shakespeare in a moment of easy-going style, were laid hold
of maliciously, and caricatured most indecently, by his antagonists,
in order to entertain the common crowd there with. Innocent children,
moreover, were made to act such satires: 'little eyases, that cry
out on the top of the question, and are most tyrannically clapped
for't: these are now the fashion, and so berattle the common stages.'

Not less than in 'Volpone,' the tendency of 'Hamlet' as regards religious
questions is, in the most evident manner, ridiculed in John Marston's
'Malcontent.' Although this satire (so the play is called in the
preface 'To the Reader') appeared before 'Volpone,' we yet thought
it more useful first to speak of Jonson's comedy being the work of
Shakspere's most formidable adversary.

'The Malcontent' was printed in 1604; and soon afterwards (in the same
year) a second edition appeared, augmented by the author, as well as
enriched by a few additions from the pen of John Webster. [49] The
play is preceded by a Latin Dedication to Ben Jonson, which sufficiently
shows that a close friendship must have existed, at that time, between
the two. [50] The satire is replete with phrases taken from 'Hamlet'
for the purpose of mockery; and they are introduced in the loosest,
most disconnected manner, thus doubly showing the intention
and purpose. Marston's style is pointedly described in 'The Return
from Parnassus;' and we do not hesitate to say that the following
criticism was written in consequence of his 'Malcontent:'--

    Methinks he is a ruffian in his style,
    Withouten bands or garters' ornament:
    He quaffs a cup of Frenchman's [51] Helicon,
    Then roister doister in his oily terms,
    Cuts, thrusts, and foins at whomsoever he meets...
    Tut, what cares he for modest close-couch'd terms,
    Cleanly to gird our looser libertines?...
    Ay, there is one, that backs a paper steed,
    And manageth a penknife gallantly,
    Strikes his poinardo at a button's breadth,
    Brings the great battering-ram of terms to towns;
    And, at first volley of his cannon-shot,
    Batters the walls of the old fusty world.

Who else can be indicated by the 'One' but Shakspere? To Marston's
hollow creations, which drag the loftiest ideas through the mire to
amuse the vulgar, the sublime and serious discourses of Shakspere are
opposed, which are destined to afford profoundest instruction. Is not
the whole tendency of 'Hamlet' described in the last two lines just
quoted, in which it is stated that under this poet's attack the
walls of the _old fusty world_ are battered down? [52]

The chief character in 'The Malcontent' is a Duke of Genoa. Marston,
in his preface 'To the Reader,' lays stress on the fact of this Duke
being, not an historical personage, but a creation of fiction, so 'that
even strangers, in whose State I laid my scene, should not from
thence draw any disgrace to any, dead or living.' After having
complained that, in spite of this endeavour of his, there are some
who have been 'most unadvisedly over-cunning in misinterpreting' him,
and, 'with subtletie, have maliciously spread ill rumours,' he goes
on declaring that he desires 'to satisfie every firme spirit, who in
all his actions proposeth to himself no more ends then God and vertue
do, whose intentions are alwaies simple.' Those only he means to
combat 'whose unquiet studies labor innovation, contempt of holy
policie, reverent comely superioritie and establisht unity.' He fears
not for the rest of his 'supposed tartnesse; but unto every worthy
minde it will be approved so generall and honest as may modestly passe
with the freedome of a satyre.'

That this satire could only be directed against 'Hamlet,' every one
will be convinced who spends a short hour in reading Marston's
'Malcontent.' Here, too, we must confine ourselves to pointing out
only the most important allusions; especially such as refer to
religion. Indeed, we would have to copy the whole play, in order
to make it fully clear how much Marston, with his undoubted talent
for travesty, has succeeded in grotesquely deriding the lofty,
noble tone of Shakspere's drama.

The chief character in 'The Malcontent' is Malevole, the Duke of
Genoa before-mentioned, who has been wrongfully deprived of the
crown. With subtle dissimulation, disguised and unknown, he
hangs about the Court. Against the ladies especially, whom he
all holds to be adulteresses, he entertains the greatest mistrust.
He watches every one; but most closely women. He is the image of
mental distemper; and Pietro, the ruling Duke, describes him in
act i. sc. 2 by saying that 'the elements struggle within him; his
own soule is at variance within her selfe;' he is 'more discontent
than Lucifer.' In short, he confers upon him all the qualities
of a 'Hamlet' character.

Whenever religious questions are addressed to Malevole, we have to
look upon him as the very type of Shakspere himself, whom Marston
takes to task for his spirit of 'innovation' and his 'contempt of
holy policie and establisht unity.' Shakspere, it ought to be
remembered, had scourged Ben Jonson under the figure of Malvolio.
Marston, who dedicates 'The Malcontent' to Jonson, no doubt wished
to please Jonson by calling the chief character, which represents
Shakspere, Malevole.

The play opens with an abominable charivari. ('The vilest out-of-time
musicke being heard.') This is partly a hit against the Globe Theatre
where--as we see from Shakspere's dramas--music was often introduced
in a play; partly it is to indicate the disharmony of Malevole's
mind.

Only a few travesties may be mentioned here, before we quote the
treatment of religious questions.

In act i. sc. 7 (here the scene is ridiculed in which Hamlet, with
drawn sword, stands behind the King), Pietro enters, 'his sword drawne.'

  _Pietro_. A mischiefe fill thy throate, thou fowle-jaw'd slave!
  Say thy praiers!

  _Mendozo_. I ha forgot um.

  _Pietro_. Thou shall die.

  _Mendozo_. So shall Ihou.  I am heart-mad.

  _Pietro_. I am horne-mad.

  _Mendozo_. Extreme mad.

  _Pietro. Monstrously mad.

  _Mendozo_. Why?

  _Pietro_. Why? thou, thou hast dishonoured my bed.

Hamlet's words: [53]--'O, most wicked speed, to post with such dexterity
to incestuous sheets!' are so often ridiculed because Shakspere, instead
of the word 'bed,' uses the more unusual 'sheets.'

Aurelia [54] speaks of 'chaste sheets,' Malevole [55] prophesies that
'the Dutches (Duke, Doge) sheets will smoke for't ere it be long.'
Mendozo [56] 'hates all women, waxe-lightes, antique bed-postes,' &c.;
'also sweete sheetes.' Aurelia, parodying the words Hamlet addresses
to his mother, asks herself: 'O, judgement, where have been my eyes?
What bewitched election made me dote on thee? what sorcery made me love
thee?'

The counsel which Hamlet gives to his mother 'to throw away the worser
part of her cleft heart,' Pietro ridicules in act i. sc. 7:--

  My bosome and my heart,
  When nothing helps, cut off the rotten part.

The splendid speech of Hamlet: 'What a piece of work is man!' sounds
from Mendozo's [57] lips thus:--'In body how delicate; in soule how
wittie; in discourse how pregnant; in life how warie; in favours how
juditious; in day how sociable; in night how!--O pleasure unutterable!'

Hamlet's little monologue: [58] 'Tis now the very witching time of night,'
runs thus with Mendozo:--[59]

  'Tis now about the immodest waste of night;
  The mother of moist dew with pallide light
  Spreads gloomie shades about the mummed earth.
  Sleepe, sleepe, whilst we contrive our mischiefes birth.

Then, parodying Hamlet as he draws forth the dead Polonius from behind
the arras, Mendozo says:--

  This man Ile (I'll) get inhumde.

Thus, all kinds of Shaksperian incidents and locutions are brought
forward, wherever they are apt to produce the most comic effect. Several
times, from the beginning, the 'weasel' is mentioned with which Hamlet
rallies Polonius. We also hear of the 'sponge which sucks'--a simile
used by Hamlet (act iv. sc. 3) in regard to Rosencrantz. Nor is the
'true-penny' forgotten--a word used by Hamlet [60] to designate his
father's ghost as a true and genuine one; nor the 'Hillo, ho, ho.'

In all these allusions, of which an attentive reader might easily find
scores, there is no systematic order of thoughts. Only in the religious
questions we meet with a clear system: they are all addressed to Malevole,
who is represented as a kind of freethinker, similar to the one whom
Marston, in his preface, wishes to be outlawed, and of whom he says
that he fully merits the 'tartness' and freedom of his satire. In the
very beginning of 'The Malcontent,' Pietro asks Malevole:

  I wonder what religion thou art of?

  _Malevole_. Of a souldiers religion. [61]

  _Pietro_. And what doost thinke makes most infidells now?

  _Malevole_. Sects. Sects! I have seene seeming Pietie change
  her roabe so oft, that sure none but some arch-divell can shape her
  pitticoate.

  _Pietro_. O! a religious pllicie.

  _Malevole_. But damnation on a politique religion!

In act ii. sc. 5 we find the following:--


   _Malevole_. I meane turne pure Rochelchurchman. [62]
   I--

   _Mendozo_. Thou Churchman! Why? Why?

   _Malevole_. Because He live lazily, raile upon authoritie,
   deny Kings supremacy in things indifferent, and be a pope in mine owne
   parish.

   _Mendozo_. Wherefore doost thou thinke churches were made?

   _Malevole_. To scowre plow-shares. I have seene oxen plow
   uppe altares: _Et nunc seges ubi Sion fuit_.

Then there is again what appears to be an allusion to Hamlet, act i.
sc. 4, resembling that in 'Volpone':--

  I have seen the stoned coffins of long-flead Christians burst up
  and made hogs troughs.

In act iv. sc. 4, Mendozo says to Malevole, whom he wishes to use for
the murder of a hermit:--

  Yea, provident. Beware an hypocrite!
  A Church-man once corrupted, Oh avoide!
  A fellow that makes religion his stawking horse.
  He breeds a plague. Thou shalt poison him.

From the many hints in 'Volpone' and in 'The Malcontent,' it clearly
follows that Shakspere was to be represented, in those dramas, before
the public at large, as an Atheist. [63] According to Jonson, he
counted 'ALL OLD DOCTRINE HERESIE.' According to Marston, he
had an aversion for all sects, and 'CONTEMPT OF HOLY POLICIE,
REVERENT COMELY SUPERIORITIE, AND ESTABLISHT UNITIE.' We hope we
have convinced our readers that Shakspere spoke in matters of religion
as clearly as his 'tongue-tied muse' [64] permitted him to do. Above
all, we think of having successfully proved that the controversy
of 'Hamlet' is directed against doctrines which assert that there is
nothing but evil in human nature.

Shakspere's prophetic glance saw the pernicious character of Montaigne's
inconsistent thoughts, which, unable to place us in sound relation to the
Universe, only succeed in making men pass their lives in subtle
reflection and unmanly, sentimental inaction. Shakspere, intending to
avert the blighting influence of such a philosophy from the best and
foremost of his country, wrote his 'Hamlet.' As a truly heaven-born
poet he bound for ever, by Thought's enduring chain,

  All that flows unfixed and undefined
  In glimmering phantasy before the mind.

In spite of the powerful impression his master-work, 'Hamlet,' has made
upon all thinking minds, the deepest and most serious meaning of
Shakspere's warning words could not have been fathomed by the many.
The parables through which a Prophet spoke were cast into the form of a
theatrical play, not easy to understand for the mass of men; for
'tongue-tied' was his Muse by earthly powers. And Shakspere deeply felt
the disgrace of being compelled to give forth his utterances in so
dubious a manner.

His Sonnets [65] express the feeling that weighed upon him on this account.
Had he not 'gor'd his own thoughts,' revealed his innermost soul? Yet,
now, his narrow-minded fellow-dramatists--but no! not fellow-dramatists:
mere contemporary playwrights, immeasurably far behind him in rank--eaten
up, as they were, with envy and jealous malice, meanly derided everything
sacred to him; holding up his ideals to ridicule before a jeering
crowd. It has long ago been surmised that Sonnet lxvi. belongs to the
'Hamlet' period. But now it will be better understood why that sonnet
speaks of 'a maiden virtue rudely strumpeted; [66] of 'right perfection
wrongfully disgrac'd, and strength by limping sway disabled;' of 'simple
truth miscall'd simplicity.'

These are the full words of this mighty sigh of despair:--

  Tir'd with all these, for restful death I cry--
  As, to behold desert a beggar born,
  And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
  And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
  And gilded honour shamefully misplac'd,
  And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
  And right perfection wrongfully disgrac'd,
  And strength by limping sway disabled,
  And art made tongue-ty'd by authority,
  And folly (doctor-like) controlling skill,
  And simple truth miscall'd simplicity,
  And captive Good attending captain ill:
  Tir'd with all these, from these would I be gone,
  Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.

'Purest faith unhappily forsworn' was Shakspere's faith in God--without
any 'holy policie' and without 'old doctrines'--trusting above all in
the majesty of ennobled human nature. He was a veritable Humanist,
the truest and greatest, who ever strove to raise the most essential
part of human nature, man's soul and mind, yet by no mean supernatural,
but by 'mean that Nature makes.'

Shakspere's 'Hamlet' appears to us like a solemn admonition to his
distinguished friends. He showed them, under the guise of that Prince,
a nobleman without fixed ideal--'virtues which do not go forth' to
assert themselves, and to do good for the sake of others--noble life
wasted, letting the world remain 'out of joint' without determined will
to set it right: this was the poet's prophetic warning.

One aspiration of Shakspere clearly shines through his career, in
whatever darkness it may otherwise be enveloped--namely, his longing to
acquire land near the town he was born in. When he had realised this
ambition, he cheerfully seems to have left the splendour of town life,
and to have readily renounced all literary fame; for he did not even care
to collect his own works.

He was contented to cultivate his native soil: a giant Antaeus who, as
the myth tells us, ever had to touch Mother Earth to regain his strength.

 1: _Volpone_ is stated to have been first acted in the Globe Theatre
   in 1605. It is simply impossible that this drama, in its present shape,
   should have been given in that theatre as long as Shakspere
   was actively connected with it. We therefore must assume that
   Shakspere--as Delius holds it to be probable--had at that time
   already withdrawn to Stratford, or that the biting allusions which
   are contained in _Volpone_ against the great Master, had been added
   between 1605 (the year of its first performance) and 1607 (the year
   of its appearance in print). We consider the latter opinion the
   likelier one, as we suspect, from allusions in _Epicoene_,
   that Shakspere, when this play was published, still resided in
   London. However, it is also probable that in 1605 he may for a
   while have withdrawn from the stage.

 2: In this enumeration, Jonson seems to have the various Qualities of the
   Essays in view which Florio calls 'Morall, Politike, and Millitarie.'

 3: Against Montaigne, '_the teacher of things divine no less than
   human_,' Shakspere's whole argumentation in 'Hamlet' is directed.

 4: Here we have the noble Knight of the Order of St. Michael, as well
   as the courtier and Mayor of Bordeaux.

 5: Montaigne was Knight of the Order of St. Michael, and
   Chamberlain of Henry III. He was on terms of friendship with
   Henry IV. Both Kings he had as guests in his own house. In his
   _Essai de Vanitie_, Montaigne also relates with great pride
   and satisfaction, that during his sojourn at Rome he was made a
   burgess of that city, 'the most noble that ever was, or ever shall
   be.'

 6: In spite of Gifford's protest we do not hesitate to maintain
   that Jonson's Epigram LVI. (_On Poet-Ape_) is directed against
   Shakspere, and that the poet whom Jonson--in the Epistle XII.
   (_Forest_) to Elizabeth, Countess of Rutland--abuses, is
   also none else than Shakspere.

 7: Montaigne died in 1592.

 8: We can only quote the most striking points, and must leave it to
   the reader who takes a deeper interest in the subject, to give his
   own closer attention to the dramas concerning the controversy.

 9: _Gentlemen of Verona_; _Comedy of Errors_; _Love's Labour Lost_;
   _Love's Labour Won_ (probably _All's Well that Ends Well_); _Midsummer
   Night's Dream_; _Merchant of Venice_. Of Tragedies: _Richard the
   Second_; _Richard the Third_; _Henry the Fourth_; _King John_; _Titus
   Andronicus_; _Romeo and Juliet_.

10: As the words that follow seem to contain an allusion to
   Shakspere's _Hamlet_, it is to be supposed that by the
   'melting heir' Jonson points to some protector of the great poet.
   Whether this be William Herbert, or the Earl of Southampton, we
   must leave undecided.

11: Act i. sc. 4.

12: Jonson probably calls Shakspere an hermaphrodite because,
   having a wife, he cultivated an intimate friendship at the same time
   with William Herbert, the later Earl of Pembroke. Jonson's _Epicoene,
   or The Silent Woman_ (1609) satirises this connection. We are
   not the first in making this assertion. (See _Sonnets of Shakspere
   Solved_, by Henry Brown: London, 1876, p. 16.)

   In Epicoene a College is described, which is stated to be
   composed of women. Instead of women, we may boldly assume men to
   be meant. Truewitt thus describes the new Society:--

   'A new foundation, Sir, here in the town, of ladies, that call
   themselves the Collegiates: an order between courtiers and country
   madams that live from their husbands, and give entertainment to all
   the wits and braveries of the time, as they call them: cry down, or up,
   what they like or dislike in a brain or a fashion, with most masculine
   or rather hermaphroditical authority; and every day gain to their
   College some new probationer.

     _Clerimont_.  Who is the president?
     _Truewitt_.   The grave and youthful matron, the Lady Haughty.'

   Shakspere at that time was in the 'matronly' age of forty-five.
   We have seen how a 'dislike in a brain' has been expressed in _Hamlet_.

13: The name of Ovid, likewise used in that eulogy, Jonson assigned,
   in his _Poetaster_, to Marston. (See _note_ 22 at end of
   Section V.)

14: It would have been most strange, indeed, if the two greatest
   geniuses of their time had not exercised some influence on each
   other; if the greatest thinker of that age had not given some
   suggestive thoughts to the poet; and if the poet had not animated
   the thinker to the cultivation of art, inducing him to offer his
   philosophical thoughts in beautiful garment. Hence Mrs. Henry Pott
   may have found vestiges of a more perfected and nobler style in
   Bacon's _Diaries_, on which she founded her wild theory. Had not Kant
   and Fichte great influence on their contemporary, Schiller? Does
   not Goethe praise the influence exercised by Spinoza upon him? Let
   us assume that the latter two had been contemporaries; that they
   had lived in the same town. Would it not have been extraordinary
   if they had remained intellectual strangers to each other, instead
   of drawing mutual advantage from their intercourse? Why should
   Bacon not have been one of the noblemen who, after the performance
   of a play, were initiated, in the Mermaid Tavern, into the more
   hidden meaning of a drama? Is it not rather likely that Bacon
   drew Shakspere's attention to the inconsistencies of Montaigne?

15: The advocates, in festive processions, made use of mules. Maybe
   that Jonson calls Shakspere a 'good dull mule' because in _Hamlet_
   he champions the views of 'Sir Lawyer' Bacon.

16: This notion, that Shakspere has mainly distinguished himself in
   the comic line--in the representation of Foolery--harmonises
   with Jonson's opinion, as privately expressed in _Timber; or,
   Discoveries made upon Men and Matter_ (1630-37), in a noteworthy
   degree. There he says of Shakspere:--'His wit was in his own power.
   Would the rule of it had been so, too.'

17: An allusion to Shakspere's unclassical metrics, and his great
   success among the public, although in Jonson's opinion he brings
   neither regular 'play nor university show.'

18: In Androgyno, whom he brings in.

19: This is Jonson's answer to the question raised in _Twelfth Night_
   (act iv. sc. 2), when Malvolio is in prison, in regard to Pythagoras.

20: We can nowhere find any clue to such a personage of antiquity,
   and we take it to be a reference to Pyrrhon of Elis, the founder
   of the sceptic school.

21: Bacon was a friend of this sport. Mrs. Pott points out some
   technical expressions which we find both in Bacon's works and in
   Shakspere. Perhaps we might stretch our fancy so far as to assume
   that Bacon is Pyrrhus of Delos, and that gentle Shakspere
   sometimes went a-fishing with him on the banks of the Thames.

22: 'As itself doth relate it.' Yet the soul does not relate anything,
   except that it is said to have spoken, in all the characters it
   assumed, 'as in the cobbler's cock.' We must, therefore, probably
   look in plays--in Shakspere's dramas--for that which the soul has
   spoken in its various stages as a king, as a beggar, and so forth.

23: 'Brock' (badger)--a word which Shakspere only uses once;
   viz. in _Twelfth Night_ (act ii. sc. 5). Sir Toby's whole
   indignation against Malvolio culminates in the words:--'Marry,
   hang thee, brock!' We know of Jonson's unseemly bodily figure,
   his 'ambling' gait, which rendered him unfit for the stage. The
   pace of a badger would be a very graphic description of his manner
   of walking. Now, Jonson sneers at the word 'brock' in a way not
   unfrequent with Shakspere himself, in regard to various words used
   by Jonson against him. In _The Poetaster_, Tucca falls out
   against the 'wormwood' comedies, which drag everything on to the
   stage. We are reminded here of Hamlet's exclamation:--'Wormwood,
   wormwood!' when the Queen of the Interlude speaks the two lines he
   had probably intercalated:--

     In second husband let me be accurst!
     None wed the second but who kill'd the first.

24: 'Cobbler's cock' refers most likely to a drama by Robert
   Wilson, entitled: _Cobbler's Prophecy_. In Collier's
   _History of the English Drama_ (iii. pp. 247-8) it is thus
   described:--

   'It is a mass of absurdity without any leading purpose, but here and
   there exhibiting glimpses of something better. The scene of the play
   is laid in Boeotia which is represented to be ruled by a duke, but
   in a state of confusion and disorganisation.... One of the principal
   characters is a whimsical Cobbler who, by intermediation of the
   heathen god Mercury, obtains prophetic power, the chief object
   of which is to warn the Duke of the impending ruin of his state
   unless he consents to introduce various reforms, and especially
   to unite the discordant classes of his subjects.' Jonson may have
   looked upon _Hamlet_ in this manner from his point of view.
   It is for us to admire the prophetical spirit of Shakspere who
   in Montaigne perceived the germ of the helplessly divided nature
   of modern man.

 25: 'Or his great oath, by _Quarter_.' No doubt, this is an
   allusion of Jonson to Shakspere's 'quarter share,' the fourth
   part of the receipts of his company. The Blackfriars Theatre had
   sixteen shareholders. It is proved that Shakspere at that time,
   when a valuation of the theatre was made, had a claim to four
   parts, each of £233 6s. 8d. (Chr. Armitage Brown, _Shak.
   Autobiographical Poems_, London, 1838, p. 101). In _The
   Poetaster_ (act iii. sc. i), Tucca says to Crispinus the
   Poetaster:--'Thou shall have a quarter share.' In Epistle xii.
   (_Forest_), which Jonson addresses to Elizabeth, Countess
   of Rutland, and which, in our opinion, also contains an allusion
   to Shakspere, as well as to his protector, William Herbert, Ben
   speaks of poets with 'their quarter face.'

26: Shakspere often introduced music in his dramas. Jonson ridicules
   this; so did Marston, as we shall see. (_Twelfth Night_, for instance,
   opens with music.)

27: 'His golden thigh.' The shape of the legs, the 'yellow cross-gartered
   stockings' of poor Malvolio in _Twelfth Night_ are here ridiculed.

28: Malvolio says to his friends:--'I am not of your element.' In
   the same play, great sport is made of this word, until the Fool himself
   at last gets weary of it, when he says (act iii. sc. i):--'You are
   out of my welkin--I might say _element_, but the word is overworn.'

29: Blackfriars, where Shakspere first acted, was a former cloister.
   'On fish, when first a Carthusian I entered,' no doubt means that
   from the beginning he had preferred keeping mute as a fish, in regard
   to forbidden matters of the Church.

30: I.e., _Christmas_-pie. In the Prologue of _The Return from
   Parnassus_, this comedy is called a _Christmas Toy_.
   Shakspere is therein lavishly praised by his brother actors,
   whereas Jonson is spoken of as 'a bold whoreson, as confident now
   in making of a book, as he was in times past in laying of a brick.'
   A veritable libel!

31: _Hamlet_ (act v. sc. 2):--

      Methought, I lay
      Worse than the mutines in the bilboes

32: Through Jonson's satire we always see the sanctimonious Jesuit
   peering out.

33: These are the parables in which Hamlet speaks. Many a reader will
   understand why Shakspere could not use more explicit language.

34: So the envious Jonson calls Shakspere's public who are satisfied with
   'salad;' that is, with patchy compositions, pieced together from all
   kinds of material.

35: Jonson had Scottish ancestry.

36: In a moment of fanaticism, Hamlet wishes Ophelia to go to a
   nunnery. Jonson, in most cynical manner, means to say that
   Hamlet had been impotent as regards his _innamorata_. Though
   'for the nones' may be taken as 'for the nonce,' it yet comes close
   enough to a _double-entendre_--namely, 'for the _nuns_.'

37: _Dramatic versus  Wit Combats_. London, 1864. Ed. John Russell
   Smith.

38: To mount a bank = mountebank.

39: From one of them poor Ben received a _vile medicine_: a _purge_.

40: 'Lewd'=unlearned.

41: Shakspere's _Autobiographical Poems_.

42: Karl Elze (_Essays on Shakespeare_; London 1874) thinks this passage
   is intended against Shakespeare's alleged theft committed in the
   _Tempest_, the composition of which he, therefore, places in the year
   1604-5, while most critics assign it to a much later period. It must
   also be mentioned that Karl Elze draws attention to the more friendly
   words with which Jonson, in his own handwriting, dedicates his _Volpone_
   to Florio.

   In the opinion of the German critic, it is not difficult to gather from
   this Dedication the desire of the meanly quarrelsome scholar Jonson
   to give his friend Florio to understand that, among other things, he
   would read with considerable satisfaction how he (Jonson) had made short
   work with this 'Shake-scene' and this 'upstart Crow.'

43: Dekker tells Horace that his--Johnson's--plays are misliked at Court.
   According to the above-quoted words of Jonson, _Hamlet_ seems to have
   pleased at Court on its first appearance.

44: The following passage in Jonson's _Epicoene_ is also
   interesting, though in the play itself it is not made to refer to
   Montaigne but apparently to Plutarch and Seneca: 'Grave asses! mere
   essayists: a few loose sentences, and that's all. A man could talk
   so his whole age. I do utter as good things every hour if they were
   collected  and observed, as either of them.' May not such words have
   fallen from Shakspere's lips, in regard to Montaigne, before an
   intimate circle in the Mermaid Tavern?

45: This may point either to Montaigne or to Dr. Guinne, the
   fellow-worker of Florio in the translation of the Essays, whom the
   latter calls 'a monster-quelling Theseus or Hercules.'

46: The reasons which induce us to this opinion are the following:
   The three authors of _Eastward Hoe_ were arrested on account of a
   satire contained in this play against the Scots; James I., himself
   a Scot, having become King of England a year before. The audacious
   stage-poets were threatened with having their noses and ears cut
   off. They were presently freed, however; probably through the
   intervention of some noblemen. Soon afterwards, Jonson was again
   in prison; and we suspect that this second imprisonment took place
   in consequence of _Volpone_. We base this view on several incidents.
   In a letter Jonson addressed in 1605, from his place of confinement,
   to Lord Salisbury (_Ben Jonson_, edited by Cunningham, vol. i. xlix.),
   he says that he regrets having once more to apply to his kindness
   on account of a play, after having scarcely repented 'his first
   error' (most probably _Eastward Hoe_).' Before I can shew myself
   grateful in the least for former benefits, I am enforced to provoke
   your bounties for more.' In this letter, Jonson uses a tone similar
   to the one which pervades his Dedication of _Volpone_. We therefore
   believe that both letter and Dedication have reference to one and
   the same matter. In the letter, Jonson addresses Lord Salisbury in
   this way:--'My noble lord, they deal not charitably who are witty in
   another man's work, and utter sometimes their own malicious meanings
   under our words.' He then continues, protesting that since his first
   error, which was punished more with his shame than with his bondage,
   he has only touched at general vice, sparing particular persons. He
   goes on:--'I beseech your most honourable Lordship, suffer not other
   men's errors or faults past to be made my crimes; but let me be
   examined by all my works past and this present; and trust not to
   Rumour, but my books (for she is an unjust deliverer, both of
   great and of small actions), whether I have ever (many things I
   have written private and public) given offence to a nation, to a
   public order or state, or any person of honour or authority; but
   have equally laboured to keep their dignity, as my own person,
   safe.'

   Now, let us compare the following verses from the second Prologue
   of _Epicoene_ (the plural here becomes the singular):--

     If any yet will, with particular sleight
     Of application, (Occasioned by some person's impertinent
     Exceptions.)
     wrest what he doth write;
     And that he meant, or him, or her, will say:
     They make a libel, which he made a play.

   Nor will it be easy to find out who was the cause of _Volpone_ having
   been persecuted at one time--that is to say, forbidden to be acted
   on the stage. (Perchance by the 'obstreperous Sir Lawyer' who is
   mentioned in it?)

   We direct the reader's attention to the eulogistic poems composed
   by Jonson's friends on _Volpone_. (_Ben Jonson_, by Cunningham, vol.
   i. pp. civ.-cv.) First there are the extraordinary praises written
   by those who sign their names in full:--J. DONNE, E. BOLTON, FRANCIS
   BEAUMONT. Then follow verses, probably composed somewhat later,
   which are cautiously signed by initials only--D. D., J. C., G. C.,
   E. S., J. F., T. R. This is not the case with any other eulogistic
   poems referring to Jonson's dramas. The verses before mentioned,
   which are only signed by initials, all speak of a 'persecuted fox,
   or of a fox killed by hounds.'

47: 'Come, my coach!' means: 'I value my honour less than my coach.'
   The expression, 'O, how the wheel becomes it!' is of such a character
   that we must refer the reader to Montaigne's Essay III. 11.

48: _Eastward Hoe_< was acted in the Blackfriars Theatre by
   'The Children of Her Majestie's Revels.'

49: Until now it has been assumed that The Malcontent was acted by
   Shakspere's Company in the Globe Theatre. This conclusion was
   based on the title-page of the drama, which runs thus:--

     THE MALCONTENT
     _Augmented by Marston_
     _With the Additions played by the Kings_
     MAIESTIES SERVANTS
     _Written
     by_ JOHN WEBSTER.

   It is, however, to be noted that in regard to all other plays of
   Marston, whenever it is mentioned by whom they were acted (so,
   for instance, in regard to _The Parasitaster_, the _Dutch Courtesane_,
   and _Eastward Hoe_), the title is always indicated in this way
   (designating both the Theatre and the Company):--'As it was plaid
   in the Black Friars by the Children of her Maiesties Revels.' Again,
   the mere perusal of the 'Induction' of _The Malcontent_ (not to speak
   of the drama itself) shows that this play could not have been acted
   'by the Kings Maiesties servants' during Shakspere's membership. For,
   in this Induction there appear four actors of Shakspere's company:
   Sly, Burbadge, Condell, and Lowin. They are brought in to justify
   themselves why they act a certain play, 'another Company having
   interest in it.' One of the actors excuses their doing so by saying
   that, as they themselves have been similarly robbed, they have a
   clear right to Malevole, the chief character in _The Malcontent_.
   'Why not Malevole in folio with us, as Jeronimo _in decimo sexto_
   with them? They taught us a name for our play: we call it: "_One
   for Another_."' (That is to say, we give them 'Tit for Tat.')

     _Sly_. What are your additions?
     _Burbadge_. Sooth, not greatly needefull, only as your
     sallet (salad) to your greate feast--to entertaine a little more
     time, and to abridge the not received custome of musicke in our
     theater. I must leave you, Sir. [_Exit_ Burbadge.
     _Sinklow_. Doth he play _The Malcontent_?
     _Condell_. Yes, Sir.

   Our explanation of the Induction is this: Marston has committed
   satirical trespass upon _Hamlet_. Shakspere, on his part, made
   use of the chief action and the chief characters of _The Malcontent_
   in his _Measure for Measure_ ('One for Another'); but he did so in
   his own nobler manner. From the wildly confused material before
   him he composed a magnificent drama. Once more, in the very beginning
   of act i. sc. I, Shakspere makes the Duke utter words, each of which
   is directed against the inactive nature of Montaigne:--

     Thyself and thy belongings
     Are not thine own so proper as to waste
     Thyself upon thy virtues, them on thee.
     ...For if our virtues
     Did not go forth of us, 't were all alike
     As if we had them not.

   Shakspere's contemporaries were not over careful as regards
   style. 'With the additions played by the Kings Maiesties Servants,
   written by John Webster,' means that the additions, in which
   the servants of His Majesty, in the 'Induction,' are brought on the
   stage, were written by John Webster.

   Read the 'Extempore Prologue' which Sly speaks at the conclusion of
   the Induction--a shameless travesty of the Epilogue in _As You
   Like It_. Read the beginning of act iii. sc. 2 of _The Malcontent_,
   where Malevole ('in some freeze gown') burlesques the splendid
   monologue in King Henry the Fourth (Part 11. act iv. sc. I). Read
   act iii. sc. 3 of _The Malcontent_, where Marston sneers at the scene
   in act iv. of _King Richard the Second_ when Richard says:--

     Now is this golden crown like a deep well,
     That owes two buckets filling one another.

50: Is it imaginable that Shakspere could have allowed his own
   most beautiful productions to be thus leered at, and mocked,
   in his own theatre? Our feeling rebels against the thought.

     Beniamini Jonsonio
     Poetae Elegantissimo Gravissimo
     Amico Suo Candido et Cordato
     Johannes Marston, Musarum Alumnus,
     Asperam Hanc Suam Thaliam DD.

51: Who else can be meant by the 'Frenchman's Helicon' than
   Montaigne? He is satirically called 'Helicon,' as he is taken down
   from his height in 'Hamlet.'

52: In meaning alike to Jonson's: 'Counting all old doctrine heresie.'

53: Act i. sc.2.

54: Act iv. sc. 5.

55: Act i. sc. 4.

56: Act i. sc. 7.

57: Act i. sc. 6.

58: Act iii. sc. 2.

59: Act ii. sc. 5.

60: Act i. Sc. 5 in _Hamlet_; _Malcontent_, act iii. sc. 3.

61: Perhaps an allusion to the conclusion of _Hamlet_, when the
   State falls into the hands of a soldier (Fortinbras).
   --Soldaten-Religion, keine Religion ('a soldier's religion, no
   religion'), as the old German saying is.

62: Rochelle-Churchman--that is, Huguenot.

63: See Bacon's Essay, _Of Atheism_: 'All that impugn a received
   religion or superstition are by the adverse part branded with the
   name of Atheists.'

64: Sonnet lxvi. lxxxv.

65: xc. xci. xcii.

66: In _Eastward Hoe_, his most delicate poetical production,
   Ophelia, is most abominably parodied--'rudely strumpeted.'





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to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

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

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



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