Imatges de pÓgina

with it-there can be little doubt; but ry, leaving only the fact that prehistoric that he had any other object than the old women made very good pots, con. perfect putting of human nature upon sidering the circumstances they lived the stage, in a paying style, there is no under. proof.

So if Shakspeare could walk into the With a kingly manly character upon studio of a Shakspearean anatomist and his hands to work up in parts for Bur- say: bage, he probably watched the gait and

“Sirrah, mark yel those plays are mine, words of England's natural kings in liv- And if it be that money may be made ing and historic Britain, and gave this

Forth from their dusty rolls, that, too, is mine. gait and these words, with the tone of

Ay, marry, and I want it!” his own harmonies, to his embryonic the romance would pass out of Shakcharacter; or, if he had royal poltroon- speare himself, leaving only the fact that ery to portray, he could find it among he made very good stage - characters, his fellow - men, and acquire it cheaply, considering the chance he had. for a king-tinseled cheap man in "ye There was, so to speak, no medium goodlie companie of her majesty's poore of public ideas in his day, no real newsplayers."

life, no hourly report of men and things To him the mimicry of mankind meant and thought; and his presentation of money, and money meant a house and what men might do or had done was, to lands for Will Shakspeare on Avon. folk in those old times, what the reHe is the highest style of theatrical porters' columns in the daily newspa. Englishman- the actor, in the widest pers are to us. In these newspaper resense — whose intellect could walk the ports, which hold the mirror—often, the “boards” of his imagination in buskined horrid mirror—up to nature, there is, in Anglo-Saxon. And such seems to me a course of years, everything, in every to be the end and aim of the man. The conceivable style, that pertains to the meaning of the rest of him is purely ac- actions, feelings, fancies, etc., of men; cidental. Like his own Polonius, if you yet we can not tell what are the morals, think his cloud looks like a camel, it is or the manners, or the impulses, the loto you a camel, so far as he cares; if a cal habitation, or the names of the reweasel, weasel goes — to him it is the porters. All we know of them is that ware for sale.

their name is legion, and they write for The antiquarian critic, in some other pay. When permitted to use it, their field of investigation, may find a clay pot fancy falls like a harlequin drapery over that has lain long buried in the compost- the humanity in the daily fact, and the heap of unwriting and unwritten races, citizen at breakfast smiles under his and make much meaning out of its shape greasy mustache. and the dim figures on the bulging sides, Shall men, in after years, gather these and place the vessel high up in his cab- reports, or the better of them, into solid inet, as a rarity of great import; but if volumes, and proceed to analyze their the old prehistoric hag, who probably hidden meaning and their hinted facts, molded, turned, and burned the pot for and thus solve the moral status of the her own private use, were to come soft- reporters, and try to lend a legendary ly into the professor's study, and, lean- dignity and a deliberate unity of deing upon her rude stick, point her dirty sign to works which were written "on skinny finger, and say in some unknown the jump" and printed by steam? Forlingo, “That's my pot!" the romantic bid it, ye gods ! meaning would all fade out of its histo- Or shall we let Mark Twain die, and


in future days dig his writings from ob- From his works it were an easy thing livion, in order to determine how the to prove that William Shakspeare, in jokes got into him, why they came out whom nature conspired with art to make of him, and what were his notions of from England's humbler dust the mouththe immortality of his soul, without piece of mankind, was, after the measthinking that he wrote for money, jok- urement of ordinary men, trained to all ed for coin, and carried his immortality trades, schooled in all schools, apprenin his cheek?

ticed to each profession, and carefully It does not need that the art-man fostered in every faith. We could easshall be any part of what he puts on pa- ily show that he was a most profound per, any more than that a preacher's M. D.; in witness whereof, notice the soul shall be as lovely and faithful as living lunacy of Lear, side by side with the ideal in his eloquent sermon. In- the simulated madness of Edgar. Moddeed, it is a solemn fact that the home- ern medical science, with all its imlife of the artist, who paints sweet fan- proved microscopic powers of diagcies on the finished canvas, is odorous nosis, can not deliver a clinical disof onion - stew and musical with buzzing course on the subtile and confusing disflies—that his days are filled with labor, eases of the brain, comparable with the and his nights with lager-beer. tragedy of King Lear; yet no one

Certain persons are born with a sus- thinks of pretending that Shakspeare ceptibility to certain impressions — not ever thundered in a mortar with a poundnecessarily to a belief in those impres- ing-pestle, or put up petty paper packsions -and that susceptibility, driving ages of pills, squills, and tartar-emetic. or wooing such person in the line of How futile it is, then, to endeavor to those impressions, determines, under prove that he was a Christian, or this, "your devil opportunity,” for life the or that, out of the mouths of his charavocation of such individual, whether it acters ! leads across Niagara River on the high- His is not the intellect which you can way of a single rope, or through Aus- in the least, in any manner, steal away terlitz and glory to a sea-girt solitude. from the play-house to drop as a rich The will of such a person is in that jewel at the foot of a cross. He bemanner impowered that it can force the longs to the stage. He is the English whole being into the service of this stage. Behind the foot - lights of his susceptibility, and, when the opportu- wondrous varieties, you can find mannity opens, so demean itself that men kind, but you can not find the man admiringly shall cry out, "Bully!” Shakspeare.

With Shakspeare, the susceptibility In former days, not greatly remote, it was the mimicry of man; and all im- was fashionable (even pious, as are all pressions leading to that end remained the graver fashions) to relegate Shak.with him, the servants of his will, in speare to the old-style "pit” of the playhis daily fight for bread and property. house; and the “boys” down there, with That this susceptibility enabled him to that instinctive good taste which they be momentarily a king—"ay, every inch sometimes loudly manifest, were glad a king”- there is no doubt; but that is to accept him, and boast of how he no proof that he was either a ruling or “poached deer,” “'eld 'osses at Blacka ruined monarch. That he could be friars," and "went afore 't squire to be a fool or any other thing ruled by a hu- vined,” and “ow 'e were a bootcher's man attribute nobody doubts; but no lad, an' spaike a braive piece when 'e a one thinks he was a fool in fact. hox's throwt 'ad cut”- in short, that



there was a touch of the “rounder" in raised among law-forms. And there is him, which proved that he belonged to no great force of imagination in picturthe “boys.” And no doubt, in a great ing how his susceptible absorbing young degree, he did; for in those days it intellect would grasp and play with the was England's own blood that filled uncouth Latin sounds, until they and the “pit,” while Normandy arrayed the their various meanings and their no“boxes.” In another sense he belong. meaning haunted his head through life. ed to the “pit;" because all successful And if this were not enough to introactors and playwrights belong in some duce him to the lore of law-phrases, it degree to that element in the house - is pretty well believed, on good legendwoe is to him who does not.

ary grounds, there was another, a more Then, in years drawn nearer to our impressive and a ruder introduction to time, the Normanism of England tried the lip-service of the law, when Sir to show that he belonged to their class, Thomas Lucy, whether for “deer-stealto which end they traced him a fancied ing,” or for what not, prosecuted and relong lineage, phrenologized his head, prosecuted him in the courts of justice; unwove the lines of his stone - wrought for which Shakspeare nearly immortaleffigy, and wrote him down pure Nor- ized the old “duffer” in the court of the

It is not difficult to imagineAnd not to be outdone as a claimant, even for a wild Americo - Anglo-Saxon Pat comes forward to aver that, “Be to imagine - the father of English exjabers, he waz born in Oireland !” where pressiveness coming into court, marthey have two skulls of him—one when shaled on his way by the ponderous he was a child, and the other when he dignity of the rural bailiff, and solemnwas grown up to be a man. And this ly commanded to look upon the severe claim is about as rational as any of the face of the magistrate; while the neighother special claims; inasmuch as the bor gossips, male and female, into whose great dramatist belongs to every place sagacity had crept some homely touch where his mother - tongue is spoken, not of the prisoner's rare quality, smilingly in dogma.

loiter about, with the premonition that There is hardly any end to the efforts the court had, in the language of this made to prove from Shakspeare's plays new land, “caught a terranteler." what Shakspeare was, outside of his these prosecutions his vivid young inteloffice in the theatrical world. Even ligence would undoubtedly photograph those ingenious fellows, the lawyers, the print and image of the day, the like rows of rooks, have dropped softly sights and sounds, lights, shades, and from the atmosphere of Blackstone variations- and in older years, giving down upon the scenic stage, to strut the kaleidoscope of his imagination a about with knowing look, and exclaim: half-turn, evolve you the Dogberries, "Caw! this genius was bred an attor- the Vergeses, the Seacoals, the Shal. ney. How else could he know and apt- lows, and the long line of robustious ly use, with admirable fitness, so many periwig-pated pretenders of official inof the 'quiddets and quillets' of our eptitude and pomposity. very honorable profession?”

It is a narrow-minded slur upon the How, indeed, could he have known abilities of Shakspeare to infer, after all the fitness of law- lingo? His father this, that he must have been apprenticed was a magistrate of the borough of Strat- to the study of law, to possess his powford; so much is history, and not drama. er to use technical law-words aptly. As He may in fairness be said to have been well may we say that he was groom to a


stallion, because among his very earliest when summing up the qualities of his productions he gave us Venus and Ado- lady-love, says: “She hath more qualinis, in which, as in a mirror, shine all ties than a water-spaniel, which is much the points and traits of an entire horse. in a bare Christian.”

Aside from what has now been said There is, though, a similarity between of his opportunity to hear what law-forms the Bible and Shakspeare's dramas. If had to say, there is abundant document- God dictated the Bible, and if Shak. ary evidence in the Shakspearean ar- speare composed the Shakspearean volchives that he and Richard Burbage ume, the similarity is, that the author of and the "goodlie companie of her maj- each can be proved by his works to be esty's poor playeres” had often to re- a promulgator of almost any form of sort to the law-forms of petition, etc., faith. to be protected against the fanatical re- If Shakspeare had any religious beligious prejudices of that day-in order lief beyond the rules of right and wrong, that “Black Friars” and “Ye Globe" and the "pricks and stings” of conmight wake the foggy midnight echoes science, the “unco-pious” of his contemof the Thames with loud applause of poraries took full means to cause him that power which the posterity of a lar- to "dry up” on all such matters. The ger globe has nightly encored, with wild godly lord-mayor and corporation havdelight, through many generations. ing driven the actors outside the cor

And here, going off again under the porate limits of London, the God-fearpressure of the suggestive, we may not ing must needs follow "ye poore playwonder, considering the heavy attempts eres” out to that monument of Chriswh English religionists have made to tian benevolence, the puritanic ruins of squelch the “play-actors,” that Shak- the ancient monastery of Black Friars; speare gives no sign of his adhesion to and there in that ghostly retreat of the any form of superstition-rather was su- muses, command the play to cease and perstition his plaything. He peopled the the applause to expire, as may be seen world's fancy with a thousand sprites and by this humble petition, which is here goblins, and thereby played upon faith as copied from a reprint of the papers of upon a harp; but there is no proof that Lord Ellesmere, the attorney-general: he worshiped the images of his own brain,

“These are to certifie your right Hon'ble Lord. or those of any other brains, ancient or ships, that her Majesty's poore Playeres, James Burmodern.

badge, Richard Burbadge, John Laneham, Thomas

Greene, Robert Wilson, John Taylor, Anth. Wade. The so-called Christians who now so

son, Thomas Pope, George Peele, Augustine Phil. gravely place the Bible and Shakspeare lipps, Nicholas Towley, William Shakspeare, Will. upon their family tables, side by side, iam Kempe, William Johnson, Baptiste Goodale, and as the guides to life, are the offspring of black Fryer's playe - house, have never given cause

Robert Armyn, being all of them sharers in the that lovely spirit which, not many gene- of displeasure, in that they have brought into their rations agone, cast the volume of his playes maters of state and Religion, unfitt to be han. dramas into the consuming fires of a

dled by them, or to be presented before lewde spec.

tators: neither hath anie complaynte in that kinde righteous indignation, because it was

ever bene preferrde against them, or anie of them. one of those “unsavory, bawdy, play. Wherefore, they trust most humble in your Lord. house books." In regard to which ship's consideration of their former good behavior,

being at all tymes readie and willing to yielde obedi. spirit of persecution, if it were in point

ence to any command whatsoever your Lordships in to draw upon his art (which it isn't), we your wisdome may thinke in such case mcete, etc. might quote Launce—Launce, the sweet

November, 1589." scented dog-man, in evidence of Shak- It will be seen by this that William speare's ideal of a Christian. Launce, Shakspeare, at the age of twenty-six


VOL, 15.-31.

years, entered into a bond, as it were, to must have been open to a mind so large keep his art - life untainted by political and active, there is no tint in all his menor religious bias—and he did it. tal coloring to indicate his soul's livery.

In the domain of dogma there is no His mission was to play mankind upon Shakspeare. Warned by his art alone, all men, especially on those who heard he walked before a public which was red- with English ears. His duty done, he hot with ecclesiastical discussion, wrote laid him down in that heroic soil from and acted for a queen who was herself which he sprung-giving to Britain all champion in the Latin diction of dogma; he took of earth, and to her language and yet, though the questions of the day all it needs of art.


Mine, to loose or to hold,
I held it, thus, in my hand.

Mine, to fetter or free-
Which should it be?
Dear little wings of gold,
Dear little voice that trilled
All the gay summer long,
Making each day a song!
Well, but one tires, at times,
Of even one's favorite rhymes ;

Of roses, oversweet ;

Of joys that are too complete ;
Of all things in one's reach :

And just to be alone
With silence sweeter than speech,

Seems best of all things known.

Mine to command,
Hold captive, as I willed :

Little light wings, away!
Into the golden day-
Away, away,
Into the golden sky-
Good-by! good-by!

That was a year ago.
Was it well--was it wiser so?

Shall I ever know?
A whole long weary year,
And summer is here.

But the rose a redness lacks,
And the sun is chill,
And the world, somehow, too still,
And time a dreary tax

On body and heart and brain.
Would it be less, I wonder,

« AnteriorContinua »