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Because William Shakspcre, who lived in this world only fifty-two years, wrote so much within that bricf period, and, furthermore, because he wrote with such transcendent genius and ability, it has pleased thcorctical and visionary obscrvcrs to declare that he never wrote at all. Shakspcrc . vicwed alonc, they maintain, is a miracle, and thcrcforc an iinpossibility; but Shakspcrc and Francis Bacon, rolled into onc, constitute a bcing who is cntirely natural and authentic. The works of Shakspcre and the works. of Bacon present, indeed, almost every possible point of dissimilarity, and no point of resemblance. The man bchind Shaksperc's plays and poems and the man behind Bacon's essays and philosophy are absolutely distinct from onc another, and as far apart as the polcs. The dircct and positive testimony of Shakspere's friend and professional associate, Ben Jonson-a close observer, a "stern critic, a truth-teller, a moralist, not over-amiable in his commentary upon human nature, and neither prone to crror nor liable to credulity-tells the world, not only that Shaksperc wrote, but in what manncr he wrote. The assumption, implicd in the Bacon thcory, that a poct capable of writing “Hamlct," "Macbcth," “Lear," and "Othello," cither would or could, for any rcason whatsocver, wish to es. cape the imputation of their authorship, is obviously absurd. The idea that Shakspere, hired by Bacon to father those plays, could for a period of years go in and out among the actors and the authors of his time, and so imposc upon their sagacity and clude thcir jealous scrutiny as to keep the sccrct of this gigantic fraud, is simply ludicrous. The notion that the man who wrotc Shakspcrc's pocms-and these, undeniably, were the work of William Shakspere-was thc kind of man to lend himself to any schome of imposture is repudiated by cvery intimation of character that those poems contain; and the same may rightfully be said of the man who wrote Shakspere's plays. The fact that the plays, which these theorists would. deny to Shakspere's pen, arc entircly, absolutely, and incontestibly kindredi with the pocms, which thcy cannot deny to it, stands forth as clear as the daylight. The associatc fact that the plays contain precisely such er. rors as would naturally be made by the untutored Shakspcre, but could not possibly be made by the thoroughly taught and cruditc Bacon, is like. wise distinctly visible. Yet, all the same-bccausc Shaksperc, like Burns, . sprung from a family in humble station, and was but poorly schooled-this propostcrous doctrinc. persistently rears its foolish head, and insults with idle chattcr thc Shakspcrean scholarship of the world. Only a few weeks ago a prominent representative dramatist of the day had the astound. ing rolly to announce an hypothesis-apparently intended to be taken in carnest-that Shakspcrc's tragedy of “Hamlct" was written by Jonson, Webster, Dekker, and Alleync, in conjunction with Shakspere, and under his supervision; a doctrinc which, to any student acquainted with those writers and their times, is pitiable in its silliness. For if there be in lite erature any work which, from the first line to the last, and in every word and syllablc of it, bears the authentic pressure of onc creative and prc. dominant mind-the broad-hcaded arrow of imperial dominion-that work is “ Hamlct." Shakspcrc's stylc, once known, can never be mis. takon. No man of his time, with the single exception of Jolin Fletcher, could writc in anything like his peculiar strain of simplicity and power.. In some of the historical plays there are traces of collaboration--as all rcaders know; but in his greater plays the only hand that is visible is the hand of Shaksperc.
This is especially truc of " A Midsummer Night's Dream," and prob. ably no better mental cxercise than the analysis of the style and spirit and component clements of this picce could be devised for those persons
if any such thcre bc-wlio inclinc to cntertain cither the Bacon theory or the collaboration theory of the authorship of Shaksperc. Bacon, if his avowed writings may be taken as the dcnotement of his mind, could no morc have written this play than he could have flown on wings of tissue. paper over the spire of old St. Paul's ; nor does it exhibit the slightest deviation from onc invariable poctic mind and temperament. Shak. spcrc's sancy takes a free range here, and revels in beauty and joy. The Dream was first published in 1600; thc carliest allusion made to it is that of Francis Meres, in his “Palladis Tamia," in 1598; and probably it was written as carly as 1594, whicn Shaksperc was thirty years old. A significant rcfcrcnce to the subject of it occurs in the sccond sccnc of the sccond act of the “Comedy of Errors" (1589-91), which has been thought to indicate that the poct had already considered and, perhaps, conccivcd it : he was working with wisc and incessant industry at that tinc, and the amazing fertility of his creative genius was beginning to reveal itself. The Drcam is absolutcly of his own invention. The names of the characters, together with a few incidents, he derived from Plutarch, Ovid, and Chauccr-authors with whom he shows himself to have been acquainted. The story of Pyranus and Thisbe occurs in Ovid, and a translation of that Latin poct, madc by Arthur Golding, was current in Shakspere's day. It is thought that the “ Knight's Tale” and “ Tysbc of Babylonc," by Chaucer, may havc bccn thc mcans of suggesting this play to Shakspere, but his story and his characters are his own. And although, as
Dr. Johnson observes, fairies were in his time fashionable, and Spen.
The title-pages of the Fisher and thc Roberts Quartos are given here:
A picce called “The Fairy Queen," bcing Shakspcre's coincdy, with music by Purcell, was published in London in 1692. It had been acted in there at the Haymarket-the presentation being inade with rich dresses, - .. finc scenery, and elaboratc mechanism. There is another old piccc, called “The Merry-Conccited Humours of Bottoin thc Weaver.” This was made out of an episode in the Dreain, and it is included in the collection of farces attributed to Robert Cox, a comcdian of the time of Charles the First, published in 1672. A comic masquc, by Richard Leveridge, simi. larly derived, entitled “ Pyramus and Thisbc," was performed at Lincoln's Inn Ficlds Thcatre, and was published in 1716. Two other musical farces, with this same title and origin, are recorded-one by Mr. Lampe, acted at Covent Garden, and published in 1745 ; the other by W. C. Oulton, acted at Birmingham, and published in 1798. Garrick made an acting-copy of “A Midsummer Night's Dream"--adding to the text as well as cúrtailing it, and introducing songs-and this was played at Drury Lane, where it failed, and was published in 1763. Colman reduced Garrick's piccc to two acts, and called it “ A Fairy Tale," and in this form it was tried at Drury Lanc, and published in 1764 and 1777. Colman, however, wrote : :
memiliki co where there. The