Page images
PDF
EPUB

Give me thy hand : now God's curse on me light, the style is different. In the earliest acknowledged If I forsake not grief in grief's despite.

works of the Warwickshire bard, there is a play of Much, make a cry, and yeomen stand ye round : wit, and of what Hallam calls 'analogical imagery,' I charge ye, never more let woeful sound

which is not seen in. Arden of Feversham,' though it Be heard among ye ; but whatever fall,

exhibits a strong picture of the passions, and indiLaugh grief to scorn, and so make sorrow small. * * cates freedom of versification and dramatic art. We Marian, thou seest, though courtly pleasures want, subjoin one touching scene between Alice and her Yet country sport in Sherwood is not scant.

paramour-a scene of mutual recrimination, guilt, For the soul-ravishing delicious sound

and tenderness :-
Of instrumental music, we have found
The winged quiristers, with divers notes,
Sent from their quaint recording pretty throats,

[Scene from Arden of Feversham.]
On every branch that compasseth our bower,
Without command contenting us each hour.

ALICE ARDEN.-MOSBIE. For arras hangings, and rich tapestry,

Mos. How now, Alice? What! sad and passionate ! We have sweet nature's best embroidery.

Make me partaker of thy pensiveness ; For thy steel glass, wherein thou wont'st to look, Fire divided burns with lesser force. Thy crystal eyes gaze on the crystal brook.

· Al. But I will dam that fire in my breast, At court, a flower or two did deck thy head,

Till by the force thereof my part consume. Now, with whole garlands it is circled;

Ah, Mosbie! For what in wealth we want, we have in flowers, | Mos. Such deep pathaires, like to a cannon's burst, And what we lose in halls, we find in bowers. Discharged against a ruinated wall,

Breaks my relenting heart in thousand pieces. Chettle was engaged in no less than thirty-eight | Ungentle Alice, thy sorrow is my sore; plays between the years 1597 and 1603, four of

Thou knowest it well, and 'tis thy policy which have been printed. Mr Collier thinks he had To forge distressful looks, to wound a breast written for the stage before 1592, when he published Where lies a heart which dies when thou art sad. Greene's posthumous work,' A Groat's Worth of Wit.'

It is not love that loves to anger love. Among his plays, the names of which have descended

Al. It is not love that loves to murder love. to us, is one on the subject of Cardinal Wolsey,

Mos. How mean you that ? which probably was the original of Shakspeare's Al. Thou know'st how dearly Arden loved me. Henry VIII. The best drama of this prolific author Mos. And then which we now possess, is a comedy called Patient Al. And then--conceal the rest, for 'tis too bad, Grissell, taken from Boccaccio. The humble charms Lest that my words be carried to the wind, of the heroine are thus finely described :

And published in the world to both our shames,

I pray thee, Mosbie, let our spring-time wither ; See where my Grissell and her father is,

Our harvest else will yield but loathsome weeds. Methinks her beauty, shining through those weeds,

Forget, I pray thee, what has past betwixt us : Seems like a bright star in the sullen night.

For now I blush and tremble at the thoughts. How lovely poverty dwells on her back !

Mos. What ! are you changed ? Did but the proud world note her as I do,

Al. Ay, to my former happy life again; She would cast off rich robes, forswear rich state,

From title of an odious strumpet's name To clothe her in such poor habiliments.

To honest Arden's wife, not Arden's honest wifeThe names of Haughton, Antony Brewer, Porter,

Ha, Mosbie! 'tis thou hast rifled me of that, Smith, Hathaway (probably some relation of Shak

And made me slanderous to all my kin.

Even in my forehead is thy name engraven, speare's wife), Wilson, &c., also occur as dramatic

A mean artificer, that low-born name ! writers. From the diary of Henslowe, it appears

I was bewitcht; woe-worth the hapless hour that, between 1591 and 1597, upwards of a hundred

And all the causes that enchanted me. different plays were performed by four of the ten

Mos. Nay, if thou ban, let me breathe curses forth; or eleven theatrical companies which then existed.

And if you stand so nicely at your fame, Henslowe was originally a pawnbroker, who ad

Let me repent the credit I have lost. vanced money and dresses to the players, and he

I have neglected matters of import, ultimately possessed a large share of the wardrobe

That would have 'stated me above thy state ; and properties of the playhouses with which he was

For slow'd advantages, and spurned at time; concerned. The name of Shakspeare does not once

Ay, fortune's right hand Mosbie hath forsook, occur in his diary.

To take a wanton giglot by the left. Several good dramas of this golden age have de- | I left the marriage of an honest maid, scended to us, the authors of which are unknown.

| Whose dowry would have weigh'd down all thy wealth; A few of these possess merit enough to have been

| Whose beauty and demeanour far exceeded theę. considered first sketches of Shakspeare, but this

This certain good I lost for changing bad, opinion has been gradually abandoned by all but

And wrapt my credit in thy company. one or two German critics. Most of them have been

I was bewitcht ; that is no theme of thine ; published in Dodsley's Collection of Old Plays. The

And thou unhallow'd hast enchanted me. best are, the . Merry Devil of Edmonton,' the · Lon

But I will break thy spells and exorcisms, don Prodigal,' the Yorkshire Tragedy,' 'Lord Crom And put another sight upon these eyes, well,' the Birth of Merlin,' the Collier of Croydon,'| That showed my heart a raven for a dove.

Mucedorus.' Locrine,'' Arden of Feversham,' the Thou art not fair ; I view'd thee not till now :
“Misfortunes of Arthur,' 'Edward III.,'&c. The most Thou art not kind ; till now I knew thee not :
correct and regular of these anonymous dramas is And now the rain hath beaten off thy gilt,
" Arden of Feversham,' a domestic tragedy, founded | Thy worthless copper shows thee counterfeit.
on a murder which took place in 1551. Alice, the It grieves me not to see how foul thou art,
wife of Arden, proves unfaithful, and joins with her But mads me that ever I thought thee fair.
paramour Mosbie, and some assassins, in murdering Go, get thee gone, a copesmate for thy hinds ;
her husband. Tieck has translated this play into | I am too good to be thy favourite.
German, as a genuine production of Shakspeare, but Al. Ay, now I see, and too soon find it true,

[ocr errors]

Which often hath been told me by my friends, But yex'd his money cannot make them last.
That Mosbie loves me not but for my wealth ;

A fearful melancholy, ungodly sorrow !
Which too incredulous I ne'er believed.
Nay, hear me speak, Mosbie, a word or two;

WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE,
I'll bite my tongue if I speak bitterly.

We have seen that Greene, Peele, and Marlow, Look on me, Mosbie, or else I'll kill myself. Nothing shall hide me from thy stormy look ;

prepared, in some degree, the way for Shakspeare. If thou cry war, there is no peace for me.

They had given a more settled and scholastic form I will do penance for offending thee;

to the drama, and assigned it a permanent place in And burn this prayer book, which I here use,

the national literature. They adorned the stage
The holy word that has converted me.
See, Mosbie, I will tear away the leaves,
And all the leaves ; and in this golden cover
Shall thy sweet phrases and thy letters dwell,
And thereon will I chiefly meditate,
And hold no other sect but such devotion.
Wilt thou not look ? is all thy love o'erwhelm'd ?
Wilt thou not hear ? what malice stops thy ears?
Why speak'st thou not? what silence tics thy tongue ?
Thou hast been sighted as the eagle is,
And heard as quickly as the fearful hare,
And spoke as sinoothly as an orator,
When I have bid thee hear, or see, or speak :
And art thou sensible in none of these?
Weigh all thy good turns with this little fault,
And I deserve not Mosbie's muddy looks.
A fence of trouble is not thicken'd still ;
Be clear again ; I'll ne'er more trouble thee.

Mos. O fie, no ; I'm a base artificer;
My wings are feathered for a lowly flight.
Mosbie, fie, no; not for a thousand pound
Make love to you ; why, 'tis unpardonable.
We beggars must not breathe where gentles are.

Al. Sweet Morbie is as gentle as a king,
And I too blind to judge him otherwise.
Flowers sometimes spring in fallow lands,
Weeds in gardens, roses grow on thorns ;
So whatsoe'er my Mosbie's father was,
Himself is valued gentle by his worth.

Mos. Ah, how you women can insinuate,
And clear a trespass with your sweet set tongue.
I will forget this quarrel, gentle Alice,
Provided I'll be tempted so no more.

'Arden of Feversham' was first printed in 1592. The • Yorkshire Tragedy,' another play of the same

(Copy of the Bust at Stratford.] kind, but apparently more hastily written, was per with more variety of character and action, with formed in 1604, and four years afterwards printed deep passion, and true poetry. The latter, indeed, with Shakspeare's name. Both Dyce and Collier, was tinged with incoherence and extravagance, but able dramatic antiquaries and students, are inclined the sterling ore of genius was, in Marlow at least, to the opinion, that this drama contains passages abundant. Above all, they had familiarised the which only Shakspeare could have written. But in public ear to the use of blan

public ear to the use of blank verse. The last imlines like the following—though smooth and natu provement was the greatest ; for even the genius of ral, and quoted as the most Shakspearian in the play Shakspeare would have been cramped and confined, -we miss the music of the great dramatist's thoughts if it had been condemned to move only in the fetters and numbers. It is, however, a forcible picture of a of rhyme. The quick interchange of dialogue, and luckless, reckless gambler :

the various nice shades and alternations of character What will become of us! All will away!

and feeling, could not have been evolved in dramatic My husband never ceases in expense,

action, except in that admirable form of verse which Both to consume his credit and his house ;

unites rhythmical harmony with the utmost freedom, And 'tis set down by heaven's just decree,

grace, and flexibility. When Shakspeare, thereforc, That Riot's child must needs be Beggary.

appeared conspicuously on the horizon, the scene may Are these the virtues that his youth did promise ?

be said to have been prepared for his reception. The Dice and voluptuous meetings, midnight revels,

Genius of the Drama had accumulated materials for Taking his bed with surfeits, ill beseeming

the use of the great poet, who was to extend her The ancient honour of his house and name?

empire over limits not yet recognised, and invest it And this not all, but that which kills me most,

with a splendour which the world had never seen When he recounts his losses and false fortunes,

before. The weakness of his state, so much dejected,

The few incidents in Shakspeare's life are surNot as a man repentant, but half mad.

rounded with doubt and fable. The fond idolatry His fortunes cannot answer his expense.

with which he is now regarded, was only turned to He sits and sullenly locks up his arms,

his personal history at a late period, when little could Forgetting heaven, looks downward, which makes him be gathered even by the most enthusiastic collector. Appear so dreadful, that he frights my heart : Our best facts are derived from legal documents. Walks heavily, as if his soul were earth;

WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE was born at Stratford-onNot penitent for those his sins are past,

| Avon, in the county of Warwick, in April 1564, Therc

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

is a pleasant and poetical tradition, that he was born and Adonis, and the Lucrece. The amount of his on the 230 of the month, the anniversary of St | education at the grammar-school has been made a

question of eager scrutiny and controversy. Ben Jonson says, be liad little Latin, and less Greek.' This is not denying that he had some. Many Latinised idioms and expressions are to be found in his plays. The choice of two classical subjects for his early poetry, and the numerous felicitous allusions in his dramas to the mythology of the ancients, show that he was imbued with the spirit and taste of classical literature, and was a happy student, if not a critical scholar. His mind was too comprehensive to degenerate into pedantry; but when, at the age of four or five and twenty, he took the field of original dramatic composition, in company with the university-bred authors and wits of his times, he soon distanced them all, in correctness as well as facility, in the intellectual richness of his thoughts and diction, and in the wide range of his acquired knowledge. It may be safely assumed, therefore, that at Stratford he was a hard, though perhaps an irregular, student. The precocious maturity of Shakspeare's passions hurried him into a premature marriage. On the 28th of November 1582, he obtained a license at Worcester, legalising his union with Anne Hathaway, with once asking of the banns. Two of his neighbours became security in the sum of £40, that the poet would fulfil his matrimonial engagement, he being a minor, and unable, legally, to contract for himself. Anne Hathaway was seven years older than her husband. She was the daughter of a 'substantial yeoman' of the village of Shottery, about a mile from Stratford. The hurry and anxiety

with respect to the marriage-license, is explained Birthplace of Shakspeare.

by the register of baptisms in the poet's native town; George, the tutelar saint of England; but all we his daughter Susanna was christened on the 26th know with certainty is, that he was baptised on the May 1583, six months after the marriage. In a year 26th. His father, John Shakspeare, was a wool- and a half, two other children, twins, were born to comber or glover, who had elevated his social posi- Shakspeare, who had no family afterwards. We tion by marriage with a rustic heiress, Mary Arden, may readily suppose that the small town of Stratpossessed of an estate worth about £70 per annum ford did not offer scope for the ambition of the poet, of our present money. The poet's father rose to now arrived at early manhood, and feeling the ties be high bailiff and chief alderman of Stratford : 1 of a husband and a father. He removed to London but in 1578, he is found mortgaging his wife's in- in 1586 or 1587. It has been said that his deparheritance, and, from entries in the town-books, isture was hastened by the effects of a lampoon he supposed to have fallen into comparative poverty. had written on a neighbouring squire, Sir Thomas William was the eldest of six surviving children, Lucy of Charlecote, in revenge for Sir Thomas and after some education at the grammar-school, prosecuting him for deer-stealing. The story is he is said to have been brought home to assist at inconsistent in its details. Part of it must be unhis father's business. There is a blank in his his-true; it was never recorded against him in his lifetory for some years; but doubtless he was engaged, time; and the whole may have been built upon the whatever might be his circumstances or employ- opening scene in the Merry Wives of Windsor (not ment, in treasuring up materials for his future written till after Sir Thomas Lucy's death), in which poetry. The study of man and of nature, facts in there is some wanton wit on the armorial bearings natural history, the country, the fields, and the of the Lucy family. The tale, however, is now woods, would be gleaned by familiar intercourse associated so intimately with the name of Shaksand observation among his fellow-townsmen, and peare, that, considering the obscurity which rests and in rambling over the beautiful valley of the Avon. probably will ever rest on his history, there seems It has been conjectured that he was some time in little likelihood of its ever ceasing to have a place a lawyer's office, as his works abound in technical in the public mind.* Shakspeare soon rose to dislegal phrases and illustrations. This has always seemed to us highly probable. The London players * Mr Washington Irving, in his Sketch Book,' thus adverts were also then in the habit of visiting Stratford : to Charlecote, and the deer-stealing affair :Thomas Green, an actor, was a native of the town; I had a desire to see the old family seat of the Lucys at and Burbage, the greatest performer of his day (the Charlecote, and to ramble through the park where Shakspeare, Tuture Richard, Hamlet. and Othello), was originally in company with some of the roysters of Stratford, committed irom Warwickshire Who can doubt. then that his youthful offence of deer-stealing. In this hair-brained exthe high bailiff's son, from the years of twelve to

ploit, we are told that he was taken prisoner, and carried to twenty, was a frequent and welcome visitant behind

the keeper's lodge, where he remained all night in doleful capthe scenes ?—that he there imbibed the tastes and

tivity. When brought into the presence of Sir Thomas Lucy,

his treatment must have been galling and humiliating; for it Ieelings which coloured all his future life and that I

so wrought upon his spirit, as to produce a rouglı pasquinade, he there felt the first stirrings of his immortal dra

which was affixed to the park-gate at Charlecote. matic genius? We are persuaded the Laded that he had beg

This flagitious attack upon the dignity of the knight so ini to write long before he left Stratford, and had inost | censed him, that he applied to a lawyer at Warwick to put the probably sketched, if not completed, his Venus 1 severity of the laws in force against the rhyming deer stalker.

[graphic]

12

tinction in the theatre. He was a shareholder of been produced. With the nobles, the wits, and the Blackfriars Company, within two or three years poets of his day, he was in familiar intercourse. The after his arrival; of the fifteen shareholders of the gentle Shakspeare,' as he was usually styled, was theatre in November 1589, Shakspeare's name is throned in all hearts. But notwithstanding his

brilliant success in the metropolis, the poet early looked forward to a permanent retirement to the country. He visited Stratford once a-year; and when wealth flowed in upon him, he purchased property in his native town and its vicinity. He bought New Place, the principal house in Stratford; in 1602, he gave £320 for 107 acres of land adjoining to his purchase; and in 1605, he paid £440 for the lease of the tithes of Stratford. The latest entry of his name among the king's players is in 1604, but he was living in London in 1609. The year 1612 has been assigned as the date of bis final retirement to the country. In the fulness of his fame, with a handsome competency, and before age had chilled the enjoyment of life, the poet returned to his native town to spend the remainder of his days among the quiet scenes and the friends of his youth. His parents were both dead, but their declining years had been gladdened by the prosperity of their illustrious son. Four years were spent by Shakspeare in this dignified retirement, and the history of literature scarcely presents another such picture of calm felicity and satisfied ambition. He died on the 23d of April 1616, having just completed his fifty-second year. His widow survived him seven years. His

two daughters were both married (his only son Charlecote House.

Hamnet had died in 1596), and one of them had the eleventh on the list. In 1596, his name is the

three sons; but all these died without issue, and fifth in a list of only eight proprietors; and in 1603,

there now remains no lineal representative of the

great he was second in the new patent granted by King

Shakspeare, it is believed, like his contemporary James. It appears from recent discoveries made

dramatists, began his career as an author by altering by Mr Collier, that the wardrobe and stage properties afterwards belonged to Shakspeare, and with

the works of others, and adapting them for the stage. the shares which he possessed, were estimated at

The extract from Greene's Groat's Worth of Wit,' £1400, equal to between £6000 and £7000 of our

which we have given in the life of that unhappy

author, shows that he had been engaged in this suborpresent money. He was also a proprietor of the

dinate literary labour before 1592. Three years preGlobe Theatre; and at the lowest computation, his income must have been about £300 a-year, or £1500

vious to this, Nash had published an address to the

students of the two universities, in which there is a at the present day. As an actor, Shakspeare is said by a contemporary (supposed to be Lord Southamp

remarkable passage :- It is,' he says, “a common ton) to have been of good account in the com

practice now-a-days, among a sort of shifting com

panions, that run through every art, and thrive by pany ;' but the cause of his unexampled success was his immortal dramas, the delight and wonder of his

none, to leave the trade of Noverint, whereto they were born, and busy themselves with the endeavours

of art, that could scarce Latinise their neck verse if That so did take Eliza and our James,

they should have need; yet English Seneca, read by as Ben Jonson has recorded, and as is confirmed by candle-light, yields many good sentences, as blood is various authorities. Up to 1611, the whole of a beggar, and so forth; and if you intreat him far in Shakspeare's plays (thirty-seven in number, accord- a frosty morning, he will afford you whole Hamlets, ing to the first folio edition) are supposed to have I should say handfuls, of tragical speeches.' The

term Noverint was applied to lawyers' clerks, so Shakspeare did not wait to brave the united puissance of a

called from the first word of a Latin deed of those knight of the shire and a country attorney. * *

times, equivalent to the modern commencement of I now found myself among noble avenues of oaks and elms,

| Know all men, &c. We have no doubt that Nash whose vast size bespoke the growth of centuries. * * It was

alluded to Shakspeare in this satirical glance, for from wandering in early life among this rich scenery, and about the romantic solitudes of the adjoining park of Fulbroke,

Shakspeare was even then, as has been discovered, which then formed a part of the Lucy estate. that some of a shareholder in the theatre; and it appears from the Shakspeare's commentators have supposed he derived his noble title-page to the first edition of Hamlet,' in 1604, that, forest meditations of Jaques and the enchanting woodland like 'Romeo and Juliet,' and the Merry Wives of pictures in “ As You Like It." * * [The house) is a large Windsor,' it had been enlarged to almost twice its building of brick, with stone quoins, and is in the Gothic style original size. It seems scarcely probable that the of Queen Elizabeth's day, having been built in the first year of great dramatist should not have commenced writing her reign. The exterior remains very nearly in its original before he was twenty-seven. Some of his first state, and may be considered a fair specimen of the residence of a wealthy country gentleman of those days. * * The

and completed; others may have sunk into oblivion, front of the house is completely in the old style with stone

as being judged unworthy of resuscitation or imshafted casements, a great bow window of heavy stone-work,

provement in his riper years. Pericles is supposed and a portal with armorial bearings over it, carved in stone. * * The Avon, which winds through the park, makes a

to be one of his earliest adaptations. Dryden, inbend just at the foot of a gently sloping bank, which sweeps deed, expressly states it to be the first birth of his round the rear of the house. Large herds of deer were reposing muse ; but two if not three styles are distinctly upon its borders.'

traceable in this play, and the two first acts look

[graphic]

age

dra

seei

like the work of Greene or Peele. Titus Andronicus magnificent conceptions which were afterwards emresembles the style of Marlow, and if written by | bodied in the Lear, the Macbeth, Othello, and Tempest Shakspeare, as distinct contemporary testimony of his tragic muse. affirms, it must have been a very youthful produc The chronology of Shakspeare's plays has been tion. The Taming of the Shrew is greatly indebted arbitrarily fixed by Malone and others, without adeto an old play on the same subject, and must also quate authority. Mr Collier has shown its incorbe referred to the same period. It is doubtful rectness in various particulars. He has proved, for whether Shakspeare wrote any of the first part of example, that “Othello' was on the stage in 1602, Henry VI. The second and third parts are model. I though Malone assigns its first appearance to 1604. led on two older plays, the ‘Contention of York and Macbeth' is put down to 1606, though we only know Lancaster,' and the True Tragedy of the Duke of that it existed in 1610. Henry VIII. is assigned to York.' Whether these old dramas were early | 1603, yet it is mentioned by Sir Henry Wotton as a sketches of Shakspeare's own, or the labours of some new play in 1613, and we know that it was produced obscure and forgotten playwright, cannot now be with unusual scenic decoration and splendour in

tained: they contain the death-scene of Cardi- that year. The Roman plays were undoubtedly nal Beaufort, the last speech of the Duke of York, / among his latest works. The · Tempest has been and the germs of that vigorous delineation of cha- usually considered the last, but on no decisive authoracter and passion completed in ‘Richard III. We rity. Adopting this popular belief, Mr Campbell has know no other dramatist of that early period, ex- remarked, that the Tempest' has a sort of sacredcepting Marlow, who could have written those ness' as the last drama of the great poet, who, as if powerful sketches. From the old plays, Shakspeare conscious that this was to be the case, has been borrowed no less than 1771 entire lines, and nearly inspired to typify himself as a wise, potent, and double that number are merely alterations. Such benevolent magician.' wholesale appropriation of the labours of others is There seems no good reason for believing that found in none of his other historical plays (as King Shakspeare did not continue writing on to the period John, Richard III., &c., modelled on old dramas), of his death in 1616; and such a supposition is counand we therefore incline to the opinion, that the tenanced by a tradition thus recorded in the diary Contention and the True Tragedy were early pro- of the Rev. John Ward, A.M., vicar of Stratfordductions of the poet, afterwards enlarged and im-on-Avon, extending from 1648 to 1679. I have proved by him, as part of his English historical heard,' says the careless and incurious vicar, who series, and then named Henry VI.

might have added largely to our stock of ShakThe gradual progress of Shakspeare's genius is spearian facts, had he possessed taste, acuteness, or supposed to have been not unobserved by Spenser. | industry- I have heard that Mr Shakspeare was a In 1594, or 1595, the venerable poet wrote his pas- | natural wit, without any art at all. He frequented toral, entitled “Colin Clout's Come Home Again,' in the plays all his younger time, but in his elder days which he commemorates his brother poets under lived at Stratford, and supplied the stage with two feigned names. The gallant Raleigh is the Shep- plays every year, and for it had an allowance so herd of the Ocean, Sir Philip Sidney is Astrophel, large, that he spent at the rate of £1000 a-year, as and other living authors are characterised by ficti- I have heard. Shakspeare, Drayton, and Ben Jon. tious appellations. He concludes as follows: son, had a merry meeting, and it seems drank too

hard, for Shakspeare died of a fever there contracted.' And then, though last not least, is Aëtion,

We place no great reliance on this testimony, either A gentler shepherd may nowhere be found, Whose muse, full of high thoughts' invention,

as to facts literary or personal. Those who have

studied the works of the great dramatist, and marked Doth, like himself, heroically sound.

his successive approaches to perfection, must see that The sonorous and chivalrous-like name of Shak-he united the closest study to the keenest observaspeare seems here designated. The poet had then tion, that he attained to the highest pitch of drama. published his two classical poems, and probably tic art, and the most accurate philosophy of the most of his English historical plays had been acted. human mind, and that he was, as Schlegel has hapThe supposition that Shakspeare was meant, is at pily remarked, “a profound artist, and not a blind least a pleasing one. We love to figure Spenser and and wildly-luxuriant genius.'* Raleigh sitting under the shady alders' on the banks of Mulla, reading the manuscript of the 'Faery |

* Coleridge boasted of being the first in time who publicly

demonstrated, to the full extent of the position, that the supgreat poet watching the dawn of that mighty mind posed irregularity and extravagances of Shakspeare were the which was to eclipse all its contemporaries. A few

mere dreams of a pedantry that arraigned the eagle because it

had not the dimensions of the swan. He maintains, with his years afterwards, in 1598, we meet with an impor

usual fine poetical appreciation and feeling, that that Law of tant notice of Shakspeare by Francis Meres, a con.

unity which has its foundations, not in the factitious necessity temporary author. "As Plautus and Seneca,' he

of custom, but in nature itself, the unity of feeling, is everywhere, says, are accounted the best for comedy and tra

and at all times, observed by Shakspeare in his plays. Read gedy among the Latins, so Shakspeare, among the Romeo and Juliet-all is youth and spring; yonth with its fol. 1 English, is the most excellent in both kinds for the

lies, its virtues, its precipitancies ; spring with its odours, its stage; for comedy, witness his Gentlemen of Verona, flowers, and its transiency; it is one and the same feeling that his Errors, his Love's Labour Lost, his Love's commences, goes through, and ends the play.' This unity of Labour Won (or All's Well that Ends Well), his Mid action, or of character and interest, conspicuous in Shakspeare, summer Night's Dream, and his Merchant of Venice; | Coleridge illustrates by an illustration drawn, with the taste of for

raced his Richard H. Richard II. Henry a poet, from external nature. Whence arises the harmony IV., King John, Titus Andronicus, and his Romeo

that strikes us in the wildest natural landscapes in the rela.

tive shapes of rocks--the harmony of colours in the heaths, and Juliet.' This was indeed a brilliant contribu

ferns, and lichens-the leaves of the beech and the oak--the tion to the English drama, throwing Greene, Peele,

stems and rich brown branches of the birch and other moun. and Marlow immeasurably into shade, and far

tain trees, varying from verging autumn to returning springtranscending all the previous productions of the

compared with the visual effect from the greater number of English stage. The harvest, however, was not yet

artificial plantations? From this that the natural landscape half reaped the glorious intellect of Shakspeare is effected, as it were, by a single energy modified ab intra in was still forming, and his imagination nursing those each component part.' In working out his conceptions, either

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »