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Shakspere's equipoise of mind, placidity of conduct and control of passion rendered him invulnerable to the shafts of envy, malice and tyranny, making him always master of the human midgets or vultures that circled about his pathway.
One touch from the brush of his imagination. on the rudest dramatic canvas illuminated the murky scene and flashed on the eye of the beholder the rainbow colors of his matchless genius.
Ben Jonson, Greene, Marlowe, Fletcher and Burbage gazed with astonishment at the versatility of his poetic and dramatic creations, and while pangs of jealousy shot athwart their envious souls, they knew that the Divine Bard was soaring above the alpine crags of thought, leaving them at the foothills of dramatic venture.
He played the rôle of policy before peasant, lord and king, and used the applause and brain of each for his personal advancement, and yet he never sacrificed principle for pelf or bedraggled the skirts of virtue in the gutter of vice.
The Divine William knew more about everything than any other man knew about anything! He had a carnivorous and omnivorous mind, with a judicial soul, and controlled his temper with the same inflexible rule that Nature uses when murmuring in zephyrs or shrieking in storms, receding or advancing in dramatic thought, as peace or passion demanded.
He seemed at times to be a medley of contradictions, and while playing virtue against vice, the reader and beholder are often left in doubt as to the guilt or glory of the contending actors. He puts words of wisdom in the mouth of a fool, and
foolish phrases in the mouth of the wise, and shuttlecocked integrity in the loom of imagination.
William was the only poet who ever had any money sense, and understood the real value of copper, silver, gold, jewels and land. His early trials and poverty at Stratford, with the example of his bankrupt father was always in view, convincing him early in life that ready money was all-powerful, purchasing rank, comfort and even so-called love.
Yet he only valued riches as a means of doing good, puncturing the bladder of bloated wealth with this pin of thought:
"If thou art rich, thou art poor;
For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows,
He noticed wherever he traveled that successful stupidity, although secretly despised, was often the master of the people, while a genius with the wisdom of the ages, starved at the castle gate, and like Mozart and Otway, found rest in the Potter's field.
No Indian juggler could mystify the ear and eye and mind of an audience like Shakspere, for, over the crude thoughts of other dramatic writers he threw the glamour of his divine imagination, making the shrubs, vines and briers of life bloom into perpetual flowers of pleasure and beauty.
With his mystic wand he mesmerized all,
No one mind ever comprehended Shakspere, and even all the authors and readers that sauntered over his wonderful garden of literary flowers and fruits have but barely clipped at the hedge-rows of his philosophy, culling a few fragmentary mementos from his immortal productions.
Shakspere's chirography was almost as variable as his mind, and when he sat down to compose plays for the Globe and Blackfrairs theatres, in his room adjacent to the Miter Tavern, he dashed off chunks of thought for pressing and waiting actors and managers, piecing them together like a cabinet joiner or machinist.
In all his compositions he used, designedly, a pale blue ink that evaporated in the course of a year, and the cunning actors and publishers, who knew his secret, copied and memorized and printed his immortal thoughts. He kept a small bottle of indelible ink for ideals on parchment for posterity.
I have often found his room littered and covered with numbered sheets of scenes and acts, ready for delivery to actors for recital, and many times the sunset over London would run its round to sunrise and find William at his desk in the rookery, hammering away on the anvil of thought, fusing into shape his divine masterpieces.
Shakspere's bohemian life was but an enlarged edition of his rural vagabond career through the fields and alehouses of Warwickshire. He only needed about four hours' sleep in twenty-four, but when composition on occasion demanded rapidity, he could work two days and rise from his labor as fresh as a lark from the flowery banks of Avon.
Most of the great writers of antiquity patterned
after greater than themselves, but Shakspere evolved from the illuminated palace of his soul the songs and sentiments that move the ages and make him the colossal champion of beauty, mercy, charity, purity, courage, love and truth.
There are more numerous nuggets of thought in the works of Shakspere than in all the combined mass of ancient and modern literature.
The various bibles, composed and manufactured by man, cannot compare in variety, common sense and eloquence, with the productions of the Immortal Bard.
All the preachers, bishops, popes, kings, and emperors that have ever conjured up texts and creeds for dupes, devotees and designers to swallow without question, have never yet sunk the plummet of reason so deep in the human heart as the butcher boy of Stratford!
Shakspere was the most industrious literary prospector and miner of any land or time, throwing his searchlight of reason into the crude mass of Indian, Assyrian, Persian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Frank, German, Russian and Briton lore, and forthwith appropriated the golden beauties of each nation, leaving behind the dross of vice and vulgarity.
Marlowe, Burbage, Peele, Chapman, Greene and Jonson composed many fine physical and licentious dramas, pandering to the London groundlings, bloated wealth and accidental power; but Shakspere threw a spiritual radiance over their brutal, sordid phrases and elevated stage characters into the realm of romantic thought, pinioned with hope, love and truth. His sublime imagination soared away into the flowery uplands of Divinity, and plucked from
the azure wings of angels brilliant feathers of fancy that shall shine and flutter down the ages.
He flung his javelin of wit through the buckler of ignorance, bigotry and tyranny, exposing their rotten bodies to the ridicule and hate of mankind.
In lordly language he swept over the harp strings of the heart with infinite expression and comprehension of words, leaving in his intellectual wake a multifarious heritage of brain jewels. He flew over the world like a swarm of bees, robbing all the fields of literature of their secret sweets, storing the rich booty of Nature in the honeycomb of his philosophic hive.
Through his brain the variegated paraphernalia of Nature, in field, forest, vale, mount, river, sea and sky were illuminated with a divine radiance that shall shine forever and grow greater as mankind grows wiser.
Shakspere has paid the greatest tribute of respect of any writer to women. While he gives us a few scolding, licentious, cruel, criminal women, like Dame Quickly, Katharina, Tamora, Gertrude and Lady Macbeth, he gives us the beautiful, faithful, loving characters of Isabella, Juliet, Desdemona, Perdita, Helena, Miranda, Imogen, Ophelia and Cordelia, whose love-lit words and phrases shine out in the firmament of purity and devotion like morning stars in tropic skies.
Shakspere studied all trades and professions he encountered in daily contact with mankind. He thought what he was and was what he thought! To him a sermon was a preacher, a writ a lawyer, a pill a doctor, a sail a sailor, a sword a soldier, a button a tailor, a nail a carpenter, a hammer a