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sought for in vain. He may have been a schooimasiei or scrivener, as has seen suggested; but I shall not add to the many ingenious hypotheses that have been started, by any idle speculations of my own. It is clear that it was his destiny. Whether impelled, outwardly or ostensibly, by the persecution of others, or by his own misfortunes or discontent, is an inquiry not very important. It was his destiny; the inner call of his genius, which bade him seek its proper development; which drew him, by its mysterious influence, fror the solitudes where Nature is dumb, into the teeming city,—into those crowds and throng of men from whom he learned so much; and to whom, and to whose posterity, he taught all that we see written down in that volume which has no likeness, called, “The WORKS of SHAKSPERE.”
The story of the deer-stealing, and of the prosecution of our poet by Sir Thomas Lucp. rests on too uncertain a foundation to render it necessary to do more than simply advert to it. That he may have taken part in any of the ordinary frolics of the time, is likely enough; but whether that was the cause which “drove” him to London, or whether, in fact, he was driven there at all, is beyond the power of any one at present to certify. It is generally thought that Shakspere quitted Warwickshire for London about 1586 or 1587; but in 1589 he was one of the proprietors of the Blackfriars Theatre, a fact that seems to indicate an earlier arrival in the metropolis than is usually supposed. It is not very probable that a youth who left Stratford in 1587 (whether to evade the pursuit of justice or not, but at all events) with small or no pecuniary resources, and with the burthen of a wife and children upon him, should, in the space of about a couple of years, become a joint proprietor of one of the principal theatres in London.
His position at the theatre, as proprietor, in 1589, therefore, seems to indicate that he must then have been a considerable period in London; and not only this, but also that he must then have been, for a considerable time, a writer for the stage. What, in fact, could have renovated his fortunes, and raised him to the dignity of proprietor, but the aid that he had given to the drama? His earliest work, according to his own account "the first heir of his invention,” was the poem of “Venus and Adonis." That was printed for the first time in 1593 : but he was then the friend of Lord Southampton, who was the friend of genius. How had he manifested his genius and acquired this friendship, which did both so much honour, before 1593, unless by the dramas which he had without doubt at that time created? The fact of there having been none of his plays in print at that period proves nothing. There is, according to the opinion of critics, an evident and a very invidious allusion to him, as actor and dramatist, in Robert Green's “GROATSWORTH OP Wir," written in or before the year 1592 ; so that he was then well known as a writer of plays. The omission of Shakspere's name in Harrington's “ APOLOGIE FOR POETRY,” published in 1590-1, proves, not that Shakspere had not then written, but simply that Harrington either preferred the plays of Lord Buckhurst and others, or that he was unaware of the dramas of Shakspere, or of their merit. If the plays of our author were not (as they appear not to have been) in print at that period, the fact of Harrington having omitted to speak of the excellence of works that he had had no opportunity of reading, seems to be sufficiently accounted for.
On the arrival of Shakspere in London, it is generally supposed that he resorted to the stage for employment; commencing, probably, as actor, for it is certain that he was an actor during part of his sojourn; and producing afterwards, from time to time, his marvellous plays.
It has been discovered that, in 1596, he lived near the Bear Garden, in Southwark, his residence being also in the neighbourhood of the theatre to which he was attached; and that in 1609 he occupied a good house within the liberty of the Clink. It would appear that he remained in London till about the year 1611: not longer, for in March, 1612, he is described as “of Stratford-upon-Avon, gentleman,” in a deed by which a house in Blackfriars, which he had purchased, was conveyed to him by one Henry Walker. During his residence in London, however, he made occasional visits to Stratford, in the course of which he was accustomed to stop at the Crown Inn, at Oxford, at that time kept by one John Davenant; and it is tolerably certain that he became, in 1606, the godfather of Davenant's son, afterwards known as Sir William Davenant, the poet. Previously to this, he had acquired the friendship of Lord Southampton, and of Lord Pembroke; had, in 1598, been admitted to an intimacy with Ben Jonson; and had associated generally with the wits and writers of the age. It was at the Mermaid, then a tavern of note in Fleet Street, that Shakspere, Jonson, Beaumont, Fletcher, and other social men of genius, were wont to congregate; and there* it was, that those lively interchanges of wit and vivacity, those "wit combats,” which we are told of, occurred between Ben and Shakspere. Amongst other persons, he was acquainted with Alleyn, the founder of Dulwich College, and during that person's absence in the country, was in the habit of visiting his wife, who remained in London. In one of her letters to her absent husband, she informs him that a certain Mr. Francis Chaloner had endeavoured to borrow ten pounds; but that “Mr. Shakspere, of the Globe, who came * said he knew him not, only he herd of him that he was a roge, so he was glad we did not lend him the money.” This is the only real anecdote that we possess of Shakspere during his London residence. Amongst other acquisitions of this period, not to be forgotten, our poet obtained the approbation of Queen Elizabeth, before whom some of his plays were performed, and who is said to have “ appreciated his genius." There is no evidence that
“She showered her bounties on him, like the Hours,"
or, in fact, that she rewarded him with anything more solid than her smiles; a cheap mode of remunerating genius, but which, to the credit of that age, was not then common with persons of illustrious rank.
That Shakspere was loved as well as admired by many of his cotemporaries, is well authenticated. Ben Jonson (a warm hearted man, as well as a sterling writer) declares, “I do love the man and honour his memory, on this side of idolatry, as much as any: he was indeed honest, and of an open and free nature;” and the editors of the folio edition of the plays, say that they have collected them “ to keep the memory of so worthy a friend and fellow alive, as was our Shakspere.” Whether the poet was beloved by any one of the opposite sex, remains a mystery. From the tenor of some of his sonnets, there is reason to suppose that he attached himself to some female, and that he was ill requited.
A few years ago some papers were written on this obscure subject, entitled, if I remember rightly, “ The Confessions of Shakspere.” They were made out, with great ingenuity, from the “Sonnets" alone; combining and consolidating the several parts of each into one (as it were) authentic narrative. And, indeed, as one travels through these records of the great
• The following is Fuller's account of Shakspere, in his “Worthies OF ENGLAND:" "He was an eminent instance of the truth of that rule, ' poeta non fit, sed nascitur: one is not made but born a poet.' Many were the wit combats betwixt him and Ben Jonson, which two I behold like a Spanish great galleon and an English man of war. Master Jonson, like the former, was built far higher in learning; solid, but slow in his performances. Shakspere, like an English man of war, lesser in bulk but lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides, tack about and take advantage of all winds, by the quickness of his wit and invention."
poet's feelings, a dim and shadowy History seems to rise and disclose itself before us: an intimation not to be neglected; seeing that such a man, however entangled amongst the conceits and fancies of his age, would hardly, in his own person, have wasted such sad and passionate verses on any subject that had no foundation in truth.
On quitting London, Shakspere retired to his native town of Stratford. He had previously purchased one of the best houses there, called “New Place," and in this house he lived and died. He was buried on the 25th of April, 1616, on the north side of the chancel of the great church of Stratford. A monument was shortly afterwards-certainly before the year 1623—erected to his memory. The artist has represented him in a sitting posture, with a pen in his right hand, and his left resting on a scroll of paper ; and on the cushion which appears spread out before him, are engraved the following lines :
“ Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
And yet to
Not much can be said of this monument as a work of art: it is poor enough. this tomb, and to the house wherein he (is supposed to have) lived and died, how many thousand pilgrims have since come! Here, people of all ages and all nations have repaired, for upwards of two hundred years. Walls covered with inscriptions (each man eager to write down his admiration) attest the worth and influence of a great poet. It would have been creditable to this country, or to its government, if some fit memorial, in bronze or marble, had been built up in his honour. For, although (as Milton sings)
“What, needs my Shakspere for his honoured bones,
The labour of an age in piléd stones ?
yet that does not exonerate us from paying the tribute due to his memory; however it may account for the abundance of statues which we have erected, in the vain hope of immortalising people who have shed neither glory nor light of any sort upon the English nation.
As part of the biography of Shakspere, it would have been very desirable to have ascertained the order in which his plays were written. It would have exhibited the gradations, and, perhaps, fluctuations, of his intellect, and have cast light on many questions of great interest relating to the works themselves; but, unfortunately, this must still remain doubtful. The subject has been frequently discussed ; and trifling facts have from time to time arisen, proving that certain plays had been actually performed when, as was once supposed, they existed only in the imagination of the author. But nothing like satisfactory evidence has been produced to shew at what precise time any one play was written. We know that some plays were printed, and that others were represented, in certain years. But we do not know how long before those years these dramas were actually composed, nor whether other plays, which were made public at a later date, were not then in existence.
For my own part, I think that, in determining the chronology as well as the authenticity of Shakspere's plays, there is, after all, no evidence like the internal evidence; no proof like the plays themselves. Other proofs may be, and have, in similar cases,
repeatedly been found fallacious. But there is no retrograding in point of style; no going back from the style of vigorous manhood, or even the neatness and fastidiousness of later life, to the loose, unsettled character which invariably betrays the youthful writer. A date may be incorrectly given; a report may be without foundation ; a second edition may be mistaken for a first; and the work which is published to-day, may, in manuscript, have many predecessors. In Shakspere's case, the doubts are so strong and numerous, that we are thrown back altogether upon conjecture. Had the great author, indeed, left anything which could have enabled us to unravel the mystery, the question might have assumed another aspect; but, in the absence of all information from himself, we cannot do better, as I have said, than consult his works.
The principal point of interest is as to those plays with which he commenced his labours; for we have his own acknowledgment, that “the first fruit of his invention" was the poem of “Venus AND Adonis." If it could be satisfactorily ascertained that "Titus ANDRONICus" and the First Part of “HENRY THE Sixth” were written by him, I should be disposed to place them at the commencement of the list. But I doubt their authenticity; and I altogether disbelieve all reports and dissent from all opinions which aim at fathering upon him “Sir John OLDCASTLE," “ Thomas, Lord Cromwell,” and “The YORKSHIRE Tragedy." They are decidedly spurious: and the circumstance of Schlegel having pronounced his deliberate conviction that those wretched performances "unquestionably” belonged to Shakspere,—nay, that they “are amongst his best and maturest works,"—is almost enough to beget a doubt as to the originality of some of his own critical opinions.
“Titus Andronicus," the First Part of “HENRY The Sixth,” and “Pericles," are said to contain passages which shew, beyond all question, that Shakspere was their author. But short passages, having the stamp of Shakspere, prove no more than that he occasionally retouched and invigorated the dramas that came before him; a circumstance which is by no means improbable. In respect to “Pericles," I think, from a careful reading of the play, that the three last acts were undoubtedly written by Shakspere. No other man could write in the same style, or in a style so good. The two first acts are, indeed, very unlike his composition; and there is something in the early part of the plot that, I suspect, never originated in his invention. “ Titus ANDRONICUS" and the First Part of “ Henry The Sixth,” are in a different predicament. In the more material qualities of a play,—in character, in plot, in spirited intelligent dialogue,—these two dramas are deficient. Talbot (in the latter play) is a bold sketch, and the scene between him and the Countess of Auvergne, is striking and dramatic; but, in the main, the dramatis personæ differ but little from each other, whilst the level style of the verse, and the brutal treatment of the Maid of Orleans at the close, betray, as it seems to me, the hand of an inferior dramatist. However Shakspere may have yielded to the national prejudices of his age, he was too noble and humane to have attempted to justify upon the stage that most atrocious tragedy, in which the English barbarians of the time consummated their renown, by burning to death an enemy who
woman and their prisoner. Amongst the ineradicable stains upon the arms of England (small and few in number, I trust), this diabolical act of the murder of the Maid of Orleans stands out blackest and unparalleled.
In regard to “Titus Andronicus," it has always appeared to me to have issued from the same mint, and to bear the same stamp as “Lust's Dominion," which is known to have been produced by Marlowe. With the exception of one beautiful passage, there is the same style of verse (totally unlike that adopted in Shakspere's
known plays), the same exaggeration and confusion of character, the same mock (with occasional real) sublimity, which the tragedies of Marlowe present; and, above all, the same villanous ferocity and bloodthirstiness which Marlowe delighted to indulge in, and which Shakspere's far-sighted genius altogether disdained. Marlowe (although he has fine and even grand bursts of poetry) stands forth, the historian of lust and villany, and the demonstrator of physical power ; whilst Shakspere is ever the champion of humanity and intellect.
If the two last mentioned plays may, contrary to my expectation, claim Shakspere for their author, then I think that they must have been the earliest of his dramatic productions ; and, in all probability, the Second and Third Parts of “Henry THE Sixtu” speedily followed; for the style throughout is like that of Marlowe, although those <<
parts” present more subtle and numerous distinctions of character than that dramatist has ever drawn.
About this time Shakspere must have begun to assume an independent style in his plays ; and now, I imagine, he composed the “Two Gentlemen op Verona.' This play has, in all respects, a youthful character, and it is undoubtedly his. Almost all the similes and sentiments have reference to love, without the intermixture of weightier matter. The metre is wanting in pliancy and sinew; but the occasional sententious lines, the play upon words, the style and quality of the comedy, with its jokes dovetailed and full of retorts, all point him out as the author. It is a slight play compared with many others of later date ; but there is a passion and freshness in it, as though it had been breathed forth in that time of year when April
“Had put a spirit of youth in everything."
Perhaps “Love's Labour's Lost" may be placed next. It is a decided advance in power, in style, and even in dramatic skill. With the exception of Launce (in whom the germ of much that afterwards blossomed out is obvious), and, perhaps, of Julia, there is little of character in the “Two GentLEMEN OF Verona.” But Biron and Rosaline, Boyet, Armado and his page, Moth ("that handful of wit"), Holofernes, and Costard, are all clear outlines, although all of them may
very strong. And some of the poetry in this play is, as mere poetry, equal to that of Shakspere's maturer time.
“ A jest's prosperity lies in the ear
of him that hears it,"
is profound and Shaksperian. The play itself looks as though it rested on event in the history of Provence, in times when the Troubadours figured in the solemn masquerades of Love. The two principal characters, Biron and Rosaline, were afterwards recast by Shakspere, with some alterations, and appear under the names of Benedick and Beatrice.
In what order the rest of the plays followed, at what period the greatest dramas were produced, and what was the final work of this unequalled poet, I will not pretend to guess. As a general principle, however, I would say, that the plays in which signs of imitation (particularly imitation of style) are manifest, should be accounted the earliest; and that those wherein the poetry is redundant and far exceeds the necessities and purposes of the story, should be held to have preceded, in point of time, the great and substantial dramas, in which the business of the play is skilfully wrought out, and where the poetry springs out of the passion or humour of the characters, and serves to illustrate and not to oppress them. In conformity with this view, I think that the