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incommensurable with the tiny means that were employed.


Turning to our immediate subject, we speedily discover that Shakespeare, although unique in degree, was not unique in kind. He is the supreme instance of a general tendency. Marlowe, born a few months Christopher before him, was killed in a tavern brawl in 1593,

Marlowe : that is, at the age at which Shakespeare wrote Venus and Adonis. Comparing his work with what Shakespeare is known to have done up to the time of Marlowe's death, it seems difficult to doubt that had his development continued at the same rate, he might in his mature years have proved, at least in tragedy, a second Shakespeare. The chronology of Shakespeare's earliest plays is not without elements of uncertainty. But of the work that he had done before 1593, Romeo and Juliet is the only piece that is indisputably superior to anything of Marlowe's; and in its earliest form the superiority was, in all probability, much less apparent.

Marlowe is the only one of the predecessors or contemporaries who manifests in drama the special Shakespearean characteristic of a seemingly boundless energy and wealth of resource. It is one thing to attain a great height by straining one's powers to their utmost limit; it is quite another thing to ascend higher than anybody else has done, and, in doing it, to give the impression that the ascent is effortless, and is a restrained manifestation of a power that could easily have gone higher. Sublimity is, indeed, The to be defined as the suggestion of a reserve of unseen Elizabethan

sublimity. force, indefinitely transcending what is displayed. That is why we call the stormy sea sublime; its gigantic frolicking is but a hint of what it might do.

This is the characteristic shared in common by Shakespeare and Marlowe, though displayed on a vastly wider scale, and with immeasurably more subtlety and complexity, in the former than in the latter. We may say, indeed, that this is the chief distinctive attribute of the Elizabethan age. It is well typified in that picturesque legend, ben trovato if not true, of Sir Francis Drake's insistence on finishing the game of bowls on Plymouth Hoe before putting out to sea to meet the Armada:“We have plenty of time to finish the game and beat the Dons too." Shakespeare, piling Othello upon Hamlet, Macbeth upon Othello, and Lear upon Macbeth, and in his last completed play creating a new genus, gives the impression that after producing a world in six days, he has no real need to rest on the seventh, but could easily turn out another next week.

In Marlowe this energy is seen in its reckless youth. “Marlowe's mighty line,” the now hackneyed phrase by which Ben Jonson described his

work, is no exaggeration. The force poured forth Tamburlaine in Tamburlaine and in The Jew of Malta is the Great

for the most part crude and unchastened. Marlowe is the swashbuckler of poetry. He is a volcano, hurling out precious metal for lava,— with everything in the crude molten state. He is redundant, bombastic and swaggering. But, with it all, the chief impression left upon one's mind is that of effortless and unexhausted power. He is flinging off an output that might have been indefinitely multiplied. The rest are constructors and fabricators; Marlowe and Shakespeare are creators.

Witness the riotous braggadocio of Tamburlaine:First Part, I hold the Fates bound fast in iron chains, I ii.

And with my hand turn Fortune's wheel about;

And sooner shall the sun fall from his sphere
Than Tamburlaine be slain or overcome.
Draw forth thy sword, thou mighty man-at-arms,
Intending but to raze my charmed skin,
And Jove himself will stretch his hand from heaven
To ward the blow, and shield me safe from harm.
See, how he rains down heaps of gold in showers,
As if he meant to give my soldiers pay!
And, as a sure and grounded argument
That I shall be the monarch of the East,
He sends this Soldan's daughter, rich and brave,
To be my queen and portly emperess.
If thou wilt stay with me, renowned man,
And lead thy thousand horse with my conduct,
Besides thy share of this Egyptian prize,
Those thousand horse shall sweat with martial spoil
Of conquer'd kingdoms and of cities sack'd:
Both we will walk upon the lofty cliffs;
And Christian merchants, that with Russian stems
Plough up huge furrows in the Caspian Sea,
Shall vail to us as lords of all the lake;
Both we will reign as consuls of the earth,
And mighty kings shall be our senators.
Jove sometimes masked in a shepherd's weed;
And by those steps that he hath scal'd the heavens
May we become immortal like the gods.
Join with me now in this my mean estate
(I call it mean, because, being yet obscure,
The nations far-removed admire me not),
And when my name and honour shall be spread
As far as Boreas claps his brazen wings,
Or fair Boötes sends his cheerful light,
Then shalt thou be competitor with me,
And sit with Tamburlaine in all his majesty.

Ibid. II iii.

And again:

Fates and oracles of heaven have sworn
To royalize the deeds of Tamburlaine,
And make them blest that share in his attempts.
And doubt you not but, if you favour me,
And let my fortunes and my valour sway

To some direction in your martial deeds,
The world will strive with hosts of men-at-arms
To swarm unto the ensign I support.
The host of Xerxes, which by fame is said
To drink the mighty Parthian Araris,
Was but a handful to that we will have:
Our quivering lances, shaking in the air,
And bullets, like Jove's dreadful thunderbolts,
Enroll'd in flames and fiery smouldering mists,
Shall threat the gods more than Cyclopian wars;
And with our sun-bright armour, as we march,
We'll chase the stars from heaven, and dim their eyes,
That stand and muse at our admired arms.

If this is the way Tamburlaine talks before his triumph, what language will he have left to boast himself withal after he has really shaken the earth with his achievements? Only Marlowe could answer the question; and this is the fashion in which he does it :

Ibid. Vi.

Jove, viewing me in arms, looks pale and wan,
Fearing my power should pull him from his throne:
Where'er I come, the Fatal Sisters sweat,
And grisly Death, by running to and fro
To do their ceaseless homage to my sword:
And here in Africk, where it seldom rains,
Since I arriv'd with my triumphant host,
Have swelling clouds, drawn from wide-gaping wounds,
Been oft resolv'd in bloody purple showers,
A meteor that might terrify the earth,
And make it quake at every drop it drinks:
Millions of souls sit on the banks of Styx,
Waiting the back-return of Charon's boat;
Hell and Elysium swarm with ghosts of men
That I have sent from sundry foughten fields
To spread my fame through hell and up to heaven.

This is the spring fever of youth, suddenly conscious of new and unheard-of powers. It is the riotous excess produced by the first sense of a new

emancipation “from jigging veins of rhyming mother-wits and such conceits as clownage keeps in pay.” Marlowe is like a schoolboy on holiday. In the “blossomy twists” of his "linked fantasies,” he

swings the earth a trinket at his wrists." He outroars the reverberations of Jove's thunderbolts, and looks down upon the loneliest stars.

In subtlety of character-sense and power of psychological analysis he is out-distanced, even by the youthful Shakespeare. Yet the meditations of Barabas, the Jew of Malta, betray a nascent power that The Jew of might in its maturity have created other Shylocks. Malta. Barabas is a mere brute criminal; but there is something titanic in the malevolence of his will. His wealth, his "infinite riches in a little room," is valued for the power it gives him, and he has the deep racial detestation of the Christians, which in Shylock is transmuted into dignity and grandeur :

Act I.

Thus trolls our fortune in by land and sea,
And thus are we on every side enrich'd:
These are the blessings promis'd to the Jews,
And herein was old Abraham's happiness:
What more may heaven do for earthly man
Than thus to pour out plenty in their laps,
Ripping the bowels of the earth for them,
Making the seas their servants, and the winds
To drive their substance with successful blasts ?
Who hateth me but for my happiness?
Or who is honour'd now but for his wealth ?
Rather had I, a Jew, be hated thus,
Than pitied in a Christian poverty;
For I can see no fruits in all their faith,
But malice, falsehood, and excessive pride,
Which methinks fits not in their profession.
Haply some hapless man hath conscience,
And for his conscience lives in beggary.
They say we are a scatter'd nation;

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