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Subsequent plays: the Shakespearean


To be sure, tradition ascribes to Shakespeare at least a share in three plays that did not see the light till a later date: Cardenio, The Two Noble Kinsmen and King Henry VIII. The first of these is lost. The share of Shakespeare in the second, if he had any, can only have been slight; many, indeed, of the ablest critics maintain that he had no hand in it at all. The fact that his name appears with Fletcher's as joint author in the first printed edition (1634), eighteen years after his death and nine after Fletcher's, is of little significance. Contemporary publishers were extremely unscrupulous or inaccurate about such ascriptions, which can never be accepted unless supported by independent evidence. The omission of these two plays from the Folio, coupled with the internal evidence in the case of The Two Noble Kinsmen, justifies us in denying to them the honour of anything more than a slight revision by the master.

With King Henry VIII the case stands differently. It is included in the Folio, and of its seventeen scenes there are at least six which all agree can only have been created by the genius of Shakespeare. The rest are in Fletcher's best manner, and include a number of passages which, while they have the earmarks of his style, rise so far above any of his other work as to compel the conclusion that they have been enriched by the magician of language. Yet the play as a whole is poorly constructed; its great moments come early, and are followed by scenes of flagging interest. Though it was not produced until 1613, we cannot be certain that Shakespeare's share in it was his latest work: he may have had it lying by him for several years. The much-discussed character of the father of

King Henry

Queen Elizabeth could not well have been put upon the stage during her lifetime, but might have been at any date after her death in 1603; and was, in fact, in one very poor play in 1605. Shakespeare, then, would have felt free to treat the theme, if it commended itself to his judgment, at any time during the ensuing eight years.

It was the firing of ordnance during the perform- The Globe ance of this drama on June 29th, 1613, that caused Theatre fire. the destruction of the Globe Theatre. Some ignited paper from one of the cannons fell upon the thatch over the stage, and, being unnoticed, produced a conflagration that consumed the entire building. No lives were lost, but considerable property of the company, which probably included Shakespeare's original MSS., was destroyed.

Sir Sidney Lee, whose knowledge of all the facts Prospero's connected with Shakespeare's life and work, and farewell to

his art. with the life and work of his professional contemporaries, is so bewilderingly complete, is intolerant of anything that seems to him like a fanciful construction being placed on the personages, speeches or incidents of any of the plays. He will not have it that Shakespeare was thinking of himself in describing any one character or episode, more than in dealing with any other. The analogy between Prospero, wielder of a wondrous art which at the close of the play he voluntarily resigns, and the more gifted magician whose last completed effort was expended in creating Prospero and his fairy realm, suggests itself very naturally. Many have hazarded the guess, accordingly, that it was intentional on Shakespeare's part. It has been assumed that he consciously, or half-consciously, symbolized, by the noble speech in which Prospero takes leave of his

supernormal powers, the imminent renunciation of his own poetic labours. Such very pardonable specu

lations incur Sir Sidney's rebuke:Life, ed.

In Prospero, the guiding providence of the romance, 1916, chap.

who resigns his magic power in the closing scene, xix, p. 434.

traces have been sought of the lineaments of the dramatist himself, who was approaching in this play the date of his farewell to the enchanted work of his life, although he was not yet to abandon it altogether. Prospero is in the story a scholar-prince of rare intellectual attainments, whose engrossing study of the mysteries of science has given him magical command of the forces of Nature. His magnanimous renunciation of his magical faculty as soon as by its exercise he has restored his shattered fortunes is in accord with the general conception of a just and philosophical temperament. Any other justification of his final act

is superfluous. Possibility With the deepest deference to the encyclopaedic that Shake

biographer, whose fruitful labours in every field of speare consciously pro- Shakespearean research have laid us all under an nounced his

inexhaustible debt of gratitude, I would venture to own valediction. suggest that his reasoning here is somewhat less

convincing than usual. He has scarcely accounted for Prospero's renunciation of his magical faculty. One is tempted to suspect that Sir Sidney Lee here forgets the poet, or confuses him for the moment with the logician. But, even so, it is not quite strictly “in accord with the general conception of a just and philosophical temperament” that a man should part with tremendous powers the moment he has attained the particular end for the sake of which he has been employing them. Such a man usually proceeds to seek fresh worlds to conquer — new fields for the exercise of powers, the use of which has become a joy in itself. Nor is the view

which Lee repudiates prompted solely by the desire to find a justification for Prospero's course. The question is whether in describing his hero's “final act” Shakespeare may not also have been thinking of his own long years of sway, by virtue of an art peculiar to himself, over the minds and hearts of other men;-a sway which, with the enormous labour it entailed, he had certainly bargained with himself to resign before old age should take the charm from the other satisfactions of life.

Now, so far as external evidence goes, nobody can pretend to settle this question; and there is no room and no occasion for dogmatizing about it. The biographer, moreover, is right in insisting that the utmost economy should be exercised in applying to Shakespeare himself the words of his characters. But, pace Sir Sidney, the analogy is poetically so perfect that the great mass of non-specialist readers will continue to please themselves by seeing it. Shakespeare certainly could not have framed a more appropriate valediction to his twenty years of creative work than is conveyed in those lines wherewith Prospero takes leave of the tools of his wizardry:

Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves,
And ye that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune and do fly him
When he comes back; you demi-puppets that
By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,
Whereof the ewe not bites, and you whose pastime
Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice
To hear the solemn curfew: by whose aid,
Weak masters though ye be, I have bedimm'd
The noontide sun, call’d forth the mutinous winds,
And 'twixt the green sea and the azur'd vault
Set roaring war:1 to the dread rattling thunder

1 We have here, of course, the kind of break in the structure of the sentence which the grammarians call “anacoluthon.”

Vi 33 ff.

Effects of Shakespeare's magic.

Have I given fire, and rifted Jove's stout oak
With his own bolt; the strong-bas'd promontory
Have I made shake, and by the spurs pluck'd up
The pine and cedar: graves at my command
Have wak'd their sleepers, op'd, and let 'em forth
By my so potent art. But this rough magic
I here abjure; and, when I have requir'd
Some heavenly music (which even now I do)
To work mine end upon their senses that
This airy charm is for, I'll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I'll drown my book.

O man of men, O wondrous prince of the enchanted isle of Britain! How in this age of shamefaced reticence may we give voice to the pride and joy and love that your immortalizing work enkindles in us? You have waked sleepers from their graves, but they die no more. You cannot lay again the spirits that by your art you have called from their confines to enact your fancies. Your staff is broken, and buried certain fathoms in the earth, whence none may disinter it; none may wield it again! But never shall your book be drowned; never shall we forget the visions you have shown us. The solidseeming things of sense pass like the spindrift: but your words and your fantasies abide for ever. Ages and generations come and go; monarchs and conquerors arise and fall: many a regal garland since your day has crowned the queenly head of sacred England. And now again, with woe immeasurable, she strives to uphold the holy heritage that you and Such things are common in Shakespeare, and the literary usage of his time was more tolerant of them than that of to-day. But the best defence of Shakespeare's irregularities is the fact that his lines were written to be spoken rather than read, and in oratory such a violation of grammar is often a help, not a hindrance to the conveying of the meaning.

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