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it can hardly be set beside the delightful scenes in which the genuine Shallow had enjoyed the somewhat costly privilege of introducing the genuine Falstaff to the humours and the comforts of country life. Did it not remind us of something so much better than its best, no one would wonder that the author of so good a Plautine sort of play should have found it worth while-worth Shakespeare's while to rewrite and to relieve it with a touch or two of poetry such as none could have spared but he.

So brilliant an early example of broad comedy as the anonymous old Taming of a Shrew' must excite an interest and a curiosity as to its unconjecturable authorship only less keen than theirs who stand for ever baffled and bewildered before the insoluble difficulties presented by the kindred problem in regard to so noble an early example of high tragedy as Arden of Feversham '. But in this case there is, for English if not for foreign students, no question possible of its attribution to the hand of Shakespeare. The artificial accent of the blank verse, and the stiff servility of imitation which marks it as the work of a humbly ambitious and feebly industrious disciple of Marlowe, would suffice to set that question at rest. But though Shakespeare has in some degree toned down the somewhat rough and broad brutality of the original humour, he has rather refined than improved on it or at least he has improved on it only by a process of refinement in detail rather than in principle. And he has not only struck out one or two fine touches of living humour, he has cancelled the whole of the admirable conclusion or dramatic epilogue which is morally and dramatically necessary to complete and to harmonize the work as a comic poem. It is hardly credible even of his editors that the unscrupulous imbecility of their impudent arrogance in tampering with his text should have ventured to suppress his recast of

it; they were ready enough to garble and mutilate the sweetest and sublimest passages of his poetry, but they would hardly have dared or desired to make away with such a final if not such a necessary stroke of consummating comedy and crowning stage effect. To the underplot of this play due justice has never perhaps been done : it undoubtedly belongs rather to the comedy of bustle than the comedy of intrigue: but in the wide world of dramatic art there is room for both kinds below the higher station of the comedy which lives and requickens, survives or revives, by grace of humour or by force of character.


The subject of All's well that ends well', however full of dramatic or emotional suggestion and scenic promise or possibility, is hardly so fit, perhaps, for theatrical as for narrative treatment. A curious and interesting short story in which not one of the leading agents can arouse any just or serious or healthy sympathy may serve well enough for the rather idle amusement of half an hour, but can hardly suffice for the groundwork of such a play as Shakespeare might have given us, had it pleased him to seek a subject elsewhere. As it did not, we can only be thankful for the pathetically fascinating poetry, and yet more for the farcically magnificent comedy, which give the play we have a memorable and distinguished station in the second rather than in the third class of Shakespeare's works. And if Helena is hardly worthier than Bertram of any sympathetic interest, the beautiful figure of his mother is enough to raise and to redeem the ethical tone or impression of the poem and the play.

A single happy and ever blessed year, the last of the sixteenth century, saw the appearance in immortal print of three among Shakespeare's masterpieces. 'The Merchant of Venice' is perhaps the greatest and most perfect example of tragi-comedy on record. The tragic

figure of Shylock, less sinned against than sinning, is thrilled and vivified by comic as well as terrific touches of character and emotion. His incontinence of lamentation and of rage is not less grotesque than piteous: his atrocity outweighs the balance of his injuries. But here as always Shakespeare is ahead of all men: his plea for righteousness, his claim for manhood, his appeal for charity, could not have been so keen, so profound, so durable in the final impression of their force if they had been put into the mouth of a good Jew, a moral and sentimental sufferer, as now that they find fierce and tigerish utterance from the bloodthirsty lips of a ravenous and murderous usurer. That truth should speak through Shylock was a conception beyond reach of any other dramatist or poet that ever lived. And apart from this dark and splendid central figure, which disappears only to make way for the loveliest imaginable scene of laughter and of love, the charm of the whole poem is actually greater than even the interest of it. Every figure is in its way equally winsome every scene of laughing prose or smiling poetry is equally delightful.


There is less of dramatic romance and poetic attraction in the incomparable comedy of Much Ado about Nothing' but it is, in that kind, the crowning work of Shakespeare. In high comedy he never surpassed the perfection of the two figures which at once gave to the play in common parlance the name of 'Benedick and Beatrice' in broad comedy he never exceeded the triumphant and transcendent humour which glorifies with loving laughter the names of Dogberry and Verges.

'A Midsummer-Night's Dream' is outside as well as above all possible or imaginable criticism. It is probably or rather surely the most beautiful work of man. No human hand can ever have bequeathed us anything properly or rationally comparable with this. Beauty pure and simple as the spring's when hawthorn

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buds appear' informs every verse with life as lovely and as happy as the life of flowers when every flower enjoys the air it breathes'. The lyric part is hardly and only lovelier than the rest because the lyric is of its very nature the sweetest and most perfect form of poetry. The fresh and matchless fragrance of Shakespeare's inborn and everliving and ever present lovingkindness imbues with something of April life the very interludes of farce. Were this the one surviving work of Shakespeare, his place would still be high in the first order of poets: but all words fall short of our thanksgiving when we remember that the same hand which gave us this gift gave us likewise 'Othello' and 'King Lear'.

In Twelfth Night, or What you will '-a work of pure enchantment which apparently owes its second title to the poet's conscious or unconscious reminiscence of a brilliant rather than satisfactory comedy by Marston -the fusion of broad and bright Rabelaisian fun with sweet and ripe Shakespearean poetry has given us something not less unique and only less delightful than the loveliest dream that ever lived in the living light of

The double-sexed figure of the adorable ViolaCesario was the spiritual parent-we can hardly say father or mother-of a somewhat over-copious generation of she-pages, beginning with the still more famous and popular Bellario-Euphrasia of Beaumont and Fletcher. But the humane rather than inhuman humour which distinguishes the comic genius of Shakespeare, even when revelling and running riot in the wildest of practical jests and the most extravagant of outrageous hoaxes, from the sometimes brutal and almost ruffianly fun of even such great contemporaries as Ben Jonson or Beaumont and Fletcher, is negatively if not positively manifest in all those ever delicious scenes which make us happy in the joyous company of Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, Maria Lady Belch, Malvolio, and Feste the jester.

The author of 'As you like it' had before him two memorable models: but neither Lodge's 'Rosalynde ' nor the fine old 'Tale of Gamelyn' can now be said to exist in human memory except as raw material for one of the most flawless examples of poetic and romantic drama, interwoven rather than inlaid with half divine realism or naturalism in humour, that ever cast its charm upon eternity. There is something almost akin to fairyland in the merely human fascination of the characters and the story. And if there is also something questionable, if we may not venture to call it objectionable, in the rapid and facile transformations of character from atrocity to penitence and from tyranny to asceticism which serve to wind up the action so comfortably and so suddenly, so instantly and so easily, it is only by a somewhat ungrateful though hardly perhaps over confident reader that any very grave or serious protest could be raised against it. And yet, even in the half heavenly forest of Arden, even in a sweeter pastoral world of fancy-fed imagination than that of Theocritus himself, we cannot but feel that something of a breach is made in the natural law of moral instinct by the mere prospect of union between the very vilest of intending fratricides and the very sweetest of sisterly friends. Even fairyland has its ethics and we are here but half-way to fairyland. The same ethical fault, if ever such fault may reluctantly and diffidently be found with any work of Shakespeare's, might be found with another masterpiece as far remote from this in tone and atmosphere as the depth of midnight from the height of noon. The great indefinable poem or unclassifiable play which bears the surely half satirical title of 'Measure for Measure' stands too high by right of might in tragic impression to be seriously impaired or vitiated even by the moral flaw which induced even Coleridge to blaspheme. It is undeniable that for such monsters of base and abject

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