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books is, unhappily, no criterion of excellence, for unlike science, literary criticism is not necessarily progressive. It behoves each student to tread anew the perilous path that leads beyond knowledge, nor can all the labours of those who have gone before shorten the journey by one foot. No man, it may confidently be affirmed, sees the same Shakespeare as his fellow. According to the depth of his own soul will the depth of the master's work be revealed. Hence it is not paradoxical to maintain that the most edited and most criticized of all authors still goes almost unguessed at, and that of no English poet, not even of Blake, are the ideas that obtain, alike among the few and the many, so vague and so consistently wide of the mark. Men can be found to treat with all seriousness a theory which makes Bacon the author of Shakespeare's plays, and which is about as plausible as the attribution of the "Songs of Innocence" to George III, or of "Paradise Lost" to the Earl of Rochester. Such are the products of Shakespearean criticism after three hundred years of progress!

Lowest in the scale come those laborious and mechanic practitioners, who measure every foot of their native dust to track the flight of the eagle; more numerous, and less worthy our regard are the frankly popular exponents, who, with little reading and less ability, discover that Falstaff was witty and Desdemona pure; a small and envied niche is occupied by a few connoisseurs, not unconnected with the Press, who find a golden path to notoriety by curious and epigrammatic observations, signifying nothing of any particular relevance; some there are, the canaille of letters, who attract a certain amount of desired advertisement by railing accusations, which only their audience take quite seriously; lastly, there are the Swinburnes and Victor Hugos, who mar work of unquestionable genius by violence and lack of discipline, the fault of their own poesy. A concrete example of how

widely even the elect can go astray in their estimate of Shakespeare comes from the leader of the modern socalled Celtic revival, who can commit himself to such statements as: "Shakespeare cared little for the State, the source of all our judgments, apart from its shows and splendours, its turmoils and battles, its flamings out of the uncivilized heart." That such matter can emanate from such a source is only to be explained when we remember how every man sees his own Shakespeare, and that such heroes as Henry V and Brutus are far removed from the graceful and pensive figures, the Naises and Cuchulains, who haunt the shadowy waters and fade away into the land where there is nothing.

We need not go at any length into the discussion as to whether Shakespeare wrote his own plays. This we may leave to the eternal dissension of the erudite, and prefer to adopt without argument the opinion that he was the author of those usually assigned to him, merely touching upon the question of authorship when it arises directly in relation to his patriotism, as in the three parts of "Henry VI." Nor, if we reject the hotch-potch into which sciolism would resolve the earlier plays, must we fall into the opposite error of treating Shakespeare as if he were so far above criticism as to stand out of any relation to the limitations of his age. No man was ever more grandly humble, none more content to profit by influence and suggestion, none so little contemptuous of his fellow-men.

We do not know at what time he left his Warwickshire home, nor when he arrived in town, but it is highly probable that his connection with the stage dates from before the year of the Armada. He would have seen the school of Kyd and Marlowe, those splendid egotists, enjoying its short and boisterous heyday. The glory of the sea dogs, as yet undimmed by the failure of Corunna and the tragedy of Nombre Dios, was on every man's lips. The young poet, as yet barely conscious of his

calling, but drinking in, with a thirst not to be satisfied, every draught of quaint and curious circumstance, would have had ample opportunity for listening to the talk of merchants and seafaring men, and belike have watched the departure and return of the great companies' fleets for lands still fabulous; certainly he would have seen Drake's flagship resting from her three years' voyage at her moorings in the Thames. The spirit of the Renaissance, wafted across the sea from France and Italy, cannot have failed to affect him, and all those influences together must have started him upon his career with no small bias towards the full-blooded and many-hued cult of the individual, which bounded the horizon of his mightiest predecessor.

"Titus Andronicus," the first and worst piece to which Shakespeare put his hand, was probably composed during, or before, the year 1590. And so, as we should naturally expect, we find its author under the influence of Kyd and Marlowe. The play is a chapter of horrors, Barabbas finds his peer in Aaron; there is the same clash of wills as in "Edward II." So well has Shakespeare occasionally caught Marlowe's trick of metre, which was the highest point to which blank verse had as yet attained, that critics have been led, in default of evidence, to assert dogmatically that the authorship of the play was, at least in part, Marlowe's. But "Titus Andronicus" is at once greater and less than any production of the elder dramatist. We never quite catch the thunder and stately march of the "Address to Helen" "Address to Helen" or the "Death of Guise." But never in Marlowe, nor in any of his peers, do we find lines of such exquisite pathos as:

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That with his pretty buzzing melody

Came here to make us merry, and thou hast killed him." More apposite to our purpose is the last scene, where we catch a note of that horror of civil war and passion for

national unity, which hallowed the work of Drayton and Daniel, and which we shall hear all through in Shakespeare:

“O let me teach you how to knit again

This scattered corn into one mutual sheaf,
These broken limbs again into one body,
Lest Rome herself be bane unto herself,
And she whom mighty kingdoms curtsey to
Like a forlorn and desperate castaway

Do shameful execution on herself."

A passage in which we trace the germ of John of Gaunt's


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That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of herself."

Of such sentiments Marlowe was incapable. A patriot's watchful solicitude for the welfare of the State never troubled his Guises and Tamburlaines. Nor will an attentive ear be slow to detect the first notes of Shakespeare's inimitable Chopinesque sweetness of melody.

Another wind had begun to fill the poet's sails, which, in time, was to waft him quite away from the stormy seas of his apprenticeship. The motley, high-spirited circle in which he was wont to move was disturbed by momentous tidings; the outraged Majesty of Spain and the Indies was at last roused to action; such a fleet as the world had never seen was moving, irresistible as fate, up the Channel, the little English ships powerful to annoy, but powerless to check. Almost in sight of our shores lay the terrible Parma; even now the faggots might be cut that were to burn in one fire with English bodies. Then there was the bustle and ardour of preparation, the train bands lined up at Tilbury, the Queen riding among them with words whose echo we seem to hear in Margaret's rally call in "Henry VI":

"Methinks a woman of this valiant spirit

Should, if a coward hear her speak these words,

Infuse his breast with magnanimity,

And make him, naked, foil a man at arms."

Then, when imminent danger forced Englishmen to realize how priceless a treasure was theirs to lose, when love and loyalty had risen to fever-heat, came tidings that the galleons were scudding riddled and defeated, with Drake at their heels, and the storms and rocks ahead. Then was the fearful strain relaxed, and a new-born reverent joy streamed up in thanksgiving to God.

Shakespeare's youth is wrapped in clouds, but here at least we may speak with certainty, for what moved the heart of all England would not have been lost upon the most sensitive of her sons. Of this we have the best of all evidence in the series of historical dramas, whose first composition must have dated from a period almost immediately subsequent to the great victory. This is the tetralogy which begins with the first part of "Henry VI," and ends with "Richard III." Throughout we can trace the development of Shakespeare's art, and there is a world of difference between the gaudy metre of the first play and the subtly modulated blank verse of the last. But from first to last we have a master spirit at work upon a subject worthy his genius, and the four plays form as perfect a dramatic unity as the Orestean Trilogy or the "Ring.'

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We have read works which tabulate the exact number of lines in "Henry VI " written by Marlowe or another. Such criticism displays less insight than ingenuity. Not only is the plot knit together with a constructive skill beyond Marlowe's capacity, but its whole purpose, so far as we may presume to judge of Shakespeare's purposes, is to show the paradox, the failure, of Marlowe's aimless individualism, and to point a nobler ideal. Unlike anything of Marlowe's, the groundwork of the tragedy is patriotic.

The curtain rises upon Westminster Abbey, where Henry V, the patriot King, is lying in state. Around his

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