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combats,” says he, “ between Shakspeare and Ben Jonson. I beheld them 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 ; Shakspeare, like the latter, 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.” We may here remark that the friendship, which had begun before, thus cemented with Jonson, to one of whose children he was godfather, lasted all the life of our poet; no credence whatever should be given to the idle tale of their having quarrelled.
Shakspeare was now rapidly increasing in wealth, which enabled him to add to his former purchases at Stratford the lease of the moiety of the great and small tithes of that place, which he bought for 4401. In 1607, (the same year in which he lost his brother Edmond, who is buried at St. Saviour's, Southwark, and registered as a player,) he married his eldest and favourite daughter, Susanna, to Dr. John Hall, a physician of some note, residing at Stratford. About this time, too, he bought for the sum of 1401. a tenement in Blackfriars, near the Wardrobe.
For several years after this we hear nothing of him; yet we have every reason to believe that though he had withdrawn from the stage as an actor, he still continued to write for the theatre; and that as long as he remained in London he retained his share in the property of the “Globe,” which, however, he must have disposed of previous to his death, since we find no mention of it in his will.
In 1613, and most likely during the summer, he quitted London, purposing to end the remainder of his days, which, judging from his age, might in all human probability have been many, in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends at his native town, having realized an income of between 2001. and 3001. a-year, which is nearly equivalent to 1,0001. of our present money. For three years he enjoyed on the banks of his native stream the friendship of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood, whose acquaintance his pleasurable
wit and good nature secured him. Early in 1616 he married his youngest daughter, Judith, to Thomas Quiney, a vintner at Stratford ; and very shortly afterwards he made his last will, bequeathing the greater part of his property (for his wife he had already provided), to his eldest daughter Susanna, the wife of Dr. Hall. When Shakspeare made his will, in the preface to it he declares himself to be in perfect health and memory, and yet in less than a month from that time he had departed this life; we have good reason therefore to suppose that the disease which thus early, when he had just completed his fifty-second year, deprived England of her brightest ornament, must have been sudden in its attack, and most rapid in its progress; but we are nowhere told of what nature
Thus, on the 23d of April, 1616, which was his birthday, William Shakspeare took his
of this world, upon the affairs of which, by his immortal writings, he has cast a brighter light than any uninspired writer that ever lived. It is remarkable, as a coincidence, that on this very same day died, in Spain, Miguel de Cervantes; and the human race was nearly at the self-same hour deprived of the two most original writers which Europe has ever produced. On the second day' after his death Shakspeare was buried on the north side of the chancel of the great church of Stratford, and over his grave was laid a flat stone, inscribed with the following singular lines :
“Good frend, for Jesu's sake forbeare
which is said to be the composition of the poet himself, and to have been suggested by an apprehension lest his remains should share the same fate with those of the rest of his countrymen, and, according to a disgusting practice, be taken out of their grave, and be added to the immense pile of human bones deposited in the charnel-house at Stratford.
(1) His being interred so early makes it not unlikely that he died of some infectious complaint, perhaps of the plague, which at that time was constantly visiting this country.
Shortly after his death a monument was erected to Shakspeare in Stratford Church, immediately above the grave where his earthly remains rest; according to a tradition in the town it was taken from life, and it is considered a very good likeness. He is represented in a sitting posture, with a cushion spread out before him, holding a pen in his right hand, his left resting on a scroll of paper. On a tablet below the cushion are engraved the following inscriptions :
" Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
Terra tegit, populus mæret, Olympus habet.”
Read, if thou canst, whom envious death hath plast
The bust was originally painted to imitate nature; the hands and face were of flesh colour, the eyes of a light hazel, and the hair and beard auburn; the doublet or coat was scarlet, and over it was a loose black gown or tabard without sleeves ; the upper part of the cushion was green, the under half crimson, and the tassels were gilt. It will scarcely be credited that this monument, thus preserving a lively picture of the complexion, eyes, hair, dress, &c. of England's immortal bard, was, in 1793, covered over with one or more coats of white paint! And by whom?–by Malone, the commentator and editor of his works !1
Shakspeare was a well-shaped handsome man. His features were very expressive, and the shape of his head indicative of the highest genius; his forehead was high, open, and swelling, his eye-brows perfectly arched, and his eyes very quick, his
(1) Probably the prevalent taste of the age in which he lived, more than Malone's own judgment, is to be blamed for this barbarous desecration. It was the fashion, as is well known, some fifty years ago, to sneer at the painted effigies preserved in our churches, and to look upon all colour as evincing a Gothic taste. In this matter we are now, but slowly, coming to our senses. In the visitors' album at Stratford Church the following severe lines were writien soon after Malone's embellishment had taken place.
“ Stranger, to whom this monument is shown,
Invoke the poet's curses on Malone;
lips slightly expanded as with a speaking intelligence. Nor was his disposition and moral character inferior to his person, as indeed his works manifest in almost every page, indicating the gentleness, the goodness, and kindness of his heart. He was ardently loved by all his friends and acquaintance. “I loved the man,” says Jonson, “and do honour his memory on this side idolatry as much as any: he was, indeed, honest, and of an open and free nature.” And another writer declares, “that every one who had a true taste of merit, and could distinguish men, had generally a just value and esteem for him : his exceeding candour and good nature must certainly have inclined all the gentle part of the world to him.” Those who, in poetry or otherwise, bave addressed him, always connect his name with the titles of worthy, beloved, gentle. He was possessed of almost constant cheerfulness and evenness of mind; he was “verie good company, and of a very ready, and pleasant, and smooth witt.” Few understood so well as he the violent passions of men, and few depicted them with so much truth and energy; but it is loveliness and simplicity, innocence and beauty, which are the most akin to his heart, and in describing which he is, therefore, unapproached by any. “Though the world of spirits and of nature,” says a great German critic, “had laid all their treasures at his feet; in strength a demi-god, in profundity of view a prophet, in all-seeing wisdom a protecting spirit of a higher order, he yet lowered himself to mortals, as if unconscious of his superiority, and was as open and unassuming as a child.”
But this brings us, in conclusion, to say somewhat of the DRAMATIC CHARACTER of Shakspeare's genius. And here we must assert, that if any who read his tragedies and comedies expect to find the strict gravity, and the strait rules of the ancient Greek drama, which has since been imitated and perpetuated by the French dramatists, they will be mistaken. Schlegel and other German critics have instituted a comparison, by way of contrast, between the ancient and modern drama, in which, calling the one the Classical, and the other the Gothic or Romantic, they describe the former as a group in sculpture, and the latter as an extensive picture, separation being the characteristic of the former, and combination of the latter. In other words, we may call the ancient drama The HEATHEN, and the modern THE CHRISTIAN composition. Schlegel's observations are worthy of being transcribed ; when he speaks on this subject he says, “ Among the Greeks human nature was in itself all-sufficient; they were conscious of no wants, and aspired at no higher perfection than that which they could actually attain by the exercise of their own faculties. We, however, are taught by superior wisdom that man, through a high offence, forfeited the place for which he was originally destined; and that the whole object of his earthly existence is to strive to regain that situation, which, if left to his own strength, he could never accomplish. The religion of the senses had only in view the possession of outward and perishable blessings; and immortality, in so far as it was believed, appeared in an obscure distance like a shadow, a faint dream of this bright and vivid futurity. The very reverse of all this is the case with the Christian; every thing finite and mortal is lost in the contemplation of infinity; life has become shadow and darkness, and the first dawning of our real existence opens in the world beyond the grave. Such a religion must waken the foreboding which slumbers in every feeling heart, to the most thorough consciousness, that the happiness after which we strive we can never here attain; that no external object can ever entirely fill our souls; and that every mortal enjoyment is but a fleeting and momentary deception. When the soul, resting, as it were, under the willows of exile, breathes out its longings for its distant home, the prevailing character of its songs must be melancholy. Hence the poetry of the ancients was the poetry of enjoyment, and ours is that of desire; the former had its foundation in the scene which is present, while the latter hovers betwixt recollection and hope. Let me not be understood to affirm that every thing flows in one strain of wailing and complaint, and that the voice of melancholy must always be loudly heard. As the austerity of tragedy was not incompatible with the joyous views of the Greeks, so the romantic poetry can assume every tone, even that of the most lively gladness; but still it will always, in