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When, in 1613, Shakespeare wrote this marvellous good-bye, he was already weary. As Walter Raleigh finely says, “For many years he took upon himself the burden of the human race, and struggled in thought under the oppression of sorrows not his own.” It made him prematurely old. On January 25, 1616, he made his will. On April 23 he died, and on April 25 was buried in Trinity Church, Stratford.
He left the preservation of his plays to two of his fellow actors, J. Heminge and H. Condell, who accordingly in 1623 published what is called the first folio edition of Shakespeare. It contained the Droeshout portrait of the author and 36 of his plays, “ Pericles " not being included. Three other folios, which appeared 1632, 1663, and 1685, were sufficient to supply the demand during the rest of the seventeenth century. During the eighteenth, eleven separate editions of Shakespeare were published in England and one, that of S. Johnson, 1795, in America; during the nineteenth 28 appeared, six of them in America, three on the Continent; while the first ten years of the twentieth century produced no less than nine. Owing to the fact that Heminge and Condell were not scholars or printers and the circumstance that they did not possess a perfect copy of the plays, they left the text of Shakespeare in an unsatisfactory condition. It was not until Rowe, in 1709, brought out the first critical edition, that any real progress was made in the direction of improving it. Since then a host of scholars have lavished time and skill upon the text to such good effect that to-day, while not perfect, it is free from gross absurdities.
Shakespeare's overpowering genius was amply recognized by his contemporaries. We have Ben Jonson's testimony that all men in his day agreed that neither man nor muse could praise his work too much. He puts Shakespeare in a class by himself above Chaucer, Spenser, Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Seneca, Aristophanes, Plautus, and Terence; exclaims that in him Britain has one triumph to which all scenes of Europe homage owe; and declares that the sweet swan of Avon is not of an age but for all time. In every generation since the greatest English writers have paid tribute to his genius. John Milton (1608-1674) called him "sweetest Shakespeare, fancy's child.” John Dryden (1632–1700) said, in contrasting him with Jonson and Fletcher,
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“But Shakespeare's magic could not copied be;
Within that circle none durst walk but he.” Alexander Pope (1688-1744) referred to the "flowers eternal ” that blow on Avon's bank. Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) wrote:
"Existence saw him spurn her bounded reign,
And panting time toil'd after him in vain.” “To him," said Thomas Gray (1716–1771), “the mighty mother (i.e., Nature) did unveil her awful face.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) thought that he had fused the universal and the particular with more success than any other poet. John Keats (1795– 1821) described his genius as an inmate universality; he could do easily man's utmost, he said. Alfred Tennyson (1869–1892) considered “Hamlet” the greatest creation in literature. Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) commended his laughter; Dogberry and Verges, he said, tickle our very souls; such mirth, like sunshine on the deep sea, is
very beautiful. The sincerest tribute to his genius, however, was paid by America's friend, George III, when he said: “Was there ever such stuff as great part of Shakespeare? Only one must not say so. But what think you? What? Is there not sad stuff? What? What?”
There was a copy of Shakespeare in the library of the French king as early as 1675. In 1682 his name was mentioned in a German book. His real European fame, however, did not begin until 1733, when Voltaire introduced him to the French public. Voltaire regarded Shakespeare as a kind of inspired barbarian, but did him the honor to try to improve "Julius Cæsar," “Hamlet,” “Othello," and “Macbeth.” In 1741 “ Julius Cæsar” was translated into German, and in 1746 parts of ten plays into French. In 1759 Lessing, having concluded that Shakespeare is greater than Corneille and almost as great as Sophocles, recommended that German authors study in his works the art of writing. From 1776 Shakespeare occupied a prominent place on the German stage. Between 1797 and 1810 August Wilhelm Schlegel published under the title, “ Shakespeare's Dramatische Werke, übersetzt von August Wilhelm Schlegel," a marvellous translation of "Romeo and Juliet," " A Midsummer Night's Dream,” “ Julius Cæsar," “ Twelfth Night,” « The Tempest,” “Hamlet," “ The Merchant of Venice," " As You Like It," " King John,"
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“Richard II," "Henry IV," "Henry V," " Henry VI," and " Richard III.” To this great work belongs the credit of having made Shakespeare the joint possession of two nations. It made Germany regard Shakespeare, not as the rival of Sophocles, but as the voice of Nature; it revealed a romantic fairyland of which the classic drama knew nothing; it showed Germany, through“Romeo and Juliet,” “Othello," and the" Merchant of Venice," the poetic charm of Italy. Goethe and Schiller, along with a host of lesser dramatists, felt all this, and learned their art, not from the Greeks and French, but from the great English
In France, his merit has not been equally recognized. As late as 1822 Othello and “Hamlet were hissed off the Parisian stage. In 1829, however, “Othellowon a triumph at the Theatre Française; and in 1847 Alexandre Dumas translated “Hamlet.” Alfred de Musset, Guizot, Lamartine, and Victor Hugo imitated, translated, and praised the plays, while Delacroix used them in his pictures and Berlioz in his music, so that it may fairly be said that, since 1850, Shakespeare's supremacy in modern literature has not been seriously questioned in France. Though in Italy the great actors Salvini, Rossi, Adelaide Ristori, and Eleonora Duse made Shakespeare familiar, and several of his plays furnished subjects for operas, it was not until 1882 that his complete works were translated into Italian. Holland lacked a satisfactory version until 1880. In 1813 “Hamlet” established Shakespeare's fame in Denmark. Sweden had a translation as early as 1851, Russia 1865, and Poland 1875. In America he always has been and is now the most popular, as well as the most admired, of playwrights. American scholars have studied his text and American actors have interpreted it with a zeal and success equal to that of their English and German rivals. Somebody has calculated that, in Chicago alone, during a certain period of ten years, there were over 1000 productions of Shakespearean plays, while his nearest rival, the author of one of those unspeakable mixtures of vulgarity and dulness which are known as musical comedies, barely attained the total of 500 performances. The most noteworthy tribute ever paid to any bard, however, was bestowed upon Shakespeare when, shortly after the outbreak of the great war in 1914, the Germans, in spite of their hatred of England, adopted him as their national poet.
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Indeed, the fact that in Germany Shakespeare is read in a version which is comparatively modern may perhaps have caused the Germans as a nation to appreciate his power more fully than is now possible in a country where the language is English.
QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES 1. What was a cycle play and what part had it in English dramatic history? 2. Who was Terence and what was his relation to the history of English
literature? 3. Name four of the immediate predecessors of William Shakespeare,
with a note as to the work of each. 4. Amplify the statement that Shakespeare was a brother and playmate
to mankind.” 5. What were some of the interesting characteristics of Elizabethan
dramatists and dramatic productions ? 6. What play of Shakespeare's have you liked the best? What secret to
the way of life does it unveil to you? 7. Trace briefly, but thoroughly, Shakespeare's career as we know it. 8. In what respects did Marlowe fall short of Shakespeare? 9. Why is a play of Shakespeare's more worth seeing than a musical
comedy? 10. If none of Shakespeare's plays had been handed down to us, why would
he yet be an immortal?
Suggested Readings.—No student, old or young, can read too many of Shakespeare's plays or read them too often. It is the source from which many great men have obtained their education. To begin: read “ Julius Cæsar”; an English historical play, “Richard I”; a tragedy, “Macbeth
Othello”; a comedy, “ The Merchant of Venice” or “As You Like It.” A revealing volume for collateral reading is Professor Edward Dowden's “ Shakspere, His Mind and Art.” The best biography is Walter Raleigh's.
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FRANCIS BACON (1561-1626)
“ The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind.”—Pope.
The prince of all philosophers.”—Macaulay. The age of Queen Elizabeth, according to Lord Macaulay, produced not only the prince of all poets, as he calls William Shakespeare, but also the prince of all philosophers, as he describes Francis Bacon, or, to be more exact, Baron Verulam, Viscount St. Albans. This remarkable man was born January 22, 1561, at York House, an ancient palace located on the Strand in London, which was at that time the official residence of his father, Sir Nicholas Bacon, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England and one of the statesmen who made Queen Elizabeth's reign illustrious. His mother was a sister of Lady Cecil, the wife of that Lord Burleigh who made Spenser's life so unhappy. She had been tutor to Edward VI and was renowned for her exquisite mastery of Greek and Latin. Francis seems to have inherited the brilliancy of his parents and to have shown that brilliancy at an early age, for when he was still a mere lad Queen Elizabeth is said to have addressed him admiringly as “my little Lord Keeper.” At the age of 12, he was ready for Cambridge and was entered at Trinity College, where he is said to have been disgusted with the philosophy of Aristotle. When he was 19 he lost his father and was compelled, much against his will, to apply himself to the study of the law for the purpose of earning a living, though his real interest from the first lay in literary and philosophical pursuits. At the age of 24 we find him a member of Parliament and at 31 he was writing to his powerful uncle, Burleigh, but writing in vain, to obtain for himself a job with a reasonable salary and no duties, that he might be able to devote himself to his studies. For some reason Burleigh refused to assist him and Bacon turned from him to the Earl of Essex, then Elizabeth's favorite, in whom he found an appreciative friend and patron. Essex in 1593
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