« AnteriorContinuar »
inservire, cujus rei per scripta sua jampridem edita specimen de se praebuit non vulgare
There are other examples of these curiously irrelevant passages in Shakespeare which the charm of language leads us to accept without questioning their propriety. There is another, for instance, in this play, where Lear, in his madness, is made to discourse on adultery and the sexual process in nature in language too dreadful to quote, but of great psychological interest (IV. vi.). But why should Lear say such things? And so, too, in the reflections which follow about the beadle, the justice, and the "scurvy politician"? Clearly he is being made the vehicle for the author's own reflections, and it is absurd therefore to say that Shakespeare always writes in character. The truth is, as I observed at the beginning of this book, that from Hamlet to Doll Tearsheet, his characters all talk Shakespeare, but the proportions are so well preserved and the illusion is so powerful, that we are deceived into the belief that we are reading about people with an objective existence, whereas apart from the personality of their creator they have none. They are emanations of self-consciousness, and their world is not the real world, but, as it were, a world a little raised above it.
I do not wish to burden the reader with parallel passages, but a rather interesting series occurs in connection with Edmund's speech about the planetary influences :
Edmund. This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune,-often the surfeit of our own behaviour,—we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains by necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves and treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star !
Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
1 Spedding, Letters and Life, vii. 307.
Right true; but faulty men use oftentimes
To attribute their folly unto fate,
And lay on heaven the guilt of their own crimes.
(V. iv. 28).
In vaine (said then old Meliboe) doe men
The heavens of their fortunes fault accuse.
View of the State of Ireland.
(VI. ix. 29).
But it is the manner of men, that when they are fallen into any absurditye, or theyr actions succeede not as they would, they are ready allwayes to impute the blame thereof unto the heavens, soe to excuse their owne follyes and imperfections."
Bryskett's Discourse of Civill Life.
"What a folly it is to beleeve that we cannot resist the inclinations of the stars. The beginning of all our operation is undoubtedly in ourselves . . And consequently we may by our free choice and voluntarily give ourselves to good or to evill, and master the inclination of the heavens, the starres or destinie, which troubleth so much the braines of some, that in despite of nature they will needes make themselves bond being free."
I have alluded to these parallels in my book on Spenser : see the chapter on Bryskett, p. 590.
Troilus and Cressida, perhaps 1603. The most remarkable feature about this play is the animus which it shows against the Greeks, and the desire to exalt the Trojans as the ancestors of the Romans, and, according to the popular tradition, of the British (through Brute of Troy), at their expense. The same tendency is noticeable throughout Bacon's acknowledged writings. Bacon's quarrel with the Greeks arose mainly out of his dislike of Aristotle, but partly also from his admiration of the Roman type. The revolt against the authority of Aristotle was a movement of the times and was not originated by Bacon, but he was the first to give expression to it in a popular way, the philosophy of the Greeks being, as he maintained," only strong for disputations but barren of the production of works for the life of man."
There is a curious supposed mistranslation of Aristotle which occurs in this play, and also in Bacon's Advancement
of Learning, of the word TodɩTIKĤs by “moral," in the lines put into the mouth of Hector :
Unlike young men, whom Aristotle thought
Unfit to hear moral philosophy :
In the Advancement Bacon writes:
"Is not the opinion of Aristotle worthy to be regarded, wherein he saith, 'That young men are no fit auditors of moral philosophy, because they are not settled from the boiling heat of their affections, not attempered with time and experience? But is it not
true also, that much less young men are fit auditors of matters of policy, till they have been thoroughly reasoned in religion and morality, lest their judgments be corrupted, and made to think that there are no true differences of things, but according to utility and fortune?'
Bacon, however, knew what he was about in using the word moral" in this passage, as is shown by the latter portion of the paragraph. In effect, he makes the Greek word πολιτικής serve for the two English words "moral" and "political" and he was right in doing this, as in Greece "politics," that is, the conduct of life by people living together in a city-state, embraced a wider field of conduct than in a modern state. I am informed by one who was at one time his pupil1 that the late Dr. Henry Jackson, of Trinity College, Cambridge, used to say that "moral philosophy was the correct translation here, "politics" in this passage being really equivalent to "ethics"; also that the same translation is found in Erasmus. The same “mistranslation " is also found in the Latin College play Pedantius, as to which see below, Chapter XII. If Bacon then wrote here as a scholar, it follows that in this passage in Troilus Shakespeare did also.
The political theories in this play, mainly expressed in the speeches of Ulysses, are, in all respects, those of Bacon, as any one can see who reads his acknowledged writings.
Ajax, the "beef-witted lord," is a type which the author, no doubt, gathered from his own experience. It seems possible that the unscrupulous, but affable, Lord Henry
1 Sir George Greenwood.
Howard (Northampton) suggested the type for Pandarus. At any rate he acted in that capacity later on in regard to his niece, the wife of Robert, 3rd Earl of Essex, and later of the favourite, Rochester. The self-element is strongest in Troilus. The intensity of his nature combined with his claim to "simplicity " of character suggest this. Like Biron in Love's Labour's Lost he disclaims social accomplishments: I cannot sing,
Not heel the high lavolt, nor sweeten talk,
Nor play at subtle games.
It is curious, if the actor wrote the play, to read the slighting remarks on players, where Ulysses describes the performances of Achilles and Patroclus:
Sometimes, great Agamemnon,
Thy topless deputation he puts on,
And, like a strutting player, whose conceit
To hear the wooden dialogue and sound
'Twixt his stretch'd footing and the scaffoldage,-
He acts thy greatness in.
The comment of Ulysses on the behaviour of Cressida among the Greeks contains the same theory as is found in Bacon's theory of "spirits":
Fie, fie, upon her !
There's language in her eye, her cheek, her lip,
At every joint and motive of her body.
It is also contained in the passage cited above from King Lear about Goneril's kiss, and it is found in other places in Shakespeare. The theory depends on Bacon's conception of the nature of the soul, which he derived from Italian sources, and ultimately from Aristotle. In this theory the soul, except in so far as it contained a divine element breathed in from without, was regarded as physical, and the "spirits," which
1 On this see Edmund Spenser, etc., ch. v.
animated the whole frame, and formed a sort of sub-physical counterpart of it, were the source of all form, growth, movement and feeling; but the important thing to note is that they were material. I have dealt with this subject fully under the Tempest, chapter XI. below, and would refer the reader to what is said there.
Julius Cæsar. This play was probably written in 1601. It is generally said that, like Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus, it practically follows Plutarch (North's translation); on the other hand it has been pointed out by some that this is far from being an exhaustive account of it ; and that the author is indebted to other ancient writers. Orthodox critics, however, have felt compelled to set aside this view on the supposed ground that Shakespeare could not read them. They also appeal to the argument that Shakespeare does not write like a scholar but gives a modern colour to his characters and incidents. This, however, does not prove that he was not acquainted with the records of antiquity; it may mean on the contrary, that he knew them so well that he was able to take liberties with them without falling into absurdities, as an unlettered man would inevitably do. He kept before him the audience whom he was addressing and knew that, if he was to influence them, he must bring his story into the region of their experience and not puzzle them with allusions which they would not understand. So he approximates all the characters to the English type, and this is his invariable practice.
The Plutarch Lives of Julius Cæsar, Marcus Brutus, and Antonius have been used and blended for the purposes of this play. The funeral oration of Anthony, however, appears to be entirely original, but it has been suggested that it owes something to Appian's Civil Wars, that Suetonius also has been consulted and the Letters and Philippics of Cicero. If Bacon was the author, of course this was the case, for there seems to have been nothing he had not read. There are several allusions in Bacon's acknowledged works which indicate an association of ideas with those found in this play. Thus in his Essay "Of Friendship" he alludes to Decimus