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in which he refers to the time when he was at Poictiers, and he gives an account of a young Frenchman of his acquaintance which accords entirely with the type portrayed in this play. The passage occurs in the Historia Vitae et Mortis (History of Life and Death) and is in proximity to paragraphs which are closely allied in thought with the Seven Ages of Man and the account of the death of Falstaff in the Shakespeare plays. It is as follows : “ Equidem memini, cum adolescens essem Pictavii in Gallia, me consuevisse familiariter cum Gallo quodam, juvene ingeniosissimo, sed paullulum loquaci, qui postea in virum ementissimum evasit.' -“ Indeed I remember, when I was a young man in France, that I was on intimate terms with a certain Frenchman, a youth of excellent parts (or wit), but a bit of a chatter-box, who afterwards turned out a very eminent man”—and there follows an account of his talk. Here was the foundation in experience for the character of Boyet.
The character of Holofernes, the pedagogue in this play, bears a strong resemblance to that of Rombus in a masque entitled The Lady of May, which was presented before Queen Elizabeth at Wanstead in 1578. It was first published in an edition of the Arcadia in 1598 and is attributed to Sir Philip Sidney. But it is clearly a very juvenile work, and I have argued elsewhere that it was really composed by Francis Bacon, though produced under the name of Sidney. If this is so it furnishes a strong argument for a similar origin in the case of this play.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
This is a charming little comedy, remarkable among the plays of Shakespeare for its simplicity and lyric beauty. Its first appearance in print was in the folio of 1623 and there is no external evidence by which to place the date of its composition. But from the style it may be confidently said that it was among the author's earliest dramatic works. Most authorities seem to place it after Love's Labour's Lost, but it cannot be asserted with confidence that it did not come before it. On the whole, however, I suspect it was the later of the two. The genius of the author has found its sweet music,
and probably this came later than the brilliant but somewhat hard rhetoric of the other play. Moreover it shows a firmer touch. With what ease the play opens, and right in the middle of the action :
Val. : Cease to persuade, my loving Proteus,
Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits.
Pro. : Wilt thou be gone? Sweet Valentine, adieu !
Think on thy Proteus, when thou haply seest
And how beautifully the scene closes :
Pro. : He after honour hunts, I after love :
He leaves his friends to dignify them more ;
I have seen it suggested as an argument against Shakespeare having travelled that he caricatures the affectations of travellers. He does, but to caricature a thing well one must know it, and it might be argued with equal force from this scene and the dialogue between the father of Proteus and his confidential servant on the advantages of travel which follows it, that he had certainly travelled. Moreover the scene of this play is laid in Italy and there is an Italian atmosphere about it and a certain dreaminess of tone which may be explained by the reminiscences invoked. And, to refer to a particular example, the nature of the crimes confessed by the outlaws and the way they speak of them are peculiarly Italian : Third Out : Know then, that some of us are gentlemen,
Such as the fury of ungovern'd youth
An heir, and near allied unto the duke,
Who, in my mood, I stabb'd unto the heart.
In any case it is difficult to understand how an untravelled man of little education and no experience of the greater world could have made one of his first dramatic attempts on such material; nor is it natural that he should have done so. Even if the story be taken from a book, no book would supply the treatment, which is the life of a work of art. Moreover the book from which it is said to be taken was a Spanish romance of which no English translation was published before 1598.
It is also to be observed that the tone of the play is entirely aristocratic, and this is particularly noticeable in the treatment of the two servants, Speed and Launce. Though in a way he loves them, he laughs at, not with them, and even they play with verbal conceits in the manner which the author at that period affected with all his characters. How could a man who belonged to the people have treated them with such detachment, especially at a period of his life when they were his daily companions and he was quite unknown to fame ? On the other hand he writes of the great people as if he was one of them and had lived among them all his life.
Proteus is, of course, the central figure, and in him, more than the others, the author expresses himself. There is a character of this kind in almost every play, and they represent various phases in the author's experience, or facets of his character. They are not portraits of himself, but of one aspect of himself which happens to be uppermost in his mind. Precisely the same treatment of the self-element is found in Spenser's Faerie Queene, where, as I have endeavoured to show in my book, the author represents himself under a variety of characters. So in the plays, he makes use of certain characters, within the limits of the dramatic situation and subject to its exigencies, as a means of self-expression and self-criticism. In the treatment of them he seems to get outside himself and lay bare his innermost soul, as an object for inspection, analysis, admiration or censure. In this play it is censure. Inconstancy in love is the subject, and the verdict is put into the mouth of Silvia :
Thou subtle, perjured, false, disloyal man ! An example of a similar treatment, though with a deeper poetical reach, may be found in Othello, where, in my judgment, the author makes use of the charcater of Iago to lay bear and castigate the evil in his own nature, with the verdict at the end :
o Spartan dog ! More fell than anguish, hunger, or the sea ! I am aware that to some this view may appear unjustified, but I shall endeavour to sustain it by subsequent examples. As I shall hope to show, the key to it lies in Bacon's life and character. In my book on Spenser, I have very fully discussed the events of Bacon's life in relation to what I believe to be his poetical work, and I shall often have to appeal to the facts there set out in justification for some of the conclusions in this book. If I were to repeat all that I have said there the present work would outrun reasonable dimensions.
An enormous self-esteem, curiously blended with a complete self-knowledge, was one of Bacon's peculiar characteristics, and it is a very marked feature of the descriptions of those characters in the plays where the self-element predominates. I have already drawn attention to it in the case of Biron in Love's Labour's Lost, and it appears again in the description of Proteus put into the mouth of Valentine :
I know him as myself ; for from our infancy
And, in a word, for far behind his worth
With all good grace to grace a gentleman. I have noted the persistent habit of self-eulogy in Spenser's poetry, where, in some instances, it almost passes the bounds of sanity ; but in the present example, if Bacon be the man, it is impossible to deny the justice of the desrciption. Compare with it the remark-obviously of a self-regarding nature-in his essay on Youth and Age :
"A man that is young in years may be old in hours, if he have lost no time. But that happeneth rarely."!
Of Bacon's early promise there is plenty of evidence, such, for example, as that of the miniature painter Hilliard, who expressed on the portrait of Bacon taken at the age of 18 the wish that he could paint his mind, and of Bacon's mother, who, in anger at the followers, notably Welshmen, whom he kept about him, wrote that before that "he was a towardly young gentleman and a son of much good hope in godliness," and again, in 1594, “who were sometime accounted first, God grant they wane not daily, and deserve to be named last.”
The name of Proteus is no doubt selected to indicate the unstable and chameleon-like element in the author's nature. He is depicted as courteous, amiable and gentle, but unable to resist the impressions of the senses and indifferent, under their influence, to personal obligation. The yielding at the end to the claims of Valentine and the unnatural assumption that even the deepest injuries could be reconciled by words and confession of wrong are altogether characteristic. These features strictly follow the lines of Bacon's character as revealed in the events of his life.
As yet, however, the iron had not entered into the author's soul. He had done no great wrong; his conscience
1 The real interest of this passage lies in what follows :
Generally, youth is like the first cogitations, not so wise as the second : for there is a youth in thoughts, as well as in ages; and yet the invention of young men is more lively than that of old, and imaginations stream into their minds better, and, as it were, more divinely."