Imagens das páginas

in the Advancement, published in 1605, when the greater part of Shakespeare's work had been done, is capable of the same explanation, and, as it seems to me, can only be so explained:

"For the distinctions are found (many of them), but we conclude no precepts from them; wherein our fault is the greater, because both history, poesy, and daily experience are as goodly fields where these observations grow; whereof we make a few poesies to hold in our hands, but no man bringeth them to the confectionary, that receits might be made of them for the use of life."1

But this is precisely what Shakespeare did, and had been doing publicly, when this was written, for more than a decade.

Among the many comprehensive schemes which Bacon entertained and never lived to complete-like his philosophy, which is only a great fragment-was to produce, in one form or another, a history of his own country. We have seen how he sketched out a scheme for a history of the Tudor reigns which survives in an anonymous fragment utilized by another man; we have one complete and finished work in his History of Henry VII.; there is his very interesting account of the reign of Queen Elizabeth in the In Felicem Memoriam Elizabethae; a short fragment, being the beginning of a History of the Reign of Henry VIII. ; and another fragment of admirable quality, being the beginning of the History of Great Britain, intended for King James to recall his happy accession and the union between the two kingdoms (under "the ancient mother name of Great Britain ") effected thereby. There is also, in my opinion, another anonymous historical treatise by him, which passes (though without authority) under the name of Sir Walter Ralegh, namely, an "Introduction to a Breviary of the History of England, with the reign of King William I., entitled the Conqueror." The history of the Reign of William I. in Samuel Daniel's History of England, 1618, so closely resembles it that it is manifest to anyone who compares the two documents that the "Introduction" must have been used by Daniel. In my book on Spenser I have spoken of Daniel's indebtedness to Bacon, and of the use

1 Spedding, Works, iii. 435.

2 First printed in 1693 by Archbishop Sancroft, who thought it was Ralegh's.

which, in my opinion, Bacon made of Daniel's name. This is a further piece of evidence of their literary connection. I think no one who is familiar with Bacon's style can have any doubt that the "Introduction" is by him, and, in that case, it forms a part of his effort in the department of history. His more serious effort, however, was, in my opinion, what he did in verse; and the same thing, I think, also holds true of the Roman plays, which have their counterpart in the two prose fragments on Julius and Augustus Caesar.

King Henry VIII.

Modern criticism is disposed to deny to Shakespeare a large proportion of this interesting play and to attribute it largely to Fletcher or to Fletcher in co-operation with Massinger. This view is derived mainly from the so-called "metrical characteristics," which, I admit, are certainly not those of the normal style of Shakespeare. But an argument based on this ground cannot, in my judgment, be allowed to outweigh others of more substance. It might easily be that Shakespeare, working on an inferior play of someone else, had been influenced by the style and that his sensitive ear had been attracted by the "weak endings," which also have this advantage, for the purposes of historical relation, that they enable more material to be got into the line, and bring the style into closer approximation with prose than does the more musical model generally adhered to by Shakespeare. It is supposed that this play was the one, under the same title, which was performed at the Globe theatre in 1613 when the theatre caught fire and was burned down. But we know nothing of the original form of the play, as it did not appear in print until 1623, when it was included in the first Folio. There was therefore plenty of time in the interval for revision. If, as I believe, the main body of the play, as found in print, was Bacon's work, it must have been late work, when the author might be supposed to have become more indifferent to poetical form (to which he had sufficiently done justice) and more concerned with presenting a true historical picture.

Some have even denied to Shakespeare the great scene in which Wolsey bids farewell to his greatness and to Thomas

Cromwell (III. ii. 204-460), on the ground that the metrical
style is that of Fletcher, but I agree with those who hold that
it is too great for anyone but Shakespeare. It is, I admit, only
a small point, but it is worth noticing that the remark about
ambition, "By that sin fell the angels," finds a parallel in
Bacon's Essay, Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature, "The
desire of power in excess caused the angels to fall." More
important, however, is the close analogy which the scene
presents to the circumstances of Bacon's fall and to his state
of mind after it, as revealed in his remains; so that this scene
may well have been designed and written in after that event.
The writer of those portions of the play which bear the
evidence of Shakespeare's hand is so familiar with state affairs
and the procedure of courts and councils, and treats of them
with such ease and certainty, that it is inconceivable to me
that he had not had personal experience of such matters. On
the other hand, the other writer, whoever he was, is a bungler.
Note, for example, the inept treatment of Cardinal Wolsey's
banquet at York Place, and, in particular, the gross vulgarity
(a thing of which Shakespeare is never guilty) of Lord Sands
(I. iv). The Prologue is not in Shakespeare's vein, but from
the beginning of Act I. to the end of Scene ii. seems to me
certainly his work. Act II. ii. I am more doubtful about:
it may have been only revised by Shakespeare; II. iv. seems
to me certainly his; III. i., including the song, probably his,
but not so easy to determine; III. ii. to the end of the Act
certainly his; the character of Wolsey in IV. ii. probably
touched, if not composed, by him; V. to the end of Scene iii.
certainly his; and the eulogy of Queen Elizabeth and King
James in V. v. almost certainly by him. On this reckoning I
give about two-thirds of the play to Shakespeare and the other
third to an inferior hand. I am aware that this is a question
of much controversy, so I only put this view forward as that
representing the best of my judgment, for what it is worth.

I have not mentioned King John, or A Midsummer Night's Dream, as they do not suggest to me any very material arguments for the purposes of this book; but some notes on the Midsummer Night's Dream will be found in my book on Spenser, Chapter X.

[ocr errors]



(See analysis in Table of Contents.)

There remain the three doubtful plays, Titus Andronicus, Pericles and Two Noble Kinsmen, the first of which was included in the first Folio; the other two not included. The inclusion of Titus in the Folio is a great puzzle, because it bears no vestige of Shakespeare's hand. It is so repulsive, indeed almost bestial, that one is almost driven to the conclusion that the author of it (who was obviously an educated man) was insane, though possibly he was driven to this sort of writing for a living. Nevertheless the play, like others of a similar kind, was probably popular with an Elizabethan audience, who enjoyed full-blooded horrors. But when, indeed, did not the populace enjoy horrors, which probably have much less effect on their minds than they have on those of more educated people? It is part of Shakespeare's praise that he did not stoop to such things, but endeavoured to reach his hearers through a more refined appeal.

I have long lost faith in the pretended address of the Players at the beginning of the first Folio, with their claim to have collected the plays and published them "cur'd and perfect of their limbs, and all the rest absolute of their numbers as he (Shakespeare) conceived them." "Cur'd "Cur'd" by whom? Did these men revise and partly re-write Hamlet? Or did Shakespeare at Stratford, before his death in 1616? If the latter, why does not the address say so, why was publication delayed till 1623, and where are Shakespeare's manuscripts, of which not a trace survives? 1623 was one of the years after his fall in 1621 when Bacon was engaged in gathering together and revising his works before his death, which took place in 1626, and the sumptuous and costly edition of the plays was, in my belief, the culmination of it. If this

was so, the plays must have been printed under his personal supervision; and it follows that the inclusion of Titus was deliberate. It comes after the Roman play of Coriolanus, and I can only account for it as having been put in as a foil and as a specimen of the popular drama of the day which it was one of Shakespeare's object to reform. Such a play and other popular favourites like it may well account for Bacon's remarks on the contemporary drama dealt with above (pp. 234-5) which have so much puzzled his readers.


The point, however, has to be met that Titus is included by Meres, in his Palladis Tamia (" Wit's Treasury "), among the six examples which he mentions of Shakespeare's tragedies, namely, "his Richard the II., Richard the III., Henry the IV., King John, Titus Andronicus and his Romeo and Juliet.' But this only proves that Titus was in existence in 1598, when this book was published, and that it passed under the name of Shakespeare. The section in the book in which the entry occurs is entitled 'A Comparative Discourse of our English Poets, with the Greeke, Latine and Italian Poets.' It has the appearance of being an interpolation and contains a number of statements some of which are so peculiar that I at one time formed the opinion that it was a jeu d'esprit by Bacon and said so in a note at p. 370 of my book on Spenser. But a closer study of the book has convinced me that I was in error, and I take the opportunity here to withdraw the suggestion. A comparison of the style of this section with the rest of the book has convinced me that it is all by Meres. The book is of enormous length, 666 pages (small size), and is a collection of apothegms, many from Greek and Latin authors, some modern or possibly original. It is written throughout in the form of antithesis affected by the euphuistic writers, where a conclusion is introduced by a simile, frequently based on a supposed analogy in nature, as for example (though this is an imaginary one): "As the Upas tree grows upside down: so the wicked man, the more he flourishes, the more depraved he becomes." When Meres comes to his list of English Poets, he still retains this form, with the result that his main concern

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »