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the striking of a clock, and are shown a rapier and Turkish tapestry. And for yet further anachronisms we have Satan, sorcerers from Lapland, and even Noah and Adam, and in one place Antipholus is pleased to style himself a Christian.
In “ Julius Cæsar" also, a clock strikes three; Cicero speaks in Greek to the people of Rome, and a tribune scolds the small artisans, the cobblers and the carpenters, etc., for walking “upon a labouring day without the signs of their profession.” But under these superficial anachronisms of furniture, dress and costumes, Goethe, who, however, is far from intending it as a matter of reproach, points out one of far greater psychological importance; namely, that Shakespeare has made Englishmen of his Romans. In “Antony and Cleopatra,” Antony uses terms borrowed from the language of cards; he talks of the knave and the queen, of hearts and trumps, like any whist-player. In “Coriolanus,” the hero wipes his bleeding brow with a “mailed hand,” ladies fling their
” gloves, scarves, and handkerchiefs upon him as he passes ; mention is made of theatres,* and of drums; and Alexander, Cato, Galen, and Censorinus, are prematurely named, as also graves in the “holy churchyard.”
In “Pericles,” we are presented with a pudding and with pistols. In “Titus Andronicus,” we meet with a
a child sent to Adam the Moor, to be baptized, a clown who invokes God and St. Stephen, and the son of a Roman Emperor accused of twenty evil deeds worthy of a papist. To finish with Shakespeare's sins against chronology and topography, against truth of time and of place, the most notorious in the rest of his plays are these : A Winter's Tale” turns Bohemia into a maritime kingdom, and Julio Romano, the great artist, into a contemporary of the Delphic Oracle. In “A Midsummer
* There were no theatres in Rome until two centuries later.
Night's Dream,” Theseus, Duke of Athens, sends a young girl into a nunnery, and greets his friends with
“Good morrow, friends! Saint Valentine is past; mention is also made of guns. The historical drama of "Henry V." shows us the Turks already masters of Constantinople, though the city only fell into their hands thirty years after the death of that king. In “Henry VI.” the name of Machiavelli is twice introduced, and the art of printing mentioned before its time. In “King Lear,” we hear of Turks, holy water, Nero, Bedlam, etc.; and, finally, Hamlet studied in the University of Wittenberg.
Such are the principal anachronisms in Shakespeare, and it now remains to decide what we are to think of them. It is easy and not unnatural, to look upon them as faults, as unimportant as they are evident, and to attribute them to Shakespeare's ignorance; and those who consider that this ignorance, far from being peculiar to him, was shared in by the greater part of his contemporaries, and that in his day, people generally were not so well informed as they are in our own, will deal gently and indulgently with his anachronisms. They would go no further than this in their correction of Douce's criticism, and remain at heart pretty much of his opinion. But in reality it is a far more complicated question, and one that involves a very delicate ästhetical problem.
At the first superficial glance thrown over the history of literature, it would appear that anachronisms in art diminish in exact proportion to the general progress of learning. It was at the most brilliant period of historical studies, when the past was brought back and made to live again before the eyes of men, by the powerful imagination of such writers as Michelet and Augustin Thierry, that the romantic drama prided itself upon the rendering of local colour to a degree undreamed of by classical tragedy, in times when history was less well known; and that poets were pre-eminently ambitious of bestowing scrupulously exact and historical costumes and manners upon their dramatic personages. On the other hand, the further we penetrate into the ages of ignorance, the more we see the drama, and all poetry and art in general, failing in accuracy with regard to historical characteristics and any sort of notion of chronology
In Shakespeare's time, anachronisms still abounded on the stage, although they were beginning to be less startling and numerous, and the marked improvement made by the seventeenth century in this respect already began to make itself felt. It may help to extenuate Shakespeare's geographical and historical blunders, and to place them in their true perspective, if we notice briefly some of those of his contemporaries.
Beaumont and Fletcher, who, having received a university education, may be presumed to have been greater scholars than Shakespeare, had no scruples about committing anachronisms. The “Humorous Lieutenant," says M. Mézières, is the title of a tragi-comedy, which deals with the successors of Alexander, and of which the heroes are Antigonus and Demetrius. They speak in it of a colonel commanding a regiment, and citizens in the heart of Asia telling tales in the “old chimney corner.” In “Thierry and Theodoret,” the soldiers of Brunehaut are armed with muskets. Rollo, Duke of Normandy,” Norman pirates quote historical and mythological names, as if fresh from Oxford, and appear to be as familiar with Venus, Dædalus, and Vulcan, as with the deities of Scandinavia. In "Bonduca," one of the finest tragedies of the time, we see the Roman soldiers busy eating pudding. In the “Two Noble Kinsmen," the scene is laid in Greece, at the court of Theseus, who
had already been made Duke of Athens by Shakespeare. We here find a farcical schoolmaster, who talks Latin before the siege of Troy, and heroes who speak the same language of medieval chivalry that they do in Chaucer's
Knight's Tale," and in the Greco-roman romance from which the play is taken. Theseus surprises Palamon and Arcite fighting by themselves in the midst of a forest, and interrupts their duel, saying
“What ignorant and mad malicious traitors
Without my leave, and officers of arms ?” And immediately afterwards he invites them to a tournament.
The poet, Robert Greene, a Master of Arts of the University of Cambridge, made Bohemia an island, just as Shakespeare made it bordering on the sea in “A
A Winter's Tale.” A translator of Plautus, and a good Latin scholar, deemed it his duty to turn into English the list of viands at the entertainment ordered by Menæchmus; and in the same play introduced constables and excisemen, as well as potatoes and claret. The “Arcadia,” of Sir Philip Sidney, classical scholar as he was, is full of anachronisms; and, lastly, even Ben Jonson, of all poets of the time the most deeply steeped in learning, forgot himself so far as to observe, in describing the character of obsequious clients, in “Sejanus” (Act I., Sc. 1), that they observe their patron as his watch observes his clock.”
Anachronisms occur with still greater frequency in earlier playwrights, and are even more absurd. In a drama written by Thomas Lodge, about the year 1586, called the "Wounds of the Civil War," we are introduced to a Gaul in the time of Marius, who swears by Jesus and by God's blood, while Marius himself swears by Our Lady. In a play, entitled “ Appius and Virginia," written
in the beginning of Elizabeth's reign, Virginia goes to church with her mother, and Appius expounds to his family the creation of man and woman, in full conformity with the Book of Genesis.
Anachronisms increase both in abundance and in amusing simplicity the further we go back into early English literature. In Lydgate, Amphiaraus is bishop, and we read of guns being used at the siege of Troy; Hector is buried in the Cathedral before the High Altar, and priests say masses, and pray for his soul.* Chaucer makes Calchas a bishop, and the Palladium a holy relic, while Cressida reads the “Lives of the Saints.”
It need scarcely be said that anachronisms are not peculiar to early English literature, and are easily to be found in that of France, Germany, and Italy. Ronsard, notwithstanding his great erudition and classical tastes, seems to have confused the “Iliad” with the romances of Arthur and of Launcelot; and the heroic ages of Greece with those of chivalry, when he spoke in his preface to the “Franciade,” of “the Trojan and Greek knights, so long absent from their wives, children, and homes.” Hans Sach, an old German poet of the sixteenth century, represents God the Father, Adam and Eve, and the Patriarchs like regular Nuremburg citizens; and, as Hegel observes, “God the Father gives religious instruction to the children of Adam in the very tone and style of the schoolmasters of the day; he teaches them the Catechism, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer.” In Boccaccio's poem of “Filostrato," Troilus, who is usually attired in the hunting dress of a mediaval prince, with a hawk upon his wrist, proposes to enter the Greek camp disguised as a pilgrim.
As we trace the literature of the Middle Ages to its
* Alexander Büchner, “ Les Troyens en Angleterre,” in the “Mémoires de l'Académie des Sciences, Arts et Belles Lettres de Caen " (1868).