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the other a world opening into two infinites, an infinite of thought and an infinite of passion. He did not suppress either life to the advantage of the other ; but he adjusted them, and by stern and persistent resolution held them in the necessary adjustment.” For Shakespeare's natural tendency, Professor Dowden goes on to say, was to lose himself in the infinite of thought and the infinite of passion. The prose of practical life had no attraction for him, and it was only by a prolonged effort of reason and of will that he came to assign it its due place. “His series of dramatic writings is one long study of self-control,”—a lesson, as it were, in which he schools himself, contrasting idealists, dreamers, sublime and passionate natures, whose destiny is to perish, with practical characters and men of action, to whom success in this world is assured. We must not say with Gervinus, that Shakespeare likes Henry V. better than Hamlet; on the contrary, in his heart he prefers Hamlet, but he respects Henry V. the most. Shakespeare's secret favourites are Hamlet and Romeo, Brutus, Timon of Athens, and all who are of the race of victims to the ideal, though his acknowledged admiration is for Henry V., Theseus, Hector, Fortinbras, Alcibiades, and all the heroes of solid fact and reality. Shakespeare is stern to the idealists whom he loves, just because he was conscious of the strongest temptation to be an idealist himself; and his admiration of the great men of action is immense-albeit a little cold and resembling esteem rather than love-because he himself was not primarily a man of action. He loves Hamlet and Timon of Athens passionately and with all his heart because of their close affinity with his own nature—they are as he is; his admiration for Alcibiades and Fortinbras proceeds from deliberate consideration and reasons to some extent outside himself, because they are what he struggles to be.
Such is the latest theory of Shakespeare's character as deduced from his plays. Attractive as it is, it will infallibly be followed by others, for it is of the very nature of imaginative works to be incessantly renewed for the delight of mankind.
Most readers are wishful to raise the veil that hides Shakespeare's personality, but, far from adding to the poet's greatness, the process would only detract from it, for the mystery that surrounds his character and life tends to enhance the power of his spell over men's minds: omne ignotum pro magnifico habetur. The learned men of the present day who make such efforts to know more of his history and character, and to whom the thought of studying him in any other light never occurs, ought hardly to lay the flattering unction to their soul that they are subserving his glory: the more devout critic, in whose soul the sources of poetic feeling have not been dried up by the dry and positive spirit of the age, approaches Shakespeare as he would a sanctuary, and a little obscurity seems to him not unbefitting to the vastness of the place; a flood of light let in to every nook and cranny would but make him regret the vanished shade. But the cultus of great men in the present day is characterized by a prosaic demand for clear conclusions and precise information; passionate admirers of Molière endeavour with untiring energy to clear up the obscure points in his life, and passionate admirers of Shakespeare strive to reduce his immense work to an intellectual and inoral whole—to trace the development of a doctrine from the succession of his plays, and to present his series of writings in the light of a personal apprenticeship, or
of discipline for life. For my own part, I can only say that the less commentators succeed in their task so much the greater does the poet appear.
A recent critic (H. von Friesen) has made a great discovery: he has laid his hand upon a line which he considers settles the question as to which Church the poet belonged to by birth. Was Shakespeare a Protestant or a Roman Catholic ? Juliet (Act IV., Sc. 1) says to Friar Laurence, “Shall I come to you at evening mass ?” Evening mass! No Roman Catholic would ever have made use of such an expression; consequently Shakespeare was a Protestant. But in the “Merchant of Venice,” Lorenzo says to Jessica (Act V., Sc. 1):
“ Look how the floor of heaven Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold.” On this M. Montégut remarks :
“A patine is the small gold disk kissed by the faithful in the sacrament of the eucharist. This is one of the many details in Shakespeare which refer to ancient Catholic civilization and betray the poet's Catholic origin.”
So Shakespeare was a Roman Catholic. But in the same play Portia says to Shylock (Act IV., Sc. 1)
“ Therefore, Jew,
These words savour not only of Protestantism but even of Calvinism, and contain the whole doctrine of justification by faith.
In the last scene of “Henry VIII.” it is predicted that under the reign of Elizabeth “God shall be truly known.” Therefore Shakespeare was a Protestant. M. Riaux has nevertheless written a book to prove he was a Roman Catholic. In this I am inclined to think he is mistaken, and further on we shall be led by considerations of an entirely different nature to conclude, with infinite probability, that Shakespeare started from Protestantism, soon to raise himself far above either of the rival factions of the Christian Church ; but the general and glorious fact brought prominently forward by a discussion of this kind is, the immense impersonality of the poet whose works do not enable us to pronounce with any certainty even as to the communion in which he was born.
As Shakespeare was much occupied in his earlier plays with the question of marriage, and because he wrote the “ Taming of the Shrew," and in the “Comedy of Errors” set forth the baneful effects of jealousy, and in "Henry VI." exclaimed
“For what is wedlock forced but a hell,
(Pt. I., Act V., Sc. 5), it has been concluded that he was unhappy in his marriage, and had reason to complain of his wife. It may be so, but it renders the profession of a dramatic author terribly compromising if he can represent no passion without immediately being accused of having painted it from his own heart or domestic fireside. In this case, as Narcisse in "Britannicus” bestows great praise upon the excellent poison of Locuste, there is nothing to prevent us from maintaining that Racine secretly gave himself up to the same practices as the Marquise de Brinvilliers.
The greatly debated point concerning the politics of Shakespeare will be noticed further on, when we are studying the last of his three great Roman tragedies, “ Coriolanus."
PERICLES, PRINCE OF TYRE.
It would be quite legitimate, if need were, to let our examination of Greek and Latin antiquity, as found in Shakespeare's works, include two plays, which cannot indeed be said to be derived from classical sources, but which yet belong to that vague transitional period in which the latest times of antiquity melt into the earliest Middle Age: these two plays are “ Titus Andronicus” and “Pericles, Prince of Tyre.” It being perfectly optional whether we take them or leave them alone, the middle course will here be adopted of examining only the last-named drama, as being the more interesting of the two; “Titus Andronicus," having, however, been named, a few words may first be said concerning it.
It is unnecessary to give any analysis of the play, which is simply a tissue of horrors. In no reader, however little educated, could it possibly excite the slightest emotion; all pity and all terror absolutely cease when the horrible is carried to such lengths, and its outrageous atrocity is even capable of provoking a fit of laughter.
Once when Mérimée wished to ridicule the extravagances of the romantic drama, he wrote “La Famille de Carvajal," and lest some simple-minded reader should take his jest for earnest, he took the precaution