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excluded, and in which nothing occurs to break in upon their prevailing gravity of tone.* From this it has been concluded that Shakespeare allowed himself, not indeed to be convinced, but to be roused into trying his hand at the game, and that he wished, without making any retractation, to show his opponents, by means of a few specimens, that he, too, was quite capable of composing tragedies according to strict rules. In support of this conjecture, the sort of affectation with which in the "Tempest” the different personages carefully mark the time, is brought forward. But this is not a very satisfactory explanation of the presence of two or three regular dramas amongst Shakespeare's plays, and it is, I think, a truer way of looking at the matter to say that Shakespeare had no feeling whatever of hostility to classical doctrines, but was absolutely indifferent with regard to them. In France, poets may constantly have been seen occupying themselves with Boileau for the purpose of refuting him; the very opposition is, in its way, an act of homage to him, recognizing, if not his authority, at all events his importance, and shows that though the dictum of the master is not submitted to, it is still deemed deserving of consideration, since it is thought worth while to contradict it. The disdain with which Shakespeare treats the Boileaus of his time is of a very different order; he never thinks of them at all, and he puts their precepts into practice at need, or, as is generally the case, leaves them unfulfilled, with equally small concern as to whether he pleases or displeases them. A romanticist of the present century would deem himself disgraced if such a mischance as writing a tragedy in accordance with the classical rules were to befall him, but such accidents happened with Shake

With the exception in “Macbeth” of the porter's scene, which some critics take to be an interpolation.

speare, just because he cared about the rules not at all. His one thought was the treatment necessarily required by the subject, and if the subject invited it, he would pay due attention to the unities, as in the “ Tempest," or would write tragedies without any admixture of comedy, like “ Macbeth” and “Richard II. ;" for an artist such as he was, was not the man to spoil his work for the pleasure of teasing Sir Philip Sidney, or of enraging Ben Jonson.

Of all men, Shakespeare is the least doctrinaire; the idealistic, revolutionary, theory-loving order of mind is the direct opposite of his. He is a practical, prudent Englishman, desirous of progress, but preferring it without violent shocks and changes, and very conservative in his tastes. With the instinct of a practical man of business, prompt to detect from what quarter the wind of success is likely to blow, he thoroughly grasped the fact that the time for classical simplicity was irrevocably passed, and that for a modern spectator, and especially for an Englishman—that barbarian of the North, with a taste so little Athenian,-more highly spiced entertainments were needed. He accordingly put before his comtemporaries and countrymen, plays suited to their tastes, and while Daniel's “ Cleopatra” and Brandon's “Virtuous Octavia,” were acted to empty benches, or had even not life enough to drag themselves on to the stage, Shakespeare, combining a keen eye to business with consummate knowledge of his art, had the satisfaction of seeing crowds flock to his plays, and at the same time of adding considerably to his little fortune. This less ideal side of his character must not be lost sight of, which made him a practical man as well as a poet: he invariably looked to the result, to the substantial benefit as well as the poetical use to be made of the materials he employed, and without entangling himself in theories or systems he went straight to the fuct.

To regard him as the founder of a school, or merely as a man capable of writing a neatly turned preface to his works, would be to make the greatest possible mistake concerning him. It is true, that if we wish to gather up the æsthetic ideas scattered throughout his works, we shall find a few here and there, beginning with Hamlet's famous speech to the players, but they are rare, and their whole interest and meaning may be summed up in the advice given to different artists, to painters as well as to poets, and to poets as well as to actors, to follow nature. This intellectual modesty is undoubtedly the cause of the error so long believed in, of the unconscious nature of Shakespeare's art. The truth is, that he hides himself behind his works with an unparalleled self-abnegation, which makes them wellnigh resemble the impersonal productions of primæval poetry, and which, within certain limits, would go far to justify a comparison between his genius and that of Homer. There are some readers, of a tender disposition, who feel the need of taking to their hearts the authors of their favourite books, and to such gentle souls, Shakespeare offers no satisfaction.

We admire and respect him, we contemplate his impassible objectivity with astonishment mingled with awe, we may find both pleasure and profit in living in familiar intercourse with him, turning over the pages of his masterpieces with “a daily and nightly hand,” as Du Bellay says of Horace; but we do not love him. In order to love a poet it is necessary to see the man in him, and this we do not do in Shakespeare; his personal qualities, and above all, a few defects, some weaknesses in secret harmony with our own nature are necessary to endear him to us, and the irritating problem of an impenetrable personality must not be presented to us, as in Shakespeare, in every page. Schiller, in his “Naïve und sentimentalische dichtung,” honestly confesses that at first he felt repelled by Shakespeare, and required some time to familiarize himself with his imposing, rather than lovable, genius.

“Accustomed, from my own knowledge of modern poets, first of all to seek the poet in his works, to meet his heart, to reflect with him upon the matters treated of, and in short to look for the object in the subject, I felt it to be intolerable that Shakespeare should never let himself come within my grasp, and that I could nowhere get speech of him. I had studied him and given him my utmost respect for many years before I learnt how to love him personally. I was incapable then of understanding Nature at first hand. And the same thing also happened to me with Homer, with whom I made acquaintance later on."

The indifference shown by Shakespeare towards all doctrines, and the practical character of his creative powers, are cardinal features of his genius to which we shall have to return in speaking of his political and religious sentiments. As regards classical antiquity, he had no literary passion for it of any kind, he was neither its foe nor its friend, and regarded it merely as a vast storehouse of materials for his art. Of such storehouses he had two or three; antiquity, the Middle Ages, national history; and borrowing largely, sometimes from one and sometimes from another, he calmly and cheerfully built up his own edifice.



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The question as to whether Molière was able to read Aristophanes, Terence and Plautus, in the original, would hardly be likely to excite a very lively interest in the mind of any Frenchman. Molière is held to be a great comic poet by his countrymen, and it may be doubted whether, if they were shown that over and above that he was also a good Greek and Latin scholar, it would greatly add to their estimation of him, or if it were proved that classical authors were only known to him through translations whether their admiration for the author of the “ Misanthrope” would suffer any diminution. But in England people think and feel otherwise, and the question regarding Shakespeare's knowledge of Greek and Latin, would appear to be of vast importance in their eyes, to judge from the extraordinary eagerness with which it has generally been discussed. The combatants in this strange dispute are even more curious than the debated point itself, for--admitting for an instant the truth of the most unfavourable conclusions with regard to Shakespeare's classical learning—it is difficult to understand how such an avowal could be harmful to his glory, and that, on the contrary, it should not rather redound to his credit, and redouble our wonder and admiration for the wealth and penetrative power of a genius able, by itself alone, to furnish so many marvellous

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