Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

pages of contemporary writers, in both verse and prose, a very handsome collection of tributes to his memory can be made; but appreciations of no less intensity have been showered on authors whose names have been written in water. It was only when the Works of Shakspeare were published in a complete and permanent form that the foundations of his fame were securely laid; for then it was as inevitable that the • human mind should find out his greatness as it is that crumbs should attract the sparrows or honey the bees. The very size of the volume was a challenge; for, whatever repulsions or defects might be encountered in it, there was bound up with these a body of work so solid, together with individual passages so sublime and beautiful, that every reader of capacity was rewarded and drawn back again to the feast. mere collection of stories the book could not but form an imperishable possession of the English race, as has been perceived by those who, like Charles and Mary Lamb, have, in the interest of the young, retold these tales from Shakspeare. In the perusal of these stories and histories there rise on the reader the figures and fortunes of a series of characters so numerous and lifelike as to form not so much a gallery of portraits as a world of living men and women. The entire work is seasoned with wit and wisdom-with reflections on human life and shrewd criticisms on human nature, with rules to guide conduct, and with the enunciation

As a

Gervinus, Elze, Kreyssig and others are accessible in English, and so are the incomparable chapters on the Women of Shakspeare from the pen of the poet Heine. In not a few German universities prelections on Shakspeare form a regular feature of the curriculum, and in the great cities of the Fatherland the plays of Shakspeare hold a leading place in the repertoire of the theatres. There is in Germany a Shakspeare Society, with aims similar to the English ones.

It is, however, to America that we must look for the principal assistance in the preservation and exploitation of this asset of the Anglo-Saxon race.

There the merits of the best products of English genius have frequently been both detected earlier and rewarded more adequately than at home; and in everything that concerns the appreciation and interpretation of Shakspeare, in particular, Americans at least rival native scholars and admirers. It is not without significance that, on entering the town of Stratford-onAvon, the visitor has his attention first solicited by a handsome fountain gifted by an American citizen; and, if he desires not only to see the objects but to feel the atmosphere of the place, he cannot do better than entrust himself to the guidance of the American writers, such as Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne and William Winter. Washington Irving especially has thrown over the whole town and neighbourhood the glamour of his genius; though

there is now far more to see than there was in his day, through the accumulation and intelligent exhibition of objects of interest in such show-places as the birth-house and Nash's House, next door to the New Place, but especially in the Memorial Theatre, erected on the riverside, in which annual performances take place of select plays, whilst under the same roof there has been collected an extensive library of Shakspearean literature, as well as a picture gallery, containing the Droeshout Portrait of Shakspeare himself, together with a profusion of portraits of actors and actresses in favourite Shakspearean parts, and many other objects illustrating in various ways the influence of Shakspeare on art.

1 The most singular contribution from America is, however, what is known as the Bacon-Shakspeare Controversy, in which hundreds of books and articles have been published, to prove or disprove that the author of Shakspeare's works was Lord Bacon. Productions of such wisdom and perfection could not, it was thought, have proceeded from an obscure player, but must have been the work of the greatest intellect of the age. Some professed even to find in the works themselves a cryptogram affirming the Baconian authorship; others preferred the safer supposition of a great author unknown. At a time when it could be assumed that little or nothing was known of the man Shakspeare, the emergence of such a speculation may not have been unnatural; and the writing on both sides may have done something to stimulate investigation into Shakspeare's personal history; but the course of Shakspeare's life is now so well traced out and his personality set in so clear a light, that it would be a credit to mankind if the posthumous work of Mr. Andrew Lang on the subject, Shakespeare, Bacon and the Great Unknown, were allowed to close

The Stratford-on-Avonians have done well for themselves by converting their town into a monument to the immortal poet, every industry in the place profiting from the presence of such multitudes, attracted from every quarter of the globe by his fame. But, at the same time, they have done well for the country and the world, by concentrating at one spot so much that is suggestive of the various ways in which Shakspeare has contributed to the culture and advancement of mankind, and that makes real to the imagination him who, as a boy, played in their streets and, in his maturity, walked among them as their fellow-citizen. But the visitor must be of dull and shallow apprehension who, as he paces in a meditative hour by the margin of the Avon, where the footsteps of Shakspeare must often have fallen, is not haunted with deeper thoughts—with the mystery, for example, of so many ordinary lives passing, generation after generation, down into oblivion, but this one emerging from among them to shine on forever with so starry a radiance—and justest of all in such circumstances will be the reflection, that “this also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working”.

this controversy. I do not know whether it is in earnest or in ridicule of the Bacon-Shakspeare theory that a book, entitled Lord Rutland est Shakespeare, has been issued by a Monsieur Demblon, professor at Brussels and deputy in the Belgium Chamber.

THE PLAYS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

« AnteriorContinuar »