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Hints to the Student.
1. Read the play through two or three times with the notes, and then two or three times more without them.
2. After reading, test your knowledge by writing out an account of the action in each act, and finally in the whole play, comparing your account with the play itself.
3. When you feel yourself fully conversant with the play, analyse your conception of each character, and write it down.
4. Consider next the central point at which the dramatist is aiming, and how each separate scene works up to it.
5. Having formed your own opinion of the play and the characters in it, lose no opportunity of seeing it played, and compare the representation given by each actor with your own conception of the part. If you differ, have solid grounds for your difference, or find out why you are wrong.
6. The most excellent test of complete knowledge of the author's meaning is paraphrasing. In paraphrasing avoid such expressions as “ The poet says,” “Shakespeare here writes," etc., and touch nothing but the passage itself. Elementary faults in paraphrasing are (a) sins of omission, or leaving out; (6) sins of commission, or putting in; the former being more
After you have written your paraphrase, read the original passage, phrase by phrase, and find its translation in
your own work. Do not attempt high-flown or roundabout language in your language, but let it be simple and direct. If you have several phrases to choose from, choose that which most nearly translates the original.
7. You may now find it interesting to notice the change from blank verse to rime or prose, and to endeavour to discover the reasons which lead to these changes.
8. When, and not till when, you are thoroughly saturated with the text of the play, questions of date, metre, &c., should have your attention, and in these the introductory chapters ought to help you.
9. Keep a notebook in which to enter (a) words which have become obsolete, or have changed in meaning; (b) words with peculiar accent; (c) lines of peculiar metre.
10. Choose passages you consider worthy of memorising, and memorise them. The following are amongst the best: I. v.; I. vii.; Macbeth's final speech, II. i. 33-64; Macbeth's speech, III. i. 47-71; IV. i. 43-134; the sleep-walking scene, V. i.
The Life of Shakespeare.
At Stratford-on-Avon, on St. George's Day, April 23rd, 1564, William Shakespeare was born. At the same place, on the anniversary of the same day, in 1616, he died. Of the fiftytwo years of his life in which he played his part the most careful research has discovered but a few meagre incidents. Fortunately, “of Shakespeare all came from within—I mean, from his soul and genius; circumstances and the externals contributed but slightly to his development.”—HALLIWELL'S Life of Shakespeare.
His father, at first prosperous as a glover or wool stapler in the town, placed him in the grammar school of Stratford, but later misfortune compelled him to withdraw his son at the early age of thirteen, which gave some foundation for Ben Jonson's remark that Shakespeare had “small Latin and less Greek."
Tradition assigns to his youth a wildness not unlike the wildness of his own Prince Harry, Bolingbroke's “ unthrifty son,” but at the age of eighteen he married to Anne Hathaway, and in 1585, at the age of twenty-one, he left Stratford for London. He seems at once to have connected himself with the Theatre, probably first as player of small parts, and afterwards as the writer upon whom his fellow-players relied for the plays which have since placed him above all dramatic authors of any age. In 1593 he gained the patronage of Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, by the publication of his first printed work, the poem entitled Venus and Adonis; but the true bent of his genius had previously exercised itself in the improvement of older historical plays-Three Parts of King Henry VI. and Richard III., and a succession of early comedies—Love's
Labour's Lost, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona. These, although below the standard of perfection he attained in later plays, at once placed him far ahead of his predecessors, and made himself his only rival.
Shakespeare soon attained an important place among his fellows of the Blackfriars Theatre, had a share in its profits, and became one of the largest shareholders in the new Globe Theatre, which his company had built upon the Southwark side in 1598 or 1599. During this part of his life the series of historical plays was completed, Richard II., the Two Parts of Henry VI., Henry V., and John being assigned to the years 1594-160), while in the same years A MidsummerNight's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, All's Well that End's Well, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Much Ado about Nothing, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night, showed the universality of his dramatic genius.
From 1600 to 1608, when he left London for Stratford, he sounded the deeper notes of tragedy in his Macbeth, Othello, and Lear, and if he failed to catch the true Greek spirit in his Greek plays of this period, he showed that his early years at the Stratford Grammar School had not been ill spent by giving to the world the two plays of Julius Cæsar and Coriolanus, in which the Roman character and times are portrayed with perfect fidelity.
From 1608 to 1616 the dramatist's life was spent in the quiet retirement of his native town—a retirement broken occasionally by the visits of his London friends, and occupied in part by the composition of plays which show less attention to the extremes of tragedy and comedy, and give greater evidence of the calm reflection which peaceful and wellearned leisure bestows. Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, and Henry VIII. led, in 1612, to the final comedy of The Tempest, in which the breaking of Prospero's magic wand symbolises the closing of the master's work.