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character and destiny; he sees so broadly reason to believe that the earlier name was and deeply that nothing repels him which retained in the acting play. There was has any touch of reality or soundness in ground for the objection to its use, for Sir it. In his hands, and pre-eminently in this John Oldcastle was a Lollard and a martyr. play, the drama broadens to compass the Shakespeare created a kind of English full range of humor and character and Bacchus at a time when every kind of experience; and the tragic and humorous fruit or grain that could be made into a are blended, as in life, without incongru- beverage was drunk in vast quantities; ity or violation of the essential unities of and sack, which was Falstaff's native human action and knowledge. Henry IV. element, was both strong and sweet. and Hotspur are not blurred in outline, nor Falstaff is saved by his humor and is the significance of their struggle obscured his genius; he lies, steals, boasts, and by the roisterers and thieves who are at the takes to his legs in time of peril with such heels of Falstaff. The heroic note of the superb consistency and in such unfailing old ideals of chivalry is sounded as dis- good spirits that we are captivated by his tinctly as if the broad, rollicking humor vitality. It would be as absurd to apply of Falstaff had no existence. Falstaff is ethical standards to him as to Silenus one of the most marvelous of Shake- or Bacchus; he is a creature of the elespeare's creations ; a gross braggart, with- mental forces; a personification of the out conscience, and as simply and naturally vitality which is in bread and wine; a unmoral as if there were no morals, satyr become human, but moving buoyShakespeare has drawn him with such antly and joyfully in an unmoral world. matchless vitality that, although the stage And yet the touch of the ethical law is on is crowded with great figures, he holds it him ; he is not a corrupter by intention, as if it were his own. Sir John Oldcastle, and he is without malice; but as old age whose character undoubtedly gave Shake- brings its searching revelation of essential speare a rough sketch of Falstaff, and characteristics, his humor broadens into whose name was originally used by Shake coarseness, his buoyant animalism degenspeare, appears in the earlier play which erates into lust; and he is saved from the poet had before him ; in deference to contempt at the end by one of those the objections of the descendants of Sir exquisite touches with which, when it is John, the name was changed in the printed at its worst, the great-hearted poet loves to play, and became Falstaff, but there is soften and humanize degeneration.
“ Henry IV." is notable not only for the range and variety of types presented, but also for the freedom of manner which the poet permits himself. About half the first part is written in prose. Shakespeare was not alone among his contemporaries in breaking with the earlier tradition which imposed verse as the only form upon the drama; Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher used both prose and verse in the same drama; but Shakespeare alone showed equal mastery over both forms. His prose is as characteristic and as perfect as his verse; he turns indifferently from one to the other and is at ease with either. He makes the transition in many places for the sake of securing variety and heightening certain effects which he wishes to produce, as he often introduces humorous passages into the most tragic episodes.
GEORGE CHAPMAN Mr. Sill makes the inter- Drawn by J. Thurstan from a rare print prefixed to Chapman's translation
of Homer. esting suggestion that, verse being the natural form of expression for the king one of Shakespeare's great men emotion, Shakespeare instinctively turned of action ; a type in which his own time to prose when he was presenting ideas was rich, and in the delineation of which, detached from emotion, when he wished being himself a man of reflection and to be logical rather than moving, and expression, the poet found infinite satispractical or jocular rather than philo- faction. In this play the events of a sophical or serious; and, verse being es- reign are grouped for dramatic effectivesentially based on order and regularity, ness, and war is dramatized on a great the poet turned to prose whenever he scale. The material is essentially epical, wished to give expression to frenzy or but the treatment is so vigorous that the madness. There would have been essen- play, while not dramatic in the deepest tial incongruity in putting blank verse into sense, has the dignity and interest of a the mouths of clowns, fools, drunkards, and drama. The introduction of the Chorus, madmen. These suggestions are of special in which the dramatist speaks in person, interest when they are applied to“Hamlet." shows how deeply he had meditated on
In “Henry IV.," as in “ The Merry his art, and how deliberately he had reWives of Windsor” and “The Taming jected the conventional unities of time, of the Shrew," the references to Warwick- place, and action for the sake of the higher shire are unmistakable ; the dramatist and more inclusive unity of vital experience. was still too near his youth to have for- No other play so nobly expresses the gotten persons and localities known in deepening of the national consciousness his boyhood.
at the end of the sixteenth century, and "Henry V.,” drawn from the same the rising tide of national feeling. The sources, is a continuation of " Henry IV.," play is a great national epic; and the and presents in the splendid maturity of secret of the expansion and authority of the English race is to be found in it. supremacy as an artist, but by virtue of It was presented in the last year of the the qualities of his mind; and these century, and probably in the Globe Thea- qualities were developed and thrown into ter, then recently opened.
striking relief by the historical plays. His “King Henry VIII." was written at greatest work was in other fields, but least ten years later, and is distinctly through no other work has he impressed inferior to the historical plays of the himself so deeply on the imagination of the decade which closed with the production men of his own race. He vitalized a great of “ Henry V.," and is generally regarded section of English history, and has made as a piece of composite work, Fletcher it live before the eyes of nine generations ; probably completing that which Shake- he set the figures of great Englishmen on speare had planned, but of which he had so splendid a stage that they personify written only the first two acts.
finally and for all time the characteristics The historical plays belong, as a whole, of the English race; he so exalted liberty to Shakespeare's earliest period of pro- as represented by the English temper and ductiveness ; they keep the record of institutions that, more than any stateshis apprenticeship; they find their place man, he has made patriotism the deepest in the first stage of his development. passion in the hearts of Englishmen. No This was due only in a subordinate way other poet has stood so close to the Engto accident; there was reason for it in lish people or affected them so deeply ; the psychology of his art. The material and from the days when the earliest popufor these plays was ready to his hand in lar applause welcomed “ Henry VI." on the earlier chronicle plays in the libraries the stage of The Theater, The Rose, and of the theaters, and in the records of The Globe to these later times when Irving's Holinshed and Hall; and there was ample Wolsey crowds the stalls of the Lyceum, stimulus for their production in their Shakespeare has been the foremost teacher popularity. But other and deeper sources of English history. There are many who, of attraction are not far to seek. These if they were as frank as Chatham, would plays mark the transition from the epic confess that they learned their history to the drama ; from the story of events and chiefly from him. persons as shaped by fate to the story of In these plays, moreover, the young events and persons as they disclose the poet trained himself to be a dramatist by fashioning of character by action and the dealing with men under historical condireaction of character on events, knitting tions; with men in action. The essence men and actions together in a logical of the drama as distinguished from other sequence and a dramatic order. The his- literary forms is action, and in the histortorical plays find their logical place in the ical plays action is thrown into the most order of development between the old striking relief; sometimes at the sacrifice plays dealing with historical subjects and of the complete development of the actors. the masterpieces of Shakespeare and his Before taking up the profoundest problems contemporaries; and in the unfolding of of individual destiny or entering into the Shakespeare's art they hold the same world of pure ideality, Shakespeare studied middle place. These plays preserve the well the world of actuality. On a narrower characteristics of the older plays and stage, but in a higher light, he dealt with predict the fully developed drama ; they the relation of the individual to the political do not reveal the full play of the poet's order, and showed on a great scale the genius nor the perfect maturity of his art, development of character in relation to although the plays which deal with Henry practical ends. The depths of his spiritual IV. and Henry V. reveal the full range insight and the heights of his art are to be of his interests and his gifts.
found in the Tragedies ; but the breadth, In these plays the young poet put him- comprehensiveness, and full human symself in deepest touch with the life of his pathy of his genius are to be found in the race, and, in bringing to clear conscious- historical plays; and in these plays, at the ness the race spirit, brought out with the very beginning of his career, appeared that utmost distinctness the racial qualities of marvelous sanity which kept him poised his own genius. He is pre-eminently the in essential harmony between the divergent English poet, not only by virtue of his activities and aspects of life, gave him
ROBERT DEVEREUX, EARL OF ESSEX From an engraving by T. Wright, after the original of Walker in the collection of the Marquis of Stafford. clearness of vision and steadiness of will, penitence of humility and service, into ard made him the master of the secrets blessedness; and that about the certain of character and destiny. The play of the and evident play of the divine justice divine law, which binds the deed to the there is a mercy which is a constant medidoer, and so moralizes experience and ation, and hints, at times, at a redemption makes it significant, is nowhere more as inclusive as humanity. clearly exhibited than in these many-sided Schlegel has well said of the historical dramas, with their rich diversity of char- plays that they are “a mirror for kings.” acter and their wide range of action. In no other literature is there so complete Shakespeare is one of the greatest of a portraiture of the grandeur of the kingly ethical teachers, not by intention, but office and the uncertainty of the kingly by virtue of the depth and clearness of character; the pathos of the contrast his vision. The historical plays reveal between the weak man and the great the justice of God working itself out place is often searching to the verge of through historical events and in the lives irony. Shakespeare never permits his of historical persons; with the constant kings to forget that they are men, and the perception that no man is wholly good or splendor of their fortunes sometimes evil; that out of things evil good often serves to bring into ruthless light the inflows; that sin turns often, through the adequacy of their natural gifts for the great responsibilities laid upon them. The embodied in the State, and the tragedies trappings of royalty heighten the crimi- which occupy the great stage of public nality of John and Richard III.; the elo- life arise from the collision of the indiquent sentimentality of Richard II. and vidual with the State, of the family with the ineffective saintliness of Henry VI. the State, and of the Church with the are thrown into high relief by the back- State. The political insight and wisdom ground of royal position; the well-con- shown in this comprehensive ethical grasp ceived and resolute policy of Henry IV. of the relation of the individual to sociand the noble energy and decision of ety in institutional life are quite beyond Henry V.—Shakespeare's typical king the achievements of any statesman in the and the personification of the heroic, range of English history; for statecraft is virile, executive qualities of the English everywhere, in the exposition of the nature—take on epical proportions from dramatist, the application of universal the vantage-ground of the throne.
principles of right and wise living to the The contrast between the man and the affairs of State. Thus, on the great stage king sometimes deepens into tragedy of history, Shakespeare, in the spirit of when the desires and passions of the man the poet and in the manner of the dramare brought into collision with the duties atist, dramatized the spirit of man working of the king ; for the king is always con- out its destiny under historic conditions. ceived as the incarnation of the State, the personification of society. His deed re
The Comedies acts, not only upon himself, but upon the During these prosperous five or six community of which he is the head, and years Shakespeare's hand turned readily whose fortunes are inextricably bound up from history to comedy and from comwith his fortunes. In the plays dealing edy to history; the exact order in which with historical subjects Shakespeare ex- the plays of the period were written hibits the divine order as that order is is unimportant so long as we are able