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THE GARDEN OF DR. JOHN HALL'S HOUSE to identify the group as a whole. The “Love's Labor's Lost," and had made it rising tide of creative energy, his mount- clear to his contemporaries that he posing fortunes, and the deep fascination sessed the genius of comedy—that rare, of the spectacle of life evoked his humor penetrating, radiant, sane genius which and gave free play to the gayety of was also the possession of Homer and Cerhis nature and the buoyancy of a mind vantes, and, later, of Molière and Goethewhich played like lambent lightning over the genius which not only looks into human the whole surface of experience and experience deeply, but sees it broadly and knowledge. It is probable that he was in true perspective. It was Shakespeare's at work on several plays at the same time; ease of mind, derived from the largeness taking up history or comedy as it suited and deep humaneness of his view, which his mood, and giving himself the rest and kept him sane during the years when refreshment which come from change of he was living in the heart of tragedy; work. It is certain that some of the and this ease of mind found expression in greater Tragedies were slowly shaping the comedy. The Shakespearean comedy themselves in his imagination from the is a comedy of life rather than of mannersearliest working years. “Romeo and a gay, sweet, high-spirited play with the Juliet” and “Hamlet” had taken root in weaknesses, follies, incongruities of men his mind while he was yet an unknown as these are projected against the great apprentice in his craft; during these fertile background of the spiritual kinship and years the germinal ideas which were to destiny of humanity. There is no touch take shape in the entire body of his work in Shakespeare of that scorn which is the were clarifying themselves in his con- mood of those lesser men who see the sciousness; while his hand was engaged details of human character but not the with one subject his mind was dealing totality of its experience. Shakespeare with many. He had already used the was equally at home with the tragic and comedy form in “ The Two Gentlemen of comic elements in human nature, because Verona," “ The Comedy of Errors,” and both spring from the same root. In
dealing with the tragic forces he is always velous Welshmen !-Benedict and Beasuperior to them ; at their worst they are trice, Dogberry and the rest, are subjects rigidly limited in their destructive force; of a special study in the poetically comic." he is not the victim of their apparent In “ The Merchant of Venice " the finality; he sees through and beyond poet finally emancipated himself from the them to the immovable order of the world, influence of Marlowe, and struck his own as one sees through the brief fury of the note with perfect distinctness. There is storm to the untouched sun and unmoved a suggestion of the “ Jew of Malta " in earth which are hidden for a moment by Shylock, but the tragic figure about whom the cloud. In like manner and for the the play moves bears on every feature the same reason he laughs with men, but is stamp of Shakespeare's humanizing spirit. saved from the cheapness of the sneer and The embodiment of his race and the prodthe hard blindness of scorn. In his wide, uct of centuries of cruel exclusion from clear, dispassionate vision he sees the the larger opportunities of life, Shylock contrast between the greatness of man's appeals to us the more deeply because he fortunes and the occasional littleness of his makes us feel our kinship with him. aims, the incongruities of his occupations, Marlowe's Jew is a monster; Shakespeare's the exaggerations and eccentricities of his Jew is a man misshapen by the hands of manners. He is mirthful because he loves those who feed his avarice. men; it is only those who love us who The comedy was produced about 1596; can really laugh at and with us, and it is it was entered in the Stationers' Register only men of great heart who have the gift two years later; and was twice published of humor on a great scale. For humor, in 1600. The dramatist drew freely upon Dr. Bushnell says, " is the soul reeking several sources. There are evidences of with its own moisture, laughing because it the existence of an earlier play; the two is full of laughter, as ready to weep as to stories of the bond, with its penalty of a laugh; for the copious shower it holds is pound of fesh, and of the three caskets good for either. And then, when it has were already known in English literature, set the tree a-dripping,
and had been interwoven to form a single
plot. A collection of Italian novels of "And hung a pearl in every cowslip's ear,
i the fourteenth century and the well-known the pure sun shining after will reveal no “Gesta Romanorum " contributed to the color of intention in the sparkling drop, drama as it left Shakespeare's hands. but will leave you doubting still whether it As a play, it has obvious defects; the be a drop let fall by laughter or a tear." story is highly improbable, and, as in at
Later in life, for a brief period, Shake- least three other plays, the plot involves speare's laughter lost its ring of tender- bad law; for the poet, although sharing ness, its overflowing kindness; but his the familiarity of the dramatists generally vision became clear again, and, although with legal terms and phrases, shows that the spirit of mirth never regained its as- his knowledge was second-hand, or accendency, the old sweetness returned. quired for the occasion, by his misuse of “ Shakespeare is a well-spring of charac- well-known words of legal import. In ters which are saturated with the comic invention in the matter of plots and situspirit," writes George Meredith ; “ with ations Shakespeare was inferior to several more of what we will call blood-life than of his contemporaries; and he was conis to be found anywhere out of Shake- tent, therefore, to take such material as speare; and they are of this world, but came to his hand with as much freedom they are of the world enlarged to our em- as did Molière. In this case, as in every brace by imagination, and by great poetic other, he at once put his private mark on imagination. They are, as it were—I put the general property and made it his own. it to suit my present comparison-crea He purified the material, he put a third tures of the woods and wilds, not in walled of the play into prose, and he imparted towns, not grouped and toned to pursue to the verse a beauty, a vigor, and a freea comic exhibition of the narrower world dom from mannerisms which separate it of society. Jaques, Falstaff and his regi. at once from work of the apprentice period. ment, the varied troop of Clowns, Mal- He freely and boldly harmonized the volio, Sir Hugh Evans and Fluellen-mar- tragic and comic elements; in Portia he
created the first of those enchanting noblest creative work to the work of women for whom no adjective has yet revision and adaptation. The earlier play been found save the word Shakespearean, gave him the idea of the Induction and the for they are a group by themselves; and characteristic passages between Petruchio he set on the stage the first of his great and Catharine, but was an inferior piece tragic figures. In 1596 the Jew was con- of work, full of rant, bathos, and obvious temptible in the mind of western Europe; imitation of Marlowe; the plot was folhe was the personification of greed and lowed, but the construction and style subtlety, and he was under suspicion of are new; the story of Bianca and her deeds of fiendish cruelty. He was robbed lovers was worked in as a subsidiary upon the slightest pretext, stoned on the plot, and, although the play sometimes streets, and jeered at on the stage. His passes over into the region of farce, it is sufferings were food for mirth. In 1594, charged with the comedy spirit. a Jew, who was acting as physician to the This comedy carries the reader back to Queen, had been accused of attempting the poet's youth, to Stratford and to to poison Elizabeth, and
Warwickshire. It is rich in had been hanged at Ty
local allusions, as are also burn, and popular hate
“ The Merry Wives of against the race was at
Windsor" and the second fever-heat when Shake
part of “Henry IV." speare put on the stage the
There is no reason to doubt Jew who has since been
that Shakespeare's interaccepted as typical of his
course with Stratford was race. It is not probable
unbroken through these that the dramatist definitely
earlier years, though the undertook to modify the
difficulties and expense of popular conception of the
travel may have prevented Jew; his attention may
frequent visits. Now that have been directed to the
prosperity and reputation dramatic possibilities of the
were bringing him ease and character by the trial and
means, his relations with execution of Dr. Lopez;
his old home became more and when he dealt with the
intimate and active. There material at hand, he recast
are many evidences of his it in the light of his mar
interest in Stratford and in velous imagination, and
his father's affairs, and it is
evident that the son shared ure. Shylock was a new
his rising fortunes with his type, and he was not understood at first. father. The latter had known all the For many years the part was played in a penalties of business failure ; he was often spirit of broad and boisterous farce, and before the local courts as a debtor. He the audiences jeered at the lonely and seems to have had a fondness for litigatragic figure. At every point in “The tion, which was shared by his son. In Merchant of Venice" the poet shows the dramatist's time the knowledge of clearer insight than in his earlier work, legal phrases among intelligent men outdeeper wisdom, greater freedom in the side the legal profession was much more use of his material, and fuller command general than it has been at any later time, of his art.
but there is reason to believe that ShakeShakespeare had an older play before speare knew many legal processes at first him when he wrote “ The Taming of the hand. He bought and sold land, brought Shrew," and he followed its main lines of various actions for the recovery of debts, story so closely that the play as we filed bills in chancery, made leases, and now have it is an adaptation rather than was engaged in a number of litigations. an original work. That the dramatist was In 1596, after an absence of ten years thinking of the theater and not of the from Stratford, the poet reappears in his public or of posterity is shown by the native place as a purchaser of valuable readiness with which he passed from the lands and a rebuilder of his father's
shattered fortunes. In that year his only enlarged its grounds by considerable purson, Hamnet, a boy of eleven, died and chases of land. At his death it passed was buried in Holy Trinity Churchyard. into the possession of his daughter, SusanIn the same year John Shakespeare made nah, the wife of Dr. John Hall, and in application to the College of Heralds for July, 1643, Queen Henrietta Maria was the privilege of using a coat of arms. entertained for three days under its roof. The claim was based on certain services Upon the death of Mrs. Hall, six years which the ancestors of the claimant were later, New Place became the property of declared to have rendered “the most her only child, Elizabeth, at that time the prudent prince King Henry the Seventh wife of Thomas Nashe, later the wife of of famous memorie.” The ancestral dis- Sir John Barnard, of Abingdon. Lady tinction put forward on behalf of John Barnard was the last of Shakespeare's Shakespeare was not more apocryphal direct descendants. than the services set forth in many similar At a later period the property came romances formally presented to the College once more into the hands of the Clopton of Arms as records of fact. The statement family, and was subsequently sold to the that the applicant's wife, Mary, heiress of Rev. Francis Gastrell, a vicar in Cheshire, Robert Arden, of Wilmcote, was the daugh- who appears to have been a person of ter of a gentleman was sober history. The considerable fortune, dull perception, and application was granted three years later, irritable temper. He resented the interest and the Garter King of Arms assigned to which visitors were beginning to show in John Shakespeare a shield : “gold, on a the place; in order to break up the growbend sable, a spear of the first, and for ing habit of sitting under the mulberryhis crest or cognizance a falcon, his wings tree, which was intimately associated displayed argent, standing on a wreath of with the dramatist he cut the tree to the his colours, supporting a spear gold steeled ground in 1756. This attitude towards as aforesaid." The motto, “Non Sans the one great tradition of the town brought Droict," appears in a sketch or draft of the the owner of New Place into a disfavor with crest. Two years later the dramatist was his fellow-townsmen which took on aggresstyled “gentleman" in a legal document. sive forms. The Stratford officials charged
This effort to rehabilitate his father was with the laying and collection of taxes followed, a year later, by the purchase of made use of their power to secure the New Place—a conspicuous property at uttermost farthing from Mr. Gastrell, and the northeast corner of Chapel Street and that gentleman, in order to relieve himself Chapel Lane, opposite the Guild Chapel, in of further taxes, pulled down the house, Stratford, upon which stood what was sold the materials, and left Stratford amid probably the largest house in the town. execrations which have been echoed in This substantial house, built of timber every succeeding generation. The house and brick by Sir Hugh Clopton in the adjoining New Place was the property of previous century, had probably been long one of the poet's friends, and now serves neglected, and was fast going to decay. as a residence for the custodian and as a
No clear account of the appearance of museum of Shakespearean relics. The the house has been preserved; but enough adjoining house was the home of Shakeremains to show its considerable size and speare's friend, Julius Shaw, who was one substantial structure. The walls of the of the witnesses to his will, and, after varilarger rooms and probably the ceilings were ous changes, is still standing. New Place covered with sunken panels of oak, some is to-day a green and fragrant garden ; the of which have been preserved. Nothing fragments of the original foundation are else now remains of the building save a few enfolded in a lawn of velvet-like texture; timbers which projected into the adjoin- the mulberry-tree has survived the vaning house, now used as a residence for dalism of a hundred and fifty years ago; the custodian of the Shakespeare proper- behind the old site there is a small but ties, a fragment of the north wall, the perfectly kept park where many flowers well, pieces of the foundation, which are of Shakespearean association may be guarded by screens, the lintel, and an found, where the air seems always fragrant armorial stone.
and the place touched with abiding peace. Shakespeare restored New Place, and The tower of Guild Chapel rises close at
hànd; in the near distance is the spire probably of long standing, that Elizaof Holy Trinity; the Avon is almost within beth was so delighted with the humor of sight; the earlier and the later associa- Falstaff in “ Henry IV." that she comtions of Shakespeare's life cluster about manded Shakespeare to continue the the place which he saw every day as a story and show Falstaff in love. “I knew school-boy, to which he returned in his very well," wrote Dennis, by way of introprime, where he gathered his friends about ducing an adaptation of the play in 1702, him, and where he found reconciliation “that it had pleas'd one of the greatest and, at last, peace.
queens that ever was in the world. ... The purchase and restoration of New This comedy was written at her comPlace made Shakespeare a man of conse- mand and by her direction, and she was quence among neighbors who could under- so eager to see it acted that she comstand the value of property, however they manded it to be finished in fourteen days." might miss the significance of literature. Seven years later Rowe added the further In a letter, still extant, dated October 25, information that “ she was so well pleased 1598, Richard Quiney, whose son Thomas with the admirable character of Falstaff in subsequently married Judith Shakespeare, the two parts of Henry IV.' that she appealed to the poet for a loan; and there commanded him to continue it for one are other evidences that he was regarded play more, and to show him in love." as a man whose income afforded a margin The tradition apparently had been long beyond his own needs.
accepted, and there are intrinsic eviThe poet's acquaintance with country dences which make it credible. “ The life in its humblest forms; with rural Merry Wives of Windsor" is the kind of speech, customs, and festivals; with sports play which such a command would have and games; with village taverns and their secured. It is a comedy which continufrequenters, was so intimate and extensive ally runs into broad farce; there is no that he used it with unconscious freedom touch of pathos in it; it deals with and ease. No other contemporary drama- contemporaneous middle-class people, in tist shows the same familiarity with man- whom the dramatist shows very little inners, habits, and people; an intimacy terest; it is laid in Windsor, and contains which must have been formed by a boy references to the castle which must have who made his first acquaintance with life been very acceptable to the Queen. The in Warwickshire. These reminiscences ground was evidently familiar to the of boyhood, reinforced by the later and dramatist, and there are references of a deliberate attention of a trained observer, realistic character, not only to Windsor, continually crop out in many of the plays, but to Stratford. Moreover, the play, as the formations of an earlier geologic although admirable in construction, is period often show themselves through below the level of Shakespeare's work of the structure of a later period.
this period in intellectual quality, and The fertility of resource which gives lacks those inimitable touches of humor the two parts of “Henry IV.” such over- and poetry which are the ineffaceable flowing vitality made the writing of “ The marks of his genius when it is working Merry Wives of Windsor " inevitable. It freely and spontaneously. was quite impossible for the dramatist to The play owes little in the way of direct leave a character so rich in the elements of contribution to earlier sources, though comedy as Falstaff without further devel- various incidents used in it are to be found opment under wholly different conditions. in Italian and other stories. It was probIn the Epilogue to “Henry IV.” the ably written about 1599, and the Queen, dramatist promised to “ continue the story according to tradition, was “very well with Sir John in it, and make you merry pleased with the representation.” The with fair Katharine of France;" but plot is essentially Italian ; the introduction "Henry V." contained no reference to the of the fairies was a revival of the masque; old knight save the brief but inimitable but the atmosphere of the play is entirely account of his death. Almost a century English; it reflects the hearty, healthy, after the death of the Queen three writers bluff spirit and manner of middle-class reported almost simultaneously the tradi- life in an English village. It is the only tion, apparently current at the time and play dealing with the English life of his