cuniary interests already referred to. His father died in 1601; his mother in 1608. He was not a shareholder in any of the London theatres at his death, and it is not known when he sold out; but it is conjectured that about 1611 he disposed of these interests and retired to Stratford to enjoy his means in leisure. On April 23, 1616, he died, and two days later was buried beneath the chancel of Stratford Church according to a right acquired as partowner of the tithes. Within seven years of his death an elaborate mouument to his memory was placed in the wall of the church, and in it a portrait bust. But the so-called restoration of this piece of sculpture in the middle of the eighteenth century appears to have been in fact a substitution, so that the present effigy is of no value as a likeness. The extant pictures of its original state are sufficient to invalidate the restoration, but do not themselves enable us to form a satisfactory picture of the man. The only well-authenticated portrait is the engraving by Martin Droeshout prefixed to the Folio editions of the plays, and this is far from lifelike. It is supposed that Droeshout worked from a painting, but there is yet no general agreement as to which, if any, of the existivg claimants was bis original. Two seem to have stronger support than the others, that sometimes known as the “ Flower Portrait,” now hanging in the Memorial Picture Gallery at Stratford; and the “ Ely Palace Portrait,” now in the possession of the Birthplace Trustees. Th former of these is reproduced as the frontispiece to the present volume. Pretended portraits have been fabricated without number, and even those to which no suspicion of fraud attaches, with the one exception of the Droeshout engraving, lack a sufficient pedigree.

Of Shakespeare's immediate family there survived him his wife, his two daughters, and one brother. Mrs. Shakespeare lived till August 6, 1623, dying three months before the publication of the great collected edition of her husband's works known as the First Folio. The elder daughter, Susanna, married Dr. John Hall, and died in 1649, leaving one child, Elizabeth. This Elizabeth Hall, later Mrs. Thomas Nash, and still later Lady Barnard, died in 1670 without issue. The younger daughter, who married Thomas Quiney of Stratford, died in 1662, having outlived her three sons. Lady Barnard was thus the last surviving descendant of the poet.


The chronology of the works of Shakespeare is, except in the case of the two long poems and a few plays, the result of inferences of varying degrees of certitude. Four main divisions are generally recognized, and each of them has a fairly distinctive content. The first stretches from the undated beginnings of his work as a dramatist till about 1594, and it contains probably a greater variety of kinds of production than any other. It is no mere guesswork to call this a period of experiment. Besides the poems, we find in it representatives of all three kinds of drama then in vogue, Comedy, History, and Tragedy. In the last of these kinds he created no entirely original work, but in Titus Andronicus and the first draft of Romeo and Juliet he apparently made over plays which had already been performed. From whatever reason, he seenis after these experiments to have laid aside Tragedy for a time, to take it up again after he had mastered the more technical elements of his art, and had a larger experience of life on which to draw.

In History also he began with the revision of the work of others in the three parts of Henry VI; and when he constructed plays for himself he was clearly under the influence of Marlowe. In Richard III, conception of theme and manipulation of character are alike Marlowesque; and both in that play and in King John the echo of the “mighty line” of Marlowe is clearly discernible in the versification. Richard II, in spite of its parallelism in theme to Marlowe's Edward II, shows, both in the treatment of the futile king and in his highly poetic utterances, abundant indications of Shakespeare's own characteristic


In Comedy the lines of experiment are drawn with singular clearness. Love's Labour's Lost is a playful burlesque upon current fashions, and it derives its interest mainly from its clever and amusing dialogue, characterization and plot being alike slight. In The Comedy of Errors the interest of the experiment changes from dictiou to the manipulation of plot and situation; for Shakespeare here found his model in the Latin Comedy, and contented bimself, as Plautus did, with a treatment of character typical rather than individual. In the light of his later achievement The Two Gentlemen of Verona is more significant than the two other comedies of this first period, for here he is clearly interested in character, and it was in this respect that he later achieved his preëminence in Comedy. Of the ten or eleven plays, collaborated, revised, or original, with which Shakespeare had to do in the early nineties of the sixteenth century, The Two Gentlemen of Verona most clearly lays down the lines on wbich he was first to create masterpieces.

The period from 1594 to 1601 is mainly occupied with Comedy, and the Histories written in this period are more tban leavened with Comedy. Henry IV, though its serious plot is filled with war and rebellion, owed its popularity to the comic elements centring in Falstaff, and constituting about half of the scenes. Henry V is free from any note of tragedy. From A Midsummer-Night's Dream to Twelfth Night we have a succession of plays of unexampled brilliance, surpassing in structure and dialogue anything that had hitherto been produced on the English stage, and in the creation of character still unrivalled. Touches of seriousness undoubtedly occur in these plays. Again and again, in the midst of the love-in-idleness with which they are chiefly occupied, we are reminded of the real business of life presently to be taken up; not infrequently the humor is mingled with pathos or grave reflection; sometimes the folly of Claudio or the fate of Shylock brings us perilously near the brink of tragedy. Yet all this does not invalidate the statement that the temper of the plays written in the last six years of the century is prevailingly that of Comedy.

Equally undeniable are the change of temper and change of theme after 1601. The intrusion of Troilus and Cressida, Measure for Measure, and All's Welt that Ends Well among the great Tragedies cannot be regarded as an objection to the calling of this the tragic period, since their presence serves in no degree to lighten the gloom. It is clear that for eight or nine years Shakespeare's dominant artistic interest was tragic; that is, he was immersed in the problem of presenting dramatically the results of certain elements of weakness and vice in human character.

About 1610 the tone changes once more. In the so-called Dramatic Romances we continue to see pictured the suffering brought about by sin and weakness; but the colors used are less sombre, and in the end the evil men turn from their ways and live.

All this has often been summed up before; and it is done here once more partly to gather and make more significant the chronological details scattered through the special introductions, partly to make intelligible the standing discussion as to whether from this arrangement of Shakespeare's literary activity there can be drawn evidence as to his emotional and spiritual history. The meaning of the experimental period will hardly be disputed. The collaborated and revised plays show that Shakespeare at the beginning of his career was glad to take what work was given him to do; and the original plays show him trying his hand upon all the chief dramatic types in vogue. His Venus and Adonis and Lucrece are only further instances of this versatility and curiosity. Prevailing emotional mood of any distinctive kind in this first period there is none.

With the three later divisions the case is very different. Here the temptation is obvious to interpret them respectively as periods of sunshine, gloom, and placidity in the dramatist's life. Up to a certain point this interpretation need not be quarrelled with. There is an appropriateness to the prime of life in the creation of the buoyant personalities of the Comedies and in the triumphant extrication of them from all the tangle of opposing forces invented only to be foiled. The profundity of reflection and the brooding on the mystery of life, of which the Tragedies give abundant evidence, were only possible, in the degree in which we find them, to a man who had already lived and seen much. It is hardly possible to refrain from associating the victories of good over evil in the Dramatic Romances with a mood natural to a sane spirit contemplating near the close of his career a world which had brought to him in large measure the things for which he had mainly striven. But it is easy to press this method too far. The succession of the various kinds of drama in Shakespeare's production bears a suggestive relation to what appears to have been the popular demand of the time; and if Tragedy was in vogue at a period when Shakespeare was ripe for writing it, then the world was fortunate in the coincidence. Yet the fact of this and similar coincidences should serve to guard us against supposing that the tone of the Tragedies is necessarily a reflection of gloom or pessimism in Shakespeare's soul. Great imaginative creation is, indeed, but rarely the outcome of experience immediately contemporary. Wordsworth’s description of poetry as “emotion recollected in tranquillity,” though not a universal formula, is most frequently a true account, and ought in itself to caution us against the dogmatism that is based on the assumption that in drama and sonnet alike “Shakespeare unlocked his heart” and left the door ajar for all the world to see. If we are to find in the poet's work a record, not perhaps of his experience, but of his attitude toward human life and human nature, it must be by methods more subtle and cautious than are implied i. the kind of inference we are discussing.


The height of Shakespeare's preëminence has frequently led to a manner of speaking which sets him apart from bis kind as something abnormal and unaccountable. Without entering into a discussion of the natural history of genius, it is desirable to recount those factors in his age and enviroument which explain many of his characteristics, even if they do not account for the magnitude of his achievement. For that achievement is of a range and quality so stupendous that it required for its accomplishment the highest degree of coincidence between the hour and the man.

The hour was, indeed, the most propitious that had occurred in the history of England. After the long controversies of the Reformation the country was for the time enjoying a comparative truce among warring sects. This truce was partly induced by the necessity of the nation's presenting a united front against the hostility of Spain ; and the period of peril bad been succeeded by a mood of exhilaration that resulted naturally from the escape from a formidable danger, and the opening up of a national future of untold possibilities of expansion and conquest. The compiling of chronicles and of endless narratives of travel and exploration in the Western Ocean expressed and symbolized the rising pride in England's past and England's future ; and it supplied the basis for the most distinctively national part of the drama, that flourishing of Chronicle History which found its culmination in the martial rhetoric of Henry V.

From abroad there reached England at last the full impulse of the Renaissance. The more purely intellectual side of this movement had been delayed by the religious turmoil; but now that this was for the time assuaged, the stimulus to intellectual curiosity and the desire for imaginative entertainment had full scope. Men and books representing all the arts of the Continent poured into England, and hundreds of translations opened to those who could read no language but English the intellectual treasures of antiquity and of modern Italy, France, and Spain. A still less literate public were enabled to share the narrative element in this stream by the presentation of stories on the stage; and the plays based on Plutarch's Lives and French and Italian novelle represent respectively the classical and the contemporary elements in this contribution.

The drama in England had always largely represented what would have been the common reading matter of the people if the people had been able to read. Miracle plays, Moralities, and Interludes were each merely the translation into action and dialogue of the stories from Scripture and the Saints' Lives, of the characteristic medieval mode of allegory, of the bourgeois humorous and satirical anecdote, which the illiterate populace could receive only by the ear. With the Revival of Learning came a vast expansion in the amount and variety of reading matter, especially on the side of secular literature and, more specifically, of the literature of entertainment; and in the reign of Elizabeth the drama showed a responsive development. In the work of Shakespeare's immediate predecessors, Lyly, Marlowe, Peele, Greene, and Kyd, the three forms of Comedy, History, and Tragedy bad, partly under the influence of foreign and classical models, taken fairly definite shape. But they were still primarily dramatic arrangements of narrative rather than drama ; and to Shakespeare was offered the opportunity, of which he availed himself magnificently yet gradually, of framing and applying the conception of pure drama as a distinct form of art.

In considering his equipment for this momentous task two elements must be constantly kept in mind: that which he received as an actor and manager, and that which he had as a man well-read in the literature of his time. To the former must be credited a large part of his skill as a practical playwright, a factor that has not yet received its due in the interpretation of his dramas, but which accounts for this among other facts, that so large a number of his plays are still capable of effective presentation upon the modern stage. As a student of literature, Shakespeare's range was large, but not extraordinary. Latin he had presumably learned at school, and with the works of some half-dozen Latin writers he had begun an acquaintance while a boy. But, in addition to the learned Jonson's ascription to him of “small Latin and less Greek,” we have the evidence of the plays themselves that he used translations when he could get them. French be seems to have known fairly well; Italian he may have mastered to the extent of being able to extract the plot of a novel, but this is less certain. There is no evidence that he knew Spanish or Greek. The wide and detailed knowledge of history and fiction and of many arts and trades, the evidences of which lie open on every page, is no greater and no more accurate than would be expected of a mind of the quality of his, of an observation so keen, of sympathies so catholic and so intense.

Of an importance only less than the intellectual temper of the time and the moment in the development of the drama was the state of the language and of versification. Along with the enthusiasm for the classics and the cultivation of pure Latinity which characterized the Renaissance there appeared a patriotic desire to refine and dignify the vernaculars of the various countries and, among them, of England. The pedantry of the group of men of letters known as the Areopagus, the Euphuism of Lyly, and the Arcadianism of Sidney were only exaggerated instances of the wide-spread interest in what could be done with the native speech; and, in spite of grotesque eccentricities, these fashions had served to expand the resources and supple the sinews of English. Traces of this interest in feats in the manipulation of words are apparent in Shakespeare in Love's Labour's Lost and elsewhere; but the more important consideration is that when he came to write his plays he had at hand a linguistic medium whose capacities both in vocabulary and structure had not yet become hardened under the dogmatism of the schools, and whose plasticity proved of inestimable value when wielded by a master. A century earlier the language was too poor in resources for such supreme literary achievement; a century later, the settling down of convention had made such daring as Shakespeare showed in subduing it to his use all but impossible. Equal good fortune appears in the matter of prosody. Before Shakespeare began to write, drama in England had thrown off the shackles of stanza and rime which had hampered it for centuries, and had found in blank verse its appointed metre. With unerring instinct Shakespeare seized on this and played on it a variety of melodies such as bad not hitherto been dreamed of.

A complete enumeration of the favorable elements in the civilization of Elizabethan England is here impossible, but enough has probably been said to indicate the extraordinary nature of the opportunity.


In attempting to see what are some of the more important qualities that made it possible for Shakespeare to rise to this opportunity, it will be well to note first some of the negative elements in the case. It was not for sheer invention that Shakespeare was unique or even preëminent in his profession. Every form of drama that he touched he carried to a lofty pitch of perfection, but none of them did he create. In two or three cases be seems to have constructed the plot of a play, but such plots are slight and not distinguished by any striking originality. Whenever possible, he borrowed his stories; and the transformation he worked on them is due to a kind of imagination quite other, if much rarer, tban is implied in inventive contrivance. Further, in the mechanics of his plays, he repeated himself freely. When a device, a situation, a contrast of character, proved successful on the stage, he did not scruple to use it again and again, displaying in the variations he worked on it abundant cleverness, but at the same time a poverty, or, better, an economy, of invention, in striking contrast to his lavish prodigality in thought and imagery.

The element in his plays which, one is apt to think, must have struck the more thoughtful among his contemporaries as giving them marked dist ction among the works of his predecessors and rivals, is his creation of character. In range, in individuality, above all in the illusion of life, there had been nothing in dramatic literature comparable to this endless procession of actual human beings. Here were no puppets labelled with a quality or a title, no mere walking gentlemen capable of being arranged in amusing situations. The persons of the Shakespearean drama, whenever drawn in detail and set in the foreground, are marked by idiosyncrasy that stops short of caricature, are humorous, pathetic, tender, cruel, profound, shallow, or any mixture of these, just as are the people one knows. In no respect does his genius more closely approach the supernatural than in this of the creation of men and women of a truly human complexity. Other qualities already referred to must also have appealed to the contemporary

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