ePub 版

merry wheel, she sings defiance to the giddy wheel of fortune. She doth all things with so sweet a grace, it seems ignorance will not suffer her to do ill, being her mind is to do well. She bestows her year's wages at next fair, and in choosing her garments, counts no bravery in the world like decency. The garden and bee-hive are all her physic and surgery, and she lives the longer for it. She dares go alone and unfold sheep in the night, and fears no manner of ill, because she means none; yet, to say truth, she is never alone, but is still accompanied with old songs, honest thoughts, and prayers, but short ones; yet they have their efficacy, in that they are not palled with ensuing idle cogitations. Lastly, her dreams are so chaste, that she dare tell them; only a Friday's dream is all her superstition; that she conceals for fear of anger. Thus lives she, and all her care is, she may die in the spring-time, to have store of flowers stuck upon her winding-shi


Far from the sun and summer gale,
In Uiy green lap was Nature's Darling laid,
"What time, where lac Id Avon stray'd,

To him the mighty mother did unveil
Ber awful face: the dauntless child
StrctchM forth his little arms and imlled.
M This pencil take," she said, "whose colors dear
Richly paint the vernal year:
Thine too these golden keyB, Immortal Boy I
This can unlock the gates of Joy;
Of horror that, and thrilling fears,
Or ope the sacred source of sympathetic team."

Ghat's Pbookssb or Foest.

Williah* Shaxspearx,1 the great dramatic poet, not of England only, but of the world, was born at Stratford on the Avon, in the county of Warwick, April 23, 1564. Of his early life, of his education, of his personal appearance, manners, and habits, we know scarcely any thing. "No letter of his writing,"' says Hallam, u no record of his conversation, no character of him drawn with any fulness by a contemporary, can be produced." He was sent for a short period to the free-school at Stratford, where, in the language .if Ben Jonson, «he acquired small Latin and less Greek." But that he was early a

I Read-.Drake's HShak*pcare and his Times," full of most Instructive and Interesting matter— Johr-aon's ** Preface to Shakspcarc," Hnxlitt's " Characters of Shnks pen re's Plays," Campbell's " Essay c* English Poetry," Richardson's M Analysis of Sbakspeare," SchlegePa "Lectures on Dramatic Liter* tare," Pope's "PrefacetoShakspcare," Dodd's "Beauties," Price's "Wisdom and Genius of Shakspeare." The best family edition Is Bowdlcr's "Family Shakspeare," • vols, svo, recently printed '.n one large octavo. The best critical edition Is the variorum of Isaac Reed, London, 1913, 29 vol*, with the Prolegomena and Addenda. "The proof-sheets of this edition were corrected by Mr. Harrtak Librarian of the Royal Institution."— tsncndei. Especially, read Mrs. Jameson's "Cbaracterlsuci of Women, moral, political, and historical," the most tasteful and discriminating analysis of Shaks prarr*s female characters ever written. The preliminary remarks to each play, and the votes la Knight's "Pictorial Shnks pea re," are also replete with Instruction.

very earnest, though, it may be, an irregular student, no one can doubt: the numerous felicitous allusions, throughout his dramas, to the history and mythology of the ancients, prove that, if not a critical scholar, he was deeply imbued with the true spirit of classical literature, and possessed a most discriminating taste to seize upon their beauties, and make them his own.* In 15S2, when but eighteen years of age, he married Anne Hathaway, a farmer's daughter, who was seven years older than himself, and who resided near Stratford. In this place he continued for a few years, probably engaged in the business of his father, that of a woolstapler; but an increasing family and pressing wants3 obliged him to move beyond the limits of Stratford for subsistence and for fame; and, accordingly, in 15S6 or 15S7 he removed to London.' On his arrival at London, his first employment was that of an actor, a profession which he continued to exercise more or less for at least seventeen years. He soon, however, begun to write for the stage, his first effort, "Pericles, Prince of Tyre," being written about 1590 ;4 and such was the unexampled success of his unequalled dramas, that he soon became proprietor of several theatres,

1 "If tt were asked from what sources Shakspeare drew his abundant streams of wisdom, carrying with their current the f.iire*t and most unfading flowers of poetry, I should be tempted to say, that he had what would now be considered a very reasonable portion of Latin; he wns not wholly Ignorant of Greek; he had a knowledge of French so as to read It with ease, and I believe not less of the Italian. He was habitually conversant in the chronicles of his country. He lived with wise and highly cultivated men; with Jonson, Essex, and Southampton, In familiar friendship. Hz Had PeePly Imbibed Tin Scriptures: and his ow n most acute, profound, active, and original genius must lake the lead In the solution." Croft's Preface to his "Aphorisms from 8hakspcarc."

s I have wild nothing of the tradiuonal story of bis deer-atcaling, because there Is not a particle of historical evidence of its truth.

8 " It i» impossible to contemplate Shakspeare's removal from his native town, without pausing to reflect upon the consequences that followed that event. Had he not left his humble occupation In Warwickshire, bow many matchless lessons of wisdom and morality, how many unparalleled dlaplays of wit and imagination, of pathos and sublimity, bad been buried In oblivion; pictures o, emotion, of character, of passion, more profound than mere philosophy had ever conceived, more Impressive than poetry had ever yet embodied." Drake's "Sliakspearc and his Times," L 41 J.

t The following Is a chronological list of his plays, taken from Drake's "Shakspeare and his Times," omitting of course Titus Androiiicus:

[merged small][table]

Though. Titus Andronicus Is bound up in all the editions of Sliakspearc, yet there Is no probability toat h* wrote it. Drake stiys it should be expunged from every edition of the great hnrd.

from which he received a very ample income—estimated as equivalent tj about five thousand dollars of our money now. Though he lived in familiar intercourse with the nobles, the wits, and the poets of his day, he looked forward to the time when he should retire to his native town, and with this view he purchased New Place, the principal house in Stratford, with more than a hundred acres of ground attached. "The year 1612 has been assigned as the date of his final retirement to the country. In the fulness of his fame, with a handsome competency, and before age had chilled the enjoyment of life, the poet returned to his native town to spend the remainder of his days among the quiet scenes and the friends of his youth. Four years were spent by Shakspeare in this dignified retirement, and the history of literature scarcely presents another such picture of calm felicity and satisfied ambition. He died on the 23d of April, 1616, having just completed his fifty-second year. His widow survived him seven years. He had three children, one son and two daughters. The former died in 1506. Both the latter were married, and one had three sons, but all these died without issue, and there now remains no lineal representative of the great poet"

So many authors having written upon Shakspeare and his dramas, some of whom are referred to in the note, it is deemed unnecessary here to go into a critical examination of his character. Indeed it woiuJ be hardly possible to say any thing new. The subject seems to be exhausted. And to write in eulogy would be somewhat presumptuous, when he has so exquisitely pronounced his own:—

To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,

To throw a perfume on tbe violet,

To smooth the ice, or add another hue

Unto the rainbow, or with taper light

To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,

Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.

One of his contemporaries, Ben Jonson, thus characterizes him:—" I loved the man, and do honor to his memory, on this side idolatry, as much as any. He was, indeed, honest, and of an open and free nature: had an excellent fancy, brave notions, and gentle expressions; wherein he flowed with that racility that sometimes it was necessary it should be stopped. His wit was in his own power; would the rule of it had been so too! But he redeemed his vices with his virtues; there was even more in him to be praised than pardoned."

But Dryden has portrayed his genius in the following nervous and masteriy lines, which have been served up to us in a diluted state by many a modern critic:—» To begin, then, with Shakspeare. He was the man who, of all modern and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the images of nature were still present to him, and he drew them, not laboriously, but luckily: when he describes any thing, you more than see it—you feel it too. Those who accuse him to have wanted learning, give him the greater commendation: he was naturally learned; he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature; he looked inwards and found her there. I cannot say he is everywhere alike; were he so, I should do him injury to com. pare him with the greatest of mankind. He is many times flat and insipid; his comic wit degenerating into clenches, his serious swelling into bombast. But he is always great when some great occasion is presented to him: no man can say lie ever had a fit subject for his wit, and did not then raise him««lf as high above the rest of poets,

Quantum lenta lolent Inter vtbnrna cupresil. 1 The consideration of this, made Mr. Hales of Eaton say, 'that there was no subject of which any poet ever wrote, but he would produce it much better done in Shakspcare,'"

The difficulty of making selections from Shakspeare must be obvious to every one. So numerous and diversified are his characters, so varied his style, siuted to every description of poetry and of fiction, and so many gems of wit, humor, satire, and pathos, everywhere present themselves, that the mind is perplexed what to choose. But we must begin.

THE TOREE CASKETS. Portia, a beautiful and accomplished heiress, is sought in marriage by a large number of suitors, whoso fate is to be determined by the choice they make of one of three caskets, "gold, silver, and base lead." The following are the comments of three of the suitors:—

Enter Portia, with the Prince of Morocco.
For. Now make your choice.

Mor. The first, of gold, who this inscription bears ;-
Who chooteth me, thall gain what many men desire.
The second, silver, which this promise carries;—
Who choouth me, shall get as much as he deserves.
This third, dull lead, with warning all as blunt ;*—
Who chooseth me, must give and hazard all he hath.
How shall I know if I do choose the right?

Par. The one of them contains my picture, prince;
If you choose that, then I am yours withaL

Mor. Some god direct my judgment 1 Let me see,
I will survey the inscriptions back again:
What says this leaden casket?
Who chooseth me, must give and hazard all he hath.
Must give—For what? for lead? hazard for lead 1
This casket threatens: Men, that hazard all,
Do it in hope of fair advantages:
A golden mind stoops not to shows of dross;
I'll then nor give nor hazard aught for lead.
What says the silver, with her virgin hue?
Who chooseth me, shall get as much as he deserves.
As much as he deserves?—Pause, there, Morocco,
And weigh thy value with an even hand:
If thou best rated by thy estimation,
Thou dost deserve enough; and yet enough
May-not extend so far as to the lady;
And yet to be afeard of my deserving
Were but a weak disabling of myself
As much as I deserve!—Why, that's the lady;
I do in birth deserve her, and in fortunes,
In graces, and in qualities of breeding;
But, more than these, in love I do deserve.

1 As the cypresses are wont to do anions; the slender shrubs,
t That ts, as gross as the d-jtl metal.

What if I stray'd no further, but chose here ?—
Let's see once more tliis saying graved in gold.
Who chooseth me, shall gain what many nun desire
Why, that's the lady; all the world desires her:

Deliver me the key j

Here do I choose, and thrive I as I may!

Par. There, take it, prince, and if my form lie there,
Then I am yours. [Unlocking the golden casket.

Mar. What have we here t
A carrion death, within whose empty eye
There ia a written scroll! I'll read the writing

All that glisters is not gold;

Often have you heard that told:

Many a man his life hath sold,

But my outside to behold:

Gilded tombs do worms infold.

Had you been as wise as bold,

Young in limbs, in judgment old,
\ Your answer had not been inscroll'd:

Fare you well; your suit is cold.
Cold, indeed; and labor lost:
Then, farewell, heat, and welcomo, frost-
Portia, adieu! I have too grieved a heart
To take a tedious leave: thus losers part [Exit.

Enter Prince of Arragon.

Par. Behold, there stand the caskets, noble prince:
If you choose that wherein I am contain'd,
Straight shall our nuptial rites be solemnized;
But if you fail, without more speech, my lord,
You must be gone from hence immediately.

At. I am enjoin'd by oath to observe three things:
First, never to unfold to any one
Which casket 'twas I chose; next, if I fail
Of the right casket, never in my life
To woo a maid in way of marriage; lastly,
If I do fail in fortune of my choice,
Immediately to leave you, and be gone.

Par. To these injunctions every one doth swear,
That comes to hazard for my worthless self.

At. And so have I address'd1 me: Fortune now
To my heart's hope!—Gold, silver, and base lead.
Who chooseth me, must give and hazard all he hath:
You shall look fairer, ere I give, or hazard. ,
What says the golden chest? ha! let mo see:—
Who chooseth me, shall gain what many men desire.
What many men desire.—That many may be meant
By the fool multitude, that choose by show,
Not learning more than the fond eyo dotli teach,
Which pries not to the interior, but, like the martlet,
Builds in the weather, on the outward wall,
Even in the force2 and road of casualty.

l AddreM'd me—prepared me; that to, I have prepared myielf by the lame cowmOTiiew.

« 上一頁繼續 »