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believed that there was real life going on before her eyes upon the stage.

If we find here the keen appreciation and deep apprehension of Shakespeare's greatness which characterizes the best of German critics, a hundred years before they wrole, we find no less even that extravagant, sentimental adoration which raged in the ranks of the Romantics. A century before Ducis, that mildly Shakespearian revolutionary, thought of drawing inspiration from the constant view of the Master's bust placed upon his work-table, Dryden had vowed a similar cult, enshrining his saint before his eyes. So he told Sir Godfrey Kneller at least, thanking him for a copy of the Chandos portrait:

"Shakespeare, thy Gift, I place before my sight;

With awe, I ask his Blessing ere I write ;

With Reverence look on his Majestick Face;

Proud to be less, but of his Godlike Race."

I do not know, moreover, if any of the Brotherhood of Schwärmers has ever out-raved the enthusiasm of the Duchess of Newcastle who as a girl, she tells us shamelessly, fell violently in love with Shakespeare!

Here we arrive at the end of the seventeenth century. We have seen how Shakespeare's works attracted constant attention in England; at first, and in his lifetime, from the theatre-going public; then, after the publication of the Folios, from the reading public as well; how literary and dramatic reputation came to him at once. and ever-increasingly as he became better known, till Dryden, with his dictatorial authority, gave conscious expression to the judgment of an age.

From this time onwards there can be no denial of the steadily swelling effulgence of Shakespeare's glory. Edition followed edition in rapid succession, beginning with Rowe's in 1709, followed by Pope, Theobald, Hanmer, Warburton, Blair, Johnson, Steevens, Capell and Malone, all in the eighteenth century.


18th. Century and onwards

work of this notable lineage of editor-critics in the study was finely completed before the foot-lights by the most eminent actors of each generation, Betterton, Wilks, Booth, Colley Cibber, David Garrick, Macklin and Kemble, one and all honestly devoted to Shakespeare and gaining their greatest successes in Shakespearian characters.

The history of nineteenth century criticism is the history of a veritable apotheosis of Shakespeare. Critics of all nations vie one with another in a universal hosanna of adoration. More than this, Shakespeare has taken his place once and for all in the hearts of the English people, and his infiuence, no less than that of the Bible, is firmly rooted in the thoughts, imaginations and in the very language of the common folk.

Professor Saintsbury in his Elizabethan Literature sums up the whole question in a few words, reviewing the attitude of the most notable men of letters from Shakespeare's time down to modern days.

"It would be difficult to name any men more representative of cultivated literary opinion and accomplishment . . . . .. than Ben Jonson, John Milton, John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Their lives overlapped each other considerably, so that no period is left uncovered. They were all typical men of letters, each of his own time, and four at least of them were literary dictators. . . ."

I have spoken at length of the first three.

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'Pope edited Shakespeare, Johnson edited him, Coleridge is acknowledged as, with his contemporaries Lamb and Hazlitt, the founder of modern appreciation. It must be a curious reckoning which in face of such a catena as this, stretching its links over the whole period, maintains that Fngland wanted Germans to teach her how to admire the writer whom Germans have done more to mystify and distort than even his own countrymen.”


The reading and expounding of Shakespeare is beset with toils and ambushes for the impatient critic. Progress is sometimes painful, always slow. Some, who have eyes and see not, are content to gallop clumsily along the high-road leading through Shakespeare's country, finding stumbling-blocks enough, it is true, on the way. Such is the classic amble of various French critics, for example. Others wander freely in winding by-paths which turn alluringly aside from the main way. catches their skirts, and holds them back; ing on the hedge attracts undue attention, and they linger over it. Already approaching the outskirts of the magic wood near Athens, we are so held by a flower which certain naturalists, on their lumbering way, have stopped to dissect too closely and, finding a thorn, have pricked their over-critical fingers.

Here a hidden thorn there a wild rose blow

The very title of A Midsummer Night's Dream has offended. The main action is laid upon the night before May-Day, for Shakespeare expressly tells us that the fairies "are come to fulfil the rites of May." Why therefore, asks Simrock in learned. indignation, since the magic of the whole fairy story is suitable to the First of May, according to the most reliable information obtainable on the subject, and since Shakespeare apparently knew as much, did the poet wantonly give his play so misleading a title? Simrock, we must conclude, imagined Shakespeare at work in a manyshelved library, surrounded by weighty tomes, ConversazionsLexicons, classical dictionaries, a Grimm's Mythology and so forth, reading up history and studying deeply Teutonic myths. Simrock confides to us, in a fit of pedantic lore, that Oberon and Titania quarrelling over the little Indian page-boy represents in reality a

The title criticized

Titles of the

German legend of Freya and Odin striving jealously over their devotees. The fairies, moreover, could not have held their revels on Midsummer Eve, because it is the custom on this night to light bonfires everywhere, and fairies are notoriously afraid of light upon their doings.

Therefore, we learn amazedly, the title is wrong and absurd. Goethe, the German poet, was more correct, as befitted him, and called the intermezzo of the "Golden Wedding of Oberon and Titania" in Faust the "Walpurgisnachtstraum." This being also the true title of Shakespeare's play, Simrock, if I remember rightly, took the liberty of altering the title of his translation accordingly, thereby made up for a regrettable oversight on the part of Shakespeare, and consummated a sad piece of pedantic criticism.

A Midsummer Night's Dream may have been acted to grace the annual festivities which took place on Midsummer Eve, when we know, and all the good, superstitious folk of the time knew, that the powers of fairies is great in the sultry air of June under the bright summer moon casting great shadows in the dark leafy woods. It was perhaps acted then, and so gained its title; but "what an if it were not?," to echo the pathetic appeal of Desdemona. The play of Twelfth Night has itself no connection with this "hristmas feast. The main action of The Winter's Tale takes place in the season of sheep-shearing, "Let me see," says the Clown, "what am I to buy for our sheep-shearing feast?" The Winter's Tale is indeed just such a long rambling story of love and romance, of misfortunes happily overcome, slowly winding its cheerful way through wandering incident, as our forefathers, seated round a crackling fire, loved to while away the long winter nights withal. Much Ado about Nothing again, is something pregnant of the baseless jealousy and the April tears and laughter with which the play is compounded. Yet with a rare exception or two, The Merchant of Venice for example, Shakespeare does not seek for his comedies a title which shall indicate the substance

Let them

of his plot, and save the trouble of reading the play, as most other
dramatists do. Middleton plainly sets forth the bill of fare in his
titles, Women beware Women, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, or the
Roaring Girl. Ben Jonson does as much for Bartholemew Fair,
and gives more than a hint to the waiting spectators of Every man
in his Humour or the Alchemist. Shakespeare, we can almost.
imagine, was loth to let out the magic secret. He preferred to
keep his spectators and readers in expectant suspense.
wait like good children, and they shall be rewarded with such a
story as will please them all, a story of high romance in a bright
ideal world of poetry and passion, wherein justice and love reign.
So much the title tells them beforehand. The play shall be As you
like it. Let them be content that here no villainy shall go unpun-
ished, no beloved hero or heroine in hopeless misfortune rend their
hearts. All's well that ends well might be the title of all Shakes-
peare's romantic comedies. Nay, if you mislike the title Twelfth
Night you may call it even What You Will, says Shakespeare in
serene nonchalance; what matter if the title displease. so you
mislike not the play. It is sufficient for Shakespeare that the
name he gives to his comedy shall, by its vague charm, awaken
pleasing suspense and foreshadow an atmosphere of romance.

Such German critics as are discontented, and who insist that titles of plays must be titles of plays, may claim indeed that they are not to be deceived by the magic poetry of Shakespeare, and it is a claim which we should be sorry to press,

The title of A Midsummer Night's Dream suggests to us a little of what we may expect. The play is a dream, and such a dream as might come to one asleep on Midsummer Eve, when fairies are abroad, when the moon shines full through the window and when the summer breeze whispers to rustling leaves, a dream of heroes of old, of elves and sylphs, of fairy King and Queen.

It is not a play whose problems engage serious thought. There is no absorbing human interest, and no strong passion; no gaunt tragic figure of Shylock stalks through its ethereal romance.

A dream play

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