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his wife. In 1586, the young man of twenty-two, with no trade, with himself and wife and three children to support, with only dreams and courage and genius for capi

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tal, made his way to London, possibly on horseback, but more probably on foot. 1586 was the year of Sidney's death. There could hardly be a greater inspiration toward honor and uprightness for a young man on his first visit to London than to see the whole city grieving for the death of one but ten years older than himself simply because he whom they had lost was pure and true and noble.

Just what Shakespeare did during those first two years in London is not known, but he must have been connected in some way with the theatre and have Shakewon the confidence of those in control, for as speare in early as 1588 he was trusted to "retouch" at least one play. This retouching was regarded as per


Love's La

fectly allowable. There was no copyright law, and as soon as a play had been printed, any theatre had a right to use it, and any author had a right to alter it as he chose. Two years later, the unknown young man from the country had made a place for himself, and in 1590, the year in which Spenser brought the first bour's Lost, part of the Faerie Queene to London, Shakespeare's merry little comedy, Love's Labour's Lost, was acted. This play does not reach the heights of tragedy, of course, or even of his later comedies, but it is freely and lightly drawn; it is full of fun and frolic, and fairly sparkles with witty repartee. Shakespeare had caught the fashion of euphuism, and he made fun of it so merrily that its greatest devotees must have been amused.

acted 1590.

Play followed play: comedy, tragedy, history. It was no idle life that he led, for the writing of five or six plays is generally ascribed to the years 1590-1592; and it must be remembered, too, that he was actor as well as author. It was in 1592 that the dramatist Chettle wrote of his excellent acting, and said, moreover, that he had heard of his uprightness of dealing and his grace in writing. Shakespeare was no longer an unknown actor. Venus and He was recognized as a successful playwright, and also as a poet, for his Venus and Adonis and Lucrece had won a vast amount of admiration. "The mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare," one of the critics called him, and spoke with praise of his "sugerd sonnets" that were passed about among his friends.


1592? Lucrece. 1593-94.

59. Historical Plays. After some merry, sparkling comedies, such as A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Comedy of Errors, there came a time when the poet seemed fascinated by the history of his own land. In

writing historical drama Shakespeare was never a student-author; Elizabethan life moved too rapidly for much searching of old manuscripts and records. Shakespeare's special power as a dramatist of history lay in his sympathetic imagination by which he understood the men of bygone days. He read their motives, he pictured them as he could imagine himself to have been in their circumstances and with their qualities; and more than

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once his interpretation of some historical character, opposed as it was to the common belief of his time, has been proved by later investigation to be correct.

Then came the Merchant of Venice and a group of comedies, some of which have touches of boisterous


rant, while some are happy, romantic, and charmingly

The Mer

chant of Venice. 1596 ?

graceful. In the Merchant of Venice perhaps quite as much as in any other play, Shakespeare shows his power to make us hold a character in the balance. Shylock is cruel and miserly, but we cannot help seeing with a touch of sympathy that he is oppressed and lonely; Bassanio is a careless young spendthrift, but so boyish and so frank that we forget to be severe; Portia is perfectly conscious of the value of her wealth and her beauty, but at love's command she is ready to drop both lightly into the hands of Bassanio.

Shakespeare's writing extended over a space of about twenty years, half of which time belonged to the sixteenth century and half to the seventeenth. If he had died in 1600, we should think of him as a dramatist of great skill in writing comedy, whether refined and merry or rough and somewhat boisterous, and in writing historical plays presenting the history of his own country; but, save for some hint that Romeo and Juliet might give, we should have no idea of his unrivalled power in writing tragedies. Those as well as his deeper comedies belonged to the following century,

John Skelton.



Sir Thomas More.
William Tyndale.
Sir Thomas Wyatt.
Earl of Surrey.
Tottel's Miscellany.
John Heywood.
Nicholas Udall.

Thomas Sackville.

Thomas Norton.
John Lyly.
Edmund Spenser.
Sir Philip Sidney.

The Elizabethan Miscellanies.
Christopher Marlowe.

Richard Hooker.

William Shakespeare.


The minds of the English people and also their literature were strongly affected, first, by the Renaissance; second, by increased knowledge of the western world; and, third, by the discovery that the earth is not the centre of the universe.

During the reign of Henry VIII, English literature centred around him. John Skelton was his tutor; Sir Thomas More one of his courtiers.

Religious questions were much discussed. William Tyndale translated the New Testament. Henry's disagreement with the pope led to the separation of the Church of England from the Church of Rome.

About the middle of the century, the courtiers Wyatt and Surrey introduced the Italian sonnet and the carefulness of Italian poetry. Surrey introduced blank verse. Their poems were published in Tottel's Miscellany.

The drama progressed step by step. Mysteries and moralities still flourished. Masques and interludes came into favor. John Heywood wrote the most successful interludes. The first English comedy was Ralph Roister Doister, written by Nicholas Udall. The first English tragedy was Gorboduc, written by Sackville and Norton.

In the reign of Elizabeth the power of England increased; literature manifested greater boldness. Religious writings, translations, and stories appeared in great numbers, but the glory of the latter half of her reign was the drama. All species of drama flourished; all kinds of metre and also prose were employed. The pressing needs were, first, carefulness of form; and, second, an appropriate and generally accepted metre. A strong influence in favor of carefulness of form was exerted by the Euphues of Lyly, by The Shepherd's Calendar of Spenser, and succeeding pastorals, and by Sidney's Arcadia and also his sonnets circulated in manuscript.

The drama now increased rapidly in excellence, but still had no standard metre and did not attain to the highest success in the delineation of character. It contained, however,

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