He who attempts to write about Shakespeare may well feel as Hamlet did: he undertakes ji task that transcends his powers. No great name in literature has had so much written about him, and this of itself shows that he is the greatest name. When all the lesser orbs have been circling around this sun and striving in their measure to reflect his light, it may seem hopeless to propound anything that is both new and true.

In dealing with Shakespeare we seem to be dealing with one of the great operations of nature. There is a mysterious largeness about him. He is not merely an individual poet, he is a great elemental force in the world's thought. He has been called the myriadminded. His own personality is well-nigh lost in his work, and that work absorbs into itself, while it represents and relumes for us all the varied secular life of his time. But his merit is a deeper and more vital one than this. He has struck the fundamental tones of secular human life everywhere and always. His poetry, more than any other, holds the mirror up to nature as it now is, and answers to Aristotle's definition of poetry as "an expression of the universal."

There was a day when schoolboys were set to writing essays on "Virtue." Their wrestlings with the vast abstract theme were pitiful. Yet to some there was an attraction in the very greatness of the subject, and later years have seen them bending sharper powers of analysis to its comprehension. To write on Shakespeare is like writing on virtue. Success is possible by no schoolboy methods. Only the application of a broad philosophy will bring out valuable results. I propose therefore to preface what I have to say about Shakespeare with a brief statement of the true place and function of imagination, and of dramatic poetry as a means of imaginative expression.

It is a great error to regard imagination as an illegitimate child of reason, to be disowned and kept out of sight as much as possible. This was the view of Plato. He loved knowledge; he desired to see things as they are. Imagination, in his view, coins only fiction, and fiction is untruth; imagination and philosophy are inconsistent with each other; hence he banishes all poets from his ideal republic. Modern narrowness and asceticism have often reproduced the error of Plato, and have put their ban upon the novel and upon the fine arts. The cure for all this is to be found in a proper apprehension of the relation between imagination and other operations of the mind.

Imagination in its most obvious meaning is the image-making power of the intellect. In this sense it is a help and condition of all the more advanced mental processes. Our earliest perceptions of the self and the not-self are doubtless direct contacts, but our later knowledges are really combinations of direct perception with the images which past experiences have given us. I see a bit of red light among the leaves. Only when THE FUNCTION OF IMAGINATION l6l

I add an image stored up in the mind, can I call it an apple. Memory itself is impossible without imagination; there must be an image of the past, as well as a recognition of that image as representing a former state of the self. All judgment with regard to the new involves imagination, for only imagination can enable us to compare the new with the old. Only the imagemaking faculty can bring together the present and the absent, the particular thing and the general standard to which it is to be referred.

Brutes have percepts and they can recall them. Even dogs have a low imagination and can dream. Imagination becomes rational and human, only when it is able to distinguish between dream images and the actual percepts of present experience. But there is also a rational imagination which is free—a. power of j-ecqmbining the_percepts of the past in an order determined by the mind itself. Jrnagjnqtion has. .a _cpnstructiy_e power, as well, as_a.r.erjrQductive_4iQivex. It leaves out the irrelevant; it puts together the essential.

Just in proportion to men's breadth of experience and insight into truth is their use of imagination in construing the world about them and reducing it to order and unity under its typical forms. Napoleon said well that the men of imagination rule the world. Tyndall can speak very properly of the scientific use of the imagination: "Nourished," he says, "by knowledge partially won, and bounded by co-operant reason, imagination becomes the mightiest instrument of the physical discoverer." Great inductions, like Sir Isaac Newton's, are only the ventures of the rational imagination into the world of truth that is hidden from the multitude. The hypotheses which precede experiment can never be framed without imagination. Kepler thinks God's thoughts after him, and his discovery is a work of imagination, quite as much as it is a work of reason. Art, as well as science, is man's attempt to reconstruct the universe in its essential ideas, and to set forth the real life of things.

Art then is not imitation, but creation. The creative imagination is the most rational and lofty form of imagination, for it attempts to reproduce, not so much persons and things, as the formative idea of persons and things, the typical thought for which they stand and which gives them all their value. We have indeed a so-called art, like that of Verestschagin in painting and of Zola in literature, which aims to depict simply what is, in all its minute detail, whether that be ennobling or disgusting. This realism is not truly realistic, for it does not penetrate beneath the surface. It describes the very nails and hairs of the body, but gives no intimation of its life. It has no belief in the existence of God, and so it sees in the universe no soul, no thought, no dignity, no worthy ends. It does not see that the ideal is the most real element in the real, and so it confounds the real with the actual. Upon this principle, as Hutton has suggested, the picture of a cannibal feast might be a work of art, and poetry might devote itself to descriptions of lust without love.

But there is a God, and the universe is a rational universe. Through this phenomenal world another noume- | nal world is striving to express itself. God's creative activity indeed is essentially a continuous presentation | of the divine ideas to intelligent beings. In his out


ward creation God gives us illustrations of his truth, that we may be taught to use our own creative powers. And man's creative activity is the discovery by the imagination of these same divine ideas and the putting of them into new combinations and forms. If the forms are merely abstract, we call this work of the imagination thilosotkv; if the forms are concrete, we call the result art,

Man has a free will, and he may deny and contradict these ideas both in his thought and in his life. He may imagine error, and devise wickedness. Art will then become artful—it will lend its many hues to the serpent, it will clothe vice with a hideous attraction. But it will still by contrast illustrate the divine truth which was meant to be its stimulus and goal. Do we conclude that the true artist must be a dogmatist and a conscious preacher of virtue? No, we merely say that only the man in whom morality and religion are living_principles can ever see deeply enough into the heart of things to become a true artist.

Now poetry is the greatest and noblest of the arts, and that for the reason that, while equally with philosophy it penetrates into the life of the universe, it has power more than any other art to exhibit that life of the universe to the mind and heart of man. I have mentioned Aristotle's description of poetry as "an expression of the universal." I need to add another profound saying of the same philosopher, namely, that "poetry is more philosophic and of higher worth, than history." The reason is not far to seek. History deals with the actual; it has all the defects and limitations of its theme. Poetry, on the other hand, sets before us the types and truths of which history furnishes only single and concrete illustrations.

Poetry is more universal than history. In it appear the divine ideas purged of excrescences. Compare the characters of Shakespeare's historical plays with those same characters as they appear in the English annals. I do not hesitate to say that Shakespeare has seized the dominant feature of each character, and has presented it more consistently than any historian has; while for grasp -of the spirit of those turbulent times, their passionate loyalty and their barbaric cruelty, and for vivid and moving exhibition of the national life and genius, the plays leave, and ever will leave, the histories far behind.

While poetry has these advantages over philosophy and history, there is one kind of poetry which possesses them to the utmost, and that is, dramatic poetry. Here we have life reconstructed, as it were. Great principles of action are set before us, but they animate concrete personalities. Types of humanity are consistently delineated, but with natural surroundings. Each man influences, and he receives influence from others. The network of circumstance becomes a matrix for the development of character. The persons of the drama are not only conceived, but they are made to speak, and in speaking, to reveal themselves. Their own acts, and not the descriptions of the poet, approve or condemn them. As we read or hear the play, the world seems to lay aside its mask and admit us into its secret. Our own hearts and the hearts of others are opened to us. The creative genius of the dramatist has breathed into his characters the breath of life, so that they have DRAMATIC POETRY THE HIGHEST FORM OF ART 165

become living souls, and can never die. To multitudes, Othello and Lear, Romeo and Hamlet are more real and powerful factors of mental and moral growth, than are Cromwell and Napoleon and Washington.

The Greek tragedies maintain their hold upon us, even after The lapse of many centuries, because they exhibit in noble artistic form the primary affections and fears of humanity. But in the days of Greece life was simple. The complexity of modern interests and feelings had not yet arisen. Duty to the family and the State was the largest motive to action. The heart of man had not become introspective, and the depths of passion had not been sounded. The love of man for woman and of woman for man was not yet self-conscious, and what we call romance was impossible.

The "Christian Era" introduces us to a larger world. Nature yields in attractiveness to human nature. The State is seen to exist for the individual. Not only man as a race, but each man of the human family, is the object of divine regard and self-sacrifice. The single soul is the scene of conflicts more impressive than_a.ny battle of the elements. To dramatize modern life is a greater task than that which the Greeks had laid upon them. To seize upon the great types of character as they live and move in this new world without and within, and to give these types concrete and consistent expression as they interact with one another and shape each other by their interaction, this requires a breadth and vigor of creative imagination such as the Greeks never possessed.

Greek art lives, because it has in it an element of universality. The single idea or feeling which a Greek statue or poem embodies is an idea or feeling common to all mankind. But Coriolanus and Shylock and Henry V. present to us these same ideas and feelings contending with many others, and hastening on, through infinite complexity of circumstance, to triumph or defeat. It is because our great poet, more than any other, has been able to portray all the secular varieties of human character, in the endless relations they sustain in modern life, that we can speak of the universality of Shakespeare.

It is said of Tennyson that a friend found him one day on the edge of a country brook gazing down into its depths and absorbed in contemplating the endless variety of its subaqueous life. As he lifted his head the poet only said: "What an imagination God has!" But the brook was only the universe in miniature. He who regards the universe as an ordered whole, and sees in it

will be deeply impressed with the wonders of that divine and creative imagination which constructed the plot of the great drama of history, and which is conducting the play through all its successive scenes to its final denouement and success.

It is the privilege of the poet to enter into God's plan of the, God's thought. Not the actual world, but the ideal of which the actual is the shadow, Ihe essence of things disencumbered from the accjdeiits_.oj_circumstance, characters clearly"unfolded, 

One God, who ever lives and loves,
One God, one law, one element,

And one far-off divine event
To which the whole creation moves.


doom fixed by human acts, the meaning of events— these are the things with which the poet deals, and in all this he is prophet as well as poet, anticipator of results, interpreter of God. In his creations, God makes himself better known. He lifts us up into the region of eternal truths. Does one man's line of development run on for a while alone, but then suddenly become inextricably tangled in another man's, whose past history has all unconsciously prepared him for the contact? George Eliot will in a similar way give us in one novel both Gwendolen and Grandcourt, and Shakespeare will carry on two separate stories in King Lear which only at the crisis of the play merge into one.

Anachronisms are not to be ruled out in poetry so long as they subserve ideal truth. It required a vivid imagination to recognize the two rivals for the throne in Richard III., encamped so close together on the stage that the same ghost could speak alternately to both. But space and time are annihilated in poetry, because poetry is an expression of the universal. Shall we call this a defect in Shakespeare? As well quarrel with Raphael for bringing into juxtaposition the top of the Mount with its transfigured Saviour, and the foot of the Mount with the distressed humanity which he came to save.

Poetry then has^Jn^Jt^ not less truth, but more txutjj than prose. It seizes upon and expresses the deeper

When Milton described poetry as "simple, sensuous, passionate," he meant by "simple" this very conformity to the laws of nature and of mind—simplicity includes the idea of genuine rationality. But if poetry is

observer neglects. an expression of the highest reason, how comes it that poetry and insanity are so connected together in the thoughts of men? Listen to Dry^den (" Absalom and Achitophel," 193):

Great wits are sure to madness near allied
And thin partitions do their bounds divide;

and to Seneca (" De Tranquillitatc Animi" 15): "There is no great genius without a tincture of madness."

In our judgment this is only to say that an alert and active mind may put such a strain upon its cerebral organism as to throw the machine into utter disorder. It is easy to "o'er-inform the tenement of clay," when that tenement is so delicate an instrument as the poet's brain. A slight jar will sometimes stop a delicate chronometer, and the most accomplished performer makes sorry music when he plays on a cracked violin. Ophelia is wrong when she says of Hamlet (3:1: 157):

Now see that noble and most sovereign reason,
Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh;

for it is not the reason that is out of tune, but the brain. The result, however, is the same, and we speak of a reason overthrown, as we speak of a conscience seared.

The abnormal imagination may link objects together by the most tenuous threads of association. This should not blind us to the dignity of its normal exercise, when it enters into the secret of things and reconstructs the universe in its essential truth and beauty. In "Midsummer Night's Dream "(5:1: 4), Shakespeare himself, with inimitable skill, has depicted both the rational and the irrational use of this wonderful faculty. UNIVERSALITY INVOLVES IMPERSONALITY 169

Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,

Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend

More than cool reason ever comprehends.

The lunatic, the lover, and the poet

Are of imagination all compact;

One sees more devils than vast hell can hold:

That is the madman ; the lover, all as frantic,

Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt;

The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,

Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven,

And, as imagination bodies forth

The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen

Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing

A local habitation and a name.

Since imagination, in its higher rational use, is a means of grasping truth not open to the senses, it is a most important coadjutor, if not a necessary instrument, of reason in its loftiest investigations. Neither mathematics nor morals can make known their highest truths to the man of no imagination. The dull plodder within the circle of material facts will discern no connections between them, and will have no science. Although God is apprehended not by imagination but by reason, yet imagination is a most important help to religion, and we may almost say that some men have not imagination enough to be religious.

The poet can express the universal, only as the universal is in him. We must not think of him simply as an individual. He is also member of the race, with the life of the race pulsating in his veins. When he hears "the still, sad music of humanity," it is because humanity speaks to him and in him. Aye, the greatest poetry expresses a higher life than that of man. David and Isaiah see divinity in nature and in human affairs, because God in them enables them to see God outside of them. This we call inspiration. I do not argue that every poet is inspired, but I do maintain that there are lower as well as higher forms of divine influence, and that the great works of secular literature would never have been possible had not their authors been enlightened by the "Light that lighteth every man."

God's providence has not left these mighty springs of power without control. As he spoke through Balaam and through Caiaphas in spite of their perversity, interjecting amid their selfish and profane utterances some truths that lived after the falsehoods died, so Goethe in his "Confessions of a Beautiful Soul," and Moore in his "Come, ye Disconsolate," have been made to prophesy against their will. But much more through the greatest poets, Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton, Wordsworth, must we at times recognize a divine voice speaking. At times the poet is rapt, his words and thought go beyond himself, truth discloses itself to him dressed in a word-garb of supernatural beauty. He wonders at himself, for all this is something not wrought by him but wrought for him. He talks of the Muses, or he gives thanks to God.

These considerations explain what we may call the impersonality of the greatest poets. What is the motive of their writing? Do they write for pecuniary reward? The pressure of poverty, the need of bread for wife or child, the desire to retrieve family misfortune, these have doubtless set many pens a-running, and possibly Shakespeare's among the rest. Do they write for SHAKESPEARE PARTLY THE PRODUCT OF HIS TIME I 71

fame? The love of praise and the handing down to posterity of a work that cannot die, these have been occasions and helps to poetic art, as even Dante confesses to us. Do they write to do good and to teach mankind? Yes, this has been one motive to artistic production, and Milton's "Paradise Lost" seeks to "justify the ways of God to man."

And yet we maintain that no great poetry was ever written with any one of these as its sole, or even its ruling, motive. These may serve as occasions, they may give the pen its start; but, unless the writer is lifted above them, no poem of permanent value is the result. For here is no spontaneity and no joy, but rather external or interna] constraint. All great poetry is a work of freedom, as well as of necessity. The poet creates, as God creates, simply to express the world of thought and beauty within. The surging life of humanity becomes self-conscious in the poet's breast. He must "speak forth the things which he has seen and heard" without regard to consequence or reward. The great poets forget themselves in their themes. We know much of Achilles, but little of Homer. And if Shakespeare is the greatest poet of the world, it is not wonderful that this rule should apply to him most of all, and that we should know much about Macbeth, but little about Shakespeare.

We can now perceive the mingled truth and error in M. Taine's contention that our poet was the child of the Renaissance. Every great artist is in part the product of his time, and Shakespeare gathered up and expressed all that there was of rich and rare in that most stirring age. The revival of learning reached distant England almost a century after it had begun in Italy, but delay only increased the volume and power of the wave. The Reformation had added an ethical and purifying element to what was originally a mere outburst of intellectual energy, and the ferocity of mediaeval manners had been somewhat tamed. The defeat of the Armada had freed England from the fear of Spain; the beheading of the Queen of Scots had freed England from internal foes.

It was an age of adventure and discovery. The world had doubled in size, and transatlantic treasures had been poured into the lap of Europe. The Bermudas gave to Shakespeare his "still-vexed Bermoothes," and the heathen cannibal gave him his Caliban. Imagination was provided with material both modern and classical, at the same time that it was emancipated from the superstitions of the past. Elizabeth, the virgin queen, mistress of the seas and commanding the enthusiastic loyalty of her subjects, was a lover and promoter of literature. Never before since the victory of the Greeks over Persia, was a nation so on the top-wave of freedom and achievement. The very breathing of the air was exhilaration, and hope could never hope too much in the breast of the poet.

What an instrument was then made ready to his hand in our English mother-tongue! The Norman had enriched it with all the dignity and sonorous charm of the Latin; the Saxon had furnished its solid foundation of simple, forthright, hearty, pathetic speech. Spenser had subdued its harshness into the melody and harmony of poetry; Sidney had shown how rhythmical and yet how vigorous might be its prose. The language was no hack, with regular, funereal gait, but a colt just put to

harness, a compound of grace and of intense vitality, ready for all manner of sudden excursions from the beaten track.

What we now call word-coining, and occasionally tolerate as poetic license, was the business of the Elizabethan poet, and the new words had all the brilliancy and beauty of counters fresh from the mint. The age had a peculiar feeling for artistic form—form and substance indeed had not yet been divorced. English had not yet acquired the stiffness of Puritanism. To use the words of Lord Bacon, it had the very "sparkle of the purity of man's first estate." Dramatic poetry had begun to use it for its vehicle. The coarse and bloody tragedies of an earlier time had given place to plays in which there was at least some effort at rational development of character, and Shakespeare himself, in alluding to Marlowe, could speak of

The proud, full sail of his great verse.

The poet was born indeed in a mighty time, but the time can never wholly account for the poet. Shakespeare was_b_grn, not__made; nurture did much for him, but nature did more. When M. Taine calls him the child of the Renaissance, he forgets that the Renaissance had other children not so great. Ben Jonson, as well as Marlowe, had more of learning and more of training in the schools. They were children of the Renaissance, but they were not Shakespeares.

The French critic has little faith in personality. His philosophy is the philosophy of materialism: man is the product of his surroundings. Against such a philosophy Shakespeare, like Homer, will ever be an unanswerable argument. Here is a new force in history, for which the past cannot account. Humanity reaches a new stage of development in him. The characters which he creates do not belong peculiarly to the Renaissance, they belong to universal humanity. Ben Jonson nobly recognized the essential quality of Shakespeare's genius, when he declared his work to be "not of an age, but for all time."

And this suggests the final and sufficient reason why the plays of our great dramatist can never be referred to Lord Bacon as their author. Bacon was the child of the Renaissance. He represents the critical and inquiring spirit. His aim was to bring philosophy down from its ideal heights, and to set it at study of concrete facts. He could doubtless have adopted Luther's characterization of Aristotle as " a damned mischief-making heathen." There is probably in all literature no greater contrast of method and spirit than that between Shakespeare's intuitive grasp of human character and life on the one hand and Bacon's careful gathering of instances and induction of generals from particulars on the other. The "final causes" which Aristotle taught, and which Bacon hated, were the very life-blood of Shakespeare. To fancy Francis of Verulam writing "Midsummer Night's Dream" or "The Tempest" is to imagine a dray-horse soaring like Pegasus.

The education of such a genius must have been a course of liberal training to those who taught him. So active and aspiring a mind, with his manifold questions, must have made trouble for the doctors in the temple. It is by no means certain that he did much of regular study at the Free Grammar School of Stratford, but his A YOUTH NOT WILD AND DISSOLUTE 175

occasional introduction of Latin lines, and especially his use of words derived from the Latin in a new and etymological sense, show that he picked up that language in a very practical way. And though he is said to have had less Greek than Latin, I cannot explain the long succession of questions and answers in single lines of "King Richard III." except by supposing that these monostichs were suggested by the reading of Euripides, or by overhearing the recitation of it in the schoolroom.

When it comes to the writing of "Antony and Cleopatra," or "Troilus and Cressida," we find that Shakespeare has drunk in the very spirit and genius of Greek and Roman times; indeed, in his portraiture of Ulysses, he takes Homer's hints about the man of many wiles, and makes Ulysses reveal himself in speech with a fullness and consistency of which Homer himself would have been incapable.

Schools or no schools, Shakespeare would have appropriated, and he did appropriate, all the secular knowledge of his time. Essays have been written to prove that he must have been at different times a lawyer, a physician, and a soldier. He probably was none of them. May we not reasonably believe that he tells the story of his own mental growth when, in "Cymbeline" (1 : i :43), he makes a gentleman say of Posthumus, that the king

Puts him to all the learnings that his time
Could make him the receiver of; which he took
As we do air, fast as 'twas ministered;
And in his spring became a harvest.

In a similar way we may interpret what seem at first sight to be intimations of a wild and dissolute youth. They are rather signs of an omnivorous appetite for knowledge. With a poet's delight in every novel experience, he threw himself into life. But he did not throw himself away. Keenly sensitive as he was to pleasure, he had yet the justness of judgment which enabled him to hold his spirit above the temptations and companionships which would have dragged him down. With a largeness of heart like the sand upon the seashore, he could master everything, yet be mastered by none.

Greene might drink himself to death and Marlowe \ might perish in a brawl, but Shakespeare never. A J delicacy of taste was there which revolted from the vile. / A conscience yet unseared discerned between the evil and the good. The " Venus and Adonis" does not prove Shakespeare's early manhood to have been swallowed up in sensuality, any more than the " Laus Veneris " of Swinburne proved him to be a youthful reprobate.

Hazardous and guilty as are these edgings toward vice, we might yet in all candor believe that the vice is, like the bacchanalian songs of our college days, rather an ideal than a real thing, a matter of theory rather than of practice. It is the ill-chosen theme for intellectual subtlety to disport itself upon. Real vice is too much absorbed in its own viciousness to be self-observant and poetical. To those who accuse him too harshly, Shakespeare may use Warwick's extenuation of Prince Hal's fondness for wild associates ("King Henry IV.," Part II., 4 : 4 : 67):

My gracious lord, you look beyond him quite:

The prince but studies his companions,

Like a strange tongue ; wherein, to gain the language,

"Tis needful that the most immodest word

Be looked upon, and learned ; which once attained,

Your highness knows, comes to no further use,

But to be known and hated. So, like gross terms,

The prince will, in the perfectness of time,

Cast off his followers; and their memory

Shall as a pattern or a measure live.

By which his grace must mete the lives of others,

Turning past evils to advantages.

Another theory, I know, is quite possible, namely, that an early manhood of license was rescued from utter disaster only by disappointment in illicit love, the treachery of chosen friends, and the death of the poet's father and son. Let us unhesitatingly accept the facts, while we reject the inference drawn from them. As to the inference, it is enough to say that it is impossible to suppose even the genius of Shakespeare to have made its steady progress toward the summit of literary and dramatic achievements through years of recklessness and dissipation. Genius needs material to work upon, and that material must be gathered by labor. Disappointment, treachery, and death taught Shakespeare many lessons; but they never turned sottishness into industry, nor passion into wisdom.

Prof. Dowden, of the University of Dublin, has done more than any or all of the writers before him to give a rational and connected account of the poet's life and work. The year 1600 is marked as the middle point of his productive activity. The ten years preceding 1600 were the years that saw the rise and maturing of his genius. The ten years that followed 1600 were the years of his grandest triumphs. The twenty years between 1 590 and 1610, therefore, cover the whole extent


of Shakespeare's writing for the stage. But each ten years of these twenty may be further subdivided into halves, and these minor five-year periods may be roughly yet substantially distinguished from each other. Prof. Dowden has well named these four minor periods: (i) "In the workshop"; (2) "In the world " ; (3) "Out of the depths "; (4) "On the heights."

Let us follow this order for a moment, and get from it what help we may toward understanding the development of Shakespeare's genius. We shall see that the . poet did not attain his supremacy at once. Universality' was not to be reached at a bound. First came the years of apprenticeship, in which imagination almost ran riot. In Romeo and Titania there was sweetness in excess. All was regularity and rhyme. Quips and conceits abounded. The play upon words was incessant. Shakespeare was in large part working over the dramas of others.

The three parts of "King Henry VI.," and perhaps also "Richard III.," were adaptations and improvements of earlier productions, whose original authors, though they were associated with him in the business of making plays, could yet enviously speak of him as an "upstart^crow, beautified with their feathers." But -V these playwrights live now only by virtue of the breath which Shakespeare breathed into them. While the poet used the material they gave him, he so transformed it that the authors could hardly recognize it. Even in those early days of experiment, he put into his work a vivacity, a variety, a truth, and a beauty, which were altogether new in dramatic literature.

The five years "in the workshop " were succeeded by five years "in the world." He began to dispense with ^ THE FIRST TWO PERIODS OF PRODUCTIVE ACTIVITY I 79

^ the collaboration of others, and to do wholly independent work. Beginning to write mainly as a matter of trade, he found the trade become profitable, and the more original his productions were, the more money they brought in. The family star, which had been declining, came into the ascendant once more. In 1596 John Shakespeare, his father, who had been prosecuted for

) debt and had lost his estate, applied for liberty to display a coat-of-arms, and in 1597 the poet purchased New Place in Stratford for a family mansion. In 1 598

I Francis Meres, in his "Wit's Treasury," bore testimony to the poet's established fame, and gave him the highest place among English poets and dramatists, while declaring him equal to the greatest writers of tragedy or comedy in Greece and Rome.

Success encouraged him to further and bolder effort. He flung away the traditional restrictions of dramatic poetry. End-stopped and periodic lines, with their monotonous uniformity of cadence, gave place to run-on lines, with frequent weak endings, and a wonderful variety in the location of the caesural pause. The prologue to "King Henry V." illustrates the new freedom and unbounded energy which Shakespeare put into his verse. There the chorus begins:

O for a muse of fire, that would ascend

The brightest heaven of invention!

A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,

And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!

Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,

Assume the port of Mars ; and at his heels,

Leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword, and fire

Crouch for employment But pardon, gentles all,

The flat unraised spirit that hath dar'd

On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?

This magnificent passage illustrates not only the new splendor and freedom which Shakespeare gave to dramatic verse; it illustrates equally well the realistic quality of his second literary period. It is as if he had said to himself: "I have done with conceits and fancies; let me deal with real life." The five years "in the world" are represented by the "Merchant of Venice" and by the long series of English historical plays. Eight of these last follow one another in unbroken connection. From the fact that no one play is absolutely complete in itself, we may infer that Shakespeare intended them to constitute parts of one great heroic poem, in which English history, with its shame and its glory, should live again before the eyes of men.

The historical plays are a mirror of kings, it has been said, and they should be a pattern for princes. But he must be a very kingly king who can live up to the dignity and strength of either Shakespeare's "Henry IV." or "Henry V." No warnings against romantic weakness in a monarch can be so impressive as a reading of "King Richard II."; no warnings against pietistic weak- | ness so powerful as a representation of "King Henry VI." It is striking that the plays which depict royal imbecility belong to the earliest period of the poet's development, while those which depict royal greatness and strength belong to the second period of his growing maturity and larger knowledge of the world. He has


so thought himself into the spirit and temper of a king, that he has made the actor's task a hard one. Those parts can be fitly acted only by princes, or by men whose imagination enables them to enter into the universality of Shakespeare.

And now, with the year 1600 and the ripe confidence of his manhood, come vicissitudes and sorrows which turn the poet's thoughts inward and lead him to meditate deeply upon the great problems of existence. The sonnets belong to this period of Sturm und Drang. Shakespeare's father and Shakespeare's only son Jhaye died. The treachery of a IrustedTriendliaswounded him to the quick. The lightness of spirit which met openly and joyfully every youthful disappointment has given place for the time to a sombre view of life. The capacity of the human heart for grief and anger and fear is opened to him as never before. The third five years are well characterized by the words, "Out of the depths."

1600 to 1605 must be regarded as the most productive half-decade in the history of literature. For during this half-decade were produced "Antony and Cleopatra," "Hamlet," "Lear," "Macbeth," "Othello," and "Coriolanus.' Here are the six greatest tragedies of the world. They represent the excessive working of the greatest passions. In "Antony and Cleopatra" we see sensual pleasure dragging down a noble mind and heart; in "Macbeth" it is ambition; in "Othello" jealousy; in "Coriolanus" pride. "Lear" shows us the human spirit driven to insanity by filial ingratitude; "Hamlet" is the impersonation of idealistic wavering in the presence of duty, and of opportunity forever lost.

But how different these embodiments of human passion and weakness are from the shadowy abstractions of Marlowe and Ben Johnson! Those were lay-figures with a mere outside dress of passion. They went through their appointed motions like automata, but they had no real life. Shakespeare's characters have such intense vitality that we discuss their motives and actions as if they were living men. We see the human heart fairly torn by contending emotions. And yet, dark as the colors often are, reflection only convinces us that in these creations nature herself is speaking.

There were also comedies belonging to this third period of Shakespeare's productive activity, but they were not light and mirthful like those of the period preceding. We find no "Merry Wives of Windsor," no "Much Ado About Nothing," no "As You Like It," between 1600 and 1605. "Measure for Measure," "All's Well That Ends Well," and "Troilus and Cressida," are products of this stage of the poet's genius. The comedy is ironical and bitter. It deals with misjudgment and treachery.

It is pleasant to pass from the third period to the last. The five years from 1605 to 1610 were years of restored calm, of forgiveness, of reconciliation. It is the serene Indian summer of the poet's days. "Cymbeline," "The Winter's Tale," and "The Tempest," with their stories of wrongs righted, of repentance for transgression, of sunny and large-minded charity, were the fruit of these later years of Shakespeare. His leaf had not begun to wither; it was not even sere and yellow. He was only in his ripe manhood, for he was but fifty-two when he died.


He had attained a competence and had retired to enjoy it. He was the foremost citizen of Stratford. If there had been estrangement from his family, this came now to an end. His pre-eminence as a dramatist and a poet was universally acknowledged. The shallow criticism of a succeeding age had not yet begun to dim his fame. He seems now to have written little, and what he did write was written rather to satisfy an inner impulse than to meet any outward demand. Prospero, in "The J Tempest," might almost seem to be the poet's picture f of himself in this golden harvest-time of his life, and many have seen, in the last words of Prospero, Shakespeare's own farewell to dramatic composition ("Tempest," 5 : 1 : 50):

This rough magic
I here abjure; and, when I have requit'd
Some heavenly music (which even now I do),
To work mine end upon their senses that
This airy charm is for, I' 11 break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And, deeper than did ever plummet sound,
I' 11 drown my book.

Did the poet fully appreciate his own genius? He seems to have taken little pains to correct his plays or to prepare them for the press. In devising to his daughters, Judith and Susanna, the various portions of

Ihis estate, there is no mention of his interest in the plays, nor any provision for their editing or publication. We owe TrTepreservation of some of these dramas to Shakespeare's fellow-actors; but for their care the plays might have perished.

It is not correct to say that carelessness on the part of the author was characteristic of that age, for Ben Jonson spent no end of time in revising and printing his writings. It is possible, of course, that Shakespeare's will expressed only a portion of his mind; when he made it he may not have expected soon to die; still it remains a mystery why he should have disposed of other portions of his estate, yet should have given no thought to this. It is possible that he hoped for still many years to do the work of revision in; in fact, the copies in possession of the Globe Theater, which was destroyed by fire soon after Shakespeare's death, may have borne marks of a revision already begun.

But all this is mere hypothesis. I have already intimated what seems to me the preferable explanation. It connects itself with my special theme. The greatest jioets are impersonal. Like John the Baptist they come to regard themselves as voices of a higher Intelligence, and they leave their work to God. Shakespeare appears to have been peculiarly self-forgetful. The most characteristic epithet that has come down to us from his own age is that one which Ben Jonson applied to him when he called him "gentle Shakespeare." The naturally shy and sensitive spirit has an ideal so high that, after its noblest achievements, it only desires to get away from them. Praise tires, because the poet is too conscious of his defects to listen to it. If there is any worth in his song, posterity will discover it and celebrate it without special care of his.

It confirms this view when we find that it was not the plays that Shakespeare prided himself upon, but the measured poems, like "Lucrece" and the "Sonnets." Never did he wholly free himself from the feeling that CONCESSIONS TO THE TASTES OF THE VULGAR 185

dramatic poetry was not poetry at all, but a mere makeshift to amuse the crowd. The writing of plays was closely connected with the acting of them; he had entered upon it in the way of business, but a stigma was attached to the profession; it was relief and luxury when he could break completely the ties that bound him to the stage. He mourns in the "Sonnets" (111) that the actor's calling has infected him:

O, for my sake do you with Fortune chide,

The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,

That did not better for my life provide

Than public means, which public manners breeds.

Thence comes it that my name receives a brand;

And almost thence my nature is subdued

To what it works in, like the dyer's hand.

There are no predictions of immortality for the plays
It is only in the "Sonnets" (107) that we read:

Now with the drops of this most balmy time
My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes,
Since, spite of him, I'll live in this poor rhyme.
While he insults o' er dull and speechless tribes;

+And thou in this shalt find thy monument
When tyrants' crests and tombs of brass are spent

I must believe that many palpable defects in the plays were concesssions to the taste of the vulgar. The drama before Shakespeare's time had appealed to the savage instincts of human nature. Bloody scenes were enacted. Obscenity and ferocity went hand in hand. The shudder, which some of our modern novelists and playwrights are striving to introduce again into literature, was a test of dramatic art in the ante-Elizabethan times.

I cannot think that the same hand which penned "Venus and Adonis," with its marvelous finish and sweetness, could have willingly written the brutalities of " Titus Andronicus." Yet "Titus Andronicus" is probably Shakespeare's first dramatic production—at any rate he had a hand in the writing of it. It is proof of his constant advance toward ideal standards, that the harrowing and the frightful have a continually smaller place as he gains in experience and wisdom.

Though even in "King Lear," a work of his third and noblest period, Cornwall is made in full sight of the audience to pluck out the eyes of the earl of Gloster, this is the single and exceptional instance of such cruelty in Shakespeare's plays. He sees, in general, * how foreign to real art is the appeal to the sensual or J the brutal. Through his whole artistic life he is making progress toward that universality of poetic judgment which addresses the deepest, noblest, most permanent' emotions of humanity. Shakespeare began by showing \ to a barbaric time its own likeness; he ended by rising above his time, and by exhibiting to it the ideal truth and beauty which lie at the heart of the universe.

I have taken the word universality as a key to unlock the mystery of Shakespeare. By universality I do not mean the poet's currency or popularity in all places and times—that may depend, not upon the poet, but upon the education and insight of those who read him. By universality I mean something belonging to the poet himself, namely, his grasp of elements which are not individual or local, but which are common to human nature everywhere. There are three great ranges of production in which Shakespeare's imagination stands MEANING OF THE WORD UNIVERSALITY 187

supreme. As a creator, first of character, secondly of imagery, and thirdly of diction, he is the greatest of the sons of men. In these three things he holds undisputed mastery, simply because in each case his imagination works with incomparable ease and spontaneity under the law of reason and of truth.

In order to comprehend the universal element'in Shakespeare's creation of character, it will be useful to take one of the earlier and one of the later plays, and to observe some of those facts of structure which the common reader only vaguely apprehends, but which after all are their chief sources of power. I take " King Richard III." and "Macbeth," partly because they represent the historical and the ideal drama respectively, but also for the reason that I can here follow and call attention to the suggestions of Moulton, in his admirable work on "Shakespeare as a Dramatic Artist."

"Richard III." has probably been the most popular play of the dramatic stage. It never fails to entrance the galleries. Some have fancied this the result of its very violence. So great a critic as James Russell Lowell has thrown doubts upon its Shakespearean authorship, for the reason that it lacks in subtlety of poetic expression, in humor, and in eloquence. We must grant that these qualities of style are not seen at their best in "Richard III." Let us remember, however, that plot is as much a criterion of greatness as is style. The plot of "King Richard" has merits so great that we can attribute the play to none but Shakespeare, while at the same time we see in it only the glow of a morning whose meridian splendor is to be found in such a tragedy as "Macbeth." A comparison of these two plays will illustrate what we mean by the poet's universality, at the same time that it shows his progress toward this universality.

"King Richard III." is Shakespeare's complete and ideal villain. Richard has no such excuse as Iago has, —the excuse that others have been unfaithful to him. He devotes himself deliberately to villainy as the one method in which, despite his physical deformity, he can show his power. He is a villain, a conscious and confessed villain, at the start. The play shows no development of character; it is only a progressive revelation of character already formed.

There is no complexity of story. No other person of the drama attracts special interest or diverts attention from its one hero. And Richard is a hero only in wickedness. His intensity of evil will, and his almost supernatural skill in the accomplishment of his purposes, fascinate us almost as we are fascinated by Milton's "Satan "; indeed, some have fancied that Milton took from this character of Shakespeare's some of the features of his "archangel ruined." But Richard has elements which belong to Goethe's "Mephistopheles," as well as to Milton's "Satan." He is the sneering, ironical, and humorous, as well as the hypocritical, proud, and malignant, devil.

He glories in his mastery over men, but especially in his deception of women. With unblushing effrontery he can court and win Lady Anne, the widow of Edward Prince of Wales, whom he himself had stabbed on the field of Tewksbury, and he can court and win her beside the coffin of King Henry VI., her husband's father whom he had murdered in the Tower. His conquest CHARACTER MANIFESTED

seems a piece of hideous necromancy, but Richard gloats over it. No qualms disturb him. Conscience is laid to sleep. Evil has become his good. He makes merry over crime. He is an artist in iniquity. He says ("Henry VI.," Part III., 3:2: 165):

This earth affords no joy to me,
But to command, to check, to o'erbear such
As are of better person than myself.

Almost to the very end, his course seems an unbroken success. Before his devilish deceit and murderous cruelty every obstacle gives way. "Without remorse or dread," he " wades through blood and slaughter to a throne," Clarence and Rivers, Grey and Vaughan, Hastings and Buckingham, are brought to their deaths, Queen Anne is poisoned, and the young princes are smothered in the Tower. All this would too greatly shock the moral sense, if there were not some premonitions of avenging Justice. The poet could not connect these premonitions too closely with Richard, lest the dramatic pictures of his resistless will and unchecked wickedness should lose a part of their hold upon the imagination. For a long time Nemesis is seen only in the case of the minor characters. Clarence and Rivers, Grey and Vaughan, Hastings and Buckingham, who have played into his hands and have abetted his crimes, each and all successively recognize in their doom the just reward of their past faithlessness or ambition. Their deaths are mutterings of distant thunder which portend a storm.

At last the storm breaks. Richard's very success in iniquity prepares for him a more sudden and overwhelming ruin. Conscience, kept muzzled in his waking hours, now gnaws his heart in sleep. The ghosts of those whom he has murdered, after having risen to torment him with predictions of defeat, sit heavy on his soul in the hour of battle. After incredible efforts of desperate valor, he utterly succumbs. In his agony of fear he would give his kingdom for a horse. But flight cannot save him. His crimes and the crimes of the house of York meet their recompense. From the dead tem-' p1es of the bloody wretch the crown is plucked to grace the brows of Richmond, the representative of Lancaster, and settled peace comes once more under his reign as the seventh Henry. Nemesis has come at last. The mills of the gods grind slow, but they grind exceeding small, and "King Richard III." will ever be one of the most impressive of the world's sermons upon the punitive justice of God.

Here is unity of dramatic action, depth of thought, rapidity of movement, and a fiery energy of expression, such as belong to Shakespeare alone. And yet "King Richard III." shows us the poet not yet master of his art, and a study of the tragedy of "Macbeth " will teach us how vast was the interval between the poet's earlier and his later works. Compared with the breadth of "Macbeth," "Richard" is narrow; while the early play is simple, the latter is complex. While in the one the only character is Richard, in the other Duncan, Macduff, and Lady Macbeth are strongly differentiated, and each plays a part in its way as influential as that of Macbeth himself.

Richard is a full-grown monster at the beginning. We know from the first, for he himself tells us, what he CHARACTER DEVELOPED


is to be. But in "Macbeth" we see all the dreadful growth of evil from its earliest suggestion to its final and absolute domination of the nature. The inner workings of passion, the stifling of pity, the hell-fire of remorse, are depicted as nowhere else in literature.

In the earlier drama the poet plays, as it were, upon one instrument. The compass and variety are small. In the later drama he has learned to direct an orchestra, to develop a theme, to interlace one musical motive with another, to organize many forms of emotional expression into one grand and overwhelming harmony. We recognize in both plays the same Shakespeare, but in "Richard III." the poet seems to look down upon human nature from the village spire, while in "Macbeth" he stands upon the mountain top and the whole world of humanity is spread out before him.

Let us compare the Nemesis in "Macbeth" with the Nemesis in "Richard." The witches are supernatural agents of evil who can suggest, but who cannot originate, man's evil decision. Macbeth (1:3: 122) has his warning from Banquo:

"Tis strange:
And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray us
In deepest consequence.

But the warning neglected, the temptation cherished, principle undermined, there is a surrender of free-will to Satan, and thenceforth an ever-accelerating course of self-depravation and self-destruction. And sin becomes its own detecter, judge, and tormentor.

Up to the moment of his coronation, Macbeth is unsuspected; his crime seems to have run a successful course. But crime begets crime. To free himself from the penalty of the first, he commits a second. As Schiller has well said:

This is the penalty of evil deed,
That of new evil it becomes the seed.

And the second crime of murdering Banquo opens to all eyes the first crime of murdering Duncan. The rise of Macbeth's fortunes through the first half of the playis succeeded by decline through successive stages till he reaches his miserable end. Vaulting ambition has o'erleaped itself. Efforts to escape destiny are made the very means of fulfilling it. The wicked man is holden in the cords of his own sins. With awful irony the malignant powers that at the first lured him to evil mock at his calamity, until in his despair he cries (5: 8:19):

And be these juggling fiends no more believed,
That palter with us in a double sense;
That keep the word of promise to our ear,
And break it to our hope!

How much more profound and tragic than anything in King Richard's calm and open espousal of evil is this deception and irony of sin in Macbeth! But even here we have a variety of portraiture. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth present a contrast to which we find no likeness in the earlier play. Here ambition, murder, remorse, are seen working themselves out in two different natures, the one the impulsive and practical man of action, the other the woman of thought and will who has committed herself to her husband's purpose, and who un

sexes herself in order to nerve him to the deed. He has superstitious faith in the witches, and fear of Banquo's ghost. She has argued herself out of such faith and fear, and sees in supernatural appearances only reflections of ambitious hopes and remorseful feelings.

The man of action cannot bear suspense, and rushes headlong into new crime and into consequent self-disclosure. She can wait and conceal and plan, while he is powerless. But the nervous tension is too great. Nemesis overtakes her in the shape of madness, and her madness is a long confession. "Here's the smell of the blood still," gasps out the night-walking queen; "all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand!" And the madness ends in suicide.

But the Nemesis of Macbeth comes in the shape of infatuation. He blindly trusts the oracle, even while his foes are gathering for his destruction. He cries (5 : 3 : 32):

I' 1I fight till from my bones my flesh be hack'd. . .
Send out more horses, skirr the country round;
Hang those that talk of fear. Give me my armor!

And when the falsity of his supernatural tempters is revealed to him, he flings himself desperately into the battle. He meets his death, but his death is virtual suicide, and his suicide is virtual confession.

I do not see how any one can read the tragedies without perceiving that Shakespeare is one of the greatest of ethical teachers. And what is true of these tragedies is true of his work in general, it wakens a response in the deepest heart of man. But not because the poet had any set purpose to be a moral teacher. All this is


incidental. He aims only to depict life, to show man to himself, to exhibit human nature with its love, its hate, its hope, its fear. But all the more powerful is Shakespeare's testimony to the supremacy of conscience in the moral constitution of man.

The same remarks apply to Shakespeare's treatment of religion and doctrine. He has not set himself to propound dogmas. Whether he was Romanist or Protestant no one can surely tell; the most that we can say is that he disliked Puritanism, and made it once or twice the subject of a casual jest. Homer and Virgil, Dante and Milton, had each his heaven and his hell, and each described without hesitation the unseen world. But Shakespeare has no heaven and no hell; he deals only with this present life; even his ghosts and witches tell us nothing of the life beyond—they are forbidden to tell the secrets of the prison house, and only intimate that they " could a tale unfold, whose lightest word would harrow up the soul" ("Hamlet," 1:5:13). Our great dramatist is the poet of the secular and not of the religious, of the temporal and not of the eternal.

Here is the limitation of his universality. As Scherer has said: "It is on the boundaries of the invisible world that Shakespeare's vision fails." But he has, notwithstanding, the most sane and level apprehension of the relations of this life, and his testimony to Christian truth, like his testimony to the ethical facts of remorse and retribution, is all the more valuable because unintentionally given. Let us inquire what this testimony is, and what doctrines of our faith derive confirmation from it. In treating this portion of my theme I avail myself to some extent of the references given so copiously in NEITHER NATURALISTIC NOR AGNOSTIC 195

Bishop Wordsworth's excellent book on "Shakespeare and the Bible."

Though Shakespeare does not profess to teach theology, it is not because he has no theology, nor because he regards theology as an impossibility to man. He is not an agnostic. He distinctly maintains the reality and the value, while he confesses the limitations, of our knowledge of God and his relations to the universe. In the second part of "King Henry VI." (4:7: 67), he tells us that

Ignorance is the curse of God,
Knowledge, the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.

In "Antony and Cleopatra" (1:2:8) he says:

In nature's infinite book of secrecy
A little I can read.

He does not hold the naturalistic, any more than he holds the agnostic, view of the universe. In "All's Well That Ends Well" (2 : 3 : 1) he makes Lafeu, the wise man of the play, express himself as follows: "They say miracles are past; and we have our philosophical persons, to make modern and familiar things supernatural and causeless. Hence it is, that we make trifles of terrors, ensconcing ourselves into seeming knowledge, when we should submit ourselves to an unknown fear."

We should expect that this poet of secular life would find in human nature the main source of his knowledge of God. And so it is, for he calls man "the image of his Maker" (" King Henry VIII.," 3:2: 440). God is a God of justice. In "Measure for Measure" (2:2: 76) God is called "the top of judgment." Yet God is also merciful. In "Titus Andronicus" (1 : 1: 117) we read:

Wilt thou draw near the nature of the gods?
Draw near them then in being merciful.

Shakespeare's noblest and completest delineation of female character is that of Portia in the " Merchant of Venice." When Portia sits as doctor of laws and legal adviser of the Duke, we hear from her lips the mingled praise of justice and mercy, and we have an unequaled passage in which the conceptions of the two attributes are so combined that the one qualifies and heightens the 'other (4 : 1 : 175):

The quality of mercy is not [con] strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath : it is twice bless'd,
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power.
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings:
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's,
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,—
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation; we do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.

Such is the poet's view of the divine nature. What now is his view of human nature? Is man the victim Man's Freedom And Responsibility 197

of heredity and environment? The only reply is, that man has moral freedom; that may do the right and avoid the wrong. The citizen in "Coriolanus "(2:3: 3), when told that he may do an unjust thing, replies: "We have power in ourselves to do it, but it is a power that we have no power to do." And in "Twelfth Night" (3 ' 4 : 35 0> Antonio protests:

In nature there's no blemish but the mind;
None can be call'd deform'd but the unkind.
Virtue is beauty, but the beauteous evil
Are empty trunks o' erflourish'd by the devil.

As men have freedom, they cannot lay the blame of their transgression either upon nature or upon God. Kdmund, the double-dyed villain in "King Lear" (1:2: 108), acknowledges that this is only the insincere apology of the guilty:

This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune—often the surfeit of our own behavior—we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars ; as if we were villains of necessity ; fools by heavenly compulsion ; knaves, thieves, and treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on.

In "All's Well That Ends Well" (1 : 1 : 155) Helena declares:

Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
Which we ascribe to heaven; the fated sky
Gives us free scope, only doth backward pull
Our slow designs when we ourselves are dull;

and in "Julius Caesar" (1:2: 135), Cassius says nobly

Men at some time are masters of their fates;
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Dr. Flint in his essay on "Theism" has well said that "Where the will is without energy, and rest is longed for as the end of existence, as among the Hindus, there is a marked inability to think of God as cause or will, and a constant tendency to pantheism." We only utter the complementary truth when we say that where the will is a bounding activity of individual and national life, there is always a strong conviction of the personality of God and the freedom of man. This is peculiarly true of the Elizabethan age, and it is markedly seen in Shakespeare, its noblest writer. Man is capable of good, but he is also capable of freely willing evil.

Robert G. Ingersoll, in his lecture on Shakespeare, represents the poet as holding that crime is only the result of ignorance. Shakespeare holds precisely the opposite. With him, "the wish is father to the thought" ("King Henry IV.," Part II., 4:5: 93), not the thought father to the wish. Says Suffolk ("King Henry VI.," Part I., 2 : 4 : 7):

Faith, I have been a truant in the law,
And never yet could frame my will to it,
And therefore frame the law unto my will.

And Troilus ("Troilus and Cressida," 4:4: 94) witnesses that

Sometimes we are devils to ourselves,

When we will tempt the frailty of our powers,

Presuming on their changeful potency.


The angels fell by ambition (" King Henry VIII.," 3:2: 439), and man too "falls like Lucifer" {Idem, 3:2: 369)

Sin begins in the abuse of free-will, but by that abuse man makes himself a slave. One sin leads to another. Says Pericles (1 : 1 : 137):

One sin, I know, another doth provoke;
Murder's as near to lust, as flame to smoke.

and Richard III. confesses (4:2: 63):

I am in

So far in blood, that sin will pluck on sin.

This sin may come to be a fixed state of obstinate selfassertion, an apotheosis of self, that defies both God and man. Coriolanus (5 : 4 : 23) "wants nothing of a god but eternity and a heaven to throne in;" "there is no more mercy in him than there is milk in a male tiger."

In "Richard III." and in "Macbeth " we have Shakespeare's representations of hubris, the one unpardonable sin of the Greek tragedy. Iago too is a willful hater of all good, and Goneril and Regan show that human nature may consciously and deliberately surrender itself to evil. "Is there any cause in nature that makes these hard hearts?" inquires Lear (3:7: 75). The suggested answer is, that what nature never did, and never could do, man's evil will has done; he has so perverted his nature that it has become utterly unnatural.

And yet while there is danger of reaching a point where the sinner will be too infirm of purpose to strive any longer for the good, there is still in all men a remainder of freedom, and a possibility of change for the better. What the king in "Hamlet" (4:7:117) says with regard to the evil deed is equally true with regard to the good deed:

That we would do,
We should do when we would ; for this "would" changes,
And hath abatements and delays as many
As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents;
And then this should" is like a spendthrift sigh,
That hurts by easing.

The player-king in the same drama (3:2:171) declares that

Purpose is but the slave to memory;
Of violent birth, but poor validity.

And Hamlet himself advises his mother (3:4: 163):

Refrain to-night;
And that shall lend a kind of easiness
To the next abstinence; the next more easy;
For use can almost change the stamp of nature,
And either master the devil, or throw him out
With wondrous potency.

Here there is recognized a "stamp of nature," an evil taint of blood. No poet of the world has more fully and constantly acknowledged man's congenital depravity. Timon of Athens (4:3:18) proclaims that

There's nothing level in our cursed natures,
But direct villainy.

In "All's Well That Ends Well" (4 : 3 : 18) we read: "Now, God delay our rebellion! as we are ourselves, what things are we! Merely our own traitors!" In "Measure for Measure" (1:2: 120):


Our natures do pursue,
Like rats that ravin down their proper bane,
A thirsty evil ; and when we drink we die.

In "Hamlet" (3:1:117): "Virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it." In "Love's Labor's Lost" (1:1: 149):

For every man with his affects is born,

Not by might mastered, but by special grace.

Shakespeare testifies that all men are sinners:
Forbear to judge, for we are sinners all,

says Henry VI. (Part II., 3 13 : 31);

Who lives that's not depraved or depraves?

says Timon (1:2: 124). In "Othello" we read (3: 3 = 137):

Where's that palace whereinto foul things
Sometimes intrude not? Who has a breast so pure,
But some uncleanly apprehensions
Keep leets and law-days, and in sessions sit
With meditations lawful?

Hamlet confesses (3:1: 122):

I am myself indifferent honest; but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me : I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in. What should such fellows as I do, crawling between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves, all; believe none of us.

And yet our poet will not clear man from responsibility for his inborn depravity. Hamlet compares God's influence to the sun which "breeds maggots in a dead dog, kissing carrion" (2 : 2 : 181); that is, God is no more responsible for the corruption in man's heart and the evil that comes from it, than the sun is responsible for the maggots which its heat breeds in a dead dog. We are not only corrupt by nature but we are guilty. In "The Winter's Tale" (1 : 2 : 69), Polixenes describes his companionship with Leontes, when they were boys together:

We knew not the doctrine of ill-doing, nor dream'd
That any did. Had we pursued that life,
And our weak spirits ne'er been higher rear'd
With stronger blood, we should have answered
Heaven boldly, Not guilty ; the imposition cleared
Hereditary ours;

that is, provided our hereditary connection with Adam had not made us guilty.

Man's guilt, both hereditary and personal, is real, and it has punishment for its correlate. There is a craving to make reparation for sin. In "Measure for Measure" (5:1: 470), when Escalus expresses sorrow that Angelo should have sinned, Angelo replies:

I am sorry that such sorrow I procure,
And so deep sticks it in my penitent heart
That I crave death more willingly than mercy;
'Tis my deserving, and I do entreat it

Posthumus in "Cymbeline" (5:4: 22), thinking he had caused the death of his wife, makes request of the gods:


For Imogen's dear life take mine; and though
'Tis not so dear, yet 'tis a life; you coined it
'Tween man and man they weigh not every stamp;
Though light, take pieces for the figure's sake;
You rather mine, being yours; and so, great Powers,
If you will take this audit, take this life,
And cancel these cold bonds!

Desired more than constrained; to satisfy,
If of my freedom 'tis the main part, take
No stricter render of me than my all;

that is, settle the account with me by taking my life.

While the conscience of the penitent desires punishment, the conscience of the impenitent man expects punishment.

Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all,

says Hamlet (3:1: 83); and the queen in the same play (4 : S : 17) breaks out in fear:

To my sick soul, as sin's true nature is.
Each toy seems prologue to some great amiss;
So full of artless jealousy is guilt,
It spills itself in fearing to be spilt

King Henry VI. (Part II., 3:2: 232) exclaims:

What stronger breastplate than a heart untainted!
Thrice is he armed that hath his quarrel just;
And he but naked, though locked up in steel,
Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted.

Sin may blunt the edge of conscience for a time:

When we in our viciousness grow hard,

(O misery on't!) the wise gods seal our eyes;

In our own filth drop our clear judgments, make us
Adore our errors, laugh at us while we strut
To our confusion.

("Antony and Cleopatra," 3 : 13 : m.)

But conscience will sooner or later awake again in the case of the guilty. Gonzalo, in "The Tempest "(3:3: 104), testifies:

Their great guilt,
Like poison given to work a great time after,
Now' gins to bite the spirits.

Even "Richard III." confesses at the last (5:3: 180):

O coward conscience, how thou dost afflict me!

My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.

And conscience is but the prophecy of another condemnation more terrible still. "Can we outrun the heavens?" says "Henry VI." (Part II., 5:2: 73). And "Henry V." (4:1 : 157) says nobly: "If transgressors have defeated the law and outrun native punishment, though they can outstrip men, they have no wings to fly from God." Hamlet witnesses (3:3:57):

In the corrupted currents of this world

Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice;

But 'tis not so above. There is no shuffling;

There the action lies in his true nature, and we ourselves

Compell'd, even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,

To give in evidence.

Hear King John (4 : 2 :216):


Oh, when the last account' twixt heaven and earth
Is to be made, then shall this hand and seal
[the warrant for the murder of Prince Arthur]
Witness against us to damnation.

And in the same play the Bastard speaks (4:3:117):

Beyond the infinite and boundless reach
Of mercy, if thou didst this deed of death,
Art thou damn'd, Hubert!

In all literature there is no scene more moving than that one in which Beaufort, the bloody cardinal in King Henry VI. (Part II., 3 : 3 : 2), offers the treasures of a realm to purchase a little longer life, cries out in agony at the thought of his victims, and when asked to indicate some remaining hope in God's mercy, sinks back in death, but makes no sign.

There is retribution in the world to come, but there is also retribution here. This world is under the rule of Providence (" Hamlet," 5 : 2 : 10):

There's a divinity that shapes our ends
Rough-hew them how we will.

Says Edgar, in "King Lear" (5 13; 171):

The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Make instruments to plague us.

and Hamlet (1 : 2 : 257):

Foul deeds will rise.
Though all the earth o' erwhelm them,
To men's eyes.

Macbeth testifies (1 :7 : 10) that

Even-handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poisoned chalice
To our own lips;

and Buckingham, in "Richard III." (5 : 2 : 23):

Thus doth he force the swords of wicked men
To turn their own points in their master's bosoms.

From this retributive Providence here, as well as from
God's judgments hereafter, there is no escape except
through repentance and faith in the atonement which
God himself has provided.

But let us particularly notice that repentance is not mere outward penance, nor any merely transient sorrow. Shakespeare understands that no true penitence exists where the sinner still clings to his sin, or fails to repair the wrong. The king in "Hamlet" cries (3:3; 51):

What form of prayer
Can serve my turn? Forgive me my foul murder?
That cannot be ; since I am still possess'd
Of those effects for which 1 did the murder,
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.
May one be pardon'd and retain the offence?"

What then ? what rests?
Try what repentance can : what can it not?
Yet what can it, when one cannot repent?
O wretched state! O bosom, black as death!
O limed soul, that, struggling to be free,
Art more engag'd!

In "Measure for Measure" (2:3: 30) the duke addresses Juliet:


'Tis meet so, daughter; but lest you do repent
As that the sin hath brought you to this shame,
Which sorrow is always toward ourselves, not heaven,
Showing we would not spare heaven as we love it,
But as we stand in fear.

And Juliet responds:

I do repent me, as it is an evil,
And take the shame with joy.

Ariel, in "The Tempest" (3:3: 72) interprets both nature and the human heart when he says:

For which foul deed,
The powers, delaying, not forgetting, have
Incensed the seas and shores; yea, all the creatures
Against your peace ; . . whose wrath to guard you from,
. . is nothing but heart's sorrow,
And a clear life ensuing.

Henry V. (4 : 1 : 287) expresses the deepest feeling of the truly penitent man, when he adds to his reparation and his sorrow the confession that both these are insufficient:

More will I do,
Though all that I can do is nothing worth;
Since that my penitence comes after all,
Imploring pardon—

pardon both for the crime itself, and for the imperfection
of his repenting of it. Repentance does not of itself
pay man's debt to the divine justice, or clear the guilty .
from the punishment of their sin. Prayer may to some
extent avail. In "All's Well That Ends Well" (3:4:
25) the aged countess speaks:

What angel shall
Bless this unworthy husband? He cannot thrive,
Unless her prayers, whom heaven delights to hear
And loves to grant, reprieve him from the wrath
Of greatest justice!

But the only real quittance is afforded by the work of Christ in our behalf. Here the testimony of Shakespeare to the need of human nature and the sufficiency of the divine provision is ample and complete. In "All's Well That Ends Well," Helena declares (2:1: 149):

It is not so with Him that all things knows
As 'tis with us that square our guess by shows;
But most it is presumption in us when
The help of heaven we count the act of men.

We read in "King Henry VI." (Part II., 3 : 2 : 154):

That dread King took our state upon him
To free us from his Father's wrathful curse.

In "Measure for Measure" (2 : 2 : 73):

, Why, all the souls that are were forfeit once;
And He that might the vantage best have took
Found out the remedy.

He speaks in "Richard II." (2:1: 56), of

The world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son;

and in "King Henry IV." (Part I., 1 : 1 : 24) of

Those holy fields
Over whose acres walked those blessed feet


Which fourteen hundred years ago were nailed
For our advantage on the bitter cross.

In "King Henry VI." (Part II., i : i : no) Salisbury swears

Now by the death of Him that died for all;

and in "King Richard III." Clarence in the Tower adjures his murderers (1:4: 183):

I charge you, as you hope to have redemption
By Christ's dear blood, shed for our grievous sins,
That you depart, and lay no hands on me.

It may possibly be thought that in the plays of Shakespeare we have no real clew to the religious beliefs of the poet, since he puts into the mouth of each character only what fitted his station and his time. This might be true, if there were intermingled with the testimonies to the great facts of ethics and religion other testimonies to atheism and immorality. But these latter are conspicuously lacking. It is otherwise with Marlowe; he was known as an atheist, and his characters witness both for and against morality and the Christian faith.

Suppose for a moment that a census were taken of George Eliot's characters; that their expressions of belief or unbelief were classified, as I have attempted to classify Shakespeare's; can any one doubt that the result would be a far different one, and that George Eliot's own skepticism and pessimism would be discovered faintly written, as in a palimpsest, underneath their lines? I challenge any man to find unbelief in the

dramatis persona of Shakespeare's plays, except in cases


where it is the manifest effect or excuse of sin, reproved by the context or changed to fearful acknowledgment of the truth by the results of transgression. In his ethical judgments he never makes a slip; he is as surefooted as a Swiss mountaineer; he depicts vice, but he does not make it alluring or successful.

After earnest searching I can unhesitatingly avow the belief that the great dramatist was both pure in his moral teaching and singularly sound in faith. There is a freedom of utterance with regard to the relations of the sexes, such as is natural in a bold and vigorous age, but there is no lingering over sensual details. Plausible sinners like Falstaff come to an evil end. How pathetic is the Hostess' account of his death in "King Henry V." (2 : 3 : 16):

His nose was as sharp as a pen, and 'a babbled of green fields. "How now, Sir John," quoth I: "what man! be of good cheer." So 'a cried out, "God, God, God!" three or four times. Now I, to comfort him, bid him 'a should not think of God; I hoped there was no need to trouble himself with any such thoughts yet So 'a bade me lay more clothes on his feet; I put my hand into the bed, and felt them, and they were as cold as any stone; then I felt to his knees and so upward, and upward, and all was as cold as any stone.

The recent suggestion that Sir John's "babbling of green fields" is an allusion to the Twenty-third Psalm, and that Shakespeare here means to intimate that at his death he returned to the faith of his childhood and felt that the Lord was "making him to lie down in green pastures," had not yet occurred to the Hostess, for she was only bent on soothing a troubled conscience by turning away its thoughts from God.


There is no trace of Mariolatry, nor of dependence for salvation upon ritual and ceremony. Yet Shakespeare is as devoid of Puritanism as he is of Romish superstition. In an age of much clerical corruption he never rails at the clergy. While he has some most ungodly prelates, his priests are all a credit to their calling. None of his characters are disseminators of skepticism. I cannot explain all this except by supposing that Shakespeare was himself a believer. Though he was not a theological dogmatist, nor an ecclesiastical partisan, he was unwaveringly assured of the fundamental verities of the Christian scheme. Shakespeare had dug down through superficial formulas to the bed-rock of Christian doctrine. He held the truths which belong in common to all ages of the church. If any deny the personality of God or the deity of Christ, they have a controversy with Shakespeare. If any think it irrational to believe in man's depravity, guilt, and need of supernatural redemption, they must also be prepared to say that Shakespeare did not understand human nature.

Here is a healthy secular mind, calmly and sagaciously judging things high and things .low, and so picturing life in its essential features that we appeal to his characters as if they were living men. He had his trials with the sex, but there is no more bitterness against women than prejudice against priests. The king and the beggar he conceives with equal truth to nature. The archness and persuasiveness of a French woman were never depicted so well as in Katherine's reception of King Henry's suit. The pedantic theorizing and dogged courage of a Welsh soldier were never better exhibited than in Fluellen. Yet Shakespeare never traveled. He was not a man of the court. He was primarily a man of business. But the man of business was a genius—the finest genius in the way of poetic imagination that ever appeared upon this planet.

Goethe carried erudition into art. Shakespeare was never a man of technical learning—the scholastic element is absent from his plays. He makes up for all deficiencies by his creative faculty. What others acquire by rote, he gets by insight. And so "he could take in everything," as Taine has said; "sanguinary ferocity and refined generosity, trivial buffoonery and the divine innocence of love." "It was a piece of good fortune that he knew little Latin and less Greek," says Lilly; "for this closed to him the r61e of imitation. The rules of classicalism he knows not of, nor is his mental horizon bounded by the writers of antiquity. Of intellectual freedom he is our supreme example, and for two centuries well-nigh the last example, among English poets."

I have said so much of the universal element in Shakespeare's creation of character, that I have but scant time to deal with the poet's creation of imagery or of diction. As to imagery, I run no risk in saying that our poet saw nothing in an isolated way. To him there was a universe: all things were interdependent; truth in one realm had its analogues in every other. It was not the mere association of ideas which we call fancy; it was the discernment of rational connections which we call imagination.

Our Lord Jesus Christ was the most imaginative, and at the same time the most profound, of thinkers: bread, water, light, darkness, the sea, the sky, the birds, the beasts, the fish of the sea, all taught spiritual lessons. IMAGERY AND DICTION


Shakespeare possessed this divine gift of imagination in his lower degree and within his more limited range. The flow of metaphor is so constant and so natural that we cannot call it brilliancy—it is insight into the heart of things. Like Tennyson's wizard,

To him the wall
That sunders ghosts and shadow-casting men
Became as crystal, and he saw them through it,
And heard their voices talk behind the wall,
And learnt their elemental secrets, powers,
And forces.

Other poets strain after effects; with Shakespeare all is spontaneous. With others there are lapses, and the poetry becomes prose; with Shakespeare the vision and the faculty divine seem native to him and perpetual. Milton's epitaph on Shakespeare is only truthful when it says:

To the shame of slow-endeavoring art
Thy easy numbers flow.

We are amazed, tantalized, carried away, with the rush, the beauty, the inexhaustible vitality of his imagination. And yet nothing is overdone—in the very torrent, tempest, and (as I may say) whirlwind of his passion, there is a temperance that gives it hold upon our judgment. When Hotspur asks ("King Henry IV.," Part I., 4: 1 =94):

Where is his son,
The nimble-footed, mad-cap Prince of Wales,
And his comrades, that daffed the world aside
And bid it pass?

Sir Richard Vernon answers:

All furnish'd, all in arms,
All plumed like estridges, that with the wind
Bated—like eagles newly bath'd;
Glittering in golden coats like images;
As full of spirit as the month of May,
And gorgeous as the sun at midsummer;
Wanton as youthful goats, wild as young bulls.
I saw young Harry—with his beaver on,
His cuisses on his thighs, gallantly armed—
Rise from the ground like feather'd Mercury,
And vaulted with such ease into his seat,
As if an angel dropped down from the clouds
To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus,
And witch the world with noble horsemanship.

Here are nine different similes, succeeding each other with such matchless freshness and beauty that they fairly dazzle us, yet each adding a quick new stroke of stirring description, and all together rising to a climax that captivates both sense and reason.

In character and in imagery we have seen the universality of Shakespeare—his appeal to the universal elements of human nature. It remains to speak of the poet's diction—the word-garb in which his creations are portrayed. Here we find him the greatest augmenter of our language. Milton, with all his adaptations from the Greek and the Latin, uses but eight thousand words, Shakespeare cannot content himself with less than fifteen thousand. Hundreds of these are of his own coinage, or are preserved to our literature only by his use of them. Feliciter audax is the phrase that best designates him. He had the subtle sense of the connection between word and thing which led the THE POETIC DICTION OF SHAKESPEARE 215

Greeks to apply the same name rhema to both. It is said of Ruskin that in his childhood the sight of the word crocodile would frighten him. Every great poet has this keen appreciation of the capacity of language. Shakespeare, beyond all others, had the gift of naming things which the author of the book of Genesis ascribes to the unfallen father of the race. Of all poets, he is most easily master of the art: rem acu tangcre. His words are "the true and only words." To change the words is to spoil the thought.

Not only the single word but the various combinations of the word into phrase and line were as much creations as were his characters and his images. There is an immortal music in his verse. Pathetic or gay, gentle or grand, as the case may be, it goes so to the heart and it so lingers in the ear, that a sense of divine perfection is roused within us, and we get a new proof of a supernatural intelligence that has made the rhythm of thought and the rhythm of speech to complement each other and to constitute one whole.

If we ask for pathos, where can we find it if not in the dirge which the princes sing over the seemingly lifeless Cymbeline (4 : 2 : 259):

Fear no more the heat o' the sun,

Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,

Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frowns o' the great,
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke;

Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust

Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor th' all-dreaded thunder-stone;

Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan:

All lovers young, all lovers must,

Consign to thee, and come to dust

If we desire solemn utterance, what can surpass Alonzo's confession of his crime in "The Tempest "(3:3: 96):

O, it is monstrous, monstrous!
Methought the billows spoke, and told me of it;
The winds did sing it to me; and the thunder,
That deep and dreadful organ-pipe, pronounc'd
The name of Prosper; it did base my trespass!

Or if we wish for ethereal delicacy, we shall discover it nowhere if not in Ariel's song ("Tempest," 1:2: 395):

Full fathom five thy father lies;

Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;

Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them—Ding-dong, belL

It took two hundred years to convince the English people that Shakespeare was their greatest poet, but no writer of eminence in recent times has had inclination to dispute it. We are in a fair way indeed to crown him as the poet laureate of the race. But with all our appreciation let us be both critical and just. His greatTHE LIMITATIONS OF SHAKESPEARE 217

ness does not consist in his power of invention. Of all his plays there are only two the germs of which cannot be found before his time; but those two are " Midsummer-Night's Dream" and "The Tempest," in which pure imagination has reached its very loftiest flights. Quite commonly, however, he took his whole story from others. He was not an inventor of incident, but a creator of character.

The disjecta membra of many a dead drama lay scattered at his feet. Like the bones of Ezekiel's vision, they were very old and exceeding dry. Shakespeare prophesied over them and a spirit came into them; a veritable heart began to throb under the ribs of death; the simulacra of humanity breathed and moved and spoke; the dry bones became living men. And with this creation of real characters, true to nature, instinct with vitality, and perfectly separable from one another, all the complex web of incident in which they moved became living also. The story when Shakespeare took it was dull and colorless; the poet touched it with the torch *f his genius, and it began to glow and coruscate like a piece of fireworks after it is lit.

Shakespeare is the creator of character, but of character belonging to this world rather than the next. He is the poet of secular humanity. Homer has pictured a few types of humanity in a narve and objective way. Shakespeare shows us human nature in its infinite variety; there are more than six hundred distinct characters in his mimic world, yet every one of them gives us intimation of another world of varied passions and fears within the circle of his breast. Virgil is the poet of a political epoch, the representative of Roman hope and

civilization, the sweet singer of the Augustan age. Shakespeare transcends all epochs and all times ; he can enter into the spirit of Greece and of Rome as easily as into that of his native England; and that because he knows what human nature is, everywhere and always.

Dante is the religious poet of the Roman and mediaeval church, as Milton is the religious poet of Protestantism and the Reformation. Both Dante and Milton regard man chiefly in his relations to an invisible and spiritual world, and earthly life is merely incidental to the heavenly. But to Shakespeare the present world is man's arena, and the future looms up only now and then as a dim and shadowy background.

Wordsworth is the poet of nature. The divine life interfused through all physical things is the central thought of his verse. Shakespeare does not go beneath the surface of nature, and he regards the outward world mainly in its relations to man, hardly ever as the manifestation of God. Browning is the poet of the inner life, the dramatist of motives, the portrayer of speculative struggles and triumphs. Shakespeare is no philosopher; he deals with motives only as they work themselves out in action; he is the poet of the concrete, rather than of the abstract. But within this realm of secular life and character in action, he is supreme. More than any other poet he has added to our knowledge of ourselves as creatures of this present world.

A greater poetry than his is indeed conceivable and possible, for nature and God are indispensable factors in the imaginative interpretation of the universe, and these play no great part in Shakespeare's verse. But human nature reflects the divine nature, and in studying huTHE GREATEST POET OF SECULAR HUMANITY 219

manity we gain material for the study of God. What our great poet has told us about humanity is of inestimable value to theological thought.

I have not intended to compare the poetry of Shakespeare with the poetry of the Bible. Shakespeare has neither the eloquence of Isaiah nor the sublimity of Job. What Shakespeare does not profess to do, Job and Isaiah do profess to do—namely, to teach of God and duty. Nor have I intended to compare the merits of the great uninspired poets, or to call one greater and another less. It is better to call each great in his peculiar sphere. But in the creation of character Shakespeare so far surpasses all others, that by common consent we have come to regard him as the greatest secular poet of the world. Will the world ever see a poet who shall surpass him? It can only be by adding Dante's vision of God and Wordsworth's vision of nature to Shakespeare's vision of humanity. Until some inspired bard shall touch all these several strings with simultaneous and equal mastery, we may well content ourselves with Shakespeare.

We can subscribe to the judgment of James Russell Lowell when he says that "For those who know no language but their own there is as much intellectual training to be got from the study of his writings as from those of any, I had almost said, of all, of the great writers of antiquity." And the chief reason for this is that beyond all other poets Shakespeare has a faculty for the universal, a power of seizing upon the types of things, and an art of evoking living characters in which these types are concretely represented.

Dewey, in his " Psychology" (200), comes very near to expressing the noblest lesson of our theme, when he says : "All products of the creative imagination are unconscious testimonies to the unity of spirit which binds man to man, and man to nature, in one organic whole." We would add only the one remark and explanation, that the spirit which thus binds all things together, and makes possible the poet's insight into universal truth and beauty, is none other than the omnipresent Spirit of God, whose specifically religious work is inspiration, but who is also working in all secular literature, and is making it the progressive revelation of his own divine life.