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and freedom from hobbies of theory that seem so phenomenal at first sight in the works of the Elizabethan master. He reflected life as he saw it, not prismatically, but by a kind of dramatic refraction. If, as is supposed, 1585 was the year of his advent in London--saving Greene's epithet of the new Johannes Factotum destined to eclipse them all, which implies that as early as 1592 Shakespeare had given earnest enough of his coming fame to pique the jealousy of his competitors, and the brief notice in “ Kind Hearts' Dream," 1592—it is thirteen years before he emerges from the crowd about him, and takes his place as a centre piece in literary history. In 1598, Francis Meres, who calls himseif a Master of Arts of both Universities, sounds the first note of thorough recognition iu his“ Pal. ladis Tamia," a discourse on English poets. The single brief sentence of unqualified recognition, omitting the titles of twelve plays, quoted as illustrations, runs thus: “Shakespeare, among the English, is the most excellent in both kinds (tragedy and comedy) for the stage.” Mention of twelve plays. among them the " Vidsummer Night's Dream" and " Romeo and Juliet,” follows, the quaint critic concluding with this sixteenth century euphuisin : “As the soul of Euphorbos was thought to live in Pythagoras, so the sweet and witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare:” and with an allusion to the poems and the “sugred sonnets.”
Add to the twelve dramas quoted by Meres the three parts of “ Henry VI.,” from which Greene, in the “Groatsworth of Wit," takes his "tiger's heart wrapped in a player's hide" compare the passage, “O tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide!”-and to which Nash alludes in “ Peers Penniless ;' and it is evident that from 1585 to 1598 the Johannes Facto. tum had produced thirteen plays--one a year.
The notice of Meres is valuable, however, from another standpoint. Ben Jonson's very best comedy, “Every Man in his Humour” had been known to the public for two years, having appeared in 1596, and here Jonson was at the climax of his popularity; if then, two years after the publication of Jonson's play, Meres could unqnalifiedly pronounce Shakespeare the most excellent both in tragedy and comedy, it is obvious that the eclipse of competition seemingly predicted by Greene had already come abont. The conclusion is then, from the slender data at hand, that Shakespeare's first seven years in London were years of observation and life-struggle; that it was at least six years before he became eminent enough to be sneered at; that it was not until he had served a dozen years with the Laban at the door that he was permitted to take his rightful place in the Pantheon.
This view of the progress of his career is supported by the fact that the Great House at Stratford-upon-Avon was not bonght until 1597, from which year dates a rapid accumnlation of real estate, that seems to end in 1605. From 1597 to 1603 his pen was prolific as a wizard's wand: the man was in the zenith of his fame. In 1600 he published fire plays; in 1602, one; in 1603, one---the “ Tragedy of Hamlet.” But between Ilamlet, entered in 1603, and “Lear," entered in 1607, intervenes an apparent interval of non-production. In 1605, he ceases accumulating property; in 1616 he is apparently no wealthier than he was eleven years before.
The key to this mystery is no doubt to be sought in the hypothesis that, having enough and to spare, he held the copyright of his plays in his own hands during these last years of his life, intending to publish them himself, as Ben Jonson did his; and this consideration disposes of another popular myth concerning the Elizabethan master, to wit, his supposed carelessness of literary fame. Death overtook him at the work of revising, recasting, for a complete edition, including Macbeth, Timon of Athens, Cymbeline, the Tempest, the Roman plays in a body, the Winter's Tale, and Twelfth Night, still in manuscript; indeed Othello was not published until 1622; and he left the work to John Heminge and Ilenrie Condell, editors of the great folio edition of 1623. “It had been a thing worthy to be wished,” say they in their notice to the reader, “that the author himself had lived to have set forth and overseen his own writings "--words which, taken with the context, that they had scarce received from him a blot in his papers, plainly imply that the poet spent the last years of his life in editing and creating for a volume that should perpetuate his fame, and died suddenly, bequeathing the work of supervision to trusted dramatic coadjutors.
Were it possible to ascertain the exact sequence in which the thirty-seven plays, including Pericles, were written, the task of criticism would be astonishingly simplified. The Comedies certainly represent his first period of production; and the Histories, his maturer manhood.
The Tragedies and Roman plays came later, when sore vexed was he with the mystery of life. For example, Hamlet, as it now exists, Macbeth, Lear, Othello, Timon of Athens, and the Roman plays belong to the era of James I.; while the IIistories and most of the Comedies, except the Tempest, are Elizabethan. Thus, in his earlier dramas occur distinct vestiges of the old Stratford folk-lore, mixed with humors, whims, and eccentricities, caught from his contact with men he met at the theatre, and often grotesquely mixed. They deal in the humorous and exceptional in a manner akin to that of Jonson, flash with wit, twinkle with quaintness, bristle with invention. Not until 1603, in Hamlet, is the deeper and more problematic exceptional, that distinguishes him as Shakespeare, introduced. In other words, his first plays draw directly from the life surrounding him, its humors and caprices, from the folk-lore of provincial Stratford, from the types of drama about him, from traditions and tales. Then ensues a period of enlarged study, resulting in the historical series; next, the period of tragedy, in which he deals with the appalling exceptional in intellect, imagination, and passion, with strange depth of insight and alınost observational fidelity. He is now original in the boldest acceptation. No more Titanias, no more fairy dreams, no more grotesqueries, no more humors of manners and diction, no more trifles and Ben Jonsonisms. After nearly twenty years of observation, the creative braiu begins to cogitate deep, and finds itself face to face with the terrible problem that the Greek dramatists expressed in the one word, Fate. From Hamlet on, this one problem, like the ghost in that strange and transitional tragedy of humors, in which the poet has not yet burst into the silent sea of the mystic, but is conscious of a thither drift, is hic et ubique.
His dramatic sight, many-lensed as a fly's eye, is now introverted. He studies the men about him as spectres projected against the awful background of the man within him ; for every poet's metre of the humanity without is the humanity within. It has been said that every man has a madman inside of him. So he has: and a devil, and an angel, and sundry other infinitudes besides ; the germ of every individuality he creates, the bent of every tragedy he fashions. Every poet is a pagan : life to him is but as a set of puppets in the foreground, with a perspective of the infinite behind; and, question as he may its terrible silences, they answer never. The day comes when he must question. Lead by by-paths to faith his questioning may, as Shakespeare's did not; or to sullen submission to the destiny juggernaut, man an insect to be ground under its wheels, as Shakespeare's did.
He is face to face with this problem in Hamlet, but cannot forbear flashes of his old playfulness. This is the key-note of Hamlet's soliloquy-the key-note of IIamlet as a dramatic creation—the moral of his life and death. He is no more a lunatic, as some have conjectured, than in the old story of Saxo, upon which the tragedy is based. It is the grotesque commingle of the pretended lunacy of the traditional Hamlet, and the deepened humor of Shakespeare, with the subjective cogitation of an appalling problem, that gives the Hamlet of the drama its perfect counterfeit of real madness. That way madness lies; more men have maddened with this problem than ever maddened with any other—but the cranky Dane is not mad, and is not meant as mad. Ophelia maddens and dies under the wheels of the juggernaut; but not so her lover, who is ground to death in his sober senses.
But as this play represents the turning-point, it is interesting to hear the poet's own solution of the riddle it moots. It is given in the single sullen sentence : 66 The rest is silence !" Indebted to his intimacy with Bacon, or to study of the Greek Drama, Shakespeare may have been, for the suggestion of this problem; but from Hamlet on, through Lear and the later tragedies, it possesses him to the exclusion of all other motives. And the true motive of tragedy it is : life producing, death devouring; Matter, a dumb Saturn, eating its own, a relentless cannibal; the rest silence. He pronounces no verdicts, indulges in no dogmatisın; paints the terrible real as it is in its deepest deeps, with a catholic truth to nature that, amusing so long as it dealt in humors and caprices, is now awful in its sublimity and in its recognition of inexorable facts, and leaves the reader oppressed with a nightmare sense of the omnipotence of evil, and a pathetic conviction that, however sad as death may be, the very saddest of all is living and loving. And to bring nearer the humanity of Shakespeare, this transition in method is nearly coincident with the death of hiş only
How great, how little is man in the whirlpool of life, studied from this standpoint-at once a hero and a zero ! And how Spencer's ideal
men and Carlyle's hero-men shrink and shrivel in comparison! Admitting the validity of this very general classification of his plays, what then becomes of the popular myth, so long fostered by panegyrists, that Shakespeare sprang: Titan-like, upon the age he interpreted, without culture, without observation of life, without progress: a play of nature, who married and died, like other people, as supra-human as Ariel, or as sub-human as Caliban ? The age was one of rare Latin culture, in which the Stratford prodigy shared; and if, as Jonson owns, the young man from Stratford had "little Latin and less Greek,” when he went to London, it by no meaus ensues that he was unable to read either. Indeed, Jonson's sneer implies that he knew something of both; not enough, though, to rescue his earlier works from pedantries like “the honey of Hybla," "pitiful Titan,” “Diana's foresters," "homo is a common name for man," and others of the same kind, which have little place in his later; but enough to sustain the brief biographical condensation, that, a young gentleman of more than average culture and of boundless ambition, Shakespeare went to London in pursuit of his life-dream of fame and fortune as a dramatist, fought out, step by step, the progressive life-struggle so many have since repeated, was for seven years at least too obscure to have left even an impress on the record of his generation, struggled for ten or twelve