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with pathetic scenes illustrating the noble qualities of the Moor, and a thousand vices, which he will display in the character of Iago. They prove to him that Othello will be much the best and fairest character, as he is only black in his deed of slaying Desdemona. The slander or censure of the drama will probably be attributable to that
Then will I swear beauty herself is black,
He is perplexed to know how to reconcile his subject with truth in its delineation. The character of the Moor almost surpasses his power. His thoughts are so varied that they aggravate him, and the complexion he has chosen for Othello, as well as the subject, presents many difficulties. But as a theme it is full of attractions for him; he sees it only in the light of truth and beauty, and if he can properly portray the pathetic parts
of the drama, as he can see them in the several characters, the play will excel all others that he has ever written. Othello has been often pronounced the masterpiece of Shakespeare.
We here see that opinion confirmed by the author himself, and learn, also, that he encountered greater difficulty in composing it than in any other of the great dramas.
And yet Thou wilt; for I, being pent in Thee,
In the forty-fifth stanza the poet tells us that his life is made of four. The allusion is to the four characters of the Key,-1, meaning himself (Bacon), Thou (Truth), Thy (Thought), and You (Beauty). In order to comprehend clearly the details of the transfer which he makes to Shakespeare, in this and the three following stanzas, it will be necessary to observe these parts of
what he calls his life, as separate impersonations, and to apply the distinctive appellation of each to the changes in form belonging to it; thus, I, My, Mine, Me, signifies Bacon; Thou, Thine, Truth; Thy, Thee, Thyself, Thought; You, Yours, Yourself, Beauty; Myself means Bacon as author; My Friend means Shakespeare. This explanation is repeated here for the convenience of the reader.
The subtilety of meaning conveyed in the four following stanzas, the abruptness of the changes, and the compactness of expression require the closest attention to enable the reader to comprehend their true object. There is ample verge in all of them for cavil. They describe a complete abandonment of the dramas by Bacon in favor of Shakespeare.
“ That heart,” which he refers to as making his “ heart to groan,” is his own heart filled with fear, anxiety, care, and suspicion, lest by some treachery, accident, design, or oversight, he will be exposed as the author of the dramas. Influenced by these fears, the demands of public office, and his speculative and philosophical studies, he has determined to abandon dramatic composition. His revenue from public sources amply supplies his wants. His prospects for advancement are flattering. He has been knighted, and ranks foremost among the courtiers and statesmen of the age. He is the confidant and adviser of the king. Delightful as the recreation has always been to
delineate nature, truth, and beauty in character, it has ceased to be of use to him as a pursuit, is an encroachment upon his time, and an inspirer of his fears. Yet the thought of forsaking it causes his other “heart to groan.” That other heart (“my heart ”) is his regret at parting forever with the fruit of those mighty labors, which, as he says, have ever been his “best of love," and for which he has so often predicted an assured immortality. While he lives he can never be known as their author. It would be ruinous to all his hopes, possibly fatal to his life. His heart groans at the thought, and is deeply wounded.
He feigns to consider Shakespeare a sufferer from the same “deep wound.” “Is 't not enough to torture Me alone,” he asks, “but slave to slavery my sweet'st friend must be ?” How Shakespeare becomes the “slave to slavery” will appear from a statement of the facts derived from the Sonnets. Thou (Truth), Thy (Thought), and You (Beauty) are the creators of these dramas. I (Bacon), have been your instrument or slave in producing them. Shakespeare is my instrument or slave in assuming the authorship of them. Therefore I being the slave of Thou, Thy, and You, and Shakespeare being my slave, he is the “slave to slavery.”
IIe tells in the accusation of Thy (Thought), in the next line, what is meant by the inquiry: “Is’t not enough to torture Mo alone?"
Me” he says, "from Myself Thy cruel eye hath taken,” that is, Bacon in person is separated from Bacon in authorship. His works, which reflect his real self, can never, while he lives, be known as his.
“And my next self,” he continues in allusion to Shakespeare, “thou harder hast engross’d.” In plainer phrase, by consenting to be known as the author, Shakespeare is "engross'd” or convicted by Thou (Truth) of falsehood or living a lie. The conclusion is arrived at in the next line, “Of him (Shakespeare), Myself (my works), and Thee, (Thought), I (Bacon) am forsaken.” This he declares to be "a torment thrice threefold thus to be cross'd." This may be explained thus: the first threefold refers to Ilim (Shakespeare), Him, IIe, His; the second to Myself (my works), Myself, Mine, My; the third, Thee (Thought), Thee, Thy, Thyself. This makes the thrice threefold torment, as all those have forsaken him.
Having thus made the transfer, he proceeds to give directions for his own concealment: "Prison My heart in Thy steel bosom's ward”; as if saying to himself: “Let me be careful to secrete in my own thoughts all knowledge of the origin of these dramas.” “But then My Friend's [Shakespeare's] heart let My poor heart bail.” Let “My poor heart” (the entire works) be sufficient, with Shakespeare's name as author, for his protection. “Whoe'er keeps Me, let My heart be his guard." Whatever change of condition may occur in my