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cible filial loyalty — sacrificial lives, which are offered up, and which sanctify the earth; lives which fall in the strife with evil, and which, falling, achieve their victories of love. And as these make the world beautiful and sacred, even while they leave it strange and sorrowful, so over against them appear the destroyers of life — Lady Macbeth and the monsters Goneril, Regan.
Finally, in Shakspere's latest plays appear, upon the one hand, the figures of the great sufferers-calm, selfpossessed, much-enduring; free from self-partiality, un. just resentment, and the passion of revenge - Queen Katharine, Hermione; and, on the other hand, are exquisite girlish figures, children who have known no sorrow, over whom is shed a magical beauty, an ideal light, while above them Shakspere is seen, as it were, bowing tenderly—Miranda, Perdita. How great a distance has been traversed ! Instead of the terrible Margaret of Anjou, we have here Queen Katharine. Shakspere in his early period would have found cold, and without suitability for the purposes of art, Katharine's patience, reserve, and equilibrium of soul. Instead of Rosaline, here is Perdita. A death-bed, glorious with a vision of angels, and the exquisite dawn of a young girl's lifethese are the two last things on which the imagination of the poet cared to dwell affectionately and long.
Here, for the present, we may pause. We have glanced at the growth of Shakspere's mind and art as far onward as the opening of the period of the great tragedies. What Shakspere gained of insight and of strength during that period a subsequent chapter will attempt to tell.*
* I am unwilling to offer any criticism of the play of Troilus and Cressi. da until I see my way more clearly through certain difficulties respecting its date and its ethical significance. Mr. Fleay believes that three stories can be distinguished—(1) Troilus and Cressida; (2) Hector; (3) Ajax, Ulysses,
and the Greek Camp; and that these stories were written at different pe. riods. (See Trans. New Sh. Soc.) Mr. Furnivall says, “That there are two parts, an early and a late, I do not doubt.” Hertzberg assigns the date 1603. See his valuable preface in the German Shakespeare Society's edition of Tieck and Schlegel's translation of Shakspere, vol. xi., and on the sources of the play his article in Shakespeare-Jahrbuch, vol. vi.; also, in vol. iii., the article by Karl Eitner. Hertzberg believes that the play remained unprinted and unacted until 1609. Ulrici's article on Troilus and Cressida in Shakespeare-Jahrbuch, vol. ix., makes it clear that the play belongs rather to comedy than tragedy. This article may be consulted (as well as Hertzberg's preface) on the questions raised by the concluding lines of the diffi. cult epilogue by Pandarus.
So far was written in 1876; but since then I have come to understand in some degree, I believe, the significance of this difficult play. (See ante, pref. ace to the third edition.)
THE FIRST AND SECOND TRAGEDY: ROMEO AND JULIET;
DURING the first ten years of Shakspere's dramatic ca reer he wrote quickly, producing (if we suppose that he commenced authorship in 1590, at the age of twentysix), on an average, about two plays in each year. These eighteen or twenty plays written between 1590 and 1600 include some eight or nine comedies, and the whole of the great series of English historical dramas, which, when Henry V. was written, Shakspere probably looked upon as complete. To this field he did not return, except in one instance, when it would seem that a portion of a play on the subject of Henry VIII. was written, and, while still incomplete, was handed over, on some special occasion, to the dramatist Fletcher to expand from three acts into five. In the first decade of Shakspere's authorship (if we set aside Titus Andronicus as the work of an unknown writer), a single tragedy appears — Romeo and Juliet. This play is believed to have engaged Shakspere's attention during a number of years. Dissatisfied, probably, with the first form which it assumed, Shakspere worked upon the play again, rewriting and enlarg
But it is not unlikely that even then he con
* The opinion of Mr. Richard Grant White deserves to be stated. It is " that the Romeo and Juliet which has come down to us (for there may have been an antecedent play upon the same story) was first written [in 1591]
sidered his powers to be insufficiently matured for the great dealing, as artist, with human life and passion which tragedy demands; for, having written Romeo and Juliet, Shakspere returned to the histories, in which, doubtless, he was aware that he was receiving the best possible culture for future tragedy; and he wrote the little group of comedies in which Shaksperian mirth obtains its highest and most complete expression. Then, after an interval of about five years, a second tragedy, Hamlet, was produced. Over Hamlet, as over Romeo and Juliet, it is supposed that Shakspere labored long and carefully. Like Romeo and Juliet, the play exists in two forms, and there is reason to believe that in the earlier form in each instance we possess an imperfect report of Shakspere's first treatment of his theme.*
It may be thought paradoxical to infer from the absence of tragedy in the earlier years of Shakspere's dramatic career, that he looked upon the writing of tragedy as his chief vocation as author; yet the inference is not unconfirmed by facts in Shakspere's subsequent career. Almost from the first it would appear that he had before him the design of Romeo and Juliet. When, after five or six years, it was actually accomplished, there still ap
by two or more playwrights, of whom Shakspere was one; that subsequently [in 1596] Shakspere rewrote this old play, of which he was part author, making his principal changes in the passages which were contributed by his co-laborers.” Mr. White believes the first quarto of Romeo and Julist to be an imperfect and garbled copy, obtained by the aid of a reporter, of Shakspere's new work, the defects of which were supplied partly by some verse-mongers of the day, and partly from the old play in the composition of which Shakspere was one of two or more co-laborers.
* The editors of the Cambridge Shakspere believe that there was an old play on the subject of Hamlet, “some portions of which are still preserved in the quarto of 1603.” For various bits of evidence (some good, some bad) to prove that the text of this quarto was obtained orally, and not directly from a manuscript, see Tschischwitz's “Shakspere-Forschungen - I. Ham. let," pp. 10–14.
peared in the play unmistakable marks of immature judge ment. Shakspere accordingly, who in his histories had abundance of work planned out for him, wisely abstained for some time further from writing tragedy. But as soon as Hamlet was completed, and it became a demonstrated fact to the poet that he had attained his full maturity, and was master of his craft, then he no longer hesitated or delayed; and year by year, from 1602 to 1612, he added to the great roll of his tragedies, accomplishing in those years, by sustained energy of heart and imagination, as marvellous a feat of authorship as the world has
When Shakspere began to write for the stage, as was noticed in the preceding chapter, he was by no means misled by self-confidence. He began cautiously and tentatively, feeling his way.
And there was one cause which might reasonably make him timid in the direction of tragedy. Shakspere, at the age of twenty-six, was not afraid to compete with contemporary writers in comedy and history. He co-operated, it may be, in the writing of historical plays, The First Part of the Contention and The True Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, at an early age; and afterwards by revision and addition made these plays still more his own.* But the department of tragedy was dominated by a writer of superb genius, Christopher Marlowe. Shakspere, whose powers ripened slowly, may, at the time when he wrote The Comedy of Errors and Love's Labor's Lost, have well hesitated to dispute with Marlowe his special province. Imitators
* The latest study of 2 and 3 Henry VI. and the relation of these to The Contention and True Tragedie is the admirably careful essay by Miss Jane Lee, Trans. New Sh. Soc., 1875–76. The opinion arrived at by Miss Lee is that in 2 and 3 Henry VI. Shakspere and Marlowe are revisers of work by Marlowe, Greene, and perhaps Peele.