Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Dowden has pictured the rich life of the Elizabethans, overflowing with energy and endowed with a “capacity for perceiving, for enjoying, and for reproducing facts

and facts of as great variety as possible.” Bacon realized | the presence of physical law in the world, but failed to

realize the inexorableness of the moral law; Shakspere, on the other hand, recognized the supremacy of the moral law in the minutest particular. Springing from the same soil, Bacon, Hooker, and Shakspere shared one characteristic in common, a rich feeling for positive concrete fact. Proceeding then from the first poems and dramas, Professor Dowden has traced in a most interesting and sympathetic manner the growth of Shakspere step by step through the early tragedies and comedies, through the later tragedies and comedies, through the history plays and Roman plays to the romances of the later years, concluding with a most discriminating chapter on Shakspere's humor. The book avoids the discussion of purely scholastic questions, but is rather an attempt to conceive of characters chiefly with reference to action in their respective spheres. Accepting the latest findings of research in the sources of plays and their chronology, Professor Dowden assumes a sympathetic attitude toward philosophical criticism and shows how Shakspere "leads his disciple away from the thin abstractions of the intellect, from mere contemplative wisdom and directs him toward the world of human character, action and passion."

This book reveals the riches of a diligent and sincere student and lover of Shakspere, who has spent the best years of his life in reading and teaching the master dramatist. We are never led into some bye-paths of speculation, irrelevant to the main purpose. Rather do the pages stimulate an enthusiasm for the exuberance

of Shakspere's imagination and humor and his grip on the facts of common life. What Professor Dowden writes as his concluding sentences may well stand as a characterization of his own interpretative criticism: “Shakspere does not supply us with a doctrine, with an interpretation, with a revelation. What he brings to us is this—to each one, courage, and energy, and strength, to dedicate himself and his work to that-whatever it be which life has revealed to him as best, and highest, and most real."

After forty-three years this book remains, as Aubrey de Vere in a letter to Professor Dowden predicted, one of the sanest and most admirable books on Shakspere. In American colleges and universities where the study of Shakspere shows no sign of abatement this volume should occupy a place by the side of the master. True in its endeavor to reveal Shakspere and him only, it will serve as an unqualified antidote to so much that is merely sentimental and ephemeral. Teachers of Shakspere have come to realize that if literature is to have a place in a humanitarian education it must be presented as the real stuff of human life, shorn of its trappings which so often allure the merely casual and superficial student. If the plays of Shakspere could be read with the simple purpose of leading students to understand the language of Shakspere and firing the imagination to visualize the varied personages of his interesting world, the number of readers would be multiplied a hundredfold. If the courses dealing with Shakspere might be arranged so that the plays should be read in conjunction with this book, there would be an assurance of that real assistance which our time seems to require in the study of the classics without the intervention of extraneous misinformation which leaves

[ocr errors]

the student in the end merely enfeebled and even nauseated. Under the guidance of such leadership as this book affords the reader will rediscover a world of new immensity and will feel “a new courage, a new energy, a new strength to dedicate himself to that which life has revealed to him as the best, and highest, and most real." He will see more plainly that the significance of the development of character from the early plays of 1590 to the late romances of 1610 becomes but a reinforcement of the truth that presses itself upon the man of intelligence who sees there as in a mirror “the strong man taken in the toils,” “the pure heart all vital, and confident, and joyous,” “the malign activity of evil," "the vindication of right,” “the good common things of the world, and the good things that are rare."

WILL DAVID HOWE.

INDIANA UNIVERSITY.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY.

Complete Bibliography in Cambridge History of English

Literature, Vol. V.

1. LIFE AND CRITICISM:
Baker, G. P., The Development of Shakespeare as a

Dramatist.
Bradley, A. C., Shakespearean Tragedy.
Coleridge, S.T., Notes and Lectures on Shakespeare.
Dowden, Edward, Introduction to Shakspere.

Shakspere-His Mind and Art.
Fleay, F. G., Shakspere Manual.
Halliwell-Phillipps, J. O., Outlines of the Life of

Shakespeare.
Jameson, Mrs., Shakespeare's Heroines.
Lee, Sidney, A Life of William Shakespeare.
Moulton, R. G., The Moral System of Shakespeare.

Shakespeare as a Dramatic Artist.
Neilson, W. A., and Thorndyke, A. H., The Facts

about Shakespeare.
Raleigh, Walter, Shakespeare (“English Men of

Letters”).
Seccombe, J., and Allen, J. W., The Age of Shake-

speare.
Stephenson, H. T., The Elizabethan People

Shakespeare's London,

Wallace, C. W., New Shakespeare Discoveries.
Wendell, Barrett, William Shakspere.

2. EDITIONS:

The Variorum is indispensable to the Shaksperian

scholar.
Without annotations are, Cambridge, Globe,

Oxford.
Annotated editions are, Arden, Eversley, Hudson,

Rolfe, Temple, Tudor, Yale.

3. TEXTUAL:

Abbott, E. A., A Shakespearean Grammar.
Cunliffe, R. J., A New Shakespearean Dictionary.
Lounsbury, T. R., The Text of Shakespeare.
Schmidt, Alexander, Shakespeare-Lexikon.

W. D. H.

« VorigeDoorgaan »