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one of the most striking landmarks in the history of our language. Mr Marsh says of it : “Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament is the most important philological monument of the first half of the sixteenth century,-perhaps I should say, of the whole period between Chaucer and Shakespeare. The best features of the translation of 1611 are derived from the version of Tyndale.” It may be said without exaggeration that, in the United Kingdom, America, and the colonies, about one hundred millions of people now speak the English of Tyndale's Bible; nor is there any book that has exerted so great an influence on English rhythm, English style, the selection of words, and the build of sentences in our English prose.
6. EDMUND SPENSER (1552-1599), “The Poet's Poet," and one of the greatest poetical writers of his own or of any age, was born at East Smithfield, near the Tower of London, in the year 1552, about nine years before the birth of Bacon, and in the reign of Edward VI. He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School in London, and at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge. In 1579, we find him settled in his native city, where his best friend was the gallant Sir Philip Sidney, who introduced him to his uncle, the Earl of Leicester, then at the height of his power and influence with Queen Elizabeth. In the same year was published his first poetical work, The Shepheard's Calendar—a set of twelve pastoral poems. In 1580, he went to Ireland as Secretary to Lord Grey de Wilton, the Viceroy of that country. For some years he resided at Kilcolman Castle, in county Cork, on an estate which had been granted him out of the forfeited lands of the Earl of Desmond. Sir Walter Raleigh had obtained a similar but larger grant, and was Spenser's near neighbour. In 1590 Spenser brought out the first three books of The Faerie Queene. The second three books of his great poem appeared in 1596. Towards the end of 1598, a rebellion broke out in Ireland; it spread into Munster; Spenser's house was attacked and set on fire ; in the fighting and confusion his only son perished; and Spenser escaped with the greatest difficulty. In deep distress of body and mind, he made his way to London, where he died—at an inn in King Street, Westminster, at the age of forty-six, in the beginning of the year 1599. He was buried in the Abbey, not far from the grave of Chaucer.
7. Spenser's Style.—His greatest work is The Faerie Queene; but that in which he shows the most striking command of language is his Hymn of Heavenly Love. The Faerie Queene is written in a nine-lined stanza, which has since been called the Spenserian
Stanza. The first eight lines are of the usual length of five iambic feet; the last line contains six feet, and is therefore an Alexandrine. Each stanza contains only three rhymes, which are disposed in this order: a b a bb cb c c.—The music of the stanza is long-drawn out, beautiful, involved, and even luxuriant.—The story of the poem is an allegory, like the ‘Pilgrim's Progress’; and in it Spenser undertook, he says, “ to represent all the moral virtues, assigning to every virtue a knight to be the patron and defender of the same.”i Only six books were completed ; and these relate the adventures of the knights who stand for Holiness, Temperance, Chastity, Friendship, Justice, and Courtesy. The Faerie Queene herself is called Gloriana, who represents Glory in his "general intention," and Queen Elizabeth in his “particular intention.”
8. Character of the Faerie Queene.—This poem is the greatest of the sixteenth century. Spenser has not only been the delight of nearly ten generations; he was the study of Shakespeare, the poetical master of Cowley and of Milton, and, in some sense, of Dryden and Pope. Keats, when a boy, was never tired of reading him. “There is something,” says Pope, “in Spenser that pleases one as strongly in old age as it did in one's youth.” Professor Craik says : “Without calling Spenser the greatest of all poets, we may still say that his poetry is the most poetical of all poetry." The outburst of national feeling after the defeat of the Armada in 1588; the new lands opened up by our adventurous Devonshire sailors; the strong and lively loyalty of the nation to the queen; the great statesmen and writers of the period; the high daring shown by England against Spain-all these animated and inspired the glowing genius of Spenser. His rhythm is singularly sweet and beautiful. Hazlitt says: “His versification is at once the most smooth and the most sounding in the language. It is a labyrinth of sweet sounds.” Nothing can exceed the wealth of Spenser's phrasing and expression; there seems to be no limit to its flow. He is very fond of the OldEnglish practice of alliteration or head-rhyme-"hunting the letter," as it was called. Thus he has
"In woods, in waves, in wars, she wont to dwell.
9. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (1564-1616), the greatest dramatist that England ever produced, was born at Stratford-on-Avon, in Warwickshire, on the 23d of April-St George's Day-of the year 1564. His father, John Shakespeare, was a wool dealer and grower.
1 This use of the phrase “the same is antiquated English.
William was educated at the grammar-school of the town, where he learned “small Latin and less Greek”; and this slender stock was his only scholastic outfit for life. At the early age of eighteen he married Anne Hathaway, a yeoman's daughter. In 1586, at the age of twenty-two, he quitted his native town, and went to London.
10. Shakespeare's Life and Character. He was employed in some menial capacity at the Blackfriars Theatre, but gradually rose to be actor and also adapter of plays. He was connected with the theatre for about five-and-twenty years; and so diligent and so successful was he, that he was able to purchase shares both in his own theatre and in the Globe. As an actor, he was only secondrate : the two parts he is known to have played are those of the Ghost in Hamlet, and Adam in As You Like It. In 1597, at the early age of thirty-three, he was able to purchase New Place, in Stratford, and to rebuild the house. In 1612, at the age of fortyeight, he left London altogether, and retired for the rest of his life to New Place, where he died in the year 1616. His old father and mother spent the last years of their lives with him, and died under his roof. Shakespeare had three children - two girls and a boy. The boy, Hamnet, died at the age of twelve. Shakespeare himself was beloved by every one who knew him; and “gentle Shakespeare” was the phrase most often upon the lips of his friends. A placid face, with a sweet, mild expression; a high, broad, noble, "two-storey” forehead; bright eyes ; 'a most speaking mouth though it seldom opened; an open, frank manner, a kindly, handsome look,—such seems to have been the external character of the man Shakespeare.
11. Shakespeare's Works. He has written thirty-seven plays and many poems. The best of his rhymed poems are his Sonnets, in which he chronicles many of the various moods of his mind. The plays consist of tragedies, historical plays, and comedies. The greatest of his tragedies are probably Hamlet and King Lear; the best of his historical plays, Richard III. and Julius Cæsar; and his finest comedies, Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It. He wrote in the reign of Elizabeth as well as in that of James; but his greatest works belong to the latter period.
12. Shakespeare's Style. Every one knows that Shakespeare is great ; but how is the young learner to discover the best way of forming an adequate idea of his greatness ? In the first place, Shakespeare has very many sides ; and, in the second place, he is great on every one of them. Coleridge says: “In all points, from the most important to the most minute, the judgment of Shakespeare
is commensurate with his genius—nay, his genius reveals itself in his judgment, as in its most exalted form.” He has been called
mellifluous Shakespeare;” “ honey-tongued Shakespeare;" "silvertongued Shakespeare;" “the thousand-souled Shakespeare;" "the myriad-minded ;” and by many other epithets. He seems to have been master of all human experience; to have known the human heart in all its phases ; to have been acquainted with all sorts and conditions of men-high and low, rich and poor; and to have studied the history of past ages, and of other countries. He also shows a greater and more highly skilled mastery over language than any other writer that ever lived. The vocabulary employed by Shakespeare amounts in number of words to twenty-one thousand. The vocabulary of Milton numbers only seven thousand words. But it is not sufficient to say that Shakespeare's power of thought, of feeling, and of expression required three times the number of words to express itself; we must also say that Shakespeare's power of expression shows infinitely greater skill, subtlety, and cunning than is to be found in the works of Milton. Shakespeare had also a marvellous power of making new phrases, most of which have become part and parcel of our language. Such phrases as every inch a king; witch the world; the time is out of joint, and hundreds more, show that modern Englishmen not only speak Shakespeare, but think Shakespeare. His knowledge of human nature has enabled him to throw into English literature a larger number of genuine “characters” that will always live in the thoughts of men,
than author that ever wrote. And he has not drawn his characters from England alone and from his own time—but from Greece and Rome, from other countries, too, and also from all ages. He has written in a greater variety of styles than any other writer. “Shakespeare,” says Professor Craik, “has invented twenty styles.” The knowledge, too, that he shows on every kind of human endeavour is as accurate as it is varied. Lawyers say that he was a great lawyer; theologians, that he was an able divine, and unequalled in his knowledge of the Bible; printers, that he must have been a printer; and seamen, that he knew every branch of the sailor's craft.
13. Shakespeare's contemporaries.—But we are not to suppose that Shakespeare stood alone in the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century as a great poet; and that everything else was flat and low around him. This never is and never can be
Great genius is the possession, not of one man, but of several in a great age ; and we do not find a great writer standing alone and unsupported, just as we do not find a high mountain rising
from a low plain. The largest group of the highest mountains in the world, the Himalayas, rise from the highest table-land in the world ; and peaks nearly as high as the highest-Mount Everest-are seen cleaving the blue sky in the neighbourhood of Mount Everest itself. And so we find Shakespeare surrounded by dramatists in some respects nearly as great as himself; for the same great forces welling up within the heart of England that made him created also the others. Marlowe, the teacher of Shakespeare, Peele, and Greene, preceded him; Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, Massinger and Ford, Webster, Chapman, and many others, were his contemporaries, lived with him, talked with him; and no doubt each of these men influenced the work of the others. But the works of these men belong chiefly to the seventeenth century. We must not, however, forget that the reign of Queen Elizabeth-called in literature the Elizabethan Period—was the greatest that England ever saw, -greatest in poetry and in prose, greatest in thought and in action, and perhaps also greatest in external events.
14. CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE (1564-1593), the first great English dramatist, was born at Canterbury in the year 1564, two months before the birth of Shakespeare himself. He studied at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and took the degree of Master of Arts in 1587. After leaving the university, he came up to London and wrote for the stage. He seems to have led a wild and reckless life, and was stabbed in a tavern brawl on the 1st of June 1593. “As he may be said to have invented and made the verse of the drama, so he created the English drama." His chief plays are Dr Faustus and Edward the Second. His style is one of the greatest vigour and power : it is often coarse, but it is always strong. Ben Jonson spoke of “ Marlowe's mighty line”; and Lord Jeffrey says of him: “ In felicity of thought and strength of expression, he is second only to Shakespeare himself."
15. BEN JONSON (1574-1637), the greatest dramatist of England after Shakespeare, was born in Westminster in the year 1574, just nine years after Shakespeare's birth. He received his education at Westminster School. It is said that, after leaving school, he was obliged to assist his stepfather as a bricklayer; that he did not like the work; and that he ran off to the Low Countries, and there enlisted as a soldier. On his return to London, he began to write for