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was unwilling to appreciate. The structure of the play, however, shows all the weakness of Marlowe's method: the interest is concentrated on the protagonist; there is not humour enough to relieve the gloomy intensity, and the scenes in which Richard does not figure are unattractive and feeble.
One has only to think of the two charactersRichard II. and Richard III.—and to recall their handling in order to get a deep impression of Shakespeare's nature. He cannot present the vile Richard II. at all, he has no interest in him; but as soon as he thinks of Richard's youth and remembers that he was led astray by others, he begins to identify himself with him, and at once Richard's weakness is made amiable and his sufferings affecting. In measure as Shakespeare lets himself go and paints himself more and more freely, his portraiture becomes astonishing, till at length the imprisoned Richard gives himself up to melancholy philosophic musing, without a tinge of bitterness or envy or hate, and every one with eyes to see, is forced to recognize in him a younger brother to Hamlet and Posthumus. “Richard III.” was pro
. duced in a very different way. It was Marlowe's daemonic power and intensity that first interested Shakespeare in this Richard; under the spell of Marlowe's personality Shakespeare conceived the play, and especially the scene between Richard and Anne; but the original impulse exhausted itself quickly, and then Shakespeare fell back on his own experience and made Richard keen of insight and hypocritically blunt of speech-a sort of sketch of Iago. A little later Shakespeare either felt that the action was unsuitable to the development of such a character, or more probably he grew weary of the effort to depict a fiend; in any case, the play becomes less and less
interesting, and even the character of Richard be- . gins to waver. There is one astonishing instance of this towards the end of the drama. On the eve of the decisive battle Richard starts awake from his terrifying dreams, and now, if ever, one would expect from him perfect sincerity of utterance. This is what we find :
There is no creature loves me;
The first two lines bespeak a loving, gentle nature, Shakespeare's nature, the nature of a Henry VI. or an Arthur, a nature which Richard III. would certainly have despised, and the last two lines are merely an objective ethical judgement wholly out of place and very clumsily expressed.
To sum up, then, for this is not the place to consider Shakespeare's share in “Henry VIII.," I find that in the English historical plays the manly characters, Hotspur, Harry V., the great Bastard, and Richard III., are all taken from tradition or from old plays, and Shakespeare did nothing more than copy the traits which were given to him; on the other hand, the weak, irresolute, gentle, melancholy characters are his own, and he shows extraordinary resource in revealing the secret workings of their souls. Even in early manhood, and when handling histories and men of action, Shakespeare cannot conceal his want of sympathy for the practical leaders
he neither understands them deeply nor loves them; but in portraying the girlish Arthur and the Hamlet-like Richard II., and in drawing forth the pathos of their weakness, he is already without a rival or second in all literature.
I am anxious not to deform the truth by exaggeration; a caricature of Shakespeare would offend me as a sacrilege, even though the caricature were characteristic, and when I find him even in youth one-sided, a poet and dreamer, I am minded to tell less than the truth rather than more. He was extraordinarily sensitive, I say to myself, and lived in the stress of great deeds; he treated Henry V., a man of action if ever there was one, as an ideal, and lavished on him all his admiration, but it will not do: I cannot shut my eyes to the fact; the effort is worse than useless. He liked Henry V. because of his misled youth and his subsequent rise to highest honour, and not because of his practical genius. Where in his portrait gallery is the picture of a Drake, or even of a Raleigh? The adventurer was the characteristic product of that jostling time; but Shakespeare turned his head away; he was not interested in him. In spite of himself, however, he became passionately interested in the pitiful Richard II. and his, untimely fate. Notwithstanding the praise of the critics, his King Henry V. is a wooden marionette; the intense life of the traditional madcap Prince has died out of him; but Prince Arthur lives deathlessly, and we still hear his childish treble telling Hubert of his love.
Those who disagree with me will have to account for the fact that, even in the historical plays written in early manhood, all his portraits of men of action are mere copies, while his genius shines in the portraits of a gentle saint like Henry VI., of a weakling like Richard II., or of a girlish youth like Arthur-all these favourite studies being alike in pathetic helplessness and tender affection.
It is curious that no one of the commentators has noticed this extraordinary one-sidedness of
Shakespeare. In spite of his miraculous faculty of expression, he never found wonderful phrases for the virile virtues or virile vices. For courage, revenge, self-assertion, and ambition we have finer words in English than any that Shakespeare coined. In this field Chapman, Milton, Byron, Carlyle, and even Bunyan are his masters.
Of course, as a man he had the instinct of courage, and an admiration of courage; his intellect, too, gave him some understanding of its range. Dr. Brandes declares that Shakespeare has only depicted physical courage, the courage of the swordsman; but that is beside the truth: Dr. Brandes has evidently forgotten the passage in " Antony and Cleopatra,” when Caesar contemptuously refuses the duel with Antony and speaks of his antagonist as
“ old ruffian.” Enobarbus, too, sneers at Antony's proposed duel: “Yes, like enough, high-battled Caesar will
Unstate his happiness, and be staked to the show Against a sworder."
Unhelped by memory, Dr. Brandes might have guessed that Shakespeare would exhaust the obvious at first glance. But the soul of courage to Shakespeare is, as we have seen, a love of honour working on quick generous blood-a feminine rather than a masculine view of the matter.
Carlyle has a deeper sense of this aboriginal virtue. With the fanatic's trust in God his Luther will go to Worms, “ though it rain devils ”; and when in his own person Carlyle spoke of the small, honest minority desperately resolved to maintain their ideas though opposed by a huge hostile majority of fools and the insincere, he found one of the finest expressions for courage in all our literature. The vast
host shall be to us, he cried, as “ stubble is to fire.” It may be objected that this is the voice of religious faith rather than of courage pure and simple, and the objection is valid so far as it goes; but this genesis of courage is peculiarly English, and the courage so formed is of the highest. Every one remembers how Valiant-for-Truth fights in Bunyan's allegory: “I fought till my sword did cleave to my hand; and when they were joined together, as if a sword grew
out of my arm, and when the blood ran through my fingers, then I fought with most courage.” The mere expression gives us an understanding of the desperate resolution of Cromwell's Ironsides.
But if desperate courage is not in Shakespeare, neither are its ancillary qualities-cruelty, hatred, ambition, revenge.
Whenever he talks on these themes, he talks from the teeth outwards, as one without experience of their violent delights. His Gloucester rants about ambition without an illuminating or even a convincing word. Hatred and revenge Shakespeare only studied superficially, and cruelty he shudders from like a woman.
It is astounding how ill-endowed Shakespeare was on the side of manliness. His intellect was so fine, his power of expression so magical, the men about him, his models, so brave—founders as they were of the British empire and sea-tyranny—that he is able to use his Hotspurs and Harrys to hide from the general the poverty of his temperament. But the truth will out: Shakespeare was the greatest of poets, a miraculous artist, too, when he liked; but he was not a hero, and manliness was not his forte: he was by nature a neuropath and a lover. He was
a master of passion and pity, and it astonishes one to notice how willingly he passed