« VorigeDoorgaan »
advanced in one but contradicted in another, they still resemble their author, and betray the want of depth or of resolution in his mind. His works alone make not up a man's character, but they are the index to that living book.' — Sir E. B. Lytton's Student, vol. I., p. 9.
Hunter, in his Preface to liis Illustrations,' and elsewhere, thinks that not only the mind and opinions, but the personal history of Shakspere may be derived from the criticism of his works. W. J. Fox, M.P., delivered Lectures on the Politics of Shakspere indicated in his plays.
We have endeavoured, therefore, in this inquiry, to decide upon Shakspere's opinions on religion from the majority of instances in which he has declared himself on one side of the question more than the other.
The question to which we offer a solution is the one raised by Mr. Knight, the most complimentary of Shakspere's editors.
To speak with brevity our · Inquiry' is into the truth of our motto.
It is not hidden from us how many enthusiastic admirers of Shakspere will be startled at our views, and, perhaps, reject them; but if they will do us the favour to examine first, we shall be content. Not less than they do we admire the versatility of Shakspere's powers--we rejoice at his genius, and are proud of the reputation he has added to the national character, but these very circumstances make the inquiry more interesting-what were the peculiarities of his philosophy and religion ?
The author wishes to be considered merely as an inquirer, not as a censor. He desires not to judge Shakspere for his sentiments, but only to exhibit them. This, he trusts, he has done truly and impartially, without levity on the one side or bigotry on the other.
There was a time when this attempt might have been deemed injudicious, but now that Shakspere is enthroned in the hearts of the people, and at the head of the national, if not of European, literature, it may safely be adventured upon.
Much corroborative evidence of the correctness of the views delineated in this work had been prepared, but is withheld on account of the great size to which it would swell the book, and from a conviction that the internal evidence from Shakspere's writings, presented in the Inquiry,' is the fairest umpire to appeal to, and amply sufficient for the
purpose. As an explanation of any typographical or other errors, it must be mentioned, that the author resided in the country while composing the work, and during its progress through
SHAKSPERE, HIS TIMES AND ASSOCIATES.
It is not unlikely that the fictitious Unknown, to whom Shakspere addresses his Sonnets, was intended to represent the world to whom he prophesied of himself—of the oblivion of his life, and fate of his works. Hence his predictionSonnet lxxiv.
My life hath in this line some interest,
My spirit is thine, the better part of me.
The worth of that, is that which it contains ;
And that is this, and this with thee remains. Therefore his spirit,' the better part of him,' his philosophy and religion, we are justified in tracing from his writings.
In all ages, and among all people, a man's company has been held as a criterion of his tastes and sentiments.
A saying of antiquity, · Noscitur a sociis,' has become an English proverb-a man is known by his friends. The French to the same effect, is still more expressive of the certainty which a knowledge of a man's acquaintances gives in deciding his character. - Dis moi qui tu hantes, je dirai qui tu es.' Tell me the society you frequent, I will tell you
. what you are.
Marlowe was the precursor of Shakspere according to Phillips he was another Shakspere. Of those dramatists who went before Shakspere he certainly came nearest to him, not only in point of time but in point of genius. According to Anthony Wood, Marlowe was a professor of Atheism, and writer of several discourses against the Christian religion. Marlowe was born but a few years
Shakspere, and died in 1593. Shakspere was sharer in a theatre in 1589, for which Marlowe and the other dramatists of the age wrote. It is supposed by some that Shakspere is mentioned by Greene, as writing at that time in conjunction with them. It is therefore probable that as an actor, dramatist, and proprietor, both for purposes of business, pleasure, and instruction, Shakspere frequented the society of Marlowe and his friends. There is reason to think that his first manner, his early style, and young impressions, were received from Marlowe. There was his school, and Marlowe was his master.
There are few if any personal notices of others to be met with in Shakspere so certain as the reference to Marlowe. The rare exception he has made in introducing the mention of him in his works, speaks much as to his regard for Marlowe's memory. The way in which he mentions him and his ' mighty line
Dead shepherd! now I find thy saw of might,
"Whoever loved, that loved not at first sight we think an additional tribute of esteem ; quoting what he said as true, mighty, and engraven in his recollection. The expression, Dead shepherd,' looks as though the leader of the flock was pointed to—it is the language of a poetical pupil to his mentor. Seldom, if ever, does Shakspere quote any other contemporary, or give any authority, which makes this compliment to the spirit of the dead of greater worth. So close has this connection between the two poets been considered, that the celebrated sonnet of Marlowe, . Come, be my love,' was long attributed to Shakspere. One of Shakspere's plays, on the other hand, has been attributed to Marlowe. That when Shakspere first began to write he should be indebted to Marlowe shows congeniality of sentiment between them. This is verified by the accusation of Greene, that he did take from Marlowe. The memory of the predecessor goes down to posterity as identified with the memory of the successor. The same cannot be well said of any other than Marlowe.
It is probable that the other contemporaries of Marlowe shared his opinions. Collier produces the fact of Marlowe