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after the other to announce the coming battle. This shows Shakespeare's mood,—his conception of the play, -and we may take these messengers as a hint of the spirit in which the play as a whole should be given.

Anæmic persons may mutter that two murders are not so terrible as one, and eleven ghosts not so terrifying as one, and that many curses are not so impressive as one

for it appears that the terrible Queen Margaret is herself under a curse; and this, with her own curses and the curse of Richard by his mother, makes a perfect cloud of curses that are in the air. But Shakespeare did not regard such things as overstepping the modesty of nature. He enjoyed quantity, -in ghosts as in other things, - when the mood was on him; and this play, with its universal popularity, is the best answer ever given to a kind of parlor art-criticism, which is as old as Aristotle and of which Hamlet's advice to the players is a sample. It is clear that “Richard III” is a sort of greenroomful of properties. The actors and managers do well to use such of them as they can, cutting them to fit the occasion; for some of them are impossible on the modern stage, and must always have been feeble, as, for instance, the scenes of antiphonal wailing, where the characters repeat the same phrases after each other in an operatic manner.

The character of Richard has caused the literary people many wakeful nights. No one has ever seen a man like Richard III; and yet he is nearly perfect as a stage villain. He is glowing with wit and humor, and in his seven soliloquies he expounds himself like a prologue. One thing however is clear: Had Richard been gloomy, the play would have become a bore. We should have cried, “Oh, here he comes again, that dreary criminal !” I doubt whether Shakespeare troubled himself much about the question, Do such persons exist? or built up his characters out of observation. He evolved them rather through stage experience.

Jeremiah Mason, the great jury lawyer, was asked by a friend at the close of a murder trial, in which he had given proofs of phenomenal power in defending a criminal, “What are your personal beliefs as to the man's guilt?” “Why,” said Mason, “I have never given a thought to the matter.” We ought to remember this story in criticizing any character in a drama. The stage, like the law, has its fictions, its presumptions; it has an appeal and a forensic of its own; and though human nature as it exists has, no doubt, been translated into this language by the playwright and for stage purposes, you can never go to the stage language and translate it back again into life.

Richard III's courtship of Anne goes well on the stage; it has interested the onlookers for several hundred years, and there must therefore be some kind of symbolic truth in the scene; but to compare it to a scene in real life, or to compare any character in Shakespeare to any real character, is absurd. One might as reasonably take a stage helmet or stage cup of poison and try to relate it to real life. All our painstaking discussions of Shakespeare's people as human characters must go by the board. The plays should be acted largely, as they were written. think that even Salvini and Irving would have done

better if they had been less conscientious and intentional. Richard should be played genially and with gusto, and without so much regard to a supposed inner logic of character as to the blatant outer logic of stage effects. For instance: the terror and repentance of Richard during his bad night before the battle were laid on with a trowel by Shakespeare for the sake of the gallery. The speech is crude in detail, for Richard suddenly discovers that nobody loves him, and says, “Is there a murderer here? No. Yes. I am. Then fly!” etc. But the speech is right in the large. The bad man of a play ought to call for drink before a battle, and be tortured by remorse in his dreams; the good man ought to say his prayers and be visited by angels. If it were n't for such touches as this, and the stage experience behind them, “Richard III” would never have held the boards since 1593.

VI

HAMLET

The so-called laws of dramatic writing, which have been discussed and expounded ever since the time of Aristotle, were not discovered by men who spent their evenings at a variety show. These laws were first given out by scholars, who found themselves very comfortable with someone else's manuscript spread before them and a good light flowing over their shoulder, but who would have been extremely uncomfortable if they had been obliged to put together a play that should entertain a mixed audience for a couple of hours. I scarcely know what it is that puts the critic above the author, and provides him with his historic and invulnerable complacency; but I think it is due to leisure and the cheapness of writing materials.

The admirable notice on Shakespeare in the Encyclopædia Britannica is marred by a few condescending sentences of æsthetic criticism, of which I give the most imposing. After pointing out some of Shakespeare's deficiencies, the critic continues :

This want of finish, this imperfect fusing of the literary ore, is essentially characteristic of the Renaissance, as compared with ages in which the creative impulse is weaker, and leaves room for a finer concentration of the means upon the end. There is nearly always unity of purpose in a Shakespearean play, but it often requires an intellectual effort to grasp it, and does not result in a unity of effect. The issues are obscured by a careless generosity, which would extend to art the boundless freedom of life itself. Hence the intrusive and jarring elements which stand in such curious incongruity with the utmost reaches of which the dramatic spirit is capable; the conventional and melodramatic endings, the inconsistencies of action and even of character, the emotional confusions of tragi-comedy, the complications of plot and subplot, the marring of the give-and-take of dialogue by superfluities of description and of argument, the jest and bombast lightly thrown in to suit the taste of the groundlings, all the flecks that to an instructed modern criticism are only too apparent upon the Shakespearean sun. It perhaps follows from this that the most fruitful way of approaching Shakespeare is by an analysis of his work rather as a process than as a completed whole.

"An instructed modern criticism”! But the devil of it is to discover just what these “too apparent flecks” are, and then to whisk them deftly into the waste-paper basket, leaving the “literary finish," which the critic understands so well. Molière, who was one of the most sensible of men, and who lived in an age of pseudo-classicism which frostbit all the genius of France except his own, took the instructed modern criticism of his times quite cheerfully. He says:

Je me fierois assez à l'approbation du parterre, par la raison qu'entre ceux qui le composent il y en a plusieurs qui sont capable de juger d'une pièce selon les règles, et que les autres en jugent par la bonne façon d'en juger, qui est de se laisser prendre aux choses, et de n'avoir ni prévention aveugle, ni complaisance affectée, ni delicatesse ridicule.

There is in reality only one dramatic law. We can see that it must exist, yet no one has ever been

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