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has been growing ever more and more unimaginative, graceless, and practical.

In giving one of the lesser comedies, the mood of the piece is harder to find, and its keynote harder to sound, than in the great ones. The "Merchant of Venice" expounds itself like a tragedy, and is so various, interesting, and full of passion that it is easy to act. The lighter plays present the heavier problems. In “Much Ado About Nothing" the plot is more serious and the whole humor and intrigue of the piece more sprightly than in “As You Like It.” How shall we find, how hit upon that talisman, that “Open, Sesame," which shall show the inner life of each of these delicate masterpieces ? The plays themselves must teach us. They were not created, nor have they been sustained, by any academy. We have only tradition, personal feeling, and experience to guide us.

The “Taming of the Shrew” has still another, and very different, temperament of its own. very subtle, quizzical, humane, philosophic piece of

In the “Midsummer Night's Dream” you have, again, a region of fancy so utterly different from all these last-mentioned plays, that it seems as if it must have been made by another hand. It is steeped in the peculiar atmosphere of the world's fairyland, and seems to be a whole literature in itself. “Twelfth Night” is, again, a new universe. It is the best light comedy in the world and swims like a ruddy planet, bearing the inhabitants of the Golden Age. It is a saturnalia of good feeling, leisure, wit, and amusement in which both high and low revel by day and night. Each of these comedies

It is a


is a unity, and resounds harmoniously when its chords are touched; but the works must not be attacked with vigor, and the keynotes of them must be rather listened for and imagined than struck.

Perhaps the sophisticated modern person can best approach Shakespeare's comedies by thinking of them as child's plays, things beneath his serious notice and therefore to be humored. Otherwise the casket scene in the “Merchant of Venice” will disgust him. It is, indeed, probable that the folk-lore and fairy tales of the world are kept alive by the infant population of the world, and that no man, who first discovers these things after he is grown up, will be apt to find much meaning in them. The ancients lived on nursery tales; but every man, even then, had learned these tales first in the nursery. And I suspect that to-day, if the myths and auld wives' stories should die out of our nurseries, they would die out altogether; and then, of course, there would be nothing for the learned to talk about except politics, economics, eugenics, and ethnology – subjects which deal with mankind in masses, and take the individual for granted. To the poet there are no Masses, but only men. He speaks to each one of us severally. The poets throw open the windows and let in currents that carry life, awaken energy, and make men sensitive, powerful, wise, eloquent, capable of seeing the world, — I will not say as it is, for no man has seen that, - but more nearly as it is than men ever can see it without the light of poetry.



SHAKESPEARE's gentleness toward the evil in human nature is his rarest quality. We seem to find in every line of him a sentiment which he has put, strangely enough, in the mouth of Henry V.

There is a soul of goodness in things evil

Would men observingly distill it out. He can hardly bear to draw a villain. In some cases, where the plot calls for a villain, as in “Hamlet,” “The Tempest," or the “Merchant of Venice," - cases in which any other playwright would have given us wickedness, - Shakespeare draws a weak or unfortunate character. In "Hamlet” the wicked King is half repentant. In the “Merchant of Venice” Shylock is a much-injured and very human person. In the “Tempest” Caliban is convincingly good and unconvincingly bad, a rudimentary halfsoul. Prospero, to be sure, considers the creature ungrateful; but we do not think him ungrateful, we think of him as a creature who has never had half a chance, and we almost love him.

In “Romeo and Juliet" Shakespeare manages to get on without a villain. In “As You Like It” we have, as the bad man in the piece, a faint, obliterated personality, Orlando's elder brother, and we have also the usurping Duke: both of them should, of course, be villains; but they both repent, and were never truly bad anyway. In "Much Ado About Nothing" there is a Don John, who is a mild discontented bastard — not a bad fellow, but a failure, and one who feels that he is down and out. Shakespeare thinks that men in this situation become villains, to ease their minds. When Don John is told by a pal about the intended marriage of Hero, he says, “Will it serve for any model to build mischief on?” and proceeds to make much ado. It amounts almost to trifling with an audience, to pass off such a duffer as Don John for a villain. In “Measure for Measure” there was a chance for a really bad man in the wicked old judge, Angelo, who proposes the infamous bargain to Isabella by which her brother is to be released. But Angelo is a lay figure: he has no reality. Shakespeare does n't even try to make Angelo's passion real, and perhaps he could n't have made it convincing; because Shakespeare did n't understand bad people. In the early poem of “Lucrece" his treatment of Tarquin foreshadows his later treatment of Macbeth; for Tarquin is represented as a highly sensitive and metaphysical person who, before his deed, is horrified at the thought of it, and the instant he has done the deed, sounds the doom against himself.

In a general way it may be said that Shakespeare's villains are either sympathetically presented as men with much good in them, or else they are, not gods out of a machine, but devils out of a machine — toys of stage-land.

The only characters I can think of in Shakespeare who give one a shudder as being both very wicked and very real, are Goneril and Regan; and they are women. It seems to be a fact in nature that women may be saints or may be demons, but that men are on the whole good-hearted, fumbling, stumbling creatures, never perfect, and never entirely bad. A woman may be entirely wicked; and if Iago's rôle had been cast for a feminine part, we should have had the most terrific thing in literature.

Shakespeare reserves all his adoration for his heroines. His good women are angelic beings. His young heroines, Miranda, Cordelia, Imogen, Juliet, Perdita seem all to be spirits of the same heaven, and are like different aspects of the same woman rather than different women: they are the quintessence of romanticism. His heroines of mature years, as for instance, Hermione (in “A Winter's Tale”), and Queen Katherine, have the same quality. He cannot refrain from throwing a dash of connubial romance into Cleopatra.

He uses his men as foils to set off his heroines. But alas for the men! He can no more draw a hero, than he can draw a villain. Romeo, Hamlet, Orlando, Ferdinand (in the “Tempest”), Posthumus (in “Cymbeline”), Claudio (in “Much Ado”), Bertram (in “All's Well”), Claudio (in “Measure for Measure”) — what an array of unheroic youths ! Shakespeare produces good stupid men at will — Horatio (in "Hamlet"), Antonio (in the “Merchant of Venice"), Brutus, Coriolanus, Malcolm (in “Macbeth”). They are foils to the women. Thus it would appear that the greatest dramatist of the world has not drawn a single satisfactory hero. The nearest Shakespeare comes to a hero is in Julius Cæsar, whose few cues somehow give us a tremen

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