Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

PLAN OF THE WORK.

The plan followed in presenting the law of the various plays is to quote the verse containing the law presented, under an appropriate heading, reference to which, in the index, will give ready access to the verse containing the law referred to. As the various plays and the law in each is also presented in the regular order, by reference to the body of the work, the various propositions of law contained in each play, can be found. To avoid the useless repetition of various law terms presented in the different plays, under each heading will be found, in the foot notes, the different references to the same law term or proposition, occurring in the different plays. Thus the law of the plays will be found by either of these cross references, i. e, by referring to the plays in the order of their publication, or by reference to the index and table of contents for the law term or proposition desired. This is the only practical method of presenting the subject, so that it can be readily handled by both laymen and lawyers, and it is hoped that the method followed will be found convenient.

E. J. W. Kansas City, Mo., 1913.

THE BACON-SHAKESPEARE CONTROVERSY.

HISTORY OF THE VAGARY.

Cause and Basis The claims of those who contend that of the Fallacy. Lord Francis Bacon was the author of

the plays of the immortal Shakespeare, when a reason for the existence of such a doctrine is looked for, is to be found in the fact that the hero worshipers of the Eighteenth Century had created an impossible character in the person of Shakespeare, by attributing to him superhuman knowledge. These extreme claims are responsible for the conclusion that no one person could have accomplished such miracles of knowledge as have been attributed to him. It was then but another step from the conclusion that he did not possess the literary omniscience attributed to him, to the discovery of one capable of such accomplishments.

The fond Shakespearian Commentators, therefore, with their absurd claims for the great Bard, are responsible for the refutation of such claims and the next unreasonable claim of title, in another than Shakespeare. These literary hero worshipers, not only in England and America but in Germany, as well, in accordance with the natural German tendency to discover profound significance in the most trifling things, found that Shakespeare knew

* Mr. John Fiske states that the key note of the Baconian theory was first sounded by August von Schlegel, who claimed that Shakespeare had “mastered all things and relations of this world,” and treated his life as a mere fable. Fiske's "Forty

ears of Bacon-Shakespeare Folly," in Atlantic Monthly for November, 1897, page 652.

* Lowell, Literary Essays, 11, 163.

the most scientific facts, connected with medicine, law, music, invention and the then undiscovered phenomena of the universe, the psychological facts of human nature and the whole realm of literature, christianity and the philosophies of the ancients, better than the most learned of modern times.

The problem was bound to be suggested, when and where did this son of a country 'Squire, acquire this vast fund of accurate and wonderful information! This inquiry, when considered in connection with the known facts connected with his life, was certain to result in the conclusion that such a vast fund of attributed wisdom could not consistently be found in one with such opportunities and training and this led to the additional conclusion that, given a man of such attainments, Shakespeare was not that man.

The theory and logic, granting the correctness of their major and minor premise, is not without reason. Their investigation evidences a great amount of critical inquiry, in order to find a cause equal to the effect presumed, an individual capable of the accomplishments credited to him. But the error of this school lies in accepting the miraculous results credited to the man.

Referring to the current criticism of his Author, we find that Dr. Samuel Johnson, in his preface to his edition of the plays, published in 1768, said: “His adherence to general nature, has exposed him to the censure of critics, who form their judgments upon narrower principles. Dennis and Rymer think his Romans not sufficiently Roman; and Voltaire censures his kings as not completely

This distinguished Editor and Commentator thus feels called upon to apologize for the Poet, with the explanation that “Shakespeare always makes nature predominate over accident."

But, answering the claims of the Idolators, who assert

royal."

3 Johnson's Works, vol. II, p. 84.

that he had mastered the whole realm of human knowledge, this distinguished scholar also observed: “Some have imagined that they have discovered deep learning in many imitations of old writers; but the examples which I have known urged were drawn from books translated in his time; or were such easy coincidences of thought, as will happen to all who consider the same subjects; or such remarks of life or axioms of morality as float in conversation, and are transmitted through the world in proverbial sentences.''4

Thus, it will be seen, that the men of letters of that period, were criticising Shakespeare for his want of knowledge and his ignorance and this learned and just Commentator, without the halo of a hero worshiper, made due explanations for his shortcomings and also explained passages that attributed superhuman knowledge to the man.

Additional evidence could be adduced to show that the first premise of the Baconizers is unsound, in accepting the false claims of the Shakespeare Idolators, as true.

The whole trouble with the proposition is that, in disputing the absurd claims of his worshipers, the reactionaries went further and attempted to dispute his title to his works. Their error consisted in ever believing or accepting the false claims of the Shakespearian Idolators, in the first instance, and in advancing another erroneous theory to defeat the error of his followers.

Once advanced, however, the fallacy that someone else wrote the plays, in accordance with the common human tendency to follow new fashions and fads—"Though they be never so ridiculous, nay, let them be unmanly, yet are follow'd'6_ like the slander, based on hearsay, so tlie

* Johnson's Works, vol. 11, p. 106.

* See Fiske's "Forty Years of Bacon-Shakespeare Folly," in Atlantic Monthly, November, 1897, p. 652.

. Henry VIII, Act I, Scene III.

« ZurückWeiter »