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won the enthusiastic homage of Latin critics. Here Shakespeare really sifts and selects, or at least his marvellous concentration makes it easy to imagine that he does. When M. Jusserand is dealing with dramas like 'Lear,' where the poet seems to riot in his prodigality of resource, he is less successful in discerning the finer economy and architectonic. The very keenness of his analytic scalpel betrays him into superfluous dissections. It is at the peril of being charged with inconsistency that the characters grow or change, that they have humours or moods; that they show themselves compounded of the angel and the fiend, or exhibit at different times the greatness and the littleness which Pascal found in the entire genus Man. At other times the real complexity of the characters, even of an entire drama, escapes the critic, he sees only a single aspect, and reduces them to excessively simple terms.
In his handling of 'Antony and Cleopatra,' this weakness is seen at its worst. For M. Jusserand this, 'the most wonderful of Shakespeare's dramas,' is merely the story of Antony's fall, the 'history of his vain attempts' to break loose from Cleopatra's spell; his fall is 'horrible'; and 'to increase the horror' Shakespeare 'has made of the Egyptian a low courtesan who knows the secrets of her trade and nothing else, who speaks its language, who has neither heart, nor mind, nor intellect, nor poetry, who is but flesh, and has no other instincts but those of her profession.' Certainly, in her 'infinite variety' Cleopatra has moments to which these words are not entirely inapt. When she 'threatens to give Charmian bloody teeth, or hales the messenger up and down by the hair,' Mr Bradley himself has allowed, with compunction and hesitation, that she 'resembles (if I dare say it) Doll Tearsheet sublimated.' But these moments, and many others, in which she appears in various ways mean or base, hardly count in our total feeling about her. She enchants us as she enchants Antony and all others -unless it be Octavius-who come within her sphere. And the enchantment is not merely a blinding spell; it springs also from the recognition that the baser elements in her are not the whole, that her earthy part is compounded with a spirit of 'fire and air,' that her coquetry can quicken into love, and her mocking wit into en
thralling poetry; that she is in truth, with all her degrading and repellent traits, a wonderful, a 'sovereign creature'; and that the passion for which Antony loses the world, without ceasing to be a 'fall,' tragic in the ruin it brings, and in the desertion of a great political task which it involves, is nevertheless at the same time a triumph; so that the final note is one not of dejection or scorn but of exultation, and the victory seems to be with the lovers who have died, supreme in the moment of their deaths, while Cæsar, now the unchallenged master of the world, appears to remain possessor only of dust and ashes. Antony and Cleopatra' is perhaps of all the tragedies the least obviously Greek'; yet it is built, more clearly than almost any other, upon one of those conflicts between antagonistic forms of good in which Hegel saw the essence of Greek tragedy.
Sir Sidney Lee's latest work, 'The French Renaissance in England,' is the most elaborate and thorough recent study of Elizabethan literary sources, as M. Jusserand's second volume is the most brilliant study of the Elizabethan literary milieu. What is new in it could no doubt have been put into a much smaller book; but, when all is said, it remains a solid achievement, the fruit of indefatigable research and disciplined scholarship. We will not say that Dr Lee is exempt, any more than M. Jusserand, from the special dangers of his method. His 'French Renaissance,' like M. Jusserand's Elizabethan Audience,' usurps too large a share of the critic's field of view. But far more important, in his case, are the real gains which his concentrated and many-sided survey of it has brought. We can only glance at a few points.
Sixteenth century France and Elizabethan England had very many points of affinity. The sanguine exuberance of the Elizabethan temper, its hardihood in adventure and experiment, its joy in vivid expression and caressing music, its strain of deep seriousness and of infinite jest, found more congenial nourishment in the France of Rabelais, and Ronsard, and D'Aubigné, than, since Malherbe, her measured and logical genius has ever afforded to these qualities. In addition, French civilisation was, at every point, and notably in the culture of verse and prose, riper and more accomplished than our
own. These two conditions together made a promising field for pertinacious if unconfessed imitation, and ardent if unskilled discipleship.
Dr Lee makes it clear that Elizabethan prose and verse both owed a great debt to French example. Yet, in prose at least, the channels of definite and denotable influence are not very numerous. Rabelais's riotous exuberance of thought and phrase might have been expected to speak home to the whole generation of brilliant and hungry pamphleteers who thronged the London of Shakespeare. Yet, though Gargantua's mouth was a stock jest (Celia, it may be remembered, was fain to borrow it to keep pace with Rosalind's storm of questions), the book itself left deep impress in the writing of one Elizabethan only, Thomas Nashe; who indeed absorbed with immense gusto and no little skill whatever in it he could understand. Rabelais's lofty humanism naturally lay beyond his purview. The wonderfully supple and vivacious prose of Amyot had a higher and yet almost equally restricted fortune. That Amyot diversified and expanded the sober prose of Plutarch, and that many of his phrases passed over, through the medium of North, into the verse of Shakespeare's Roman plays, has long been known. But it is easy to make too much of this, as we think Dr Lee does when he declares that Amyot may almost be held responsible' for some of Shakespeare's most tragic passages. Between Plutarch, who gave the substance, and North, who found the words, and Shakespeare with his magical something of style and rhythm, Amyot's share appears to be somewhat highly assessed.
Montaigne, of all the great French prose-writers, seems to have most impressed the Elizabethans. 'Stealing from Montaignie' was, as we know from a sarcasm of Jonson's, a proverbial habit of English writers at the end of the century. But, apart from Gonzalo's famous Utopian patch, it is hard to bring the 'thefts' clearly home. Much of Montaigne's wisdom was in the air. Dr Lee treats this much-discussed matter with salutary caution. Even he, however, we think, overestimates the Montaignism of Bacon's Essays.' 'The word (Essay),' Bacon says, 'is late, but the thing is ancient.' And his management of these 'dispersed meditations' shows a
complete detachment from the ways of his predecessor. The close-knitted style and brevity of the earlier group of essays suggest a certain disdain for the divine chit-chat' of his predecessor; if the 'note of Montaigne's homely naturalness,' which Dr Lee hears throughout them, is ever heard, it is in those mellow last essays of his stately retirement at Gorhambury, when his own life had drawn into a certain resemblance to that of the French seigneur, but when his 'influence,' conscious or otherwise, is least of all to be supposed.
If the debt of our prose to France, though undoubted, is somewhat elusive, it was otherwise with the verse; and Dr Lee's fourth book, which gathers together a mass of scattered research, in great part already published, is a sterling contribution to our knowledge of the springs from which, or from amongst which, some of the greatest English poetry took its rise. The example of the Pléiade must rank as one of the chief shaping forces of Elizabethan lyric. That a Lodge and a Drummond translated and paraphrased wholesale is less to the purpose than that both Spenser and Shakespeare in their eager and curious youth evidently felt this fascination among others. That Spenser began his career by translating Du Bellay and a little later imitated Marot, has long been known ; but a more precise measure is given of the French strain in his early poetry by the famous ode in the April Eclogue of 'The Shepherd's Calendar,' in particular by the charming flower-stanza towards the close, where both the theme, the subtly intricate lyric metre, and the very names of many of the flowers, hardly disguise their Pléiade origin. But the 'new poet' of 'The Shepherd's Calendar' was soon to pass on from these brilliant or wayward experiments to the great life-task of the 'Faerie Queene.'
That Shakespeare too, when he wrote his sonnets, probably in 1593-4, was well read in other men's sonnets, French as well as English, and that he did not always avoid motives, figures, or even phrases, that had been used before, is clear enough. Dr Lee, who has contributed most to make it so, deals more cautiously with these facts than he did in some of his earlier discussions. But he is still too much inclined to impale the creator of these wonderful poems upon the horns of an unjust
dilemma; to assume that the use in poetry, with whatever individuality, of motives or figures that have been used before, stamps it as insincere or rhetorical. The sonnet, when Shakespeare took it up, was already a highly conventional form, and had gathered a rich panoply of traditional imagery, sentiment and stylistic device, which belonged only less than its rhythm and its rhyme to the recognised resources of expression and effect. Would a poet who chose this conventional but potent and beautiful form as the vehicle of a real situation eschew all these other conventions incident to its use? Would he not rather take them up into his work and touch them to finer issues? But this is precisely what Shakespeare in his sonnets, as Dr Lee fully recognises, has done. Yet he makes few and somewhat grudging concessions to the 'real situation' theory of their origin. We are grateful for the admirable scholarship and penetrating research which has made the French contribution to Elizabethan literature so clear, but we do not think that it perceptibly affects the literary problem of the sonnets.
It is a grave loss to Elizabethan studies that no literary history of that great age, comparable to the splendid contributions of France, has yet been received from Germany. Ten Brink, the unequalled historian of our earlier literature, died just as he approached the age of Shakespeare which it was his highest ambition to paint; and Prof. Alois Brandl, who proposed to take up the task, and is the man in Germany most capable of it, appears to have indefinitely postponed it. The appetite of the German public has, in the meantime, been satisfied by popular handbooks, some of them incredibly bad. Intermediate, however, between the fabrications of the Engels and Koertings and the masterpiece of Ten Brink stands the solid and scholarly work of the late Richard Wülker. As the best existing German treatise it may be briefly noticed here. Its profusion of illustrations from portraits and documents would in any case give it definite value. As literary history its strength lies not in criticism but in information, and particularly in the résumés systematically given of all important works. The section on Shakespeare is executed throughout with