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and in as far as the criticism stands this test, we may fairly consider that in the main it is not fanciful but sound. We say in the main, because something of form and colour will always be due to the individual mind and point of view of the critic. And it is a common experience of him who has really studied this or any other work of art for himself, to find that another man's criticism thereon may commend itself to his judgment in the main, and help him to understand the subject better than he did before, and yet not be put in the precise way in which he would have put it himself, or would put it still.
Our interest in this play of • Hamlet' is just in proportion to our feeling-conscious or unconscious—that its ideal has a counterpart in nature and in life, and that its personages and incidents are thus real, though presented to us in a poetic form. The profounder the insight and the more perfect the art of the poet, the more capable is his work of an analysis which treats
a reality : and if the result of the analysis is such a coherent and such an instructive view of life as proves its own worth, though it could never have been imagined by ourselves or any other critics, then we may safely believe that we and they have only found it in Shakespeare's words because it was really there.
And this we have reason to believe was Shakespeare's own view of the poet's inspiration. For though we never assert dogmatically that any character is expressing Shakespeare's own opinion as well as speaking what is dramatically true for that character, it seems probable that Theseus, in • Midsummer Night's Dream,' does, in his description of the poet, utter something of Shakespeare's own thoughts. We must make allowance for the one-sided common-sense of the soldierduke of Athens, and need not suppose that Shakespeare would have agreed with him as to the near likeness of the poet to the madman: yet if we may believe that Shakespeare himself held that the imagination of the poet as well as of the madman and the lover was more than cool reason ever comprehends,' this language recognises an inspiration and intuition, and not merely a deliberate intellectual process of building rather than creating. And a comparison of what Shakespeare says here of the likeness of the lover to the poet, with his description of love in *Love's Labour's Lost,' points to the same conclusion. He then contrasts the universal plodding' of study and learning with the nature and action of love, which
· Courses as swift as thought in every power,
Such is the 'passion' of love, which we so name because the whole soul submits to and is mastered by it, instead of itself ruling and directing it, as it does all the faculties of the intellect. And as Shakespeare characterises as “passionate' the love which he compares with the inspiration of the poet, so Milton employs ‘passionate' as one of the three words• simple, sensuous, and passionate' *-in which he sums up the characteristics of poetry in a definition perfect in its kind.
Shakespeare, then, like every other true poet, was raised by his poetic inspiration above himself, and was greater than he knew. His plots and characters were the creations of his vision and faculty divine, and not (as some critics have maintained) the result of any merely analytical processes and arrangements. And this is the nobler as well as the truer estimate of Shakespeare's work. God and the poet alone create,' says Tasso. Yet we must take heed not to sacrifice one truth in order to maintain another; nor, while we compare the poet's power to the creative forces at work in nature, must we forget that Art of the poet which is more and more developed by culture. Shakespeare did not merely warble his native wood-notes wild,' but excelled all other poets in his self-culture no less than in his properly creative powers. So said De Quincey :f and still more precisely to our purpose are the words of Ben Jonson :
• Yet must I not give Nature all : Thy Art,
As brandish't at the eyes of ignorance.' I The poet is no photographer or shorthand writer, to give us mere scenes and speeches as they actually occurred. He sees into the life of things, and then so handles those things as to make them represent the life better than they—the materials supplied by nature—can do. So the painter, while he takes some actual landscape or figure as the groundwork of his picture, apprehends and lays hold of what he names the motive of his picture, and arranges, leaves out, puts in, idealises, and so converts a scene in nature to a work of art. So the lapidary takes what seems to the bystander little more than a dull and shapeless pebble, and by his art brings out the colour, the lustre, and the proper crystal facets of the diamond, the emerald, or the ruby :splendours which were really there from the first, but which nature could not reveal without the aid of art. And so the chemist brings to light the wonderful mysteries with which he deals, not by any mere examination of the substances which nature actually presents him with, but by experiments in which he combines, resolves, and analyses gases, metals, and alkaloids, which lie hidden under other existing combinations of nature, but which can be brought to light, so that their properties may be known and appreciated, by art alone. And thus Shakespeare takes some chronicle_historical or legendary -of Holinshed or Saxo-Grammaticus; some story of a classical or a romantic author, a Plutarch or an Italian novelist; sees into and lays hold of the motive, the idea, the human life which rises before him in vision, and which he then, by his art, embodies in the scenes and persons of a Play. And so he shows us men and women who are in one sense more real and more actual than the flesh-and-blood men and women among whom we live, because in these creations of the poet we can see and study those springs and workings of human life which in nature are for the most part hidden from our eyes. creates the place, and the men and women in it; and he then so lives in each of them his or her proper life that each says and does what actual men and women would have done in like
* Of Education, to Master Samuel Hartlib.'
† On the Knocking at the Gate, in Macbeth,' in De Quincey's Miscellaneous Essays.' Verses prefixed to the First Folio.
And thus the poet unveils, discovers, for us ordinary men, truths which we could not discover for ourselves, and puts these in forms which we can apprehend when so shown to us, and which are so beautiful that we are attracted by their beauty before we appreciate their truth and goodness. For though no poetry deserves the name if it be not true and good, its primary purpose is, and ought to be, to give pleasure ; and in giving pleasure to awaken in us the germs of truth and goodness.
When the painter Wilkie was in Spain, and visiting the Escurial, an old monk, of the Order of St. Jerome, came up to him, pointed to the figures of Titian's Last Supper, and said, 'When I think of all the changes that have passed over this house, and of its brethren dispersed and dead, it often seems to me as if those
were the real men, and we the shadows.' And if we reflect on our own thoughts and feelings in reading Shakespeare, we may find a like impression made upon us in the contemplation of his undying men and women. They remain, generation after generation, while we pass away. Our fathers and our fathers' fathers for three hundred years have known Hamlet, and Othello, and Jacques, and Falstaff ; Miranda, and Ophelia, and Beatrice, and Portia, and Desdemona, as well as we know them still, and with as much recognition of their flesh and blood reality—what we call their truth to nature. And how real, how living, these creations of Shakespeare are to us! how dim and unsubstantial have become all the men and women who lived in our houses and walked through our streets in the generations before that which we have seen with our own eyes !
We have endeavoured to distinguish, but we can never separate, the poet's Genius from his Art: for though Genius uses tools to work with, they are tools which itself has made for such use: and though we all see the careless prodigality with which Shakespeare lavishes his intellectual wealth upon us—a careless prodigality which made Ben Jonson answer to the players who mentioned it as an honour to Shakespeare that he had never blotted out a line, “Would he had blotted a thousand '*—yet the more we look into Shakespeare's art, the more consummate do we, as did Ben Jonson, find it to be. Goethe made this distinction when he said to Eckermann, 'Shakespeare gives us apples of gold in baskets of silver: we, with skill and painstaking, may make the baskets, but we have only potatoes to put into them.' But he provided potatoes as well as a basket of his own for · Romeo and Juliet,' when he adapted' that play for the Weimar stage, as Ducis adapted • Hamlet,' Macbeth, and Othello,' for that of Paris. Not that we English can throw a stone at either such German or such French treatment of Shakespeare; for we have not only had our Dryden's new version of the + Tempest, but a host of smaller geniuses, not wholly extinct even now, who thus show that their intellect is as much below that of a Coleridge or a De Quincey as is their spirit of reverence. Let a man approach the study of Shakespeare in the spirit in which Spenser addresses Chaucer :
* Wordsworth, in his · Lines suggested by a Portrait' published in 1835, and in one of his notes dictated to Miss Fenwick, tells the story as he learnt it from Wilkie : Southey repeats it in The Doctor' (iii. 235); and Lord Malon relates (' History of England,' vi. 498) its occurrence when he was in Spain with Wilkie in 1827. Mr. Rogers, on the other hand, in a note in the third edition of his Italy, published in 1838, told how a monk in a Dominican convent at Padua had said the very same words to him, when showing him a ‘Last Supper' in the Refectory there. And to this note (as if in justification of the coincidence) a second note was added in later editions, and made a second paragraphi, in which Mr. Rogers observes, that the celebrated fresco of Leonardo da Vinci in the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie at Milan must again and again have suggested the same reflection.' Upon this Wordsworth observes, in the note referred to above, that it is not easy to explain how his friend Mr. Rogers should have been led to give the same words as having been spoken to himself. And there is a touch of irony in the fact that the volume containing Wordsworth's poem is dedicated to Samuel Rogers. But Miss Busk, in • Notes and Queries,' Nov. 24, 1888, shows by an elaborate array of facts, that there is the gravest doubt whether any Dominican convent, or any such picture as Mr. Rogers describes, could have been found by him at Padua. And we believe the explanation is to be found in the well-known habit of the tellers of good stories, who give them point by relating them as having happened to themselves. Mr. Rogers is likely enough to have heard the story from Wilkie himself, or from Lord Mahon; or it may bave been told that letter about the picture in question from Wilkie to Sir Thomas Lawrence, which the latter read to Mr. Rogers (see Cunningham's Life of Wilkie,' ii. 485, 492). The whole subject has been discussed in ‘Notes and Queries' for Nov. 24, 1888, March 23 and April 27, 1889. Mr. Rogers follows in his poem, and quotes in the note before that under discussion, Vasari's contrast between the dead Raphael and his picture of the Transfiguration—il corpo morto e quella viva'—which Miss Busk says is reproduced from an earlier writer.
‘By infusion swoete Of thine own spirit which doth in me survive, I follow here the footing of thy feete,
That with thy meaning so I may the rather meete:'let a man thus study Shakespeare, and he will find that, however comprehensive or however microscopic that study may be, he will discover everywhere new signs and proofs of the poet's consummate art, no less than of his genius. He will find the minutest tissue or cell of the smallest leaf or roughest bark as instinct with organic life as is the great oak itself. To show this in detail, we should have to take some play scene by scene and speech by speech, and so fill a volume rather than an article. What our space permits we go on to say.
It is a commonplace to speak of the art with which Shakespeare brings the months or years from the chronicle or story from which he takes the materials of his Play into the compass of a three hours' action, and that with a unity no less perfect than that of the Greek drama. But an art within this art has been discovered. Attention was called to this, Mr. Furness tells us, about the same time by Mr. Halpin as to the Merchant of Venice,' and by Wilson (Christopher North) as to ·Macbeth and Othello,' and Mr. Furness has shown it in Hamlet' also. They point out that in these plays Shakespeare has two times, which Halpin calls the protractive and the accelerating,' and Wilson the two clocks.' So that while the action proceeds with
* Timber, or Discoveries made upon Men and Matter, by Ben Jonson, page 699 of The Works of Ben Jonson,' MDCXCII. Vol. 171.-No. 341.