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tions, Lady Macbeth and Cleopatra, stand in a category of their own. They do not lack high power of will, even if they are unable so to commingle blood and judgment as to master fate.

Elsewhere, the dramatist seems to betray private suspicion of the normal woman's volitional capacity by applying to her heart and mind the specific epithet "waxen.” The feminine mind takes the impress of its environment as easily as wax takes the impress of a seal. In two passages where this simile is employed, the deduction from it is pressed to the furthest limit, and free-will is denied women altogether. Feminine susceptibility is pronounced to be incurable; wavering, impressionable emotion is a main constituent of woman's being; women are not responsible for the sins they commit nor the wrongs they endure.

This is reactionary doctrine, and one of the few points in Shakespeare's "natural" philosophy which invites dissent. But he makes generous amends by ascribing to women a plentiful supply of humour. No writer has proclaimed more effectively his faith in woman's brilliance of wit nor in her quickness of apprehension.

1 For men have marble, women waren minds,
And therefore are they formed as marble will;
The weak oppress’d, the impression of strange kinds
Is form’d in them by force, by fraud, or skill.
Then call them not the authors of their ill,
No more than wax shall be accounted evil,
Wherein is stamp'd the semblance of a devil.

-Lucrece, 1240-6.
How easy it is for the proper-false
In women's waxen hearts to set their forms!
Alas! our frailty is the cause, not we;
For, such as we are made of, such we be.

-Twelfth Night, II., ii., 31.

1

!

SHAKESPEARE'S OPTIMISM

169

VII

Despite the solemnity which attaches to Shakespeare's philosophic reflections, he is at heart an optimist and a humorist. He combines with his serious thought a thorough joy in life, an irremovable preference for the bright over the dismal side of things. The creator of Falstaff and Mercutio, of Beatrice and the Princess in Love's Labour's Lost, could hardly fail to set store by that gaiety of spirit which is the antidote to unreasoning discontent, and keeps society in good savour.

Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous,
There shall be no more cakes and ale?

is the voice of Shakespeare as well as of Sir Toby Belch. The dramatist was at one with Rosalind, his offspring, when she told Jaques :

I had rather have a fool to make me merry,
Than experience to make me sad.

The same sanguine optimistic temper constantly strikes a more impressive note.

There is some soul of goodness in things evil,
Would men observingly distil it out,

is a comprehensive maxim, which sounds as if it came straight from Shakespeare's lips. This battlecry of invincible optimism is uttered in the play by Shakespeare's favourite hero, Henry V. It is hard to quarrel with the inference that these words convey the ultimate verdict of the dramatist on human affairs.

tions, Lady Macbeth and Cleopatra, stand in a category of their own. They do not lack high power of will, even if they are unable so to commingle blood and judgment as to master fate.

Elsewhere, the dramatist seems to betray private suspicion of the normal woman's volitional capacity by applying to her heart and mind the specific epithet “waxen.” The feminine mind takes the impress of its environment as easily as wax takes the impress of a seal. In two passages where this simile is employed,” the deduction from it is pressed to the furthest limit, and free-will is denied women altogether. Feminine susceptibility is pronounced to be incurable; wavering, impressionable emotion is a main constituent of woman's being; women are not responsible for the sins they commit nor the wrongs they endure.

This is reactionary doctrine, and one of the few points in Shakespeare's "natural" philosophy which invites dissent. But he makes generous amends by ascribing to women a plentiful supply of humour. No writer has proclaimed more effectively his faith in woman's brilliance of wit nor in her quickness of apprehension.

1 For men have marble, women waren minds,
And therefore are they formed as marble will;
The weak oppress'd, the impression of strange kinds
Is form'd in them by force, by fraud, or skill.
Then call them not the authors of their ill,
No more than wax shall be accounted evil,
Wherein is stamp'd the semblance of a devil.

-Lucrece, 1240-6.
How easy it is for the proper-false
In women's waxen hearts to set their forms!
Alas ! our frailty is the cause, not we;
For, such as we are made of, such we be.

-Twelfth Night, II., ii., 31.

SHAKESPEARE'S OPTIMISM

169

VII

Despite the solemnity which attaches to Shakespeare's philosophic reflections, he is at heart an optimist and a humorist. He combines with his serious thought a thorough joy in life, an irremovable preference for the bright over the dismal side of things. The creator of Falstaff and Mercutio, of Beatrice and the Princess in Love's Labour's Lost, could hardly fail to set store by that gaiety of spirit which is the antidote to unreasoning discontent, and keeps society in good savour.

Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous,
There shall be no more cakes and ale?

is the voice of Shakespeare as well as of Sir Toby Belch. The dramatist was at one with Rosalind, his offspring, when she told Jaques :

I had rather have a fool to make me merry,
Than experience to make me sad.

The same sanguine optimistic temper constantly strikes a more impressive note.

There is some soul of goodness in things evil,
Would men observingly distil it out,

is a comprehensive maxim, which sounds as if it came straight from Shakespeare's lips. This battlecry of invincible optimism is uttered in the play by Shakespeare's favourite hero, Henry V. It is hard to quarrel with the inference that these words convey the ultimate verdict of the dramatist on human affairs.

VIII

SHAKESPEARE AND PATRIOTISM 1

His noble negligences teach
What others' toils despair to reach.

I

PATRIOTISM is a natural instinct closely allied to the domestic affections. Its normal activity is as essential as theirs to the health of society. But, in a greater degree than other instincts, the patriotic impulse works with perilous irregularity unless it be controlled by the moral sense and the intellect.

Every student of history and politics is aware how readily the patriotic instinct, if uncontrolled by morality and reason, comes into conflict with both. Freed of moral restraint it is prone to engender a peculiarly noxious brand of spurious sentiment—the patriotism of false pretence. Bombastic masquerade of the genuine impulse is not uncommon among place-hunters in Parliament and popularity-hunters in constituencies, and the honest instinct is thereby brought into disrepute. Dr Johnson was thinking solely of the frauds and moral degradation which have been sheltered by selfseekers under the name of patriotism when he none

1 This paper was first printed in the Cornhill Magazine, May, 1901.

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