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the Roman household.) Perhaps something of the great poet's political feeling may be discovered through his Coriolanus; he was certainly no democratic idealizer of the mob; if he acknowledged the good heart, he saw also the weak head of the people acting en masse, or swayed by the wily demagogue; but he had at the same time a clear perception of the vices of the patrician temper. We can well believe that neither an unbridled democracy nor an insolent aristocracy would have been altogether to Shakespeare's liking.
842. The revolt against country in these two Roman plays passes into revolt against humanity in Timon of Athens. Only a portion of the play is from Shakespeare's hand; but that portion was written with full dramatic fervour. The misanthropy of Timon is the recoil from his own facile optimism; he had never known men as they are; his former careless generosity was far from true benevolence; his present hatred of the evil race of men is equally the passion of a dream. The creator of Timon, who put into his lips such eloquent invective against his kind, was himself no misanthrope. He had seen the evil and the good in the human heart; he would have the whole fact in his view and nothing but the fact; he desired, before all else, to see life whole; to be just of temper. And justice in a great mind necessarily results in gentleness when it has to deal with such creatures-so nobly endowed, so pathetically frail, so sublime, so ludicrous, so lovable—as man and woman.
$43. There are few transitions in literature more remarkable than that from Shakespeare's tragedies
of passion to the romantic plays, so grave and yet so glad, of his closing years of authorship. It is the transition from tempest, with its lightnings and thunderings, to a wide and illuminated calm. The writer of these exquisite plays, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest, has none of the lightness of heart which is the property of youth; he knows the wrongs of life; he sees the errors of men; but he seems to have found a resting-place of faith, hope, charity. The dissonances are resolved into a harmony; the spirit of the plays is one of large benignity; they tell of the blessedness of the forgiveness of injuries; they show how broken bonds between heart and heart may be repaired and reunited; each play closes with a victory of love. In Shakespeare's part of the drama of Pericles several of the motives more fully developed in the later plays are introduced; it is the story of loss and recovery, through trial and sorrow, of a beloved child. In Cymbeline husband and wife are parted and for a while unjustly estranged, but only that the joy of reunion may be more exquisite; while, at the same moment, a royal father, after years of sorrow for their disappearance, regains his long-lost sons. In The Winter's Tale husband and wife are again, and more cruelly, estranged; their infant daughter is believed to have perished by a barbarous death; but at the last all Hermione's wrongs are forgiven in her silent embrace of Leontes, and are recompensed, as far as recompense is possible, by her possession of the child, now in all the bloom of early womanhood, for whose loss she had so long lamented. In The Tempest grievous wrong has
THE ROMANTIC PLAYS.
been wrought, and now the injured Duke of Milan has all the ill-doers in his power; but he has come to feel that "the rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance"; he uses his supernatural power to soften the hearts of the offenders, as far as that is possible with any of them, and then he wins back their love by his forgiveness. And here again the wisdom of those who attain through suffering is contrasted with the beautiful joy of youth which as yet has known no sorrow. Again there is a lost child restored-Ferdinand to his father the King of Naples; and again there is a rare environment of natural beauty, the strange sea and the island of enchantment, more wonderful, yet hardly more quickening to the spirit, than the stormy ocean and wide sea-coast of Pericles, the wild Welsh mountains of Cymbeline, the fields with primrose and daffodil of The Winter's Tale. The wrongs of life and how they may be transcended; trials of the affections; triumphs of fortitude and patience; magnanimous self-possession under suffering; love purified by grief, and in the end supreme over all; wisdom of the intellect at one with moral wisdom; the radiant joy of young and pure hearts:-these are the themes of Shakespeare's latest plays. Yet no moral is ever obtruded; the dramatist is intent only on duly presenting his characters and evolving their action. If the Shakespearian fragment Pericles be viewed as a kind of prologue to this group of plays, we may describe the Shakespearian fragment of King Henry VIII. as its epilogue. The same spirit in a great measure presides over this play, although, of course, its historical character causes
that spirit to be the same with a difference. Queen Katherine is a Hermione of English history; she has a like dignity, a like magnanimous courage in adversity. It may be, as Dr. Garnett ingeniously argues, that The Tempest is Shakespeare's last complete play, and we gladly accept the idea of Campbell that the great enchanter of the imaginary world of the drama bade farewell to the stage in the person of his own Prospero; with him forswore his magic art, broke his staff of power, and sunk his book "deeper than did ever plummet sound". If this be so, we may suppose that both The Tempest and its author's contribution to the pageant play of King Henry VIII. were written in his retirement at Stratford, and reflect the harmonious wisdom of his years of rural leisure.
$44. Looking back over the events of Shakespeare's life, and the series of his plays and poems, observing especially the Sonnets, where we may well believe the poet expresses his own feelings in his own person, we seem to see a man not naturally self-contained and self-possessed, but sensitive, eager, ardent, of strong passions, quick imagination, universal sympathy; at the same time a man with a central sanity of mind, and one for whom wisdom, knowledge, and self-control were constantly growing powers. So his material life, after certain errors natural to his temperament, was conducted to a prosperous issue; and his ideal life, passing through shine and shadow, touching all heights and depths of human experience, attained at the close a high table-land, where the light is clear and steadfast and the finest airs of heaven are breathed by man.
THE DOUBTFUL PLAYS.
He sees human existence widely, calmly, with a temperate heart, with eyes purged and purified. And he sees perhaps not only the vision of life, but through it to deeper and larger things beyond. Shakespeare does not tell us what he saw when he looked beyond life with those calm experienced eyes. It was not his province to report such things to us as if he were God's spy. But assuredly he saw nothing which confused or clouded his soul; else he could not feel towards this our mortal life so purely, wisely, gently; else the great enchanter, this Prospero of ours, could not so tranquilly resign his magic robe and staff, dismiss his airy spirits, and piously accept the duties of mere manhood.1
§45. Before passing on to speak of the growth of Shakespeare's fame a word may here be said of the doubtful plays of Shakespeare, or, as several of them may certainly be named, the pseudo-Shakespearian plays. Of these plays one early historical drama and one late romantic comedy have the best claim to contain work from Shakespeare's hand. The Raigne of King Edward the Third was entered on the Stationers' Register, Dec. 1, 1595, and was published in quarto in 1596. There is no external evidence to connect Shakespeare with the play, but Capell in his prolusions of 1760 called attention to a resemblance in style between this work and Shakespeare's "earlier performances", and to the
1 In this paragraph I have appropriated a few sentences from an article of mine entitled Shakespeare's Wisdom of Life, which I have not reprinted since its first appearance,