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stood'?] In the same scene of Macbeth the hero in fight is compared to an eagle, and his foes to sparrows; and in Soph. III. ii. Massinissa in fight is compared to a falcon, and his foes to fowls and lesser birds. I should not note this were it not that all these reminiscences (if they are such) recall one and the same scene. In Sophonisba also there is a tremendous description of the witch Erictho (Iv. i.), who says to the person consulting her, 'I know thy thoughts,' as the Witch says to Macbeth, of the Armed Head, 'He knows thy thought.'
(5) The resemblances between Othello and King Lear pointed out on pp. 244-5 and in Note R. form, when taken in conjunction with other indications, an argument of some strength in favour of the idea that King Lear followed directly on Othello.
(6) There remains the evidence of style and especially of metre. I will not add to what has been said in the text concerning the former; but I wish to refer more fully to the latter, in so far as it can be represented by the application of metrical tests. It is impossible to argue here the whole question of these tests. I will only say that, while I am aware, and quite admit the force, of what can be said against the independent, rash, or incompetent use of them, I am fully convinced of their value when they are properly used.
Of these tests, that of rhyme and that of feminine endings, discreetly employed, are of use in broadly distinguishing Shakespeare's plays into two groups, earlier and later, and also in marking out the very latest dramas; and the feminine-ending test is of service in distinguishing Shakespeare's part in Henry VIII. and the Two Noble Kinsmen. But neither of these tests has any power to separate plays composed within a few years of one another. There is significance in the fact that the Winter's Tale, the Tempest, Henry VIII., contain hardly any rhymed five-foot lines; but none, probably, in the fact that Macbeth shows a higher percentage of such lines than King Lear, Othello, or Hamlet. The percentages of feminine endings, again, in the four tragedies, are almost conclusive against their being early plays, and would tend to show that they were not among the latest; but the differences in their respective percentages, which would place them in the chronological order Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear (König), or Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear (Hertzberg), are
of scarcely any account. Nearly all scholars, I think, would accept these statements.
The really useful tests, in regard to plays which admittedly are not widely separated, are three which concern the endings of speeches and lines. It is practically certain that Shakespeare made his verse progressively less formal, by making the speeches end more and more often within a line and not at the close of 1
it; by making the sense overflow more and more often from p475 one line into another; and, at last, by sometimes placing at the
end of a line a word on which scarcely any stress can be laid.3.475
The corresponding tests may be called the Speech-ending test, the Overflow test, and the Light and Weak Ending test.
I. The Speech-ending test has been used by König,' and I will first give some of his results. But I regret to say that I am unable to discover certainly the rule he has gone by. He omits speeches which are rhymed throughout, or which end with a rhymed couplet. And he counts only speeches which are 'mehrzeilig.' I suppose this means that he counts any speech consisting of two lines or more, but omits not only one-line speeches, but speeches containing more than one line but less than two; but I am not sure.
In the plays admitted by everyone to be early the percentage of speeches ending with an incomplete line is quite small. In the Comedy of Errors, for example, it is only o6. It advances to 12'1 in King John, 18.3 in Henry V., and 216 in As You Like It. It rises quickly soon after, and in no play written (according to general belief) after about 1600 or 1601 is it less than 30. In the admittedly latest plays it rises much higher, the figures being as follows:-Antony 775, Cor. 79, Temp. 84°5, Cym. 85, Win. Tale 876, Henry VIII. (parts assigned to Shakespeare by Spedding) 89. Going back, now, to the four tragedies, we find the following figures: Othello 414, Hamlet 516, Lear 609, Macbeth 77°2. These figures place Macbeth decidedly last, with a percentage practically equal to that of Antony, the first of the final group.
I will now give my own figures for these tragedies, as they differ somewhat from König's, probably because my method differs.
I have not tried to discover the source of the difference between these two reckonings.
Der Vers in Shakspere's Dramen, 1888.
(1) I have included speeches rhymed or ending with rhymes, mainly because I find that Shakespeare will sometimes (in later plays) end a speech which is partly rhymed with an incomplete line (e.g. Ham. III. ii. 187, and the last words of the play: or Macb. v. i. 87, v. ii. 31). And if such speeches are reckoned, as they surely must be (for they may be, and are, highly significant), those speeches which end with complete rhymed lines must also be reckoned. (2) I have counted any speech exceeding a line in length, however little the excess may be; e.g. I'll fight till from my bones my flesh be hacked.
Give me my armour:
considering that the incomplete line here may be just as significant as an incomplete line ending a longer speech. If a speech begins within a line and ends brokenly, of course I have not counted it when it is equivalent to a five-foot line; e.g. Wife, children, servants, all
That could be found:
but I do count such a speech (they are very rare) as
My lord, I do not know:
But truly I do fear it:
for the same reason that I count
You know not
Whether it was his wisdom or his fear.
Of the speeches thus counted, those which end somewhere within the line I find to be in Othello about 54 per cent.; in Hamlet about 57; in King Lear about 69; in Macbeth about 75.1 The order is the same as König's, but the figures differ a good deal. I presume in the last three cases this comes from the difference in method; but I think König's figures for Othello cannot be right, for I have tried several methods and find that the result is in no case far from the result of my own, and I am almost inclined to conjecture that König's 414 is really the percentage of speeches ending with the close of a line, which would give 58.6 for the percentage of the broken-ended speeches.2
In the parts of Timon (Globe text) assigned by Mr. Fleay to Shakespeare, I find the percentage to be about 74'5. König gives 62.8 as the percentage in the whole of the play.
"I have noted also what must be a mistake in the case of Pericles. König gives 17.1 as the percentage of the speeches with broken ends. I
We shall find that other tests also would put Othello before Hamlet, though close to it. This may be due to 'accident' -i.e. a cause or causes unknown to us; but I have sometimes wondered whether the last revision of Hamlet may not have succeeded the composition of Othello. In this connection the following fact may be worth notice. It is well known that the differences of the Second Quarto of Hamlet from the First are much greater in the last three Acts than in the first two-so much so that the editors of the Cambridge Shakespeare suggested that QI represents an old play, of which Shakespeare's rehandling had not then proceeded much beyond the Second Act, while Q 2 represents his later completed rehandling. If that were so, the composition of the last three Acts would be a good deal later than that of the first two (though of course the first two would be revised at the time of the composition of the last three). Now I find that the percentage of speeches ending with a broken line is about 50 for the first two Acts, but about 62 for the last three. It is lowest in the first Act, and in the first two scenes of it is less than 32. The percentage for the last two Acts is about 65. II. The Enjambement or Overflow test is also known as the End-stopped and Run-on line test. A line may be called 'end-stopped' when the sense, as well as the metre, would naturally make one pause at its close; 'run-on' when the mere sense would lead one to pass to the next line without any pause. This distinction is in a great majority of cases quite easy to draw in others it is difficult. The reader cannot judge by rules of grammar, or by marks of punctuation (for there is a distinct pause at the end of many a line where most editors print no stop) he must trust his ear. And readers will differ, one making a distinct pause where another does not. This, however, does not matter greatly, so long as the reader is consistent; for the important point is not the precise number of run-on lines was astounded to see the figure, considering the style in the undoubtedly Shakespearean parts; and I find that, on my method, in Acts III., IV., V. the percentage is about 71, in the first two Acts (which show very slight, if any, traces of Shakespeare's hand) about 19. I cannot imagine the origin of the mistake here.
1I put the matter thus, instead of saying that, with a run-on line, one does pass to the next line without any pause, because, in common with many others, I should not in any case whatever wholly ignore the fact that one line ends and another begins.
in a play, but the difference in this matter between one play and another. Thus one may disagree with König in his estimate of many instances, but one can see that he is consistent.
In Shakespeare's early plays, 'overflows' are rare. In the Comedy of Errors, for example, their percentage is 12'9 according to König1 (who excludes rhymed lines and some others). In the generally admitted last plays they are comparatively frequent. Thus, according to König, the percentage in the Winter's Tale is 375, in the Tempest 415, in Antony 43'3, in Coriolanus 45'9, in Cymbeline 46, in the parts of Henry VIII. assigned by Spedding to Shakespeare 53'18. König's results for the four tragedies are as follows: Othello, 195; Hamlet, 23'1; King Lear, 293; Macbeth, 366; (Timon, the whole play, 325). Macbeth here again, therefore, stands decidedly last: indeed it stands near the first of the latest plays.
And no one who has ever attended to the versification of Macbeth will be surprised at these figures. It is almost obvious, I should say, that Shakespeare is passing from one system to another. Some passages show little change, but in others the change is almost complete. If the reader will compare two somewhat similar soliloquies, 'To be or not to be' and 'If it were done when 'tis done,' he will recognise this at once. Or let him search the previous plays, even King Lear, for twelve consecutive lines like these:
If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
Or let him try to parallel the following (111. vi. 37 f.):
and this report
Hath so exasperate the king that he
Prepares for some attempt of war.
1 These overflows are what König calls 'schroffe Enjambements,' which he considers to correspond with Furnivall's 'run-on lines.'