« ZurückWeiter »
the lines of the Vienna Volks-Theater? In the first place, it is needful to bring together a body of citizens who, under leadership which commands public confidence, will undertake to build and control for a certain term of years a theatre of suitable design in the interests of dramatic art, on conditions similar to those that have worked with success in Berlin, Paris, and notably Vienna. Then the London County Council after the professions it has made, might be reasonably expected to undertake so much responsibility for the proper conduct of the new playhouse as would be implied by its provision of a site. If the experiment failed, no one would be much the worse; if it succeeded, as it ought to succeed, the nation would gain in repute for intelligence, culture, and enlightened patriotism; it would rid itself of the reproach that it pays smaller and less intelligent regard to Shakespeare and the literary drama than France, Germany, Austria, or Italy.
Phelps's single-handed effort brought the people of London for eighteen years face to face with the great English drama at his playhouse at Sadler's Wells. "I made that enterprise pay," he said, after he retired; "not making a fortune certainly, but bringing up a large family and paying my way." Private troubles and illness compelled him suddenly to abandon the enterprise at the end of eighteen years, when there happened to be none at hand to take his place of leader. All that was wanting to make his enterprise permanent, he declared, was some public control, some public acknowledgment of responsibility which, without impeding the efficient manager's freedom of action, would cause his post to be properly filled in case of an accidental vacancy.
PHELPS ON PUBLIC CONTROL
Phelps thought that if he could do so much during eighteen years by his personal, isolated, and independent endeavour, much more could be done in permanence under some public method of safeguard and guarantee. Phelps's services to the literary drama can hardly be over-estimated. His mature judgment is not to be lightly gainsaid. It is just to his memory to put his faith to a practical test.
ASPECTS OF SHAKESPEARE'S
A FRENCH critic once remarked that a whole system of philosophy could be deduced from Shakespeare's pages, though from all the works of the philosophers one could not draw a page of Shakespeare. The second statement-the denial of the presence of a page of Shakespeare in the works of all the philosophers-is more accurate than the assertion that a system of philosophy could be deduced from the plays of Shakespeare. It is hopeless to deduce any precise system of philosophy from Shakespeare's plays. Literally, philosophy means nothing more recondite than love of wisdom. Technically, it means scientifically restrained speculation about the causes of human thought and conduct; it embraces the sciences of logic, of ethics, of politics, of psychology, of metaphysics. Shakespeare's training and temper unfitted him to make any professed contribution to any of these topics.
Ignorant persons argue on hazy grounds that the great avowed philosopher of Shakespeare's day,
1 This paper, which was originally prepared in 1899 for the purposes of a popular lecture, is here printed for the first time.
BACON'S PHILOSOPHICAL METHOD
Francis Bacon, wrote Shakespeare's plays. There is no need to confute the theory, which confutes itself. But, if a confutation were needed, it lies on the surface in the conflicting attitudes which Shakespeare and Bacon assume towards philosophy. There is no mistaking Bacon's attitude. The supreme aim of his writings was to establish the practical value, the majestic importance, of philosophy in its strict sense of speculative science. He sought to widen its scope and to multiply the ranks of its students. Bacon's method is formally philosophic in texture. He carefully scrutinises, illustrates, seeks to justify each statement before proceeding to a conclusion. Every essay, every treatise of Bacon, conveys the impression not merely of weighty, pregnant eloquence, but of the argumentative and philosophic temper. Bacon's process of thinking is conscious: it is visible behind the words. The argument progresses with a cumulative force. It draws sustenance from the recorded opinions of others. The points usually owe consistency and firmness to quotations from old authors-Greek and Latin authors, especially Plato and Plutarch, Lucretius and Seneca. To Bacon, as to all professed students of the subject, philosophy first revealed itself in the pages of the Greek writers Plato and Aristotle, the founders for modern Europe of the speculative sciences of human thought and conduct. Greatly as Bacon modified the Greek system of philosophy, he began his philosophic career under the influence of Aristotle, and, despite his destructive criticism of his master, he never wholly divested himself of the methods of exposition to which the Greek philosopher's teaching introduced him.
In their attitudes to philosophy, Shakespeare and Bacon are as the poles asunder. Shakespeare practically ignores the existence of philosophy as a formal science. He betrays no knowledge of its Greek origin and developments.
There are two short, slight, conventional mentions of Aristotle's name in Shakespeare's works. One is a very slight allusion to Aristotle's "checks" or "moral discipline" in The Taming of the Shrew. That passage is probably from a coadjutor's pen. In any case it is merely a playful questioning of the title of "sweet philosophy" to monopolize a young man's education.1
The other mention of Aristotle is in Troilus and Cressida, and raises points of greater interest. Hector scornfully likens his brothers Troilus and Paris, when they urge persistence in the strife with Greece, to "young men whom Aristotle thought unfit to hear moral philosophy" (II. 2, 166). The words present the meaning, but not the language, of a sentence in Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics" (i. 8). Aristotle there declares passionate youth to be unfitted to study political philosophy; he makes no mention of moral philosophy. The change of epithet does, however, no injustice to Aristotle's argument. His context makes it plain, that by
Tranio, the attendant on the young Pisan, Lucentio, who has come to Padua to study at the university, counsels his master to widen the field of his studies:
Only, good master, while we do admire
As Ovid be an outcast quite adjured.
-The Taming of the Shrew, i. 2, 29–33.