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185

SOCIAL FOIBLES

in France, his bonnet in Germany, and his behaviour everywhere." Another failing in Englishmen, which Portia detects in her English suitor, is a total ignorance of any language but his own. She, an Italian lady, remarks: "You know I say nothing to him, for he understands not me nor I him. He hath neither Latin, French, nor Italian. He is a proper man's picture, but, alas! who can converse with a dumb show." This moving plaint draws attention to a defect which is not yet supplied. There are few Englishmen nowadays who, on being challenged to court Portia in Italian, would not cut a sorry figure in dumb show-sorrier figures than Frenchmen or Germans. No true patriot ought to ignore the fact or to direct attention to it with complacency.

Again, Shakespeare was never unmindful of the intemperate habits of his compatriots. When Iago sings a verse of the song beginning, "And let me the cannikin clink," and ending, "Why then let a soldier drink," Cassio commends the excellence of the ditty. Thereupon Iago explains: "I learned it in England, where indeed, they are most potent in potting: Your Dane, your German, and your swag-bellied Hollander -Drink, ho!—are nothing to your English." Cassio asks: "Is your Englishman so expert in his drinking?" Iago retorts: "Why, he drinks you, with facility, your Dane dead drunk," and gains, the speaker explains, easy mastery over the German and the Hollander.

A further stroke of Shakespeare's social criticism hits the thoughtless pursuit of novelty, which infected the nation and found vent in Shakespeare's day in the patronage of undignified shows and sports. When Trinculo, perplexed by the outward aspect of

the hideous Caliban, mistakes him for a fish, he remarks: "Were I in England now, as once I was, and had but this fish painted, not a holiday fool there but would give a piece of silver: there would this monster make a man; any strange beast there makes a man: when they will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian."

Shakespeare seems slyly to confess a personal conviction of defective balance in the popular judgment when he makes the first grave-digger remark that Hamlet was sent into England because he was mad.

"He shall recover his wits there," the old clown suggests, "or if he do not, 'tis no great matter there." "Why?" asks Hamlet.

""Twill not be seen in him there; there the men are as mad as he."

So, too, in the emphatically patriotic play of Henry V., Shakespeare implies that he sees some purpose in the Frenchman's jibes at the foggy, raw, and dull climate of England, which engenders in its inhabitants, the Frenchman argues, a frosty temperament, an ungenial coldness of blood. Nor does the dramatist imply dissent from the French marshal's suggestion that Englishmen's great meals of beef impair the efficiency of their intellectual armour. The point of the reproof is not blunted by the subsequent admission of a French critic in the same scene to the effect that, however robustious and rough in manner Englishmen may be, they have the unmatchable courage of the English breed of mastiffs. To credit men with the highest virtues of which dogs are capable is a grudging compliment.

THE TRUE DOCTRINE OF PATRIOTISM 187

V

To sum up. The Shakespearean drama enjoins those who love their country wisely to neglect no advantage that nature offers in the way of resisting unjust demands upon it; to remember that her prosperity depends on her command of the sea,of "the silver sea, which serves it in the office of a wall, or as a moat defensive to a house against the envy of less happier lands"; to hold firm in the memory "the dear souls" who have made "her reputation through the world"; to subject at need her faults and frailties to criticism and rebuke; and finally to treat with disdain those in places of power, who make of no account their responsibilities to the past as well as to the present and the future. The political, social, and physical conditions of his country have altered since Shakespeare lived. England has ceased to be an island-power. The people rule instead of the king. Social responsibilities are more widely acknowledged. But the dramatist's doctrine of patriotism has lost little of its pristine vitality, and is relevant to current affairs.

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IX

A PERIL OF SHAKESPEAREAN
RESEARCH 1

FOR some years past scarcely a month passes without my receipt of a communication from a confiding stranger, to the effect that he has discovered some piece of information concerning Shakespeare which has hitherto eluded research. Very often has a correspondent put himself to the trouble of forwarding a photograph of the title-page of a late sixteenth or early seventeenth century book, on which has been scrawled in old-fashioned script the familiar name of William Shakespeare. At intervals, which seem to recur with mathematical regularity, I receive intelligence that a portrait of the poet, of which nothing is hitherto known, has come to light in some recondite corner of England or America, and it is usually added that a contemporary inscription settles all doubt of authenticity.

I wish to speak with respect and gratitude of these confidences. I welcome them, and have no wish to repress them. But truth does not permit me to affirm that such as have yet reached me have done more than enlarge my conception of the scope

1 This paper was first printed in The Author, October, 1903.

GEORGE PEELE'S ALLEGED LETTER 189

of human credulity. I look forward to the day when the postman shall, through the generosity of some appreciative reader of my biography of Shakespeare, deliver at my door an autograph of the dramatist of which nothing has been heard before, or a genuine portrait of contemporary date, the existence of which has never been suspected. But up to the moment of writing, despite the good intentions of my correspondents, no experience of the kind has befallen

me.

There is something pathetic in the frequency with which correspondents, obviously of unblemished character and most generous instinct, send me almost tearful expressions of regret that I should have hitherto ignored one particular document, which throws (in their eyes) a curious gleam on the dramatist's private life. At least six times a year am I reminded how it is recorded in more than one obscure eighteenth-century periodical that the dramatist, George Peele, wrote to his friend Marle or Marlowe, in an extant letter, of a merry meeting which was held at a place called the "Globe." Whether the rendezvous were tavern or playhouse is left undetermined. The assembled company, I am assured, included not merely Edward Alleyn the actor, and Ben Jonson, but Shakespeare himself. Together these celebrated men are said to have discussed a passage in the new play of Hamlet. The reported talk is at the best tame prattle. Yet, if Shakespeare be anywhere revealed in unconstrained intercourse with professional associates, no biographer deserves pardon for overlooking the revelation, however disappointing be its purport.

Unfortunately for this neglected intelligence, the

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