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same necessity of contrast with Macbeth existed in the character of Banquo, the ancestor of James. Imagine Banquo as guilty as Macbeth, and the drama would be destroyed in its unity-its one-absorbing interest. Among Upton's remarks on Macbeth, he says,-“ The variety of characters, with their different manners, ought not to be passed over in silence. Banquo was as deep in the murder of the king, as some of the Scottish writers inform us, as Macbeth. But Shakespeare, with great art and address, deviates from the history. By these means his characters have the greater variety; and he at the same time pays a compliment to King James, who was lineally descended from Banquo.” In this case, a doubt of Banquo's guilt was sufficient for a poet to acquit him, and thereby pay a compliment to his descendant, who was “ so taken,” like Elizabeth with his dramas.
There are two more compliments to James, contained in Macbeth. That the witches should promise an interminable line of kings to the issue of Banquo, however pleasing to the ear of the reigning monarch, by no means trespassed beyond the bounds of fair compliment, since nothing at that period could well appear more secure. Had, indeed, the witches foretold the power, and wisdom, and what not, of one particular descendant, the first among those,–
“ That two-fold balls and treble sceptres carry;" then the promise would have swerved from compliment to flattery.
The other compliment is again not particular, but general to all English royalty. It is in a speech by Malcolm at the court of Edward the Confessor, where he speaks of the King's miraculous cures of the evil.
“ A most miraculous work in this good king;
Which often since my here-remain in England,
But this was a superstition, which lasted till the accession of George the First; and, be it noticed, though firmly believed in at the time Shakespeare wrote, he somewhat qualifies it with the words “'tis spoken," and, thus qualified, he leaves it to the 6 ceeding royalty.” Shakespeare was not, like Ben Jonson, rewarded with a pension from royalty.
With the exception of the Poems to his friend, where Master William Herbert's worth and truth are celebrated, though with much after modification, there is no instance of Shakespeare's having ascribed to a living being any virtue, quality of the mind, or talent. His sonnet in the Passionate Pilgrim, where he mentions Spenser,
“ whose deep conceit is such, As passing all conceit, needs no defence," was not published till after that poet's death. Such conduct is so far removed from flattery, that Mr. Leigh Hunt, in his Indicator, though with the best
feeling, seems to think it requires a defence. Intimate as we know he was with the great poets coeval with him, he has not bequeathed to us a line in commendation of one of them : nor did any one write a line in his commendation, except Spenser at the commencement of his career, during his life.* Considering the times in which he wrote, his compliments to royalty may have appeared strangely deficient in policy; and, as if on principle, he avoided public praise towards his compeers. Undoubtedly he knew, that occupying, as he did, the highest rank as a poet, a word of approval from his per would have been loudly echoed, not only from the quarter to which it was directed, but from every one who desired to be noticed by him. Now we well know, from their works, that the poets intimate with him, especially Ben Jonson, were profuse in encomiums on each other, on some indeed whose names are solely kept alive by the fact of verses being addressed to them.
Upon this forbearance, so extraordinary among literary men in all ages, I have many times reflected, and can arrive at no other conclusion than that Shakespeare acted on principle. The prostitution of praise offended him ; possibly the jealous expectation he observed around him of being lauded in return, precisely in proportion to the incense offered, offended him still more.
If so, we must admire and love his honesty, his singleness of spirit, his wisdom; though,
* An unknown person, Thomas Freeman, published a poor sonnet in his praise in 1614: and two nameless rhymesters had previously alluded to his Venus and Lucrece.
by his want of that exciting praise towards others, we have lost a thousand contemporary addresses and notices of all kinds, which, taken together, might have supplied the place of a regular biographer.
Meres frequently introduced his name in what we may regard a favourable criticism on English literature in 1598; but what poet, among those surrounding him, has given him so much as a passing notice ? That he had their good will we are assured; but it was of that species which works in silence. Drayton, a Warwickshire man, might have felt proud of him; but, whatever he felt, he did not express it. How happened it that no one, desirous himself of receiving a public honour from him, did not attempt to act on his generosity by penning a copy of verses in homage to his Muse? Was it because it was known he would neither be gratified, nor be induced to repay it in kind? This may well have been; and judging from the absence of verses addressed to him, I am inclined to believe that he disapproved of a fashion, sometimes disgraceful, seldom worthy; that his sentiments on this subject were not concealed; and that, among his circle, he was estimated as a man who disliked the publication of private opinion, and who was
“ A verse alike to flatter or offend."
HIS LOVE OF FAME.
From boyhood to nearly the age of thirty, I had studied Shakespeare without note or comment; with nothing but Rowe's Life. When I began to read what so many have chosen to write of him and his works, it was like entering among a company whose sole conversation was directed to the merits of a dear friend. Such was the pleasure experienced by me at first; and I was thankful for every illustration. But, to my surprise, it soon became evident that I had unconsciously been entertaining an opinion upon the character of the man extremely different from that of his public friends; and in nothing did I so entirely disagree with them, as in their almost unanimous assertion of his disregard to fame; an assertion grounded chiefly on the circumstance of his not having collected and printed his works, after his retirement from London.
The bare fact of his having left the care of editorship to others is far from being a proof that he was careless of fame. Without ascribing to him the common evils of procrastination, he might have purposed to write other, and, in his anticipation, better dramas, before the whole should be published; he might have