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in French, almost exactly from the Genevan Bible of 1588: a fact which renders one part, at least, of Dr. Farmer's conclusion in his celebrated essay very improbable, viz., that 'Shakspeare did not understand very common words in the French and Latin languages.'
The deaf adder' has been already spoken of, see above, p. 52.
The cherished 'Serpent, that, at the last, biteth and stingeth,' of Proverbs xxiii. 32, is reproduced in King Henry VI., 2nd Part, Act iii. Sc. I
I fear me, you but warm the starved snake,
The worm of conscience. King Richard III., Act i. Sc. 3.
set to school to the ant' in Proverbs vi. 6, xxx. 25, so are we also in King Lear, Act ii. Sc. 4.-See below, Addit. Illustr., p. 377.
14. Again, the metaphorical images of the axe laid to the root of the tree;' of causing our 'light to shine before men,' in this naughty world; of 'the cheek to be given to the smiter;' of 'the mote' in the mind's 'eye,' and again of the mote and the beam ;-each of them well known to us from the Bible—have been all pressed into service by our poet: as may be seen by any one who will read Third Part Henry VI., Act ii. Sc. 2; Merchant of Venice, Act v. Sc. I; King Lear, Act iv. Sc. i; Hamlet, Act i. Sc. 1; Love's Labour's Lost, Act iv. Sc. 3.
But the field of Scriptural metaphor is one over which we must track our poet still further. In the Bible, life is 'pilgrimage,' Gen. xlvii. 9, and elsewhere; so it is in Shakspeare :His time is spent, our pilgrimage must be (i.e., is yet to come).
King Richard II., Act ii. Sc. 1. See also As you like it, Act iii. Sc. 2.
In the Bible, the human body is 'a temple, John ii. 21, and elsewhere ; so it is in Shakspeare:
Nature, crescent, does not grow alone
Hamlet, Act i. Sc. 3. See also Macbeth, quoted above, p. 284.
In the Bible, that which infects and corrupts others is ‘leaven,' 1 Cor. v. 6-8, and elsewhere; so it is in Shakspeare:
From thy great fall;— Cymbeline, Act iii. Sc. 4. i.e., shall not escape the imputation and character of being such.
In the Bible, that which is appropriated and secured is 'sealed,' Rom. xv. 28, and elsewhere; so it is in Shakspeare :
Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice,
Act iii. Sc, 2.
* See above, p. 40. But here 'proper' see.ns to mean handsome morally and inwardly, like the Greek kalós
Thus says Hamlet to his friend Horatio; and, again, in the same play, the phrase which S. John uses, iii. 33, is adopted by our poet :
A combination and a form indeed,
Act ii. Sc. 4.
See below, Addit. Ilustr., p. 377.
15. But further; besides the broader and more important principles and sentiments treated of at large in the preceding chapter, we may notice here several minor instances in which Shakspeare has adapted the moral axioms of Scripture to his purposes as a dramatic poet. A remarkable example of this, and one which might be illustrated by a whole cento of Bible texts, as including references not only to Scriptural maxims, but to facts, is to be found in All's Well that Ends Well :
He that of greatest works is finisher,
Here Mr. Malone has properly pointed out both the resemblance to the words of S. Paul, ‘God hath chosen,' i.e., is wont to choose, the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty,' 1 Cor. i. 27; and the direct allusion to the words of our Lord :
I thank Thee, O Father, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
Matt. xi. 25.
But in the latter case it would have been more apposite to have quoted Matt. xxi. 15, 16, containing the reference to Psalm viii. 2; because in that passage 'the judgment' of the children in the temple, as contrasted with the unbelief of the chief priests and scribes, is actually shown.' Mr. Holt White suggests that the allusion is to Daniel's judging, when a young youth,' the two elders in the story of Susannah. I have remarked that Shakspeare had this story in view on another* occasion; but I doubt whether he would have spoken of an apocryphal book as 'holy writ;' though some of the fathers, and our own Homilies (using the word 'Scripture' in a laxer sense than prevailed in Shakspeare's time, or prevails now) did so speak. To return to the speech of Helena in All's Well, &c.; both the critic just named and Mr. Henley have observed that in the words 'great floods have flown from simple sources' there is an allusion to Moses smiting the rock in
. See above, p. 87.
Horeb, Exod. xvii. 6; but they differ about the allusion in the verse that follows: the former considers' that by the greatest' we are to understand Pharaoh, who denied,' or would not hearken to the miracles of Moses in Egypt ; the latter, that the elders of Israel are meant, who, notwithstanding the miracles wrought for their preservation, refused that compliance which they ought to have yielded. Both critics suppose that the preceding half line refers to the drying up of the Red Sea.
Another example of the same kind is the poetical expansion which Shakspeare gives to the Scriptural notion, that it is the duty of men, in the moral, no less than in the natural world, to 'discern the signs of the times.' See Matt. xvi. 1-3, and elsewhere. I allude to the dialogue in King Richard III* between certain citizens of London when they received news of the death of King Edward IV.
ist Cit. Come, come, we fear the worst; all will be well.
3rd Cit. When clouds are seen, wise men put on their cloaks ; When great leaves fall, then winter is at hand; When the sun sets, who does not look for night? Untimely storms make men expect a dearth : All may be well; but, if God sort it so, 'Tis more than we deserve, or I expect.
2nd Cit. Truly the hearts of men are full of fear; You cannot reason t almost with a man That looks not heavily, and full of dread.
Act ii. Sc. 3.
* See also King Richard II., Act iü. Sc. 2.