« ZurückWeiter »
But his dominion that exceeds in this,
I must still find room for Faustus' last monologue, which in parts rises to a pitch of stately pathos:
(FAUSTUS alone. The clock strikes eleven.)
(7he clock strikes.)
This work of Marlowe's is a distinct advance upon his own bloody tragedies, and those of the men grouped round him. But these latter mark the temper and taste which Shakespeare found prevailing in London when he arrived there, and to which he himself paid tribute in Titus Andronicus, supposing that play to be really his. But Shakespeare is doubly divided from his forerunners by an impassable gulf. He has different intellectual and ästhetic qualities. Even if in the heyday of youth he may have overstepped bounds, still in his worst he was far from employing the confused action, the moral incoherence of the Marlowe-Greene group. From an esthetic point of view, also, Shakespeare carly in his career detached himself completely from their uncouth boorishness, and from the bombastic bathos of their language. Indeed, hic has bitterly satiriscd and burlesqucd this in the specches of his bully and boaster Pistol. His carly and complete severance from this school is easily established. We have to consider that his first independent works were not bloody tragedies, for Titus Andronicus stands alonc (even if we concede its authorship to Shakespeare, which is doubtful), but comcdies, and comcdics too which not one of the Greenc-Marlowe group could have approached for delicacy of conception and treatment. The distinction between Shakespeare and his fore
runners and contemporaries is not so abrupt in the historical plays as in the comedies and tragedies. . Here they worked from common sources, the Chronicles; the materials were established facts of history. Hence they were not able to indulge in those monstrosities of passion and action to which they gave vent in their original pieces. Some of these historical plays are quite worthy of attention, and Shakespeare is brought into close relation with them through his Henry VI., whose First Part contains only small portions due to his own hand, while the Second and Third Parts are only revisions, as it were, of older plays, due either to Greene or to Marlowe; but on this point literary critics are not agreed.
The most gifted of the younger poets who preceded Shakespeare died carly in the bloom of their manhood and power soon after he began his poetical career, as though they had departed to make way for a greater than themselves. Even if they had lived, however, none of them would ever have been dangerous rivals. All the dramatic poetry of England before his seems like a dumb fingerpost leading us towards an unknown goal, through paths full of tangled brushwood and romantic wilderness, that cause us to long for the natural beauty we cannot find. Shakespeare came as the path-finder, and led us to a pleasant satisfactory destination. He far surpassed each one of his predecessors. He recognised that he could only learn negatively from these poets—that is to say, that he could sce from their work how things should not be done. Very carly did he perceive this, and in his first independent work he took an entirely opposite direction. These first efforts far surpassed the masterpieces of his forerunners. Now, having shown the bases on which Shakespeare developed, let us proceed to our attempt at explaining him. But first we must try and give a sketch of his life.