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Shakespeare in fact and in criticism online

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Copyright, 1887,
By Appleton Morgan.

The De Vinne Press, New-York.









d)e6e pase£E are tielitcateH,





I. William Shakespeare and His Esthetic

Critics 1

II. Much Ado About Sonnets 27

III. Whose Sonnets ? 44

IV. " Something Touching the Lord Hamlet " 90
V. William Shakespeare's Literary Execu-
tor — The First Shakespearean Revr^al 132

VI. Law and Medicine in the Plays 162

VII. The Growth ajstd Vicissitudes of a Shake-
spearean Play 200

vin. Queen Elizabeth's Share in the " Merry

Wives of Windsor " 239

IX. Have We a Shakespeare Asiong Us ? 270

X. The Donnelly and Prior Ciphers, and



TJiese Papers Mve been indexed in a common table he-
cause, if there is anything of value in tliem, it icill not he
less valuahle tvhen made of easy reference. But principally
they are so identified because, although tcritten at differing
intervals, there runs through them all a sort of common pur-
pose. That purpose is to protest, as far as one voice can,
against ivhat seems to me the cruel and unusual punishment
which Shakespeare is just now meeting at the hands of the
estlietic critics. TJiese estlietes, divigating tJieir processes
from simple demonstration of Shakespeare's beauties, have
fallen to counting his lines, his syllables and endings ; from
this numeration to conceive a certain algebra, and from this
algebra to demonstrate the ''period " and the chronology of
this or that play or poem. Nay, more. They even write
his — William Shakespeare's — personal history from the
impressions they themselves receive from this treatment of
particular passages in the Plays, until there are as many
William Shakespeares as there are commentators! My
own idea has been that William Shakespeare was a man of
like i)assio7is with ourselves, lohose moods and veins icere in-
fluenced — just as are ours — by his surroundings, employ-
ments, vocations ; that his works are for all times that love
him, but not (as is shoivn by the Davenant episode) for those
that do not ; and that, great as he teas and oceanic as teas
his genius, we can read him all the better because he tvas,
after all, a man.

I admit to having modified — in the course of time and
study — a good many of the opinions expressed in these
Papers, as well as in my earlier "Shakespearean Myth.^'' But


since I cannot pronounce whether I was right then, or am
right now (without a dogmatism which, so far, I Mve been
able to avoid), it seems to me best to let them all stand as
tliey are. All the facts of the Shakespeare case are in, and
all the doubts. Hie questions arising upon them are, hoivever,
open ones, and, I sincerely believe, always will be. ** Those
wJio have lived as long as myself in the midst of Shake-
spearean criticism,'''' says the veteran J. 0. Halliwell Phil-
lipps, ^^ will be careful not to be too certain of anything.'^
With such a caution from so revered an authority, younger
students may well wish to keep alertly on their guard against
foreclosing themselves.

Such a caution need not deter the real student of Shake-
speare, however, nor hint that he has only a hobby or a
foible before him, and so, presently, only his labor for his
pains. By the study of Shakespeare, should not, I think,
be understood the glorification of one man. In that wonder-
ful renaissance which took place in the Shakespearean age —
that wonderful age of beginnings — almost everything that
we prize, that makes life endurable to-day, was born or was
coming to the throe of birth. Civil liberty, in the revolt of
such men as Raleigh and Essex against the Tudor idea of
government ; art, surgery, medicine; the heaven-born doc-
trine of Equity as a regulator and modulator of the rigors
of the common law (first reduced to a science in the hands of
Lord Bacon) : that greatest of truths that a philosophy
which should be of any value to mankind must be born of
knowledge and experience, rather than (as the bewildered
ancients had thought) that all knowledge must be argued out
hy hair-splitting dialecticism of tvords. All these reforms
were beginning to live and move in that wonderful Shake-
spearean age. It is because some of us believe that of tJiese
reforms and of this renaissance the pages of Shakespeare are
the best and fullest transcript, that we propose still to study
them, not — as the Mussulman studies his Koran — kneeling,
and with bated breath, but standing upright on one's feet ;
with the finer glasses that moderns grind, and with the


electric light ratJier than the lantern and the tallow dip
which, in every other field of human research, have been
finally relieved from duty. Only let us beware how ice stib-
ject to estlietic criticism the ocean, or this mighty page of
human passion that is vaster than the ocean.

But after all, is it not the truth that Shakespeare — the
man — is an ideal to each one of us, and his biography a
pasture for poets and for dreamers always, tvith the personal
equation always to the fore f We have no use for dates and
documents, muniments and pedigrees. Hamlet and Desde-
mona, Othello and Macbeth — Love, Mage, Jealousy — every
humanpassion — take their places. Who knows, or who can
say, that William Shakespeare was born in the month of
April f And what does it matter if he were or tcere not?
^^ Others abide our question — thou art free!'''' says Mr.
Ar)iold in his splendid sonnet. But if Shakespeare is free
indeed — to reduce him to a splitter of syllables and a counter
of " stopped endings " seems to me a thing ungiven, at least

" To the foiled searchings of mortality ! "
Glamorgan, July 13, 1887.

N. B. — Chapter X has been added at the suggestion of
my publishers, in deference to certain questions just noiv of
curious interest. And I am very ivilling to supply it, and
happy to put myself on record as of opinion that the Cipher
theory of my esteemed friend Mr. Donnelly (while I most
thoroughly disbelieve in every word of it, or in any founda-
tion for a morsel of it) is to the full as legitimate an offer-
ing to the solution of the Mystery of Shakespeare as ivhat
seems to me the rubbish of the esthetic, the inductive and the
creative critics. — As to this, I have no modified opinion.

Quince. It shall be written in eight and six.
Bottom. No, make it two more; let it be written in
eight and eight. — Midsummer Night's Dream.

T is matter of very frequent complaint
that our critics and commentators read
into Shakespeare much more than they
read out of him. But if they find it
there, who shall, after all, gainsay them ? Why
should not poets build better than they know!
What else is it that gives what is called immortal-
ity to human work ? What we have to guard
against, I think, is the tendency of esthetic to be-
come creative criticism and so demand from the
text of Shakespeare certain propositions as to the
man Shakespeare of which the world is yet in
reasonable doubt. Loving and ardent study of the
glowing text and contribution to its hermeneutics
thereby is one thing. But insistence on dogmat-
ical or debatable conclusions therefrom as to


matters of Elizabethan history is altogether

In the trial of a question of fact in a court of
justice, reliance is had on two sorts of evidence:
first, cii'cumstantial, or, as it may he called, narra-
tive or historical evidence ; and, second, expert —
that is, " self -regarding " or " opinion " evidence.
Questions of literary authorship are to be decided
in like manner by two sorts of evidence corre-
sponding exactly to these ; viz., external evidence
(the date, surroundings, and circumstances under
which the composition of which the authorship is
sought was produced), and, second, internal evi-
dence — that is, the manner and style and text of
the composition itself. Now, this internal evidence
is itself of two sorts : fii'st, comparative criticism,
and, second, textual criticism. The first, as^its name
implies, is to be conducted by simple comparison,
the problem being simply, given a literary work
known to be by a certain author, to discover if
another work is also by that same author. But
this class of evidence is not absolutely reliable. To
quote the words of the late accomplished Mr. James
Spedding : " In passing upon questions of author-
ship by means of internal evidence the critic must
always be allowed to judge for himself " ; that is
to say, it is found to be absolutely impossible to
remove from the criticism of any one man that
personal equation, or " point of view," which
arises imperatively from the education, tempera-
ment and tendencies of the comparative critic
himself. A notable instance of the failure of com-
parative criticism was in the Ireland Shakespeare-
forgery cases, where a whole city full of pundits


and critics hesitated as to whether the work of a
mere lad was to be accepted as Shakespeare until
outside circumstantial evideuces came to their aid,
and the young forger of the style of the world's
greatest poet was surprised in the act of forgery
and confessed to the whole. Another well-known
case was that of Mr. Collier's alleged discoveries,
in 1852, of corrections in the Shakespeare text. No
amount of comparative critical acumen (and every
Shakespearean critic in England and America
worked at them) was able to decide absolutely and
finally as to their genuineness. But by and by it
occurred to the authorities of the British Museum
to go to work with microscope and acids, when they
speedily exposed the emendations as of very recent
manufacture indeed, scarcely antedating their pro-
duction by Mr. Collier himself. Thus it appears
that, unassisted, — especially at remote dates from
the fact, — the chances are very largely against an
arrival at the exact truth by unaided comparative
criticism. To recur to an example very recently
suggested : supposing, in the twenty-second cen-
tury, a body of comparative critics should be given
the official report of the Berlin Conference and
the speeches of Lord Beaconsfield, whose tactics
in that great parley were singly and alone able to
confront an empire in the flush of victory, and to
force it to relinquish a prize it had been struggling
to possess for centuries, which it had just won
by sword and battle ; supposing this same body
of critics were then presented with a copy of
" Lothair," and asked, from internal, comparative
evidence only (they having no records of the nine-
teenth century and no life of Beaconsfield before


them), to say definitely whether the same individual
who defied and dominated Russia by his statesman-
ship also wrote the novel — can we doubt what the
verdict of these comparative critics would be ?

Textual criticism, on the other hand, is capa-
able of being made reliable, but only nega-
tively. It can demonstrate, for example, from the
employment of words that were uninvented or
unused before certain dates, the age and period
earlier than which certain compositions could not
have been written, and thus exclude all authors
earlier than that age or period. But to pronounce
positively as to who was as well as to who could
not have been the particular, identical author, it
is quite as powerless as any other sort of critical
evidence. Hence it follows that — since even docu-
mentary, historical and circumstantial evidence
is fallible — no one single class of testimony ought
to be relied upon ; and that in literary questions,
exactly as in those submitted for judicial deter-
mination, all sorts, classes and kinds of evidence
must cumulatively be availed of in order to set
out with any hope or chance of reaching the
exact truth.

Putting aside any question as to the authorship
of the Elizabethan English works so universally
credited to "William Shakespeare ; leaving Bacon-
ians, editorialists and pro-Shakespeareans to sub-
mit propositions, make postulates and riddle each
other's theories and corollaries to their hearts'
content by means of all the evidence, historical,
circumstantial, textual and comparative: it is
proposed in this paper to examine a new candi-
date for favor which the present century (and the


last quarter of it) has developed. This new testi-
mony is caUed Esthetic Criticism. I do not
mean that the invention is of the last quarter of
the nineteenth century. It was known before.
But earlier it was called merely eulogium, enco-
mium or, perhaps, panegyric. So fai* as can be
discovered, it is only very recently indeed that it
has claimed to be actual evidence — actual and
undebatable proof as to the actual man Shake-
speare, his moods and tenses, his fortunes, follies,
hopes and fears.

To begin with, these marvelous works are like
a bank of clouds in a brightening sky. Every
beholder will for himself happen to see some sem-
blance somewhere in their profile which he may
describe in words, but which — since he has no
bearing by which to indicate it — he cannot hope
to point out to his fellow-gazers. So in the
Shakespeare works one will be attracted by a fig-
ment of the poet as a whole, another by a detail
thereof. As, for example, one will be moved over
the picture of dishonored Lucrece sitting lonesome,
with full heart, awaiting her husband's return and
the moment when her own suicide vnM be appro-
priate, while another wiU wonder at the knowledge
of human nature which makes her, in the very
depth of her misery, discover herself admii'ing a
picture on the wall. One will see in the " Mid-
summer Night's Dream " only a beautiful romance,
while his co-reader will find in it the touches of a
hand used to theatrical business, in that he allows
the clowns to play their interlude only until the
fun is exhausted, when he makes them omit theii*
epilogue and substitute a dance instead. And so


on. Nothing is more natural, tlierefore, than that
each one should, in dealing with the works, write
of that which Shakespeare is to him. But when
the writer goes further, and insists that the Wil-
liam Shakespeare whose name is associated with
these plays was the embodiment of that which he
himself finds in the works, and that the whole
world shall so consent to understand Shake-
speare, — in other words, proposes to write the
biography of the dramatist out of his own inner
reading of the text of the dramas before him, —
this matter of esthetic criticism becomes not only
incontinent and inconsistent, but leads at once
into all sorts of irregularities and absurdities.

The modern and present exponents of this
esthetic criticism, used as a method of writing an
author's history from the text of his alleged works,
are principally the members of the New Shake-
speare Society of London. It would never, of
course, have occurred to these gentlemen to write
the life of the late Mr. Robertson out of the pages
of his comedies " Caste," " School," '' Ours " or
" Play," or the life of Mr. Boucicault out of " Lon-
don Assurance," "Arrah-na-Pogue," " The Shaugh-
raun " or " Formosa" ; but, all the same, they
have given us a beautiful history of William
Shakespeare out of his plays alone. Without
undertaking to foUow the voluminous papers of
the New Shakespeare Society, a brief notice of the
labors of certain of its school will sufficiently
illustrate its methods.

" It is Stratford," cries Mr. Furnivall, " which
has given Shakespeare the picture of the sweet
country school-girls working at one flower, warb-


ling one song, growing together like a double
cherry," etc. " The wail of Constance for the loss
of her boy could only have been written by one
whose feelings had been lacerated by the loss of a
beloved child," cries Mr. Dowden. " Some sacred
voice whispers to him [Shakespeare] that the privi-
lege of immortality was annexed to every line he
wrote." " I now believe that this strange and
difl&cult play ['■ Troilus and Cressida '] was written
when Shakespeare had ceased to smile genially,
and when he must be either ironical or take a
deep, passionate, and tragical view of life," etc.,
etc. Mr. Ward assures us of William Shake-
speare's diffident and shrinking nature (proved
from a passage in the plays) ; and we could easily
cuU volumes of this mental biography from the
esthetic works of enthusiasts like the above-
named gentlemen. But the above will suffice.
It seems hardly necessary to submit that unless
that word possess a meaning unknown outside of
the New Shakespeare Society, this is hardly " evi-
dence " to an exact mind. Nor, in the present
case, admitting it to be " evidence," would it hardly
prove an exclusive Stratfordian authorship. For
there is certainly the same internal evidence that
William Shakespeare was born in Epidamnium or
Rome or Troy as that he was born in Stratford.
There is certainly much niore in the plays about
Italy, Rome, and Greece than about England. For
one comedy whose scene is Warwickshire there
are twelve whose action is outside of England.
And certainly no more familiarity is shown with
Warwickshire customs than with those of Venice,
or Scotland, or the Roman Forum, or the ways of


the Cypriotes. And, again, there is precisely the
same evidence that Shakespeare had murdered his
wife like Othello, and his rival like Macbeth, and
had been driven from home by his daughters like
Lear, as that he had " buried a beloved child," like
Queen Constance, or experienced intimations of
immortality, or was of the " dif&dent and retir-
ing " disposition asserted by Mr. "Ward.

No man, as a matter of fact, ever led a jollier
life than William Shakespeare. The records, at
least, of his jokes and his gallantries survive him,
and he died in a frolic. The late Mr. Bardell was
knocked on the head with a pint-pot in a cellar.
But Sergeant Buzfuz preferred to throw the
glamour of pathos over his end by describing it
as "gliding imperceptibly from the world and
seeking elsewhere that tranquillity which a cus-
tom-house can never afford." I am afraid the
most that can be said for Mr. Fmmivall, Mr. Dow-
den and Mr. Ward is that they are no whit
behind the eloquent sergeant in gush over their
hero. But perhaps Mr. Fuimivall is striving to
elude these entanglements of " internal evidence "
when he exclaims : " I wrote the introduction to
the 'Venus and Adonis,' and thought I had
really persuaded myself that it really was Shake-
speare's first work. But on turning to 'Love's
Labour's Lost ' and the ' Comedy of Errors ' after it,
the absurdity was too apparent." Or again (for-
getting that " Titus Andronicus " was, as a specta-
cle, much more to the taste of Elizabethan mixed
audiences than the bloodless dialectics of Hamlet
and Brutus) : " ' Titus Andi'onieus ' I do not con-
sider. . . . The play declares, as plainly as play


can speak, ' I am not Shakespeare's ; ray repulsive
subject, my blood and horrors, are not and never
were his.' " And yet, had Mr. Furnivall consid-
ered it, he would have found it packed with pas-
sages describable only as Shakespearean ! The
apostrophe to Tamora topping all rivals,

"As when the golden sun salutes the morn,
And, having gilt the ocean vdth his beams,
Gallops the zodiac in his glistering coach
And overlooks the highest peering hills : "

(A passage which smacks of Marlowe, indeed, but
which it is mere pedantry to assume as his, as if a
Shakespeare could not have written it.) Such
lines as those wherein Titus lays his dead to rest :

"Here Im-ks no treason, here no envy swells,
Here grow no damned drugs : here are no storms,
No noise — but silence and eternal sleep ! "

Or such true rung verses as —

"She is a woman, therefore may be wooed;
She is a woman, therefore may be won ! "

Surely these ought not to be below the notice of
an esthete ! And not only this, but a careful
study of "Titus Andronicus " (and it is yet to
come) might throw a much-to-be-desired light
upon the Shakespearean theater, the stage busi-
ness and properties, the action and mise en scene
employed. The text calls for the following
programme :

Act I., Scene 2. Alarbus's limbs are lopped and his
entrails feed the sacrificing fire.
Act I., Scene 2. Titus kills Martins, his own son.


Act II., Scene 3. Bassianus is stabbed and killed in the
forest. Lavinia, his bride, ravished.

Act II., Scene 4. Martins and Quintus are made to fall
into a deep pit containing the body of Bassianus.

Act II., Scene 5. Lavinia's hands cut off and her tongue
cut out.

Act m., Scene 1. Titus's hand cut off. Two heads and a
hand presented to Titus.

Act IV., Scene 2. Nurse stabbed and killed.

Act IV., Scene 3. Titus gone mad.

Act IV., Scene 4. Clown hanged.

Act v., Scene 2. Chiron's throat cut by Titus. Demetrius's
throat cut by Titus. Their bones ground to powder, mixed
with their blood, which Lavinia catches in a basin, and a
paste made from the compound is cooked into a pie.

Act v., Scene 3. Lavinia killed by her father. Tamora
eats the pie made out of her own sons' heads mixed with
Wood. Lucius kills Saturninus. Aaron is set breast-deep
in earth and famished to death.

And this not " to be related by the graphic tongue
of some actor," but openly — in parcel at least —
performed. Now, what the world would like to
know is, How was this sort of thing managed on
the Shakespearean boards? We cannot lavish
overmuch gratitude upon gentlemen who count
syllables and twitter of stopped endings for us.
But one who will so substantially contribute to
the history of scenic art as to tell us something
of this certainly would not miss the gratitude of
his countrymen !

But, bad as this is, when our esthete does
really consent to " consider" a play, he makes a
mess of it. He counts all the " run-on lines," the
" stopped " and '^ unstopped " endings, the " central
pauses," and the rest of them — and then tells us
exactly in what year this or that comedy or


tragedy was wiitteu ! Doubtless in his first youth
young Shakespeare wrote less maturely than in
his manhood. Doubtless, habitude and practice
brought refinement and celerity. But the remark-
able thing about it all is, that — after all the
esthetic chronologies are completed — we know
no more or less about it than before. Either the
esthetes are entirely lost in this numerical fog of
theii* own raising and wander aimlessly about
therein, or else, by wonderful good fortune, they
find their way back again, and prance triumph-
antly, with all their colors flying and amid tumult-
uous cheers, up to the very point from which
they started — namely, that they are sure they
don't know, and were confident of it all along.
And when they do affect a demonstration, the
results are marvelous. When a lad, Shakespeare
created " Romeo and Juliet," with a maturity
of experience and a mastery of passion past
the power of all but himseK; and, moreover, dis-
played it in a setting of stage business that to-
day, and for our modern theaters, needs no over-
hauling. But in his mature manhood he had
forgotten passion and stage business alike, pro-
duced ragged and uneven affairs like " Pericles,"
which few except scholars care to read, and which
no modern manager could mount on his boards
if he would ! And then, having chronolized the
plays, this amusing person steps up and settles
for us these unspeakable sonnets ! " About the
sonnets " he (Mr. Furnivall) proceeds : " in addi-
tion to Nos. 8, 11, 16, 18, 20, and 21, I suppose
that 10, 13, and 15 are not his either. About No.
19 I doubt. That ' to sin and never for to saint,'


and the whole of the poem, is by some strong