Joseph Thomas.

Universal pronouncing dictionary of biography and mythology (Volume 2) online

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and splendid edifice on the globe. It is said to have
cost in a country where almost every kind of labour
is marvellously cheap not less than sixty millions
of dollars.

Shah-Rokh-Behadur, shah roK be-hi'door, or
Shah-Rokh-Meerza, a son of Tamerlane, succeeded
him on the throne in 1405. He rebuilt the fortress ol
the city of Herat, and constructed other public edifices.
Died about 1450.

Shairp, sharp, (JOHN CAMPBELL,) LL.D., a British
scholar, born at Houstoun House, Linlithgowshire,
Scotland, July 30, 1819. He was educated at Glasgow
University, and at Balliol College, Oxford. In 1861 he
became professor of humanity in Saint Andrew's Uni-
versity, and in 1868 principal of that institution. He
has published "Kilmahoe, and other Poems," (1864,)
"Studies in Poetry and Philosophy," (1868,) "Lectures
on Culture and Religion," (1870,) "Life of James
Forbes," (1873,) "Poetic Interpretation of Nature,"
(1877,) " Aspects of Poetry," (iSSi,) etc. [D. in 1885.]

Shaiva. See SAIVA.

Shakhovsky or SchachowskI, sh.1-Kov'ske,
Russian dramatist, born in the government of Smolensk
in 1777. Among his numerous and popular works may
be named his "Aristophanes," a comedy, and "A Lesson
to Coquettes." Died in 1846.

Shakespear, shak'speer, (JOHN,) an English Orien-
talist, born at Lount, Leicestershire, in 1774. He was
professor of Hindostanee at the Royal Military College,
and published, among other works, an excellent "Dic-
tionary of the Hindustani Language," (1817,) and a
"Grammar of the Hindustani Language," (6th edition,
1855, Svo.) Died in 1858.

Shakspeare or Shakespeare* shak'speer, (WIL-
LIAM,) the greatest dramatic genius that ever lived,
was born at Stratford-upon-Avon in April, (probably
on the 23d,) 1564. His father, John Shakspeare, was a
glover. His mother's maiden-name was Mary Ardcn ;
she belonged to a respectable and ancient lamily of
Warwickshire. William was the eldest of four brothers ;

Respecting the spelling of this name, see ALLIDONS'S " Diction-
ary ot Auihurs."

he had four sisters, two of whom were older and two
younger than himself. The materials for writing the
life of Shakspeare are extremely meagre. Of his child-
hood, after his christening, (which took place on the
26th of April,) and his early youth, we know absolutely
nothing. It is certain, however, that he was married i;i
his nineteenth year to Anne Hathaway. He appears
soon after his marriage to have gone to London, where
he followed the profession of an actor, and, if Aubrey'3
statement may be trusted, he " did act exceedingly well."
There is a pretty generally received tradition that he
fled from Warwickshire in consequence of having been
detected in deer-stealing. Rowe, in his Life of Shak-
speare, relates the story as follows: "He had, by a
misfortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into
ill company; and amongst them some that made a fre-
quent practice of deer-stealing engaged him with them
more than once in robbing a park that belonged to Sir
Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote, near Stratford. For this
he was prosecuted by that gentleman, as he thought,
somewhat too severely; and m order to revenge that ill
usage, he made a ballad upon him. And though this,
probably the first essay of his poetry, be lost, yet it is
said to have been so very bitter that it redoubled the
prosecution against him, to that degree that he was
obliged to leave his business and family in Warwickshire
for some time, and shelter himself in London." It
seems very probable that the passage in the first scene
of the " Merry Wives of Windsor," in which the " luces"
(or "louses") on Justice Shallow's coat are spoken of,
was intended as a hit at Sir Thomas Lucy. A similar
play upon the name of Lucy occurs in a coarse ballad
which tradition ascribes to Shakspeare. After having
taken up his abode in London, he appears to have acted
by turns at the Globe and at Blackfriars' Theatre.

Speaking of Shakspeare soon after his arrival in Lon-
don, Rowe says, "He was received into the company
then in being, at first in a very mean rank; but his ad-
mirable wit, and the natural turn of it to the stage, soon
distinguished him, if not as an extraordinary actor, yet
as an excellent writer. His name is printed, as the
custom was in those times, amongst those of the other
players, before some old plays, but without any particu-
lar account of what sort of parts he used to play ; and,
though I have inquired, I could never meet with any
further account of him this way than that the top of his
performance was the ghost in his own 'Hamleu.'"

It is not known when Shakspeare first began to write
plays, or which he wrote first. " He began early," says
Aubrey, "to make essays at dramatic poetry, which at
that time was very low, and his plays took well." In
his dedication of "Venus and Adonis," which appeared
in 1593, Shakspeare calls this poem \.\\ef.rst heir of his
invention. It is, however, not impossible that he might
have commenced the work many years earlier. His first
published play appeared in 1594, the same year that his
" Lucrece" was given to the world. From this time
there is reason to suppose that, although he may have
continued to act occasionally, his principal attention was
directed to the composition of his dramas ; since, accord-
ing to Meres, he had written the "Two Gentlemen ot
Verona," "Comedy of Errors," "Love's Labour's Lost,"
"Love's Labour's Won," (i.e., perhaps, "All's Well
that Ends Well,") " Midsummer Night's Dream," " Mer-
chant of Venice," "Richard II.," "Richard III.,"
" Henry IV.," "King John," "Titus Andronicus," and
1 Romeo and Juliet" before the end of 1598.

There is much evidence to show that the genius of
Shakspeare was greatly admired by his contemporaries.
The Earl of Southampton was so captivated with his
accomplishments that "he gave him a thousand pounds
to enable him to go through with a purchase which he
heard he had a mind to." (Kowe's " Life of Shakspeare.")
In order properly to appreciate the munificence of this
gift, it should be borne in mind that a thousand pounds
at that day was, in all probability, equal to five or six
thousand at the present time, if not more. The poet
dedicated to the Earl of Southampton his earliest works,
" Venus and Adonis," and " Lucrece." In the dedica-
tion of the latter, he says, among other things, "The
love I dedicate to your lordship is without end."

6, e, i, 6, 0, y, low 4, e, d, same, less prolonged; a, e, 1, 6, u, y, short; a, e, j, o, obscure; fir, fill, fit; met; not; good; mGon





In 1596 Shakspeare lost his only son. In 1598 he
became acquainted with Ben Jonson, as Rowe tells us,
in the following manner: "Jonson, who was at that
time altogether unknown to the world, had offered one
of his plays to the players in order to have it acted, and
the persons into whose hands it was put, after turning it
carelessly and superciliously over, were just upon return-
ing to him an ill-natured answer, that it would be of no
use to their company, when Shakspeare luckily cast his
eye upon it, and found something so well in it as to
engage him first to read it through, and afterwards to
recommend Mr. Jonson and his writings to the public.
After this they were professed friends." The play
referred to was "Every Man in his Humour." If any-
thing cnuld be wanting to the honour thus conferred
upon Jonson's play by the approbation of the greatest
dramatic genius the world ever saw, it was surely sup-
plied in the fact that Shakspeare himself was one of the
actors in the piece which he had already recommended
to the public.

The great dramatist appears to have enjoyed a large
measure of the favour of his sovereigns. Queen Eliza-
beth and King James I. "Besides the advantages of his
wit," says Rowe, " he was in himself a good-natured
man, of great sweetness in his manners, and a most
agreeable companion. . . . Queen Elizabeth had several
of his plays acted before her, and without doubt gave
him many gracious marks of her favour. . . . She was
so well pleased with that character of Falstaff, in the
two parts of 'Henry IV.,' that she commanded him to
continue it for one play more, and to show him in love."
This is said to have been the occasion of his writing
the "Merry Wives of Windsor." It is stated that
King James I., who was fond of dramatic exhibitions,
had six of Shakspeare's plays acted before him at White-
hall between the beginning of November, 1604, and the
end of March, 1605, and that the monarch, as a mark
of his particular favour, wrote the poet a letter with his
ovvn hand.

Shakspeare had lost his father in l6ot. In 1607 his
daughter Susanna was married to Dr. Hall, a highly
respectable physician of Warwickshire. In the year
following, his mother died. The great poet passed, it is
said, the last years of his life in his native Stratford in
honour and affluence. One writer (the Rev. John Ward,
Vicar of Stratford) says he had heard that " in his elder
days he lived at Stratford, and supplied the stage with
two plays every year ; and for it had an allowance so
large that he spent at the rate of 1000 a year." lie
closed his earthly career on the 23d of April, (supposed
to be the anniversary of his birth,) 1616, at the age of

In regard to Shakspeare's intellectual and moral
attributes, we have far less difficulty in coming at the
truth, than we meet with in seeking to trace the events
of his life. Respecting his mental endowments, indeed,
the data furnished by his dramas, added to the testimony
of Jonson and other writers living at or near his time,
would seem to be ample and explicit. We are warranted
in inferring from his writings that he was, as Rowe in-
forms us, not merely a "good-natured" man, and "of a
free and open nature," as we are told by Jonson, but
that he was of an extremely generous and forgiving dis-
position. In his imaginative dramas (in which he was
under no obligation to follow the facts of history) he
shows a disinclination to treat with severity even the
most flagrant offences. Thus, for example, in " The Tem-
pest," Prospero, as it appears, not only freely pardons
Alonzo and Antonio, by whom he had been expelled
from his dukedom, but the monster Caliban, though
detected in an attempt to take the life of his master, is
let off with a very slight punishment. A similar example
of clemency occurs in the "Two Gentlemen of Verona,"
in which Valentine, after freely forgiving Proteus, who
had been the author of all his calamities, uses these

" Who by repentance is not satisfied,
Is nor of heaven nor earth."

But perhaps the most remarkable instance is found in
"Cymbeline," the plot of which is from Boccaccio. The
Italian novelist makes the wretch, who' has so cruelly

destroyed the reputation of a lovely and innocent lady,
expiate his crime at last by a death of lingering torture.*
Shakspeare, while taking many other of the leading
incidents of his plot from the Italian story, changes the
issue entirely. When lachimo kneels beseeching Post-
humus to take his life, the latter replies,

" Kneel not to me ;

The power that I have on you, is to SPARR YOU ;
The malice towards you, to PORGIVH YOU."

We have no means of determining the exact order
in which Shakspeare compose^ his different plays. Tr>
those already mentioned, on the authority of Meres,
as having been produced before 1598, we may add the
second and third parts of " Henry VI.," published pre-
viously to 1596. It is probable that "Taming of the
Shrew," the " Twelfth Night," " Hamlet," (as first writ-
ten,) " Henry V.," "Much Ado about Nothing," and
the "Merry Wives of Windsor" were composed before
1600. His other dramas are as follows: "King Lear,"
"Macbeth," "Timon of Athens," "Hamlet," (altered
and enlarged,) " Cymbeline," " The Winter's Tale,''
" The Tempest," " Measure for Measure," "Antony and
Cleopatra," "Julius Cresar," "Troilus and Cressida,"
"Coriolanus," (and "Pericles, Prince of Tyre.") Of
Shakspeare's tragedies, "Macbeth," "King Lear,"
"Othello," "Hamlet," and "Romeo and Juliet," are
especially remarkable for the power with which the
mightiest passions of the human soul are portrayed.
But he was scarcely, if at all, less successful in comedy.
Of the character of Falstaff in " Henry the Fourth," it
is not too much to say that there is nothing superior to
it in the whole range of comedy, ancient or modern.
Among his best comic pieces may also be mentioned
"Twelfth Night," " Much Ado about Nothing," " Mid-
summer Night's Dream," "Merry Wives of Wind-
sor," and " Taming of the Shrew." Of Shakspeare's
dramas which cannot properly be classed under the
head either of comedy or tragedy, "The Merchant of
Venice," "The Tempest," and " As You Like It" are
perhaps the most admirable. Two of the plays com-
monly printed with Shakspeare's works are believed by
a large majority of the best critics not to be his, viz. :
"Titus Andronicus" and "Pericles, Prince of Tyre."
In "Titus Andronicus," both the thoughts and the style
seem very unlike and inferior to Shakspeare's. The
same is true, though perhaps not in the same degree, of
" Pericles, Prince of Tyre." Some passages in both
plays may probably have been retouched by the great
dramatist, and thus his name may have become asso-
ciated with them.

Shakspeare appears to have taken the plots of his
plays, for the most part, from other writers, making little
or no change in the general conduct of the story, but
exhibiting the different dramatis firsontr, and their end-
less variety of character, with that inimitable grace and
power which are so peculiarly his own. His historical
dramas, generally speaking, correspond very exactly, in
regard to the principal persons and events, to the actual
histories from which they are derived. There is the
same exact conformity in some of his plays which are
not properly historical. Thus, "All's Well that Ends
Well," taken from the " Decameron," (Giornata III.
Novella IX.,) not only follows the plot of the story as
related by Boccaccio, but even the names of the chief
personages are the same, with such modifications only
as the difference of the languages requires.

"If ever any author," says Pope, " deserved the name
of an original, it was Shakspeare." " He is not so much
an imitator as an instrument of nature ; and it is not so
just to say that he speaks from her, as that she speaks
through him. His characters are so much nature her-
self, that it is a sort of injury to call them by so distant
a name as copies of her."

" Widely excelling," says Warburton, "in the know-
ledge of human nature, he hath given to his infinitely
varied pictures of it such truth of design, such force of
drawing, such beauty of colouring, as was hardly ever
equalled by any writer, whether his aim was the use, or
only the entertainment, of mankind."

See Giornata II., Novella IX.

as k; c as s; g hard; g as /; G, H, K.pMural; N. nasal; R, trilUtl; s as z; in as in MM. (KlT'See Explanations, p. 23.,




" Never, perhaps," says Schlegel, the great German
critic, " was there so comprehensive a talent for the
delineation of character as Shakspeare's. It not only
grasps the diversities of rank, sex, and age down to the
dawnings of infancy, not only do the king and the beg-
gar, the hero and the pickpocket, the sage and the idiot,
speak and act with equal truth, but he opens the gates
of the magical world of spirits, calls up the midnight
ghost, peoples the air with sportive fancies and sylphs ;
and these beings existing only in the imagination pos-
sess such truth and consistency that, even when deformed
monsters like Caliban, he extorts the conviction that if
there should be such beings they would so conduct
themselves." The' following observation, by the same
writer, is not less strikingly just than the foregoing: "If
Shakspeare deserves our admiration for his characters,
he is equally deserving of it for his exhibition of passion,
taking this word in its widest signification, as including
every mental condition, every tone from indifference or
familiar mirth to the wildest rage and despair."

"Of all poets," says Lessing, "perhaps he alone has
portrayed the mental diseases, melancholy, delirium,
lunacy, with such wonderful and in every respect definite
treth, that the physician may enrich his observations
from them in the same manner as from real cases."

But, among all the critics who have treated of the
merits of Shakspeare, none has portrayed his character-
istics as a poet more admirably than Dryden :

" He was the man who, of all modern and perhaps
ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive
soul : all the images of nature were still present to him,
and he drew them, not laboriously, but luckily: when
he describes anything, you more than see it, you feel it
too. Those who accuse him to have wanted learning,
give him the greater commendation : he was naturally
learned ; he needed not the spectacles of books to read
nature, he looked inwards and found her there. lean-
not say he is everywhere alike. . . . But he is always
great when some great occasion is presented to him ; no
man can say he had a fit subject for his wit and did not
then raise himself as high above the rest of poets
" ' Quantum lenta solent inter vibuma cupressi. 1 "

From the data, imperfect as they are, which we pos-
sess concerning the life of Shakspeare, we seem war-
ranted in inferring that his scholastic education must
have been extremely defective. This inference is sup-
ported by the direct testimony of Ben Jonson, who says
that Shakspeare had "small Latin and less Greek."
That one with so little opportunities of learning should
have exhibited not merely a wonderful mastery of the
human heart, with its infinitely complex affections and
motives, but also a familiar acquaintance with many of
the operations of external nature, and, what is perhaps
still more remarkable, with some of the nicest points of
English law, has to not a few appeared strange and
inexplicable, if not absolutely incredible. In attempting
to solve the difficulty, some have adopted the extraor-
dinary hypothesis that the dramas going under the name
of Shakspeare must have been written by some other
person. The late Delia Bacon appears to have been the
first to start this hypothesis. She publicly announced the
Idea in an article published in " Putnam's Magazine"
for January, 1856. In the following year appeared her
" Philosophy of the Plays of Shakspeare unfolded," in
which she states in full her reasons for believing that
Lord Bacon was the true "Shakspeare." Since then,
Mr. Nathaniel Holmes, late of Saint Louis, Missouri,
now professor of law at Harvard, availing himself of
the suggestion given by Miss Bacon, but taking a some-
what different view of the question, has published a
well-written and highly readable book entitled "The
Authorship of Shakspeare," in which he sets forth with
elaborate ingenuity the various arguments against the
claims of William Shakspeare and in favour of those of
Lord Bacon.

Here is not the place to enter into a particular con-
sideration of this question. We may, however, observe
that Mr. Holmes adduces as by far his strongest argu-

Literally. " As the cypresses are wont [to raise themselves]
among the pliant viburnums." (See VIRGIL, " Eclogue I.")

ment the great number of coincidences which are found
to exist between the ideas and expressions of Shak-
speare and those occurring in the works of Bacon,
(or, as he states it, " that general, inwrought, and all.
pervading identity which is found in these writings ;") a
very large proportion of these coincidences or proofs of
identity being, as it seems to us, just such as might by dili-
gent search be discovered in the voluminous works of any
two authors living in the same age and, writing on a great
variety of subjects : though some of them are clearly the
creation of the writer's fancy, as when, in pointing out the
similarity between the leading ideas of "The Tempest"
and those of the " New Atlantis" of Bacon, he says, " Like
the island of Atlantis, Prospero's isle is situated afar
off in the midst of the ocean, somewhere near the 'still-
vexed Bermoothes.' " Now, this supposition is not
improbable merely, it is simply impossible. For, in
the first place, there is not the slightest intimation in
the words of the poet of Prospero and his daughter
having made a long voyage in "the rotten carcass of a
boat" without tackle, sail, or mast ; on the contrary,
the inevitable inference is that it was a very short one;
and, in the second place, it was clearly impossible that
the brief storm which wrecked the king and his com-
panions on their return from Tunis to Naples, could
have carried their fleet not only out of the Mediter-
ranean through the Straits of Gibraltar, but more than
half-way across the Atlantic. (See " The Tempest," Act
I. Scene 2, and Act II. Scene I.) Add to this that
Bacon distinctly and repeatedly tells us that the New
Atlantis was in the "South Sea," and not in the At-
lantic Ocean.

But were Bacon's claims to the authorship of Shak
speare's dramas a hundred times stronger than they are,
they could scarcely outweigh the direct and uniform
testimony of the contemporaries of those illustrious
men. Can it be believed that Ben Jonson, who was
personally and, as it appears, intimately acquainted with
Shakspenre, would have spoken of him in the manner
that he has done had he been a mere man of straw,
whose only use was to conceal from public view the
greatest genius the world had ever known ? For, in
addition to these well-known lines,

4 To draw no envy, Shakspeare, on thy name.
Ami thus ample to thy book and fame ;
While I confess thy writings to be such
As neither Man nor M use can praise too much.


Triumph, my Britain I thou hast one to show
To whom all scenes* of Europe homage owe.
He was not of an age, but for all time I

Nature herself was proud of his designs.
And joyed to wear the dressing of his lines;
Which were so richly spun and woven so tit,
As since she will vouchsafe no other wit"

Written in tke Folio edition of Skakspearis Plays, published m

Jonson says, in another place, "I loved the man, and do
honour his memory on this side idolatry as much as
any. He was indeed honest and of an open and free
nature, had an excellent phantasy, [fancy,] brave notions,
and gentle expressions, wherein he flowed with that fa-
cility that sometimes it was necessary that he should be
stopped." How strikingly descriptive is this of Shak-
speare's most remarkable peculiarity ! It is this excess-
ive "facility" or exuberance of expression, joined with
his "excellent phantasy," which perhaps more than any
other quality distinguishes him above all other writers,
ancient or modern. Or are we to suppose that Jonson
was in the secret, and composed this lying eulogy of
Shakspeare for the express purpose of deceiving pos-
terity, and also that the poet Spenser, Mr. Meres, the Earl
of Southampton, the queen, the managers of the thea-
tres, besides many others, (see the conversation, reported
by Kowe, between Ben Jonson and Sir John Suckling,
Sir William D'Avenant, and others,) were all in the same
conspiracy, and kept the secret so faithfully that not
line or a word tending to expose the stupendous decep-
tion has come down to us ? But this is not all ; the new
hypothesis would require us to believe not merely that,

1 f.t. al! the " Stages" of Europe.

a, e, 1, 6, u, y, long; i, e, 6, same, less prolonged; a, e, T, 6, u, y, short; a, e, j, 9, obscure; fir, fll 1, fit; met; not; go&d;




hi all the works that go under his name, Bacon was at
the pains to curb and repress that "excellent phantasy"
and v/onderful "facility" of expression, and to exhibit
them in his dramatic writings only, but that he pur-
posely affected ignorance about things with which he
must have been perfectly acquainted, as. for example,
when he makqs Cassius (in "Julius Cassar") speak
of the "eternal devil,"t when he gives the names of
Bottom, Quince, Snug, and Snout (in "Midsummer
Night's Dream") to Athenian mechanics, or when (in
" Winter's Tale") he represents Bohemia as a maritime
kingdom !

There might be good reasons why Bacon should not
wish to be known as a dramatic writer in the early
part of his career, when he was aspiring to the highest
honours in the state; but it is inconceivable that he
should have taken such extraordinary pains to keep the

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Online LibraryJoseph ThomasUniversal pronouncing dictionary of biography and mythology (Volume 2) → online text (page 303 of 425)