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possible to quote from the plays many contemptuous references to the Puritans and their doctrines, we may dismiss as idle gossip Davies's irresponsible report that he dyed a Papist’” (Lee's “Life," p. 273).
For myself that paragraph is sufficient. If more is asked by any reader, there is no need for me to attempt to expand feebly what I have already said in my lecture, and which, at any rate, is here said, as I think finally and conclusively, by Dr. Dowden.
“It has been asked whether Shakespeare was a Protestant or a Catholic, and he has been proved to belong to each communion to the satisfaction of contending theological zealots. Shakespeare's poetry, resting upon a purely human basis, is not a rendering into art of the dogmas of either Catholicism or Protestantism. Shakespeare himself, a great artistic nature, framed for manifold joy and pain, may, like other artists, have had no faculty for the attainment of certitude upon extra-mundane and superhuman matters; of concrete moral facts he had the clearest perception, but we do not find that he was interested, at least as an artist, in truths or alleged truths which transcend the limits of human experience. That the world suggests inquiries which cannot be answered, that mysteries confront and baffle us, that around our knowledge lies ignorance, around light darkness—this to Shakespeare seemed a fact containing within it a profound significance, which might almost be named religious. But, studiously as Shakespeare abstains from embodying theological dogma in his art, and tolerant as his spirit is, it is certain that the spirit of Protestantism-of Protestantism considered as part of a great movement of humanity-animates and breathes through his writings. Unless he had stood in antagonism to his time it could not be otherwise. Shakespeare's creed is not a series of abstract statements of truth, but a body of concrete impulses, tendencies, and habits. The spirit of his faith is not to be ascertained by bringing together little sentences from the utterances of this one of his dramatis persone and of that. By such a method he might be proved an atheist. The faith by which Shakespeare
lived is rather to be discovered by noting the total issue and resultant of his art towards the fostering and maintenance of a certain type of human character. It may be asserted, without hesitation, that the Protestant type of character, and the Protestant polity in state and nation, is that which has received impulse and vigour from the mind of the greatest of English poets. Energy, devotion to the fact, self-government, tolerance, a disbelief in minute apparatus for the improvement of human character, an indifference to externals in comparison with that which is of the invisible life, and a resolution to judge all things from a purely human standpoint-these grow upon us as habits of thought and feeling as long as Shakespeare remains an influence with us in the building up of character. Such habits of thought and feeling are those which belong more especially to the Protestant ideal of manhood” (“Mind and Art of Shakespeare,” p. 37).
“The same soil that produced Bacon and Hooker produced Shakespeare ; the same environment fostered the growth of all three. Can we discover anything possessed in common by the scientific movement, the ecclesiastical movement, and the drama of the period ? That which appears to be common to all is a rich feeling for positive concrete fact. The facts with which the drama concerns itself are those of human character in its living play. And assuredly, whatever be its imperfection, its crudeness, its extravagance, no other body of literature has amassed in equal fulness and equal variety a store of concrete facts concerning human character and human life ; assuredly not the drama of Æschylus and Sophocles, not the drama of Calderon and Lope de Vega, not the drama of Corneille and Racine. These give us views of human life, and select portions of it for artistic handling. The Elizabethan drama gives us the stuff of life itself, the coarse with the fine, the mean with the heroic, the humorous and grotesque with the tragic and the terrible" (Dowden, “Mind and Art of Shakespeare," p. 23).
NOTE 6, p. 134. “The Ego is in the dramas of Shakespeare in all the modifications, mysteries, and apparent irregularities of which conscience is susceptible. But it does not reign alone. In his plays, as in the Middle Ages, an unseen power governs the actions of the individual, follows ever on his track, and impels him along the paths himself has chosen to the catastrophe that choice determines. It is no universal law acting upon collective humanity; no social religious idea. Shakespeare shows neither the consciousness of a law nor of humanity; the future is mute in his dramas, and enthusiasm for great principles unknown. His genius comprehends and sums up the past and the present; it does not initiate the future. He interpreted an epoch; he announced none. Necessity, which was the soul of the period, stalks invisibly throughout his dramas, magically introduced—whether by art or instinct I know not ;-I know that its reflex is seen alike on the brow of Othello and Macbeth ; it colours the scepticism of Hamlet and the light irony of Mercutio ; it surrounds with a halo of previsioned love the figures of his women, divine creatures, sacred to love, innocence, and resignation ; and it inspires the generality of his personages with those reflections on the nullity of human things and the worthlessness of life which so constantly recur throughout his plays, and leave a bitter sense of delusion on the youthful soul that approaches the works of genius as a sanctuary wherein to seek inspiration and counsel for maturer years. ... Shakespeare felt the void around the solitary soul; he felt the worthlessness of human life when not united with other lives by faith in a common progress; and he revealed it in many passages similar to that in which he bitterly says
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player
But man was not sent here to enact the part of an idiot, burthensome to himself and useless to others; and if life be but a shadow, when sanctified by a sacrifice it is the shadow of God. ... With Shakespeare the drama expires. I speak of the drama in its highest form, that organic drama which lays the foundations of an entire school, reflects the lineaments of a whole epoch, and displays upon the scene the ruling characteristics and generative element of a whole period of civilisation. Such a drama as this can only coexist with a religious idea, and after Shakespeare this religious idea continued to languish until it disappeared. The Ego rebelled against Necessity, as it had formerly rebelled against Fate, and recommenced with regard to moral Equality the work accomplished by Greek genius with regard to Liberty (Mazzini, “Critical and Literary Studies,” vol. ii. p. 138).
NOTE 7, p. 137. “2 Henry VI.,” Act iv. sc. 6, 7, and 8. Compare also “Troilus and Cressida,” Act i. sc. 3. No more logical and decisive condemnation of revolutionary equality was probably ever uttered than in this speech of the wise Ulysses :
“ The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre,
posts, like the commandment of a king,
The unity and married calm of states