Lectures and Notes on Shakspere and Other English Poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION 
In treating of Shakspeare, said one of the best of Coleridge's 
critics, "he set the sun in heaven." The present volume, im- 
perfect record as it is, contains the greater substance of all that 
the most inspired English critic said, whether casually or 
deliberately, of the most inspired poet. Its contents are those of 
the two posthumous miscellanies of notes for lectures and reports 
of lectures, which were prepared by Henry Nelson Coleridge and 
his wife — Coleridge's daughter, Sarah — in 1836, and by Payne 
Collier in 1856. The first deals principally with the lectures 
given by Coleridge in 181 8, but it contains many notes and 
memoranda which belong equally to the earlier period. And 
one suspects Payne Collier's contribution of the 1811-12 lectures, 
although he was a less unreliable recorder than is usually sup- 
posed, to have been in some instances from the earlier publica- 
tion. Perhaps the best way to read in this double collection is to 
turn up first the Notes upon Shakspeare's plays—" Hamlet" for 
preference, in which Coleridge (who was himself an intellectual 
Hamlet) used to perfection the subtle mirror afforded by his own 
mind ; and then from that to work through the maze of his 
lectures and poetic homilies. It must be remembered that the 
whole book, as here constituted, is the tell-tale memorial of 
the Coleridge who was too indolent to make good his harvest. 
He had a magnificent intellect, a superb imagination, but no 
corresponding will-power. The consequence is that his lectures 
on Shakspeare were imperfectly prepared, often ill-delivered, and 
left in the end to the mercy of careless reporters. But to those 
who can discern the god in the cloud, these transcripts are of 
inestimable value. Intermittent flashes of creative criticism break 
continually through the misty envelope, and the brilliance is 
according to the assimilative or the refractive quality of the 
reader. For, as Coleridge quotes and says, "we are not all 
Mogul diamonds, to take the light." There are readers that are 
viii Editor's Introduction 
sponges, and others that are sand-glasses or strain-bags, who let 
the creative element escape, and retain only the dregs. There 
are plentiful dregs in these pages. 
A page ought to be added to enable us the better to realise 
Coleridge, the lecturer, as he appeared to his hearers and 
contemporaries. 
Byron, in one of his letters, says : " We are going in a party to 
hear the new Art of Poetry by the reformed schismatic." ^ This 
was toward the end of the course, which according to Crabb 
Robinson ended with eclat. " The room was crowded, and the 
lecture had several passages more than brilliant." This was after 
a very fluctuating success. At a December lecture, ostensibly 
on Romeo and Juliet, he is said to have " surpassed himself in the 
art of talking in a very interesting way without speaking at all on 
the subject announced." On the same occasion Charles Lamb 
whispered to his neighbour in the audience : " This is not 
much amiss. He promised a lecture on the Nurse in Romeo and 
Juliet, and he has given us instead one in the manner of the 
nurse." Four times in all were his hearers invited to a lecture on 
Romeo and Juliet, it seems ; and at least three times did he dis- 
appoint them. Instead of the expected discourse, " We have," said 
Crabb Robinson in a letter to Mrs Clarkson, " an immethodical 
rhapsody. . . . Yet I cannot but be charmed with their splendida 
vitia, and my chief displeasure is occasioned by my being forced 
to hear the strictures of persons infinitely below Coleridge, 
without any power of refuting or contradicting them." 
For this course of 1811-12, Coleridge did not write out his 
lectures, and they were nearly all delivered extemporaneously. 
The Morgans, with whom he was staying at the time, found it 
hard to get him to make any direct preparation. He would not 
look into his Shakspeare, although they purposely put it in his 
way, and an old MS. commonplace book seemb to have been his 
sole remembrancer. 
For the course of 18 18, he did, on his own declaration, 
make a more settled preparation, on an eclectic plan of his 
own. 
" During a course of lectures," he writes, " I faithfully employ 
all the intervening days in collecting and digesting the materials. 
The day of the lecture I devote to the consideration, what of the 
1 Crabb Robinson speaks of seeing Byron and Rogers at one of the lectures of this 
course. He says of Bryon : " He was wrapped up, but I recognised his club-foot, and 
indeed his countenance and general appearance." 
Editors Introduction ix 
mass before me is best fitted to answer the purpose of a lecture, 
that is, to keep the audience awake and interested during the 
delivery, and to leave a sting behind," that is, he explains, a 
wish to study the subject anew, in the light of a new principle. 
" I take far, far more pains," he adds, " than would go to the set 
composition of a lecture, both by varied reading and by medita- 
tion ; but for the words, illustrations, etc., I know almost as little 
as any one of the audience . . . what they will be five minutes 
before the lecture begins." 
The 1811-12 lectures were delivered in rooms in Crane Court, 
Fetter Lane, Fleet Street. The 18 18 course was held in rooms 
at Flower-de-Luce Court — "near the Temple," Gilman says ; but 
no doubt the Fleur-de-Hs Court, off Fetter Lane, is the actual 
place, Coleridge, it is well to note, gave some earlier courses of 
lectures in London ; one in 1806-7, at the Royal Institution, was 
" On the Principles of the Fine Arts" ; and in 1807-8, he actually 
began five courses of five lectures each on the English poets, of 
which only the first course, that on Shakspeare, was delivered. 
But this first course, and its date, are important, because of the 
old question of Coleridge's debt to Schlegel. Schlegel's lectures 
were given in 1808, as Mr. Ashe points out in this connection (in 
his interesting edition of Coleridge's Lectures which was pub- 
lished in 1883). Coleridge himself speaks of one London detached 
lecture of his, at the " Crown and Anchor," whose date was pro- 
bably 1817 or 1818. 
Other lectures were given in 1813 at the Surrey Institution, on 
Belles Lettres ; and in Bristol, at the great room of the " White 
Lion," in 1813-14. After some characteristic delays and dis- 
appointments, these Bristol lectures gave immense pleasure to the 
few elect who went to them. Cottle describes them as of a 
conversational character, and says, " The attention of his hearers 
never flagged, and his large dark eyes, and his countenance, in 
an excited state, glowing with intellect, predisposed his audience 
in his favour." We gather from other references that they did 
not bring him much gold, greatly as he and his unlucky family 
needed it. The London course of 181 8 ends his career as a 
lecturer ; and if it was a rather more profitable adventure, it was 
hardly one to reinstate his poor fortunes. He was then a man of 
forty-six. In 1834 he died. 
Editor's Introduction 
THE FOLLOWING IS A LIST OF HIS PUBLISHED WORKS 
Greek Prize Ode on the Slave Trade, Cambridge, 1792. Monody on 
the Death of Chatterton (first draft), 1 794. The Fall of Robespierre : An 
Historic Drama (Coleridge and Southey), 1794. Contributions to The 
Cambridge Intelligencer and The Morning Chronicle, 1 794- 179 5. The 
Watchman, 1796. Poems on Various Subjects, 1796, The Vision of the 
Maid of Orleans {^owihty^s Joan of Arc), republished as The Destiny of 
Nations, 1796, Ode on the Departing Year, 1 796. Contributions to 
The Monthly Magazine, 1 796- 1 797. Fears in Solitude; France, an 
Ode ; Frost at Midnight, 1 798. Lyrical Ballads, 1798 (containing " The 
Ancient Mariner " and other poems). Contributions to The Morning Post, 
1798-1802. Poems in Annual Anthology, 1799-1800. Wallenstein {ixova. 
the German of Schiller), 1800. Contributions in Prose and Verse to The 
Courier, 1807-1811. The Friend, 1 June, 1809, to 15 March, 1 8 ID. 
Contributions to Southey's Omniana, 1812. Remorse, 181 3 (remodelled 
from Osorio, written in 1797 ; pub. 1873). Essays on the Fine Arts 
(Felix Farley's Bristol Journal, 1814). Christabel ; Kubla Khan ; Pains 
of Sleep, 1816 (first and second parts of Christabel, written 1797 and 1800). 
The States7nan's Manual; or. The Bible the Best Guide to Political Skill 
and Foresight, 1816. Sibylline Leaves, 1817. Zapolya: A Christmas 
Tale, 1817. Biographia Literaria, 1817. On Method {Esssiy forming 
the General Introduction to Encyclopcedia Metropolitana, 18 17- 18 18). 
Contributions to Blackwood' s Magazine, 1819-1822. Aids to Reflection, 
1825. On the Constitution of the Church and State, 1830. 
A Moral and Political Lecture, 1795. Condones ad Populam ; or, 
Addresses to the People, 1795. The Plot Discovered : An Address to the 
People, 1795. 
First Collected Edition of Poems and Dramas, 1828. 
POSTHUMOUS WORKS 
Specimens of his Table Talk (Edited by H. N. Coleridge), 1835. 
Letters, Conversations, atid Recollections of Samuel Taylor Coleridge 
(Edited by T. Allsop), 1836, 58, 64. Literary Remains (Edited by H. 
N. Coleridge), 1836-1839. Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit (Edited 
by H. N. Coleridge), 1840. Hints towards the Formation of a more 
Comprehensive Theory of Life (Edited by S. B. Watson), 1848. Notes 
and Lectures upon Shakspeare and some of the Old Dramatists (Edited by 
Editors Introduction xi 
Sara Coleridge), 1849. Essays on his own Times (Edited by S. Cole- 
ridge), 3 vols., 1850. Notes upon English Divines (Edited by Derwent 
Coleridge), 1853. Notes: Theological, Political^ and Miscellaneous 
(Edited by D. Coleridge), 1853. Lectures on Shakespeare, from Notes by 
J. P. Collier, 1856. Poetical and Dramatic Works, founded on the 
Author's latest edition of 1834 (Edited by R. H. Shepherd), 4 vols., 
London and Boston, 1 877-1 881. Co7nplete Works (Edited by Professor 
Shedd), 1884. Miscellanies: ^Esthetic and Literary {Edited hy T. Ashe), 
1885. The Poetical Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Edited by James 
Dyke Campbell), 1893. Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1785-1S34 
(Edited by E. H. Coleridge), 2 vols., 1895. 
CONTENTS 
Extract from a Letter written by Mr. Coleridge, in February 
1818, to a Gentleman who attended the Course of Lectures 
given in the Spring of that Year 
Extract from a Letter to J. Biiton, Esq 
Shakspeare, with introductory matter on poetry, the 
drama, and the stage 
Definition of Poetry .... 
Greek Drama ..... 
Progress of the Drama 
The Drama generally, and Public Taste 
Shakspeare, a Poet generally 
Shakspeare' s Judgment equal to his Genius 
Recapitulation, and Summary of the Characteristics of 
Shakspeare' s Dramas ..... 
Outline of an Introductory Lecture upon Shakspeare 
Order of Shakspeare' s Plays 
Notes on the Tempest 
Love's Labour's Lost 
Midsummer Night's Dream 
Comedy of Errors 
As You Like It 
Twelfth Night 
All's Well that Ends Well 
Merry Wives of Windsor 
Measure for Measure 
Cymbeline 
Titus Andronicus 
Troilus and Cressida 
Coriolanus 
Julius Cassar 
Antony and Cleopatra 
Timon of Athens 
Romeo and Juliet 
xiv Contents 
Shakspeare — continued : — 
Shakspeare's English Historical Plays 
King John 
Richard 11. 
Henry IV. Part I. 
Henry IV. Part II. 
Henry V. 
Henry VI. Part I. 
Richard III. 
Lear 
Hamlet . 
Notes on Macbeth 
Notes on the Winter's Tale 
Notes on Othello 
Notes on Ben Jonson 
Whalley's Preface 
Whalley's Life of Jonson 
Every Man out of His Humour 
Poetaster 
Fall of Sejanus 
Volpone . 
Epicaene . 
The Alchemist 
Catiline's Conspiracy 
Bartholomew Fair 
The Devn is an Ass 
The Staple of News 
The New Inn . 
Notes on Beaumont and Fletcher 
Harris's Commendatory Poem on Fletcher 
Life of Fletcher in Stockdale's Edition, i^ 
Maid's Tragedy 
A King and no King . 
The Scornful La4y . 
The Custom of the Country 
The Elder Brother . 
The Spanish Curate . 
Wit Without Money . 
The Humorous Lieutenant 
Contents 
XV 
Notes on Beaumont and Fletcher — continued: — page 
The ISlad Lover ..,..,. 200 
The Loyal Subject 
. 200 
Rule a Wife and have a Wife 
201 
The Laws of Candy . 
. 201 
The Little French Lawyer . 
. 202 
Valentin ian 
. 202 
Rollo . . . 
• 20s 
The Wildgoose Chase 
. 206 
A Wife for a Month . 
. 207 
The Pilgrim 
. 207 
The Queen of Corinth 
. 207 
The Noble Gentleman 
. 208 
The Coronation 
. 209 
Wit at Several Weapons . 
. 209 
The Fair Maid of the Inn . 
. 210 
The Two Noble Kinsmen . 
. 211 
The Woman Hater . 
. 212 
A COURSE OF LECTURES 
Prospectus ......... 
Lecture L General Character of the Gothic Mind in the 
Middle Ages ...... 
n. General Character of the Gothic Literature and 
Art 
III. The Troubadours, Boccaccio, Petrarch, Pulci, 
Chaucer, Spenser ..... 
VII. Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, and Mas- 
singer. Notes on Massinger 
VIII. Don Quixote, Cervantes ..... 
IX. On the Distinctions of the Witty, the Droll, the 
Odd, and the Humorous ; the Nature and Con- 
stituents of Humour ; Rabelais, Swift, Sterne 
X. Donne, Dante, Milton, Paradise Lost 
XI. Asiatic and Greek Mythologies, Robinson Crusoe, 
Use of works of Imagination in Education 
XII. Dreams, Apparitions, Alchemists, Personality of 
the Evil Being, Bodily Identity . 
XIII. On Poesy or Art 
XIV. On Style 
213 
216 
218 
223 
236 
247 
258 
269 
291 
301 
311 
319 
XVI 
Contents 
the 
On the Prometheus of iEschylus .... 
Summary of an Essay on the fundamental position of 
Mysteries in Relation to Greek Tragedy 
Fragment of an Essay on Taste. 1810 
Fragment of an Essay on Beauty. 18 18 
Notes on Chapman's Homer. Extract of a Letter sent with 
the Volume. 1807 . 
Note in Casaubon's Persius. 1807 
Notes on Barclay's Argenis. 1803 
Notes on Chalmers's Life of Samuel Daniel 
Bishop Corbet .... 
Notes on Selden's Table Talk 
Notes on Tom Jones 
Another set of Notes on Tom Jones . 
Jonathan Wild .... 
Notes on Junius. 1807 . 
Wonderfulness of Prose . 
Notes on Herbert's Temple and Harvey's Synagogue 
Extract from a Letter of S. T. Coleridge to W. Collins, R.A. 
Printed in the Life of Collins by his Son. Vol. i. . 
Notes on Mathias' Edition of Gray. On a distant prospect 
Eton College ....... 
Barry Cornwall ....... 
On the Mode of Studying Kant. Extract from a Letter of 
Mr. Coleridge to J. Gooden, Esq. 
Notes on the Palingenesien of Jean Paul 
PAGB 
326 
349 
351 
354 
356 
359 
359 
361 
361 
362 
Z^Z 
365 
366 
367 
371 
372 
1>77 
378 
382 
383 
LECTURES ON SHAKSPEARE AND MILTON. 
The First Lecture . 
The Second Lecture 
The Sixth Lecture . 
The Seventh Lecture 
The Eighth Lecture 
The Ninth Lecture 
The Twelfth Lecture 
389 
396 
405 
419 
435 
445 
465 
JOSEPH HENRY GREEN, Esq. 
MEMBER OF THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF SURGEONS 
THE APPROVED FRIEND 
OF COLERIDGE 
THESE VOLUMES ARE GRATEFULLY INSCRIBED 
PREFACE 
TO THE 1836 EDITION OF * LITERARY 
REMAINS ' 
Mr. Coleridge by his will, dated in September, 1829, 
authorized his executor, if he should think it expedient, 
to publish any of the notes or writing made by him 
(Mr. C.) in his books, or any other of his manuscripts or 
writings, or any letters which should thereafter be collected 
from, or suppUed by, his friends or correspondents. 
Agreeably to this authority, an arrangement was made, 
under the superintendence of Mr. Green, for the collection 
of Coleridge's Uterary remains ; and at the same time the 
preparation for the press of such part of the materials as 
should consist of criticism and general literature, was 
entrusted to the care of the present Editor. The volumes 
now offered to the public are the first results of that 
arrangement. They must in any case stand in need of 
much indulgence from the ingenuous reader ; — multa 
sunt condonanda in opere postumo ; but a short state- 
ment of the difficulties attending the compilation may 
serve to explain some apparent anomalies, and to preclude 
some unnecessary censure. 
The materials were fragmentary in the extreme — 
Sibylline leaves ; — notes of the lecturer, memoranda of 
the investigator, out-pourings of the solitary and self- 
communing student. The fear of the press was not in 
3 
4 Preface 
them. Numerous as they were, too, they came to light, 
or were communicated, at different times, before and 
after the printing was commenced ; and the dates, the 
occasions, and the references, in most instances remained 
to be discovered or conjectured. To give to such materials 
method and continuity, as far as might be, — to set them 
forth in the least disadvantageous manner which the 
circumstances would permit, — was a delicate and per- 
plexing task ; and the Editor is painfully sensible that 
he could bring few qualifications for the undertaking, but 
such as were involved in a many years' intercourse with 
the author himself, a patient study of his writings, a 
reverential admiration of his genius, and an affectionate 
desire to help in extending its beneficial influence. 
The contents of these volumes are drawn from a portion 
only of the manuscripts entrusted to the Editor : the 
remainder of the collection, which, under favourable 
circumstances, he hopes may hereafter see the light, is at 
least of equal value with what is now presented to the 
reader as a sample. In perusing the following pages, the 
reader will, in a few instances, meet with disquisitions of 
a transcendental character, which, as a general rule, 
have been avoided : the truth is, that they were sometimes 
found so indissolubly intertwined with the more popular 
matter which preceded and followed, as to make separa- 
tion impracticable. There are very many to whom no 
apology will be necessary in this respect ; and the Editor 
only adverts to it for the purpose of obviating, as far as 
may be, the possible complaint of the more general reader. 
But there is another point to which, taught by past 
experience, he attaches more importance, and as to 
which, therefore, he ventures to put in a more express 
Preface 5 
and particular caution. In many of the books and papers, 
which have been used in the compilation of these volumes, 
passages from other writers, noted down by Mr. Coleridge 
as in some way remarkable, were mixed up with his own 
comments on such passages, or with his reflections on 
other subjects, in a manner very embarrassing to the eye 
of a third person undertaking to select the original matter, 
after the lapse of several years. The Editor need not say 
that he has not knowingly admitted any thing that was 
not genuine, without an express declaration as in Vol. I. 
p. I ; 1 and in another instance. Vol. II. p. 379,^ he has 
intimated his own suspicion ; but, besides these, it is 
possible that some cases of mistake in this respect may 
have occurred. There may be one or two passages — they 
cannot well be more — printed in these volumes, which 
belong to other writers ; and if such there be, the Editor 
can only plead in excuse, that the work has been prepared 
by him amidst many distractions, and hope that, in this 
instance at least, no ungenerous use will be made of such 
a circumstance to the disadvantage of the author, and 
that persons of greater reading or more retentive memories 
than the Editor, who may discover any such passages, 
will do him the favour to communicate the fact. 
To those who have been kind enough to communicate 
books and manuscripts for the purpose of the present 
publication, the Editor and, through him, Mr. Coleridge's 
executor return their grateful thanks. In most cases a 
specific acknowledgment has been made. But, above 
and independently of all others, it is to Mr. and Mrs. 
1 The Editor is here speaking of his note to the Fall of Robespierre, published in the 
former Vol. i. of the Literary Remains^ shewing that th«: second and third acts were 
by Mr. Southey. 
3 This reference is to his remark on an extract from Crashaw's //>'«/.*« to the name of 
Jesus, printed in Vol. ii. of the Lit. Rem. as first published. 
6 Preface 
Gillman, and to Mr. Green himself, that the pubUc are 
indebted for the preservation and use of the principal 
part of the contents of these volumes. The claims of 
those respected individuals on the gratitude of the friends 
and admirers of Coleridge and his works are already well 
known, and in due season those claims will receive addi- 
tional confirmation. 
With these remarks, sincerely conscious of his own 
inadequate execution of the task assigned to him, yet 
confident withal of the general worth of the contents of 
the following pages — the Editor commits the reliques of 
a great man to the indulgent consideration of the Public. 
Lincoln's Inn, 
August II, 1836. 
LITERARY REMAINS 
Extract from a Letter written by Mr. Coleridge, in February, 
1818, to a gentleman who attended the course of Lectures 
given in the spring of that year. 
My next Friday's lecture will, if I do not grossly flatter- 
blind myself, be interesting, and the points of view not 
only original, but new to the audience. I make this 
distinction, because sixteen or rather seventeen years 
ago, I delivered eighteen lectures on Shakspeare, at the 
Royal Institution ; three-fourths of which appeared at 
that time startling paradoxes, although they have since 
been adopted even by men, who then made use of them 
as proofs of my flighty and paradoxical turn of mind ; 
all to prove that Shakspeare' s judgment was, if possible, 
still more wonderful than his genius ; or rather, that 
the contradistinction itself between judgment and genius 
rested on an utterly false theory. This, and its proofs 
and grounds have been — I should not have said adopted, 
but produced as their own legitimate children by some, 
and by others the merit of them attributed to a foreign 
writer, whose lectures were not given orally till two years 
after mine, rather than to their countryman ; though 
I dare appeal to the most adequate judges, as Sir George 
Beaumont, the Bishop of Durham, Mr. Sotheby, and 
afterwards to Mr. Rogers and Lord Byron, whether there 
is one single principle in Schlegel's work (which is not 
an admitted drawback from its merits), that was not 
established and applied in detafl by me. Plutarch tells 
us, that egotism is a venial fault in the unfortunate, and 
justifiable in the calumniated, &c. 
8 Letter 
Extract from a Letter to J. Briton, Esq. 
28th Feb., 18 19, Highgate. 
Dear Sir, — First permit me to remove a very natural, 
indeed almost inevitable, mistake, relative to my lectures : 
namely, that I have them, or that the lectures of one 
place or season are in any way repeated in another. So 
far from it, that on any point that I had ever studied 
(and on no other should I dare discourse — I mean, that 
I would not lecture on any subject for which I had to 
acquire the main knowledge, even though a month's or 
three months' previous time were allowed me ; on no 
subject that had not employed my thoughts for a large 
portion of my life since earliest manhood, free of all 
outward and particular purpose) — on any point within 
my habit of thought, I should greatly prefer a subject 
I had never lectured on, to one which I had repeatedly 
given ; and those who have attended me for any two 
seasons successively will bear witness, that the lecture 
given at the London Philosophical Society, on the Romeo 
and Juliet, for instance, was as different from that given 
at the Crown and Anchor, as if they had been by two 
individuals who, without any communication with each 
other, had only mastered the same principles of philo- 
sophic criticism. This was most strikingly evidenced 
in the coincidence between my lectures and those of 
Schlegel ; such, and so close, that it was fortunate for 
my moral reputation that I had not only from five to 
seven hundred ear witnesses that the passages had been 
given by me at the Royal Institution two years before 
Schlegel commenced his lectures at Vienna, but that 
notes had been taken of these by several men and ladies 
of high rank. The fact is this ; during a course of 
lectures, I faithfully employ all the intervening days in 
collecting and digesting the materials, whether I have 
or have not lectured on the same subject before, making 
no difference. The day of the lecture, till the hour of 
commencement, I devote to the consideration, what of 
the mass before me is best fitted to answer the purposes 
of a lecture, that is, to keep the audience awake and 
interested during the dehvery, and to leave a sting behind, 
that is, a disposition to study the subject anew, under 
Definition of Poetry 9 
the light of a new principle. Several times, however, 
partly from apprehension respecting my health and 
animal spirits, partly from the wish to possess copies 
that might afterwards be marketable among the publishers, 
I have previously written the lecture ; but before I had 
proceeded twenty minutes, I have been obliged to push 
the MS. away, and give the subject a new turn. Nay, 
this was so notorious, that many of my auditors used 
to threaten me, when they saw any number of written 
papers upon my desk, to steal them away ; declaring 
they never felt so secure of a good lecture as when they 
perceived that I had not a single scrap of writing before 
me. I take far, far more pains than would go to the 
set composition of a lecture, both by varied reading 
and by meditation ; but for the words, illustrations, 
&c., I know almost as little as any one of the audience 
(that is, those of any thing like the same education 
with myself) what they will be five minutes before the 
lecture begins. Such is my way, for such is my nature ; 
and in attempting any other, I should only torment 
myself in order to disappoint my auditors — torment 
myself during the delivery, I mean ; for in all other 
respects it would be a much shorter and easier task to 
deliver them from writing. I am anxious to preclude 
any semblance of affectation ; and have therefore troubled 
you with this lengthy preface before I have the hardihood 
to assure you, that you might as well ask me what my 
dreams were in the year 1814, as what my course of 
lectures was at the Surrey Institution. Fuimus Troes. 
SHAKSPEARE, 
With introductory matter on Poetry, the Drama, and 
the Stage. 
DEFINITION OF POETRY. 
Poetry is not the proper antithesis to prose, but to 
science. Poetry is opposed to science, and prose to 
metre. The proper and immediate object of science 
is the acquirement, or communication, of truth; the 
proper and immediate Oioject of poetry is the 50m- 
lo Definition of Poetry 
munication of immediate pleasure. This definition 
is useful ; but as it would include novels and other 
works of fiction, which yet we do not call poems, 
there must be some additional character by which poetry 
is not only divided from opposites, but Hkewise dis- 
tinguished from disparate, though similar, modes of 
composition. Now how is this to be effected ? In 
animated prose, the beauties of nature, and the passions 
and accidents of human nature, are often expressed in 
that natural language which the contemplation of them 
would suggest to a pure and benevolent mind ; yet 
still neither we nor the writers call such a work a poem, 
though no work could deserve that name which did 
not include all this, together with something else. What 
is this ? It is that pleasurable emotion, that peculiar 
state and degree of excitement, which arises in the poet 
himself in the act of composition ; — and in order to under- 
stand this, we must combine a more than ordinary 
sympathy with the objects, emotions, or incidents con- 
templated by the poet, consequent on a more than 
common sensibility, with a more than ordinary activity 
of the mind in respect of the fancy and the irnaginatipn. 
Hence is produced a more viviO^eflection of the truths 
of nature and of the human heart, united with a constant 
activity modifying and correcting these truths by that 
sort of pleasurable emotion, which the exertion of all 
our faculties gives in a certain degree ; but which can 
only be felt in perfection under the fuU play of those 
powers of mind, which are spontaneous rather than 
voluntary, and in which the effort required bears no 
proportion to the activity enjoyed. This is the state 
which permits the production of a highly pleasurable 
whole, of which each part shall also communicate for 
itself a distinct and conscious pleasure ; and hjgpce^ arises 
the definition, which I trust is now inteUigiBle, that 
poetry, or rather a poem, is a species of composition, 
opposed to science, as having intellectual pleasure for 
its object, and as attaining its end by the use of language 
natural to us in a state of excitement, — but distinguished 
from other species of composition, not excluded by the 
former criterion, by permitting a pleasure from the 
whole consistent with a consciousness of pleasure from 
the component parts ; — and the perfection of which 
Definition of Poetry ii 
is, to communicate from each part the greatest immediate 
pleasure compatible with the largest sum of pleasure 
on the whole. This, of course, will vary with the different 
modes of poetry ; — and that splendour of particular 
lines, which would be worthy of admiration in an im- 
passioned elegy, or a short indignant satire, would be 
a blemish and proof of vile taste in a tragedy or an epic 
poem. 
It is remarkable, by the way, that Milton in three 
incidental words has implied all which for the purposes 
of more distinct apprehension, which at first must be 
slow-paced in order to be distinct, I have endeavoured 
to develope in a precise and strictly adequate definition. 
Speaking of poetry, he says, as in a parenthesis, " which 
is simple, sensuous, passionate." How awful is the 
power of words ! — fearful often in their consequences 
when merely felt, not understood ; but most awful 
when both felt and understood ! — Had these three words 
only been properly understood by, and present in the 
minds of, general readers, not only almost a library 
of false poetry would have been either precluded or 
still-born, but, what is of more consequence, works truly 
excellent and capable of enlarging the understanding, 
warming and purifying the heart, and placing in the centre 
of the whole being the germs of noble and manlike 
actions, would have been the common diet of the intellect 
instead. For the first condition, simplicity, — while, on the 
one hand, it distinguishes poetry from the arduous pro- 
cesses of science, labouring towards an end not yet arrived 
at, and supposes a smooth and finished road, on which 
the reader is to walk onward easily, with streams murmur- 
ing by his side, and trees and flowers and human dwellings 
to make his journey as delightful as the object of it is 
desirable, instead of having to toil with the pioneers 
and painfully make the road on which .others are to 
travel, — precludes, on the other hand, every affectation 
and morbid peculiarity ; — the second condition, sensu- 
ousness, insures that framework of objectivity, that 
definiteness and articulation of imagery, and that 
modification of the images themselves, without which 
poetry becomes flattened into mere didactics of practice, 
or evaporated into a hazy, unthoughtful, day-dream- 
ing ; and the third condition, passion, provides that 
12 Definition of Poetry 
neither thought nor imagery shall be simply objective, 
but that the passio vera of humanity shall warm and 
animate both. 
To return, however, to the previous definition, this 
most general and distinctive character of a poem originates 
in the poetic genius itself ; and though it comprises 
whatever can with any propriety be called a poem (unless 
that word be a mere lazy synonyme for a composition 
in metre,) it yet becomes a just, and not merely dis- 
criminative, but full and adequate, definition of poetry 
in its highest and most pecuHar sense, only so far as 
the distinction still results from the poetic genius, which 
sustains and modifies the emotions, thoughts, and vivid 
representations of the poem by the energy without effort 
of the poet's own mind, — by the spontaneous activity 
of his imagination and fancy, and by whatever else with 
these reveals itself in the balancing and reconciling of 
opposite or discordant qualities, sameness with difference, 
a sense of novelty and freshness with old or customary 
objects, a more than usual state of emotion with more 
than usual order, self-possession and judgment with 
enthusiasm and vehement feeling, — and which, while it 
blends and harmonizes the natural and the artificial, 
still subordinates art to nature, the manner to the matter, 
and our admiration of the poet to our sympathy with 
the images, passions, characters, and incidents of the 
poem : — 
Doubtless, this could not be, but that she turns 
Bodies to spirit by sublimation strange, 
As fire converts to fire the things it burns — 
As we our food into our nature change ! 
From their gross matter she abstracts their forms, 
And draws a kind of quintessence from things, 
Which to her proper nature she transforms 
To bear them light on her celestial wings ! 
Thus doth she, when from individual states 
She doth abstract the universal kinds, 
Which then reclothed in divers names and fates 
Steal access thro' our senses to our minds} 
1 Sir John Davies on the Immortality of the Soul, sect. iv. The words and lines in 
italics are substituted to apply these verses to the poetic genius. The greater part of 
ihis latter paragraph may be found adopted, with some alterations, in the Biographia 
Literaria, vol. ii. c. 14 ; but I have thought it better in this instance and some 
Greek Drama 13 
GREEK DRAMA. 
It is truly singular that Plato, — whose philosophy and 
religion were but exotic at home, and a mere opposition 
to the finite in all things, genuine prophet and anticipator 
as he was of the Protestant Christian aera, — should have 
given in his Dialogue of the Banquet, a justification of 
our Shakspeare. For he relates that, when all the 
other guests had either dispersed or fallen asleep, Socrates 
only, together with Aristophanes and Agathon, remained 
awake, and that, while he continued to drink with them 
out of a large goblet, he compelled them, though most 
reluctantly, to admit that it was the business of one 
and the same genius to excel in tragic and comic poetry, 
or that the tragic poet ought, at the same time, to contain 
within himself the powers of comedy. ^ Now, as this 
was directly repugnant to the entire theory of the ancient 
critics, and contrary to all their experience, it is evident 
that Plato must have fixed the eye of his contemplation 
on the innermost essentials of the drama, abstracted 
from the forms of age or country. In another passage 
he even adds the reason, namely, that opposites illustrate 
each other's nature, and in their struggle draw forth 
the strength of the combatants, and display the conqueror 
as sovereign even on the territories of the rival power. 
Nothing can more forcibly exemplify the separative 
spirit of the Greek arts than their comedy as opposed 
to their tragedy. But as the immediate struggle of 
contraries supposes an arena common to both, so both 
were alike ideal ; that is, the comedy of Aristophanes 
rose to as great a distance above the ludicrous of real 
life, as the tragedy of Sophocles above its tragic events 
and passions, — and it is in this one point, of absolute 
others, to run the chance of bringing a few passages twice over to the recollection of 
the reader, than to weaken the force of the original argument by breaking the 
connection. Ed. 
^ €^€yp6/jL€vos S^ Idelv rods fiiv dWovs KadevoofTas Kal olxofi^povs, 
'Ayddoifa 5^ Kal ' KpLaT0(p6.vi]v koI Sw/cpdrT? Irt ixbvovs iyp'/jyopevai, Kal 
irlveLV eK (pidXrjs fj.€yd\7}$ eTride^La. rbv oZv Sw/cparT; avrots diaXeyecrdai,' 
Kal TO. fxkv aXKa 6 'ApLarddTj/jios ovk ^(prj fjie/JLvija dai tov \byov' (oi^re ydp e^ 
dpxv^ Trapayeviadai, virovvaTa^eiv re) rb p.kvTOL KecpdXaiov ^(prj, irpoaavay' 
Ka^eLu rbv liiOKparr] 6jj.oKoyeiy avrodi tov avTov dv8p6s e'Cvat KU3fi(i}diav Kal 
TpayuSiav iiriaraadaL Troieiv, Kal Toy t^x^V Tpayi^doiroLov tvra, Kal Koofuf- 
ooTTotoV elvai.. Symp. sub fine. 
14 Greek Drama 
ideality, that the comedy of Shakspeare and the old 
comedy of Athens coincide. In this also alone did the 
Greek tragedy and comedy unite ; in every thing else 
they were exactly opposed to each other. Tragedy 
is poetry in its deepest earnest ; comedy is poetry in 
unlimited jest. Earnestness consists in the direction 
and convergence of all the powers of the soul to one 
aim, and in the voluntary restraint of its activity in 
consequence ; the opposite, therefore, lies in the apparent 
abandonment of all definite aim or end, and in the removal 
of all bounds in the exercise of the mind, — attaining its 
real end, as an entire contrast, most perfectly, the greater 
the display is of intellectual wealth squandered in the 
wantonness of sport without an object, and the more 
abundant the life and vivacity in the creations of the 
arbitrary ¥/ill. 
The later comedy, even where it was really comic, 
was doubtless likewise more comic, the more free it 
appeared from any fixed aim. Misunderstandings of 
intention, fmitless struggles of absurd passion, contra- 
dictions of temper, and laughable situations there were ; 
but still the form of the representation itself was serious ; 
it proceeded as much according to settled laws, and used 
as much the same means of art, though to a different 
purpose, as the regular tragedy itself. But in the old 
comedy the very form itself is whimsical ; the whole 
work is one great jest, comprehending a world of jests 
within it, among which each maintains its own place 
without seeming to concern itself as to the relation in 
which it may stand to its fellows. In short, in Sophocles, 
the constitution of tragedy is monarchical, but such as 
it existed in elder Greece, limited by laws, and therefore 
the more venerable, — all the parts adapting and sub- 
mitting themselves to the majesty of the heroic sceptre : 
— in Aristophanes, comedy, on the contrary, is poetry 
in its most democratic form, and it is a fundamental 
principle with it, rather to risk all the confusion of anarchy, 
than to destroy the independence and privileges of its 
individual constituents, — place, verse, characters, even 
single thoughts, conceits, and allusions, each turning 
on the pivot of its own free will. 
The tragic poet idealizes his characters by giving to 
the spiritual part of our nature a more decided prepon- 
Greek Drama 15 
derance over the animal cravings and impulses, than 
is met with in real life : the comic poet idealizes his 
characters by making the animal the governing power, 
and the intellectual the mere instrument. But as tragedy 
is not a collection of virtues and perfections, but takes 
care only that the vices and imperfections shall spring 
from the passions, errors, and prejudices which arise 
out of the soul ; — so neither is comedy a mere crowd 
of vices and follies, but whatever qualities it represents, 
even though they are in a certain sense amiable, it still 
displays them as having their origin in some dependence 
on our lower nature, accompanied with a defect in true 
freedom of spirit and self-subsistence, and subject to 
that unconnection by contradictions of the inward being, 
to which all folly is owing. 
The ideal of earnest poetry consists in the union and 
harmonious melting down, and fusion of the sensual 
into the spiritual, — of man as an animal into man as a 
power of reason and self-government. And this we 
have represented to us most clearly in the plastic art, 
or statuary ; where the perfection of outward form is 
a symbol of the perfection of an inward idea ; where 
the body is wholly penetrated by the soul, and spiritualized 
even to a state of glory, and like a transparent substance, 
the matter, in its own nature darkness, becomes alto- 
gether a vehicle and fixture of light, a means of developing 
its beauties, and unfolding its wealth of various colours 
without disturbing its unity, or causing a division of the 
parts. The sportive ideal, on the contrary, consists in 
the perfect harmony and concord of the higher nature 
with the animal, as with its ruHng principle and its acknow- 
ledged regent. The understanding and practical reason 
are represented as the willing slaves of the senses and 
appetites, and of the passions arising out of them. Hence 
we may admit the appropriateness to the old comedy, 
as a work of defined art, of allusions and descriptions, 
which morality can never justify, and, only with reference 
to the author himself, and only as being the effect or 
rather the cause of the circumstances in which he wrote, 
can consent even to palliate. 
The old comedy rose to its perfection in Aristophanes, 
and in him also it died with the freedom of Greece. Then 
arose a species of drama, more fitly called, dramatic 
1 6 Greek Drama 
entertainment than comedy, but of which, nevertheless, 
our modem comedy (Shakspeare's altogether excepted) 
is the genuine descendant. Euripides had already 
brought tragedy lower down and by many steps nearer 
to the real world than his predecessors had ever done, 
and the passionate admiration which Menander and 
Philemon expressed for him, and their open avowals 
that he was their great master, entitle us to consider 
their dramas as of a middle species, between tragedy 
and comedy, — not the tragi-comedy, or thing of hetero- 
geneous parts, but a complete whole, founded on principles 
of its own. Throughout we find the drama of Menander 
distinguishing itself from tragedy, but not, as the genuine 
old comedy, contrasting with, and opposing it. Tragedy, 
indeed, carried the thoughts into the mythologic world, 
in order to raise the emotions, the fears, and the hopes, 
which convince the inmost heart that their final cause 
is not to be discovered in the hmits of mere mortal life, 
and force us into a presentiment, however dim, of a 
state in which those struggles of inward free will with 
outward necessity, which form the true subject of the 
tragedian, shall be reconciled and solved ; — the enter- 
tainment or new comedy, on the other hand, remained 
within the circle of experience. Instead of the tragic 
destiny, it introduced the power of chance ; even in 
the few fragments of Menander and Philemon now re- 
maining to us, we find many exclamations and reflections 
concerning chance and fortune, as in the tragic poets 
concerning destiny. In tragedy, the moral law, either 
as obeyed or violated, above all consequences — its own 
maintenance or violation constituting the most important 
of all consequences — forms the ground ; the new comedy, 
and our modern comedy in general, (Shakspeare excepted 
as before) lies in prudence or imprudence, enlightened 
or misled self-love. The whole moral system of the 
entertainment exactly like that of fable, consists in 
rules of prudence, with an exquisite conciseness, and 
at the same time an exhaustive fulness of sense. An old 
critic said that tragedy was the flight or elevation of life, 
comed}' (that of Menander) its arrangement or ordonnance. 
Add to these features a portrait-like truth of character, 
— not so far indeed as that a bona fide individual should 
be described or imagined, but yet so that the features 
Greek Drama 17 
which give interest and permanence to the class should 
be individualized. The old tragedy moved in an ideal 
world, — the old comedy in a fantastic world. As the 
entertainment, or new comedy, restrained the creative 
activity both of the fancy and the imagination, it in- 
demnified the understanding in appealing to the judgment 
for the probability of the scenes represented. The 
ancients themselves acknowledged the new comedy as 
an exact copy of real life. The grammarian, Aristophanes, 
somewhat affectedly exclaimed : — " O Life and Menander ! 
which of you two imitated the other ? " In short the 
form of this species of drama was poetry, the stuff or 
matter was prose. It was prose rendered delightful by 
the blandishments and measured motions of the muse. 
Yet even this was not universal. The mimes of Sophron, 
so passionately admired by Plato, were written in prose, 
and were scenes out of real life conducted in dialogue. 
The exquisite Feast of Adonis ('2vpaxoUiai Jj *A6wi//a^oL»<ra/) 
in Theocritus, we are told, with some others of his 
eclogues, were close imitations of certain mimes of Sophron 
— free translations of the prose into hexameters. 
It will not be improper, in this place, to make a few 
remarks on the remarkable character and functions of 
the chorus in the Greek tragic drama. 
The chorus entered from below, close by the orchestra, 
and there, pacing to and fro during the choral odes, 
performed their solemn measured dance. In the centre 
of the orchestra, directly over against the middle of the 
scene, there stood an elevation with steps in the shape of 
a large altar, as high as the boards of the logeion or move- 
able stage. This elevation was named the thymele, 
{^vfxsXr,) and served to recall the origin and original 
purpose of the chorus, as an altar-song in honour of 
the presiding deity. Here, and on these steps the persons 
of the chorus sate collectively, when they were not sing- 
ing ; attending to the dialogue as spectators, and acting 
as (what in truth they were) the ideal representatives 
of the real audience, and of the poet himself in his own 
character, assuming the supposed impressions made by 
the drama, in order to direct and rule them. But when 
the chorus itself formed part of the dialogue, then the 
leader of the band, the foreman or coryphceus, ascended, 
as some think, the level summit of the thymele in order 
1 8 Greek Drama 
to command the stage, or, perhaps, the whole chorus 
advanced to the front of the orchestra, and thus put 
themselves in ideal connection, as it were, with the 
dramatis personce there acting. This thymele was in the 
centre of the whole edifice, all the measurements were 
calculated, and the semicircle of the amphitheatre was 
drawn, from this point. It had a double use, a twofold 
purpose ; it constantly reminded the spectators of the 
origin of tragedy as a religious service, and declared 
itself as the ideal representative of the audience by having 
its place exactly in the point, to which all the radii from 
the different seats or benches converged. 
In this double character, as constituent parts, and 
yet at the same time as spectators, of the drama, the 
chorus could not but tend to enforce the unity of place ; 
— not on the score of any supposed improbability, which 
the understanding or common sense might detect in a 
change of place ; — but because the senses themselves 
put it out of the power of any imagination to conceive 
a place coming to, and going away from the persons, 
instead of the persons changing their place. Yet there 
are instances, in which, during the silence of the chorus, 
the poets have hazarded this by a change in that part 
of the scenery which represented the more distant objects 
to the eye of the spectator — a demonstrative proof, that 
this alternately extolled and ridiculed unity (as ignorantly 
ridiculed as extolled) was grounded on no essential prin- 
ciple of reason, but arose out of circumstances which 
the poet could not remove, and therefore took up into 
the form of the drama, and co-organised it with all the 
other parts into a living whole. 
The Greek tragedy may rather be compared to our 
serious opera than to the tragedies of Shakspeare ; never- 
theless, the difference is far greater than the likeness. 
In the opera aU is subordinated to the music, the dresses 
and the scenery ; — the poetry is a mere vehicle for articu- 
lation, and as little pleasure is lost by ignorance of the 
Itahan language, so is little gained by the knowledge 
of it. But in the Greek drama all was but as instruments 
and accessaries to the poetry ; and hence we should 
form a better notion of the choral music from the solemn 
hymns and psalms of austere church music than from 
any species of theatrical singing. A single flute or pipe 
Greek Drama 19 
v/as the ordinary accompaniment ; and it is not to be 
supposed, that any display of musical power was allowed 
to obscure the distinct hearing of the words. On the 
contrary, the evident purpose was to render the words 
more audible, and to secure by the elevations and pauses 
greater facility of understanding the poetry. For the 
choral songs are, and ever must have been, the most 
difficult part of the tragedy ; there occur in them the 
most involved verbal compounds, the newest expressions, 
the boldest images, the most recondite allusions. Is it 
credible that the poets would, one and all, have been 
thus prodigal of the stores of art and genius, if they had 
known that in the representation the whole must have 
been lost to the audience, — at a time too, when the means 
of after publication were so difficult and expensive, and the 
copies of their works so slowly and narrowly circulated ? 
The masks also must be considered — their vast variety 
and admirable workmanship. Of this we retain proof 
by the marble masks which represented them ; but to 
this in the real mask we must add the thinness of the 
substance and the exquisite fitting on to the head of the 
actor; so that not only were the very eyes painted 
with a single opening left for the pupil of the actor's 
eye, but in some instances, even the iris itself was 
painted, when the colour was a known characteristic of 
the divine or heroic personage represented. 
Finally, I will note down those fundamental character- 
istics which contradistinguish the ancient literature 
from the modern generally, but which more especially 
appear in prominence in the tragic drama. The ancient 
was allied to statuary, the modern refers to painting. 
In the first there is a predominance of rhythm and melody, 
in the second of harmony and counterpoint. The Greeks 
idolized the finite, and therefore v/ere the masters of all 
grace, elegance, proportion, fancy, dignity, majesty — 
of whatever, in short, is capable of being definitely con- 
veyed by defined forms or thoughts : the moderns revere 
the infinite, and affect the indefinite as a vehicle of the 
infinite ; — hence their passions, their obscure hopes 
and fears, their wandering through the unknown, their 
grander moral feelings, their more august conception of 
man as man, their future rather than their past — in a 
Vv^ord, their sublimity. 
20 Progress of the Drama 
PROGRESS OF THE DRAMA. 
Let two persons join in the same scheme to ridicule 
a third, and either take advantage of, or invent, some 
story for that purpose, and mimicry will have already 
produced a sort of rude comedy. It becomes an inviting 
treat to the populace, and gains an additional zest and 
burlesque by following the already established plan 
of tragedy ; and the first man of genius who seizes the 
idea, and reduces it into form, — into a work of art, — 
by metre and music, is the Aristophanes of the country. 
How just this account is wtll appear from the fact 
that in the first or old comedy of the Athenians, most 
of the dramatis personce were living characters intro- 
duced under their own names ; and no doubt, their 
ordinary dress, manner, person and voice were closely 
mimicked. In less favourable states of society, as that 
of England in the middle ages, the beginnings of comedy 
would be constantly taking place from the mimics and 
satirical minstrels ; but from want of fixed abode, popular 
government, and the successive attendance of the same 
auditors, it would stiU remain in embryo. I shall, 
perhaps, have occasion to observe that this remark is 
not without importance in explaining the essential 
differences of the modern and ancient theatres. 
Phenomena, similar to those which accompanied the 
origin of tragedy and comedy among the Greeks, would 
take place among the Romans much more slowly, and 
the drama would, in any case, have much longer re- 
mained in its first irregular form from the character of 
the people, their continual engagements in wars of con- 
quest, the nature of their government, and their rapidly 
increasing empire. But, however this might have been, 
the conquest of Greece precluded both the process and 
the necessity of it ; and the Roman stage at once pre- 
sented imitations or translations of the Greek drama. 
This continued till the perfect establishment of Chris- 
tianity. Some attempts, indeed, were made to adapt 
the persons of Scriptural or ecclesiastical history to the 
drama ; and sacred plays, it is probable, were not unknown 
in Constantinople under the emperors of the East. The 
first of the kind is, I believe, the only one preserved, — 
Progress of the Drama 21 
namely, the Xpiffrog udffx^v, or, " Christ in his suffer- 
ings," by Gregory Nazianzen, — possibly written in con- 
sequence of the prohibition of profane literature to the 
Christians by the apostate Julian.^ In the West, however, 
the enslaved and debauched Roman world became too 
barbarous for any theatrical exhibitions more refined 
than those of pageants and chariot-races ; while the 
spirit of Christianity, which in its most corrupt form 
still breathed general humanity, whenever controversies 
of faith were not concerned, had done away the cruel 
combats of the gladiators, and the loss of the distant 
provinces prevented the possibility of exhibiting the 
engagements of wild beasts. 
I pass, therefore, at once to the feudal ages which 
soon succeeded, confining my observation to this country ; 
though, indeed, the same remark with very few alterations 
will apply to all the other states, into which the great 
empire was broken. Ages of darkness succeeded ; — 
not, indeed, the darkness of Russia or of the barbarous 
lands unconquered by Rome ; for from the time of 
Honorius to the destruction of Constantinople and the 
consequent introduction of ancient literature into Europe, 
there was a continued succession of individual intellects ; 
— the golden chain was never wholly broken, though 
the connecting links were often of baser metal. A dark 
cloud, like another sky, covered the entire cope of heaven, 
— but in this place it thinned away, and white stains 
of light showed a half eclipsed star behind it, — in that 
place it was rent asunder, and a star passed across the 
opening in all its brightness, and then vanished. Such 
stars exhibited themselves only ; surrounding objects 
did not partake of their light. There were deep wells 
of knowledge, but no fertilizing rills and rivulets. For 
the drama, society was altogether a state of chaos, out 
of which it was, for a while at least, to proceed anew, 
as if there had been none before it. And yet it is not 
undelightful to contemplate the eduction of good from 
evil. The ignorance of the great mass of our countrymen 
was the efficient cause of the reproduction of the drama ; 
and the preceding darkness and the returning light were 
alike necessary in order to the creation of a Shakspeare. 
A.D. 363. But I believe the prevailing opinion amongst scholars now is, that tht 
'Kpiarbs lldo-xwJ' is not genuine. £d. 
22 Progress of the Drama 
The drama re-commenced in England, as it first began 
in Greece, in religion. The people were not able to read, 
— the priesthood were unwilling that they should read ; 
and yet their own interest compelled them not to leave 
the people wholly ignorant of the great events of sacred 
history. They did that, therefore, by scenic repre- 
sentations, which in after ages it has been attempted 
to do in Roman Catholic countries by pictures. They 
presented Mysteries, and often at great expense ; and 
reliques of this system still remain in the south of Europe, 
and indeed throughout Italy, where at Christmas the 
convents and the great nobles rival each other in the 
scenic representation of the birth of Christ and its circum- 
stances. I heard two instances mentioned to me at 
different times, one in Sicily and the other in Rome, 
of noble devotees, the ruin of whose fortunes was said 
to have commenced in the extravagant expense which 
had been incurred in presenting the prcesepe or manger. 
But these Mysteries, in order to answer their design, 
must not only be instructive, but entertaining ; and 
as, when they became so, the people began to take pleasure 
in acting them themselves — in interloping, — (against 
which the priests seem to have fought hard and yet in 
vain) the most ludicrous images were mixed with the 
most awful personations ; and whatever the subject 
might be, however sublime, however pathetic, yet the 
Vice and the Devil, who are the genuine antecessors of 
Harlequin and the Clown, were necessary component 
parts. I have myself a piece of this kind, which I tran- 
scribed a few years ago at Helmstadt, in Germany, on 
the education of Eve's children, in which after the fall 
and repentance of Adam, the offended Maker, as in proof 
of his reconciliation, condescends to visit them, and to 
catechise the children, — who with a noble contempt of 
chronology are all brought together from Abel to Noah. 
The good children say the ten Commandments, the 
Belief and the Lord's Prayer ; but Cain and his rout, 
after he had received a box on the ear for not taking off 
his hat, and afterwards offering his left hand, is prompted 
by the devil so to blunder in the Lord's Prayer as to 
reverse the petitions and say it backward ! ^ 
1 See vol. i. p. 76, where this is told more at length and attributed to Hans Sachs, 
Ed. Vol. ii. pp. 16, 17, 2nQ edit. S. C 
Progress of the Drama 23 
" Unaffectedly I declare I feel pain at repetitions like 
these, however innocent. As historical documents they 
are valuable ; but I am sensible that what I can read 
with my eye with perfect innocence, I cannot without 
inward fear and misgivings pronounce with my tongue. 
Let me, however, be acquitted of presumption if I 
say that I cannot agree with Mr. Malone, that our ancestors 
did not perceive the ludicrous in these things, or that 
they paid no separate attention to the serious and comic 
parts. Indeed his own statement contradicts it. For 
what purpose should the Vice leap upon the Devil's 
back and belabour him, but to produce this separate 
attention ? The people laughed heartily, no doubt. 
Nor can I conceive any meaning attached to the words 
" separate attention," that is not fully answered by 
one part of an exhibition exciting seriousness or pity, 
and the other raising mirth and loud laughter. That 
they felt no impiety in the affair is most true. For it 
is the very essence of that system of Christian poly- 
theism, which in all its essentials is now fully as gross 
in Spain, in Sicily and the south of Italy, as it ever was 
in England in the days of Henry VI. — (nay, more so, 
for a Wicliffe had not then appeared only, but scattered 
the good seed widely,) it is an essential part, I say, of 
that system to draw the mind whoUy from its own inward 
whispers and quiet discriminations, and to habituate 
the conscience to pronounce sentence in every case accord- 
ing to the established verdicts of the church and the 
casuists. I have looked through volume after volume 
of the most approved casuists, — and still I find dis- 
quisitions whether this or that act is right, and under 
what circumstances, to a minuteness that makes reason- 
ing ridiculous, and of a callous and unnatural immodesty, 
to which none but a monk could harden himself, who 
has been stripped of all the tender charities of life, yet 
is goaded on to make war against them by the unsubdued 
hauntings of our meaner nature, even as dogs are said 
to get the hydrophobia from excessive thirst. I fully 
believe that our ancestors laughed as heartily, as their 
posterity do at Grimaldi ; — and not having been told that 
they would be punished for laughing, they thought it very 
innocent ; — and if their priest had left out murder in the 
catalogue of their prohibitions (as indeed they did under 
24 Progress of the Drama 
certain circumstances of heresy), the greater part of them, 
— the moral instincts common to all men having been 
smothered and kept from development, — would have 
thought as httle of murder. 
However this may be, the necessity of at once instructing 
and gratifying the people produced the great distinction 
between the Greek and the English theatres ; — for to this 
we must attribute the origin of tragi-comedy, or a repre- 
sentation of human events more lively, nearer the truth, 
and permitting a larger field of moral instruction, a more 
ample exhibition of the recesses of the human heart, under 
all the trials and circumstances that most concern us, than 
WcLS known or guessed at by ^schylus, Sophocles, of 
Euripides ; — and at the same time we learn to account 
for, and — relatively to the author — perceive the necessity 
of, the Fool or Clown or both, as the substitutes of the 
Vice and the Devil, which our ancestors had been so 
accustomed to see in every exhibition of the stage, that 
they could not feel any performance perfect without them. 
Even to this day in Italy, every opera — (even Metastasio 
obeyed the claim throughout) — must have six characters, 
generally two pairs of cross lovers, a tyrant and a confidant, 
or a father and two confidants, themselves lovers ; — and 
when a new opera appears, it is the universal fashion to 
ask — which is the tyrant, which the lover ? &c. 
It is the especial honour of Christianity, that in its worst 
and most corrupted form it cannot wholly separate itself 
from morality ; — whereas the other religions in their best 
form (I do not include Mohammedanism, which is only an 
anomalous corruption of Christianity, like Swedenbor- 
gianism,) have no connection with it. The very imper- 
sonation of moral evil under the name of Vice, facilitated 
all other impersonations ; and hence we see that the 
Mysteries were succeeded by Moralities, or dialogues and 
plots of allegorical personages. Again, some character in 
real history had become so famous, so proverbial, as Nero 
for instance, that they were introduced instead of the moral 
quahty, for which they were so noted ; — and in this mannei 
the stage was moving on to the absolute production of 
heroic and comic real characters, when the restoration of 
literature, followed by the ever-blessed Reformation, let in 
upon the kingdom not only new knowledge, but new motive. 
A useful rivalry commenced between the metropolis on the 
Progress of the Drama 25 
one hand, the residence, independently of the court and 
nobles, of the most active and stirring spirits who had not 
been regularly educated, or who, from mischance or other- 
wise, had forsaken the beaten track of preferment, — and 
the universities on the other. The latter prided them- 
selves on their closer approximation to the ancient rules 
and ancient regularity — taking the theatre of Greece, or 
rather its dim reflection, the rhetorical tragedies of the 
poet Seneca, as a perfect ideal, without any critical 
collation of the times, origin, or circumstances ; — whilst, 
in the mean time, the popular writers, who could not 
and would not abandon what they had found to delight 
their countrymen sincerely, and not merely from in- 
quiries first put to the recollection of rules, and answered 
in the affirmative, as if it had been an arithmetical sum, 
did yet borrow from the scholars whatever they advan- 
tageously could, consistently with their own peculiar 
means of pleasing. 
And here let me pause for a moment's contemplation 
of this interesting subject. 
We call, for we see and feel, the swan and the dove 
both transcendantly beautiful. As absurd as it would 
be to institute a comparison between their separate 
claims to beauty from any abstract rule common to 
both, without reference to the life and being of the animals 
themselves, — or as if, having first seen the dove, we 
abstracted its outlines, gave them a false generalization, 
called them the principles or ideal of bird-beauty, and 
then proceeded to criticise the swan or the eagle ; — 
not less absurd is it to pass judgment on the works of a 
poet on the mere ground that they have been called by the 
same class-name with the works of other poets in other 
times and circumstances, or on any ground, indeed, save 
that of their inappropriateness to their own end and being, 
their want of significance, as symbols or physiognomy. 
O ! few have there been among critics, who have 
followed with the eye of the imagination the imperishable 
yet ever wandering spirit of poetry through its various 
metempsychoses, and consequent metamorphoses ; — or 
who have rejoiced in the light of clear perception at 
beholding with each new birth, with each rare avatar, 
the human race frame to itself a new body, by assimi- 
lating materials of nourishment out of its new circum- 
26 Progress of the Drama 
stances, and work for itself new organs of power appro- 
priate to the new sphere of its motion and activity ! 
I have before spoken of the Romance, or the language 
formed out of the decayed Roman and the Northern 
tongues ; and comparing it with the Latin, we find it 
less perfect in simplicity and relation — the privileges of 
a language formed by the mere attraction of homo- 
geneous parts ; — but yet more rich, more expressive 
and various, as one formed by more obscure affinities 
out of a chaos of apparently heterogeneous atoms. As 
more than a metaphor, — as an analogy of this, I have 
named the true genuine modern poetry the romantic ; 
and the works of Shakspeare are romantic poetry reveal- 
ing itself in the drama. If the tragedies of Sophocles 
are in the strict sense of the word tragedies, and the 
comedies of Aristophanes comedies, we must emancipate 
ourselves from a false association arising from misapplied 
names, and find a new word for the plays of Shakspeare. 
For they are, in the ancient sense, neither tragedies nor 
comedies, nor both in one, — but a different genus, diverse 
in kind, and not merely different in degree. They may 
be called romantic dramas, or dramatic romances. 
A deviation from the simple forms and unities of the 
ancient stage is an essential principle, and, of course, 
an appropriate excellence, of the romantic drama. For 
these unities were to a great extent the natural form of 
that which in its elements was homogeneous, and the 
representation of which was addressed pre-eminently to 
the outward senses ; — and though the fable, the language 
and the characters appealed to the reason rather than to 
the mere understanding, inasmuch as they supposed 
an ideal state rather than referred to an existing reality, 
— yet it was a reason which was obliged to accommodate 
itself to the senses, and so far became a sort of more 
elevated understanding. On the other hand, the roman- 
tic poetry — the Shakspearian drama — appealed to the 
imagination rather than to the senses, and to the reason 
as contemplating our inward nature, and the workings 
of the passions in their most retired recesses. But the 
reason, as reason, is independent of time and space ; it 
has nothing to do with them : and hence the certainties 
of reason have been called eternal truths. As for example 
— the endless properties of the circle : — what connection 
Progress of the Drama 27 
have they with this or that age, with this or that country ? 
— The reason is aloof from time and space ; the imagination 
is an arbitrary controller over both ; — and if only the 
poet have such power of exciting our internal emotions 
as to make us present to the scene in imagination chiefly, 
he acquires the right and privilege of using time and 
space as they exist in imagination, and obedient only 
to the laws by which the imagination itself acts. These 
laws it will be my object and aim to point out as the 
examples occur, which illustrate them. But here let 
me remark what can never be too often reflected on by 
all who would intelligently study the works either of 
the Athenian dramatists, or of Shakspeare, that the 
very essence of the former consists in the sternest separa- 
tion of the diverse in kind and the disparate in the degree, 
whilst the latter delights in interlacing, by a rainbow- 
like transfusion of hues, the one with the other. 
And here it will be necessary to say a few words on 
the stage and on stage-illusion. 
A theatre, in the widest sense of the word, is the general 
term for all places of amusement through the ear or eye, 
in which men assemble in order to be amused by some 
entertainment presented to all at the same time and in 
common. Thus, an old Puritan divine says : — " Those 
who attend public worship and sermons only to amuse 
themselves, make a theatre of the church, and turn 
God's house into the devil's. Theatra cedes diabolola- 
triccB." The most important and dignified species of 
this gemts is, doubtless, the stage, {res theatralis histri- 
onic a), which, in addition to the generic definition above 
given, may be characterized in its idea, or according to 
what it does, or ought to, aim at, as a combination of 
several or of all the fine arts in an harmonious whole, 
having a distinct end of its own, to which the peculiar 
end of each of the component arts, taken separately, 
is made subordinate and subservient, — that, namely, 
of imitating reality — whether external things, actions, 
or passions — under a semblance of reality. Thus, Claude 
imitates a landscape at sunset, but only as a picture ; 
while a forest-scene is not presented to the spectators 
as a picture, but as a forest ; and though, in the full 
sense of the word, we are no more deceived by the one 
than by the other, yet are our feelings very differently 
28 Progress of the Drama 
affected ; and the pleasure derived from the one is not 
composed of the same elements as that afforded by the 
other, even on the supposition that the quantum of 
both were equal. In the former, a picture, it is a 
condition of all genuine delight that we should not be 
deceived ; in the latter, stage-scenery, (inasmuch as its 
principal end is not in or for itself, as is the case in a 
picture, but to be an assistance and means to an end 
out of itself) its very purpose is to produce as much 
illusion as its nature permits. These, and all other 
stage presentations, are to produce a sort of temporary 
half-faith, which the spectator encourages in himself 
and supports by a voluntary contribution on his own 
part, because he knows that it is at all times in his power 
to see the thing as it really is. I have often observed 
that little children are actually deceived by stage-scenery, 
never by pictures ; though even these produce an effect 
on their impressible minds, which they do not on the 
minds of adults. The child, if strongly impressed, does 
not indeed positively think the picture to be the reality ; 
but yet he does not think the contrary. As Sir George 
Beaumont was shewing me a very fine engraving from 
Rubens, representing a storm at sea without any vessel 
or boat introduced, my little boy, then about five years 
old, came dancing and singing into the room, and all 
at once (if I may so say) tumbled in upon the print. He 
instantly started, stood silent and motionless, with the 
strongest expression, first of wonder and then of grief 
in his eyes and countenance, and at length said, " And 
where is the ship ? But that is sunk, and the men are 
all drowned ! " still keeping his eyes fixed on the print. 
Now what pictures are to little children, stage illusion 
is to men, provided they retain any part of the child's 
sensibility ; except, that in the latter instance, the 
suspension of the act of comparison, which permits this 
sort of negative belief, is somewhat more assisted by the 
will, than in that of a child respecting a picture. 
The true stage-illusion in this and in all other things 
consists — not in the mind's judging it to be a forest, but, 
in its remission of the judgment that it is not a forest. 
And this subject of stage-illusion is so important, and so 
many practical errors and false criticisms may arise, and 
indeed have arisen, either from reasoning on it as actual 
Progress of the Drama 29 
delusion, (the strange notion, on which the French critics 
built up their theory, and on which the French poets 
justify the construction of their tragedies), or from deny- 
ing it altogether, (which seems the end of Dr. Johnson's 
reasoning, and which, as extremes meet, would lead to the 
very same consequences, by excluding whatever would 
not be judged probable by us in our coolest state of feeling, 
with all our faculties in even balance), that these few 
remarks will, I hope, be pardoned, if they should serve 
either to explain or to illustrate the point. For not only 
are we never absolutely deluded — or any thing like it, 
but the attempt to cause the highest delusion possible 
to beings in their senses sitting in a theatre, is a gross 
fault, incident only to low minds, which, feeling that they 
cannot affect the heart or head permanently, endeavour 
to call forth the momentary affections. There ought 
never to be more pain than is compatible with co-existing 
pleasure, and to be amply repaid by thought. 
Shakspeare found the infant stage demanding an 
intermixture of ludicrous character as imperiously as 
that of Greece did the chorus, and high language accordant. 
And there are many advantages in this ; — a greater 
assimilation to nature, a greater scope of power, more 
truths, and more feelings ; — the effects of contrast, as 
in Lear and the Fool ; and especially this, that the true 
language of passion becomes sufficiently elevated by your 
having previously heard, in the same piece, the lighter 
conversation of men under no strong emotion. The 
very nakedness of the stage, too, was advantageous, — 
for the drama thence became something between recita- 
tion and a re-presentation ; and the absence or paucity 
of scenes allowed a freedom from the laws of unity of 
place and unity of time, the observance of which must 
either confine the drama to as few subjects as may be 
counted on the fingers, or involve gross improbabilities, 
far more striking than the violation would have caused. 
Thence, also, wels precluded the danger of a false ideal, 
— of aiming at more than what is possible on the whole. 
What play of the ancients, with reference to their ideal, 
does not hold out more glaring absurdities than any in 
Shakspeare ? On the Greek plan a man could more 
easily be a poet than a dramatist ; upon our plan more 
easily a dramatist than a poet. 
30 The Drama Generally 
THE DRAMA GENERALLY, AND 
PUBLIC TASTE. 
Unaccustomed to address such an audience, and having 
lost by a long interval of confinement the advantages 
of my former short schooling, I had miscalculated in 
my last Lecture the proportion of my matter to my time, 
and by bad economy and unskilful management, the 
several heads of my discourse failed in making the entire 
performance correspond with the promise publicly circu- 
lated in the weekly annunciation of the subjects, to be 
treated. It would indeed have been wiser in me, and 
perhaps better on the whole, if I had caused my Lectures 
to be announced only as continuations of the main subject. 
But if I be, as perforce I must be, gratified by the recollec- 
tion of whatever has appeared to give you pleasure, I 
am conscious of something better, though less flattering, 
a sense of unfeigned gratitude for your forbearance with 
my defects. Like affectionate guardians, you see with- 
out disgust the awkwardness, and witness with sym- 
pathy the growing pains, of a youthful endeavour, and 
look forward with a hope, which is its own reward, to 
the contingent results of practice — to its intellectual 
maturity. 
In my last address I defined poetry to be the art, 
or whatever better term our language may afford, of 
representing external nature and human thoughts, both 
relatively to human affections, so as to cause the pro- 
duction of as great immediate pleasure in each part, 
as is compatible with the largest possible sum of pleasure 
on the whole. Now this definition applies equally to 
painting and music as to poetry ; and in truth the term 
poetry is alike applicable to all three. The vehicle alone 
constitutes the difference ; and the term * poetry ' is 
rightly applied by eminence to measured words, only 
because the sphere of their action is far wider, the power 
of giving permanence to them much more certain, and 
incomparably greater the facility, by which men, not 
defective by nature or disease, may be enabled to derive 
habitual pleasure and instruction from them. On my 
mentioning these considerations to a painter of great 
and Public Taste 31 
genius, who had been, from a most honourable enthusiasm, 
extolling his own art, he was so struck with their truth, 
that he exclaimed, " I want no other arguments ; — 
poetry, that is, verbal poetry, must be the greatest ; 
all that proves final causes in the world, proves this ; 
it would be shocking to think otherwise ! " — And in 
truth, deeply, O ! far more than words can express, 
as I venerate the Last Judgment and the Prophets of 
Michel Angelo Buonaroti, — yet the very pain which I 
repeatedly felt as I lost myself in gazing upon them, 
the painful consideration that their having been painted 
in fresco was the sole cause that they had not been aban- 
doned to all the accidents of a dangerous transportation 
to a distant capital, and that the same caprice, which 
made the Neapolitan soldiery destroy all the exquisite 
masterpieces on the walls of the church of the Trinitado 
Monte, after the retreat of their antagonist barbarians, 
might as easily have made vanish the rooms and open 
gallery of Raffael, and the yet more unapproachable 
wonders of the sublime Florentine in the Sixtine Chapel, 
forced upon my mind the reflection ; How grateful 
the human race ought to be that the works of Euclid, 
Newton, Plato, Milton, Shakspeare, are not subjected 
to similar contingencies, — that they and their fellows, 
and the great, though inferior, peerage of undying in- 
tellect, are secured ; — secured even from a second irruption 
of Goths and Vandals, in addition to many other safe- 
guards, by the vast empire of English language, laws, 
and religion founded in America, through the overflow 
of the power and the virtue of my country ; — and that 
now the great and certain works of genuine fame can 
only cease to act for mankind, when men themselves 
cease to be men, or when the planet on which they exist, 
shall have altered its relations, or have ceased to be. 
Lord Bacon, in the language of the gods, if I may use an 
Homeric phrase, has expressed a similar thought : — 
Lastly, leaving the vulgar arguments, that by learning man 
excelleth man in that wherein man excelleth beasts ; that by 
learning man ascendeth to the heavens and their motions, where 
in body he cannot come, and the like ; let us conclude with the 
dignity and excellency of knowledge and learning in that where- 
unto man's nature doth most aspire, which is, immortality or con- 
tinuance : for to this tendeth generation, and raising of houses and 
families ; to this tend buildings, foundations, and monuments ; 
32 The Drama Generally 
to this tendeth the desire of memory, fame, and celebration, and 
in effect the strength of all other human desires. We see then how 
far the monuments of wit and learning are more durable than 
the monuments of power, or of the hands. For have not the verses 
of Homer continued twenty-five hundred years, or more, without 
the loss of a syllable or letter ; during which time, infinite palaces, 
temples, castles, cities, have been decayed and demolished ? It is 
not possible to have the true pictures or statues of Cyrus, Alexander, 
Caesar ; no, nor of the kings or great personages of much later 
years ; for the originals cannot last, and the copies cannot but lose 
of the life and truth. But the images of men's wits and know- 
ledges remain in books, exempted from the wrong of time, and 
capable of perpetual renovation. Neither are they fitly to be called 
images, because they generate still, and cast their seeds in the minds 
of others, provoking and causing infinite actions and opinions in 
succeeding ages : so that, if the invention of the ship was thought 
so noble, which carrieth riches and commodities from place to place, 
and consociateth the most remote regions in participation of their 
fruits ; how much more are letters to be magnified, which, as ships, 
pass through the vast seas of time, and make ages so distant to 
participate of the wisdom, illuminations, and inventions, the one 
of the other ? ^ 
But let us now consider what the drama should be. 
And first, it is not a copy, but an imitation, of nature. 
This is the universal principle of the fine arts. In all 
well laid out grounds what delight do we feel from that 
balance and antithesis of feelings and thoughts ! How 
natural ! we say ; — but the very wonder that caused 
the exclamation, implies that we perceived art at the 
same moment. We catch the hint from nature itself. 
Whenever in mountains or cataracts we discover a like- 
ness to any thing artificial which yet we know is not 
artificial — what pleasure ! And so it is in appearances 
known to be artificial, which appear to be natural. This 
applies in due degrees, regulated by steady good sense, 
from a clump of trees to the Paradise Lost or Othello. 
It would be easy to apply it to painting and even, though 
with greater abstraction of thought, and by more subtle 
yet equally just analogies — to music. But this belongs 
to others ; suffice it that one great principle is common 
to all the fine arts, a principle which probably is the 
condition of all consciousness, without which we should 
feel and imagine only by discontinuous moments, and 
be plants or brute animals instead of men ; — I mean 
that ever-varying balance, or balancing, of images, notions, 
1 Advancement of Learning, book i, sub fine. 
and Public Taste 33 
or feelings, conceived as in opposition to each other ; 
— in short, the perception of identity and contrariety ; 
the least degree of which constitutes likeness, the greatest 
absolute di^erence ; but the infinite gradations between 
these two form all the play and all the interest of our 
intellectual and moral being, till it leads us to a feeJing 
and an object more awful than it seems to me compatible 
with even the present subject to utter aloud, though 
I am most desirous to suggest it. For there alone are 
all things at once different and the same ; there alone, 
as the principle of all things, does distinction exist un- 
aided by division ; there are will and reason, succession 
of time and unmoving eternity, infinite change and 
ineffable rest ! — 
Return Alpheus ! the dread voice is past 
Which shrunk thy streams ! 
-Thou honour'd flood. 
Smooth-flowing Avon, crown'd with vocal reeds. 
That strain I heard, was of a higher mood I — 
But now my voice proceeds. 
We may divide a dramatic poet's characteristics before 
we enter into the component merits of any one work, 
and with reference only to those things which are to be 
the materials of all, into language, passion, and character ; 
always bearing in mind that these must act and react on 
each other, — the language inspired by the passion, and 
the language and the passion modified and differenced 
by the character. To the production of the highest 
excellencies in these three, there are requisite in the 
mind of the author ; — good sense ; talent ; sensibility ; 
imagination ; — and to the perfection of a work we should 
add two faculties of lesser importance, yet necessary 
for the ornaments and foliage of the column and the roof 
— fancy and a quick sense of beauty. 
As to language ; — it cannot be supposed that the poet 
should make his characters say all that they would, or 
that, his whole drama considered, each scene, or paragraph 
should be such as, on cool examination, we can conceive 
it likely that men in such situations would say, in that 
order, or with that perfection. And yet, according to 
my feelings, it is a very inferior kind of poetry, in which, 
as in the French tragedies, men are made to talk in a 
B 
34 The Drama Generally 
style which few indeed even of the wittiest can be supposed 
to converse in, and which both is, and on a moment's 
reflection appears to be, the natural produce of the hot- 
bed of vanity, namely, the closet of an author, who is 
actuated originally by a desire to. excite surprise and 
wonderment at his own superiority to other men, — 
instead of having felt so deeply on certain subjects, or 
in consequence of certain imaginations, as to make it 
almost a necessity of his nature to seek for sympathy, 
— no doubt, wdth that honourable desire of permanent 
action which distinguishes genius. — Where then is the 
difference ? — In this that each part should be propor- 
tionate, though the whole may be perhaps impossible. 
At all events, it should be compatible with sound sense 
and logic in the mind of the poet himself. 
It is to be lamented that we judge of books by books, 
instead of referring what we read to our own experience. 
One great use of books is to make their contents a motive 
for observation. The German tragedies have in some 
respects been justly ridiculed. In them the dramatist 
often becomes a novelist in his directions to the actors, 
and thus degrades tragedy into pantomime. Yet still 
the consciousness of the poet's mind must be diffused 
over that of the reader or spectator ; but he himself, 
according to his genius, elevates us, and by being always 
in keeping, prevents us from perceiving any strangeness, 
though we feel great exultation. Many different kinds 
of style may be admirable, both in different men, and in 
different parts of the same poem. 
See the different language which strong feelings may 
justify in Shylock, and learn from Shakspeare's conduct 
of that character the terrible force of every plain and 
calm diction, when known to proceed from a resolved and 
impassioned man. 
It is especially with reference to the drama, and its 
characteristics in any given nation, or at any particular 
period, that the dependence of genius on the public taste 
becomes a matter of the deepest importance. I do not 
mean that taste which springs merely from caprice or 
fashionable imitation, and which, in fact, genius can, 
and by degrees will, create for itself ; but that which 
arises out of wide-grasping and heart-enrooted causes, 
which is epidemic, and in the very air that all breathe. 
and Public Taste 35 
This it is which kills, or withers, or corrupts. Socrates, 
indeed, might walk arm and arm with Hygeia, whilst 
pestilence, with a thousand furies running to and fro, 
and clashing against each other in a complexity and 
agglomeration of horrors, was shooting her darts of fire 
and venom all around him. Even such was Milton ; 
yea, and such, in spite of all that has been babbled by 
his critics in pretended excuse for his damning, because 
for them too profound, excellencies, — such was Shak- 
speare. But alas ! the exceptions prove the rule. For 
who will dare to force his way out of the crowd, — not of 
the mere vulgar, — but of the vain and banded aristocracy 
of intellect, and presume to join the almost supernatural 
beings that stand by themselves aloof ? 
Of this diseased epidemic influence there are two forms 
especially preclusive of tragic worth. The first is the 
necessary growth of a sense and love of the ludicrous, 
and a morbid sensibility of the assimilative power, — 
an inflammation produced by cold and weakness, — 
which in the boldest bursts of passion will lie in wait for a 
jeer at any phrase, that may have an accidental coinci- 
dence in the mere words with something base or trivial. 
For instance, — to express woods, not on a plain, but 
clothing a hiU, which overlooks a valley, or dell, or river, 
or the sea, — the trees rising one above another, as the 
spectators in an ancient theatre, — I know no other word 
in our language, (bookish and pedantic terms out of the 
question,) but hanging woods, the sylvcB superimpen- 
dentes of Catullus ; ^ yet let some wit call out in a slang 
tone, — " the gallows ! " and a peal of laughter would 
damn the play. Hence it is that so many dull pieces have 
had a decent run, only because nothing unusual above, 
or absurd below, mediocrity furnished an occasion, — a 
spark for the explosive materials collected behind the 
orchestra. But it would take a volume of no ordinary 
size, however laconically the sense were expressed, if it 
were meant to instance the effects, and unfold all the 
causes, of this disposition upon the moral, intellectual, 
and even physical character of a people, with its influences 
on domestic life and individual deportment. A good 
document upon this subject would be the history of Paris 
1 Confestim Peneos adest, viridantia Tempe, 
Tempae, quae cingunt sylvae superimpendentes. 
£pi^h. Pel. et Tk. 3S6. 
36 The Drama Generally 
society and of French, that is, Parisian, Hterature from 
the commencement of the latter half of the reign of 
Louis XIV. to that of Buonaparte, compared with the 
preceding philosophy and poetry even of Frenchmen 
themselves. 
The second form, or more properly, perhaps, another 
distinct cause, of this diseased disposition is matter of 
exultation to the philanthropist and philosopher, and of 
regret to the poet, the painter, and the statuary alone, 
and to them only as poets, painters, and statuaries ; — 
namely, the security, the comparative equability, and 
ever increasing sameness of human life. Men are now so 
seldom thrown into wild circumstances, and violences of 
excitement, that the language of such states, the laws of 
association of feeling with thought, the starts and strange 
far-flights of the assimilative power on the slightest and 
least obvious likeness presented by thoughts, words, or 
objects, — these are all judged of by authority, not by 
actual experience, — by what men have been accustomed 
to regard as symbols of these states, and not the natural 
sjmibols, or self-manifestations of them. 
Even so it is in the language of man, and in that of 
nature. The sound sun, or the figures s, u, n, are purely 
arbitrary modes of recalling the object, and for visual 
mere objects they are not only sufficient, but have infinite 
advantages from their very nothingness per se. But the 
language of nature is a subordinate Logos, that was in the 
beginning, and was with the thing it represented, and was 
the thing it represented. 
Now the language of Shakspeare, in his Lear for instance, 
is a something intermediate between these two ; or rather 
it is the former blended with the latter, — the arbitrary, 
not merely recalling the cold notion of the thing, but 
expressing the reality of it, and, as arbitrary language is 
an heir-loom of the human race, being itself a part of that 
which it manifests. What shall I deduce from the pre- 
ceding positions ? Even this, — the appropriate, the never 
to be too much valued advantage of the theatre, if only 
the actors were what we know they have been, — a delight- 
ful, yet most effectual remedy for this dead palsy of the 
public mind. What would appear mad or ludicrous in a 
book, when presented to the senses under the form of 
reality, and with the truth of nature, supplies a species of 
and Public Taste 37 
actual experience. This is indeed the special privilege 
of a great actor over a great poet. No part was ever 
played in perfection, but nature justified herself in the 
hearts of all her children, in what state soever they were, 
short of absolute moral exhaustion, or downright stupidity. 
There is no time given to ask questions, or to pass judg- 
ments ; v/e are taken by storm, and, though in the histri- 
onic art many a clumsy counterfeit, by caricature of one 
or two features, may gain applause as a fine likeness, yet 
never was the very thing rejected as a counterfeit. O ! 
when I think of the inexhaustible mine of virgin treasure 
in our Shakspeare, that I have been almost daily reading 
him since I was ten years old, — that the thirty inter- 
vening years have been unintermittingly and not fruit- 
lessly employed in the study of the Greek, Latin, English, 
Italian, Spanish and German helle lettrists, and the last 
fifteen years in addition, far more intensely in the analysis 
of the laws of life and reason as they exist in man, — and 
that upon every step I have made forward in taste, in 
acquisition of facts from history or my own observation, 
and in knowledge of the different laws of being and their 
apparent exceptions, from accidental collision of disturbing 
forces, — that at every new accession of information, after 
every successful exercise of meditation, and every fresh 
presentation of experience, I have unfailingly discovered 
a proportionate increase of wisdom and intuition in 
Shakspeare ; — when I know this, and know too, that by 
a conceivable and possible, though hardly to be expected, 
arrangement of the British theatres, not all, indeed, but 
a large, a very large, proportion of this indefinite all — 
(round which no comprehension has yet drawn the line 
of circumscription, so as to say to itself, *I have seen the 
whole') — might be sent into the heads and hearts — into 
the very souls of the mass of mankind, to whom, except 
by this living comment and interpretation, it must remain 
for ever a sealed volume, a deep well without a wheel or 
a windlass ; — it seems to me a pardonable enthusiasm 
to steal away from sober likelihood, and share in so rich 
a feast in the faery world of possibility ! Yet even in 
the grave cheerfulness of a circumspect hope, much, very 
much, might be done ; enough, assuredly, to furnish a 
kind and strenuous nature with ample motives for the 
attempt to effect what may be effected. 
38 Shakspeare, a Poet Generally 
SHAKSPEARE, A POET GENERALLY. 
Clothed in radiant armour, and authorized by titles sure 
and manifold, as a poet, Shakspeare came forward to 
demand the throne of fame, as the dramatic poet of 
England. His excellences compelled even his contem- 
poraries to seat him on that throne, although there were 
giants in those days contending for the same honour. 
Hereafter I would fain endeavour to make out the title 
of the English drama as created by, and existing in, Shak- 
speare, and its right to the supremacy of dramatic excel- 
lence in general. But he had shown himself a poet, pre- 
viously to his appearance as a dramatic poet ; and had 
no Lear, no Othello, no Henry IV., no Twelfth Night ever 
appeared, we must have admitted that Shakspeare pos- 
sessed the chief, if not every, requisite of a poet, — deep 
feeling and exquisite sense of beauty, both as exhibited 
to the eye in the combinations of form, and to the ear in 
sweet and appropriate melody ; that these feelings were 
under the command of his own will ; that in his very first 
productions he projected his mind out of his own particular 
being, and felt, and made others feel, on subjects no way 
connected with himself, except by force of contemplation 
and that sublime faculty by which a great mind becomes 
that, on which it meditates. To this must be added that 
affectionate love of nature and natural objects, without 
which no man could have observed so steadily, or painted 
so truly and passionately, the very minutest beauties of 
the external world : — 
And when thou hast on foot the purblind hare, 
Mark the poor wretch ; to overshoot his troubles, 
How he outruns the wind, and with what care, 
He cranks and crosses with a thousand doubles : 
The many musits through the which he goes 
Are like a labyrinth to amaze his foes. 
Sometimes he runs among the flock of sheep, 
To make the cunning hounds mistake their smell ; 
And sometime where earth-delving conies keep. 
To stop the loud pursuers in their ^'■ell ; 
And sometime sorteth with a herd of deer : 
Danger deviseth shifts, wit waits on fear. 
For there his smell with others' being mmgled, 
The hot scent-snuffing hounds are driven to doubt. 
Ceasing their clamorous cry, till they have singled. 
Shakspeare, a Poet Generally 39 
With much ado, the cold fault cleanly out, 
Then do they spend their mouths ; echo replies, 
As if another chase were in the skies. 
By this poor Wat far off, upon a hill, 
Stands on his hinder legs with listening ear. 
To hearken if his foes pursue him still : 
Anon their loud alarums he doth hear, 
And now his grief may be compared well 
To one sore-sick, that hears the passing bell. 
Then shalt thou see the dew-bedabbled wretch 
Turn, and return, indenting with the way : 
Each envious briar his weary legs doth scratch, 
Each shadow makes him stop, each murmur stay. 
For misery is trodden on by many, 
And being low, never relieved by any. 
Venus and Adonis. 
And the preceding description : — 
But lo ! from forth a copse that neighbours by, 
A breeding jennet, lusty, young and proud, &c. 
is much more admirable, but in parts less fitted for quota- 
tion. 
Moreover Shakspeare had shown that he possessed 
fancy, considered as the faculty of bringing together 
images dissimilar in the main by some one point or more 
of likeness, as in such a passage as this : — 
Full gently now she takes him by the hand, 
A lily prisoned in a jail of snow. 
Or ivory in an alabaster band : 
So white a friend ingirts so white a foe ! Ih. 
And still mounting the intellectual ladder, he had as 
unequivocally proved the indwelling in his mind of im- 
agination, or the power by which one image or feeling is 
made to modify many others, and by a sort of fusion to 
force many into one ; — that which afterwards showed 
itself in such might and energy in Lear, where the deep 
anguish of a father spreads the feeling of ingratitude and 
cruelty over the very elements of heaven ; — and which, 
combining many circumstances into one moment of con- 
sciousness, tends to produce that ultimate end of all 
human thought and human feeling, unity, and thereby 
the reduction of the spirit to its principle and fountain, 
who is alone truly one. Various are the workings of this 
the greatest faculty of the human mind, both passionate 
40 Shakspeare, a Poet Generally 
and tranquil. In its tranquil and purely pleasurable 
operation, it acts chiefly by creating out of many things, 
as they would have appeared in the description of an 
ordinary mind, detailed in unimpassioned succession, a 
oneness, even as nature, the greatest of poets, acts upon 
us, when we open our eyes upon an extended prospect. 
Thus the flight of Adonis in the dusk of the evening : — 
Look ! how a bright star shooteth from the sky ; 
So glides he in the night from Venus' eye ! 
How many images and feelings are here brought to- 
gether without effort and without discord, in the beauty 
of Adonis, the rapidity of his flight, the yearning, yet 
hopelessness, of the enamoured gazer, while a shadowy 
ideal character is thrown over the whole ! Or this power 
acts by impressing the stamp of humanity, and of human 
feelings, on inanimate or mere natural objects : — 
Lo ! here the gentle lark, weary of rest, 
From his moist cabinet mounts up on high, 
And wakes the morning, from whose silver breast 
The sun ariseth in his majesty, 
Who doth the world so gloriously behold, 
The cedar-tops and hills seem burnish'd gold. 
Or again, it acts by so carrying on the eye of the reader 
as to make him almost lose the consciousness of words, — 
to make him see every thing flashed, as Wordsworth has 
grandly and appropriately said, — 
Flashed upon that inward eye 
Which is the bliss of solitude ; — 
and this without exciting any painful or laborious atten- 
tion, without any anatomy of description, (a fault not 
uncommon in descriptive poetry) — but with the sweet- 
ness and easy movement of nature. This energy is an 
absolute essential of poetry, and of itself would constitute 
a poet, though not one of the highest class ; — it is, however, 
a most hopeful S37mptom, and the Venus and Adonis is 
one continued specimen of it. 
In this beautiful poem there is an endless activity of 
thought in all the possible associations of thought with 
thought, thought with feeling, or with words, of feelings 
with feelings, and of words with words. 
Shakspeare, a Poet Generally 41 
Even as the sun, with purple-colour' d face. 
Had ta'en his last leave of the weeping morn, 
Rose-cheek'd Adonis hied him to the chase : 
Hunting he loved, but love he laughed to scorn. 
Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto him, 
And like a bold-faced suitor 'gins to woo him. 
Remark the humanizing imagery and circumstances of 
the first two lines, and the activity of thought in the play 
of words in the fourth line. The whole stanza presents at 
once the time, the appearance of the morning, and the two 
persons distinctly characterized, and in six simple verses 
puts the reader in possession of the whole argument of the 
poem. 
Over one arm the lusty courser's rein. 
Under the other was the tender boy. 
Who blush' d and pouted in a dull disdain. 
With leaden appetite, unapt to toy. 
She red and hot, as coals of glowing fire. 
He red for shame, but frosty to desire : — 
This stanza and the two following afford good instances 
of that poetic power, which I mentioned above, of making 
every thing present to the imagination — both the forms, 
and the passions which modify those forms, either actually, 
as in the representations of love, or anger, or other human 
affections ; or imaginatively, by the different manner in 
which inanimate objects, or objects unimpassioned them- 
selves, are caused to be seen by the mind in moments of 
strong excitement, and according to the kind of the ex- 
citement, — whether of jealousy, or rage, or love, in the only 
appropriate sense of the word, or of the lower impulses of 
our nature, or finally of the poetic feeling itself. It is, 
perhaps, chiefly in the power of producing and reproduc- 
ing the latter that the poet stands distinct. 
The subject of the Venus and Adonis is unpleasing ; 
but the poem itself is for that very reason the more illustra- 
tive of Shakspeare. There are men who can write passages 
of deepest pathos and even sublimity on circumstances 
personal to themselves and stimulative of their own pas- 
sions ; but they are not, therefore, on this account poets. 
Read that magnificent burst of woman's patriotism and 
exultation, Deborah's song of victory ; it is glorious, but 
nature is the poet there. It is quite another matter to 
become all things and yet remain the same, — to make the 
42 Shakspeare, a Poet Generally 
changeful god be felt in the river, the lion and the flame ; — 
this it is, that is the true imagination. Shakspeare writes 
in this poem, as if he were of another planet, charming 
you to gaze on the movements of Venus and Adonis, as 
you would on the twinkling dances of two vernal butterflies. 
Finally, in this poem and the Rape of Lucrece, Shak- 
speare gave ample proof of his possession of a most pro- 
found, energetic, and philosophical mind, without which 
he might have pleased, but could not have been a great 
dramatic poet. Chance and the necessity of his genius 
combined to lead him to the drama his proper province : 
in his conquest of which we should consider both the diffi- 
culties which opposed him, and the advantages by which 
he was assisted. 
Shakspeare' s Judgment equal to his Genius. 
Thus then Shakspeare appears, from his Venus and 
Adonis and Rape of Lucrece alone, apart from all his 
great works, to have possessed all the conditions of the 
true poet. Let me now proceed to destroy, as far as may 
be in my power, the popular notion that he was a great 
dramatist by mere instinct, that he grew immortal in his 
own despite, and sank below men of second or third-rate 
power, when he attempted aught beside the drama — 
even as bees construct their cells and manufacture their 
honey to admirable perfection ; but would in vain attempt 
to build a nest. Now this mode of reconciling a compelled 
sense of inferiority with a feeling of pride, began in a few 
pedants, who having read that Sophocles was the great 
model of tragedy, and Aristotle the infallible dictator of 
its rules, and finding that the Lear, Hamlet, Othello and 
other master-pieces were neither in imitation of Sophocles, 
nor in obedience to Aristotle, — and not having (with one 
or two exceptions) the courage to affirm, that the delight 
which their country received from generation to genera- 
tion, in defiance of the alterations of circumstances and 
habits, was wholly groundless, — took upon them, as a 
happy medium and refuge, to talk of Shakspeare as a sort 
of beautiful lusus natiirce, a delightful monster, — wild, 
indeed, and without taste or judgment, but like the 
inspired idiots so much venerated in the East, uttering, 
Shakspeare, a Poet Generally 43 
amid the strangest follies, the sublimest truths. In nine 
places out of ten in which I find his awful name mentioned, 
it is with some epithet of 'wild/ 'irregular,' 'pure child 
of nature,* &c. If all this be true, we must submit to it; 
though to a thinking mind it cannot but be painful to find 
any excellence, merely human, thrown out of all human 
analogy, and thereby leaving us neither rules for imita- 
tion, nor motives to imitate ; — but if false, it is a dangerous 
falsehood ; — for it affords a refuge to secret self-conceit, 
— enables a vain man at once to escape his reader's 
indignation by general swoln panegyrics, and merely by 
his ipse dixit to treat, as contemptible, what he has not 
intellect enough to comprehend, or soul to feel, without 
assigning any reason, or referring his opinion to any 
demonstrative principle ; — thus leaving Shakspeare as a 
sort of grand Lama, adored indeed, and his very excre- 
ments prized as relics, but with no authorit}^ or real 
influence. I grieve that every late voluminous edition of 
his works would enable me to substantiate the present 
charge with a variety of facts one tenth of which would 
of themselves exhaust the time allotted to me. Every 
critic, who has or has not made a collection of black 
letter books — in itself a useful and respectable amuse- 
ment, — puts on the seven-league boots of self-opinion, and 
strides at once from an illustrator into a supreme judge, 
and blind and deaf, fills his three-ounce phial at the waters 
of Niagara ; and determines positively the greatness of 
the cataract to be neither more nor less than his three- 
ounce phial has been able to receive. 
I think this a very serious subject. It is my earnest 
desire — my passionate endeavour, — to enforce at various 
times and by various arguments and instances the close 
and reciprocal connexion of just taste with pure morality. 
Without that acquaintance with the heart of man, or that 
docility and childlike gladness to be made acquainted 
with it, which those only can have, who dare look at their 
own hearts — and that with a steadiness which religion 
only has the power of reconciling with sincere humility ; 
— without this, and the modesty produced by it, I am 
deeply convinced that no man, however wide his erudition, 
however patient his antiquarian researches, can possibly 
understand, or be worthy of understanding, the writings 
of Shakspeare. 
44 Shakspeare, a Poet Generally 
Assuredly that criticism of Shakspeare will alone be 
genial which is reverential. The Englishman, who without 
reverence, a proud and affectionate reverence, can utter 
the name of William Shakspeare, stands disquahfied for 
the ofi&ce of critic. He wants one at least of the very 
senses, the language of which he is to employ, and will 
discourse, at best, but as a blind man, while the whole 
harmonious creation of light and shade with all its subtle 
interchange of deepening and dissolving colours rises in 
silence to the silent flat of the uprising Apollo. However 
inferior in ability I may be to some who have followed me, 
I own I am proud that I was the first in time who pubhcly 
demonstrated to the full extent of the position, that the 
supposed irregularity and extravagances of Shakspeare 
were the mere dreams of a pedantry that arraigned the 
eagle because it had not the dimensions of the swan. In 
all the successive courses of lectures delivered by me, since 
my first attempt at the Royal Institution, it has been, and 
it still remains, my object, to prove that in aU points from 
the most important to the most minute, the judgment of 
Shakspeare is commensurate vv^ith his genius, — nay, that 
his genius reveals itself in his judgment, as in its most 
exalted form. And the more gladly do I recur to this 
subject from the clear conviction, that to judge aright, 
and with distinct consciousness of the grounds of our 
judgment, concerning the works of Shakspeare, implies 
the power and the means of judging rightly of aU other 
works of intellect, those of abstract science alone excepted. 
It is a painful truth that not only individuals, but even 
whole nations, are ofttimes so enslaved to the habits of 
their education and immediate circumstances, as not to 
judge disinterestedly even on those subjects, the very 
pleasure arising from which consists in its disinterested- 
ness, namely, on subjects of taste and polite literature. 
Instead of deciding concerning their own modes and 
customs by any rule of reason, nothing appears rational, 
becoming, or beautiful to them, but what coincides with 
the peculiarities of their education. In this narrow circle, 
individuals may attain to exquisite discrimination, as the 
French critics have done in their own literature ; but a 
true critic can no more be such without placing himself 
on some central point, from which he may command the 
whole, that is, some general rule, which, founded in reason. 
Shakspeare, a Poet Generally 45 
or the faculties common to all men, must therefore apply 
to each, — than an astronomer can explain the move- 
ments of the solar system without taking his stand in the 
sun. And let me remark, that this will not tend to produce 
despotism, but, on the contrary, true tolerance, in the 
critic. He will, indeed, require, as the spirit and substance 
of a work, something true in human nature itself, and 
independent of all circumstances ; but in the mode of 
applying it, he will estimate genius and judgment accord- 
ing to the felicity with which the imperishable soul of 
intellect shall have adapted itself to the age, the place, 
and the existing manners. The error he will expose, Ues 
in reversing this, and holding up the mere circumstances 
as perpetual to the utter neglect of the power which can 
alone animate them. For art cannot exist without, or 
apart from, nature ; and what has man of his own to give 
to his fellow man, but his own thoughts and feelings, and 
his observations, so far as they are modified by his own 
thoughts or feelings ? 
Let me, then, once more submit this question to minds 
emancipated alike from national, or party, or sectarian 
prejudice : — Are the plays of Shakspeare works of rude 
uncultivated genius, in which the splendour of the parts 
compensates, if aught can compensate, for the barbarous 
shapelessness and irregularity of the whole ? — Or is the 
form equally admirable with the matter, and the judg- 
ment of the great poet, not less deserving our wonder than 
his genius ? — Or, again, to repeat the question in other 
words : — Is Shakspeare a great dramatic poet on account 
only of those beauties and excellences which he possesses 
in common with the ancients, but with diminished claims 
to our love and honour to the full extent of his differences 
from them ? — Or are these very differences additional 
proofs of poetic wisdom, at once results and symbols of 
living power as contrasted with lifeless mechanism — of 
free and rival originality as contra-distinguished from 
servile imitation, or, more accurately, a blind copying of 
effects, instead of a true imitation, of the essential prin- 
ciples ? — Imagine not that I am about to oppose genius 
to rules. No ! the comparative value of these rules is the 
very cause to be tried. The spirit of poetry, like all other 
living powers, must of necessity circumscribe itself by 
rules, were it only to unite power with beauty. It must 
46 Shakspeare, a Poet Generally 
embody in order to reveal itself ; but a living body is oi 
necessity an organized one ; and what is organization but 
the connection of parts in and for a whole, so that each 
part is at once end and means ? — This is no discovery of 
criticism ; — it is a necessity of the human mind ; and all 
nations have felt and obeyed it, in the invention of metre, 
and measured sounds, as the vehicle and involucriim oi 
poetry — itself a fellow-growth from the same life, — even 
as the bark is to the tree ! 
No work of true genius dares want its appropriate form, 
neither indeed is there any danger of this. As it must 
not, so genius cannot, be lawless ; for it is even this that 
constitutes it genius — the power of acting creatively under 
laws of its ov/n origination. How then comes it that not 
only single Zoili, but whole nations have combined in 
unhesitating condemnation of our great dramatist, as a 
sort of African nature, rich in beautiful monsters — as a 
wild heath where islands of fertility look the greener from 
the surrounding waste, where the loveliest plants now 
shine out among unsightly weeds, and now are choked by 
their parasitic growth, so intertwined that we cannot dis- 
entangle the weed without snapping the flower ? — In this 
statement I have had no reference to the vulgar abuse of 
Voltaire,^ save as far as his charges are coincident with 
the decisions of Shakspeare's own commentators and (so 
they would tell you) almost idolatrous admirers. The trae 
ground of the mistake lies in the confounding mechanical 
regularity with organic form. The form is mechanic, when 
on any given material we impress a pre-determined form, 
not necessarily arising out of the properties of the material ; 
— as when to a mass of wet clay we give whatever shape 
we wish it to retain when hardened. The organic form, 
on the other hand, is innate ; it shapes, as it developes, 
itself from within, and the fulness of its development is 
1 Take a slight specimen of it. 
Je suis bien loin assurdment de justifier en tout la tragddie d'Haralet : c'est une piice 
grassier e et bar bare, qui ne serait pas suf>portee par la plus vile populace de la I'rance 
et de ritalie. Hamlei y devient fou au second acte, et sa maltressefolleau troisi^me ; 
le prince tue le pere de sa maitresse, feignant de tuer un rat, et I'heroine se jette dans 
la riviere. On fait sa fosse sur le theatre ; des fossoyeurs disent des quolibets dignes 
d'eux, en tenant dans leurs mains des tetes de morts ; le prince Hamlet rdpond a leurs 
^rossieretes abominables par des /dies non mains degcrAtantes. Pendant ce temps-Ik, 
un des acteurs fait la conquete de la Pologne. Hamlet, sa mere, et son beau-pere 
boivent ensemble sur le theatre ; on chante a table, on s'y querelle, on se bat, on se tue : 
en croirait que cet ouvrage est Ic fruit d£ V imagination dun sauvage ivre. Disserta- 
tion before Semiramis. 
This is not, perhaps, very like Hamlet ; but nothing can be more like Voltaire. Ed, 
Characteristics of Shakspeare's Dramas 47 
one and the same with the perfection of its outward form. 
Such as the Ufe is, such is the form. Nature, the prime 
genial artist, inexhaustible in diverse powers, is equally 
inexhaustible in forms ; — each exterior is the physiog- 
nomy of the being within, — its true image reflected and 
thrown out from the concave mirror ; — and even such 
is the appropriate excellence of her chosen poet, of our 
own Shakspeare, — himself a nature humanized, a genial 
understanding directing self-consciously a power and an 
implicit wisdom deeper even than our consciousness. 
I greatly dislike beauties and selections in general ; but 
as proof positive of his unrivalled excellence, I should like 
to try Shakspeare by this criterion. Make out your 
amplest catalogue of all the human faculties, as reason or 
the moral law, the will, the feeling of the coincidence of 
the two (a feeling sui generis et demonstratio demonstrati- 
onum) called the conscience, the understanding or prud- 
ence, wit, fancy, imagination, judgment, — and then of the 
objects on which these are to be employed, as the beauties, 
the terrors, and the seeming caprices of nature, the realities 
and the capabilities, that is, the actual and the ideal, of 
the human mind, conceived as an individual or as a social 
being, as in innocence or in guilt, in a play-paradise, or in 
a war-field of temptation ; — and then compare with Shak- 
speare under each of these heads all or any of the writers 
in prose and verse that have ever lived ! Who, that is 
competent to judge, doubts the result ? — And ask your 
own hearts, — ask your own common sense — to conceive 
the possibility of this man being — I say not, the drunken 
savage of that wretched sciolist, whom Frenchmen, to 
their shame, have honoured before their elder and better 
worthies, — but the anomalous, the wild, the irregular, 
genius of our daily criticism ! What ! are we to have 
miracles in sport ? — Or, I speak reverently, does God 
choose idiots by whom to convey divine truths to man ? 
RECAPITULATION, AND SUMMARY 
Of the Characteristics of Shakspeare' s Dramas} 
In lectures, of which amusement forms a large part of the 
object, there are some peculiar difficulties. The architect 
1 For the most part communicated by Mr. Justice Coleridge. Ed. 
48 Characteristics of 
places his foundation out of sight, and the musician tunes 
his instrument before he makes his appearance ; but the 
lecturer has to try his chords in the presence of the assem- 
bly ; an operation not likely, indeed, to produce much 
pleasure, but yet indispensably necessary to a right under- 
standing of the subject to be developed. 
Poetry in essence is as familiar to barbarous as to 
civilized nations. The Laplander and the savage Indian 
are cheered by it as well as the inhabitants of London and 
Paris ; — its spirit takes up and incorporates surrounding 
materials, as a plant clothes itself with soil and climate, 
whilst it exhibits the working of a vital principle within 
independent of all accidental circumstances. And to judge 
with fairness of an author's works, we ought to distinguish 
what is inward and essential from what is outward and 
circumstantial. It is essential to poetry that it be simple, 
and appeal to the elements and primary laws of our nature ; 
that it be sensuous, and by its imagery elicit truth at a 
flash ; that it be impassioned, and be able to move our 
feelings and awaken our affections. In comparing different 
poets with each other, we should inquire which have 
brought into the fullest play our imagination and our 
reason, or have created the greatest excitement and pro- 
duced the completest harmony. If we consider great 
exquisiteness of language and sweetness of metre alone, it 
is impossible to deny to Pope the character of a delightful 
writer ; but whether he be a poet, must depend upon 
our definition of the word; and, doubtless, if every 
thing that pleases be poetry, Pope's satires and epistles 
must be poetry. This, I must say, that poetry, as 
distinguished from other modes of composition, does not 
rest in metre, and that it is not poetry, if it make no 
appeal to our passions or our imagination. One character 
belongs to all true poets, that they write from a principle 
within, not originating in any thing without ; and that 
the true poet's work in its form, its shapings, and its modi- 
fications, is distinguished from all other works that assume 
to belong to the class of poetry, as a natural from an 
artificial flower, or as the mimic garden of a child from an 
enamelled meadow. In the former the flowers are broken 
from their stems and stuck into the ground ; they are 
beautiful to the eye and fragrant to the sense, but their 
colours soon fade, and their odour is transient as the 
Shakspeare's Dramas 49 
smile of the planter ; — while the meadow may be 
visited again and again with renewed dehght ; its beauty 
is innate in the soil, and its bloom is of the freshness of 
nature. 
The next ground of critical judgment, and point of com- 
parison, will be as to how far a given poet has been in- 
fluenced by accidental circumstances. As a living poet 
must surely write, not for the ages past, but for that in 
which he lives, and those which are to follow, it is, on the 
one hand, natural that he should not violate, and on the 
other, necessary that he should not depend on, the mere 
manners and modes of his day. See how little does Shak- 
speare leave us to regret that he was born in his particular 
age ! The great asra in modem times was what is called 
the Restoration of Letters ; — the ages preceding it are 
called the dark ages ; but it would be more wise, perhaps, 
to call them the ages in which we were in the dark. 
It is usually overlooked that the supposed dark period 
was not universal, but partial and successive, or alter- 
nate ; that the dark age of England was not the 
dark age of Italy, but that one country was in its 
light and vigour, whilst another was in its gloom and 
bondage. But no sooner had the Reformation sounded 
through Europe like the blast of an archangel's trumpet, 
than from king to peasant there arose an enthusiasm for 
knowledge ; the discovery of a manuscript became the 
subject of an embassy ; Erasmus read by moonlight, 
because he could not afford a torch, and begged a penny, 
not for the love of charity, but for the love of learning. 
The three great points of attention were religion, morals, and 
taste ; men of genius as well as men of learning, who in this 
age need to be so widely distinguished, then alike became 
copyists of the ancients ; and this, indeed, was the only 
way by which the taste of mankind could be improved, or 
their understandings informed. Whilst Dante imagined 
himself a humble follower of Virgil, and Ariosto of Homer, 
they were both unconscious of that greater power working 
within them, which in many points carried them beyond 
their supposed originals. All great discoveries bear the 
stamp of the age in which they are made ; — hence we per- 
ceive the effects of the purer religion of the moderns, visible 
for the most part in their lives ; and in reading their works 
we should not content ourselves with the mere narratives 
50 Characteristics of 
of events long since passed, but should learn to apply their 
maxims and conduct to ourselves. 
Having intimated that times and manners lend their 
form and pressure to genius, let me once more draw a slight 
parallel between the ancient and modern stage, the stages 
of Greece and of England. The Greeks were polytheists ; 
their religion was local ; almost the only object of all their 
knowledge, art and taste, was their gods ; and, accordingly, 
their productions were, if the expression may be allowed, 
statuesque, whilst those of the moderns are picturesque. 
The Greeks reared a structure, which in its parts, and as a 
whole, filled the mind with the calm and elevated im- 
pression of perfect beauty, and symmetrical proportion. 
The moderns also produced a whole, a more striking whole ; 
but it was by blending materials and fusing the parts 
together. And as the Pantheon is to York Minster or 
Westminster Abbey, so is Sophocles compared with Shak- 
speare ; in the one a completeness, a satisfaction, an 
excellence, on which the mind rests with complacency; 
in the other a multitude of interlaced materials, great and 
little, magnificent and mean, accompanied, indeed, with 
the sense of a falling short of perfection, and yet, at the 
same time, so promising of our social and individual pro- 
gression, that we would not, if we could, exchange it for 
that repose of the mind which dwells on the forms of sym- 
metry in the acquiescent admiration of grace. This 
general characteristic of the ancient and modem drama 
might be illustrated by a parallel of the ancient and modern 
music ; — the one consisting of melody arising from a suc- 
cession only of pleasing sounds, — the modern embracing 
harmony sJzo, the result of combination and the effect of a 
whole. 
I have said, and I say it again, that great as was the 
genius of Shakspeare, his judgment was at least equal to it. 
Of this any one will be convinced, who attentively con- 
siders those points in which the dramas of Greece and 
England differ, from the dissimilitude of circumstances by 
which each was modified and influenced. The Greek stage 
had its origin in the ceremonies of a sacrifice, such as of the 
goat to Bacchus, whom we most erroneously regard as 
merely the jolly god of wine; — for among the ancients he 
was venerable, as the symbol of that power which acts 
without our consciousness in the vital energies of nature, — 
Shakspeare's Dramas 51 
the vinum mundi, — as Apollo was that of the conscious 
agency of our intellectual being. The heroes of old under 
the influences of this Bacchic enthusiasm performed more 
than human actions ; — hence tales of the favorite cham- 
pions soon passed into dialogue. On the Greek stage the 
chorus was always before the audience ; the curtain was 
never dropped, as we should say ; and change of place 
being therefore, in general, impossible, the absurd notion 
of condemning it merely as improbable in itself was never 
entertained by any one. If we can believe ourselves at 
Thebes in one act, we may believe ourselves at Athens in 
the next. If a story lasts twenty-four hours or twenty-four 
years, it is equally improbable. There seems to be no just 
boundary but what the feelings prescribe. But on the 
Greek stage where the same persons were perpetually 
before the audience, great judgment was necessary in 
venturing on any such change. The poets never, there- 
fore, attempted to impose on the senses by bringing places 
to men, but they did bring men to places, as in the well 
known instance in the Eumenides, where during an evident 
retirement of the chorus from the orchestra, the scene is 
changed to Athens, and Orestes is first introduced in the 
temple of Minerva, and the chorus of Furies come in after- 
wards in pursuit of him.^ 
In the Greek drama there were no formal divisions into 
scenes and acts ; there were no means, therefore, of allow- 
ing for the necessary lapse of time between one part of the 
dialogue and another, and unity of time in a strict sense 
was, of course, impossible. To overcome that difficulty of 
accounting for time, which is effected on the modern stage 
by dropping a curtain, the judgment and great genius of 
the ancients supplied music and measured motion, and 
with the lyric ode filled up the vacuity. In the story of the 
Agamemnon of iEschylus, the capture of Troy is supposed 
to be announced by a fire lighted on the Asiatic shore, and 
the transmission of the signal by successive beacons to 
Mycenae. The signal is first seen at the 21st line, and the 
herald from Troy itself enters at the 486th, and Agamemnon 
himself at the 783rd Une. But the practical absurdity of 
1 ^sch. Eumen. v. 230-239. NotandUm est, icenam jam Athenas translatam sic 
institui, ut primo Orestes solus conspiciatur in templo Minervce supplex ejus simula- 
crum venerans; paulo post autem euin consequantur Eumenides, dr»c. Schutz's note. 
The recessions of the chorus were termed fisTavaar da €li. There is another instance 
in the Ajax, v. 814. Ed. 
52 Characteristics of 
this was not felt by the audience, who, in imagination 
stretched minutes into hours, while they listened to the 
lofty narrative odes of the chorus which almost entirely 
filled up the interspace. Another fact deserves attention 
here, namely, that regularly on the Greek stage a drama, 
or acted story, consisted in reality of three dramas, called 
together a trilogy, and performed consecutively in the 
course of one day. Now you may conceive a tragedy of 
Shakspeare's as a trilogy connected in one single repre- 
sentation. Divide Lear into three parts, and each would 
be a play with the ancients ; or take the three .^schylean 
dramas of Agamemnon, and divide them into, or call them, 
as many acts, and they together would be one play. The 
first act would comprise the usurpation of ^Egisthus, and 
the murder of Agamemnon ; the second, the revenge of 
Orestes, and the murder of his mother ; and the third, the 
penance and absolution of Orestes ; — occupying a period of 
twenty-two years. 
The stage in Shakspeare's time was a naked room with a 
blanket for a curtain ; but he made it a field for monarchs. 
That law of unity, which has its foundations, not in the 
factitious necessity of custom, but in nature itself, the unity 
of feeling, is every where and at all times observed by Shak- 
speare in his plays. Read Romeo and Juliet ; — all is youth 
and spring ; — youth with its follies, its virtues, its precipit- 
ancies ; — spring with its odours, its flowers, and its transi- 
ency ; it is one and the same feeling that commences, goes 
through, and ends the play. The old men, the Capulets 
and the Montagues, are not common old men ; they have 
an eagerness, a heartiness, a vehemence, the effect of spring ; 
with Romeo, his change of passion, his sudden marriage, 
and his rash death, are all the effects of youth ; — whilst in 
Juhet love has all that is tender and melancholy in the 
nightingale, all that is voluptuous in the rose, with what- 
ever is sweet in the freshness of spring ; but it ends with 
a long deep sigh like the last breeze of the Italian evening. 
This unity of feeling and character pervades every drama of 
Shakspeare. 
It seems to me that his plays are distinguished from 
those of aU other dramatic poets by the following char- 
acteristics : 
I. Expectation in preference to surprise. It is like the 
true reading of the passage ; — * God said, Let there be light, 
Shakspeare's Dramas 53 
and there was light ; ' — not there was light. As the feehng 
with which we startle at a shooting star compared with that 
of watching the sunrise at the pre-established moment, such 
and so low is surprise compared with expectation. 
2. Signal adherence to the great law of nature, that all 
opposites tend to attract and temper each other. Passion 
in Shakspeare generally displays libertinism, but involves 
morality ; and if there are exceptions to this, they are, in- 
dependently of their intrinsic value, all of them indicative 
of individual character, and, like the farewell admonitions 
of a parent, have an end beyond the parental relation. 
Thus the Countess's beautiful precepts to Bertram, by 
elevating her character, raise that of Helena her favorite, 
and soften dov/n the point in her which Shakspeare does 
not mean us not to see, but to see and to forgive, and at 
length to justify. And so it is in Polonius, who is the per- 
sonified memory of wisdom no longer actually possessed. 
This admirable character is always misrepresented on the 
stage. Shakspeare never intended to exhibit him as a 
bufioon; for although it was natural that Hamlet, — a 
young man of fire and genius, detesting formality, and dis- 
liking Polonius on political grounds, as imagining that he 
had assisted his uncle in his usurpation, — should express 
himself satirically, — yet this must not be taken as exactly 
the poet's conception of him. In Polonius a certain indura- 
tion of character had arisen from long habits of business ; 
but take his advice to Laertes, and Ophelia's reverence for 
his memory, and we shall see that he was meant to be repre- 
sented as a statesman somewhat past his faculties, — his 
recollections of Ufe all full of wisdom, and showing a know- 
ledge of human nature, whilst what immediately takes 
place before him, and escapes from him, is indicative of 
weakness. 
But as in Homer all the deities are in armour, even 
Venus ; so in Shakspeare all the characters are strong. 
Hence real folly and dulness are made by him the vehicles 
of wisdom. There is no difficulty for one being a fool to 
imitate a fool ; but to be, remain, and speak hke a wise man 
and a great wit, and yet so as to give a vivid representation 
of a veritable fool, — hie labor, hoc opus est. A drunken 
constable is not uncommon, nor hard to draw ; but see 
and examine what goes to make up a Dogberry. 
3. Keeping at all times in the high road of hfe. Shak- 
54 Characteristics of 
speare has no innocent adulteries, no interesting incests, 
no virtuous vice ; — he never renders that amiable which 
religion and reason alike teach us to detest, or clothes im- 
purity in the garb of virtue, like Beaumont and Fletcher, 
the Kotzebues of the day. Shakspeare's fathers are roused 
by ingratitude, his husbands stung by unfaithfulness ; in 
him, in short, the affections are wounded in those points in 
which all may, nay, must, feel.' Let the morality of Shak- 
speare be contrasted with that of the writers of his own, or 
the succeeding, age, or of those of the present day, who 
boast their superiority in this respect. No one can dispute 
that the result of such a comparison is altogether in favour 
of Shakspeare ; — even the letters of women of high rank 
in his age were often coarser than his writings. If he 
occasionally disgusts a keen sense of delicacy, he never 
injures the mind; he neither excites, nor flatters, passion, 
in order to degrade the subject of it; he does not use 
the faulty thing for a faulty purpose, nor carries on 
warfare against virtue, by causing wickedness to appear 
as no wickedness, through the medium of a morbid sym- 
pathy with the unfortunate. In Shakspeare vice never 
walks as in twilight ; nothing is purposely out of its place ; 
— he inverts not the order of nature and propriety, — does 
not make every magistrate a drunkard or glutton, nor 
every poor man meek, humane, and temperate ; he has no 
benevolent butchers, nor any sentimental rat-catchers. 
4. Independence of the ciramatic interest on the plot. 
The interest in the plot is always in fact on account of the 
characters, not vice versa, as in almost all other writers ; the 
plot is a mere canvass and no more. Hence arises the true 
justification of the same stratagem being used in regard to 
Benedict and Beatrice, — the vanity in each being alike. 
Take away from the Much Ado About Nothing all that 
which is not indispensable to the plot, either as having 
little to do with it, or, at best, like Dogberry and his com- 
rades, forced into the service, when any other less ingeni- 
ously absurd watchmen and night-constables would have 
answered the mere necessities of the action ; — take away 
Benedict, Beatrice, Dogberry, and the reaction of the 
former on the character of Hero, — and what will remain ? 
In other writers the main agent of the plot is always the 
prominent character ; in Shakspeare it is so, or is not so, 
as the character is in itself calculated, or not calculated, to 
Shakspeare's Dramas 55 
form the plot. Don John is the main-spring of the plot of 
this play ; but he is merely shown and then withdrawn. 
5. Independence of the interest on the story as the 
ground-work of the plot. Hence Shakspeare never took 
the trouble of inventing stories. It was enough for him to 
select from those that had been already invented or re- 
corded such as had one or other, or both, of two recom- 
mendations, namely, suitableness to his particular purpose, 
and their being parts of popular tradition, — names of which 
we had often heard, and of their fortunes, and as to which 
all we wanted was, to see the man himself. So it is just the 
man himself, the Lear, the Shylock, the Richard, that 
Shakspeare makes us for the first time acquainted with. 
Omit the first scene in Lear, and yet every thing wiU re- 
main ; so the first and second scenes in the Merchant of 
Venice. Indeed it is universally true. 
6. Interfusion of the lyrical — that which in its very 
essence is poetical — not only with the dramatic, as in the 
plays of Metastasio, where at the end of the scene comes 
the aria as the exit speech of the character, — but also in and 
through the dramatic. Songs in Shakspeare are intro- 
duced as songs only, just as songs are in real life, beautifully 
as some of them are characteristic of the person who has 
sung or called for them, as Desdemona's 'Willow,' and 
Ophelia's wild snatches, and the sweet caroUings in As You 
Like It. But the whole of the Midsummer Night's Dream 
is one continued specimen of the dramatized lyrical. And 
observe how exquisitely the dramatic of Hotspur ; — 
Marry, and I'm glad on't with all my heart ; 
I'd rather be a kitten and cry — mew, &c. 
melts away into the lyric of Mortimer ; — 
I understand thy looks : that pretty Welsh 
Which thou pourest down from these swelling heavens, 
I am too perfect in, &c. 
Henry IV. part i. act hi. sc. i. 
7. The characters of the dramatis personce, like those 
in real hfe, are to be inferred by the reader ; — they are 
not told to him. And it is well worth remarking that 
Shakspeare's characters, like those in real life, are very 
commonly misunderstood, and almost always understood 
by different persons in different ways. The causes are 
56 Outline of an Introductory 
the same in either case. If you take only what the friends 
of the character say, you may be deceived, and still more 
so, if that which his enemies say ; nay, even the character 
himself sees himself through the medium of his character, 
and not exactly as he is. Take all together, not omitting 
a shrewd hint from the clown or the fool, and perhaps your 
impression will be right ; and you may know whether you 
have in fact discovered the poet's own idea, by all the 
speeches receiving light from it, and attesting its reality 
by reflecting it. 
Lastly, in Shakspeare the heterogeneous is united, as it 
is in nature. You must not suppose a pressure or passion 
always acting on or in the character ! — passion in Shak- 
speare is that by which the individual is distinguished 
from others, not that which makes a different kind of him. 
Shakspeare followed the main march of the human affec- 
tions. He entered into no analysis of the passions or faiths 
of men, but assured himself that such and such passions 
and faiths were grounded in our common nature, and not 
in the mere accidents of ignorance or disease. This is an 
important consideration, and constitutes our Shakspeare 
the morning star, the guide and the pioneer, of true 
philosophy. 
Outline of 
AN INTRODUCTORY LECTURE UPON 
SHAKSPEARE. 
Of that species of writing termed tragi-comedy, much has 
been produced and doomed to the shelf. Shakspeare's 
comic are continually re-acting upon his tragic characters. 
Lear, wandering amidst the tempest, has all his feelings 
of distress increased by the overflowings of the wild wit 
of the Fool, as vinegar poured upon wounds exacerbates 
their pain. Thus even his comic humour tends to the 
developement of tragic passion. 
The next characteristic of Shakspeare is his keeping at 
all times in the high road of life, &c.^ Another evidence 
of his exquisite judgment is, that he seizes hold of popular 
J See the foregoing Essay. S. C. 
Lecture upon Shakspeare 57 
tales ; Lear and the Merchant of Venice were popular 
tales, but are so excellently managed, that both are the 
representations of men in all countries and of all times. 
His dramas do not arise absolutely out of some one ex- 
traordinary circumstance, the scenes may stand independ- 
ently of any such one connecting incident, as faithful 
representations of men and manners. In his mode of 
drawing characters there are no pompous descriptions of 
a man by himself ; his character is to be drawn, as in real 
life, from the whole course of the play, or out of the mouths 
of his enemies or friends. This may be exemplified in 
Polonius, whose character has been often misrepresented. 
Shakspeare never intended him for a buffoon, &c.^ 
Another excellence of Shakspeare in which no writer 
equals him, is in the language of nature. So correct is 
it, that we can see ourselves in every page. The style and 
manner have also that felicity, that not a sentence can 
be read, without its being discovered if it is Shaksperian. 
In observation of living characters — of landlords and pos- 
tilions Fielding has great excellence ; but in drawing 
from his own heart, and depicting that species of character, 
which no observation could teach, he failed in comparison 
with Richardson, who perpetually places himself, as it 
were, in a day-dream. Shakspeare excels in both. Witness 
the accuracy of character in Juliet's Name ; while for the 
great characters of lago, Othello, Hamlet, Richard III., 
to which he could never have seen any thing similar, he 
seems invariably to have asked himself. How should I act 
or speak in such circumstances ? His comic characters are 
also peculiar. A drunken constable was not uncommon ; 
but he makes folly a vehicle for wit, as in Dogberry : every 
thing is a sub-stratum on which his genius can erect the 
mightiest superstructure. 
To distinguish that which is legitimate in Shakspeare 
from what does not belong to him, we must observe his 
varied images symbolical of novel truth, thrusting by, 
and seeming to trip up each other, from an impetuosity of 
thought, producing a flowing metre and seldom closing 
with the line. In Pericles, a play written fifty years before, 
but altered by Shakspeare, his additions may be recognised 
1 See the Notes on Hamlet, which contain the same general view of the character of 
Polonius. As there are a few additional hints in the present report, I have thought it 
worth printing. S. C. 
58 Outline of an Introductory Lecture 
to half a line, from the metre, which has the same perfec- 
tion in the flowing continuity of interchangeable metrical 
pauses in his earliest plays, as in Love's Labour's Lost.^ 
Lastly contrast his morality with the writers of his own 
or of the succeeding age, &c.2 If a man speak injuriously 
of our friend, our vindication of him is naturally warm. 
Shakspeare has been accused of profaneness. I for my 
part have acquired from perusal of him, a habit of looking 
into my own heart, and am confident that Shakspeare is 
an author of all others the most calculated to make his 
readers better as well as wiser. 
Shakspeare, possessed of wit, humour, fancy and imagi- 
nation, built up an outward world from the stores within 
his mind, as the bee finds a hive ^ from a thousand sweets 
gathered from a thousand flowers. He was not only a 
great poet, but a great philosopher. Richard IIL, lago, and 
Falstaff are men who reverse the order of things, who place 
intellect at the head, whereas it ought to follow, Hke Geo- 
metry, to prove and to confirm. No man, either hero or saint, 
ever acted from an unmixed motive ; for let him do what 
he will rightly, still Conscience whispers "it is your duty." 
Richard, laughing at conscience and sneering at religion, 
felt a confidence in his intellect, which urged him to commit 
the most horrid crimes, because he felt himself, although 
inferior in form and shape, superior to those around him ; 
he felt he possessed a power, which they had not. lago, 
on the same principle, conscious of superior intellect, gave 
scope to his envy, and hesitated not to ruin a gallant, open 
and generous friend in the moment of felicity, because he 
was not promoted as he expected. Othello was superior 
in place, but lago felt him to be inferior in intellect, and 
unrestrained by conscience, trampled upon him. — Falstaff, 
not a degraded man of genius, like Burns, but a man of 
degraded genius, with the same consciousness of superiority 
to his companions, fastened himself on a young Prince, 
1 Lamb, comparing Fletcher with Shakspeare, writes thus : " Fletcher's ideas moved 
slow ; his versification, though sweet, is tedious, it stops at ever}' turn ; he lays line 
upon line, making up one after the other, adding image to image so deliberately, that we 
see their junctures. Shakspeare mingles every thing, runs line into line, embarrasses 
sentences and metaphors ; before one idea has burst its shell, another is hatched and 
clamorous for disclosure." Characters of Dram. Writers, contetfip. with Shakspea.re. 
~ See the foregoing Essay. 
3 There must have been some mistake in the report of this sentence, unless there was 
a momentary lapse of mind on the part of the lecturer. 
Order of Shakspeare's Plays 59 
to prove how much his influence on an heir apparent 
would exceed that of a statesman. With this view he 
hesitated not to adopt the most contemptible of all char- 
acters, that of an open and professed liar : even his sen- 
suality was subservient to his intellect ; for he appeared 
to drink sack, that he might have occasion to show off his 
wit. One thing, however, worthy of observation, is the 
perpetual contrast of labour in Falstaff to produce wit, 
with the ease with which Prince Henry parries his shafts ; 
and the final contempt which such a character deserves 
and receives from the young king, when Falstaff exhibits 
the struggle of inward determination with an outward 
show of humility.