Part One – Introduction to The Law in Shakespeare SHAKESPEARE"S persistent and correct use of law terms was long ago noticed and caused the conjecture that he must have studied in an attorney"s office. What is the truth in this respect will probably never be certainly known; but that he was more addicted to the employment of legal nomenclature than any English writer excepting, of course, the jurists is incontestable.
The work of winter evenings, commenced long ago, as an incident to habitual study of the works of him “who converted the elements which awaited at his command into entertainments,” is submitted with little speculation upon questions concerning which there have been many words and few demonstrations. It is not pretended that every legal phrase which he used is here presented. The aim has been not to extend the task beyond the necessity of proof into a wearisome repetition of expressions which often recur in scores.Order now
To the lawyer many of the notes will be needless, though some of them will be found helpful. I have not hesitated to present the definitions of the commonest legal terms. To those unversed in law lore, they will present at a glance the argument intrinsic in the text. Some of the quotations, taken alone, are doubtless of trifling probative force. They are given because, in cumulative testimony, each independent fact is a multiplier.
We seem to have here something more than a sciolist"s temerity of indulgence in the terms of an unfamiliar art. No legal solecisms will be found. The abstrusest elements of the common law are impressed into a disciplined service with every evidence of the right and knowledge of commanding. Over and over again, where such knowledge is unexampled in writers unlearned in the law, Shakespeare appears in perfect possession of it.
In the law of real property, its rules of tenure and descents, its entails, its fines and recoveries, and their vouchers and double vouchers; in the procedure of the courts, the methods of bringing suits and of arrests, the nature of actions, the rules of pleading, the law of escapes, and of contempt of court; in the principles of evidence, both technical and philosophical; in the distinction between the temporal and the spiritual tribunals; in the law of attainder and forfeiture; in the requisites of a valid marriage; in the presumption of legitimacy; in the learning of the law of prerogative; in the inalienable character of the crown,– this mastership appears with surprising authority.
It is not necessary in accounting for this to assault truth with a paradox, or to put a mask upon the face of the first of men. The law books of that time were few. Shakespeare"s French is nearly as bad as the law French in which many of them were written; and it is not to be forgotten that to learn must have been easy to this man, whose mental endowments were so universal that the best intellects of after times have vainly essayed to admeasure them. Coleridge has remarked “that a young author"s first work almost always bespeaks his recent pursuits. ” He might have said with equal correctness that any author"s works can never entirely hide his former pursuits.
These may be betrayed by the style, or by prejudices, affections, antipathies. or affectations. Gibbon thought that his experience as an officer in the Hampshire militia was of assistance to him in describing that vast mutation in history whereby the Roman world, by a process almost physical in appearance, shifted from temperate simplicity, grandeur, civilization, and solidity to tropical luxury, effeminacy, barbarism, and quick decay. Were every detail of Falconer"s and Somerville"s lives unknown, it would be certain from their works that the one was a sailor and the other a sportsman. Sir Walter Scott had been called to the bar and his works attest his legal proficiency.
We see Fielding"s experience as a magistrate in the examination of Partridge, in the conspiracy between Lady Booby and Lawyer Scout against Fanny, and in that masterpiece of savage irony, the life of the late Mr. Jonathan Wild the Great. We know from the details of mercantile routine in Robinson Crusoe and Colonel Jack that Defoe must have been a merchant. That Thackeray had been an artist is very apparent in his works. Donne, 1572-1631, who had been a student at Lincoln"s Inn, satirized a barrister"s wooing in law phrase: —————————-“he throws, Like nets or lime twigs, wheresoe"r he goes, His title of barrister on every wench, And woos in language of the pleas and bench. A motion, lady! Speak, Coscus. I have been In love e"er since tricesimo the queen.
Continual claims I"ve made, injunctions got To stay my rival"s suit, that he should not Proceed; spare me, in Hilary term I went; You said if I returned next "size in Lent, I should be in remitter of your grace. In th" interim my letters should take place Of affidavits. ” The argument on the present question rests mainly, of course, upon the general and constant employment by Shakespeare of the terms of a science which, in his time, was crabbed and harsh, and which has at any time few points of contact with the graces of literature. There is another special argument of great force, in presenting which my inadequate resources for comparison restrict me to the use of Hamlet, though I have no doubt that corroborative results will be yielded to any one who may make a more extended investigation. Hamlet was published in quarto in 1603.
Compared with the final version which appeared in the folio of 1623, it is a magnificent imperfection, but invaluable because it shows how the hand of the master wrought upon his work. From the one to the other we see Shakespeare"s mind in operation. Its creative processes are disclosed. Its industry is demonstrated. Here are the blotted lines Jonson wished for. We see the growth of immortal blossoms from barren common-places. It is as if some sculptor, with an enchanter"s power, had wrought upon an unadorned Milan cathedral through one night, so that the morning showed thousands of carvings and statues where the day before were only walls of unadorned simplicity.
If Shakespeare"s use of legal learning were not that of a full man, with pride in his skill, we should not expect to see, in the changes by which he brought the play to perfection, any additions or elaborations in that respect. But that they do appear most remarkably, the following, in which the text of the quarto is given, together with that of the finished version, will show: Who by a seale compact, well ratified by law And heraldrie? did forfeit with his life all those His lands which he stood seazed of to the conqueror, Against the which a moiety competent Was gaged by our king Quarto. To this Shakespeare added: —————-which had returned To the inheritance of Fortinbras Had he been vanquisher; as by the same covenant And carriage of the article designed, His fell to Hamlet. Standard Version. He hath, my lord, wrung from me a forced graunt. Quarto.
He hath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave, By laborsome petition, and at last Upon his will I sealed my hard consent. Standard Version. Or that the Everlasting had not fix"d His canon "gainst self-slaughter! Not in Quarto. Oph. My lord, he hath made many tenders of his love to me. Cor. Tenders. I, I, tenders you may call them. Oph. And withall such earnest vowes. Cor. Springes to catch woodcocks. What, do I not know when the blood cloth burne How prodigall the tongue lends the heart vowes. In brief, be more scanter of your maiden presence, Or tendering thus you"l tender mee a foole. Quarto. Oph. He hath, my lord, of late made many tenders Of his affection to me. Pol. Affection! Pooh!
You speak like a green girl Unsifted in such perilous circumstance. Do you believe his tenders, as you call them? Oph. I do not know, my lord, what I should think. Pol. Marry, I"ll teach you: think yourself a baby: That you have ta"en these tenders for true pay Which are not sterling. Tender yourself more dearly: Or–not to crack the wind of the poor phrase, Running it thus–you"ll tender me a fool, Standard Version. “Do not believe his vows, for they are brokers, Not of that dye which their investments show, But mere implorators of unholy suits, Breathing like sanctified and pious bawds, The better to beguile. ” Not in Quarto.
I did repel his letters, deny his gifts, As you did charge me. Quarto. I did repel his letters, and denied His access to me. Standard Version. For in that dreame of death, when we awake, And borne before our everlasting judge, From whence no passenger euer returned, The undiscovered country, at whose sight The happy smile and the accursed damn"d. Quarto. The undiscoverod country from whose bourne No traveller returns. Standard Version. Yet you cannot Play upon me, besides to be demanded by a spunge. Quarto. Besides, to be demanded of a spunge: what replication Should be made by the son of a king? Standard Version. King. Now must your conscience my acquittance seal. * * * * * Laer.
It will appear: but tell me Why you proceeded not against these feats So crimeful and so capital in nature. Not in Quarto. First Clo. I say no, she ought not to be buried In Christian burial. Sec. Clo. Why, sir? First Clo. Marry, because shee"s drown"d. Sec. Clo. But she did not drowne her selfe. First Clo. No, that"s certaine, the water drown"d her. Sec. Clo. Yea, but it was against her will. First Clo. No, I deny that; for looke you, sir; I stand here; If the water come to me I drowne not my selfe; But if I goe to the water, and am then drown"d, Ergo, I am guiltie of my owne death. Y"are gone; goe, y"are gone, sir. Sec. Clo.
I; but see, she hath Christian burial Because she is a great woman. Quarto. First Clo. Is she to be buried in Christian burial that wilfully seeks her own salvation? Sec. Clo. I tell thee she is: and therefore make her grave straight: the crowner hath sat on her, and finds it Christian burial. First Clo. How can that be, unless she drowned herself in her own defence? Sec. Clo. Why, "tis found so. First Clo. It must be "se offendendo;" it cannot be else. For here lies the point: if I drown myself wittingly, it argues an act: and an act hath three branches: it is, to act, to do, to perform: argal, she drowned herself wittingly. Sec. Clo.
Nay, but hear you, goodman delver,– First Clo. Give me leave. Here lies the water; good: here stands the man; good: if the man go to this water, and drown himself, it is, will he, nill he, he goes,–mark you that; but if the water come to him and drown him, he drowns not himself; argal, he that is not guilty of his own death shortens not his own life. Sec. Clo. But is this law? First Clo. Ay, marry, is"t; crowner"s quest law. Sec Clo. Will you ha" the truth on"t? If this had not been a gentlewoman, she should have been buried out o" Christian burial. Standard Version. Ham. Looke you, there"s another, Horatio. Why mai"t not be the scull of some Lawyer?
Me thinkes he should indite that fellow Of an action of Batterie, for knocking Him about the pate with"s shovel: now where is your Quirkes and quillets now, your vouchers and Double vouchers, your leases and free-holde And tenements? Why that same box will scarce Hold the conveiance of his land, and must The honor lie there? O pittifull transformance! I prithee tell me, Horatio, Is parchment made of sheep-skinnes? Hor. I, my lorde, and of calves-skinnes too. Ham. I"faith they proove themselves sheepe and calves That deale with them or put their trust in them. Quarto. Ham. There"s another: why may not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillets, his cases, his tenures, and his tricks? why does he suffer this rude knave now to knock him about the sconce with a dirty shovel, and will not tell him of his action of battery? Hum!
This fellow might be in "s time a great buyer of land, with his statutes, his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers, his recoveries: is this the fine of his fines, and the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt? will his vouchers him no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than the length and breadth of a pair of indentures? The very conveyances of his lands will hardly lie in this box; and must the inheritor himself have no more, ha? Hor. Not a jot more, my lord. Ham. Is not parchment made of sheep-skins? Hor. Ay, my lord, and of calf-skins too. Ham. They are sheep and calves which seek out assurance in that. Standard Version. Ham.
An earnest conjuration from the king, As England was his faithful tributary, As love between them like the palm might flourish, As peace should still ber wheaten garland wear And stand a comma "tween their amities, And many such-like "As"es of great charge, That, on the view and knowing of these contents, Without debasement further, more or less, He should the bearers put to sudden death, Not shriving-time allow"d. Hor. How was this seal"d! Ham. Why, even in that was heaven ordinant. I had my father"s signet in my purse, Which was the model of that Danish seal; Folded the writ up in form of the other, Subscribed it, gave"t the impression, placed it safely, The changeling never known. Not in Quarto. Hor. No, I am more an antike Roman Than a Dane; here is some poison left. Ham. Upon my love I charge thee let it goe.
O fie, Horatio, and if thou shoulds"t die What a scandale woulds"t thou leave behind; What tongue should tell the story of our deaths, If not from thee. Quarto. Ham. Had I but time–as this fell sergeant, Death, Is strict in his arrest– O, I could tell you– But let it be. Horatio, I am dead; Thou livest; report me and my cause aright To the unsatisfied. Hor. Never believe it; I am more an antique Roman than a Dane: Here is yet some liquor left. Ham. As thou"rt a man Give me the cup: let go; by heaven, I"ll have"t. O good Horatio, what a wounded name, Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me! If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, Absent thee from felicity awhile, And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain, To tell my story. Standard Version.
Part Two – Introduction to The Law in Shakespeare It thus appears that Shakespeare amplified the statement of the compact with Fortinbras; changed Polonius" term, “a forced graunt,” to a more formal and elaborate legal expression; inserted the word “canon” to express a divine law; forced the word “tender” to an ampler use; called lover"s oaths “brokers ;” caught the idem sonans of the word “borne” and changed it to “bourne” as the boundary of that undiscovered country; took the suggestion of the word “demanded” and asked what “replication” shall be made; added the request for a “sealed acquitance,” and the demand why “capital” crimes had not been “proceeded against;” rewrote the dialogue between the clowns solely to enlarge it and make it more accurate in its legal meaning, and more relevant to the case in Plowden; reconstructed Hamlet"s meditations on the lawyer"s skull; corrected the inaccurate suggestion of an indictment for an action of battery; struck out the words “leases and free-holde and tenements;” added to the enumeration of the devices of money-lenders the words “buyer of land,” “statutes,” “recognizances,” “fines,” “recoveries,”– all with the greatest pains-taking to be full and accurate; added to the purport of the king"s letter to England and, where Hamlet, in the quarto, merely resists Horatio"s attempt to drink the cup by expressing a desire that he should live to tell the story, changed this to an injunction to his friend to live to report me and my cause aright To the unsatisfied. By an unlearned writer such a task of correction and amplification would never have been attempted. By one who was learned in the subject, and who either delighted in it or had the tendency of practice in its employment, it was inevitable that this should be done. In the scene between Hamlet and his father"s ghost the effect of the “juice of cursed hebenon” is stated with much detail. This passage was also retouched, but no material change was made. No symptom or effect was added. The legal statements were changed throughout. But the former needed correction, for it is very inaccurate.
The introduction of poison into the circulation through the porches of the ear, so that the effect will be an instantaneous incrustation of the skin, was a conception of Shakespeare and has no foundation in medical science. It is especially to be noticed that this legal learning is accurately sustained in many passages with cumulative and progressive application. The word employed becomes suggestive of other words, or of a legal principle, and these are at once used so fully that their powers are exhausted. In one scene the lover, wishing a kiss, prays for a grant of pasture on his mistress" lips. This suggests the law of common of pasture, and she replies that her lips are no common.
This suggests the distinction between tenancy in common and tenancy in severally, the lips being several, and she adds, “though several they be. ” Miranda and Ferdinand simply betroth themselves; sanctimonious ceremonies are intended to follow. In the case of Florizel and Perdita the contract before witnesses is proposed, but the disguised father interrupts the proceedings and prevents a marriage. In the case of Mariana there is a contract of marriage, followed by consummation in the legal and physical sense, and it is not even suggested that this is not a valid marriage. In describing the wager of battle everything is correctly and orderly set forth.
The appeal is made; gloves are thrown down and taken up; the lists are set upon the green; proclamation is made; the judges take their places; the king stops the combat by throwing down his warder. The regularity of the process in Shylock v. Antonio is fully pointed out elsewhere. The trial of Queen Catherine opens with a proposition to read the commissions of the judges, citation is made, her appearance is demanded, and she refuses it, because to appear will be a submission to the jurisdiction of the court. This is precisely the ground upon which Mary Stuart stood at her trial, and so insurmountable did her prosecutors deem it to be, that she was cajoled into doing that which Catherine refused.
The barbarous penalty of Shylock"s bond is a reminiscence of the Twelve Tables, by which the creditors of a delinquent debtor were allowed to cut him into pieces. The Italian novel upon which the play is founded attributes the same penalty to the bond. So does the old ballad of Gernutus. It has been contended that the ballad is the offspring of the play, but incorrectly, because the former contains nothing concerning any woman as a judge,– a circumstance too effective to have been omitted by any ballad maker who drew his inspiration from the play. When Hamlet surmises that the skull may be that of a lawyer, a lender of money, he enumerates at once the methods by which loans were secured. The words “factor” and “broker” are used with perfect understanding of the technical differences in their meaning.
Tamora claims her Roman citizenship through her incorporation into a Roman family under the principle of adoption by marriage. Lear partitions his kingdom, and delivers it by livery of seizin. He entails the crown by apt words. Hermione is accused of adultery, and therefore of treason, according to the statute of Edward III. The validity of the acts of a king de facto and the duty of obedience to him are stated with the most precise understanding of the distinction between officers de facto and those de jure. Helena is a feudal ward. Cade makes a bestial pun, suggested by tenancy in capite, and by an infernal privilege of stupration, which is one of the recondite curiosities of the law. Dromio asserts that there is no time for a bald man to recover his hair.
This having been written, the law phrase suggested itself, and he was asked whether he might not do it by fine and recovery, and this suggested the efficiency of that proceeding to bar heirs; and this started the conceit that thus the lost hair of another man would be recovered. A "quest of thoughts all tenants to the heart is impaneled to decide the question of title to the visage of the beloved one between the heart and the eye, where the defendant denies the plea, and the verdict is a moiety to each. The remembrance of things past is summoned up to the sessions of sweet, silent thought. These illustrations have been given as they occur to the memory from hundreds of passages to enforce the argument of the probative force of accumulated circumstances from diverse sources, when there can be no doubt of the circumstances themselves. There is no question here of fabricated evidence.
While the simulation of evidence by perverting or inventing circumstances is a device of all fabricators from the time of the exhibition of Joseph"s coat to Jacob, the noting the mole on Imogen"s snow-pure breast, the smearing by Lady Macbeth of the grooms" faces with blood, and the use of the handkerchief by Iago, are done with legal craft, and form Shakespeare"s judgement upon what is called circumstantial evidence, which after all the judicial cant upon the subject, such as the assertion that circumstances cannot lie, can be made the most illusory of all testimony; for while circumstances cannot lie, they can be feigned, invented, distorted, half-stated, misapplied, mistaken, or lied about with most infernal skill. It is upon circumstantial evidence so misunderstood that the claims of all impostors have been maintained from the falsi Neronis ludibrio which moved the hosts of Parthia to the pretensions of the claimant in the Tichborne case. The least mistake makes all the difference in the world.
Suppose, for instance, that in the perspective of ages events should be so foreshortened that the years which cover Shakespeare"s life-time and that of Milton should blend, it might be argued from the extracts from Comus, which are hereinafter set out, from an assumption that Shakespeare was an obscure and illiterate man, and from Milton"s commanding intellectual force and erudition, that the latter wrote the plays in that heyday of his youth when, according to his own statement, he delighted in the sinuosi pompa theatri; or it might be maintained with nearly equal force that Shakespeare wrote Areopagitica or Paradise Lost in his later years, after he had forsaken the vanities of his youth, had become devout, and had thrown all the forces of his mighty intellect into the polemics incident to a great political and religious revolution. These considerations are also relevant to what it is intended to submit relative to the theory that Francis Bacon was Shakespeare. We can apply here the tests which decide our ordinary actions, and which in courts are found sufficient to adjudicate the most momentous questions. In the daily conduct of our lives we act upon the results of a calculation of probabilities.
We frequently make it for ourselves, but as to our habitual actions it was made for us, perhaps thousands of years ago, and its results constitute what we call experience. In any such case, it is found from observation that a certain series of events is followed by certain consequences, so that an aggregate of circumstances being given we assume that but one result can follow. So unvarying are such results that, for all practical purposes, they are certainties. These experiences form the path in which we traverse life. They guide our business conduct. They map the course of storms upon the sea. They know where planets will shine, what eclipses will occur, what comets will return, for all time to come.
It is thus that order is introduced into what is apparently inextricable confusion, and relationship is established between subjects separated by vast intervals of time and space. This is the great triumph of comparative philology which demonstrated the affinity of languages, traced diverse peoples to a common origin, and went far to mark the stages of their progress from the table lands of Asia through all the centuries from the morning of time. From this the unity of many nations was deduced, and a substantial identity of their religious conceptions, primal laws and domestic habits became established facts. All this is the result of what Whewell calls the “consilience of inductions. Part Three – Introduction to The Law in Shakespeare One fact seldom proves much beyond itself, but two facts may prove a third, and when among a hundred or a thousand separate facts, each shows a relation, not dependent on another but independent of it, to all the rest, and also a relation to some other fact not susceptible of actual observation, but which is the object to be demonstrated; when each fact points to one cause or result, and to no other; when an analysis of the elements of each fact shows the same unvarying convergence to one point; when any one fact may be removed from any function in the process and the result remain the same; when research and addition to the mass of circumstances, instead of displacing its probative direction only renders it more steady,Ã¢â‚¬â€?the certainty that the object which they indicate is the solution of the question becomes so great that the most stupendous figures are inadequate to express the infallibility of the result. Every one remembers the problem of the blacksmith who engaged to shoe a horse for one cent for the first nail, two cents for the next, four cents for the next, and so on, doubling the preceding number for each nail until all the nails should be computed for. The result is an illustration of the high power of proof to which the accumulated and progressive force of many circumstances can be raised.
It is true that one positively established fact, out of many, which points conclusively to another result, may entirely invalidate the demonstration, and this is the fallacy of circumstantial evidence as it is commonly understood to be. The witness may be false, he may be mistaken, he may not be clear, he may unintentionally pervert or suppress something. But in matters of textual criticism, such as are now under consideration, there is no possibility of such perturbations. I regard Paley"s Horae Paulinae as one of the most helpful books that a law student can read. It trains him for the most strenuous dialectics of his profession. Paley"s thesis is that all the epistles which the canon attributes to St.
Paul were written by one man, and with a power of analysis and application of proofs which has never been surpassed, he proves it by citing examples from each epistle of undesigned coincidences, minute, obscure, latent, and oblique, which abound throughout the Pauline writings. He says “they form no continued story; they compose no regular correspondence; they comprise not the transactions of any particular period; they carry on no connection of argument; they depend not upon one another; no study or care has been employed to preserve the appearance of consistency amongst them; they were not intended by the person, whoever he was, that wrote them to come forth or be read together; they appeared at first separately and have been collected since. If these tests are applied to the books of the Evangelists, it will appear, upon the most cursory examination, that they were each written by a different man. Some of the most interesting discoveries in astronomical science have been predicted by the application of the calculus of probabilities. Forinstance, Michell, in 1767, noticed that many fixed stars had companions close to them. Such a conjunction as to one or two stars would have no probative force, for they might be at a great distance from each other and lie on the same line of sight. But this optical union was so apparent in many stars that he asserted the existence of a bond between most of the double stars.
Struve computed the odds to be 9,570 to 1 that any two stars of not less than the seventh magnitude could fall within the apparent distance of four minutes of each other by chance, and yet ninety-one of such cases had been observed when his computation was made, and many more have been since discovered. There were also four known triple stars, and the odds against the casual conjunction of these were 173,524 to 1. Michell"s conjecture was verified nearly a century after it was made by the discovery that many of the double stars are directly connected with each other under the law of gravitation. Nearly all of the planetary movements have similarity of direction. In the time of Laplace eleven planets were known, and the directions were known for the sun, six planets, the satellites of Jupiter, Saturn"s ring, and one of his satellites.
There were thus known forty-three concurring motions; that is, the orbital motions of eleven planets and eighteen satellites and fourteen axial rotations. The probability that this number of independent motions should coincide by chance is as an odds of about 4,400,000,000,000 to 1. The application of the doctrine of probabilities to the argument that Shakespeare was learned in the law is manifest. The nature of the subject, of course, makes the odds inexpressible by numerical notation. But the principle of increment of probative force is the same here as in the case of the visible and ponderable bodies, concerning which Struve and Laplace made their computations.
Suppose that within the last year all of these writings had been collected from scattered sources; some from libraries and family archives in England; some from old repositories in Massachusetts and Virginia. The authorship by one person or by many persons being the question, what testimony could be more convincing that they were written by one man than these undesigned, unstudied, obscure, oblique, latent, and cumulative legal expressions which occur in each play? This being settled, the next question would be what manner of man was he who produced this incomparable body of thought and imagination? Was he merely a man of letters, or was he also a physician, or a lawyer, or a soldier? The same process of induction can be employed. It is found that the test of the use of technical phrases is applicable. It is found that they abound.
Their use is accurate, unstudied, cumulative, incidental, undesigned for any purpose except their special employment in the places where they occur; is so subtle in illustrative function, as often to require special research to apply it; that the productions in which they occur form no continued story; that they were originality separate productions; that many of them were not published at all in the life-time of the author, but were handed out to actors to be learnt; that they cover the term of a long literary life; that they do not comprise the transactions of any one period; that they carry on no connection of argument, nor do they depend upon one another; that they exhibit no such familiarity with other arts, sciences, or vocations, but that as to them they are full of errors and carelessness. All this makes out a case by demonstration so absolute that no hypothesis is left except that the writer was learned in the law. The most persuasive argument concerning the authorship of the letters of Junius is the familiarity which they display with the routine of the war office, in which Francis was employed. Chatterton hoaxed profound scholars by his wonderful simulation of coincidences and archaisms, apparently undesigned, and was detected by the inaccuracies which cannot be avoided in any such attempt.
Sir John Coleridge broke down the Tichborne claimant by a cross-examination which proved his ignorance of facts, or the details of events, which must have been known to him had he been what he pretended to be. The dyer"s hand is always subdued to what it works in. Professor Greenleaf examined the testimony of the Evangelists by the rules of evidence administered in courts of justice. That St. Matthew was a native Jew, familiar with the opinions, ceremonies, and customs of his countrymen, conversant with their sacred writings, and of little learning except what he derived from them, he holds to be established by the internal evidence of his gospel. That St. Mark wrote at Rome for the use of the Gentile converts, he argues from the numerous Latinisms which he employs and from the explanations he gives, which would be useless to a Jew. That St.
Luke was a physician, he maintains, is apparent from his gospel, which shows that he was an acute observer, who had given particular and even professional attention to all of our Savior"s miracles of healing; that where Matthew and Mark describe a man simply as a leper, he writes that he was full of leprosy; that he whom they mention as having a withered hand is described by him as having his right hand withered; that he alone, with a physician"s accuracy, says that the virtue went out of Jesus and healed the sick; that he alone relates the fact that the sleep of the disciples in Gethsemane was induced by excessive sorrow, and attributes the blood-like sweat of our Redeemer to the intensity Of His agony, and that he alone relates the miraculous healing of Malchas" ear. It has been maintained that the company of players to which Shakespeare belonged visited Scotland in the autumn of 1601, and that they were at Aberdeen in October of that year. It has been argued that Shakespeare in Macbeth displays a knowledge of the topography of the country around Forres and of the local superstitions and traditions, so much beyond any information given in Holinshed"s Chronicle, that he must have accompanied the players, and it must be admitted that a most plausible showing is made.
This branch of the argument can best be enforced by the words of an eminent text-writer on the law of evidence: “In estimating the force of a number of circumstances tending to the proof of the disputed fact, it is of essential importance to consider whether they be dependent or independent. If the facts A, B, C, D, be so essential to the particular inference to be derived from them, when established, that the failure of the proof in any one would destroy the inference altogether, they are dependent facts. If, on the other hand, notwithstanding the failure in proof of one or more of those facts, the rest would still afford the same inference or probability as to the contested fact which they did before, they would be properly termed independent facts.
The force of a particular inference drawn from a number of dependent facts is not augmented, neither is it diminished, in respect of the number of such dependent facts, provided they be established; but the probability that the inference itself rests upon sure grounds, is, in general, weakened by the multiplication of the number of circumstances essential to the proof; for the greater the number of circumstances essential to the proof is, the greater latitude is there for mistake or deception. On the other hand, where each of a number of independent circumstances, or combination of circumstances, tends to the same conclusion, the probability of the truth of the fact is necessarily greatly increased in proportion to the number of those independent circumstances. “The probability derived from the concurrence of a number of independent probabilities increases not in a merely cumulative, but in a compound and multiplied, proportion. This is a consequence derived from pure abstract arithmetical principles. For although no definite arithmetical ratio can be assigned to each independent probability, yet the principle of increase must obtain wherever independent probabilities in favor of an event occur, although they cannot be precisely measured by space or numbers, and even although every distinct probability which is of a conclusive tendency exceeds every merely definite numerical ratio. ” “The nature of such coincidences is most important.
Are they natural ones, which bear not the marks of artifice and premeditation? Do they occur in points obviously material, or in minute and remote points which were not likely to be material, or in matters the importance of which could not have been foreseen? The number of such coincidences is also worthy of the most attentive consideration. Human cunning, to a certain extent, may fabricate coincidences, even with regard to minute points, the more effectually to deceive; but the coincidences of art and invention are necessarily circumscribed and limited; while those of truth are indefinite and unlimited. The witnesses of art will be copious in their detail of circumstances as far as their prevision extends.
Beyond this, they will be sparing and reserved for fear of detection, and thus their testimony will not be even and consistent throughout; but the witnesses of truth will be equally ready and equally copious upon all points. ” Paley also remarks that “the undesignedness of coincidences is to be gathered from their latency, their minuteness, their obliquity; the suitableness of the circumstances in which they consist to the places in which those circumstances occur, and the circuitous references by which they are traced out, demonstrate that they have not been produced by meditation or by any fraudulent contrivance; but coincidences from which these causes are excluded, and which are too close and numerous to be accounted for by accidental concurrence of fiction, must necessarily have truth for their foundation. Shakespeare had a lawyer"s conservatism. He respected the established order of things. He chisels the republican Brutus in cold and marble beauty, but paints with beams of sunlight the greatness, bravery, and generosity of imperial Caesar. Coriolanus is the impersonation of patrician contempt for popular rights. Shakespeare passes unnoticed the causes which led to Cade"s insurrection because he cares not for them,Ã¢â‚¬â€?; causes so just that hon-orable terms were exacted by the insurgents. His portrait of Joan of Arc, the virgin mother of French nationality, who raised it to glory because the people believed in her, is a great offence.
There is nowhere a hint of sympathy with personal rights as against the sovereign, nor with parliament, then first assuming its protective attitude towards the English people, nor with the few judges who, like Coke, showed a glorious obstinacy in their resistance to the prerogative. In all his works there is not one direct word for liberty of speech, thought, religion,Ã¢â‚¬â€?; those rights which in his age were the very seeds of time, into which his eye, of all men"s, could best look to see which grain would grow and which would not. In all ages great men and great women have died for humanity, but none of these have been commemorated by him. The fire of no martyr gleams in his pages. That the stage was under censorship cannot explain or excuse all this. Such was the disposition of the man. He had noble conceptions of national grandeur, but they were of great kings and their conquests.
Macbeth, Richard, and Claudius enthrone themselves through assassination, and there is not a word for the popular distress which such crimes always inflict. Every revolt is to him a riot. The leaders are contemptible miscreants. There is no pity for common suffering, no lash for the great man"s contumely towards the lowly; only a languid murmur against the insolence of office, contemptuous pity for the whipped and carted strumpet, and nothing which would have hindered his promotion had he entered the debasing scramble of favoritism which disgraced his time. He pleased Elizabeth, he pleased James, he would have pleased Napoleon. The plea cannot be made for him that he was not superior to his age.
His greatest cotemporaries were contained within it, but he, the man of whom Jonson wrote thatÃ¢â‚¬â€?; He was not for a day, but for all time; who has set his serene firmament, with all its suns and stars, over all men and all ages, who stands in his works like the angel Uriel in the sun, is as unsympathetic as the planets themselves with those plebeian calamities which constitute the sorrows of common life. Part Four – Introduction to The Law in Shakespeare It has been lamented that we do not know the man. It is true that we do not know him as Boswell has made us to know Johnson, and often to respect him less than he deserves. But, as Emerson has shown, we do know him. ” What trait of his private mind has he hidden in his dramas? One can discern in his ample pictures of the gentleman and the king what forms and humanities pleased him: his delight in troops of friends, in large hospitality, in cheerful giving. “So far from Shakespeare being the least known, he is the one person in all modern history known to us. What point of morals, of manners, of ceremony, of philosophy, of religion, of taste, of the conduct of life, has he not settled? What mystery has he not signified his knowledge of? What office or function or district of man"s work has he not remembered? What king has he not taught state as Talma taught Napoleon? What maiden has not found him finer than her delicacy? What lover has he not outloved? What sage has he not outseen? What gentleman has he not instructed in the rudeness of his behavior? ” All this is true, but it is not the whole truth.
We see a man who revered womanhood, who has given us the finest types of manhood, who was generous, gentle, blameless, who saw through shams clearer than Montaigne, who scourged lust, gluttony, lying, slander, cowardice, pedantry, and all personal meanness with more than the wit of Rabelais, and yet who was silent concerning those great agitations for personal right and liberty which so shortly after he died subverted the monarchy, put aside the peerage, overthrew the church, and for ever established that the state is made for man and not man for the state. And now comes some one and says that here is more proof that Shakespeare is a mere alias for Francis Bacon. It is difficult to touch or let alone this vagary with any patience.
One is inclined simply to protest in the words of Shakespeare"s epitaphÃ¢â‚¬â€? Good frend for lesve sake forbeare To digg the dust encloased heare, and pass on, deeming all secure against a desecration worse than that which the poet cursed. But the identity has been the subject of so much assertion that it may be well to pause before the unreal mockery and exorcise a few of its fantastic shapes. It is not true that Shakespeare was an unlearned man. He was learned, but was not a man of finished learning. Bacon was a perfected scholar. Compare Shakespeare"s classical allusions with the Wisdom of the Ancients and the difference is manifest.
The one is the learning of a “marvelous boy,” the other that of the completed scholar. Nor is it true that he was an obscure man. He is the first English author who made a fortune with his pen. In his last years he wrote himself, gentleman. In 1592 he received from Greene one of those malevolent attacks which are made upon none but authors of established renown. Spenser praised him, and he praised Spenser. In 1598, Meres classed him with Plautus and Seneca. Davies in 1607 addressed him as the English Terence. Fuller"s account of him is known to every one. His works were gathered with pious care and published by his friends within seven years after he died. Ben Jonson was one of the most learned men of his time.
He so much resembles Samuel Johnson in personal and mental traits that it is Ben whom we seem to see with Garrick and his friends at the theater. He was a fierce critic, a good hater, learned in the classics “as any man in England,” a despot in conversation, gross, gluttonous, and scrofulous, his face was seamed with scars, he was passionate, was abject in repentance, feared no man, and loved but few, yet he loved Shakespeare, and claiming him as a child of eternity, has pictured him to us in lines which nothing but great love working upon great sorrow could have produced from such a man. Jonson, we know, was the friend of Francis Bacon, and to him these men were different beings.
Milton, who was a child when Shakespeare died, who lived in London, and enjoyed its theatrical pleasures, and must have talked with many of Shakespeare"s cotemporaries, installs him into an inheritance of everlasting fame more durable than pyramids or any tombs of kings. It is certain that the influence of Shakespeare on the youthful Milton was very impressive, and that it lasted until it was removed by those great events which made the laureate of Paradise an ascetic patriot. The associations of his early days seem to have revived in that magnificent lamentation of Samson Agonistes, Eyeless,–in Gaza,–at the mill,–with slaves, as Landor finely read the lines, over a commonwealth destroyed, himself proscribed, and the time forever gone when the bold Ascalonite of prelacy and the divine right of kings, ————fled from his lion ramp.
Milton"s epitaph upon Shakespeare stands in the folio of 1632. In 1637 we find him writing from London the first elegy ad Carolum Deodatum, in which he informs his friend how his time is spent, and attests his habitual attendance at the theater: Excipit hinc fessum sinuosi pompa theatri, Et vocat ad plausus garrula scene suos. Seu catus auditur senior, seu prodigus haeres, Seu procus, aut posita casside miles adest, Sive decennali foecundus lite patronus Detonat inculto barbara verba foro! Saepe vafer gnato succurrit servus amanti, Et nasum rigidi fallit ubique patris; Saepe novos illic Virgo mirata calores, Quid sit amor nescit, dum quoque nescit, amat.
Sive cruentatum furiosa Tragoedia sceptrum Quassat, et effusis crinibus ora rotas, Et dolet et specto, juvat et spectasse dolendo. Interdum et lacrymis dulcis amaror inest: Seu puer infelix indelibata reliquit Gaudia, et abrupto flendus amore cadit: Seu ferus e tenebris iterat Styga criminis ultor Conscia funereo pectora torre movens. The last four lines have been thought to refer to Romeo, and to Banquo"s ghost or to the one in Hamlet. Comus is filled with undisguised borrowings from Shakespeare. Ere the blabbing eastern scout The nice morn. is Shakespeare"s Gaudy, blabbing, and remorseful day. The possessor of chastity is “alad in complete steel;” so is the ghost in Hamlet. With Milton philosophy is ———–musical as is Apollo"s lute.
With Shakespeare love is ————-as sweet and musical As bright Apollo"s lute strung with his hair. Comus" dissertation on virginity is a manifest adaptation of Parolles" discourse upon that subject. Sabrina sets her ——–printless feet O"er the cowslips" velvet head. And Prospero"s elves ——on tile sands with printless feet Do chase the ebbing Neptune The spirit is another Ariel who ———–can soar as soon To the corners of tile moon, like Hecate, who says that Great business must be wrought ere noon Upon the corner of the moon. These extracts have been adduced to show that Shakespeare was clearly seen by the greatest man of the next generation. Charles I. as sixteen years of age when Shakespeare died. Bacon dedicated to him his history of Henry VII. Shakespeare, in Macbeth, nobly magnified the house of Stuart by a prophecy of its perpetuity. The works of Shakespeare were the closet companion of Charles, who was reproached for this by Milton at a time when the fierce zealots of rebellion had come to look upon the drama as sinful. Falkland was Charles" councillor, and it is from him that we have respecting Caliban the first critical estimate extant of any character in Shakespeare. And yet from prince, king, courtier, poet, or scholar, we hear no hint which can give this modern theory the slightest support.
Bacon was actively engaged in the court of chancery for many years before he became lord chancellor. It was then that the memorable war of jurisdiction was waged between Ellesmere and Coke, and yet there is not in the works of Shakespeare, to the best of my belief, a single phrase or word, much less any application of any principle, peculiar to the chancery. Shakespeare dedicated Venus and Adonis, and the Rape of Lucrece, to the Earl of Southampton, with strong expressions of affection, and it is a tradition that he was munificently treated by that nobleman. No one has ever denied that the author of these poems is also the author of the plays.
But if Bacon was Shakespeare, it is incredible that within a few years the former should have appeared as volunteer counsel against Essex and Southampton in that trial which has so stained Bacon"s name, or that he should have undertaken afterwards, in his Declaration of the Treason of Robert, Earl of Essex, the task of proving the complicity of his friend and patron in that conspiracy. It is also remarkable that in this same production, in order to fasten guilt upon the conspirators, Bacon lays especial stress upon the fact “that the afternoon before the rebellion, Merick, with a great company of others, that afterwards were all in the action, had procured to be played before them the play of deposing King Richard the Second.
Neither was it casual, but a play bespoken by Merick; but when it was told him by one of the players that the play was old, and that they should have loss in playing it, because few would come to it, there were forty shillings extraordinary given to play it, and so thereupon played it was. So earnest was he to entirely satisfy his eyes with the sight of that tragedy, which he thought soon after his lordship should bring from the stage to the state, but that God turned it upon their own heads. ” If Francis Bacon wrote Richard II, it was a piece of matchless effrontery for him to maintain that his own production had been displayed as a counterfeit presentment in aid of a treason in which his friend was engaged.
And in the face of all this and much more we are asked to believe that Bacon, colluding with Shakespeare, practiced this stupendous imposture for nearly twenty-five years, and that it was undetected and unsuspected until after more than two centuries had passed away. If we look to the intrinsic evidence wrenched and misapplied by conjecture from the treasures which these men left to us, we find nothing “but a foolish and extravagant spirit, full of forms, figures, shapes, objects, ideas, apprehensions, motions, revolutions, begot in the ventricle of memory, nourished in the womb of pia mater, and delivered upon the mellowing of occasion. ” Part Five – Introduction to The Law in Shakespeare Bacon"s prose has less rhythmus than Hooker"s or Raleigh"s. We have specimens of his versification.
He translated seven of the psalms into English verse, and here is his first verse: Who never gave to wicked reed A yielding and attentive ear; Who never sinner"s path did tread Nor sat him down in scorner"s chair, But maketh it his whole delight On law of God to meditate, And therein spendeth day and night, That man is in a happy state. Sternhold could not make this worse. Compare it with the crudest lines Shakespeare ever wrote. The differences between these most august of intellectual beings are manifest. Both were sages; one was a poet, the other a philosopher. It is the difference between Homer and Plato. Both had great imaginations, but Bacon"s was a reasoning imagination, which disclosed its logical processes.
That of Shakespeare was intuitive, and left little trace of its trackless paths of development. It is the difference between two continents of vast area, watered by great and fertilizing rivers, full throughout of nature"s wonders; but one is temperate, orderly, subject to little variation, while the other is tropical, ravaged by storms, the home of the greatest beauties sleeping in the very dens of the greatest terrors, and both beneficent and enduring. Each was a discoverer. But Bacon made his quest in the material world, while Shakespeare voyaged through the mind and soul of man and reached their destinies. One is the Columbus and the other the Dante of thought.
The results have been different. The intrepid experimental investigation of causes upon which Bacon insisted as the only force which could break down the prison walls of knowledge, placed thought upon a line of logical consequences leading directly to much that we now enjoy so completely of social, political, and religious rights. This is the greatest boon ever bestowed upon humanity by one man. Bacon"s genius triumphed in his closet over the servility of his disposition, and, so triumphing, impelled the race to results to which he, living, never could have led it. The consequences which have flowed from Shakespeare have been even more diffused.
They are not mere results. The man and his effects live and touch persons. His works are known to all men. Bacon"s are known to few. Bacon is to us impersonal precisely where his influence is greatest, and is real where he has ceased to act. We know the supple courtier, the false friend, the pliant lawyer, and the corrupt judge. But the philosopher, in the midst of whose system we stand to-day, is nearly an ideal conception. Shakespeare, colorless as he is in all that regards material knowledge or political and religious rights, is with us always; speaks to us every day; interprets us to ourselves; is immanent in our literature as its presiding spirit. Bacon little knew or suspected that there was then existing the only one that ever did exist his superior in intellectual power. Position gives magnitude. While the world was rolling above Shakespeare, he was seen imperfectly. When he rose above the world, it was discovered that he was greater than the world. The most honest of his cotemporaries would scarcely have admitted this, even had they known it. But vast objects of remote altitude must be looked at a long while before they are ascertained. Ages are the telescope-tubes that must be lengthened out for Shakespeare, and generations of men serve but as single witnesses to his claims. ” Landor.
The strongest proof that Shakespeare"s legal knowledge was very great consists in the confident and cumulative use of these terms, not only in the general fact that they so recur in every play, in all the poems, and even in the dedications, but also in their exhaustive use in many passages where to explain some principle, to carry out some comparison or analogy to its likeness to the finest lines and features of the thought, to push some conceit to the remotest extravagance, so that it is necessary for a well-read lawyer to make special investigation into the law and statutes of that time before he can follow it, Shakespeare exhausts the capacity of the terms he employs. We turn from these exhibitions of thorough technical skill to see whether he displays anything like such familiarity in other departments of knowledge. We find little that tends to show proficiency in medicine, and this is everybody"s science. In geography he is as perfectly without location as his “still vex"d Bermoothes,” which no research has been able to map. No dogma stains his plain belief in Him who was ——nailed For our advantage to the bitter cross. With time and place his tricks are more magical than that by which Puck girdled the earth in forty minutes.
He is utterly indifferent to the devil and hell-fire, excepting in Henry VI. in Hamlet, and in that terrific use of the witches in Macbeth, who seem to have received from him a power beyond their own to call up from futurity the coroneted baby-brows, the two-fold balls, and treble scepters. In music he discloses little technical learning, although he could make the concourse of sweet sounds quire with the young-ey"d cherubim, so divinely was his soul attuned who expressed the whole compass of our language in harmonies which we hear from him only. We find little knowledge of tactics or maneuvers and less of nautical terms, although it was an age of wars by land and sea, and his works are filled with soldiery.
There is next to nothing of the ancient philosophies; not one of Plato"s glorious and cloudy dreams was ever smitten by the light of this glorifying sun. The wonder at this use of legal expressions is not so much that Shakespeare understood them so well, as it is that the man who commanded the most copious vocabulary that any English writer has ever been able to wield, should have used them with such persistence. Surely he did not need them as instruments of expression. His resources in the treasuries of words were too vast for that. These law terms were present in his mind as standards of comparison with things which nothing but his own despotic imagination could have brought into relevancy.
I know of no writer who has so impressed into his service the terms of any science or art. They come from the mouth of every personage: from the queen; from the child; from the Merry Wives of Windsor; from the Egyptian fervor of Cleopatra; from the love-sick Paphian goddess; from violated Lucrece; from Lear, Hamlet, and Othello; from Shakespeare himself, soliloquizing in his sonnets; from Dogberry and Prospero; from riotous Falstaff and melancholy Jacques. He utters them at all times as standard coin, no matter when or in what mint stamped. These emblems of his industry are woven into his style like the bees into the imperial purple of Napoleon"s coronation robes.
It may be suggested that this figure, so frequently woven into Shakespeare"s diction, may test whether certain plays, which have been attributed to him, come from other hands than his. Thus, I have little doubt that Sir John Oldcastle, if not wholly written by him, bears the imprint of his golden hand. The passage concerning the royal buck, the scene where Harpool forces the sumner to eat the citation he has come to serve, and the other legal phrases, taken together, seem to indicate this. If he did not compose the entire play, he mingled in its composition, like a skillful teacher who corrects the awkward execution of a pupil, by letting his hand fall for a moment upon the keys to strike chords of recognized harmony.
The soundest English and German critics agree that he wrote the first act of the Two Noble Kinsmen, and that the rest of the play is by Fletcher, who took the organ from the master after the prelude had filled the arches of the imagination with its melody. If the first act is tested by comparison with all that follows it, we have the results we should expect in such familiar expressions, as “the tenor of thy speech,” “prorogue,” “fee,” “moiety,” “canon,” “seal the promise. ” Legal learning and language are essentially unpoetical, and the other dramatists of that time were sparing in their use. Ben Jonson was a scholar. He delighted in the exhibition of accurate nowledge, but he does not approach the precision or ease of his great contemporary in his representations of legal proceedings, or in his use of legal terms. An examination of the court scene in the Fox will establish the truth of this remark. Fletcher had been a student at Cambridge, and Beaumont at Oxford. The latter was the son of a judge of the court of common pleas, and was himself bred to the law. But we can find in their works no such disposition or facility in the use of law terms, or the procedure of the courts. In the Little French Lawyer, La Wit, who turns duelist and challenges everybody, including the venerable judge who has ruled against him, uses little of the vocabulary of his vocation.
In the Spanish Curate, the lawyer Bartolus is a very important character, and considerable legal knowledge appears in his sayings and doings, particularly in the scene where his debtors sit down to the feast he has made for them, and are arrested for debt by the waiters, who are disguised officers, under warrants which appear as the only repast upon the plates when they are uncovered, but the performance is broad, and has not the incidental accuracy which appears again and again in Shakespeare. So Massinaer in the Old Law, brings to trial the unfilial son and the profligate wife, but the scene, as a forensic representation, is crude, lacks detail, and displays none of that pomp of justice which all courts of any dignity exhibit. The affiliation between the disciples of Themis and Thespis was a marked feature of those times. Many students of law forsook it and became dramatists.
So common was this transition that Greene, in his Groat"s Worth of Wit, published before 1593, in a passage which has been thought to reflect directly upon Shakespeare, speaks of these re-enforcements to the play-writers as those “who have left the trade of Noverint,” know all men, etc. Sir Christopher Hatton wrote a play entitled Tancred and Gismund, and afterwards became lord chancellor. So noteworthy were these accessions from the law students that Ben Jonson begins the Poetaster, in which he lampoons a rival dramatist and the lawyers, with a scene between Ovid and his father, who detects the young law student writing plays and poems.
There is so much similarity between the opening lines of the Poetaster– Then when this body falls in funeral fire, My name shall live and my best part aspire, and Shakespeare"s assertion of undying fame in the sonnet– Not marble nor the gilded monuments Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme, that one is tempted to conjecture that Jonson intended to impersonate Shakespeare in Ovid; but the alluring supposition is too fanciful, for we know from Ovid himself that– Saepe pater dixit, studium quid inutile tendes, Maeonides nullas ipse reliquit opes. * * * * * * * Non me verbosas leges discere, non me Ingrato voces prostituisse foro.
John Shakespeare, coming to London, and detecting his son in the composition of plays, would have been a far better theme for an imaginary conversation than Landor chose when he gave us the examination of William Shakespeare before Sir Thomas Lucy for deer-stealing. Henry Wriothesly, to whom Shakespeare dedicated “the first heir of his invention,” was the grandson of a common-law lawyer, who was lord chancellor from 1544 to 1547. The relations of the most dramatic profession of real life to that which mimics life was then much like the construction of the amphitheater of Curio, which was elliptical, but built in equal sections, which could be revolved so that each became a theater, displaying a different spectacle, but could be turned in a moment into the unity of the original shape, and confuse two representations and two audiences.
The inns of court were the scenes of spectacular dramas of great magnificence, the expenses of which were borne by the lawyers. These revels, as they were called, laid the best dramatic genius under contribution, and, though they have long since ended, the ancient sympathy has survived the insubstantial pageants and the actors, which have melted into thin air. It is not difficult to account for this intimacy. The dramatists of that time were unquestionably the most brilliant men who ever lived together in one city. Intellectual society was limited. The physicians have left no memorials. The stage was abhorred by the clergy. The editor was yet to come.
But there was the bar, whose members knew life and human nature as they are, and who played their parts in all their real comedies and tragedies; university men, ripe and sweet with all classical learning, cynical and humorous, tainted with no cant. The taverns were the clubs. And thus it was that the most cultivated scholarship and the most brilliant imaginations of England met in encounters, which kindled into conflagrations of wit, humor, learning, ribaldry, and wisdom. There was everything in that romantic age to stir the imagination. There was a spirit of chivalry abroad which marched in quest of something more substantial than mouldy relics, and fulfilled vows sworn to something grander than the achievement of pious absurdities. Frobisher had sailed northward into the silence of the eternal seas of ice. E1 Dorado lifted against the western skies its shafts and domes of gold.
The Armada had vanished like a portentous phantom, smitten by the valor of Englishmen, and chased far off into the Hebridean fogs by the waves of the exasperated sea, which fought for its island nursling. Hawkins, pirate and admiral, had thrown his fortune into the pit which threatened to swallow up his country, and had died under the displeasure of his stingy yet magnificent queen. Raleigh, having seen his dreams of the new world die out, lay in the Tower, writing his history, doubtless smoking the consoling weed, while awaiting the end of so much bravery, so much rashness, and so many cares, in the summons of “eloquent, just, and mighty Death. ” Drake had spoiled the seas and the cities thereof. Captain John Smith had told of great empires in the west, and their swarthy emperors.
Mary, Queen of Scots, that changeful enchantress, as we see her now, –at one time the French lily, all sweet, and pure, and fragrant; and again the Scottish thistle, spinous and cruel to all who touched her, –had woven the cords of love into the chains of empire, and had pressed the cup of her sorceries to the lips of many men, until her own glorious head bowed to ——-the long divorce of steel. History, among all the women who have been crowned with the thorns of sorrow, presents no figure of which Shakespeare could have made so much. But what could any dramatist do for her in the life-time of Elizabeth, or in that of the pusillanimous and unfilial Sawney who succeeded her? A reverend church had been subverted throughout the land, and beliefs and ceremonies, which its believers asserted to be as old as the apostles, were forbidden as crimes.
Hooker, anticipating Locke, had declared that all governments exist by the consent of the governed, “without which consent there were no reason that one should take on him to be lord or judge over another. ” Bacon, thinking that “the knowledge whereof the world is now possessed, especially that of nature, extendeth not to the magnitude of works,” had declared that there should be “one method of cultivating the sciences and another of discovering them,” and by this fiat liberated experimental philosophy into the limitless fields in which it has since worked. There never was a time when so many causes confederated to stimulate the human mind to the exhibition of its greatest powers in all departments, and the result was that the soldier became a historian, the divine a statesman, the statesman a philosopher, and the lawyer the first of poets.