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speare has comprehended the nature of woman, is one of the profoundest secrets of his genius. All the elemental germs of her nature seem to have been hidden in his own; and when his genius began to work, these germs unfolded themselves into all the types of woman-kind. The types so unfolded are mental mirrors, in which every representative woman may see the reflection of her class. It is not that Shakespeare dives into the depths of woman's passions; that he goes through dark mazes of her guilt, her cunning, and her crime; that he detects her concealed motives and her sinful schemes ;- it is that he is equally familiar with her innocence, with her guileless love, her girlish joys, her vanities, her sports, her tricks, her waywardness and wiles, — the slightest motion that ripples the surface of her life, — and with that pathetic and prophetic story of virgin fears and of womanly hopes which she only whispers in her sleep. Thus is Shakespeare's genius interveined through all the inward life of womanhood, with a penetrating power, a discernment of spirit, a truthfulness of feeling, and a fulness of sympathy, which are almost more than natural. For this reason, Shakespeare has both enchantment and awe for the genuine woman's mind, - such a mind loves him while it fears him; and this is the highest love that woman knows. The woman — who is of any worth — does not love the trifler, or the flatterer, or the weakling: she loves the man whose strength she can admire, whose insight makes her tremble while she feels that it reads her secret thoughts, and who is of the serious integrity that will not degrade her or him by the base bribery of lying words; who is, at the same time, of the heroic and affectionate nature that moves her enthusiasm and that captivates her heart. If such a combination would be resistless to woman in the character of a man, in another way it must be as much so in the character of his genius. On these grounds, the genius of Shakespeare must be to women of soul a glory and a might, such as no genius has ever been before to woman, — such as perhaps no genius will ever be again. Some poets of modern times have wonderfully ingratiated themselves in the admiration of women: Byron, by sentiment and passion ; Schiller, by delicacy, feeling, and enthusiasm ; Goethe, by a sort of demonic
magic; Scott, by a natural and massive manliness ; Tennyson, by a certain witchery, half earthly, half unearthly, that brings together the sensuous and the spiritual in music and beauty which have always entrancement for womanly susceptibility. But though these, at first, produce more excitement, Shakespeare has more lasting inspiration : he is, in truth, the kingly master of them all; he transcends them all, as Prospero the slavish sprites of his island, or rather as Solomon, in Eastern legends, transcends the spirits and genii of air and sea.
Turning from the subjective completeness of Shakespeare's genius in itself, we find it no less complete in its subjective action on every mind that enters into it with adequate communion. As all the powers, feelings, and passions are called into play in the processes of its creative energy, so do they bring into consciousness all the forces and susceptibilities of our inner nature. It is not that Shakespeare draws all our inner nature into consciousness, but as its several functions are harmonized in his own genius, so are the movements which his genius excites in us correspondingly harmonized. This is done, not merely by power, by truth, by reality, but by the occult sympathy of Shakespeare's genius with the whole inner humanity of the individual. As some poets are unduly active in imagination, so they unduly excite it. So they are and do, not because their imagination is positively great, but because, relatively, it is not ordered to the measure of the mind. The same may be said of intellect, of fancy, of passion, and of sensibility. The result is, that the writings of such poets leave on us, not only the impression of incompleteness, but also that of unreality; not only the impression of defect, but also that of incongruity. The true ideal is not the product of mere imagination ; and much less is it the product of a disjoined and disproportioned imagination : it is the product of all the faculties in their happiest combination, and in their most inspired action; it is the embodiment or utterance, not only of genius in its ' rapture, but also in its wisdom. Take the embodied result of genius as example. What sobriety and unity of power in the most ideal statue, in the most saintly picture, in the sublime building, that transports us out of earth and sense, - that kills within us, while we gaze, every thought of the utilitarian and the practical! Take genius, again, in its utterance. Where is there great eloquence that does not come from the whole mind, and the whole mind in its collective energies? Where is there high poetry, but where this also is the case ? Whence the difference between the art and poetry of India, and the art and poetry of Greece? Why, that in India art and poetry are the extravagance of partial and exaggerated development; that in Greece art and poetry are the result of full development and of complete culture. Gloom and bulk belong to the buildings of India, light and grace to those of Greece : statues in India are grim, hideous idols; in Greece, they are most perfect representations of strength, beauty, and intelligence. Poetry in India is, in a great measure, the wild rhapsody of a monstrous mythology; abhorrent alike to every idea of the human and the divine, the natural and the supernatural, it is so remote from every conception of the possible, that even by contrast it does not suggest the impossible : it resembles merely the reported dreams and visions which drunken giants might have had in their nightmare sleep. Poetry in Greece is song, into which man breathes his deepest, fullest, truest nature. India has, indeed, imagination; but it is imagination sick and somnambulic. Greece has yet more imagination; but it is imagination healthy and awake, — strong, too, because united with the vigor of all the other faculties. Now, who concedes the ideal to India ? Who denies it to Greece? The most bewildering unreality belongs to India ; the noblest reality belongs to Greece. But unreality does not always arise from the abuse or disorder of imagination; it arises as often on the practical side of life as on its imaginative. The Chinese are surely a practical people; but, beyond the routine of their habitual experience, they have neither fact, substance, nor idea. How incapable such a people are of art we know, by the horrible noise which they mistake for music: yet of all arts music is the most instinctive. Even music needs not only enthusiasm and sensibility, which the Chinese have not, — but also it needs reason and imagination, in which they are equally deficient.
We have pursued this course of illustration to explain the ground of our common faith in the reality of Shakespeare's crea
tions. What always appears to us as the most unreal, is that which is incongruous and inconsistent. We feel this in actual life. That a man, who has for many years had an honorable reputation, is suddenly found to be a villain, we will not believe, except upon invincible and irresistible evidence. That a man should kneel down to pray and stand up to murder, is what we should hardly credit on any proof short of our own senses; and even this proof we should be almost inclined to doubt. Now, it is the wonderful consistency and congruity with which Shakespeare's creations answer to our laws of thought, that cause us to put our faith in them. The personalities — the incarnations of character — we conceive of as most real, and yet we distinguish them from common fact. They are most transcendentally ideal. But this, instead of carrying them out of the range of our communion, brings them livingly and intimately within it. Let us refer to some of the most preternatural characters of Shakespeare, — to those that may, in the purest sense, be called ideal. Prospero is as little within an earthly population, as the island of his necromancies is within the bounds of earthly geography. Yet we do verily accept him as one of our human kindred; and though we detest Caliban, yet our desire to beat him, and our satisfaction to think he has been beaten, show how mystically and livingly the poet has knit him to our humanity. The “ Midsummer Night's Dream,” its personages and its doings, are as remote from the actual events of life, as if the scenery were placed in a distant planet; yet so full is it of human inspiration, so much of it answers to what we know and feel within ourselves, that we find a place for it in our inward life, though none it has in the outward world. The speculative Hamlet - take him as an individual — is almost as far away from the path of common men, as if he belonged to another sphere; but he too has such hold upon our common, upon our inward nature, that, in all that is most serious, thoughtful, and spiritual, the mind embraces him as a brother. The visionary Macbeth could no more belong to the actual world than the speculative Hamlet; yet he likewise has that within us which can make him real, and by our own instincts, superstitions, and desires, we feel that inwardly we are of his kindred. It is even this sense of inward kindred that gives solemnity and terror to the ghost of Hamlet's father, that excites detestation against Lear's daughters, and that appalls us in presence of the Witches on the heath. The comic characters of Shakespeare are fully as ideal as his tragic ones; as removed from ordinary fact, and yet as true to human nature. We see them not around us, but within us; we recognize them; and right well we know them. No such social wit as Falstaff ever existed or ever will exist; no such warrior and orator as Ancient Pistol; no such municipal officer as Dogberry; no such glorious cheat and thief as the magnificent Autolycus ; — yet these are in themselves and to us so consistent and complete, that, while they are as much creatures of imagination as Ariel and Titania, we almost expect to meet them in our daily walks; but we shall about as surely meet them there, as we shall find the sailing chart of “ The Ancient Mariner,” or as we shall discover the tavern-bills of Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgrims. Thus it is that genius, subjectively complete, unites in one conception the ideal and the real; thus it is that such genius awakens the sense of them in other minds.
We will now consider the topic objectively. In the relations of Shakespeare's genius to our human life generally, we have again security for its continuance in the deathless literature of the world. There is no stage of life with which it does not concern itself; from “the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse's arms,” to the “last scene of all, that ends this strange, eventful history, in second childishness and mere oblivion ; sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything." There is no stage of life to which Shakespeare's genius is not true. With childhood and early youth, it does not indeed much deal ; but, so far as it does deal with such a period, it does so with the instinct and intuition of nature. Full of freshest, sweetest strength and goodliness is this picture of princely boyhood :
“O thou goddess,