Studies in Shakespeare

Studies in Shakespeare

by Richard Grant White
     
 

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PROBABLY no one will deny that in the death of Richard Grant White we have lost our best Shakespeare scholar. Mr. White traversed a large area of English scholarship, and as a critic of the modern uses and abuses of the language he rendered his countrymen no small service; but his most thorough work was done in the field of Shakespearean literature. To readers who

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PROBABLY no one will deny that in the death of Richard Grant White we have lost our best Shakespeare scholar. Mr. White traversed a large area of English scholarship, and as a critic of the modern uses and abuses of the language he rendered his countrymen no small service; but his most thorough work was done in the field of Shakespearean literature. To readers who cannot avail themselves of his largest work, this volume of sketches will be welcome and useful. It is made up of articles which the author contributed to the magazines and some fresh matter on Shakespeare Glossaries and Lexicons. The book has a melancholy interest because the preparation of it was the last work of its author. He revised the essays for this volume, and they therefore present his matured opinions upon Shakespearean subjects. The matter of the volume is divided into four parts: I., on reading Shakespeare; II., narrative analysis; III., miscellaneous; IV., expositors. The prominent characteristics of the book are brightness and animation. The author was never dull or uncandid or obscure. In a long life of Shakespearean criticism he had acquired some very strong opinions, and he always had the art of expressing them strongly and even vehemently; and yet in the volume before us we are surprised to find a matured belief in his capacity for critical animosity seriously weakened. For though there is much strong expression it is always remarkably reasonable. He has to write of very unreasonable opinions and very gross errors; but it would be difficult for anyone to be faithful to his own convictions with less of aspersity and with such an entire absence of vindictiveness. Few books of the size contain so much instruction, and one must search long to find one in which wisdom has so attractive a dress.

On reading Shakespeare, Mr. White wrote as a master who knew all about his subject and yet could make it attractive to those who knew little or nothing about it. He expresses the opinion that "most boys who are Shakespeare-lovers have the love strongly upon them before they are sixteen"; and adds that such was his own case. He tells us that "the young reader may begin Shakespeare reading at the first temptation to do so. A one-volume edition of Shakespeare's plays is a good book to leave in the way of young people. It may do them a great deal of good; it can do no one of them any harm."

A few of Mr. White's matured convictions with regard to Shakespeare's work are set forth in these essays with considerable breadth. For example, the fact that Shakespeare invented nothing but characters, that he drew his material and his plots from other sources, that he had absolutely no dramatic invention, is maintained with the stoutness which we expect in Mr. White. On page 22, he says that "the pretence which has been made for Shakespeare, that none of his work at any period of his life resembles that of any other poet or playwright, and can always be separated from that of his co-workers, is entirely irreconcilable with the facts and probabilities of the case, and with the history of all arts, poetry included. True, Shakespeare's mind was, in the highest and largest sense of the terms, original and creative. But such minds, no less than others of narrower and inferior power, are imitative in their first essays." He repeats over and over again in various forms that Shakespeare invented nothing in his plots. On page 230 he says: "What Shakespeare did not do as well as what he did do as a playwright has no better proof or illustration than in his Fools. He did not invent the personage; he found it on the stage. Indeed, he invented nothing; he added nothing to the drama as he found it; he made nothing, not even the story of one of his own plays; he created nothing, save men and women, and Ariels and Calabans." He then proceeds to point out how Shakespeare transformed the fool of the stage and gave him in each play a personality....

-The Dial, Volume 6 [18

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780404069353
Publisher:
AMS Press, Inc.
Publication date:
06/01/1973
Edition description:
3d ed
Pages:
383

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THE FLORENTINE ARITHMETICIAN. About three hundred and fifty years ago, when Venice was in the height of her power and the full flower of her glory, and when she was engaged in constant warfare with the Turk, there was among her senators one named Brabantio, who was held in honor by his fellows and by the Duke, or Doge, himself. The mistress of his household was his young daughter, Desdernona, whom he loved the more tenderly because her mother had died in her childhood, and the girl had grown to early womanhood watched over only by his fatherly eye, and had gradually come to fill a wife's and a daughter's place both in his household and in his heart. The lack of the restraint of a mother's solicitude and cautions had developed in Desdemona an independence of character and a self-reliance to which otherwise she might not have attained ; and this independence her position as the head of the domestic establishment of a member of the proudest and most powerful oligarchy of modern Europe greatly strengthened and confirmed. Desdemona's nature was gentle, submissive, and self-sacrificing, but at the same time earnest, frank, and passionful; and the result of the influence of such a life as hers upon such a nature was a union of boldness, or rather of openness, both in thought and in action, with a warmth and tender- 102 ' ""STtDlES IN SHAKESPEARE. ness of feeling and a capacity of self-devotion which are found only in women of highly and delicately strung organizations. With an imagination which wrought out for her grand ideals, and a soul finely attuned to all the higher influences of life, she was yet a careful housekeeper, and gave herself up loyally to the duties imposed upon her byher position in her father's house. Notwithstanding her beauty, her rank, and her accomplis...

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