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the same tragedy-in Act 2, scene 1, where Iago, again describing Cassio, says of him that he is “ a slipper and subtle knave,” “a finder out of occasions,” 66 a devilish knave,” “a pestilent complete knave,” and so on. It is not, of course, meant to be argued that this was Iago's real opinion of his successful rival, since we know that when the disappointed ancient was no longer called on to deceive Roderigo, he confesses that Cassio 6 has a daily beauty in his life” that makes him (Iago) ugly, yet in so far as the phrase stands as we suggest, the explanation derived from subsequent expressions of Iago seems to be fairly conclusive. Mr Tyrwhit suggests a gloss which may also carry some weight. Founding apparently on the confession of lago that there was 6 a daily beauty” in the “ life” of Cassio, Mr T. proposed to read the line
A fellow almost damned in a fair lifewith the meaning attached that it was a life so good that, in the Scriptural sense, woe was to be denounced against it. (“ Woe be unto you when all men speak well of you.”) This, however, is too far fetched, albeit the most plausible change of the line yet suggested by any acknowledged authority, and seems to be entirely inadmissible. But believing the line as it stands to be an error due to the blundering of transcriber or printer, we suggest a second emendation, drawn from the drama itself, and which would also agree with the kind of character elsewhere (falsely and of malice aforethought) ascribed by Iago to Cassio. Our second reading of the line is
A fellow almost damned in a fair faceFace, in the sense of mein, exterior, appearance, and as used in Act l, scene 3, by the same wicked Iago regarding Cassio
He hath a person and a smooth discourse
To be suspected; framed to make women false. In this view of the proper reading, it would be preferable to find some word more nearly resembling in spelling and appearance the undoubtedly false word wife,” but still of the same meaning. For ourselves, we have no such word to offer, and we do not doubt that Shakspere wrote
A fellow almost damned ; in a fair strife
The greatest deficiency of the expositors, in our humble view, has been their inability, in some instances, to compare the author with himself, and if this is intelligently done in the present case, there can be small doubt of the result.
KING HENRY V.-Act 2, scene 3.
In Dame Quickly's most natural and pathetic description of the death of Falstaff, she is made to say, in the ordinary editions, “ After I saw him fumble with the sheets, and play with flowers, and smile upon his fingers' end, I knew there was but one way, for his nose was as sharp as a pen, and a' babbled of green fields.” This latter clause respecting green fields has given rise to a world of controversy. Previous to the edition of Theobald, it read 6 and a table of green fields," which sounds quite nonsensical, and this critic has been lauded for his sagacity in making the emendation now so commonly in use. It is doubtful, however, whether Pope is not right in rejecting the words altogether. In a note to his edition, he says
These words, and a table of green fields, though inserted in all the subsequent editions after the word pen, are not to be found in the old editions of 1600 and 1608. This nonsense got into all these editions by a pleasant mistake of the stage editors, who printed from the common piece-meal written parts in the play-house. A table was here directed to be brought in (it being a scene in a tavern where they drink at parting), and this direction crept into the text from the margin. Greenfield was the name of the property-man in that time, who furnish'd implements, &c., for the actors. À table of Greenfield's.
Mr Collier, on the authority of some corrections he asserted he had discovered in an old copy, would have the words changed to 66 as sharp as a pen on a table of green baize.” This proposed emendation, made several years since, has been very properly laughed out of court as an absurdity. In any way, however, there are difficulties with the expression. Theobald's gloss is certainly ingenious, only it is almost as certainly unsound. That the great limner of human nature would cause the dying sensualist and man of the world to be thinking in his last moments of " green fields” seems to be exceedingly improbable. He uttered exclamations of pain or of remorse; he 66 cried out o'sack;" he spoke of women — in all which was Shakspere true to the character of such a man, but it is difficult to believe that he made Falstaff allude to any such matters as “ green fields” in the last moments of his life. On the whole, the passage seems to be worthy of being reconsidered by the critics with reference to the suggestion made by Pope.
KING JOHN-Act 2, scene 2.
Bastard.--Here's a stay,
That spits forth death, and mountains, rocks, and seas. Mr Staunton remarks on this passage_“ Stay, if that be the poet's word, is used, we suppose, in the sense of a sudden check or obstacle. It may not be the most suitable expression to introduce the following line; but it appears at least as good as flaw or say, which have been proposed to supersede it.” We suspect that the word in the text, along with the words suggested as substitutes, are all wrong, and that Shakspere wrote storm, in the sense of a hurricane of high-flown verbiage, which agrees with the remainder of the passage.
CHAPTER NINTHEARLY OPINIONS REGARDING SHAKSPERE'S GENIUS.
That the great writer should have lived and moved, and penned his immortal productions amongst Englishmen less than three centuries since, and during one of the best known and most illustrious periods in our annals, and yet have remained so completely unrecognised, is not perhaps so strange as at first sight might appear. Bacon, Raleigh, Spenser, and others, were at the time playing their several parts on the stage of history. They were of consequence well known during their lives, and the records of their doings have come down to us with satisfactory minuteness. When we inquire regarding Shakspere, the conditions are all changed, and we can learn next to nothing. Still, there is less room for wonder in this circumstance than is commonly imagined. Bacon and Raleigh were men of the world, prime movers and actors in affairs of state, and Spenser was lifted into prominence by the patronage of the great. Shakspere enjoyed no such distinction, nor did he seem to court it. Happily for the world, as we think, he was left to meditation and to comparative quiet and isolation. As an actor and play-writer, he was under a kind of social proscription, and he seems to have been perfectly contented with his humble position. The man Shakspere was, in short, practically unknown, and we are quite prepared to believe that had any of the intellectual men or women of the day been informed that a greater was amongst them than Euripides and “ thundering Sophocles,” they would have returned only the smile of passive incredulity. It has been made a matter of surprise by some that Bacon, in the course of his works, never once mentions Shakspere, and this circumstance has been construed, in combination with others, to support the ridiculous and most untenable thesis that Bacon was Shakspere, and himself the real creator of the marvellous dramas. The simple truth probably is that Bacon, literary giant as he was, had no more perception of the grandeur of Shakspere than the rest of the world, and that, if he ever read 76 Lear” or “ Hamlet,” or saw these plays performed, he was too closely occupied with his own schemes of ambition and of philosophy to pay much attention to such productions, which must have appeared in the eyes of such a man as things essentially vulgar and unimportant. Bacon saw, or might have seen, the entire worldly career of his great contemporary. He was born three years before Shakspere, and survived him by ten years. At the period (1616) Shakspere resigned to his Maker his gentle loving spirit, Bacon had just achieved his first triumph over his life-long rival and enemy Coke, and was openly glorying in his fall and revelling in further dreams of vain ambition-scheming, fawning, intriguing, showing himself ever a false friend, with a nature coldblooded, cruel, and selfish; in very truth, " the wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind.” What a contrast to all that we know of the despised player! It is not at all probable, as already hinted, that Bacon, from his lofty position as a philosopher and a statesman, ever condescended to look at matters so mean and insignificant as stage-plays, yet if he read the works of Shakspere at all, his attention must have been attracted to " King Henry VIII.,” which stands as a sort of sequel to his own history of the preceding reign, and in that case one may imagine with what feelings Bacon, after his final deposition from power and place, read the words Shakspere puts into the mouth of the disgraced Wolsey :
Mark but my fall, and that that ruin'd me.
Thou fall'st a blessed martyr! Another cause for the neglect of Shakspere lay in the condition of society. There was no reading public, or none worthy of the name, and works of high intelligence could have no hope of extended patronage. Bacon himself believed that his countrymen were not prepared to receive or understand his philosophical speculations, and he solemnly left his memory to foreign nations, and after some time to his own country. If it is objected to this view that the single plays of Shakspere were frequently printed during his life, showing that a demand existed for them,