It may be well to add here a couple of portraits of Shakespeare in later
life in order to establish beyond question the chief features of his
character. With this purpose in mind I shall take a portrait that is a
mere sketch of him, Duke Vincentio in "Measure for Measure," and a
portrait that is minutely finished and perfect, though consciously
idealized, Posthumus, in "Cymbeline." And the reason I take this
careless, wavering sketch, and contrast it with a highly-finished
portrait, is that, though the sketch is here and there hardly
recognizable, the outline being all too thin and hesitating, yet now and
then a characteristic trait is over-emphasized, as we should expect in
careless work. And this sketch in lines now faint, now all too heavy, is
curiously convincing when put side by side with a careful and elaborate
portrait in which the same traits are reproduced, but harmoniously, and
with a perfect sense of the relative value of each feature. No critic,
so far as I am aware, not Hazlitt, not Brandes, not even Coleridge, has
yet thought of identifying either Duke Vincentio or Posthumus with
Hamlet, much less with Shakespeare himself. The two plays are very
unlike each other in tone and temper; "Measure for Measure" being a sort
of tract for the times, while "Cymbeline" is a purely romantic drama.
Moreover, "Measure for Measure" was probably written a couple of years
after "Hamlet," towards the end of 1603, while "Cymbeline" belongs to
the last period of the poet's activity, and could hardly have been
completed before 1610 or 1611. The dissimilarity of the plays only
accentuates the likeness of the two protagonists.
"Measure for Measure" is one of the best examples of Shakespeare's
contempt for stagecraft. Not only is the mechanism of the play, as we
shall see later, astonishingly slipshod, but the ostensible purpose of
the play, which is to make the laws respected in Vienna, is not only not
attained, but seems at the end to be rather despised than forgotten.
This indifference to logical consistency is characteristic of
Shakespeare; Hamlet speaks of "the undiscovered country from whose
bourne no traveller returns" just after he has been talking with his
dead father. The poetic dreamer cannot take the trouble to tie up the
loose ends of a story: the real purpose of "Measure for Measure," which
is the confusion of the pretended ascetic Angelo, is fulfilled, and that
is sufficient for the thinker, who has thus shown what "our seemers be."
It is no less characteristic of Shakespeare that Duke Vincentio, his
<i>alter ego</i>, should order another to punish loose livers--a task
which his kindly nature found too disagreeable. But, leaving these
general considerations, let us come to the first scene of the first act:
the second long speech of the Duke should have awakened the suspicion
that Vincentio is but another mask for Shakespeare. The whole speech
proclaims the poet; the Duke begins:
There is a kind of character in thy life,"
Hamlet says to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in what is supposed to be
"There is a kind of confession in your looks."
A little later the line:
"Spirits are not finely touched
But to fine issues,"
is so characteristic of Hamlet-Shakespeare that it should have put every
reader on the track.
The speeches of the Duke in the fourth scene of the first act are also
characteristic of Shakespeare. But the four lines,
"My holy sir, none better knows than you
How I have ever loved the life removed,
And held in idle price to haunt assemblies,
Where youth and cost and witless bravery keep,"
are to me an intimate, personal confession; a fuller rendering indeed of
Hamlet's "Man delights not me; no, nor woman neither." In any case it
will be admitted that a dislike of assemblies and cost and witless
bravery is peculiar in a reigning monarch, so peculiar indeed that it
reminds me of the exiled Duke in "As You Like It," or of Duke Prospero
in "The Tempest" (two other incarnations of Shakespeare), rather than of
any one in real life. A love of solitude; a keen contempt for shows and
the "witless bravery" of court-life were, as we shall see,
characteristics of Shakespeare from youth to old age.
In the first scene of the third act the Duke as a friar speaks to the
condemned Claudio. He argues as Hamlet would argue, but with, I think, a
more convinced hopelessness. The deepening scepticism would of itself
force us to place "Measure for Measure" a little later than "Hamlet":
"Reason thus with life:--
If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing
That none but fools would keep; a breath thou art,
* * * * *
The best of rest is sleep,
And that thou oft provok'st, yet grossly fear'st
Thy death, which is no more. Thou'rt not thyself;
For thou exist'st on many a thousand grains
That issue out of dust. Happy thou art not;
For what thou hast not, still thou striv'st to get,
|And what thou hast, forgett'st.
* * * *
|That bears the name of life? Yet
||in this life
|Lie hid more thousand deaths; yet death
|That makes these odds all even."
That this scepticism of Vincentio is Shakespeare's scepticism appears
from the fact that the whole speech is worse than out of place when
addressed to a person under sentence of death. Were we to take it
seriously, it would show the Duke to be curiously callous to the
sufferings of the condemned Claudio; but callous the Duke is not, he is
merely a pensive poet-philosopher talking in order to lighten his own
heart. Claudio makes unconscious fun of the Duke's argument:
"To sue to live, I find I seek to die,
And seeking death, find life: let it come on."
This scepticism of Shakespeare which shows itself out of place in Angelo
and again most naturally in Claudio's famous speech, is one of the
salient traits of his character which is altogether over-emphasized in
this play. It is a trait, moreover, which finds expression in almost
everything he wrote. Like nearly all the great spirits of the
Renaissance, Shakespeare was perpetually occupied with the heavy
problems of man's life and man's destiny. Was there any meaning or
purpose in life, any result of the striving? was Death to be feared or a
Hereafter to be desired?--incessantly he beat straining wings in the
void. But even in early manhood he never sought to deceive himself. His
Richard II. had sounded the shallow vanity of man's desires, the
futility of man's hopes; he knew that man
"With nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased
With being nothing."
And this sad knowledge darkened all Shakespeare's later thinking.
Naturally, when youth passed from him and disillusionment put an end to
dreaming, his melancholy deepened, his sadness became despairing; we can
see the shadows thickening round him into night. Brutus takes an
"everlasting farewell" of his friend, and goes willingly to his rest.
Hamlet dreads "the undiscovered country"; but unsentient death is to him
"a consummation devoutly to be wished." Vincentio's mood is
half-contemptuous, but the melancholy persists; death is no "more than
sleep," he says, and life a series of deceptions; while Claudio in this
same play shudders away from death as from annihilation, or worse, in
words which one cannot help regarding as Shakespeare's:
"<i>Claud</i>. Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot...."
A little later and Macbeth's soul cries to us from the outer darkness:
"there's nothing serious in mortality"; life's
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
And from this despairing gloom come Lear's shrieks of pain and pitiful
ravings, and in the heavy intervals the gibberings of the fool. Even
when the calmer mood of age came upon Shakespeare and took away the
bitterness, he never recanted; Posthumus speaks of life and death in
almost the words used by Vincentio, and Prospero has nothing to add save
that "our little life is rounded with a sleep."
It is noteworthy that Shakespeare always gives these philosophic
questionings to those characters whom I regard as his impersonations,
and when he breaks this rule, he breaks it in favour of some Claudio who
is not a character at all, but the mere mouthpiece of one of his moods.
[Footnote 1: One of my correspondents, Mr. Theodore Watts-Dunton, has
been kind enough to send me an article contributed to "Colbourn's
Magazine" in 1873, in which he declares that "Shakespeare seems to have
kept a sort of Hamlet notebook, full of Hamlet thoughts, of which 'To be
or not to be' may be taken as the type. These he was burdened with.
These did he cram into Hamlet as far as he could, and then he tossed the
others indiscriminately into other plays, tragedies and histories,
perfectly regardless of the character who uttered them." Though Mr.
Watts-Dunton sees that some of these "Hamlet thoughts" are to be found
in Macbeth and Prospero and Claudio, he evidently lacks the key to
Shakespeare's personality, or he would never have said that Shakespeare
tossed these reflections "indiscriminately into other plays."
Nevertheless the statement itself is interesting, and deserves more
notice than has been accorded to it.]
I now come to a point in the drama which at once demands and defies
explanation. In the first scene of the third act the Duke, after
listening to the terrible discussion between Isabella and Claudio, first
of all tells Claudio that "Angelo had never the purpose to corrupt"
Isabella, and then assures Claudio that to-morrow he must die. The
explanation of these two falsehoods would be far to seek, unless we take
it that they were invented simply in order to prolong our interest in
the drama. But this assumption, though probable, does not increase our
sympathy with the protagonist--the lies seem to be too carelessly
uttered to be even characteristic--nor yet our admiration of the
structure of a play that needs to be supported by such flimsy
buttresses. Still this very carelessness of fact, as I have said, is
Shakespearean; the philosophic dreamer paid little attention to the mere
incidents of the story.
The talk between the Duke and Isabella follows. The form of the Duke's
speech, with its touch of euphuistic conceit, is one which
"The hand that hath made you fair hath made you
good: the goodness that is cheap in beauty makes
beauty brief in goodness; but grace, being the soul of
your complexion, shall keep the body of it ever fair."
This Duke plays philosopher, too, in and out of season as Hamlet did: he
says to Isabella:
"Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful,"
generalizing his praise even to a woman.
Again, when Pompey is arrested, he passes from the individual to the
"That we were all as some would seem to be,
Free from our faults, as from faults seeming free."
Then follows the interesting talk with Lucio, who awakens the slightly
pompous Duke to natural life with his contempt. When Lucio tells the
Duke, who is disguised as a friar, that he (the Duke) was a notorious
loose-liver--"he had some feeling of the sport; he knew the
service"--the Duke merely denies the soft impeachment; but when Lucio
tells him that the Duke is not wise, but "a very superficial, ignorant,
unweighing fellow," the Duke bursts out, "either this is envy in you,
folly, or mistaking: ... Let him but be testimonied in his own
bringings-forth, and he shall appear to the envious a scholar, a
statesman, and a soldier," which recalls Hamlet's "Friends, scholars,
and soldiers," and Ophelia's praise of Hamlet as "courtier, soldier,
scholar." Lucio goes off, and the Duke "moralizes" the incident in
Hamlet's very accent:
"No might nor greatness in mortality
Can censure 'scape; backwounding calumny
The whitest virtue strikes. What king so strong
Can tie the gall up in the slanderous tongue?"
Hamlet says to Ophelia:
"Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shall
not escape calumny."
And Laertes says that "virtue itself" cannot escape calumny.
The reflection is manifestly Shakespeare's own, and here the form, too,
is characteristic. It may be as well to recall now that Shakespeare
himself was calumniated in his lifetime; the fact is admitted in Sonnet
36, where he fears his "guilt" will "shame" his friend.
In his talk with Escalus the Duke's speech becomes almost obscure from
excessive condensation of thought--a habit which grew upon Shakespeare.
"What news abroad in the world?"
The Duke answers:
"None, but that there is so great a fever on goodness,
that the dissolution of it must cure it: novelty is only in
request. ... There is scarce truth enough alive to make
societies secure, but security enough to make fellowships
Escalus then tells us of the Duke's temperament in words which would fit
Hamlet perfectly; for, curiously enough, they furnish us with the best
description of Shakespeare's melancholy:
"Rather rejoicing to see another merry, than merry at
anything which professed to make him rejoice."
And, lastly, the curious rhymed soliloquy of Vincentio which closes this
third act, must be compared with the epilogue to "The Tempest":
"He who the sword of Heaven will bear
Should be as holy as severe;
Pattern in himself to know,
Grace to stand and virtue go;"
* * * * *
"Shame to him whose cruel striking
Kills for faults of his own liking!
Twice treble shame on Angelo,
To weed my vice and let his grow!"
* * * * *
In the fifth act the Duke, freed from making plots and plans, speaks
without constraint and reveals his nature ingenuously. He uses words to
Angelo that recall the sonnets:
"O, your desert speaks loud; and I should wrong it,
To lock it in the wards of covered bosom,
When it deserves, with characters of brass,
A forted residence 'gainst the tooth of time
And razure of oblivion."
[Footnote 1: Cf. Sonnet 122 with its "full character'd" and "razed
Again, the Duke argues in gentle Shakespeare's fashion for Angelo and
"If he had so offended,
He would have weighed thy brother by himself
And not have cut him off."
It seems impossible for Shakespeare to believe that the sinner can
punish sin. It reminds one of the sacred "he that is without sin among
you let him first cast a stone." The detections and forgivings of the
last act follow.
It will be admitted, I think, on all hands that Duke Vincentio speaks
throughout the play with Shakespeare's voice. From the point of view of
literary art his character is very far from being as complex or as
deeply realized as that of Hamlet or Macbeth, or even as that of Romeo
or of Jaques, and yet one other trait besides that of sceptical brooding
is so over-accentuated that it can never be forgotten. In the last scene
the Duke orders Barnardine to the block and the next moment respites
him; he condemns
"An Angelo for Claudio; death for death,"
then pardons Angelo, and at once begins to chat with him in kindly
intimacy; he asserts that he cannot forgive Lucio, Lucio who has
traduced him, shall be whipped and hanged, and in the same breath he
remits the heavy penalty. Truly he is "an unhurtful opposite" [Footnote:
The critics are at variance over this ending, and, indeed, over the
whole play. Coleridge says that "our feelings of justice are grossly
wounded in Angelo's escape"; for "cruelty with lust and damnable
baseness cannot be forgiven." Mr. Swinburne, too, regrets the
miscarriage of justice; the play to him is a tragedy, and should end
tragically with the punishment of the "autotype of the huge national
vice of England." Perhaps, however, Puritan hypocrisy was not so
widespread or so powerful in the time of Shakespeare as it is nowadays;
perhaps, too, Shakespeare was not so good a hater as Mr. Swinburne, nor
so strenuous a moralist as Coleridge was, at least in theory. In any
case it is evident that Shakespeare found it harder to forgive Lucio,
who had hurt his vanity, than Angelo, who pushed lust to outrage and
murder, which strange, yet characteristic, fact I leave to the mercy of
future commentators. Mr. Sidney Lee regards "Measure for Measure" as
"one of Shakespeare's greatest plays." Coleridge, however, thought it "a
hateful work"; it is also a poor work, badly constructed, and for the
most part carelessly written. In essence it is a mere tract against
Puritanism, and in form a sort of Arabian Nights' Entertainment in which
the hero plays the part of Haroun-al-Raschid.] whose anger has no
stead-fastness; but the gentle forgivingness of disposition that is so
marked in Vincentio is a trait we found emphasized in Romeo, and again
in Hamlet and again in Macbeth. It is, indeed, one of the most permanent
characteristics of Shakespeare. From the beginning to the end of the
play, Duke Vincentio is weakly-kind in act and swayed by fitful
impulses; his assumed austerity of conduct is the thin varnish of vanity
that will not take on such soft material. The Hamlet weakness is so
exaggerated in him, and so unmotived, that I am inclined to think
Shakespeare was even more irresolute and indisposed to action than
In the character of Posthumus, the hero of "Cymbeline," Shakespeare has
painted himself with extraordinary care; has, in fact, given us as
deliberate and almost as complete a picture of himself as he did in
Hamlet. Unluckily his hand had grown weaker in the ten years' interval,
and he gave such loose rein to his idealizing habit that the portrait is
neither so veracious nor so lifelike. The explanation of all this will
be given later; it is enough for the moment to state that as Posthumus
is perhaps the completest portrait of him that we have after his mental
shipwreck, we must note the traits of it carefully, and see what manner
of man Shakespeare took himself to be towards the end of his career.
It is difficult to understand how the commentators have been able to
read "Cymbeline" without seeing the likeness between Posthumus and
Hamlet. The wager which is the theme of the play may have hindered them
a little, but as they found it easy to excuse its coarseness by
attributing lewdness to the time, there seems to have been no reason for
not recognizing Posthumus. Posthumus is simply a staider Hamlet
considerably idealized. I am not at all sure that the subject of the
play was void of offence in the time of Elizabeth; all finer spirits
must even then have found it puerile and coarse. What would Spenser have
said about it? Shakespeare used the wager because of the opportunities
it gave him of painting himself and an ideal woman. His view of it is
just indicated; Iachimo says:
"I make my wager rather against your confidence than her reputation:
and, to bar your offence herein too, I durst attempt it against any lady
in the world." But in spite of the fact that Iachimo makes his insult
general, Posthumus warns him that:
"If she remain unseduced ... for your ill opinion,
and the assault you have made to her chastity, you shall
answer me with your sword."
From this it appears that the bet was distasteful to Posthumus; it is
not so offenceful to him as it should have been according to our modern
temper; but this shortcoming, an unconscious shortcoming, is the only
fault which Shakespeare will allow in his hero. In the first scene of
the first act Posthumus is praised as men never praise the absent
without a personal motive; the First Gentleman says of him:
So fair an outward and such stuff within
Endows a man but he."
The Second Gentleman replies:
"You speak him far;"
and the First Gentleman continues:
"I do extend him, sir, within himself;
Crush him together, rather than unfold
His measure duly."
And as if this were not enough, this gentleman-eulogist goes on to tell
us that Posthumus has sucked in "all the learnings" of his time "as we
do air," and further:
Which rare it is to do--most praised, most loved;
A sample to the young'st, to the more mature
A glass that feated them; and to the graver
A child that guided dotards."
This gross praise is ridiculously unnatural, and outrages our knowledge
of life; men are much more apt to criticize than to praise the absent;
but it shows a prepossession on Shakespeare's part in favour of
Posthumus which can only be explained by the fact that in Posthumus he
was depicting himself. Every word is significant to us, for Shakespeare
evidently tells us here what he thought about himself, or rather what he
wished to think, towards the end of his life. It is impossible to
believe that he was "most praised, most loved"; men do not love or
praise their superiors in looks, or intellect.
The first words which Posthumus in this same scene addresses to Imogen,
show the gentle Shakespeare nature:
"O lady, weep no more, lest I give cause
To be suspected of more tenderness
Than doth become a man."
And when Imogen gives him the ring and tells him to wear it till he woos
another wife, he talks to her exactly as Romeo would have talked:
You gentle gods, give me but this I have,
And sear up my embracements from a next
With bonds of death! [<i>Putting on the ring</i>.]
While sense can keep it on."
And he concludes as self-depreciating Hamlet would have concluded:
"And sweetest, fairest,
As I my poor self did exchange for you,
To your so infinite loss, so in our trifles
I still win of you; for my sake wear this:
It is a manacle of love; I'll place it
Upon this fairest prisoner.
[Putting a bracelet on her arm.]"
In his fight with Cloten he is depicted as a rare swordsman of wonderful
magnanimity. Pisanio says:
"My master rather played than fought,
And had no help of anger."
I call this gentle kindness which Posthumus displays, the birthmark of
Shakespeare; he had "no help of anger." As the play goes on we find
Shakespeare's other peculiarities, or Hamlet's. Iachimo represents
Posthumus as "merry," "gamesome," "the Briton reveller"; but curiously
enough Imogen answers as Ophelia might have answered about Hamlet:
"When he was here,
He did incline to sadness; and ofttimes
Not knowing why."
This uncaused melancholy that distinguishes Romeo, Jaques, Hamlet,
Macbeth, and Vincentio is not more characteristic of the
Hamlet-Shakespeare nature than the way Posthumus behaves when Iachimo
tries to make him believe that he has won the wager. Posthumus is
convinced almost at once; jumps to the conclusion, indeed, with the
heedless rapidity of the naïve, sensitive, quick-thinking man who has
cultivated his emotions and thoughts by writing in solitude, and not the
suspicions and distrust of others which are developed in the
market-place. One is reminded of Goethe's famous couplet:
"Es bildet ein Talent sich in der Stille,
Sich ein Charakter in dem Strom der Welt."
Posthumus is all in fitful extremes; not satisfied with believing the
lie, he gives Iachimo Imogen's ring as well, and bursts into a diatribe:
"Let there be no honour
Where there's beauty; truth, where semblance; love,
Where there's another man,"
and so forth. Even Philario, who has no stake in the matter, is
infinitely harder to convince:
"Have patience, sir,
And take your ring again; 'tis not yet won:
It may be probable she lost it."
Then this "unstable opposite," Posthumus, demands his ring back again,
but as soon as Iachimo swears that he had the bracelet from her arm,
Posthumus swings round again to belief from sheer rapidity of thought.
Again Philario will not be convinced. He says:
"Sir, be patient,
This is not strong enough to be believed
Of one persuaded well of--"
But Posthumus will not await the proof for which he has asked. He is
convinced upon suspicion, as Othello was, and the very nimbleness of his
Hamlet-intellect, seeing that probabilities are against him, entangles
him in the snare. Even his servant Pisanio will not believe in Imogen's
guilt though his master assures him of it. Shakespeare does not notice
this peculiar imprudent haste of his hero, as he notices, for example,
the hasty speech of Hotspur by letting Harry of England imitate it,
simply because the quick-thinking was his own; while the hurried
stuttering speech was foreign to him. Posthumus goes on to rave against
women as Hamlet did; as all men do who do not understand them:
"For even to vice
They are not constant, but are changing still."
And Posthumus betrays as clearly as ever Hamlet did that he is merely
||"I'll write against them,
Detest them, curse them--yet 'tis greater skill
In a true hate, to pray they have their will:
The very devils cannot plague them better."
"Write against them" indeed! This is the same threat which Shakespeare
uses against his dark mistress in Sonnet 140, and every one will admit
that it is more in the character of the poet and man of letters than in
that of the warrior son-in-law of a half-barbarous king. The last line
here, because it is a little superfluous, a little emphatic, seems to me
likely to have a personal application. When Shakespeare's mistress had
her will, did she fall to misery, I wonder?
I may be allowed to notice here how intensely characteristic all this
play is of Shakespeare. In the third scene of the third act, life in the
country is contrasted to its advantage with life at Court; and then gold
is treated as dirt by the princely brothers--both these, the love of
country life, and the contempt of gold, are, as we shall see later,
abiding peculiarities of Shakespeare.
When we come to Posthumus again almost at the end of the play we find
that his anger with Imogen has burned itself out. He is angry now with
Pisanio for having executed his order and murdered her; he should have
"saved the noble Imogen to repent." Surely the poet Shakespeare and not
the outraged lover speaks in this epithet, "noble."
Posthumus describes the battle in which he took so gallant a part in
Shakespeare's usual manner. He falls into rhyme; he shows the cheap
modesty of the conventional hero; he tells of what others did, and
nothing of his own feats; Belarius and the two striplings, he says:
"With their own nobleness ... gilded pale looks."
Unfortunately one is reminded of the exquisite sonnet line:
"Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy."
"Gild" is one of Shakespeare's favourite words; he uses it very often,
sometimes indeed as in this case, ineffectively.
But the scene which reveals the character of Posthumus beyond all doubt
is the prison scene in the fifth act. His soliloquy which begins:
"Most welcome, bondage, for thou art a way,
I think, to liberty "--
is all pure Shakespeare. When he determines to give up life, he says:
I'll speak to thee in silence,"
and Hamlet at his death comes to the self-same word:
"The rest is silence."
The scene with the gaoler is from Hamlet's soul; Posthumus jests with
his keeper as Hamlet with the gravedigger:
"So, if I prove a good repast to the spectators, the
ship pays the shot;"
and the Hamlet melancholy:
"I am merrier to die than them art to live;"
and the Hamlet riddle still unsolved:
"I tell thee, fellow, there are none want eyes to direct
them the way I am going; but such as wink, and will
not use them."
When the messenger comes to bring him to the king, Posthumus cries:
"Thou bringest good news, I am called to be made
for there are "no bolts for the dead."
Those who wish to see how Shakespeare's mind worked will compare
Posthumus' speech to Iachimo, when he has learned the truth, with
Othello's words when he is convinced of his own fatal error and of
Desdemona's chastity. The two speeches are twins; though the persons
uttering them should be of totally different characters. The explanation
of this astounding similarity will be given when we come to "Othello."
It is characteristic of Posthumus that he should strike Imogen in her
page's dress, not recognizing her; he is ever too quick--a mere creature
of impulse. More characteristic still is the way he forgives Iachimo,
just as Vincentio forgave Angelo:
"Kneel not to me:
The power that I have on you, is to spare you,
The malice towards you, to forgive you. Live,
And deal with others better."
In judging his fellow-men this is Shakespeare's harshest word.
Posthumus, then, is presented to us in the beginning of the play as
perfect, a model to young and old, of irreproachable virtue and of all
wonderful qualities. In the course of the play, however, he shows
himself very nimble-witted, credulous, and impulsive, quick to anger and
quicker still to forgive; with thoughts all turned to sadness and to
musing; a poet--ever in extremes; now hating his own rash errors to the
point of demanding the heaviest punishment for them; now swearing that
he will revenge himself on women by writing against them; a
philosopher--he jests with his gaoler and consoles himself with
despairing speculation in the very presence of the Arch-Fear. All these
are manifestly characteristics of Hamlet, and Posthumus possesses no
So far, then, from finding that Shakespeare never revealed himself in
his dramas, I have shown that he pictured himself as the hero [Footnote:
A hypercritic might contend that Jaques was not the hero of "As You Like
It"; but the objection really strengthens my argument. Shakespeare makes
of Jaques, who is merely a secondary character without influence on the
action, the principal person in the play simply because in Jaques he
satisfied his own need of self-revealing.] of six plays written at
widely different times; in fact that, like Rembrandt, he painted his own
portrait in all the critical periods of life: as a sensuous youth given
over to love and poetry in Romeo; a few years later as a melancholy
onlooker at life's pageant in Jaques; in middle age as the passionate,
melancholy, aesthete-philosopher of kindliest nature in Hamlet and
Macbeth; as the fitful Duke incapable of severity in "Measure for
Measure," and finally, when standing within the shadow, as Posthumus, an
idealized yet feebler <i>replica</i> of Hamlet.