Page:Studies of a Biographer 4.djvu/20

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6
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

may not have been thinking of Anne Hathaway. Some of us have personal reasons for hoping that when his characters express a dislike for the lean or for the unmusical, their words do not give his deliberate judgment. If this were a fatal difficulty it would follow that no competent dramatist reveals himself in his works. Yet, as a matter of fact, I suppose that dramatists are generally quite as knowable as other authors. We learn to know Ben Jonson from his plays alone, almost as well as we know his namesake the great Samuel. That surely is the rule. A dramatist lets us know, and cannot help letting us know, what is his general view of his fellow-creatures and of the world in which they live. It is his very function to do so, and though the indication may be indirect, it is not the less significant of the observer's own peculiarities. But, we are told, Shakespeare does not identify himself with any of his characters. He is not himself either Falstaff or Hamlet. This too applies to most dramatists, but it certainly suggests a difficulty.

The most demonstrable, though it may not be the highest, merit of Shakespeare's plays is, I suppose, the extraordinary variety of vivid and original types of character. The mind which