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SHAKESPEARE AS A MAN
The hope of unveiling the man has in particular led to the controversy over the sonnets. They are supposed to show that Shakespeare went through a spiritual crisis, which is indicated by the bitterness of some of the plays written at the time; and certain inferences would be applicable if we could safely identify the dark lady with Mistress Fitton and 'W. H.' with the Earl of Pembroke. I humbly accept Mr. Lee's chief conclusions. He has insisted upon the fact that Shakespeare was falling in with a temporary fashion, or infected by a curious mania which led poets just at that period to pour out sonnets by the hundred. The inference that the sonnets necessarily imply some personal catastrophe is thus deprived of its force. If half the early Victorian poets had been writing 'In Memoriams,' we might believe that Tennyson had no special friendship for Arthur Hallam, and had merely made a pretext of a commonplace attachment. It is possible, or rather it is highly probable, that Shakespeare took some real bit of personal history for a text, though many of the
to construct the required data by the help of audacious conjectures. The natural failure of such enterprises has unduly discredited the value of mere modest inferences.