Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/22

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ing by each mistake till he attained the splendid degree of skill which enabled him to produce the series of great tragedies. Is it not time, then, to accept Shakespeare as a man? to look upon him in the rational way in which we look upon Thackeray or Browning, as men who produced some works better than others,—above all, as great men, the value of whose great work is not marred by the fact that at times their writing is not to be judged by their own high standard?

One of my own critics once asked me why I directed so much attention to matters connected but indirectly with the text of Shakespeare's plays. It was fortunate, as suggestive of an answer, that we had attended the evening before a class-day exercise at a college where my questioner was a stranger. By way of reply I asked him why every one in the hall except himself had been immensely amused by the local allusions. Of course he excused himself on the score of unfamiliarity rather than as lacking a sense of humour. It is my belief that conditions of life have so changed in three centuries, that, unless one can in some way get into the Elizabethan state of mind, view a play, so to speak, from the Elizabethan point of view, many parts of Shakespeare's dramas will be unappreciated to the same extent as were the class-day allusions by my friend.