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The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakspere Unfolded by Delia Bacon

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Reason cannot be so sensible, nor examples so fit.
_Advancement of Learning._




The object of this Volume is merely to open _as a study_, and a study
of primary consequence, those great Works of the Modern Learning which
have passed among us hitherto, for lack of the historical and
scientific key to them, as Works of Amusement, merely.

But even in that superficial acquaintance which we have had with them
in that relation, they have, all the time, been subtly operating upon
the minds in contact with them, and perpetually fulfilling the first
intention of their Inventor.

'For,' says the great Innovator of the Modern Ages,--the author of the
_Novum_ Organum, and of the _Advancement_ of Learning,--in claiming
this department of Letters as the necessary and proper instrumentality
of a new science,--of a science at least, 'foreign to opinions
received,'--as he claims elsewhere that it is, under all conditions,
the inevitable essential form of this science in particular. 'Men have
proposed to answer two different and contrary ends by the use of
parables, for they serve as well to _instruct_ and _illustrate_ as to
_wrap up and envelope_, so that, though for the present, we drop the
concealed use, and suppose them to be _vague undeterminate things_,
formed for AMUSEMENT merely, still the other _use_ remains. 'And every
man of _any_ learning must readily concede,' he says, 'the value of
that use of them as a method of popular instruction, grave, sober,
exceedingly useful, and sometimes necessary in the _sciences_, as it
opens an easy and _familiar_ passage to the human understandings in
_all new_ discoveries, that are abstruse and out of the road of vulgar
opinion. They were used of old by _philosophers_ to express any point
of reason more sharp and subtle than the vulgar, and nevertheless
_now_, and _at all times_, these allusive parabolical forms retain
much life and vigor, because _reason_ cannot be _so sensible_ nor
_examples so fit_.' That philosophic use of them was to inform and
teach, whilst the minds of men continued rude and unpractised in
matters of subtilty and speculation, and even impatient and in a
manner incapable of receiving anything that did not directly fall
under and strike the senses. 'And, even to this day, if any man would
let new light in upon the human understanding, and conquer prejudices
without raising animosities, opposition, or _disturbance_, he must
still go in _the same path_ and have recourse to the like method.'

That is the use which the History and Fables of the New Philosophy
have already _had_ with us. We have been feeding without knowing it,
on the 'principal and supreme sciences'--the 'Prima Philosophia' and
its noblest branches. We have been taking the application of the
Inductive Philosophy to the principal concerns of our human life, and
to the phenomena of of the human nature itself, as mere sport and
pastime; though the precepts concluded, the practical axioms inclosed
with it have already forced their way into our learning, for all our
learning is, even now, inlaid and glittering with those 'dispersed

We have profited by this use of them. It has not been pastime merely
with us. We have not spent our time in vain on this first stage of an
Advancing Learning, a learning that will not cease to advance until it
has invaded all our empiricisms, and conquered all our practice; a
learning that will recompence the diligence, the exactitude, the
severity of observance which it will require here also (when it comes
to put in its claim here, as Learning and not Amusement merely), with
that same magnitude of effects that, in other departments, has already
justified the name which its Inventor gave it--a Learning which will
give us here, also, in return for the severity of observance it will
require, what no ceremonial, however exacting can give us, that
control of effects, with which, even in its humblest departments, it
has already fulfilled, in the eyes of all the world, the prophecy
which its Inventors uttered when they called it the NEW MAGIC.

That first use of the Histories and Fables of the Modern Learning, we
have had already; and it is not yet exhausted. But in that rapid
development of a common intelligence, to which the new science of
practice has itself so largely contributed, even in its lower and
limited developments, we come now to that other and so important use
of these Fables, which the philosophic Innovator proposed to drop for
the time, in his argument--that use of them, in which they serve 'to
wrap up and conceal' for the time, or to limit to the few, who are
able to receive them, those new discoveries which are as yet too far
in advance of the common beliefs and opinions of men, and too far
above the mental habits and capacities of the masses of men, to be
safely or profitably communicated to the many in the abstract.

But in order to arrive at this second and nobler use of them, it will
be necessary to bestow on them a very different kind of study from any
that we have naturally thought it worth while to spend on them, so
long as we regarded them as works of pastime merely; and especially
while that insuperable obstacle to any adequate examination of them,
which the received history of the works themselves created, was still
operating on the criticism. The truths which these Parabolic and
Allusive Poems wrap up and conceal, have been safely concealed
hitherto, because they are not those common-place truths which we
usually look for as the point and moral of a tale which is supposed to
have a moral or politic intention,--truths which we are understood to
be in possession of beforehand, while the parable or instance is only
designed to impress the sensibility with them anew, and to reach the
will that would not take them from the reason, by means of the senses
or the imagination. It is not that spontaneous, intuitive knowledge,
or those conventional opinions, those unanalysed popular beliefs,
which we usually expect to find without any trouble at all, on the
very surface of any work that has morality for its object, it is not
any such coarse, lazy performance as that, that we need trouble
ourselves to look for here. This higher intention in these works
'their real import, genuine interpretation, and full depth,' has not
yet been found, _because_ the science which is wrapped in them, though
it is the principal science in the plan of the Advancement of
Learning, has hitherto escaped our notice, and _because_ of the
exceeding subtlety of it,--because the truths thus conveyed or
concealed are new, and recondite, and out of the way of any casual
observation,--because in this scientific collection of the phenomena
of the human life, designed to serve as the basis of new social arts
and rules of practice, the author has had occasion to go behind the
vague, popular, unscientific terms which serve well enough for
purposes of discourse, and mere oratory, to those principles which are
actual and historical, those simple radical forms and differences on
which the doctrine of power and practice must be based.

It is pastime no longer. It is a study, the most patient, the most
profoundly earnest to which these works now invite us. Let those who
will, stay in the playground still, and make such sport and pastime of
it there, as they may; and let those who feel the need of inductive
rules here also,--here on the ground which this pastime covers--let
those who perceive that we have as yet, set our feet only on the
threshold of the Great Instauration, find here with diligent research,
the ascent to the axioms of practice,--that ascent which the author of
the science of practice in general, made it _his labour_ to hew out
_here_, for _he_ undertook 'to collect here into an art or science,
that which had been pretermitted by others as matters of common sense
and experience.'

It does not consist with the design of the present work to track that
draught of a new science of morality and policy, that 'table' of an
inductive science of human nature, and human life, which the plan of
the Advancement of Learning contains, with all the lettering of its
compartments put down, into these systematic scientific collections,
which the Fables of the Modern Learning,--which these magnificent
Parabolical Poems have been able hitherto to wrap up and conceal.

This work is merely introductory, and the design of it is to remove
that primary obstacle to the diligent study of these works, which the
present theory of them contains; since that concealment of their true
intention and history, which was inevitable at the time, no longer
serves the author's purpose, and now that the times are ripe for the
learning which they contain, only serves indeed to hinder it. And the
illustrations which are here produced, are produced with reference to
that object, and are limited strictly to the unfolding of those
'_secrets of policy_,' which are the necessary introduction to that
which follows.



Did it never occur to the student of the _Novum Organum_ that the
constant application of that '_New Machine_' by the inventor of it
himself, to one particular class of subjects, so constant as to
produce on the mind of the careless reader the common impression, that
it was intended to be applied to that class only, and that the relief
of the human estate, in that one department of the human want,
constituted its whole design: did it never occur to the curious
inquirer, or to the active experimenter in this new rule of learning,
that this apparently so rigorous limitation of its applications in the
hands of its author is--under all the circumstances--a thing worthy of
being inquired into? Considering who the author of it is, and that it
is on the face of it, a new method of dealing with facts in general, a
new method of obtaining axioms of practice from history in general,
and not a specific method of obtaining them from that particular
department of history from which his instances are taken; and,
considering, too, that the author was himself aware of the whole sweep
of its applications, and that he has taken pains to include in his
description of its powers, the assertion,--the distinct, deliberate
assertion--that it is capable of being applied as _efficiently_, to
those nobler departments of the human need, which are marked out for
it in the Great Instauration--those very departments in which he was
known himself to be so deeply interested, and in which he had been all
his life such a diligent explorer and experimenter. Did it never occur
to the scholar, to inquire why he did not apply it, then, himself to
those very subjects, instead of keeping so stedfastly to the physical
forces in his illustration of its powers? And has any one ever read
the plan of this man's works? Has any one seen the scheme of that
great enterprise, for which he was the responsible person in his own
time--that scheme which he wrote out, and put in among these published
acknowledged works of his, which he dared to produce in his own name,
to show what parts of his '_labor_,'--what part of chief consequence
was _not_ thus produced? Has any one seen that plan of a new system of
Universal Science, which was published in the reign of James the
First, under the patronage of that monarch? And if it has been seen,
what is the reason there has been no enquiry made for those works, in
which the author openly proposes to apply his new organum in person to
these very subjects; and that, too, when he takes pains to tell us, in
reference to that undertaking, that he is _not_ a vain promiser.

There is a pretence of supplying that new kind of history, which the
new method of discovery and invention requires as the first step
towards its conclusions, which is put down as the THIRD PART of the
Instauration, though the natural history which is produced for that
purpose is very far from fulfilling the description and promise of
that division. But where is the FOURTH part of the Great Instauration?
Has anybody seen the FOURTH part? Where is that so important part for
which all that precedes it is a preparation, or to which it is
subsidiary? Where is that part which consists of EXAMPLES, that are
nothing but a _particular_ application of the SECOND; that is, the
Novum Organum,--'and to _subjects of the noblest kind_?' Where is
'that part of our work which enters upon PHILOSOPHY ITSELF,' instead
of dealing any longer, or professing to deal, with THE METHOD merely
of finding that which man's relief requires, or instead of exhibiting
that method any longer _in the abstract_? Where are the works in which
he undertakes to show it in operation, with its new 'grappling hooks'
on the matter of the human life--applied by the inventor himself to
'the noblest subjects?' Surely that would be a sight to see. What is
the reason that our editors do not produce these so important works in
their editions? What is the reason that our critics do not include
them in their criticism? What is the reason that our scholars do not
quote them? Instead of stopping with that mere report of the condition
of learning and its deficiences, and that outline of what is to be
done, which makes the FIRST PART or Introduction to this work; or
stopping with the description of the new method, or the Novum Organum,
which makes the SECOND; why don't they go on to the 'new philosophy
itself,' and show us that as well,--the very object of all this
preparation? When he describes in the SECOND part his _method_ of
finding true terms, or rather the method of his school, when he
describes this new method of finding '_ideas_,' ideas as they are in
nature, powers, causes, the elements of history, or _forms_, as he
more commonly calls them, when he describes this new method of
deducing axioms, axioms that are ready for practice, he does, indeed,
give us _instances_; but it so happens, that the instances are all of
_one kind_ there. They are the physical powers that supply his
examples in that part.

In describing this method merely, he produces what he calls his Tables
of Invention, or Tables of REVIEW OF INSTANCES; but where is that part
in which he tells us we shall find these same tables again, with 'the
nobler subjects' on them? He produces them for careful scrutiny in his
second part; and he makes no small parade in bringing them in. He
shews them up very industriously, and is very particular to direct the
admiring attention of the reader to their adaptation as means to an
end. But certainly there is nothing in that specimen of what can be
done with them which he contents himself with there, that would lead
any one to infer that the power of this invention, which is the
novelty of it, was going to be a dangerous thing to society, or,
indeed, that they were not the most harmless things in the world. It
is the true cause of HEAT, and the infallible means of producing that
under the greatest variety of conditions, which he appears to be
trying to arrive at there. But what harm can there be in that, or in
any other discovery of that kind. And there is no real impression made
on any one's mind by that book, that there is any other kind of
invention or discovery intended in the practical applications of this
method? The very free, but of course not pedantic, use of the new
terminology of a new school in philosophy, in which this author
indulges--a terminology of a somewhat figurative and poetic kind, one
cannot but observe, for a philosopher of so strictly a logical turn of
mind, one whose thoughts were running on abstractions so entirely, to
construct; his continued preference for these new scholastic terms,
and his inflexible adherence to a most profoundly erudite mode of
expression whenever he approaches 'the part operative' of his work, is
indeed calculated to awe and keep at a distance minds not yet prepared
to grapple formally with those 'nobler subjects' to which allusion is
made in another place. King James was a man of some erudition himself;
but he declared frankly that for his part he could not understand this
book; and it was not strange that he could not, for the author did not
intend that he should. The philosopher drops a hint in passing,
however, that all which is essential in this method, might perhaps be
retained without quite so much formality and fuss in the use of it,
and that the proposed result might be arrived at by means of these
same tables, without any use of technical language at all, under other

The results which have since been obtained by the use of this method
in that department of philosophy to which it is specially applied in
the Novum Organum, give to the inquirer into the causes of the
physical phenomena now, some advantages which no invention could
supply them. That was what the founders of this philosophy expected
and predicted. They left this department to their school. The author
of the Novum Organum orders and initiates this inquiry; but the basis
of the induction in this department is as yet wanting; and the
collections and experiments here require combinations of skill and
labour which they cannot at once command. They will do what they can
here too, in their small way, just to make a beginning; but they do
not lay much stress upon any thing they can accomplish with the use of
their own method in this field. It serves, however, a very convenient
purpose with them; neither do they at all underrate its intrinsic

But the man who has studiously created for himself a social position
which enables him to assume openly, and even ostentatiously, the
position of an innovator--an innovator _in the world of letters_, an
advancer of--_learning_--is compelled to introduce his innovation with
the complaint that he finds the mind of the world so stupified, so
bewildered with evil, and so under the influence of dogmas, that the
first thing to be done is to get so much as a thought admitted of the
possibility of a better state of things. 'The present system of
philosophy,' he says, 'cherishes in its bosom certain positions or
dogmas which it will be found, are calculated to produce a full
conviction that no difficult, commanding, and powerful operation on
nature _ought_ to be anticipated, through the means of art.' And,
therefore, after criticising the theory and practice of the world as
he finds it, reporting as well as he can,--though he can find no
words, he says, in which to do justice to his feeling in regard to
it--_the deficiencies_ in its learning, he devotes a considerable
portion of the description of his new method to the grounds of 'hope'
which he derives from this philosophic survey, and that that hope is
not a hope of a better state of things in respect to the physical
wants of man merely, that it is not a hope of a renovation in the arts
which minister to those wants exclusively, any very careful reader of
the first book of the Novum Organum will be apt on the whole to infer.
But the statements here are very general, and he refers us to another
place _for particulars_.

'Let us then speak of _hope_' he says, '_especially_ as we are not
vain promisers, nor are willing to enforce or ensnare men's judgments;
but would rather lead them _willingly_ forward. And although we shall
employ the most cogent means of _enforcing hope when we bring them_ TO
PARTICULARS, and _especially_ those which are digested and arranged in
our Tables of Invention, the subject partly of the SECOND,
but--_principally_--mark it, _principally_ of the FOURTH part of the
Instauration, which are, indeed, rather the very objects of our hopes
than hope itself.' Does he dare to tell us, in this very connection,
that he is _not_ a vain promiser, when no such PART as that to which
he refers us here is to be found anywhere among his writings--when
this _principal_ part of his promise remains unfulfilled. 'The FOURTH
part of the Instauration,' he says again in his formal description of
it, 'enters upon philosophy itself, furnishing _examples of inquiry
and investigation_, according to our own method, _in certain subjects
of the noblest kind_, but greatly differing from each other, that a
specimen may be had of _every sort_. By these examples, we mean _not
illustrations of rules and precepts_,' [He will show the facts in such
order, in such scientific, select, methodical arrangements, that rules
and precepts will be forced from them; for he will show them, on the
tables of invention, and rules and precepts are the vintage that flows
from the illustrious instances--the prerogative instances--the ripe,
large, cleared, selected clusters of facts, the subtle prepared
history which the tables of invention collect. The definition of the
simple original elements of history, the pure definition is the first
vintage from these; but 'that which in speculative philosophy
corresponds to the cause, in practical philosophy becomes the rule'
and _the axiom of practice_, ready for use, is the final result.] 'but
perfect models, which will exemplify the SECOND PART of this work, and
represent, as it were, to _the eye_ the whole progress of the mind,
and _the continued structure and order of invention_ in THE MORE
CHOSEN SUBJECTS'--note it, in the _more_ chosen subjects; but this is
not at all--'_after the same manner as globes and machines facilitate
the more abstruse and subtle demonstrations in mathematics_.' But in
another place he tells us, that the poetic form of demonstration is
the form to which it is necessary to have recourse on these subjects,
_especially_ when we come to these more abstruse and subtle
demonstrations, as it opens an easy and familiar passage to the human
understanding in all new discoveries, that are abstruse and out of the
road of vulgar opinion; and that at the time he was writing out this
plan of his works, any one, who would let in new light on the human
understanding, and conquer prejudices, without raising animosity,
opposition, or disturbance, had no choice--_must go in that same
path_, or none. Where are those diagrams? And what does he mean, when
he tells us in this connection that he is not a vain promiser? Where
are those particular cases, in which this method of investigation is
applied to the noblest subjects? Where are the diagrams, in which the
order of the investigation is represented, as it were, to the eye,
which serve the same purpose, 'that globes and machines serve in the
more abstruse and subtle demonstrations in mathematics?' We are all
acquainted with one poem, at least, published about that time, in
which some very abstruse and subtle investigations appear to be in
progress, _not_ without the use of diagrams, and very lively ones too;
but one in which the intention of the poet appears to be to the last
degree 'enigmatical,' inasmuch as it has engaged the attention of the
most philosophical minds ever since, and inasmuch as the most able
critics have never been able to comprehend that intention fully in
their criticism. And it is bound up with many others, in which the
subjects are not less carefully chosen, and in which the method of
inquiry is the same; in which that same method that is exhibited in
the 'Novum Organum' in the abstract, or in its application to the
investigation of the physical phenomena, is everywhere illustrated in
the most chosen subjects--in subjects of the noblest kind. This
volume, and another which has been mentioned here, contain the THIRD
and FOURTH PARTS of the Great Instauration, whether this man who
describes them here, and who forgot, it would seem, to fulfil his
promise in reference to them, be aware of it or not.

That is the part of the Great Instauration that we want now, and we
are fairly entitled to it, because these are not 'the next ages,' or
'the times which were nearer,' and which this author seldom speaks of
without betraying his clear foresight of the political and social
convulsions that were then at hand. These are the times, which were
farther off, to which he appeals from those nearer ages, and to which
he expressly dedicates the opening of his designs.

Now, what is it that we have to find? What is it that is missing out
of this philosophy? Nothing less than the 'principal' part of it. All
that is good for anything in it, according to the author's own
estimate. The rest serves merely 'to pass the time,' or it is good as
it serves to prepare the way for this. What is it that we have to look
for? The 'Novum Organum,' that severe, rigorous method of scientific
inquiry, applied to _the more chosen subjects_ in the reigns of Queen
Elizabeth and James I. Tables of Review of Instances, and all that
Logic which is brought out in the doctrine of the PREROGATIVE
INSTANCES, whereby the mind of man is prepared for its encounter with
fact in general, brought down to particulars, and applied to the
noblest subjects, and to every sort of subject which the philosophic
mind of that age _chose_ to apply it to. That is what we want to find.

'The prerogative instances' in 'the _more_ chosen subjects.' The whole
field which that philosophy chose for its field, and called the
noblest, the principal, the chosen, the more chosen one. Every part of
it reduced to scientific inquiry, put under the rule of the 'Novum
Organum'; that is what we want to find. We know that no such thing
could possibly be found in the acknowledged writings of this author.
Nothing answering to that description, composed by a statesman and a
philosopher, with an avowed intention in his writing--an intention to
effect changes, too, in the actual condition of men, and 'to suborn
practice and actual life,' no such work by such an author could by any
means have been got through the press then. No one who studies the
subject will think of looking for that FOURTH PART of the Instauration
among the author's acknowledged writings. Does he give us any hint as
to where we are to look for it? Is there any intimation as to the
particular form of writing in which we are to find it? for find it we
must and shall, because he is _not_ a vain promiser. The _subject_
itself determines the form, he says; and the fact that the whole
ground of the discovery is ground already necessarily comprehended in
the preconceptions of the many--that it is ground covered all over
with the traditions and rude theories of unlearned ages, this fact,
also, imperiously determines the method of the inculcation. Who that
knows what the so-called Baconian method of learning really is, will
need to be told that the principal books of it will be--books of
INSTANCES and PARTICULARS, SPECIMENS--living ones, and that these will
occupy the prominent place in the book; and that the conclusions and
precepts will come in as abstractions from these, drawn freshly and on
the spot from particulars, and, therefore, ready for use, 'knowing the
way to particulars again?' Who would ever expect to find the principal
books of this learning--the books in which it enters upon philosophy
itself, and undertakes to leave a specimen of its own method in the
noblest subjects in its own chosen field--who would ever expect to
find these books, books of abstractions, books of precepts, with
instances or examples brought in, to illustrate or make them good? For
this is not a point of method merely, but a point of substance, as he
takes pains to tell us. And who that has ever once read his own
account of the method in which he proposes to _win_ the human mind
from its preconceptions, instead of undertaking to overcome it with
Logic and sharp disputations,--who that knows what place he gives to
Rhetoric, what place he gives to the Imagination in his scheme of
innovation, will expect to find these books, books of a dry didactic
learning? Does the student know how many times, in how many forms,
under how many different heads, he perseveringly inserts the bold
assurance, that the form of poesy and enigmatic allusive writing is
the _only_ form in which the higher applications of his discovery can
be made to any purpose in that age? Who would expect to find this part
in any professedly scientific work, when he tells us expressly,
'Reason cannot be so sensible, nor examples so fit,' as the examples
which his scientific terminology includes in the department of

All the old historical wisdom was in that form, he says; all the first
philosophy was poetical; all the old divinity came in history and
parable; and even to this day, he who would let in new light upon the
human understanding, without raising opposition or disturbance, must
still go in the same path, and have recourse to the like method.

He was an innovator; he was _not_ an agitator. And he claims that mark
of a divine presence in his work, that its benefactions come, without
noise or perturbation, _in aura leni_. Of innovations, there has been
none in history like that which he propounded, but neither would he
strive nor cry. There was no voice in the streets, there was no red
ensign lifted, there was no clarion-swell, or roll of the conqueror's
drum to signal to the world that entrance. He, too, claims a divine
authority for his innovation, and he declares it to be of God. It is
the providential order of the world's history which is revealed in it;
it is the fulfilment of ancient prophecy which this new chief, laden
with new gifts for men, openly announces.

'Let us begin from God,' he says, when he begins to open his ground of
_hope_, after he has exposed the wretched condition of men as he finds
them, without any scientific knowledge of the laws and institutes of
the universe they inhabit, engaged in a perpetual and mad collision
with them; 'Let us begin from God, and show that our pursuit, from its
exceeding goodness, _clearly_ proceeds from Him, the Author of GOOD
and Father of LIGHT. Now, _in all divine works_, the smallest
beginnings lead assuredly to some results; and the rule in spiritual
matters, that the Kingdom of God cometh without observation, is also
found to be true _in every great work of_ PROVIDENCE, so that
everything glides in quietly, without confusion or noise; and the
matter is achieved before men even think of perceiving that it is
commenced.' 'Men,' he tells us, 'men should imitate Nature, who
innovateth _greatly_ but _quietly_, and by degrees scarce to be
perceived,' who will not dispense with the old form till the new one
is finished and in its place.

What is that we want to find? We want to find the new method of
scientific inquiry applied to the questions in which men are most
deeply interested--questions which were then imperiously and instantly
urged on the thoughtful mind. We want to see it applied to POLITICS in
the reign of James the First. We want to see it applied to the open
questions of another department of inquiry,--certainly not any less
important,--in that reign, and in the reign which preceded it. We want
to see the facts sifted through those scientific tables of review,
from which the true form of SOVEREIGNTY, the _legitimate_ sovereignty,
is to be inducted, and the scientific axioms of government with it. We
want to see the science of observation and experiment, the science of
nature in general, applied to the cure of the common-weal in the reign
of James the First, and to that particular crisis in its disease, in
which it appeared to the observers to be at its last gasp; and that,
too, by the principal doctors in that profession,--men of the very
largest experience in it, who felt obliged to pursue their work
conscientiously, whether the patient _objected_ or not. But are there
any such books as these? Certainly. You have the author's own word for
it. 'Some may raise this question,' he says, 'this _question_ rather
than _objection_'--[it is better that it should come in the form of a
_question_, than in the form of _an objection_, as it would have come,
if there had been no room to '_raise the question_']--'_whether we
talk_ of perfecting _natural philosophy_' [using the term here in its
usual limited sense], 'whether we talk of perfecting natural
philosophy _alone_, according to our method, or, _the other_
sciences--_such as_, ETHICS, LOGIC, POLITICS.' _That_ is the question
'raised.' 'We certainly intend to comprehend them ALL.' _That_ is _the
author's_ answer to it. 'And as _common logic_ which _regulates
matters by syllogism_, is applied, not only to natural, but to every
other science, _so_ our inductive method _likewise_ comprehends them
ALL.' With such iteration will he think fit to give us this point. It
is put in here for those 'who raise the question'--the question
'rather than objection.' The other sort are taken care of in other
places. '_For_,' he continues, 'we form a history and tables of
invention, for _anger, fear, shame,_ and _the like_; and _also for
examples in civil life_' [that was to be the principal part of the
science when he laid out the plan of it in the advancement of
learning] 'and the _mental_ operations of _memory, composition,
division, judgment_, and the rest; _as well_ as for _heat_ and _cold,
light_ and _vegetation_, and _the like_.' That is the plan of the new
science, as the author sketches it for the benefit of those who raise
questions rather than objections. That is its comprehension precisely,
whenever he undertakes to mark out its limits for the satisfaction of
this class of readers. But this is that same FOURTH PART to which he
refers us in the other places for the application of his method to
those nobler subjects, those more chosen subjects; and that is just
the part of his science which appears to be wanting. How happens it?
Did he get so occupied with the question of _heat_ and _cold_, _light_
and vegetation, and _the like_, that after all he forgot this part
with its nobler applications? How could that be, when he tells us
expressly, that they are the more chosen subjects of his inquiry. This
part which he speaks of here, is the missing part of his philosophy,
unquestionably. These are the books of it which have been missing
hitherto; but in that Providential order of events to which he refers
himself, the time has come for them to be inquired for; and this
inquiry is itself a part of that movement, in which the smallest
beginnings lead assuredly to some result. For, 'let us begin from
God,' he says, 'and show that our pursuit, from its exceeding
goodness, clearly proceeds from Him, the Author of GOOD, and not of
misery; the Father of LIGHT, and not of darkness.'

Of course, it was impossible to get out any scientific doctrine of the
human society, without coming at once in collision with that doctrine
of the divinity of arbitrary power which the monarchs of England were
then openly sustaining. Who needs to be told, that he who would handle
that argument scientifically, then, without military weapons, as this
inquirer _would_, must indeed 'pray in aid of _similes_.' And yet a
very searching and critical inquiry into the claims of that
institution, which the new philosophy found in possession of the human
welfare, and asserting a divine right to it as a thing of private
property and legitimate family inheritance,--such a criticism was, in
fact, inevitably involved in that inquiry into the principles of a
_human_ subjection which appeared to this philosopher to belong
properly to the more chosen subjects of a scientific investigation.

And notwithstanding the delicacy of the subjects, and the extremely
critical nature of the investigation, when it came to touch those
particulars, with which the personal observations and experiments of
the founders of this new school in philosophy had tended to enrich
their collections in this department,--'and the aim is better,' says
the principal spokesman of this school, who quietly proposes to
introduce this method into _politics_, 'the aim is better _when the
mark is alive_;' notwithstanding the difficulties which appeared to
lie then in the way of such an investigation, the means of conducting
it to the entire satisfaction, and, indeed, to the large entertainment
of the persons chiefly concerned, were not wanting. For this was one
of those 'secrets of policy,' which have always required the aid of
fable, and the idea of _dramatising_ the fable for the sake of
reaching in some sort those who are incapable of receiving any thing
'which does not directly fall under, and strike the senses,' as the
philosopher has it; those who are capable of nothing but 'dumb shows
and noise,' as Hamlet has it; this idea, though certainly a very
happy, was not with these men an original one. Men, whose relations to
the state were not so different as the difference in the forms of
government would perhaps lead us to suppose,--men of the gravest
learning and enriched with the choicest accomplishments of their time,
had adopted that same method of influencing public opinion, some two
thousand years earlier, and even as long before as that, there were
'secrets of morality and policy,' to which this form of writing
appeared to offer the most fitting veil.

Whether 'the new' philosopher,--whether 'the new magician' of this
time, was, in fact, in possession of any art which enabled him to
handle without diffidence or scruple the great political question
which was then already the question of the time; whether 'THE
CROWN'--that double crown of military conquest and priestly
usurpation, which was the one estate of the realm at that crisis in
English history, did, among other things in some way, come under the
edges of that new analysis which was severing _all_ here then, and get
divided clearly with 'the mind, that divine fire,'--whether any such
thing as that occurred here then, the reader of the following pages
will be able to judge. The careful reader of the extracts they
contain, taken from a work of practical philosophy which made its
appearance about those days, will certainly have no difficulty at all
in deciding that question. For, first of all, it is necessary to find
that political key to the Elizabethan art of delivery, which unlocks
the great works of the Elizabethan philosophy, and that is the
necessity which determines the selection of the Plays that are
produced in this volume. They are brought in to illustrate the fact
already stated, and already demonstrated, the fact which is the
subject of this volume, the fact that the new practical philosophy of
the modern ages, which has its beginning here, was not limited, in the
plan of its founders, to 'natural philosophy' and 'the part operative'
of that,--the fact that it comprehended, as its principal department,
the department in which its 'noblest subjects' lay, and in which its
most vital innovations were included, a field of enquiry which could
not then be entered without the aid of fable and parable, and one
which required not then only, 'but now, and at all times,' the aid of
a vivid poetic illustration; they are brought in to illustrate the
fact already demonstrated from other sources, the fact that the new
philosophy was the work of men able to fulfil their work under such
conditions, able to work, if not for the times that were nearer, for
the times that were further off; men who thought it little so they
could fulfil and perfect their work and make their account of it to
the Work-master, to robe another with their glory; men who could
relinquish the noblest works of the human genius, that they might save
them from the mortal stabs of an age of darkness, that they might make
them over unharmed in their boundless freedom, in their unstained
perfection, to the farthest ages of the advancement of learning,--that
they might 'teach them how to live and look fresh' still,

'When tyrants' crests, and tombs of brass are spent.'

That is the one fact, the indestructible fact, which this book is to



'Thou'dst shun a bear;
But if thy way lay towards the raging sea,
Thou'dst meet the bear i' the mouth.'



'I think the king is but a man, as I am.'--_King Henry_.
'They told me I was everything.'--_Lear_.

OF course, it was not possible that the prerogative should be openly
dealt with at such a time, questioned, discussed, scientifically
examined, in the very presence of royalty itself, except by persons
endowed with extraordinary privileges and immunities, persons, indeed,
of quite irresponsible authority, whose right to do and say what they
pleased, Elizabeth herself, though they should enter upon a critical
analysis of the divine rights of kings to her face, and deliberately
lay bare the defects in that title which she was then attempting to
maintain, must needs notwithstanding, concede and respect.

And such persons, as it happened, were not wanting in the retinue of
that sovereignty which was working in disguise here then, and laying
the foundations of that throne in the thoughts of men, which would
replace old principalities and powers, and not political dominions
merely. To the creative genius which waited on the philosophic mind of
that age, making up in the splendour of its gifts for the poverty of
its exterior conditions, such persons,--persons of any amount or
variety of capacity which the necessary question of its play might
require, were not wanting:--'came with a thought.'

Of course, poor Bolingbroke, fevered with the weight of his ill-got
crown, and passing a sleepless night in spite of its supposed
exemptions, unable to command on his state-bed, with all his royal
means and appliances, the luxury that the wet sea boy in the storm
enjoys,--and the poet appears, to have had some experience of this
mortal ill, which inclines him to put it down among those which ought
to be excluded from a state of supreme earthly felicity,--the poor
guilty disgusted usurper, discovering that this so blessed 'invention'
was not included in the prerogative he had seized, under the
exasperation of the circumstances, might surely be allowed to mutter
to himself, in the solitude of his own bed-chamber, a few general
reflections on the subject, and, indeed, disable his own position to
any extent, without expecting to be called to an account for it, by
any future son or daughter of his usurping lineage. That
extraordinary, but when one came to look at it, quite incontestable
fact, that nature in her sovereignty, imperial still, refused to
recognize this artificial difference in men, but still went on her way
in all things, as if 'the golden standard' were not there, classing
the monarch with his 'poorest subject;'--the fact that this charmed
'round of sovereignty,' did not after all secure the least exemption
from the common _individual_ human frailty, and helplessness,--this
would, of course, strike the usurper who had purchased the crown at
such an expense, as a fact in natural history worth communicating, if
it were only for the benefit of future princes, who might be disposed
to embark in a similar undertaking. Here, of course, the moral was
proper, and obvious enough; or close at hand, and ready to be
produced, in case any serious inquiry should be made for it; though
the poet might seem, perhaps, to a severely critical mind, disposed to
pursue his philosophical inquiry a little too curiously into the awful
secrets of majesty, retired within itself, and pondering its own
position;--openly searching what Lord Bacon reverently tells us, the
Scriptures pronounce to be inscrutable, namely, _the hearts_ of
_kings_, and audaciously laying bare those private passages, those
confessions, and misgivings, and frailties, for which policy and
reverence prescribe concealment, and which are supposed in the play,
indeed, to be shrouded from the profane and vulgar eye, a circumstance
which, of course, was expected to modify the impression.

So, too, that profoundly philosophical suspicion, that a rose, or a
violet, did actually smell, to a person occupying this sublime
position, very much as it did to another; a suspicion which, in the
mouth of a common man, would have been literally sufficient to 'make a
star-chamber matter of'; and all that thorough-going analysis of the
trick and pageant of majesty which follows it, would, of course, come
only as a graceful concession, from the mouth of that genuine piece of
royalty, who contrives to hide so much of the poet's own 'sovereignty
of nature,' under the mantle of his free and princely humours, the
brave and gentle hero of Agincourt.

'Though _I_ speak it to you,' he says, talking in the disguise of a
'private,' '_I think the King is but a man as I am_, the violet smells
to him as it doth to me; all his senses, _have but human conditions_.
His ceremonies laid by, in his nakedness, he appears but a man; and
though his affections are higher mounted than ours, yet, when they
stoop, they stoop with the like wing. When he sees reason of fears, as
we do, his fears, out of doubt, be of the same relish as ours are';
and in the same scene, thus the royal philosopher versifies, and
soliloquises on the same delicate question.

'And what have _kings_ that "_privates_" have not, too, save
ceremony,--save general ceremony? And what art thou, thou _idol
ceremony?_--_What is_ thy _soul_ of _adoration_?'

A grave question, for a man of an inquiring habit of mind, in those
times: let us see how a Poet can answer it.

'Art thou aught else but _place, degree_ and _form_,
Creating awe and fear in _other men?_
Wherein, thou _art less happy, being feared_,
_Than they in fearing_?

[Again and again this man has told us, and on his oath, that he
cherished no evil intentions, no thought of harm to the king; and
those who know what criticisms on the state, as it was then, he had
authorised, and what changes in it he was certainly meditating and
preparing the way for, have charged him with falsehood and perjury on
that account; but this is what he means. He thinks that wretched
victim of that most irrational and monstrous state of things, on whose
head the crown of an arbitrary rule is placed, with all its
responsibilities, in his infinite unfitness for them, is, in fact, the
one whose case most of all requires relief. He is the one, in this
theory, who suffers from this unnatural state of things, not less, but
more, than his meanest subject. 'Thou art less happy being feared,
than they in fearing.']

What drink'st thou oft _instead of homage sweet_
But _poison'd flattery_? O! be sick, great greatness,
And bid thy _ceremony_ give thee _cure_.
Thinkest thou the _fiery fever will go out_
With _titles blown from adulation_?
Will it give place to flexure and low bending?

Interesting physiological questions! And though the author, for
reasons of his own, has seen fit to put them in blank verse here, it
is not because he does not understand, as we shall see elsewhere, that
they are questions of a truly scientific character, which require to
be put in prose in his time--questions of vital consequence to all
men. The effect of 'poisoned flattery,' and 'titles blown from
adulation' on the minds, of those to whose single will and caprice the
whole welfare of the state, and all the gravest questions for this
life and the next, were then entrusted, naturally appeared to the
philosophical mind, perseveringly addicted to inquiries, in which the
practical interests of men were involved, a question of gravest

But here it is the physical difference which accompanies this so
immense human distinction, which he appears to be in quest of; it is
the control over nature with which these '_farcical titles_' invest
their possessor, that he appears to be now pertinaciously bent upon
ascertaining. For we shall find, as we pursue the subject, that this
is not an accidental point here, a casual incident of the character,
or of the plot, a thing which belongs to the play, and not to the
author; but that this is a poet who is somehow perpetually haunted
with the impression that those who assume a divine right to control,
and dispose of their fellow-men, ought to exhibit some sign of their
authority; some superior abilities; some magical control; some light
and power that other men have not. How he came by any such notions,
the critic of his works is, of course, not bound to show; but that
which meets him at the first reading is the fact, the incontestable
fact, that the Poet of Shakspere's stage, be he who he may, is a poet
whose mind is in some way deeply occupied with this question; that it
is a poet who is infected, and, indeed, perfectly possessed, with the
idea, that the true human leadership ought to consist in the ability
to extend the empire of man over nature,--in the ability to unite and
control men, and lead them in battalions against those common evils
which infest the human conditions,--not fevers only but 'worser'
evils, and harder to be cured, and to the conquest of those supernal
blessings which the human race have always been vainly crying for. 'I
am a king that find thee,' he says.

And having this inveterate notion of a true human regality to begin
with, he is naturally the more curious and prying in regard to the
claims of the one which he finds in possession; and when by the
mystery of his profession and art, he contrives to get the cloak of
that factitious royalty about him, he asks questions under its cover
which another man would not think of putting.

'Canst thou,' he continues, walking up and down the stage in King
Hal's mantle, inquiring narrowly into its virtues and taking advantage
of that occasion to ascertain the limits of the prerogative--that very
dubious question then,--

'Canst thou when thou command'st the beggar's knee,
_Command the health_ of it?'--

_No_? what mockery of power is it then? But, this in connection with
the preceding inquiry in regard to the effect of titles on the
progress of a fever, or the amenability of its paroxysm, to flexure
and low bending, might have seemed perhaps in the mouth of a subject
to savour somewhat of irony; it might have sounded too much like a
taunt upon the royal helplessness under cover of a serious
philosophical inquiry, or it might have betrayed in such an one a
disposition to pursue scientific inquiries farther than was perhaps
expedient. But thus it is, that THE KING can dare to pursue the
subject, answering his own questions.

'No, thou proud dream
That _playst so subtly with a king's repose_;
_I_ am a king _that find thee_; and I know
_The inter-tissued_ ROBE of _gold and pearl_,

What is that?--Mark it:--the _farced_ TITLE!--A bold word, one would
say, even with _a king_ to authorise it.

'The farced TITLE running 'fore the king,
THE THRONE he sits on, nor _the tide_ of POMP
That beats upon the high shore of this world,
No, not all these, thrice gorgeous CEREMONY,
Not all these laid in BED MAJESTICAL,
Can _sleep so soundly_ as the wretched slave
Who, with a body filled, and vacant mind,
Gets him to rest crammed with distressful bread,
Never sees horrid night, the child of hell,
But like a lackey from the rise to set
Sweats in the eye of Phoebus; and all night
Sleeps in Elysium.

Yes, there we have him, at last. There he is exactly. That is the
scientific picture of him, 'poor man,' as this poet calls him
elsewhere. What malice could a philosophic poet bear him? That is the
monarchy that men were 'sanctifying themselves with,' and 'turning up
the white of the eye to,' then. That is the figure that it makes when
it comes to be laid in its state-bed, upon the scientific table of
review, not in the formal manner of 'the second part' of this
philosophy, but in that other manner which the author of the _Novum
Organum_, speaks of so frequently, as the one to be used in applying
it to subjects of this nature. That is the anatomy of him, which
'_our_ method of inquiry and investigation,' brings out without much
trouble 'when we come to particulars.' 'Truly we were in good hands,'
as the other one says, who finds it more convenient, for his part, to
discourse on these points, from a distance.

That is the figure the usurping monarch's pretensions make at the
first blush, in the collections from which '_the vintage_' of the true
sovereignty, and the scientific principles of governments are to be
expressed, when the true _monarchy_, the legitimate, 'one only man
power,' is the thing inquired for. This one goes to 'the negative'
side apparently. A wretched fellow that cannot so much as 'sleep o'
nights,' that lies there on the stage in the play of Henry the Fourth,
in the sight of all the people, with THE CROWN on his very pillow, by
way 'facilitating the demonstration,' pining for the 'Elysium' at his
meanest subject,--that the poor slave, 'crammed with distressful
bread,' commands; crying for the luxury that the wet seaboy, on his
high and giddy couch enjoys;--and from whose note-book came that
image, dashed with the ocean spray,--who saw that seaboy sleeping in
_that_ storm?

But, as for this KING, it is the king which the scientific history
brings out; whereas, in the other sort of history that was in use
then, lie is hardly distinguishable at all from those Mexican kings
who undertook to keep the heavenly bodies in their places, and, at the
same time, to cause all things to be borne by the earth which were
requisite for the comfort and convenience of man; a peculiarity of
those sovereigns, of which the Man on the Mountains, whose study is so
well situated for observations of that sort, makes such a pleasant

But whatever other view we may take of it, this, it must be conceded,
is a tolerably comprehensive exhibition, in the general, of the mere
pageant of royalty, and a pretty free mode of handling it; but it is
at the same time a privileged and entirely safe one. For the liberty
of this great Prince to repeat to himself, in the course of a solitary
stroll through his own camp at midnight, when nobody is supposed to be
within hearing, certain philosophical conclusions which he was
understood to have arrived at in the course of his own regal
experience, could hardly be called in question. And as to that most
extraordinary conversation in which, by means of his disguise on this
occasion, he becomes a participator, if the Prince himself were too
generous to avail himself of it to the harm of the speakers, it would
ill become any one else to take exceptions at it.

And yet it is a conversation in which a party of common soldiers are
permitted to 'speak their minds freely' for once, though 'the blank
verse has to halt for it,' on questions which would be considered at
present questions of 'gravity.' It is a dialogue in which these men
are allowed to discuss one of the most important institutions of their
time from an ethical point of view, in a tone as free as the president
of a Peace Society could use to-day in discussing the same topic,
intermingling their remarks with criticisms on the government, and
personal allusions to the king himself, which would seem to be more in
accordance with the manners of the nineteenth century, than with those
of the Poet's time.

But then these wicked and treasonous grumblings being fortunately
encountered on the spot, and corrected by the king himself in his own
august person, would only serve for edification in the end; if,
indeed, that appeal to the national pride which would conclude the
matter, and the glory of that great day which was even then breaking
in the East, should leave room for any reflections upon it. For it was
none other than the field of _Agincourt_ that was subjected to this
philosophic inquiry. It was the lustre of that immortal victory which
was to England then, what Waterloo and the victories of Nelson are
now, that was thus chemically treated beforehand. Under the cover of
that renowned triumph, it was, that these soldiers could venture to
search so deeply the question of war in general; it was in the person
of its imperial hero, that the statesman could venture to touch so
boldly, an institution which gave to one man, by his own confession no
better or wiser than his neighbours, the power to involve nations in
such horrors.

But let us join the king in his stroll, and hear for ourselves, what
it is that these soldiers are discussing, by the camp-fires of
_Agincourt_;--what it is that this first voice from the ranks has to
say for itself. The king has just encountered by the way a poetical
sentinel, who, not satisfied with the watchword--'_a friend_,'--
requests the disguised prince 'to discuss to him, and answer, whether
he is an _officer_, or _base, common_, and _popular_,' when the king
lights on this little group, and the discussion which Pistol had
solicited, apparently on his own behalf, actually takes place, for
the benefit of the Poet's audience, and the answer to these inquiries
comes out in due order.

_Court_. Brother John Bates, is not that the morning which breaks

_Bates_. I think it be, _but we have no great cause to desire the
approach of day_.

_Will_. We see yonder the beginning of the day, but I think we shall
never see the end of it. Who goes there?

_King Henry_. A friend.

_Will_. Under what captain serve you?

_King_. Under Sir Thomas Erpingham.

_Will_. A good old commander, and a most kind gentleman: I pray
you, what thinks he of our estate?

_King._ Even as men wrecked upon a sand, that look to be washed
off the next tide.

_Bates_. _He hath not told his thought to the king_?

_King_. No; nor it is not meet that he should; for though _I speak
it to you_, I think the king is but a man as I am.

And it is here that he proceeds to make that important disclosure
above quoted, that all his senses have but human conditions, and that
all his _affections_, though _higher mounted, stoop with the like
wing_; and therefore no man should in reason possess him with any
appearance of fear, lest he, by showing it, 'should dishearten his

_Bates_. He may show what outward courage he will; but, _I_ believe,
as cold a night as 'tis, he could wish himself in the
Thames, up to the neck; and so I would he were, and I by
him, at all adventures, so we were quit here.

_King_. By my troth, I will speak my conscience of the king. I
think he would not wish himself anywhere but where he is.

_Bates_. Then would he were here alone; so should he be
sure to be ransomed, and a many poor men's lives saved.

_King_. I dare say you love him not so ill as to wish him here
alone; _howsoever you speak this to feel other men's minds_;
Methinks I could not die anywhere so contented as in the king's
company; _his cause being just, and his quarrel honorable_.

_Will. That's more than we know._

_Bates_. Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know enough,
if we know we are the king's subjects; if his cause be wrong, our
obedience to the _king_ wipes the crime of it out of us.

_Will_. But _if the cause be not good_, the _king himself hath a
heavy reckoning to make_; when all those legs and arms and heads
chopped off in a battle shall join together at the latter day, and
cry all--We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for a
surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them; some upon
the debts they owe; some upon their children rawly left. I am
afeared that few die well, that die in battle; for how can they
_charitably_ dispose of anything _when blood is their argument_?
Now if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for
the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were _against all
proportion of subjection_.

_King_. So, if a son that is by his father sent about merchandise,
do sinfully miscarry upon the sea, the imputation of his wickedness,
by your rule, should be imposed upon his father that sent him: or
if a servant, under his master's command, transporting a sum of
money, be assailed by robbers, and die in many irreconciled
iniquities, you may call the business of the master the author of
the servant's damnation.--But this is not so.... There is no king,
be his cause never so spotless, if it come to the arbitrament of
swords, can try it out with all unspotted soldiers.

But the king pursues this question of the royal responsibility until
he arrives at the conclusion that _every subject's_ DUTY is THE
KING'S, BUT EVERY SUBJECT'S SOUL IS HIS OWN, until he shows, indeed,
that there is but one ultimate sovereignty; one to which the king and
his subjects are alike amenable, which pursues them everywhere, with
its demands and reckonings,--from whose violated laws there is no

_Will_. 'Tis certain, every man that dies ill, the ill is upon his
own head--[no unimportant point in the theology or ethics of that
time]--THE KING is not to answer for it.

_Bates_. I do not desire the king should answer for me, and yet I
determine to fight lustily for him.

_King_. I, myself, heard the king say, he would not be ransomed.

_Will_. Ay, he said so, to make us fight cheerfully; but when our
throats are cut, he may be ransomed and we ne'er the wiser.

_King_. If I live to see it, I will never trust his word after.

_Will_. _Mass, you'll pay him then!_ That's a perilous shot out of
an _elder gun_, that a poor and _private_ displeasure can do against
a monarch. _You may as well go about to turn the sun to ice_, with
fanning in his face with a peacock's feather.

And, indeed, thus and not any less absurd and monstrous, appeared the
idea of subjecting the king to any effect from the subject's
displeasure, or the idea of calling him to account--this one,
helpless, frail, private man, as he has just been conceded by the king
himself to be, for any amount of fraud or dishonesty to the nation,
for any breach of trust or honour. For his relation to the _mass_ and
the source of this fearful irresponsible power was not understood
then. The soldier states it well. One might, indeed, as well go about
to turn the sun to ice, _with fanning in his face_ with a peacock's

'You'll never trust his word after,' the soldier continues.
'Come, 'tis a foolish saying.'

'Your reproof is something _too round_,' is the king's reply. It is
indeed round. It is one of those round replies that this poet is so
fond of, and the king himself becomes 'the private' of it, when once
the centre of this play is found, and the sweep of its circumference
is taken. For the sovereignty of law, the kingship of the universal
law _in whomsoever it speaks_, awful with God's power, armed with
_his_ pains and penalties is the scientific sovereignty; and in the
scientific diagrams the passions, 'the poor and private passions,' and
the arbitrary will, in whomsoever they speak, no matter what symbols
of sovereignty they have contrived to usurp, make no better figure in
their struggles with that law, than that same which the poet's vivid
imagination and intense perception of incompatibilities, has seized on
here. The king struggles vainly against the might of the universal
nature. It is but the shot out of an '_elder gun_;' he might as well
'go about to _turn the sun to ice_ with fanning in his face with a
_peacock's_ feather.' 'I should be angry with you,' continues the
king, after noticing the roundness of that reply, 'I should be angry
with you, if _the time_ were convenient.'

But as to the poet who composes these dialogues, of course he does not
know whether the time is convenient or not;--he has never reflected
upon any of those grave questions which are here so seriously
discussed. They are not questions in which he can be supposed to have
taken any interest. Of course he does not know or care what it is that
these men are talking about. It is only for the sake of an artistic
effect, to pass away the night, and to deepen for his hero the gloom
which was to serve as the foil and sullen ground of his great victory,
that his interlocutors are permitted to go on in this manner.

It is easy to see, however, what extraordinary capabilities this
particular form of writing offered to one who _had_ any purpose, or to
an author, who wished on any account, to '_infold_' somewhat his
meaning;--that was the term used then in reference to this style of
writing. For certainly, many things dangerous in themselves could be
shuffled in under cover of an artistic effect, which would not strike
at the time, amid the agitations, and the skilful checks, and
counteractions, of the scene, even the quick ear of despotism itself.

And thus King Lear--that impersonation of absolutism--the very
embodiment of pure will and tyranny in their most frantic form, taken
out all at once from that hot bath of flatteries to which he had been
so long accustomed, that his whole self-consciousness had become
saturated, tinctured in the grain with them, and he believed himself
to be, within and without, indestructibly, essentially,--'ay, every
inch A KING;' with speeches on his supremacy copied, well nigh
verbatim, from those which Elizabeth's courtiers habitually addressed
to her, still ringing in his ears, hurled out into a single-handed
contest with the elements, stripped of all his 'social and artificial
lendings,' the poor, bare, unaccommodated, individual man, this living
subject of the poet's artistic treatment,--this 'ruined Majesty'
anatomized alive, taken to pieces literally before our eyes, pursued,
hunted down scientifically, and robbed in detail of all 'the additions
of a king'--must, of course, be expected to evince in some way his
sense of it; 'for soul and body,' this poet tells us, 'rive not more
in parting than greatness going off.'

Once conceive the possibility of presenting the action, the dumb show,
of this piece upon the stage at that time, (there have been times
since when it could not be done), and the dialogue, with its
illimitable freedoms, follows without any difficulty. For the surprise
of the monarch at the discoveries which this new state of things
forces upon him,--the speeches he makes, with all the levelling of
their philosophy, with all the unsurpassable boldness of their
political criticism, are too natural and proper to the circumstances,
to excite any surprise or question.

Indeed, a king, who, nurtured in the flatteries of the palace, was
unlearned enough in the nature of things, to suppose that _the name_
of a king was anything but a shadow when _the power_ which had
sustained its prerogative was withdrawn,--a king who thought that he
could still be a king, and maintain 'his state' and 'his hundred
knights,' and their prerogatives, and all his old arbitrary, despotic
humours, with their inevitable encroachment on the will and humours,
and on the welfare of others, merely on grounds of respect and
affection, or on grounds of duty, when not merely the care of 'the
state,' but the revenues and power of it had been devolved on
others--such a one appeared, indeed, to the poet, to be engaging in an
experiment very similar to the one which he found in progress in his
time, in that old, decayed, riotous form of military government, which
had chosen the moment of its utter dependence on the popular will and
respect, as the fitting one for its final suppression of the national
liberties. It was an experiment which was, of course, modified in the
play by some diverting and strongly pronounced differences, or it
would not have been possible to produce it then; but it was still the
experiment of _the unarmed prerogative_, that the old popular tale of
the ancient king of Britain offered to the poet's hands, and that was
an experiment which he was willing to see traced to its natural
conclusion on paper at least; while in the subsequent development of
the plot, the presence of an insulted trampled outcast majesty on the
stage, furnishes a cover of which the poet is continually availing
himself, for putting the case of that other outraged sovereignty,
whose cause under one form or another, under all disguises, he is
always pleading. And in the poet's hands, the debased and outcast
king, becomes the impersonation of a debased and violated state, that
had given all to its daughters,--the victim of a tyranny not less
absolute, the victim, too, of a blindness and fatuity on its own part,
not less monstrous, but not, not--_that_ is the poet's word--_not_ yet

'Thou shalt find
I will resume that shape, which thou dost think
I have cast off for ever; thou shalt, I warrant thee.'
'Do you mark that, my lord?'

But the question of that prerogative, which has consumed, in the
poet's time, all the faculties of government constitutes only a
subordinate part of the action of that great play, into which it is
here incorporated; a play which comprehends in its new philosophical
reaches, in its new and before-unimagined subtilties of analysis, the
most radical questions of a practical human science; questions which
the practical reason of these modern ages at the moment of its
awakening, found itself already compelled to grapple with, and master.



'Consider him well.--Three of us are sophisticated.'

For this is the grand SOCIAL tragedy. It is the tragedy of an
unlearned human society; it is the tragedy of a civilization in which
grammar, and the relations of sounds and abstract notions to each
other have sufficed to absorb the attention of the learned,--a
civilization in which the parts of speech, and their relations, have
been deeply considered, but one in which the social elements, the
parts of life, and their unions, and their prosody, have been left to
spontaneity, and empiricism, and all kinds of rude, arbitrary,
idiomatical conjunctions, and fortuitous rules; a civilization in
which the learning of 'WORDS' is put down by the reporter--invented--
and the learning of 'THINGS'--omitted.

And in a movement which was designed to bring the human reason to bear
scientifically and artistically upon those questions in which the
deepest human interests are involved, the wrong and misery of that
social state to which the New Machine, with its new combination of
sense and reason, must be applied, had to be fully and elaborately
brought out and exhibited. And there was but one language in which the
impersonated human misery and wrong,--the speaker for countless
hearts, tortured and broken on the rude machinery of unlearned social
customs, and lawless social forces, could speak; there was but one
tongue in which it could tell its story. For this is the place where
science becomes inevitably poetical. That same science which fills our
cabinets and herbariums, and chambers of natural history, with mute
stones and shells and plants and dead birds and insects--that same
science that fills our scientific volumes with coloured pictures true
as life itself, and letter-press of prose description--that same
science that anatomises the physical frame with microscopic
nicety,--in the hand of its master, found in the soul, that which had
most need of science; and his 'illustrated book' of it, the book of
his experiments in it, comes to us filled with his yet living, 'ever
living' _subjects_, and resounding with the tragedy of their

It requires but a little reading of that book to find, that the author
of it is a philosopher who is strongly disposed to ascertain the
limits of that thing in nature, which men call fortune,--that is, in
their week-day speech,--they have another name for it 'o' Sundays.' He
is greatly of the opinion, that the combined and legitimate use of
those faculties with which man is beneficently 'armed against diseases
of the world,' would tend very much to limit those fortuities and
accidents, those wild blows,--those vicissitudes, that men, in their
ignorance and indolent despair, charge on Fate or ascribe to
Providence, while at the same time it would furnish the art of
_accommodating_ the human mind to that which is inevitable. It is not
fortune who is blind, but man, he says,--a creature endowed of nature
for his place in nature, endowed of God with a godlike faculty,
looking before and after--a creature who has eyes, eyes adapted to his
special necessities, but one that will not use them.

Acquaintance with law, as it is actual in nature, and inventions of
arts based on that acquaintance, appear to him to open a large field
of relief to the human estate, a large field of encroachment on that
human misery, which men have blindly and stupidly acquiesced in
hitherto, as necessity. For this is the philosopher who borrows, on
another page, an ancient fable to teach us that that is not the kind
of submission which is pleasing to God--that that is not the kind of
'suffering' that will ever secure his favour. He, for one, is going to
search this social misery to the root, with that same light which the
ancient wise man tells us, 'is as the lamp of God, wherewith He
searcheth the inwardness of all secrets.'

The weakness and ignorance and misery of the _natural_ man,--the
misery too of the _artificial man_ as he is,--the misery of man in
society, when that society is cemented with arbitrary customs, and
unscientific social arts, and when the instinctive spontaneous
demoniacal forces of nature, are at large in it; the dependence of the
social Monad, the constitutional specific _human_ dependence, on the
specific _human_ law,--the exquisite human liability to injury and
wrong, which are but the natural indications of those higher arts and
excellencies, those unborn pre-destined human arts and excellencies,
which man must struggle through his misery to reach;--that is the
scientific notion which lies at the bottom of this grand ideal
representation. It is, in a word, the human social NEED, in all its
circumference, clearly sketched, laid out, scientifically, as the
basis of the human social ART. It is the negation of that which man's
conditions, which the _human_ conditions require;--it is the
collection on the Table of Exclusion and Rejection, which must precede
the _practical_ affirmation.

_King_. Have you heard the argument? Is there no offence in it?

_Hamlet_. None in the world. It's the image of a murder done in

In the poetic representation of that state of things which was to be
redressed, the central social figure must, of course, have its place.
For it is the Poet, the Experimental Poet, unseen indeed, deep buried
in his fable, his new movements all hidden under its old garb, and
deeper hidden still, in the new splendours he puts on it--it is the
Poet--invisible but not the less truly, he,--it is the Scientific
Poet, who comes upon the monarch in his palace at noonday, and says,
'My business is with thee, O king.' It is he who comes upon the
selfish arrogant old despot, drunk with Elizabethan flatteries,
stuffed with '_titles blown_ from adulation,' unmindful of the true
ends of government, reckless of the duties which that regal assumption
of the common weal brings with it--it is the Poet who comes upon this
Doctor of Laws in the palace and prescribes to him a course of
treatment which the royal patient himself, when once it has taken
effect, is ready to issure from the hovel's mouth, in the form of a
general prescription and state ordinance.

'Take physic, POMP;
Expose thyself to _feel_ what wretches _feel_,
That thou may'st shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just.
Oh, I have taken _too little care_ of This!'

It is that same Poet who has already told us, confidentially, under
cover of King Hal's mantle, that 'the king himself is but a man' and
that 'all his senses have but human conditions and that his
affections, too, though higher mounted when they stoop, stoop with the
like wing; that his ceremonies laid by, in his nakedness he appears
but a man';--it is that same Poet, and, in carrying out the purpose of
this play, it has come in his way now to make good that statement. For
it was necessary to his purpose here, to show that the State is
composed throughout, down to its most loathsome unimaginable depths of
neglect and misery, of individual men, social units, clothed of nature
with the same faculties and essential human dignities and
susceptibilities to good and evil, and crowned of nature with the
common sovereignty of reason,--down-trodden, perhaps, and wrung and
trampled out of them, but elected of nature to that dignity; it was
necessary to show this, in order that the wisdom of the State which
sacrifices to the senses of _one_ individual man, and the judgment
that is narrowed by the one man's senses, the weal of the whole,--in
order that the wisdom of the State, which puts at the mercy of the
arbitrary will and passions of _the one_, the weal of _the many_,
might be mathematically exhibited,--might be set down in figures and
diagrams. For this is that Poet who represents this method of inquiry
and investigation, as it were, to _the eye_. This is that same Poet,
too, who surprises elsewhere _a queen_ in her swooning passion of
grief, and bids her murmur to us her recovering confession.

'No more, but e'en a woman; and _commanded_
By such poor passion, as the maid that milks,
And does the meanest chares.'

So busy is he, indeed, in laying by this king's 'ceremonies' for him,
beginning with the first doubtful perception of a most faint
neglect,--a falling off in the ceremonious affection due to majesty
'as well in the general dependents as in the duke himself and his
daughter,'--so faint that the king dismisses it from his thought, and
charges it on his own jealousy till he is reminded of it by
another,--beginning with that faint beginning, and continuing the
process not less delicately, through all its swift dramatic
gradations,--the direct abatement of the regal dignities,--the
knightly train diminishing,--nay, 'fifty of his followers at a clap'
torn from him, his messenger put in the stocks,--and '_it is worse
than murder_,' the poor king cries in the anguish of his slaughtered
dignity and affection, 'to do upon _respect_ such violent
outrage,'--so bent is the Poet upon this analytic process; so
determined that this shaking out of a '_preconception_,' shall be for
once a thorough one, so absorbed with the dignity of the scientific
experiment, that he seems bent at one moment on giving a literal
finish to this process; but the fool's scruples interfere with the
philosophical humour of the king, and the presence of Mad Tom in his
blanket, with the king's exposition, suffices to complete the
demonstration. For not less lively than this, is the preaching and
illustration, from that new rostrum which this 'Doctor' has contrived
to make himself master of. 'His ceremonies laid by, in his nakedness
he appears but a man,' says King Hal. 'Couldst thou save nothing?'
says King Lear to the Bedlamite. 'Why thou wert better in thy grave
than to answer with thy uncovered body this extremity of the skies.'
'_Is man_,'--it is _the king_ who generalises, it is the king who
introduces this levelling suggestion here in the _abstract_, while the
Poet is content with the responsibility of the concrete
exhibition--'_Is man no wore than this_? Consider him well. Thou owest
the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the cat no perfume:--Ha! here's
three of us are _sophisticated. Thou art the thing itself_.
UNACCOMMODATED MAN is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal, as
thou art. Off, off, you lendings.' But 'the fool' is of the opinion
that this scientific process of unwrapping the artificial majesty,
this philosophical undressing, has already gone far enough.

'Pry'thee, Nuncle, be contented,' he says, 'it is a naughty night to
swim in.'

For it is the great heath wrapped in one of those storms of wind and
rain and thunder and lightning, which this wizard only of all the
children of men knows how to raise, that he chooses for his
physiological exhibition of majesty, when the palace-door has been
shut upon it, and the last 'additions of a king' have been subtracted.
It is a night--

'Wherein the cub-drawn bear would couch,
The lion, and the belly-pinched wolf
Keep their fur dry'--

into which he turns his royal patient '_unbonneted_.'

For the tyranny of wild nature in her elemental uproar must be added
to the tyranny of the human wildness, the cruelty of the elements must
conspire, like pernicious ministers, with the cruelty of arbitrary
HUMAN will and passions, the irrational, INHUMAN social forces must be
joined by those other forces that make war upon us, before the real
purpose of this exhibition and the full depth and scientific
comprehension of it can begin to appear. It is in the tempest that
Lear finds occasion to give out the Poet's text. Is _man_ no more than
this? Consider him well. Unaccommodated man in his struggle with
nature. Man without social combinations, man without arts to aid him
in his battle with the elements, or _with_ arts that fence in his
body, and robe it, it may be, in delicate and gorgeous apparelling,
arts that roof his head with a princely dome it may be, and add to his
native dignity and forces, the means and appliances of a material
civilization, but leave his nobler nature with its more living
susceptibility to injury, unsheathed, at the mercy of the brute forces
that unscientific civilizations, with their coarse laws, with their
cobwebs of WORDY learning, with their science of abstractions,
unmatched with the subtilty of THINGS, are compelled to leave at
large, uncaught, unentangled.

Yes, it is man in his relation to nature, man in his dependence on
artificial aid, man in his two-fold dependence on art, that this
tempest, this double tempest wakes and brings out, for us to
'consider,'--to 'consider well';--'the naked creature,' that were
better in his grave than to answer with his uncovered body that
extremity of the skies, and by his side, with his soul uncovered to a
fiercer blast, his royal brother with 'the tempest in his mind, that
doth from his senses take all feeling else, save what beats there.'

It is the _personal_ weakness, the moral and intellectual as well as
the bodily frailty and limitation of faculty, and liability to
suffering and outrage, the liability to wrong from treachery, as well
as violence, which are 'the common' specific _human_ conditions,
common to the King in his palace, and Tom o'Bedlam in his hovel; it is
this exquisite human frailty and susceptibility, still unprovided for,
that fills the play throughout, and stands forth in these two,
impersonated; it is that which fills all the play with the outcry of
its anguish.

And thus it is, that this poor king must needs be brought out into
this wild uproar of nature, and stripped of his last adventitious aid,
reduced to the authority and forces that nature gave him, invaded to
the skin, and ready in his frenzy to second the poet's intent, by
yielding up the last thread of his adventitious and artistic defences.
All his artificial, social personality already dissolved, or yet in
the agony of its dissolution, all his natural social ties torn and
bleeding within him, there is yet another kind of trial for him, as
the elected and royal representative of the human conditions. For the
perpetual, the universal interest of this experiment arises from the
fact, that it is not as _the king_ merely, dissolving like 'a mockery
king of snow' that this illustrious form stands here, to undergo this
fierce analysis, but as the representative, 'the conspicuous
instance,' of that social name and figure, which all men carry about
with them, and take to be a part of themselves, that outward life, in
which men go beyond themselves, by means of their affections, and
extend their identity, incorporating into their very personality, that
floating, contingent material which the wills and humours and
opinions, the prejudices and passions of others, and the variable tide
of this world's fortunes make--that social Name and Figure in which
men may die many times, ere the physical life is required of them, in
which all men must needs live if they will live in it at all, at the
mercy of these uncontrolled social eventualities.

The tragedy is complicated, but it is only that same complication
which the tragedy it stands for, is always exhibiting. The fact that
this blow to his state is dealt to him by those to whom nature herself
had so dearly and tenderly bound him, nay, with whom she had so
hopelessly identified him, is that which overwhelms the sufferer. It
is that which he seeks to understand in vain. He wishes to reason upon
it, but his mind cannot master it; under that it is that his brain
gives way,--the first mental confusion begins there. The blow to his
state is a subordinate thing with him. It only serves to measure the
wrong that deals it. The poet takes pains to clear this complication
in the experiment. It is the wound in the affections which untunes the
jarring senses of 'this _child-changed father_.' It is that which
invades his identity.

'Are you _our_ daughter? Does anyone here know me?' That is the word
with which he breaks the silence of that dumb amazement, that
paralysis of frozen wonder which Goneril's first rude assault brings
on him. 'Why, _this is not Lear_; Ha! sure it is not so. Does any one
here know me? Who is it that can tell me _who I am_?'

But with all her cruelty, he cannot shake her off. He curses her; but
his curses do not sever the tie.

'But yet _thou art_ my flesh, my blood, _my daughter_.
Or rather, a disease that's in my flesh
Which I must needs call _mine_.
Filial ingratitude!
Is _it not as this mouth should tear this hand
For lifting food to it_?'

For that is the poet's conception of the extent of this social life
and outgoing--that is the _interior_ of that social whole, in which
the dissolution he represents here is proceeding,--and that is the
kind of new phenomenon which the science of man, when it takes him as
he is, not the abstract man of the schools, not the logical man that
the Realists and the Nominalists went to blows for, but 'the thing
itself,' exhibits. As to that other '_man_,'--the man of the old
philosophy,--he was not 'worth the whistle,' this one thinks. 'His
bones were marrowless, his blood was cold, he had no speculation in
those eyes that he did glare with.' The New Philosopher will have no
such skeletons in his system. He is getting his _general_ man out of
particular cases, building him up solid, from a basis of natural
history, and, as far as he goes, there will be no question, no two
words about it, as to whether he _is_ or _is not_. 'For I do take,'
says the Advancer of Learning, 'the _consideration_ in general, and at
large, of _Human Nature_, to be fit to be emancipated and made a
knowledge by itself.' No wonder if some new aspects of these ordinary
phenomena, these 'common things,' as he calls them, should come out,
when they too come to be subjected to a scientific inquiry, and when
the Poet of this Advancement, this so subtle Poet of it, begins to
explore them.

And as to this particular point which he puts down with so much care,
this point which poor Lear is illustrating here, viz. 'that our
affections carry themselves beyond us,' as the sage of the 'Mountain'
expresses it, this is the view the same Poet gives of it, in
accounting for Ophelia's madness.

'Nature is fine in love; and where 'tis fine,
It sends some precious instance of itself,
After the thing it loves.'

'Your old kind father,' continues Lear, searching to the quick the
secrets of this 'broken-heartedness,' as people are content to call
it, this ill to which the human species is notoriously liable, though
philosophy had not thought it worth while before 'to find it out;'

'Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all,--
O _that way_ madness lies; let me shun _that_,
No more of _that_.'

And it is while he is still undergoing the last extreme of the
suffering which the human wrong is capable of inflicting on the
affections, that he comes in the Poet's hands to exhibit also the
unexplored depth of that wrong,--that monstrous, inhuman social error,
that perpetual outrage on nature in her _human_ law, which leaves the
helpless human outcast to the rough discipline of nature, which casts
him out from the family of man, from its common love and shelter, and
leaves him in his vices, and helplessness, and ignorance, to contend
alone with great nature and her unrelenting consequences.

'To wilful men
The injuries that they themselves procure,
Must be their school-masters,'--

is the point which the philosophic Regan makes, as she bids them shut
the door in her father's face; but it is the common human relationship
that the Poet is intent on clearing, while he notes the special
relationship also; he does not limit his humanities to the ties of
blood, or household sympathies, or social gradations.

But Regan's views on this point are seconded and sustained, and there
seems to be but one opinion on the subject among those who happen to
have that castle in possession; at least the timid owner of it does
not feel himself in a position to make any forcible resistance to the
orders which his illustrious guests, who have 'taken from him the use
of his own house,' have seen fit to issue in it. 'Shut up your doors,
(says Cornwall),

'Shut up your doors, my lord: 'tis a wild night.

And it is because this representation is artistic and dramatic, and
not simply historical, and the Poet must seek to condense, and sum and
exhibit in dramatic appreciable figures, the unreckonable, undefinable
historical suffering of years, aad lifetimes of this vain human
struggle,--because, too, the wildest threats which nature in her
terrors makes to man, had to be incorporated in this great philosophic
piece; and because, lastly, the Poet would have the madness of the
human will and passion, presented in its true scientific relations,
that this storm collects into itself such ideal sublimities, and
borrows from the human passion so many images of cruelty.

In all the mad anguish of that ruined greatness, and wronged natural
affection, the Poet, relentless as fortune herself in her sternest
moods, intent on his experiment only, will bring out his great victim,
and consign him to the wind and the rain, and the lightning, and the
thunder, and bid his _senses_ undergo _their_ 'horrible pleasure.'

For the senses, scorned as they had been in philosophy hitherto, the
senses in this philosophy, have _their_ report also,--their full,
honest report, to make to us. And the design of this piece, as already
stated in the general, required in its execution, not only that these
two kinds of suffering, these two grand departments of human need,
should be included and distinguished in it, but that they should be
brought together in this one man's experience, so that a deliberate
comparison can be instituted between them; and the Poet will bid the
philosophic king, the living 'subject' himself, report the experiment,
and tell us plainly, once for all, whether the science of the physical
Arts only, is the science which is wanting to man; or whether
arts--scientific arts--that take hold of the moral nature, also, and
deal with that not less effectively, can be dispensed with; whether,
indeed, man is in any condition to dispense with _the_ Science and
_the_ Art which puts him into intelligent and harmonious relations
with nature in general.

It was necessary to the purpose of the play to exhibit man's
dependence on art, by means of his senses _and_ his sensibilities, and
his intellectual conditions, and all his frailties and liabilities,--
his dependence on art, based on the knowledge of natural laws,
universal laws,--constitutions, which _include_ the human. It was
necessary to exhibit the whole misery, the last extreme of that
social evil, to which a creature so naturally frail and ignorant is
liable, under those coarse, fortuitous, inartistic, unscientific
social conglomerations, which ignorant and barbarous ages build, and
under the tyranny of those wild, barbaric social evils, which our fine
social institutions, notwithstanding the universality of their terms,
and the transcendant nature of the forces which they are understood to
have at their disposal, for some fatal reason or other, do not yet
succeed in reducing.

It is, indeed, the whole ground of the Scientific Human Art, which is
revealed here by the light of this great passion, and that, in this
Poet's opinion, is none other than the ground of the human want, and
is as large and various as that. And the careful reader of this
play,--the patient searcher of its subtle lore,--the diligent
collector of its thick-crowding philosophic points and flashing
condensations of discovery, will find that the _need of arts_, is that
which is set forth in it, with all the power of its magnificent poetic
embodiment, and in the abstract as well,--the need of arts infinitely
more noble and effective, more nearly matched with the subtlety of
nature, and better able to entangle and subdue its oppositions, than
any of which mankind have yet been able to possess themselves, or ever
the true intention of nature in the human form can be realized, or
anything like a truly Human Constitution, or Common-Weal, is possible.

But let us return to the comparison, and collect the results of this
experiment.--For a time, indeed, raised by that storm of grief and
indignation into a companionship with the wind and the rain, and the
lightning, and the thunder, the king 'strives in his little world of
man,'--for that is the phrasing of the poetic report, to _out-scorn_
these elements. Nay, we ourselves hear, as the curtain rises on that
ideal representative form of human suffering, the wild intonation of
that human defiance--mounting and singing above the thunder, and
drowning all the elemental crash with its articulation; for this is an
experiment which the philosopher will try in the presence of his
audience, and not report it merely. With that anguish in his heart,
the crushed majesty, the stricken old man, the child-wounded father,
laughs at the pains of _the senses_; the physical distress is welcome
to him, he is glad of it. He does not care for anything that the
_unconscious_, soulless elements can do to him, he calls to them from
their heights, and bids them do their worst. Or it is only as they
conspire with that _wilful human_ wrong, and serve to bring home to
him anew the depth of it, by these tangible, sensuous effects,--it is
only by that means that they are able to wound him.

'Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters,'

_that_ is the argument.

'I tax you _not_, you elements, with _unkindness_.'

Surely that is logical; that is a distinction not without a
difference, and appreciable to the human mind, as it is
constituted,--surely that is a point worth putting in the arts and

'I never gave you kingdoms, called you _children_;
You _owe_ me no subscription; why, _then_, let fall
Your horrible pleasure? Here I stand _your_ slave,
A poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man;
But _yet_, I call you _servile ministers_,
That have with two pernicious daughters _joined_
Your high, engendered battles 'gainst a head
_So old and white_ as this. O, O, '_tis foul_.'

And in his calmer mood, when the storm has done its work upon him, and
all the strength of his great passion is exhausted,--when his bodily
powers are fast sinking under it, and like the subtle Hamlet's 'potent
poison,' it begins at last to 'o'er-crow his spirit'--when he is faint
with struggling with its fury, wet to the skin with it, and
comfortless and shivering, he still maintains through his chattering
teeth the argument; he will still defend his first position--

'Thou thinkst 'tis much that this _contentious_ storm
Invades _us_ to the skin; so 'tis to thee,
But where the greater _malady_ is fixed,
The _lesser_ is scarce felt.'

'The tempest in my mind
Doth from my senses take all feeling else,
Save what beats there.'

'In _such_ a night
_To shut me out! Pour on_, I will endure.
_In such a night as this_.'

And when the shelter he is at last forced to seek is found, at the
door his courage fails him; and he shrinks back into the storm again,
because 'it will not give him leave to think on that _which hurts him

So nicely does the Poet balance these ills, and report the swaying
movement. But it is a poet who does not take common-place opinions on
this, or on any other such subject. He is one whose poetic work does
not consist in illustrating these received opinions, or in finding
some novel and fine expression for them. He is observing nature, and
undertaking to report it, as it is, not as it should be according to
these preconceptions, or according to the established poetic notions
of the heroic requisitions.

But there is no stage that can exhibit his experiment here in its real
significance, excepting that one which he himself builds for us; for
it is the vast lonely heath, and the _Man_, the pigmy man, on it--and
the KING, the pigmy king, on it;--it is all the wild roar of elemental
nature, and the tempest in that '_little world_ of man,' that have to
measure their forces, that have to be brought into continuous and
persevering contest. It is not Gloster only, who sees in that storm
what 'makes him think that _a man_ is but _a worm_.'

Doubtless, it would have been more in accordance with the old poetic
notions, if this poor king had maintained his ground without any
misgiving at all; but it is a poet of a new order, and not the old
heroic one, who has the conducting of this experiment; and though his
verse is not without certain sublimities of its own, they have to
consist with the report of the fact as it is, to its most honest and
unpoetic, unheroic detail.

And notwithstanding all the poetry of that passionate defiance, it is
the physical storm that triumphs in the end. The contest between that
little world of man and the great outdoor world of nature was too
unequal. Compelled at last to succumb, yielding to 'the tyranny of the
open night, that is _too rough_ for _nature to endure_--the night that
frightens the very wanderers of the dark, and makes _them_ keep their
caves, while it reaches, with its poetic combination of horrors, that
border line of the human conception which great Nature's pencil, in
this Poet's hand, is always reaching and completing,--

'_Man's_ nature cannot carry
The affliction nor _the fear_.'

--Unable to contend any longer with 'the _fretful_ element'--unable to
'_outscorn_' any longer 'the to and fro conflicting wind and
rain'--weary of struggling with 'the _impetuous_ blasts,' that in
their 'eyeless _rage_' and '_fury_' care no more for age and reverence
than his _daughters_ do--that seize his white hairs, and make nothing
of them--'exposed to _feel_ what _wretches_ feel'--he finds at last,
with surprise, that art--the wretch's art--that can make vile things
_precious_. No longer clamoring for 'the additions of a king,' but
thankful for the basest means of shelter from the elements, glad to
avail himself of the rudest structure with which art '_accommodates_'
man to nature, (for that is the word of this philosophy, where it is
first proposed)--glad to divide with his meanest subject that shelter
which the outcast seeks on such a night--ready to creep with him,
under it, side by side--'fain to hovel with _swine_ and rogues
forlorn, in short and musty straw'--surely we have reached a point at
last where the _action_ of the piece itself--the mere 'dumb show' of
it--becomes luminous, and hardly needs the player's eloquence to tell
us what it means.

Surely this is a little like 'the language' of _Periander's_ message,
when he bid the messenger observe and _report what he saw him do_. It
is very important to note that ideas may be conveyed in this way as
well as by words, the author of the Advancement of Learning remarks,
in speaking of the tradition of the principal and supreme sciences. He
takes pains to notice, also, that a representation, by means of these
'transient hieroglyphics,' is much more moving to the sensibilities,
and leaves a more vivid and durable impression on the memory, than the
most eloquent statement in mere words. 'What is _sensible_ always
strikes the memory more strongly, and sooner impresses itself, than
what is _intellectual_. Thus the memory of _brutes_ is excited by
sensible, but not by intellectual things;' and thus, also, he proposes
to impress that _class_ which Coriolanus speaks of, 'whose eyes are
more learned than their ears,' to whom 'action is eloquence.' Here we
have the advantage of the combination, for there is no part of the
dumb show, but has its word of scientific comment and interpretation.

'Art cold [to the Fool]?
I am cold myself. _Where is this_ STRAW, _my fellow_?
The art of our necessities is strange,
That can make vile things _precious_. Come, _your hovel_.
Come, bring us to this _hovel_.'

For this is what that wild tragic poetic resistance and defiance comes
to--this is what the 'unaccommodated man' comes to, though it is the
highest person in the state, stripped of his ceremonies and artificial
appliances, on whom the experiment is tried.

'Where is this straw, my fellow? Art _cold_? I am cold _myself_.
Come, your hovel. Come, bring us to this _hovel_.'

When that royal edict is obeyed,--when the wonders of the magician's
art are put in requisition to fulfil it,--when the road from the
palace to the hovel is laid open,--when the hovel, where Tom o' Bedlam
is nestling in the straw, is produced on the stage, and THE KING--THE
KING--stoops, before all men's eyes, to creep into its mouth,--surely
we do not need 'a _chorus_ to interpret for us'--we do not need to
wait for the Poet's own deferred exposition to seize the more obvious
meanings. Surely, one catches enough in passing, in the dialogues and
tableaux here, to perceive that there is something going on in this
play which is not all play,--something that will be earnest, perhaps,
ere all is done,--something which 'the groundlings' were not expected
to get, perhaps, in 'their sixe-penn'orth' of it at the first
performance,--something which that witty and splendid company, who
made up the Christmas party at Whitehall, on the occasion of its first
exhibition there, who sat there 'rustling in silk,' breathing
perfumes, glittering in wealth that the alchemy of the storm had not
tried, were not, perhaps, all informed of; though there might have
been one among them, 'a gentleman of blood and breeding,' who could
have told them what it meant.

'We construct,' says the person who describes this method of
philosophic instruction, speaking of the subtle prepared history which
forces the inductions--'we construct tables and combinations of
instances, upon such a plan, and in such order, that the understanding
may be enabled to act upon them.'

'They told me I was everything.'

_They told me I was everything_,' says the poor king himself, long
afterwards, when the storm has had its ultimate effect upon him.

'To say ay and no to everything that I said!--[To say] ay and no _too_
WAS NO GOOD DIVINITY. They told me, I had _white_ hairs in my beard,
ere the _black_ ones were there. When the rain came to wet me once,
and the wind to make me chatter; when the thunder would not peace at
_my bidding_; there I found them, _there_ I smelt them out. Go to,
they are not men of their words: they told me I was everything; _'tis
a lie; I am not ague-proof_.'

'_I_ think the king is but a man, as I am' [says King Hal], 'All his
_senses_ have the like conditions; and his _affections_, though higher
mounted, when they stoop, stoop with _the like wing_.'

But at the door of that rude hut the ruined majesty pauses. In vain
his loving attendants, whom, for love's sake, this Poet will still
have with him, entreat him to enter. Storm-battered, and wet, and
shivering as he is, he shrinks back from the shelter he has bid them
bring him to. He will not '_in_.' Why? Is it because 'the tempest will
not give him leave to ponder on things would hurt him more.' That is
his excuse at first; but another blast strikes him, and he yields to
'the to and fro conflicting wind and rain,' and says--

'_But_ I'll go in.'

Yet still he pauses. Why? Because he has not told us why he is
there;--because he is in the hands of the Poet of the Human Kind, the
poet of 'those common things that our ordinary life consisteth of,'
who will have of them an argument that shall shame that 'resplendent
and lustrous mass of matter' that old philosophers and poets have
chosen for theirs;--because the rare accident--the wild, poetic,
unheard-of accident--which has brought a man, old in luxuries, clothed
in soft raiment, nurtured in king's houses, into this rude, unaided
collision with nature;--the poetic impossibility, which has brought
the one man from the apex of the social structure down this giddy
depth, to this lowest social level;--the accident which has given the
'one man,' who has the divine disposal of the common weal, this little
casual experimental taste of the weal which his wisdom has been able
to provide for the many--of the weal which a government so divinely
ordered, from its pinnacle of _personal_ ease and luxury, thinks
sufficient and divine enough for _the many_,--this accident--this
grand poetic accident--with all its exquisite poetic effects, is, in
this poet's hands, the means, not the end. This poor king's great
tragedy, the loss of his social position, his broken-heartedness, his
outcast suffering, with all the aggravations of this poetic descent,
and the force of its vivid contrasts--with all the luxurious
impressions on the sensibilities which the ideal wonders of the rude
old fable yield so easily in this Poet's hands,--this rare accident,
and moving marvel of poetic calamity,--this 'one man's' tragedy is not
the tragedy that this Poet's soul is big with. It is the tragedy of
the Many, and not the One,--it is the tragedy that is the rule, and
not the exception,--it is the tragedy that is common, and not that
which is singular, whose argument this Poet has undertaken to manage.

'Come, bring us to your hovel.'

The royal command is obeyed; and the house of that estate, which has
no need to borrow its title of plurality to establish the grandeur of
its claim, springs up at the New Magician's word, and stands before us
on the scientific stage in its colossal, portentous, scientific
grandeur; and the king--the king--is at the door of it: the _Monarch_
is at the door of the _Many_. For the scientific Poet has had his eye
on that structure, and he will make of it a thing of wonder, that
shall rival old poets' fancy pieces, and drive our entomologists and
conchologists to despair, and drive them off the stage with their
curiosities and marvels. There is no need of a Poet's going to the
supernatural for 'machinery,' this Poet thinks, while there's such
machinery as this ready to his hands unemployed. 'There's something in
this more than natural, if philosophy could find it out.' There's no
need of going to the antique for his models; for he is inventing the
arts that will make of this an _antiquity_.

The Monarch has found his meanest subject's shelter, but at the door
of it he is arrested--nailed with a nail fastened by the Master of
Assemblies. He has come down from that dizzy height, on the Poet's
errand. He is there to speak the Poet's word,--to illustrate that
grave abstract learning which the Poet has put on another page, with a
note that, as it stands there, notwithstanding the learned airs it
has, it is _not_ learning, but 'the husk and shell' of it. For this is
the philosopher who puts it down as a primary Article of Science, that
governments should be based on a scientific acquaintance with 'the
_natures, dispositions, necessities_ and _discontents_ of _the
people_'; and though in his book of the Advancement of Learning, he
suggests that these points '_ought to be_,' considering the means of
ascertaining them at the disposal of the government, 'considering the
variety of its intelligences, the wisdom of its observations, and the
height of the station where it keeps sentinel, _transparent as
crystal,'--here_ he puts the case of a government that had not availed
itself of those extraordinary means of ascertaining the truth at a
distance, and was therefore in the way of discovering much that was
new, in the course of an accidental personal descent into the lower
and more inaccessible regions of the _Common_ Weal it had ordered.
This is the _crystal_ which proves after all the most transparent for
him. This is the help for weak eyes which becomes necessary sometimes,
in the absence of the scientific crystal, which is its equivalent.

The Monarch is at the hovel's door, but he cannot enter. Why? Because
he is in that school into which his own wise REGAN, that '_counsels_'
so 'well'--that _Regan_ who sat at his own council-table so long, has
turned him; and it is a school in which the lessons must be learned
'_by heart_,' and there is no shelter for him from its pitiless
beating in this Poet's economy, till that lesson he was sent there to
learn has been learned; and it was a Monarch's lesson, and at the
Hovel's door he must recite it. He _will_ not enter. Why? Because the
great lesson of state has entered his soul: with the sharpness of its
illustration it has _pierced_ him: his spirit is dilated, and moved
and kindling with its grandeur: he is thinking of 'the Many,' he has
forgotten 'the One,'--the many, all whose senses have like conditions,
whose affections stoop with the like wing. He will not enter, because
he thinks it unregal, inhuman, mean, selfish to engross the luxury of
the hovel's shelter, and the warmth of the 'precious' straw, while he
knows that he has subjects still abroad with senses like his own,
capable of the like misery, still exposed to its merciless cruelties.
It was the tenant of the castle, it was the man in the house who said,
'Come, let's be snug and cheery here. _Shut up the door_. Let's have a
fire, and a feast, and a song,--or a psalm, or a prayer, as the case
may be; only let it be _within_--no matter which it is':

'Shut up your doors, my lord; 'tis a wild night,--
_My Regan counsels_ well; come out o' the storm.'

But here it is the houseless man, who is thinking of his kindred,--his
royal family, for whom God has made him responsible, out in this same
storm unbonneted; and in the tenderness of that sympathy, in the
searching delicacy of that feeling with which he scrutinizes now their
case, they seem to him less able than himself to resist its elemental
'_tyranny_.' For in that ideal revolution--in that exact turn of the
wheel of fortune--in that experimental 'change of places,' which the
Poet recommends to those who occupy the upper ones in, the social
structure, as a means of a more particular and practical acquaintance
with the conditions of those for whom they legislate, new views of the
common natural human relations; new views of the ends of social
combinations are perpetually flashing on him; for it is the fallen
monarch himself, the late owner and disposer of the Common Weal, it is
this strangely _philosophic_, mysteriously philosophic,
king--philosophic as that Alfred who was going to succeed him--it is
the king who is chosen by the Poet as the chief commentator and
expounder of that new political and social doctrine which the action
of this play is itself suggesting.

In that school of the tempest; in that one night's personal experience
of the misery that underlies the pompous social structure, with all
its stately splendours and divine pretensions; in that New School of
the Experimental Science, the king has been taking lessons in the art
of majesty. The alchemy of it has robbed him of the external adjuncts
and 'additions of a king,' but the sovereignty of MERCY, the divine
right of PITY, the majesty of the HUMAN KINDNESS, the grandeur of the
COMMON WEAL, 'breathes through his lips' from the Poet's heart 'like
man new made.'

_Kent_. Good, my lord, enter here.

_Lear_. Prythee, go in thyself. _Seek thine own ease_.
. . . . But, I'll go in.
In, boy,--_go first--[To the Fool.]_
You, _houseless_ poverty'--

He knows the meaning of that phrase now.

'Nay get thee in. I'll PRAY, and then I'll sleep.'

[_Fool goes in_.]

'Poor, naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,'--

There are no empty phrases in this prayer, the critic of it may
perceive: it is a learned prayer; the petitioner knows the meaning of
each word in it: the tempest is the book in which he studied it.

'How shall your _houseless heads_ and _unfed sides_,
Your _looped_ and _windowed raggedness_ defend you
From _seasons such as these_? O, I have taken
_Too little care of_ THIS. [Hear, hear]. Take physic, POMP; [Hear.]
Expose thyself to _feel_ what wretches _feel_,
_That thou mayest shake the superflux to them_,
_And show the_ HEAVENS _more just_.'

That is his _prayer_. To minds accustomed to the ceremonial a
religious worship, 'with court holy water in a dry house' only, or to
those who have never undertaken to compose a prayer for the king and
all the royal family at the hovel's mouth, and in such immediate
proximity to animals of a different species, it will not perhaps seem
a very pious one. But considering that it was understood to have been
composed during the heathen ages of this realm, and before
Christianity had got itself so comfortably established as a principle
of government and social regulations, perhaps it was as good a prayer
for a penitent king to go to sleep on, as could well be invented.
Certainly the spirit of Christianity, as it appeared in the life of
its Founder, at least, seems to be, by a poetic anachronism
incorporated in it.

But it is never the custom of this author to leave the diligent
student of his performances in any doubt whatever as to his meaning.
It is a rule, that everything in the play shall speak and reverberate

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