Of his great genius there can be no question; but there are other things to consider. As we have already noticed, Shakespeare was trained, like his fellow workmen, first as an actor, second as a reviser of old plays, and last as an independent dramatist. He worked with other playwrights and learned their secret.
Murray, he considers himself bound in honour to marry a certain Jenny Bush, a Fleet Street barmaid, with whom he has become entangled. Many playwrights would, so to speak, have dotted the i's of the situation by giving us the scene between Kent and Mrs. Murray; but Mr. Maugham has done exactly right in leaving us to divine it.
Some modern playwrights have fled in a sort of panic from the old "picture-poster situation" to the other extreme of always dropping their curtain when the audience least expects it. This is not a practice to be commended. One has often seen an audience quite unnecessarily chilled by a disconcerting "curtain." There should be moderation even in the shrinking from theatricality.
Either in his own person, or in the persons of his near relations, the wholesale merchant and the manufacturer all bourgeois alike he supplies the mass of nouveaux riches who are the pet laughing-stock of all our playwrights, and novelists, and comic papers.
Each of these playwrights added or emphasized some essential element in the drama, which appeared later in the work of Shakespeare. His court comedies are remarkable for their witty dialogue and for being our first plays to aim definitely at unity and artistic finish.
Leaves 30-51 are taken up with Dick of Devonshire. If I succeed in transcribing this play I shall print it in the third volume, for it seems to be an unpublished play of Heywood's. There are many variations from the printed copies, showing that the most active of the old playwrights found time to revise his works. Here is a song that was omitted in the printed copy.
A man of some learning, he used it for all it was worth to confound the playwrights and the critics. Collier was careful to make good use of accepted and honored critical principles.
They blame modern playwrights for not putting it in. They take an attitude toward the drama of their own day like that of the New England farmer, when he was asked who had been the architect of his house. "Oh, I built that house myself," was the answer; "but there's a man coming down from Boston next week to put the architecture on."
Is the impression received by the Elizabethan playwrights a correct impression? Was Italy in the sixteenth century that land of horrors?
George Broadhurst or Henry Bernstein or Arthur Wing Pinero, or others like them, have always been the popular playwrights; a few names like Sophocles, Terence, Molière, Shakespeare, and Ibsen come rolling down to us, but they are precious and few. A great actor, indeed, can put life into perfectly wooden material. In the case of Sarah Bernhardt, who was the creator, the actress or Sardou?