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able. As regards Vergil, I have found one passage that seems to indicate acquaintance with the translation of Phaer, and another in which the original must have been consulted.” After all, the important point for this investigation is that Shakespeare knew Ovid and Vergil, not that he read them in this language or that.?
It may be objected, however, that the stories of Vergil and Ovid are common property, that they appear in countless reworkings and paraphrases—in Chaucer, in Gower, in Spenser. Could not Shakespeare have learned his mythology entirely at second-hand from English authors ? That in certain instances his acquaintance with a particular myth was acquired in this way is more than probable, and in the following pages I have frequently suggested an indebtedness of this sort; but that the whole, or even the main part, of his mythology was so acquired is utterly improbable. It must be remembered that we have the most complete evidence that Shakespeare was intimately familiar with the Mctamorphoses in Golding's version. It is equally certain that in composing his Rape of Lucrece the poet had recourse to Ovid's Fasti and to Livy, as well as to Chaucer, and per
*Cf. s. v. Iris. *Cf. s. v. Sinon.
An examination of the articles dealing with the several myths will show that Shakespeare's knowledge of the myths, though frequently scanty, is in general substantially correct. Only four instances of actual error have come to my notice: the confusion about Althæa's firebrand in H4B 2. 2. 93, 95; the idea that Cerberus was killed by Hercules expressed in LLL 5. 2. 593; the use of the word 'Hesperides' as the name of the garden where grew the golden apples, with the idea that Hercules gathered the apples himself, LLL 4. 3. 341; Per. 1. 1. 27; Cor. 4. 6. 99; and the famous mention of Juno's swans in As 1. 3. 77. To this list may be added the mistaken form 'Ariachne' of Troil. 5. 2. 152, and the somewhat confused notions entertained of Lethe and Acheron. Other errors, such as making Delphi an island, Wint. 3. 1. 2; considering the sun as Aurora's lover; and thinking of Perseus as mounted on the winged steed Pegasus, are hardly to be laid to Shakespeare's account, since they are all shared by his contemporaries.
haps Gower. It is, moreover, inherently so improbable that Shakespeare, with his quick and eager intelligence, should have been content to rest ignorant of Ovid and Vergil, that the burden of proof may fairly be left with those who may choose to assert his ignorance.”
If, then, Shakespeare learned his mythology mainly from Ovid, what conception did he entertain of it? He found in Ovid, and in classical mythology as a whole, what all the Renaissance found before him: a treasure-house of fascinating story wrought out in rich magnificence of detail, all but void of any deep spiritual significance. Graceful ornament and brilliant imagery he found in abundance; but for the expression of his profound meditations on the great mysteries which round our little life he found small aid. far as Shakespeare is a 'child of the Renaissance,' a reveler in the beauty of external form, he finds Ovid congenial reading; in so far as he represents the deeper spirit which I have called Mediævalism, he finds Ovid, and the system he learned from Ovid, quite inadequate. Shakespeare is essentially religious; Ovid is as essentially irreligious.
That this assertion is no mere a priori inference may easily be shown by an analysis of the mythological allusions in a few representative plays. I shall first show that even in his earlier period, when the influence of Ovid was strongest upon him, Shakespeare felt that mythological allusion was out of keeping with the highest seriousness of thought and passion; and, secondly, that his attitude toward mythology
See the work of Wilhelm Ewig in Angl. 22, referred to above.
•Caxton's Recuyell, though it furnished Shakespeare with many . hints for his Troilus and Cressida, has not, so far as I can discover, supplied him with material for a single allusion.
For an able exposition of the way in which under different conditions a modern poet has made classical mythology subservient to the expression of deep religious truth, see The Classical Mythology of Milton's English Poems, by C. G. Osgood, New York, 1900.
underwent a steady development as his life advanced. The first point may be quickly proved from Merchant of Venice and Ronieo and Juliet. Though the first of these plays abounds in mythological allusions, not a single instance of such allusion is to be found in the great trial scene of Act IV. Of the 25 mythological allusions in Romeo and Juliet, all but 5 occur in the first two acts; 4 are in Act III, leaving one allusion to be spoken by the courtly Paris in Act IV, and none at all for Act V. As the tragedy darkens, as the seriousness deepens, mythology weakens and disappears. From Hamlet, too, may be drawn further corroboration of this tendency. Hamlet as a student of the university, a scholar and thinker, alludes fourteen times to classic myth: when he wishes to dilate on the excellencies of his dead father, he is ready with comparisons to the curls of Hyperion, to the front of Jove, the 'station of the herald Mercury'; his mother of a month ago, weeping over her dead husband, he scornfully compares to Niobe, all tears; he fears that the spirit which appeared to him may have been a damned ghost, and his own imaginations ‘as foul as Vulcan's stithy.' But it is immediately noticeable that in his deeper, more serious speeches, these allusions do not occur, and that in the more harrowing cenes of the last two acts they all but wholly cease.
If the Ovidian mythology is excluded from the more serious portions of Romeo and Juliet and the Merchant of Venice, we should expect to find its influence steadily diminishing as Shakespeare's art becomes more profound; and this is indeed the case, but the change is too significant to be dismissed with a mere statement. In the dedication to the first edition of Venus and Adonis (1593), Shakespeare describes it as the first heir of his invention; and though these words may not justify us in considering the poem absolutely the first of his ventures, we are none the less safe in placing it among the earliest of his works. Founded on two Ovidian myths, that of Adonis and that of Salmacis, the poem is in subject-matter and treatment the most essentially Ovidian of Shakespeare's works. In the dramas, however, Ovid's influence is more marked a little later. In the earliest of the plays, such as Comedy of Errors, Two Gentlemen of Verona, and the first of the histories, the number of allusions is never more than six or eight. It is in the Merchant of Venice that Ovidian allusion is most happily employed. Of the 28 allusions, 13 are detailed, and several are highly elaborate. Of the detailed allusions, 10 are to Ovidian story, and embrace such subjects as Orpheus, Midas, Argus, Thisbe, the rescue of Hesione, Hercules and his page Lichas; to the story of Medea and Jason there are three separate allusions. It is to be noticed, however, that the divinities are seldom referred to. The spirit in which mythology is employed is best exhibited by quoting the familiar lines which open the fifth act:
Lor. The moon shines bright: in such a night as this,
When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees
Where Cressid lay that night.
In such a night
And ran dismayed away.
In such a night
To come again to Carthage.
In such a night
It is in such graceful and altogether charming embellishment that the classical mythology appears in the earlier plays.
'Love's Labor's Lost is an exception to this statement; but I am inclined to think that the abundance of allusion in this play is due to the revision which it received in 1998, and is therefore to be assigned to the later period.
I cannot better show the change which now comes over the spirit of this classical allusion than by quoting in close proximity to these lines the following speech of Rosalind in As You Like It:
No, faith, die by attorney. The poor world is almost six thousand years old, and in all this time there was not any man died in his own person, videlicet, in a love-cause. Troilus had his brains dashed out with a Grecian club; yet he did what he could to die before, and he is one of the patterns of love. Leander, he would have lived many a fair year, though Hero had turned nun, if it had not been for a hot midsummer night; for, good youth, he went but forth to wash him in the Hellespont and being taken with a cramp was drowned: and the foolish chroniclers of that age found it was 'Hero of Sestos.' But these are all lies: men have died from time to time and worms have eaten them, but not for love.'
Instead of graceful, serious allusion, we have delicate raillery; to the clear common-sense of Rosalind the heroes of the mythographers are but an idle jest. Nor is Rosalind peculiar in this attitude; Celia, Touchstone, and Jaques all furnish examples of the same treatment. When we add that in II Henry IV, the Merry Wives, and Much Ado, written all of them at about the same time as As You Like It, the mythological allusions are of the same character, or even more broadly humorous, that of the 30 allusions in Much Ado 25 are playful or scoffing, we are safe in affirming that Shakespeare's attitude has changed, that he has recognized the insincerity of the Ovidian system, and finds in it only the material for a jest. I would not be understood to say that this change is either sudden or complete. Even in the Merchant of Venice may be found three instances of humorous allusion in the speeches of Launcelot Gobbo, and in Midsummer Night's Drcam we have the delicious burlesque of an Ovidian story in the play of the mechanicals; while there are still several instances of the graceful, serious allusion in As You Like It and Twelfth Night. But the relative proportion of the serious anl playful allusions in the plays of the two periods has been startlingly reversed:
"As 4. I. 94-108.