Tales from Shakespeare

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Material Information

Title:
Tales from Shakespeare
Physical Description:
xxviii, 2-372 p., 15 leaves of plates : ill. ; 21 cm.
Language:
English
Creator:
Lamb, Charles, 1775-1834
Lamb, Mary, 1764-1847 ( Author )
Lang, Andrew, 1844-1912 ( Author )
Bell, Robert Anning, 1863-1933 ( Illustrator )
Freemantle, S. T ( Publisher )
Ballantyne, Hanson and Co ( Printer )
Publisher:
S.T. Freemantle
Place of Publication:
London
Manufacturer:
Ballantyne, Hanson & Co.
Publication Date:

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Children's stories   ( lcsh )
Children -- Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Children's stories -- 1899   ( lcsh )
Juvenile literature -- 1899   ( rbgenr )
Bldn -- 1899
Genre:
Children's stories
Juvenile literature   ( rbgenr )
novel   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:
England -- London
Scotland -- Edinburgh

Notes

Statement of Responsibility:
by Charles & Mary Lamb ; introductory preface by Andrew Lang ; illustrations by Robert Anning Bell.
General Note:
Title page engraved and printed in green.
General Note:
Pictorial front cover and spine.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 002232718
notis - ALH3114
oclc - 55799135
System ID:
UF00087553:00001


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CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION

PREFACE

ROMEO AND JULIET

KING LEAR

OTHELLO

TIMON OF ATHENS

MACBETH .

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE

THE COMEDY OF ERRORS .

HAMLET, PRINCE OF DENMARK

THE TEMPEST

AS YOU LIKE IT

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

MEASURE FOR MEASURE

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW

TWELFTH NIGHT; OR, WHAT YOU WILL

PERICLES, PRINCE OF TYRE

THE WINTER'S TALE .

ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL

THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA

CYMBELINE


PAGE
vii

xxv

1

25

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64

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S 213

S 229

S 249

. 264

S 282

3.05

S320

S337

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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


ROMEO AND JULIET

KING LEAR RECOGNIZING CORDELIA AFTER

HIS MADNESS

OTHELLO LOOKING AT DESDEMONA ASLEEP

MACBETH IN THE WITCHES' CAVE

PORTIA GIVING THE RING TO BASSANIO

DEATH OF THE KING--HAMLET'S FATHER

OPHELIA

ARIEL AND FERDINAND

ROSALIND FINDING A POEM WRITTEN BY

ORLANDO FIXED ON A TREE

BENEDICK MEETING BEATRICE

MEETING OF OBERON AND TITANIA

ISABELLA IN THE CELL OF CLAUDIO

PETRUCHIO AND THE TAILOR

THE FINDING OF PERDITA

JULIA OFFERING SILVIA THE RING OF

PROTEUS


Frontispiece



To face page 42

3, 62

S 92

102

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154

164



188

,, 198

216

238

256

310



348













INTRODUCTION


" TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE" were first printed
by Thomas Hodgkins, for Godwin, at the
Juvenile Library, Hanway Street, in the year
1807. They were "embellished with copper-
plates," and, as the title-page assures us, were
" designed for the use of young persons."
Lamb more fully set forth the nature of his
aim and purpose in his own preface. The
Tales "are meant to be submitted to the
young reader as an introduction to the study
of Shakspeare, for which purpose his words
are used wherever it seemed possible to bring
them in." Young readers were to find "a few
hints and little foretastes of the great pleasure
which awaits them in their elder years." By
citing the blank verse unaltered, yet not print-
ing it as verse, Lamb hoped "to cheat the
young readers into the belief that they were
reading prose." The young readers to whom
he appeals are very young children," chiefly






viii INTRODUCTION
" young ladies," perhaps spinsters of from six
to twelve, for boys are more freely permitted
the run of their fathers' libraries. Lamb, in a
very pleasing passage, suggests that boys who
have perused the actual plays shall explain to
their sisters "such parts as are hardest for
them to understand." Fraternal affection, in
Lamb's case, was as beautifully displayed and
as hardly tried as in that of Antigone. It was
beside, and in collaboration with that elder
sister, whose own tragedy was as terrible as
the 2Eschylean "Eumenides," that he was
interpreting Shakspeare to little girls. Yet it
was to a hard task that he invited the "young
gentlemen," for who could make Measure for
Measure intelligible to a little girl ? Lamb
himself, though including Pericles," omits
"Titus Andronicus," to which Robert and
Gilbert Burns, in early boyhood, declined to
listen. In the Comedies, as Lamb observes,
he, or rather his sister, passes by "a world of
sprightly and cheerful characters, both men
and women, the humour of which it was feared
would be lost if it were attempted to reduce
the length of them."
Such were Lamb's aims, such his method,







INTRODUCTION


"this casual and diffused method of enforcing
the many moral lessons that lie in Shakspeare's
plays," as Canon Ainger says. It soon became
evident that his and his sister's work was
calculated "for an acceptable and improving
present to young ladies advancing to the state
of womanhood," rather than for very young
children. Canon Ainger knows of no first
introduction to that study (of Shakspeare) "at
once so winning and so helpful as that supplied
by these narrative versions."
Here I would diffidently hint at a contrary
opinion-the rather that I suspect Lamb of
having been much of my own mind on the
subject. I conceive that children at the age of
innocence (which was conventionally fixed at
seven) are best introduced to Shakspeare by
Shakspeare himself. Dickens, when describing
his own early reading, in David Copperfield,"
talks of his Tom Jones, "a child's Tom Jones
-a harmless creature." Roderick Random,
Peregrine Pickle, Humphrey Clinker, and the
rest, "came out, a glorious host, to keep me
company and did me no harm; for what-
ever harm was in some of them was not there
for me; I knew nothing of it." In the same






x INTRODUCTION
way there is no harm in Shakspeare for a
young child. Of course there is a world of
mystery; the little student is in an enchanted
forest, and the sun falls only on a few glades
and clearings, the more delightful for the
surrounding shadows. It is, to be sure, very
difficult for the elders to understand a child's
mind: is there not a modern science thereof
called Padology," or some such name ? But
I may be permitted to recall my own childish
recollections of Shakspeare, to whom I had
no Introduction. There was Kenny Meadows's
edition, with plenty of woodcuts, now obsolete
in taste, I dare say, but with abundant charm
for a boy of five or six. It was necessary to
know what the pictures were all about, so I
wandered on, picking up what was intelligible,
and careless of the rest. The Fat Knight was
my hero; and I have since known a little girl,
of great beauty, who got up Henry IV." in
the nursery, and chose for herself the part of
Falstaff. There is a text about the angels of
children, who ever behold the face of the
Father. It is my fancy that, in Paradise, the
idola of children survive in all their beauty and
charm, though the children themselves grow






INTRODUCTION xi
up into aspects changed. Of this child, at
least, the angel survives in the art of Millais,
a blue-eyed, fair-locked image. One looks at
the portrait, and thinks of the original, acting
Falstaff, and one sees how little the child needs
any Introduction to Shakspeare. Or one thinks
of Scott's childish opinions about the terrors of
" Macbeth," and how no man would dare read
" Macbeth" alone at night. I can remember
being lost in the "Midsummer Night's Dream,"
reading it by firelight, while two young people
were playing chess, and somebody touched the
piano, and the world was an enchanted place.
One entered the breach with Henry V., or
sorrowed with Cordelia, or lamented Desde-
mona, but the end came, and the end of the
Age of Innocence, with The Merry Wives of
Windsor." For here was Falstaff, that beloved
knight, but an unintelligible Falstaff, for it was
quite impossible that a child should understand
the story; and "Measure for Measure" left
only an impression of gloom, with an old Duke
of dark corners wandering in them, for no
obvious purpose. I shall never recapture the
Ophelia of childhood again, nor ever have such
a charmed though darkling sense of something






xii INTRODUCTION
supernal, as I won from the Shakspeare of my
infancy. The mystery of it was the delight,
as in "Kubla Khan" or "Christabel." But
" The Merry Wives," somehow, put me off
Shakspeare; nor did I return to him till after
a long course of every kind of novel, good,
bad, or indifferent. Probably it is the same
with other children: they do best to begin with
the plays themselves, afterwards Lamb's Tales
may bring them back to the originals. Canon
Ainger says: "More and more is a knowledge
of Shakspeare coming to be regarded as a
necessary part of an Englishman's education."
Alas, it is not Shakspeare, but the notes of
Editors that are now a necessary part, not of
an Englishman's education, but of an English
boy's "cram," for the purposes of examiners.
Dr. Johnson was right: a boy or a girl, or a
man, should read straight on, and not trouble
himself with notes. We should read, as Fitz-
gerald advises, for human pleasure."
It is a misery to turn classics into school-books
-" Horace, whom I hated so "-as Byron
wrote. Who knows how the "educational"
use of Shakspeare and Chaucer may make
boys detest those authors. Once, in examin-







INTRODUCTION xiii
ing for the Indian Civil Service, I set the
usual question as to contemporary evidence
for Shakspeare's authorship. Most of the
boys answered as if they were giving the
rare fruits of independent research. But one
young man opened thus: "We have been
told, till we are perfectly sick of hearing it,"
and then he went on about Green and Shake-
scene." To be perfectly sick of Shakspeare,
or rather of pedantries about Shakspeare,
seems a natural result of modern education.
Lamb himself manifestly cherished no illu-
sions about Shakspeare and the Public.
Lamb knew caviare, and what it is "to the
general." We do not think of this delightful
author as "a superior person," but the su-
perior person's attitude is his, in his essay
"On the Tragedies of Shakspeare." Lamb
was offended, as a man of letters, by the
epitaph on Garrick:

"Shakspeare and Garrick like twin stars shall shine."

We do not expect criticism from epitaphs,
nor truth. But Lamb argues that Garrick,
or any other successful actor, should not be
complimented "with the notion of possessing






INTRODUCTION


a mind congenial with the poet's." That is
as may be, and Porthos made a kind of un-
conscious prophecy, when he blundered into
calling Moliere M. Coquelin de Voliere." The
mind of M. Coquelin is undoubtedly congenial
with that of Poquelin, called Moliere. But
Lamb (after admitting that he can no longer
appreciate Hamlet's soliloquy-" hearing any-
thing spouted withers and blows upon a fine
passage"-), proceeds to aver that, to many
people, George Barnwell is just as good as
Shakspeare. You shall hear the same
persons say that George Barnwell is very
natural, and that Othello is very natural; that
they are both very deep; and to them they
are the same kind of thing." The actor,
Lamb argues, cannot conceivably do justice
to Shakspeare, but the public thinks, in Mr.
Weller's phrase, that "it is all wery capital."
Lamb decides that, in comedy as in tragedy,
Shakspeare's characters are "incompatible
with stage representation," yet Lamb was a
fervent lover of the stage. A sparing and
infrequent playgoer myself, I own that to
see a play of Shakspeare's acted spoils it
for me; but so does the acting of The Three






INTRODUCTION xv
Musketeers" spoil, for me, the characters of
Dumas. It is manifest that the world in
general does not suffer in this superfine way,
whence Lamb must argue that the world at
large has no real appreciation of Shakspeare.
In his "Tales from Shakspeare," then, he tries
to catch the unspoiled youth of England (of
Britain, I should say), and "introduce" them
to his "sweet Shakspeare."
To what extent is Shakspeare really read
and enjoyed by our modern age ? Everybody
possesses the works, but I doubt if many
read or know them. The stock quotations
are gleaned from newspapers and other
books. An unhackneyed quotation, say in a
newspaper article, is a puzzle to "the man on
the omnibus." As far as I have observed,
two classes of mankind know Shakspeare:
intellects, of a confessedly high class, and quiet
persons, in all ranks, who make no display of
erudition, and are totally unfamiliar with the
new "masterpieces," which are trumpeted
every week in critical columns. The ordinary
man of letters becomes like the dyer's hand:
he is obliged to be coping with the weekly
outputt" of new books, and must confess







xvi INTRODUCTION
that he knows Shakspeare very slightly. Take
a quotation chosen at random:

The hunt is up, the morn is bright and grey,
The fields are fragrant, and the woods are green."

From what play come these lines? Who is
the speaker? The reader's conscience may
smite or applaud him. We are swamped in
printed matter, and we neglect le Vieux
Williams, as Gautier calls him. Lamb's
Tales are designed, then, to catch the early
reader, and convert him, or her, to no con-
ventional worship of our national glory. I
have already hinted that, while putting the
Tales "in the hands of the young," parents
may safely and wisely leave the plays to the
perusal of children. The right child will
read the right things, and a child born with
a love of letters knows more already than a
wilderness of excellent fathers and mothers.
Your parent is not literary! Dickens him-
self, in the passage already cited, remarks,
about the "small collection of books in a
little room upstairs," that "nobody else in
our house ever troubled it." Nobody else in
a house ever does trouble it, except the little







INTRODUCTION xvii
born bookworm. Nobody else (as everybody
else frankly confesses) "has time to be read-
ing." Mary Lamb "was tumbled early, by
accident or design, into a spacious closet of
good old English reading, without much
selection or prohibition, and browsed at will
upon that fair and wholesome pasturage."
Charles Lamb shared these opportunities.
The majority of children, naturally, would not
make use of such a chance; but this is the
best education for the right children, while
they are of the age of innocence. Growing
boys, in the savage stage, are different crea-
tures, and not to be so fully trusted: not
that it makes much difference. Lamb was
well aware of this, was well aware that Shak-
speare is the best "Introduction to Shak-
speare," but he took the world and the
British parent as he found them.
Let us remember what children's books
were, about 1807. Most were little moral or
pseudo-scientific treatises. Fairies were under
the ban of "common-sense," and so they
long remained in many worthy families. I
know middle-aged people who, in childhood,
were not allowed to read fairy-tales, on the







xviii INTRODUCTION
specious pretence that there are no fairies in
the nature of things; a negative which no-
body can prove. This was one objection,
rooted in nonsense about facts." The other
was the optimistic objection. Little Thornton
Hunt was not allowed, by Leigh Hunt, "to
hear of goblins or apparitions, or scarcely to be
told of bad men, or to read or hear of any
distressing story," so Lamb tells us. For
"little T. H.," then, there could be no "Tales
from Shakspeare." Oberon and Titania
were banned; there was a taboo on the
ghost of Hamlet's father, as on that of
Banquo. Macbeth must not be mentioned,
for (at least in Shakspeare) he was "bad":
and Cordelia must be unheard of, for her
story is undeniably "distressing." If parents
could keep these taboos in force, children,
like little T. H., would invent fairies by day,
and horrors by night, for themselves, as little
T. H. did, whence arose the controversy be-
tween Lamb and Southey. But the ordinary
careful parent knew not these things; and it
was to a generation of sadly-herded children
that Lamb and his sister introduced Oberon
and Prospero, Lear and Hamlet.







INTRODUCTION


It is difficult to know how far the exquisite
English of Lamb and his sister will attract the
infants of to-day. Lately, I met a young lady
who, hearing of Miss Austen's novels, said
that "she could not read Old English." She
appeared to look on Pride and Prejudice" as
coeval with Beowulf," or, at least, with the
"Ayenbite of Inwit." Now, the Lambs
"adopted the very sound principle of avoid-
ing as far as possible the use of words intro-
duced into the language since Shakspeare's
time." The completely grown up young lady
whom I have cited, would, therefore, be "a
thing incapable" of reading the Tales. But
children are by no means so advanced; indeed,
a trifle of mystery in the meaning offers an
attraction to a reading child. More than we
wot of, children are not "up-to-date." Poetry,
in essence, is wholly derived from the early,
or, as we say, childlike estate of mankind, in
which estate many children exist. The quali-
ties which we call "genius," if exhibited by the
mature, are relatively common in childhood;
they have pictorial imaginations and a sense
of the music and value of words. Possessing
these qualities, they are not injured by what so







xx INTRODUCTION
mightily offends many of their elders-" the old-
fashioned." A gallant officer once suggested
to me a partnership in literary enterprise. We
were to "cut down Shakspeare's plays into
bright little modern pieces." The reading child
does not feel this intense desire for bright little
modern pieces. He understands much more
than people who "write down to children"
give him credit for comprehending. Scott
attempted this "writing down to children" in
the early chapters of Tales of a Grandfather,"
and found, as he says, that it was quite un-
necessary, and even prejudicial to the child's
interest. Lamb never tried "writing down to
children." As Canon Ainger observes, Lamb's
short analysis of the character of Polonius, and
his remarks on "the connection between the
actual and assumed madness of Hamlet," are
brief, simple, and practically exhaustive. Lamb
had already reached that level of critical faculty,
based on sympathy, in "a mind congenial with
that of the poet," which found more copious, if
scarcely more mature expression, in his later
essays, and his remarks on the Elizabethan
Dramatists. Men who could appreciate Shak-
speare had, of course, in no age been entirely






INTRODUCTION xxi
wanting; but taste must have fallen low indeed,
when Garrick, the friend of Dr. Johnson, could
mouth "the ribald trash of Tate and Cibber"
foisted into the acting editions, and when the
public, anxious, like Charles II. and the
Athenians of Aristotle's day, "to make tra-
gedies end happily," could tolerate the new
conclusion of King Lear."
In the hack-work (for it was hack-work) of
writing the Tales, Lamb proved a great
innovator in style. Earlier, in his John
Woodvil," Lamb had returned to the quaint,
rich, and coloured English of the Elizabethan-
Caroline ages. He appears thus to have set,
in 1803-1807, the fashion which Leigh Hunt
was to abuse, and Keats was finally to employ
in happier fashion. Lamb's were the first
sprightly runnings in our century of that long-
sealed well of English wherein out poetry was
to renew her maidenhood, like Hera in the
fountain of Argos. To whatever extent chil-
dren of to-day, an incalculable generation, may
take pleasure in Lamb's Tales, they remain a
classic for the elders. May I confess that, in
the Comedies, children will probably miss the
comic element, "the cheerful characters," whose






xxii INTRODUCTION
humour Lamb feared would be lost if it were
attempted to reduce the length of them." The
attempt might have been hazarded, for children
are certainly capable of enjoying the mirth
of Trinculo, and Christopher Sly, and the
Athenian rural comedians. I cannot taste the
" Two Gentlemen of Verona without Launce
and Crab. I would have, as one should say,
one that takes upon him to be a dog indeed,
to be, as it were, a dog at all things." The
young lady amateur (whose first appearance on
any stage was in the part of Falstaff) named
her own dog Crab," and he deserved the title.
Hence it is fair to conclude that a child is quite
capable of enjoying the humours of Launce.
The Comedies, in many cases, are based on
popular tales which have passed through a
literary air into Italian romance. Thus, merely
as tales, and merely for the story's sake, Lamb's
are not so interesting to a little boy or girl as
the Mdrchen of Grimm or Perrault. Even if
we look at tragedy, I can remember from
childhood how that exclamation of Desdemona,
" 0 falsely, falsely murther'd," moved terror,
and pity, and hope, as one read the play, but
Lamb has not thought fit to include this






INTRODUCTION


passage in his tale. Probably he had good
critical reasons, and, physiologically, I doubt if
a lady who had breath enough left for Desde-
mona's last words was really in a parlous case.
It may be impertinent thus to criticise one's
author. But I am arguing, as before, in the
interests of children, that while they should
certainly have Lamb's book placed in their
hands, they should also have free access to
Shakspeare himself. This I assert with the
more confidence, as I doubt not that Lamb
himself would have abounded in the same
opinion. We must consider, too, that children,
for the most part, are naturally actors, and
therefore apt to take much pleasure in what
they understand of the plays. Some of them
may be led by Lamb to the plays; others will
find in Lamb the sequence of plot and event
which, in the plays, they may have found
puzzling. Lamb did not touch the historical
plays, which, I think, children are apt to prefer,
as they already know the characters and events,
thanks to Mrs. Markham or to Little Arthur's
England." Lamb's book, as regards the
comedies and tragedies, supplies children with
the same aid as (in the case of the Chronicle


xxiii







INTRODUCTION


plays) they get in their historical studies.
This, of course, is the least of the merits of
Lamb's book, but even this merit is consider-
able.
Not inconsiderable, too, in an age of
examiners, is Lamb's delightful abstinence
from "the learning of the subject." Many a
man, nowadays, would think it needful to begin
with a biography of Shakspeare. The early
reader would be informed that Lady Macbeth
was a widow before she wedded Duncan's
general, and that (as Dumas somehow knew)
the child whom she had suckled was by her
first lord, and, indeed, was Lulach, the rightful
king, Duncan being an usurper, who came to
the throne by virtue of a murder done by his
grandfather, Malcolm II. But Lamb would
have been anxious "to feel the bumps" of
any Introducer of Shakspeare whose intro-
ductory ceremonies were of this superfluous
character. "The play's the thing," not erudi-
tion about the play, and p. xvi, here, contains
a trap for the curious.
ANDREW LANG.
August 1899.


xxiv















PREFACE


THE following Tales are meant to be submitted to
the young reader as an introduction to the study of
Shakspeare, for which purpose his words are used
whenever it seemed possible to bring them in; and
in whatever has been added to give them the regular
form of a connected story, diligent care has been
taken to select such words as might least interrupt
the effect of the beautiful English tongue in which he
wrote: therefore words introduced into our language
since his time have been as far as possible avoided.
In those Tales which have been taken from the
Tragedies, as my young readers will perceive when
they come to see the source from which these stories
are derived, Shakspeare's own words, with little altera-
tion, recur very frequently in the narrative as well as
in the dialogue; but in those made from the Comedies
I found myself scarcely ever able to turn his words
into the narrative form: therefore I fear in them I
have made use of dialogue too frequently for young
people not used to the dramatic form of writing.
But this fault, if it be as I fear a fault, has been
caused by my earnest wish to give as much of
Shakspeare's own words as possible: and if the "He









said," and "She said," the question and the reply,
should sometimes seem tedious to their young ears,
they must pardon it, because it was the only way I
knew of, in which I could give them a few hints and
little foretastes of the great pleasure which awaits
them in their elder years, when they come to the rich
treasures from which these small and valueless coins
are extracted; pretending to no other merit than as
faint and imperfect stamps of Shakspeare's matchless
image. Faint and imperfect images they must be
called, because the beauty of his language is too fre-
quently destroyed by the necessity of changing many
of his excellent words into words far less expressive
of his true sense, to make it read something like
prose; and even in some places, where his blank
verse is given unaltered, as hoping from its simple
plainness to cheat the young readers into the belief
that they are reading prose, yet still his language
being transplanted from its own natural soil and wild
poetic garden, it must want much of its native beauty.
I have wished to make these Tales easy reading
for very young children. To the utmost of my ability
I have constantly kept this in my mind; but the sub-
jects of most of them made this a very difficult task.
It was no easy matter to give the histories of men
and women in terms familiar to the apprehension of a
very young mind. For young ladies, too, it has been
my intention chiefly to write, because boys are gener-
ally permitted the use of their fathers' libraries at a
much earlier age than girls are; they frequently have


PREFACE


xxvi








PREFACE xxvii
the best scenes of Shakspeare by heart before their
sisters are permitted to look into this manly book;
and therefore, instead of recommending these Tales
to the perusal of young gentlemen who can read them
so much better in the originals, I must rather beg
their kind assistance in explaining to their sisters such
parts as are hardest for them to understand; and
when they have helped them to get over the diffi-
culties, then perhaps they will read to them (carefully
selecting what is proper for a young sister's ear) some
passage which has pleased them in one of these
stories, in the very words of the scene from which it
is taken; and I trust they will find that the beauti-
ful extracts, the select passages, they may choose to
give their sisters in this way, will be much better
relished and understood from their having some
notion of the general story from one of these im-
perfect abridgments; which, if they be fortunately
so done as to prove delightful to any of you, my
young readers, I hope will have no worse effect upon
you than to make you wish yourselves a little older,
that you may be allowed to read the plays at full
length (such a wish will be neither peevish nor
irrational). When time and leave of judicious friends
shall put them into your hands, you will discover in
such of them as are here abridged (not to mention
almost as many more which are left untouched) many
surprising events and turns of fortune, which, for their
infinite variety, could not be contained in this little
book, besides a world of sprightly and cheerful char-







xxviii PREFACE
acters, both men and women, the humour of which I
was fearful of losing if I attempted to reduce the
length of them.
What these Tales have been to you in childhood,
that and much more it is my wish that the true plays
of Shakspeare may prove to you in older years-
enrichers of the fancy, strengtheners of virtue, a with-
drawing from all selfish and mercenary thoughts, a
lesson of all sweet and honourable thoughts and
actions, to teach you courtesy, benignity, generosity,
humanity: for of examples teaching these virtues, his
pages are full.













TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE


ROMEO AND JULIET

THE two chief families in Verona were the rich Capulets
and the Mountagues. There had been an old quarrel
between these families, which was grown to such a
height, and so deadly was the enmity between them,
that it extended to the remotest kindred, to the fol-
lowers and retainers of both sides, insomuch that a
servant of the house of Mountague could not meet
a servant of the house of Capulet, nor a Capulet en-
counter with a Mountague by chance, but fierce words
and sometimes bloodshed ensued; and frequent were
the brawls from such accidental meetings which dis-
turbed the happy quiet of Verona's estate.
Old lord Capulet made a great supper, to which
many fair ladies and many noble guests were invited.
All the admired beauties of Verona were present, and
all comers were made welcome if they were not of
the house of Mountague. At this feast of Capulets,
Rosaline, beloved of Romeo, son to the old lord
Mountague, was present; and though it was dangerous
for a Mountague to be seen in this assembly, yet
Benvolio, a friend of Romeo, persuaded the young lord






2 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
to go to this assembly in the disguise of a mask, that
he might see his Rosaline, and, seeing her, compare
her with some choice beauties of Verona, who (he said)
would make him think his swan a crow. Romeo had
small faith in Benvolio's words; nevertheless, for the
love of Rosaline, he was persuaded to go. For Romeo
was a sincere and passionate lover, and one that lost
his sleep for love, and fled society to be alone, think-
ing on Rosaline, who disdained him, and never requited
his love with the least show of courtesy or affection;
and Benvolio wished to cure his friend of this love by
showing him diversity of ladies and company. To this
feast of Capulets then young Romeo and Benvolio and
their friend Mercutio went masked. Old Capulet bid
them welcome, and told them that ladies who had their
toes unplagued with corns would dance with them.
And the old man was light-hearted and merry, and
said that he had worn a mask when he was young, and
could have told a whispering tale in a fair lady's ear.
And they fell to dancing, and Romeo was suddenly
struck with the exceeding beauty of a lady that danced
there, who seemed to him to teach the torches to burn
bright, and her beauty to show by night like a rich
jewel worn by a blackamoor: beauty too rich for use,
too dear for earth! like a snowy dove trooping with
crows (he said), so richly did her beauty and perfec-
tions shine above the ladies her companions. While
he uttered these praises, he was overheard by Tybalt,
a nephew of lord Capulet, who knew him by his voice
to be Romeo. And this Tybalt, being of a fiery and
passionate temper, could not endure that a Mountague







ROMEO AND JULIET 3
should come under cover of a mask, to fleer and scorn
(as he said) at their solemnities. And he stormed
and raged exceedingly, and would have struck young
Romeo dead. But his uncle, the old lord Capulet,
would not suffer him to do any injury at that time,
both out of respect to his guests, and because Romeo
had borne himself like a gentleman, and all tongues in
Verona bragged of him to be a virtuous and well-
governed youth. Tybalt, forced to be patient against
his will, restrained himself, but swore that this vile
Mountague should at another time dearly pay for his
intrusion.
The dancing being done, Romeo watched the place
where the lady stood; and under favour of his mask-
ing habit, which might seem to excuse in part the
liberty, he presumed in the gentlest manner to take
her by the hand, calling it a shrine, which if he pro-
faned by touching it, he was a blushing pilgrim,
and would kiss it for atonement. "Good pilgrim,"
answered the lady, "your devotion shows by far too
mannerly and too courtly: saints have hands, which
pilgrims may touch, but kiss not." "Have not saints
lips, and pilgrims too?" said Romeo. "Ay," said
the lady, "lips which they must use in prayer." Oh
then, my dear saint," said Romeo, "hear my prayer
and grant it, lest I despair." In such like allusions
and loving conceits they were engaged, when the lady
was called away to her mother. And Romeo, inquiring
who her mother was, discovered that the lady whose
peerless beauty he was so much struck with was
young Juliet, daughter and heir to the lord Capulet,







4 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
the great enemy of the Mountagues; and that he
had unknowingly engaged his heart to his foe. This
troubled him, but it could not dissuade him from
loving. As little rest had Juliet, when she found that
the gentleman that she had been talking with was
Romeo and a Mountague, for she had been suddenly
smit with the same hasty and inconsiderate passion
for Romeo which he had conceived for her; and a
prodigious birth of love it seemed to her, that she
must love her enemy, and that her affections should
settle there, where family considerations should induce
her chiefly to hate.
It being midnight, Romeo with his companions de-
parted; but they soon missed him, for unable to stay
away from the house where he had left his heart, he
leaped the wall of an orchard which was at the back
of Juliet's house. Here he had not remained long,
ruminating on his new love, when Juliet appeared
above at a window, through which her exceeding
beauty seemed to break like the light of the sun in
the east; and the moon, which shone in the orchard
with a faint light, appeared to Romeo as if sick and
pale with grief at the superior lustre of this new sun.
And she leaning her hand upon her cheek, he pas-
sionately wished himself a glove upon that hand, that
he might touch her cheek. She all this while thinking
herself alone, fetched a deep sigh, and exclaimed, Ah
me! Romeo was enraptured to hear her speak, and
said softly, unheard by her, "Oh speak again, bright
angel, for such you appear, being over my head, like
a winged messenger from heaven whom mortals fall







ROMEO AND JULIET 5
back to gaze upon." She, unconscious of being over-
heard, and full of the new passion which that night's
adventure had given birth to, called upon her lover
by name (whom she supposed absent): "0 Romeo,
Romeo!" said she, "wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father, and refuse thy name, for my sake;
or if thou wilt not, be but my sworn love, and I no
longer will be a Capulet." Romeo, having this en-
couragement, would fain have spoken, but he was
desirous of hearing more; and the lady continued
her passionate discourse with herself (as she thought),
still chiding Romeo for being Romeo and a Mountague,
and wishing him some other name, or that he would
put away the hated name, and for that name, which
was no part of himself, he should take all herself. At
this loving word Romeo could no longer refrain, but
taking up the dialogue as if her words had been
addressed to him personally, and not merely in fancy,
he bade her call him Love, or by whatever other name
she pleased, for he was no longer Romeo, if that name
was displeasing to her. Juliet, alarmed to hear a
man's voice in the garden, did not at first know who
it was, that by favour of the night and darkness had
thus stumbled upon the discovery of her secret; but
when he spoke again, though her ears had not yet
drunk a hundred words of that tongue's uttering, yet
so nice is a lover's hearing, that she immediately knew
him to be young Romeo, and she expostulated with
him on the danger to which he had exposed himself
by climbing the orchard walls, for if any of her kins-
men should find him there, it would be death to him,







6 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
being a Mountague. "Alack," said Romeo, "there is
more peril in your eye than in twenty of their swords.
Do you but look kind upon me, lady, and I am proof
against their enmity. Better my life should be ended
by their hate, than that hated life should be prolonged,
to live without your love." "How came you into
this place?" said Juliet, "and by whose direction ?"
"Love directed me," answered Romeo: "I am no
pilot, yet wert thou as far apart from me as that vast
shore which is washed with the farthest sea, I should
adventure for such merchandise." A crimson blush
came over the face of Juliet, yet unseen by Romeo by
reason of the night, when she reflected upon the dis-
covery which she had made, yet not meaning to make
it, of her love to Romeo. She would fain have recalled
her words, but that was impossible: fain would she
have stood upon form, and have kept her lover at a
distance, as the custom of discreet ladies is, to frown
and be perverse, and give their suitors harsh denials
at first; to stand off, and affect a coyness or indiffer-
ence, where they most love, that their lovers may not
think them too lightly or too easily won: for the diffi-
culty of attainment increases the value of the object.
But there was no room in her case for denials or put-
tings off, or any of the customary arts of delay and
protractive courtship. Romeo had heard from her
own tongue, when she did not dream that he was near
her, a confession of her love. So with an honest frank-
ness, which the novelty of her situation excused, she
confirmed the truth of what he had before heard, and
addressing him by the name of fair Mountague (love







ROMEO AND JULIET 7
can sweeten a sour name), she begged him not to im-
pute her easy yielding to levity or an unworthy mind,
but that he must lay the fault of it (if it were a fault)
upon the accident of the night which had so strangely
discovered her thoughts. And she added, that though
her behaviour to him might not be sufficiently prudent,
measured by the custom of her sex, yet that she would
prove more true than many whose prudence was dis-
sembling, and their modesty artificial cunning.
Romeo was beginning to call the heavens to witness
that nothing was farther from his thoughts than to
impute a shadow of dishonour to such an honoured
lady, when she stopped him, begged him not to swear,
for although she joyed in him, yet she had no joy of
that night's contract; it was too rash, too unadvised,
too sudden. But he being urgent with her to exchange
a vow of love with him that night, she said that she
already had given him hers before he requested it;
meaning, when he overheard her confession; but she
would retract what she then bestowed, for the pleasure
of giving it again, for her bounty was as infinite as the
sea, and her love as deep. From this loving conference
she was called away by her nurse, who slept with her,
and thought it time for her to be in bed, for it was near
to daybreak; but hastily returning, she said three or
four words more to Romeo, the purport of which was,
that if his love was indeed honourable, and his purpose
marriage, she would send a messenger to him to-
morrow, to appoint a time for their marriage, when she
would lay all her fortunes at his feet, and follow him
as her lord through the world. While they were







8 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
settling this point, Juliet was repeatedly called for by
her nurse, and went in and returned, and went and
returned again, for she seemed as jealous of Romeo
going from her, as a young girl of her bird, which she
will let hop a little from her hand, and pluck it back
with a silken thread, and Romeo was as loath to part
as she: for the sweetest music to lovers is the sound of
each other's tongues at night. But at last they parted,
wishing mutually sweet sleep and rest for that night.
The day was breaking when they parted, and
Romeo, who was too full of thoughts of his mistress
and that blessed meeting to allow him to sleep, instead
of going home, bent his course to a monastery hard
by, to find friar Lawrence. The good friar was already
up at his devotions, but seeing young Romeo abroad
so early, he conjectured rightly that he had not been
abed that night, but that some distemper of youthful
affection had kept him waking. He was right in
imputing the cause of Romeo's wakefulness to love,
but he made a wrong guess at the object, for he
thought that his love for Rosaline had kept him
waking. But when Romeo revealed his new passion
for Juliet, and requested the assistance of the friar to
marry them that day, the holy man lifted up his eyes
and hands in a sort of wonder at the sudden change
in Romeo's affections, for he had been privy to all
Romeo's love for Rosaline, and his many complaints
of her disdain; and he said that young men's love lay
not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes. But
Romeo replying that he himself had often chidden
him for doting on Rosaline, who could not love him







ROMEO AND JULIET 9
again, whereas Juliet both loved and was beloved by
him, the friar assented in some measure to his reasons;
and thinking that a matrimonial alliance between
young Juliet and Romeo might happily be the means
of making up the long breach between the Capulets
and the Mountagues-which no one more lamented
than this good friar, who was a friend to both the
families, and had often interposed his mediation to
make up the quarrel without effect; partly moved by
policy, and partly by his fondness for young Romeo,
to whom he could deny nothing, the old man con-
sented to join their hands in marriage.
Now was Romeo blessed indeed, and Juliet, who knew
his intent from a messenger which she had despatched
according to promise, did not fail to be early at the
cell of friar Lawrence, where their hands were joined in
holy marriage; the good friar praying the heavens to
smile upon that act, and in the union of this young
Mountague and young Capulet to bury the old strife
and long dissensions of their families.
The ceremony being over, Juliet hastened home,
where she stayed impatient for the coming of night, at
which time Romeo promised to come and meet her in
the orchard, where they had met the night before; and
the time between seemed as tedious to her, as the
night before some great festival seems to an impatient
child, that has got new finery which it may not put on
till the morning.
That same day about noon, Romeo's friends, Benvolio
and Mercutio, walking through the streets of Verona,
were met by a party of Capulets with the impetuous








10 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
Tybalt at their head. This was the same angry Tybalt
who would have fought with Romeo at old lord
Capulet's feast. He seeing Mercutio, accused him
bluntly of associating with Romeo, a Mountague.
Mercutio, who had as much fire and youthful blood
in him as Tybalt, replied to his accusation with some
sharpness; and in spite of all Benvolio could say to
moderate their wrath, a quarrel was beginning, when
Romeo himself passing that way, the fierce Tybalt
turned from Mercutio to Romeo, and gave him the
disgraceful appellation of villain. Romeo wished to
avoid a quarrel with Tybalt above all men, because
he was the kinsman of Juliet, and much beloved
by her; besides, this young Mountague had never
thoroughly entered into the family quarrel, being
by nature wise and gentle, and the name of a
Capulet, which was his dear lady's name, was now
rather a charm to allay resentment than a watchword
to excite fury. So he tried to reason with Tybalt,
whom he saluted mildly by the name of good Capulet,
as if he, though a Mountague, had some secret pleasure
in uttering that name: but Tybalt, who hated all
Mountagues as he hated hell, would hear no reason,
but drew his weapon; and Mercutio, who knew not
of Romeo's secret motive for desiring peace with
Tybalt, but looked upon his present forbearance as
a sort of calm dishonourable submission, with many
disdainful words provoked Tybalt to the prosecution
of his first quarrel with him; and Tybalt and Mercutio
fought, till Mercutio fell, receiving his death's wound
while Romeo and Benvolio were vainly endeavouring







ROMEO AND JULIET


to part the combatants. Mercutio being dead, Romeo
kept his temper no longer, but returned the scornful
appellation of villain which Tybalt had given him; and
they fought till Tybalt was slain by Romeo. This
deadly broil falling out in the midst of Verona at
noonday, the news of it quickly brought a crowd of
citizens to the spot, and among them the old lords
Capulet and Mountague, with their wives; and soon
after arrived the prince himself, who being related to
Mercutio, whom Tybalt had slain, and having had the
peace of his government often disturbed by these
brawls of Mountagues and Capulets, came determined
to put the law in strictest force against those who
should be found to be offenders. Benvolio, who had
been eye-witness to the fray, was commanded by the
prince to relate the origin of it, which he did, keeping
as near to the truth as he could without injury to
Romeo, softening and excusing the part which his
friends took in it. Lady Capulet, whose extreme
grief for the loss of her kinsman, Tybalt, made her
keep no bounds in her revenge, exhorted the prince
to do strict justice upon his murderer, and to pay
no attention to Benvolio's representation, who being
Romeo's friend, and a Mountague, spoke partially.
Thus she pleaded against her new son-in-law; but
she knew not yet that he was her son-in-law, and
Juliet's husband. On the other hand was to be seen
lady Mountague pleading for her child's life, and
arguing with some justice that Romeo had done
nothing worthy of punishment in taking the life of
Tybalt, which was already forfeited to the law by his







12 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
having slain Mercutio. The prince, unmoved by the
passionate exclamations of these women, on a careful
examination of the facts pronounced his sentence, and
by that sentence Romeo was banished from Verona.
Heavy news to young Juliet, who had been but a
few hours a bride, and now by this decree seemed
everlastingly divorced! When the tidings reached
her, she at first gave way to rage against Romeo,
who had slain her dear cousin: she called him a
beautiful tyrant, a fiend angelical, a ravenous dove,
a lamb with a wolf's nature, a serpent-heart hid with
a flowering face, and other like contradictory names,
which denoted the struggles in her mind between
her love and her resentment; but in the end love
got the mastery, and the tears which she shed for
grief that Romeo had slain her cousin, turned to
drops of joy that her husband lived, whom Tybalt
would have slain. Then came fresh tears, and they
were altogether of grief for Romeo's banishment.
That word was more terrible to her than the death
of many Tybalts.
Romeo, after the fray, had taken refuge in friar
Lawrence's cell, where he was first made acquainted
with the prince's sentence, which seemed to him
far more terrible than death. To him it appeared
there was no world out of Verona's walls, no living
out of the sight of Juliet. Heaven was there
where Juliet lived, and all beyond was purgatory,
torture, hell. The good friar would have applied
the consolation of philosophy to his griefs; but this
frantic young man would hear of none, but like a







ROMEO AND JULIET 13
madman he tore his hair, and threw himself all
along upon the ground, as he said, to take the
measure of his grave. From this unseemly state he
was roused by a message from his dear lady, which
a little revived him, and then the friar took the
advantage to expostulate with him on the unmanly
weakness which he had shown. He had slain Tybalt,
but would he also slay himself, slay his dear lady, who
lived but in his life ? The noble form of man, he said,
was but a shape of wax, when it wanted the courage
which should keep it firm. The law had been lenient
to him, that instead of death which he had incurred,
had pronounced by the prince's mouth only banish-
ment. He had slain Tybalt, but Tybalt would have
slain him: there was a sort of happiness in that.
Juliet was alive, and (beyond all hope) had become
his dear wife, wherein he was most happy. All these
blessings, as the friar made them out to be, did Romeo
put from him like a sullen, misbehaved wench. And
the friar bade him beware, for such as despaired (he
said) died miserable. Then when Romeo was a little
calmed, he counselled him that he should go that
night and secretly take his leave of Juliet, and thence
proceed straightways to Mantua, at which place he
should sojourn till the friar found a fit occasion to
publish his marriage, which might be a joyful means
of reconciling their families; and then he did not doubt
but the prince would be moved to pardon him, and he
would return with twenty times more joy than he went
forth with grief. Romeo was convinced by these wise
counsels of the friar, and took his leave to go and seek







14 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
his lady, purposing to stay with her that night, and
by daybreak pursue his journey alone to Mantua; to
which place the good friar promised to send him
letters from time to time, acquainting him with the
state of affairs at home.
That night Romeo passed with his dear wife, gain-
ing secret admission to her chamber from the orchard
in which he had heard her confession of love the
night before. That had been a night of unmixed
joy and rapture; but the pleasures of this night,
and the delight which these lovers took in each
other's society, were sadly allayed with the prospect
of parting, and the fatal adventures of the past day.
The unwelcome daybreak seemed to come too soon,
and when Juliet heard the morning song of the lark,
she would fain have persuaded herself that it was the
nightingale, which sings by night; but it was too truly
the lark which sung, and a discordant and unpleasing
note it seemed to her; and the streaks of day in the
east too certainly pointed out that it was time for these
lovers to part. Romeo took his leave of his dear wife
with a heavy heart, promising to write to her from
Mantua every hour in the day; and when he had
descended from her chamber-window, as he stood
below her on the ground, in that sad foreboding
state of mind in which she was, he appeared to her
eyes as one dead in the bottom of a tomb. Romeo's
mind misgave him in like manner; but now he was
forced hastily to depart, for it was death for him to
be found within the walls of Verona after day-
break.







ROMEO AND JULIET 15
This was but the beginning of the tragedy of this
pair of star-crossed lovers. Romeo had not been gone
many days, before the old lord Capulet proposed a
match for Juliet. The husband he had chosen for
her, not dreaming that she was married already, was
count Paris, a gallant, young, and noble gentleman,
no unworthy suitor to the young Juliet, if she had
never seen Romeo.
The terrified Juliet was in a sad perplexity at her
father's offer. She pleaded her youth unsuitable to
marriage, the recent death of Tybalt, which had left
her spirits too weak to meet a husband with any face
of joy, and how indecorous it would show for the
family of the Capulets to be celebrating a nuptial-
feast, when his funeral solemnities were hardly over;
she pleaded every reason against the match, but the
true one, namely, that she was married already. But
lord Capulet was deaf to all her excuses, and in a per-
emptory manner ordered her to get ready, for by the
following Thursday she should be married to Paris;
and having found her a husband, rich, young, and
noble, such as the proudest maid in Verona might
joyfully accept, he could not bear that out of an
affected coyness, as he construed her denial, she should
oppose obstacles to her own good fortune.
In this extremity Juliet applied to the friendly friar,
always her counsellor in distress, and he asking her
if she had resolution to undertake a desperate remedy,
and she answering that she would go into the grave
alive, rather than marry Paris, her own dear husband
living; he directed her to go home, and appear merry,







16 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
and give her consent to marry Paris, according to her
father's desire, and on the next night, which was the
night before the marriage, to drink off the contents of
a phial which he then gave her, the effect of which
would be, that for two-and-forty hours after drinking
it she should appear cold and lifeless; that when the
bridegroom came to fetch her in the morning, he
would find her to appearance dead; that then she
would be borne, as the manner in that country was,
uncovered, on a bier, to be buried in the family vault;
that if she could put off womanish fear, and consent
to this terrible trial, in forty-two hours after swallow-
ing the liquid (such was its certain operation) she would
be sure to awake, as from a dream; and before she
should awake, he would let her husband know their
drift, and he should come in the night, and bear her
thence to Mantua. Love, and the dread of marrying
Paris, gave young Juliet strength to undertake this
horrible adventure; and she took the phial of the
friar, promising to observe his directions.
Going from the monastery, she met the young count
Paris, and modestly dissembling, promised to become
his bride. This was joyful news to the lord Capulet
and his wife. It seemed to put youth into the old
man; and Juliet, who had displeased him exceedingly
by her refusal of the count, was his darling again, now
she promised to be obedient. All things in the house
were in a bustle against the approaching nuptials. No
cost was spared to prepare such festival rejoicings, as
Verona had never before witnessed.
On the Wednesday night Juliet drank off the







ROMEO AND JULIET 17
potion. She had many misgivings, lest the friar, to
avoid the blame which might be imputed to him for
marrying her to Romeo, had given her poison; but
then he was always known for a holy man: then lest
she should awake before the time that Romeo was to
come for her; whether the terror of the place, a vault
full of dead Capulets' bones, and where Tybalt, all
bloody, lay festering in his shroud, would not be
enough to drive her distracted: again she thought of
all the stories she had heard of spirits haunting the
places where their bodies were bestowed. But then
her love for Romeo, and her aversion for Paris, re-
turned, and she desperately swallowed the draught,
and became insensible.
When young Paris came early in the morning with
music, to awaken his bride, instead of a living Juliet,
her chamber presented the dreary spectacle of a lifeless
corse. What death to his hopes! What confusion
then reigned through the whole house! Poor Paris
lamenting his bride, whom most detestable death had
beguiled him of, had divorced from him even before
their hands were joined. But still more piteous it was
to hear the mourning of the old lord and lady
Capulet, who having but this one, one poor loving
child to rejoice and solace in, cruel death had snatched
her from their sight, just as these careful parents were
on the point of seeing her advanced (as they thought)
by a promising and advantageous match. Now all
things that were ordained for the festival were turned
from their properties to do the office of a black funeral.
The wedding cheer served for a sad burial feast, the
B







18 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
bridal hymns were changed to sullen dirges, the
sprightly instruments to melancholy bells, and the
flowers that should have been strewed in the bride's
path, now served but to strew her corse. Now instead
of a priest to marry her, a priest was needed to bury
her; and she was borne to church indeed, not to
augment the cheerful hopes of the living, but to swell
the dreary numbers of the dead.
Bad news, which always travels faster than good,
now brought the dismal story of his Juliet's death to
Romeo at Mantua, before the messenger could arrive,
who was sent from friar Lawrence to apprise him that
these were mock funerals only, and but the shadow and
representation of death, and that his dear lady lay in
the tomb but for a short while, expecting when Romeo
should come to release her from that dreary mansion.
Just before, Romeo had been unusually joyful and
light-hearted. He had dreamed in the night that he
was dead (a strange dream, that gave a dead man leave
to think), and that his lady came and found him dead,
and breathed such life with kisses in his lips, that he
revived, and was an emperor! And now that a
messenger came from Verona, he thought surely it was
to confirm some good news which his dreams had
presaged. But when the contrary to this flattering
vision appeared, and that it was his lady who was dead
in truth, whom he could not revive by any kisses, he
ordered horses to be got ready, for he determined that
night to visit Verona, and to see his lady in her tomb.
And as mischief is swift to enter into the thoughts of
desperate men, he called to mind a poor apothecary,







ROMEO AND JULIET 19
whose shop in Mantua he had lately passed, and from
the beggarly appearance of the man, who seemed fam-
ished, and the wretched show in his shop of empty
boxes ranged on dirty shelves, and other tokens of
extreme wretchedness, he had said at the time (perhaps
having some misgivings that his own disastrous life
might haply meet with a conclusion so desperate), "If
a man were to need poison, which by the law of Mantua
it is death to sell, here lives a poor wretch who would
sell it him." These words of his now came into his
mind, and he sought out the apothecary, who after
some pretended scruples, Romeo offering him gold
which his poverty could not resist, sold him a poison,
which, if he swallowed, he told. him, if he had the
strength of twenty men, would quickly despatch him.
With this poison he set out for Verona, to have a
sight of his dear lady in her tomb, meaning, when he
had satisfied his sight, to swallow the poison, and be
buried by her side. He reached Verona at midnight,
and found the churchyard, in the midst of which was
situated the ancient tomb of the Capulets. He had
provided a light, and a spade, and wrenching iron, and
was proceeding to break open the monument, when he
was interrupted by a voice, which by the name of vile
Mountagwe, bade him desist from his unlawful business.
It was the young count Paris, who had come to the
tomb of Juliet at that unseasonable time of night, to
strew flowers, and to weep over the grave of her that
should have been his bride. He knew not what an
interest Romeo had in the dead, but knowing him to
be a Mountague, and (as he supposed) a sworn foe to







20 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
all the Capulets, he judged that he was come by
night to do some villainous shame to the dead bodies;
therefore in angry tone he bade him desist; and as a
criminal, condemned by the laws of Verona to die if he
were found within the walls of the city, he would have
apprehended him. Romeo urged Paris to leave him,
and warned him by the fate of Tybalt, who lay buried
there, not to provoke his anger, or draw down another
sin upon his head, by forcing him to kill him. But the
count in scorn refused his warning, and laid hands on
him as a felon, which Romeo resisting they fought, and
Paris fell. When Romeo, by the help of a light, came
to see who it was that he had slain, that it was Paris,
who (he learned in his way from Mantua) should have
married Juliet, he took the dead youth by the hand, as
one whom misfortune had made a companion, and said
that he would bury him in a triumphal grave, meaning
in Juliet's grave, which he now opened: and there lay
his lady, as one whom Death had no power upon to
change a feature or complexion in her matchless beauty,
or as if Death were amorous, and the lean abhorred
monster kept her there for his delight; for she lay yet
fresh and blooming, as she had fallen to sleep when she
swallowed that benumbing potion: and near her lay
Tybalt in his bloody shroud, whom Romeo seeing,
begged pardon of his lifeless corse, and for Juliet's
sake called him cousin, and said that he was about to
do him a favour by putting his enemy to death. Here
Romeo took his last leave of his lady's lips, kissing
them; and here he shook the burden of his cross stars
from his weary body, swallowing that poison which the








ROMEO AND JULIET


apothecary had sold him, whose operation was fatal
and real, not like that dissembling potion which Juliet
had swallowed, the effect of which was now nearly ex-
piring, and she about to wake to complain that
Romeo had not kept his time, or that he had come too
soon.
For now the hour was arrived at which the friar
had promised that she should awake; and he, having
learned that his letters which he had sent to Mantua,
by some unlucky detention of the messenger, had never
reached Romeo, came himself, provided with a pickaxe
and lantern, to deliver the lady from her confinement;
but he was surprised to find a light already burning
in the Capulets' monument, and to see swords and
blood nea; it, and Romeo and Paris lying breathless
by the monument.
Before he could entertain a conjecture to imagine
how these fatal accidents had fallen out, Juliet awoke
out of her trance, and seeing the friar near her, she
remembered the place where she was, and the occasion
of her being there, and asked for Romeo; but the
friar, hearing a noise, bade her come out of that place
of death and of unnatural sleep, for a greater power
than they could contradict had thwarted their intents,
and being frighted by the noise of people coming he
fled; but when Juliet saw the cup closed in her true
lover's hands, she guessed that poison had been the
cause of his end, and she would have swallowed the
dregs if any had been left, and she kissed his still
warm lips to try if any poison yet did hang upon
them: then hearing a nearer noise of people coming,








22 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
she quickly unsheathed a dagger which she wore, and
stabbing herself, died by her true Romeo's side.
The watch by this time had come up to the place.
A page belonging to count Paris, who had witnessed
the fight between his master and Romeo, had given
the alarm, which had spread among the citizens, who
went up and down the streets of Verona confusedly,
exclaiming, a Paris, a Romeo, a Juliet, as the rumour
had imperfectly reached them, till the uproar brought
lord Mountague and lord Capulet out of their beds,
with the prince, to inquire into the causes of the dis-
turbance. The friar had been apprehended by some
of the watch, coming from the churchyard, trembling,
sighing, and weeping, in a suspicious manner. A great
multitude being assembled at the Capulets' monument,
the friar was demanded by the prince to deliver what
he knew of these strange and disastrous accidents.
And there, in the presence of the old lords Moun-
tague and Capulet, he faithfully related the story of
their children's fatal love, the part he took in pro-
moting their marriage in the hope in that union to
end the long quarrels between their families: how
Romeo, there dead, was husband to Juliet; and Juliet,
there dead, was Romeo's faithful wife: how, before he
could find a fit opportunity to divulge their marriage,
another match was projected for Juliet, who, to avoid
the crime of a second marriage, swallowed the sleeping
draught (as he advised), and all thought her dead:
how meantime he wrote to Romeo, to come and take
her thence when the force of the potion should cease,
and by what unfortunate miscarriage of the messenger







ROMEO AND JULIET 23
the letters never reached Romeo: further than this the
friar could not follow the story, nor knew more than
that, coming himself to deliver Juliet from that place
of death, he found the count Paris and Romeo slain.
The remainder of the transactions was supplied by the
narration of the page who had seen Paris and Romeo
fight, and by the servant who came with Romeo from
Verona, to whom this faithful lover had given letters
to be delivered to his father in the event of his death,
which made good the friar's words, confessing his
marriage with Juliet, imploring the forgiveness of his
parents, acknowledging the buying of the poison of
the poor apothecary, and his intent in coming to
the monument, to die, and lie with Juliet. All these
circumstances agreed together to clear the friar from
any hand he could be supposed to have had in these
complicated slaughters, further than as the unintended
consequences of his own well-meant, yet too artificial
and subtle contrivances.
And the prince, turning to these old lords, Moun-
tague and Capulet, rebuked them for their brutal and
irrational enmities, and showed them what a scourge
heaven had laid upon such offences, that it had found
means even through the love of their children to punish
their unnatural hate. And these old rivals, no longer
enemies, agreed to bury their long strife in their
children's graves; and lord Capulet requested lord
Mountague to give him his hand, calling him by the
name of brother, as if in acknowledgment of the union
of their families by the marriage of the young Capulet
and Mountague; and saying that lord Mountague's







24 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
hand (in token of reconcilement) was all he demanded
for his daughter's jointure: but lord Mountague said
he would give him more, for he would raise her a statue
of pure gold, that while Verona kept its name, no figure
should be so esteemed for its richness and workman-
ship as that of the true and faithful Juliet. And lord
Capulet in return said that he would raise another
statue to Romeo. So did these poor old lords, when
it was too late, strive to outgo each other in mutual
courtesies: while so deadly had been their rage and
enmity in past times, that nothing but the fearful
overthrow of their children (poor sacrifices to their
quarrels and dissensions) could remove the rooted hates
and jealousies of the noble families.















KING LEAR


LEAR, King of Britain, had three daughters: Gonerill,
wife to the Duke of Albany; Regan, wife to the Duke
of Cornwall; and Cordelia, a young maid, for whose
love the King of France and Duke of Burgundy were
joint suitors, and were at this time making stay for
that purpose in the court of Lear.
The old king, worn out with age and the fatigues
of government, he being more than fourscore years old,
determined to take no further part in state affairs, but
to leave the management to younger strengths, that he
might have time to prepare for death, which must at
no long period ensue. With this intent he called his
three daughters to him, to know from their own lips
which of them loved him best, that he might part
his kingdom among them in such proportions as their
affection for him should seem to deserve.
Gonerill, the eldest, declared that she loved her
father more than words could give out, that he was
dearer to her than the light of her own eyes, dearer
than life and liberty, with a deal of such professing
stuff, which is easy to counterfeit where there is no
real love, only a few fine words delivered with confi-
dence being wanted in that case. The king, delighted
to hear from her own mouth this assurance of her
25







26 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
love, and thinking truly that her heart went with it,
in a fit of fatherly fondness bestowed upon her and her
husband one-third of his ample kingdom.
Then calling to him his second daughter, he de-
manded what she had to say. Regan, who was made
of the same hollow metal as her sister, was not a
whit behind in her professions, but rather declared
that what her sister had spoken came short of the
love which she professed to bear for his highness,
insomuch that she found all other joys dead, in com-
parison with the pleasure which she took in the love
of her dear king and father.
Lear blessed himself in having such loving children,
as he thought, and could do no less, after the hand-
some assurances which Regan had made, than bestow
a third of his kingdom upon her and her husband,
equal in size to that which he had already given away
to Gonerill.
Then turning to his youngest daughter Cordelia,
whom he called his joy, he asked what she had to
say, thinking, no doubt, that she would glad his ears
with the same loving speeches which her sisters had
uttered, or rather that her expressions would be so
much stronger than theirs, as she had always been his
darling, and favoured by him above either of them.
But Cordelia, disgusted with the flattery of her sisters,
whose hearts she knew were far from their lips, and
seeing that all their coaxing speeches were only in-
tended to wheedle the old king out of his dominions,
that they and their husbands might reign in his life-
time, made no other reply but this, that she loved








KING LEAR 27
his majesty according to her duty, neither more nor
less.
The king, shocked with this appearance of ingrati-
tude in his favourite child, desired her to consider
her words, and to mend her speech, lest it should
mar her fortune.
Cordelia then told her father, that he was her father,
that he had given her breeding, and loved her, that
she returned those duties back as was most fit, and
did obey him, love him, and most honour him; but
that she could not frame her mouth to such large
speeches as her sisters had done, or promise to love
nothing else in the world. Why had her sisters hus-
bands, if (as they said) they had no love for anything
but their father? If she should ever wed, she was sure
the lord to whom she gave her hand would want half
her love, half of her care and duty; she should never
marry, like her sisters, to love her father all.
Cordelia, who in earnest loved her old father even
almost as extravagantly as her sisters pretended to do,
would have plainly told him so at any other time,
in more daughter-like and loving terms, and without
these qualifications which did indeed sound a little
ungracious; but after the crafty, flattering speeches of
her sisters, which she had seen draw such extravagant
rewards, she thought the handsomest thing she could
do was to love and be silent. This put her affection
out of suspicion of mercenary ends, and showed that
she loved, but not for gain; and that her professions,
the less ostentatious they were, had so much the more
of truth and sincerity than her sisters'.







28 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
This plainness of speech, which Lear called pride, so
enraged the old monarch-who in his best of times
always showed much of spleen and rashness, and in
whom the dotage incident to old age had so clouded
over his reason, that he could not discern truth from
flattery, nor a gay painted speech from words that
came from the heart-that in a fury of resentment
he retracted the third part of his kingdom which yet
remained, and which he had reserved for Cordelia, and
gave it away from her, sharing it equally between her
two sisters and their husbands, the dukes of Albany
and Cornwall, whom he now called to him, and, in
presence of all his courtiers, bestowing a coronet
between them, invested them jointly with all the
power, revenue, and execution of government, only
retaining to himself the name of king; all the rest of
royalty he resigned, with this reservation, that himself,
with a hundred knights for his attendants, was to be
maintained by monthly course in each of his daughters'
palaces in turn.
So preposterous a disposal of his kingdom, so little
guided by reason, and so much by passion, filled all
his courtiers with astonishment and sorrow; but none
of them had the courage to interpose between this
incensed king and his wrath, except the Earl of Kent,
who was beginning to speak a good word for Cordelia,
when the passionate Lear, on pain of death, com-
manded him to desist; but the good Kent was not
so to be repelled. He had been ever loyal to Lear,
whom he had honoured as a king, loved as a father,
followed as a master, and had never esteemed his







KING LEAR 29
life further than as a pawn to wage against his royal
master's enemies, nor feared to lose it when Lear's
safety was the motive: nor now that Lear was most
his own enemy, did this faithful servant of the king
forget his old principles, but manfully opposed Lear,
to do Lear good, and was unmannerly only because
Lear was mad. He had been a most faithful coun-
sellor, in times past, to the king, and he besought
him now that he would see with his eyes (as he had
done in many weighty matters), and go by his advice
still; and in his best consideration recall this hideous
rashness, for he would answer with his life his judg-
ment that Lear's youngest daughter did not love him
least, nor were those empty-hearted whose low sound
gave no token of hollowness. When power bowed
to flattery, honour was bound to plainness. For
Lear's threats, what could he do to him, whose life
was already at his service? That should not hinder
duty from speaking.
The honest freedom of this good Earl of Kent only
stirred up the king's wrath the more, and like a frantic
patient who kills his physician, and loves his mortal
disease, he banished this true servant, and allotted
him but five days to make his preparations for de-
parture; but if on the sixth his hated person was
found within the realm of Britain, that moment was
to be his death. And Kent bade farewell to the
king, and said, that since he chose to show himself
in such fashion, it was but banishment to stay there;
and before he went, he recommended Cordelia to the
protection of the gods, the maid who had so rightly






30 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
thought, and so discreetly spoken; and only wished
that her sisters' large speeches might be answered
with deeds of love: and then he went, as he said, to
shape his old course to a new country.
The King of France and Duke of Burgundy were
now called in to hear the determination of Lear about
his youngest daughter, and to know whether they
would persist in their courtship to Cordelia, now that
she was under her father's displeasure, and had no
fortune but her own person to recommend her; and
the Duke of Burgundy declined the match, and would
not take her to wife upon such conditions; but the
King of France, understanding what the nature of the
fault had been which had lost her the love of her
father, that it was only a tardiness of speech, and
the not being able to frame her tongue to flattery
like her sisters, took this young maid by the hand,
and, saying that her virtues were a dowry above a
kingdom, bade Cordelia to take farewell of her sisters,
and of her father, though he had been unkind, and
she should go with him, and be queen of him and
of fair France, and reign over fairer possessions than
her sisters; and he called the Duke of Burgundy,
in contempt, a waterish duke, because his love for
this young maid had in a moment run all away like
water.
Then Cordelia with weeping eyes took leave of her
sisters, and besought them to love their father well,
and make good their professions; and they sullenly
told her not to prescribe to them, for they knew their
duty; but to strive to content her husband, who had







KING LEAR 31
taken her (as they tauntingly expressed it) as Fortune's
alms. And Cordelia with a heavy heart departed, for
she knew the cunning of her sisters, and she wished
her father in better hands than she was about to leave
him in.
Cordelia was no sooner gone, than the devilish dis-
position of her sisters began to show themselves in
their true colours. Even before the expiration of the
first month, which Lear was to spend by agreement
with his eldest daughter Gonerill, the old king began
to find out the difference between promises and per-
formances. This wretch having got from her father
all that he had to bestow, even to the giving away of
the crown from off his head, began to grudge even
those small remnants of royalty which the old man
had reserved to himself, to please his fancy with the
idea of being still a king. She could not bear to see
him and his hundred knights. Every time she met
her father she put on a frowning countenance; and
when the old man wanted to speak with her, she would
feign sickness, or anything to be rid of the sight of
him; for it was plain that she esteemed his old age
a useless burden, and his attendants an unnecessary
expense: not only she herself slackened in her expres-
sions of duty to the king, but by her example, and
(it is to be feared) not without her private instructions,
her very servants affected to treat him with neglect,
and would either refuse to obey his orders, or still
more contemptuously pretend not to hear them. Lear
could not but perceive this alteration in the behaviour
of his daughter, but he shut his eyes against it as long







82 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
as he could, as people commonly are unwilling to be-
lieve the unpleasant consequences which their own
mistakes and obstinacy have brought upon them.
True love and fidelity are no more to be estranged
by ill, than falsehood and hollow-heartedness can be
conciliated by good usage. This eminently appears
in the instance of the good Earl of Kent, who, though
banished by Lear, and his life made forfeit if he were
found in Britain, chose to stay and abide all conse-
quences, as long as there was a chance of his being
useful to the king his master. See to what mean
shifts and disguises poor loyalty is forced to submit
sometimes; yet it counts nothing base or unworthy,
so as it can but do service where it owes an obliga-
tion In the disguise of a serving-man, all his great-
ness and pomp laid aside, this good earl proffered his
services to the king, who not knowing him to be Kent
in that disguise, but pleased with a certain plainness,
or rather bluntness in his answers which the earl put
on (so different from that smooth oily flattery which
he had so much reason to be sick of, having found the
effects not answerable in his daughter), a bargain was
quickly struck, and Lear took Kent into his service
by the name of Caius, as he called himself, never sus-
pecting him to be his once great favourite, the high
and mighty Earl of Kent.
This Caius quickly found means to show his fidelity
and love to his royal master; for Gonerill's steward
that same day, behaving in a disrespectful manner to
Lear, and giving him saucy looks and language, as no
doubt he was secretly encouraged to do by his mis-







KING LEAR


tress, Caius not enduring to hear so open an affront
put upon majesty, made no more ado, but presently
tripped up his heels, and laid the unmannerly slave
in the kennel; for which friendly service Lear became
more and more attached to him.
Nor was Kent the only friend Lear had. In his
degree, and as far as so insignificant a personage could
show his love, the poor fool, or jester, that had been
of his palace while Lear had a palace, as it was the
custom of kings and great personages at that time
to keep a fool (as he was called) to make them sport
after serious business; this poor fool clung to Lear
after he had given away his crown, and by his witty
sayings would keep up his good humour, though he
could not refrain sometimes from jeering at his master,
for his imprudence, in uncrowning himself, and giving
all away to his daughters: at which time, as he rhym-
ingly expressed it, these daughters-
For sudden joy did weep,
And he for sorrow sung,
That such a king should play bo-peep,
And go the fools among.
And in such wild sayings, and scraps of songs, of
which he had plenty, this pleasant, honest fool poured
out his heart, even in the presence of Gonerill herself
in many a bitter taunt and jest which cut to the quick:
such as comparing the king to the hedge-sparrow, who
feeds the young of the cuckoo till they grow old
enough, and then has its head bit off for its pains: and
saying, that an ass may know when the cart draws
the horse (meaning that Lear's daughters, that ought
c







34 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
to go behind, now ranked before their father); and
that Lear was no longer Lear, but the shadow of Lear:
for which free speeches he was once or twice threatened
to be whipped.
The coolness and falling off of respect which Lear
had begun to perceive, were not all which this foolish
fond father was to suffer from his unworthy daughter:
she now plainly told him that his staying in her palace
was inconvenient so long as he insisted upon keeping
up an establishment of a hundred knights: that this
establishment was useless and expensive, and only
served to fill her court with riot and feastings; and
she prayed him that he would lessen their number, and
keep none but old men about him, such as himself, and
fitting his age.
Lear at first could not believe his eyes or ears, nor
that it was his daughter who spoke so unkindly. He
could not believe that she who had received a crown
from him could seek to cut off his train, and grudge
him the respect due to his old age. But she persisting
in her undutiful demand, the old man's rage was so
excited, that he called her a detested kite, and said
that she had spoke an untruth: and so indeed she
did, for the hundred knights were all men of choice
behaviour and sobriety of manners, skilled in all
particulars of duty, and not given to rioting and
feasting as she said. And he bid his horses to be
prepared, for he would go to his other daughter,
Regan, he and his hundred knights: and he spoke of
ingratitude, and said it was a marble-hearted devil, and
showed more hideous in a child than the sea-monster.







KING LEAR 35
And he cursed his eldest daughter Gonerill so as was
terrible to hear: praying that she might never have a
child, or if she had, that it might live to return that
scorn and contempt upon her which she had shown to
him: that she might feel how sharper than a serpent's
tooth it was to have a thankless child. And Gonerill's
husband, the Duke of Albany, beginning to excuse
himself for any share which Lear might suppose he had
in the unkindness, Lear would not hear him out, but in
a rage ordered his horses to be saddled, and set out
with his followers for the abode of Regan, his other
daughter. And Lear thought to himself how small
the fault of Cordelia (if it was a fault) now appeared, in
comparison with her sister's, and he wept; and then he
was ashamed that such a creature as Gonerill should
have so much power over his manhood as to make him
weep.
Regan and her husband were keeping their court
in great pomp and state at their palace: and Lear de-
spatched his servant Caius with letters to his daughter,
that she might be prepared for his reception, while he
and his train followed after. But it seems that Gonerill
had been beforehand with him, sending letters also to
Regan, accusing her father of waywardness and ill
humours, and advising her not to receive so great a
train as he was bringing with him. This messenger
arrived at the same time with Caius, and Caius and he
met; and who should it be but Caius's old enemy the
steward, whom he had formerly tripped up by the
heels for his saucy behaviour to Lear. Caius not liking
the fellow's look, and suspecting what he came for,







36 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
began to revile him, and challenged him to fight,
which the fellow refusing, Caius, in a fit of honest
passion, beat him soundly, as such a mischief-maker and
carrier of wicked messages deserved; which, coming
to the ears of Regan and her husband, they ordered
Caius to be put in the stocks, though he was a mes-
senger from the king her father, and in that char-
acter demanded the highest respect: so that the first
thing the king saw when he entered the castle, was
his faithful servant Caius sitting in that disgraceful
situation.
This was but a bad omen of the reception which
he was to expect; but a worse followed, when upon
inquiry for his daughter and her husband, he was told
they were weary with travelling all night, and could
not see him: and when lastly, upon his insisting in a
positive and angry manner to see them, they came to
greet him, whom should he see in their company but
the hated Gonerill, who had come to tell her own story,
and set her sister against the king her father!
This sight much moved the old man, and still more
to see Regan take her by the hand: and he asked
Gonerill if she was not ashamed to look upon his old
white beard. And Regan advised him to go home
again with Gonerill and live with her peaceably, dis-
missing half of his attendants, and to ask her forgive-
ness; for he was old and wanted discretion, and must
be ruled and led by persons that had more discretion
than himself. And Lear showed how preposterous
that would sound, if he were to down on his knees, and
beg of his own daughter for food and raiment; and he






KING LEAR 37
argued against such an unnatural dependence, declar-
ing his resolution never to return with her, but to stay
where he was with Regan, he and his hundred knights:
for he said that she had not forgot the half of the
kingdom which he had endowed her with, and that her
eyes were not fierce like Gonerill's, but mild and kind.
And he said that rather than return to Gonerill with
half his train cut off, he would go over to France,
and beg a wretched pension of the king there,
who had married his youngest daughter without a
portion.
But he was mistaken in expecting kinder treatment
of Regan than he had experienced from her sister
Gonerill. As if willing to outdo her sister in unfilial
behaviour, she declared that she thought fifty knights
too many to wait upon him: that five-and-twenty were
enough. Then Lear, nigh heart-broken, turned to Gon-
erill, and said that he would go back with her, for her
fifty doubled five-and-twenty, and so her love was twice
as much as Regan's. But Gonerill excused herself, and
said, what need of so many as five-and-twenty ? or even
ten? or five? when he might be waited upon by her
servants, or her sisters' servants ? So these two wicked
daughters, as if they strove to exceed each other in
cruelty to their old father who had been so good to
them, by little and little would have abated him of all
his train, all respect (little enough for him that once
commanded a kingdom), which was left him to show
that he had once been a king! Not that a splendid
train is essential to happiness, but from a king to a
beggar is a hard change, from commanding millions to







38 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
be without one attendant; and it was the ingratitude
in his daughters denying it, more than what he would
suffer by the want of it, which pierced this poor old
king to the heart: insomuch, that with this double
ill-usage, and vexation for having so foolishly given
away a kingdom, his wits began to be unsettled, and
while he said he knew not what, he vowed revenge
against those unnatural hags, and to make examples
of them that should be a terror to the earth !
While he was thus idly threatening what his weak
arm could never execute, night came on, and a loud
storm of thunder and lightning with rain; and his
daughters still persisting in their resolution not to
admit his followers, he called for his horses, and chose
rather to encounter the utmost fury of the storm abroad,
than stay under the same roof with these ungrateful
daughters; and they, saying that the injuries which
wilful men procure to themselves are their just punish-
ment, suffered him to go in that condition, and shut
their doors upon him.
The winds were high, and the rain and storm in-
creased, when the old man sallied forth to combat with
the elements, less sharp than his daughters' unkindness.
For many miles about there was scarce a bush; and
there upon a heath, exposed to the fury of the storm
in a dark night, did King Lear wander out, and defy
the winds and the thunder: and he bid the winds to
blow the earth into the sea, or swell the waves of the
sea, till they drowned the earth, that no token might
remain of any such ungrateful animal as man. The old
king was now left with no other companion than the







KING LEAR 89
poor fool, who still abided with him, with his merry
conceits striving to outjest misfortune, saying, it was
but a naughty night to swim in, and truly the king
had better go in and ask his daughter's blessing-
But he that hath a little tiny wit,
With high ho, the wind and the rain !
Must make content with his fortunes fit,
Though the rain it raineth every day:
and swearing it was a brave night to cool a lady's
pride.
Thus poorly accompanied, this once great monarch
was found by his ever-faithful servant the good Earl of
Kent, now transformed to Caius, who ever followed
close at his side, though the king did not know him to
be the earl; and he said, "Alas! sir, are you here?
creatures that love night, love not such nights as these.
This dreadful storm has driven the beasts to their
hiding places. Man's nature cannot endure the afflic-
tion or the fear." And Lear rebuked him and said,
these lesser evils were not felt, where a greater malady
was fixed. When the mind is at ease, the body has
leisure to be delicate; but the tempest in his mind did
take all feeling else from his senses, but of that which
beat at his heart. And he spoke of filial ingratitude,
and said it was all one as if the mouth should tear the
hand for lifting food to it; for parents were hands and
food and everything to children.
But the good Caius still persisting in his entreaties
that the king would not stay out in the open air, at
last persuaded him to enter a little wretched hovel
which stood upon the heath, where the fool first enter-







40 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
ing, suddenly ran back terrified, saying that he had
seen a spirit. But upon examination this spirit proved
to be nothing more than a poor Bedlam beggar, who
had crept into this deserted hovel for shelter, and with
his talk about devils frighted the fool; one of those
poor lunatics who are either mad, or feign to be so, the
better to extort charity from the compassionate country-
people, who go about the country, calling themselves
poor Tom and poor Turlygood, saying "Who gives
anything to poor Tom ?" sticking pins, and nails, and
sprigs of rosemary into their arms to make them bleed;
and with such horrible actions, partly by prayers, and
partly with lunatic curses, they move or terrify the
ignorant country-folks into giving them alms. This
poor fellow was such a one; and the king seeing him
in so wretched a plight, with nothing but a blanket
about his loins to cover his nakedness, could not be
persuaded but that the fellow was some father who had
given all away to his daughters, and brought himself
to that pass; for nothing, he thought, could bring a
man to such wretchedness but the having unkind
daughters.
And from this and many such wild speeches which
he uttered, the good Caius plainly perceived that he
was not in his perfect mind, but that his daughters' ill-
usage had really made him go mad. And now the
loyalty of this worthy Earl of Kent showed itself in more
essential services than he had hitherto found opportu-
nity to perform. For with the assistance of some of
the king's attendants who remained loyal, he had the
person of his royal master removed at daybreak to the







KING LEAR


castle of Dover, where his own friends and influence, as
Earl of Kent, chiefly lay; and himself embarking for
France, hastened to the court of Cordelia, and did
there in such moving terms represent the pitiful condi-
tion of her royal father, and set out in such lively
colours the inhumanity of her sisters, that this good
and loving child with many tears besought the king
her husband, that he would give her leave to embark
for England with a sufficient power to subdue these
daughters and their husbands, and restore the king her
father to his throne; which being granted, she set
forth, and with a royal army landed at Dover.
Lear having by some chance escaped from the
guardians which the good Earl of Kent had put over
him to take care of him in his lunacy, was found by
some of Cordelia's train, wandering about the fields
near Dover, in a pitiable condition, stark mad and
singing aloud to himself, with a crown upon his head
which he had made of straw, and nettles, and other
wild weeds that he had picked up in the corn-fields.
By the advice of the physicians, Cordelia, though
earnestly desirous of seeing her father, was prevailed
upon to put off the meeting, till, by sleep and the
operation of herbs which they gave him, he should be re-
stored to greater composure. By the aid of these skilful
physicians, to whom Cordelia promised all her gold and
jewels for the recovery of the old king, Lear was soon
in a condition to see his daughter.
A tender sight it was to see the meeting between
this father and daughter: to see the struggles between
the joy of this poor old king at beholding again his







42 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE


once darling child, and the shame at receiving such
filial kindness from her whom he had cast off for so
small a fault in his displeasure; both these passions
struggling with the remains of his malady, which in his
half-crazed brain sometimes made him that he scarce
remembered where he was, or who it was that so kindly
kissed him and spoke to him: and then he would beg
the standers-by not to laugh at him, if he were mis-
taken in thinking this lady to be his daughter
Cordelia! And then to see him fall on his knees to
beg pardon of his child; and she, good lady, kneeling
all the while to ask a blessing of him, and telling him
that it did not become him to kneel, but it was her
duty, for she was his child, his true and very child
Cordelia! And she kissed him (as she said) to kiss
away all her sisters' unkindness, and said that they
might be ashamed of themselves, to turn their old kind
father with his white beard out into the cold air, when
her enemy's dog, though it had bit her (as she prettily
expressed it), should have stayed by her fire such a
night as that, and warmed himself. And she told her
father how she had come from France with purpose to
bring him assistance; and he said that she must forget
and forgive, for he was old and foolish, and did not know
what he did; but that to be sure she had great cause
not to love him, but her sisters had none. And Cor-
delia said that she had no cause, no more than they
had.
So we will leave this old king in the protection of
this dutiful and loving child, where, by the help of
sleep and medicine, she and her physicians at length


























KING LEAR RECOGNIZING CORDELIA AFTER HIS MADNESS.


07^







KING LEAR


succeeded in winding up the untuned and jarring senses
which the cruelty of his other daughters had so violently
shaken. Let us return to say a word or two about
those cruel daughters.
These monsters of ingratitude, who had been so false
to their own father, could not be expected to prove
more faithful to their own husbands. They soon grew
tired of paying even the appearance of duty and affec-
tion, and in an open way showed they had fixed their
loves upon another. It happened that the object of their
guilty loves was the same. It was Edmund, a natural
son of the late Earl of Gloucester, who by his treach-
eries had succeeded in disinheriting his brother Edgar,
the lawful heir, from his earldom, and by his wicked
practices was now earl himself: a wicked man, and a
fit object for the love of such wicked creatures as Gon-
erill and Regan. It falling out about this time that
the Duke of Cornwall, Regan's husband, died, Regan
immediately declared her intention of wedding this
Earl of Gloucester, which rousing the jealousy of her
sister, to whom as well as to Regan this wicked earl had
at sundry times professed love, Gonerill found means
to make away with her sister by poison; but being de-
tected in her practices, and imprisoned by her husband
the Duke of Albany for this deed, and for her guilty
passion for the earl, which had come to his ears, she in
a fit of disappointed love and rage, shortly put an end
to her own life. Thus the justice of Heaven at last
overtook these wicked daughters.
While the eyes of all men were upon this event,
admiring the justice displayed in their deserved deaths,







44 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
the same eyes were suddenly taken off from this sight
to admire at the mysterious ways of the same power in
the melancholy fate of the young and virtuous daughter,
the lady Cordelia, whose good deeds did seem to de-
serve a more fortunate conclusion; but it is an awful
truth, that innocence and piety are not always success-
ful in this world. The forces which Gonerill and Regan
had sent out under the command of the bad Earl of
Gloucester were victorious, and Cordelia, by the prac-
tices of this wicked earl, who did not like that any
should stand between him and the throne, ended her
life in prison. Thus Heaven took this innocent lady
to itself in her young years, after showing her to the
world as an illustrious example of filial duty. Lear
did not long survive this kind child.
Before he died, the good Earl of Kent, who had still
attended his old master's steps from the first of his
daughters' ill-usage to this sad period of his decay,
tried to make him understand that it was he who had
followed him under the name of Caius; but Lear's care-
crazed brain at that time could not comprehend how
that could be, or how Kent and Caius could be the
same person, so Kent thought it needless to trouble him
with explanations at such a time; and Lear soon after
expiring, this faithful servant to the king, between age
and grief for his old master's vexations, soon followed
him to the grave.
How the judgment of Heaven overtook the bad Earl
of Gloucester, whose reasons were discovered, and him-
self slain in single combat with his brother, the lawful
earl; and how Gonerill's husband, the Duke of Albany,







KING LEAR 45
who was innocent of the death of Cordelia, and had
never encouraged his lady in her wicked proceedings
against her father, ascended the throne of Britain after
the death of Lear, is needless here to narrate; Lear
and his three daughters being dead, whose adventures
alone concern our story.















OTHELLO


BRABANTIO, the rich senator of Venice, had a fair
daughter, the gentle Desdemona. She was sought by
divers suitors, both on account of her many virtuous
qualities and for her rich expectations. But among
the suitors of her own clime and complexion she saw
none whom she could affect; for this noble lady, who
regarded the mind more than the features of men, with
a singularity rather to be admired than imitated, had
chosen for the object of her affections, a Moor, a black,
whom her father loved, and often invited to his house.
Neither is Desdemona to be altogether condemned
for the unsuitableness of the person whom she selected
for her lover. Bating that Othello was black, the
noble Moor wanted nothing which might recommend
him to the affections of the greatest lady. He was a
soldier, and a brave one; and by his conduct in bloody
wars against the Turks had risen to the rank of general
in the Venetian service, and was esteemed and trusted
by the State.
He had been a traveller, and Desdemona (as is the
manner of ladies) loved to hear him tell the story of
his adventures, which he would run through from his
earliest recollection ; the battles, sieges, and encounters
which he had passed through; the perils he had been
46







OTHELLO 47
exposed to by land and by water; his hairbreadth
escapes when he had entered a breach, or marched up
to the mouth of a cannon; and how he had been taken
prisoner by the insolent enemy, and sold to slavery;
how he demeaned himself in that state, and how he
escaped : all these accounts, added to the narration of
the strange things he had seen in foreign countries, the
vast wildernesses and romantic caverns, the quarries,
the rocks and mountains, whose heads are in the clouds;
of the savage nations, the cannibals who are man-
eaters, and a race of people in Africa whose heads do
grow beneath their shoulders, these travellers' stories
would so enchain the attention of Desdemona, that if
she were called off at any time by household affairs, she
would despatch with all haste that business, and return,
and with a greedy ear devour Othello's discourse. And
once he took advantage of a pliant hour, and drew
from her a prayer, that he would tell her the whole
story of his life at large, of which she had heard so
much, but only by parts: to which he consented, and
beguiled her of many a tear, when he spoke of some
distressful stroke which his youth suffered.
His story being done, she gave him for his pains a
world of sighs: she swore a pretty oath, that it was
all passing strange, and pitiful, wondrous pitiful: she
wished (she said) she had not heard it, yet she wished
that Heaven had made her such a man: and then she
thanked him, and told him, if he had a friend who
loved her, he had only to teach him how to tell his
story, and that would woo her. Upon this hint, de-
livered not with more frankness than modesty, accom-







48 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
panied with a certain bewitching prettiness, and blushes,
which Othello could not but understand, he spoke more
openly of his love, and in this golden opportunity
gained the consent of the generous lady Desdemona
privately to marry him.
Neither Othello's colour nor his fortune were such
that it could be hoped Brabantio would accept him for
a son-in-law. He had left his daughter free; but he
did expect that, as the manner of noble Venetian ladies
was, she would choose ere long a husband of senatorial
rank or expectations: but in this he was deceived;
Desdemona loved the Moor, though he was black, and
devoted her heart and fortunes to his valiant parts and
qualities: so was her heart subdued to an implicit
devotion to the man she had selected for a husband,
that his very colour, which to all but this discerning
lady would have proved an insurmountable objection,
was by her esteemed above all the white skins and
clear complexions of the young Venetian nobility, her
suitors.
Their marriage, which, though privately carried out,
could not long be kept a secret, came to the ears of
the old man, Brabantio, who appeared in a solemn
council of the senate, as an accuser of the Moor
Othello, who by spells and witchcraft (he maintained)
had seduced the affections of the fair Desdemona to
marry him, without the consent of her father, and
against the obligations of hospitality.
At this juncture of time it happened that the state
of Venice had immediate need of the services of Othello,
news having arrived that the Turks with mighty pre-







OTHELLO 49
paration had fitted out a fleet, which was bending its
course to the Island of Cyprus, with intent to regain
that strong post from the Venetians, who then held
it: in this emergency the state turned its eyes upon
Othello, who alone was deemed adequate to conduct
the defence of Cyprus against the Turks. So that
Othello, now summoned before the senate, stood in
their presence at once as a candidate for a great state
employment, and as a culprit, charged with offences
which by the laws of Venice were made capital.
The age and senatorial character of old Brabantio
commanded a most patient hearing from that grave
assembly; but the incensed father conducted his accu-
sation with so much intemperance, producing likeli-
hoods and allegations for proofs, that, when Othello
was called upon for his defence, he had only to relate a
plain tale of the course of his love; which he did with
such an artless eloquence, recounting the whole story of
his wooing, as we have related it above, and delivered
his speech with so noble a plainness (the evidence of
truth), that the duke, who sat as chief judge, could not
help confessing, that a tale so told would have won his
daughter too: and the spells and conjurations, which
Othello had used in his courtship, plainly appeared to
have been no more than the honest arts of men in love;
and the only witchcraft which he had used, the faculty
of telling a soft tale to win a lady's ear.
This statement of Othello was confirmed by the
testimony of the lady Desdemona herself, who ap-
peared in court, and professing a duty to her father for
life and education, challenged leave of him to profess a







50 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
yet higher duty to her lord and husband, even so much
as her mother had shown in preferring him (Brabantio)
above her father.
The old senator, unable to maintain his plea, called
the Moor to him with many expressions of sorrow,
and, as an act of necessity, bestowed upon him his
daughter, whom, if he had been free to withhold her
(he told him), he would with all his heart have kept
from him; adding, that he was glad at soul that he
had no other child, for this behaviour of Desdemona
would have taught him to be a tyrant, and hang clogs
on them for her desertion.
This difficulty being got over, Othello, to whom
custom had rendered the hardships of a military life
as natural as food and rest are to other men, readily
undertook the management of the wars in Cyprus:
and Desdemona, preferring the honour of her lord
(though with danger) before the indulgence of those
idle delights in which new-married people usually
waste their time, cheerfully consented to his going.
No sooner were Othello and his lady landed in
Cyprus, than news arrived, that a desperate tempest
had dispersed the Turkish fleet, and thus the island
was secure from any immediate apprehension of an
attack. But the war, which Othello was to suffer, was
now beginning; and the enemies, which malice stirred
up against his innocent lady, proved in their nature
more deadly than strangers or infidels.
Among all the general's friends no one possessed
the confidence of Othello more entirely than Cassio.
Michael Cassio was a young soldier, a Florentine, gay,







OTHELLO 51
amorous, and of pleasing address, favourite qualities
with women; he was handsome, and eloquent, and
exactly such a person as might alarm the jealousy of
a man advanced in years (as Othello in some measure
was), who had married a young and beautiful wife;
but Othello was as free from jealousy as he was noble,
and as incapable of suspecting, as of doing, a base
action. He had employed this Cassio in his love-
affair with Desdemona, and Cassio had been a sort of
go-between in his suit: for Othello, fearing that
himself had not these soft parts of conversation which
please ladies, and finding these qualities in his friend,
would often depute Cassio to go (as he phrased it)
a-courting for him: such innocent simplicity being an
honour rather than a blemish to the character of the
valiant Moor. So that no wonder, if next to Othello
himself (but at far distance, as beseems a virtuous
wife), the gentle Desdemona loved and trusted Cassio.
Nor had the marriage of this couple made any dif-
ference in their behaviour to Michael Cassio. He
frequented their house, and his free and rattling talk
was no unpleasing variety to Othello, who was him-
self of a more serious temper: for such tempers are
observed often to delight in their contraries, as a
relief from the oppressive excess of their own; and
Desdemona and Cassio would talk and laugh together,
as in the days when he went a-courting for his friend.
Othello had lately promoted Cassio to be the lieu-
tenant, a place of trust, and nearest to the general's
person. This promotion gave great offence to lago,
an older officer, who thought he had a better claim







52 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
than Cassio, and would often ridicule Cassio, as a
fellow fit only for the company of ladies, and one
that knew no more of the art of war, or how to set
an army in array for battle, than a girl. Iago hated
Cassio, and he hated Othello as well for favouring
Cassio, as for an unjust suspicion, which he had lightly
taken up against Othello, that the Moor was too fond
of Iago's wife Emilia. From these imaginary provoca-
tions, the plotting mind of lago conceived a horrid
scheme of revenge, which should involve both Cassio,
the Moor, and Desdemona in one common ruin.
Iago was artful, and had studied human nature
deeply, and he knew that of all the torments which
afflict the mind of man (and far beyond bodily torture),
the pains of jealousy were the most intolerable, and
had the sorest sting. If he could succeed in making
Othello jealous of Cassio, he thought it would be an
exquisite plot of revenge, and might end in the death
of Cassio or Othello, or both; he cared not.
The arrival of the general and his lady in Cyprus,
meeting with the news of the dispersion of the enemy's
fleet, made a sort of holiday in the island. Everybody
gave themselves up to feasting and making merry.
Wine flowed in abundance, and cups went round to
the health of the black Othello, and his lady the fair
Desdemona.
Cassio had the direction of the guard that night,
with a charge from Othello to keep the soldiers from
excess in drinking, that no brawl might arise, to fright
the inhabitants, or disgust them with the new-landed
forces. That night lago began his deep-laid plans







OTHELLO


of mischief; under cover of loyalty and love to the
general, he enticed Cassio to make rather too free
with the bottle (a great fault in an officer upon guard).
Cassio for a time resisted, but he could not long hold
out against the honest freedom which lago knew how
to put on, but kept swallowing glass after glass (as
Iago still plied him with drink and encouraging songs),
and Cassio's tongue ran over in praise of the lady
Desdemona, whom he again and again toasted, affirm-
ing that she was a most exquisite lady: until at last
the enemy which he put into his mouth stole away his
brains; and upon some provocation given him by a
fellow whom lago had set on, swords were drawn, and
Montano, a worthy officer who interfered to appease
the dispute, was wounded in the scuffle. The riot
now began to be general, and lago, who had set on
foot the mischief, was foremost in spreading the
alarm, causing the castle-bell to be rung (as if some
dangerous mutiny, instead of a slight drunken quarrel,
had arisen); the alarm-bell ringing awakened Othello,
who, dressing in a hurry, and coming to the scene of
action, questioned Cassio of the cause. Cassio was
now come to himself, the effect of the wine having a
little gone off, but was too much ashamed to reply;
and lago, pretending a great reluctance to accuse
Cassio, but as it were forced into it by Othello, who
insisted to know the truth, gave an account of the
whole matter (leaving out his own share in it, which
Cassio was too far gone to remember) in such a
manner, as while he seemed to make Cassio's offence
less, did indeed make it appear greater than it was.







54 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
The result was, that Othello, who was a strict observer
of discipline, was compelled to take away Cassio's place
of lieutenant from him.
Thus did lago's first artifice succeed completely: he
had now undermined his hated rival, and thrust him
out of his place; but a further use was hereafter to be
made of the adventure of this disastrous night.
Cassio, whom this misfortune had entirely sobered,
now lamented to his seeming friend lago, that he
should have been such a fool as to transform himself
into a beast. He was undone, for how could he ask
the general for his place again! he would tell him he
was a drunkard. He despised himself. Iago, affecting
to make light of it, said that he, or any man living,
might be drunk upon occasion; it remained now to
make the best of a bad bargain; the general's wife was
now the general, and could do anything with Othello;
that he were best to apply to the lady Desdemona to
mediate for him with her lord; that she was of a frank,
obliging disposition, and would readily undertake a
good office of this sort, and set Cassio right again in
the general's favour; and then this crack in their love
would be made stronger than ever. A good advice of
lago, if it had not been given for wicked purposes,
which will after appear.
Cassio did as Iago advised him, and made applica-
tion to the lady Desdemona, who was easy to be won
over in any honest suit; and she promised Cassio
that she would be his solicitor with her lord, and
rather die than give up his cause. This she immedi-
ately set about in so earnest and pretty a manner, that







OTHELLO


Othello, who was mortally offended with Cassio, could
not put her off. When he pleaded delay, and that it
was too soon to pardon such an offender, she would
not be beat back, but insisted that it should be the
next night, or the morning after, or the next morning
to that at farthest. Then she showed how penitent
and humbled poor Cassio was, and that his offence did
not deserve so sharp a check. And when Othello still
hung back, "What! my lord," said she, "that I should
have so much to do to plead for Cassio, Michael Cassio,
that came a-courting for you, and oftentimes when I
have spoken in dispraise of you, has taken your part ?
I count this but a little thing to ask of you. When
I mean to try your love indeed, I shall ask a weighty
matter." Othello could deny nothing to such a pleader,
and only requesting that Desdemona would leave the
time to him, promised to receive Michael Cassio again
into favour.
It happened that Othello and lago had entered into
the room where Desdemona was, just as Cassio, who
had been imploring her intercession, was departing at
the opposite door; and lago, who was full of art, said
in a low voice, as if to himself, "I like not that."
Othello took no great notice of what he said; indeed,
the conference which immediately took place with his
lady put it out of his head; but he remembered it
afterwards. For when Desdemona was gone, lago, as
if for mere satisfaction of his thought, questioned
Othello whether Michael Cassio, when Othello was
courting his lady, knew of his love. To this the
general answering in the affirmative, and adding, that






56 TALES PROM SHAKSPEARE
he had gone between them very often during the court-
ship, Iago knitted his brow, as if he had got fresh light
of some terrible matter, and cried, "Indeed!" This
brought into Othello's mind the words which lago had
let fall upon entering the room, and seeing Cassio with
Desdemona; and he began to think there was some
meaning in all this: for he deemed lago to be a just
man, and full of love and honesty, and what in a false
knave would be tricks, in him seemed to be the natural
workings of an honest mind, big with something too
great for utterance: and Othello prayed lago to speak
what he knew, and to give his worst thoughts words.
"And what," said lago, "if some thoughts very vile
should have intruded into my breast, as where is the
palace into which foul things do not enter?" Then
Iago went on to say, what a pity it were, if any trouble
should arise to Othello out of his imperfect observa-
tions; that it would not be for Othello's peace to know
his thoughts; that people's good names were not to be
taken away for slight suspicions; and when Othello's
curiosity was raised almost to distraction with these
hints and scattered words, Iago, as if in earnest care for
Othello's peace of mind, besought him to beware of
jealousy; with such art did this villain raise suspicions
in the unguarded Othello, by the very caution which
he pretended to give him against suspicion. I know,"
said Othello, "that my wife is fair, loves company and
feasting, is free of speech, sings, plays, and dances well;
but where virtue is, these qualities are virtuous. I
must have proof before I think her dishonest." Then
lago, as if glad that Othello was slow to believe ill of his







OTHELLO 57
lady, frankly declared that he had no proof, but begged
Othello to observe her behaviour well, when Cassio was
by: not to be jealous nor too secure neither, for that
he (lago) knew the dispositions of the Italian ladies,
his countrywomen, better than Othello could do; and
that in Venice the wives let Heaven see many pranks
they dared not show their husbands. Then he artfully
insinuated that Desdemona deceived her father in
marrying with Othello, and carried it so closely, that
the poor old man thought 'that witchcraft had been
used. Othello was much moved with this argument,
which brought the matter home to him, for if she had
deceived her father, why might she not deceive her
husband ?
Iago begged pardon for having moved him; but
Othello, assuming an indifference, while he was really
shaken with inward grief at lago's words, begged
him to go on, which lago did with many apologies, as
if unwilling to produce anything against Cassio, whom
he called his friend: he then came strongly to the
point, and reminded Othello how Desdemona had re-
fused many suitable matches of her own clime and
complexion, and had married him, a Moor, which
showed unnatural in her, and proved her to have a
headstrong will: and when her better judgment re-
turned, how probable it was she should fall upon com-
paring Othello with the fine forms and clear white
complexions of the young Italians her countrymen.
He concluded with advising Othello to put off his recon-
cilement with Cassio a little longer, and in the mean-
while to note with what earnestness Desdemona should







58 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
intercede in his behalf; for that much would be seen
in that. So mischievously did this artful villain lay
his plots to turn the gentle qualities of this innocent
lady into her destruction, and make a net for her out
of her own goodness to entrap her; first setting Cassio
on to entreat her mediation, and then out of that very
mediation contriving stratagems for her ruin.
The conference ended with lago's begging Othello to
account his wife innocent until he had more decisive
proof; and Othello promised to be patient; but from
that moment the deceived Othello never tasted content
of mind. Poppy, nor the juice of mandragora, nor all
the sleeping potions in the world could ever again re-
store to him that sweet rest which he had enjoyed but
yesterday. His occupation sickened upon him. He
no longer took delight in arms. His heart, that used
to be roused at the sight of troops, and banners, and
battle-array, and would stir and leap at the sound
of a drum, or a trumpet, or a neighing war-horse,
seemed to have lost all that pride and ambition, which
are a soldier's virtue; and his military ardour and all
his old joys forsook him. Sometimes he thought his
wife honest, and at times he thought her not so; some-
times he thought lago just, and at times he thought
him not so; then he would wish that he had never known
of it; he was not the worse for her loving Cassio, so
long as he knew it not: torn in pieces with these dis-
tracting thoughts, he once laid hold on lago's throat,
and demanded proof of Desdemona's guilt, or threat-
ened instant death for his having belied her. Iago,
feigning indignation that his honesty should be taken








OTHELLO 59
for a vice, asked Othello, if he had not sometimes seen
a handkerchief spotted with strawberries in his wife's
hand. Othello answered, that he had given her such a
one, and that it was his first gift. That same hand-
kerchief," said Iago, did I see Michael Cassio this day
wipe his face with." If it be as you say," said Othello,
"I will not rest till a wide revenge swallow them up:
and first, for a token of your fidelity, I expect that
Cassio shall be put to death within three days; and for
that fair devil (meaning his lady), I will withdraw and
devise some swift means of death for her."
Trifles, light as air, are to the jealous proofs as
strong as holy writ. A handkerchief of his wife's seen
in Cassio's hand, was motive enough to the deluded
Othello to pass sentence of death upon them both,
without once inquiring how Cassio came by it. Des-
demona had never given such a present to Cassio, nor
would this constant lady have wronged her lord with
doing so naughty a thing as giving his presents to
another man; both Cassio and Desdemona were inno-
cent of any offence against Othello: but the wicked
lago, whose spirits never slept in contrivance of villany,
had made his wife (a good, but a weak woman) steal
this handkerchief from Desdemona, under pretence of
getting the work copied, but in reality to drop it in
Cassio's way, where he might find it, and give a handle
to Iago's suggestion that it was Desdemona's present.
Othello, soon after meeting his wife, pretended that
he had a headache (as he might indeed with truth),
and desired her to lend him her handkerchief to hold
his temples. She did so. "Not this," said Othello,







60 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
"but that handkerchief I gave you." Desdemona had
it not about her (for indeed it was stolen, as we have
related). "How!" said Othello, "this is a fault indeed.
That handkerchief an Egyptian woman gave to my
mother; the woman was a witch, and could read
people's thoughts: she told my mother, while she kept
it, it would make her amiable, and my father would
love her; but, if she lost it, or gave -it away, my
father's fancy would turn, and he would loathe her as
much as he had loved her. She dying gave it to
me, and bade me, if I ever married, to give it to my
wife. I did so; take heed of it. Make it a darling
as precious as your eye." "Is it possible?" said the
frighted lady. "'Tis true," continued Othello; "it
is a magical handkerchief; a sibyl, that had lived in
the world two hundred years, in a fit of prophetic
fury worked it; the silkworms that furnished the silk
were hallowed, and it was dyed in mummy of maidens'
hearts conserved." Desdemona, hearing the wondrous
virtues of the handkerchief, was ready to die with fear,
for she plainly perceived she had lost it, and with it,
she feared, the affections of her husband. Then
Othello started, and looked as if he were going to do
some rash thing, and still he demanded the handker-
chief, which when she could not produce, she tried to
divert her husband from too serious thoughts, and
cheerfully told him, she saw all his talk about the
handkerchief was only to put her off from her suit
about Michael Cassio, whom she went on to praise
(as lago had foretold), till Othello in perfect dis-
traction burst out of the room, and then Desdemona,







OTHELLO 61
though unwillingly, began to suspect her lord was
jealous.
What cause she could have ministered to him she
knew not; and then she accused herself for accusing
the noble Othello, and thought to be sure that some
untoward news from Venice, or some state troubles,
had puddled his spirits, and made his temper not so
sweet as formerly. And she said, "Men are not gods,
and we must not look for that observance from them
when they are married, which they show us on the
bridal day." And she beshrewed herself for so un-
kindly judging of his unkindness.
Again Othello and Desdemona met, and he accused
her more plainly of being unfaithful, and of loving
another man, but he did not name whom: and Othello
wept, and Desdemona said, "Alas! the heavy day!
why do you weep?" And Othello told her, he could
have borne all sorts of evils with fortitude-poverty,
and disease, and disgrace; but her infidelity had broken
his heart: and he called her a weed, that looked so
fair, and smelled so sweet, that the sense ached at it;
and wished she had never been born. And when he
had left her, this innocent lady was so stupefied with
wonder at her lord's untrue suspicion of her, that a
weight-like sleep came over her, and she only desired
her attendant to make her bed, and to lay her wedding-
sheets upon it, saying, that when people teach their
babes, they do it by gentle means and easy tasks, and
Othello might have chid her so; for in good faith she
was but a child when she was chidden. And this was
all the complaint which this gentle lady made.







62 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
Desdemona being retired to bed, expecting her lord
would follow her, soon fell into a slumber, the effect
of her troubled spirits, when Othello entered the
chamber, full of the black purpose which he had medi-
tated of putting his lady to death. But when he saw
her asleep, he thought he would not shed her blood,
nor scar that white skin of hers, more white than
alabaster. But he was resolved she should die, else (as
he said) she would live to betray more men, as she had
done him. Then he kissed her for the last time (as he
said), and that kiss was so sweet, he must needs kiss
her again; and he wept, but he said they were cruel
tears.
Desdemona was awakened with his kisses, and she
looked upon Othello, and she saw him gnaw his under
lip, and roll his eyes, and she knew he was always
fatal when he looked so: and he bade her prepare for
death, and to say her prayers, for he would not kill
her soul. And this innocent wife, as she lay at his
mercy, begged for compassion, and to know her fault;
and then he named Cassio, and the handkerchief which
(he said) she had given him; and as the guiltless lady
was proceeding to clear herself, he suddenly would hear
no more, but covering her up in the bedclothes, stifled
her till she died.
In this instant of time was brought into the house
Cassio, wounded and bleeding, whom lago had set one
of his creatures on to assassinate; but the fellow not
succeeding in his attempt to kill Cassio (whom he
wounded, but not mortally), and being himself killed
by lago to prevent discovery, in his pockets were found








Xa


OTHELLO LOOKING AT DESDEMONA ASLEEP.


A


li~


"P
Is


~(i41Sl~rrr







OTHELLO 63
certain letters, which made the guilt of lago, and the
innocence of Cassio, clear beyond all doubt: and Cassio
now came to beg pardon of Othello, and to ask wherein
he had offended him, that he had employed lago to
murder him.
This discovery was as a thunderstroke to Othello,
who now plainly saw that he was no better than a
murderer, and that his wife (poor innocent lady) had
been ever faithful to him; the extreme anguish of
which discovery making life insupportable, he fell upon
his sword, and, throwing himself upon the body of his
dear injured lady, expired.
These rash acts raised much passion of horror and
amazement in the bystanders, for Othello had borne
a fair reputation, and till he was wrought upon by the
arts of a villain, which his own noble nature never gave
him leave to suspect, he was a loving and a doting
husband. He had loved, not wisely, but too well;
and his manly eyes (when he learned his mistake),
though not used to weep on every small occasion,
dropped tears as fast as the Arabian trees their gum.
And when he was dead all his former merits and his
valiant acts were remembered. Nothing now remained
for his successor, but to put the utmost censure of the
law in force against lago, who was executed with strict
tortures; and to send word to the state of Venice of
the lamentable death of their renowned general.















TIMON OF ATHENS


TIMON, a lord of Athens, in the enjoyment of a princely
fortune, affected a humour of liberality which knew no
limits. His almost infinite wealth could not flow in so
fast, but he poured it out faster upon all sorts and
degrees of people. Not the poor only tasted of his
bounty, but great lords did not disdain to rank them-
selves among his dependants and followers. His table
was resorted to by all the luxurious feasters, and his
house was open to all comers and goers at Athens.
His large wealth combined with his free and prodigal
nature to subdue all hearts to his love; men of all
minds and dispositions tendered their services to lord
Timon, from the glass-faced flatterer, whose face reflects
as in a mirror the present humour of his patron, to the
rough and unbending cynic, who, affecting a contempt
of men's persons, and an indifference to worldly things,
yet could not stand out against the gracious manners
and munificent soul of lord Timon, but would come
(against his nature) to partake of his royal entertain-
ments, and return most rich in his own estimation if he
had received a nod or a salutation from Timon.
If a poet had composed a work which wanted a re-
commendatory introduction to the world, he had no
more to do but to dedicate it to lord Timon, and the
61







TIMON OF ATHENS 65
poem was sure of a sale, besides a present purse from
the patron, and daily access to his house and table. If
a painter had a picture to dispose of, he had only to
take it to lord Timon, and pretend to consult his taste
as to the merits of it; nothing more was wanting to
persuade the liberal-hearted lord to buy it. If a jeweller
had a stone of price, or a mercer rich costly stuffs,
which, for their costliness, lay upon his hands, lord
Timon's house was a ready mart always open, where
they might get off their wares or their jewellery at any
price; and the good-natured lord would thank them
into the bargain, as if they had done him a piece of
courtesy in letting him have the refusal of such pre-
cious commodities. So that by this means his house
was thronged with superfluous purchases, of no use but
to swell uneasy and ostentatious pomp; and his person
was still more inconveniently beset with a crowd of
these idle visitors, lying poets, painters, sharking trades-
men, lords, ladies, needy courtiers, and expectants,
who continually filled his lobbies, raining their fulsome
flatteries in whispers in his ears, sacrificing to him with
adulation as to a god, making sacred the very stirrup
by which he mounted his horse, and seeming as though
they drank the free air but through his permission and
bounty.
Some of these daily dependants were young men of
birth, who (their means not answering to their extra-
vagance) had been put in prison by creditors, and
redeemed thence by lord Timon; these young prodigals
thenceforward fastened upon his lordship, as if by com-
mon sympathy he were necessarily endeared to all such







66 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
spendthrifts and loose livers, who, not being able to
follow him in his wealth, found it easier to copy him
in prodigality and copious spending of what was not
their own. One of these flesh-flies was Ventidius, for
whose debts unjustly contracted Timon but lately had
paid down the sum of five talents.
But among this confluence, this great flood of visi-
tors, none were more conspicuous than the makers of
presents and givers of gifts. It was fortunate for these
men if Timon took a fancy to a dog or a horse, or any
piece of cheap furniture which was theirs. The thing
so praised, whatever it was, was sure to be sent the
next morning with the compliments of the giver for
lord Timon's acceptance, and apologies for the un-
worthiness of the gift; and this dog or horse, or what-
ever it might be, did not fail to produce, from Timon's
bounty, who would not be outdone in gifts, perhaps
twenty dogs or horses, certainly presents of far richer
worth, as these pretended donors knew well enough,
and that their false presents were but the putting out
of so much money at large and speedy interest. In
this way lord Lucius had lately sent to Timon a present
of four milk-white horses trapped in silver, which this
cunning lord had observed Timon upon some occasion
to commend; and another lord, Lucullus, had bestowed
upon him in the same pretended way of free gift a
brace of greyhounds, whose make and fleetness Timon
had been heard to admire: these presents the easy-
hearted lord accepted without suspicion of the dis-
honest views of the presenters; and the givers of course
were rewarded with some rich return, a diamond or







TIMON OF ATHENS


some jewel of twenty times the value of their false and
mercenary donation.
Sometimes these creatures would go to work in a
more direct way, and with gross and palpable artifice,
which yet the credulous Timon was too blind to see,
would affect to admire and praise something that
Timon possessed, a bargain that he had bought, or
some late purchase, which was sure to draw from this
yielding and soft-hearted lord a gift of the thing com-
mended, for no service in the world done for it but the
easy expense of a little cheap and obvious flattery. In
this way Timon but the other day had given to one of
these mean lords the bay courser which he himself rode
upon, because his lordship had been pleased to say that
it was a handsome beast and went well; and Timon
knew that no man ever justly praised what he did not
wish to possess. For lord Timon weighed his friends'
affection with his own, and so fond was he of bestowing
that he could have dealt kingdoms to these supposed
friends, and never have been weary.
Not that Timon's wealth all went to enrich these
wicked flatterers; he could do noble and praiseworthy
actions; and when a servant of his once loved the
daughter of a rich Athenian, but could not hope to
obtain her by reason that in wealth and rank the maid
was so far above him, lord Timon freely bestowed
upon his servant three Athenian talents, to make his
fortune equal with the dowry which the father of the
young maid demanded of him who should be her hus-
band. But for the most part, knaves and parasites
had the command of his fortune, false friends whom he







68 TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE
did not know to be such, but, because they flocked
around his person, he thought they must needs love
him; and because they smiled and flattered him, he
thought surely that his conduct was approved by all
the wise and good. And when he was feasting in the
midst of all these flatterers and mock friends, when
they were eating him up, and draining his fortunes
dry with large "draughts of richest wines drunk to
his health and prosperity, he could not perceive the
difference of a friend from a flatterer, but to his deluded
eyes (made proud with the sight), it seemed a precious
comfort to have so many, like brothers commanding
one another's fortunes (though it was his own fortune
which paid all the costs), and with joy they would run
over at the spectacle of such, as it appeared to him,
truly festive and fraternal meeting.
But while he thus outwent the very heart of kind-
ness, and poured out his bounty as if Plutus, the god
of gold, had been but his steward; while thus he pro-
ceeded without care or stop, so senseless of expense
that he would neither inquire how he could maintain
it, nor cease his wild flow of riot; his riches, which
-were not infinite, must needs melt away before a prodi-
gality which knew no limits. But who should tell
him so? his flatterers? they had an interest in
shutting his eyes. In vain did his honest steward
Flavius try to represent to him his condition, laying
his accounts before him, begging of him, praying of
him, with an importunity that on any other occa-
sion would have been unmannerly in a servant, be-
seeching him with tears to look into the state of his







TIMON OF ATHENS


affairs. Timon would still put him off, and turn the
discourse to something else; for nothing is so deaf to
remonstrance as riches turned to poverty, nothing so
unwilling to believe its situation, nothing is so incredu-
lous to its own true state, and hard to give credit to a
reverse. Often had this good steward, this honest
creature, when all the rooms of Timon's great house
have been choked up with riotous feeders at his master's
cost, when the floors have wept with drunken spilling
of wine, and every apartment has blazed with lights
and resounded with music and feasting, often had he
retired by himself to some solitary spot, and wept
faster than the wine ran from the wasteful casks
within, to see the mad bounty of his lord, and to
think, when the means were gone which brought him
praises from all sorts of people, how quickly the breath
would be gone of which the praise was made; praises
won in feasting would be lost in fasting, and at one
cloud of winter-showers these flies would disappear.
But now the time was come that Timon could shut
his ears no longer to the representations of this faithful
steward. Money must be had: and when he ordered
Flavius to sell some of his land for that purpose,
Flavius informed him, what he had in vain endeavoured
at several times before to make him listen to, that most
of his land was already sold or forfeited, and that all
he possessed at present was not enough to pay the one
half of what he owed. Struck with wonder at this
representation, Timon hastily replied, "My lands ex-
tended from Athens to Lacedemon." "0 my good
lord," said Flavius, "the world is but a world, and has