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his position in history, upon his position in life, and upon the spirit and character of his nation and age.

Accordingly, in the critical examination of Shakspeare's dramas, I have directed my attention more especially to the determination of the form, the construction of every drama as one independent whole, i.e., to the connection of the several parts, and to the unity which binds and holds them all together: not only the action and the movements of its development, but also the characters, relations, and conditions of the dramatic personages, the diction and versification, scenery, and mode of representation. For this unity—which, though in itself internal, is revealed to the æsthetic eye in the formation and composition of the whole — is the condition of all harmony, and thus of all beauty, and again of the work of art as a work of art. This inner unity I call the idea not of the artist, but of his work, because, I think that, in the first place, it belongs to his work and--if it is to be a work of art-must belong to it, even allowing that the artist may not have been conscious of it when sketching or working out his drama. But I think that the idea must-even though but half consciously-have floated before the poet's mind as an undefined something, or merely instinctively as the impulse of his aiming at the beautiful, his pleasure and love for the beautiful, his sense of beauty, and must therefore have been the guiding rule of his artistic activity. A ruling, guiding thought, such as this, which is the condition of the development of the subject-matter into a work of art, is called in æsthetics by the name of idea.

Those of my readers, therefore, who are not fond of ideas, who believe that a dramatic poem is a series of scenes, characters, deeds, and events ranged at will, who can see

only that which is externally perceptible, or with the eyeof sober, realistic understanding, stick at individual parts, ascribing their connection to accident, to caprice, to the poet's temporary disposition and state of mind, to external circumstances and relations, or again, those who—in place of endeavouring by means of a reproducing imagination, to comprise all its various parts into one harmonious organism with design and purport, not merely of single motives and impulses, but animated by one soul-prefer to examine the spots, gaps, and inequalities, faults and blunders of a dramatic composition with a scientific microscrope (the use of which would make the finest colouring of a painting a series of blots of paints) will perhaps be disappointed. Those also will be disappointed who hope to find, in the ideas of which I speak, only the leading conceptions of his own, or some other philosophical system, the maxims and tendencies of his own, or some other view of life prevailing at the time. But even though I must still maintain that in Shakspeare's dramas we have a reflection of a definite view of life carried out in its essential features, yet this view which Shakspeare formed for himself was not a philosophical but a poetical one, was not the concatenation of sharply defined ideas, well or ill dove-tailed into one another, but the reflex of a deep, finely strung mind, which mirrored forth the world clearly and purely, not the dead result of maxims, views, and inferences of a dry common sense reflection, but the living products of a rich experience playing in manifold forms and colours, of a clear mind, and of a feeling as pure as it is intense, and rising to enthusiasm for all things beautiful, good, and true-in short, a view of life which seeks to fill up the gaps of human knowledge, not by subtle speculation, by hollow, abstract ideas, inferences,


and conclusions wrung from them, but by the imagination sustained by a feeling for what is beautiful. And it is no predilection for any philosophical method of contemplating things, no special philosophical ideas, æsthetic principles and postulates, but the direct impressions and thoughts excited by them, that have awakened in me the conviction that Shakspeare's plays are based upon a definite, wellordered, and, in itself, harmonious view of life, which is developed in them step by step, and is ever clearly exhibited.

Starting with such a conviction I have endeavoured to discover this view of life under the different forms and colours in which it is reflected in Shakspeare's dramas, and conceived and represented from different points of view. And what I have found in Shakspeare must, I think, apply to every true poet, because, in fact, it belongs to the nature of poetry. I am, therefore, convinced that every living poet, were he to be asked, would—in spite of the realism to which he perhaps inclines—support me when I

say that he too has his own view of life, which not only forms the basis of his poems, but is also expressed in his works in the different conceptions and under the different colours and lights in which life appears, according as it is regarded from one or the other stand-point. It thus becomes necessary that there should be a definite substance of thought for that inner unity in the formation and construction of every drama; the various conceptions of the one general view which life acquires in the poetic imagination according to the different stand points, are substantially the ideas which guided Shakspeare in his artistio activity, they are the normative central thoughts, or, as Goethe says: “the ideas to which he referred all the details.' Goethe, even 'old' Goethe, could not possibly have found


such ideas in Shakspeare's poems had he not himself been conscious that he, too, like every poet, had allowed himself to be guided by ideas in this sense.

I do not, however, at all imagine that I have, in all cases, discovered or correctly apprehended Shakspeare's ideas. What I offer to the reader are but attempts, opinions, and hypotheses which every one is at liberty to correct, to complete, or to alter. I think that every one who feels as I do will not rest satisfied till he has succeeded in comprehending the several parts of a work of art in the unity of a fundamental view, and thus brought the multiplicity of the phenomena into one harmonious whole. I give due consideration to the language and versification, the motives of the action, the drawing and the right understanding of the dominant characters in Shakspeare's dramas, and, where necessary, give a detailed and careful analysis of them, still even this consideration is always dependent upon the endeavour to point out the inner point of unity in the whole; such considerations are to me but a means to an end.

Having perused the revised proof sheets of the following translation, which were kindly sent to me, I take this opportunity of expressing my thanks and acknowledgments to the translator and to the publishers. The translation, I think, is executed with greater fidelity and a more correct understanding than that of other similar works. It will, therefore, as far as form is concerned, worthily fulfil its object in being a small contribution to the great wealth of Shakspearian literature in England. It would give me much pleasure and satisfaction, were I to find that the substance of my book itself met with the sympathy and approval of the English public, more especially of English Shakspearian scholars, for whose judgment I entertain the highest esteem and regard. In pure, profound veneration for the great poet, I venture to think that my work is not inferior to that of any English writer on the subject.


HALLE, March, 1876.

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