Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century

Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century

Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century

Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century

Excerpt

My subject is 'Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century' . What was his reputation then, and how have the critics, and the scholars, and the actors of that age contributed to his fame? I shall not keep within the strict chronological limits of this century. Its work was so important, so copious, and as a whole so distinct in character that I shall find no temptation in three lectures to come beyond the year 1800; but I cannot so easily ignore the years which had intervened since Shakespeare's death.

At no time since his death has Shakespeare not been placed upon a pinnacle by himself as the greatest of all English writers. But each age has its own point of view, its own special interests, its characteristic method of treatment; and no age can ever say the last word on anything that is a living and life-giving force. Say the last word on Shakespeare, and Shakespeare is dead. There can never be finality in the criticism of a great author. The truth and the beauty embodied in his work exercise the taste and the acumen of one critic, and remain undiminished and untarnished for the next. All the best criticism of the present day, all the best criticism that has ever been written . . .

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