An Essay Toward a History of Shakespeare in Norway
by Martin Brown Ruud
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[36. William Shakespeare—Jonsok Draumen—Eit Gamenspel. Paa Norsk ved Erik Eggen. Oslo, 1912.]

Now, admitting that

eg dogge maa dei grone straa som vaar dronning dansar paa.

is a better translation than in the Syn og Segn text—which is doubtful enough—it is difficult to see what can be the excuse for such pompous banality as

Kvart nykelband er adelsmann, med ordenar dei glime kann;

the first version is not above reproach in this respect. It might fairly be asked: where does Eggen get his authority for

sjaa dei stjernur alvar gav deim!

But the lines are not loaded down with imagery which is both misleading and in bad taste. Eggen should have left his first version unchanged. Such uninspired prose as:

kvar blank rubin, paa bringa skin, utsender ange fin.

have to the ears of most Norwegians the atmosphere of the back stairs. Better the unadorned version of 1903.

In the passage following, Robin's reply, the revised version is probably better than the first, though there seems to be little to choose between them. But in the fairy's next speech the translator has gone quite beyond his legitimate province, and has improved Shakespeare by a picture from Norwegian folklore. Following the lines of the original:

Misleade nightwanderers, laughing at their harm,

Eggen has added this homelike conception in his translation:

som og kann draga for til hest og naut, naar berre du kvar torsdag faer din graut.

Shakespeare in Elysium must have regretted that he was not born in the mountains of Norway!

And when Robin, in the speech that follows, tells of his antics, one wonders just a little what has been gained by the revision. The same query is constantly suggested to anyone who compares the two texts.

Nor do I think that the lyrics have gained by the revision. Just a single comparison—the lullaby in the two versions. We have given it above as published in Syn og Segn. The following is its revised form:

Fyrste alven: Spettut orm, bustyvel kvass, eiter-odle, sleve graa, fare burt fraa denne plass, so vaar dronning sova maa!

Alle: Maaltrost, syng med oss i lund dronningi i saelan blund: Byssam, byssam barne, gryta heng i jarne. Troll og nykk, gakk burt med dykk denne saele skymingsstund! So god natt! Sov sott i lund!

Andre alven: Burt, tordivel, kom kje her! Makk og snigill, burt dykk vinn! Kongro, far ei onnor ferd, langt ifraa oss din spune spinn!

Alle: Maaltrost, syng med oss i lund, etc.

The first version is not only more literal but, so far as I can judge, superior in every way—in music and delicacy of phrase. And again, Eggen has taken it upon himself to patch up Shakespeare with homespun rags from his native Norwegian parish. It is difficult to say upon what grounds such tinkerings with the text as:

Byssam, byssam barne, gryta, heng i jarne,

can be defended.

But we have already devoted too much space to this matter. Save for a few isolated lines, Eggen might very well have left these scenes as he gave them to us in 1903. We then ask, "What of the much greater part of the play now translated for the first time?" Well, no one will dispute the translator's triumph in this scene:[37]

Monsaas: Er heile kompanie samla?

Varp: Det er best du ropar deim upp alle saman, mann for mann, etter lista.

Monsaas: Her er ei liste yver namni paa alle deim som me i heile Aten finn mest hovelege til aa spela i millomstykke vaareses framfyre hertugen og frua hans paa brudlaupsdagen um kvelden.

Varp: Du Per Monsaas, lyt fyrst segja kva stykke gjeng ut paa; les so upp namni paa spelarne, og so—til saki.

Monsaas: Ja vel. Stykke heiter: "Det grotelege gamanspele um Pyramus og Tisbi og deira syndlege daude."

Varp: Verkeleg eit godt stykke arbeid, skal eg segja dykk, og morsamt med. No, min gode Per Monsaas, ropa upp spelarne etter lista. Godtfolk, spreid dykk.

Monsaas: Svara ettersom eg ropar dykk upp. Nils Varp, vevar?

Varp: Her! Seg kva for ein rolle eg skal hava, og haldt so fram.

Monsaas: Du, Nils Varp, er skrivin for Pyramus.

Varp: Kva er Pyramus for slags kar? Ein elskar eller ein fark?

Monsaas: Ein elskar som drep seg sjolv paa aegte riddarvis av kjaerleik.

Varp: Det kjem til aa koste taarur um ein spelar det retteleg. Faer eg spela det, so lyt nok dei som ser paa, sjaa til kvar dei hev augo sine; eg skal grote steinen, eg skal jamre so faelt so. For resten, mi gaave ligg best for ein berserk. Eg skulde spela herr Kules fraamifra—eller ein rolle, der eg kann klore og bite og slaa all ting i mol og mas: Og sprikk det fjell med toresmell, daa sunder fell kvar port so sterk. Stig Fobus fram bak skyatram, daa sprikk med skam alt gygere-herk. Det der laag no hogt det. Nemn so resten av spelarane. Dette var rase til herr Kules, berserk-ras; ein elskar er meir klagande.

[37. Act II, Sc. 2.]

There can be no doubt about the genuineness of this. It catches the spirit of the original and communicates it irresistibly to the reader. When Bottom (Varp) says "Kva er Pyramus for slags kar?" or when he threatens, "Eg skal grote steinen, eg skal jamre so faelt so," one who has something of Norwegian "Sprachgefuehl" will exclaim that this is exactly what it should be. It is not the language of Norwegian artisans—they do not speak Landsmaal. But neither is the language of Shakespeare's craftsmen the genuine spoken language of Elizabethan craftsmen. The important thing is that the tone is right. And this feeling of a right tone is still further satisfied in the rehearsal scene (III, Sc. 1). Certain slight liberties do not diminish our pleasure. The reminiscence of Richard III in Bottom's, "A calendar, a calendar, looke in the Almanack, finde out moonshine," translated "Ei almanakke, ei almanakke, mit kongerike for ei almanakke," seems, however, a labored piece of business. One line, too, has been added to this speech which is a gratuitous invention of the translator, or rather, taken from the curious malaprop speech of the laboring classes; "Det er rett, Per Monsaas; sjaa millom aspektarane!" There can be no objection to an interpolation like this if the translation does not aim to be scholarly and definitive, but merely an effort to bring a foreign classic home to the masses. And this is, obviously, Eggen's purpose. Personally I do not think, therefore, that there is any objection to a slight freedom like this. But it has no place at all in the fairies' lullaby.

When we move to the circle of the high-place lovers or the court, I cannot feel that the Landsmaal is quite so convincing. There is something appallingly clumsy, labored, hard, in this speech of Hermia's:

Min eigin gut, eg sver ved beste bogen Amor hev, ved beste pili hans, med odd av gull, ved duvune, dei reine og dei kvite som flyg paa tun hjaa fagre Afrodite, ved det som knyter mannehjarto saman, ved det som foder kjaerlerks fryd og gaman, ved baale, der seg dronning Dido brende, daa seg AEneas trulaus fraa ho vende, ved kvar den eid som falske menn hev svori— langt fleir enn kvinnelippur fram hev bori, at paa den staden du hev nemnt for meg, der skal i morgo natt eg mote deg.

In spite of the translator's obvious effort to put fire into the passage, his failure is all too evident. Even the ornament of these lines—to which there is nothing to correspond in the original—only makes the poetry more forcibly feeble:

ved duvune, dei reine og dei kvite som flyg paa tun hjaa fagre Afrodite,

Shakespeare says quite simply:

By the simplicity of Venus Doves,

and to anyone but a Landsmaal fanatic it seems ridiculous to have Theseus tell Hermia: "Demetrius er so gild ein kar som nokon." "Demetrius is a worthy gentleman," says Shakespeare and this has "the grand Manner." But to a cultivated Norwegian the translation is "Bauernsprache," such as a local magnate might use in forcing a suitor on his daughter.

All of which goes back to the present condition of Landsmaal. It has little flexibility, little inward grace. It is not a finished literary language. But, despite its archaisms, Landsmaal is a living language and it has, therefore, unlike the Karathevusa of Greece, the possibility of growth. The translations of Madhus and Aasen and Eggen have made notable contributions to this development. They are worthy of all praise. Their weaknesses are the result of conditions which time will change.


One might be tempted to believe from the foregoing that the propagandists of "Maalet" had completely monopolized the noble task of making Shakespeare accessible in the vernacular. And this is almost true. But the reason is not far to seek. Aside from the fact that in Norway, as elsewhere, Shakespeare is read mainly by cultivated people, among whom a sound reading knowledge of English is general, we have further to remember that the Foersom-Lembcke version has become standard in Norway and no real need has been felt of a separate Norwegian version in the dominant literary language. In Landsmaal the case is different. This dialect must be trained to "Literaturfaehigkeit." It is not so much that Norway must have her own Shakespeare as that Landsmaal must be put to use in every type of literature. The results of this missionary spirit we have seen.

One of the few translations of Shakespeare that have been made into Riksmaal appeared in 1912, Hamlet, by C.H. Blom. As an experiment it is worthy of respect, but as a piece of literature it is not to be taken seriously. Like Lassen's work, it is honest, faithful, and utterly uninspired.

The opening scene of Hamlet is no mean test of a translator's ability—this quick, tense scene, one of the finest in dramatic literature. Foersom did it with conspicuous success. Blom has reduced it to the following prosy stuff:

Bernardo: Hvem der?

Francisco: Nei, svar mig forst; gjor holdt og sig hvem der!

Ber: Vor konge laenge leve!

Fra: De, Bernardo?

Ber: Ja vel.

Fra: De kommer jo paa klokkeslaget.

Ber: Ja, den slog tolv nu. Gaa til ro, Francisco.

Fra: Tak for De loser av. Her er saa surt, og jeg er dodsens traet.

Ber: Har du hat rolig vagt?

Fra: En mus har ei sig rort.

Ber: Nu vel, god nat. Hvis du Marcellus og Horatio ser, som skal ha vakt med mig, bed dem sig skynde.

Fra: Jeg horer dem vist nu. Holdt hoi! Hvem der. (Horatio og Marcellus kommer.)

Horatio: Kun landets venner.

Marcellus: Danekongens folk!

Fra: God nat, sov godt!

Mar: Godnat, du bra soldat! Hvem har lost av?

Fra: Bernardo staar paa post. God nat igjen. (Gaar.)

It requires little knowledge of Norwegian to dismiss this as dull and insipid prose, a part of which has accidentally been turned into mechanical blank verse. Moreover, the work is marked throughout by inconsistency and carelessness in details. For instance the king begins (p. 7) by addressing Laertes:

Hvad melder De mig om Dem selv, Laertes?

and two lines below:

Hvad kan du be mig om?

It might be a mere slip that the translator in one line uses the formal De and in another the familiar du, but the same inconsistency occurs again and again throughout the volume. In itself a trifle, it indicates clearly enough the careless, slipshod manner of work—and an utter lack of a sense of humor, for no one with a spark of humor would use the modern, essentially German De in a Norwegian translation of Shakespeare. If a formal form must be used it should, as a matter of course, be I.

Nor is the translation itself so accurate as it should be. For example, what does it mean when Marcellus tells Bernardo that he had implored Horatio "at vogte paa minutterne inat" (to watch over the minutes this night)? Again, in the King's speech to Hamlet (Act I, Sc. 2) the phrase "bend you to remain" is rendered by the categorical "se til at bli herhjemme," which is at least misleading. Little inaccuracies of this sort are not infrequent.

But, after all, a translator with a new variorum and a wealth of critical material at hand cannot go far wrong in point of mere translation. The chief indictment to be made against Blom's translation is its prosiness, its prosy, involved sentences, its banality. What in Shakespeare is easy and mellifluous often becomes in Blom so vague that its meaning has to be discovered by a reference to the original.

We gave, some pages back, Ivar Aasen's translation of Hamlet's soliloquy. The interesting thing about that translation is not only that it is the first one in Norwegian but that it was made into a new dialect by the creator of that dialect himself. When we look back and consider what Aasen had to do—first, make a literary medium, and then pour into the still rigid and inelastic forms of that language the subtlest thinking of a great world literature—we gain a new respect for his genius. Fifty years later Blom tried his hand at the same soliloquy. He was working in an old and tried literary medium—Dano-Norwegian. But he was unequal to the task:

At vaere eller ikke vaere, det problemet er: Om det er storre av en sjael at taale skjaebnens pil og slynge end ta til vaaben mot et hav av plager og ende dem i kamp? At do,—at sove, ei mer; og tro, at ved en sovn vi ender vor hjerteve og livets tusen stot, som kjod er arving til—det maal for livet maa onskes inderlig. At do,—at sove— at sove!—Kanske dromme! Der er knuten; for hvad i dodsens sovn vi monne dromme, naar livets laenke vi har viklet av, det holder os igjen; det er det hensyn, som gir vor jammer her saa langt et liv' etc.


Much more interesting than Blom's attempt, and much more significant, is a translation and working over of As You Like It which appeared in November of the same year. The circumstances under which this translation were made are interesting. Fru Johanne Dybwad, one of the "stars" at the National Theater was completing her twenty-fifth year of service on the stage, and the theater wished to commemorate the event in a manner worthy of the actress. For the gala performance, Herman Wildenvey, a poet of the young Norway, made a new translation and adaptation of As You Like It.[38] And no choice could have been more felicitous. Fru Dybwad had scored her greatest success as Puck; the life and sparkle and jollity of that mischievous wight seemed like a poetic glorification of her own character. It might be expected, then, that she would triumph in the role of Rosalind.

[38: As You Like It, eller Livet i Skogen. Dramatisk Skuespil av William Shakespeare. Oversat og bearbeidet for Nationaltheatret av Herman Wildenvey. Kristiania og Kobenhavn. 1912.]

Then came the problem of a stage version. A simple cutting of Lembcke seemed inappropriate to this intensely modern woman. There was danger, too, that Lembcke's faithful Danish would hang heavy on the light and sparkling Norwegian. Herman Wildenvey undertook to prepare an acting version that should fit the actress and the occasion. The result is the text before us. For the songs and intermissions, Johan Halvorsen, Kapelmester of the theater, composed new music and the theater provided a magnificent staging. The tremendous stage-success of Wildenvey's As You Like It belongs rather to stage history, and for the present we shall confine ourselves to the translation itself.

First, what of the cutting? In a short introduction the translator has given an apologia for his procedure. It is worth quoting at some length. "To adapt a piece of literature is, as a rule, not especially commendable. And now, I who should be the last to do it, have become the first in this country to attempt anything of the sort with Shakespeare.

"I will not defend myself by saying that most of Shakespeare's plays require some sort of adaptation to the modern stage if they are to be played at all. But, as a matter of fact, I have done little adapting. I have dusted some of the speeches, maltreated others, and finally cut out a few which would have sputtered out of the mouths of the actors like fringes of an old tapestry. But, above all, I have tried to reproduce the imperishable woodland spirit, the fresh breath of out-of-doors which permeates this play."

Wildenvey then states that in his cuttings he has followed the edition of the British Empire Shakespeare Society. But the performance in Kristiania has demanded more, "and my adaptation could not be so wonderfully ideal. As You Like It is, probably more than any other of Shakespeare's plays, a jest and only in part a play. Through the title he has given his work, he has given me the right to make my own arrangement which is accordingly, yours truly As You Like It."

But the most cursory examination will show that this is more than a mere "cutting." In the first place, the five acts have been cut to four and scenes widely separated, have often been brought together. In this way unnecessary scene-shifts have been avoided. But the action has been kept intact and only two characters have been eliminated: Jacques de Bois, whose speeches have been given to Le Beau, and Hymen, whose role has been given to Celia. Two or three speeches have been shifted. But to a reader unacquainted with Shakespeare all this would pass unnoticed, as would also, doubtless, the serious cutting and the free translation.

A brief sketch of Wildenvey's arrangement will be of service.

[Transcriber's Note: The summary is given here exactly as it appears in Ruud's text. Note in particular Wildenvey's I, 2, and Shakespeare's II, 1.]

Act I, Sc. 1.

An open place on the road to Sir Oliver's house.

The scene opens with a short, exceedingly free rendering of Orlando's speech and runs on to the end of Scene 1 in Shakespeare.

Act I, Sc. 2.

Outside of Duke Frederik's Palace.

Begins with I, 2 and goes to I, 3. Then follows without change of scene, I, 3. and, following that, 1, 3.

Act II.

In Wildenvey this is all one scene.

Opens with a rhapsodical conversation between the banished duke and Amiens on the glories of nature and the joys of out-door life. It is fully in Shakespeare's tone, but Wildenvey's own invention. After this the scene continues with II, 1. The first lord's speech in Wildenvey, however, is merely a free adaptation of the original, and the later speech of the first lord, describing Jacques' reveries on the hunt, is put into the mouth of Jacques himself. A few entirely new speeches follow and the company goes out upon the hunt.

There is then a slight pause, but no scene division, and Shakespeare's II, 4 follows. This is succeeded again without a break, by II, 5, II, 6, and II, 7 (the opening of II, 7 to the entrance of Jacques, is omitted altogether) to the end of the act.

Act III.

This act has two scenes.

Sc. 1. In Duke Frederik's palace. It opens with II, I and then follows III, 1.

Sc. 2. In the Forest of Arden. Evening.

Begins with III, 2. Then follows III, 4, III, 5, IV, 1.

Act IV.

Wildenvey's last act (IV) opens with Shakespeare's IV, 2 and continues: IV, 3, V, 1, V, 2, V, 3, V, 4.

A study of this scheme shows that Wildenvey has done no great violence to the fable nor to the characters. His shifts and changes are sensible enough. In the treatment of the text, however, he has had no scruples. Shakespeare is mercilessly cut and mangled.

The ways in which this is done are many. A favorite device is to break up long speeches into dialogue. To make this possible he has to put speeches of his own invention into the mouths of other characters. The opening of the play gives an excellent illustration. In Wildenvey we read:

Orlando: (kommer ind med tjeneren Adam) Nu kan du likesaa godt faa vite hvordan alle mine bedroveligheter begynder, Adam! Min salig far testamenterte mig nogen fattige tusen kroner og paala uttrykkelig min bror at gi mig en standsmaessig opdragelse. Men se hvordan han opfylder sin broderpligt mot mig! Han lar min bror Jacques studere, og rygtet melder om hans store fremgang. Men mig underholder han hjemme, det vil si, han holder mig hjemme uten at underholde mig. For man kan da vel ikke kalde det at underholde en adelsmand som ellers regnes for at staldfore en okse!

Adam: Det er synd om Eder, herre, I som er min gamle herres bedste son! Men jeg tjener Eders bror, og er alene tjener...

Orl: Her hos ham har jeg ikke kunnet laegge mig til noget andet end vaekst, og det kan jeg vaere ham likesaa forbunden for som hans husdyr hist og her. Formodentlig er det det jeg har arvet av min fars aand som gjor opror mot denne behandling. Jeg har ingen utsigt til nogen forandring til det bedre, men hvad der end haender, vil jeg ikke taale det laenger.

Orlando's speech, we see, has been broken up into two, and between the two new speeches has been interpolated a speech by Adam which does not occur in the original. The same trick is resorted to repeatedly. Note, for instance, Jacques first speech on the deer (Act II, 7) and Oliver's long speech in IV, 3. The purpose of this is plain enough—to enliven the dialogue and speed up the action. Whether or not it is a legitimate way of handling Shakespeare is another matter.

More serious than this is Wildenvey's trick of adding whole series of speeches. We have noted in our survey of the "bearbeidelse" that the second act opens with a dialogue between the Duke and Amiens which is a gratuitous addition of Wildenvey's. It is suggested by the original, but departs from it radically both in form and content.

Den Landflygtige Hertug (kommer ut fra en grotte i skogen) Vaer hilset, dag, som laegges til de andre av mine mange motgangs dage. Vaer hilset nu, naar solen atter stempler sit gyldne segl paa jordens stolte pande. Vaer hilset, morgen, med din nye rigdom, med dug og duft fra alle traer og blomster. Glade, blanke fugleoines perler blinker alt av sol som duggens draaper, hilser mig som herre og som ven. (En fugl flyver op over hans hode.) Ei, lille sangerskjelm, godt ord igjen?

Amiens: (hertugens ven, kommer likeledes ut av hulen). Godmorgen, ven og broder i eksilet.

Hertugen: Godmorgen, Amiens, du glade sanger! Du er vel enig i at slik en morgen i skogen her med al dens liv og lek er fuld erstatning for den pragt vi tapte, ja mer end hoffets smigergyldne falskhet?

Amiens: Det ligner litt paa selve Edens have, og traer og dyr og andre forekomster betragter os som Adamer, kanhaende.

Hertugen: Din spog er vel en saadan sanger vaerd. Du mener med at her er alting herlig, sommer, vinter, vaar og hosttid veksler. Solen skinner, vind og veiret driver. Vinterblaasten blaaser op og biter og fortaeller uden sminket smiger hvem vi er, og hvor vi os befinder. Ja, livet her er ei ly for verdens ondskap, er stolt og frit og fuldt av rike glaeder: hver graasten synes god og kirkeklok, hvert redetrae er jo en sangers slot, og alt er skjont, og alt er saare godt.

Amiens: Du er en godt benaadet oversaetter, naar du kan tolke skjaebnens harske talesaet i slike sterke, stemningsfulde ord...

(En hofmand, derefter Jacques og tjenere kommer.)

Hertugen: Godmorgen, venner—vel, saa skal vi jage paa vildtet her, de vakre, dumme borgere av denne ode og forlate stad...

Jacques: Det er synd at sondre deres vakre lemmer med pile-odd.

Amiens: Det samme sier du altid, du er for melankolsk og bitter, Jacques.

A careful comparison of the translation with the original will reveal certain verbal resemblances, notably in the duke's speech:

Din spok er vel en saadan sanger vaerd, etc.

But, even allowing for that, it is a rephrasing rather than a translation. The stage action, too, is changed. Notice that Jacques appears in the scene, and that in the episode immediately following, the second part of the first lord's speech is put into Jacques' mouth. In other words, he is made to caricature himself!

This is Wildenvey's attitude throughout. To take still another example. Act IV, 2 begins in the English with a brief dialogue in prose between Jacques and the two lords. In Wildenvey this is changed to a rhymed dialogue in iambic tetrameters between Jacques and Amiens. In like manner, the blank verse dialogue between Silvius and Phebe (Silvius and Pippa) is in Norwegian rendered, or rather paraphrased, in iambic verse rhyming regularly abab.

Occasionally meanings are read into the play which not only do not belong in Shakespeare but which are ridiculously out of place. As an illustration, note the dialogue between Orlando and Rosalind in II, 2 (Original, III, 2). Orlando remarks: "Your accent is something finer than could be purchased in so remote a dwelling." Wildenvey renders this: "Eders sprog er mer elevert end man skulde vente i disse vilde trakter. De taler ikke Landsmaal." Probably no one would be deceived by this gratuitous satire on the Landsmaal, but, obviously, it has no place in what pretends to be a translation. The one justification for it is that Shakespeare himself could not have resisted so neat a word-play.

Wildenvey's version, therefore, can only be characterized as needlessly free. For the text as such he has absolutely no regard. But for the fact that he has kept the fable and, for the most part, the characters, intact, we should characterize it as a belated specimen of Sille Beyer's notorious Shakespeare "bearbeidelser" in Denmark. But Wildenvey does not take Sille Beyer's liberties with the dramatis personae and he has, moreover, what she utterly lacked—poetic genius.

For that is the redeeming feature of Livet i Skogen—it does not translate Shakespeare but it makes him live. The delighted audience which sat night after night in Christiania and Copenhagen and drank in the loveliness of Wildenvey's verse and Halvorsen's music cared little whether the lines that came over the footlights were philologically an accurate translation or not. They were enchanted by Norwegian verse and moved to unfeigned delight by the cleverness of the prose. If Wildenvey did not succeed in translating As You Like It—one cannot believe that he ever intended to,—he did succeed in reproducing something of "its imperishable woodland spirit, its fresh breath of out-of-doors."

We have already quoted the opening of Act II. It is not Shakespeare but it is good poetry in itself. And the immortal scene between Touchstone and Corin in III, 2 (Shak. III, 2), in which Touchstone clearly proves that the shepherd is damned, is a capital piece of work. The following fragment must serve as an example:

Touchstone: Har du vaeret ved hoffet, hyrde?

Korin: Visselig ikke.

Touch: Da er du evig fordomt.

Korin: Det haaber jeg da ikke.

Touch: Visselig, da er du fordomt som en sviske.

Korin: Fordi jeg ikke har vaeret ved hoffet? Hvad mener I?

Touch: Hvis du ikke har vaeret ved hoffet, saa har du aldrig set gode seder, og hvis du ikke har set gode seder, saa maa dine seder vaere slette, og slette seder er synd, og syndens sold er dod og fordommelse. Du er i en betaenkelig tilstand, hyrde!

And the mocking verses all rhyming in in-ind in III, 3 (Shak. III, 2): "From the East to western Ind," etc., are given with marvelous cleverness:

Fra ost til vest er ei at finde en aedelsten som Rosalinde. Al verden om paa alle vinde skal rygtet gaa om Rosalinde. Hvor har en maler nogensinde et kunstverk skapt som Rosalinde? Al anden deilighet maa svinde av tanken bort—for Rosalinde.

Or Touchstone's parody:

Hjorten skriker efter hinde, skrik da efter Rosalinde, kat vil katte gjerne finde, hvem vil finde Rosalinde. Vinterklaer er tit for tynde, det er ogsaa Rosalinde. Notten sot har surhamshinde, slik en nott er Rosalinde. Den som ros' med torn vil finde, finder den—og Rosalinde.

With even greater felicity Wildenvey has rendered the songs of the play. His verses are not, in any strict sense, translations, but they have a life and movement which, perhaps, interpret the original more fully than any translation could interpret it. What freshness and sparkle in "Under the Greenwood Tree!" I give only the first stanza:

Under de gronne traer hvem vil mig mote der? Hvem vil en tone slaa frit mot det blide blaa? Kom hit og herhen, hit og herhen, kom, kjaere ven, her skal du se, traer skal du se, sommer og herlig veir skal du se.

Or what could be better than the exhilirating text of "Blow, blow, thou winter wind," as Wildenvey has given it? Again only the first stanza:

Blaas, blaas du barske vind, trolose venners sind synes os mere raa. Bar du dig end saa sint, bet du dog ei saa blindt, pustet du ogsaa paa. Heiho! Syng heiho! i vor skog under lovet. Alt venskap er vammelt, al elskov er tovet, men her under lovet er ingen bedrovet.

Livet i Skogen, then, must not be read as a translation of As You Like It, but is immensely worth reading for its own sake. Schiller recast and rewrote Macbeth in somewhat the same way, but Schiller's Macbeth, condemned by its absurd porter-scene, is today nothing more than a literary curiosity. I firmly believe that Wildenvey's "bearbeidelse" deserves a better fate. It gave new life to the Shakespeare tradition on the Norwegian stage, and is in itself, a genuine contribution to the literature of Norway.


If we look over the field of Norwegian translation of Shakespeare, the impression we get is not one to inspire awe. The translations are neither numerous nor important. There is nothing to be compared with the German of Tieck and Schlegel the Danish of Foersom, or the Swedish of Hagberg.

But the reason is obvious. Down to 1814 Norway was politically and culturally a dependency of Denmark. Copenhagen was the seat of government, of literature, and of polite life. To Copenhagen cultivated Norwegians looked for their models and their ideals. When Shakespeare made his first appearance in the Danish literary world—Denmark and Norway—it was, of course, in pure Danish garb. Boye, Rosenfeldt, and Foersom gave to their contemporaries more or less satisfactory translations of Shakespeare, and Norwegians were content to accept the Danish versions. In one or two instances they made experiments of their own. An unknown man of letters translated a scene from Julius Caesar in 1782, and in 1818 appeared a translation of Coriolanus. But there is little that is typically Norwegian about either of these—a word or a phrase here and there. For the rest, they are written in pure Danish, and but for the title-page, no one could tell whether they were published in Copenhagen or Christiania and Trondhjem.

In the meantime Foersom had begun his admirable Danish translations, and the work stopped in Norway. The building of a nation and literary interests of another character absorbed the attention of the cultivated world. Hauge's translation of Macbeth is not significant, nor are those of Lassen thirty years later. A scholar could, of course, easily show that they are Norwegian, but that is all. They never succeeded in displacing Foersom-Lembcke.

More important are the Landsmaal translations beginning with Ivar Aasen's in 1853. They are interesting because they mark one of the most important events in modern Norwegian culture—the language struggle. Ivar Aasen set out to demonstrate that "maalet" could be used in literature of every sort, and the same purpose, though in greatly tempered form, is to be detected in every Landsmaal translation since. Certainly in their outward aim they have succeeded. And, despite the handicap of working in a language new, rough, and untried, they have given to their countrymen translations of parts of Shakespeare which are, at least, as good as those in "Riksmaal."

Herman Wildenvey stands alone. His work is neither a translation nor a mere paraphrase; it is a reformulating of Shakespeare into a new work of art. He has accomplished a feat worth performing, but it cannot be called translating Shakespeare. It must be judged as an independent work.

Whether Norway is always to go to Denmark for her standard Shakespeare, or whether she is to have one of her own is, as yet, a question impossible to answer. A pure Landsmaal translation cannot satisfy, and many Norwegians refuse to recognize the Riksmaal as Norwegian at all. In the far, impenetrable future the language question may settle itself, and when that happy day comes, but not before, we may look with some confidence for a "standard" Shakespeare in a literary garb which all Norwegians will recognize as their own.


Shakespeare Criticism In Norway

The history of Shakespearean translation in Norway cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be called distinguished. It is not, however, wholly lacking in interesting details. In like manner the history of Shakespearean criticism, though it contains no great names and no fascinating chapters, is not wholly without appeal and significance. We shall, then, in the following, consider this division of our subject.

Our first bit of Shakespearean criticism is the little introductory note which the anonymous translator of the scenes from Julius Caesar put at the head of his translation in Trondhjems Allehaande for October 23, 1782. And even this is a mere statement that the passage in the original "may be regarded as a masterpiece," and that the writer purposes to render not merely Antony's eloquent appeal but also the interspersed ejaculations of the crowd, "since these, too, are evidence of Shakespeare's understanding of the human soul and of his realization of the manner in which the oration gradually brought about the result toward which Antony aimed."

This is not profound criticism, to be sure, but it shows clearly that this litterateur in far-away Trondhjem had a definite, if not a very new and original, estimate of Shakespeare. It is significant that there is no hint of apology, of that tone which is so common in Shakespearean criticism of the day—Shakespeare was a great poet, but his genius was wild and untamed. This unknown Norwegian, apparently, had been struck only by the verity of the scene, and in that simplicity showed himself a better critic of Shakespeare than many more famous men. Whoever he was, his name is lost to us now. He deserves better than to be forgotten, but it seems that he was forgotten very early. Foersom refers to him casually, as we have seen, but Rahbek does not mention him.[1] Many years later Paul Botten Hansen, one of the best equipped bookmen that Norway has produced, wrote a brief review of Lembcke's translation. In the course of this he enumerates the Dano-Norwegian translations known to him. There is not a word about his countryman in Trondhjem.[2]

[1. "Shakespeareana i Danmark"—Dansk Minerva, 1816 (III) pp. 151 ff.]

[2. Illustreret Nyhedsblad, 1865, pp. 96 ff.]

After this solitary landmark, a long time passed before we again find evidence of Shakespearean studies in Norway. The isolated translation of Coriolanus from 1818 shows us that Shakespeare was read, carefully and critically read, but no one turned his attention to criticism or scholarly investigation. Indeed, I have searched Norwegian periodical literature in vain for any allusion to Shakespeare between 1782 and 1827. Finally, in the latter year Den Norske Husven adorns its title-page with a motto from Shakespeare. Christiania Aftenbladet for July 19, 1828, reprints Carl Bagger's clever poem on Shakespeare's reputed love-affair with "Fanny," an adventure which got him into trouble and gave rise to the bon-mot, "William the Conqueror ruled before Richard III." The poem was reprinted from Kjoebenhavns Flyvende Post (1828); we shall speak of it again in connection with our study of Shakespeare in Denmark.

After this there is another break. Not even a reference to Shakespeare occurs in the hundreds of periodicals I have examined, until the long silence is broken by a short, fourth-hand article on Shakespeare's life in Skilling Magazinet for Sept. 23, 1843. The same magazine gives a similar popular account in its issue for Sept. 4, 1844. Indeed, several such articles and sketches may be found in popular periodicals of the years following.

In 1855, however, appeared Niels Hauge's afore mentioned translation of Macbeth, and shortly afterward Professor Monrad, who, according to Hauge himself, had at least given him valuable counsel in his work, wrote a review in Nordisk Tidsskrift for Videnskab og Literatur.[3] Monrad was a pedant, stiff and inflexible, but he was a man of good sense, and when he was dealing with acknowledged masterpieces he could be depended upon to say the conventional things well.

[3. See Vol. III (1855), pp. 378 ff.]

He begins by saying that if any author deserves translation it is Shakespeare, for in him the whole poetic, romantic ideal of Protestantism finds expression. He is the Luther of poetry, though between Luther and Shakespeare there is all the difference between religious zeal and the quiet contemplation of the beautiful. Both belong to the whole world, Shakespeare because his characters, humor, art, reflections, are universal in their validity and their appeal. Wherever he is read he becomes the spokesman against narrowness, dogmatism, and intolerance. To translate Shakespeare, he points out, is difficult because of the archaic language, the obscure allusions, and the intense originality of the expression. Shakespeare, indeed, is as much the creator as the user of his mother-tongue. The one translation of Macbeth in existence, Foersom's, is good, but it is only in part Shakespeare, and the times require something more adequate and "something more distinctly our own." Monrad feels that this should not be altogether impossible "when we consider the intimate relations between England and Norway, and the further coincidence that the Norwegian language today is in the same state of flux and transition, as was Elizabethan English." All translations at present, he continues, can be but experiments, and should aim primarily at a faithful rendering of the text. Monrad calls attention to the fact—in which he was, of course, mistaken—that this is the first translation of the original Macbeth into Dano-Norwegian or into Danish. It is a work of undoubted merit, though here and there a little stiff and hazy, "but Shakespeare is not easily clarified." The humorous passages, thinks the reviewer, are a severe test of a translator's powers and this test Hauge has met with conspicuous success. Also he has aquitted himself well in the difficult matter of putting Shakespeare's meter into Norwegian.

The last two pages are taken up with a detailed study of single passages. The only serious error Monrad has noticed is the following: In Act II, 3 one of the murderers calls out "A light! A light!" Regarding this passage Monrad remarks: "It is certainly a mistake to have the second murderer call out, "Bring a light here!" (Lys hid!) The murderer does not demand a light, but he detects a shimmer from Banquo's approaching torch." The rest of the section is devoted to mere trifles.

This is the sort of review which we should expect from an intelligent and well-informed man. Monrad was not a scholar, nor even a man of delicate and penetrating reactions. But he had sound sense and perfect self-assurance, which made him something of a Samuel Johnson in the little provincial Kristiania of his day. At any rate, he was the only one who took the trouble to review Hauge's translation, and even he was doubtless led to the task because of his personal interest in the translator. If we may judge from the stir it made in periodical literature, Macbeth fell dead from the press.

The tercentenary of Shakespeare's birth (1864) aroused a certain interest in Norway, and little notes and articles are not infrequent in the newspapers and periodicals about that time. Illustreret Nyhedsblad[4] has a short, popular article on Stratford-on-Avon. It contains the usual Shakespeare apocrypha—the Sir Thomas Lucy story, the story of the apple tree under which Shakespeare and his companions slept off the effects of too much Bedford ale—and all the rest of it. It makes no pretense of being anything but an interesting hodge-podge for popular consumption. The next year, 1864, the same periodical published[5] on the traditional day of Shakespeare's birth a rather long and suggestive article on the English drama before Shakespeare. If this article had been original, it might have had a certain significance, but, unfortunately, it is taken from the German of Bodenstedt. The only significant thing about it is the line following the title: "Til Erindring paa Trehundredsaarsdagen efter Shakespeares Foedsel, d. 23 April, 1563."

[4. Vol. XII (1863), pp. 199 ff.]

[5. Vol. XIII (1864), pp. 65 ff.]

More interesting than this, however, are the verses written by the then highly esteemed poet, Andreas Munch, and published in his own magazine, For Hjemmet,[6] in April, 1864. Munch rarely rises above mediocrity and his tribute to the bard of Avon is the very essence of it. He begins:

I disse Dage gaar et vaeldigt Navn Fra Mund til Mund, fra Kyst til Kyst rundt Jorden— Det straaler festligt over fjernest Havn, Og klinger selv igjennem Krigens Torden, Det slutter alle Folk i Aandens Favn, Og er et Eenheds Tegn i Striden vorden— I Stjerneskrift det staaer paa Tidens Bue, Og leder Slaegterne med Hjertelue.

[6. Vol. V, p. 572.]

and, after four more stanzas, he concludes:

Hos os har ingen ydre Fest betegnet Vort Folks Tribut til denne store Mand. Er vi af Hav og Fjelde saa omhegnet, At ei hans Straaler traenge til os kan? Nei,—Nordisk var hans Aand og netop egnet Til at opfattes af vort Norden-Land, Og mer maaske end selv vi tro og taenke, Har Shakespeare brudt for os en fremmed Laenke.

One has a feeling that Munch awoke one morning, discovered from his calendar that Shakespeare's birthday was approaching, and ground out this poem to fill space in Hjemmet. But his intentions are good. No one can quarrel with the content. And when all is said, he probably expressed, with a fair degree of accuracy, the feeling of his time. It remains but to note a detail or two. First, that the poet, even in dealing with Shakespeare, found it necessary to draw upon the prevailing "Skandinavisme" and label Shakespeare "Nordisk"; second, the accidental truth of the closing couplet. If we could interpret this as referring to Wergeland, who did break the chains of foreign bondage, and gave Norway a place in the literature of the world, we should have the first reference to an interesting fact in Norwegian literary history. But doubtless we have no right to credit Munch with any such acumen. The couplet was put into the poem merely because it sounded well.

More important than this effusion of bad verse from the poet of fashion was a little article which Paul Botten Hansen wrote in Illustreret Nyhedsblad[7] in 1865. Botten Hansen had a fine literary appreciation and a profound knowledge of books. The effort, therefore, to give Denmark and Norway a complete translation of Shakespeare was sure to meet with his sympathy. In 1861 Lembcke began his revision of Foersom's work, and, although it must have come up to Norway from Copenhagen almost immediately, no allusion to it is found in periodical literature till Botten Hansen wrote his review of Part (Hefte) XI. This part contains King John. The reviewer, however, does not enter upon any criticism of the play or of the translation; he gives merely a short account of Shakespearean translation in the two countries before Lembcke. Apparently the notice is written without special research, for it is far from complete, but it gives, at any rate, the best outline of the subject which we have had up to the present. Save for a few lines of praise for Foersom and a word for Hauge, "who gave the first accurate translation of this masterpiece (Macbeth) of which Dano-Norwegian literature can boast before 1861," the review is simply a loosely connected string of titles. Toward the close Botten Hansen writes: "When to these plays (the standard Danish translations) we add (certain others, which are given), we believe that we have enumerated all the Danish translations of Shakespeare." This investigation has shown, however, that there are serious gaps in the list. Botten Hansen calls Foersom's the first Danish translation of Shakespeare. It is curious that he should have overlooked Johannes Boye's Hamlet of 1777, or Rosenfeldt's translation of six plays (1790-1792). It is less strange that he did not know Sander and Rahbek's translation of the unaltered Macbeth of 1801—which preceded Hauge by half a century—for this was buried in Sander's lectures. Nor is he greatly to be blamed for his ignorance of the numerous Shakespearean fragments which the student may find tucked away in Danish reviews, from M.C. Brun's Svada (1796) and on. Botten Hansen took his task very lightly. If he had read Foersom's notes to his translation he would have found a clue of interest to him as a Norwegian. For Foersom specifically refers to a translation of a scene from Julius Caesar in Trondhjems Allehaande.

[7. Vol. XIV, p. 96.]

Lembcke's revision, which is the occasion of the article, is greeted with approval and encouragement. There is no need for Norwegians to go about preparing an independent translation. Quite the contrary. The article closes: "Whether or not Lembcke has the strength and endurance for such a gigantic task, time alone will tell. At any rate, it is the duty of the public to encourage the undertaking and make possible its completion."

We come now to the most interesting chapter in the history of Shakespeare in Norway. This is a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream under the direction of Bjornstjerne Bjornson at Christiania Theater, April 17, 1865. The story belongs rather to the history of Shakespeare on the Norwegian stage, but the documents of the affair are contributions to Shakespearean criticism and must, accordingly, be discussed here. Bjornson's fiery reply to his critics of April 28 is especially valuable as an analysis of his own attitude toward Shakespeare.

Bjornson became director of Christiania Theater in January, 1865, and the first important performance under his direction was A Midsummer Night's Dream (Skjaersommernatsdroemmen) in Oehlenschlaeger's translation, with music by Mendelssohn.[8] Bjornson had strained the resources of the theater to the utmost to give the performance distinction. But the success was doubtful. Aftenposten found it tiresome, and Morgenbladet, in two long articles, tore it to shreds.[9] It is worth while to review the controversy in some detail.

[8. Blanc. Christianias Theaters Historie, p. 196.]

[9. April 26-27, 1865.]

The reviewer begins by saying that the play is so well known that it is needless to give an account of it. "But what is the meaning," he exclaims, "of this bold and poetic mixture of clowns and fairies, of mythology, and superstition, of high and low, of the earthly and the supernatural? And the scene is neither Athens nor Greece, but Shakespeare's own England; it is his own time and his own spirit." We are transported to an English grove in early summer with birds, flowers, soft breezes, and cooling shadows. What wonder that a man coming in from the hunt or the society of men should fill such a place with fairies and lovely ladies and people it with sighs, and passions, and stories? And all this has been brought together by a poet's fine feeling. This it is which separates the play from so many others of its kind now so common and often so well presented. Here a master's spirit pervades all, unites all in lovely romance. Other plays are mere displays of scenery and costume by comparison. Even the sport of the clowns throws the whole into stronger relief.

Now, how should such a play be given? Obviously, by actors of the first order and with costumes and scenery the most splendid. This goes without saying, for the play is intended quite as much to be seen as to be heard. To do it justice, the performance must bring out some of the splendor and the fantasy with which it was conceived. As we read A Midsummer Night's Dream it is easy to imagine the glorious succession of splendid scenes, but on the stage the characters become flesh and blood with fixed limitations, and the illusion is easily lost unless every agency is used to carry it out. Hence the need of lights, of rich costumes, splendid backgrounds, music, rhythm.

The play opens in an apparently uninhabited wood. Suddenly all comes to life—gay, full, romantic life. This is the scene to which we are transported. "It is a grave question," continues the reviewer, "if it is possible for the average audience to attain the full illusion which the play demands, and with which, in reading, we have no difficulty. One thing is certain, the audience was under no illusion. Some, those who do not pretend to learning or taste, wondered what it was all about. Only when the lion moved his tail, or the ass wriggled his ears were they at all interested. Others were frankly amused from first to last, no less at Hermia's and Helen's quarrel than at the antics of the clowns. Still others, the cultivated minority, were simply indifferent."

The truth is that the performance was stiff and cold. Not for an instant did it suggest the full and passionate life which is the theme and the background of the play. Nor is this strange. A Midsummer Night's Dream is plainly beyond the powers of our theatre. Individual scenes were well done, but the whole was a cheerless piece of business.

The next day the same writer continues his analysis. He points out that the secret of the play is the curious interweaving of the real world with the supernatural. Forget this but for a moment, and the piece becomes an impossible monstrosity without motivation or meaning. Shakespeare preserves this unity in duality. The two worlds seem to meet and fuse, each giving something of itself to the other. But this unity was absent from the performance. The actors did not even know their lines, and thus the spell was broken. The verse must flow from the lips in a limpid stream, especially in a fairy play; the words must never seem a burden. But even this elementary rule was ignored in our performance. And the ballet of the fairies was so bad that it might better have been omitted. Puck should not have been given by a woman, but by a boy as he was in Shakespeare's day. Only the clown scenes were unqualifiedly good, "as we might expect," concludes the reviewer sarcastically.

The article closes with a parting shot at the costuming and the scenery. Not a little of it was inherited from "Orpheus in the Lower World." Are we so poor as that? Better wait, and for the present, give something which demands less of the theatre. The critic grants that the presentation may prove profitable but, on the whole, Bjornson must feel that he has assisted at the mutilation of a master.

Bjornson did not permit this attack to go unchallenged. He was not the man to suffer in silence, and in this case he could not be silent. His directorate was an experiment, and there were those in Christiania who were determined to make it unsuccessful. It was his duty to set malicious criticism right. He did so in Aftenbladet[10] in an article which not only answered a bit of ephemeral criticism but which remains to this day an almost perfect example of Bjornson's polemical prose—fresh, vigorous, genuinely eloquent, with a marvelous fusing of power and fancy.

[10. April 28. Reprinted in Bjornson's Taler og Skrifter. Udgivet af C. Collin og H. Eitrem. Kristiania. 1912. Vol. I, pp. 263-270.]

He begins with an analysis of the play: The play is called a dream. But wherein lies the dream? 'Why,' we are told, 'in the fact that fairies sport, that honest citizens, with and without asses' heads, put on a comedy, that lovers pursue each other in the moonlight.' But where is the law in all this? If the play is without law (Lov = organic unity), it is without validity.

But it does have artistic validity. The dream is more than a fantasy. The same experiences come to all of us. "The play takes place, now in your life, now in mine. A young man happily engaged or happily married dreams one night that this is all a delusion. He must be engaged to, he must marry another. The image of the 'chosen one' hovers before him, but he can not quite visualize it, and he marries with a bad conscience. Then he awakens and thanks God that it is all a bad dream (Lysander). Or a youth is tired of her whom he adored for a time. He even begins to flirt with another. And then one fine night he dreams that he worships the very woman he loathes, that he implores her, weeps for her, fights for her (Demetrius). Or a young girl, or a young wife, who loves and is loved dreams, that her beloved is fleeing from her. When she follows him with tears and petitions, he lifts his hand against her. She pursues him, calls to him to stop, but she cannot reach him. She feels all the agony of death till she falls back in a calm, dreamless sleep. Or she dreams that the lover she cannot get comes to her in a wood and tells her that he really does love her, that her eyes are lovelier than the stars, her hands whiter than the snow on Taurus. But other visions come, more confusing. Another, whom she has never given a thought, comes and tells her the same story. His protestations are even more glowing—and it all turns to contention and sorrow, idle pursuit and strife, till her powers fail (Helena).

"This is the dream chain of the lovers. The poet causes the man to dream that he is unfaithful, or that he is enamored of one whom he does not love. And he makes the woman dream that she is deserted or that she is happy with one whom she cannot get. And together these dreams tell us: watch your thoughts, watch your passions, you, walking in perfect confidence at the side of your beloved. They (the thoughts and passions) may bring forth a flower called 'love in idleness'—a flower which changes before you are aware of it. The dream gives us reality reversed, but reversed in such a way that there is always the possibility that it may, in an unguarded moment, take veritable shape.

"And this dream of the lovers is given a paradoxical counterpart. A respectable, fat citizen dreams one night that he is to experience the great triumph of his life. He is to be presented before the duke's throne as the greatest of heroes. He dreams that he cannot get dressed, that he cannot get his head attended to, because, as a matter of fact, his head is not his own excellent head, but the head of an ass with long ears, a snout, and hair that itches. 'This is exactly like a fairy tale of my youth,' he dreams. And indeed, it is a dream! The mountain opens, the captive princess comes forth and leads him in, and he rests his head in her lap all strewn with blossoms. The lovely trolls come and scratch his head and music sounds from the rocks. It is characteristic of Shakespeare that the lovers do not dream fairy tales of their childhood. Higher culture has given them deeper passions, more intense personal relations; in dreams they but continue the life of waking. But the good weaver who lives thoroughly content in his own self-satisfaction and in the esteem of his neighbors, who has never reflected upon anything that has happened to him, but has received each day's blessings as they have come—this man sees, the moment he lays his head on the pillow, the fairies and the fairy queen. To him the whole circle of childhood fantasy reveals itself; nothing is changed, nothing but this absurd ass's head which he wears, and this curious longing for dry, sweet hay.

"This is the dream and the action of the play. Superficially, all this magic is set in motion by the fairies; Theseus and his train, with whom come hunting horn and hunting talk and processional—are, in reality, the incarnation of the festival. And the comedy at the close is added by way of counterpiece to the light, delicate fancies of the dream. It is the thoughts we have thought, the painfully-wrought products of the waking mind, given in a sparkle of mocking laughter against the background of nightly visions. See the play over and over again. Do not study it with Bottom's ass's head, and do not be so blase that you reject the performance because it does not command the latest electrical effects."

Bjornson then proceeds to discuss the staging. He admits by implication that the machinery and the properties are not so elaborate as they sometimes are in England, but points out that the equipment of Christiania Theater is fully up to that which, until a short time before, was considered entirely adequate in the great cities of Europe. And is machinery so important? The cutting of the play used at this performance was originally made by Tieck for the court theater at Potsdam. From Germany it was brought to Stockholm, and later to Christiania. "The spirit of Tieck pervades this adaptation. It is easy and natural. The spoken word has abundant opportunity to make itself felt, and is neither overwhelmed by theater tricks nor set aside by machinery. Tieck, who understood stage machinery perfectly, gave it free play where, as in modern operas, machinery is everything. The same is true of Mendelssohn. His music yields reverently to the spoken word. It merely accompanies the play like a new fairy who strews a strain or two across the stage before his companions enter, and lends them wings by which they may again disappear. Only when the words and the characters who utter them have gone, does the music brood over the forest like a mist of reminiscence, in which our imagination may once more synthesize the picture of what has gone before."

Tieck's adaptation is still the standard one. Englishmen often stage Shakespeare's romantic plays more elaborately. They even show us a ship at sea in The Tempest. But Shakespeare has fled England; they are left with their properties, out of which the spirit of Shakespeare will not rise. It is significant that the most distinguished dramaturg of Germany, Dingelstedt, planned a few years before to go to London with some of the best actors in Germany to teach Englishmen how to play Shakespeare once more.

Bjornson closes this general discussion of scenery and properties with a word about the supreme importance of imagination to the playgoer. "I cannot refrain from saying that the imagination that delights in the familiar is stronger and healthier than that which loses itself in longings for the impossible. To visualize on the basis of a few and simple suggestions—that is to possess imagination; to allow the images to dissolve and dissipate—that is to have no imagination at all. Every allusion has a definite relation to the familiar, and if our playgoers cannot, after all that has been given here for years, feel the least illusion in the presence of the properties in A Midsummer Night's Dream, then it simply means that bad critics have broken the spell." Why should Norwegians require an elaborate wood-scene to be transported to the living woods? A boulevardier of Paris, indeed, might have need of it, but not a Norwegian with the great forests at his very doors. And what real illusion is there in a waterfall tumbling over a painted curtain, or a ship tossing about on rollers? Does not such apparatus rather destroy the illusion? "The new inventions of stage mechanicians are far from being under such perfect control that they do not often ruin art. We are in a period of transition. Why should we here, who are obliged to wait a long time for what is admittedly satisfactory, commit all the blunders which mark the way to acknowledged perfection?"

It would probably be difficult to find definite and tangible evidence of Shakespeare's influence in Bjornson's work, and we are, therefore, doubly glad to have his own eloquent acknowledgement of his debt to Shakespeare. The closing passus of Bjornson's article deserves quotation for this reason alone. Unfortunately I cannot convey its warm, illuminating style: "Of all the poetry I have ever read, Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream has, unquestionably, had the greatest influence upon me. It is his most delicate and most imaginative work, appealing quite as much through its intellectual significance as through its noble, humane spirit. I read it first in Eiksdal when I was writing Arne, and I felt rebuked for the gloomy feelings under the spell of which that book was written. But I took the lesson to heart: I felt that I had in my soul something that could produce a play with a little of the fancy and joy of A Midsummer Night's Dream—and I made resolutions. But the conditions under which a worker in art lives in Norway are hard, and all we say or promise avails nothing. But this I know: I am closer to the ideal of this play now than then, I have a fuller capacity for joy and a greater power to protect my joy and keep it inviolate. And if, after all, I never succeed in writing such a play, it means that circumstances have conquered, and that I have not achieved what I have ever sought to achieve.

"And one longs to present a play which has been a guiding star to oneself. I knew perfectly well that a public fresh from Orpheus would not at once respond, but I felt assured that response would come in time. As soon, therefore, as I had become acclimated as director and knew something of the resources of the theater, I made the venture. This is not a play to be given toward the end; it is too valuable as a means of gaining that which is to be the end—for the players and for the audience. So far as the actors are concerned, our exertions have been profitable. The play might doubtless be better presented—we shall give it better next year—but, all in all, we are making progress. You may call this naivete, poetic innocence, or obstinacy and arrogance—whatever it is, this play is of great moment to me, for it is the link which binds me to my public, it is my appeal to the public. If the public does not care to be led whither this leads, then I am not the proper guide. If people wish to get me out of the theater, they may attack me here. Here I am vulnerable."

In Morgenbladet for May 1st the reviewer made a sharp reply. He insists again that the local theater is not equal to A Midsummer Night's Dream. But it is not strange that Bjornson will not admit his own failure. His eloquent tribute to the play and all that it has meant to him has, moreover, nothing to do with the question. All that he says may be true, but certainly such facts ought to be the very thing to deter him from giving Shakespeare into the hands of untrained actors. For if Bjornson feels that the play was adequately presented, then we are at a loss to understand how he has been able to produce original work of unquestionable merit. One is forced to believe that he is hiding a failure behind his own name and fame. After all, concludes the writer, the director has no right to make this a personal matter. Criticism has no right to turn aside for injured feelings, and all Bjornson's declarations about the passions of the hour have nothing to do with the case.

This ended the discussion. At this day, of course, one cannot pass judgment, and there is no reason why we should. The two things which stand out are Bjornson's protest against spectacular productions of Shakespeare's plays, and his ardent, almost passionate tribute to him as the poet whose influence had been greatest in his life.

And then there is a long silence. Norwegian periodicals—there is not to this day a book on Shakespeare by a Norwegian—contain not a single contribution to Shakespearean criticism till 1880, when a church paper, Luthersk Ugeskrift[11] published an article which proved beyond cavil that Shakespeare is good and safe reading for Lutheran Christians. The writer admits that Shakespeare probably had several irregular love-affairs both before and after marriage, but as he grew older his heart turned to the comforts of religion, and in his epitaph he commends his soul to God, his body to the dust. Shakespeare's extreme objectivity makes snap judgments unsafe. We cannot always be sure that his characters voice his own thoughts and judgments, but, on the other hand, we have no right to assume that they never do. The tragedies especially afford a safe basis for judgment, for in them characterization is of the greatest importance. No great character was ever created which did not spring from the poet's own soul. In Shakespeare's characters sin, lust, cruelty, are always punished; sympathy, love, kindness are everywhere glorified. The writer illustrates his meaning with copious quotations.

[11. Vol. VII, pp. 1-12.]

Apparently the good Lutheran who wrote this article felt troubled about the splendor which Shakespeare throws about the Catholic Church. But this is no evidence, he thinks, of any special sympathy for it. Many Protestants have been attracted by the pomp and circumstance of the Catholic Church, and they have been none the worse Protestants for that. The writer had the good sense not to make Shakespeare a Lutheran but, for the rest, the article is a typical example of the sort of criticism that has made Shakespeare everything from a pious Catholic to a champion of atheistic democracy. If, however, the readers of Luthersk Ugeskrift were led to read Shakespeare after being assured that they might do so safely, the article served a useful purpose.

Eight years later the distinguished litterateur and critic, Just Bing, wrote in Vidar[12], one of the best periodicals that Norway has ever had, a brief character study of Ophelia, which, though it contains nothing original, stands considerably higher as literary criticism than anything we have yet considered, with the sole exception of Bjornson's article in Aftenbladet, twenty-three years earlier.

[12. 1880, pp. 61-71.]

Bing begins by defining two kinds of writers. First, those whose power is their keen observation. They see things accurately and they secure their effects by recording just what they see. Second, those writers who do not merely see external phenomena with the external eye, but who, through a miraculous intuition, go deeper into the soul of man. Moliere is the classical example of the first type; Shakespeare of the second. To him a chance utterance reveals feelings, passions, whole lives—though he probably never developed the consequences of a chance remark to their logical conclusion without first applying to them close and searching rational processes. But it is clear that if a critic is to analyze a character of Shakespeare's, he must not be content merely to observe. He must feel with it, live with it. He must do so with special sympathy in the case of Ophelia.

The common characteristic of Shakespeare's women is their devotion to the man of their choice and their confidence that this choice is wise and happy. The tragedy of Ophelia lies in the fact that outward evidence is constantly shocking that faith. Laertes, in his worldly-wise fashion, first warns her. She cries out from a broken heart though she promises to heed the warning. Then comes Polonius with his cunning wisdom. But Ophelia's faith is still unshaken. She promises her father, however, to be careful, and her caution, in turn, arouses the suspicion of Hamlet. Even after his wild outburst against her he still loves her. He begs her to believe in him and to remember him in her prayers. But suspicion goes on. Ophelia is caught between devotion and duty, and the grim events that crowd upon her plunge her to sweet, tragic death. Nothing could be more revealing than our last glimpse of her. Shakespeare's intuitive knowledge of the soul was sure. The determining fact of her life was her love for Hamlet: it is significant that when we see her insane not a mention of it crosses her lips.

Hamlet and Ophelia are the delicate victims of a tragic necessity. They are undone because they lose confidence in those to whom they cling with all the abandon of deep, spiritual souls. Hamlet is at last aroused to desperation; Ophelia is helplessly crushed. She is the finest woman of Shakespeare's imagination, and perhaps for that reason the most difficult to understand and the one least often appreciated.

The next chapter in Norwegian Shakespeareana is a dull, unprofitable one—a series of articles on the Baconian theory appearing irregularly in the monthly magazine, Kringsjaa. The first article appeared in the second volume (1894) and is merely a review of a strong pro-Bacon outburst in the American Arena. It is not worth criticising. Similar articles appeared in Kringsjaa in 1895, the material this time being taken from the Deutsche Revue. It is the old ghost, the cipher in the first folio, though not Ignatius Donnelly's cryptogram. Finally, in 1898, a new editor, Chr. Brinckmann, printed[13] a crushing reply to all these cryptogram fantasies. And that is all that was ever published in Norway on a foolish controversy.

[13. Kringsjaa. Vol. XII, pp. 777 ff. The article upon which this reply was based was from the Quarterly Review.]

It is a relief to turn from puerilities of this sort to Theodor Caspari's article in For Kirke og Kultur (1895)[14]—Grunddrag ved den Shakespeareske Digtning, i saerlig Jevnfoerelse med Ibsens senere Digtning.

[14. Vol. I, pp. 38 ff.]

This article must be read with caution, partly because its analysis of the Elizabethan age is conventional, and therefore superficial, and partly because it represents a direction of thought which eyed the later work of Ibsen and Bjornson with distrust. These men had rejected the faith of their fathers, and the books that came from them were signs of the apostasy. But For Kirke og Kultur has been marked from its first number by ability, conspicuous fairness, and a large catholicity, which give it an honorable place among church journals. And not even a fanatical admirer of Ibsen will deny that there is more than a grain of truth in the indictment which the writer of this article brings against him.

The central idea is the large, general objectivity of Shakespeare's plays as contrasted with the narrow, selfish subjectivity of Ibsen's. The difference bottoms in the difference between the age of Elizabeth and our own. Those were days of full, pulsing, untrammeled life. Men lived big, physical lives. They had few scruples and no nerves. Full-blooded passions, not petty problems of pathological psychology, were the things that interested poets and dramatists. They saw life fully and they saw it whole. So with Shakespeare. His characters are big, well-rounded men; they are not laboratory specimens. They live in the real Elizabethan world, not in the hothouse of the poet's brain. It is of no consequence that violence is done to "local color." Shakespeare beheld all the world and all ages through the lens of his own time and country, but because the men he saw were actual, living beings, the characters he gives us, be they mythological figures, Romans, Greeks, Italians, or Englishmen, have universal validity. He went to Italy for his greatest love-story. That gave him the right atmosphere. It is significant that Ibsen once thought it necessary to seek a suggestive background for one of his greatest characters. He went to Finmarken for Rebecca West.

Shakespeare's characters speak in loud, emphatic tones and they give utterance to clear, emphatic thoughts. There is no "twilight zone" in their thinking. Ibsen's men and women, like the children at Rosmersholm, never speak aloud; they merely whimper or they whisper the polite innuendos of the drawing room. The difference lies largely in the difference of the age. But Ibsen is more decadent than his age. There are great ideas in our time too, but Ibsen does not see them. He sees only the "thought." Contrast with this Shakespeare's colossal scale. He is "loud-voiced" but he is also "many-voiced." Ibsen speaks in a salon voice and always in one key. And the remarkable thing is that Shakespeare, in spite of his complicated plots, is always clear. The main lines of the action stand out boldly. There is always speed and movement—a speed and movement directly caused by powerful feelings. He makes his readers think on a bigger scale than does Ibsen. His passions are sounder because they are larger and more expansive.

Shakespeare is the dramatist of our average life; Ibsen, the poet of the rare exception. To Shakespeare's problems there is always an answer; underneath his storms there is peace, not merely filth and doubt. There is even a sense of a greater power—calm and immovable as history itself. Ibsen's plays are nervous, hectic, and unbelieving. In the words of Rosmer: "Since there is no judge over us, we must hold a judgment day for ourselves." Contrast this with Hamlet's soliloquy. And, finally, one feels sure in Shakespeare that the play means something. It has a beginning and an end. "What shall we say of plays like Ibsen's, in which Act I and Act II give no clue to Act III, and where both question and answer are hurled at us in the same speech?"

In the same year, 1895, Georg Brandes published in Samtiden,[15] at that time issued in Bergen, two articles on Shakespeare's Work in his Period of Gloom (Shakespeare i hans Digtnings morke Periode) which embody in compact form that thesis since elaborated in his big work. Shakespeare's tragedies were the outcome of a deep pessimism that had grown for years and culminated when he was about forty. He was tired of the vice, the hollowness, the ungratefulness, of life. The immediate cause must remain unknown, but the fact of his melancholy seems clear enough. His comedy days were over and he began to portray a side of life which he had hitherto kept hidden. Julius Caesar marks the transition. In Brutus we are reminded that high-mindedness in the presence of a practical situation often fails, and that practical mistakes are often as fatal as moral ones. From Brutus, Shakespeare came to Hamlet, a character in transition from fine youth, full of illusions, to a manhood whose faith is broken by the hard facts of the world. This is distinctly autobiographical. Hamlet and Sonnet 66 are of one piece. Shakespeare was disillusioned. Add to this his struggle against his enemy, Puritanism, and a growing conviction that the miseries of life bottom in ignorance, and the reason for his growing pessimism becomes clear. From Hamlet, whom the world crushes, to Macbeth, who faces it with its own weapons, yet is haunted and terrified by what he does, the step is easy. He knew Macbeth as he knew Hamlet.

[15. Vol. VI, pp. 49 ff.]

The scheming Iago, too, he must have known, for he has portrayed him with matchless art. "But Othello was a mere monograph; Lear is a cosmic picture. Shakespeare turns from Othello to Lear in consequence of the necessity which the poet feels to supplement and round out his beginning." Othello is noble chamber music; Lear is a symphony played by a gigantic orchestra. It is the noblest of all the tragedies, for in it are all the storm and tumult of life, all that was struggling and raging in his own soul. We may feel sure that the ingratitude he had met with is reflected in Goneril and Regan. Undoubtedly, in the same way, the poet had met the lovely Cleopatra and knew what it was to be ensnared by her.

Brandes, as has often been pointed out, did not invent this theory of Shakespeare's psychology but he elaborated it with a skill and persuasiveness which carried the uncritical away.

In his second article Brandes continues his analysis of Shakespeare's pessimism. In the period of the great tragedies there can be no doubt that Shakespeare was profoundly pessimistic. There was abundant reason for it. The age of Elizabeth was an age of glorious sacrifices, but it was also an age of shameless hypocrisy, of cruel and unjust punishments, of downright oppression. Even the casual observer might well grow sick at heart. A nature so finely balanced as Shakespeare's suffered a thousandfold. Hence this contempt for life which showed only corruption and injustice. Cressida and Cleopatra are sick with sin and evil; the men are mere fools and brawlers.

There is, moreover, a feeling that he is being set aside for younger men. We find clear expression of this in All's Well That Ends Well, in Troilus and Cressida. There is, too, in Troilus and Cressida a speech which shows the transition to the mood of Coriolanus, an aristocratic contempt for the mass of mankind. This is the famous speech in which Ulysses explains the necessity of social distinctions. Note in this connection Casca's contemptuous reference to the plebeians, Cleopatra's fear of being shown to the mob. Out of this feeling grew Coriolanus. The great patrician lives on the heights, and will not hear of bending to the crowd. The contempt of Coriolanus grew to the storming rage of Timon. When Coriolanus meets with ingratitude, he takes up arms; Timon is too supremely indifferent to do even this.

Thus Shakespeare's pessimism grew from grief over the power of evil (Othello) and misery over life's sorrows, to bitter hatred (Timon). And when he had raged to the uttermost, something of the resignation of old age came to him. We have the evidence of this in his last works. Perhaps, as in the case of his own heroes, a woman saved him. Brandes feels that the evolution of Shakespeare as a dramatist is to be traced in his women. We have first the domineering scold, reminding him possibly of his own domestic relations (Lady Macbeth); second, the witty, handsome women (Portia, Rosalind); third, the simple, naive women (Ophelia, Desdemona); fourth, the frankly sensuous women (Cleopatra, Cressida); and, finally, the young woman viewed with all an old man's joy (Miranda). Again his genius exercises his spell. Then, like Prospero, he casts his magician's staff into the sea.

In 1896 Brandes published his great work on Shakespeare. It arrested attention immediately in every country of the world. Never had a book so fascinating, so brilliant, so wonderfully suggestive, been written on Shakespeare. The literati were captivated. But alas, scholars were not. They admitted that Brandes had written an interesting book, that he had accumulated immense stores of information and given to these sapless materials a new life and a new attractiveness. But they pointed out that not only did his work contain gross positive errors, but it consisted, from first to last, of a tissue of speculations which, however ingenious, had no foundation in fact and no place in cool-headed criticism.[16] Theodor Bierfreund, one of the most brilliant Shakespeare scholars in Denmark, almost immediately attacked Brandes in a long article in the Norwegian periodical Samtiden.[17]

[16. Cf. Vilhelm Moller in Nordisk Tidskrift foer Vetenskap, Konst och Industri. 1896, pp. 501-519.]

[17. Samtiden, 1896. (VII), pp. 382 ff.]

He acknowledges the great merits of the work. It is an enormously rich compilation of Shakespeare material gathered from the four corners of the earth and illuminated by the genius of a great writer. He gives the fullest recognition to Brandes' miraculous skill in analyzing characters and making them live before our eyes. But he warns us that Brandes is no critical student of source materials, and that we must be on our guard in accepting his conclusions. It is not so certain that the sonnets mean all that Brandes would have them mean, and it is certain that we must be cautious in inferring too much from Troilus and Cressida and Pericles for, in the opinion of the reviewer, Shakespeare probably had little or nothing to do with them. He then sketches briefly his theory that these plays cannot be Shakespeare's, a theory which he later elaborated in his admirably written monograph, Shakespeare og hans Kunst.[18] This, however, belongs to the study of Shakespearean criticism in Denmark.

[18. Copenhagen, 1898.]

So far as I have been able to find, Bierfreund's review was the only one published in Norway immediately after the publication of Brandes' work, but in 1899, S. Brettville Jensen took up the matter again in For Kirke og Kultur[19] and, in 1901, Christen Collin vigorously assailed in Samtiden that elaborate and fanciful theory of the sonnets which plays so great a part in Brandes' study of Shakespeare.

[19. Vol. VI (1899), pp. 400 ff.]

Brettville Jensen praises Brandes highly. He is always interesting, in harmony with his age, and in rapport with his reader. "But his book is a fantasy palace, supported by columns as lovely as they are hollow and insecure, and hovering in rainbow mists between earth and sky." Brandes has rare skill in presenting hypotheses as facts. He has attempted to reconstruct the life of Shakespeare from his works. Now this is a mode of criticism which may yield valuable results, but clearly it must be used with great care. Shakespeare knew the whole of life, but how he came to know it is another matter. Brandes thinks he has found the secret. Back of every play and every character there is a personal experience. But this is rating genius altogether too cheap. One must concede something to the imagination and the creative ability of the poet. To relate everything in Shakespeare's dramas to the experiences of Shakespeare the man, is both fanciful and uncritical.

The same objection naturally holds regarding the meaning of the sonnets which Brandes has made his own. Here we must bear in mind the fact that much of the language in the sonnets is purely conventional. We should have a difficult time indeed determining just how much is biographical and how much belongs to the stock in trade of Elizabethan sonneteers. Brettville Jensen points out that if the sonnets are the expression of grief at the loss of his beloved, it is a queer contradiction that Sonnet 144, which voices his most poignant sorrow, should date from 1599, the year, according to Brandes, when Shakespeare's comedy period began!

It is doubtless true that the plays and even the sonnets mark great periods in the life of the poet, but we may be sure that the relation between experience and literary creation was not so literal as Brandes would have us believe. The change from mood to mood, from play to play, was gradual, and it never destroyed Shakespeare's poise and sanity. We shall not judge Shakespeare rightly if we believe that personal feeling rather than artistic truth shaped his work.

Two years later Collin, a critic of fine insight and appreciation, wrote in Samtiden[20] an article on the sonnets of Shakespeare. He begins by picturing Shakespeare's surprise if he could rise from his grave in the little church at Stratford and look upon the pompous and rather naive bust, and hear the strange tongues of the thousands of pilgrims at his shrine. Even greater would be his surprise if he could examine the ponderous tomes in the Shakespeare Memorial Library at Birmingham which have been written to explain him and his work. And if any of these volumes could interest him at all it would doubtless be those in which ingenious critics have attempted to discover the poet in the plays and the poems. Collin then gives a brief survey of modern Shakespearean criticism—Furnivall, Dowden, Brandl, Boas, ten Brink, and, more recently, Sidney, Lee, Brandes, and Bierfreund. An important object of the study of these men has been to fix the chronology of the plays. They seldom fully agree. Sidney Lee and the Danish critic, Bierfreund, do not accept the usual theory that the eight tragedies from Julius Caesar to Coriolanus reflect a period of gloom and pessimism. In their opinion psychological criticism has, in this instance, proved a dismal failure.

[20. Vol. XII, pp. 61 ff.]

The battle has raged with particular violence about the sonnets. Most scholars assume that we have in them a direct presentation (fremstilling) of a definite period in the life of the poet. And by placing this period directly before the creation of Hamlet, Brandes has succeeded in making the relations to the "dark lady" a crisis in Shakespeare's life. The story, which, as Brandes tells it, has a remarkable similarity to an ultra-modern naturalistic novel, becomes even more piquant since Brandes knows the name of the lady, nay, even of the faithless friend. All this information Brandes has, of course, taken from Thomas Tyler's introduction to the Irving edition of the sonnets (1890), but his passion for the familiar anecdote has led him to embellish it with immense enthusiasm and circumstantiality.

The hypothesis, however, is essentially weak. Collin disagrees absolutely with Lee that the sonnets are purely conventional, without the slightest biographical value. Mr. Lee has weakened his case by admitting that "key-sonnet" No. 144 is autobiographical. Now, if this be true, then one must assume that the sonnets set forth Shakespeare's relations to a real man and a real woman. But the most convincing argument against the Herbert-Fitton theory lies in the chronology. It is certain that the sonnet fashion was at its height immediately after the publication of Sidney's sequence in 1591, and it seems equally certain that it had fallen off by 1598. This chronology is rendered probable by two facts about Shakespeare's work. First, Shakespeare employs the sonnet in dialogue in Two Gentlemen of Verona and in Romeo and Juliet. These plays belong to the early nineties. Second, the moods of the sonnets exactly correspond, on the one hand, to the exuberant sensuality of Venus and Adonis, on the other, to the restraint of the Lucrece.

An even safer basis for determining the chronology of the sonnets Collin finds in the group in which the poet laments his poverty and his outcast state. If the sonnets are autobiographical—and Collin agrees with Brandes that they are—then this group (26, 29, 30, 31, 37, 49, 66, 71-75, 99, 110-112, 116, 119, 120, 123, and 124) must refer to a time when the poet was wretched, poor, and obscure. And in this case, the sonnets cannot be placed at 1598-99, when Shakespeare was neither poor nor despised, a time in which, according to Brandes, he wrote his gayest comedies.

It seems clear from all this that the sonnets cannot be placed so late as 1598-1600. They do not fit the facts of Shakespeare's life at this time. But they do fit the years from 1591 to 1594, and especially the years of the plague, 1592-3, when the theaters were generally closed, and Shakespeare no doubt had to battle for a mere existence. In 1594 Shakespeare's position became more secure. He gained the favor of Southampton and dedicated the Rape of Lucrece to him.

Collin develops at this point with a good deal of fullness his theory that the motifs of the sonnets recur in Venus and Adonis and Lucrece—in Venus and Adonis, a certain crass naturalism; in Lucrece a high and spiritual morality. In the sonnets the same antithesis is found. Compare Sonnet 116—in praise of friendship—with 129, in which is pictured the tyranny and the treachery of sensual love. These two forces, sensual love and platonic friendship, were mighty cultural influences during Shakespeare's apprentice years and the young poet shows plainly that he was moved by both.

If all this be true, then the Herbert-Fitton theory falls to the ground, for in 1597 Herbert was only seventeen. But unquestionably the sonnets are autobiographical. They reveal with a poignant power Shakespeare's sympathy, his unique ability to enter into another personality, his capacity of imaginative expansion to include the lives of others. Compare the noble sonnet 112, which Collin translates:

Din kjaerlighed og medynk daekker til det ar, som sladderen paa min pande trykket. Lad andre tro og sige, hvad de vil,— du kjaerlig mine feil med fortrin smykket.

Du er mit verdensalt, og fra din mund jeg henter al min skam og al min aere. For andre er jeg dod fra denne stund, og de for mig som skygger blot skal vaere.

I avgrunds dyp jeg al bekymring kaster! for andres rost min horesans er slov. Hvadenten de mig roser eller laster, jeg som en hugorm er og vorder dov.

Saa helt du fylder ut min sjael herinde, at hele verden synes at forsvinde.

At this point the article in Samtiden closes. Collin promises to give in a later number, a metrical translation of a number of significant sonnets. The promised renderings, however, never appeared. Thirteen years later, in 1914, the author, in a most interesting and illuminating book, Det Geniale Menneske,[21] a study of "genius" and its relation to civilization, reprinted his essay in Samtiden and supplemented it with three short chapters. In the first of these he endeavors to show that in the sonnets Shakespeare gives expression to two distinct tendencies of the Renaissance—the tendency toward a loose and unregulated gratification of the senses, and the tendency toward an elevated and platonic conception of friendship. Shakespeare sought in both of these a compensation for his own disastrous love affair and marriage. But the healing that either could give was at best transitory. There remained to him as a poet of genius one resource. He could gratify his own burning desire for a pure and unselfish love by living in his mighty imagination the lives of his characters. "He who in his yearning for the highest joys of love had been compelled to abandon hope, found a joy mingled with pain, in giving of his life to lovers in whom the longing of William Shakespeare lives for all time.

"He has loved and been loved. It was he whom Sylvia, Hermia, Titania, Portia, Juliet, Beatrice, Rosalind, Viola, and Olivia loved,—and Ophelia, Desdemona, Hermione and Miranda."

[21. Chr. Collin, Christiania. 1914. H. Aschehoug & Co.]

In the second chapter Collin argues, as he had done in his essay on Hamlet[22] that Shakespeare's great tragedies voice no pessimism, but the stern purpose to strengthen himself and his contemporaries against the evils and vices of Jacobean England—that period of moral and intellectual disintegration which followed the intense life of the Elizabethan age. Shakespeare battles against the ills of society as the Greek dramatists had done, by showing sin and wickedness as destroyers of life, and once this is done, by firing mankind to resistance against the forces of ruin and decay. "To hold the mirror up to nature," that men may see the devastation which evil and vice bring about in the social body. And to do this he does not, like some modern writers, shun moralizing. He warns against sensual excess in Adam's speech in As You Like It, II, 3:

Let me be your servant; Though I look old, yet am I strong and lusty; For in my youth I never did apply Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood; Nor did not with unbashful forehead woo The means of weakness and debility;

[22. See pp. 71 ff. below.]

Or, compare the violent outburst against drunkenness in Hamlet Act 1, Sc. 4, and the stern warning against the same vice in Othello, where, indeed, Cassius' weakness for strong drink is the immediate occasion of the tragic complication. In like manner, Shakespeare moralizes against lawless love in the Merry Wives, in Troilus and Cressida, in Hamlet, in Lear.

On the other hand, Shakespeare never allows artistic scruples to stand in the way of exalting simple, domestic virtues. Simple conjugal fidelity is one of the glories of Hamlet's illustrious father and of the stern, old Roman, Coriolanus; the young prince, Malcolm, is as chaste and innocent as the young barbarians of whom Tacitus tells.

In a final section, Collin connects this view of Hamlet which he has developed in his essay on Hamlet and the Sonnets, with the theory of human civilization which his book so suggestively advances.

The great tragedies from Hamlet to Timon of Athens are not autobiographical in the sense that they are reflections of Shakespeare's own concrete experience. They are not the record of a bitter personal pessimism. In the years when they were written Shakespeare was contented and prosperous. He restored the fortunes of his family and he was hailed as a master of English without a peer. It is therefore a priori quite unlikely that the tragic atmosphere of this period should go back to purely personal disappointments. The case is more likely this: Shakespeare had grown in power of sympathy with his fellows and his time. He had become sensitive to the needs and sorrows of the society about him. He could put himself in the place of those who are sick in mind and heart. And in consequence of this he could preach to this generation the simple gospel of right living and show to them the psychic weakness whence comes all human sorrow.

And through this expansion of his ethical consciousness what had he gained? Not merely a fine insight as in Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus, an insight which enables him to treat with comprehending sympathy even great criminals and traitors, but a high serenity and steady poise which enables him to write the romances of his last years—Cymbeline, A Winter's Tale, and The Tempest. He had come to feel that human life, after all, with its storms, is a little thing, a dream and a fata morgana, which soon must give place to a permanent reality:

We are such stuff As dreams are made of, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.

In 1904 Collin wrote in Nordisk Tidskrift foer Vetenskap, Konst och Industri[23] a most suggestive article on Hamlet. He again dismisses the widely accepted theory of a period of gloom and increasing pessimism as baseless. The long line of tragedies cannot be used to prove this. They are the expression of a great poet's desire to strengthen mankind in the battle of life.

[23: This article is reprinted in Det Geniale Menneske above referred to. It forms the second of a group of essays in which Collin analyzes the work of Shakespeare as the finest example of the true contribution of genius to the progress and culture of the race. Preceding the study of Hamlet is a chapter called The Shakespearean Controversy, and following it is a study of Shakespeare the Man. This is in three parts, the first of which is a reprint of an article in Samtiden (1901).

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