“Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages”

April 23, 2016 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classic Books, Plays, Poetry | 2 Comments |

(Painting of William Shakespeare attributed to John Taylor)

Commemorating the death of the Bard (April 23 (?) 1564 to April 23, 1616) today, we note that William Shakespeare mesmerised his world, and the world ever since, although recently it seemed his status had become diminished.  We predict this to be a mere phase.  His plays are still staged and he will persist (to some, annoyingly so) in outpointing everyone else.

Here are some random tributes, old and new:

Shakespeare changes the entire meaning of what it is to have created a man made out of words. [Harold Bloom, The Western Canon 1994]

What is generally forgotten is that Shakespeare himself is a greater hero than any of the figures he depicted: that actually in spectacular glory and renown no physical achievement could surpass his. [Wyndham Lewis, The Lion and the Fox 1927]

When he describes any thing, you more than see it, you feel it too. [John Dryden, An Essay of Dramatic Poesy 1668]

We must be free or die, who speak the tongue that Shakspeare spake…[William Wordsworth]

Why, here’s our fellow Shakespeare puts them all down, ay, and Ben Jonson, too. [quoted from ‘The (third of the) Parnassus Plays’ c. 1602/3, by Katherine Duncan-Jones, Shakespeare’s Life and World 2004]

His house in Stratford-upon-Avon (photo attributed to "Pessimist")

His house in Stratford-upon-Avon (photo attributed to “Pessimist”)

(In the First Folio of his plays) you will find enough both to draw and hold you; for his wit can no more lie hid, than it could be lost. [John Heminge and Henry Condell, Epistle to the First Folio 1623]

No one has more imaginative sympathy than Shakespeare. [E.E. Stoll, Othello: An Historical and Comparative Study 1915]

This therefore is the praise of Shakespeare, that his drama is the mirror of life… [Samuel Johnson]

With Shakespeare the story is never the secret.  He will take, in his own large indolent way, any man’s story and make it his property; nor does he care how the facts may seem to damn hero or heroine, so only that he have the handling of their motives.  [Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, Studies in Literature 1922]

Shakespeare takes a few bones from the novel’s plot and flings the rest to well-deserved oblivion.  Round those bones he builds a new work whose purport, atmosphere, and language have really nothing in common with his original. [C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image 1964]

If the day ever comes when Shakespeare is no longer acted, read and studied, quoted and loved, Western Man will be near his end.  [J. B. Priestley, Literature and Western Man 1960]

With Shakespeare…essentially we know absolutely nothing.  His deliberate colourlessness may have been one of his many masks for an intellectual autonomy and originality so vast that not only his contemporaries but also his forerunners and followers have been considerably eclipsed by comparison. [Harold Bloom, Shakespeare – the Invention of the Human 1998]

Shakespeare has this advantage over all other dramatists – that he has availed himself of his psychological genius to develop all the minutiae of the human heart: shewing us the thing that, to common observers, he seems solely intent upon, he makes visible what we should not otherwise have seen… [S. T. Coleridge, 1811-12]


For though his line of life went soon about, The life yet of his lines shall never out. [Hugh Holland, Upon the Life and Lines of the Famous Scenic Poet, Master William Shakespeare 1623]

I have great reason to be content, for thank God I can read and perhaps understand Shakespeare to his depths… [John Keats, letter to John Taylor, c. 1818]

As Rupert Brooke, who also died on April 23, might have said of him: He leaves a white unbroken glory, a gathered radiance, a width, a shining peace, under the night.

Apart from the problematic last Will and Testament, Shakespeare’s nastiest poesy appears on his tomb (see below).  As a parting gesture, we prefer his glorious lines from Cymbeline (Act IV, Scene II):

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,

Nor the furious winter’s rages;

Thou thy worldly task hast done,

Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages…
















[Vide our other Shakespeare (or related) posts: King Lear, Macbeth, Richard III, Henry V, Falstaff, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Twelfth Night, Two Gentlemen of VeronaJulius Caesar.]


  1. Reply

    Wheel Wright

    April 23, 2016

    I doubt we will ever see an imagination of such subtlety and scope again

  2. Reply

    Septimus Warren Smith

    March 17, 2022

    The genius is always at the mercy of his genius. Poor, suffering Shakespeare; he couldn't run fast enough to get away from himself.

Leave a comment...

While your email address is required to post a comment, it will NOT be published.

Leave a Reply

© Copyright 2014 The Varnished Culture All Rights Reserved. TVC Disclaimer. Site by KWD&D.