chapter  III
18 Pages

Shakespeare and the dramatic mode

For nearly a century and a half now Shakespeare has been generally admitted to be one of the greatest of the world's dramatists and for nearly two hundred years certain of his readers have believed him the greatest of all. For in his mature work he seems to stand alone in fulness of achievement. This belief is undoubtedly due, in the first place, to his supreme possession of all the essential qualities or powers that belong to a great dramatist; the passion, the thought, and the sympathy with human experience that characterize the true dramatic imagination. And no other writer seems to have so full and unflawed possession of all these simultaneously. He stands supreme, not simply as the greatest writer using the dramatic form, but precisely because he is a dramatist. Being in all things the essential dramatist, his greatness is commensurate with the essentially dramatic quality in him; the quality constitutes the greatness. Or, to put it rather differently, it is precisely because he is more profoundly and more fully dramatic than any other that he is supreme.