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Much of this applies, of course, to character as well as to plot. The seeming contradictions in the character of Hamlet, over which the critics have wrangled for a century or two, are not really so great or improbable as those to be found in many youths who pass for commonplace; and that man's experience is limited who has not encountered, in his time, women of more ‘infinite variety’ than Shakespeare's Cleopatra. Character in real life is a far more absorbing study than character in fiction; and when it comes to plot, fiction is nowhere in comparison. Toss a skein of thread into the sea, and within twenty-four hours the waves and the floating seaweed will have tangled it into a knot more perplexing than the utmost effort of your hands can weave; and so the complex plots of life are wound by the currents of life itself, not by the romancers. If life thus provides them, they are a part of life, and must not be omitted when there is a pretence at its delineation. I once heard an eloquent preacher (W. H. Channing) express the opinion that we should spend a considerable part of eternity in unravelling the strange history

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William Shakespeare (1)
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