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Thrilling Play by Tutor of Shakespeare

Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593).  Doctor Faustus. Vol. 19, pp. 241-250 of The Harvard Classics
For the best blank verse in English, read "Dr. Faustus," the masterpiece of Marlowe, who gave Shakespeare lessons in playwriting. This genius knew the secret of gripping drama.
(Marlowe died June 1, 1593.)

Scene XII [The Court of the Duke of Vanholt.]
Enter the DUKE [of VANHOLT], the DUCHESS, FAUSTUS, and MEPHISTOPHILIS
Duke Believe me, Master Doctor, this merriment hath much pleased me. Faust. My gracious lord, I am glad it contents you so well.—But it may be, madam, you take no delight in this. I have heard that great-bellied women do long for some dainties or other. What is it, madam? Tell me, and you shall have it. Duchess. Thanks, good Master Doctor; and for I see your courteous intent to pleasure me, I will not hide from you the thing my heart desires; and were it now summer, as it is January and the dead time of the winter, I would desire no better meat than a dish of ripe…

America's Most Surprising Poet

Walt Whitman (1855). Preface to Leaves of Grass. Vol. 39, pp. 388-398 of The Harvard Classics
Walt Whitman is the most original and startling of modern poets. An irony of his life is that while he wrote for the contemporary masses, only a limited number of followers appreciated his genius, now universally recognized. (Walt Whitman born May 31, 1819.)

1 AMERICA does not repel the past or what it has produced under its forms or amid other politics or the idea of castes or the old religions … accepts the lesson with calmness … is not so impatient as has been supposed that the slough still sticks to opinions and manners and literature while the life which served its requirements has passed into the new life of the new forms … perceives that the corpse is slowly borne from the eating and sleeping rooms of the house … perceives that it waits a little while in the door … that it was fittest for its days … that its action has descended to the stalwart and well shaped heir who approaches … and th…

When the Throb of the War Drum Is Stifl'd

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). The Building of the Ship Vol. 42, pp. 1280-1290 of The Harvard Classics
(Memorial Day.) At the close of the war, a torn and bleeding nation set about to rebuild its shattered frame. The result was a stronger nation rising from an almost disrupted union.

‘BUILD me straight, O worthy Master!   Stanch and strong, a goodly vessel, That shall laugh at all disaster,   And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!’

Adventures in Bagdad

Stories from the Thousand and One Nights. Vol. 16, pp. 177-184 of The Harvard Classics
A Bagdad merchant dreamed of the money he would make from the sale of a tray of glassware, and of marrying the king's daugh­ter. But, daydreaming, he kicked over the tray.

Nights 24–32 The Barber’s Fifth Brother
MY fifth brother (El-Feshshar [“Alnaschar”]) was cropped of his ears, O Prince of the Faithful. He was a pauper, who begged alms by night, and subsisted upon what he thus acquired by day: and our father was a very old man, and he fell sick and died, leaving to us seven hundred pieces of silver, of which each of us took his portion; namely, a hundred pieces. Now my fifth brother, when he had received his share, was perplexed, not knowing what to do with it; but while he was in this state, it occurred to his mind to buy with it all kinds of articles of glass, and to sell them and make profit: so he bought glass with his hundred pieces of silver, and put it in a large tray, and sat upon an ele…

Master of Melodious Lyrics

Thomas Moore (1779–1852) Vol. 41, pp. 816-822 of The Harvard Classics
Any one of these poems, "The Harp That Once Through Tara's Halls," "The Last Rose of Summer," "The Light of Other Days," would alone have made Moore immortal. (Thomas Moore born May 28, 1779.)

The Light of Other Days
OFT in the stilly night   Ere slumber’s chain has bound me, Fond Memory brings the light   Of other days around me:     The smiles, the tears     Of boyhood’s years,   The words of love then spoken;     The eyes that shone,     Now dimm’d and gone,   The cheerful hearts now broken! Thus in the stilly night   Ere slumber’s chain has bound me, Sad Memory brings the light   Of other days around me.
When I remember all   The friends so link’d together I’ve seen around me fall   Like leaves in wintry weather,     I feel like one     Who treads alone   Some banquet-hall deserted,     Whose lights are fled     Whose garlands dead,   And all but he departed! Thus in the stilly nig…

Lessing's Courageous Stand for Toleration

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781). The Education of The Human Race Vol. 32 pp.185-195 of The Harvard Classics
To advance freedom of thought, Lessing published an essay of one hundred paragraphs outlining the history of religion. The wrath of orthodox churchmen was hurled at his head, and Lessing was left alone to defend his daring theories.

1
  THAT which Education is to the Individual, Revelation is to the Race.
2
  Education is Revelation coming to the Individual Man; and Revelation is Education which has come, and is yet coming, to the Human Race. 3
  Whether it can be of any advantage to the science of instruction to contemplate Education in this point of view, I will not here inquire; but in Theology it may unquestionably be of great advantage, and may remove many difficulties, if Revelation be conceived of as the Educator of Humanity.

Daughter Declares Her Love

William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Tragedy of King Lear. Vol. 46, pp. 215-225 of The Harvard Classics
Goneril and Regan falsely swore they loved their father, King Lear, more than life itself. Cordelia could find no words to ex­press her sincere devotion. Then King Lear made the decision that started a series of exciting events. (Shakespeare's first daughter, Susanna, baptized May 26, 1583.)

Act I Scene I
[King Lear’s palace]
Enter KENT, GLOUCESTER,and EDMUND
Kent.  I THOUGHT the King had more affected 1 the Duke of Albany than Cornwall. Glou.  It did always seem so to us; but now, in the division of the kingdom, it appears not which of the Dukes he values most; for qualities 2 are so weigh’d, that curiosity in neither can make choice of either’s moiety. 3 Kent.  Is not this your son, my lord? Glou.  His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge. I have so often blush’d to acknowledge him, that now I am braz’d 4 to ’t. Kent.  I cannot conceive you. Glou.  Sir, this young fellow’s mother coul…

Do What You Fear

Ralph Waldo Emerson. (1803–1882). Essays and English Traits. Vol. 5, pp. 121-131 of The Harvard Classics
Emerson startled the world by fearlessly declaring his beliefs. Such apparent paradoxes as we find in his inspirational essay, "Heroism," makes him the most stimulating yet profound thinker America has produced. (Emerson born May 25, 1803.)

Essays VII. Heroism 1841
Paradise is under the shadow of swords. —Mahomet

IN the elder English dramatists, and mainly in the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher, there is a constant recognition of gentility, as if a noble behavior were as easily marked in the society of their age as color is in our American population. When any Rodrigo, Pedro or Valerio enters, though he be a stranger, the duke or governor exclaims, “This is a gentleman,” and proffers civilities without end; but all the rest are slag and refuse. In harmony with this delight in personal advantages there is in their plays a certain heroic cast of character and dialogue,—as in Bon…

They Had No Money - Yet Bought and Sold

Adam Smith. (1723–1790). Wealth of Nations. Vol. 10, pp.27-33 of The Harvard Classics
Debts were not always paid in money. Not so long ago the butcher paid for his keg of beer with a slab of beef, and oxen were exchanged for land and wives. Adam Smith tells the inter­esting story of the origin and use of money.

Book I IV. Of the Origin and Use of Money
WHEN the division of labour has been once thoroughly established, it is but a very small part of a man’s wants which the produce of his own labour can supply. He supplies the far greater part of them by exchanging that surplus part of the produce of his own labour, which is over and above his own consumption, for such parts of the produce of other men’s labour as he has occasion for. Every man thus lives by exchanging, or becomes in some measure a merchant, and the society itself grows to be what is properly a commercial society.

A Plea for an Unfortunate

Thomas Hood (1798–1845) Vol. 41, pp. 907-911 of The Harvard Classics
From the river her body was tenderly lifted - the girl who could find no place in the vast city. Thomas Hood pleads for her - eloquently and justly. Read this gem of pathos. (Thomas Hood born May 23, 1799.)

The Bridge of Sighs
ONE more Unfortunate Weary of breath Rashly importunate, Gone to her death!
Take her up tenderly, Lift her with care; Fashion’d so slenderly, Young, and so fair!

True Love in Difficulty

Alessandro Manzoni (1785–1873). I Promessi Sposi. Vol. 21, pp. 7-24 of The Harvard Classics
Because of a fancy for a peasant girl, the tyrannical lord of an Italian village sent desperadoes to threaten the priest if he mar­ried the girl to her village lover. (Manzoni died May 22, 1873.)

Chapter I
THAT branch of the lake of Como, which extends towards the south, is enclosed by two unbroken chains of mountains, which, as they advance and recede, diversify its shores with numerous bays and inlets. Suddenly the lake contracts itself, and takes the course and form of a river, between a promontory on the right, and a wide open shore on the opposite side. The bridge which there joins the two banks seems to render this transformation more sensible to the eye, and marks the point where the lake ends, and the Adda again begins—soon to resume the name of the lake, where the banks receding afresh, allow the water to extend and spread itself in new gulfs and bays.

An Honest Man Defined

Alexander Pope (1688–1744). An Essay on Man. Vol. 40, pp. 430-440 of The Harvard Classics
The sharp tongue of Alexander Pope made him celebrated, yet widely feared. In a representative product of his versatile pen, he gracefully combines his flashing wit with sage advice. (Alexander Pope born May 21, 1688.)

Epistle IV—Of the Nature and State of Man with Respect to Happiness
OH Happiness! our being’s end and aim! Good, pleasure, ease, content! whate’er thy name: That something still which prompts th’ eternal sigh, For which we bear to live, or dare to die, Which still so near us, yet beyond us lies, O’er-look’d, seen double, by the fool, and wise.

Shakespeare's Finest Work

William Shakespeare (1564–1616). Sonnets Vol. 40, pp. 270-276 of The Harvard Classics
The most concentrated beauty of Shakespeare's unbounded crea­tive genius is found in his sonnets. Written as personal messages to friends and not intended for publication, they reveal the inner Shakespeare more truly than do any of his great plays. (Sonnets entered in the London Stationers' Register, May 20, 1609.)

A Sea Dirge
FULL fathom five thy father lies: Of his bones are coral made; Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea-change Into something rich and strange. Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell: Hark! now I hear them,— Ding, dong, bell.

Golden Advice on Manners

Epictetus. (c.A.D. 50–c.A.D. 138). The Golden Sayings of Epictetus. Vol. 2, pp. 128-138 of The Harvard Classics
When a man is invited to a banquet he must be satisfied with the dishes put before him. Epictetus reasoned that man should be content with what life offers, and in serenity find happiness.

XXXIII Knowest thou what a speck thou art in comparison with the Universe?—That is, with respect to the body; since with respect to Reason, thou art not inferior to the Gods, nor less than they. For the greatness of Reason is not measured by length or height, but by the resolves of the mind. Place then thy happiness in that wherein thou art equal to the Gods.

The Night Life of Flowers

Hans Christian Andersen. (1805–1875) Tales. Vol. 17, pp. 334-341 of The Harvard Classics
Flowers often tire of their stationary life and sometimes at night frolic away to a ball in a beautiful castle. Thus a fanciful story-teller accounts for their drooping condition in the morning.

Little Ida’s Flowers
“MY poor flowers are quite dead!” said little Ida. “They were so pretty yesterday, and now all the leaves hang withered. Why do they do that?” she asked the Student, who sat on the sofa; for she liked him very much. He knew the prettiest stories, and could cut out the most amusing pictures: hearts, with little ladies in them who danced; flowers, and great castles in which one could open the doors; he was a merry student. “Why do the flowers look so faded to-day?” she asked again, and showed him a nosegay, which was quite withered.
  “Do you know what’s the matter with them?” said the Student. “The flowers have been at a ball last night, and that’s why they hang their heads.”
  “But flo…

An Honest Life's Reward

Plato. (427?–347 B.C.). The Apology, Phædo and Crito. Vol. 2, pp. 24-30 of The Harvard Classics
Condemned for impiety, Socrates felt so justified in the virtue of his past action that instead of receiving a death sentence, he told the judges he should be maintained at public expense as a public benefactor.

The Apology of Socrates
[...]
THERE are many reasons why I am not grieved, O men of Athens, at the vote of condemnation. I expected this, and am only surprised that the votes are so nearly equal; for I had thought that the majority against me would have been far larger; but now, had thirty votes gone over to the other side, I should have been acquitted. And I may say that I have escaped Meletus. And I may say more; for without the assistance of Anytus and Lycon, he would not have had a fifth part of the votes, as the law requires, in which case he would have incurred a fine of a thousand drachmæ, as is evident.

Favorite Superstitions of Celtic Imagination

Ernest Renan.. The Poetry of The Celtic Races II Vol. 32, pp. 145-155 of The Harvard Classics
Chessboards on which, of their own accord, black pieces played against white; chariots that swiftly turned hither and yon without a driver; pots in which a coward's meat would not cook - all these are woven into bewitching stories.

AT a first glance the literature of Wales is divided into three perfectly distinct branches: the bardic or lyric, which shines forth in splendour in the sixth century by the works of Taliessin, of Aneurin, and of Liwarc’h Hen, and continues through an uninterrupted series of imitations up to modern times; the Mabinogion, or literature of romance, fixed towards the twelfth century, but linking themselves in the groundwork of their ideas with the remotest ages of the Celtic genius; finally, an ecclesiastical and legendary literature, impressed with a distinct stamp of its own. These three literatures seem to have existed side by side, almost without knowledge of o…

Glimpses Into the Beyond

Dante Alighieri (1265–1321). The Divine Comedy. Vol. 20, pp. 102-114 of The Harvard Classics
The best part of the Divine Comedy for a few minutes' reading is the "Inferno." There the reader finds the most vivid descriptions, the most startling and unforgettable pictures. (Dante born May 15, 1265.)

Inferno [Hell] Canto XXV
ARGUMENT.—The sacrilegious Fucci vents his fury in blasphemy, is seized by serpents, and flying is pursued by Cacus in the form of a Centaur, who is described with a swarm of serpents on his haunch, and a dragon on his shoulders breathing forth fire. Our Poet then meets with the spirits of three of his countrymen, two of whom undergo a marvelous transformation in his presence.

Jenner's Amazing Smallpox Cure

Edward Jenner (1749–1823). The Three Original Publications on Vaccination Against Smallpox. Vol. 38, pp. 145-154 of The Harvard Classics
Edward Jenner found that disease in the heel of a horse, trans­mitted through a cow to the dairy attendants, was an agent in making human beings immune from smallpox. His amazing experiments inaugurated a new epoch. (Edward Jenner makes his first vaccination May 14, 1796.)

An Inquiry Into the Causes and Effects of the Variolæ Vaccinæ, Or Cow-Pox. 1798
THE DEVIATION of man from the state in which he was originally placed by nature seems to have proved to him a prolific source of diseases. From the love of splendour, from the indulgences of luxury, and from his fondness for amusement he has familiarised himself with a great number of animals, which may not originally have been intended for his associates.

What Does Your Dog Think of You?

Robert Burns (1759–1796). Poems and Songs. Vol. 6, pp. 151-157 of The Harvard Classics
Two dogs fell a-gossiping about their masters and about a dog's life among the humble Scotch folk. Each "rejoic'd they werena men but dogs; an' each took aff his several way."

The Twa Dogs A TALE
’TWAS1 in that place o’ Scotland’s isle, That bears the name o’ auld King Coil, Upon a bonie day in June, When wearin’ thro’ the afternoon, Twa dogs, that were na thrang at hame, Forgather’d ance upon a time.   The first I’ll name, they ca’d him Caesar, Was keepit for His Honor’s pleasure: His hair, his size, his mouth, his lugs, Shew’d he was nane o’ Scotland’s dogs; But whalpit some place far abroad, Whare sailors gang to fish for cod.   His locked, letter’d, braw brass collar Shew’d him the gentleman an’ scholar; But though he was o’ high degree, The fient a pride, nae pride had he; But wad hae spent an hour caressin, Ev’n wi’ al tinkler-gipsy’s messin: At kirk or market, mill or smidd…

His Wife's Golden Hair Enshrined His Poems

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882) Vol. 42, pp. 1149-1153, 1178-1181 of The Harvard Classics
The manuscripts of many of the best poems of Rossetti were buried with his wife. Friends prevailed upon him to allow them to be exhumed - and these poems, once buried with the dead, are now a treasure of the living. (Rossetti born May 12, 1828.)

The Blessèd Damozel
THE BLESSÈD Damozel lean’d out   From the gold bar of Heaven: Her blue grave eyes were deeper much   Than a deep water, even. She had three lilies in her hand,   And the stars in her hair were seven.

Latest Gossip in Malfi

John Webster (1580?–1634). The Duchess of Malfi. Vol. 47, pp. 821-837* of The Harvard Classics
Latest news abroad in Malfi: The Duchess has run off with her butler. But this happened before the days of newspapers or radio, so Webster made from it an exciting play.

*Correction from the original text which prompted to read pages 721-737 which would have been from the play, Philaster rather than The Duchess of Malfi.

Act IV Scene II
[Enter Madman]
Here by a Madman this song is sung to a dismal kind of music
O, let us howl some heavy note,   Some deadly dogged howl, Sounding as from the threatening throat   Of beasts and fatal fowl! As ravens, screech-owls, bulls, and bears,   We ’ll bell, and bawl our parts, Till irksome noise have cloy’d your ears   And corrosiv’d your hearts. At last, whenas our choir wants breath,   Our bodies being blest, We ’ll sing, like swans, to welcome death,   And die in love and rest.

A Knight Among Cannibals

Sir Walter Raleigh. The Discovery of Guiana Vol. 33, pp. 326-341 of The Harvard Classics
Savages who drink the powdered bones of their dead mixed with wine, Amazons who hold riotous festivals, the worship of golden statues, all the primitive wonders of Guiana are described by the famous Elizabethan gallant, Sir Walter Raleigh.

  Although, as I am persuaded, Guiana cannot be entered that way, yet no doubt the trade of gold from thence passeth by branches of rivers into the river of Amazons, and so it doth on every hand far from the country itself; for those Indians of Trinidad have plates of gold from Guiana, and those cannibals of Dominica which dwell in the islands by which our ships pass yearly to the West Indies, also the Indians of Paria, those Indians called Tucaris, Chochi, Apotomios, Cumanagotos, and all those other nations inhabiting near about the mountains that run from Paria thorough the province of Venezuela, and in Maracapana,and the cannibals of Guanipa, the Indians calle…

Relation of Art to Freedom

J. C. Friedrich von Schiller. Letters upon the Æsthetic Education of Man Vol. 32, pp. 209-217 of The Harvard Classics
Who has ever thought the arts had anything to do with freedom? Schiller did. Forced by a German noble to enter a mili­tary school, he escaped. Struggling to achieve freedom, he wrote a series of letters on the relation of art to freedom. (Friedrich von Schiller died May 9, 1805.)

Letter I
BY your permission I lay before you, in a series of letters, the results of my researches upon beauty and art. I am keenly sensible of the importance as well as of the charm and dignity of this undertaking. I shall treat a subject which is closely connected with the better portion of our happiness and not far removed from the moral nobility of human nature. I shall plead this cause of the Beautiful before a heart by which her whole power is felt and exercised, and which will take upon itself the most difficult part of my task in an investigation where one is compelled to appeal as freque…

Behind the Screen in the School for Scandal

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816). The School for Scandal. Vol. 18, pp. 164-176 of The Harvard Classics
Lady Teazle hides in haste when her husband is unexpectedly announced. Situations which set many tongues wagging and fed the fire of gossip in Scandal-land, startle the reader. ("School for Scandal" produced at Drury Lane, May 8, 1777.)

Act Fourth Scene III
A Library in JOSEPH SURFACE’SHouse
Enter JOSEPH SURFACEand SERVANT Jos. Surf.  No letter from Lady Teazle? Ser.  No, sir. Jos. Surf.  [Aside.] I am surprised she has not sent, if she is prevented from coming. Sir Peter certainly does not suspect me. Yet I wish I may not lose the heiress, through the scrape I have drawn myself into with the wife; however, Charles’ imprudence and bad character are great points in my favour.  [Knocking without. Ser.  Sir, I believe that must be Lady Teazle. Jos. Surf.  Hold! See whether it is or not, before you go to the door: I have a particular message for you if it should be my brother. Ser.  …

A Bishop Bargains

Robert Browning (1812–1889) Vol. 42, pp. 1074-1078 of The Harvard Classics
A haughty aristocrat, who murdered his wife for enjoying life more than he, now bargaining for a new bride; a crafty bishop begging and bullying his heirs for a tomb richer than that of his rival; these are subjects of Browning's pen. (Robert Browning born May 7, 1812.)

My Last Duchess Ferrara
THAT’S my last Duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive. I call That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf’s hands Worked busily a day, and there she stands. Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said “Frà Pandolf” by design, for never read Strangers like you that pictured countenance, The depth and passion of its earnest glance, But to myself they turned (since none puts by The curtain I have drawn for you, but I) And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst, How such a glance came there; so, not the first Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not Her husband’s presence only, called that spot Of joy i…

A Poor Artist Defies a Rich Duke

Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571). Autobiography. Vol. 31, pp. 373-384 of The Harvard Classics
"Benvenuto, the figure cannot succeed in bronze," so spoke the patron Duke. Cellini, stung to fury, passionately burst out: "You do not understand art." Feverishly he began the casting of the statue - but read his own account of the tilt with the Duke.

LXXIII
HAVING succeeded so well with the cast of the Medusa, I had great hope of bringing my Perseus through; for I had laid the wax on, and felt confident that it would come out in bronze as perfectly as the Medusa. The waxen model produced so fine an effect, that when the Duke saw it and was struck with its beauty—whether somebody had persuaded him it could not be carried out with the same finish in metal, or whether he thought so for himself—he came to visit me more frequently than usual, and on one occasion said: “Benvenuto, this figure cannot succeed in bronze; the laws of art do not admit of it.” These words of his Excelle…

Strange Adventures in Man's Clothes

Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600–1681). Life Is a Dream. Vol. 26, pp. 7-21 of The Harvard Classics
Disguised as a man, a Russian noblewoman exploring the moun­tains of Poland came upon a secret prison. Fate linked the lives of this woman and the unknown prisoner. (Calderon, after a life of adventure, died May 5, 1681.)

Act I Scene I
A pass of rocks, over which a storm is rolling away, and the sun setting: in the foreground, half-way down, a fortress.
Enter first from the topmost rockROSAURA,as from horseback, in man’s attire; and, after her,FIFE1
Rosaura
THERE, four-footed Fury, blast-engender’d brute, without the wit Of brute, or mouth to match the bit Of man—art satisfied at last? Who, when thunder roll’d aloof, Tow’rd the spheres of fire your ears Pricking, and the granite kicking Into lightning with your hoof, Among the tempest-shatter’d crags Shattering your luckless rider Back into the tempest pass’d? There then lie to starve and die, Or find another Phaeton Mad-mettled as yourself; fo…