But, on the other hand, it is a great advantage that he places upon the stage men and women who have really done What they are represented as doing, so that the audience are not tempted to condemn what they see on the stage as impossible and unnatural. The spectators in theatres are also naturally more interested in real than in fictitious characters.
The noblest examples of historical plays are those of Shakespeare, who wrote three plays on Roman historical subjects and in a long series of dramas illustrated the course of English history from the reign of John to the birth of Elizabeth is difficult to realize how great a service he did to his native land by writing these plays.
In the first place, we must consider the pleasure their representation afforded to the spectators. Shakespeare, while preserving general historical truth, does not hesitate to depart from strict chronological accuracy and to make immaterial alterations in the course of events.
When such changes are required to give his plays dramatic unity. In this way he succeeds in making his historical plays as delightful to readers and audiences, as those in which he has fictitious characters to deal with.
But, besides being of source of often-repeated pleasure, the historical plays of Shakespeare have a great value from an educational point of view. It may be truly said that a large number of Englishmen derive much of their knowledge of the history of their native land from Shakespeare’s plays.
This is to a large extent the case now, and was so in a still greater degree in the past, when books were few, and the people were illiterate, and the stage played the part of a great national school, and students were taught by their eyes and ears without the help of books.
A great deal of the strength of English patriotism must be due to the interest in English history aroused by Shakespeare’s splendid plays, which are full of fervid expressions of love of country. It is a great pity that in Sanskrit literature there is so little of the historical drama.
The spirited play called Mudra-Rakshasa gives in a dramatic form a most interesting picture of the beginning of the reign of Chandragupta, King of Patna, who is identified with the monarch called by the Greeks Sandracottus. If there were a few more such dramas, the early history of India would not be such a blank as it now unfortunately is.