“By the dim light of Nature”
Shakespeare-the-natural-genius was a myth already popular during his lifetime. Francis Beaumont (1584-1616) in The Knight of the Burning Pestle (1607-8) wrote …
And from all learning keep these lines as clear
As Shakespeare’s best are, which our heirs shall hear
Preachers apt to their auditors to show
How far sometimes a mortal man may go
By the dim light of Nature.
Later still, Samuel Taylor Coleridge concurred …
Shakspeare, no mere child of nature; no
automaton of genius; no passive vehicle of
inspiration possessed by the spirit, not
possessing it; first studied patiently, meditated
deeply, understood minutely, till knowledge,
become habitual and intuitive, wedding itself to
his habitual feelings, and at length gave birth to
that stupendous power, by which he stands
alone, with no equal or second in his own class;
to that power which seated him on one of the
two glory-smitten summits of the poetic
mountain, with Milton as his compeer not rival.
NEVERTHELESS, IN TRULY ROMANTIC FASHION, HE GOES ON TO EMPHASIZE … HE WAS THAT CHILD OF NATURE, AND NOT THE CREATURE OF HIS OWN EFFORTS.