Nietzsche, as every one knows, preached a doctrine which he and his followers regard apparently as very revolutionary; he held that ordinary altruistic morality had been the invention of a slave class to prevent the emergence of superior types to fight and rule them.  Now, modern people, whether they agree with this or not, always talk of it as a new and unheard-of idea.  It is calmly and persistently supposed that the great writers of the past, say Shakespeare for instance, did not hold this view, because they had never imagined it; because it had never come into their heads.  Turn up the last act of Shakespeare’s Richard III and you will find not only all that Nietzsche had to say put into two lines, but you will find it put in the very words of Nietzsche.  Richard Crookback says to his nobles:

Conscience is but a word that cowards use,
Devised at first to keep the strong in awe.

As I have said, the fact is plain.  Shakespeare had thought of Nietzsche and the Master Morality; but he weighed it at its proper value and put it in its proper place.  Its proper place is the mouth of a half-insane hunchback on the eve of defeat.  This rage against the weak is only possible in a man morbidly brave but fundamentally sick; a man like Richard, a man like Nietzsche.  This case alone ought to destroy the absurd fancy that these modern philosophies are modern in the sense that the great men of the past did not think of them.  They thought of them; only they did not think much of them.  It was not that Shakespeare did not see the Nietzsche idea; he saw it, and he saw through it.