« PreviousContinue »
That the world knows you now as I have known.
Tas. You wish me rest, and yet would have me live.
Leon. This is a gentle hour, which, after long
Luc. No! rather let the morning breath of hope
Tas. The smiling future that I long for, lies
Tas. No dream; it was the plenitude of life :
And for a token
Tasso, what means this?
She will love you, even as she loved myself.
Luc. O Tasso ! what is this? Heavens! what has happen'd,
For the sake of Heaven
Be calm, 'twill pass away.
What means this ?
shots in the distance.
Ald. Pardon me, princess, that I must withdraw
Luc. We are prepared to go.
You, too, my friend ?
Tas. Now, then, proceed! I was prepared to drop
[Exeunt through the colonnade.
(Shrieks.) Woe is me!
[She rushes out through the colonnade. [Louder cries are heard without of “ Long live Tasso,” accompanied
by the music, the sound of the bells, and the cannon beyond the scene.
A large Hall, filled with Ladies and Nobles richly attired. Musicians, Pages, (one
of whom holds a Laurel Garland on a satin cushion.) Halberdiers in the back
ground. In front, Tasso dead on a couch. At his feet, ANGIOLETTA kneeling. CORNELIA
and the Princesses standing round him. Behind, MONTECATIND and other Strangers. In the extreme front, ALDOBRANDINI,
Ald. Yes, he has finish'd. Let the triumph cease-
In mournful measures let the music wail
Leon. With rich reward the poet lays him down!
[The curtain falls.
ON THE FEIGNED MADNESS OF HAMLET.
If it be allowable to entertain to mixtures and confusion amongst them. wards any writer that partial and af. Who can read the play of Julius fectionate admiration, which, if it does Cæsar without a conviction that the not altogether deny, yet refuses to character of Cæsar has received dama take cognisance, of any blemish or de- age at the hands of these gentry? It fect-that writer is Shakspeare. From is out of nature that the same man who verbal criticism he seems to enjoy an
drew Cassius and Brutus, and gave to immunity. His faults of style are so Mark Antony an eloquence surpassobvious, and of a kind so little likely ing any the Roman forum ever echoed to obtain imitators in the present age, with, should have set down in the same that there appears to be no necessity play that pompous and starched pupfor dwelling on them. Having once pet, that rodomontade figure, which admitted that he has a hasty, head- stalks through it under the name of strong way of entangling a plain mean- Julius Cæsar. This portrait of the ing in abstruse and elliptical expres- Dictator, if it were at all like the orisions, of huddling and crushing toge- ginal, would decide for ever the father all kinds of metaphors, with no mous question of the propriety of his sort of respect for their delicate fabric; assassination. Such a Cæsar assuredly and that he has an obstinate habit of deserved extermination, but hardly by sporting in the strongest conjunctures the hand of the noble Brutus. Besides with riddling conceits having once which, some few of Shakspeare's plays settled and allowed all this, which were themselves adaptations of oid dulness itself could discover, and dul- pieces, belonging, like its wardrobe ness is least likely to forgive—we care to the theatre for which he was ennot to have it repeated, but pass on to gaged to write, and which, by addi. that endless fund of every species of tions of his own, and touches throughpoetic enjoyment which his works out of his pencil, he seems to have fitted afford. Criticism, moreover, is dis- for reproduction. Such is the conarmed by the intimate persuasion we jectural account given of Pericles, feel, that, in the dramas of Shakspeare, Titus Andronicus, and some others; there are many things not his, and and this account, we think, might be which never came there by any legiti- extended to some plays of a still higher mate process of authorship. His plays, order than these. There is one which unpublished and unprinted, were lying abounds in passages of poetic beauty, for some time amidst others, the pro- which nevertheless, if we might venperty of a theatre; and from this agi- ture to deal in such conjectures, we tated mass they seem to have acquired should pronounce to have been a certain alluvial deposit, which the fashioned on the stock or framework detergent care of the critic can never of some older piece. In Troilus and entirely remove. The players and Cressida we see remnants, if we are the playwright have made sad com- not mistaken, of some previous work.
There was, we suspect, an older dra- The beauty of the art is entirely sama, written on the tale of Troy, and crificed. The distinction between having for its chief subject, in imita farce and the serious drama is oblitertion of the Iliad, the wrath of Achilles, ated. When Juliet talks of her Rowhich Shakspeare made the grounde meo being cut up into little stars, and work of his own ;-adding, or greatly so making the heavens wonderfully enlarging, the parts of Troilus and bright, the absurdity of the passage is Cressida, re-writing that of Thersites, not to be excused; nor is it to be transand mingling throughout his own ge- muted into good writing, because it is nius. He built upon and around the notorious that a lovesick girl talks all original edifice till he quite obscured imaginable nonsense. The task of the it; but here and there a portion of the poet is indeed to depict the character old wall is visible, and its existence of the lovesick personage, but so as may be traced in the want of unity to give pleasure by his delineation, which the whole plan betrays. There and to enlist our sympathies in its beis no keeping between the events of half. Unless he intends to throw ridi. the plot and prominence given to the cule on the passion of the lover-to characters of Troilus and Cressida. treat it as a subject of comedy or burCompare the style of the language, lesque-he must contine it within such and the movement of the verse, where limits of folly or caprice as the majothe love tale is carried on with some rity of mankind can tolerate, excuse, other portions of the drama-especial. or commiserate. ly with that part (act 2, sc. 2) where With regard to the style of Shaka debate is held before Priam on the speare, it is a more just observation propriety of continuing the war. If and more conciliatory, to remark the the whole of this play were written by connexion that subsists between that the same man, it was certainly not license he allowed himself in composiwritten by the same man at the same tion, and which the times and his period of his life.
position in the literary history of this Considerations such as these, make country enabled him to take, and the us unwilling listeners to any severe peculiar ease and dramatic excellence criticism on the style and language of of his dialogue. We could hardly Shakspeare. Though all is not admi- have had the one without the other. rable, we feel that we have nothing to Shakspeare wrote for a people whose do but to admire; and may here leave ears were not yet accustomed to finishbehind, as too easy, or ungenerous, or ed models of composition--to whom altogether needless, the less grateful thought was fresh-whose minds had and less profitable task of censure. In been informed and incited, but not this feeling we so far partake, as to encumbered by what had transpired think that a verbal criticism of Shak- to them, chiefly through translations, speare (unless to elucidate his mean. of tlie revived literature of the an. ing, or point out felicities of express cients, and who were not a little sion) would be wasted labour. So prompted to intellectual exertion by far we acquiesce ; but we beg to enter the religious revolutions of the period. our protest against those who, not While, therefore, there was no lack satisfied with this abstinence from cena of knowledge in the country—while sure, strive to convert his very vices there existed much matter för reflecof style into a species of excellence, tion and poetry, and much aptitude and to excuse and justify all manner for mental excitement-there was yet of writing, on the plea of its dramatic in the writer a natural boldness and propriety. A style unpardonable in hardihood, which, in more settled peitself, cannot become laudable on the riods of literature, it is impossible for ground of dramatic propriety. If a him to retain. This spirit of freedom contrary rule, if an opposite canon of this daring to say all-to appropricriticism is to be laid down--if that ate all-was indispensable to the prowhich manifestly shocks our taste is duction of that surprising dialogue of afterwards to be approved of, on the Shakspeare, which frequently reflection that just such extravagances unites the utmost beauty of poetic occur in real life-then the drama is utterance with the very carelessness at once given over to whatever bom- of unpremeditated speecli, the very im. bast or folly, the ignorance and pas- petuosity of passion itself. When sion of men, are likely to blurt forth. the work, with its mingled tissue of
most diverse materials, is accomplish- But our veneration for our great ed, the reader of correct taste may dramatist has not only led us to an separate what is crude and preposte- utter oblivion in his favour of verbal rous from what is singularly and da- criticism, it has disposed us to look ringly excellent; but he must acknow with a marvellous pertinacity for ledge that the same boldness which nature and consistency in all the charseduced into the first was necessary
acters he portrays. We study the to the creation of the second. A dia. creatures of his imagination with the logue so faithful to the passions, hu- same faith that we investigate the mours, and caprices-and, what is character of a historical personage, more, to the common sense of man- confident that, however intricate or kind-must have been written without self-contradictory they may appear, the perpetual fear of critical censure, we shall find, if we do but ponder and with a freedom from the dreaded steadily enough, that all is true and charge of plagiarism. When models appropriate. It is made quite a study of correct composition have formed of, this investigation of Shakspeare's the taste of the people, the poet be. characters; and, as an exercise for comes bound by them ; even the very powers of discrimination in the field struggle to throw off his restraint of human nature, it has this advantage leads him into artifice, and converts over an examination of the real chacourage into bravado; nor can he who racters of history--that the facts on comes after others, afford to let his cha- which we are to form our judgment racters say that which is most natural are here all given, are settled data ; and probable, but must find for them whereas, in solving any difficulty in sentiments, which, in proportion as the historic personage-in accounting they are new, will in all likelihood for the apparent inconsistencies of his be forced and constrained. The genius conduct--a doubt is always ready to of Shakspeare, so singularly dramatic, arise, whether the facts themselves are was developed under circumstances all stated, whether all the circumstances as singularly favourable to dramatic are before us, whether the story might composition--so favourable, that some not be so told as to explain the whole of his contemporaries, merely by difficulty ; and thus the mind is persharing in them, have earned a cele- petually called off from the investigabrity as dramatists which is due only tion of character to the completion or to their manner, not to their genius. moulding of the narrative. This study His lifelike drama, mingling all the has doubtless led to some super-refinecharacters and all the faculties of man ment, and to speculations somewhat as the world mingles them, could not wide of the sober realities of the case. be repeated unless the same genius The poet's freedom, the poet's necescould again write with the same fear- sity-at one time his unfettered utterlessness, the same spontaneous move- ance, at another his adherence to a ment, the same utter abandonment to plot given to him by his story-have its own great and varied powers- betrayed the obsequious critic into no could again write as if it stood apart, little difficulty, as he laboured with unseen and irresponsible, in its mimic devoted zeal to make crooked path work of creation. But why speak of look straight. But, in the main, we a repetition ? Such great national agree here also with the more enthuwriters as he so entirely preoccupy siastic admirers of Shakspeare. The their ground, that there is no room in consummate art which he has displayed the same language for an equal to in his masterpieces, justifies a patient themselves. You must overthrow study of his characters ; and there is, them by one of those revolutions that in the more mature productions of his sink the language itself in which they genius--such as his Othello and Macbeth stand-you must bury them, like huge so full and complicated a developfossils, in their own buried soil before ment, that there is full scope for some the earth is free, and the air open, for subtlety of interpretation. His Othello such another outgrowth. There must is not only the jealous man and the come a second deluge over all litera- jealous soldier, but the jealous Moor. ture, and a second time the green You could not transplant his passion earth must appear above the waters, from that Eastern bosom in which it before another Shakspeare can have grew,without destroying in great meaplace.
sure the propriety of the description.