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transitory though it be for years, local though from a nation! Still more lamentable is his error who can believe that there is any thing of divine infallibility in the clamor of that small, though loud portion of the community, ever governed by factitious influence, which, under the name of the Public, passes itself, upon the unthinking, for the PEOPLE."*
It is this perpetual mistake of the public for the people that has led to the belief that there was a period when Shakspeare was neglected. He was always in the heart of the people. There, in that deep, rich soil, have the Sonnets rested during two centuries; and here and there in remote places have the seeds put forth leaves and flowers. All young imaginative minds now rejoice in their hues and their fragrance. But this preference of the fresh and beautiful of poetical life to the pol-pourri of the last age must be a regulated love. Those who, seeing the admiration which now prevails for these outpourings of " exquisite feelings felicitously expressed," talk of the Sonnets as equal, if not superior, to the greatest of the poet's mighty dramas, compare things that admit of no comparison. Who would speak in the same breath of the gem of Cupid and Psyche, and the Parthenon? In the Sonnets, exquisite as they are, the poet goes not out of himself, (at least in the form of the composition,) and he walks, therefore, in a narrow circle of art. In the Venus and Adonis, and the Lucrece, the circle widens. But in the Dramas, the cene tre is the Human Soul, the circumference the Universe.
• Preface to Poctical Works
The German critic, Horn, concludes some remarks upon Shakspeare's King John with a passage that may startle those who believe that the truth of history, and the truth of our great dramatic teacher of history, are altogether different things :
" The hero of this piece stands not in the list of personages, and could not stand with them; for the idea should be clear without personification. The hero is England.
“What the poet chose to express of his view of the dignity and worth of his native land he has confided to the Bastard to embody in words :
• This England never did, nor never shall,
But Shakspeare is immeasurably more than Falconbridge, and he would have the reader and the spectator more also. These lines are not intended to be fixed upon England at the beginning of the fourteenth century alone; they are not even confined to England generally. They are for the
elevation of the views of a state — of a people. Happy for England that she possesses a poet who so many years since has spoken to her people as the highest and most splendid teacher! The full consequences of his teaching have not yet been sufficiently revealed; they may perhaps never wholly be exhibited. We, however, know that in England a praise worthy zeal for their country's history prevails amongst the people. But who first gave true life to that history?"
In the three great dramas that are before us, the idea, not personified, but full of a life that animates and forms every scene, is Rome. Some one said that Chantrey's bust of a great living poet was more like than the poet himself. Shakspeare's Rome, we venture to think, is more like than the Rome of the Romans. It is the idealized Rome, true indeed to her every-day features, but embodying that expression of character which belongs to the universal rather than the accidental. And yet how varied is the idea of Rome which the poet presents to us in these three great mirrors of her history! In the young Rome of Coriolanus we see the terrible energy of her rising ambition checked and overpowered by the factious violence of her contending classes. We know that the prayer of Coriolanus is a vain prayer :
· The honored gods
In the matured Rome of Julius Cæsar we see her riches and her glories about to be swallowed up in a domestic conflict of principles :
“ Rome, thou hast lost the breed of noble bloods !
In the slightly older Rome of Antony, her power, her magnificence, are ready to perish in the selfishness of individuals :
“Let Rome in Tiber melt! and the wide arch
Of the ranged empire fall!”
Rome was saved from anarchy by the supremacy of one. Shakspeare did not live to make the Cæsars more immortal.
Schlegel has observed that “these plays are the very thing itself; and under the apparent artlessness of adhering closely to history as he [Shakspeare) found it, an uncommon degree of art is concealed.” In our edition of these plays we have given, with great fulness, the passages from Plutarch, as translated by North, which the poet followed — sometimes even to the literal adoption of the biographer's words. This is the "apparent artlessness.” But Schlegel has also shown us the principles of the "uncommon art : " “Of every historical transaction Shakspeare knows how to seize the true poetical point of view, and to give unity and rounding to a series of events detached from the immeasurable extent of history, without in any degree changing them.” But he adopts the literal only when it enters into “the true poetical point of view;" and is, therefore, in harmony with the general poetical truth, which in many subordinate particulars necessarily discards all pretension of
adhering closely to history.” Jonson has left us two Roman plays produced essentially upon a different principle. In his “Sejanus” there is scarcely a speech or an incident that is not derived from the ancient authorities; and Jonson's own edition of the play is crowded with references as minute as would have been required from any modern annalist. In his Address to the Readers he says, “Lest in some nice nostril the quotations might savor affected, I do let you know that I abhor nothing more ; and I have only done it to show my integrity in the story." The character of the dramatist's mind, as well as the