صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

county, describes for a family there, and makes the Welsh parson descant very pleasantly upon them. That whole play is admirable; the humours are various and well opposed ; the main design, which is to cure Ford of his unreasonable jealousy, is extremely well conducted. In Twelfth Night there is something singularly ridiculous and pleasant in the fantastical steward Malvolio. The parasite and the vain-glorious in Parolles, in All's Well that Ends Well, is as good as any thing of that kind in Plautus or Terence. Petruchio, in The Taming of the Shrew, is an uncommon piece of humour. The conversation of Benedick and Beatrice, in Much Ado About Nothing, and of Rosalind, in As You Like It, have much wit and sprightliness all along. His clowns, without which character there was hardly any play writ in that time, are all very entertaining; and, I believe, Thersites, in Troilus and Cressida, and Apemantus, in Timon, will be allowed to be master pieces of ill-nature and satirical snarling. To these I might add that incomparable character of Shylock, the Jew, in The Merchant of Venice: but though we have seen that play received and acted as a comedy, and the part of the Jew performed by an excellent comedian, yet I cannot but think it was designed tragically by the author. There appears in it such a deadly spirit of revenge, such a savage fierceness and fellness, and such a bloody designation of cruelty and mischief, as cannot agree either with the style or characters of comedy. The play itself, take it altogether, seems to me to be one of the most finished of any of Shakspeare's. The tale, indeed, in that part relating to the caskets, and the extravagant and unusual kind of bond given by Antonio, is too much removed from the rules of probability ; but, taking the fact for granted, we must allow it to be very beautifully written. There is something in the friendship of Antonio to Bassanio, very great, generous, and tender. The whole fourth act (supposing, as I said, the fact to be probable) is extremely fine. But there are two passages that deserve a particular notice : the first is what Portia says in praise of mercy; and the other on the power of music. The melancholy of Jaques, in As You Like It, is as singular and odd as it is diverting. And if, what Horace says,

Difficile est proprie communia dicere," it will be a hard task for any one to go beyond him in the description of the several degrees and ages of man's life, though the thought be old and common enough.

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players ;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;
And then, the wbining school-boy with his satchel,
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then, the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woful ballad
Made to his mistress' eye-brow. Then, a soldier;
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then, the justice;
In fair round belly, with good capon lined,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon ;
With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank : and bis big manly voice,
Turning again tow'rds childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound : Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness, and mere oblivion;

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing.” His images are, indeed, every where so lively, that the thing he would repre sent stands full before you, and you possess every part of it. I will venture to

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

point 'out one more, which is, I think, as strong and as uncommon as any thing
I ever saw: it is an image of Patience. Speaking of a maid in dove, be says,

She never told her love,
But let concealment, like a worm ith' bud,
Feed on her damask cheek': she pined in thought,
And sat like PATIENCE on a monument,

Smiling at Gritp.
What an image is here, given! and what a task wonid it have been for the
greatest masters of Greece and Rome to have expressed the passions designed by
the sketch of statuary!: The style of his comedy is, in general, natural to the
characters, and easy in itself; and the wit most commonly sprightly and
pleasing, except in those places where he runs into doggerel rhymes, as in
The Comedy of Errors and some other plays. As for his jingling sometimes, and
playing upon words, it was the common vice of the age he lived in: and if we
find it in the pulpit, made use of as an ornament to the sermons of some of
the gravest divines of those times, perhaps it may not be thought top light for the
stage.

Bat certainly the greatness of this author's genius does no where so much appear as where he gives his imagination an entire loose, and raises his fancy, to a tlight above mankind, and the limits of the visible world. Such are his attempts in The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, and Hamlet. Of these The Tempest, however it comes to be placed the first by the publishers of his works, can never have been the first written by him: it seeris to me as perfect in its kind as almost any thing we have of his. One may observe that the unities are kept here, with an exactness uncommon to the liberties of his writing; though that was what; I suppose, he valued himself least upon, since his excellencies were all of another kind. I am very sensible that he does, in this play, depart too much from that likeness to truth which ought to be observed in these sort of writings ; yet he does it so very finely, that one is easily drawn in to have more faith for his sake, than reason does well allow of. His magic has something in it very solemn and very poetical, and that extravagant character of Caliban is mightily well sustained, shows a wonderful invention in the author, who could 'strike out such a particular wild image, and is certainly one of the finest and most uncommon grotesques that ever was seen. The observation, which I have been informed three very great men concurred in making upon this part, was extremely just ;-That Shakspeare had not only found out a new character in his Caliban, but had also devised and adapted a new manner of language for that character. It is the same magic

that raises the Fairies in A Midsummer-Night's Dream, the Witches in Macbeth, and the Ghost in Hamlet, with thoughts and language so proper to the parts they snstain, and so peculiar to the talent of this writer. But of the two last of these plays I shall have occasion to take notice among the tragedies of Mr. Shakspeare. If one undertook to examine the greatest part of these by those rules which are established by Aristotle, and taken from the model of the Grecian stage, it would be no very hard task to find a great many faults; but as Shaķspeare lived under a kind of mere light of nature, and had never been made acquainted with the regularity of those written precepts, so it would be hard to judge him by a law he knew nothing of. We are to consider him as a man that lived in a state of almost universal license and ignorance; there was no established judge, but every one took the liberty to write according to the dictates of his own fan. cy. When one considers, that there is not one play before him of a reputation good enough to entitle it to an appearance on the present stage, it cannot but be a matter of great wonder that he should advance dramatic poetry so far as he did. The fable is what is generally placed the first, among those that are reckoned the constituent parts of a tragic or heroic poem ; not, perhaps, as it is the most difficult or beautiful, but as it is the first properly to be thought of in the contrivance and cuurse of the whole; and, with the fable, ought to be considered the fit disposition, order, and condict of its several parts. As it is not in this province of the drama that the strength and mastery of Shakspeare lay, so I shall not undertake the tedious and ill-natured trouble to point out the several faults he was guilty of in it. His tales were seldom invented, but rather taken' esther from the true history, or novels and romances : and he commonly made use of them in that order, with those incidents, and that extent of time in which he found them in the authors from whence he borrowed them. So The W’intel's Tale, which is taken from an old book, called The Delectable History of Dorastus and Fawnia, contains the space of sixteen or seventeen years, and the scene'is sometimes" laid in Bohe.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

mia, and sometimes in Sicily, according to the original order of the story. Almost
all his historical plays comprehend a great length of time, and very different and
distinct places': and in his Antony and Cleopatra, the scene travels over the
greatest part of the Roman empire. But in recompense for his carelessness in this
point, when he comes to another part of the drama, the manners of his charac.
ters, in acting or speaking what is proper for them, and fit to be shewn by the
poet, he may be generally justified, and in very many places greatly commended.
For those plays which he bas taken from the English or Roman history, let any
man compare them, and he will find the character as exact in the poet as the histo-
rian. He seems indeed so far from proposing to himself any one action for a sub-
ject, that the title very often tells you, it is The Life of King John, King Richard,
&c. What can be more agreeable to the idea our historians give of Henry the
Sixth, than the picture, Shakspeare has drawn of him! His manners are every
where exactly the same with the story ; one finds him still described with sim-
plicity, passive sanctity, want of courage, weakness of mind, and easy submission
to the governance of an imperious wife, or prevailing faction: though at the same
time the poet does justice to his good qualities, and moves the pity of his audience
for him, by shewing bim pious, disinterested, a contemner of the things of this
world, and wholly resigned to the severest dispensations of God's providence.
There is a short scene in The Second Part of Henry the Sixth, which I cannot
but think admirable in its kind. Cardinal Beanfort, who had murdered the Duke of
Gloucester, is shewn, in the last agonies on his death-bed, with the good king praying
over him. There is so much terror in one, so much tenderness and moving piety in
the other, as must tonch any one who is capable either of fear or pity. In his
Henry the Eighth, that prince is drawn with that greatness of mind, and all those
good qualities which are attributed to him in any account of his reign. If his
faults are not shewn in an equal degree, and the shades in this picture do not bear
a jast proportion to the lights, it is not that the artist wanted either colours or skill
in the disposition of them ; but the truth, I believe, might be, that he forbore doing
it out of regard to Queen Elizabeth, since it could have been no very great respect to
the memory of his mistress, to have exposed some certain parts of her fatheris life
upon the stage. He has dealt much more freely with the minister of that great
king; and certainly nothing was ever more justly written than the character of
Cardinal Wolsey. He has shewn him insolent in his prosperity; and yet, by
a wonderful address, he makes his fall and ruin the subject of general compassion,
The whole man, with his vices and virtues, is finely and exactly described in the
second scene of the fourth aet. The distresses, likewise, of Qaeen Catherine, in
this play, are very movingly touched; and though the art of the poet has screened
King Henry from any gross imputation of injustice, yet one is inclined to wish,
the queen had met with a fortune more worthy of her birth and virtue. Nor
are the manners, proper to the persons represented, less justly observed in those
characters taken from the Roman history; and of this, the fierceness and impa.
tience of Coriolanus, his courage and disdain of the common people, the virtue
and philosophical temper of Brutus, and the irregular greatness of mind in M.
Antony, are beautiful proofs. For the two last especially, you find them exactly
as they are described Plata from whom certainly Shakspeare copied them.
He has indeed followed his original pretty close, and taken in several little inci.
dents that might have been spared in a play. But, as I hinted before, bis design
seems most commonly rather to describe those great men in the several fortunes and
accidents of their lives, than to take any single great action, and form his work
simply upon that. However, there are some of his pieces, where the fable is
founded upon one action only. Such are more especially Romeo and Juliet,
Hamlet, and Othello. The design in Romeo and Juliet is plainly the punishment
of their two families, for the unreasonable feuds and animosities that bad been so
long kept up between them, and occasioned the effusion of so much blood. In
the management of this story, he has shewn something wonderfully tender and
passionate in the love-part, and very pitiful in the distress. Hamlet is founded on
much the same tale with the Electra of Sophocles.

In each of them a young prince is engaged to revenge the death of his father, their mothers are equally guilty, are both concerned in the murder of their husbands, and are afterwards married to the murderers. There is, in the first part of the Greek tragedy, something very moving in the grief of Electra ; but, as Mr. Dacier has observed, there is something very unnatural and shocking in the manners he has given that princess and Orestes in the latter part. Orestes imbrues his hands in the blood of his own mother; and that barbarous action is performed, though not immediately upon the stage, yet so near, that the audience hear Clytemnestra crying out to Ægysthus for help, and to her son for mercy: while Electra, her daughter and a princess, (both of them characters that ought to have appeared with more decency,) stands upon

[blocks in formation]

the stage, and encourages her brother in the parricide. What horror does this not raise! Clytemnestra was a wicked woman, and had deserved to die ; nay, in the truth of the story, she was killed by her own son ; but to 'represent an action of this kind on the stage is certainly an offence against those rules of manners, proper to the persons, that ought to be observed there. On the contrary, let us only look a little on the conduct of Shakspeare. Hamlet is represented with the same piety towards his father, and resolution to revenge his death, as Orestes; he has the same abhorrence for his mother's guilt, which, to provoke him the more, is heightened by incest : but it is with wonderful art and justness of judgment, that the poet restrains bim from doing violence to his mother. To prevent any thing of that kind, he makes his father's Ghost forbid that part of his vengeance :

“ But howsoever thou pursu'st this act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
" Against thy mother aught; leave her to heaven,
“And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge,

“ To prick and sting her.” This is to distinguish rightly between horror and terror. The latter is a proper. passion of tragedy, but the former, ought always to be carefully avoided. And certainly no dramatic writer ever succeeded better in raising terror in the minds of an audience than Sbakspeare has done. The whole tragedy of Macbeth, but more especially the scene where the king is murdered, in the second act, as well as this play, is a noble proof of that manly spirit with which he writ; and both shew how powerful he was, in giving the strongest motions to our souls that they are capable of. I cannot leave Humlet, without taking notice of the advantage with which we have seen this master-piece of Shakspeare distinguish itself upon the stage, by Mr. Betterton's fine performance of that part. A man, who, though he had no other good qualities, as he has a great many, must have made his way into the esteem of all men of letters by this only excellency. No man is better acquainted with Shakspeare's manner of expression, and indeed he has studied him so well, and is so much a master of him that whatever part of his he performs, he does it as if it had been written on purpose for him, and that the author had exactly conceived it as he plays it. I must own a particular obligation to him for the most considerable part of the passages relating to this life, which I have here transmitted the public; bis veneration for the memory of Shakspeare having engaged him to make a journey into Warwickshire, on purpose to gather sp what remains he could of a name for which he had so great a veneration,

[ocr errors]

11:

.

T E M P EST.

Persons represented. ALONSO, king of Naples.

TRINCULO, a jester. SEBASTIAN, his brother.

STEPHANO, a drunken butler.
PROSPERO, the rightful duke of Milan. Master of a ship, Boatswain, and Mariners
ANTONIO, his brother, the usurping duke
of Milan.

MIRANDA, daughter to Prospero.
PERDINAND, son to the king of Naples. ARIBL, an airy spirit.
Gonzalo, an honest old counsellor of IRIS,
Naples.

CERES,
ADRIAN,
lords.

JUNO, spirits. Francisco,

Nymphs,
CALIBAN, a savage and deformed slave. REAPERS,

Other spirits altending on PROSPERO.
Scene,--The sea, with a ship; afterwards an uninhabited island.

ACT I. SCENE I. On a ship at sea. fast, good fate, to his hanging! make the rope A storm, with thunder and lightning. of his destiny our cable, for our own doth Enter a Ship-master and a Boatswain.'

little advantage! If he be not born to be

hanged, our case is miserable. [Exeunt. Master. Boatswain,

Re-enter Boatswain.
Boats. Here, master: What cheer?
Mast. Good : Speak to the mariners : fal!

Boats. Down with the top-mast; yare; lowtot yarely, or we run ourselves agronnd: er, lower; bring her to try with main-course. bestir, bestir.

[Erit.

[A cry within.) A plague upon this bowling! Enter Mariners.

they are louder than the weather, or our office. Boats. Heigh, my hearts; cheerly, cheerly, Re-enter SEBASTIAN, ANTONIO, Gonzalo. my hearts; yare, yare: Take in the top-saii; | Yet again ? what do you here? Shall we give tend to the master's whistle. Blow, till thou o'er and drown? Have you a mind to sink ? borst thy wind, if room enough!

Seb. A pox o' your throat! you bawling, Enter ALONSO, SEBASTIAN, ANTONIO,

blasphemous, uncharitable dog! PERDINAND, GONZALO, and others.

Boats. Work you, then. Alon. Good boatswain, have care. Where's

Ant. Havg, cur, bang! you whoreson, inthe master? Play the men.

solent noise-maker, we are less afraid to be

drowned than thou art. Boats. I pray now, keep below.

Gon. I'll warrant him from drowning; Ant. Where is the master, boatswain? Boats. Do you not hear him? Yon mar our though the ship were no stronger than a nut?

shell, and as leaky as an uustanched I wench. cabins: you do assist the Gon. Nay, good, be patient. (storm.

Boats. Lay her a-hold, a-hold; set her two Boats. When the sea is. Hence! What care courses; off io sea again, lay her off. these roarers for the name of king? To cabin:

Enter Mariners wet. silence: trouble us not.

Mar. All lost! to prayers, to prayers! all Gon. Good; yet remember whom thou hast lost!

(Ereunt. aboard.

Boats. What, must our mouths be cold? Boats. None that I more love than myself. Gon. The king and prince at prayers! let us You are a counsellor; if you can conuinand Por our case is as theirs. (assist then, Shese elements to silence, and work the peace Seb. I am out of patience. of the present t, we will not hand a rope more; Ant. We are merely g cheated of our lives by use your authority. If you cannot, give thanks drunkards.

(lie drowning, og bave lived so long, aud make yourself This wide-chapped rascal--Would thou miglil'st peady in your cabin for the inischance of the The washing of ten tides ! bour, if it so hap.- Cheerly, good hearis.-Out Gon.

He'll be hanged yet; I

(Exit. Though every drop of water swear against it, Gon. I have great comfort from this fellow : And gape at wid'st to glut him. metteinks, he hath no drowning inark upon (A confused noise within.] Mercy on us! kam; his complexion is perfect gallows. Stand We split, we split !- Farewell, my wife and + Present instant.

Incontinent. $ Absolutely.

B

labour! keep yon

of our way, I say.

• Readily. VOL. I.

« السابقةمتابعة »