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Gratiano. Let me play the fool :
Gratiano's speech on the philosophy of love, and the effect of habit in taking off the force of passion, is as full of spirit and good sense.
The graceful winding up of this play in the fifth act, after the tragick business is despatched, is one of the happiest instances of Shakspeare's knowledge of the principles of the drama. We do not mean the pretended quarrel between Portia and Nerissa and their husbands about the rings, which is amusing enough, but the conversation just before and after the return of Portia to her own house, beginning “How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank," and ending “ Peace! how the moon sleeps with Endymion, and would not be awaked.” There is a number of beautiful thoughts crowded into that short space, and linked together by the most natural transitions.
When we first went to see Mr. Kean in Shylock, we expected to see, what we had been used to see, a decrepid old man, bent with age, and ugly with mental deformity, grinning with deadly malice, with the venom of his heart congealed in the expression of his countenance, sullen, morose, gloomy, inflexible, brooding over one idea, that of his hatred, and fixed on one unalterable purpose, that of his revenge. We were disappointed, because we had taken our idea from other actors, not from the play. There is no proof tbere that Shylock is old, but a single line, “ Bassanio and old Shylock, both stand forth,” -which does not imply that he is infirm with ageand the circumstance that he has a daughter marriageable, which does not imply that he is old at all. It would be too much to say that his body should be made crooked and deformed to answer to his mind, which is bowed down and warped with prejudices and passion. That he has but one idea, is not true : he has more ideas than any other person in the piece ; and if he is intense and inveterate in the pursuit of his purpose, he shews the utmost elasticity, vigour, and presence of mind, in the means of attaining it. But so rooted was our habitual impression of the part from seeing it caricatured in the representation, that it was only from a careful perusal of the play itself that we saw our errour.. The stage is not in general the best place to study our author's characters in. It is too often filled with traditional commonplace conceptions of the part, handed down from sire to son, and suited to the taste of the great vulgar and the small.—“'Tis an unweeded garden: things rank and gross do merely gender in it!" If a man of genius comes once in au age to clear away the rubbish, to make it fruitful and wholesome, they cry, “'Tis a bad school : it may be like nature, it may be like Shakspeare, but it is not like us.” Admirable cri. ticks!
THE WINTER'S TALE.
We wonder that Mr. Pope should have entertained doubts of the genuineness of this play. He was, we suppose, shocked (as a certain critick suggests) at the Chorus, Time, leaping over sixteen years with his crutch between the third and fourth act, and at Antigonus's landing with the infant Perdita on the seacoast of Bohemia. These slips or blemishes however do not prove it not to be Shakspeare's; for he was as likely to fall into them as any body; but we do not know any body but himself who could produce the beauties. The stuff of which the tragick passion is composed, the romantick sweetness, the comick bumour, are evidently his. Even the crabbed and tortuous style of the speeches of Leontes, reasoning on his own jealousy, beset with doubts and fears, and entangled more and more in the thorny labyrinth, bears every mark of Shakspeare's peculiar manner of conveying the painful struggle of different thoughts and feelings, labouring for utterance, and almost strangled in the birth. For instance :
“ Ha’ not you seen, Camillo
Is thicker than a cuckold's horn) or heard ?
Here Leontes is confounded with his passion, and does not know which way to turn himself, to give words to the anguish, rage, and apprehension, which tug at his breast. It is only as he is worked up into a clearer conviction of his wrongs by insisting on the grounds of his unjust suspicious to Camillo, who irritates him by his opposition, that he bursts out into the following vehement strain of bitter indignation : yet even here his passion staggers, and is as it were oppressed with its own intensity.
“ Is whispering nothing ?
Of laughter with a sigh? (a note infallible
Skulking in corners ? wishing clocks more swift?
The character of Hermione is as much distinguished by its saint-like resignation and patient forbearance, as that of Paulina is by her zealous and spirited remonstrances against the injustice done to the queen, and by her devoted attachment to her mis. fortunes, Hermione's restoration to her husband