صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

dened who have spent their days in vice, or in ignorance of vital truths, that while expiring asseverates falsehood ;) and her reply to Emilia's question of “Who hath done this deed?"_“Nobody-I myself,”—which speaks infinite things--absolute resignation to her death, and forgiveness of her murderer; unquenchable love, and female heroism-a woman's heroism of the affections ; which tells that she was good, not from a cold perception of duty alone, but from a loving appreciation of the beautiful. Your perfect moralisers, whose doctrines I cannot savour, will inform you, with Othello, that she is a liar. For my part I would rather have been such a liar, than endowed with the logical powers of a Locke, or the forbidding genius of a Milton.

We all aspire after happiness, and wherein does it consist, if not in superabounding faculties of love? The most to be loved are the happiest. If Juliet was at times exuberantly happy, Desdemona was always serenely so. If Juliet had ability to inspire a more ardent passion, Desdemona was calculated to influence more unvarying affections. Othello's passion was overmastering, but that was attributable to his own capacity; to whatever object his fancy turned, he must have loved fiercely; and his passion was that of a man, while Romeo's was that of a boy—their loves were as a man's to a woman's tear : Desdemona's affection was more matronly, so to speak, than that of the boisterous child Juliet-more silent, more resigned. Juliet's superiority of genius, and greater similarity of years, equalised her more with Romeo, who looked up to her almost as much as Desdemona venerated Othello, from her untiring energy of character, in which, for a permanency, he perhaps experienced his own deficiency; and he esteemed her the personification of that intellectual power after which he aimed. Othello loved Desdemona, as proud men like to love women, for her dependency; she was, besides, vastly superior to him in ideality, of whose charms in her disposition he was sensible, if he was not exactly fitted to appreciate their cause ; he was proud, too, of her accomplishments, which ennobled his choice; at the same time she was so much beneath him in worldly talent that her inferiority was perceptible, while her higher mental attaininents presented no stumbling-block, as they were neither asserted nor presumed on by herself, neither affirmed nor commented on by others.

Desdemona was guided by circumstances; the genius of Juliet created circumstances; the latter was ordained to command, the former to obey ; but not like a slave, with a reservation of mind. Desdemona had acute perceptions, and powers of delicate observation, in ways which suited her fancy, and to which she consequently lent attention ; but she had not ability to penetrate mysteries, nor even to conceive of their existence. Juliet could never have been the dupe of lago; her quick able glance, if not at first, yet ultimately, must have detected his windings. She, though as pure in action as Desdemona, would not have had the simplicity to inquire of Emilia, “Wouldst thou do such a thing for the whole world ?" or if she had so questioned, it would have been from roguish inquisitiveness to discover what response should be returned, and not from positive ignorance as to the manners of society; nor would Juliet, without raising an uproar, have calmly submitted to be murdered.

How striking is the suitability of Shakspeare's heroines to the different tales in which they figure! None could be transplantedeven placed side by side they would mutually destroy each other's effect. Juliet could not have filled a part in this play; else, by her animal vigour and bright intellect, she must have brought to light the mischievous scheme, cleared herself, and, in spite of all the lagos in the world, contrived to live in happiness with her lord. Desdemona was more sentimental-Juliet more matter-of-fact; Desdemona more heavenly-Juliet more worldly; Desdemona more fitted for domestic privacy-Juliet for brilliant society. Her short interview with Paris in the friar's cell displays a quickness of repartee, in which Desdemona is wholly deficient. She is above it, and would not desire to harass her mind with it; she would not enjoy listening to such, further than as it would please her amiable spirit to witness the merriment of another. In such a character as Desdemona Mrs. Hemans luxuriated—such a one as Juliet's she was incapable of embodying.

Yet if Juliet had more of earth than Desdemona, Romeo had far more spirituality than Othello, who was a high-minded, generous man, it is true, and adequate to fulfil nobly the duties he undertook ; but he was no student, no habitual thinker, no dreamer, no poet, no aspirer to immortality of mental fame-present praise he desired, but with the man of genius he had no kindredness of soul. Such a one might, and must, admire Othello's powers of action, in which a scholar is often wanting,) his strength of nerve, courage, manliness, uprightness, honesty, straightforwardness, and independence; but, in his turn, his qualifications would not be duly estimated by the Moor, who could chiefly form a judgment on them by their influence over others, and by the opinion of them maintained by the world at large. Romeo and Othello could never have been intimates; the former might have respected the latter at a distance; and Othello might have regarded Romeo as a promising, though still a useless lad: but there would be a conscious feeling of superiority in each as each contemplated the other, which, coupled with the Italian's conviction that our Moor rather despised him, must exert a repelling force over their intercourse. Othello would have considered Romeo's conduct mean, in not declaring his marriage when he was made acquainted with his doom of banishment; and had the Moor been the slayer of Tybalt, he would not have fled, but proudly held his ground; for, not being troubled by over-subtlety of thought, his courage would have impelled him to uphold his proceeding as the only course which it would have been proper to pursue. Iago could not have retained a permanent sway over the inmost thoughts of Romeo, as over those of Othello; some of his actions he might possibly influence, as Lumley Ferrers did those of Maltravers; but of his secret feelings he could never have been made participator, nor would he have been likely to venture his counsels on matters connected with the heart's recesses. Iago was without enthusiasm, worldly-minded, of a hard character, and therefore unsuitable to Romeo. He could never have been possessed by the “ unbookish jealousy” of Othello, who was unsuspicious of the instigator and his motives; nor would the Moor have adopted an inactive friar as his adviser in temporal, whatever he might have done

in spiritual affairs. Othello would have fancied Juliet too presuming; Romeo believed Desdemona mawkish in comparison of his own brilliant love. Juliet would justly estimate all parties, and willingly encourage attachment to Desdemona, who would admire, without really loving Juliet.

Our author's confidants are equally well chosen with his heroines, and present a lively contrast to the never-ending sameness of those of Racine. The fine, bold, stirring, clever Emilia admirably relieves the soft pliability of Desdemona, but she would have been too much of a good thing alongside of Juliet. Equally ill-placed by Desdemona would the doting old nurse have been, who had no ability except to render herself comfortable, and to gratify her love of perpetual gossip. She could not have directed Desdemona, who, left at discretion, must have exerted herself more, which should have completely altered the nature of her part. Emilia, too, was selfish and interested, but her grasp of mind was more expansive, and her objects of ambition more elevated; she had, besides, sufficient talent for the pursuance of her own and another's welfare at the same moment, provided this union of interests were not to her disadvantage. She had so much genuine feeling as to be capable, when excited, of entirely losing sight of herself in devotion to the service of one whom she loved, particularly if she respected him. She was a shrewd woman, and could profit by her experience of evil in estimating the immaculate loveliness of Desdemona's walk, possessing so much of exalted emotion as to heartily admire, if not industriously imitate. Emilia dies nobly, but without attracting like pity with Desdemona, or like admiration with Othello. It is her mistress, and not herself, who engrosses our attention during her animated defence; and though we sympathise with her in her resignation and affection, yet, very rightly, the impression she makes does not rival, in the least, that produced by our hero and heroine.

There is some such difference between Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Mrs. Hemans, as between Juliet and Desdemona. The life of the former was poetry—the thoughts of the latter. The former had energy of conduct, wit in discourse, a combination of masculine and feminine ability—the latter was speculative in mind rather than adventurous in undertaking, well informed rather than witty in conversation, select rather than fluent in speech, purely feminine in taste, feeling, talent, and aspiration.

There is less of misery in the world than people fancy, and no permanent wretchedness. A woman's life, which is one of the affections, is usually less unhappy than that of men, who are so constituted that love alone cannot satisfy their desires. If a woman be blessed in a lover or husband, she has a perennial source of enjoyment. Even if she lose him, she still possesses the pleasures of memory—she lives as in the presence of the lost one; and, recollecting his fancies, she endeavours to assimilate herself to his taste; as if to render herself amiable in his eyes were still the object of her days. But, when bereft, if remembrance alone cannot fill the aching void, she will fix upon another fountain of joy : the anxieties incident are but pleasing pains, the spring of varied charm and excitement. If a woman be

Sept. 1838.-VOL. XXIII.--NO. LXXXIX.


disappointed in an affair of the heart, she is indeed to be pitied; but, to be loved is her destiny, and she is, comparatively speaking, seldom unfortunate ; and, though a victim of unrequited attachment, she will frequently be enabled to supply other incentives to action. is less exacting in disposition than man—more easily contented. He is formed for labour and rest, alternately-she, for repose and felicity.

We perceive how much happier was the lot of Juliet and Desdemona than that of their lords. Desdemona was a placid, peaceful child- La pleased and pensive girl- a woman, romantically loving, and worshippingly venerating. She met with a warm return, and became a fairly idolised wife--she suspects no evil; after each doubtful interview she tutors herself into believing public annoyances, and not herself, the cause of Othello's vexation-and the last dreadful scene is only a passing one; excitement rendering its frightfulness hardly appreciated, like the unfelt horrors of an actual combat-field; while, even here, she has the refined pleasure of attesting her innocence, and proving her unwearied devotion. But if the former part of Othello's life were happier than the love-sick Romeo, his latter end was assuredly still more wretched ; his misery being caused, not by circumstances, but by himself. He had no consolation—he could not, like Romeo, confide in the faith of his love-it was torture, instead of joy, to dwell on her attributes—he had no friend like the Friar; for though he trusted, and fancied himself attached to Iago, yet in his last supposition he was deceived; to the bearer of ill tidings our heart does not warm. He was alone in the world, having outlived all his natural relations ; no father, mother, or cousin, like Benvolio, awaited himhe had neither home nor country; he had severed all Mauritanian ties by serving so long in the employ of Venice-truly might he say that in Desdemona he had garnered up his heart,

« Where either he must live, or bear no life;

The fountain from the which his current ran,

Or else dried up.” We respected Othello before, for his carelessness of being rendered the scorn of men, though he was in general so susceptible of their opinion, in comparison of his sore grief at the proved unworthiness of the idolised object of his affection; and, at the last, we esteem him for his weakness

“ Man but a rush against Othello's breast,

And he retires.” All virtuous feelings had once again become inmates of his bosom ; and brute force was quelled by sadness and remorse : he was a sobered and a bettered man; experience had shown the folly of presumption; and passion was dethroned, never more to establish her dominion. His calm, courageous ending too—no smiting in a hurried frenzy, but a deliberate laying down of life~continues to insure our respect, and enables us, with satisfaction, to part from all the personæ of the drama. Who but Shakspeare could permit of our bidding farewell to a tragedy with aught but unpleasing sensations ?

N. R. Q.

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

“My dear Bingham, of all my five hundred dear friends, you are the only one who thinks it worth while to visit me in a prison.

“You know that I have a dash of oddity in my composition. In these ancient times (you know we are the ancients—the young world · held the moderns, and we make an absurd sort of Irishism in the

transposition) everybody strives to be something-to be a characterto be marked, noted. If they have genius they will be a Byron or a Bulwer: if they have not genius they will be odd-a Cruikshank or a Paul Pry. Genius draws the fine pictures--oddity dashes off the caricatures. I am content with being odd.”

“ Define yourself how you will, I am rejoiced to have you here, for # I am dull even to stagnation. Perhaps your presence may break the e spell.”

“Dull or melancholy ?"

“Melancholy—no! I scorn the foul fiend. What! shall I, who have spent like a prince, and lived in sunshine all the days of the years


life, shall I sit down in sackcloth and ashes !- and for what? Because I have made a full banquet of pleasure?-because I

have not suffered the enjoyments of life to elude my grasp ?---because · I have drained the wine-cup to the dregs—have inhaled all the odour

of the flower, and exhausted its balmy freshness- and have basked in the sunlight till the night is come ? Melancholy for all this ! No! oh, no! The abstinent might well be melancholy, who had suffered life to glide through his possession without seizing one of its joys, who had let the harvest wither without putting in the sickle, but surely not the man who has revelled in its abundance.”

“ You are an Epicurean. But now—now that the dregs alone are left in the wine-cup-now that the flowers are faded things, and the perfume is exhausted—now that the daylight is fled—now—what ?" “ Why, now I am dull, as I told


before.” Every man of pleasure is dull at intervals. I scarcely see that you are in a worse condition, if that be your only malady, than the most prosperous amongst us.”

“ Can anything be worse than dulness? I tell you, George, that stagnation is more terrible than tempest. Action is man's true element. I detest difficulties, because they are injurious to a pleasurable tone of mind; but I would rather contend with a host, than sink into this horrible malady. O, it is a vile thing to have nothing to hope, and nothing to fear,—and that is precisely my predicament.

Nothing to hope, and in a prison !”

Ay-because there. Nothing to fear, because at the worst. Can I fall lower than this ? And, for hoping-you know that I have not a connexion who would know my face if they saw it, or remember my name if they heard it."

« السابقةمتابعة »