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THE QUINEY HOUSE, STRATFORD
Where Judith Shakespeare lived. saw at the Globe Theater in the spring of ness of a child ; his illusions destroyed, his 1611. The play finds its place in the reason unseated; with no companionship front rank of tragedies ancient or mod- save that of the fool, wandering shelterless ern ; and its massive structure, its bold in the storm, symbolical of the shattering ness of conception, the largeness of its of his life in the awful tempest of passion. outlines, have inclined some critics to give This Titanic drama, which ranks with it the first place. It is pervaded by an the sublimest work of Æschylus and atmosphere of tragedy, but it is free from Sophocles and stands alone in modern the irony of blind fate. Macbeth is not literature, was performed before the King the victim of a fate which is imposed at Whitehall, at Christmas-tide, 1606. upon him from without; he invokes the The story, in a condensed form, is found fate which pursues him, and life becomes in Geoffrey of Monmouth's “ Historia a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and Britonum," and was derived from an old fury, signifying nothing,” because he has Welsh chronicle ; some of the motives violated its laws and willfully evoked its introduced into the legend appear in a possibilities of disaster.
wide range of folk tales. Like HamIn“ Macbeth "the epic element mingled let," the formative conception in " King with the dramatic ; in “ King Lear” the Lear” has its foundations deep in the tragic element is supreme and unmixed, vital experience of the race. It is Celtic and the tragic art of Shakespeare touches in its origin ; but it found its setting in its sublimest height There is no more literature at the hands of the old English tragic figure in literature than that of the chroniclers, Layamon, Robert of Glouold king, accustomed to rule and flung out cester, Robert of Brunne, and, finally, of into the night by the children among whom Holinshed, in whose pages Shakespeare he has divided his power; intensely affec- read it. The story of Cordelia was told tionate and willfully irrational; with all the in verse in “ The Mirrour for Magistrates" majesty of a king joined to the passionate and in "The Faerie Queene," and had been dramatized at least fifteen years impression would be limited to the powerbefore Shakespeare dealt with it. The ful compassion felt by us for his private poet's attention may have been definitely misfortunes. But two such unheard-of drawn to the dramatic possibilities of this examples taking place at the same time old story by a rude play which appeared have the appearance of a great commotion in 1605, entitled “The True Chronicle in the moral world ; the picture becomes History of King Leir and His Three gigantic, and fills us with such alarm as Daughters-Gondrill, Ragan, and Cor- we should entertain at the idea that the della ;" a version which, in the opinion of heavenly bodies might one day fall from Dr. Ward, seemed only to await the touch their appointed orbits.” To still further of such a hand as Shakespeare's to become deepen this impression, the Fool, the very “a tragedy of sublime effectiveness.” soul of pathos in humorous disguise, strikes This was precisely what Shakespeare, by into clear light not only the King's misforomitting irrelevant parts, by a free use of tunes, but his faults as well. all the material, and by entirely reorgan- In “ King Lear,” as clearly as in the izing it, made of the old folk story. other tragedies, men reap what they sow,
Appalling as is the presentation of the and the deed returns to the doer with inplay of elemental forces and passions in exorable retribution; but the play is not “King Lear," and completely as it seems to be explained by any easy and obvious to break away from all relation to a spir- application of ethical principles. It lifts the itual order, and to exhibit men as the curtain upon the most appalling facts of life, sport of fate, it is, nevertheless, rooted in and makes no attempt to rationalize them. the character of the men and women who In this revelation of the ultimate order of are tossed about in its vast movements as life, which is inexplicable by the mind in by some shoreless sea. Gloucester, the its present stage of development, the play putting out of whose eyes perhaps surpasses takes its place with the Book of Job, with in horror any other incident in the plays, the great trilogy of Æschylus, or with the is not so blind that he cannot read the sublime “ (Edipus Tyrannus,” of which story of his own calamities in the sin of Shelley thought it the modern equivalent. his youth. We are reminded of this relation Its sublimity lies in the vastness of its between present misery and far-off offenses presentation of the great theme of human when Edgar says:
suffering, and in the nobility of its method. The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Such a theme could have been touched Make instruments to plague us ;
only by a man of the first magnitude; The dark and vicious place where thee he got and such a man could not go beyond its Cost him his eyes.
dramatic presentation ; to have attempted The play is Titanic not only in force the solution would have cheapened the and grandeur, but in the elemental char- work. The end of art is not to solve the acter of the passions and ideas which problems of existence, but to deepen and contribute to the catastrophe. Such a freshen the sense of life; when this sense nature as Lear's--passionate, willful, un- is deep and fresh, these problems are so disciplined, dominated by a colossal dealt with that, as in the Book of Job, their egoism-could not escape a conflict of very vastness and mystery suggest the appalling dimensions. When the world only adequate and satisfying answer. In which Lear had organized about him by “King Lear,” the greatest dramatic the supremacy of his own will was shat- achievement of our race, the poet so entered, he
could neither recognize nor larges the field of observation and dilates accept a new order, but must Aling himself the imagination of the reader that the in a blind passion of revolt against the postponement of the ultimate solution of new conditions which he had unwittingly the problem of the tragedy is not only brought into being. His madness grew inevitable, but is the only outcome which out of his irrational attitude towards his would be tolerated by the reader. family.
In " Timon of Athens," which probably Lear's sufferings are heightened by in- followed close upon “ King Lear in point terweaving with them the sufferings of of time, the poet turned once more from Gloucester. “Were Lear alone to suffer the lofty severity of tragedy, full of pity from his daughters," wrote Schlegel, “the and of terror, to the easier, narrower,
and less noble attitude of the satirist, in from “ King Lear” or “ Timon” to “ Anwhose comment there is a touch of corro- tony and Cleopatra”-a tragedy almost sive bitterness. In style, in treatment, incredibly rich in variety and range of and in attitude this play is so full of in- character and in splendor of setting. He consistencies, and in parts so essentialiy had recourse again to Plutarch's “Life of un-Shakespearean, that it is now generally Antonius,” fastening this time, not upon regarded as a sketch made by the poet, an episode, but upon the nature and fate but elaborated and put into its present of one of the most fascinating figures on form by other and later hands. This con- the stage of the antique world. That clusion seems more probable than the world he recreated in its strength and weakhypothesis that it is an old drama worked ness, in its luxury and magnificence, in a over by Shakespeare, or that it was the drama which brought before the imaginaproduct of collaboration with another play- tion with equal firmness of touch the power wright. It is not certain that any play on of Rome, personified in the disciplined the subject was known to Shakespeare, and far-seeing Octavius, the voluptuous who found the story of Timon in Plu- temperament of the East in Cleopatra, and tarch's “ Life of Antonius,” and also in the tragic collision of two great opposing the version of the story in that repository conceptions of life in Marc Antony-a man of old stories, Paynter's “ Palace of Pleas- born with the Roman capacity for action ure.” It seems probable that the author and the Eastern passion for pleasure. In of the play was familiar with Lucian's Cæsar's house in Rome, in newly condialogue on Timon.
tracted alliance with Octavius, Antony's The character of Timon relates itself heart is in Egypt : in various ways to that of Lear. Both con
l'the East my pleasure lies. fided blindly; both were generous without The style marks the transition to the measure or reason; there was in both an poet's latest manner ; rhyme almost diselement of irrationality ; and in both the appears, and “weak endings," or the use reaction was excessive and akin to mad- of weak monosyllables at the end of the ness. There were in both the elements lines, become very numerous. The poet of simple and kindly goodness; and both had secured such conscious mastery of were lacking in perception and penetration. his art that he trusted entirely to his inIn both the seeds of tragic calamity lay sticct and taste. The story in Plutarch's very near the surface. The irony of hands has a noble breadth and beauty, and Timon lies not so much in the reaction is full of insight into the ethical relations of his irrational prodigality upon his for- of the chief actors in this world-drama. tunes and character as in the fierce light The full splendor of Shakespeare's genius thrown upon those who had benefited by has hardly done more than bring out drahis lavish mood. Timon hates mankind matically the significance of these great upon a very narrow basis of personal words of the Greek biographer: experience; Apemantus hates mankind
Antonius being thus inclined, the last and because he is a cynic by nature. Timon extremist mischief of all other (to wii, the is blind alike to the good and the evil in love of Cleopatra) lighted on him, who did mankind; he fails to recognize the loyal waken and stir up many vices yet hidden in devotion of his steward Flavius, after mis him, and were never seen to any ; and if any
spark of goodness or hope of rising were left fortunes have overtaken him, as he failed him, Cleopatra quenched it straight and made to heed his warnings in the days of prod- it worse than before. igality. In this blindness his calamities Again and again Shakespeare touched are rooted; it is this which turns all the upon this great theme and showed how sweetness of his nature into acid when tragic disaster issues out of unregulated the world forsakes him ; and it is this passion and infects the coolest nature with which makes his judgment of that world madness; but nowhere else is that tragedy valueless save as an expression of his set on so great a stage and so magnifiown mood. “ Timon " is a study of tem- cently enriched with splendid gifts of perament, not a judgment upon life. nature, noble possessions, and almost
There could hardly have been a greater limitless opportunities of achievement. contrast of subject and material than that It is the drama of the East and West in which Shakespeare found when he turned mortal collision of ideals and motives, and the East succumbs to the superior fiber motive of the play is so admirably set and more highly organized character of forth in a few phrases in the “Life of the West. Cleopatra is the greatest of the Coriolanus” that it is impossible to avoid enchantresses. She has wit, grace, humor ; quoting them : the intoxication of sex breathes from her;
He was a man too full of passion and choler, she unites the passion of a great temper- and too much given over to self-will and opinament with the fathomless coquetry of a ion, as one of a high mind and great courage, courtesan of genius. She is passionately
She is passionately that lacked the gravity and affability that is alive, avid of sensation, consumed with gotten with judgment of learning and reason,
which only is to be looked for in a governor of love of pleasure, imperious in her demands State; and that remembered not how for that absolute homage which slays ness is the thing of the world, which a govhonor and saps manhood at the very
ernor of a commonwealth, for pleasing, should springs of its power. This superb em
shun, being that which Plato called “solitari
ness;" as, in the end, all men that are willfully bodiment of femininity, untouched by pity given to a self opinion and obstinate mind, and and untroubled by conscience, has a com
who will never yield to other's reason but to pelling charm, born in the mystery of
their own, remain without company and for
saken of all men. For a mian that will live in passion and taking on the radiance of a
the world must needs have patience, which thousand moods which melt into one an- lusty bloods make but a mock at. So Marcius, other in endless succession, as if there being a stout man of nature, that never yielded were no limit to the resources of her tem
in any respect, as one thinking that to overperament and the sorceries of her beauty; matters was a token of magnanimity and of no
come always and to have the upper hand in all Of her alone has the greatest of poets dared base and faint courage, which spitteth out to declare that “age cannot wither her, anger from the most weak and passioned part nor custom stale her infinite variety.” It
of the beast, much like the matter of an imis this magnificence which invests Cleo
postume: went home to his house, full freighted
with spite and malice against the people. patra's criminality with a kind of sublimity; so vast is the scale of her being and so
The humorous scenes which give the tremendous the force of her passions.
play variety were entirely contributed by The depth of Shakespeare's poetic art
Shakespeare; and the presentation of the and the power of his imagination are dis- mob is highly characteristic. The poet played in their full compass in “ Antony
hated the irrationality and violence of
untrained men. Coriolanus never for a and Cleopatra.” The play is vitalized as by fire, so radiant is it in energy and
moment conceals his contempt for them: beauty of expression. The chief figures were he to stand for consul, never would he
I heard him swear, are not only realized with historical fidel
Appear i’ the market-place, nor on him put ity, but they breathe the very atmosphere The napless vesture of humility ;, of the East.
Nor, showing (as the manner is) his wounds In “ Julius Cæsar” there is Roman
To the people, beg their stinking breaths. massiveness of construction and severity
This is quite in accord with Casca's of outline; "Antony and Cleopatra” is contempt for the “rabblement " which steeped in the languor and luxury of the "hooted, and clapped their chapped East. The Roman play has the definite- hands, and threw up their sweaty nightness and solidity of sculpture; the Egyp- caps, and uttered such a deal of stinking tian play has the glow and radiancy of breath,” because
because Cæsar refused the painting
crown. This contempt finds its most satiric The study of classical subjects bore expression in Jack Cade's manifesto: final fruit, at the end of this period in Be brave then ; for your captain is brave, Shakespeare's life as an artist, in “Cori- and vows reformation. There shall be, in olanus”—the tragedy of a great nature
England, seven half-penny loaves sold for a
penny; the three-hooped pot shall have ten wrecked by pride. Written about 1609,
hooj s; and I will make it felony to drink small and closely related to the magnificent beer; all the realm shall be in common, and drama of the East and West, the poet
in Cheapside shall my palfrey go to grass. turned for the last time to the pages of In complete contrast with this concepPlutarch, who told this story, as he told tion of the common people as a mere the story of Antony, with a noble dignity rabble, full of passion and devoid of and beauty which were not lost at the ideas, stands Coriolanus-a typical arishands of his English translator. The tocrat, with the virtues of the aristocrat:
courage, indifference to pain, scorn of sistent that, sooner or later, by the necessity money, independence of thought, com- of its nature, it must produce the tragic mand of eloquence, and natural aptitude conflict. Coriolanus, in spite of his great for leadership. These great qualities are faults, has heroic proportions, and fills neutralized by colossal egotism, manifest- the play with the sense of his superiority; ing itself in a pride so irrational and in- he lives and dies like a true tragic hero.
The Insight of the Christian
By the Rev. W. P. Allis * Is the seer here?”—1 Samuel ix., II.
with ever-increasing rigor on secular as HIS is the question of a young well as religious life. The prophets are
countryman who with his servant succceded by the wise men who play so
is looking for live-stock which important a part in the education of the has strayed from his father's farın. He common people, and the prophecies are who later was called the “ prophet " was displaced by the wisdom literature. The then called “seer.” The young Saul rabbis in the widening circle of the synashares in a popular estimate of the day, gogue life help to keep alive the demoand attributes to Sainuel, the seer, some cratic spirit, and the stream of prophecy, of the qualities of the soothsayer. It disappearing for a time from the surface, happens, then, as it has so often since, reappears in many a private utterance that the half truth can become a step which would once have been distrusted toward the whole, and that even a super- in the face of the wider reputation of the stition can begin a revelation. Saul is national prophets. The stream becomes searching for a soothsayer, and finds a an intermittent spring in the Book of seer. He goes out with the hope that he Daniel and the fierce religious spirit of can find the lost animals, and finds him- the Maccabean rebellion, and rushes into self. The seer discloses to the peasant sight again in the ringing denunciation his coming kingship.
of national and private sins which falls In time the seer merges into the prophet, from the lips of the Baptist. At last but the discerning quality which makes the prophecy takes on its original form, alname "seer” so finely descriptive is never though heightened in a new insight and lost. From Samuel to Elisha, from Amos beauty, in the words of the Seer who to Jeremiah, from the later Isaiah to John spoke as never man spoke, teaching the the Baptist, the instinct of the seer is the world that even seership could take on a key to prophecy. Whether the prophet more abundant life. is statesman, political economist, social Side by side with this persistent power reformer, or teacher of pure religion, he is to declare the principles of individual and sharply opposed to the professional eccle- national welfare, almost making it possible siastic. Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, to say that prophecy was never lcst, was sends the arrogant message to Amos: “O the hardening of religion into the burdenthou seer, flee away to Judah, and prophesying formalism of the temple and its sacrithere." It is Amos, as the prophet, who ficial rites. It is this professional spirit sharply retorts: “I was not one of the which is to send its haughty messengers sons of the prophets, but the Lord took to Jesus demanding his authority, and me as I followed the herd, and said, Go which with relentless hatred would make prophesy to my people Israel.” The fact it expedient that one man should die rather that he was not a professional was at once than die itself. It is this eternal conflict his credential and his safeguard. His between religion as a seeing and religion as right to prophesy did not lie in his family a ritual which explains why Jesus could so connections, nor in any laying on of hands, long preach in the synagogues when the but in his being a seer.
priests from almost the first of his minisThe gulf between priest and prophet try became so bitterly hostile. And this widens. Ecclesiasticism lays its hand also explains why the synagogue so often