網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

provocation, and he never stormed. He seemed to think his whole object included in the power of his bond. He looked and spoke as if he felt that were he to lose that, he would lose every thing, and sink again into comparative insignificance and contempt. When Gratiano throws out a series of violent invectives, and exclaims,

“0, be thou damned, inexorable dog !"

Shylock contents himself with the cool reply :

“ Till thou canst rail the seal from off my bond

Thou but offend'st thy lungs to speak so loud;
Repair thy wit good youth, or it will fall

To cureless ruin. I stand here for laro." The generality of actors, however, mistake the Jew's temperament and manner. They make him a passionate and blustering bully; whereas he was sullen, cautious, and deliberate. not continually hurried away by gusts of passion, nor was it any sudden and unlooked for provocation that had stirred up the deepest and worst parts of his nature. He was not inebriated with rage.

He had long brooded over the degradation of his tribe and his own personal wrongs.

He was

“For sufferance is the badge of all his tribe.”

Had he been allowed the opportunity to "wreak his soul upon expression,” and pour on the heads of the Christians as many showers of scalding curses as he had received upon his own, his passion would have lost much of its intensity and virulence. Perfect freedom of speech would have operated like a safety-valve. But bearing as he did “the pelting of the pitiless storm” of the Christian's hatred, without daring to return it, his passions gained force by concealment and concentration. It was rarely that the tempest in his heart broke out in thunder.

The original force of his nature, and this conventional restraint, combined to give a unity and depth to his character, that were rather indicated by the steadiness of his purpose than by any extravagance of language or of manner. Profound and powerful minds do not give way to frequent ebullitions of idle rage.

To scold and rave is the part of a woman or a bully. Deep waters are still. There is a self-possession in the Jew that is almost sublime. Amidst a host of powerful and malignant enemies, and with every disadvantage of position, he is so far from being bewildered by his emotions, or thrown off his guard, that he seems to say just so much and no more, in the way of self-defence and retaliation, as is consistent with his personal safety and the furtherance of his object. Though he ventures upon sundry bitter taunts and sneers, they are only of such a character as his enemies from a consciousness of superior power might be supposed to tolerate. He does not call the Christians dogs, or spit and spurn at them, as they do at him.

The character of Shylock is by no means complicated, or difficult of apprehension, and it is accordingly the more surprising that it should be so often erroneously represented on the stage. Its traits are broad and simple. The single passion of revenge swallows up every other, even that of avarice. It is not, however, a personal revenge alone, for he has a sympathy for his injured and insulted countrymen which in a Christian would be deemed a virtue. He has “a lodged hate” against Antonio, not only because he has “ thwarted his bargains,” but also because he is one of those who have “ scorned his nation.Kean's Shylock was remarkable for an air of suppression and

The few occasional bursts of passion seemed to escape from an habitual restraint. They were irrepressible ; not free or voluntary. The effect was thus greatly heightened. The Shylock of other actors appeared to have no concealments and no selfcontrol.

In the way in which the part is usually performed, there is often the strongest contrast between the text and the action. The

reserve.

latter has the air of galvanism ; for the life is wanting. Wild and passionate movements are incongruously associated with sly sneers and deliberate scorn.

Abstracting our minds from Christian prejudices, we cannot help sympathizing, in some degree, with Shakespeare's Jew; but the Jew, as he is generally represented on the stage, seems so well able to take his own part and to brow-beat his enemies that he is too powerful to be pitied. The Christians themselves have the tables turned upon them. They are the persecuted party. There is also too much of the demon in the acted Jew. If Shylock hates Antonio "for that he is a Christian," the Christians hate Shylock because he is a Jew, and not merely on account of his defective moral qualities as a man. A respectable Jewish audience would not regard Shylock with the horror that thrills a Christian audience. They would not only sympathize in his sufferings, but admire his indomitable character and his unanswerable logic. A Christian of the same character, placed under similar circumstances, would receive the same indulgence from people of his own faith. If Shylock is somewhat too fierce and unforgiving, his countrymen would recollect that his bosom is a volcano that has laboured long and fiercely, not only with the internal fire enkindled by his own wrongs, but with the intolerable, and at last irrepressible, sense of the injuries and indignities heaped upon

“ his sacred nation.” The conclusion of the play is unsatisfactory. We are pained to see a powerful and deeply injured spirit so completely thwarted and subdued by a mere quibble, and are shocked at the absurd and unnecessary insult of insisting (as a part of his punishment too!) " that he do presently become a Christian !” Shylock's immediate consent to this humiliating demand, and his casting off the religion of his ancestors, like an old coat, at a single jerk, appears inconsistent with the force and inflexibility of his character. It is at all events difficult to conceive the glory or utility of making a nominal convert to Christianity by taking advantage of a legal quirk, and “ convincing a man against his will” by the threatened alternative of sundry pains and penalties. The Jew, however, could not have turned into a real Christian, and scarcely into a hypocrite. It was more easy for Falstaff to give reasons upon compulsion, than for Shylock to give faith.

SONNET—TO A LADY SINGING.

O! BREATHE, impassioned songstress, once again,
That soul-entrancing air! Responsive tears
Attest thy power. Thy gentle voice appears
Like sounds of summer's eve, or some sweet strain
That haunts the wanderer's visionary brain
When home's fond memories rise, and vanished years,
That Time's dim twilight mystery endears,
Return, like shadows o'er the trembling main
Beneath the half-veiled moon. Then waken still
Those notes with more than mortal music fraught,
Celestial harmonies ! Each echo seems
A charm from heaven-a spell divinely wrought
To bare the curtained past, and

every ill
That clouds the heart, to cheer with holy dreams.

WAR SONG.

I.

Hail to the Brave ! and hail the Land
Where Freedom's dauntless guardians stand,
An honored race, a glorious band,
Or prompt to strike, or proud to die, -

Prepared for death or liberty!

II.

How hallowed is the Patriot's grave,
Who 'neath the banners Freemen wave,
With ready hand and bosom brave,
Hath fought and died as heroes die,

In battle and for liberty!

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

The Victor's brow may proudly shine,
While Beauty's hands the wreath entwine,
But, Oh! his country's heart's a shrine
For him who greatly dares to die,

For glory and for liberty!

« 上一頁繼續 »