ePub 版

emotions of pleasure is interwoven with " And all my mind was happiness and thee.” the whole structure and conduct of the Garrick, moreover, has omitted all such play. The tragical part of the story, from Shaksperean images as would be offensive the first scene to the last, is held in subjec

to superfine ears, such astion to the beautiful. It is not only that the beautiful comes to the relief of the

“Here, here will I remain tragic, as in 'Lear' and 'Othello,' but here With worms that are thy chambermaids." the tragic is only a mode of exhibiting the And yet, with all his efforts to destroy the beautiful under its most striking aspects. beautiful, and all his managerial skill to Shakspere never intended that the story of thrust forward that species of pathetic Romeo and Juliet' should lacerate the

which the actor delights in, for the purheart. When Mrs. Inchbald, therefore, said, pose of exhibiting himself and bringing in her preface to the acted play, “ Romeo down the galleries, “ Romeo and Juliet,' acand Juliet' is called a pathetic tragedy, but cording to Mrs. Inchbald, “seldom attracts it is not so in reality-it charms the under

an elegant audience. The company that standing and delights the imagination, with frequent the side-boxes will not come to a out melting, though it touches, the heart,” tragedy, unless to weep in torrents; and -she paid the highest compliment to Shak- Romeo and Juliet' will not draw even a spere's skill as an artist, for he had thoroughly copious shower of tears.” Why, no! The worked out his own idea. Otway,” Mrs.

vulgar pathos that Garrick has daubed over Inchbald adds, “would have rendered it Shakspere's catastrophe, with the same skill more effective." Otway did render it “more

with which a picture-dealer would mend a effective.” It is quite sufficient to refer to Correggio, only serves to make the beauty, his · Caius Marius,' to show his success in that he has been constrained to leave unconverting beauty into what is called force. touched, more unintelligible to "the comHe did exactly what Garrick’s less skilful pany that frequent the side-boxes.” The hand ventured to do—to make Juliet wake whole thing has become out of keeping. before Romeo dies. It is marvellous how Instead of the sweetness that “ends with acute and ingenious men, such as Thomas

a long deep sigh, like the breeze of the Warton, for example, should be betrayed evening,”+ we have a rant about “cruel, into criticism which deals with such a poem cursed fate,” which shrieks like the gusty as · Romeo and Juliet' as if there were no

wind in the chinks of a deserted and povertyunity of feeling, no homogeneousness, in its stricken hut. Instead of that beautiful close entire construction. Warton says, “Shak- in which “ the spring and the winter meet, spere, misled by the English poem, missed winter assumes the character of spring, and the opportunity of introducing a most affect-spring the sadness of winter,"I we have ing scene by the natural and obvious con

here a fierce storm,—“such sheets of fire, clusion of the story. In Luigi's novel, Juliet such bursts of horrid thunder,”—which proawakes from her trance in the tomb before duces the effect of mere physical terror. the death of Romeo."

."* Shakspere misled ! Instead of “the flower that is softly shed Shakspere missing the opportunity! Shak-on the earth, yet putting forth undying spere working in the dark ! Let us see what odours," $ we have the rank and loathsome has been done by those who were not“ mis- weeds of the charnel-house. It is some led,” and who seized upon “the oppor- praise to our age that any new attempts to tunity.” Garrick has written sixty lines of “improve” Shakspere would not be tolerated. good, orthodox, commonplace dialogue be- It is a higher praise that the endeavour to tween Romeo and Juliet in the tomb, in revive upon the stage what the greatest which Romeo, before he begins to rave, talks master of the dramatic art really wrote has, very much in the style of one of Shenstone's shepherds,-as, for example,

+ Coleridge; · Drake's Memorials.'

Coleridge’s ‘Literary Remains.' * History of English Poetry,' vol. iv. p. 301 (1824).

§ ‘Retrospective Review.'



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

in some few instances, received adequate en- criticism of Schlegel upon ‘Romeo and Juliet' couragement. But we have yet a great deal is based upon a perfect comprehension of to learn, and a great deal to unlearn, before this great principle upon which Shakspere the principle upon which ‘Romeo and Juliet' worked. Schlegel, we apprehend, succeeded was written would be thoroughly appreciated Coleridge in giving a genial tone to criticism by an audience. With the millions that read upon Shakspere—for Coleridge first lectured Shakspere throughout the civilized world on the drama in 1802, and Schlegel in 1808; there is no difficulty.

and Schlegel may also have owed something Coleridge has described the homogeneous-indirectly to Coleridge,—to that master-mind ness—the totality of interest—which is the who filled other minds as if they were congreat characteristic of this play, by one of duits from his exhaustless fountain. But he those beautiful analogies which could only in himself is a most acute and profound critic; proceed from the pen of a true poet:- and what he has done to make Shakspere

“Whence arises the harmony that strikes properly known, even in this country, where us in the wildest natural landscapes,—in the our perception of his greatness had long been relative shapes of rocks, the harmony of obscured amidst the deep gloom of the critical colours in the heaths, ferns, and lichens, the fog that had hung over us for more than a leaves of the beech and the oak, the stems century, ought never to be forgotten. The and rich brown branches of the birch and following is the close of a celebrated passage other mountain trees, varying from verging from Schlegel, upon “Romeo and Juliet,' which autumn to returning spring,-compared with has often been quoted ;—but it is altogether the visual effect from the greater number of so true and so beautiful, that we cannot artificial plantations ?—From this, that the resist the pleasure of circulating it still natural landscape is effected, as it were, by more widely :a single energy modified ab intra in each Whatever is most intoxicating in the component part. And, as this is the par- odour of a southern spring, languishing in ticular excellence of the Shaksperean drama the song of the nightingale, or voluptuous generally, so is it especially characteristic of on the first opening of the rose, is breathed the “Romeo and Juliet.'”*

into this poem. But, even more rapidly than Schlegel carried out the proofs of this as- the earliest blossoms of youth and beauty desertion in an “Essay on Romeo and Juliet ;'t cay, it hurries on from the first timidly bold in which, to use his own words, he “went declaration of love and modest return, to through the whole of the scenes in their the most unlimited passion, to an irrevocable order, and demonstrated the inward neces- union ; then, amidst alternating storms of sity of each with reference to the whole ; rapture and despair, to the death of the two showed why such a particular circle of cha- lovers, who still appear enviable, as their racters and relations was placed around the love survives them, and as by their death two lovers; explained the signification of the they have obtained a triumph oyer every mirth here and there scattered; and justified separating power. The sweetest and the the use of the occasional heightening given bitterest, love and hatred, festivity and dark to the poetical colours.”I Schlegel wisely forebodings, tender embraces and sepulchres, did this to exhibit what is more remarkable the fulness of life and self-annihilation, are in Shakspere than in any other poet, “the all here brought close to each other; and thorough formation of a work, even in its all these contrasts are so blended in the harminutest part, according to a leading idea-monious and wonderful work into a unity of the dominion of the animating spirit over all impression, that the echo which the whole the means of execution.”ş The general leaves behind in the mind resembles a single

but endless sigh.”ll * Literary Remains,' vol. ij. p. 150.

In selecting these passages to establish in t'Charakteristiken und Kritiken.'

the minds of our readers the great principle $. Lectures,' vol. ii. p. 127. $ Ibid., p. 183.

I'Lectures,' vol. il. p. 186.

[ocr errors]

of the unity of feeling which so thoroughly | house of Montague moves me "-we know pervades the “Romeo and Juliet,' and which that these are not common servants, and live constitutes the “particular excellence of not in common times: with them the excitethe Shaksperean drama,” we have indirectly ment of party-spirit does not rise into strong furnished the proof of the assertion with passion,—it presents its ludicrous side. They which we set out, that the tragical part of quarrel like angry curs, who snarl, yet are the story, from the first scene to the last, afraid to bite. But the “furious Tybalt ”in is held in subjection to the beautiful. The a moment shows us that these hasty quarrels structure of the play essentially required cannot have peaceful endings. The strong this. Coleridge has said that “ Shakspere arm of authority suspends the affray; but meant the 'Romeo and Juliet' to approach the spirit of enmity is not put down. The to a poem ;” but, of course, Coleridge meant movement of this scene is as rapid as the a poem entirely modified by the dramatic quarrel itself. It produces the effect upon power. We shall venture to trespass upon the mind of something which startles-almost the attention of our readers, whilst we ex- terrifies; which passes away into repose, but amine the conduct of the story and the which leaves an ineffaceable impression upon development of the characters under this the senses. The calm immediately succeeds. aspect. When we have arrived at a due Benvolio's speech,conception of the principle of art on which

· Madam, an hour before the worshipp'd sun this drama was constructed—that of sub

Peer'd forth the golden window of the east,”— limating all that is literal and common in human actions and human thoughts, by the at once shows us that we are entering into force of passion and imagination, throwing the region of high poetry. Coleridge remarks their rich colours upon the chief actors, that the succeeding speech of old Montague and colouring, upon an indispensable law of exhibits the poetical aspect of the play even harmony, all the groups around them-we more strikingly:shall reject, as utterly unworthy, all that “Many a morning hath he there been seen, miscalled criticism which takes its stand With tears augmenting the fresh morning's upon a material foundation, and, dealing dew." with high poetry as if it were a thing of It is remarkable that the speech thus comdemonstrations and syllogisms, tells us that

mencing, which contains twenty lines as Shakspere's comic scenes are here “ happily highly wrought as anything in Shakspere, is wrought, but his pathetic strains are always not in the first copy of this play. The expolluted with some unexpected depravations. perience of the artist taught him where to His persons, however distressed, have a con

lay on the poetical colouring brighter and ceit left them in their misery, a miserable brighter. How beautifully these lines preconceit.”*

pare us for the appearance of Romeo—the The first scenes of nearly every play of

now musing, abstracted Romeo—the Romeo, Shakspere are remarkable for the skill with who, like the lover of Chaucer, which they prepare the mind for all the after scenes. We do not see the succession

"Solitary was ever alone, of scenes ; the catastrophe is unrevealed.

And waking all the night, making moan.” But we look into a dim and distant prospect, The love of Romeo was unrequited love. It and by what is in the foreground we can was a sentiment rather than a passion-a form a general notion of the landscape that love which displayed itself “in the numbers will be presented to us, as the clouds roll that Petrarch flowed in”—a love that solaced away, and the sun lights up its wild moun- itself in antithetical conceits upon its own tains or its fertile valleys. When Sampson' misery, and would draw consolation from and Gregory enter “armed with swords and melancholy associations. It was the love bucklers ”—when we hear, “a dog of the without the “true Promethean fire.” But * Johnson's concluding Remarks on · Romeo and Juliet.' it was the fit preparation for what was to


follow. The dialogue between Capulet and but also to harmonize. The poetry of MerParis prepares us for Juliet—the “hopeful cutio is that of fancy :—the poetry of Romeo lady of his earth,” who

is that of imagination. The wit of Mercutio " Hath not seen the change of fourteen years."

is the overflow of animal spirits, occasionally The old man does not think her“ ripe to be head, by the soil over which it passes :

polluted, like a spring pure from the well

:the a bride ;” but we are immediately reminded

wit of Romeo is somewhat artificial, and of the precocity of nature under a southern

scarcely self-sustained ;-it is the unaccussun, by another magical touch of poetry, tomed play of the intellect when the passions which tells us of youth and freshness-of

" have come to the clenching point,”—but it summer in “ April”—of “fresh female buds”

under control-it has no exuberance which, breathing the fragrance of opening flowers.

like the wit of Mercutio, admits the colouring Juliet at length comes. We see the sub

of the sensual and the sarcastic. The courage missive and gentle girl ; but the garrulity of of Mercutio is, in the same way, the courage the Nurse carries us back even to the

of high animal spirits, fearless of conse“ Prettiest babe that e'er I nursed.”

quences, and laughing even when it has Neither Juliet nor Romeo had rightly read paid the penalty of its rashness—“Ask for their own hearts. He was sighing for a me to-morrow, and you shall find me a grave shadow—she fancied that she could subject man.” The courage of Romeo is reflective her feelings to the will of others :

and forbearing“I'll look to like, if looking liking move :

“I do protest, I never injured thee.” But no more deep will I endart mine eye, But, when his friend has fallen, his “newly Than your consent gives strength to make it entertained revenge" casts off all control:fly."

Away to heaven, respective lenity !" The preparation for their first interview goes forward : Benvolio has persuaded Romeo to Then, again, how finely the calm, benevolent go to Capulet's feast. There is a slight good sense of Benvolio blends with these pause in the action, but how gracefully is it opposites ! filled up! Mercutio comes upon


But the masquerade waits. We have here Coleridge has described him as

that ex

the realization of youth and freshness which quisite ebullience and overflow of youthful Capulet promised to Paris ; but at the life, wafted on over the laughing waves of moment when we see “the guests and the pleasure and prosperity, as a wanton beauty maskers” we have a touch, in the expression that distorts the face on which she knows of the old man’s natural feelings, which tells her lover is gazing enraptured, and wrinkles

us how perishable these things are : her forehead in the triumph of its smooth

“I have seen the day, ness! Wit ever wakeful, fancy busy and That I have worn a visor; and could tell procreative as an insect, courage, an easy A whispering tale in a fair lady's ear, mind that, without cares of its own, is at

Such as would please ;-'t is gone, 't is gone, once disposed to laugh away those of others,

't is gone!” and yet to be interested in them,—these and But Juliet appears, and we think not of all other congenial qualities, melting into


We forget that “ one generation the common copula of them all, the man of pushes another off the stage.” The very rank and the gentleman, with all its excel-first words of Romeo show the change that lences and all its weaknesses, constitute the has come o'er him. He went into that “hall character of Mercutio !"* Is this praise of in Capulet's house,” fearing Mercutio overcharged ?

We think not, looking at him dramatically. He is placed

"Some consequence yet hanging in the stars." by the side of Romeo, to contrast with him, He had “ a soul of lead”_he would be “ a * Literary Remains,' vol. ii.

candle-holder and look on.” But he has



[ocr errors]


persons each

seen Juliet : and with what gorgeous images Oh, speak again, bright angel ! for thou art has that sight filled his imagination !

As glorious to this night, being o'er my head, “Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!

As is a winged messenger of heaven

Unto the white-upturned wond'ring eyes Her beauty hangs upon the cheek of night

Of mortals, that fall back to gaze on him, As a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear.”

When he bestrides the lazy-pacing clouds, We have now the poetry of passion bursting And sails upon the bosom of the air." upon us with its purple light. Compare this with the pale poetry of sentiment in the first almost impossible for the lover to descend to

From this poetical elevation it would seem scene, when he talks of Rosaline being

earth,—and yet the earth hath visions of “ too fair, too wise, wisely too fair." tenderness and purity, which equally belong Perfectly in accordance with this exaltation to the highest regions of poetry. The fears of mind is the address of Romeo to Juliet. of Juliet for his safety ;- the “farewell The dialogue must be considered as that of compliment;”—the character. But there

“In truth, fair Montague, I am too fond;" — is more in it than meets the ear;—it is not

the “do not swear;"—the entirely the half expression of the thoughts of two maskers :—there is an under-current

“Stay but a little, I will come again;"of reality which blends the language of the affection with the language of compli

“ If that thy bent of love be honourable:"ment. When Romeo asks of the Nurse, “What is her mother ?” and when Juliet all these indications of the union of “purity inquires,

of heart and the glow of imagination” belong

to the highest region of an ideal world, and “What’s he that now is going out of door ?”

yet are linked to this our own world of we see “the beginning of the end.” But we beauty and frailty. This is one of the great do not forget that the anger of Tybalt at scenes of the poem which cannot be comRomeo's presence has thrown a shadow over prehended if disjoined from all that is about the brightness of their young love. The it; any more than Juliet's soliloquy, in the maskers are gone—the torches are extin- third act, after her marriage. It is one of the guished—the voice of the revelry has ceased.

scenes that is consequently obnoxious to a Romeo has leapt the wall of Capulet's false ridicule, and, what is worse, to a grovelgarden. There are no longer

ling criticism. In the midst of the intensity Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven of Juliet's“timidly bold declaration of love,” light.”

Steevens inserts one of the atrocious notes He has found a sequestered spot far apart that he perpetrated under the fictitious name from that banqueting-hall from which his of Amner. It is a warning to us how far a Juliet descended, amidst the gay groups prosaic spirit may descend into dirt, when it that floated about in that garden, to hang attempts to deal with a great artist without

reverence for his art. There are three modes "upon the cheek of night As a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear.”

in which criticism, or what is called criticism,

may be applied to high art. The first is, He is alone. The moon

where the critic endeavours to look at an “Tips with silver all those fruit-tree tops." entire work,—not at parts of a work only,– He hears in the distant street the light- in some degree through the same medium as hearted Mercutio calling upon him by the

the poet looked at his unformed creations. names of

The second is, where the critic rejects that “Humours! madman! passion! lover!”

medium, for the most part through inca

pacity of using it, and peers through the But he heeds him not. Juliet appears. smoked glass of what he calls common sense, She speaks.

that his eyes, forsooth, may not be dazzled.


[ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »