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and defects, and has copied the series of its Criticism in Tragedy,' thus speaks of Shakincidents with his customary fidelity; an spere's performance :exactness seldom to be found in any other “For the play itself, the author seems to dramatic writer."*
have begun it with some fire; the characters Although the main incidents in the ad- of Pandarus and Thersites are promising ventures of the Greek lover and his faithless enough ; but, as if he grew weary of his mistress are followed with little deviation, task, after an entrance or two he lets them yet, independent of the wonderful difference fall; and the latter part of the tragedy is in the characterization, the whole story nothing but a confusion of drums and trumunder the treatment of Shakspere becomes pets, excursions and alarms. The chief perthoroughly original. In no play does he sons who give name to the tragedy are left appear to us to have a more complete mastery alive : Cressida is false, and is not punished. over his materials, or to mould them into Yet, after all, because the play was Shakmore plastic shapes by the force of his most speare's, and that there appeared in some surpassing imagination. The great Homeric places of it the admirable genius of the poem, the rude romance of the destruction author, I undertook to remove that heap of of Troy, the beautiful elaboration of that mibbish under which many excellent thoughts romance by Chaucer, are all subjected to his lay wholly buried.” The mode in which wondrous alchemy; and new forms and Dryden got rid of the rubbish, and built up combinations are called forth so lifelike, that his own edifice, is very characteristic of the all the representations which have preceded age and of the man :them look cold and rigid statues, not warm “I new modelled the plot; threw out and breathing men and women. Coleridge's many unnecessary persons ; improved those theory of the principle upon which this was characters which were begun and left uneffected is, we have no doubt, essentially finished,
-as Hector, Troilus, Pandarus, and true :
Thersites; and added that of Andromache. “I am half inclined to believe that Shake- After this I made, with no small trouble, an spear's main object (or shall I rather say his order and connection of all the scenes, reruling impulse ?) was to translate the poetic moving them from the places where they heroes of Paganism into the not less rude, but were inartificially set." more intellectually vigorous, and more fea- The result of all this is, that the Ghost of turely, warriors of Christian chivalry, and to Shakspere, in the concluding lines of the substantiate the distinct and graceful profiles Prologue, thus enlightens the audience as or outlines of the Homeric epic into the to the dominant idea of the Troilus and flesh and blood of the romantic drama,-in Cressida :'short, to give a grand history-piece in the *My faithful scene from true records shall tell robust style of Albert Durer.” +
How Trojan valour did the Greek excel ; To Dryden's alteration of Troilus and Your great forefathers shall their fame regain, Cressida' was prefixed a prologue, “ spoken And Homer's angry ghost repine in vain." by Mr. Betterton, representing the Ghost of Coleridge says, “there is no one of ShakShakspere.” The Ghost appears to have en spere's plays harder to characterize." He tirely forgotten what he was on earth, and to has overlooked the circumstance that, when present a marvellous resemblance, in his the “rubbish” was removed, it became a mind at least, to Mr. John Dryden. He true record, a faithful chronicle, of the says,
heroic actions of the Trojans,—our "great “In this my rough-drawn play you shall behold forefathers.” With every admiration for Some master-strokes."
"glorious John” in his own proper line, we Dryden, in his elaborate ‘Preface to Troilus must endeavour to understand what Shakand Cressida, containing the grounds of spere's “Troilus and Cressida' is, by com
paring it with what it is not in the alterati
ng Literary Remains,' vol ii. p. 183.
*' Life of Chaucer,' vol. i. (4to) p. 315.
The notion of Dryden was to convert the is the high morality of the characterization, Troilus and Cressida' into a regular tragedy. we can scarcely say that he has made the He complains, we have seen, that “the chief representation too prominent. When he persons who give name to the tragedy are drew Cressida, we think he had the feeling left alive : Cressida is false and is not strong on his mind which gave birth to the punished.” The excitement of pity and terror, 129th Sonnet. A French writer, in a notice we are told, is the only ground of tragedy. of this play, says, “Les deux amants se Tragedy, too, must have “a moral that di- voient, s'entendent, et sont heureux." Shakrects the whole action of the play to one spere has described such happiness : centre.” To this standard, then, is Shak- “A bliss in proof,—and proved, a very woe; spere's 'Troilus and Cressida' to be reduced. Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream : The chief persons who give name to the
All this the world well knows; yet none tragedy are not to be left alive. Cressida is knows well not to be false ; but she is to die: and so
To shun the heaven that leads men to this terror and pity are to be produced. And
hell." now comes the moral :
It was this morality that Shakspere meant Then, since from home-bred factions ruin to teach when he painted this one exception springs,
to the general purity of his female characLet subjects learn obedience to their kings." ters. He did not, like the dramatists of the The management by which Dryden has ac- age of the Restoration, make purity the complished this metamorphosis is one of the exception: his estimate of women most remarkable examples of perverted in- formed upon a truer standard. But when genuity. He had a licentious age to please. Dryden undertook to remodel Shakspere, He could not spare a line, or a word, of female morality, like every other morality, what may be considered the objectionable was merely conventional: virtue was an scenes between Pandarus, Troilus, and Cres- affair of expediency, and not of principle. sida. They formed no part of the “rubbish" | With an entire submission, then, to the he desired to remove. He has heightened genius of his age, does Dryden retain and them wherever possible; and what in Sbak- heighten the scenes between Troilus and spere was a sly allusion becomes with him a Cressida until she quits the Trojan camp. positive grossness. Now let us consider But in all this, as we are to see in the for a moment what Shakspere intended by sequel, Cressida is a perfectly correct and these scenes. Cressida is the exception to amiable personage. We are told, indeed, of Shakspere’s general idea of the female cha- her frank reception of the welcome of the racter. She is beautiful, witty, accomplished, Grecian chiefs ; but there is no Ulysses to but she is impure. In her, love is not a pronounce a judgment upon her character. sentiment, or a passion,—it is an impulse. She admits, indeed, the suit of Diomedes, Temperament is stronger than will. Her and she gives him pledges of her affection ; love has nothing ideal, spiritual, in its but this is all a make-believe, for, like a composition. It is not constant, because it dutiful child, she is following the advice of is not discriminate. Setting apart her in- her father :constancy, how altogether different is Cres- “ You must dissemble love to Diomede still : sida from Juliet, or Viola, or Helena, or False Diomede, bred in Ulysses' school, Perdita ! There is nothing in her which Can never be deceived could be called love ; no depth, no concen
But by strong arts and blandishments of love. tration of feeling,—nothing that can bear
Put 'em in practice all; seem lost and won, the name of devotion. Shakspere would not
And draw him on, and give him line again." permit a mistake to be made on the subject; Upon this very solid foundation, then, are and he has therefore given to Ulysses to built up the terror and pity of Dryden's describe her, as he conceived her. Consider tragedy: and so Troilus, who has witnessed ing what his intentions were, and what really | Cressida's endearments to Diomede, refuses to believe that she is faithful; and then genial. He does not stand above men by Cressida kills herself; and Troilus kills lowering men. Social life is not made worse Diomede; and Achilles kills Troilus; and than it is, that he who describes it may all the Trojans are killed : and the Greeks appear above its ordinary standard. It is who remain upon the field are very happy ; not a travestie of Homer or of Nature. The and Ulysses tells us,
heroic is not lowered by association with the “Now peaceful Order has resumed the reins,
ridiculous. Shakspere's heroes of the 'Iliad' Old Time looks young, and Nature seems
show us very little of the vulgar side of human renew'd."
life,—not much even of the familiar ; but
the result is, that they cease to be heroic. Here is a tragedy for you, which“ is an How this is attained is the wonder. It is imitation of one entire, great, and probable something to have got rid of the machinery action, not told, but represented ; which, by of the gods,—something to have a Thersites moving us to fear and pity, is conducive to eternally despising and despised. But this the purging of those two passions in our is not all. The whole tendency of the play, minds.” So Dryden quotes Aristotle ; and —its incidents, its characterization,-is to so, not understanding Aristotle, he takes lower what the Germans call herodom. Ulupon himself to mend Shakspere, (“incom- rici maintains that “the far-sighted Shakparable,” as he calls him,) according to the spere most certainly did not mistake as to notions of “my friend Mr. Rymer," and of the beneficial effect which a nearer intimacy “Bossu, the best of modern critics."
with the high culture of antiquity had proThe feeling which the study of Shakspere's duced, and would produce, upon the Chris* Troilus and Cressida’ slowly but certainly tian European mind. But he saw the danger calls forth is that of almost prostration be- of an indiscriminate admiration of this fore the marvellous intellect which has pro- classical antiquity ; for he who thus accepted duced it. But this is the result of study, it must necessarily fall to the very lowest as we have said. The play cannot be under- station in religion and morality as, instood upon a superficial reading : it is full deed, if we closely observe the character of of the most subtle art. We may set aside the eighteenth century, we see has happarticular passages, and admire their sur- pened. Out of this prophetic spirit, which passing eloquence,—their profound wisdom; penetrated with equal clearness through the but it is long before the play, as a whole, darkness of coming centuries and the clouds obtains its proper mastery over the under- of a far-distant past, Shakspere wrote this standing. It is very difficult to define what deeply significant satire upon the Homeric is the great charm and wonder of its en- herodom. He had no desire to debase the tirety. To us it appears as if the poet, elevated, to deteriorate or make little the without the slightest particle of presump- great, and still less to attack the poetical tion, had proposed to himself to look down worth of Homer, or of heroic poetry in upon the Homeric heroes from an Olympus general. But he wished to warn thoroughly of his own. He opens the 'Iliad,' and there against the over-valuation and idolatry of he reads of “Achilles' baneful wrath.” A them, to which man so willingly abandons little onward he is told of the “high threat himself. He endeavoured, at the same time, ening” of “the great cloud-gatherer.” The to bring strikingly to view the universal gods of Homer are made up of human pas- truth, that everything that is merely human, sions. But he appears throned upon an even when it is glorified with the nimbus of eminence, from which he can not only com- a poetic ideality and a mythical past, yet, mand a perfect view of the game which men seen in the bird's-eye perspective of a pure play, but, seeing all, become a partisan of moral ideality, appears very small.” All none,-perfectly cognizant of all motives, this may seem as super-refinement, in which but himself motiveless. And yet the whole the critic pretends to see farther than the representation is true, and it is therefore poet ever saw. But to such an objection
there is a very plain answer. A certain result is produced :-is the result correctly described ? If it be so, is that result an effect of principle or an effect of chance ? As a proof that it was the effect of principle, we may say that Dryden did not see the principle; and that, not seeing it, he entirely changed the character of the play as & work of art. For example, there is no scene in the drama so entirely in accordance with the principle as that in which Ulysses stirs up the slothful and dogged Achilles into a rivalry with Ajax. It is altogether so Shaksperean in its profundity,-it presents such a key to the whole Shaksperean conduct of this wonderful drama,—that we cannot be content merely to refer to it.
Now, great Thetis' son ! Achil. What are you reading ? Ulyss.
A strange fellow here Writes me, That man, how dearly ever parted, How much in having, or without, or in, Cannot make boast to have that which he
hath, Nor feels not what he owes, but by reflection; As when his virtues shining upon others Heat them, and they retort that heat again To the first giver.
Achil. This is not strange, Ulysses. The beauty that is born here in the face The bearer knows not, but commends itself To others’eyes: nor doth the eye itself (That most pure spirit of sense) behold itself, Not going from itself; but eye to eye op
posed Salutes each other with each other's form. For speculation turns not to itself, Till it hath travell’d, and is married there Where it may see itself: this is not strange
at all. Ulyss. I do not strain at the position, It is familiar ; but at the author's drift : Who, in his circumstance, expressly proves, That no man is the lord of anything (Though in and of him there is much con
Fronting the sun, receives and renders back His figure and his heat. I was much rapt in
this, And apprehended here immediately The unknown Ajax. Heavens, what a man is there! a very horse; That has he knows not what. Nature, what
things there are, Most abject in regard, and dear in use ! What things again most dear in the esteem, And poor in worth! Now shall we see to
morrow An act that very chance doth throw upon him, Ajax renown'd. O heavens, what some men do, While some men leave to do! How some men creep in skittish fortune's
hall, Whiles others play the idiots in her eyes! How one man eats into another's pride, While pride is feasting in his wantonness! To see these Grecian lords !—why, even al
ready They clap the lubber Ajax on the shoulder, As if his foot were on brave Hector's breast, And great Troy shrinking.
Achil. I do believe it; for they pass’d by me As misers do by beggars ; neither gave to me Good word, nor look: What, are my deeds
forgot? Ulyss. Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his
back, Wherein he puts alms for oblivion, A great-sized monster of ingratitudes: Those scraps are good deeds past; which are
devour'd As fast as they are made, forgot as soon As done: Perseverance, dear my lord, Keeps honour bright: To have done, is to
hang Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail In monumental mockery. Take the instant
way; For honour travels in a strait so narrow, Where one but goes abreast: keep then the
path; For emulation hath a thousand sons, That one by one pursue: If you give way, Or hedge aside from the direct forthright, Like to an enter'd tide, they all rush by, And leave you hindmost;Or, like a gallant horse fallen in first rank, Lie there for pavement to the abject rear, O'errun and trampled on: Then what they do
sisting), Till he communicate his parts to others : Nor doth '
he of himself know them for aught Till he behold them form'd in the applause Where they are extended; which, like an arch,
reverberates The voice again; or like a gate of steel,
Though less than yours in past, must o'ertop which was in its place in Julius Cæsar;' yours:
and gives us, altogether, a set of mongrel For time is like a fashionable host,
characters, compounded of the common-place That slightly shakes his parting guest by the heroic and Shakspere's reduction of the false hand;
heroic to truth and reason. And yet, with And with his arms outstretch'd, as he would all his labour, Dryden could not make the fly,
thing consistent. He is compelled to take Grasps-in the comer: Welcome ever smiles, And farewell goes out sighing. Oh, let not ample. One parallel passage will be suffi
Shakspere's representation of Ajax, for exvirtue geek
cient to show how Dryden and Shakspere Remuneration for the thing it was; For beauty, wit,
managed these things :High birth, vigour of bone, desert in service,
“Thank Heav'n, my lord, you 're of a gentle One touch of nature makes the whole world
Praise him that got you, her that brought you
forth; That all, with one consent, praise new-born gawds,
But he who taught you first the use of arms,
Let Mars divide eternity in two, Though they are made and moulded of things
And give him half. I will not praise your past; And give to dust, that is a little gilt,
wisdom, More laud than gilt o'er-dusted.
Nestor shall do 't; but pardon, father Nestor, The present eye praises the present object:
Were you as green as Ajax, and your brain Then marvel not, thou great and complete
Temper'd like his, you never should excel him,
But be as Ajax is." man, That all the Greeks begin to worship Ajax;
SHAKSPERE. Since things in motion sooner catch the eye, Than what not stirs. The cry went once on Ulyss. Thank the heavens, lord, thou art thee,
of sweet composure; And still it might; and yet it may again, Praise him that got thee, she that gave thee If thou wouldst not entomb thyself alive,
suck: And case thy reputation in thy tent;
Famed be thy tutor, and thy parts of nature Whose glorious deeds, but in these fields of Thrice-famed, beyond all erudition: late,
But he that disciplined thy arms to fight, Made emulous missions 'mongst the gods Let Mars divide eternity in twain, themselves,
And give him half: and, for thy vigour, And drave great Mars to faction.
Bull-bearing Milo his addition yield
To sinewy Ajax. I will not praise thy wisdom, Now, of this scene Dryden has not a word. Which, like a bourn, a pale, a shore, confines This was a part of the “rubbish” which he Thy spacious and dilated parts: Here's Nesdiscarded. But in the place of it he gives
Instructed by the antiquary times, us an entirely new scene between Hector and Troilus—“almost half the act.” He says,
He must, he is, he cannot but be wise; “the occasion of raising it was hinted to me
But pardon, father Nestor, were your days
As green as Ajax, and your brain so temper'd, by Mr. Betterton; the contrivance and
You should not have the eminence of him, working of it was my own." The scene, he
But be as Ajax." admits, was an imitation of the famous scene in 'Julius Cæsar' between Brutus and One of the most extraordinary subtleties Cassius. And 80 Dryden transposes the of Shakspere’s ‘Troilus and Cressida' arises principle of one play into another ; destroys out of the circumstance that the real heroic the grave irony of Troilus and Cressida' by tragedy is found side by side with the the introduction of the heroic seriousness ironical heroic. Cassandra, short as the