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Lord Byron somewhere says, speaking of imitate him in his scenes of passion, because his own play of 'Sardanapalus,” “I look he could not "shift at pleasure, to inform upon Shakspere to be the worst of models, and animate other existences.” But, in a though the most extraordinary of writers.” limited range, he approached Shakspere, We think, if Shakspere be the worst of because he had the same earnestness, the models, it is because he is the most extraor- same command of striking combinations of dinary of writers. His prodigious depth of language, a rhythm in which harmony is thought, his unbounded range of imagery, blended with strength, a power of painting his intense truth of characterization, are not scenes by vivid description, a tendency to to be imitated. The other qualities which reflect and philosophize. All this Shakspere remain as a model lie beneath the surface. had, but he had a great deal more. Is that Imitate, if it be possible, the structure of more displayed in the scenes of 'The Two his verse ; the thought and the imagery are Noble Kinsmen' which have been attributed wanting, and the mere versification is a life- to him ? or, not being present, had Chapman less mass. Dryden says, in his preface to the power of producing these scenes out of *All for ove,' “In my style I have pro- his own resources ? This is a
estion which fessed to imitate the divine Shakspeare.” we certainly cannot pretend to answer satisOpen the play at any part, and see if the factorily: all that we can do is to compare imitation has produced a resemblance. Rowe a few peculiarities in the first and last acts tells us that ‘Jane Shore' is an imitation of of The Two Noble Kinsmen' with passages Shakspere. It is a painted daub of the that offer themselves in those of Chapman's print-shops imitating the colouring of Titian. works with which we have an acquaintance. Otway pieced 'Romeo and Juliet' into his We will begin with a quality which is *Caius Marius,' where the necessity for imi- remarkable enough in passages of 'The Two tation was actually forced upon him, in Noble Kinsmen' to distinguish them from making a cento of Shakspere's lines and his those written by Fletcher—we mean the own; and yet the last speech of the Romeo presence of general truths and reflections, of Otway's tragedy substitutes these three propounded always with energy, sometimes lines in the place of “Thus with a kiss I with solemnity, not dragged in as a moral die :"
at the end of a fable, but arising spon“ This world's gross air grows burthensome
taneously out of the habit of the author's already.
mind. Coleridge doubts the profundity of I am all a god; such heavenly joys transport these thoughts—and we think he is right.
We will select a few of such passages from me, That mortal sense grows sick, and faints with The Two Noble Kinsmen ;' and paslasting."
sages of a similar nature, taken somewhat
hastily from three or four of Chapman's We mention these things to show that men plays :of very high talent have not been able to grapple with Shakspere's style in the way
Two NOBLE KINSMEN. of imitation. A poet, and especially a contemporary poet, might have formed his own “We come unseasonably; but when could style, in some degree, upon Shakspere ; not
Grief only by the constant contemplation of his
Cull forth, as unpang'd Judgment can, fitt'st peculiar excellences, but through the general
time character that a man of the very highest
For best solicitation ?" genius impresses unconsciously upon the
“Oh, you heav'nly charmers, aggregate poetry of his age. This we be
What things you make of us ! For what we lieve to have been the case with Chapman. lack He was not an imitator of Shakspere in the We laugh, for what we have are sorry; still ordinary sense of the word; he could not Are children in some kind.".
“Let th' event, | Agamemnon's prayer in the third book, to That never-erring arbitrator, tell us
show the sources at least which were open When we know all ourselves; and let us to the writer of the invocations in the fifth follow
act of 'The Two Noble Kinsmen,' for exThe becking of our chance !"
amples of condensation of thought, majesty
of diction, and felicity of epithet :CHAPMAN.
“O Jove, that Ida doth protect, and hast the “Sin is a coward, madam, and insults But on our weakness, in his truest valour;
Most glorious, most invincible; and thou allAnd so our ignorance tames us, that we let
seeing sun; His shadows fright us." Bussy D'Ambois.
All-hearing, all-recomforting; floods, earth, “O the good God of Gods,
and powers beneath ! How blind is pride ! what eagles we are still
That all the perjuries of men chastise even In matters that belong to other men !
after death; What beetles in our own !" AU Fools.
Be witnesses, and see performed, the hearty
vows we make.” "0! the strange difference 'twixt us and the stars!
These invocations in his 'Homer' have the They work with inclinations strong and fatal, necessary condensation of the original. In And nothing know: and we know all their his own inventions in the same kind he is working,
naturally more diffuse ; but his diffuseness And nought can do or nothing can prevent.” is not the diffuseness of Fletcher. Take one
Byron's Tragedy. example :It would be easy to multiply examples of
“Now all ye peaceful regents of the night, this kind ; and it would not be necessary
Silently-gliding exhalations, for our purpose to select passages that are
Languishing winds, and murmuring fall of
waters, very closely parallel. We only desire to show that Chapman is a reflective poet ; and
Sadness of heart, and ominous secureness, that in this respect the tone of thought that
Enchantments, dead sleeps, all the friends of
rest, may be found in the first and last acts of
That ever wrought upon the life of man, "The Two Noble Kinsmen' is not incom
Extend your utmost strengths; and this patible with his habits of composition.
charm'd hour We have already selected an invocation
Fix like the centre; make the violent wheels by Chapman, with the intent of showing Of Time and Fortune stand; and great that his style in this detached and complete existence, form of poetry approaches much more closely The maker's treasury, now not seem to be." to the invocations in 'The Two Noble Kinsmen’ than the style of Jonson. Chapman
The time is past when it may be necessary appears to us to delight in this species of to prove that Chapman was a real poet. oratorical verse, requiring great condensation There are passages in his plays which show and majesty of expression, and demanding that he was capable not only of giving the nicest adjustment of a calm and stately interest to forced situations and extravagant
but rhythm. He derived, perhaps, this love of characters by his all-informing energy, invocation, as well as the power of intro- of pouring out the sweetest spirit of beauty ducing such passages successfully in his the most unexpected places. Take the dramas
, from his familiarity with Homer ; following four lines as an example :and thus for the same reason his plays have
“Here's nought but whispering with us: like more of the stately form of the epic dialogue
a calm than the passionate rapidity of the true Before a tempest, when the silent air drama. We will select one invocation from Lays her soft ear close to the earth to hearken Chapman's translation of the 'Iliad,' that of For that she fears steals on to ravish her.”
Was ever personification more exquisitely | last acts of 'The Two Noble Kinsmen,' rich beautiful ? The writer of these lines, with as these are in excellences within the range his wondrous facility, was equal to anything of such a writer as Chapman, especially when that did not demand the very highest his exuberant genius was under the necessary qualities for the drama ; and those qualities restraint of co-operation with another writer. we do not think are manifest in the first and
THE BIRTH OF MERLIN.
The first known edition of this play was, and, we think, a much juster view. The published in 1662, under the following title: play, he holds, must have been produced late -The Birth of Merlin : or, the Childe hath in Shakspere's life. If he had written in it found his Father : as it hath been several at all, he would have put out his matured times Acted with great Applause. Written strength. All the essentials,-plan, compo by William Shakespear and William Rowley.' sition, and character,— belong to Rowley. Of this very doubtful external evidence two Peculiarities of style and remarkable turns of the modern German critics have applied of thought are not sufficient to furnish themselves to prove the correctness. Horn evidence of authorship, for they are common has written a criticism of fourteen pages to other contemporary poets. It is not very upon "The Birth of Merlin,' which he de- easy to trace the exact progress of William cides to be chiefly Shakspere's, possessing a Rowley. He was an actor in the company high degree of poetical merit with much of which Shakspere was a proprietor. We deep-thoughted characterization. Tieck has find his name in a document of 1616, and no doubt of the extent of the assistance that again in 1625. The same bookseller that Shakspere gave in producing this play :- published "The Birth of Merlin' associated “ This piece is a new proof of the extra- his name with other writers of eminence ordinary riches of the period, in which such besides Shakspere. He is spoken of by a work was unnoticed among the mass of Langbaine as an author that flourished in intellectual and characteristic dramas. The the reign of King Charles I.;" but there is modern English, whose weak side is poetical no doubt that he may be considered as a criticism, have left it almost to accident successful writer in the middle period of what shall be again revived ; and we seldom James I. It is impossible to think that he see, since Dodsley, who proceeded somewhat could have been associated with Shakspere more carefully, any reason why one piece is in writing a play until after Shakspere had selected and others rejected.” He adds, quitted the stage ; and we must therefore “None of Rowley's other works are equal to bear in mind that Rowley's supposed associate this. What part has Shakspere in it ?-has was at that period the author of 'Othello' he taken a part ?—what induced him to do and 'Lear,' of 'Twelfth Night' and 'As You so ?—can only be imperfectly answered, and Like It.' by supposition. Why should not Shakspere A few years after the accession of James I. for once have written for another theatre the fondness of the court for theatrical than his own? Why should he not, when entertainments, and the sumptuousness of the custom was so common, have written in the masks that were got up for its special companionship with another though less delight, appear to have produced a natural powerful poet ?” Ulrici takes a different, | influence upon the public stage in rendering
some of the pieces performed more dependent I should affect thee, Edwin. Oh my soul, upon scenery and dresses and processions Here's something tells me that the best of than in the later years of Elizabeth. The creatures, “Birth of Merlin' belongs to the class of
These models of the world, weak man and show-plays; and the elaboration of that woman,
Should have their souls, their making, life, portion which is addressed merely to the eye
and being, has imparted a character to those scenes in
To some more excellent use: if what the sense which the imagination is addressed through
Calls pleasure were our ends, we might justly the dialogue. There is an essential want of
blame refinement as well as of intellectual power,
Great Nature's wisdom, who rear'd a building partly arising from this false principle of
Of so much art and beauty, to entertain art, which addresses itself mainly to the
A guest so far incertain, so imperfect:
If only speech distinguish us from beasts, without any unity of action. The human Who know no inequality of birth and place, interest and the supernatural are jumbled But still to fly from goodness; oh! how base together, so as to render each equally unreal. Were life at such a rate! No, no! that Extravagance is taken for force, and what is Power merely hideous is offered to us as sublime. That gave to man his being, speech, and The story, of course, belongs to the fabulous wisdom, history of Britain. Its movements are so
Gave it for thankfulness. To Him alone complicated that we should despair of tracing
That made me thus, may I thence truly it through its scenes of war and love, of
know, devilry and witchcraft.
The Britons are
I'll pay to Him, not man, the love I owe." invaded by the Saxons, but the British army
The supernatural part of this play is is miraculously preserved by the power of
altogether overdone, exhibiting far less skill Anselm, a hermit. The Saxons sue for peace
in the management than a modern fairy to Aurelius, the King of Britain, but the
spectacle for the Easter holidays. Before monarch suddenly falls in love with Artesia,
Merlin appears we have a Saxon magician the daughter of the Saxon general, and produced who can raise the dead, and he marries her, against the wishes of all his
makes Hector and Achilles come into the court. Uter Pendragon, the brother of Saxon court very much after the fashion of Aurelius, has been unaccountably missing, the apparition of Marshal Saxe in the great and he, it seems, had fallen in love with the
gallery at Dresden (see Wraxall's “Memoirs"). same lady during his rambles.
Upon the The stage-direction for this extraordinary return of Prince Uter to his brother's court,
exhibition is as follows:the queen endeavours to obtain from him a declaration of unlawful attachment. Her “ Enter PROXIMUS, bringing in HECTOR, attired object is to sow disunion amongst the Britons, and armed after the Trojan manner, with target, to promote the ascendancy of the Saxons. sword, and battle-axe ; a trumpet before him, and She is successful, and the weak Aurelius
a Spirit in flame-colours with a torch: at the joins his invaders
. During the progress of other door, ACHILLES, with his spear and falchion, these events we have love-episodes with the
a trumpet, and a Spirit in black before him: daughters of Donobert, a British nobleman. trumpets sound alarm, and they manage their The character of Modestia, one of the
weapons to begin the fight, and after some charges
the Hermit steps between them, at which, seeming daughters, who is resolved to dedicate herself to a religious life, is drawn with
amazed, the Spirits tremble.” considerable skill, and she expresses herself That the poet who produced the cauldron with a quiet strength which contrasts ad- of the weird sisters should be supposed to vantageously with the turmoil around her:- have a hand in this child's play is little less "Noble and virtuous ! could I dream of than miraculous itself. But we soon cease marriage,
to take an interest in mere Britons and
Saxons, for a clown and his sister arrive at A place that I will hallow for your rest, court, seeking a father for a child which the Where no night-hag shall walk, nor were-wolf lady is about to present to the world. After tread, some mummery which is meant for comedy, Where Merlin's mother shall be sepulchred.” we have the following stage-direction :
As this is a satisfactory account of the “Enter the Devil in man's habit richly
origin of Stonehenge, we might here conattired, his feet and his head horrid ;” and
clude; but there is a little more to tell of the young lady from the country immediately
this marvellous play. Uter, the triumphant recognises the treacherous father. After
king, desires Merlin to another episode with Modestia and Edwin,
“ show the full event thunder and lightning announce something terrible ; the birth of Merlin has taken place,
That shall both end our reign and chronicle." and his father the Devil properly introduces
Merlin thus consents: him reading a book and foretelling his own “What Heaven decrees, fate hath no power to future celebrity. We have now prophecy alter: upon prophecy and fight upon fight, blazing The Saxons, sir, will keep the ground they stars, dragons, and Merlin expounding all have, amidst the din. We learn that Artesia has And by supplying numbers still increase, poisoned her husband, and that Uter has Till Britain be no more: So please your become King Pendragon. The Saxons are grace, defeated by the new king, by whom Artesia, I will, in visible apparitions, as a murderess, is buried alive. In the mean Present you prophecies, which shall concern time the Devil has again been making some
Succeeding princes, which my art shall raise,
Till men shall call these times the latter proposals to Merlin's mother, which end greatly to his discomfiture, for his powerful
days. son shuts him up in a rock. Merlin then,
[MERLIN strikes. addressing his mother, proposes to her to Hautboys. Enter a King in armour, his shield retire to a solitude he has prepared for her, quartered with thirteen crowns. At the other end
to weep away the flesh you have offended enter divers Princes, who present their crowns to with;” “and when you die,” he proceeds,— him at his feet, and do him homage; then enters
Death, and strikes him; he, growing sick, crowns “I will erect a monument
CONSTANTINE.” Upon the verdant plains of Salisbury,– No king shall have so high a sepulchre, - This Merlin explains to represent Uter's son, With pendulous stones, that I will hang by
Arthur, and his successor; at which the art,
prince, much gratified, asserts, Where neither lime nor mortar shall be used A dark enigma to the memory,
“ All future times shall still record this story, For none shall have the power to number Of Merlin's learned worth, and Arthur's them;