ePub 版


and our control over tears or laughter is | tor, who exhibited the same Gothic view of taken away from us; and, if the poet be a Roman history, and whose scenes of blood philosopher, - and without philosophy he were equally agreeable to an audience recannot be a poet,—deep truths, before dimly quiring strong excitement. “Pericles,' howseen, enter into our minds and abide there. ever remodelled at an after period, belonged, Why do we state all this ? Utterly to reject we can scarcely doubt, to Shakspere's first the belief that Shakspere was a line-maker : efforts for the improvement of some popular that, like Gray, for example, he was a manu- dramatic exhibition wbich he found ready facturer of mosaic poetry;—that he made to his hand. So of “The Taming of the verses to order :—and that his verses could Shrew,' of which we may without any viobe produced by some other process than an lence assume that a common model existed entire conception of, and power over, the both for that and for the other play with a design of a drama. It is this mistake which very similar name, which appears to belong lies at the bottom of all that has been writ- to the same period. From the first, Shakten and believed about the two Parts of spere, with that consummate judgment which "The Contention of the Houses of York and gave a fitness to everything that he did, or Lancaster' being polished by Shakspere into proposed to do, held his genius in subjection the Second and Third Parts of Henry VI.' to the apprehension of the people, till he The elder plays—which the English anti- felt secure of their capability to appreciate quarian critics persist in ascribing to Mar- the highest excellence. In his case, as in lowe, or Greene, or Peele, or all of them - that of every great artist, perfection could contain all the action, even to the exact suc- only be attained by repeated efforts. He cession of the scenes, all the characteriza- had no models to work upon; and in the tion, a very great deal of the dialogue, in- very days in which he lived the English cluding the most vigorous thoughts : and drama began to be created. It was not then Shakspere was to take the matter in “ Learning's triumph o'er her barbarous hand, and add a thousand lines or two up foes” which “first rear'd the stage,” but a and down, correct an epithet here and there, singular combination of circumstances which and do all this without the slightest exercise for the most part grew out of the reformaof invention, either in movement or charac- tion of religion. He took the thing as he terization ; producing fine lines without found it. The dramatic power was in him passing through that process of inspiration so supreme that, compared with the feeble by which lines having dramatic beauty and personifications of other men, it looks like propriety can alone be produced. We say instinct. He seized upon the vague abstracthis, after much deliberation, not only with tions which he found in the histories and reference to the . Henry VI.' and to the play comedies of the Blackfriars and the Bel before us, but with regard to the general Savage, and the scene was henceforth filled belief that Shakspere, in the outset of his with living beings. But not as yet were career, was a mender of the plays of other these individualities surrounded with the men. "Timon,' according to our belief, is glowing atmosphere of burning poetry. The the only exception; and we regard that not philosophy which invests their sayings with as an exception to the principle, because an universal wisdom that enters the mind there the characterization of Timon himself and becomes its loadstar was scarcely yet is the Shaksperian creation ; and that de- evoked out of that profound contemplation pends extremely little upon the general ac- of human actions and of the higher things tion, which, to a large extent, is episodical. dimly revealed in human nature, which be

But we must guard ourselves from being longed to the maturity of his wondrou understood to deny that many of the earliest mind. The wit was there in some degree plays of Shakspere were founded upon some from the first, for it was irrepressible ; but rude production of the primitive stage. An- it was then as the polished metal, which dronicus had, no doubt, its dramatic ances-dazzlingly gives back the brightness of the


[ocr errors]

sunbeams; in after times it was as the dia- | language of the play. We will select a few mond, which reflects everything, and yet ap- specimens (Act II., Scene 3) : pears to be self-irradiated in its lustrous

“ The birds chant melody on every bush; depths. If these qualities, and if the humour

The snake lies rolled in the cheerful sun; which seems more especially the ripened

The green leaves quiver with the cooling wind, growth of the mental faculty, could have And make a chequer'd shadow on the ground: been produced in the onset of Shakspere's Under their sweet shade, Aaron, let us sit, career, it is probable that the career would And—whilst the babbling echo mocks the not have been a successful one. He had to hounds, make his audience. He himself has told us Replying shrilly to the well-tuned horns, of a play of his earliest period, that “I re- As if a double hunt were heard at oncemember pleased not the million ; 'twas

Let us sit down." caviarie to the general: but it was (as I re- Again, in the same scene :ceived it, and others, whose judgments in A barren detested vale, you see, it is : such matters cried in the top of mine) an

The trees, though summer, yet forlorn and excellent play ; well digested in the scenes ; lean, set down with as much modesty as cunning. O'ercome with moss and baleful misseltoe. I remember, one said there were no sallets Here never shines the sun; here nothing in the lines to make the matter savoury ; nor

breeds, no matter in the phrase that might indite Unless the nightly owl, or fatal raven. the author of affectation ; but called it an And, when they show'd me this abhorred pit, honest method, as wholesome as sweet, and They told me, here, at dead time of the night, by very much more handsome than fine.” * A thousand fiends, a thousand hissing snakes, Was this play an attempt of Shakspere him

Ten thousand swelling toads, as many urchins, self to depart from the popular track ? If it

Would make such fearful and confused cries,

As any mortal body, hearing it, were, we probably owe much to the million.

Should straight fall mad, or else die sudWe hold, then, that Malone's principle of marking with inverted commas those pas

denly." sages in which he supposed the hand of

In Act IV., Scene 4 :Shakspere might be traced in this play of King, be thy thoughts imperious, like thy Titus Andronicus' is based upon a vital It is not with us a question whether

Is the sun dimm'd, that gnats do fly in it?

The eagle suffers little birds to sing, the passages which Malone has marked ex

And is not careful what they mean thereby; hibit, or not, the critic's poetical taste : we

Knowing that, with the shadow of his wing, say that the passages could not have been

He can at pleasure stint their melody.” written except by the man, whoever he be, who conceived the action and the characteri- And, lastly, where the lines are associated zation. Take the single example of the with the high imaginative conception of the character of Tamora. She is the presiding speaker, that she was to personate Regenius of the piece; and in her we see, as venge :we believe, the outbreak of that wonderful “ Know thou, sad man,

I am not Tamora; conception of the union of powerful intellect She is thy enemy, and I thy friend: and moral depravity which Shakspere was I am Revenge; sent from the infernal kingafterwards to make manifest with such con- dom, summate wisdom. Strong passions, ready To ease the gnawing vulture of thy mind, wit, perfect self-possession, and a sort of By working wreakful vengeance on thy foes. oriental imagination, take Tamora out of the Come down, and welcome me to this world's class of ordinary women. It is in her mouth light.” that we find, for the most part, what readers The first two of these passages are marked of Malone's school would call the poetical by Malone as the additions of Shakspere to * Hamlet,' Act 11., Sc. 11.

the work of an inferior poet.

If we had



adopted Malone's theory, we should have of a second man's work? The system may marked the two other passages ; and have do for an article ; but a play is another gone even further in our selection of the thing. Did Shakspere put these lines into poetical lines spoken by Tamora. But we the mouth of Lucius, when he calls to his hold that the lines could not have been pro- son to weep over the body of Titus ?duced, according to Malone's theory, even by

“Come hither, boy; come, come, and learn of us Shakspere. Poetry, and especially dramatic

To melt in showers: Thy grandsire lov'd thee poetry, is not to be regarded as a bit of

well : joiner's work-or, if you please, as an affair Many a time he danced thee on his knee, of jewelling and enamelling.

The lines

Sung thee asleep, his loving breast thy pillow; which we have quoted may not be amongst Many a matter hath he told to thee, Shakspere's highest things; but they could Meet and agreeing with thine infancy; not have been produced except under the In that respect then, like a loving child, excitement of the full swing of his dramatic Shed yet some small drops from thy tender power—bright touches dashed in at the very spring, hour when the whole design was growing

Because kind nature doth require it so." into shape upon the canvass, and the form of Malone has not marked these ; they are too Tamora was becoming alive with colour and simple to be included in his poetical gems. expression. To imagine that the great pas- But are they not full to overflowing of those sages of a drama are produced like “a copy deep thoughts of human love which the of verses,” under any other influence than great poet of the affections has sent into so the large and general inspiration which creates the whole drama, is, we believe, with his commas the address to the tribunes

many welcoming hearts? Malone marks utterly to mistake the essential nature of at the beginning of the third act. The lines dramatic poetry. It would be equally just are lofty and rhetorical ; and a poet who had to say that the nice but well-defined traits undertaken to make set speeches to another of character, which stand out from the phy- man's characters might perhaps have added sical horrors of this play, when it is carefully these. Dryden and Tate did this service for studied, were superadded by Shakspere to

Shakspere himself. But Malone does not the coarser delineations of some other man.

mark one line which has no rhetoric in it, Aaron, the Moor, in his general conception and does not look like poetry. The old man is an unmitigated villain—something alien has given his hand to the treacherous Aaron, from humanity—a fiend, and therefore only that he may save the lives of his sons ; but to be detested. But Shakspere, by that in the messenger brings him the heads of those sight which, however imperfectly developed,

It is for Marcus and Lucius to burst must have distinguished his earliest efforts, into passion. The father, for some space, brings Aaron into the circle of humanity ; speaks not ; and then he speaks but one and then he is a thing which moves us, and his punishment is poetical justice. One touch does this—his affection for his child :

" When will this fearful slumber have an end ?” " Come on, you thick-lipp'd slave, I 'll bear you Did Shakspere make this line to order ? The hence;

poet who wrote the line conceived the whole For it is you that puts us to our shifts: situation, and he could not have conceived I'll make you feed on berries, and on roots, the situation unless the whole dramatic And feed on curds and whey, and suck the movement had equally been his conception. goat,

Such things must be wrought out of the redAnd cabin in a cave; and bring you up heat of the whole material—not filled up

To be a warrior, and command a camp." out of cold fragments. Did Shakspere put in these lines, and the Accepting “Titus' as a play produced previous ones which evolve the same feeling, somewhere about the middle of the ninth under the system of a cool editorial mending decade of the sixteenth century, it possesses


line :



[ocr errors]



other peculiarities than such as

we have

• Titus Andronicus' contains very few noticed, which, upon the system of Malone's couplets, a remarkable thing in so early a inverted commas, would take away a very play. Of Jeronimo' one-half is rhyme. Of considerable number from the supposed the blank verse of 'Jeronimo' we will quote original fabricator of the drama, and bestow a passage which is, perhaps, the least monothem upon the reviser. We must extract a tonous of that tragedy, and which Mr. Colpassage from Malone before we proceed to lier has quoted in his ‘History of Dramatic point out these other peculiarities :—“To Poetry,' pointing out that “Here we see enter into a long disquisition to prove this trochees used at the ends of the lines, and piece not to have been written by Shakspere the pauses are even artfully managed ; while would be an idle waste of time. To those redundant syllables are inserted, and lines who are not conversant with his writings, if left defective, still farther to add to the particular passages were examined, more variety :”— words would be necessary than the subject is

Come, valiant spirits *; you peers of Portugal, worth ; those who are well acquainted with

That owe your lives, your faiths, and services, his works cannot entertain a doubt on the

To set you free from base captivity: question. I will, however, mention one mode

O let our father's scandal ne'er be seen by which it may be easily ascertained. Let

As a base blush upon our free-born cheeks: the reader only peruse a few lines of ' Appius Let all the tribute that proud Spain received and Virginia,'' Tancred and Gismund,'The Of those all captive Portugales deccased, Battle of Alcazar," "Jeronimo,''Selimus, Em- Turn into chafe, and choke their insolence. peror of the Turks,'The Wounds of Civil Methinks no moiety, not one little thought, War," "The Wars of Cyrus,''Locrine,'' Arden

Of them whose servile acts live in their graves, of Feversham,'King Edward I.,' "The But should raise spleens big as a cannonSpanish Tragedy,' "Solyman and Perseda, bullet King Leir,' the old ‘King John, or any

Within your bosoms : 0 for honour, other of the pieces that were exhibited be

Your country's reputation, your lives' freedom, fore the time of Shakspeare, and he will at

Indeed your all that may be term'd revenge,

Now let your bloods be liberal as the sea; once perceive that Titus Andronicus' was coined in the same mint.” What Malone

And all those wounds that you receive of

Spain, requests to be perused is limited to a few

Let theirs be equal to quit yours again. lines” of these old plays; if he could have

Speak, Portugales: are you resolved as I, bestowed many words upon the subject, he

To live like captives, or as free-born die?" would have examined "particular passages.” Such an examination has of course reference We have no hesitation in saying (in opposionly to the versification. It is scarcely ne

tion to Malone's opinion) that the freedom cessary to say that we do not agree with the of versification which is discovered in "Titus assumption that the pieces Malone has men

Andronicus' is carried a great deal further tioned were exhibited “ before the time of than even this specimen of ‘Jeronimo ;' and Shakspeare.” It is difficult, if not impos- we cannot have a better proof of our assible, to settle the exact time of many of sertion than this—that Steevens anxiously these ; but we do know that one of the plays desired, and indeed succeeded, in reducing here mentioned belongs to the same epoch several of the lines to the exact dimenas "Titus Andronicus. “He that will swear

sions of his ten-syllable measuring-tape. "Jeronimo,' or “Andronicus,' are the best The Shaksperian versification is sufficiently plays yet, shall pass unexcepted at here, as

marked in Titus,' even to the point of ofa man whose judgment shows it is constant, fending the critic who did not understand it. and hath stood still these five-and-twenty But the truth of the matter is, that the comor thirty years.” We shall confine, therefore, parison of the versification of "Titus’ with any comparison of the versification of Titus

* Ordinarily pronounced in early dramatic poetry as a Andronicus' entirely to that of. Jeronimo.'



the old plays mentioned by Malone is al- of feebleness, exhibiting itself in commontogether a fallacy. Like the 'Henry VI.' places. The greater number of the old it wants, for the most part, the

English dramatists, to do them justice, had

the same power as the author of Titus “ Linked sweetness long drawn out.”

Andronicus' of grappling with words which of the later plays, and so do 'The Two they thought fitting to the situations. But Gentlemen of Verona,' and 'The Comedy of their besetting sin was in the constant use Errors.' But to compare the play, as a whole, of that "huffing, braggart, puft ” language, even with 'Jeronimo' (and Kyd, in freedom which Shakspere never employs in the and variety of rhythm, whatever he may want dramas which all agree to call his, and of in majesty, is superior to Marlowe) argues, which there is a very sparing portion even we think, an incompetent knowledge of the in "Titus Andronicus.' The temptation to things compared. To compare it with the employ it must have been great indeed ; for old . King Leir,' and the greater number of when, in every scene, the fearful energies of the plays in Malone's list, is to compare the the action movement of the hunter with that of the On horror's head horrors accumulate," horse in the mill. The truth is, that, after the first scene of Andronicus,' in which the it must have required no common forbearance, author sets out with the stately pace of his and therefore no common power, to prescribe time, we are very soon carried away, by the that the words of the actors should not power of the language, the variety of the Outface the brow of bragging horror.” pause, and the especial freedom with which

The son of Tamora is to be killed; as he is trochees are used at the ends of lines, to forget that the versification is not altogether

led away, she exclaimsupon the best Shaksperean model. There is

“Oh! cruel, irreligious piety!" the same instrument, but the performer has Titus kills Mutius: the


man's brother not yet thoroughly learnt its scope and its

earnestly sayspower. Horn has a very just remark on the lan

“My lord, you are unjust.” guage of “Titus Andronicus :'-“ Foremost When Tamora prescribes their terrible we may recognise with praise the almost

wickedness to her


Lavinia remonnever-wearying power of the language, strateswherein no shift is ever used. We know too well how often, in many French and

“O! Tamora, thou bear'st a woman's face.” German tragedies, the princes and princesses When Marcus encounters his mutilated satisfy themselves to silence with a necessary niece, there is much poetry, but no raving. Hélas! Oh Ciel! O Schicksal! (0 Fate !) and When woe upon woe is heaped upon Titus, similar cheap outcries : but Shakspere is we have no imprecations: quite another man, who, for every degree

“For now I stand as one upon a rock, of pain, knew how to give the right tone

Environ'd with a wilderness of sea; and the right colour. In the bloody sea of

Who marks the waxing tide grow wave by this drama, in which men can scarcely keep

wave, themselves afloat, this, without doubt, must

Expecting ever when some envious surge have been peculiarly difficult.” We regard

Will in his brinish bowels swallow him." this decided language, this absence of stage conventionalities, as one of the results of the In one situation, after Titus has lost his hand, power which the poet possessed of distinctly Marcus saysconceiving his situations with reference to his characters.

“Oh! brother, speak with possibilities, The Ohs! and Ahs! and

And do not break into these deep extremes.” Heavens! of the English stage, as well as the O Cield of the French, are a consequence | What are the deep extremes? The unhappy

« 上一頁繼續 »