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Macduff is a man of great simplicity, energy, and determination of character; and here we have all these qualities boiled down to the highest intensity, as would naturally be the effect of such news on such a man. And observe how much is implied in that little word too,-“ Heaven forgive him too.” As much as to say, 6 Let me once but have a chance at him, if I don't kill him, then I'm as great a sinner as he, and so God forgive us both!” I hardly know of another instance of so great a volume of meaning compressed into so few words. And how like it is to noble Macduff!
I could fill many pages with examples of this perfect suiting of the style to the mental states of the dramatic speakers, but must rest with citing a few more.
Hotspur is proverbially a man of impatient, irascible, headstrong temper. See now how all this is reflected in the very step of his language, when he has just been chafed into a rage by what the King has said to him about the Scottish prisoners:
“Why, look you, I am whipp'd and scourg'd with rods,
Nettled, and stung with pismires, when I hear
0, the Devil take such cozeners !" Hotspur's spirit is so all-for-war, that he can think of nothing else; hence he naturally scorns poetry, though his soul is full of it. But poetry is so purely an impulse with him, that he is quite unconscious of it. With Glendower, on the contrary, poetry is a purpose, and he pursues it consciously. Note, then, in ii. 1, how this poetical mood shapes and tunes his style, when he interprets his daughter's Welsh to her English husband :
“She bids you on the wanton rushes lay you down,
Begins his golden progress in the East.” Here the whole expression seems born of melody, and the melody to pervade it as an essence. So, too, in the same scene, Mortimer being deep in the lyrical mood of honeymoon, see how that mood lives in the style of what he says about his wife's speaking of Welsh, which is all Greek to him; her tongue
“Makes Welsh as sweet as ditties highly penn'd,
With ravishing division, to her lute.” For another instance, take a part of the exiled Duke's speech in As You Like It, ii. 1:
“Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
The Duke is a thoughtful, pensive, kind-hearted man, feeling keenly the wrong that has been done him, but not at all given to cherishing a resentful temper; and here, if I mistake not, his language relishes of the benevolent, meditative, and somewhat sentimental melancholy that marks his disposition.
Still more to the point, perhaps, is the passage in Hamlet, iv. 5, where Ophelia so touchingly scatters out the secrets of her virgin heart: “ They say the owl was a baker's
what we may
daughter. - Lord, we know what we are, but we know not be. God be at your table !”
And again : “I hope all will be well. We must be patient; but I cannot choose but weep, to think they should lay him i' the cold ground. My brother shall know of it; and so I thank you for your good counsel. — Come, my coach! - Good night, ladies; good night, sweet ladies; good night, good night.” A poor, crazed, but still gentle, sweet-tempered, and delicate-souled girl, quite unconscious of her own distress, yet still having a dim remembrance of the great sorrows that have crazed her, such is Ophelia here; and her very manner of speech takes the exact colour and tone of her mind.
Probably, however, the best example of all is one that I can but refer to, it being too long for quotation. It is in the second scene of The Tempest, where Prospero relates to his daughter the story of his past life, at the same time letting her into the fact and the reasons of what he has just been doing, and still has in hand to do. The dear wise old gentleman is here absent-minded, his thoughts being busy and very intent upon the tempest he has lately got up, and upon the incoming and forthcoming consequences of it; and he thinks Miranda is not attentive to what he is saying, because he is but half-attending to it himself. This subdued mental agitation, and wandering of his thoughts from the matter his tongue is handling, silently registers itself in a broken, disjointed, and somewhat rambling course of narrative; that is, his style runs so in sympathy with his state of mind as to be unconsciously physiognomic of it. Certainly it is among the Poet's finest instances of “suiting the word to the action ”; while at the same time it perfectly remembers the “special observance” of “o'erstepping not the modesty of nature."
Since Homer, no poet has come near Shakespeare in originality, freshness, opulence, and boldness of imagery. It is this that forms, in a large part, the surpassing beauty of his poetry; it is in this that much of his finest idealizing centres. And he abounds in all the figures of speech known in formal rhetoric, except the Allegory and the Apologue. The Allegory, I take it, is hardly admissible in dramatic writing; nor is the Apologue very well suited to the place: the former, I believe, Shakespeare never uses ; and his most conspicuous instance of the latter, in fact the only one that occurs to me, is that of the Belly and the Members, so quaintly delivered to the insurgent people by the juicy old Menenius in the first scene of Coriolanus. But, though Shakespeare largely uses all the other figures of speech, I shall draw most of what I have to say of his style in this respect, under the two heads of Simile and Metaphor, since all that can properly be called imagery is resolvable into these. Shakespeare uses both a great deal, but the Simile in a way somewhat peculiar: in fact, as it is commonly used by other poets, he does not seem to have been very fond of it; and when he admits it, he generally uses it in the most informal way possible. But, first, at the risk of seeming pedantic, I will try to make some analysis of the two figures in question.
Every student knows that the Simile may be regarded as an expanded Metaphor, or the Metaphor as a condensed Simile. Which implies that the Metaphor admits of greater brevity. What, then, is the difference?
Now a simile, as the name imports, is a comparison of two or more things, more or less unlike in themselves, for the purpose of illustration. The thing illustrated and the thing that illustrates are, so to speak, laid alongside each other, that the less known may be made more intelligible by the light of that which is known better. Here the two parts are kept quite distinct, and a sort of parallel run between them. And the actions or the qualities of the two things stand apart, each on their own side of the parallel, those of neither being ascribed to the other. In a metaphor, on the other hand, the two parts, instead of lying side by side, are drawn together and incorporated into one.
The idea and the image, the thought and the illustration, are not kept distinct, but the idea is incarnated in the image, so that the image bears the same relation to the idea as the body does to the soul. In other words, the two parts are completely identified, their qualities interfused and interpenetrating, so that they become one.
Thus a metaphor proceeds by ascribing to a given object certain actions or qualities which are not literally true of that object, and which have in reference to it only the truth of analogy.
To illustrate this. When, in his sonnet composed on Westminster Bridge, Wordsworth says, “ This City now doth, like a garment, wear the beauty of the morning,” the language is a simile in form. If he had said, This City hath now robed herself in the beauty of the morning, it would have been in form a metaphor. On the other hand, when in the same sonnet he says,
“ The river glideth at his own sweet will,” the language is a metaphor. If in this case he had said, The river floweth smoothly along, like a man led on by the free promptings of his own will, it would have been a simile. And so, when Romeo says of Juliet, –
“0, she doth teach the torches to burn bright !
Her beauty hangs upon the cheek of night,
here we have two metaphors, and also one simile. Juliet cannot be said literally to teach the torches any thing; but her brightness may be said to make them, or rather the owner of them ashamed of their dimness; or she may be said to be so radiant, that the torches, or the owner of them may learn from her how torches ought to shine. Neither can it be said literally that her beauty hangs upon the cheek of night, for the night has no cheek; but it may be said to bear the same relation to the night as a diamond pendant does to the dark cheek that sets it off. Then the last metaphor is made one of the parts in a simile; what is therein expressed being likened to a rich jewel hanging in