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Dennis argues:-"The good and the bad perishing promiscuously in the best of Shakespear's tragedies, there can be either none or very weak instruction in them." In this spirit Dennis himself sets to work to remodel 'Coriolanus:-"Not only Aufidius, but the Roman tribunes Sicinius and Brutus, appear to me to cry aloud for poetic vengeance; for they are guilty of two faults, neither of which ought to go unpunished." Dennis is not only a mender of Shakspere's catastrophes, but he applies himself to make Shakspere's verses all smooth and proper, according to the rules of art. One example will be sufficient. He was no common man who attempted to reduce the following lines to classical regularity:

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"Boy! False hound!
If you have writ your annals true, 'tis there,
That, like an eagle in a dovecote, I
Flutter'd your Volsces in Corioli.
Alone I did it-Boy!"

John Dennis has accomplished the feat :

"This boy, that, like an eagle in a dovecote,
Flutter'd a thousand Volsces in Corioli,
And did it without second or acquittance,
Thus sends their mighty chief to mourn in

The alteration of 'The Tempest' by Davenant and Dryden was, as we have mentioned, an attempt to meet the taste of the town by music and spectacle. Shadwell went farther, and turned it into a regular opera; and an opera it remained even in Garrick's time, who tried his hand upon the same experiment. Dennis was a reformer both in comedy and tragedy. He metamorphosed 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' into 'The Comical Gallant,' and prefixed an essay to it on the degeneracy of the taste for poetry. Davenant changed 'Measure for Measure' into 'The Law against Lovers.' It is difficult to understand how a clever man and something of a poet should have set about his work after this fashion. This is Shakspere's Isabella :—

"Could great men thunder

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"If men could thunder

As great Jove does, Jove ne'er would quiet be;

For every choleric petty officer,

Would use his magazine in heaven for

We nothing should but thunder hear. Sweet

Thou rather with thy stiff and sulph'rous

Dost split the knotty and obdurate oak,
Than the soft myrtle."

"The Law against Lovers' was in principle one of the worst of these alterations; for it was a hash of two plays-of 'Measure for Measure,' and of 'Much Ado about Nothing.' This was indeed to destroy the organic life of the author. But it is one of the manifestations of the vitality of Shakspere that, going about their alterations in the regular way, according to the rules of art, the most stupid and prosaic of his improvers have been unable to deprive the natural man of his vigour, even by their most violent depletions. His robustness was too great even for the poetical doctors to destroy it. Lord Lansdowne actually stripped the flesh off Shylock, but the anatomy walked about vigorously for sixty years, till Macklin put the muscles on again. Colley Cibber turned 'King John' into 'Papal Tyranny,' and the stage 'King John' was made to denounce the Pope and Guy Faux for a century, till Mr. Macready gave us back again the weak and crafty king in his original truth of character. Nahum Tate deposed the 'Richard II.' of Shakspere wholly and irredeemably, turning him into 'The Sicilian Usurper.' How Cibber manufac

As Jove himself does, Jove would ne'er be tured 'Richard III.' is known to all men. Durfey melted down 'Cymbeline' with no


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thoroughly qualified him to touch this weak superstitious part of his reader's imagination; and made him capable of succeeding where he had nothing to support him besides the strength of his own genius. There is something so wild, and yet so solemn, in the speeches of his ghosts, fairies, witches, and the like imaginary persons, that we cannot forbear thinking them natural, though we have no rule by which to judge of them; and must confess, if there are such beings in the world, it looks highly probable they should talk and act as he has represented them."

slight portion of alloy. Tate remodelled | In 'The Spectator,' 419, amongst the pa'Lear,'-and such a 'Lear!' Davenant man- pers on 'The Pleasures of the Imagination,' gled 'Macbeth;' but we can hardly quarrel Shakspere's delineations of supernatural with him for it, for he gave us the music of beings are thus mentioned :-"Among the Locke in company with his own verses. It English, Shakspeare has incomparably exhas been said, as a proof how little Shak-celled all others. That noble extravagance spere was once read, that Davenant's altera- | of fancy, which he had in so great perfection, tion is quoted in "The Tatler' instead of the original. This is the reasoning of Steevens; but he has not the candour to tell us, that in The Tatler,' No. 111, there is a quotation from 'Hamlet,' with the following remarks:-" -“This admirable author, as well as the best and greatest men of all ages and of all nations, seems to have had his mind thoroughly seasoned with religion, as is evident by many passages in his plays, that would not be suffered by a modern audience." Steevens infers, that Steele, or ADDISON, was not a reader of Shakspere, because 'Macbeth' is quoted from an acted edition; and that, therefore, Shakspere was not read generally. If a hurried writer in a daily paper (as 'The Tatler' was) were to quote from some acted editions at the present day, he might fall into the same error; and yet he might be an ardent student of Shakspere, in a nation of enthusiastic admirers. The early Essayists offer abundant testimonies, indeed, of their general admiration of the poet. In No. 68 of 'The Tatler,' he is "the great master who ever commands our tears." In No. 160 of 'The Spectator' Shakspere is put amongst the first class of great geniuses, in company with Homer; and this paper contains a remarkable instance of a juster taste than one might expect from the author of 'Cato:' "We are to consider that the rule of observing what the French call the bienséance in an allusion has been found out of later years, and in the colder regions of the world; where we could make some amends for our want of force and spirit, by a scrupulous nicety and exactness in our compositions."*


* Mr. De Quincey is certainly mistaken when he says, that "Addison has never in one instance quoted or made


We have again an instance of Addison's good taste in his remarks upon the critical notions of poetical justice, which he calls a ridiculous doctrine in modern criticism." Of the best plays which end unhappily he mentions 'Othello,' with others, and adds, "King Lear' is an admirable tragedy of the same kind, as Shakspeare wrote it; but as it is reformed, according to the chimerical notion of poetical justice, in my humble opinion it has lost half its beauty." All this exhibits a better taste than we find in Gildon and Dennis; and it certainly is very remarkable that Addison, who in his own tragedy was laboriously correct, as it was called, should have taken no occasion to comment upon the irregularities of Shakspere. Mr. De Quincey says of Addison, "The feeble constitution of the poetic faculty as existing in himself forbad him sympathising with Shakespear." The feebleness of the poetic faculty makes the soundness of the judgment more conspicuous.

any reference to Shakspear." No. 160 bears the signature of C., and immediately follows The Vision of Mirza,' bearing the same signature.




THE commencement of the eighteenth cen- 'Worthies,' 'The Cabbala, or Collections of tury produced the first of the critical editions of Shakspere. In 1709 appeared 'Shakespeare's Plays Revised and Corrected, with an Account of his Life and Writings, by N. RowE.' We should mention that the third edition of Shakspere's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, in folio, appeared in 1664. It has been said that the greater number of the copies of this edition were destroyed in the fire of London; and a writer whom we must once more quote says, 'During a whole century, only four editions of his complete works, and these small, were published; and there would only have been three, but for the destructive Fire of London in 1666."* The destruction by the fire is just as much proved as the smallness of the edition. One of our best bibliographers, Mr. Lowndes, whose 'Bibliographer's Manual' is a model of accuracy, doubts the statement of the destruction by the fire, "though it has been frequently repeated." Upon the face of it the statement is improbable. If it were a good speculation to print the book two years before the fire, and the stock so printed had been destroyed in the fire, it would have been an equally good speculation to have reprinted it immediately after the fire; and yet the fourth edition did not appear till 1685. Some of the copies of the third edition bear the date of 1663; and we have no doubt that the book was then generally published; for Pepys, under the date of December 10th, 1663, has a curious bibliographical entry:— "To St. Paul's Churchyard, to my bookseller's, and could not tell whether to lay out my money for books of pleasure, as plays, which my nature was most earnest in; but at last, after seeing Chaucer, Dugdale's 'History of Paul's,' Stow's 'London,' Gesner, 'History of Trent,' besides Shakespeare, Jonson, and Beaumont's plays, I at last chose Dr. Fuller's

* Life of Shakespear in 'Lardner's Cyclopædia.'

Letters of State,' and a little book, 'Delices de Hollande,' with another little book or two, all of good use or serious pleasure; and 'Hudibras,' both parts, the book now in greatest fashion for drollery, though I cannot, I confess, see enough where the wit lies." These two folio editions supplied the readers of Shakspere for more than forty years, but we are not hence to conclude that he was neglected. Of Ben Jonson during the same period there was only one edition; of Beaumont and Fletcher only one; of Spenser only one. Rowe's edition of Shakspere, we doubt not, supplied a general want. Its critical merits were but small. The facts of the 'Life' which he prefixes have been sufficiently noticed by us in another place. The opinions expressed in that 'Life' are few, and are put forth with little pretension. As might be expected, they fully admit the excellence of Shakspere, but they somewhat fall into the besetting sin of attempting to elevate his genius by depreciating his knowledge:-"It is without controversy that in his works we scarce find any traces of anything that looks like an imitation of the ancients. The delicacy of his taste, and the natural bent of his own great genius (equal, if not superior, to some of the best of theirs), would certainly have led him to read and study them with so much pleasure that some of their fine images would naturally have insinuated themselves into, and been mixed with, his own writings; so that his not copying at least something from them may be an argument of his never having read them. Whether his ignorance of the ancients were a disadvantage to him or no, may admit of a dispute: for, though the knowledge of them might have made him more correct, yet it is not improbable but that the regularity and deference for them, which would have attended that cor

rectness, might have restrained some of that fire, impetuosity, and even beautiful extravagance, which we admire in Shakspere: and I believe we are better pleased with those thoughts, altogether new and uncommon, which his own imagination supplied him so abundantly with, than if he had given us the most beautiful passages out of the Greek and Latin poets, and that in the most agreeable manner that it was possible for a master of the English language to deliver them." Rowe also falls into the notion that Shakspere did not arrive at his perfection by repeated experiment and assiduous labour,-a theory which still has its believers :-" It would be without doubt a pleasure to any man, curious in things of this kind, to see and know what was the first essay of a fancy like Shakspeare's. Perhaps we are not to look for his beginnings, like those of other authors, among their least perfect writings; art had so little and nature so large a share in what he did, that, for aught I know, the performances of his youth, as they were the most vigorous, and had the most fire and strength of imagination in them, were the best. I would not be thought by this to mean that his fancy was so loose and extravagant as to be independent on the rule and government of judgment; but that what he thought was commonly so great, so justly and rightly conceived in itself, that it wanted little or no correction, and was immediately approved by an impartial judgment at the first sight." He then enters into a brief criticism of some

of the leading plays. In speaking of 'The Tempest,' he mentions the observation upor the character of Caliban "which three very great men concurred in making”—telling us in a note that these were Lord Falkland, Lord Chief Justice Vaughan, and Mr. Selden "That Shakspeare had not only found out a new character in his Caliban, but had also devised and adapted a new manner of language for that character." Of Shakspere's plays, with reference to their art, he thus speaks:-"If one undertook to examine the greatest part of these by those rules which are established by Aristotle and taken from the model of the Grecian stage, it would

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be no very hard task to find a great many faults; but, as Shakspeare lived under a kind of mere light of nature, and had never been made acquainted with the regularity of those written precepts, so it would be hard to judge him by a law he knew nothing of. We are to consider him as a man that lived in a state of almost universal licence and ignorance: there was no established judge, but every one took the liberty to write according to the dictates of his own fancy. When one considers that there is not one play before him of a reputation good enough to entitle it to an appearance on the present stage, it cannot but be a matter of great wonder that he should advance dramatic poetry so far as he did." A second edition of Rowe's 'Shakespeare' appeared in 1714.

In 1725 POPE produced his edition, magnificent as far as printing went, in six volumes quarto. Of its editorial merits we may say a few words when we have to speak of Theobald. His Preface is a masterly composition, containing many just views elegantly expressed. The criticism is neither profound nor original; but there is a tone of quiet sense about it which shows that Pope properly appreciated Shakspere's general excellence. He believes, in common with most of his time, that this excellence was attained by intuition, and that the finest results were produced by felicitous accidents :

"If ever any author deserved the name of an original, it was Shakspeare. Homer himself drew not his art so immediately from the fountains of nature; it proceeded through Egyptian strainers and channels, and came to him not without some tincture of the learning, or some cast of the models, of those before him. The poetry of Shakspeare was inspiration indeed: he is not so much an imitator as an instrument of Nature; and it is not so just to say that he speaks from her as that she speaks through him.

"His characters are so much Nature herself, that it is a sort of injury to call them by so distant a name as copies of her. Those of other poets have a constant resemblance, which shows that they received them from one another, and were but multipliers of


These are the excellences of Shakspere; but Pope holds that he has as great defects, and he sets himself to excuse these by arguing that it was necessary to please the populace. He then proceeds:―

the same image: each picture, like a mock- | for a very new opinion-that the philosopher, rainbow, is but the reflection of a reflection. and even the man of the world, may be born But every single character in Shakspeare is as well as the poet." as much an individual as those in life itself; it is as impossible to find any two alike; and such as from their relation or affinity in any respect appear most to be twins, will, upon comparison, be found remarkably distinct. To this life and variety of character we must add the wonderful preservation of it; which is such throughout his plays, that, had all the speeches been printed without the very names of the persons, I believe one might have applied them with certainty to every speaker.

"The power over our passions was never possessed in a more eminent degree, or displayed in so different instances. Yet all along there is seen no labour, no pains to raise them; no preparation to guide or guess to the effect, or be perceived to lead toward it; but the heart swells, and the tears burst out, just at the proper places: we are surprised the moment we weep; and yet upon reflection find the passion so just, that we should be surprised if we had not wept, and wept at that very moment.

"How astonishing it is again that the passions directly opposite to these, laughter and spleen, are no less at his command! That he is not more a master of the great than of the ridiculous in human nature; of our noblest tendernesses, than of our vainest foibles; of our strongest emotions, than of our idlest sensations!

"To judge, therefore, of Shakspeare by Aristotle's rules, is like trying a man by the laws of one country who acted under those of another. He wrote to the people, and wrote at first without patronage from the better sort, and therefore without aims of pleasing them; without assistance or advice from the learned, as without the advantage of education or acquaintance among them; without that knowledge of the best models, the ancients, to inspire him with an emulation of them; in a word, without any views of reputation, and of what poets are pleased to call immortality; some or all of which have encouraged the vanity, or animated the ambition, of other writers.

"Yet it must be observed, that, when his performances had merited the protection of his prince, and when the encouragement of the court had succeeded to that of the town, the works of his riper years are manifestly raised above those of his former. The dates of his plays sufficiently evidence that his productions improved in proportion to the respect he had for his auditors. And I make no doubt this observation would be found true in every instance, were but editions extant from which we might learn the exact time when every piece was composed, and whether wrote for the town or the court.

"Nor does he only excel in the passions; in the coolness of reflection and reasoning he is full as admirable. His sentiments are not only in general the most pertinent and ju- "Another cause (and no less strong than dicious upon every subject; but, by a talent the former) may be deduced from our poet's very peculiar, something between penetration being a player, and forming himself first upon and felicity, he hits upon that particular the judgments of that body of men whereof point on which the bent of each argument he was a member. They have ever had a turns, or the force of each motive depends. standard to themselves, upon other prinThis is perfectly amazing from a man of no ciples than those of Aristotle. As they live education or experience in those great and by the majority, they know no rule but that public scenes of life which are usually the of pleasing the present humour, and complysubject of his thoughts; so that he seems to ing with the wit in fashion-a consideration have known the world by intuition, to have which brings all their judgment to a short looked through human nature at one glance, point. Players are just such judges of what and to be the only author that gives ground | is right as tailors are of what is graceful.

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