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history, and even the manners of the countries where the scene is laid. We come to the last dramatic production of this eminent writer, which has excited much attention in Paris, and the third edition of which reached us, in a superb dress, to correspond with the other works of the author. That Angelo has been elaborated with care, and is a favourite with M. Hugo, is evident from the preface, where he states his design somewhat in detail. According to his own words, he has endeavoured here
" To present, in an action resulting entirely from the heart, two grave and serious personages,-woman in society, and woman out of society : that is, in two living types; all women,-all the woman. To exhibit these two female, who sum all in themselves, often generous, always unhappy. To defend one against tyranny, the other against contempt. To show in what trials is sustained the virtue of the one, and by what tears is washed away the stain of the other. To attribute the fault to whom it is due, that is to man, who is strong, and to social custom, which is absurd. To vanquish in these chosen hearts the resentments of the woman by the piety of the daughter, love by filial affection, hatred by devotion, passion by duty. Beside such women, to place two men: the husband and the lover, the sovereign and the proscribed, and to comprehend in them, by a thousand secondary developments, all the relations, regular and irregular, which man can sustain with woman on one side, and with society on the other. Below this group, that enjoy, possess, and suffer, sometimes bright, sometimes gloomy, not to forget the envious,-ihat fatal witness, always present, which Providence places below all societies, all governments, all prosperities, all human passions; the eternal enemy of aught that is elevated, changing forms in different times and places, but at the bottom always the same; the spy at Venice, the eunuch at Constantinople, the pamphlétaire at Paris. To assign a place, as doth Providence, in the shade, to this unhappy, intelligent, lost being, who can only injure, gnashing his teeth at all smiles, for every door closed to his affections is open to his vengeance. In fine, above these three men, these two women, to place as a tie, as a symbol, as an intercessor, as a counsellor, God dying upon the cross. To fix this human suffering au revers du crucifix.'
This, in our opinion, savours of blasphemy; but let us proceed.
“To make a drama, not altogether royal, lest the possibility of application should disappear in the grandeur of the proportions; not altogether bourgeois, lest the meanness of the personages should injure the greatness of the idea ; but dignified and domestic ; dignified, for the drama must be grand; domestic, because it must be true. To blend in the work, to satisfy that craving of the spirit which would feel the past in the present and the present in the past, with the eternal, human, and social element, a historical element. To paint, in consistency with the idea, not only man and woman, not only those two women, those three men, but a whole age, a whole climale, a whole civilisation, a whole people. To erect upon this foundation of thought, after the special gifts of history, a story so simple and true, so living, so breathing, so real, that to the eyes of the crowd it may hide the idea itself, as the flesh hides the bones.” “Such is what the author of this drama has attempted to do."
Now, whether it be that our eyes are among those of the crowd, to whom this mystery is intended to be a thing unrevealed, as too refined for their gross conceptions, we know not; but it is certain that no flesh ever concealed the bones on the frame of any relative of Daniel Lambert more effectually than the story and the accompaniments of this piece veil the understructure of thought, morality, and religion, which M. Hugo claims for his present production. We shall not waste time or space in endeavouring to prove his failure, in this respect, by an analysis of the characters, a failure that will be palpably apparent to every reader; it remains to show, by a brief abstract of the story, what he has made of the men and women alluded to, who are each destined to comprehend so large a portion of their species in their own persons. Of his two heroines, one, “La Tisbe," she, we presume, who is to represent “all the woman,” is an actress; the favourite mistress of Angelo Malipieri, the podesta, but deeply enamoured of Rodolph, alias Ezzelino, who passes for her brother with the tyrant, and who in his turn loves Catharina, the wife of Angelo, whom he had seen, for the first time, at a church in Venice, some seven years ago, and had sought all over Italy. The portion of the early history of Thisbe, which constitutes the foundation of the tale, is related in her opening dialogue with Angelo. She was the daughter of
“A poor widow, who sang songs in the public places at Brescia. I went with her. The people threw us money ; it was thus I began. My mother's place, habitually, was at the foot of the statue of Gatta Melata. One day it appeared that in the verses she sang, without comprehending them, there were some lines offensive to the signory of Venice, which excited the mirth of the followers of an ambassador that stood around us. A senator passed; he looked, listened, and said to the grand captain that followed him, “To the gallows with this woman! In the state of Venice, that is soon done. My mother was seized on the spot. She said nothing; of what use was it ? embraced me, while a big tear dropped on my forehead, took her crucifix, and suffered herself to be bound. I see it yet,—that crucifix! It was of polished copper; my name, Thisbe, was rudely carved at the bottom, with the point of a stíJeito. I was then sixteen years of age : I saw the guards bind my mother, without being able to speak, to cry, or weep; motionless, cold, stunned, as in a dream. The crowd also was silent. But there was with the senator, a young girl, whom he held by the hand, doubtless his daughter, who became suddenly agitated. A beautiful young girl, my lord. Poor child ! she cast herself at the senator's feet, and wept so much, with tears so beseeching, and with eyes so lovely, that she obtained my mother's pardon. Yes, my lord. When my mother was released, she took her crucifix-my mother-and gave it to the beautiful child, with these words: 'Madame, keep this crucifix; it will bring you good. Since that time, my mother is dead, -sainted woman ! for me, I have become rich, and I would find this child, this angel, who saved her. Who knows! she is a woman now, and consequently unhappy. She
has need of me, perhaps, in her turn. To him who shall find the woman I seek I will give ten thousand sequins of gold.
Angelo. Ten thousand sequins of gold! but what will you give to the woman herself, when you find her?
Thisbe. My life! if she will. -
We shall not question the historic probability of this romantic story, knowing the secrecy ever preserved by the Venetian government, in the arrest and punishment of their victims; it is sufficiently vraisemblant for the purposes of the drama. In the mean time, the personage indicated as an abstraction of envy, whom Victor Hugo, in imitation of Providence, places in his Eden to blight its joys, Homodei, a spy of the Council of Ten, who has slept, or pretended to sleep, through the first three scenes, awakes in the fourth to give Rodolph a minute relation of the events of his (Rodolph's) life, not forgetting the affair of the unknown lady, all which knowledge he had obtained by some inscrutable means, not explained to the reader. The young man very naturally expresses surprise at finding so many of his secrets in the possession of another; but is comforted by the assurance that his mysterious companion will help him to a sight of the fair lady whom he has so long despaired of finding. A place of rendezvous is appointed for the next night; Rodolph leaves him, and Homodei meets Thisbe, excites her jealousy of her lover, and offers to conduct her where she can have ocular demonstration of his perfidy. For this purpose, she is to obtain from Angelo the key of a private passage in his house. The evening comes ; Rodolph is led by his false friend to the presence of Catharina; afterwards, Thisbe is introduced; in their terror at the sound of footsteps approaching, the lover has nothing left to do but retreat into the lady's oratory, whence there is no other means of égress, than through the apartment he quits. Thisbe enters, charges her terrified rival with the fact that a man is concealed in her chamber, loads her with reproaches and menaces, and calls upon her husband. Just as Catharina, in an agony of fear, flies to her crucifix to pray for protection, it arrests Thisbe's attention, and she makes the discovery that her hated rival is no other than the young girl who had once saved her mother's life. A complete revolution hereby takes place in her feelings; and when Angelo arrives, she averts his suspicions from his wife, by informing him that she had visited the palace at that late hour, to warn him of a projected attempt upon his life, on the following day. The guilt of Catharina is however revealed to her husband the next day through Homodei, by means of an intercepted letter, and she is condemned to
death by her lord, who informs Thisbe that he had always hated her, from a necessity that a Malipieri must have some one to hate.
“On the day when the lion of St. Mark shall fly from his column, shall hate spread his wings of bronze, and fly from the heart of a Malipieri. My grandfather hated the Marquis Azzo, and drowned him at night in the wells of Venice. My father hated the Procurator Badoëz, and poisoned him at a banquet of the Queen Cornaro. For me, it is this woman whom I hate. * * The pardon of this woman! the bones of my mother might implore it, madame, but they would never obtain it!
Thisbe. Is it that the most serene signory of Venice permits you-
Thisbe. Your resolution is taken, you say. She will die. It is well: I approve. But since all is yet secret, since no name has been yet pronounced, could you not spare her a punishment, your palace a stain of blood, yourself the public comment and noise! The headsman is a witness. A witness is too much.
Angelo. Yes: poison will do better. But we must have a rapid poison-and believe me, I have none here.
Thisbe. I have it.
Thisbe. The poison Malaspina. You know, the liquor sent me by the Dean of St. Mark."
For the prompt and deadly poison, the actress substituted a sleeping potion; Catharina is conveyed à la Juliet, under pretence of burial, to a place of security, where horses are provided by the generous Thisbe, to carry the lovers from the state of Venice. In the mean time, Rodolph arrives, and believing Thisbe to have murdered his innamorata, after a prolonged dialogue stabs her; a moment after, the other lady awakes from her trance; he enquires by whom she has been saved, and receives from her dying rival the brief answer,
“Par moi-pour toi !" This exclamation, according to "la loi d'optique” of the theatre, ought to have terminated the piece; but the victim survives long enough to inform them of the disinterested preparations she has made for their departure, and to dismiss them with her blessing. What becomes of the tyrant, does not appear.
We will not detain the reader by offering any further extracts from this play, nor should we have entered into so detailed an account of this and other dramas of the author, but for the wish to afford an opportunity of judging his pieces with regard to their general tendency, and to exhibit a glimpse of the present state of the drama in France. “Angelo' is cer
tainly less revolting and harrowing in its details, than some of its predecessors; but the picture has not lost its moral deformity; some of the features only are less coarse and disgusting. It is written in prose, and we believe makes no pretensions to poetic beauty of any kind. Certainly none is apparent. The popularity of these plays of Victor Hugo, and of those of M. Dumas, his coadjutor in the sublime work of renovating their native literature, which far exceed in atrocity those we have mentioned, may seem incredible to those uninformed of the actual degree of corruption in the public taste which exists in the great nation.” Such may readily be convinced, however, by fair examination, that we have not spent our time in railing at the immoralities and absurdities of authors justly contemned at home, or too insignificant to excite apprehension for their influence; but that the productions we have been compelled to denounce, are those of two writers at the head of those departments of literature in which they are labouring; whose steps are closely followed by a multitude of imitators, who emulate their vices in striving to share their success. Of the influence on the national morals of works so grossly offensive to decency and correct taste, we shall not speak; but only hope that if popular feeling continues to sanction exhibitions of a similar character, the government of France may ere long interfere to put a stop to them. We also congratulate ourselves that so little of the poison has been communicated to the stage in this country; not without fear, however, for the future effect of such pernicious example. Not that there is danger to the intellectual portion of the community; the dramas deserving reprehension on the grounds we have noticed, are wholly unredeemed by any truth, natural or historical, poetry, or even interest; they possess nothing to recommend them to the reader, who can appreciate such excellences; but there exists in all countries, in the multitude, a vitiated taste which seeks gratification. How degraded is genius, when it stoops to minister to it!
We may perhaps take occasion, at some future time, to do justice to the merits of Victor Hugo as a poet-to the talents displayed in some of his exquisite lyric effusions. At present, we must take leave of him, with sincere regret that powers so varied and eminent as are indisputably his-the ability to impress the imagination and the heart-should be appropriated to so unworthy a purpose.