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of the dramatic action and characterization not the closest friendship. It is probable, -the condensation or expansion of the however, that the intimate social life of the thought—the tameness or luxuriance of the poets of that day, many of whom were also imagery—the equable flow or the involved actors, led to such a joint invention of plot harmony of the versification. The real body and character as would enable two or more of a drama is its action and characterization. to work readily upon a defined plan, each It is the constant subordination of all the bringing to the whole a contribution from ordinary poetical excellences to the main his own peculiar stores. The ordinary mixdesign, to be carried on through the agency ture too of the serious and comic portions of of different passions, temperaments, and hu- a drama facilitated such an arrangement ; mours, that constitutes the dramatic art. and the general introduction of an underTo judge of a question of authorship, and plot, sometimes very slightly bung upon the especially of such a question with reference main action, would still further render the to Shakspere, we must not only take into union even of more than two writers not a consideration the resemblances in what we very difficult thing to manage. It must be call style (we use this for the want of a more considered also that the dramatists of that comprehensive word), but in the manage- age were all, or very nearly all, thoroughly ment of the action and the development of familiar with stage business. As we have the characters. Such inquiries as these are said, many of them were actors; and the not without their instruction, if they lead us literary employment of those who were not by analysis and comparison to a better ap- so was, if we may use the term, so profespreciation of what constitutes the highest sional, that it was as necessary for them to qualities of art. The best copy of a picture be familiar with the practice of the theatre is necessarily inferior to the original ; but as for a lawyer to know by daily habit the we may better learn the value of the original rules of court. All these circumstances by a close examination of the copy ;-and made such dramatic partnerships comparathis is the position which we are about to tively easy to manage. But we must not take up in the question of the authorship of cease to bear in mind that these arrange"The Two Noble Kinsmen.' We hold that ments must always have had especial rein parts it bears a most remarkable resem- ference to the particular capacities and blance to Shakspere in the qualities of de- excellences of the persons so united, as tached thought, of expression, of versifica- known by experience, or suggested by their tion; and not so with reference to Shakspere's own promptings of what they were most early and unformed style, but to the pecu- fitted to accomplish. Let us apply these liarities of his later period. But we hold, at considerations to the case before us. the same time, that the management of the Shakspere and Fletcher, we will assume, subject is equally unlike Shakspere ; that the agree to write a play on the subject of poetical form of what is attributed to him is Chaucer's tale of Palamon and Arcite.' It for the most part epic, and not dramatic ; | is a subject which Shakspere in some rethat the action does not disclose itself, nor spects would have rejoiced in. It was the characters exhibit their own qualities. familiar to many of his audience in the
The fact that, amongst the extraordinary writings of England's finest old poet. It multitude of plays produced in the palmy was known to the early stage. It was surhalf-century of the stage, a very great many rounded with those romantic attributes of were composed upon the principle of a the old legendary tale which appear to have division of labour between two, and some- seized upon his imagination at a particular times three and even four writers, is too period of his life, and that not an early one. satisfactorily established for us to consider But, above all, it was a subject full of deep that the difficulties attending upon such a feeling,—where overwhelming passions were partnership would produce imperfect and to be brought into contact with habitual fragmentary performances where there was affections ; a subject, too, not the less in
THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN.
teresting because it required to be treated | tion differently applied. The internal eviwith great nicety of handling. It may be dence of style would lead us to assign the presumed that, if such a partnership had first and last acts to Shakspere. The course been proposed by Fletcher to Sbakspere of the action would of necessity adhere pretty (the belief that Shakspere would have closely to the tale of Chaucer ; and thus the solicited Fletcher's assistance is not very beginning and the end might have been probable), the younger poet would have written without any very strict reference to offered to the great master of dramatic ac- what was to come between, provided the tion, to the profound anatomist of character, subject were in the hands of an author who to him who knew best how to give to the would look at the completeness of the nardeepest and most complicated emotions their rative as the main thing to be worked out. full and appropriate language-his own Shakspere might have made the preliminary proper task of exhibiting the deep friend- scenes as full as we find them in "The Two ship, the impassioned rivalry, the terrible Noble Kinsmen ;' but when we look at the hatred, and the final reconciliation of the conciseness with which Chaucer gives the two heroes of the tale. The less practised same scenes, and hurries on to the more poet might have contented himself with the dramatic parts of the subject, we do accessory scenes, those of the introduction not very readily believe that Shakspere and of the under-plot. Now, according to the would have taken the opposite course. Skiljust belief which has been raised upon the ful as he is in the introduction of his subjects, dissimilarities of style, Fletcher has not only in the preparation with which he brings the taken the under-plot, but all, or nearly ali, mind into the proper state for comprehending the scenes that demanded the greatest and feeling the higher interests which are to amount of dramatic power, the exhibition of be developed, he comes, in almost every case, profound emotion in connection with nice with that decision which is a quality of the distinction of character. It was not the highest genius, to grapple with the passions poetical faculty alone that was here wanting, and characters of the agents who are to work --that power which Fletcher possessed of out the events ; and when he has done this, expressing somewhat ordinary thoughts in and has our imaginations completely subequable and well-rounded verse, producing dued to his power, he delays or precipitates agreeable sensations, but rarely rising into the catastrophe,—sometimes lingering in the sublime or the pathetic, and never laying some scene of gentleness or repose to restore bare those hidden things in the nature of the balance of feeling, and to keep the tragic man which lie too deep for every-day philo- within the limits of pleasurable emotion,sophy, but when revealed become truths that and sometimes clearing away by a sudden require no demonstration. Shakspere, on movement all the involutions of the plot, the contrary, according to the same just shedding his sunlight on all the darknesses belief as to the internal evidence of style, of character, and yet making this unexpected takes those parts which require the least dénouement the only one compatible with dramatic power,—the descriptive and di- truth and nature. It was out of Shakspere's dactic parts ; those which, to a great extent, own power, we believe, because incompatible are of an epic character, containing, like a with those principles of art which were to poem properly cpic, set and solemn speeches, him as an unerring instinct, to produce the elaborate narration, majestic invocations to last scenes of a play before he had worked the presiding deities. There can be no out the characterization which would essendoubt as to the high excellence of these por- tially determine the details of the event. tions of the work. But is such a division of The theory that Shakspere left a portion of labour the natural one between Shakspere The Two Noble Kinsmen,' which, after his and Fletcher ? If it be said that Shakspere death, was completed by Fletcher, is one left portions of a posthumous play which which, upon a mature consideration of the Fletcher finished, we have the same objec- subject, we constrained to reject,
although it has often presented itself to us pieces. If Shakspere had the capability of as the most plausible of the theories which altering his language so variously as we would necessarily associate themselves with here see, yet he nowhere presents exaggerathe belief that Shakspere had written a con- tions of thought and feeling in soft and flowsiderable portion of this play.
ing speeches, which is the characteristic of In his 'Specimens of English Dramatic Fletcher." * This is to mistake the question Poets,' Charles Lamb selects from The Two at issue. Nobody has ever supposed that
. Noble Kinsmen’ nearly all the first scene of Shakspere wrote the parts that are commonly the first act, part of the scene between Emilia assigned to Fletcher; and therefore nobody and Hippolyta in the same act, and the dia- | accused him of putting exaggerated thoughts logue between Palamon and Arcite, before in soft and flowing speeches. If Tieck, howEmilia comes into the garden, in Act II. ever, considers the scenes of the first act, to The latter scene he says “ bears indubitable which he distinctly alludes, to be in Fletcher's marks of Fletcher : the two which precede natural and habitual manner, he maintains a it give strong countenance to the tradition theory which in our opinion is more unthat Shakspere had a hand in this play.” tenable than any which has been proposed These and other passages, he adds,“ have a upon the question. Steevens holds that the luxuriance in them which strongly resembles play is for the most part a studied imiShakspere's manner in those parts of his plays tation of Shakspere by Fletcher. But, if he where, the progress of the interest being sub has imitated style, he has also imitated ordinate, the poet was at leisure for descrip- character; and that most weakly. The tion.” Upon a principle, then, of arranged gaoler's daughter is a most diluted copy of co-operation with Fletcher, Shakspere had Ophelia ; the Schoolmaster, of Holofernes ; produced only those parts of The Two the clowns, with their mummery, of the Noble Kinsmen' in which the interest is “rude mechanicals" of "A Midsummersubordinate, and which should resemble his Night's Dream.' This very circumstance, by manner when he was at leisure for descrip- the way, is evidence that there was no distion. This is the main point which, with tinct concert between Shakspere and Fletcher every deference for the opinion, founded as to the mode in which the subject should upon a comparison of style, that Shakspere be treated. We agree with Lamb, that was associated in this play with Fletcher, Fletcher, with all his facility, could not have we venture to urge as evidence that ought so readily gone out of his habitual manner to be impartially taken in support of the to produce an imitation of Shakspere's conopinion that Shakspere was not concerned in densed and involved style. He frequently it at all. Our own judgment, as far as the copies Shakspere in slight resemblances of question of style is concerned, very nearly thought, but the manner is always essentially coincides with that of the author of the in- different. These scenes in The Two Noble genious Letter to which we have several Kinsmen ' are not in Fletcher's manner ; it times referred ; but, on a careful examina- was not very probable, even if he had the tion of the whole question, we are inclined power, that he would write them in imitato a belief that Shakspere did not participatetion of Shakspere. We believe that Shakin the authorship. We do not, on the other spere did not write them himself. We are hand, go along with Tieck, who, with some bound, therefore, to produce a theory which what of an excess of that boldness with may attempt, however imperfectly, to rewhich his countrymen pronounce opinions concile these difficulties; and we do so with upon the niceties of style in a foreign lan- a due sense of the doubts which must always guage, says of this play, “ I have never been surround such questions, and which in this able to convince myself that a single verse case are not likely to be obviated by any has been written by Shakspere. The man- suggestion of our own, which can pretend to ner, the language, the versification is as
* Alt-Englisches Theater, oder Supplemente zum thoroughly Fletcher as any other of his Shakspere.
little beyond the character of a mere con- the want of profundity in the thoughts, jecture, not hurriedly adopted, but certainly keep me from an absolute decision.” We propounded without any great confidence in state these opinions of Coleridge with referits validity.
ence to what we must briefly call the style We hold, then, that Fletcher, for the most of the different parts, to show that any part, wrote the scenes which the best critical decision of the question founded mainly opinions concur in attributing to him: we upon the style is not to be considered cerhold, also, that he had a coadjutor who pro- tain even within its own proper limits. We duced for the most part the scenes attributed have rested our doubts principally upon by the same authorities to Shakspere : but another foundation ; but, taken together, we hold, further, that this coadjutor was not the two modes of viewing the question, Shakspere himself.
whether as to style or dramatic structure, Coleridge has thrown out a suggestion require that we should look out for another that parts of “The Two Noble Kinsmen’ | partner than Shakspere in producing this might have been written by Jonson. He work in alliance with Fletcher. Coleridge was probably led into this opinion by the appears to have thought the same when he classical tone which occasionally prevails, threw out the name of Jonson ; but we canespecially in the first scene, and in the in- not conceive that, if he had pursued this vocations of the fifth act. The address to inquiry analytically, he would have abided Diana,
by this conjecture. Jonson's proper versifi“Oh, sacred, shadowy, cold, and constant cation is more different from Shakspere's queen,
than perhaps that of any other of his conAbandoner of revels, mute, contemplative, temporaries; and we doubt if his mind was Sweet, solitary, white as chaste, and pure plastic enough, or his temper humble enough, As wind-fann'd snow,"—
to allow him to become the imitator of any at once reminds us of
We request our readers to compare
the following invocation by Jonson, from *Queen and huntress, chaste and fair :"
Cynthia's Revels, with the invocation to more perhaps from the associations of the Mars in the fifth act of The Two Noble subject than from Jonson's manner of treat- Kinsmen ;' and we think they will agree ing it. But Coleridge goes on to state that that the versification of Jonson, in a form the main presumption for Shakspere's share in which both the specimens are undramatic, in this play rests upon the construction of is essentially different :the blank verse. He holds that construction
“ Phoebus Apollo, if, with ancient rites, to be evidence either of an intentional imi
And due devotions, I have ever hung tation of Shakspere, or of his own proper Elaborate pæans on thy golden shrine, hand. He then argues, from the assump- Or sung thy triumphs in a lofty strain, tion that Fletcher was the imitator, that Fit for a theatre of gods to hear; there was an improbability that he would And thou, the other son of mighty Jove, have been conscious of the inferiority of his Cyllenian Mercury, sweet Maia's joy, own versification, which Coleridge calls “ too If in the busy tumults of the mind poematic minus-dramatic.” The improba- My path thou ever hast illumined, bility, then, that Fletcher imitated Shak- For which thine altars I have oft perfum'd, spere in portions of the play, writing other And deck'd thy statues with discolourd
flowers : portions in his own proper language and versification, throws the critic back upon
Now thrive invention in this glorious court, the other conjecture, that Shakspere's own
That not of bounty only, but of right, hand is to be found in it. But then again
Cynthia may grace, and give it life by sight." he says, “The harshness of many of these Here is no variety of pause ; the couplet very passages, a harshness unrelieved by with which the speech concludes is not difany lyrical inter-breathings, and still more ferent from the pairs of blank-verse which
have gone before, except in the rhyming of perhaps approaches nearest to Shakspeare the tenth syllables. But there is another in the descriptive and didactic, in passages writer of that period who might have been which are less purely dramatic. Dramatic associated with Fletcher in the production imitation was not his talent. He could not of a drama, and did participate in such stage go out of himself, as Shakspeare could shift partnerships : who, from some limited re- at pleasure, to inform and animate other semblances to Shakspere that we shall pre- existences, but in himself he had an eye to sently notice, might without any improba- perceive and a soul to embrace all forms. bility be supposed to have written those He would have made a great epic poet, if, portions of The Two Noble Kinsmen'which indeed, he has not abundantly shown himare decidedly and essentially different from self to be one ; for his . Homer' is not so the style of Fletcher. We select, though properly a translation as the stories of probably not the best selection we could Achilles and Ulysses re-written.” Our make, a passage of the same general cha- | theory is, that the passages which have been racter as the invocations so often mentioned, ascribed to Shakspere as a partner in the and which may be compared also with Jon- work of The Two Noble Kinsmen’ are son's address to Apollo. It is an invocation essentially "descriptive and didactic;" that to Behemoth :
to write these passages it was not necessary “Terror of darkness ! oh thou king of flames ! himself;" that they, for the most part, might
that the poet should be able to “go out of That with thy music-footed horse dost strike
enter into the composition of a great epic The clear light out of crystal, on dark earth, And hurl'st instructive fire about the world,
poem; that the writer of these passages was Wake, wake, the drowsy and enchanted master, to a considerable extent, of Shaknight,
spere's style, especially in its conciseness That sleeps with dead eyes in this heavy and its solemnity, although he was ill fitted riddle:
to grapple with its more dramatic qualities Oh, thou great prince of shades, where never of rapidity or abruptness; that also, unlike
most of the writers of his day, who sought Sticks his far-darted beams, whose eyes are only to please, he indulged in the same dismade
position as Shakspere, to yield to the preTo shine in darkness, and see ever best
vailing reflection which the circumstances Where men are blindest ! open now the heart of the scene were calculated to elicit ; and, Of thy abashed oracle, that for fear
lastly, that his intimate acquaintance with Of some ill it includes would fain lie hid, And rise thou with it in thy greater light.”
the Greek poets fitted him to deal more
especially with those parts of the tale of The writer of this invocation, which we Palamon and Arcite' in which Chaucer, in select from the tragedy of ‘Bussy D'Ambois, common with all the middle-age poets, built is George Chapman.
a tale of chivalry upon a classical foundaWebster, in his dedication to `Vittoria tion. We can understand such a division of Corombona,' speaks of " that full and height- labour between Fletcher and Chapman, as ened style of Master Chapman,” in the same that Fletcher should take the romantic parts sentence with “ the laboured and under- of the story, as the knight-errantry, the standing works of Master Jonson." It is love, the rivalry, the decision by bodily in the “full and heightened style” that we prowess,—and that Chapman should deal shall seek resemblances to parts of The with Theseus and the Amazons, the lament Two Noble Kinsmen, rather than in the of the three Queens, (which subject was “ laboured and understanding works." We familiar to him in The Seven against are supported in this inquiry by the opinion Thebes' of the Greek drama,) and the myof one of the most subtle and yet most sen- thology which Chaucer had so elaborately sible of modern critics, Charles Lamb :- sketched as the machinery of his great “Of all the English play-writers, Chapman story.