網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

wonderful erudition respecting the ancient form of sacrifice to the goddess of Fortune.

But should it be contended, or even proved, that Shakespeare never made use of any words derived from Latin, but such as he found ready made to his hands, which is to me incredible, still I would askby what knowledge did he adopt and appropriate these words ?-how came it they were never thrust into improper places ? Be it remembered there was no dictionary, like our Dr. Johnson's, to assist him. If he himself was not sufficiently skilled in Latin, there could be nothing for his guide beyond the author's text, wherein the learned words appeared, and could that text always explain their meaning ? nay, could he always understand the text? Would he not, like the ignorant clowns in his own comedies, while straining to use an elevated style, talk stark nonsense, and, acting Dogberry's part, “write himself down an ass ?” He delighted in exposing the ridiculous pretences of ignorance; yet the laugh was never raised against his own pretences.* Though free from pedantry, so free that it is argued he had no classical learning whatever, there never was a greater satirist on the improprieties of language. It is the fashion to say that he followed the fashion of his time; but the truth is, he was constantly endeavouring to correct what was wrong in writing or in speaking. Look at the repeated attempts he made in his plays; but look in particular at Love's Labour Lost. With what severity he there lashes the affected euphony and the obtrusive pedantry of his contemporaries ! It is worthy of remark that, in this comedy, the “child of fancy, that Armado hight,” among his many fancies to distinguish himself from “ the rude multitude,” to “ be singled from the barbarous,” is excessively vain of his Latinized phrases, which are formed in the worst taste; the author thus satirizing, through him, the strange discrepancy of the Latin and the English, unless the words are skilfully chosen, and as skilfully adapted. To this effect Armado calls the page a “tender Juvenal,” speaks in his "condign praise,'' bids him bring Costard “ festinately hither,” calls a pageant “an ostentation,” and angrily exclaims, “ dost thou infamonise me?” with fifty other phrases of Latin origin, formed in the same bad taste, and ludicrously applied.

* Would Holofernes, the schoolmaster, so ready to exclaim « O, I smell false Latin !" have called a boy born on board a lighter, “ levius puer ?Yet such is the wit put in the mouth of a schoolmaster, and more than once repeated in a modern novel. Modern critics, in their innocence, have seen no harm in it; but was it right, for the sake of a pun, to neutralize the poor boy's gender?

Could the formation of words from the Latin, or the correct adoption of them in countless instances, could those pedantic fops, who confounded while they sought to blend the two languages, be exposed,– could all this be done, and with a masterly hand, by one who had not a very competent share of Latin for (I may say) so learned a purpose ? Still, it is far from improbable that such a man might be unable to read a Latin author with facility, and therefore prefer to read him in translation; though, after all, we have no proof that he could not read Latin fluently; and

а

Upton scarcely hesitates to contend that he must have studied even the Latin metre.

From what has been asserted of the great variety of Anglo-Latin words in his writings, let it not be imagined that they predominate; for a still greater variety will be found of words purely Saxon, or derived from the original well-springs of our language. His immense vocabulary, his command of words, and his taste in applying them to his various purposes of meaning and sound, place him above every other author in composition. Should a student of poetry examine his lines carefully, he may discover much whereby to guide him. The quality of the character speaking must of course be well considered ; after which, it strikes me, the choice of words will be generally found congenial with the expression. Where a stateliness or artificial grandeur is intended, Latin and other foreign words are aptly introduced, as

“ And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples—the great globe itself-
Yea, all which it inherits, shall dissolve.”

“ The nature of our people,
Our city's institutions, and the terms
For common justice, you are as pregnant in,
As árt and practice hath enriched any

That we remember.”
“ The multitudinous seas incarnadine."

“ Incarnadine" is Italian, or French derived from Italian. From which did he take it, since Dr. Johnson, who doubts his knowledge of either language, says he can find no other instance of its use?

But when Shakespeare seeks to “make the sound an echo to the sense,” his words are pure old English, at least as old as Chaucer:

“ Under the shade of melancholy boughs.”
“ Split'st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak."
“ And when they talk of him, they shake their heads,

And whisper one another in the ear;

And he that speaks, doth gripe the hearer's wrist.” Or when he would impress us with a simple homebred feeling, he uses the simplest and the homeliest English words: :56 I dare do all that doth become a man;

Who dares do more, is none."
“ He was a man; take him for all in all,

I shall not look upon his like again." Pages might be filled with such instances, but they are not to my present purpose.

His frequent appropriate use of the heathen mythology, and of the classical heroes, has been brought forward as evidence of his learning; but, as Dr. Farmer has shown, that knowledge might have been gained, as well as now, without Greek or Latin. Yet, had he displayed ignorance on these subjects, he might be proved somewhat unlearned. Accordingly, the annotators have brought forward no less than three examples of this ignorance, which happily, at least two of them, prove nothing but the ignorance

G3

of his critics. The first is in Henry IV, Part 2nd, where Hecuba's dream of a fire-brand is called Althea's,-a mistake certainly, but one which rather proves he was acquainted with both stories. Besides, Dr. Johnson, who notices it, ought to have remembered, as an editor, a line in Henry the Sixth, Part 2nd, which Shakespeare, if he did not write it, must have well known, and which proves he was aware of the nature of Althea's brand :

“ As did the fatal brand Althea burn'd."

a

Henley brings forward the second example from Macbeth, thus annotating on the words “ Bellona's bridegroom :”—“ This passage may be added to the many others, which show how little he knew of ancient mythology.” The many others !—where are they? In the mean time, why is Henley's classic lore offended? Is it because he had never heard, among the ancients, of Bellona's bridegroom? Alas! it was Macbeth himself the poet meant ! Had he been termed, in his capacity of a soldier, a son of Mars, the liberty would have been as great, but, owing to the triteness of the appellation, not to be cavilled at as a proof of ignorance, though it would have inade the doughty Thane of Glamis the brother of Cupid. What Shakespeare said, poetically said, was, that the warlike hero was worthy of being the bridegroom of the goddess of war. This is the passage:

“ Norway himself, with terrible numbers,

Assisted by that most disloyal traitor
The Thane of Cawdor, 'gan a dismal conflictz

« 上一頁繼續 »