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appeared in quarto, with others, 1591.” We little weight, and the point is certainly of greatly doubt the propriety of this conjec- very small consequence. ture, which Malone has adopted. Spenser's poem is certainly a satire in one sense of the “ This is the silliest stuff that e'er I heard," word; for it makes the Muses lament that says Hippolyta, when Wall has“ discharged” all the glorious productions of men that his part. The auswer of Theseus is full of proceeded from their influence had vanished instruction :-“The best in this kind are but from the earth. Al that
shadows; and the worst are no_worse, if
imagination amend them.” It was in this was wont to work delight
humble spirit that the great poet judged of Through the divine infusion of their skill, And all that else seemed fair and fresh in sight, the utter inadequacy of his art, and indeed
his own matchless performances. He felt So made by nature for to serve their will,
of any art, to produce its due effect upon the Was turned now to dismal heaviness, Was turned now to dreadful ugliness."
mind, unless the imagination, to which it
addressed itself, was ready to convert the Clio complains that mighty peers “only shadows which it presented into living forms boast of arms and ancestry;" Melpomene, of truth and beauty. “I am convinced,” that “all man's life meseems a tragedy;" bsays Coleridge,“ that Shakspeare availed Thalia is “made the servant of the many;"
himself of the title of this play in his own Euterpe weeps that “ now no pastoral is to mind, and worked upon it as a dream throughbe heard ;” and so on. These laments do out.” The poet says so, in express words :not seem to be identical with the
“If we shadows have offended, - mourning for the death
Think but this, (and all is mended), Of learning, late deceased in beggary."
That you have but slumber'd here,
While these visions did appear. These expressions are too precise and limited And this weak and idle theme, to refer to the tears of the Muses for the No more yielding but a dream, decay of knowledge and art. We cannot Gentles, do not reprehend." divest ourselves of the belief that some real | But to understand this dream-to have all person, and some real death, were alluded to. its gay, and soft, and harmonious colours May we hazard a conjecture 2-Greene, a impressed upon the vision—to hear all the man of learning, and one whom Shakspere golden cadences of its poesy—to feel the in the generosity of his nature might wish perfect congruity of all its parts, and thus to point at kindly, died in 1592, in a con- to receive it as a truth-we must not suppose dition that might truly be called beggary. that it will enter the mind amidst the But how was his death, any more than that lethargic slumbers of the imagination. We of Spenser, to be the occasion of "some
must receive it, satire, keen and critical ?” Every student of our literary history will remember the
"As youthful poets dream famous controversy of Nash and Gabriel
On summer eves by haunted stream." Harvey, which was begun by Harvey's pub- Let no one expect that the beautiful inlication, in 1592, of 'Four Letters, and certain fluences of this drama can be truly felt when Sonnets, especially touching Robert Greene, he is under the subjection of the literal and and other parties by him abused.' Robert prosaic parts of our nature : or, if he haGreene was dead; but Harvey came forward, bitually refuses to believe that there are in revenge of an incautious attack
the higher and purer regions of thought than unhappy poet, to satirize him in his grave- are supplied by the physical realities of the to hold up his vices and his misfortunes to world. In these cases he will have a false the public scorn—to be “keen and critical" standard by which to judge of this, and of upon “learning, late deceased in beggary.” all other high poetry—such a standard as The conjecture which we offer may have that possessed by a critic-acute, learned, in
many respects wise—Dr. Johnson, who lived the stage do not agree well together. The in a prosaic age, and fostered in this par- attempt to reconcile them in this instance ticular the real ignorance by which he was fails not only of effect, but of decorum. The surrounded. He sums up the merits of ' A ideal can have no place upon the stage, Midsummer-Night's Dream,' after this ex- which is a picture without perspective : traordinary fashion :-“Wild and fantastical everything there is in the foreground. That as this play is, all the parts in their various which was merely an airy shape, a dream, a modes are well written, and give the kind of passing thought, immediately becomes an pleasure which the author designed. Fairies, unm
nmanageable reality. Where all is left to in his time, were much in fashion : common the imagination (as is the case in reading), tradition had made them familiar, and Spen- every circumstance, near or remote, has an ser's poem had made them great." It is equal chance of being kept in mind, and tells perfectly useless to attempt to dissect such accordingly to the mixed impression of all criticism : let it be a beacon to warn us, and that has been suggested. But the imagination
a not a “load-star” to guide us. Old Pepys, cannot sufficiently qualify the actual imwith his honest hatred of poetry—“To the pressions of the senses. Any offence given King's Theatre, where we saw 'Midsummer- to the eye is not to be got rid of by exNight's Dream,' which I had never seen planation. Thus Bottom's head in the play before, nor shall ever again, for it is the is a fantastic illusion, produced by magic most insipid, ridiculous play that ever I saw spells: on the stage it is an ass's head, and in my life”—is to us more tolerable. nothing more; certainly a very strange
Mr. Hallam accounts "A Midsummer- costume for a gentleman to appear in. Fancy Night's Dream' poetical, more than dra- cannot be embodied any more than a simile matic ; “yet rather so, because the inde- can be painted ; and it is as idle to attempt scribable profusion of imaginative poetry in it as to personate Wall or Moonshine.” this play overpowers our senses, till we can And yet, just and philosophical as are hardly observe anything else, than from any these remarks, they offer no objection to the deficiency of dramatic excellence. For, in opinion of Mr. Hallam, that in this play reality, the structure of the fable, consisting there is no deficiency of dramatic excellence. as it does of three, if not four actions, very We can conceive that, with scarcely what distinct in their subjects and personages, can be called a model before him, Shakspere's yet wrought into each other without effort early dramatic attempts must have been a or confusion, displays the skill, or rather series of experiments to establish a standard instinctive felicity, of Shakspeare, as much by which he should regulate what he adas in any play he has written.” Yet, cer- dressed to a mixed audience. The plays of tainly, with all its harmony of dramatic his middle and mature life, with scarcely an arrangement, this play is not for the stage, exception, are acting plays; and they are so, at least not for the modern stage. It may not from the absence of the higher poetry, reasonably be doubted whether it was ever but from the predominance of character and eminently successful in performance. The passion in association with it. But even in tone of the epilogue is decidedly apologetic, those plays which call for a considerable and “the best of this kind are but shadows” exercise of the unassisted imaginative faculty is in the same spirit. Hazlitt bas admirably in an audience, such as “The Tempest,' and described its failure as an acting drama in A Midsummer-Night's Dream,' where the his own day:
passions are not powerfully roused, and the “The Midsummer-Night's Dream,' when senses are not held enchained by the interests acted, is converted from a delightful fiction of a plot, he is still essentially dramatic. into a dull pantomime. All that is finest in What has been called of late years the drathe play is lost in the representation. The matic poem—that something between the spectacle was grand; but the spirit was ' epic and the dramatic which is held to form evaporated, the genius was fled. Poetry and an apology for whatever of episodical or
incongruous the author may choose to intro- | clouds, and fairies floating in ether, held up duce was unattempted by him. • The by very invisible strings. And so the poetry Faithful Shepherdess' of Fletcher—a poet was borne for the sake of the sight-seeing who in some things knew how to accommo- and the songs. But, for a just comprehension date himself to the taste of a mixed audience of Shakspere's surpassing beauties in this more readily than Shakspere — was con- divine poem, we would rather hear the second demned on the first night of its appearance. scene of Act II. read as we have heard it Seward, one of his editors, calls this the read by a poet, than see the play, accomscandal of our nation. And yet it is ex- panied with every scenic propriety and pomp, tremely difficult to understand how the to show, after all, that “the best in this kind event should have been otherwise ; for “The are but shadows." Faithful Shepherdess' is essentially undra- Schlegel has happily remarked upon this matic. Its exquisite poetry was therefore drama, that “the most extraordinary comthrown away upon an impatient audience-bination of the most dissimilar ingredients its occasional indelicacy could not propitiate seems to have arisen without effort by some them. Milton's 'Comus' is in the same way ingenious and lucky accident; and the essentially undramatic; and none but such colours are of such clear transparency, that a refined audience as that at Ludlow Castle we think the whole of the variegated fabric could have endured its representation. But may be blown away with a breath.” It is the ‘Midsummer-Night's Dream' is composed not till after we have attentively studied altogether upon a different principle. It this wonderful production that we underexhibits all that congruity of parts, that stand how solidly the foundations of the natural progression of scenes, that subor- fabric are laid. Theseus and Hippolyta dination of action and character to one move with a stately pace as their nuptial leading design, that ultimate harmony
hour draws on. Hermia takes time to pause, evolved out of seeming confusion, which before she submits constitute the dramatic spirit. With “audi
“To death, or to a vow of single life," — ence fit, though few,” with a stage not encumbered with decorations, with actors
secretly resolving “through Athens' gates to approaching (if it were so possible) to the
steal.” Helena, in the selfishness of her own idea of grace and archness which belong to
love, resolves to betray her friend. Bottom the fairy troop,—the subtle and evanescent the weaver, and Quince the carpenter, and beauties of this drama might not be wholly Snug the joiner, and Flute the bellowslost in the representation. But under the mender, and Snout the tinker, and Starveling most favourable circumstances much would
the tailor, are “ thought fit through all be sacrificed. It is in the closet tha Athens to play in the interlude before the must not only suffer our senses to be over
duke and duchess on his wedding-day, at powered by its “indescribable profusion of night.” Here are, indeed, “dissimilar inimaginative poetry,” but trace the instinctive gredients.” They appear to have no aptitude felicity of Shakspere in the “structure of
for combination. The artists are not yet the fable.” If the Midsummer-Night's upon the scene, who are to make a mosaic Dream' could be acted, there can be no
out of these singular materials. We are only doubt how well it would act. Our imagina- presented in the first act with the extremes tion must amend what is wanting. It is no
of high and low—with the slayer of the real objection to this belief that it has been Centaurs, and the weaver, who “will roar acted with surpassing success since these you an 't were any nightingale,"—with the observations were originally written. It was lofty Amazon, who appears elevated above revived at Covent-Garden Theatre as a pan
woman's hopes and fears, and the pretty and tomimic opera, with exquisite scenery, and satirical Hermia, who swearsabundant music, and Oberon and Titania • By all the vows that ever men have broke, inoving in golden chariots amongst silver In number more than ever women spoke."
“ The course of true love” does not all “run, opinion. Malone has, with great hardihood, smooth” in these opening scenes. We have asserted that the part of the fable which the love that is crossed, and the love that is relates to the quarrels of Oberon and Titania unrequited ; and, worse than all, the unhap- was “not of our author's invention." He piness of Helena makes her treacherous to has nothing to show in support of this, but her friend. We have little doubt that all the opinion of Tyrwhitt, that Pluto and this will be set straight in the progress of Proserpina, in Chaucer's Merchant's Tale,' the drama ; but what Quince and his com- were the true progenitors of Oberon and pany will have to do with the untying of Titania ; that Robert Greene boasts of having this knot is a mystery.
performed the King of the Fairies, and that To offer an analysis of this subtle and Greene has introduced Oberon in his play of ethereal drama would, we believe, be as - James IV. Malone's assertion, and the unsatisfactory as the attempts to associate it mode altogether in which he speaks of this with the realities of the stage. With scarcely drama, furnish a decisive proof of his incoman exception, the proper understanding of petence to judge of the higher poetry of the other plays of Shakspere may be assisted Shakspere. Because the names of Oberon by connecting the apparently separate parts and Titania existed before Shakspere, he did of the action, and by developing and recon- not invent his Oberon and Titania! The ciling what seems obscure and anomalous in opinion of Mr. Hallam may correct some of the features of the characters. But to follow the errors which the commentators have out the caprices and illusions of the loves of laboured to propagate. “ The ‘MidsummerDemetrius and Lysander, of Helena and Night's Dream' is, I believe, altogether Hermia ;-to reduce to prosaic description original in one of the most beautiful conthe consequence of the jealousies of Oberon ceptions that ever visited the mind of a and Titania ;-to trace the Fairy Queen poet, the fairy machinery. A few before him under the most fantastic of deceptions, had dealt in a vulgar and clumsy manner where grace and vulgarity blend together with popular superstitions; but the sportive, like the Cupids and Chimeras of Raffaelle’s beneficent, invisible population of the air Arabesques ;-and, finally, to go along with and earth, long since established in the creed the scene till the illusions disappear-till of childhood, and of those simple as children, the lovers are happy, and “sweet bully had never for a moment been blended with Bottom” is reduced to an ass of human human mortals' among the personages of dimensions ;--such an attempt as this would the drama. Lyly's 'Maid's Metamorphosis be worse even than unreverential criticism. is probably later than this play of ShakNo,-the Midsummer-Night's Dream'must speare, and was not published till 1600. It be left to its own influences.
is unnecessary to observe that the fairies of “ It is probable,” says Steevens, “ that the Spenser, as he has dealt with them, are hint of this play was received from Chaucer's wholly of a different race.”* * Knight's Tale.'' We agree with this
* Literature of Europe,' vol. ii. p. 388.
ROMEO AND JULIET.
ROMEO AND JULIET' was first printed in the , We would not, indeed, attempt to establish year 1597, under the following title :—' An it as a rule implicitly to be followed, that excellent conceited Tragedie of Romeo and an author's last corrections are to be invaJuliet. As it hath been often (with great riably adopted; for, as in the case of Cowper's applause) plaid publiquely, by the right 'Homer,' and Tasso’s ‘Jerusalem,' the corhonourable the L. of Hunsdon his Seruants.' rections which these poets made in their first The second edition was printed in 1599, productions, when their faculties were in a under the following title :— The most ex- great degree clouded and worn out, are procellent and lamentable Tragedie, of Romeo perly considered as not entitled to supersede and Juliet. Newly corrected, augmented, what they produced in brighter and happier and amended : As it hath bene sundry times hours. Mr. Southey has admirably stated publiquely acted, by the right Honourable the reason for this in the advertisement to the Lord Chamberlaine his Seruants.' his edition of Cowper's 'Homer.' But, in the
The subsequent original editions, and the case of Shakspere's ‘Romeo and Juliet,' the folio of 1623, are founded upon the quarto corrections and augmentations were made of 1599, from which they differ very slightly. by him at that epoch of his life when he
The quarto of 1599 was declared to be exhibited “all the graces and facilities of “newly corrected, augmented, and amended." | a genius in full possession and habitual There can be no doubt whatever that the exercise of power.”* The augmentations, corrections, augmentations, and emendations | with one or two very trifling exceptions, were those of the author. There are typo- are amongst the most masterly passages in graphical errors in this edition, and in all the whole play, and include many of the the editions, and occasional confusions of the lines that are invariably turned to, as some metrical arrangement, which render it more of the highest examples of poetical beauty. than probable that Shakspere did not see These augmentations, further, are so large in the proofs of his printed works. But that their amount, that, in Steevens's reprint, the the copy, both of the first edition and of first edition occupies only seventy-three pages; the second, was derived from him, is, to while the edition of 1609, in the same volume, our minds, perfectly certain. We know of printed in the same type as the first edition, nothing in literary history more curious or occupies ninety-nine pages. The corrections more instructive than the example of mi- are made with such exceeding judgment, nute attention, as well as consummate skill, such marvellous tact, that of themselves exhibited by Shakspere in correcting, aug- they completely overthrow the theory, so menting, and amending the first copy of long submitted to, that Shakspere was a this play. We would ask, then, upon what careless writer. Such being the case, we canon of criticism can an editor be justified consider ourselves justified in treating the in foisting into a copy, so corrected, passages labour of Steevens and other editors, in of the original copy, which the matured judg- making a patchwork text out of the author's ment of the author had rejected ? Essentially first and second copies, as utterly worthless. the question ought not to be determined by We most readily acknowledge our own parany arbitrement whatever other than the ticular obligations to them ; for, unless they judgment of the author. Even if his cor- had collected a great mass of materials, no rections did not appear, in every case, to
modern edition could have been properly unbe improvements, we should be still bound dertaken. But we, nevertheless, cannot conceal to receive them with respect and deference.
* Coleridge's 'Literary Remains.'