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productions. Could efficient performers be procured, I entertain no doubt of its dramatic interest for representation ; wanting them, pageantry and Dryden's irrelevant scenes have been thoughtlessly entailed on it.
On this play it was long since my intention to offer a separate pamphlet, wherein an attempt would be made to include the variety of subjects which here solicit attention, the numerous characters, their conduct towards each other, and the conduct of the whole. This essay, conceived and begun, would prove of too disproportionate a length in this place; nor could it be satisfactory to others, or just towards myself, to give a portion of that which, from its nature, ought to be intimately connected together.
XXXIV. OTHELLO.-Roderigo is a young Venetian nobleman, well educated, perfect in his manners as a gentleman, and regarded with respect by all except lago; yet, beneath these outward advantages, there rages a passion too strong to be ruled by his reason, which is, though not observable in bis demeanour, below the common standard. Iago alone has descried his weakness, calls him a “fool,” a “snipe," and boasts of making him his purse; while, at the same time, he sees the necessity of labouring with as much art in the swaying and management of him, as with any other character in the play, Othello himself excepted. I have never seen Roderigo on the stage; but, in his stead, an empty buffoon, on whom Iago would not have wasted an argument. differently represented now; for I used to see him in
He may be
those days when Othello was a Blackamoor, and attired, in defiance of “his baptism,” which is mentioned, like his country's enemy, "a turbann'd Turk.” Our historical painters, in their love of colour, followed the authority of the theatre.
XXXV. HENRY The Eighth. 1613.-If anything could tempt my approval of an addition to the text, it would be Handel's Angels ever bright and fair in the chamber of the dying queen. Still I must object to even this disobedience of Shakespeare's orders for sad and solemn Music; which should be played on the stage, or behind the scenes. The actual dream may be better left to the imagination ; but the illusion is injured by the orchestral operations, though not so much as by a young lady standing up to sing before the audience with a music-book in her hand. This last is not to be endured; yet of what use is it to speak of propriety, when our old respectable Griffith is banished from the scene, and Cromwell appears to play his part? Is it decorous to permit young Cromwell to show himself at home in the queen's chamber, and among her maidens ? Is it in his character, dramatically or historically, to attend on disgraced royalty ? There is a shameless reason for this, in the difficulty of finding two good actors, who would consent to play only one, or only the other. Could I embody Hamlet in excellence equal to the text, I would gladly be either Griffith or Cromwell; nay, my pride would be gratified in making a short part effective; and policy should teach me the value of such conduct towards the public. First-rate actors
lose much by their unwillingness to be seen in Shakespeare's second and third-rate characters; they are persons little aware of their own interest. Vanity never looks at what mischief may be lurking behind its own mirror.
XXXVI. TWELFTH NIGHT.-Some of these last plays baffle my means of conjecture for placing them in order. All the chronologists agree in making Twelfth Night the last, though on no efficient ground.
It seems Shakespeare was indebted to two other tales, besides that of Bandello, for some hints in portions of this fable. No reading, connected with Shakespeare, has been so unprofitable to me as the examination into authorities, which might have biassed or actually influenced his mind in the creation of fables, characters, or sentiments. After having again read Bandello's tale attentively, I find nothing like the story; but there are a twin brother and sister, the Jatter being disguised as a lad, and serving her lover in the quality of page, though under entirely different circumstances. The real situation of Sebastian and Viola we must endeavour to trace in other tales. Something of Viola may be seen in Bandello's Nicuola; that is, her devotion to her lover; in other respects they are widely distinct. As to a sentence that might have given rise, however remotely, to a sentiment in the play, I find not one; but there is half a one, which, literally translated, is this, spoken by the disguised Nicuola to her master :-“ because I have often heard say, that girls in their first loves,
love much more tenderly, and with greater warmth, than do the men.”
In looking into any other of the Italian "norellieri," or English novellists, who have had the honour of furnishing him with fables, I meet with nothing beyond the materials, for the most part shapeless, and of no more importance, than the materials of a temple are in our estimation of an architect's skill. Milton was less original in his Paradise Lost than was Shakespeare in his works; and assuredly Milton's Comus stands more indebted to Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdless, than any of Shakespeare's plays to a previous one, or to any novel, with the exception of those which he rewrote, adding little to them.
No one has remarked that Shakespeare invariably placed his scene away from his own times. The nearest approach to English manners of his day, is in Henry the Eighth. Was he aware, that the more general his view of humanity, unrestricted by time or place, the more indelible must be his fame? A supposition has crossed my mind, that, had he lived to prepare his works for publication, he would have annulled every allusion to the fleeting manners and customs of his day. Having served his purpose for a while on the stage, I think it probable they would have afterwards been erased. As they now stand, they are unconnected with a single incident, or with the spirit or the feeling of the dialogue.
Judging from the greater number of his critics, we must believe that he wrote nothing studiously and reflectively. On the contrary, turn to what drama I may, there seems to me as much premeditated art and intention in the contrivance, as there are poetry, knowledge, and wisdom, in the execution. In spite of the common, reckless view of him, the three last qualities are readily acknowledged; why not the two first ? Possibly our unwillingness to give him credit for them, has its source in our not yet being convinced that his dramatic school is so difficult as what is termed the classical. Yet in that which is esteemed more difficult, there have been several masters equally good; while those who have attempted to follow his apparently free and easy rules, whether among his contemporaries, or in later times, have signally failed. Beaumont and Fletcher are, perhaps, the next to him. Without bringing their dramatic characters and poetry in competition with his, the developement of their fables, the construction of their scenes, and the final management of the whole, are bald, disjointed, and disappointing. The English school, for it was not Shakespeare's, seems to offer less encouragement to imitators than any other; may it not be because its art bears a greater resemblance to nature? A master-work of art, representing nature in any form, is achieved with a difficulty proportionate to the freedom and facility which it displays.
This volume, among other deficiencies, stands need of a chapter on Shakespeare's faults as a dramatic poet. To play the critic on so great an author