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which the light of knowledge falling neither illuminates nor warms it, but only serves to put in motion the poisonous vapours generated there.
Of course it is only by exhausting the resources of instruction on such a being that his innate and essential deficiency can be fully shown. For had he the germs of a human soul, they must needs have been drawn forth by the process that has made him a poet. The magical presence of spirits, it is true, hath cast into the caverns of his brain a faint reflection of a better world, but without calling up any answering emotions or aspirations ; he having indeed no susceptibilities to catch and take in the epiphanies that throng his whereabout. So that, paradoxical as it may seem, he exemplifies the twofold triumph of art over nature, and of nature over art.
But what is most remarkable of all is the perfect originality of his thoughts and manners. Though framed of grossness and malignity, there is nothing vulgar or common-place about him. His whole character indeed is developed from within, not impressed from without; the effect of Prospero's instructions having been to make him all the more himself; and there being perhaps no soil in his nature for conventional vices and knaveries to take root and grow in. Hence the almost classic dignity of his behaviour compared with that of the drunken sailors, who are little else than a sort of low, vulgar conventionalities organized, and as such not less true to the life than consistent with themselves. In his simplicity indeed he at first mistakes them for gods who “ bear celestial liquor," and they wax merry enough at the “ credulous monster;” but in his vigour of thought and purpose he soon conceives such a scorn at their childish interest in whatever trinkets and gewgaws meet their eye, as fairly drives off his fit of intoxication ; and the savage of the woods, half-human though he be, seems nobility itself beside the savages of the city.
In short, if Caliban be, as it were, the organized sediment and dregs of the place, from which all the finer spirit has been drawn off to fashion the delicate Ariel, yet having some parts of a human mind strangely interwoven with his structure; every thing about him, all that he does and says, is suitable and correspondent lo such a constitution of nature : so that all the elements and attributes of his being stand and work together in living coherence, thus rendering him no less substantive and personal to our apprehension than original and peculiar in himself.
Such are the objects and influences amidst which the clear, placid nature of Miranda has been developed. Of the world whence her father was driven, its crimes and follies and sufferings, she knows nothing, he having studiously kept all such notices from her, to the end, apparently, that nothing might thwart or hinder the plastic efficacies that surround her. And here all the simple and original elements of her being, love, light, grace,
honour, and innocence, all pure feelings and tender sympathies, whatsoever is sweet and gentle and holy in womanhood, seem to have sprung up in her nature as from celestial seed : “ the contagion of the world's slow stain " hath not visited her; the chills and cankers of artificial wisdom have not touched nor come near her: if there were any fog or breath of evil in the place that might else dim or spot her soul, it has been sponged up by Caliban as being more congenial with his nature; while he is simply “ a villain she does not love to look on.” Nor is this all. The aerial music, beneath which her nature has expanded with answering sweetness, seems to rest visibly upon her, linking her, as it were, with some superior order of beings : the spirit and genius of the place, its magic and mystery, have breathed their power into her face; and out of them she has unconsciously woven herself a robe of supernatural grace, in which even her mortal nature seems half hidden, so that we hardly know whether she belongs more to heaven or to earth. Thus both her native virtues and the efficacies of the place seem to have crept and stolen into her unperceived, by mutual attraction and assimilation twining together in one growth, and each diffusing its life and beauty all over and through the other. It would seem as if the great poet of our age must have had Miranda in his eye, (or was he but working in the spirit of that nature which she so rarely exemplifies ?) when he wrote the lines :
“ The floating clouds their state shall lend
Nor shall she fail to see
By silent sympathy.
6. The stars of midnight shall be dear
In many a secret place
Shall pass into her face.”
Yet for all this Miranda not a whit the less touches us as a creature of flesh and blood, “ a being breathing thoughtful breath.” Nay, she seems all the more so, forasmuch as the character thus coheres with the circumstances, the virtues and poetries of the place being expressed in her visibly; and she would be far less real to our feelings, were not the wonders of her whereabout thus vitally incorporated with her innate and original attributes. This matter has been put so well by Mrs. Jameson that it would he wronging the subject not to quote her words : “ If we can
presuppose such a situation, do we not behold in the character of Miranda not only the credible, but the natural, the necessary result ? She retains her woman's heart, for that is unalterable and inalienable, as a part of her being; but her deportment, her looks, her language, her thoughts, from the supernatural and poetical circumstances assume a cast of the pure ideal; and to us, who are in the secret of her human and pitying nature, nothing can be more charming and consistent than the effect which she produces upon others, who, never having beheld any thing resembling her, approach her as a wonder,' as something celestial.”
It is observable that Miranda does not perceive the working of her father's art upon herself; as, when he puts her to sleep, she attributes it to the strangeness of his tale. And, on the other hand, he thinks she is not listening attentively to what he is say. ing, partly, perhaps, because he is not attending to it himself, his thoughts being about the approaching crisis in his fortunes while his speech is of the past, and partly because in her ecstasy of wonder at what he is relating she seems abstracted and self-withdrawn from the matter of his discourse. For indeed to her the supernatural stands in the place of nature, and nothing is so strange and wonderful as what actually passes in the life and heart of man : miracles have been her daily food, her father being the greatest miracle of all; which must needs make the common events and passions and perturbations of the world seem to her miraculous. All which the Poet has wrought out with so much art, and so little appearance of it, that Franz Horn is the only critic, so far as we know, that seems to have thought of it.
We may not dismiss Miranda without remarking upon the sweet union of womanly dignity and childlike simplicity in her character, she not knowing or not caring to disguise the innocent movements of her heart. This, too, is a natural result of her situation. Equally fine is the circumstance, that her father opens to her the story of her life, and lets her into the secret of her noble birth and ancestry, at a time when she is suffering with those that she saw suffer, and when her eyes are jewelled with pity, as if on purpose that the ideas of rank and dignity may sweetly blend and coalesce in her mind with the sympathies of the woman.
The strength and delicacy of imagination displayed in these characters are scarce more admirable than the truth and subtlety of observation shown in the others.
In the delineation of Antonio and Sebastian, short as it is, there is a volume of wise science, the leading points of which are thus set forth by Coleridge: “In the first scene of the second act Shakespeare has shown the tendency in bad men to indulge in scorn and contemptuous expressions as a mode of getting rid of their own uneasy feelings of inferiority to the good, and also of rendering the transition to wickedness easy, by making the good ridiculous. Shakespeare never puts habitual scorn into the mouths of other than bad men, as here in the instances of Antonio and Sebastian. The scene of the intended assassination of Alonzo and Gonzalo is an exact counterpart of the scene between Macbeth and his lady, only pitched in a lower key throughout, as de. signed to be frustrated and concealed, and exhibiting the same profound management in the manner of familiarizing a mind, not immediately recipient, to the suggestion of guilt, by associating the proposed crime with something ludicrous or out of place, something not habitually matter of reverence.”
Nor is there less of sagacity in the means whereby Prospero seeks to make them better, provoking in them the purpose and taking away the performance of crime, that so he may bring them to a knowledge of themselves, and awe or shame down their evil by his demonstrations of good. For such is the proper effect of bad designs thus thwarted, showing the authors at once the wickedness of their hearts and the weakness of their hands; whereas, if successful in their plans, pride of power would forestall and prevent the natural shame and remorse of guilt. And we little know what evil it lieth and lurketh in our hearts to will or to do, until occasion permits or invites; and Prospero's art here stands in presenting the occasion until the wicked purpose is formed, and then removing it as soon as the hand is raised. It is noticeable that in the case of Antonio and Sebastian the workings of magic are so mixed up with those of nature that we cannot distinguish them : or rather, Prospero here causes the supernatural to pursue the methods of nature; thus, like the Poet himself, so concealing his art while using it that the result seems to spring from their own minds.
And the same deep skill is shown in case of the good old mau, Gonzalo, whose sense of his own pains and perils seems lost in his care to minister comfort and diversion to others. Thus his virtue spontaneously opens the springs of wit and humour within him amid the terrors of the storm and shipwreck; and he is merry while others are suffering, even from sympathy with them : and afterwards his thoughtful spirit plays with Utopian fancies; and if “ the latter end of his commonwealth forgets the beginning," it is all the same to him, his purpose being only to beguile the anguish of supposed bereavement. It hath been well said, that “Gonzalo is so occupied with duty, in which alone he finds pleasure, that he scarce notices the gnat-stings of wit with which his opponents pursue him ; or, if he observes, firmly and easily repels them."
In Ferdinand is portrayed one of those happy natures, such as we sometimes meet with, who are built up all the more strongly in virtue and honour by contact with the vices and meannesses of the world. The meeting of him and Miranda is replete with
magic indeed ; a magic higher and more potent even than Prospero's : all the riches that nestle in their bosoms at once leaping forth and running together into a stream of poetry which no words of ours can describe. So much of beauty in so few words, and those few so plain and homely, “0, wondrous skill and sweet wit of the man!” Here, again, Prospero does but furnish occasions : his art has the effect of unsealing the choice founts of nature, but the waters gush from depths which even he cannot reach ; so that his mighty magic bows before a still more wondrous potency. After seeing himself thus outdone by the nature he has been wont to control, and having witnessed such a “ fair encourter of two most rare affections," no wonder that he longs to be a man again, like other men, and, with a heart “ true to the kindred points of heaven and home," gladly returns to
“ The homely sympathy that heeds
The common life; our nature breeds :
Of hearts at leisure."
Some appear to have thought the presence of Trinculo and Stephano a blemish in the play. We cannot think so. Their follies give a zest and relish to the high poetries amidst which they grow. Such things go to make up the mysterious whole of human life; and they often help on our pleasure while seeming to hinder it: we may think they had better be away ; yet, were they away, we should feel that something were wanting. Besides, if this part of the work do not directly yield a grateful fragrance, it is vitally related to the parts that do.
Such are the strangely-assorted characters that make up this charming play. And yet how they all concur in unity of effect ! This harmonious working together of diverse and opposite elements, - this smooth concurrence of heterogeneous materials in one varied yet coherent impression, - by what subtle process this is brought about, must be left to keener and deeper wits. But how variously soever men may account for this, no one, surely, who has a proper sense of art, or of nature as addressed to the imaginative faculty, can well question, that all the parts are so vitally interwoven, that if any one be cut away the whole drama will be in danger of bleeding to death.
We cannot leave the subject without remarking what an atmosphere of wonder and mystery overhangs and pervades this singular structure, and how the whole seems steeped in glories invisible to the natural eye, yet made visible by the Poet's art; thus leading the thoughts insensibly upwards to other worlds and other forms of being. It were difficult indeed to name any thing else of human workmanship so thoroughly transfigured with