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pestilential vapors. They pushed every thing to excess. Their weakness is most evident, when they strain the fiercest after power. Their strength is flushed, bloated, spasmodic, and furious. They pitch every thing in a high key, approaching to a scream. In what has been considered the most imaginative passage in their whole works, — the speech of Suetonius to his soldiers before battle, in Bonduca, — the lines seem torn from the throat of the speaker :“The gods of Rome fight for ye ; loud Fame calls ye, Pitch'd on the topless Apennine, and blows To all the under world, all nations, The seas, and unfrequented deserts, where the snow dwells; Wakens the ruined monuments, and there, Where nothing but eternal death and sleep is, Informs again the dead bones with your virtues."
Even their heroism has, generally, the lightness of romance ; something framed from fancy, not from nature. Their heads grow giddy among the true horrors of tragedy, and their action becomes hurry and bustle instead of progress. The style of their dramas, where the text is not butchered by misprinting, is sweet, colloquial, voluble, and voluptuous, but rarely condensed and powerful. It has been finely said, in respect to their agency in weakening the diction of the drama, that “ Shakspeare had bred up the English courser of the air to the highest wild condition, till his blood became fire, and his sinews Nemean ; Ben Jonson put a curb into his mouth, subjected him to strict manége, and fed him on astringent food, that hardened his nerves to rigidity ; but our two authors took the reins off, and let him run loose over a rank soil, relaxing all his fibres again.” The flush and hectic heat of this unbitted racing is ever observable ; but the bright hoofs of the courser strike off few lightning sparks, and he is a long time arriving at his goal.
The Maid's Tragedy, which Hallam gravely says is no tragedy for maids, and one which, with all its beauties, no respectable woman can read, contains much exquisite poetry among its portentous obscenities. The character of Aspatia is the model of a love-lorn, patient maiden,
" Whose weak brain is overladen
With the sorrow of her love";
such as we meet, in a degraded state, among the Arabella Dieaways of old novels. Shirley probably refers to the vein of sentiment touched in this drama, when he says, “ Thou shalt meet, almost in every leaf, a soft, purling passion, or spring of sorrow, so powerfully wrought high by the tears of innocence and wronged lovers, it shall persuade thy eyes to weep into the stream, and yet smile when they contribute to their own ruins.” Lysippus thus describes Aspatia : —
“ This lady
Lamb, Vol. 11., p. 103. Amintor, in this play, forsakes Aspatia, and marries Evadne, at the command of the king. The scene in which his wife avows herself the mistress of the monarch, and tells Amintor that her marriage with him is merely one of convenience, is wrought out in Fletcher's most characteristic manner. That, also, in which the brother of Evadne compels her to promise to murder the king, is spirited and powerful. The following scene between Aspatia and her maidens has much softness and richness of diction and sentiment.
“ ASPATIA. ANTIPHILA. OLYMPIAS.
Just such another was the nymph Enone,
“ Ant. Of Ariadne, Madam ?
" Asp. Yes, that piece. This should be Theseus, h’ as a cozening face ; You meant him for a man ?
“ Ant. He was so, Madam,
" Asp. Why then 't is well enough. Never look back, You have a full wind, and a false heart, Theseus. Does not the story say, his keel was split, Or his masts spent, or some kind rock or other Met with his vessel ?
66 Ant. Not as I remember.
“ Asp. It should ha' been so : could the gods know this, And not of all their number raise a storm? But they are all as ill. This false smile was well exprest; Just such another caught me; you shall not go so, Antiphila ; In this place work a quicksand, And over it a shallow smiling water, And his ship ploughing it, and then a fear. Do that fear to the life, wench.
" Ant. 'T will wrong the story.
“ Asp. 'T will make the story, wrong'd by wanton poets, Live long and be believ'd; but where 's the lady?
“ Ant. There, Madam.
" Asp. Fie, you have miss'd it here, Antiphila,
(If thou hadst ever feeling of a sorrow)
Olym. Dear Madam!
Asp. I have done ; sit down, and let us
Lamb, Vol. 11., pp. 105, 106. Philaster has much romantic sweetness, and deservedly takes a high rank among the joint creations of our authors. Bellario is especially beautiful. Beaumont and Fletcher's fair and fine women have been considered models of womanhood by many critics, and by some placed above those of Shakspeare, - as if their best delineations of passion or constancy approached Juliet or Cordelia! Shakspeare's women are ideal ; theirs, romantic. The following passage, in which Bellario, discovered to be a woman, tells the story of her love for Philaster, is exceedingly sweet and touching. « My father would oft speak
Your worth and virtue, and as I did grow
To see the man so prais'd; but yet all this
In presence of you, I had had my end.
Lamb, Vol. 11., pp. 117, 118. A King and No King is another play in which Beaumont and Fletcher's characteristic faults and beauties are displayed. Arbaces is well delineated, and so is Bessus, - both braggarts in different stations. Hallam and Hazlitt concur in admiring this drama. Thierry and Theodoret contains two female characters, Brunhalt and Ordella, representing the two phases under which Fletcher commonly delineated women. The latter Lamb pronounces, we think incorrectly, to be the most perfect idea of the female heroic character, next to Calantha, in the Broken Heart of Ford, that has been embodied in fiction.” The former is a monstrosity, compounded of fiend and beast. Valentinian is one of the best tragedies in the collection, though the plot is absurdly managed. There are three songs in it of peculiar merit, one relating to love, another to wine, and a third, full of solemn beauty, addressed to sleep, which we extract. Valentinian is brought in sick, in a chair, and the song is introduced as an expression of the deep and silent love of Eudoxia, the empress, who leans over him. “Care-charming Sleep, thou easer of all woes,
Brother to Death, sweetly thyself dispose