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Corn. Indeed, my younger boy presum'd too much
Corn. I pr’ythee, peace.
This is a good deal borrowed from Lear; but the inmost folds of the human heart, the sudden turns and windings of the fondest affection, are also laid open with so masterly and original a hand, that it seems to prove the occasional imitations as unnecessary as they are evident. The scene where the Duke discovers that he is poisoned, is as follows, and equally fine.
“ Brach. Oh! I am gone already. The infection Flies to the brain and heart. O, thou strong heart, There's such a covenant 'tween the world and thee, They're loth to part.
Giovanni. O my most lov'd father!
Brach. Remove the boy away:
(To Vittoria). What say you, screech-owls. (To the Physicians) Is the
venom mortal? Phy. Most deadly.
Brach. Most corrupted politic hangman ! You kill without book; but your art to save
Fails you as oft as great men's needy friends :
Francesco de Medici (in disguise). Sir, be of comfort.
Brach. O thou soft natural death! that art joint-twin
Vit. Cor. I am lost for ever.
Brach. How miserable a thing it is to die 'Mongst women howling! What are those ?
Brach. On pain of death let no man name death to me:
The deception practised upon him by Lodovico and Gasparo, who offer him the sacrament in the disguise of Monks, and then discover themselves to damn him, is truly diabolical and ghastly. But the genius that suggested it was as profound as it was lofty. When they are at first introduced, Flamineo says,
“ See, see how firmly he doth fix his eye
Upon the crucifix."
To which Vittoria answers,
Oh, hold it constant :
The Duchess of Malfy is not, in my judgment, quite so spirited or effectual a performance as the White Devil. But it is distinguished by the same kind of beauties, clad in the same terrors. I do not know but the occasional strokes of passion are even profounder and more Shakespearian; but the story is more laboured, and the horror is accumulated to an overpowering and insupportable height. However appalling to the imagination and finely done, the scenes of the madhouse to which the Duchess is condemned with a view to unsettle her reason, and the interview between her and her brother, where he gives her the supposed dead hand of her husband, exceed, to my thinking, the just bounds of poetry and of tragedy. At least, the merit is of a kind, which, however great, we wish to be rare.
A series of such exhibitions obtruded upon the senses or the imagination must tend to stupefy and harden, rather than to exalt the fancy or meliorate the heart. I speak this under correction ; but I hope the objection is a venial common-place. In a different style
altogether are the directions she gives about her children in her last struggles ; « I prythee, look thou giv'st my little boy Some syrop for his cold, and let the girl
Say her pray'rs ere she sleep. Now what death you please-" and her last word,“ Mercy,” which she recovers just strength enough to pronounce ; her proud answer to her tormentors, who taunt her with her degradation and misery—“But I am Duchess of Malfy still*”—as if the heart rose up, like a serpent coiled, to resent the indignities put upon it, and being struck at, struck again ; and the staggering reflection her brother makes on her death, " Cover her face: my eyes dazzle : she died young !" Bosola replies :
“ I think not so; her infelicity
Ferdinand. She and I were twins :
Her time to a minute." This is not the bandying of idle words and * “ Am I not thy Duchess ?
Bosola. Thou art some great woman, sure; for riot begins to sit on thy forehead (clad in gray hairs) twenty years sooner than on a merry milkmaid's. Thou sleep'st worse than if a mouse should be forced to take up his lodging in a cat's ear: a little infant that breeds its teeth, should it lie with thee, would cry out, as if thou wert the more unquiet bed-fellow.
Duch. I am Duchess of Malfy still."
rhetorical common-places, but the writhing and conflict, and the sublime colloquy of man's nature with itself!
The Revenger's Tragedy, by Cyril Tourneur, is the only other drama equal to these and to Shakespear, in “ the dazzling fence of impassioned argument,” in pregnant illustration, and in those profound reaches of thought, which lay open the soul of feeling. The play, on the whole, does not answer to the expectations it excites; but the appeals of Castiza to her mother, who endeavours to corrupt her virtuous resolutions, “ Mother, come from that poisonous woman there,” with others of the like kind, are of as high and abstracted an essence of poetry, as any of those above mentioned.
In short, the great characteristic of the elder dramatic writers is, that there is nothing theatrical about them. In reading them, you only' think how the persons, into whose mouths certain sentiments are put, would have spoken or looked: in reading Dryden and others of that school, you only think, as the authors themselves seem to have done, how they would be ranted on the stage by some buskined hero or tragedy-queen. In this respect, indeed, some of his more obscure contemporaries have the ad