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mass; but he could not combine and arrange. I and their recurrence in cases were their aid seems Like a weak soldier under heary armour, he is to be unnecessary. Mr. Singer and I may occavapressed by his means of safety and triumph. sionally differ in our opinions respecting i he text, Tie sinks beneath his knowledge, and cannot pro- which he has adopted : but, in these instances of fably use it. The weakness of his judgment de- our dissent, it is fully as probable that I may be prived the result of his industry of its proper effect. wrong as he. I feel, in short, confident, on the He acts on a right principle of criticism: but, igo whole, that Mr. Singer is now advancing, not 10 norant of its right application, he employs it for claim, (for to claim is inconsistent with his modesty,). the purposes of error. He was not, in short, but to obtain a high place among the editors of firmed of the costly materials of a critic; and no Shakspeare ; and to have his name enrolled with labour, against the inhibition of Nature, could the names of those who have been the chief benefashion hit into a criti His page is pregnant factors of the reader of our transcendent Poet. with information : but it is thrown into so many We have now seen, from the first editorial atinrulutions and tangles, that it is lighter labour to tempt of Rowe, a whole century excited by the work it out of the original quarry than to select it greatness of one man, and sending forth its most. amid the confusion in which it is thus brought to ambitious spirits, from the man of genius down to your hand. If any copy of indisputable authority the literary mechanic, to tend on him as the vashad been in existence, Malone would have produced sals of his royalty, and to illustrate his magnifia face imile of it, and would thus, indeed, have been cence to the world. Has this excitement had an an admirable editor of his author, for not a prepo- adequate cause? or has it been only the frenzy of sition, a copulative, a particle, a comma to be found the times, or a sort of meteorous exhalation from in his original, would have been out of its place in an idle and over-exuberant soil ? Let us examino his transcript. But no such authentic copy of our great poet, and dramatist, with the eye of imShakspeare could be discovered ; and something partial criticism; and then let the result of our more than diligence and accuracy was required in examination form the reply to these interrogatories bis editor : and to nothing more than diligence and of doubt. accuracy could Malone's very humble and circum- Shakspeare took his stories from any quarter, scribed abilities aspire. Attaching, therefore, fic- whence they were offered to him; from Italian titious authority to some of the earlier copies, he novels;. from histories; from old story-books; Collowed them with conscientious precision; and, from old plays; and even from old ballads. In one disclaiming all emendatory criticism, he rejoiced in instance, and in one alone, no prototype has been bis 6delity to the errors of the first careless or illi- found for his fiction; and the whole of " The Temterate transcriber. He closed the long file of the pest," from its first moving point to the plenieditors of Shakspeare. But although no formal tude of its existence, must be admitted to be the editor or commentator has hitherto appeared to offspring of his wonderful imagination.* But supply the place left vacant by Malone, yet does whence soever he drew the first suggestion of his the importance of our bard continue to excite the story, or whatever might be its original substance, man of talents to write in his cause, and to refresh he soon converts it into an image of ivory and the wreath of fame, which has hung for two centu- gold, like that of the Minerva of Phidias; and then, ries on his tomb. On this occasion I must adduce beyond the efficacy of the sculptor's art, he breathes the name of Skottowe, a gentleman who has recently into it the breath of life. This, indeed, is spoken gratified the public with a life Shakspeare, invol- only of his tragedies and comedies : for his histories, ving a variety of matter respecting him, in a style as they were first called, or historical dramas, are eminent for its compression and its neatness. To transcripts from the page of Hall or Hollingshead; Mr. Skotlowe I must acknowledge my especial and, in some instances, are his workings on old obligations, for not infrequently relieving me from plays, and belong to him no otherwise than as he the prolixities and the perplexities of Malone ; and imparted to them the powerful delineation of chasometimes for giving to me information in a com-racter, or enriched them with some exquisite scenes. pendious and lucid form, like a jewel set in the These pieces, however, which affect not the comrich simplicity of gold.

bination of a fable ; but, wrought upon the page of When I speak of Malone as the last of the editors the chronicler or of the elder dramatist, follow the of Shakspeare, I speak, of course, with reference current of events, as it flows on in historic succesto the time at kehich I ara writing, when no later sion, must be made the first subjects of our reeditor has shown himself to the world. But when marks ; and we will then pass to those dramas, I am placed before the awful tribunal of the Public, which are more properly and strictly his own. To a new Editor of our great dramatist will stand by these historical plays, then, whatever may be their my side: who, whilst I can be only a suppliant for original materials, the power of the Poet has compardon, may justly be a candidate for praise. With municated irresistible attraction; not, as Samuel Mr. Sisger, the editor in question, I am personally Johnson would wish us to believe, " by being not unacquainted; and till a period, long subsequent to long soft or pathetic without some idle conceit or my completion of the little task which I had under contemptible equivocation :” not “by checking iaken, I had not seen a line of his Shakspearian and blasting terror and pity, as they are rising in i astrations. But, deeming it right to obtain some the mind, with sudden frigidity,” but by the strongknowledge of the gentleman, who was bound on est exertions of the highest poetry; and by conithe same voyage of adventure, in the same vessel manding, with the royalty of genius, every avenue with myself, I have since read the far greater part to the human heart. For the truth of what we of his commentary on my author ; and it would be assert, we will make our appeal to the frantic and sajust in me not to say, that I have found much in it soul-piercing lamentations of Constance in "King to applaud, and very litttle to censure. Mr. Singer's John ;” to the scene between that monarch and annuarian learning is accurate and extensive : his Hubert; and between Hubert and young Arthur ; critval sagacity is considerable ; and his judgment to the subsequent scene between Hubert and his geaerally approves itself to be correct. He enters murderous sovereign, when the effects of the reon the field with the strength of a giant ; but with ported death of Arthur on the populare are dethe diffidence and the humility of a child. Wescribed, and the murderer quarrels with his agent : sometimes wish, indeed, that his humility had been to the scene, finally, in which the king dies, and less: for he is apt to defer to inferior men, and to which concludes the play. be satisfied with following when he is privileged For the evidence of iħe power of our great Poet to lead. His explanations of his author are fre- we might appeal also to many scenes and descripquently happy; and sometimes they illustrate a tions even in “Richard II. ;” though of all his passage, which had been left in unregarded dark- historical dramas this, perhaps, is the least instinc ness by the commentators who had preceded him. The sole fault of these explanatory notes (if such * This, perhaps, may be affirmed also of “A Mid isdeed can be deemed a fault) is their redundancy ;) summer Night's Dream."



with animation, and the least attractive with dra-1 inimitable effect; and in the minor parts of the exmatic interest.' or “Richard II.” we may say ecution of the drama, there is nothing among all with Mr. Skottowe, that, “ though it is an exquisite the creations of poetry more splendid and terrific poem, it is an indifferent play." But in the drama than the dream of Clarence. But this noble etiort which, in its historic order, succeeds to it, we re- of the tragic power is not altogether faultless. ceive an ample compensation for any failure of the Some of its scenes, as not promoting the action of dramatist in “Richard II.” In every page of “Henry the drama, are supertluous and even tedious; and IV.,” both the serious and the comic, Shakspeare" is the violation of history, for the purpose of introduhimself again;" and our fancy is either elevated cing the deposed queen, Margaret, upon the stage, or amused without the interruption of a single dis- may reasonably be censured. I am not certain, cordant or uncharacteristic sentiment. Worcester, however, that I should be satisfied to resign her on indeed, says,

the requisition of truth. Her curses are thrilling,

and their fulfilment is awful. Shukspeare, as it " And 'tis no little reason bids ug speed

may be remarked, has accumulated uncommitted To save our heads by raising of a head,"

crimes on the head of the devoted Richard. By

the historian, this monarch is cleared of the deaths and is thus guilty of a quibble; an offence of which of Clarence and of Anne, his wife : to the latter of the Prince, on two occasions, shows himself to be whom he is said to have approved himself an affeccapable; once when he sees Falstaff apparently tionate husband; whilst the murder of Clarence dead on the field of Shrewsbury; and once when, is imputed to the intrigues of the relations of his on his accession to the throne, he appoints his sister-in-law, the queen. His hand certainly did father's Chief Justice to a continuance in his high not shed the blood of the pious Henry; and even office: and these, as I believe, are the sole in- his assassination of the two illegitimate sons of his stances of our Poet's dalliance with his Cleopatra, brother, Edwarı, is supported by very questionfor whose love he was content to lose the world, able evidence, for there is reason to think that the throughout the whole of the serious parts of this eldest of these young princes walked at his uncle's long and admirable drama.

coronation; and that the youngest escaped to The succeeding play of “ Henry V.” bears noble meet his death, under the name of Perkin Warbeck, testimony to the poetic and the dramatic supremacy from the hand of the first Tudor. But the scene of of Shakspeare: to the former, more especially in Shakspeare has stamped deeper and more indelible its three fine choruses, one of them serving as the deformity on the memory of the last sovereign of prologue to the play, one opening the third act, and the house of York, than all the sycophants of the one describing the night preceeding the battle of Tudors had been able to impress; or than all that Agincourt: to the latter, in every speech of the the impartiality, and the acute research of the moKing's, and in the far greater part of the remaining dern historian have ever had the power to erase. dialogue, whether it be comic or tragic. “Henry We are certain that Richard possessed a lawful V.," "however, is sullied with some weak and silly title to the throne which he filled: that he was a scenes; and, on the whole, is certainly inferior in wise and patriotic sovereign: that his death was a dramatíc attraction to its illustrious predecessor. calamity to his country, which it surrendered to a But it is a very fine production, and far-far above race of usurpers and tyrants, who trampled on its the reach of any other English writer, who has been liberties, and stained its soil with much innocent devoted to the service of the stage.

and rich blood :-o that cold-blooded murderer Of " Henry VI.," that drum and trumpet thing, as and extortioner, Henry VII.—to that monster of it has happily been called by a man of genius,* who cruelty and lust, his ferocious son : to the sanguiranged himself with the advocates of Shakspeare, I nary and ruthless bigot, Mary: to the despotic and shall not take any notice on the present occasion, unamiable Elizabeth ; the murderess of a suppliant as the three parts of this dramatized history are queen, of kindred blood, who had fled to her for nothing more than three old plays, corrected by the protection. Such was the result of Bosworth's hand of Shakspeare, and here and there illustrious field, preceded, as it was on the stage of Shakwith the fire-drops which fell from his pen. Though speare, by visions of bliss to Richmond, and by we consider them, therefore, as possessing much visions of terror to Richard. But Shakspeare wrote attraction, and as disclosing Shakspeare in their with all the prejudices of a partisan of the Tudors; outbreaks of fine writing, and in their strong cha- and at a time also when it was still expedient to racteristic portriature, we shall now pass them by to tatter that detestable family. proceed without delay to their dramatic successor, His next task was one of yet greater difficulty:« Richard III." Of “Richard IL," fine as it oc- to smooth down the rugged features of the eighth casionally is in poetry, and rich in sentiment and Henry, and to plant a wreath on the brutal and pathos, we have remarked that, with reference to blood-stained brow of the odious father of Elizathe other productions of its great author, it was low beth. This task he has admirably executed, and in the scale of merit. In “Richard II.” he found without offering much violation to the truth of hisan insufficient and an unawakening subject for history. He has judiciously limited his scene to that genius, and it acted drowsily, and as if it were half period of the tyrant's reign in which the more disasleep: but in the third Richard there was abun- gusting deformities of his character had not yet dant excitement for all its powers; and the victim been revealed to the death of Catharine, the fall of Tudor malignity and calumny rushes from the of Wolsey, and the birth of Elizabeth: and the scene of our mighty dramatist in all the black effi- crowned savage appears to us only as the generous, ciency of the demoniac tyrani. Besides Sir Tho- the munificent, the magnanimous monarch, striking mas More's history of Richard of Glosier, our Poet down the proud, and supporting with a strong arm had the assistance, as it seems, of a play upon the the humble and the oppressed. But the whole same subject, which had been popular before he pathos and power of the scene are devoted to Cabegan his career upon the stage. Adhering ser-tharine and Wolsey. On these two characters the vilcly neither to the historian nor to the old drama-dramatist has expended all his force; and our pity tist, Shakspeare contented himself with selecting is inseparably attached to them to the last moment from each of them such parts as were suited to his of their lives. They expire, indeed, bedewed with purpose; and with the materials thus obtained, our tears. Of this, the lasi of Shakspeare's dracompounded with others supplied by his own inven- matic histories, it may be remarked that it is writtion, he has produced a drama, which cannot be ten in a style different from that of its predecesread in the closet, or seen in its representation on sors: that it is less interspersed with comic scenes ; the stage without the strongest agitation of the that in its serious parts its diction is more stately mind. The character of Richard is drawn with and formal; more elevated and figurative : that its

figures are longer and more consistently sustained : * The late Mr. Maurice Morgann; who wrote an that it is more rich in theatric exhibition, or in the cloquent essay on the dramatic character of Falstaff. spectacle, as Aristotle calls it, and by whom it is

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6 facies non omnibus una; regarded as a component part of the drama. To

Nec diversa tamen." any attentive reader these distinguishing characters of the dramatic liistory of Henry Vill. must be To illustrate what I mean, let us contemplate satăciently obvious; and we can only wonder that Portia,. Desdemona, Imogea, Rosalind, Beatrice, the same mind should produce such fine pieces as Cordelia, and Ophelia. They are equally amiable those of “ Henry IV.," " Richard III.,” and and affectionate women ; equally faithful and at* Henry VIII.," each written with a pen appropri- tached as wives, as friends, as daughters : two of ale to itself, and the last with a pen not employed them, also, are noted for the poignancy and sparkle in any other instance,

of their wit: and yet can it be said that any one of If we were to pause in this stage of our progress, them can be mistaken for the other; or that a single we might confidently affirm that we had suggested speech can with propriety be transferred from the in the minds of our readers such a mass of poetic lips of her to whom it has been assigned by her and dramatic genius as would be sufficient to excite dramatic creator ? They are all known to us as the the general interest of an intellectual and literary children of one family, with a general resemblance, people. But we are yet only in the vestibule which and an individual discrimination. Benedict and opens into the magnificence of the palace, where Mercutio are both young men of high birth; of Shakspeare is seated on the throne of his great- known valour; of playful wit, delighting itself in

The plays, which we have hitherto been pleasantry and frolic: yet are they not distinguished considering, are constructed, for the most part, beyond the possibility of their being confounded ? with materials not his own, supplied either by the So intimately conversant is our great dramatist ancient chronicler, or by some preceding drama- with the varieties of human nature, that he scatters tist; and are wrought up without any reference to character, as a king on his accession scatters gold, that essential portion of a drama, a plot or fable. among the populace; and there is not one, perhaps, But when he is disengaged from the incumbrances of his subordinate agents, who has not his peculiar to which he had submitted in his histories, he as- features and a complexion of his own. So mighty sumes the full character of the more perfect dra- is our Poet as a dramatic creator, that characters malist; and discovers that art, for which, equally of the most opposite description are thrown in equal with the powers of his imagination, he was cele- perfection and with equal facility from his hand. brated by Ben Jonson. In some of his plays, in- The executive decision of Richard; the meditative deed, we acknowledge the looseness with which his inefficiency of Hamlet; the melancholy of Jaques, Cable is combined, and the careless hurry with which which draws subjects of moral reflection from every he accelerates its close : but in the greater triumphs object around him; and the hilarity of Mercutio, of his genius, we find the fable artificially planned which forsakes him not in the very act of dying i and solidly constructed. In “ The Merchant of the great soul of Macbeth, maddened and bursting Venice,” in “Romeo and Juliet,” in “Lear,” in under accumulated guilt; and “the unimitated and “Othello," and, above all, in that intellectual won- inimitable Falstaff," (as he is called by S. Johnson, der, “ The Tempest,” we may observe the fable in the single outbreak of enthusiasm extorted from managed with the hand of a master, and contribu- him by the wonders of Shakspeare's page) revellting its effect, with the characters and the dialogue, ing in the tavern at Eastcheap, or jesting on the to amuse, to agitate, or to surprise. In that beau- field of Shrewsbury, are all the creatures of one tiful pastoral drama, “ As You Like It,” the sudden plastic intellect, and are absolute and entire in their disappearance of old Adam from the scene has kind. Malignity and revenge constitute the founbeen a subject of regret to more than one of the dation on which are constructed the two very dissicommentators: and Samuel Johnson wishes that milar characters of Shylock and lago. But there the dialogue between the hermit, as he calls him, is something terrific and even awful in the inexoraand the usurping duke, the result of which was the bility of the Jew, whilst there is nothing but meanconversion of the latter, had not been omitted on ness in the artífices of the Venetian standardthe stage. But old Adam had fulfilled the purposes bearer. They are both men of vigorous and acute of his dramatic existence, and it was, therefore, understandings : we hate them both ; but our haproperly closed. He had discovered his honest at- tred of the former is mingled with involuntary reiachment to his young master, and had experienced spect; of the latter our detestation is made more his young master's gratitude. He was brought into intensely strong by its association with contempt. a place of safety ; and his fortunes were now In his representation of madness, Shakspeare blended with those of the princely exiles of the must be regarded as inimitably excellent; and the forest. There was no further part for him to act; picture of this last degradation of humanity, with and he passed naturally from the stage, no longer nature always for his model, is diversified by him the object of our hopes or our fears. On the sub- at his pleasure. Even over the wreck of the human ject of S. Johnson's wish respecting the dialogue mind he throws the variegated robe of character. between the old religious man and the guilty duke, How different is the genuine insanity of Lear from we may shortly remark, that nothing could bave the assumed insanity of Edgar, with which it is been more undramatic than the intervention of such immediately confronied; and how distinct, again, a scene of dry and didactic morality, at such a are both of these from the disorder which prevails crisis of the drama, when the minds of the audi- in the brain of the lost and the tender Ophelia. ence were heated, and hurrying to its approaching In one illustrious effort of his dramatic power, clase. Like Felix in the sacred history, the royal our Poet has had the confidence to produce two criminal might have trembled at the lecture of ihe delineations of the same perversion of the human holy man: but the audience, probably, would have heart, and to present them, at once similar and disbeen irritated or asleep. No! Shakspeare was similar, to the examination of our wondering eyes. not so ignorant of his art as to require to be in- In Timon and Apemantus is exhibited the same destructed in it by the author of Irene.

formity of misanthropy: but in the former it springs But it was in the portraiture of the human mind: from the corruption of a noble mind, stricken and in the specific delineation of intellectual and moral laid prostrate by the ingratitude of his species : in man, that the genius of Shakspeare was pre-emi- the latter, it is a noisome weed, germinating from a pently conspicuous. The curious inquisition of his bitter root, and cherished by perverse cultivation eye into the characters, which were passing beneath into branching malignity, In each of them, as the its glance, cannot be made too much the subject vice has a different parentage, so has it a diversified of our admiration and wonder. He saw them not aspect. only under their broad distinctions, when they be- With such an intimacy with all the fine and subcame obvious to the common observer; but he tle workings of Nature in her action on the human beheld them in their nicer tints and shadings, by heart, it is not wonderful that our great dramatist which they are diversified, though the tone of their should possess an absolute control over the pasgeneral colouring may bo the same.

sions; and should be able to unlock the cell of each

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of them as the impulse of his fancy may direct. I the loftiest aspirations of the human ound in the When we follow Macbeth to the chainber of Dun- ages which are yet to crime. The great Milton's can: when we stand with him by the enchanted imagination alone can be placed in competition caldron; or see him, under the infliction of con- with that of Shakspeare; and even Milton's mat science, glaring at the spectre of the bloodl-boltered yield the palm to that which is displayed in “ A Banquo in the possession of the royal chair, horror Midsummer Night's Dream," and in iho almost is by our side, thrilling in our veins, and bristling in divine “ Tempest.” our hair. When we attend the Danish prince to But having sporied a whilo with the fairies, his midaight conference with the shade of his murdered father, and hear the inefiable accents of the

"ar on the sands with printless seet dead, willing, but prohibited, “ to tell the secrets of

They chase the ebling Vefuune," his prison-house," we are appalled, and our facu!ties are suspended in terror. When we see the faithful and i he lovely Juliet awaking in the house of darkness and corruption with the corpse of her

" in the spicel Indian air,

They dance their ringlets to the whistling wind," husband on her bosom: when we behold the innocent Desdemona dying by the hand, io which she the michty Poet turns from their bowers,“ was the most fondly aitached; and charging on canopied with luscious woodbine," and plants us herself, with her latest breath, the guilt of ber mur- on "the blasted heath,” trodden by the weird sisderer: when we witness the wretchedness of Lear, ters, the Fates of the north ; or leads us to the coatending with the midnight storm, and strewing dreadful cave, where they are preparing their inhis white locks on the blast; or carrying in his fernal caldron, and singing round it ihc incantations withered arms the body of his Cordelia murdered of hell. What a change, from all that is fascinain his cause, is it possible that the tear of pity ting, to all that is the most appalling to the fancy; should not start from our eyes and trickle down our and yet each of these scenes is the product of the cheeks? In the forest of Arden, as we ramble with same astonishing intellect, delighting at one time its accidental inmates, our spirits are soothed into to lull us on beds of roses, with the spirit of Orcheerfulness, and are, occasionally, elevated into pheus, and at another to curdle our blood by throwgaiety. In the tavern at Eastcheap, with the witty ing at' us the viper lock of Alecto. But to show and debauched knight, we mect with “ Laughter his supreme command of the super-human world, holding both his sides ;” and we surrender our- our royal Poet touches the sepulchre with his maselves, willingly and delighted, to the inebriation of sic rod, and the sepulchre opens “iis pond'rous his intuence. We could dwell for a long summer's and marble jaws,” and gives its dead to "revisit day amid the fertility of these charming topics, if the glimpses of the moon.” The belief that the we were not called from them to a higher region of dead, on some awful occasions, were permitted to poetic enjoyment, possessed by the genius of Shak- assume the semblance of those bodies, in which speare alone, where he reigns sole lord, and they had walked upon earth ; or that the world of where his subjects are the wondrous progeny of his spirits was sometimes disclosed to the eye of morown creative imagination. From whatever quarter tality, has prevailed in every age of mankind, in of the world, eastern or northern, England may the most enlightened as well as in the most dark. have originally derived her elves and her fairies, When philosophy had attained its widest extent of Shakspeare undoubtedly formed these little beings, power, and had enlarged and refined the intellect, as they futter in his scenes, from an idea of his not only of its parent Greece, but of its pupil own; and they came from his hand, beneficent and Rome, å spectre'is recorded to have shaken the friendly to man; immortal and invulnerable ; of firmness of Dion, the scholar and the friend of such corporeal minuteness as to lie in the bell of a Plato; and another to have assayed the constancy cowslip; and yet of such power as to disorder the of the philosophic and the virtuous Brutus. In the seasons; as

superstitious age of our Elizabeth and of her Scoi

tish successor, the belief in the existence of ghosts « to bedim

and apparitions was nearly universal ; and when The noontide sun; call forth the mutinous winds:

Shakspeare produced upon his stage the shade of And 'twixt the green sea and the azured vault,

the Danish sovereign, there was not, perhaps, a Set roaring war."

heart, amid the crowded audience, which did not To this little ethereal people our Poet has assigned palpitate with fear. But in any age, however little manners and occupations in perfect consistency tainted it might be with superstitious credulity, with their nature ; and has sent them forth, in the would the ghost of royal Denmark excite an agitarichest array of fancy, to gambol before us, lo asto- ting interest, wiih such awful solemnity is he inironish and delight us. They resemble nothing upon duced, so sublimely terrible is his tale of woe, and carth : but if they could exist with man, they would such are the effects of his appearance on the peract and speak as they act and speak, with the inspi- sons of the drama, who are its immediate witration of our Poet, in “ The Tempest," and "A nesses. We catch, indeed, the terrors of Horatio Midsummer Night's Dream.” In contrast with his and the young prince; and if the illusion be not Ariel, “a spirit too delicate," as the servant of a

so strong as to seize in the first instance on our own witch, “ to act her earthy and abhorred com- minds, it acts on them in its result from theirs. mands:” but ready, under the control of his philo- The melancholy, which previously preyed on the sophic master,

spirits of the youthful Hamlet, was certainly heightened into insanity by this ghostly conference; and

from this dreadful moment his madness is partly “ To answer his best pleasure, be it to ny, To swim ; to dive into the fire; to ride

assumed, and partly unaffected. It is certain that On the curl'd clouds;"

no spectre, ever brought upon the stage, can be

compared with this phantom, created by the in contrast with this aerial being, the imagination of Shakspeare. The apparition of the host, in of Shakspeare has formed a monster, the ofspring “ The Lover's Progress," by Fletcher, is too conof a hag and a demon; and has introduced him temptible to be mentioned on this occasion: the into the scene with a mind and a character appro- spirit of Almanzor's mother, in “ The Conquest of priately and strictly his own. As the drama, into Granada,” by Dryden, is not of a higher class; and which are introduced these two beings, beyond the even the ghost of Darius, in “The Persians," of action of Nature, as it is discoverable on this earth, the mighty and sublime Æschylus,shrinks into insigone of them rising above, and one sinking beneath nificance before this of the murdered Majesty of the level of hunianity, may be received as the Denmark. For his success, indeed, in this instance, proudest evidence, which has hitherto been pro- Shakspeare is greatly indebted to the superior awduced, of the extent and vigour of man's imagina- fulness of his religion ; and the use which he has Lion; so it bids fair to stand unrivalled amid all made of the Romish purgatory must be regarded as

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supremely felicitous. When the imagination of instrument. The stream of passion, like a stream Shakspeare sported without control and these of electricity, rushes from the actor to us, and we creations of its own, it unquestionably lifted him are as unable as we are unwilling to resist'it. Now high above any competition. As he plays with the it is this feeling, which constitutes the poetic pirofaires in their bussers of eglantine and woodbine ; bability of what we see and hear, and which may ce directs the operations in the magic cave; or calls be violated by an injudicious and lawless shifting of the dead man from the "cold obstruction” of the the scene. If our passions be interested by an tomb, “s to make night hideous," he mav challenge action passing at a place called Rome, i innst the prets of every age, from that of Homer to the shock and chill them to have our attentions hurried present, and be fearless of the event. But either suddenly, without any reason for the discontinuance from his ignorance of them, which is not easily cre- of the action, to a place called Alexandria, separadible, or from his disregard to them, or rather, per- ted by the intervention of a thousand miles, Let haps, froin his desire to escape from their yoke, he us suppose, then, that in the fulness of the scenic violates without remorse the dramatic unities of excitement, a friend at our elbow, with the impastime and place, contenting himself to preserve the sible fibre of a Johnson, were to shake us and to uthiy of action or design, without which, indeed, say, “What! are you mad? Know you not whero noihing worthy of the name of composition can you are? in Drury Lane theatre ? within a few Exist. And who steps forward, in this instance of hundred yards of your own chambers in Lincoln's his licentious liberiy, as the clampion of Shak- Inn, and neither ai Rome nor at Alexandria ? and speare, but that very critic who brings such charges perceive you not that the old man whom you see against him as a poet and a dramatist, that, if they there on his knee, with his hands clenched, and his were capable of being substantiated, would overturn eyes raised in imprecation to heaven, is our old him from his lofty pedestal; and would prove tho friend, Garrick, who is reciting with much propriety objeci of our homige, during two centuries, to be a j some verses made by a inan, long since in his Strle deformed image, which we had with the most grave? Yes! Garrick, with whom you conversed sily idviatry mistaken for a god? But Johnson's not many hours ago; and who, a few hours hence, defence of Shakspeare seems to be as weak as his will be talking with his friends, over a comfortablo attack; though in either case the want of power in supper, of the effects of bis present mimickry ?" the warrior is concealed under the glare of his If we should be thus addressed, (and a sudden shift. ostentatioils arms. It is unquestionable that, since ing of the scene may produce an equal dissipation the days of the patrician of Argos, recorded by of the illusion which delights us,) should we be Hracé, * who would sit for hours in the vacant thankful to our wise friend for thus informing our theatre, and give his applause to actors who were understanding by the interruption of our feelings ? not there, no man, unattended by a keeper, ever Should we not rather exclaim with the Argive nok!o mistook the wooden and narrow platform of a stage of Horace, when purged by helleboro into his senses, for the fields of Philippi or Agincourt; or the painted canvass, shifting under his cye, for the palace of the

" Pol me occidistiPtolemies or the Cesars; or the walk, which had

cui sic extorta voluptas brought him from his own house to the theatre, for

Et demptus per vim mentis gratissimus error.'' a voyage across the Mediterranean to Alexandria ; or the men and women, with whom he had probably tion, established as an unquestionable truth in om

With the illusion of the poetic or dramatic imita canversed in the common intercourse of life, for old minds, let us now turn and consider

the dramatic Romans and Grecians. Such a power of illusion, unities in their origin and effect. The unity of quie incompatible with any degree of sanity of action, indeed, may be thrown altogether from our mind, has never been challenged by any critic, as notice'; for, universally acknowledged to be essenattached to poetry and the stage ; and it is adduced, tially necessary to the drama, and constituting what in his accustomed style of argument, by Johnson, may be called its living principle, it has escaped only for the purpose of confounding his adversaries from violation even by our lawless Poet himself. with absurdity, or of balling then with ridicule. The drama, as we know, in Greece, derived its oriBut there is a power of illusion, belonging to ge- gin from the choral odes, which were sung at certain nuine poetry, which, withont overthrowing the rea

seasons before the altar of Bacchus. To these, in son, can seize upon the imagination, and make it the first instance, was added a dialogue of two persubservient to its purposes. This is asserted by sons; and, the number of speakers being subseHorace in that often cited passage :

quently increased, a regular dramatic fable was, at "Ille par ertantum finem mihi posae videtur

length, constructed, and the dialogue usurped tho Ire porta, menghitus inaniter angit,

prime honours of the performance. But the chorus, Irritat, mulcet felis ierroribus implet

though degraded, could not be expelled from the Ut kagus; ti indo me Thebis inodo ponit Athenis." scene, which was once entirely its own; and, con

secrated by the regard of the people, it was forced Assisted hy the scenery, the dresses of the actors, upon the acceptance of the dramatist, to act with it and their fine adaptation of the voice and counte- in the best manner that he could. It was stationed, nance to the desin of the poet, this illusion becomes therefore, permanently on the stage, and made to so strong as intimately to blend us with the fictitious occupy its place with ihe agents who were to conpersonages whom we see before us. We know, duct the action of the fable. From the circumstance indeed, that we are seated upon benches, and are of its being stationary on the stage, it secured the Speriators only of a poetic fiction : but the power, strict observance of the unity of place: for with a which mingles us with the agents upon the stage, is stage, which was never vacant, and consequently of such a nature that we feel, as it were, one inter- with only one scene, the Grecian dramatist could est with them: we resent the injuries which they not remove his agents whithersoever he pleased, in sufar, we rejoice at the good fortune which berides accommodation to his immediate convenience; but themi thc pulses of our hearts beat in harmony on the spot, where the scene opened, he was conwith theirs; and as the tear goshes from their eyes, strained to retain them till the action of the drama it swells and overdows in ours. To account for was closed, and what could not consistently bo this influence of poetic imitation, for this contagion acted was necessarily consigned to narration. This of represented passion belongs to the metaphysi- was a heavy servitude to the dramatist; but it had cian, the sole business of the critic is to remark its compensations in uninterrupted feeling, and in and to reason from the fact. It is unquestionable the greater conservation of probability. To tho that our imaginations are, to a certain extent, under unity of time, as time is more pliant to the imagithe control of authentic poetry, and especially of nation than place, the Grecian dramatist seems to that poetry which employs the scenic imitation for its have paid little if any regard. In the Agamemnon

of Æschylus, the fire signals have only just anFuit haud ignobilis Argis, &c. Epis. lib. ii. Ep. nounced to Mycene the fall of Troy, when the İL. I. 128.

herald arrives with the tidings of the victorious


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