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Thus, from the mutual working of conflicting interests and emotions, from their various powers of coalescence and repulsion, the characters of Shakspeare are, like those in real life, evolved with an energy and strength, with a freedom and boldness of outline which will, probably for ever, stamp them with the seal of unapproachable excellence.

Nor is he less distinguished for an illimitable sway over the Passions:

“ To move

A chilling pity-
To strike both joy and ire;-
To steer the affections; and by heavenly fire
Mould us anew,-
Yet so to temper passion, that our ears
Take pleasure in their pain, and eyes in tears

Boch weep and smile"are some of the noblest attributes of the dramatic poet, and more peculiarly characteristic of Shakspeare than of any other writer. The birth and progress of the numerous passions which awaken pity and terror, he has unfolded, indeed, with such minute fidelity to nature, that it is scarcely possible, as Madame De Staël has observed, to sympathise thoroughly with Shakspeare's sullerers, without tasting also of the bitter experience of real life.

The pathos of Shakspeare is either simple or figurative, in accordancy with the character, and in proportion to the intensity of the feeling, from which it emanates. The sigh of suffering merit, or the pang of unrequited love, affects us most when clothed in the language of perfect simplicity; but the energy, the paroxysm of extreme sorrow, naturally bursts into figurative language, nay often demands that very play of imagery and words, for which our bard has been ignorantly condemned, but which, like laughter amid the horrors of madness, can alone impress us with an adequately keen sense of the overwhelming agony of the soul. Of these two modes of exciting pity, we possess very striking examples in the sullerings of katherine in Henry the Eighth, and in the parental alllictions of Constance in king Jobn.

The excitement, indeed, of unallayed pity must necessarily either be very short, or very painful, and it has therefore been the endeavour of our dramatist, according to the language of the fine old bard just quoted,

“ so to temper passion, that our ears

Take pleasure in their pain; " and this he has effected, and often with great skill and judgment, by a transient intermixture of playsul fancy or comic allusion, of which, instances without number are to be found dispersed throughout his plays.

Yet great as we acknowledge the influence of Shakspeare to have been, in eliciting the tears of pity and compassion, he has surpassed, not only others but himself, in the power and extent of his dominion over the sources and operation of terror. “It may be said of crimes painted by Shakspeare," remarks an accomplished critic, * as the Bible says of Death, that he is the king of TERBORS;” . an assertion fully warranted by an appeal to Richard, to Lear, to Hamlet, to Macbeth, where this soul-harrowing emotion, as derived from natural or supernatural causes, from remorseless cruelty, from phrenzy-stricken sorrow, from conscious guilt or withering fear, is depicted with an energy so awsul and appalling as to blanch the cheek and chill the blood of every intellectual being. More especially do we pursue his creations with trembling hope and breathless apprehension, when he traces the wanderings of despair, when he presents to our view that “shipwreck of moral nature,” in which “ the storm of lise surpasses its strength." +

"The Influence of Literature upon Society,” by Madame De Stael-Holstein, vol. i. p. 294. Trans alon, 24. edit 1812.

Ibid. p. 305.

The scenes which are necessarily required for the development of villany and its artifices, must, of course, disclose many deeds of atrocity and vice, from which the unpolluted mind recoils with shuddering astonishment; but vividly, and justly too, as these have been portrayed by our poet, in all their native deformity, he has, with only one or two exceptions, so managed the exhibition, that, unless to very feeble minds, the impression never becomes too painful to be borne. Some qualifying property in the head or heart of the offender, or some repose from the intervention of more amiable or more cheerful characters, occurs to subdue to its proper tone what would otherwise amount to torture. Thus the disgust which would be apt to arise from contemplating the gigantic iniquity of Richard the Third, is corrected by an almost involuntary admiration of his intellectual vigour; and the merciless revenge of Shylock, being perpetually brobro in upon by the alleviating harmonies of love and pity in the characters of those who surround him, passes not beyond the due limits of tragic emotion.

The inimitable felicity, indeed, with which Shakspeare has intermingled the finest chords of pity and of terror, such as we listen to, with unsated rapture in his Romeo, his Lear, and his Othello, has been a subject of eulogium to thousands, but never can it meet, from mortal tongue, with praise of corresponding worth. For who shall paint the beauty of those transitions, when on a night of horror breaks the first bright ray of heaven, the dawn of light and hope; when, like the sounds of an Æolian harp amid the pauses of a tempest, the still soft voice of love succeeds the tumult of despair, and whispers to the troubled spirit accents of mercy, peace, and pardon ?

It is perhaps only of Shakspeare that it can be said with truth, that his comic possesses the same unrivalled merit as his tragic drama. The force and versatility of his painting in this department, its richness, its depth, and its expression, and, more than all, the originality and secundity of invention which it everywhere exhibits, astonish, and almost overwhelm the mind in its endeavour lo form an estimate of powers so gigantic, and which may not be altogether incommensurate with its scope and comprehensiveness. Whether we consider his delineations of this kind as the product of pure fiction, or sounded on the costume of his age, they alike delight us by their novelty and their adhesion to nature. Falstaff and Parolles are, in many respects, as much the birth of fancy as Caliban or Ariel; but being strictly confined within the pale of humanity, and displaying all its features with living truth and distinctness, the inventive felicity of their combination is apt to escape us through our familiarity with its component parts. His Fools, or Clowns, on the contrary, were, in his time, of daily occurrence, and not only to be found in the court of the monarch, and the castle of the baron, but in the hall of the squire, and even beneath the roof of the churchman; yet, from comparing what history has recorded of this motley tribe with the spirited sketches of our author, how has he heightened their wit and sarcasm !-to such a degree, indeed, that they have frequently become in his hands personages of poetic growth, wild and grotesque, it is true, yet powerfully original.

This pre-eminence of Shakspeare in the characterisation of his fools probally led to their dramatic extinction; for it must have been found very difficuli to support their tone and spirit after such a model. Beaumont and Fletcher, it has been observed, have but rarely introduced them; Ben Jonson and Massinger never; and yet the court-fool had not ceased to exist in the reign of Charles the First, nor the domestic until the commencement of the eighteenth century. '

Another of the great distinctions which have elevated Shakspeare so completely above the dramatic class of poets, is the splendour and infinity of his imagination

p. 308.

Of court-fools, it is observed by Mr. Douce, that “Muckle John, the fool of Charles the First, and the successor of Archee Armstrong, is perhaps the last regular personage of the kind.”—Illustrations, vol. i.

We also find an epitaph by Dean Swift, on Dicky Pierce, the Earl of Suffolk's fool, who was buried in Berkeley church-yard, June 18, 17:28, in the same ingenious essay.

“ To out-run hasty time, retrieve the fates,

Roll back the heavens, blow ope the iron gates
Of death and Lethe--by art to learn
The physiognomy of shades, and give
Them sudden birth—' and from his' lofty throne,
Create and rule a world, and work upon

Mankind by secret engines,” was deemed, even by his contemporaries, the peculiar destiny of our bard; a destination that has been still more thoroughly felt and acknowledged by succeeding ages, and by which, without sacrificing any of the more legitimate provinces of the drama, he has acquired for his poetry that stamp of glowing inspiration, which more than places it on a level with the daring slights of Homer, of Dante, or of Milton; while, at the same time, there exclusively belongs to him an insinuating loveliness of fancy that endears him to our feelings, and brings with it a recognition of that visionary happiness which charmed our earliest youth, when all around us breathed enchantment, and the heart alone responded to the fairy melodies of love and hope.

What contrast, for instance, of poetic power has ever exceeded that which we experience in passing from the mysterious horrors of Hamlet and Macbeth, from the visitations of the midnight spectre, and the unhallowed rites of witchcrast, to the sportive revelry of the tripping elves, and the exquisite delights of Ariel; from the fiend-like character of Iago, from the soul-harrowing distraction of Lear, and the unearthly wildness of Edgar, to that music of paradise which falls melting from the tongue of Juliet or Miranda!

Were we to lengthen this summary by any dissertation on the morality of our author's drama, it might justly be considered as a work of supererogation. So completely, indeed, does this, the most valuable result of composition, pervade every portion of his dramatic writings, that we can scarcely open a page of bis best plays without being forcibly struck by its lessons of virtue and utility; such as are applicable, not only to extraordinary occasions, but to the common business and routine of life; and such as, while they must make every individual better acquainted with his own nature and conditional destiny, are calculated, beyond any other productions of unrevealed wisdom, to improve that nature, and to render that destiny more happy and exalted.

Still less it is necessary to comment on the faults of Shakspeare, for they lie immediately on the surface. When we add, that some coarsenesses and indeliracies which, however, as they excite no passion and flatter no vice, are, in a moral light, not injurious; some instances of an injudicious play on words, and a few violations, not of essential, but merely of technical, costume, form their chief amount, no little surprise, it is possible, may be excited; but let us recollect, that many of the defects which prejudice and ignorance have attributed to Shakspeare, bave, on being duly weighed and investigated, assumed the character of positive excellencies. Among these, for example, it will be suflicient to mention the composite or mixed nature of his drama, and his general neglect of the unities of time and place, features in the conduct of his plays which, though they have for a ong period heaped upon his head a torrent of contemptuous abuse, are, at length, Ichnowledged to have laid the foundation, and to have furnished the noblest model fa dramatic literature, in its principles and spirit infinitely more profound and comprehensive than that which has descended to us from the shores of Greece.

It was in reference to the narrow and mistaken views which were once enterained of the genius of Shakspeare; it was in refutation of the calumnies of viner, and the senseless invective of Voltaire, who had charged us with an exravagant admiration of this barbarian, that Mr. Morgan, forty years ago, stood orward the avowed champion, and, we may add, one of the most eloquent defenlers which his country has yet produced, of England's calumniated Bard.

Speaking of the magic influence which our poet almost invariably exerts over is auditors, he remarks, that

“On such an occasion, a fellow, like Rymer, waking from his trance, shall lift up bis Consiable's staff, and charge this great Magician, this daring practiser of arts inhibited, in the name of Aristotle, to surrender; whilst Aristotle himself, disowning bis wretched officer, would fall prostrate at his feet and acknowledge bis supremacy.- - O supreme of Dramalic excellence! (Inigbt be say) not to me be imputed the insolence of fools. The bards of Greece were confined wilbin the narrow circle of the Chorus, and hence they found themselves constrained to practise, for the most part, the precision, and copy the details of nature. I followed them, and knew not that a larger circle might be drawn, and the drama extended 10 the whole reach of human genius. Convinced, I see that a more compendious nature may be obtained ; a nature of effects only, lo which Deiber the relations of place, or continuity of lime, are always essential. Nature, condescending to the facullies and apprehensions of man, has drawn through human life a regular chain of visible causes and effects : but Poelry delights in surprize, conceals her steps, seizes at once upon the heart, and oblains the sublime of things without belraying the rounds of her ascent. True Poesy is magic, not nature: an effect from causes bidden or unknown. To the Magician I prescribed no laws ; his law and his power are one; his power is his law.- If his end is oblaided, who shall question bis course ? Means, whether apparent or hidden, are justified in l'oesy by success; but then most perfect and most admirable when most concealed.'-.

• Yes,' whatever may be the neglect of some, or the censure of others, there are those, - be firmly believe that this wild, this uncultivated Barbarian has not yet obtained one half of his fame; and who trust that some new Slagyrite will arise, who, instead of pecking at the surface of thins, will enter into the inward soul of his compositions, and expel, by the force of congenial feelins, lbose foreign impurities which have stained and disgraced his page. And as to those spols bich still remain, they may perhaps become invisible to those who shall seek them thro' the medium el his beauties, instead of looking for those beauties, as is loo frequently done, thro’ ibe smoke of some real or impuled obscurity. When the hand of time shall have brushed off his present Editors and Commentators, and when the very name of Voltaire, and even the memory of the language ia which he has wrillen, shall be no more, the Apalachian mounlains, the banks of the Ohio, and the plains of Sciola shall resound with the accents of this Barbarian. In his native tongue he sball roll the genuine passions of nature ; nor shall the griefs of Lear be alleviated, or the charus and wit of Rosalind be abated by lime." *

Since this eloquently prophetic passage was written, how has the fame of Shakspeare increased! Not only in England has the growth of a more enlighteoed criticism operated in his favour, but on the Continent an enthusiasm for his genius has been kindled, which, we may venture to say, will never be extinguished. In Germany, the efforts of Herder, of Goethe, of Tiech, and, above all, of Augustus William Schlegel, the “new Stagyrite,” as he may justly be termed, the best critic on, and the best translator, of our author, have, as it were, naturalised the poet; and is in France the labours of Lemercier and Ducis have failed to produce a similar cllect, yet a taste for Shakspeare in the original has been very powerfully heightened by the nervous and elegant compositions of De Staël.

Nor has Europe alone borne testimony to the progress of his reputation; not twenty years had passed over the glowing predictions of Morgan, when the first transatlantic edition of Shakspeare appeared at Philadelphia;# nor is it too much to believe that, ere another century elapse, the plains of Northern America, and even the unexplored wilds of Australasia, shall be as familiar with the fictions of our poet, as are now the vallies of his native Avon, or the statelier banks of the Thames.

It is, indeed, a most delightful consideration for every lover and cultivator of our literature, and one which should excite, amongst our authors, an increased spirit of emulation, that the language in which they write, is destined to be that of so large a portion of the new world; a field of glory to which the genius of Shakspeare will assuredly give an unperishable permanency; for the diffusion and durability of his fame are likely to meet with no limit, save that which circumscribes the globe, and closes the existence of time.

Essay on the Dramatic Character of Falstaff, p. 69, 70, 71, and 64, 65. † For just and discriminative characters of Schlegel and his writings, see the Germany of Madame De Stael, and the Monthly and Edinburgh Reviews.

# In the year 1795. Printed and sold by Bioren and Madan.

CHAPTER XIII.

A Brief View of Dramatic Poetry, and its Cultivators, during Shakspeare's Connection with the

Stage.

That the master-spirit which Shakspeare exhibited in the eyes of his contemporaries; that the great improvements which he had made on the drama of Peele and Marlowe, and their associates, should excite the wonder and call for the emulation of his age, were events naturally to be expected. He was accordingly the founder of a school of dramatic art which continued to flourish until extinguished by those convulsions that destroyed the monarchi, and overturned the government of the country,-a school to which we have since had nothing similar, or even approximating in excellence.

The fate, however, of the leader and his disciples has been widely different. During the life-time of Shakspeare, the spirit of competition forbade an open achnowledgment of his pre-eminence, and those who liad run the race of glory with him, and outlived his day, had influence sullicient, either from personal interest, or the charm of novelty, to procure a more frequent representation of their own productions, however inferior, than of those of their departed luminary. But when the grave had closed alike on their great exemplar and on themselves, apart, indeed, was their allotment in the estimation of the living; for while the former sprang from the tomb with fresh energy and beauty, over the latter dropped, comparatively, the mantle of oblivion! Yet, not for ever!

Though lost, for a time, in the cllulgence of that lustre which has continued to brighten ever since its revivescence, they have nevertheless, through an intrinsic though more subdued brilliancy of their own, begun, at length, to cierge into day, and their demand upon the justice of criticism, for their station and their fame, is loud and imperative.

Let us, therefore, as far as our brief limits will permit, and in furtherance of what has been so judiciously commenced, co-operate in the endeavour to apportion to these immediate successors of our matchless bard, the honour due to their exertions. Il correctly attributed, it cannot be trilling, and may assist in forming a just potion of the most valuable period of our dramatic poesy.

We shall commence with those who, in their own age, were deemed the rival and followed, indeed, fast upon the footsteps of Shakspeare, hesitating not to give priority of notice to the name of Jolin Fletcher, who, ihough hitherto inseparably united in fame and publication with his friend Francis Beaumont, deserves, both from the comparative number and value of his pieces, a separate and exclusive consideration.

of the filty-three plays which have been ascribed to these poetical friends, it appears that not more than nine or ten were the joint productions of Beaumont and Fletcher; in still fewer was he assisted by Massinger, Rowley, and Field, and the ample residue, independent of two pieces now lost, and known to have been his sole composition, was therefore the entire product of Fletcher's genius.* With this curious fact, we were first made acquainted by Sir Aston Cokain, who, speaking of the thirty-four plays of these poets, as published in the folio of 1647, informs us, that

" Beaumont of those many writ in few;
And Massinger in other few : ibe main
Being sole issues of sweet Fletcher's brain." +

• Vide Malone's Dryden, vol i. part ii. p. 101.
+ Verses addressed to Mr. Humphrey Mosely, published in his Poems, Epigrams, &c. 1656.

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