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pulsiveness of the story is what gives it its critical interest; for it is a studiously prosaic statement of facts, and naked declara tion of passions. It was not the least of Shakspeare's praise, that he never tampered with unfair subjects. His genius was above it; his taste kept aloof from it. I do not deny the power of simple painting and polished style in this tragedy in general, and of a great deal more in some few of the scenes, particularly in the quarrel between Annabella and her husband, which is wrought up to a pitch of demoniac scorn and phrensy with con. summate art and knowledge; but I do not find much other power in the author (generally speaking) than that of playing with edged tools, and knowing the use of poisoned weapons. And what confirms me in this opinion is the comparative inefficiency of his other plays. Except the last scene of “The Broken Heart' (which I think extravagant-others may think it sublime, and be right), they are merely exercises of style and effusions of wire-drawn sentiment. Where they have not the sting of illicit passion, they are quite pointless, and seem painted on gauze, or spun
of cobwebs. The affected brevity and division of some of the lines into hemisticks, &c. so as to make in one case a
gant from their having always the same fixed aim-the same incorrigible purpose. The fault of Sir Giles Overreach, in this respect, is less in the excess to which he pushes a favourite propensity, than in the circumstance of its being unmixed with any other virtue or vice.
“We may find the same simplicity of dramatic conception in the comic as in the tragic characters of the author. Justice Greedy has but one idea or subject in his head throughout. He is always eating, or talking of eating. His belly is always in his mouth, and we know nothing of him but his appetite; he is as sharpset as travellers from off a journey. His land of promise touches on the borders of the wilderness: his thoughts are constantly in apprehension of feasting or famishing. A fat turkey floats before his imagination in royal state, and his hunger sees visions of chines of beef, venison pasties, and Norfolk dumplings, as if it were seized with a calenture. He is a very amusing personage ; and in what relates to eating and drinking, as peremptory as Sir Giles himself.-Murall is another instance of confined comic humour, whose ideas never wander beyond the ambition of being the implicit drudge of another's knavery or good fortune. He sticks to his stewardship, and resists the favour of a salute from a fine lady, as not entered in his accounts. The humour of this character is less striking in the play than in Munden's personification of it. The other characters do not require any particular analysis. They are very insipid, good sort of people."
mathematical stair-case of the words and answers given to different speakers,* is an instance of frigid and ridiculous pedantry. An artificial elaborateness is the general characteristic of Ford's style. In this respect his plays resemble Miss Baillie's more than any others I am acquainted with, and are quite distinct from the exuberance and unstudied force which characterized his immediate predecessors. There is too much of scholastic subtlety, an innate perversity of understanding or predominance of will, which either seeks the irritation of inadmissible subjects, or to stimulate its own faculties by taking the most barren, and making something out of nothing, in a spirit of contradiction. He does not draw along with the reader: he does not work upon our sympathy, but on our antipathy or our indifference; and there is as little of the social or gregarious principle in his productions as there appears to have been in his personal habits, if we are to believe Sir John Suckling, who says of him, in the Sessions of the Poets
"In the dumps John Ford alone by himself sat
I do not remember without considerable effort the plot or per. sons of most of his plays— Perkin Warbeck,' • The Lover's Melancholy,' Love's Sacrifice, and the rest. There is little character, except of the most evanescent or extravagant kind (to which last class we may refer that of the sister of Calantha in * The Broken Heart')-little imagery or fancy, and no action. It is but fair, however, to give a scene or two, in illustration of these remarks (or in confutation of them, if they are wrong), and I shall take the concluding one of The Broken Heart,' which is held up as the author's master-piece.
* " Ilhocles. Soft peace enrich this room.
How fares the lady?
Me miserable !"
"SCENE-A Room in the Palace. A Flourish.—Enter EUPHRANEA, led by Groneas and HEMOPHIL: PROPHILUS.
led by Christalla and Puilema: Nearches supporting CalANTIA,
CBOTOLON, and AMELUS.
Crot. My son, gracious princess,
Cal. A fair excuse for absence. As for Bassanes,
On to the dance!
(They dance the first change, during which enter Armostes.)
Is't possible ?
Cal. Beshrew thee!
They dance the third change.-Enter ORGILUS.
Cal. How dull this music sounds! Strike up more sprightly
The last change.
Near. Sweet princess,
Cal. We all look cheerfully:
High as our heart.”—See passage from the 'Malcontent.'
In any who prefers our lawful pleasures
Near. None dares, lady.
Cal. Yes, yes; some hollow voice deliver'd to me How that the king was dead.
Arm. The king is dead," &c. &c.
This, I confess, appears to me to be tragedy in masquerade. Nor is it, I think, accounted for, though it may be in part redeemed by her solemn address at the altar to the dead body of her husband.
“ Cal. Forgive me. Now I turn to thee, thou shadow
(Places a ring on the finger of ITHOCLES.)
Near. 'Tis a truth too ominous.
Cal. One kiss on these cold lips—my last: crack, crack
And then, after the song, she dies.
This is the true false gallop of sentiment : anything more artificial and mechanical I cannot conceive. The boldness of the attempt, however, the very extravagance, might argue the reliance of the author on the truth of feeling prompting him to hazard it; but the whole scene is a forced transposition of that already alluded to in Marston's 'Malcontent.' Even the form of the stage directions is the same.
Enter Mendozo, supporting the Duchess; GUERRINO; the Ladies that are on
the stage rise. FERRARDO ushers in the Duchess; then takes a Lady to tread
Aurelia. We will dance. Music! we will dance.
Aurelia. We are not pleased with your intrusion upon our private retirement; we are not pleased : you have forgot yourselves.
Enter a Page. Celso. Boy, thy master? where's the Duke?
Page. Alas, I left him burying the earth with his spread joyless limbs; he told me he was heavy, would sleep: bid me walk off, for the strength of fantasy oft made him talk in his dreams: I strait obeyed, nor ever saw him since; but wheresoe'er he is, he's sad. Aurelia. Music, sound high, as is our heart; sound high.
Enter MALEVOLE and her Husband, disguised like a Hermit.
Act IV. Scene 3.
The passage in Ford appears to me an ill-judged copy from this. That a woman should call for music, and dance on in spite of the death of her husband whom she hates, without regard to common decency, is but too possible : that she should dance on with the same heroic perseverance in spite of the death of her husband, of her father, and of every one else whom she loves, from regard to common courtesy or appearance, is not surely natural. The passions may silence the voice of humanity, but it is, I think, equally against probability and decorum to make both the passions and the voice of humanity give way (as in the example of Calantha) to a mere form of outward behaviour. Such a suppression of the strongest and most uncontroulable feelings can only be justified from necessity, for some great purpose, which is not the case in Ford's play; or it must be done for the effect and eclat of the thing, which is not fortitude but affectation. Mr. Lamb, in his impressive eulogy on this passage in The