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" Your hand I'll kiss:
which is in the manner of, and equal to, Decker's finest things : —and others, in a quite different style of fanciful poetry and bewildered passion ; such as the lamentation of Cornelia, his mother, for the death of Marcello, and the parting scene of Brachiano; which would be as fine as Shakspeare, if they were not in a great measure borrowed from his inexhaustible store. In the former, after Flamineo has stabbed his brother, and Hortensio comes in, Cornelia exclaims,
" Alas! he is not dead; he's in a trance. Why, here's nobody shall get anything by his death : Let me call him again, for God's sake.
Hor. I would you were deceived.
Corn. O you abuse me, you abuse me, you abuse me! How many have gone away thus, for lack of 'tendance? Rear up's head, rear up's head; his bleeding inward will kill him.
Hor. You see he is departed.
Corn. Let mo come to him; give me him as he is. If he be turned to earth, let me but give him one hearty kiss, and you shall put us both into one coffin. Fetch a looking-glass: see if his breath will not stain it; or pull out some feathers from my pillow, and lay them to his lips. Will you lose him for a little pains-taking?
Hor. Your kindest office is to pray for him.
Corn. Alas! I would not pray for him yet. He may live to lay me i' th' ground, and pray for me, if you'll let me come to him.
Enter BRACHIANO, all armed, save the Bearer, with FLAMINEO and Page.
Corn. He lies, he lies; he did not kill him. These have killed him, that would not let him be better looked to.
Brach. Have comfort, my grieved mother.
to him, lets il fall.)
Half of thyself lies there; and may'st thou live
Bruch. Mother, pray tell me,
Corn. Indeed, my younger boy presumed too much
Page. This is not true, madam.
Corn. I prythee, 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: Where's this good woman? Had I infinite worlds, They were too little for thee. Must I leave thee? (To Vittoria.) What say you, screech-owls? (To the Physicians.) Is the venom mortal ?
Phy. Most deadly.
Brach. Most corrupted politic hangman!
Francesco de Medici (in disguise). Sir, be of comfort.
Brach. O thou soft natural death! that art joint-twin
Beats not against thy casement: the hoarse wolf
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
To which Vittoria answers,
"Oh, hold it constant:
The Dutchess 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 Shakspearian; 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 pr’ythee, look thou giv'st my little boy
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 :
This is not the bandying of idle words and 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 Shakspeare, 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
"Am I not the Duchess ? Bosola. Thou art some great woman, surc; for riot begins to sit on thy forehead (clad in grey 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."
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 sen. timents 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. vantage over Shakspeare himself, inasmuch as we have never seen their works represented on the stage; and there is no stagetrick to remind us of it. The characters of their heroes have not been cut down to fit into the prompt-book, nor have we ever seen their names flaring in the play-bills in small or large capitals.—I do not mean to speak disrespectfully of the stage; but I think higher still of nature, and next to that of books. They are the nearest to our thoughts: they wind into the heart; the poet's verse slides into the current of our blood. We read them when young, we remember them when old. We read there of what has happened to others; we feel that it has happened to ourselves. They are to be had everywhere cheap and good. We breathe but the air of books: we owe everything to their authors, on this side barbarism; and we pay them easily with contempt, while living, and with an epitaph, when dead! Mi. chael Angelo is beyond the Alps; Mrs. Siddons has left the stage and us to mourn her loss. Were it not so, there are neither picture-galleries nor theatres-royal on Salisbury-plain, where I write this; but here, even here, with a few old authors, I can manage to get through the summer or the winter months, without ever knowing what it is to feel ennui. They sit with me at breakfast; they walk out with me before dinner. After a long walk through unfrequented tracts, after starting the hare from the fern, or hearing the wing of the raven rustling above my head, or being greeted by the woodman's “stern good-night,” as he strikes into his narrow homeward path, I can “ take mine ease at mine inn," beside the blazing hearth, and shake hands