Imatges de pÓgina

much enlarged, and now included a vast number of gentlemen. Gertrude's manner was kindness itself, but a more studied kindness than before. She had lost much of her youth and her simplicity. Richard wondered whether she had pledged herself to spinsterhood, but of course he did n't ask her. She inquired very particularly into his material prospects and intentions, and offered most urgently to lend him money, which he declined to borrow. When he left her, he took a long walk through her place and beside the river, and, wandering back to the days when he had yearned for her love, assured himself that no woman would ever again be to him what she had been. During his stay in this neighborhood he found himself impelled to a species of submission to one of the old agricultural magnates whom he had insulted in his unregenerate days, and through whom he was glad to obtain some momentary employment.

But his pres

ent position is very distasteful to him, and he is eager to try his fortunes in the West. As yet, however, he has lacked even the means to get as far as St. Louis. He drinks no more than is. good for him.

To speak of Gertrude's impressions of Richard would lead us quite too far. Shortly after his return she broke up her household, and came to the bold resolution (bold, that is, for a woman young, unmarried, and ignorant of manners in her own country) to spend some time in Europe. At our last accounis she was living in the ancient city of Florence. wealth, of which she was wont to complain that it excluded her from human sympathy, now affords her a most efficient protection. She passes among her fellow-countrymen abroad for a very independent, but a very happy woman ; although, as she is by this time twentyseven years of age, a little romance is occasionally invoked to account for her continued celibacy.

Her great



I ,

N an article on Shakespeare in the tained, are these. Shakespeare went

to London about the year 1586, in his spoke of his general comprehensive- twenty-second year, and found some ness and creativeness, of his method humble employment in one of the theof characterization, and of the identity atrical companies. Three years afterof his genius with his individuality. In wards, in 1589, he had risen to be one the present article we purpose to treat of the sharers in the Blackfriars' Theof some particular topics included in atre. In 1592 he had acquired sufthe general theme; and as criticism on ficient reputation as a dramatist, or him is like coasting along a continent, at least as a recaster of the plays of we shall make little pretension to sys- others, to excite the jealousy of the tem in the order of taking them up. leading playwrights, whose crude dra

The first of these topics is the suc- mas he condescended to rewrite or recession of Shakespeare's works, consid- touch. That graceless vagabond, Robert ered as steps in the growth and de- Greene, addressing from his penitent velopment of his powers, -a subject death-bed his old friends Lodge, Peele, which has already been ably handled and Marlowe, and trying to dissuade by our countryman, Mr. Verplanck. them from “ spending their wits” any The facts, as far as they can be ascer- longer in “making plays,” spitefully


declares : “ There is an upstart crow its birth. The best criticism on “ Tibeautified with our feathers, that, with tus Andronicus” was made by Robert his tiger's heart wrapped in a player's Burns, when he was nine years old. hide, supposes he is as able to bom- His schoolmaster was reading the play bast out a blank verse as the best aloud in his father's cottage, and when of you; and, being an absolute Johan he came to the scene where Lavinia nes Factotum, is, in his own conceit, enters with her hands cut off and her the only Shake-scene in the coun- tongue cut out, little Robert fell a-crytry.” Doubtless this charge of adopt- ing, and threatened, in case the play ing and adapting the productions of was left in the cottage, to burn it. It others includes some dramas which is hard to believe that what Burns dehave not been preserved, as the com- spised and detested at the age of nine pany to which Shakespeare was at could have been written by Shaketached owned the manuscripts of a speare at the age of twenty-five. Takgreat number of plays which were ing, then, “ Venus and Adonis" as the never printed ; and it was a custom, point of departure, we find Shakespeare when a play had popular elements in itat the age of twenty-two endowed for other dramatists to be employed in with all the faculties, but relatively making such additions as would give deficient in the passions, of the poet. continual novelty to the old favorite. The poem is a throng of thoughts, fanBut of the plays published in our edi- cies, and imaginations, but somewhat tions of Shakespeare's writings, it is 'cramped in the utterance. Coleridge probable that“ The Comedy of Errors,” says, that “in his poems the creative and the three parts of " King Henry power and the intellectual energy wrestle VI.,” are only partially his, and should as in a war embrace. Each in its exbe classed among his early adaptations, cess of strength seems to threaten the and not among his early creations. extinction of the other. At length in The play of “ Pericles” bears no marks the drama they were reconciled, and of his mind, except in some scenes of fought each with its shield before the transcendent power and beauty, which breast of the other.” Fine as this is, it start up from the rest of the work like would perhaps be more exact to say, towers of gold from a plain of sand; but that in his earlier poems his intellect, these scenes are in his latest manner. acting apart from his sensibility, and In regard to the tragedy of “Titus An- playing with its own ingenuities of dronicus,” we are so constituted as to fancy and meditation, condensed its resist all the external evidence by which thoughts in crystals. Afterwards, when such a shapeless mass of horrors and his whole nature became liquid, he gave absurdities is fastened on Shakespeare. us his thoughts in a state of fusion, and Mr. Verplanck thinks it one of Shake- his intellect flowed in streams of fire. speare's first attempts at dramatic com- Take, for example, that passage in position ; but first attempts must reflect the poem where Venus represents the the mental condition of the author at loveliness of Adonis as sending thrills the time they were made ; and we know of passion into the earth on which he the mental condition of Shakespeare in treads, and as making the bashful moon his early manhood by his poem of " Ve- hide herself from the sight of his benus and Adonis,” which he expressly wildering beauty: styles “the first heir of his invention."

“But if thou fall, O, then imagine this! Now leaving out of view the fact that

The earth, in love with thee, thy footing trips, “ Titus Andronicus” stamps the im- And all is but o rub thee of a kiss. pression, not of youthful, but of matured Rich preys make true men thieves; so do thy

lips depravity of taste, its execrable enor

Make modest Dian cloudy and forlorn, mities of feeling and incident could not Lest she should stcal a kiss and die forsworn. have proceeded from the sweet and

“Now of this dark night I perceive the reason : comely nature in which the poem had

Cynthia for shame obscures her silver shinc,

Till forging Nature be condemned of treason, Indeed, when we reflect that between For stealing moulds from hcaven that were divine,

the production of "The Two GentleWherein she framed thee, in high heaven's despite,

men of Verona” and “King Lear" To shame the sun by day and her by night." there is only a space of fifteen years, This is reflected and reflecting pas

we must admit that the history of the sion, or, at least, imagination awaken

human intellect presents no other exing passion, rather than passion pene

ample of such marvellous progress ; trating imagination.

and if we note the giant strides by Now mark, by contrast, the gush of which it was made, we shall find that the heart into the brain, dissolving they all imply a progressive widening thought, imagination, and expression, and deepening of soul, a positive growth so that they run molten, in the delirious

of the nature of the man, until in Lear ecstasy of Pericles in recovering his

the power became supreme and belong-lost child :

comes amazing. Mr. Verplanck con

siders the period when he produced “O Helicanus, strike me, honored sir ! Give me a gash ; put me to present pain ;

his four great tragedies to be the period Lest this great sea of joys, rushing upon me,

of his intellectual grandeur, as distinO'erbear the shores of my mortality,

guished from an earlier period which And drown me with their sweetness."

he thinks shows the perfection of his If, as is probable, “Venus and Ado- merely poetic and imaginative power; nis” was written as early as 1586, we may but the fact would seem to be that his suppose that the plays which represent increasing greatness as a philosopher the boyhood of his genius, and which was fully matched by his increasing are strongly marked with the character- greatness as a poet, and that in the istics of that poem, namely, “The Two devouring swiftness of his onward and Gentlemen of Verona,” the first draft upward movement imagination kept of “Love's Labor 's Lost,” and the ori- abreast of reason. His imagination ginal “Romeo and Juliet,” were pro- never more vivid, all-informing, duced before the year 1592. Follow- and creative, never penetrated with ing these came “King Richard III.," more unerring certainty to the inmost

King Richard II.,” “A Midsummer spiritual essence of whatever it touched, Night's Dream,” “ King John,” “The never forced words and rhythm into Merchant of Venice,” and “ King Hen- more supple instruments of thought ry IV.,” all of which we know were and feeling, – than when it miracled written before 1598, when Shakespeare into form the terror and pity and beauty was in his thirty-fourth year. During of Lear. the next eight years he produced “King Indeed, the coequal growth of his Henry V.,” “The Merry Wives of reason and imagination was owing to Windsor," “ As You Like It,” “ Ham- the wider scope and increased energy let,” “ Twelfth Night,” “ Measure for of the great moving forces of his being. Measure,"

,” “Othello,” “Macbeth,” and It relates primarily to the heart rather “King Lear.” In this list are the four than the head. It is the immense fiery great tragedies in which his genius cul- force behind his mental powers, kindminated. Then came “ Troilus and ling them into white heat, and urging Cressida,” “Timon of Athens,” “Juli- them to efforts almost preternatural, us Cæsar,” “ Antony and Cleopatra,” - it is this which impels the daring “Cymbeline," “ King Henry VIII.," thought beyond the limits of positive “ The Tempest," "The Winter's Tale," knowledge, and prompts the starts of and “ Coriolanus.” If heed be paid to ecstasy in whose unexpected radiance this order of the plays, it will be seen at nature and human life are transfigured, once that a quotation from Shakespeare and for an instant shine with celestial carries with it a very different degree of light. In truth he is, relatively, more authority, according as it refers to the intellectual in his early than in his youth or the maturity of his mind. later plays, for in his later plays his


[ocr errors]


intellect is thoroughly impassioned, ception, while Macbeth is a complex and, though it has really grown in There is unity and versatility strength and massiveness, it is so fused in Richard ; there is unity and variety with imagination and emotion as to be in Macbeth. Richard is capable of less independently prominent.

being developed with almost logical The sources of individuality lie be- accuracy; for though there is versalow the intellect; and as Shakespeare tility in the play of his intellect, there went deeper into the soul of man, he is little variety in the motives which more and more represented the brain direct his intellect. His wickedness is as the organ and instrument of the not exhibited in the making. He is so heart, as the channel through which completely and gleefully a villain from sentiment, passion, and character found the first, that he is not restrained from an intelligible outlet. His own mind convenient crime by any scruples and was singularly objective; that is, he saw relentings. The vigor of his will is due things as they are in themselves. The to his poverty of feeling and conscience. minds of his prominent characters are He is a brilliant and efficient criminal all subjective, and see things as they because he is shorn of the noblest atare modified by the peculiarities of their tributes of man. Put, if you could, individual moods and emotions. The Macbeth's heart and imagination into very objectivity of his own mind enables him, and his will would be smitten with him to assume the subjective conditions impotence, and his wit be turned to of less-emancipated natures. Macbeth wailing. The intellect of Macbeth is peoples the innocent air with menacing richer and grander than Richard's, yet shapes, projected from his own fiend- Richard is relatively a more intellectual haunted imagination ; but the same air character; for the intellect of Macbeth is “sweet and wholesome" to the poet is rooted in his moral nature, and is who gave being to Macbeth. The secondary in our thoughts to the conmeridian of Shakespeare's power was tending motives and emotions it obeys reached when he created Othello, Mac- and reveals. In crime, as in virtue, beth, and Lear, complex personalities, what a man overcomes should enter representing the conflict and compli- into our estimate of the power exhibitcation of the mightiest passions in co- ed in what he does. lossal forms of human character, and The question now comes up, -and whose understandings and imagina- we suppose it must be met, though we tions, whose perceptions of nature and should like to evade it, — How, amid human life, and whose weightiest utter- the individualities that Shakespeare has ances of moral wisdom, are all thor- created, are we to detect the individuoughly subjective and individualized. ality of Shakespeare himself? In anThe greatness of these characters, as swer it may be said, that, if we surcompared with his earlier creations, vey his dramas in the mass, we find consists in the greater intensity and three degrees of unity; - first, the uniamplitude of their natures, and the ty of the individual characters ; secwider variety of faculties and passions ond, the unity of the separate plays in included in the strict unity of their na- which they appear; and third, the unity tures. Richard III., for example, is of Shakespeare's own nature, a nature one of his earlier characters, and though which deepened, expanded, and inexcellent of its kind, its excellence has creased in might, but did not essentialbeen approached by other dramatists, ly change, and which is felt as a potent as, for instance, Massinger, in “Sir presence throughout his works, binding Giles Overreach.” But no other dram- them together as the product of one atist has been able to grasp and rep- mind. He did not go out of himself to resent a character similar in kind to inform other natures, but he included Macbeth, and the reason is that Rich- these natures in himself; and though ard is comparatively a simple con- he does not infuse his individuality into

Let us

his characters, he does infuse it into or from positive antipathy. the general conceptions which the char- consider some of these. acters illustrate.

His opinions, pur- And first, Shakespeare's religious inposes, theory of life, are to be gathered, stincts and sentiments were comparanot from what his characters say and tively weak, for they were not creado, but from the results of what they tive. He has exercised his genius in say and do ; and in each play he so the creation of no character in which recombines and disposes the events and ligious sentiment or religious passion persons that the cumulative impres- is dominant. He could not, of course, sion shall express his own judgment, — he, the poet of feudalism, - overlook indicate his own design, and convey religion as an element of the social orhis own feeling His individuality is ganization of Europe, but he did not

, so vast, so purified from eccentricity, seize Christian ideas in their essence, and we grasp it so imperfecily, that we or look at the human soul in its diare apt to deny it altogether, and con- rect relations with God.

And just ceive his mind as impersonal. In view think of the field of humanity closed of the multiplicity of his creations, and to him! For sixteen hundred years, the range of thought, emotion, and char- remarkable men and women had apacter they include, it is a common hy- peared, representing all classes of reperbole of criticism to designate him as ligious character, from the ecstasy of universal. But, in truth, his mind was the saint to the gloom of the fanatic; yet restricted, in its creative action, like his intellectual curiosity was not enough other minds, within the limits of its excited to explore and reproduce their personal sympathies, though these sym- experience. Do you say that the subpathies in him were keener, quicker, ject was foreign to the purpose of an and more general than in other men of Elizabethan playwright?

The answer genius. He was a great-hearted, broad- is, that Decker and Massinger atbrained person, but still a person, and tempted it, for a popular audience, in not what Coleridge calls him, an "om- “ The Virgin Martyr"; and though the nipresent creativeness.” Whatever he tragedy of “ The Virgin Martyr" is a could sympathize with, he could embody huddled mass of beauties and deformiand vitally represent; but his sympa- ties, its materials of incident and charthies, though wide, were far from being acters, could Shakespeare have been universal, and when he was indifferent attracted to them, might have been or hostile, the dramatist was partially organized into as great a drama as suspended in the satirist and caricatur- Othello. Again, Marlowe, in his play of ist, and oversight took the place of in- “Dr. Faustus,” has imperfectly treated sight. Indeed, his limitations are more a subject which in Shakespeare's hands easily indicated than his enlargements. would have been made into a tragedy We know what he has not done more sublimer than Lear could he have surely than we know what he has done; thrown himself into it with equal for if we attempt to follow his genius earnestness. Marlowe, from the fact in any of the numerous lines of direc- that he was a positive atheist, and a tion along which it sweeps with such brawling one, had evidently at some victorious ease, we soon come to the time directed his whole heart and end of our tether, and are confused imagination to the consideration of rewith a throng of thoughts and im- ligious questions, and had resolutely aginations, which, as Emerson ex- faced facts from which Shakespeare quisitely says, “sweetly torment us with invitations to their own inacces- Shakespeare, also, in common with sible homes." But there were some the other dramatists of the time, looked directions which his genius did not at the Puritans as objects of satire, take, -- not so much from lack of men- laughing at them instead of gazing into tal power as from lack of disposition them. They were doubtless grotesque

turned away.

« AnteriorContinua »