Imatges de pÓgina
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costumal familiarity! “ Then the Lord the Greeks, like those who are tolled off answered Job out of the whirlwind, and to the theatre to see him acted. The said.” Dim indeed is the representation, Greeks would have contrived a pair of but very distinct is the impression. The bellows to represent the whirlwind; mysphenomenon conforms to the purity of tic, vast, inaudible, it passes before the feeling, not to the grossness of sense. De- imagination of the Jew, and its office is votion is kindled by the subline impal- done. The Jew would be shocked to see pableness ; no applause is enforced by his God in a human form; such a thing appropriate acting. The Greeks would pleased the Greek. The source of the have played the Book of Job,-- the Jews difference is to be sought in the theology were contented to read it.

of the two nations. The theological deAnd here we might remark a distinc- velopment of the Jews was very comtion between dramatic reading and dra- plete, — that of the Greeks unfinished. matic seeing; and in support of our theo- Yet the Jews were very deficient in art, ry we can call to aid so good an authority and the Greeks perfect; both failed in as Charles Lamb. “I cannot help being humanity. The Greeks had more idealof opinion,” says this essayist, “ that the ity than the Jews; but their ideality was plays of Shakspeare are less calculated very intense; it was continually, so to for performance on a stage than those speak, running aground; it must see its of almost any other dramatist whatever. conceptions embodied; and more -- when How are the love dialogues of Romeo they were embodied, Pygmalion-like, it and Juliet, by the inherent fault of stage- must seek to indue them with motion representation, sullied and turned from and sensibility. The conception of the their very nature by being exposed to a Jews was more vague, perhaps, but equallarge assembly! How can the profound ly affecting ; they were satisfied with carsorrows of Hamlet be depicted by a ges- rying in their minds the faint outline of ticulating actor? So, to see Lear acted, the sublime, without seeking to chisel it to see an old man tottering about the into dimension and tangibility. They stage with a walking-stick, turned out of cherished in their bosoms their sacred doors by his daughters in a rainy night, ideal, and worshipped from far the greatbas nothing in it but what is painful and ness of the majesty that shaded their imdisgusting. The contemptible machinery aginations. by which they mimic the storm in which Hence we look to Athens for art, to he goes out is not more inadequate Palestine for ethies; the one produces to represent the horrors of the real ele- rhetoricians, — the other, prophets. ments than any actor can be to represent So, we see, the theologico-dramatic Lear. In the acted Othello, the black forms of the two nations - and there were visage of the Moor is obtruded upon you; no other--are different. The one pleasin the written Othello, his color disap- es the prurient eye,--the other gratifies pears in his mind. When Hamlet com- the longing soul; the one amuses,—the pares the two pictures of Gertrude's first other inspires ; the one is a hollow pagand second husband, who wants to see eant of divine things, - the other is a the pictures ? But in the acting, a min- glad, solemn intimation from the unutteriature must be lugged out. The truth able heart of the universe. is,” he adds, “ the characters of Shak- The Song of Solomon, that stumblingspeare are more the objects of medita- block of criticism and pill of faith, a recent tion than of interest or curiosity as to writer regards as a parable in the form their actions."

of a drama, in which the bride is considAll this applies with force to what we ered as representing true religion, the have been saying. The Jews, in respect royal lover as the Jewish people, and of their dramatic culture, seem more like the younger sister as the Gospel dispenone who enjoys Shakspeare in the closet; sation. But it is evidently conceived in a very different spirit from the Book of covered by a cloud. These plays, carJob or the Psalms of David, and its theo- ried about the country, taken up by the logical character is so obscured by other baser sort of people, descended through associations as to lead many to inquire all degrees of farce to obscenity, and, in whether an enlightened religious sensi- England, becoming entangled in politics, bility dictated it.

at length disappeared. It is said they We cannot disiniss this part of our sub- linger in Italy, and are annually reproject without allusion to a species of dra- duced in Spain. ma that prevailed in the Middle Ages, The Bible is incapable of representacalled Mysteries, or Moralities. These tion. For a man to act the Supreme were a sort of scenical illustration of the Being would be as revolting in idea as Sacred Scripture, and the subjects were profane in practice. One may in words events taken sometimes from the New portray the divine character, give utterTestament and sometimes from the Old.

ance to the divine will.

This every It is said they were designed to supply preacher does. But to what is the effect the place of the Greek and Roman thea- owing ? Not to proprieties of attitude tre, which had been banished from the

or arrangement of muscle, but to the Church. The plays were written and spirit of the man magnified and floodperformed by the clergy. They seem to ing with the great theme, and to the have first been employed to wile away thought of God that surrounds and subthe dulness of the cloister, but were very dues all; in other words, the imaginasoon introduced to the public. Adam and tion is addressed, not the sight, — the Eve in Paradise, the Crucifixion, the Res- sentiments and affections are engaged, urrection were theatrized. The effect not the senses. As Lamb says of the could hardly be salutary. The different Lear of Shakspeare, it cannot be acted; persons of the Trinity appeared on the so, with greater force, we may say

of stage; on one side of the scene stretch- the Bible, it cannot be acted. When ed the yawning throat of an immense we read or hear of the Passion of the Sawooden dragon; masked devils ran howl viour, it is the thought, the emotion, burning in and out.

ing and seething within it, at which by " In the year 1437,"—we follow the invisible contact our own thought and literal history, as we find it quoted in emotion catch fire; and the capabilities D'Israeli, — “ when the Bishop of Metz of impersonation and manufacture are caused the Mystery of the Passion to be mocked by such a subjeot. represented near that city, God was an But the Bible abounds in dramatic old gentleman, a curate of the place, and situation, action, and feeling. This has who was very near expiring on the cross, already been intimated; it only remains had he not been timely assisted. He was that we indicate some examples. The so enfeebled that another priest finished history of David fulfils all the demands his part. At the same time this curate of dramatic composition. It has the seundertook to perform the Resurrection, vere grandeur of Æschylus, the moving which being a less difficult task, he did it tenderness of Euripides, and the individadmirably well. Another priest, person- ual fidelity of Shakspeare. Could this lastating Judas, had like to have been stified named writer, who, while he counterfeitwhile he hung on the tree, for his neck ed Nature with such success, was equally slipperl. This being at length luckily commended for his historical integrity,– perceived, he was cut down, and re- could Shakspeare have performed that covered.” In another instance, a man service on this history, which Milton, who assumed the Supreme Being becom- More, and others have undertaken on othing nearly suffocated by the paint ap- er portions of the sacred volume, - could plied to his face, it was wisely announced he have digested it into a regular dramatthat for the future the Deity should be ic form, — he would have accomplished a

him?

me,

work of rare interest. It would include What is man that thou art mindful of him, the characters of Samuel and Saul; it

And the son of man that thou carest for would describe the magnanimous Jona

Yet thou hast inade him a little lower than than and the rebellious Absalom; Na

the angels, than, Nabal, Goliah, Shimei, would im

Thou hast crowned him with glory and part their respective features; it would be honor; enriched with all that is beautiful in wom- Thou hast given him dominion over the an's love or enduring in parental affec

works of thy hand,

Thou hast put all things under his feet,tion. It is full of incident, and full of

All sheep and oxen, pathos. It verges towards the terrible,

Yea, and the beasts of the forest, it is shaken with the passionate, it rises The birds of the air, and the fishes of the sea, into the heroic. Pursued in the true And whatsoever passes through the deep. spirit of Jewish theology, the awful pres

O Jehovah, our Lord, ence of God would overhang and pervade

How excellent is thy name in all the enrth!” it, while the agency of his providence

Again, the fifty-seventh Psalm is asshould attend on the evolutions of events. signed, in respect of place, to the cave There is one effect which, in the pres

of En-gedi, into which David tied from ent arrangement of the canon, is entirely the vengeance of Saul. Here, surroundlost to view, and which could be revived ed by lofty rocks, whose promontories only by the synchronizing of the Psalms screen a wide extent of vale, he breaks with their proper epochs. For instance, forth,the eighth Psalm is referable to the youth " Have pity upon me, O God, have pity upon of David, when he was yet leading a shepherd life. The dramatic forro of his his- For in thee doth my soul seek refuge! tory would detach this from its present

Yea, in the shadow of thy wings do I take

shelter, place, and insert it amiil the occasions

Until these calamities be overpast!" and in the years to which it belongs. What a scene we should then have! Dramatically touched, and disposed acThe youthful David, ruddy he was, and, cording to the natural unities of the subwithal, of a beautiful countenance, (mar- ject, these sublime and affecting songs ginal reading, fair of eyes) and goodly would appear on their motive occasions, to look to; and he was a cunning player and be surrounded by their actual accomon the harp. There is the glow of poetic paniments. enthusiasm in his eyes, and the fervor of The present effect may

be compared religious feeling in all his noods; as he

to that which would be felt, if we should tends his flock amid the quietness and detach the songs of the artificial drama beauty of his native hills, he joins to the from their original impulse and feeling, aspirations of his soul the melodies of (for instance, the willow dirge of Desdemusic. So the night overtakes him, the mona, and the fantastic moans of Ophelabors of the day are past, his meditations lia,) and produce them in a parlor. Not withil raw him from the society of men,

but that these lyrics have a universal he is alone with Nature and with God; fitness, and a value which no time can - at such a moment the spirit of com- change or circumstance diminish ; but as position and utterance is upon him, and we are looking at them simply in a drahe hymns himself in those lofty and

matic view, we claim the right to suggest touching stanzas,

their dramatic force and pertinenry. This

effect, we might remark, is particularly 0 Jehovah, our Lord,

and most truthfully regarded in the LaHow excellent is thy name in all the earth!

ment of David over Saul and Jonathan. When I consider thy heavens, the work of

That monoly would be shorn of its interthy fingers, The moon and the stars which thou hast est, if it were inserted anywhere else. ordained,

The Psalms are more impersonal and more strictly religious than that, and and before the other had replied, --it was hence their universal application ; only at this moment, that Christ, as Dr. Furwe say, we can easily conceive that the ness very reasonably conjectures, took up revival of them in the order of their his- the response in his own person, and overtory, and in all the purity of their native whelmed attention by that memorable pathos, would render them more attrac- declaration, “ If any man thirst, let him tive.

come to me and drink; and from withIn connection with what we would in him shall flow rivers of living water." further observe of the Psalms of David, It is what we may term the dralet us again call attention to the ancient matic proprieties that give to many of chorus, — how it was a species of melo- the Psalmıs, in the language of a recent drama, how it sang its parts, and com- commentator, a greater degree of fitprised distinct vocalists and musicians, ness, spirit, and grandeur"; and they who pursued the piece in alternate re- impart to the history of David a certain joinder. What we would observe is, that decorousness of illustration and perspimany of the Psalms were written for the cuity of feature which it would not othchorus, and, so to speak, were performed erwise possess. They would produce upby it. There are some of them which it on it the same result as is achieved by is impossible to understand without atten- the sister arts on this and other portions tion to this dramatic method of rehearsal. of the sacred volume, without marring Psalm cxviii., for instance, includes sev- the text or doing violence to truth. Not, eral speakers. Psalm xxiv. was composed let us repeat, that the Bible can be theaon the occasion of the transfer of the ark trized. Neither church nor playhouse can to the tabernacle on Mount Zion. And revive the forms of Judaism, without reDavid, we read, and all the house of Is- calling its lost spirit. And that must be rael, brought up the ark with shouting a bold hand, indeed, that shall undertake and with the sound of the trumpet. In to mend again the shivered vail of the the midst of the congregated nation, sup- Temple, or collect from its ruins a ritual ported by a varied instrumental accom- which lle that was greater than Solomon paniment, with the smoke of the well-fed typically denounced in foretelling the altar surging into the skies, the chorus overthrow of that gorgeous pile. The Bitook up the song which had been pre- ble, as to its important verities and solpared to their hand, one group call- emn doctrine, is transparent to the iming out, “ Who shall ascend into the hill agination and affections, and does not of the Lord ?”— the other pealing their require the mediation of dumb show or answer, “He that hath clean hands and

scenic travesty. a pure heart.” Meanwhile, they dance It is not difficult to trace many familbefore the Lord, that is, we suppose,

iar dramatic resemblances in the Old preserving with their feet the unities of Testament. Shakspeare, who was certhe music.

tainly well read in the Bible and freIt was during a melodrama like this, in quently quotes it, in the composition of the midst of its exciting grandeur and Lear may have had David and Absalom all-pervading transport, executed at the in mind; the feigned madness of Hamlet Feast of Tabernacles, in the open area has its prototype in that of David; Macof the Temple, when the Jews were wont beth and the Weird Sisters have many to pour upon the altar water taken from traits in common with Saul and the Witch the pool of Siloam, chanting at the same of Endor. Jezebel is certainly a sugtime the twelfth chapter of Isaiah, and gestive study for Lady Macbeth. The one division of the chorus had just sung whole story has its key in that verse the words,

where we read, “ There was none like " With joy we draw water from the wells of

unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work salvation,"

wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom

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Jezebel, his wife, stirred up.” As in the “ Fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full play, so in this Scripture, we have the

Of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood,

Stop up the access and the passage of reunrestrained and ferocious ambition of

morse! the wife conspiring with the equally cruel,

Come to my woman's breasts, but less hardy ambition of the husband. And take my milk for gall, ye murdering minWhen Macbeth had murdered sleep, when isters!" he could not screw his courage to the But the last moments of these excessive sticking-point, when his purpose looked characters are singularly contrasted. Jezgreen and pale, his wife stings him with ebel scoffs at approaching retribution, and, taunts, scathes him with sarcasm, and by shining with paint and dripping with jewher own energy of intellect and storm els, is pitched to the dogs ; Lady Macbeth of will arouses him to action. So Ahab like a coward to her grave, and, curcame in heavy and displeased, and laid dled with remorse, receives the stroke of him down on his bed, and turned away

doom. his face, and so his wife inflames him If Shakspeare and the Old Testament with the sharpness of her rebuke. “Why are a just manifestation of human nature, art thou sad?" she asks. “Dost thou now the New is so different, its representation govern the kingdom of Israel? Arise, would seem to be almost fanciful or fallaeat bread, and be merry!” The lust of cious; or if the latter be accepted, the regal and conjugal pride, intermixed, former would seem to be discarded. But works in both. Jezebel, whose husband both are faithful to the different ages and was a king, would crown him with king- phases of man. The one is a dispensation ly deeds. Lady Macbeth, whose husband of force,—the other of love; the one could was a prince, would see him crowned a make nothing perfect,— but the bringing king. Jezebel would aggrandize empire, in of a better covenant makes all things which her unlawful marriage thereto had perfect. Through the tempest and storm, jeoparded. Lady Macbeth will run the the brutality and lust of the Greek trarisk of an unlawful marriage with empire, gedians, and even of the barbarous times if she may thereby aggrandize it. Jeze- on which Shakspeare builds many of his bel is insensible to patriotic feelings, plays, through the night of Judaical backLady Macbeth to civil and hospitable du- slidings, idolatry, and carnal commandties. The Zidonian woman braves the ments, we patiently wait, and gladly hail vengeance of Jehovah,—the Scotch wom- the morning of the Sun of Righteousness. an dares the Powers of Darkness; the one The New Testament is a green, calm, islis incited by the oracles of Baal,—the oth- and, in this heaving, fearful ocean of draer by the predictions of witches. Ladymatic interest. How delightful is everyMacbeth has more intellectual force,- thing there, and how elevated ! how glad, Jezebel more moral decision ; Lady Mac- and how solemn! how energetic, and how beth exhibits great imagination,—Jezebel tranquil! What characters, what incia stronger will. As the character of Lady dent, what feeling! Yet how different! Macbeth is said to be relieved by the af- So different, indeed, from what elsewhere fection she shows for her husband, so is appears, that we are compelled to ask, that of Jezebel by her tenderness for Can this be that same old humanity whose Ahab. The grandness of the audacity passions, they tell us, are alike in all with which Jezebel sends after the proph- ages, and the emphatic turbulence of et Elisha, saying, “ So let the gods do to which constitutes so large a portion of me, and more also, if I make not thy life history? as the life of one of them by to-morrow

But how shall we describe what is beabout this time," has its counterpart in

fore us? The events open, if we may the lotiy terror of the invocation which draw a term from our subject, with a proLady Macbeth makes to the "spirits that logue spoken by angels,wait on mortal thoughts,”—

“ Peace on earth, and good-will towards men."

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