Imatges de pÓgina
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fancy. He sees sights not shown to mortal eye, and hears unearthly music. All is tumult and disorder within and without his mind; his purposes recoil upon himself, are broken and disjointed; he is the double thrall of his passions and his evil destiny. He treads upon the brink of fate and grows dizzy with his situation. Richard is not a character either of imagination or pathos, but of pure will. There is no conflict of opposite feelings in his breast. The apparitions which he sees only haunt him in his sleep; nor does he live like Macbeth in a waking dream. There is nothing tight or compact in Macbeth, no tenseness of fibre, nor pointed decision of manner. He has indeed considerable energy and manliness of soul; but then he is "subject to all the skyey influences." He is sure of nothing. All is left at issue. He runs a tilt with fortune, and is baffled with preternatural riddles. The agitation of his mind resembles the rolling of the sea in a storm, or he is like a lion in the toils—fierce, impetuous, and ungovernable. Richard, in the busy turbulence of his projects, never loses his self-possession, and makes use of every circumstance that occurs as an instrument of his long-reaching designs. In his last extremity we can only regard him as a captured wild beast, but we never entirely lose our concern for Macbeth, and he calls back all our sympathy by that fine close of thoughtful melancholy—

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My way of life is fallen into the sear,

The yellow leaf; and that which should accompany old age,
As honor, troops of friends, I must not look to have;
But in their stead, curses not loud but deep.

Mouth-honor, breath, which the poor heart

Would fain deny, and dare not."

We can conceive a common actor to play Richard tolerably well; we can conceive no one to play Macbeth properly, or to look like a man who had encountered the Weird Sisters. All the actors that we have seen, appear as if they had encountered them on the boards of Covent Garden or Drury Lane, but not on the heath at Foris, and as if they did not believe what they had seen. The Witches of Macbeth, indeed, are ridiculous on the modern stage, and we doubt if the Furies of Æschylus would

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be more respected. The progress of manners and know has an influence on the stage, and will in time perhaps destro both tragedy and comedy. Filch's picking pockets in the Beggar's Opera is not so good a jest as it used to be; by the force of the police and of philosophy, Lillo's murders and the ghosts in Shakspeare will become obsolete. At last, there will be nothing left, good nor bad, to be desired or dreaded, on the theatre or in real life. The question which has been started with respect to the originality of Shakspeare's Witches, has been well answered by Mr. Lamb in his notes to the "Specimens of Early Dramatic Poetry."

"Though some resemblance may be traced between the charms in Macbeth, and the incantations in this play (the Witch of Middleton), which is supposed to have preceded it, this coincidence will not detract much from the originality of Shakspeare. His Witches are distinguished from the Witches of Middleton by essential differences. These are creatures to whom man or woman plotting some dire mischief might resort for occasional consultation. Those originate deeds of blood, and begin bad impulses to men. From the moment that their eyes first meet with Macbeth's, he is spell-bound. That meeting sways his destiny. He can never break the fascination. These Witches can hurt the body; those have power over the soul. Hecate in Middleton has a son, a low buffoon; the hags of Shakspeare have neither child of their own, nor seem to be descended from any parent. They are foul anomalies, of whom we know not whence they are sprung, nor whether they have beginning or ending. As they are without human passions, so they seem to be without human relations. They come with thunder and lightning, and vanish to airy music. This is all we know of them. Except Hecate, they have no names, which heightens their mysteriousness. The names, and some of the properties which Middleton has given to his hags, excite smiles. The Weird Sisters are serious things. Their presence cannot co-exist with mirth. But, in a lesser degree, the Witches of Middleton are fine creations. Their power too is, in some measure, over the mind. They raise jars, jealousies, strifes, like a thick scurf o'er life."

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JULIUS CÆSAR.

JULIUS CESAR.

JULIUS CESAR was one of three principal plays by different authors, pitched upon by the celebrated Earl of Halifax to be brought out, in a splendid manner, by subscription, in the year 1707. The other two were the King and no King of Fletcher, and Dryden's Maiden Queen. There perhaps might be political reasons for this selection, as far as regards our author. Otherwise Shakspeare's Julius Cæsar is not equal, as a whole, to either of his other plays, taken from the Roman history. It is inferior in interest to Coriolanus, and, both in interest and power, to Antony and Cleopatra. It, however, abounds in admirable and affecting passages, and is remarkable for the profound knowledge of character, in which Shakspeare could scarcely fail. If there is any exception to this remark, it is in the hero of the piece himself. We do not much admire the representation here given of Julius Cæsar, nor do we think it answers to the portrait given of him in his Commentaries. He makes several vaporing and rather pedantic speeches, and does nothing. Indeed, he has nothing to do. So far the fault of the character might be the fault of the plot.

The spirit with which the poet has entered at once into the manners of the common people, and the jealousies and heartburnings of the different factions, is shown in the first scone, when Flavius and Marullus, tribunes of the people, and some citizens of Rome, appear upon the stage.

"Flavius. Thou art a cobler, art thou?

Cobler. Truly, Sir, all that I live by, is the awl; I meddle with no trade—man's matters, nor woman's matters, but with-al, I am indeed, Sir, a surgeon to old shoes; when they are in great danger, I recover them.

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FLAVIUS. But wherefore art not in thy shop to-day?

. Why dost thou lead these men about the streets?

Cobler. Truly, Sir, to wear out their shoes, to get myself into more work. But indeed, Sir, we make holiday to see Cæsar, and rejoice in his triumph."

To this specimen of quaint low humor immediately follows that unexpected and animated burst of indignant eloquence, put into the mouth of one of the angry tribunes.

"Marullus. Wherefore rejoice?—What conquest brings he home?
What tributaries follow him to Rome,

To grace in captive-bonds his chariot-wheels?
Oh you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome !
Knew you not Pompey? Many a time and oft
Have you climb'd up to walls and battlements,
To towers and windows, yea, to chimney-tops,
Your infants in your arms, and there have sat
The live-long day with patient expectation,
To see great Pompey pass the streets of Rome:
And when you saw his chariot but appear,
Have you not made an universal shout,
That Tyber trembled underneath his banks,
To hear the replication of your sounds,
Made in his concave shores?

And do you now put on your best attire?
And do you now cull out an holiday?

And do you now strew flowers in his way

That comes in triumph over Pompey's blood?
Begone-

Run to your houses, fall upon your knees,

Pray to the Gods to intermit the plague,

That needs must light on this ingratitude."

The well-known dialogue between Brutus and Cassius, in which the latter breaks the design of the conspiracy to the former, and partly gains him over to it, is a noble piece of highminded declamation. Cassius's insisting on the pretended effeminacy of Cæsar's character, and his description of their swimming across the Tiber together, "once upon a raw and gusty day," are among the finest strokes in it. But, perhaps the whole is not equal to the short scene which follows when Cæsar enters with his train.

"BRUTUS. The games are done, and Cæsar is returning.
Cassius. As they pass by, pluck Casca by the sleeve,
And he will, after his sour fashion, tell you

What has proceeded worthy note to-day.

Brutus. I will do so; but look you, Cassius—
The angry spot doth glow on Cæsar's brow,
And all the rest look like a chidden train.
Calphurnia's cheek is pale; and Cicero
Looks with such ferret and such fiery eyes,
As we have seen him in the Capitol,

Being crost in conference by some senators.

Cassius. Casca will tell us what the matter is.
Cæsar.

Antonius

Antony. Cæsar ?

Cæsar. Let me have men about me that are fat,
Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep a-nights:
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look,
He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.

Antony. Fear him not, Cæsar; he's not dangerous;
He is a noble Roman, and well given.

Cæsar. Would he were fatter; but I fear him not:
Yet if my name were liable to fear,

I do not know the man I should avoid

So soon as that spare Cassius. He reads much;
He is a great observer; and he looks

Quite through the deeds of men. He loves no plays,
As thou dost, Antony: he hears no music:
Seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort,

As if he mock'd himself, and scorn'd his spirit,
That could be mov'd to smile at anything.
Such men as he be never at heart's ease,
Whilst they behold a greater than themselves:
And therefore are they very dangerous.

I rather tell thee what is to be fear'd

Than what I fear; for always I am Cæsar
Come on my right hand, for this ear is deaf,

And tell me truly what thou think'st of him."

We know hardly any passage more expressive of the genius of Shakspeare than this. It is as if he had been actually present, had known the different characters, and what they thought of one another, and had taken down what he heard and saw, their looks, words, and gestures, just as they happened.

The character of Mark Antony is farther speculated upon

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