Imatges de pàgina

The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head: Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;

Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished':

but glooming, which is an old reading, may be the true one. So, in The Spanish Tragedy, 1603 :

“Through dreadful shades of ever-glooming night.” To gloom is an ancient verb used by Spenser; and I meet with it likewise in the play of Tom Tyler and his Wife, 1661:

“ If either he gaspeth or gl ometh.STEEVENS. Gloomy is the reading of the old copy in 1597; for which glooming was substituted in that of 1599. Malone.

9 Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished :] This seems to be not a resolution in the prince, but a reflection on the various dispensations of Providence ; for who was there that could justly be punished by any human law ? EDWARDS's MSS.

This line has refereņce to the novel from which the fable is taken. Here we read that Juliet's female attendant was banished for concealing the marriage; Romeo's servant set at liberty because he had only acted in obedience to his master's orders; the apothecary taken, tortured, condemned, and hanged; while friar Laurence was permitted to retire to a hermitage in the neighbourhood of Verona, where he ended his life in penitence and tranquillity. STEEVENS.

The same particulars are found in the old poem :

“ The wyser sort, to counsell called by Escalus, “ Here geven advice, and Escalus sagely decreeth thus : “ The nurse of Juliet is banisht in her age, “ Because that from the parentes she dyd hyde the mariage, “ Which might have wrought much good had it in time beer

knowne, " Where now by her concealing it a mischeefe great is growne; “ And Peter, for he dyd obey his masters hest, “ In woonted freedome had good leave to lead his lyfe in rest : “ Thapothecary high is hanged by the throte, “ And, for the paynes he tooke with him, the hangman had his cote. “But now what shall betyde of this gray-bearded syre, “ Of fryer Laurence thus araynde, that good barefooted fryre ? “ Because that many time he woorthily did serve “ The common welth, and in his lyfe was never found to swerve, “ He was discharged quyte, and no mark of defame Did seem to blot or touch at all the honour of his name. “ But of himselfe he went into an hermitage, “ Two miles from Veron towne, where he in prayers past forth

his age;

For never was a story of more woe,
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo?.


“ Till that from earth to heaven his heavenly sprite did Aye : Fyve years he lived an hermite, and an hermite dyd he dye."

BOSWELL. I- Juliet and her Romeo.] Shakspeare has not effected the alteration of this play by introducing any new incidents, but merely by adding to the length of the scenes.

The piece appears to have been always a very popular one. Marston, in his Satires, 1598, says:

“ Luscus, what's play'd to-day?-faith, now I know
I set thy lips abroach, from whence doth flow

“ Nought but pure Juliet and Romeo.” Steevens. “For never was a story of more woe,

“ Than this of Juliet and her Romeo." These lines seem to have been formed on the concluding couplet of the poem of Romeus and Juliet :

- among the monuments that in Verona been, “There is no monument more worthy of the sight, Then is the tombe of Juliet and Romeus her knight."

MALONE. ? Exeunt.] This play is one of the most pleasing of our author's performances. The scenes are busy and various, the incidents numerous and important, the catastrophe irresistibly affecting, and the process of the action carried on with such probability, at least with such congruity to popular opinions, as tragedy requires.

Here is one of the few attempts of Shakspeare to exhibit the conversation of gentlemen, to represent the airy sprightliness of juvenile elegance. Mr. Dryden mentions a tradition, which might easily reach his time, of a declaration made by Shakspeare, that he was obliged to kill Mercutio in the third Act, lest he should have been killed by him. Yet he thinks him no such formidable person, but that he might have lived through the play, and died in his bed, without danger to the poet. Dryden well knew, had he been in quest of truth, in a pointed sentence, that more regard is commonly had to the words than the thought, and that it is very seldom to be rigorously understood. Mercutio's wit, gaiety, and courage, will always procure him friends that wish him a longer life; but his death is not precipitated, he has lived out the time allotted him in the construction of the play ; nor do I doubt the ability of Shakspeare to have continued his existence, though some of his sallies are perhaps out of the reach of Dryden; whose genius was not very fertile of merriment, nor ductile to humour, but acute, argumentative, comprehensive, and sublime.

The Nurse is one of the characters in which the author delighted : he has, with great subtilty of distinction, drawn her at once loquacious and secret, obsequious and insolent, trusty and dishonest.

His comick scenes are happily wrought, but his pathetick strains are always polluted with some unexpected depravations. His persons, however distressed, have a conceit left them in their misery, a miserable conceit *. Johnson.

* This quotation is also found in the Preface to Dryden's Fables : “ Just John Littlewit in Bartholomew Fair, who had a conceit (as he tells you) left him in his misery; a miserable conceit." STEEVENS.


« AnteriorContinua »