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Mingle-Hangle by nitonkshood.
but made a mingle-mangle and a hotch-potch of it-I cannot tell what. Bp, LATINER's Sermons.
LIKE many another, and more engaging, Shakspearean creation, Caliban is capital company in the closet, but loses spirit and substance on the stage. The spell of imagination which sublimates him, is broken when he appears on the boards, an actual shape made up by the property man. Careful and clever artistes may be got to represent him, but the idealism of the brave monster is gone. At best the acted Caliban (for the original one we take to be unactable) wears very much the appearance to the spectators that he did to that foolish fellow Trinculo, who had no eye for the picturesque, and whose scrutiny of the son of Sycorax was conducted in the vulgarest style of coarse, inquisitive manipulation. Trinculo holds his nose as he examines the recumbent figure : a fish, most likely? he, or it, smells like a fish; a very ancient and fish-like smell ; a kind of not of the newest Poor-John. Legged like a man, and his fins like arms. A mooncalf; not a most delicate monster. Any but a conscientious actor, of ripe intelligence and chastened taste, is nearly sure to fall in with Trinculo's view of the savage, and amuse the groundlings by making Caliban ludicrous, and nothing more. The proud distinction that Shakspeare has drawn between him-grotesque as he is and his pair of tipsy associates from the wreck, will be ignored by the ordinary performer, and everything sacrificed to the endeavour to raise a laugh, and even emulate in abandon, and outdo in pantomimic extravagance, the buffooneries of the hiccoughing butler and the pied ninny from the ship. Bannister's is said to have been the best Caliban of the last age, and next to it, if not before it in idiosyncratic vigour and effect, ranked Emery's presentment of the demi-devil.
Of those actors who, of late years, have essayed the part, Mr. George Bennett, who made a sensation" as Prospero's island-slave, when Mr. Macready revived “The Tempest” at Covent Garden theatre, and who was also the Caliban of Mr. Phelps's reproduction of it, in the first season that Shakspeareanised Sadler's Wells,-is generally acknowledged, we believe, to have retained more of the poetry of the character, more of the wild, indefinite, mystical grotesque--not without gleams of underlying pathos, and broad flashes of savage grandeur-than any other recent player. Mr. Ryder, at the Princess's theatre, does not seem to have exalted it much above the level of traditional stage-practice. Mr. Barrett roared in a deep bass, and footed it well in the drunken dance, but was in the main “a very shallow monster," an over close approximation to Trinculo's verdict of “ a most poor credulous monster." How Mr. Webster got through the part at Windsor Castle, it is—or perhaps by court etiquette it is not-for the privileged eye-witnesses to say. well, we guess, by a long reckoning, as in Triplet or Richard Pride.
Shakspeare is not exactly Mr. Webster's forte, and Caliban demands a Shakspearean actor, intus et in cute.
When we say that Shakspeare has pointedly discriminated Caliban from his rollicking partners, we refer to the poetical investiture with which the island monster is, from first to last, so memorably girt about, in such utter contrast to the gross conceits, grovelling habits, and low prosaic diction of Stephano and the jester. He is of another and higher sphere. Abominable he is, no doubt, and too literally in apostolic phrase) earthly, sensual, devilish. Vindictive he is to the last degree, brutal in his lusts, murderous and unrelentingly cruel in the devices of his heart. But he is not meant to be laughed at with the comfortable contempt we vouchsafe his chance companions from Naples. He talks in another strain, aims at other objects, is moved by other impulses. His “pals” are all for plunder-but he has a soul above that. There is as much difference between Caliban and that precious pair, when they filch jerkin and "glistering apparel” from the line, as between a grim political conspirator and a couple of area sneaks.
Trinculo. O king Stephano! O peer! O worthy Stephano! look, what a wardrobe is here for thee ! So cries the jester, in greedy, chuckling, unmistakable prose, at sight of the tempting array of royal vesture hung out by Ariel on the line before Prospero's cell. Caliban, on the other hand, not only is above these petty peculations, and the vulgar ecstasies the opportunity for them elicits, but his disdainful remonstrances are couched in all the dignity of blank verse.
Caliban. Let it alone, thou fool; it is but trash. But the others are deaf to metrical impressions, and incapable of this sublime altitude of self-restraint; they have no more notion of keeping their hands from picking and stealing, than their tongues from evil. speaking, lying, and slandering, or their bodies in temperance, soberness, and chastity. The rapture of rifling a royal wardrobe is the topmost bliss of their ambition, and for either of them to miss it, or delay it, or disdain it, were to write himself down an ass.
Trin. O, ho, monster; we know what belongs to a frippery:-O king Stephano !
Steph. Put off that gown, Trinculo; by this hand I'll have that gown.
To doat thus on such luggage? Let’s along,
And do the murder first. There is no dissuading them, however, from their rapacious resolves, and they importune their impatient comrade to help them in the theft, and bear off his share of the finery.
Steph. Be you quiet, monster ....
Trin. Monster, come, put some lime upon your fingers, and away with the rest. Calib. I will have none on't: we shall lose our time,
And all be turned to barnacles, or to apes
* The Tempest, Act IV. Sc. 1.
He knows the magician's wealth of resources, in retaliatory pains and penalties; and, with all his deformity of figure and monstrosity of aspect, Caliban shrinks from identity in facial angles with the wild man of the woods; fortune may have made him the companion of thieves, but he is scornfully superior to going shares in the spoil.
The loathly creature makes his entrance with a malediction, but it is one that bespeaks him no retailer of common oaths. His nurture, lineage, and solitary life, forbid that. He curses his master, and that master's dainty, tricksome spirit—with whose ethereal nature his own fiendish origin is elaborately put in contrast—but the curses are deep-drawn from brooding malignancy, which, believing itself foully wronged, resents the wrong with bitterness concentrated and vehement in its wrath, and will avenge the wrong as soon, and as completely, and as crushingly as ever
Prospero has put him to base uses, and keeps him to them with the jealous tenacity of tyranny prepense. Prospero has no bowels for this monster, not a grain of mercy on the would-be ravisher of his daughter, on the hag-seed he has found unimpressionable by kindness, and whom he therefore, now, for safety's sake-his own and Miranda's—will and must grind to the dust, an irredeemable and most abhorrèd slave. 'Tis a villain Miranda loves not to look on-who never yields kind an
But the magician-master's ménage cannot do without him: he makes their fire, fetches in their wood, and serves in offices that profit them. The mood in which this slave, this Caliban,—who claims the island for his own by right,-cannot but regard the usurping enchanter and his child, as well as that “quaint Ariel” who fulfils so promptly all Prospero's behests, is quite intelligible, and not utterly removed from the range of human sympathy, considering the bondage to which the “ blueeyed hag's” son is reduced, and the sense of injustice and usurpation that festers in the bad blood of his heart.
As wicked dew as e'er my mother brush'd
And blister you all o’er! The malediction is irrepressible, though he knows as he utters it that a penalty abides each clause, and will overtake him almost before he has vented its concluding execration : for day-by-day experience has made gratuitous the despot's reminder, “For this, be sure, to-night thou shalt have cramps”—side-stitches that shall pen his breath up, and the restless teasing of imps that shall pinch, and sting, and all but fret the life out of him, when he betakes him, in dogged desperation, to his evening lair. He returns reproach for menace--indignant upbraiding for ruthless threat.
This island's mine, by Sycorax, my mother,
The fresh-springs, brine-pits, barren place, and fertile.
him, and something near akin to compassion. One can make allowance, thus far, for the rancour of his denunciation on what, as he represents it, is nothing but a selfish despotism, regardless of right, and incapable of a grateful return or of one generous thought:
Cursed be I that did so !-All the charms
The rest of the island. Perfectly intelligible and natural is this rage at being, as he believes, duped into serving a tyrant, who, his turn once served, would then appropriate his possessions with impunity, and laugh, or scorn, or silence by ingenuities in torture, all his appeals for redress or even for relief. But there is the master's version of these antecedents to be heard : audi alteram partem. Prospero retorts on this “ most lying slave," whom “stripes may move, not kindness,” that he has used him, “ filth as he is," with human care, and lodged him in his own cell, until he offered violence to its maiden occupant. And Caliban's brutal chuckle at the reminder amply justifies the after terms of Prospero.
Who hadst deserred more than a prison. Prospero has taught Caliban language ; and Caliban's profit on't, is, to know how to curse him: “ The red plague rid you, for learning me your language." In cursing, at any rate, as a rhetorical art, as well a vent for genuine hatred and despair, the son of Sycorax shows himself a proficient pupil : he is the most eloquent and imaginative of malediction-makers, and goes to the work with a vengeance, and with a will.
Addison remarkst that it shows a greater genius in Shakspeare to have drawn his Caliban than his Hotspur or Julius Cæsar: the one was to be supplied out of his own imagination, whereas the other might have been formed upon tradition, history, and observation. This is a mere Addisonian common-place as it stands. We may collate with it a bit of colloquy between Dr. Johnson and Fanny Burney, apropos of the Bristol milkwoman, whose history led old Samuel to remark, that there is nothing so little comprehended among mankind as genius. They give to it all, he said, when it can be but a part. Genius he declared to be nothing more than knowing the use of tools; but there must be tools for it to use: a man who has spent all his life in one room of a house will give a very poor account of what is contained in the next. “ Certainly, sir," is pretty Fanny's way of qualified assent; “yet there is such a thing as invention ? Shakspeare could never have seen a Caliban.” “No," rejoins Shakspeare's stalwart editor and critic; “but he had seen a man, and knew, therefore, how to vary him to a monster. A man who would draw a monstrous cow, must first know what a cow commonly is; or how can he tell that to give her an ass's head or an elephant's tusk will make her monstrous ?"*
* The Tempest, Act I. Sc. 2.
† Spectator, No. 279.
But the exceptional greatness of the genius (to recur to Addison's expression) that alone could have sufficed so to draw in outline, and so to fill up, this extraordinary portrait, is acknowledged by every intelligent inquirer. King Charles the First, and his courtiers, we are told, cherished an even “ fervent admiration"Ị for this dramatic masterpiece. Indeed, as Franz Horn observes in his Shakspeares Schauspiele erläutert, Caliban, who, in spite of his imperfect, brutish, and half human nature, as the son of a witch, is something marvellously exciting, and as pretender to the sovereignty of the island something ridiculously sublime,“ has been considered by every one as an inimitable character of the most powerful poetic fancy; and, the more the character is investigated, the more is our attention rewarded.” In Caliban, the same German critic proceeds to remark, there is a curious mixture of devil, man, and beast, descending even to the fish species. He desires evil, not for the sake of evil or from mere wickedness, but because it is piquant, and because he feels himself oppressed. He is convinced that gross injustice has been done him, and thus he does not rightly feel that what he desires may be wicked. He knows perfectly well how powerful Prospero is :
I must obey: his art is of such power,
And make a vassal of him. Nevertheless, Caliban “cannot cease to curse, and certainly with the gusto of a virtuoso in this more than liberal art. Whatever he can find most base and disgusting he surrounds almost artistically with the most inharmonious and hissing words, and then wishes them to fall upon Prospero and his lovely daughter. . He has acquired one fixed idea -that the island belonged to his mother, and, consequently, now to himself, the crown prince. The greatest horrors are pleasant to him, for he feels them only as jests which break the monotony of his slavery: He laments that he had been prevented from completing a frightful sin,
O ho, O ho would it had been done! and the thought of a murder gives him a real enjoyment, perhaps chiefly on account of the noise and confusion that it would produce.
“Recognising all this, yet our feelings towards him never rise to a thorough hatred. We find him only laughably horrible, and as a marvellous though at bottom a feeble monster highly interesting, for we foresee from the first that none of his threats will be fulfilled. Caliban could scarcely at any
time have been made out more in detail, but we are well enabled to seize upon the idea of his inner physiognomy from the naked
* Diary of Madame D'Arblay, vol. ii., sub anno 1784.
| See De Quincey's article « Shakspeare,” in the Encyclopædia Britannica-a tractate of rare merit and pregnant suggestiveness.