Imatges de pÓgina

sonal affection often weeps on the theatre, while jealousy or revenge whet the bloody knife: but Macbeth's emotions are the struggles of conscience; his agonies are the agonies of remorse. They are lessons of justice, and warnings to innocence. I do not know that any dramatic writer, except Shakspeare, has set forth the pangs of guilt separate from the fear of punishment. Clytemnestra is represented by Euripides, as under great terrors, on account of the murder of Agamemnon; but they arise from fear of punishment, not repentance. It is not the memory of the assassinated husband, which haunts and terrifies her, but an apprehension of vengeance from his surviving son: when she is told Orestes is dead, her mind is again at ease. It must be allowed, that on the Grecian stage, it is the office of the chorus to moralize, and to point out, on every occasion, the advantages of virtue over vice. But how much less affecting are their animadversions than the testimony of the person concerned! Whatever belongs to the part of the chorus, has hardly the force of dramatic imitation. The chorus is in a


manner without personal character, or interest, and no way an agent in the drama. We cannot sympathize with the cool reflections of these idle spectators, as we do with the sentiments of the persons, in whose circumstances and situation we are interested.

The heart of man, like iron and other metal, is hard, and of firm resistance, when cold, but, warmed, it becomes malleable and ductile: It is by touching the passions, and exciting sympathetic emotions, not by sentences, that the tragedian must make his impressions on the spectator. I will appeal to any person of taste, whether the following speeches of Wolsey, in another play of Shakspeare, the first a soliloquy, the second addressed to his servant Cromwell, in which he gives the testimony of his experience, and the result of his own feelings, would make the same impression, if uttered by a set of speculative sages in the episode of a chorus.


So farewell to the little good you bear me !
Farewell, a long farewell to all my greatness!

[blocks in formation]

This is the state of man: to-day he puts forth
The tender leaves of hope; to-morrow blossoms,
And bears his blushing honours thick upon him;
The third day comes a frost, a killing frost,
And, when he thinks, good easy man, full surely
His greatness is a ripening, nips his root;
And then he falls, as I do.-I have ventur'd,
Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders,
These many summers in a sea of glory,
But far beyond my depth; my high-blown pride
At length broke under me, and now has left me,
Weary and old with service, to the mercy
Of a rude stream, that must for ever hide me.
Vain pomp and glory of this world! I hate ye;
I feel my heart new open'd. Oh, how wretched
Is that poor man, that hangs on princes' favours!
There is, betwixt that smile we would aspire to,
That sweet aspect of princes, and our ruin,
More pangs and fears than war or women have:
And when he falls, he falls like Lucifer,
Never to hope again.

And in another place,

Let's dry our eyes, and thus far hear me, Cromwell, And when I am forgotten, as I shall be,


And sleep in dull cold marble, where no mention
Of me must more be heard, say then, I taught thee;
Say, Wolsey, that once trod the ways of glory,
And sounded all the depths and shoals of honour,
Found thee a way, out of his wreck, to rise in ;
A sure and safe one, though thy master miss'd it.
Mark but my fall, and that which ruin'd me;
Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambition,
By that sin fell the angels; how can man then,
The image of his Maker, hope to win by't?

Love thyself last; cherish those hearts, that hate thee;
Corruption wins not more than honesty.

Still in thy right-hand carry gentle peace,

To silence envious tongues; be just, and fear not.
Let all the ends, thou aim'st at, be thy country's,

Thy God's, and truth's; then, if thou fall'st, O Cromwell,

Thou fall'st a blessed martyr. Serve the king;

And pr'ythee, lead me in ;

There take an inventory of all I have,

To the last penny, 'tis the king's. My robe,

And my integrity to heav'n, is all

I dare now call mine own. O Cromwell, Cromwell,
Had I but serv'd my God with half the zeal

I serv'd my king, he would not in mine age

Have left me naked to mine enemies..

[blocks in formation]

I select these two passages as containing reflections of such a general kind, as might be with least impropriety transferred to the chorus; but if even these would lose much of their force and pathos, if not spoken by the fallen statesman, how much more would those do, which are the expressions of some instantaneous emotion, occasioned by the peculiar situation of the person by whom they are uttered! The self-condemnation of a murderer makes a very deep impression upon us when we are told by Macbeth himself, that hearing, while he was killing Duncan, one of the grooms cry God bless us, and Amen the other, he durst not say Amen. Had a formal chorus observed, that a man in such a guilty moment, durst not implore that mercy of which he stood so much in need, it would have had but a slight effect. All know the detestation, with which virtuous

men behold a bad action.

A much more

salutary admonition is given, when we are shewn the terrors that are combined with guilt in the breast of the offender.

Our Author has so tempered the consti


« AnteriorContinua »