Imatges de pÓgina

the Clitandre just quoted; and it must be allowed, they are often exceptionable: but at the same time we must observe, that though crowded too much, they are not so perplexed as to be unintelligible, which Corneille confesses his Clitandre might be to those who saw it but once. There is still another more essential difference perhaps, which is, that the wildest and most incorrect pieces of our Poet contain some incomparable speeches; whereas the worst plays of Corneille have not a good stanza. The tragedy of King Lear is very far from being a regular piece; yet there are speeches in it, which perhaps excel any thing that has been written by any tragedian, ancient or modern. However we will only compare one passage of it at present, with another in Clitandre ; as they both happen to be on similar subjects. The blinded lover, after many complaints, and wishes for revenge, hears the noise of a tempest, and thus breaks




Mes menaces déjà font trembler tout le monde :
Le vent fuit d'épouvante, et le tonnére en gronde :
L'œil du ciel s'en retire, et par un voile noir,
N'y pouvant résister, se défend d'en rien voir.
Cent nuages épais se distilant en larmes,
A force de pitié, veulent m'ôter les armes.
La nature étonnée embrasse mon couroux,
Et veut m'offrir Dorise, ou devancer mes coups.
Tout est de mon parti, le ciel même n'envoie
Tant d'éclairs redoublés, qu'afin que je la voie.

King Lear, whom age renders weak and querulous, and who is now beginning to grow mad, thus very naturally, in the general calamity of the storm, recurs to his own particular circumstances.


Spit fire, spout rain;

Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters ;
1 tax you not, you elements, with unkindness,
1 never gave you kingdoms, call'd you children,
You owe me no submission. Then let fall


Your horrible pleasure: here I stand your slave,
A poor, infirm, weak, and despis'd old man!
And yet I call you servile ministers,

That have with two pernicious daughters join'd
Your high engender'd battles, 'gainst a head
So old and white as this. Oh! oh! 'tis foul.

They must have little feeling, that are not touched by this speech, so highly pathetic.

How fine is that which follows!


Let the great Gods,

That keep this dreadful pother o'er our heads,

Find out their enemies now. Tremble, thou wretch, That hast within thee undivulged crimes

Unwhipt of justice! Hide thee, thou bloody hand,

Thou perjur'd, and thou simular of virtue,
That art incestuous! Caitiff, shake to pieces,

That under covert, and convenient seeming,
Hast practis'd on man's life! Close pent up guilts,
Rive your concealing continents, and ask

These dreadful summoners grace!—I am a man
More sinn'd against than sinning.


Thus it is that Shakspeare redeems the nonsense, the indecorums, the irregularities of his plays: and whoever, for want of natural taste, or from ignorance of the English language, is insensible to the merit of these passages, is just as unfit to judge of his works, as a deaf man, who only perceived the blackness of the sky, and did not hear the deep-voiced thunder, and the roaring elements, would have been to describe the aweful horrors of this midnight storm.

The French critic apologizes for our persisting in the representation of Shakspeare's plays, by saying we have none of a more regular form. In this he is extremely mistaken; we have many plays written according to the rules of art; but nature, which speaks in Shakspeare, prevails over them all. If at one of our theatres there were a set of actors who gave the true force of every sentiment, seemed inspired with the passion they were to counterfeit, fell so naturally into the cir


cumstances and situations the poet had appointed for them, that they never betrayed they were actors, but might sometimes have an awkward gesture, or for a moment a vicious pronunciation, should we not constantly resort thither?-If at another theatre there were a set of puppets regularly featured, whose proportions and movements were geometrically true, and the faces, the action, the pronunciation of these puppets had no fault, but that there was no expression in their countenance, no natural air in their motion, and that their speech had not the various inflections of the human voice; would a real connoisseur abandon the living actors for such lifeless images, because some nice and dainty critic pleaded, that the puppets were not subject to any human infirmities, would not cough, sneeze, or become hoarse in the midst of a fine period? Or could it avail much to urge, that their movements and tones, being directed by just mechanics, would never betray the awkwardness

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