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periority to any signs of shame or scruples of conscience from a recollection of what is due to herself or others, are well described, and the lady is true to herself in her repentance, which is owing to nothing but the accidental impulse and whim of the moment. The deliberate, voluntary disregard of all moral ties and all pretence to virtue, in the structure of the fable, is nearly unaccountable. Amintor (who is meant to be the hero of the piece) is a feeble, irresolute character: his slavish, recanting loyalty to his prince, who has betrayed and dishonoured him, is of a piece with the tyranny and insolence of which he is made the sport; and even his tardy revenge is snatched from his hands, and he kills his former betrothed and beloved mistress, instead of executing vengeance on the man who has destroyed his peace of mind and unsettled her intellects. The king, however, meets his fate from the penitent fury of Evadne; and on this account, the 'Maid's Tragedy' was forbidden to be acted in the reign of Charles II., as countenancing the doctrine of regicide. Aspatia is a beautiful sketch of resigned and heart-broken melancholy, and Calianax, a blunt, satirical courtier, is a character of much humour and novelty. There are striking passages here and there, but fewer than in almost any of their plays. Amintor's speech to Evadne, when she makes confession of her unlookedfor remorse, is, I think, the finest :
"Do not mock me:
Though I am tame, and bred up with my wrongs,
And do an outrage. Prithee, do not mock me!"
'King and No King,' which is on a strangely chosen subject. as strangely treated, is very superior in power and effect. There is an unexpected reservation in the plot, which, in some measure, relieves the painfulness of the impression. Arbaces is painted in gorgeous, but not alluring colours. His vain-glorious pretensions and impatience of contradiction are admirably displayed, and are so managed as to produce an involuntary comic effect to temper the lofty tone of tragedy, particularly in the scenes in which he affects to treat his vanquished enemy with such con
descending kindness; and perhaps this display of upstart pride was meant by the authors as an oblique satire on his low origin, which is afterwards discovered. His pride of self will and fierce impetuosity are the same in war and in love. The haughty voluptuousness and pampered effeminacy of his character admit neither respect for his misfortunes, nor pity for his errors. His ambition is a fever in the blood; and his love is a sudden transport of ungovernable caprice that brooks no restraint, and is intoxicated with the lust of power, even in the lap of pleasure, and the sanctuary of the affections. The passion of Panthea is, as it were, a reflection from, and lighted at the shrine of her lover's flagrant vanity. In the elevation of his rank, and in the consciousness of his personal accomplishments, he seems firmly persuaded (and by sympathy to persuade others) that there is nothing in the world which can be an object of liking or admiration but himself. The first birth and declaration of this perverted sentiment to himself, when he meets with Panthea after his return from conquest, fostered by his presumptuous infatuation and the heat of his inflammable passions, and the fierce and lordly tone in which he repels the suggestion of the natural obstacles to his sudden phrenzy, are in Beaumont and Fletcher's most daring manner; but the rest is not equal. What may be called the love scenes are equally gross and common-place; and instead of any thing like delicacy or a struggle of different feelings, have all the indecency and familiarity of a brothel. Bessus, a comic character in this play, is a swaggering coward, something between Parolles and Falstaff.
The False One' is an indirect imitation of Antony and Cleopatra. We have Septimius for Enobarbus, and Cæsar for Antony. Cleopatra herself is represented in her girlish state, but she is made divine in
"Youth that opens like perpetual spring,"
and promises the rich harvest of love and pleasure that succeeds it. Her first presenting herself before Cæsar, when she is brought in by Sceva, and the impression she makes upon him, like a vision dropped from the clouds, or
"Like some celestial sweetness, the treasure of soft love,"
are exquisitely conceived. Photinus is an accomplished villain, well-read in crooked policy and quirks of state; and the description of Pompey has a solemnity and grandeur worthy of his unfortunate end. Septimius says, bringing in his lifeless head,
""Tis here, 'tis done! Behold, you fearful viewers,
And again Cæsar says of him, who was his mortal enemy (it was not held in the fashion in those days, nor will it be held so in time to come, to lampoon those whom you have vanquished)—
"Oh, thou conqueror,
Thou glory of the world once, now the pity,
Thou awe of nations, wherefore didst thou fall thus ?
No pyramids set off his memories,
But the eternal substance of his greatness,
It is something worth living for, to write or even read such poetry as this is, or to know that it has been written, or that there have been subjects on which to write it !-This, of all Beaumont
and Fletcher's plays, comes the nearest in style and manner to Shakspeare, not excepting the first act of the Two Noble Kinsmen,' which has been sometimes attributed to him.
The Faithful Shepherdess,' by Fletcher alone, is "a perpetual feast of nectar'd sweets, where no crude surfeit reigns." The author has in it given a loose to his fancy, and his fancy was his most delightful and genial quality, where, to use his own words,
"He takes most ease, and grows ambitious
Thro' his own wanton fire and pride delicious.”
The songs and lyrical descriptions throughout are luxuriant and delicate in a high degree. He came near to Spenser in a certain tender and voluptuous sense of natural beauty; he came near to Shakspeare in the playful and fantastic expression of it. The whole composition is an exquisite union of dramatic and pastoral poetry; where the local descriptions receive a tincture from the sentiments and purposes of the speaker, and each character, cradled in the lap of nature, paints "her virgin fancies wild" with romantic grace and classic elegance.
The place and its employments are thus described by Chloe to Thenot:
"Here be woods as green
As any, air likewise as fresh and sweet
Or gather rushes, to make many a ring
For thy long fingers; tell thee tales of love,
How the pale Phoebe, hunting in a grove,
First saw the boy Endymion, from whose eyes
How she conveyed him softly in a sleep,
His temples bound with poppy, to the steep
Head of old Latmos, where she stoops each night,
There are few things that can surpass in truth and beauty of allegorical description the invocation of Amaryllis to the God of Shepherds, Pan, to save her from the violence of the Sullen Shepherd, for Syrinx's sake:
"For her dear sake,
That loves the rivers' brinks, and still doth shake
In cold remembrance of thy quick pursuit !"
Or again, the friendly Satyr promises Clorin
"Brightest, if there be remaining
Any service, without feigning
To catch the nimble wind, or get
It would be a task no less difficult than this, to follow the flight of the poet's Muse, or catch her fleeting graces, fluttering her golden wings, and singing in notes angelical of youth, of love, and joy!
There is only one affected and ridiculous character in this drama, that of Thenot in love with Clorin. He is attached to her for her inviolable fidelity to her buried husband, and wishes her not to grant his suit, lest it should put an end to his passion. Thus he pleads to her against himself :—
"If you yield, I die
To all affection; 'tis that loyalty
You tie unto this grave I so admire;
And yet there's something else I would desire,
If you would hear me, but withal deny.
Oh Pan, what an uncertain destiny
Hangs over all my hopes! I will retire;
This is paltry quibbling. It is spurious logic, not genuine feeling. A pedant may hang his affections on the point of a dilemma in this manner; but nature does not sophisticate; or when she does, it is to gain her ends, not to defeat them.
The Sullen Shepherd turns out too dark a character in the