« AnteriorContinua »
we readily adopt them into the fcale of Nature, from a prefumption, that were they really to exift, they would probably resemble the characters which his wand has endowed them with.
These two plays are generally fupposed to have been the first and fecond of his writing; though I believe there are no dates remaining, to confirm this opinion; which can therefore be founded only on the idea, that his youthful imagination muft naturally be thought to have been more fportive and exuberant, than his riper judgment might have permitted the indulgence of. And here, indeed,
"She wantons, as in her prime,
"And plays at will her virgin fancies:"
though, if I may be allowed the liberty of a criticifm about this matter, I fhould be rather inclined to fuppofe this Play to have been one of his latter performances, as all the unities are so strictly preserved in it.
But though both thefe pieces poffefs all the leffer merits of poefy, they are not so much suited to the purpose of my present undertaking, especially the fecond, as feveral others of the fame author; for the most material events, in both, being principally conducted by machinery, or fupernatural agency, produce rather aftonishment than reflection: fo that unless we adopt Dr. Johnson's remark, in the first scene of the Tempeft," it may be obferved of Gonzalo, that being the "only good man that appears with the King, he is "the only one who preferves his chearfulness in the "wreck, or his hope on the island," there is not fo much to be collected from them, as I could wish, to be placed to the score of Morality. However, all that can be extracted from either, referrible to this head, fhall be diligently pointed out to the reader. With this view I fhall lay the Fable of this Play before my reader, for the fake of the Moral, which may be fo fairly deduced from it.
Profpero, a duke of Milan, having been expelled his dominion, by the ufurpation of his brother Anthonio, confederated with Alonzo, a king of Naples, is committed to the mercy of the winds and waves, in a rotten bark, accompanied only by his daughter, Miranda, a child of three years old; but has had the good fortune to escape, and be landed on an uninhabited ifland; where the first scene is laid, and the intire action continued, during the whole representation.
About twelve years after this event, Anthonio, with Alonzo, Ferdinand his son, and other attendants, being on a voyage together, are driven out of their course, by a ftorm, and wrecked upon this island, but escape alive on fhore; where the Prince, meeting with Miranda, falls in love with her, and a reciprocal paffion is conceived on her part, alfo.
Profpero, having thus got his enemies within his power, on their repentance, generously forgives them their cruelty and injuftice, recovers his dukedom again, and the marriage of the lovers confirms an alliance on both fides.
From this short story I think the following general Moral will naturally refult: That the ways, the juftice, and the goodness of Providence, are fo frequently manifefted towards mankind, even in this life, that it fhould ever encourage an honest and a guiltlefs mind to form hopes, in the most forlorn fituations; and ought alfo to warn the wicked never to reft affured in the false confidence of wealth or power, against the natural abhorrence of vice, both in God and man.
Many of the unforeseen events of life, which appear to us but accident or contingency, may poffibly be parts of the fecret workings of Providence,
"All chance direction which we cannot fee;" and have oftener been remarked rather as ments of vice, than as reliefs from mifery.
We are fenfible
fenfible in our own nature, of a stronger impulse to resent the first, than even to commiferate the latter. How much higher, then, muft this fentiment rise, in the Author of that very nature! In wretchedness there is no contagion; 'tis but particular and temporary: the effects of vice are general and eternal.
Part of a fpeech in this play may be better quoted here, than elsewhere, as it refers fo immediately to this fubject.
ARIEL, Speaking to the Confpirators.
For that's my bufinefs to you, that you three
Let us now proceed to the particular maxims and fentiments which occur from the feveral parts of the Dialogue.
ACT I. SCENE II.
Miranda, fpeaking of the fhipwreck, thus expreffes her fympathetic feelings for the wretched.
O! I have fuffered
With thofe that I saw fuffer: A brave vessel,
(Who had, no doubt, fome noble creatures in her)
Again my very heart. Poor fouls, they perifh'd !
* Aa III. Scene iv.
There is fomething in the fond expreffion of good Ship, in the laft line but one, which ftrikes me with an idea of a peculiar tenderness in her compaffion for the unhappy fufferers.
Profpero, confeffing the mad folly of trufting his reins of adminiftration into other hands, fays, The Government I calt upon my brother, And to my State grew firanger.
And again, fpeaking of the fame person,
Being once perfected how to grant suits,
How to deny them; whom to advance, and whom
The creatures that were mine; I fay, or changed them,
And my truft,
Like a good parent, did beget of him.
A falfehood in its contrary as great
But what my power might else exact; like one,
To credit his own lie, he did believe
And him he played it for, he needs will be
In this account of the Duke's weakness, with the natural confequences attending it, the Poet has afforded a proper leffon to princes, never to render themselves cyphers in their government, by too dangerous a confidence in their favourites; but ever to confider thofe perfons, to whom they depute the feveral offices of State, as minifters, in the literal fense of the word, only, not in the political one.
When Profpero defcribes the hazards and difficulties of his forlorn voyage, Miranda tenderly exclaims,
Alack what trouble
To which he, in a kind of extasy of fondness, replies,
O! a cherubim
Thou waft, that did preferve me.
Thou didst fmile,
(When I have decked the fea with drops full falt;
Here the Poet finely points to that virtue of true manhood, which ferves to ftrengthen our fortitude and double our activity, when objects, whom the ties of Nature, or the fympathy of affections, have endeared to us, require our folace or affiftance in distress or danger. While our cares center folely in ourfelves, we are but one; but become two, where the heart is fhared.
Profpero. Here in this ifland we arrived, and here
Have 1, thy fchoolmaster, made thee more profit
Here the too general diffipations of life are hinted at, and thofe parents cenfured, who transfer the pious duty of their children's education to mercenary preceptors; except in the meaner articles of it, the arts, exercises, and sciences. Too few attend to the higher and more interesting charge, of forming the mind and directing the heart to their proper objects; and fewer ftill, in deputing it to others, feem to regard the chief requifites, of character, or capacity, in those they intruft with this office, looking upon competent scholarship to be alone fuffi
But a liberal education, as far as it extends in Colleges and Schools, does not always give a liberal