Imatges de pàgina

upon the phantoms of imagination, they discover them to have been mere fhadows, formed by ignorance. The thunderbolts of yove, forged in Cimmerian caves; the ceftus of Venus, woven by hands of the attracting Graces, cease to terrify and allure. Echo, from an amorous nymph, fades into voice, and nothing more; the very threads of Iris's scarf are untwisted ; all the poet's spells are broken, his charms dissolved : deserted on his own enchanted ground, he takes refuge in the groves of philosophy; but there his divinities evaporate in allegory, in which mystic and insubftantial state they do but weakly aslift his operations. By aflociating his muse with philosophy, he hopes she may establish with the learned the worship the won from the ignorant; so makes her quit the old traditional fable, from whence she derived her first authority and power, to follow airy hypothefis, and chimerical systems. Allegory, the daughter of fable, is admired by the fastidious wit, and abitruse scholar, when her mother begins to be treated as superannuated, foolish, and doating; but however well she may please and amuse, not being worshipped as divine, the does not awe and terrify like facred mythology, nor ever can establish the same fearful devotion, nor af. fume such arbitrary' power over the mind. Her per fon is not adapted to the stage, nor her qualities to the business and end of dramatic representation. L'Abbe du Bos has judiciously distinguished the reasons why allegory is not fit for the drama. What the critic in. vestigated by art and study, the wisdom of nature unfolded to our unlettered poet, or he would not have resifted the prevalent fashion of his allegorizing age ; especially as Spenser's Fairy Queen was the admired work of the times.

Allegorical beings, performing acts of chivalry, fell in with the taste of an age that affected abstruse learning, romantic valour, and high-flown gallantry. Prince Arthur the British Hercules, was brought from ancient ballads and romances, to be allegorized into VOL. II. с


the knight of magnanimity, at the court of Gloriana. His knights followed him thither, in the same moralized garb, and even the questynge beast received no Jess honour and improvement from the allegorizing art of Spencer, as has been shewn by a critic of great learning, ingenuity, and taste, in his Observations on the Fairy Queer.

Our first theatrical entertainments, after we emerged from grofs barbarism, were of the allegorical kind. The Christmas carol, and carnival fhews, the pious pastimes of our holy-days, were turned into pageantries and masques, all symbolical and allegorical.Our stage rose from hymns to the virgin, and encomiums on the patriarchs and faints : as the Grecian tragedies from the hymns to Baccbus. Our early poets added narration and action to this kind of psalmody, as Æschylus had done to the song of the goat. Much more rapid indeed was the progress of the Grecian Itage towards perfection.-Philosophy, poetry, eloquence, all the fine arts, were in their meridian glory, when the drama first began to dawn at Athens, and gloriously it fhone forth, illuminated by every kind of intellectual light.

S. in the dark shades of Gothic barbarism, had no resources but in the very phantoms that walked the night of ignorance and superftition : or in touching the latent paflions of civil rage and discord ; sure to please beft his fierce and barbarous audience, when he raised the bloody ghost, or reared the warlike standard. His choice of these subjects was judicious, if we consider the times in which he lived; his management of them so mafterly, that he will be admired in all times.

In the same age, Ben. Johnson, more proud of his learning than confident of his genius, was defirous to give a metaphysical air to his compositions. He composed many pieces of the allegorical kind, eftablished on the Grecian mythology, and rendered his play-house a perfect pantheon.-s. disdained these



quaint devices; an admirable judge of human nature, with a capacity moft extensive, and an invention moft happy, he contented himself with giving dramatic manners to history, sublimity and its appropriated powers and charms to fiction ; and in both these arts he is unequalled.—The Catiline and Sejanus of JohnJon are cold, crude, heavy pieces ; turgid where they should be great ; 'bombast where they Thould be sube lime; the sentiments extravagant ; the manners exaggerated ; and the whole undramatically conducted by long fenatorial speeches, and flat plagiarisms from Tacitus and Salluft. Such of this author's pieces as he boasts to be grounded on antiquity and solid learning, and to lay hold on removed mysteries*, have neither the majesty of S's serious fables, nor the pleafing sportfulness and poetical imagination of his fairy tales.And indeed if we compare our countryman, in this respect, not only with the moderns, but the moft admired writers of antiquity, we shall not find him inferior to them."

The reader will find some attempts, on this head, in the Introduction to Hamlet and Macbeth. See also the close of this admirable play-The Tempeft.

* Prologue to the Masque of Queens,


Tube XI.

The Tempest.

A C Τ Ι.


Miranda's Compasion.


Mir. O, I have suffer'd
With those that I saw suffer! A brave vessel,
Who had, no doubt, some noble creatures in her,
Dash'd all to pieces. O the cry did knock
Against my very heart! Poor souls! they perish’d.
Had I been any god of power, I would
Have funk the sea within the earth, or e’re,
It should the good ship so have swallow'd, and
The fraighting fouls within her.

Pro. Wipe thou thine eyes, have comfort,
The direful spectacle of the wreck, which touch'd
The very virtue (1) of compassion in thee,
I have with such provision in mine art
So safely order'd, that there is no soul (2)
No not so much perdition as an hair,
Betid to any creature in the vessel,
Which thou heard'It cry, which thou saw'lt fink.


(1) The very virtue.] i. e. the most efficacious part; the energetic quality ; in a like fense we say, " the virtue of a plant is in the extract.” 7.

(2) There is no soul.] i. e. no soul loft. The sentence is broken and interrupted, by the zeal of the speaker, who hurries to a fuller manner of expressing the matter in hand.

Such interrupted sentences," St. observes justly, “ are not uncommon to S.: he fometiines begins a sentençę, and


An ufurping Substitute compared to Ivy.

That (3) now he was
The ivy which had hid my princely trunk,
And fuck'd my verdure out on't.

Confidence betrayed.

My trust
Like a good parent, did beget of him
A falsehood, in its contrary as great
As my trust was; which had, indeed, no limit ;
A confidence fans bound. He being thus lorded
Not only with what my revenue yielded,
But what my power might else exact, like one (4)
Who having, unto truth, by telling of it,
Made such a finner of his

To credit his own lie,-he did believe
He was indeed the duke.

Infant Innocence.

Mir. Alack! what trouble Was I then to you!

Prof. before he concludes it, entirely changes the construction, because another more forcible occurs. As this change frequently happens in conversation, it may be fuifered to pass uncensured in the language of the stage.' See AEts, c. xxvii. v. 22–34.

(3) That, &c.] See Much ado about Nothing, Act 3. (4) Like one, &c.] W. reads thus,

Sc. I.

Like one,

Who having unto truth, by telling oft,

Made, &c. The construction as it stands, is rather irregular : lie howe. ver appears to be the substantive to which it refers.

Telling of it, i.e. bis own lie.

« AnteriorContinua »