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following passage it seems scarcely possible to mistake the Shaks-
I held it ever,
Or tie my treasure up in silken bags. Titus Andronicus is properly rejected from the number of Shakspeare's plays. Not that the first essay of a great genius must necessarily be free from defects and extravagances; but it has nothing to identify it with the manner of Shakspeare. The versification itself, though smooth and sweet, is sufficient to discredit it; the rhythm is more equally rounded, and the lines are less broken into varied pauses : but the whole play is feeble and barbarous; it has nothing of the “divinæ particulam aura.” If Shakspeare had drawn Aaron the Moor, some traces would have appeared of that knowledge of mixed character, and that art which, by some counteracting quality, prevents villany from sinking into contempt, or raising disgust and unmitigated horror; such art as strikes us with the inexplicable force of a spell in Richard and lago. But Aaron is a mere fiend, a villain for the simple love of villany, without the excuse of a purpose even to himself; and he accordingly digs up corpses out of their graves, and sets them upright at their friends' door, for the sake of frolic. Shakspeare could never have given existence to such a moon-calf of tragedy as this.
Dr. Drake is greatly scandalized at the tradition of Shakspeare's holding gentlemen's horses at the door of the playhouse; and will have it that he commenced with wearing the sock and buskin. If Shakspeare did not hold horses at the playhouse door, we are sorry for it: he loses just so much of the merit of genius “ springing as broke from bonds.” But his biographer is moreover determined that he shall be not merely an actor, but a good actor. We are very indifferent about the matter. Had
* In the sense of knoze!: c'g.-Rev.
Shakspeare been an actor such as Betterton or Henderson, we doubt whether Dr. Drake would have had occasion to write his biography. Abstractedly, we should very much doubt this sort of stage alliance between the historic and dramatic powers; they are totally distinct. The flexibility of imitation, fancy, and feeling; the nervous susceptibility, and gesticulative sympathy, by which passion or humour are personified with expression adapted to their various changes; the mimetic power which not only transfers the signs of passion into the gesture, and countenance, and voice, but by a strong sympathetic self-illusion borrows in degree the real emotion of the passion itself, belong totally to a different frame of faculties from the imitation of inventive thought. The more eminent the actor, the less likely is he to succeed in originating those characters in thought, which he imitates in action. Of Otway the player we know nothing and we care nothing; but his Pierre and his Belvidera still walk the scene. The actor Shakspeare has been long forgotten; but Dr. Drake wishes to “ call him, and let us see him.” He will “come like a shadow, and so depart.”
That “ the information which we have on this subject is unfortunately very scanty,” carries with it the strongest presumptive evidence that Shakspeare was the maker--the points-only; and that the actor sank' beneath him. But—“we have happily a testimony in the researches of Mr. Malone;" and this testimony, we shall find, is mere moonshine. A posthumous work of Robert Greene, under the title of “Greene's Groats-worth of Wit bought with a Million of Repentance,” was published by Chettle; in this work harsh mention was made of Marlowe and Shakspeare: the latter was then, says Dr. Drake, “ rising into fame:" that is, we presume, as a dramatic poet. The reader will, then, take along with him that this harshness must have been used towards Marlowe and Shakspeare as dramatic writers : and Dr. Drake himself says, “ both these poets (not actors) were justly offended.” Chettle published an apology in a pamphlet, entitled “ Kind Heart's Dream:" in which he says,
66 I have all the time of my conversing in printing, hindered the bitter inveighing against schollers it hath been very well known. With neither of them that take offence was I acquainted; and with one of them (Marlowe) I care not if I never be. The other (Shakspeare) whom at that time I did not so much spare, as since I wish Í had; for, that as I have moderated the hate of living writers, and might have used my own discretion (especially in such a case, the author being dead), that I did not, I am as sorry as if the original fault had been my fault; because myself have seen his demeanour no less civil than he is excellent in the qualitie he professes. Besides, divers of worship have reported his upright
VOL. XII. NO. XXIII.
ness of dealing, which argues his honesty and his facetious grace in writing, which approves his art.' That is, as we understand Dr. Drake to interpret it, he is very sorry that he spoke ill of Shakspeare as a dramatic writer, because he must confess that Shakspeare was not only a civil gentleman, but a capital actor : and that men of repute had spoken of his fine skill as a writer (which Greene had called in question by accusing him of vamping up others' plays), and that this skill as a writer evinced what an admirable player he was; which neither Greene nor any one else had called in question at all.
Why “the qualitie which he professes,” as Dr. Drake would have us believe, should peculiarly denote the profession of a player, we are really quite at a loss to understand ; it might, we presume, denote any other profession equally well. The profession in question was that of a writer for the stage: and if Chettle meant to say, that Shakspeare was excellent in that of a player, he said what was nothing to the purpose.
Dr. Drake brings up the rear of his hypothesis with internal evidence. We have Hamlet's instructions to the players :-as if because a man is a good critic on acting, he must need be himself a good actor. Then we have his “conceptions of the powers necessary to form the accomplished tragedian.” “Gloster. Come, cousin, canst thou quake and change thy colour,
Murther thy breath in middle of a word, &c.” But this is conception only: and we are still as far as ever from the proof of personal execution. If the reader have due patience he will soon arrive at it.
“ Look you how pale he glares !" Now “the top of Shakspeare's performance," says Rowe, “was the Ghost in his own Hamlet :" and, says Dr. Drake, the author would not have ventured to introduce this description, unless he had been conscious of the possession of powers capable of doing it justice.” What if he had been mistaken in this consciousness But, does Dr. Drake really suppose, that when Shakspeare penned the awful descriptive traits, which he has put in the mouths of those to whom the Ghost appears, the idea ever entered his head that he would have himself to personate his own apparition ? That he must be careful not to make the Ghost too piteous, or too pale (though a little flour might have overcome this difficulty); and that the speeches must be adapted in their length to the strength of the Author's lungs? On this ground it seems fortunate for those who do not frequent the theatre, but read Shakspeare in the closet, not that he had a creative faculty, and an observant mind, but a handsome tall figure, and a wonderfully fine roll of his eye. After all these cogent reasons, and solid evi
dences, we are well content to regard Shakspeare as a very decent actor, and the greatest of dramatic poets.
In the view of “ romantic literature, during the age of Shakspeare,” we are glad to meet with a defence of Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia; which Horace Walpole terms a " tedious, lamentable, pedantic, pastoral romance:" this is a characteristic instance of the petulant conceit of the moderns; and argues an insensibility to mental power, because disguised by quaintness, and encumbered with prolixity. “There is no work,” justly observes Dr. Drake, “which contains more apothegmatic wisdom than the Arcadia of Sidney ;” and he might have added, that some of the descriptions have a clearness and force of painting, a depth and richness of style, not unallied to those picturesque felicities of expression by which Shakspeare himself gives life and individuality to the forms of nature.
The “ View of the Poetry of the Age,” contains succinct notices of the different poets in Shakspeare's time. This induces a disquisition on the old versification : in which Dr. Drake, we think, exhibits a sort of halting between opinions, and does not seem to understand, very clearly, what he himself thinks on the subject. He finds fault with the rhymed metre of the Elizabethan period, as employed by Daniel, Drayton, and Browne; because deficient “ in harmony and cadence, polish and compactness;" and laying hold of Headley's unadvised expression, that “while the elder poets disdained stooping to the character of syllablemongers, their conceptions, though ragged, were healthy," he talks scientifically of “ versification being to poetry what colouring is to painting:” and disapproves altogether of raggedness. In consistency with this also, he tells us of “ Gray's lofty flights of sublimity, very happily united to the utmost splendour of diction and brilliancy of versification :” and he praises Mr. Campbell's poem of “ The Pleasures of Hope,” for its exquisitely sweet and polished metre. He seems, in short, to be enamoured of every thing, to use one of his own phrases, “exquisitely modern : ” of the mechanism of versification,” the “result of long and elaborate study,” to which scrupulous attention has been paid since the days of Pope, of “ the colouring and keeping of style,” and “the niceties and economy of arrangement.'
In all this theory of poetic harmony we totally dissent from Dr. Drake: and we do so with the less reluctance, as he has himself kindly furnished us with arguments against it: for within a page, he speaks of “the meretricious glare of colouring,” the uniform, though seductive polish," and the “monotony of versification," " which are too apparent in the school of Pope," and which have been carried to a disgusting excess by Darwin and his disciples: which not only vitiate and dilute all development of intense emotion, but even paralyse all power of picturesque delineation, which can only subsist under an uncontrouled freedom of execution, when both in language and rhythm the utmost variety and energy have their full play.
All the talk about “ deficiencies in harmony and cadence,” takes for granted the thing in question that modern metre contains the true harmony of cadence; that couplet-metre is to be a melody of distiches, not a harmony of periods, and that though the nightingale is a fine bird on occasion, yet for general delight your cuckoo is the only melodist. We have not the poems of Mr. Bowles at hand; but we recollect some very beautiful instances among them of intermingled rhymed numbers (ragged, as Dr. Drake would call them), not only in his sonnets, but in his couplet-effusions.
In fact, Dr. Drake seems, after all, to be pretty much of our opinion; for he regards it as "creditable to the present age, that in the higher poetry, several of our bards (we wish he were not so fond of this word,) had, in a great degree, reverted to the ancient school : and, in attempting to emulate the genius of their predecessors, had judiciously adopted their strength and simplicity of diction, their freedom and variety of metre.”
We think Dr. Drake is but just in affirming of Shakspeare's sonnets, that “if their style be compared with that of his predecessors and contemporaries, in the same department of poetry, a manifest superiority must often be awarded him on the score of force, dignity, and simplicity of expression.”
From a variety of specimens which Dr. Drake selects, in illustration of his argument, we transcribe a passage of the 38th sonnet, as eminently beaụtiful:
“ From you have I been absent in the spring:
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