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Similar passages occur in every scene; and though others may be found marked with his characteristic energy and impetuosity of language, there is, perhaps, not one possessing the elegance, point, and polished versification that have alone rendered this style of tragical verse tolerable, in a language incapable of a better.
Which of the two poets (Schiller and Alfieri) followed Otway first, we do not know, and it is not material to inquire. Alfieri was, more than Schiller, in the habit of borrowing his plots;— but their manner of treating them was so diametrically opposite, that it became of little consequence to either that the other had been before him. Schiller's Don Carlos is in his best manner— full, rapid, and energetic; and, even in the present state of public feeling respecting German plays, we are not ashamed to own that we think it deeply affecting. We do not mean to reprove, far less to regret, the neglect into which these writers have fallen; but their danger is over, and it may be as well to give them their due.— Their active and fertile genius unhappily was employed in imagining possible cases of passions indulged and laws transgressed without any very heinous individual guilt, cases which will very rarely occur, and which, when occurring, will generally meet with more than enough of vulgar sympathy. Principles of moral judgment can only be laid down on the ground of general experience; exceptions may therefore occur, wherein their rigour ought to be relaxed; but these are cases of very difficult consideration for the judge or the philosopher, and not to be entrusted to the multitude, whose natural bias it requires all the vigour of social institutions to correct. The truth is, that if there be any victims of these institutions who produce great mischief without corresponding guilt, it is better that they should suffer without sympathy or resource, than that the public respect should be diminished for principles upon which the happiness of all depends.
The sins against common sense in this play are not fewer than Schiller was accustomed to commit. The sudden and unbounded influence obtained over Philip by Posa, is not only altogether at variance with the nature of kings and courts, but destroys the consistency of the character which Philip was intended to support in the fiction, and which he did actually support according to the history of his age. The use made of this influence is wild and inconsistent, and the principles both of Posa and of Carlos, in their conduct relating to the Flemish insurrection, are neither correct nor tenable. Whatever was the oppression of the Flemish, it was not justifiable in a Spaniard to aid their rebellion. The interview between the King and the Grand Inquisitor is the most masterly scene in the play. It was thus only that Philip could be
domineered domineered over without injury to the historical and poetical congruity of his character. The leading features of this play we consider to be fullness of matter, hurry of action, rapid alternation of dialogue, and extravagance of plot.
If we are correct in our estimate, it is manifest there could be no competition between this and any of Alfieri's writing. It was the misfortune of these two authors that, being each endued with a large share of the poetical temperament, they chose two extreme modes of bringing it into action; the one despising laxity, the other disdaining constraint. Whilst we are fully sensible of the merit of Alfieri in superseding the ' sceneggiatura male intesa, personagi inutili, duplicita di azione,' and all the other frightful things which are accused of having previous possession of the Italian stage, we cannot help regretting that he should have narrowed the privileges, and subdued the natural impetuosity of his genius, from a misdirected ambition to approach a model of artificial, French handicraft. The play is thrown into long scenes, and the scenes into long speeches; and, with Alfieri at least, one of two personages on the stage generally takes the whole business of supporting conr versation upon himself, the occasional assistance of the other being felt rather as an interruption than as a relief.
Alfieri's errors of spirit were equally important with his errors of form. Perhaps they were his natural defects rather than his errors; for, with all his fire and enthusiasm of temper, his mind was extraordinarily unimaginative. His characters are passions personified, instead of persons impassioned. By nature many passions are moulded together to form one impassioned character; and individuality of character is produced in reality, and obtained in representation, by the combination or conflict of these. One of them should rule, but with limited power, and over tumultuous and refractory subjects. In Alfieri's characters, the one passion is paramount, and the opposition to it is seldom of other feelings, but of external circumstances, which is a comparatively cold operation. But the great evil is the want of singleness of character,—the want of all those delicate modifications of feelings by their action upon each other, which are produced and combined, in a peculiar manner and measure, for every individual in the multitudinous variety of nature. Hence the passion is described, rather than exemplified; and described by dwelling upon it in long strains of reflection, rather than by action, or by the abrupt and vehement, which are the natural expressions of emotion.
There is more love in the first scene between Carlos and Isa-. bella than Alfieri usually indulges us with; and there is less diffuseness in the one which follows, and in the play generally, than he usually indulges himself with; for his force is produced by confining himself to a single sentiment, not by concentrating the expression of it. Philip's deep dissimulation of his own, and keen scrutiny of the feelings of others are admirably executed. Isabella is endued with sufficient firmness and presence of mind, which are yet overtnastered.
Upon the whole, this play has a sufficient variety of scenes, much power of language, and a deep interest, fairly sustained, and impressively terminated.
We have now to express our regret that we have kept his Lordship so long waiting whilst we took this cursory view of his predecessors, and proceed to the play before us.
Don Carlos, son and heir of Don Philip the Second, is hostile to the Inquisition, some of the members of which, therefore, plan his ruin. The grounds afforded them are the indiscreet expressions and conduct of the Prince respecting Catholic intolerance, and the king's jealousy of some remains of love for the queen, to whom he had been betrothed before her marriage with his father. In the first scene, the grand inquisitor, Valdez, informs his subordinate, Lucero, that he (Lucero) knows and remembers a great many things; and Lucero agrees that he does know and remember them extremely well. This is prolix and needless, and, with the help of a few words opposite the names in the Dramatis Persona, the whole of it might have been spared. The second scene is between the King and Donna Leonora Cordoba, a treacherous attendant of the queen, who has sent him a letter to excite his jealousy. He examines her concerning the intercourse of Carlos with the queen, in 'plain and simple words;' as he says, for it is to be observed, that, here and elsewhere, Philip speaks with art undisguised plainness, which is somewhat new to him, whether in history or in fiction; or if he makes any attempt to conceal his weakness, it is in such grammatical and poetical language as the following.
'Leonora. None ever yet, of countrymen, or friends,
Philip. Tiswell; 'tis well:
The noble author might have learned, even in the nautical experience of a voyage between Dover and Calais, that though doors go upon hinges, anchors do not. The lady being told to 'stay
her her tongue upon the threshold of her speech,' departs, and Valdez enters, with—
• A tale of that kind the bearer fears
The king tells him to speak, for he is not of' weak mind;' and by. way, we suppose, of giving actual proof of the calmness and philosophy with which he can await the horrible intelligence, takes the opportunity of giving the grand inquisitor a slight sketch of the history of his reign. The inquisitor chimes in with an account of the invincible Armada and the accidents which befel it, and, after several prosing retrospective speeches, is desired to proceed to what he has to say. He unfolds the prince's design to join the Flemish rebels, assassinate the king, and marry the queen. The first part of the story the king believes, because he is told it is well attested, and not the
'tale of some base wretch
The rest he affects to discredit. He has scarcely departed when the queen trips in, with—
'Most holy father, tell me quick, I pray,
This plain question Valdez evades; and the act ends with his inciting her to intercede for Carlos, in order that she may aggravate her husband's suspicions.
The next Act opens with Carlos confined to his apartment, to whom enters his treacherous friend Don Luis, and extracts, with the greatest ease, the whole history of his love for the queen. The second scene is between Philip and Carlos; the former sounding the latter by affecting to resign his crown to him. Carlos is imposed upon, and answers in the following explosion of gratitude.
'I cannot speak
All that I should; how little I deserve
So kind, so good a father! thanks! and thanks!'—p. 36.
And then he makes a disclosure of his political opinions similar to that which he had formerly made of his love-affairs to Don Luis. These appear to have been much influenced by an auto da fe, which he had witnessed in his childhood, and in which the skeleton of an heretical lady was borne in procession.
'The dull disgusting mass of whitened bone,
By a stretch of metaphor, the body might be called the garment of the spirit, or the skin the garment of the body, but we know not
what what the bones could have clothed, or, if that is the meaning, how the garments could have been ossified. The next scene is a wholly useless one between Don Carlos and his friend Osorio, a wholly useless person; the intercession of the queen follows, which is ill received, and the act closes with a soliloquy of Philip on revenge.
The third act, the most ponderous of all, brings Don Carlos before the Inquisition. The process is opened with all due formality.—
'Lvcero. Don Carlos, Prince of the Asturias,
This lively and interesting adjuration is repeated three times without effect. The depositions at full are then put in and read by Lucero; still the prince makes no reply, and the whole of the dramatis personam must have betaken themselves to sleep, had not some one fortunately bethought himself of introducing the witnesses, who prove to be the treacherous Don Luis, and his sister Donna Leonora Cordoba. Carlos perceives the first with much emotion.
'Luis! drop out, my eyes!
Sink from my eye-balls; ye have seen a sight,' &c.
The king also appears as a witness against his son, but stands aside for a few pages, to profit by a profound disputation maintained by Valdez and the prince on the comparative evils and benefits of religious persecution. Judgment is about to be pronounced, when it is suspended by an ancient bishop sent by the queen to intercede for Carlos. He does not succeed, however, till there has been much talk about it.
In the fourth act, Valdez prevails upon Don Luis to affect repentance of his treachery, and seduce Carlos to attempt an escape. We are happy to meet here, for the first time, a passage which, though not very original, is worth quoting. Valdez says that Philip must be urged to act immediately, lest he relent.
'Our greatest actions, or of good or evil,