Imagens das páginas

(except in the comick dialogues,) very few traces of original thought, and is evidently destitute of that intelligence and useful knowledge that pervade even the meanest of Shakspeare's undisputed performances. To speak more plainly, it is neither enriched by the gems that sparkle through the rubbish of Love's Labour's Lost, nor the good sense which so often fertilizes the barren fable of The Two Gentlemen of Verona.-Pericles, in short, is little more than a string of adventures ·so numerous, so inartificially crouded together, and so far removed from probability, that, in my private judgment, I must acquit even the irregular and lawless Shakspeare of having constructed the fabrick of the drama, though he has certainly bestowed some decoration on its parts. Yet even this decoration, like embroidery on a blanket, only serves by contrast to expose the meanness of the original materials. That the plays of Shakspeare have their inequalities likewise, is sufficiently understood ; but they are still the inequalities of Shakspeare. He may occasionally be absurd, but is seldom foolish; he may be censured, but can rarely be despised.

I do not recollect a single plot of Shakspeare's formation (or even adoption from preceding plays or novels) in which the majority of the characters are not so well connected, and so necessary in respect of each other, that they proceed in combination to the end of the story; unless that story (as in the cases of Antigonus and Mercutio) requires the interposition of death. In Pericles this continuity is wanting:

-disjectas moles, avulsaque saxis

Saxa vides And even with the aid of Gower the scenes are rather loosely tacked together, than closely interwoven. We see no more of Antiochus after his first appearance. His anonymous daughter utters but one unintelligible couplet, and then vanishes. Simonides likewise is lost as soon as the marriage of Thaisa is over; and the punishment of Cleon and his wife, which poetick justice demanded, makes no part of the action, but is related in a kind of epilogue by Gower. This is at least a practice which in no instance has received the sanction of Shakspeare. From such deficiency of mutual interest, and liaison among the personages of the drama, I am further strengthened in my belief that our great poet

speare in the character of the Pentapolitan Monarch, cannot fail with equal felicity to discover Helen's Beauty in a Brow of Egypt, and to find all that should adorn the Graces, in the persons and conduct of the Weird Sisters. Compared with this Simonides, the King of Navarre, in Love's Labour's Lost, Theseus, in A Midsummer-Night's Dream, and the Rex Fistulatissimus, in All's Well That Ends Well, are the rarest compounds of Machiavel and Hercules.

had no share in constructing it*. Dr. Johnson long ago observed that his real power is not seen in the splendor of particular pas

* It is remarkable, that not a name appropriated by Shakspeare to any character throughout his other plays, is to be found in this. At the same time the reader will observe that, except in such pieces as are built on historical subjects, or English fables, he employs the same proper names repeatedly in his different dramas. Antonio. Tempest. Two Gent. Much Ado. T. Night. M. of V. Sebastian.

Tw. Night. Ferdinand.

L. L. Lost. Francisco.


M. of Ven.
Helena. Cymbeline. All's Well. M. N. Dr. Tr. and Cress.
Demetrius. M. N. Dream. Ant. and Ci.
Valentine. Two Gent. Tw. Night.
Balthasar. Much Ado. M. of Ven. Com. of E. R. and Jul.
Escalus. R. and Juliet. M. for Meas.
Claudio. Much Ado.
Juliet. R. and Jul.
Mariana. M. for Meas. All's Well.
Vincentio. Tam, the Shrew..
Portia. Julius Cæsar. M. of Ven.
Gratiano. Othello.
Rosaline. L. L. Lost. As You, &c.
Katharine, Tam. the Shrew. L. L. Lost.
Maria. Twelfth Night.
Emilia. Othello.

W. Tale. Com. of E.
Angelo. M. for Meas. Com. of E.
Varro. Timon.

Julius Cæs.
Diomedes. Tr. and Cress. Ant. and Cleo,
Varrius. M. for Meas.
Cornelius. Hamlet. Cymbeline.
Bianca. Othello.

T. the Shrew.
Paris. Tr. and Cress. R. and Jul.
Baptista. Hamlet.

T. the Shrew.

Jul. Cæsar.
Philo. Ant. and Cleo. Timon.
Lucius. Cymbeline.
Cesario. Twelfth Night. Ant. and Cleo.

To these may be added such as only differ from each other by
means of fresh terminations :
Launce. Two Gent. and Launcelot. Merchant of Venice.
Adrian. Tempest. and Adriana. Comedy of Errors.
Francisco. Hamlet, &c. and Francisca. Measure for Measure.
Luce. Com. of Errors. Lucina, ibid. Lucetta. Two Gent.
Silvius. As You Like It. and Silvia. Two Gent. of Verona.
Egeus. Mid. Night's Dr.and Egeon. Comedy of Errors.
Hortensius. Timon. and Hortensio. Taming of the Shrew.
Leonato. Much Ado. and Leonatus. Cymbeline.

Names that in some plays are appropriated to speaking characters, in other dramas are introduced as belonging only to absent persons or things. Thus we have mention of a

Rosaline, a Lucio, a Helena, a Valentine, &c. in Romeo and Juliet.

sages, but in the progress of his fable, and the tenour of his dialogue : and when it becomes necessary for me to quote a decision founded on comprehensive views, I can appeal to none in which I should more implicitly confide.-Gower relates the story of Pericles in a manner not quite so desultory; and yet such a tale as that of Prince Appolyn, in its most perfect state, would hardly have attracted the notice of any playwright, except one who was quite a novice in the rules of his art. Mr. Malone indeed observes that our author has pursued the legend exactly as he found it in the Confessio Amantis, or elsewhere. I can only add, that this is by no means his practice in any other dramas, except such as are merely historical, or founded on facts from which he could not venture to deviate, because they were universally believed. Shakspeare has deserted his originals in As You Like It, Hamlet, King Lear, &c. The curious reader may easily convince himself of the truth of these assertions.

That Shakspeare has repeated in his later plays any material circumstances which he had adopted in his more early ones, I am by no means ready to allow. Some smaller coincidences with himself may perhaps be discovered. Though it be not usual for one architect to build two fabricks exactly alike, he may yet be found to have distributed many ornaments in common over both, and to have fitted up more than one apartment with the same cornice and mouldings. If Pericles should be supposed to bear any general and striking resemblance to The Winter's Tale, let me enquire in what part of the former we are to search for the slightest traces of Leontes' jealousy (the hinge on which the fable turns) the noble fortitude of Hermione, the gallantry of Florizel, the spirit of Paulina, or the humour of Autolycus ? Two stories cannot be said to have much correspondence, when the chief features that distinguish the one, are entirely wanting in the other.

Isabella, Escalus, Antonio, and Sebastian, in All's Well That
Ends Well.

Capulet and Roderigo, in Twelfth-Night.
Ferdinand and Troilus, in The Taming of a Shrew, &c.

I have taken this minute trouble to gain an opportunity, of observing how unlikely it is that Shakspeare should have been content to use second-hand names in so many of his more finished plays, and at the same time have bestowed original ones throughout the scenes of Pericles. This affords additional suspicion, to me, at least, that the story, and the personæ dramatis, were not of our author's selection. -Neither Gower, nor the translator of King Appolyn, has been followed on this occasion; for the names of Pericles, Escanes, Simonides, Cleon, Lysimachus, and Marina, are foreign to the old story, as related both by the poet and the novelist.

[ocr errors]

is built ;

Mr. Malone is likewise willing to suppose that Shakspeare contracted his dialogue in the last Act of The Winter's Tale, because he had before exhausted himself on the same subject in Pericles. But it is easy to justify this distinction in our poet's conduct, on other principles. Neither the king or queen of Tyre feels the smallest degree of self-reproach. They meet with repeated expressions of rapture, for they were parted only by unprovoked misfortune. They speak without reserve, because there is nothing in their story which the one or the other can wish to be suppressed.--Leontes, on the contrary, seems content to welcome his return of happiness without expatiating on the means by which he had formerly lost it; nor does Hermione recapitulate her sufferings, through fear to revive the memory of particulars which might be construed into a reflection on her husband's jealousy. The discovery of Marina would likewise admit of clamorous transport, for similar reasons; but whatever could be said on the restoration of Perdita to her mother, would only tend to prolong the remorse of her father. Throughout the notes which I have contributed to Pericles, I have not been backward to point out many of the particulars on which the opinion of Mr. Malone

for às truth, not victory, is the object of us both, I am sure we cannot wish to keep any part of the evidence that may seem to effect our reciprocal opinions out of sight.

Mr. Malone is likewise solicitous to prove, from the wildness and irregularity of the fable, &c. that this was either our author's first, or one of his earliest dramas. It might have been so ; and yet I am sorry to observe that the same qualities predominate in his more mature performances ; but there these defects are instrumental in producing beauties. If we travel in Antony and Cleopatra from Alexandria to Rome-to Messina-into Syria-to Athens-to Actium, we are still relieved in the course of our peregrinations by variety of objects, and importance of events. But are we rewarded in the same manner for our journeys from Antioch to Tyre, from Tyre to Pentapolis, from Pentapolis to Tharsus, from Tharsus to Tyre, from Tyre to Mitylene, and from Mitylene to Ephesus ?-In one light, indeed, I am ready to allow Pericles was our poet's first attempt. Before he was satisfied with his own strength, and trusted himself to the publick, he might have tried his hand with a partner, and entered the theatre in disguise. Before he ventured to face an audience on the stage, it was natural that he should peep at them through the curtain.

What Mr. Malone has called the inequalities of the poetry, I should rather term the patchwork of the style, in which the general flow of Shakspeare is not often visible. An unwearied blaze of words, like that which burns throughout Phædra and Hippolitus, and Mariamne, is never attempted by our author; for such uniformity could be maintained but by keeping nature at a distance. Inequality and wildness, therefore, cannot be received as criterions by which we are to distinguish the early pieces of Shakspeare from those which were written at a later period.

But one peculiarity relative to the complete genuineness of this play, has hitherto been disregarded, though in my opinion it is absolutely decisive. I shall not hesitate to affirm, that through different parts of Pericles, there are more frequent and more aukward ellipses than occur in all the other dramas attributed to the same author ; and that these figures of speech appear only in such worthless portions of the dialogue as cannot with justice be imputed to him.' Were the play the work of any single hand, or had it been corrupted only by a printer, it is natural to suppose that this clipped jargon would have been scattered over it with equality. Had it been the composition of our great poet, he would be found to have availed himself of the same licence in his other tragedies ; nor perhaps, would an individual writer have called the same characters and places alternately Perýcles and Perīcles, Thaisa and Thaīsa, Pentapolis and Pentapolis. Shakspeare never varies the quantity of his proper names in the compass of one play. In Cymbeline we always meet with Posthūmus, not Posthèmus, Arviragus, and not Arvirăgus.

It may appear singular that I have hitherto laid no stress on such parallels between the acknowledged plays of Shakspeare and Pericles, as are produced in the course of our preceding illustrations. But perhaps 'any argument that could be derived from so few of these, ought not to be decisive ; for the same reasoning might tend to prove that every little piece of coincidence of thought and expression, is in reality one of the petty larcenies of literature ; and thus we might in the end impeach the original merit of those whom we ought not to suspect of having need to borrow from their predecessors *. I can only add on this subject, (like Dr. Farmer) that the world is already possessed of the Marks of Imitation ; and that there is scarce one English tragedy but bears some slight internal resemblance to another. I therefore attempt no deduction from premises occasionally fallacious, nor pretend to discover in the piece before us the draughts of scenes which were afterwards more happily wrought, or the slender and crude principles of ideas which on other occasions were dilated into consequence, or polished into lustre t. Not

* Dr. Johnson once assured me, that when he wrote his Irene he had never read Othello; but meeting with it soon afterwards, was surprized to find he had given one of his characters a speech very strongly resembling that in which Cassio describes the effects produced by Desdemona's beauty on such inanimate objects as the gutter'd rocks and congregated sands. The Doctor added, that on making the discovery, for fear of imputed plagiarism, he struck out this accidental coincidence from his own tragedy.

† Though I admit that a small portion of general and occa

« AnteriorContinuar »