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seeming frenzy, that it “is a very Midsummer madness ;” and Steevens thinks that as “this time was anciently thought productive of mental vagaries, to that circumstance it might have owed its title.” Heywood * seems to allude to a similar belief, when
“ As mad as a March hare; where madness compares,
Malone thinks that the title of the play was suggested by the season in which it was introduced on the stage. The misnomer, however, if it is one, does not imply a greater anachronism than several which the play itself presents. For instance, Theseus marries Hippolita on the night of the new moon; but how does this agree with the discourse of the clowns at the rehearsal ?
“Snug. Doth the moon shine that night we play our play?
Bot. A calendar, a calendar! look in the almanack; find out moonshine, find out moonshine.
Quin. Yes, it doth shine that night.
Bot. Why, then you may leave a casement of the great chamber window, where we play, open; and the moon may shine in at the casement.”
Again, the period of action is four days, concluding with the night of the new moon.
But Hermia and Lysander receive the edict of Theseus four days before the new moon; they fly from Athens “to-morrow night;" they become the sport of the fairies, along with Helena and Demetrius, during one night only, for, Oberon accomplishes all in one night, before “ the first cock crows;" and the lovers are discovered by Theseus the morning before
Epigrammes upon Proverbes. 4to. Lond. 1567, No. 95.
that which would have rendered this portion of the plot chronologically consistent. For, although Oberon, addressing his
“ Now thou and I are new in amity;
yet Theseus, when he discovers the lovers, asks Egeus,
“ is not this the day That Hermia should give answer of her choice?” and the answer of Egeus, “ It is, my Lord,” coupled with what Theseus says to Hermia in the first Act
“ Take time to pause; and by the next new moon
proves that the action of the remaining part of the play is not intended to consist of two days.
The preparation and rehearsal of the interlude present similar inconsistencies. In Act i., Sc. 2, Quince is the only one who has any knowledge of the “most lamentable comedy, and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe,” and he selects actors for Thisby's mother, Pyramus's father, and Thisby's father, none of whom appear in the interlude itself. In Act iii., Sc. 1, we have the commencement of the play in rehearsal, none of which appears in the piece itself
. Again, the play could have been but partially rehearsed once; for Bottom only returns in time to advise “ every man look o'er his part ;” and
immediately before his companions were lamenting the failure of their “sport.
How then could the merry tears” of Philostrate be shed at its rehearsal ?
But all these merely tend to prove that Shakespeare wrote with no classical rules before him, and do not in the least detract from the most beautiful poetical drama in this or any other language. Shakespeare was truly the child of nature, and when we find Hermia, contemporary with Theseus, swearing
“ by that fire which burn'd the Carthage queen, When the false Trojan under sail was seen.”
the anachronism is so palpable to any one of classical acquirements, that the evident conclusion is, that we must receive his works as the production of a genius unfettered by the knowledge of more philosophical canons, and of a power which enabled the bard to create, assisted only by the then barren field of his country's literature, that which was not of an age, but for all time.” This, we are convinced, must be the conclusion of all who read the works of Shakespeare in a proper spirit, unbiassed by the prejudices of a prosaic age; and it is only then that they can really hear him, as
“Fancy's child, Warble his native wood-notes wild.”
“Ως ου κρινουμαι τωνδε σοι τα πλειονα.
ALONE and Knight have assigned the
composition of A Midsummer Night's Dream to the year 1594. We suppose this play to have been written in the autumn of that year, and we believe we can bring better evidence than has yet been adduced.
Dr. Simon Forman, the celebrated astrologer, has given us in MS. No. 384 in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, the following important observations on the year 1594 :
“ Ther was moch sicknes but lyttle death, mocb fruit and many plombs of all sorts this yeare and small nuts, but fewe walnuts. This monethes of June and July were very wet and wonderfull cold like winter, that the 10. dae of Julii many did syt by the fyer, yt was so cold; and soe was yt in Maye and June; and scarce too fair dais together all that tyme, but yt rayned every day more or lesse. Yf yt did not raine, then was yt cold and cloudye. Mani murders were done this quarter. There were many gret fludes this sommer, and about Michelmas, thorowe the abundaunce of raine that fell sodeinly; the brige of Ware was broken downe, and at Stratford Bowe, the water was never seen so byg as yt was;
and in the lattere end of October, the waters burste downe the bridg at Cambridge. In Bark
shire were many gret waters, wherewith was moch harm done sodenly.”—MS. Ashm. 384, fol. 105.
Now this minute piece of meteorological information, so much more satisfactory than any yet in print, will be found to agree exactly with the complaint of Titania in the following speech addressed to Oberon :
“These are the forgeries of jealousy;
* “ The moone gathereth deawe in the aire, for she printeth the vertue of hir moysture in the aire, and chaungeth the ayre in a manner that is unseene, and breedeth and gendereth deaw in the upper part thereof.”—— Bartholomæus by Glanville, 1582, fol. 133.