« AnteriorContinuar »
Mr. Kemble plays it like a man in armour, with a determined inveteracy of purpose, in one undeviating straight line, which is as remote from the natural grace and refined susceptibility of the character, as the sharp angles and abrupt starts which Mr. Kean introduces into the part. Mr. Kean's Hamlet is as much to splenetick and rash as Mr. Kemble's is too deliberate and formal. His manner is too strong and pointed. He throws a severity, approaching to virulence, into the common observations and answers. There is nothing of this in Hamlet. He is, as it were, wrapped up in his reflections, and only thinks aloud. There should therefore be 'no attempt to impress what he says upon others by a studied exaggeration of emphasis or manner ; no talking at his hearers. There should be as much of the gentleman and scholar as possible infused into the part, and as little of the actor. A pensive air of sadness should sit reluctantly upon his brow, but no appearance of fixed and sullen gloom. He is full of weakness and melancholy, but there is no harshness in bis nature. He is the most amiable of misanthropes.
There can be little doubt that Shakspeare was the most universal genius that ever lived. “ Either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited, he is the only man. Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light for him.” He has, not only the same absolute command over our laughter and our tears, all the resources of passion, of wit, of thought, of observation, but he has the most unbounded range of fanciful invention, whether terrible or playful, the same insight into the world of imagination that he has into the world of reality; and over all there presides the same truth of character and nature, and the same spirit of humanity. His ideal beings are as true and natural as his real characters; that is, as consistent with themselves, or if we suppose such beings to exist at all, they could not act, speak, or feel otherwise than as he makes them. He has invented for them a language, manners, and sentiments of their own, from the tremendous imprecations of the Witches in Macbeth,
when they do “a deed without a name,” to the sylph-like expressions of Ariel, who “ does his spiriting gently;" the mischievous tricks and gossiping of Robin Goodfellow, or the uncouth gabbling and emphatick gesticulations of Caliban in this plays
The Tempest is one of the most original and perfect of Shakspeare's productions, and he has shewn in it all the variety of his powers. It is full of grace and grandeur. The human and imaginary characters, the dramatick and the grotesque, are blended together with the greatest art, and without any appearance of it. Though he has here given “ to airy nothing a local habitation and a name,” yet that part which is only the fantastick creation of his mind, has the same palpable texture, and coheres semblably” with the rest. As the preternatural part has the air of reality, and almost haunts the imagination with a sense of truth, the real characters and events partake of the wildness of a dream. The stately magician, Prospero, driven from his. dukedom, but around whom (so potent is his art) airy spirits throng numberless to do his bidding ; his daughter. Miranda (“worthy of that name”) to whom all the power of his art points, and who seems the goddess of the isle; the princely Ferdinand, cast by fate upon the haven of his happiness in this idol of his love ; the delicate Ariel; the savage Caliban, half brute, half demon; the drunk. en ship's crew-are all connected parts of the story, and can hardly be spared from the place they fill. Even the local scenery is of a piece and charac
ter with the subject. Prospero's enchanted island seems to have risen up out of the sea ; the airy musick, the tempest-tost vessel, the turbulent waves, all have the effect of the landscape background of some fine picture. Shakspeare's pencil is (to use an allusion of his own)
“like the dyer's hand, subdued to what it works in." Every thing in him, though it partakes of "the liberty of wit," is also subjected to “ the law” of the understanding. For instance, even the drunken sailors, who are made reeling-ripe, share in the disorder of their minds and bodies, in the tumult of the elements, and seem on shore to be as much at the mercy of chance as they were before at the mercy of the winds and waves. These fel. lows, with their sea wit, are the least to our taste of any part of the play : but they are as like drunken sailors as they can be, and are an indirect foil to Caliban, whose figure acquires a classical dignity in the comparison.
The character of Caliban is generally thought (and justly so) to be one of the author's masterpieces. It is not, indeed, pleasant to see this character on the stage, any more than it is to see the God Pan personated there. But in itself it is one of the wildest and most abstracted of all Shakspeare's characters, whose deformity, whether of body or mind, is redeemed by the power and truth of the imagination displayed in it. It is the essence of grossness, but there is not a particle of vulgarity in it. Shakspeare has described the brutal mind of Caliban in contact with the pure and original forms of nature; the character grows out of the soil where it is rooted un
controled, uncouth and wild, uncramped by any of the meannesses of custom. It is “ of the earth, earthy.” It seems almost to have been dug out of the ground, with a soul instinctively superadded to it answering to its wants and origin. Vulgarity is not natural coarseness, but conventional coarseness, learnt from others, contrary to, or without an entire conformity of natural power and disposition; as fashion is the commonplace affectation of what is elegant and refined without any feeling of the essence of it. Schlegel, the admirable German cri. tick on Shakspeare, observes, that Caliban is a poetical character, and “always speaks in blank verse.” He first comes in thus :
“ Caliban. As wicked dew as e'er my mother brush'd
Prospero. For this, be sure, to night thou shalt have cramps,
Caliban. I must eat my dinner.