Imagens das páginas

Tempest,'*Psyche,' Circe,' and others, all / several angels holding the King's arms, as if set off with the most expensive decorations they were placing them in the midst of that of scenes and habits, with the best voices compass-pediment. Behind this is the scene, and dancers.

which represents a thick cloudy sky, a very “This sensual supply of sight and sound rocky coast, and a tempestuous sea in percoming into the assistance of the weaker petual agitation. This tempest (supposed to party, it was no wonder they should grow too be raised by magic) has many dreadful hard for sense and simple nature, when it is objects in it, as several spirits in horrid considered how many more people there are shapes flying down amongst the sailors, then that can see and hear than think and judge. rising in the air. And, when the ship is So wanton a change of the public taste, sinking, the whole house is darkened, and a therefore, began to fall as heavy upon the shower of fire falls upon 'em. This is King's company as their greater excellence in accompanied with lightning, and several action had before fallen upon their competitors. claps of thunder, to the end of the storm.”, Of which encroachment upon wit several In the alterations of this play, which were good prologues in those days frequently made in 1669, and which continued to possess complained."

the English stage for nearly a century and a There can be no doubt that most of the half, it is impossible now not to feel how original performances of Shakspere, imme- false was the taste upon which they were diately after the Restoration, were given built. Dryden says of this play, that Davefrom his unsophisticated text. The first nant, to put the last hand to it, “ designed improvements that were perpetrated upon the counterpart to Shakespeare's plot, namely, this text resulted from the cause which that of a man who had never seen a woman ; Cibber has so accurately described. Davenant, that by this means those two characters of to make head against the success of the innocence and love might the more illustrate King's company "was forced to add spectacle and commend each other.” Nothing can be and music to action.” What importance weaker and falser in art than this mere Davenant attached to these novelties, we may duplication of an idea. But still it was not learn from the description of the opening done irreverently. The prologue to this scene of The Enchanted Island ;' that altered Tempest (of his own part of which alteration of “The Tempest,' by himself and Dryden says, “I never writ anything with Dryden, to which Cibber refers :—“The front more delight”) is of itself an answer to the of the stage is opened, and the band of asinine assertion that Dryden, in common twenty-four violins, with the harpsicals and with the public of his day, was indifferent to theorbos which accompany the voices, are the memory of Shakspere :placed between the pit and the stage. While the overture is playing, the curtain rises,

“As, when a tree's cut down, the secret root and discovers a new frontispiece joined to

Lives underground, and thence new branches

shoot ; the great pilasters on each side of the stage. This frontispiece is a noble arch, supported

So, from old Shakespear's honour'd dust, this

day by large wreathed columns of the Corinthian order ; the wreathings of the columns are

Springs up and buds a new reviving play.

Shakespear, who taught by none) did first beautified with roses wound round them, and

impart several Cupids flying about them. On the

To Fletcher wit, to labouring Jonson art. cornice, just over the capitals, sits on either

He, monarch like, gave those his subjects side a figure, with a trumpet in one hand

law, and a palm in the other, representing Fame. And is that nature which they paint and A little farther on the same cornice, on each draw. side of a compass pediment, lie a lion and a Fletcher reached that which on his heights unicorn, the supporters of the royal arms of England. In the middle of the arch are Whilst Jonson crept and gather'd all below.

did grow,



This did his love, and this his mirth digest: ages. But 'tis almost a miracle that much One imitates him most, the other best. of his language remains so pure ; and that If they have since out-writ all other men, he who began dramatic poetry amongst us, 'Tis with the drops which fell from Shake untaught by any, and, as Ben Jonson tells speare's pen.

us, without learning, should, by the force of The storm which vanish'd on the neighb’ring his own genius, perform so much, that in a shore

manner he has left no praise for any who Was taught by Shakespear's Tempest first to

came after him.” That innocence and beauty which did smile

Dryden had the notion, in which ShaftesIn Fletcher, grow on this Enchanted Isle.

bury followed him, that the style of ShakBut Shakespear's magic could not copied be,

spere was obsolete, although we have just Within that circle none durst walk but he.

seen that he says, “ 'Tis almost a miracle I must confess 'twas bold, nor would you

that much of his language remains so pure."

Yet with this notion, which he puts forward That liberty to vulgar wits allow,

as an apology for tampering with Shakspere, Which works by magic supernatural things : he never ceases to express his admiration of But Shakespear's power is sacred as a king's. him; and, what is of more importance, to Those legends from old priesthood were re- show how general was the same feeling. ceiv'd,

The preface to “Troilus and Cressida’ thus And he then writ, as people then believ'd. begins :—“The poet Æschylus was held in

the same veneration by the Athenians of Of Dryden's personal admiration of Shak- after-ages as Shakspeare is by us.” In this spere, of his profound veneration for Shak- preface is introduced the Grounds of Critispere, there is abundant proof. He belonged cism in Tragedy,' in which the critic applies to the transition period of English poetry. a variety of tests to the art of Shakspere, His better judgment was sometimes held in which only show that he did not understand subjection to the false taste that prevailed the principles upon which Shakspere worked : around him. He attempted to found a school but still there is everywhere the most unof criticism, which should establish rules of qualified admiration ; and in the prologue art differing from those which produced the to the altered play, which, being addressed drama of Shakspere, and yet not acknow-to the people, could scarcely deal with such ledging the supremacy of the tame and rules and exceptions for the formation of a formal school of the French tragedians. He judgment, we have again the most positive did not perfectly understand the real nature testimony to the public sense of Shakspere. of the romantic drama, He did not see This prologue is “spoken by Mr. Betterton, that, as in all other high poetry, simplicity representing the ghost of Shakspeare.” was one of its great elements. He was of those who would “gild refined gold.” But

“See, my lov'd Britons, see your Shakespear

rise, for genial hearty admiration of the great master of the romantic drama no one ever

An awful ghost confess'd to human eyes !

Unnam'd, methinks, distinguish'd I had been went beyond him. Take, for example, the

From other shades, by this eternal green, conclusion of his preface to 'All for Love;'

Above whose wreaths the vulgar poets strive, -“In my style I have professed to imitate

And with a touch their wither'd bays rethe divine Shakespear ; which that I might

vive. perform moro freely, I have disencumbered

Untaught, unpractis'd, in a barbarous age, myself from rhyme. Not that I condemn

I found not, but created first, the stage. my former way, but that this is more proper And, if I drain'd no Greek or Latin store, to my present purpose. I hope I need not

'Twas, that my own abundance gave me to explain myself that I have not copied my author servilely. Words and phrases must On foreign trade I needed not rely, of necessity receive a change in succeeding Like fruitful Britain, rich without supply.


In this my rough-drawn play you shall be- box. One thing is perfectly clear: that, hold

when Dryden is addressing the people, he Some master-strokes, so manly and so bold, speaks of Shakspere as their especial faThat he, who meant to alter, found 'em such,

vourite. He is then “your Shakspere.” The He shook; and thought it sacrilege to

crafty and prosaic Pepys, on the contrary, no touch.

doubt expressed many a courtier's sentiment Now, where are the successors to my name?

about Shakspere. In the entry of his Diary What bring they to fill out a poet's fame? Weak, short-liv'd issues of a feeble age;

of August 20th, 1666, we have, "To DeptScarce living to be christend on the stage !”.

ford by water, reading "Othello, Moor of

Venice,' which I ever heretofore esteemed a With these repeated acknowledgments of mighty good play; but, having so lately read Shakspere's supremacy, it is at first difficult “The Adventures of Five Hours,' it seems a to understand how, in 1665, Dryden should mean thing.” “The Adventures of Five have written, “others are now generally pre- Hours,' a tragi-comedy, by Sir Samuel Tuke, ferred before him.” The age, as he himself was a translation from the Spanish, which tells us, differed in this respect from that of Echard commends for its variety of plots Shakspere's own age, and also from that of and intrigues. We can easily understand Charles I. He says, in the same 'Essay on how Pepys, and “my wife's maid,” counted Dramatic Poesy,' speaking of Beaumont and Othello' a mean thing in comparison with Fletcher, “Their plays are now the most it. Pepys shows us pretty clearly the sort of pleasant and frequent entertainments of the audience that in that day was called fashionstage, two of theirs being acted through the able, and the mode in which they displayed year for one of Shakespear's or Jonson's.” their interest in a theatrical entertainment : But this is not neglect or oblivion of Shak---"My wife and I to the King's playhouse, spere. We learn pretty clearly from Dryden, and there saw "The Island Princess,' the though he does not care to say so, for that first time I ever saw it ; and it is a pretty would have been self-condemnation, that a good play, many good things being in it, and licentiousness which was not found in Shak- a good scene of a town on fire. We sat in spere was an agreeable thing to a licentious

an upper box, and the jade Nell came and audience : “ Thor" (Beaumont and Fletcher) sat in the next box ; a bold, merry slut, who “understood and imitated the conversation lay laughing there upon people.” Again : of gentlemen much better, whose wild de- “To the King's house to "The Maid's Trabaucheries, and quickness of wit in repar- gedy ;' but vexed all the while with two tees, no poet before them could paint as talking ladies and Sir Charles Sedley ; yet they have done. ... They represented all

They represented all pleased to hear their discourse, he being a the passions very lively, but, above all, love." stranger.” We can easily imagine that the The highest things in Shakspere can only be “jade Nell," and the “talking ladies,” were fitly appreciated by a people amongst whom the representatives of a very large class, there is a high moral tone, capable of under- who preferred “other plays” to those of standing and of originating the highest Shakspere. poetical things. With all their faults, the We select a few passages from The ages of Elizabeth and James possessed this Grounds of Criticism in Tragedy,' which tone ; and it is impossible now to estimate contains a more condensed view of Dryden's how greatly Shakspere contributed to its opinions of Shakspere than any other of his preservation. But nine years after the Re- prefaces. It is the summary of the judgstoration there was no public principle in ment of the highest critical authority of England, and little private honour. The this period,—when the public taste had been keenest relish for Shakspere most probably corrupted with music and spectacle, and existed out of the Court; and Betterton, in comedies of licentious intrigue abounded, in all likelihood, felt the applause of the pit company with the rhyming tragedies of more truly valuable than that of the king's | Dryden himself, and the ranting bombast of his inferior rivals. This essay first appeared ought to be shown in every man, as prein 1679 :

dominant over all the rest ; as covetousness “How defective Shakespear and Fletcher in Crassus, love of his country in Brutus ; have been in all their plots, Mr. Rymer has and the same in characters which are discovered in his ‘Criticisms :' neither can feigned. . . we, who follow them, be excused from the “ The present French poets are generally same or greater errors ; which are the more accused, that, wheresoever they lay the scene, unpardonable in us, because we want their or in whatsoever age, the manners of their beauty to countervail our faults. ... heroes are wholly French. Racine's Bajazet

" The difference between Shakespear and is bred at Constantinople, but his civilities Fletcher, in their plotting, seems to be this, are conveyed to him by some secret passage that Shakespear generally moves more terror, from Versailles into the Seraglio. But our and Fletcher more compassion. For the Shakespear, having ascribed to Henry the first had a more masculine, a bolder, and Fourth the character of a king and of a more fiery genius ; the second, a more soft father, gives him the perfect manners of and womanish. In the mechanic beauties of each relation, when either he transacts with the plot, which are the observation of the his son or with his subjects. Fletcher, on the three unities—time, place, and action—they other side, gives neither to Arbaces, nor to are both deficient; but Shakespear most. his king in “The Maid's Tragedy,' the quaBen Jonson reformed those errors in his lities which are suitable to a monarch. .... comedies, yet one of Shakespear's was regular To return once more to Shakespear: no before him ; which is, “The Merry Wives of man ever drew so many characters, or geneWindsor.'.

rally distinguished them better from one “After the plot, which is the foundation another, excepting only Jonson. I will inof the play, the next thing to which we stance but in one, to show the copiousness of ought to apply our judgment is the manners; his invention ; it is that of Caliban, or the for now the poet comes to work above ground. monster, in “The Tempest.' He seems there The groundwork indeed is that which is to have created a person which was not in most necessary, as that upon which depends nature—a boldness which at first sight would the firmness of the whole fabric; yet it appear intolerable ; for he makes him a strikes not the eye so much as the beauties species of himself, begotten by an incubus or imperfections of the manners, the thoughts, on a witch ; but this, as I have elsewhere and the expressions. . .

proved, is not wholly beyond the bounds of “ From the manners the characters of credibility,—at least the vulgar still believe persons are derived ; for indeed the charac- it. We have the separated notions of a ters are no other than the inclinations, as spirit and of a witch—and spirits, accordthey appear in the several persons of the ing to Plato, are vested with a subtle body; poem. A character, or that which distin- according to some of his followers, have difguishes one man from all others, cannot be ferent sexes) ;-therefore, as from the dissupposed to consist of one particular virtue, tinct apprehensions of a horse and of a man, or vice, or passion only; but it is a com- imagination has formed a Centaur, so from position of qualities which are not contrary those of an incubus and a sorceress Shaketo one another in the same person. Thus, spear has produced his monster. Whether the same man may be liberal and valiant, or no his generation can be defended I leave but not liberal and covetous ; so in a comical to philosophy; but of this I am certain, character, or humour, (which is an inclina- that the poet has most judiciously furnished tion to this or that particular folly,) Falstaff him with a person, a language, and a chais a liar and a coward, a glutton and a buf- racter which will suit him, both by father's foon, because all these qualities may agree and mother's side: he has all the disconin the same man; yet it is still to be obtents and malice of a witch and of a devil, served that one virtue, vice, and passion, besides a convenient proportion of the deadly

sins-gluttony, sloth, and lust are manifest ; melting-pot. But I fear (at least let me fear the dejectedness of a slave is likewise given it for myself) that we who ape his sounding him, and the ignorance of one bred up in a words have nothing of his thought, but are desert island. His person is monstrous, as all outside; there is not so much as a dwarf he is the product of unnatural lust : and within our giant's clothes. Therefore let not his language is as hobgoblin as his person: Shakespear suffer for our sakes; it is our fault, in all things he is distinguished from other who succeed him in an age which is more mortals. The characters of Fletcher are refined, if we imitate him so ill that we copy poor and narrow in comparison of Shake- his failings only, and make a virtue of that spear's: I remember not one which is not in our writings which in his was an imperborrowed from him, unless you will except fection. that strange mixture of a man in the 'King “For what remains, the excellency of that and no King.' So that in this part Shake- poet was, as I have said, in the more manly spear is generally worth our imitation; and passions; Fletcher's in the softer: Shakespear to imitate Fletcher is but to copy after him writ better betwixt man and man, Fletcher who was a copier. . .

betwixt man and woman; consequently the “ If Shakespear be allowed, as I think he one described friendship better, the other love; must, to have made his characters distinct, yet Shakespear taught Fletcher to write love; it will easily be inferred that he understood and Juliet and Desdemona are originals. It the nature of the passions ; because it has is true the scholar had the softer soul, but been proved already that confused passions the master had the kinder. Friendship is make undistinguishable characters. Yet I both a virtue and a passion essentially: love cannot deny that he has his failings; but is a passion only in its nature, and is not a they are not so much in the passions them- virtue but by accident. Good nature makes selves as in his manner of expression : he friendship, but effeminacy love. Shakespear often obscures his meaning by his words, and had an universal mind, which comprehended sometimes makes it unintelligible. I will not all characters and passions; Fletcher a more say of so great a poet, that he distinguished confined and limited: for, though he treated not the blown puffy style from true sublimity, love in perfection, yet honour, ambition, rebut I may venture to maintain that the fury venge, and generally all the stronger pasof his fancy often transported him beyond sions, he either touched not, or not masterly. the bounds of judgment, either in coining To conclude all, he was a limb of Shakeof new words and phrases, or racking words spear.” which were in use into the violence of a "The Grounds of Criticism in Tragedy' is catachresis.

held by Dr. Johnson to be an answer to The “ To speak justly of this whole matter, it | Tragedies of the last Age considered and exis neither height of thought that is discom- amined,' by the celebrated Thomas Rymer. mended, nor pathetic vehemence, nor any Rymer's book was originally published in nobleness of expression in its proper place; 1678; and Dryden's Preface to "Troilus and but it is a false measure of all these, some- Cressida,' in which the supposed answer is thing which is like them and is not them : contained, appeared in the following year. it is the Bristol stone which appears like a Rymer is generally known as the learned diamond; it is an extravagant thought in- editor of the vast collection of national dostead of a sublime one; it is roaring mad- cuments, arranged and published by him in ness instead of vehemence; and a sound of his official capacity of Historiographer Royal, words instead of sense. If Shakespear were under the name of "Fædera.' But this stripped of all the bombast in his passions, publication was not commenced till 1703, and drest in the most vulgar words, we should and for many years previous he had been find the beauties of his thoughts remaining; | a miscellaneous writer in polite literature. if his embroideries were burnt down, there | In 1678, he produced a tragedy entitled would still be silver at the bottom of the ' Edgar.' It is almost painful to consider

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