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has already been gathered in by the first in the field. Nevertheless, that is no good reason why a poor plodder in the stubble should be discouraged. Let him gather together as he best may what others have passed by, and see that it be sound and wholesoine---neither blighted nor mildewed ; let those laugh that have little better to do at his unostentatious handful.
In speaking of the inconveniences of seeing Shakspeare acted, let us pass by, in quiet resignation, the more purely imaginative of his plays-his “ Tempest,” and “Midsummer Night's Dream.” These wild and delicate pieces of fancy were never intended for the hard handling and business calculations of stage managers and their underlings. A summer's day would be all too short to detail the strange wrong, the mutilation, the degradation they suffer on the stage. Their delicious poetry should be for the hours of privacy alone; and even then, a man should not trust himself to read some of the passages in the latter play (or dream) aloud; they are of too fine a texture for the harsh human voice, and should be imbibed and conveyed to the senses by the eye alone. But to hear them in a theatre ! To have them remorselessly bellowed forth from the foot-lamps by the lumps of clay who do the scavenger work of the drama, is absolutely
terrible! It is worse than assassinating Handel or Mozart with a bagpipe, or playing Hadyn's symphonies on a hurdy-gurdy! And yet, what will not mortals attempt? The most of us have actually heard a stage Bottom issue such directions as these to some silly, fat, flobby child in white or green« Monsieur Cobweb; good monsieur, get your weapons
in your hand, and kill me a red-hipped humble bee on the top of a thistle ; and good monsieur, bring me the honey-bag. Do not fret yourself too much in the action, monsieur; and good monsieur, have a care that the honey-bag break not; I would be loth to have you overflown with a honey-bag, signior ;" while Moth, Peas-blossom, Mustard-seed, and the other elves who
“Creep into acorn cups and hide them there,”
have been represented by the brothers and sisters of Cobweb, the juvenile produce and property of some industrious matron connected with the establishment. This is as bad as Snout, the joiner, representing the wall. And with all our vaunted improvements in stage decoration, how much worse off was the poor Athenian company for their lion, and wall, and moonshine, than the unfortunate modern scene-painter or property-man, who is called upon by the text to furnish a bank as per order?
“I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows,
No! there ar scenes and materials about the · Tempest” which may, in some slight degree, excuse its introduction on the stage, and atone for the manifold barbarities committed upon it when there; but never let the “Midsummer Night's Dream”that fine film—that pure abstraction—that delicate fret-work of an ethereal imagination, have a tangible existence.
Let us pass to the common acting plays-Macbeth. You are sitting by the fire on a winter's evening, “wrapped” in the perusal of this masterpiece of nature's masterpiece, preparatory to visiting the theatre to see it played. In your mind's eye you perceive the “ blasted heath,” the scene of Macbeth's temptation, sterile and wild, covered with masses of primeval and “herbless granite,” and untenanted save by the lonely plover or shy and solitary moorcock. Beside some rude cairn are clustered the weird sisters, “posters of the sea and Jand," recounting their exploits, and holding devilish consultation ; in the distance is the army of Macbeth. There is a bleak and gloomy grandeur in the picture you have drawn, and you hasten to the theatre
to have it realized. Does not your enthusiasm receive a shock? Before
you is some old, confined " wood-scene" used on all occasions, with Macbeth and Banquo, the three beldames, and divers illdrilled supernumeraries huddled together in most unseemly proximity; while the hags, “so witherd and so wild in their attire," are generally represented (for what reason managers only know) by three low comedians, for the most part hearty, plump, oleaginous personages, with whom all sorts of odd, out-of-the-way associations are connected, in patched red and tartan petticoats, and stationed in the full glare of the gas-lamps ! True, some of this cannot be remedied; but much of it might were a tithe part of the money and attention directed towards it that is wasted on some gaud or pantomime; and much that is now vulgar, common-place and ridiculous, might, by the aid of a little liberality and common-sense, be rendered grand and impressive. But the managers think that Shakspeare may be used and abused after any fashion ; that he has stamina for any thing; and they think right, though they act wrong. “Scenery, machinery, dresses and decorations,” however, may be amended, “ that's comfort, yet ;" but alas ! what mental millwright--what skilful machinist, will put in order and wind up the talking machines that
"do” the subordinate parts about the theatre to the true Shaksperian pitch, and set them a-going for the night! Is the schoolmaster yet abroad ordained to shed a ray of light upon their benighted understandings concerning the meaning of the author, or make them sensible of the simple but important. fact, that blank verse is not prose, and ought to be spoken differently? Here it is where our great dramatic poet principally suffers. The exuberant genius of Shakspeare could not stoop to petty calculations. It never entered into his thoughts what unimaginative pieces of mortality would, in after times, give utterance to the glorious poetry that is scattered indiscriminately over his pages. Small occasion had he to play the niggard, and carefully apportion out his sweet fancies and rare conceits to those who would be likely to give the most effect in the representation; and hence it is that the "Goodmen Dulls” of the theatre—the honest plodding gentlemen with small salaries and corresponding capacities, who, in other authors, have language admirably adapted to their modes of thinking and expression put into their mouths, have frequently, when doing their work in subordinate characters in Shakspeare, to utter passages redolent with beauty, which they do in a way that very satisfactorily shows these "imperfect speakers" have little occa