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pleasant sensation attaches to the gratification; the mind has too much of horror. The singleness of story is, however, not to be charged against Sophocles; it arises necessarily from the classic unity of the plot, which he was compelled to observe. He could not soften the main feature of his play by a variety of incident and character, as Shakespeare has so wonderfully done. The tragedy of Electra tells of murder and infidelity revenged-so does that of Hamlet; yet in the latter, this ugly theme is rendered palateable by continual novelty and change. The ghost with its supernatural awe first harrows the attention; then the court and its pomp, and Fortinbras and his warlike grandeur intervene; then comes Ophelia, and the delightful interest and fascination that hang around her; and then her father, Polonius, and his quaint humour; again, the grave-diggers bring on a scene of mixed and unsurpassable wit and terror. The very appearance of the fop in the catastrophe adds grotesqueness to the climax of slaughter that ensues. The whole play, indeed, amuses while it astonishes, delights while it frightens : it excels the drama of Sophocles, because it brings all the resources of chivalrous romance, and of Christian civilization, to render its gravity bearable, and to illuminate its gloom.

In comparing these two plays, we cannot but be struck by the curious coincidence of character and circumstance that occur in them. Orestes and Pylades, ever together, resemble Hamlet and Horatio in their friendly allegiance. The first appearance of Orestes is much akin to the return of Hamlet after his uncle has sent him to England: in both instances the murderer has endeavoured, by forced means, to remove the object of his fears, who comes back to destroy him. The terrible scene between Electra and her mother is in some measure re-acted by Hamlet and the queen. The two tyrants, Egysthus and Hamlet's uncle, are very much like each other, especially in their dread of the Divine vengeance. Ægysthus, when he supposes he is viewing the dead body of Orestes, exclaims thus :

What a sight is here

O Deity supreme; this could not be

But by thy will; and whether Nemesis

Shall still o'ertake me for my crime, I know not.

Take off the veil, that I may view him well;

He was by blood allied, and therefore claims

Our decent sorrows.

The same idea is still more impressively worked out in the King of Denmark's soliloquy,

O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon 't,
A brother's murder !-Pray can I not,
Though inclination be as sharp as will;
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
And, like a man to double business bound,
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect. What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother's blood?
Is there not rain enough in the sweet Heavens,

To wash it white as snow?

Whereto serves mercy,

But to confront the visage of offence?

And what 's in prayer, but this two-fold force,-
To be forestalled, ere we come to fall,

Or pardon'd, being down? Then I 'll look up;
My fault is past. But O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? Forgive me my foul murder!—
That cannot be; since I am still possess'd

Of those effects for which I did the murder?
My crown, my own ambition, and my queen.
May one be pardon'd, and retain the offence?
In the corrupted currents of this world,
Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice;
And oft 'tis seen, the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law: But 'tis not so above:
There is no shuffling; there the action lies
In his true nature; and we ourselves compell'd,
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
To give in evidence. What then? what rests?
Try what repentance can: What can it not?
Yet what can it, when one cannot repent?
O wretched state! O bosom, black as death!

O liméd soul, that, struggling to be free,

Art more engaged! Help, angels, make assay !

Bow, stubborn knees! and, heart, with strings of steel,
Be soft as sinews of the new-born babe!

Even the minor characters-the governor of Orestes, and the gentle Chrysothemis-bear faint resemblance to Polonius and Ophelia; and to conclude this strange affinity, it will be remembered that Orestes and Hamlet are urged on to vengeance, the one by the Delphic oracle, the other by a voice from the tomb; and that the ghost of Agamemnon has appeared, though to the wife instead of to the child. Yet it is scarcely credible, since he makes no allusion to it, that Shakespeare was familiar with the play of Electra. The greater probability is, that the inspiration of his imaginative brain at once created a similar subject of that highly dramatic nature. Here, however, we discover another remarkable proof of the inimitable genius of Shakespeare. The story of Electra was not alone common as a plot to Eschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides; but the moderns have frequently written plays upon it. Among others, we may mention Perez de Oliva in Spain, and Crebillon and Voltaire in France. But once Shakespeare siezed the subject, he so moulded it, so made it his own, and put his stamp upon it, that no author dared meditate a rivalry the utmost effort in other countries goes to reproduce the original of Hamlet in more or less garbled translations. Unlike the plots of the classic stage, the tales of Shakespeare have become sacred ground, where no trespasser will ever have the audacity to venture.

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If the tragedy of Hamlet be proximate to that of Electra in its nature, it has also a further resemblance in its success. Not only the Athenians, but crowds from other parts of Greece, and from neighbouring civilized countries, it is said, came to the reiterated representations of this chef d'œuvre of Sophocles, and listened to it in raptures.

Hamlet has proved still more attractive-its popularity is universal. It comes acceptable, at all times, to all ages and classes. The child just beyond his story-book-the youth studious or sentimental-the man of maturer years and manifold occupation-he, too, whose old age permits him to appreciate literary enjoyment, the greatest earthly solace of declining life, all delight in the perusal and re-perusal, in the representation and re-representation of the tragedy of Hamlet. Again, with high and low, with the peer and the peasant, with the master and the servant, the lady and her maid, Hamlet is popular. At the poorest, even more often than at the proudest London theatre, the repetition of this play assembles a crowded and attentive audience. Hamlet, too, has a cosmopolite reputation. In France, long before the absurd prejudice against Shakespeare had ceased, a Frenchified adaptation of Hamlet was graciously received in Paris. Throughout Germany, this drama is as well known as in England; in other countries, scarcely less So. Hamlet's tomb is shewn to the traveller at Elsinore; and why? Not because Saxo, the historian, records the prince's life; but because the genius of Shakespeare, in the wideness of its range, happened to alight on Denmark. The secret of such extraordinary attraction is this:-The old dark and dreadful story of Electra had, in its nature, an indescribable magic charm. It arrested and absorbed the attention of Pagan antiquity in its naked and unadorned majesty; but, thus represented, it became too rugged and uncouth for nations softened by chivalry and Christianity. The plot had not lost its power, but it required to be remodelled. The requisite change was effected by Shakespeare. In his Hamlet, the tale, by means of which Sophocles had spell-bound his countrymen, was reproduced, with a new halo around it. The exquisite fancy of the later poet has tempered the antique glare with a brilliancy more suited to modern eyes: the result is a light which has dazzled and delighted the intellectual world.

THE CONTRAST.

'TWAS Sunday morn-the Sabbath bell
Re-echoed over vale and hill;
No sound on sacred silence fell,

And earth was labourless and still.
I follow'd with the pensive throng

Which to the church I saw repair—
Age, youth, and childhood went along,
And rank and beauty, too, were there.

I mark'd two ladies young and fair,
And, oh! how different their array!
One had a stiff and haughty air,

But ill-according with the day.

She dash'd along in blazon'd coach,

And deck'd, and jewell'd too, was she―
Poor worshippers might not encroach
Upon her gilded company.

The other walk'd in muslin dress,
Pure emblem of her native worth,
Though unadorn'd, yet not the less
Men saw at once her noble birth.
The step of tottering age she'd raise,
Nor scorn the rustic's awkward bow.
The village children lov'd to praise
The smile upon her open brow.

One from a Cotton Lord had sprung,
In modern wealth-adoring days:

The other's Ducal line bards sung

Long since, when generous birth had praise.

Ah! tell me, ye, whose hearts beat high

With throbs for true old English worth!

Say-would ye confidently try

Nobility of gold, or birth?

S. M.

THE CLUBS OF LONDON.*

THE REFORM CLUB.

NEXT in order amongst political clubs stands the REFORM, although we are not sure that it is not surpassed in seniority by its great rival which we shall next mention—the CARLTON. Both had their origin in the exciting era of 1830, and the Reform Bill-that "sweeping measure," as it was termed, which was said to have produced a new revolution in this country, though somehow or another it has contrived to leave matters and parties in much the same condition as before. The friends of the Constitution, however, then took alarm, and founded the Carlton, bestowing upon it this name from that of the terrace where the Club was originally held. The Liberal party, not to be behind, hastened to hire Gwyder House, Whitehall, and retained that mansion until the present palatial edifice by Mr. Barry, architect of the houses of parliament, was reared.

The Reform Club, upraising its colossal height in Pall Mall, for a considerable time was considered one of the lions of the metropolis; but though it may still maintain this position internally, in outward appearance it is surpassed by some of the establishments that have since sprung up, and it can no longer be compared with the gorgeous edifice that is starting into existence by its side. Still, though of severe simplicity, it is an imposing structure; striking by its dimensions, and unexceptionable in elegance of proportion and unity of design; although it may be objected that the style-modern Italian-is somewhat too cold for this country, where we seldom require to exclude the congenial rays of the sun, and that the windows especially are too numerous, regular, and small. Some critics, indeed, have compared it to an inverted chest of drawers. But if-parodying a well-known couplet—

"If to its share some trivial errors fall,

Just cross the door, and you'll forget them all."

The admirers of Mr. Nash and the highly embellished school of architecture may object to the utter absence of ornament from the exterior. Praxitiles himself could scarcely discern fault in the arrangements of the culinary divinity, Soyer, who reigns below, and causes all the mortals of the upper regions to bend in mingled wonder and admiration before his throne.

But we must leave the divinity for a moment alone. On entering the vestibule of the Reform Club House, one is immediately struck by the splendid proportions of the hall, recalling to mind the magnificent salles of Versailles, and the elegance of the stair-case-that most difficult feature of an edifice to render attractive-reminding one of the glories of

* Concluded from page 469.

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