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Mayé, with all thy flowrés and thy green,
I hope that I some green here getten may."
“ When that Arcite had roamed all his fill,
And sungen all the roundel lustily,
Now up, now down, as bucket in a well.” The lover gives utterance to his lamentations; his rival hears bim, and starts out of the bushes with, “ False Arcite, false traitor!” Arcite proposes that they should determine their contention by mortal combat on the following day :
“ Here I will be founden as a knight,
And meat and drinké this night will I bring." The corresponding scene in • The Two Noble Kinsmen’ is finely written. There is a quiet strength about it which exhibits very high art. The structure of the verse, too, is somewhat different from that of the prison scene between the friends. But still we have no difficulty in believing that it might be written by the author of that previous scene. The third scene, where Arcite comes to Palamon “ with meat, wine, and files," is merely the carrying out of the action promised in the previous interview. It is unnecessary for the dramatic movement. We quite agree with Mr. Spalding in his estimate of this scene,
—that it is not very characteristic of either Shakspere or Fletcher, but that it "leans towards Fletcher; and one argument for him might be drawn from an interchange of sarcasms between the kinsmen, in which they retort on each other former amorous adventures : such a dialogue is quite like Fletcher's men of gaiety.” The combat itself takes place in the sixth scene. The passage in Chaucer upon
which this scene is founded possesses all his characteristic energy. The hard outline which it presents is in some degree a natural consequence of its force and clearness :
“ And in the grove, at time and place yset,
This Arcite and this Palamon been met.
And heareth him come rushing in the greves,
It is upon the “everich of them help to armen other” that the dramatist has founded the interchange of courtesies between the two kinsmen. The conception and execution of this scene are certainly very graceful; but the grace is carried somewhat too far to be natural. The dramatic situation is finely imagined ; but in the hands of a writer of the highest power it might, we think, have been carried beyond the point of elegance, or even of beauty; it might have been rendered deeply pathetic, upon the principle that at the moment of mortal conflict the deep-seated affection of the two young men would have grappled with the chimerical passion which each had taken to his heart, and would have displayed itself in something more eminently tragic than the constrained courtesy of the scene before us. It is this power of dealing with high passions which appears to us to be most wanting in the scenes where passion is required. It is answered, that those scenes are written by Fletcher, and not by Shakspere. Of this presently. The interruption to the combat by Theseus and his train; the condemnation of the rivals by the duke; the intercession of Hippolyta and Emilia; and the final determination that the knights should depart, and within a month return accompanied by other knights to contend in bodily strength for the fair prize--these incidents are founded pretty closely upon Chaucer, with the exception that the elder poet does not make Theseus decree that the vanquished shall die upon the block. The scene has no marked deviation in style from that which precedes it.
The supposed interval of time during the absence of the knights is filled up by Chaucer with some of the finest descriptions which can be found amongst the numberless vivid pictures which his writings exhibit. In · The Two Noble Kinsmen’ the whole of the fourth act is occupied with the progress of the underplot; with the exception of the second scene, which commences with the long and
not very dramatic soliloquy of Emilia upon the pictures of her two lovers, and is followed by an equally undramatic description by a messenger of the arrival of the princes and of the qualities of their companions. This description is founded upon Chaucer. We pass on to the fifth act.
Chaucer has wonderfully described the temples of Venus, of Mars, and of Diana. The dramatist has followed him in making Arcite address himself to Mars, Palamon to Venus, and Emilia to Diana. Parts of these scenes are without all doubt the finest passages of the play, surpassed by very few things indeed within their own poetical range. The addresses of Arcite to Mars, and of Emilia to Diana, possess a condensation of thought, a strength of imagery, and a majesty of language, almost unequalled by the very highest masters of the art; but they as properly belong to the epic as to the dramatic division of poetry. The invocation of Palamon to Venus, although less sustained and less pleasing, is to our minds more dramatic : it belongs more to romantic poetry. The nobler invocations are cast in a classical mould. The combat scene is not presented on the stage. The absence of it is certainly managed with very great skill. Emilia refuses to be present; she is alone; the tumult is around her; rumour upon rumour is brought to her ; she attempts to analyse her own feelings; and we must say that she appears to be thinking more of herself than is consistent with a very high conception of female excellence. Arcite is eventually the victor. Palamon and his friends appear on the scaffold, prepared for death. Then comes the catastrophe of Arcite's sudden calamity in the hour of triumph; and this again is description. The death of Arcite is told by Chaucer with great pathos; and the address of the dying man to Emilia is marked by a truth and simplicity infinitely touching :
" What is this world ? what asken men to have ?
Now with his love, now in his coldé grave-
I have here with my cousin Palamon
Freedom, and all that 'longeth to that art,
The dramatic poet falls short of this :
« Take Emilia,
And with her all the world's joy. Reach thy hand;
In this imperfect analysis of · The Two Noble Kinsmen,' as compared with the · Palamon and Arcite' of Chaucer, we have necessarily laid aside all those scenes which belong to the underplot, namely, the love of the gaoler's daughter for Palamon, her agency in his escape from prison, her subsequent madness, and her unnatural and revolting union with one who is her lover under these circumstances. The question which we have here to examine is, whether Shakspere had any concern with the authorship of this play; and it is perfectly evident that this underplot was of a nature not to be conceived by him, and further not to be tolerated in any work with which he was concerned. Had he made“ the friend " who delivered Chaucer's Palamon from prison to appear on the stage as a woman, she would have been a timid, confiding, self-denying, spirit-bound woman, which character he of all men could represent best; and not a creature of mere sexual affection. Assuming that he wrote any part of the play, we may safely lay aside this part as having his participation or concurrence. Our inquiry is then reduced to narrower limits. We have to ask what portion of the original poem of Chaucer Shakspere is supposed to have dramatized, and what portion was the work of a coadjutor. The stage tradition was, that he wrote the first act. The searching analysis of Mr. Spalding leads to the conclusion that he wrote all that relates to the main story in the first and fifth acts, and a scene of the third act; amounting to little short of half the play. To Fletcher is assigned the remainder. Mr. Spalding says that an attentive study of this drama from beginning to end “would convince the most sceptical mind that two authors were concerned in the work; it would be Vol. XII.
perceived that certain scenes are distinguished by certain prominent characters, while others present different and dissimilar features." These differences, Mr. Spalding has justly shown in the case of Fletcher as compared with Shakspere, are so striking, that “ we are not compelled to reason from difference in degree, because we are sensible of a striking dissimilarity in kind. We observe ease and elegance of expression opposed to energy and quaintness; brevity is met by dilation, and the obscurity which results from hurry of conception has to be compared with the vagueness proceeding from indistinctness of ideas; lowness, narrowness, and poverty of thought are contrasted with elevation, richness, and comprehension : on the one hand is an intellect barely active enough to seek the true elements of the poetical, and on the other a mind which, seeing those finer relations at a glance, darts off in the wantonness of its luxuriant strength to discover qualities with which poetry is but ill fitted to deal.” This is strikingly and truly put. Yet, be it observed, it has reference only to the drapery of the dramatic action and characterization—the condensation or expansion of the thought—the tameness or luxuriance of the imagery—the equable flow or the involved harmony of the versification. The real body of a drama is its action and characterization. It is the constant subordination of all the ordinary poetical excellences to the main design, to be carried on through the agency of different passions, temperaments, and humours, that constitutes the dramatic art. To judge of a question of authorship, and especially of such a question with reference to Shakspere, we must not only take into consideration the resemblances in what we call style (we use this for the want of a more comprehensive word), but in the management of the action and the development of the characters. Such inquiries as these are not without their instruction, if they lead us by analysis and comparison to a better appreciation of what constitutes the highest qualities of art. The best copy of a picture is necessarily inferior to the original ; but we may better learn the value of the original by a close examination of the copy;—and this is the position which we are about to take up in the question of the authorship of The Two Noble Kinsmen.' We hold that in parts it bears a most remarkable resemblance to Shakspere in the qualities of detached thought, of expression, of versification; and not so with reference to Shakspere's early and unformed style, but to the peculiarities of his later period. But we hold, at the same time, that the management of the subject is equally unlike Shakspere; that the poetical