Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

desirous to make me more comfortable ; but I had 'too high a spirit to communicate my wants to him. Besides, I found that the expensive line of life he had got into, did not leave it much in his power to indulge his feelings of generosity.

For some years I found my situation extremely unpleasant. Accustomed as I had been to a state of ease and affluence, and to all the pleasures of an elegant society, it was not easy for me to submit, at once, to poverty, neglect, and solitude. The power of habit has however at length, in some measure, réconciled me to my fate. I can now look with indifference on the pleasures and pursuits of the world ;' and, notwithstanding the chagrin that is commonly supposed to attend persons in my conditions I have still so much philanthropy as to wish that you would employ a paper in representing the cruelty and injustice of educating a girl in luxury and elegance, and then leaving her exposed to all the hardships of poverty and neglect.

I am, &c. ***

S. M.

No. LXVI. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 25.

34 AMIDST all my veneration for Shakspeare, I have been often obliged to confess, that there were passages in his works, the meaning of which I could not understand; and of others I have some. times ventured to doubt if they were strictly in Nature. Of this last sort is the celebrated scene in Richárd the Third, where that artful usurper first mollifies the resentment, and then gains upon the * affections, of the unfortunate Lady. Anne. The

ا س ا ) }

by

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1 tba following piece of criticism on that scene has been sent me byla correspondent, from whom, if I

mistake not, I have formerly received several ingenious communications...

Boyntots is
TO THE AUTHOR OF THE MIRROR.
SIR,

FEW of Shakspeare's tragedies have obtained higher reputation than the “Life and Death of Richard the Third." Yet, like every other per formance of this wonderful poet, it contains several passages that can hardly admit of apology. Of this kind are the instances it affords us of vulgarity, and even indecency of expression,

At the same time, in censuring Shakspeare, we ought to proceed with peculiar caution ; for on many occasions, those passages which, on a cursory view, may be reckoned blemishes, on a closer examination, will appear very different, and even Jay claim to considerable excellence. In his initą. tions of Nature he is so very bold, and so different from other poets, that what is daring, is often, in a moment of slight attention, deemed improbable ; and what is extraordinary, is too rashly pronounced - absurd. Of this, in the work above mentioned, the strange love-scene between Richard and Lady Anne, the widow of Prince Edward Plantagenet, affords a i striking example. It seems, indeed, altogether unnatural that Richard, deformed and hideous as the poet represents him, should offer himself a suitor to the widow of an excellent young prince, whom he had murdered, at the very time she is attending the funeral of her father-in-law, whom he had also slain, and while she is expressing the most bitter hatred against the author of her misfortune. B

But in attending closely to the progress of the dialogue, the seeming extravagance of the picture will be softened or removed : we shall find ourselves more

[ocr errors]

interested in the event, and more astonished at the bold åbility of Richard, than moved with abhorrence of his shameless effrontery, or offended with the improbability of the situation. When a poet, like Shakspeare, can carry us along by the power of amazement, by daring displays of nature, and by the influence of feelings altogether unusual, but full of resistless energy, his seeming departure from probability only contributes to our admiration; and the emotions, 'excited by his extravagance, losing the effect which, from an inferior poets they would have caused, 'add to the general feelings of pleasure which the scene produces.

In considering the scene before us, it is necessary that we keep in view the character of Lady Anne. The outlines are given us in her own conversation ; but we see it more completely finished and filled up, indirectly indeed, but not less distinctly, in the conduct of Richard She is represented of a mind altogether frivolous, the prey of vanity, her prevailing, over-ruling passion; susceptible, however, of every feeling and emotion, and, while they last, sincere in their expression, but hardly capable of distinguishing the propriety of one more than another; or, if able to employ such discernment, totally unaccustomed, and unable, to obey her moral faculty as a principle of action ; and thus exposed alike to the authority of good or bad impressions. There are such characters ; persons of great sensibilityy of greåt sincerity, but of no rational or steady virtue, produced or strengthened by reflection, and consequently of consistency of conduct. 3. Richard, in his management of Lady Anne, having in view the accomplishment of his own ambiTtious designs, addresses her with the most perfect knowledge of her disposition. He knows that her

feelings are violent ; that they have no foundation "in steady determined principles of conduct; that

violent feelings are soon exhausted ; and that the undecided mind, without choice or active sense of propriety, is equally accessible to the next that occur. He knows, too, that those impressions will be most fondly cherished, which are most a-kin to the ruling passion; and that, in Lady, Anne, vanity bears absolute sway.

All that he has to do, then, is to suffer the violence of one emotion to pass away, and then, as skilfully as possible, to bring another more suited to his designs, and the complexion of her character, into its place. Thus he not only discovers much discernment of human nature, but also great command of temper, and great dexterity of conduct.

In order, as soon as possible, to exhaust her temporary resentment, for she expresses resentment rather than grief in her lamentation for Henry, it is necessary that it be exasperated to its fiercest extreme. Accordingly Richard, breaking in abruptly upon the funeral procession, inflames and provokes her anger.

He persists in his plan; appears cool and unconcerned at her abuse ; and thus urges her to vent the rage and vehemence of her emotion in rude invectires and imprecations.

O God, which this blood mad'st, revenge his death!
O Earth, which this blood drink'st, revenge his death! &c.

All this is general; but, before the vehemence of her wrath can be entirely removed, she must bring home to her fancy every aggravating circumstance, and must ascertain the particular wrongs she has suffered. After this operation of her mind, and that she has expressed the consequent feelings, she has no longer any topics or food for anger, and the passions will, of course subside. Richard, for this purpose, pretends to justify or extenuate his offences; and thus, by advancing into view, instead

of concealing his enormities, he overcomes the resentment of Lady Anne. To this effect also, his assumed appearance of candour will readily .contribute.

Glo. Vouchsafe, divine perfection of a woman! ni jins of those supposed crimes to give me leave,

By circumstance, but to acquit myself, &c.
Anne. Did'st thou not kill this King?

1

grant ye. i Anne. Dost grant me, hedgehog ? Then God grant me too

: Thou may'st be damned for that wicked deed, etc.

Glo.

[ocr errors]

Here also we may observe his application of those flatteries, which, if they cannot take effect in the * present moment, otherwise than to give higher provocation ; yet, when her wrath subsides, their recollection will operate in a different tendency, and assist in working upon that vanity by which he will compass his design. • It was not alone sufficient to provoke her anger and resentment to the utmost, in order that they might immediately subside ; but, by alleging plau, sible reasons for change of sentiment, to assist them in their decline. Though Lady Anne possesses no decided, determined virtue, yet her moral nature, unimproved as it appears, would discern impropriety in her suddenly acquiescing in the views of Richard, would suggest scruples, and produce hesitation. Now, in order to prevent the effect of these, it was necessary to aid the mind in finding subterfuge or excuse, and thus assist her in the easy business of imposing upon herself. Her seduceri accordingly, endeavours to gloss his conduct, and represents his actions as less criminal than she at first apprehended.

Glo.

But, gentle Lady Anne,
To leave this keen encounter of our wits,
And fall to something of a slower method;

« VorigeDoorgaan »