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SHAKSPEARE-KIS IAMBICS, A COMPLETE MODEL.
other. The blank verse has this advantage, that its tone may be elevated or lowered; it admits of approximation to the familiar style of conversation, and never forms such an abrupt contrast as that, for example, between plain prose and the rhyming Alexandrines.
Shakspeare's lambics are sometimes highly harmonious and full sounding; always varied and suitable to the subject, at one time distinguished by ease and rapidity, at another they move along with ponderous energy. They never fall out of the dialogical
character, which may always be traced even in the continued discourses of individuals, excepting when the latter run into the lyrical. They are a complete model of the dramatic use of this species of verse, which, in English, since Milton, has been also used in epic poetry; but in the latter it has assumed a quite different tnrn. Even the irregularities of Shakspeare's versification are expressive; a verse bruken off, or a sudden change of rhythmus, coincides with some pause in the progress of the thought, or the entrance of another mental disposition. As a proof that he purposely violated the mechanical rules, from a conviction that too symmetrical a versification does not suit with the drama, and on the stage has in the long run a tendency to lull the spectators asleep, we may observe that his
earlier pieces are the most diligently versified, and that in the later works, when through practice he must have acquired a greater facility, we find the strongest deviations from the regular structure of the yerse. As it served with him merely to make the poetical elevation perceptible, he therefore claimed the utmost possible freedom in the use of it.
The views or suggestions of feeling by which he was guided in the use of rhyme may likewise be traced with almost equal certainty. Not unfrequently scenes, or even single speeches, close with a few rhyming lines, for the purpose of more strongly marking the division, and of giving it more rounding. This was injudiciously imitated by the English tragic poets of a later date; they suddenly elevated the tone in the rhymed lines, as if the person began all at once to speak in another language. The practice was welcomed by the actors from its serving as a signal for clapping when they made their exit. In Shakspeare, on the other hand, the transitions are more easy: all changes of forms are brought about insensibly, and as if of themselves. Moreover,
SHAKSPEARE-HIS USE OF RHYME.
he is generally fond of heightening a series of ingenious and antithetical sayings by the use of rhyme. We find other passages in continued rhyme, where solemnity and theatrical pomp were suitable, as, for instance, in the mask*, as it is called, The Tempest, and in the play introduced in Hamlet. Of other pieces, for instance, the Midsummer Night's Dream, and Romeo and Juliet, the rhymes form a considerable part; either because he may have wished to give them a glowing colour, or because the characters appropriately utter in a more musical tone their complaints or suits of love. In these cases he has even introduced rhymed strophes, which approach to the form of the sonnet, then usual in England. The assertion of Malone, that Shakspeare in his youth was fond of rhyme, but that he afterwards rejected it, is sufficiently refuted by his own chronology of the poet's works. In some of the earliest, for instance, in the Second and Third Part of Henry the Sixth, there are hardly any rhymes; in what is stated to be his last piece, The Twelfth Nighi, or What You Will, and in Macbeth, which is proved to have been composed under the reign of King James, we find them in no inconsiderable number. Even in the secondary matters of form Shakspeare was not guidet by humour and accident, but, like a genuine artist, acted invariably on good and solid grounds. This we might also show of the kinds of verse which he least frequently used; for instance, if the rhyming verses of seven and eight syllables, were we not afraid of dwelling too long on merely technical peculiarities.
In England the manner of handling rhyming verse, and the opinion as to its harmony and elegance, have, in the course of two centuries, undergone a much greater change than is the case with the rhymeless lambic or blank verse. In the former, Dryden and Pope have become models; these writers have communicated the utmost smoothing to rhyme, but they have also tied it down to a harmonious uniformity. Å foreigner, to whom antiquated and new are the same, may perhaps feel with greater freedom the advantages of the more ancient manner. Certain it is, the rhyme of the present day, from the too great confinement of the couplet, is unfit for the iframa. We must not estimate the rhyme of Shakspeare by the mode of subsequent times, but by a comparison with his
* I shall take the opportunity of saying a few words respecting this species of drama when I come to speak of Ben Jonson.
contemporaries or with Spenser. The comparison will, without doubt, turn out to his advantage. Spenser is often diffuse; Shakspeare, though sometimes hard, is always brief and vigorous. He has more frequently been induced by the rhyme to leave out something necessary than to insert any thing super. Auous. Many of his rhymes, however, are faultless: ingenious with attractive case, and rich without false Trilliancy. The songs interspersed (those, I mean, of the poet himself) are generally sweetly playful and altogether musical; in imagination, while we merely read them, we hear their melody.
The whole of Shakspeare's productions bear the certain stamp of his original genius, but yet no writer was ever farther removed from every thing like a mannerism derived from habit or personal peculiarities. Rather is he, such is the diversity of tone and colour, which varies according to the quality of his subjects he assumes, a very Proteus. Each of bis compositions is like a world of its own, moving in its own sphere.
They are works of art, finished in one pervading style, which revealed the freedom and judicious choice of their author. If the formation of a work throughout, even in its minutest parts, in conformity with a leading idea; if the domination of one animating spirit over all the means of execution, deserves the name of correctness (and this, excepting in matters of grainmar, is the only proper sense of the term); we shall then, after allowing to Shakspeare all the higher qualities which demand our aılmiration, be also compelled, in most cases, to concede to him the title of a correct poet.
It would be in the highest degree instructive to follow, if we could, in his career step by step, an author who at once founded and carried his art to perfection, and to go through his works in the order of time. But, with the exception of a few fixed points, which at length have been obtained, all the necessary materials for this are still wanting. The diligent Malone has, indeed, made an attempt to arrange the plays of Shakspeare in chronological order; but he himself only gives out the result of his labours for hypothetical, and it could not possibly be attended with complete success, since he excluded from his inquiry a considerable number of pieces which have been ascribed to the poet, though rejected as spurious by all the editors since Rowe, but which, in my opinion, must, if not wholly, at least in great measure be attributed to him
* Were this book destined immediately for an English public, I should
SIIAKSPEARE-REVIEW OF HIS DRAMAS.
Criticisms on Shakspeare's Comedies. The best and easiest mode of reviewing Shakspeare's dramas, will be to arrange them in classes. This, it must be owned, is merely a makeshift: several critics have declared that all Shakspeare's pieces substantially belong to the same species, although sometimes one ingredient, sometimes another, the musical or the characteristical, the invention of the wonderful or the imitation of the real, the pathetic or the comic, seriousness or irony, may preponderate in the mixture. Shakspeare himself, it would appear, did but laugh at the petty endeavours of critics to find out divisions and subdivisions of species, and to hedge in what had been so separated with the most anxious care; thus the pedantic Polonius in Hamlet commends the players, for their knowledge of “tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical, historicalpastoral, scene-undividable, or poem unlimited.” On another occasion he ridicules the limitation of Tragedy to an unfortunate catastrophe:
" And tragical, my noble lord, it is ;
For Pyramus therein doth kill himself." However the division into Comedies, Tragedies, and Historical Dramas, according to the usual practice, may in some measure be adopted, if we do not lose sight of the transitions and affinities. The subjects of the comedies are generally taken from novels: they are romantic love tales; none are altogether confined to the sphere of common or domestic relanot have hazarded an opinion like this at variance with that which is generally received, without supporting it by proofs. The inquiry, however, is too extensive for our present limits, and I have therefore reserved it for a separate treatise. Besides at the present moment, while I am putting the last hand to my Lectures, no collection of English books but my own is accessible to me. The latter I should have enlarged with a view to this object, if the interruption of intercourse with England had not rendered it inpossible to procure any other than the most common English books. On this point, therefore, I must request indulgence. In an Appendix to this Lecture I shall merely make a few cursory observations.
SHAKSPEARE: THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA.
tions: all of them possess poetical ornament, some of them run into the wonderful or the pathetic. With these two of his most famous tragedies are connected by an immediate link, Romeo and Juliet and Othello; both true novels, and composed on the same principles. In many of the historical plays a considerable space is occupied by the comic characters and scenes; others are serious throughout, and leave behind a tragical impression. The essential circumstance by which they are distinguished is, that the plot bears reference to a poetical and national interest. This is not equally the case in Hamlet, Lear, and Macbeth; and therefore it is that we do not include these tragedies among the historical pieces, though the first is founded on an old northern, the second on a national tradition; and the third comes even within the era of Scottish history, after it ceased to be fabulous.
Among the comedies, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Comedy of Errors, bear
many traces of an early origin. The Two Gentlemen of Verona paints the irresolution of love, and its infidelity to friendship, pleasantly enough, but in some degree superficially, we might almost say with the levity of mind which a passion suddenly entertained, and as suddenly given up, presupposes. The faithless lover is at last, on account of a very ambiguous repentance, forgiven without much difficulty by his first mistress; for the more serious part, the premeditated flight of the daughter of a Prince, the capture of her father along with herself by a band of robbers, of which one of the Two Gentlemen, the betrayed and banished friend, has been against his will elected captain: for all this a peaceful solution is soon found. It is as if the course of the world was obliged to accommodate itself to a transient youthful caprice, called love. Julia, who accompanies her faithless lover in the disguise of a page, is, as it were, a light sketch of the tender female figures of a Viola and an Imogen, who, in the latter pieces of Shakspeare, leave their home in similar disguises on love adventures, and to whom a peculiar charm is comdiunicated by the display of the most virginly modesty in their hazardous and problematical situation.
The Comedy of Errors is the subject of the Menæchmi of Plautus, entirely recast and enriched with new developments: of all the works of Shakspeare this is the only example of imitation of, or borrowing from, the ancients.