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the character,—but also in and through the drama-
Marry, and I'm glad on't with all my heart;
I'd rather be a kitten and cry-mew, &c.
I understand thy looks : that pretty Welsh
Henry Il. part i. act iii. sc. i.
- they are not told to him. And it is well worth
The causes are the same in either If you take only what the friends of the character say, you may be deceived, and still more so, if that which his enemies say; nay, even the character himself sees himself through the medium of his character, and not exactly as he is. Take all together, not omitting a shrewd hint from the
clown or the fool, and perhaps your impression will be right, and you may know whether you have in fact discovered the poet's own idea by all the speeches receiving light from it, and attesting its reality by reflecting it.
Lastly, in Shakspeare the heterogeneous is united, as it is in nature. You must not suppose a pressure or passion always acting on or in the character ! passion in Shakspeare is that by which the individual is distinguished from others, not that which makes a different kind of him. Shakspeare followed the main march of the human affections. He entered into no analysis of the passions or faiths of men, but assured himself that such and such passions and faiths were grounded in our cominon nature, and not in the mere accidents of ignorance or disease. This is an important consideration, and constitutes our Shakspeare the morning star, the guide and the pioneer, of true philosophy.
AN INTRODUCTORY LECTURE UPON
F that species of writing termed tragi-comedy,
much has been produced and doomed to the shelf. Shakspeare's comic are continually re-acting upon his tragic characters. Lear, wandering amidst the tempest, has all his feelings of distress increased by the overtlowings of the wild wit of the Fool, as vinegar poured upon wounds exacerbates their pain. Thus even his comic humour tends to the developement of tragic passion.
The next characteristic of Shakspeare is his keeping at all times in the high road of life, &c. * Another evidence of his exquisite judgment is, that he seizes hold of popular tales ; Lear and the Merchant of Venice were popular tales, but are so excellently manayed, that both are the representations of men in all countries and of all times.
His dramas do not arise absolutely out of some one extraordinary circumstance, the scenes may stand independently of any such one connecting incident, as faithful representations of men and man
In his mode of drawing characters there are no pompous descriptions of a man by himself; his character is to be drawn, as in real life, from the
• See the foregoing Essay. S. C.
whole course of the play, or out of the mouths of his enemies or friends. This may be exemplified in Polonius, whose character has been often misrepresented. Shakspeare never intended him for a buffoon, &c.*
Another excellence of Shakspeare in which no writer cquals him, is in the language of nature. So corrcct is it, that we can see ourselves in every page. The style and manner have also that felicity, that not a sentence can be read, without its being discovered if it is Shaksperian. In observation of living characters — of landlords aud postilions Fielding has great cxcellence; but in drawing from his own heart, and depicting that species of character, which no observation could teach, he failed in comparison with Richardson, who perpetually places himself, as it were, in a day-tream. Shakspeare excels in both. Witness the accuracy of character in Juliet's Name; while for the great characters of lago, Othello, Hamlet, Richard III., to which he could never have seen any thing similar, he seems invariably to have asked himself, How should I act or speak in such circumstances ? His comic characters are also peculiar. Å drunken constable was not uncommon; but he makes folly a vehicle for wit, as in Dogberry: every thing is a sub-stratum
See the Notes on Hamlet, which contain the same general view of the character of Polonius. As there are a few additional hints in the present report, I have thought it worth printing. S. C.
on which his genius can erect the mightiest superstructure.
To distinguish that which is legitimate in Shakspeare from what does not belong to him, we must observe his varied images symbolical of novel truth, thrusting by, and seeming to trip up each other, from an impetuosity of thought, producing a flowing metre and seldom closing with the line. In Pericles, a play written fifty years before, but altered by Shakspeare, his additions may be recognised to half a line, from the metre, which has the same perfection in the flowing continuity of interchangeable metrical pauses in his earliest plays, as in Love's Labour Lost.*
Lastly contrast his morality with the writers of his own or of the succeeding age &c.t
If a man speak injuriously of our friend, our vindication of him is naturally warm. Shakspeare has been accused of profaneness. I for my part have acquired from perusal of him, a habit of looking into my own heart, and am confident that Shakspeare is an au
* Lamb comparing Fletcher with Shakspeare, writes thus: “ Fletcher's ideas moved slow; his versification, though sweet is tedious, it stops at every turn; he lays line upon line, making up one after the other, adding image to image so deliberately, that we see their junctures. Shakspeare mingles every thing, runs line into line, embarrasses sentences and metaphors ; before one idea has burst its shell, another is hatched and clamorous for disclosure." Churacters of Dram. Writers, contemp. with Shukspeare.
+ See the foregoing Essay.