« AnteriorContinuar »
Dro. S. Your goods, that lay at host, sir, in the
[Exeunt ANT. S. and Ant. E. ADR. and Luc.
brother : I see by you, I am a sweet-faced youth. Will you
walk in to see their gossiping? Dro. S. Not I, sir; you are my elder. Dro. E. That's a question : how shall we try it ?
Dro. S. We will draw cuts for the senior: till then, lead thou first.
Dro. E. Nay; then thus: We came into the world, like brother and brother: And now let's go hand in hand, not one before another.
On a careful revision of the foregoing scenes, I do not hesitate to pronounce them the composition of two very unequal writers. Shakspeare had undoubtedly a share in them; but that the entire play was no work of his, is an opinion which (as Benedict says) “ fire cannot melt out of me; I will die in it at the stake.” Thus, as we are informed by Aulus Gellius, Lib. II. Cap. 3, some plays were absolutely ascribed to Plautus, which in truth had only been (retractatæ et expolitæ ) retouched and polished by him.
In this comedy we find more intricacy of plot than distinction of character; and our attention is less forcibly engaged, because we can guess in great measure how the denouement will be , brought about. Yet the subject appears to have been reluctantly dismissed, even in this last and unnecessary scene, where the same mistakes are continued, till the power of affording entertainment is entirely lost.
I have no words, My voice is in my sword; thou bloodier villain Than terms can give thee out!
Act v. Sc. 7.
PRELIMINARY REMARKS. Dr. Johnson thought it necessary to prefix to this play an apology for Shakspeare's magic ;-in which he says, ' A poet, who should now make the whole action of his tragedy depend upon enchantment, and produce the chief events by the assistance of supernatural agents, would be censured as transgressing the bounds of probability, be banished from the theatre to the nursery, and condemned to write fairy tales instead of tragedies.' He then proceeds to defend this transgression upon the ground of the credulity of the poet's age; when the scenes of enchantment, however they may be now ridiculed, were both by himself and his audience thought awful and affecting. By whom, or when (always excepting French criticism), these sublime conceptions were in danger of ridicule, he has not told us; and I sadly fear that this superfluous apology arose from the misgivings of the great critic's mind. Schlegel has justly remarked that, • Whether the age of Shakspeare still believed in witchcraft and ghosts, is a matter of perfect indifference for the justification of the use which, in Hamlet and Macbeth, he has made of preexisting traditions. No superstition can ever be prevalent and widely diffused through ages and nations without having a foundation in human nature : on this foundation the poet builds; he calls up from their hidden abysses that dread of the unknown, that presage of a dark side of nature, and a world of spirits which philosophy now imagines it has altogether exploded. In this manner he is in some degree both the portrayer and the philosopher of a superstition; that is, not the philosopher who denies and turns into ridicule, but, which is still more difficult, who distinctly exhibits its origin to us in apparently irrational and yet natural opinions.'-In another place the same admirable critic says'Since The Furies of Æschylus, nothing so grand and terrible has VOL. 1v.