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I would not be the villain that thou think'st
Macbeth, Act IV. Sc. 3.
The following passage expresses finely the
Let me not stir, nor breathe, lest I dissolve
Mourning Bride, Act II. Sc. 6.
In the progress of thought, our resolutions become more vigorous as well as our passions:
If ever I do yield or give consent,
By any action, word, or thought, to wed
Another lord; may then just heav'n show'r down, &c.
And this leads to a second observation, that the different stages of a passion, and its different directions, from birth to extinction, must be carefully represented in their order; because otherwise the sentiments, by being misplaced, will appear forced and unnatural. Resentment, for example, when provoked by an atrocious injury, discharges itself first upon the author: sentiments therefore of revenge come always first, and must, in some measure, be exhausted before the person injured thinks of grieving for himself. In the Çid of Corneille, Don Diegue having been affronted in a cruel manner, expresses scarcely any sentiment of revenge, but is totally occupied in contemplating the low situation to which he is reduced by the affront:
O rage! ô désespoir! ô vieillesse ennemie !
These sentiments are certainly not the first that are suggested by the passion of resentment. As the first movements of resentment
are always directed to its object, the very same is the case of grief. Yet with relation to the sudden and severe distemper that seized Alexander bathing in the river Cydnus, Quintus Curtius describes the first emotions of the army as directed to themselves, lamenting that they were left without a leader, far from home, and had scarcely any hopes of returning in safety: their king's distress, which must naturally have been their first concern, occupies them but in the second place, according to that author. In the Aminta of Tasso, Sylvia, upon a report of her lover's death, which she be ieved certain, instead of bemoaning the loss of her beloved, turns her thoughts upon herself, and wonders her heart does not break.
In the tragedy of Jane Shore, Alicia, in the full purpose of destroying her rival, has the following reflection:
Oh Jealousy! thou bane of pleasing friendship,
See where she comes! once my heart's dearest blessing,
Act III. Sc. 1.
These are the reflections of a cool spectator. A passion while it has the ascendant, and is freely indulged, suggests not to the person who feels it any sentiment to his own prejudice: reflections like the foregoing occur not readily till the passion has spent its vigor.
A person sometimes is agitated at once by different passions; and the mind, in that case, vibrating like a pendulum, vents itself in sentiments that partake of the same vibration. This I give as a hird observation:
Queen. 'Would I had never trod this English earth,
Ye've angels' faces, but Heaven knows your hearts.
What shall become of me now? wretched lady!
I am the most unhappy woman living.
Alas! poor wenches, where are now. your fortunes? [To her women.
Henry VIII. Act III. Sc. 1.
Othello. Oh devil, devil!
If that the earth could teem with woman's tears,
Desdemona. I will not stay t'offend you.
I do beseech your Lordship, call her back.
Des. My Lord.
Oth. What would you with her, Sir?
Oth. Ay; you did wish that I would make her turn:
Concerning this, Sir-oh well painted passion!
Othello, Act IV. Sc. 1.
Et que l'amour souvent de remors combattu,
Emilia. Oh! my good Lord, I would speak a word with you.
Othello, Act V. Sc. 2.
A fourth observation is, that nature, which gave us passions, and made them extremely beneficial when moderate, intended, undoubtedly, that they should be subjected to the government of reason and conscience. It is, therefore, against the order of nature, that passion in any case should take the lead in contradiction to reason and conscience: such state of mind is a sort of anarchy, of which every one is ashamed, and endeavors to hide or dissemble. Even love, however laudable, is attended with a conscious shame when it becomes immoderate: it is covered from the world, and disclosed only to the beloved object:
Boileau, L'Art Poét. Chant. 3. 1. 101.
O, they love least that let men know their love. Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act I. Sc. 2. Hence a capital rule in the representation of immoderate passions, that they ought to be hid or dissembled as much as possible. And this holds in an especial manner with respect to criminal passions: one never counsels the commission of a crime in plain terms: guilt must not appear in its native colors, even in thought: the proposal must be made by hints, and by representing the action in some favorable light. Of the propriety of sentiment upon such an occasion, Shakspeare, in the Tempest, has given us a beautiful example, in a speech by the usurping Duke of Milan, advising Sebastian to murder his brother the King of Naples:
Worthy Sebastian,-O, what might no more.
What thou shouldst be: th' occasion speaks thee, and
My strong imagination sees a crown
Tempest, Act II. Sc. 1.
There never was drawn a more complete picture of this kind, than that of King John soliciting Hubert to murder the young Prince Arthur:
K. John. Come hither, Hubert. O my gentle Hubert,
*See Chap. 2. Part 7.
There is a soul counts thee her creditor,
Hubert. I am much bounden to your Majesty.
Had bak'd thy blood, and made it heavy-thick,
K. John. Do not I know thou wouldst?
And, wheresoe'er this foot of mine doth tread,
King John, Act III. Sc. 3.
As things are best illustrated by their contraries, I proceed to faulty sentiments, disdaining to be indebted for examples to any but the most approved authors. The first class shall consist of sentiments that accord not with the passion; or, in other words, sentiments that the passion does not naturally suggest. In the second class, shall be ranged sentiments that may belong to an ordinary passion, but unsuitable to it as tinctured by a singular character Thoughts that properly are not sentiments, but rather descriptions, make a third. Sentiments that belong to the passion_represented, but are faulty as being introduced too early or too late, make a fourth. Vicious sentiments exposed in their native dress, instead of being concealed or disguised, make a fifth. And in the last class, shall be collected sentiments suited to no character nor passion, and therefore unnatural.
The first class contains faulty sentiments of various kinds, which I shall endeavor to distinguish from each other; beginning with sentiments that are faulty by being above the tone of the passion:
Othello, Act II. Sc. 1.
This sentiment may be suggested by violent and inflamed passion, but is not suited to the calm satisfaction that one feels upon escaping danger.
Philaster. Place me, some god, upon a pyramid
Philaster of Beaumont and Fletcher, Act IV.
Second. Sentiments below the tone of the passion. Ptolemy, by putting Pompey to death, having incurred the displeasure of Cæsar, was in the utmost dread of being dethroned: in that agitating situation, Corneille makes him utter a speech full of cool reflection, hat is in no degree expressive of the passion.
Ah! si je t'avois cru, je n'aurois pas de maître,
Les plonge dans une gouffre, et puis s'évanouit.
La Mort de Pompée, Act IV. Sc. 1.
In Les Frères ennemis of Racine, the second act is opened with a love-scene. Hemon talks to his mistress of the torments of absence, of the lustre of her eyes, that he ought to die no where but at her feet, and that one moment of absence is a thousand years. Antigone on her part acts the coquette; pretends she must be gone to wait on her mother and brother, and cannot stay to listen to his courtship. This is odious French gallantry, below the dignity of the passion of love: it would scarcely be excusable in painting modern French manners; and is insufferable where the ancients are brought upon the stage. The manners painted in the Alexandre of the same author are not more just. French gallantry prevails there throughout.
Third. Sentiments that agree not with the tone of the passion; as where a pleasant sentiment is grafted upon a painful passion, or the contrary. In the following instances the sentiments are too gay for a serious passion:
No happier task these faded eyes pursue;
Eloisa to Abelard, 1. 47.