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earnest. According to him, “the web of our lives is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together.” His genius was dramatic, as Chau. cer's was historical. He saw both sides of a question, the dif. ferent views taken of it according to the different interests of the parties concerned, and he was at once an actor and spectator in the scene. If anything, he is too various and flexible ; too full of transitions, of glancing lights, of salient points. If Chau. cer followed up his subject too doggedly, perhaps Shakspeare was too volatile and heedless. The Muse's wing too often lifted him off his feet. He made infinite excursions to the right and the left.
- “He hath done
Chaucer attended chiefly to the real and natural, that is, to the
voluntary and inevitable impressions on the mind in given cir. cumstances. Shakspeare exhibited also the possible and the fan. tastical, not only what things are in themselves, but whatever they might seem to be, their different reflections, their endless combinations. He lent his fancy, wit, invention, to others, and borrowed their feelings in return. Chaucer excelled in the force of habitual sentiment ; Shakspeare added to it every variety of passion, every suggestion of thought or accident. Chaucer de. scribed external objects with the eye of a painter, or he might be said to have embodied them with the hand of a sculptor, Stery part is so thoroughly made out, and tangible :- Shak. peare's imagination threw over them a lustre
Everything in Chaucer has a downright reality. A simile or E entiment is as if it were given in upon evidence. In Shak.
are the commonest matter-of-fact has a romantic grace about 2; or seems to float with the breath of imagination in a freer dement. No one could have more depth of feeling or observa. tion than Chaucer, but he wanted resources of invention to lay open the stores of nature or the human heart with the same radiant light that Shakspeare has done. However fine or profound the thought, we know what was coming, whereas the effect of reading Shakspeare is “like the eye of vassalage encountering majesty." Chaucer's mind was consecutive, rather than dis. cursive. He arrived at truth through a certain process; Shak. speare saw everything by intuition. Chaucer had great variety of power, but he could do only one thing at once. He set him. self to work on a particular subject. His ideas were kept sepa. rate, labelled, ticketed and parcelled out in a set form, in pews and compartments by themselves. They did not play into one another's hands. They did not re-act upon one another, as the blower's breath moulds the yielding glass. There is something hard and dry in them. What is the most wonderful thing in Shakspeare's faculties is their excessive sociability, and how they gossiped and compared notes together.
We must conclude this criticism ; and we will do it with a quotation or two. One of the most beautiful passages in Chau. cer's tale is the description of Cresseide's first avowal of her love.
And as the new abashed nightingale,
See also the two next stanzas, and particularly that divine one beginning
"Het armés stall, her back both straight and sift," &c.
Compare this with the following speech of Trilus to Cressila in the play.
*0that I thought it could be in a woman; And if it can, I will presume in you.
To feed for aye her lamp and flame of love,
These passages may not seem very characteristic at first sight, though we think they are so. We will give two, that cannot be Distaked, Patroclus says to Achilles,
“Rouse yourself; and the weak wanton Cupid
Troilus, addressing the god of day on the approach of the morning that parts him from Cressida, says with much scorn,.
If nobody but Shakspeare could have written the former, nobody but Chaucer would have thought of the latter. Chaucer was the most literal of poets, as Richardson wes of prose writers. ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.
Tuis is a very noble play. Though not in the first order of Shakspeare's productions, it stands next to them, and is, we think, the finest of his historical plays, that is, of those in which he made poetry the organ of history, and assumed a certain tone of character and sentiment, in conformity to known facts, instead of trusting to his observations of general nature, or to the unlimited indulgence of his own fancy. What he has added to the history is upon an equality with it. His genius was, as it were, a match for history as well as nature, and could grapple at will with either. This play is full of that pervading comprehensive power by which the poet always seems to identify himself with amo and circumstances. It presents a fine picture of Roman pride and Eastern magnificence : and in the struggle between the two, the empire of the world seems suspended, "like the swan's down-feather,
• That stands upon the swell at full of tide,
The characters breathe, move, and live. Shakspeare does not stand reasoning on what his characters would do or say, but at once becomes them, and speaks and acts for them. He does not present us with groups of stage puppets or poetical machines making set speeches on human life, and acting from a calculation of ostensible motives, but he brings living men and women on the scene, who speak and act from real feelings, ac. cording to the ebbs and flows of passion, without the least tine. ture of the pedantry of logic or rhetoric. Nothing is made out by inference and analogy, by climax and antithesis, but every. thing takes place just as it would have done in reality, according to the occasion. The character of Cleopatra is a master-piece. What an extreme contrast it affords to Imogen! One would think it almost impossible for the same person to have drawn both. The Egyptian is voluptuous, ostentatious, conscious, boastful of her charms, haughty, tyrannical, fickle. Her luxu. rious pomp and gorgeous extravagance are displayed in all their force and lustre, as well as the irregular grandeur of the soul of Mark Antony. Take only the first four lines that they speak as an example of the regal style of love-making. * CLEOPATRA. If it be love indeed, tell me how much? ANTONY. There's beggary in the love that can be reckon'd. CLEOPATRA. I'll set a bourn how far to be belov'd. ANTONY. Then must thou needs find out new hear'n, new earth.”
The rich and poetical description of her person, beginning
“The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
seems to prepare the way for, and almost to justify the subsequent infatuation of Antony when, in the sea-fight at Actium, he leaves the battle, and “ like a doating mallard” follows her fly. ing sails.
Few things in Shakspeare (and we know of nothing in any other author like them) have more of that local truth of imagi. nation and character than the passage in which Cleopatra is represented conjecturing what were the employments of Antony in his absence. “He's speaking now, or murmuring-Where's ny serpent of old Nile ?" Or again, when she says to Antony, after the defeat at Actium, and his summoning up resolution to risk another fight—“It is my birth-day; I had thought to have held it poor; but since my lord is Antony again, I will be Cleopatra." Perhaps the finest burst of all is Antony's rage after his final defeat, when he comes in, and surprises the messenger of Cæsar kissing her hand
* To let a fellow that will take rewards,