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the persons, I believe one might have applied them with certainty to every speaker."
The object of the volume here offered to the public is to illustrate these remarks in a more particular manner by a reference to each play. A gentleman of the name of Mason, the author of a Treatise on Ornamental Gardening (not Mason the poet), began a work of a similar kind about forty years ago, but he only lived to finish a parallel between the characters of Macbeth and Richard III., which is an exceedingly ingenious piece of analytical eriticism. Richardson's Essays include but a few of Shakspeare's principal characters. The only work which seemed to supersede the necessity of an attempt like the present was Schlegel's very admirable Lectures on the Drama, which gave by far the best account of the plays of Shakspeare that have hitherto appeared. The only circumstances in which it was thought not impossible to improve on the manner in which the German critic has executed this part of his design were in avoiding an appearance of inysticism in his style, not very attractive to the English reader, and in bringing illustrations from particular passages of the plays themselves, of which Schlegel's work, from the extensiveness of his plan, did not admit. We will at the same time confess, that some little jealousy of the character of the national understanding was not without its share in producing the following undertaking, for * we were piqued" that it should be reserved for a foreign critic to give * reasons for the faith which we English have in Shakspeare." Certainly, no writer among ourselves has shown either the saine enthusiastic admiration of his genius, or the same philosophical acuteness in pointing out his characteristic excellence. As we have pretty well ex
hausted all we had to say upon this subject in the body of the work, we shall here transcribe Schlegel's general account of Shakspeare, which is in the following words:
* Never, perhaps, was there so comprehensive a talent for the delineation of character as Shakspeare's. It not only grasps the diversities of rank, sex and age, down to the dawnings of infancy; not only do the king and the beggar, the hero and the pickpocket, the sage and the idiot, speak and act with equal truth; not only does he transport himself to distant ages and foreign nations, and portray in the most accurate manner, with only a few apparent violations of costume, the spirit of the ancient Romans, of the French in their wars with the English, of the English themselves during a great part of their history, of the Southern Europeans (in the serious parts of many comedies), the cultivated society of that time, and the former rude and barbarous state of the North ; his human characters have not only such depth and precision that they cannot be arranged under classes, and are inexhaustible, even in conception :-no—this Prometheus not merely forms men, he opens the gates of the magical world of spirits; calls up the midnight ghost; exhibits before us his witches amidst their unhallowed mysteries ; peoples the air with sportive fairies and sylphs: and these beings, existing only in imagination, possess such truth and consistency, that even when deformed monsters like Caliban, he extorts the conviction, that if there should be such beings, they would so conduct themselves. In a word, as he carries with him the most fruitful and daring fancy into the kingdom of nature,-on the other hand, he carries nature into the regions of fancy, lying beyond the confines of reality. We are lost in astonishment at seeing the extraordinary, the wonderful, and the unheard-of, in such intimate nearness. If Shakspeare deserves our admiration for his characters, he is equally deserving of it for his exhibition of passion, taking this word in its widest signification, as including every mental condition, every tone, from indifference or fimiliar mirth to the wildest rage and despair. He gives us the history of minds; he lays open to us, in a single word, a whole series of preceding conditions. His passions do not at first stand displayed to us in all their height, as is the case with so many tragic poets, who, in the language of Lessing, are thorough masters of the legal style of love. He paints in a most inimitable manner, the gradual progress from the first origin. He gives,' as Lessing says, a living picture of all the most minute and secret artifices by which a feeling steals into our souls ; of all the imperceptible advantages which it there gains : of all the stratagems by which every other passion is made subser. vient to it, till it becomes the sole tyrant of our desires and aversions.' Of all poets, perhaps, he alone has portrayed the mental diseases-melancholy, delirium, lunacy-with such inexpressible, and, in every respect, definite truth, that the physician may enrich his observations from them in the same manner as from real cases.
* And yet Johnson has objected to Shakspeare, that lis pathos is not always natural and free from affectation. There are, it is true, passages, though, comparatively speaking, very few, where his poetry exceeds the bounds of true dialogue, where a too soaring imagination, a too luxuriant wit, rendered the complete dramatic forgetfulness of himself impossible. With this exception, the censure originates only in a fanciless way of thinking, to which everything appears unnatural that does not suit its own tame insipidity. Hence, an idea has been formed of simple and natural pathos, which consists in exclamations destitute of imagery, and nowise elevated above every-day life. But energetic passions electrify the whole of the mental powers, and will, consequently, in highly favored natures, express themselves in an ingenious and figurative manner. It has been often remarked, that indignation gives wit; and, as despair occasionally breaks out into laughter, it may sometimes also give vent to itself in antithetical comparisons.
Besides, the rights of the poetical form have not been duly weighed. Shakspeare, who was always sure of his object, to move in a sufficiently powerful manner when he wished to do so, has occasionally, by indulging in a freer play, purposely moderated the impressions when too painful, and immediately introduced a musical alleviation of our sympathy. He has not those rude ideas of his art which many moderns seem to have, as if the poet, like the clown in the proverb, must strike twice on the same place. An ancient rhetorician delivered a caution against dwelling too long on the excitation of pity; for nothing, he said, dries so soon as tears; and Shakspeare acted conformably to this ingenious maxim, without knowing it. pol V aut ed
“The objection, that Shakspeare wounds our feelings by the open display of the most disgusting moral odiousness, harrows up the mind unmercifully, and tortures even our senses by the exhibition of the most insupportable and hateful spectacles, is one of much greater importance. He has never, in fact, varnished over wild and blood-thirsty passions with a pleasing exterior,-never clothed crime and want of principle with a false show of greatness of soul; and in that respect he is every way deserving of praise Twice he has portrayed downright villains ; and the mas
terly way in which he has contrived to elude impressions of 100 painful a nature, may be seen in lago and Richard the Third. The constant reference to a petty and puny race must cripple the boldness of the poet. Fortunately for his art, Shakspeare lived in an age extremely susceptible of noble and tender impressions, but which had still enough of the firmness inherited from a vigorous olden time, not to sbrink back with dismay from every strong and violent picture. We have lived to see tragedies of which the catastrophe consists in the swoon of an enamored princess. If Shakspeare falls occasionally into the opposite extreme, it is a noble error, originating in the fulness of a gigantic strength : and yet this tragical Titan, who storms the heavens, and threatens to tear the world from off its hinges; who, more terrible than Æschylus, makes our hair stand on end, and congeals our blood with horror, possessed, at the same time, the insinuating loveliness of the sweetest poetry. He plays with love like a child; and his songs are breathed out like melting sighs. He unites in his genius the utmost elevation and the utmost depth ; and the most foreign, and even apparently irreconcilable properties subsist in him peaceably together. The world of spirits and nature have laid all their treasures at his feet. In strength a demi-god, in profundity of view a prophet, in all-seeing wisdom a protecting spirit of a higher order, he lowers himself to mortals, as of unconscious of his superiority; and is as open and unassuming as a child.
“Shakspeare's comic talent is equally wonderful with that which he has shown in the pathetic and tragic: it stands on an equal elevation, and possesses equal extent and profundity. All that I before wished was, not to admit that the former preponderated. He is highly inventive in comie