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The bare name of the dramatic unities is apt mantic, in opposition to the classical drama ; to excite revolting ideas of pedantry, arts of and conceives that Shakspeare's theatre, when poetry, and French criticism. With none of tried by those principles, will be found not to these do I wish to annoy the reader. I con have violated any of the unities, if they are ceive that it may be said of those unities as of largely and liberally understood. I have no fire and water, that they are good servants but doubt that Mr. Schlegel's criticism will be bad masters. In perfect rigour they were never found to have proved this point in a considerimposed by the Greeks, and they would be able number of the works of our mighty poet. still heavier shackles if they were closely There are traits, however, in Shakspeare, riveted on our own drama. It would be worse which, I must own, appear to my humble judgthan useless to confine dramatic action liter ment incapable of being illustrated by any ally and immoveably to one spot, or its ima- system or principles of art. I do not allude ginary time to the time in which it is repre to his historical plays, which, expressly from sented. On the other hand, dramatic time and being historical, may be called a privileged place cannot surely admit of indefinite expan class. But in those of purer fiction, it strikes sion. It would be better, for the sake of illu me that there are licences conceded indeed to sion and probability *, to change the scene imagination's “chartered libertine," but anofrom Windsor to London, than from London malous with regard to anything which can be to Pekin; it would look more like reality if a recognised as principles in dramatic art. When messenger, who went and returned in the Perdita, for instance, grows from the cradle to course of the play, told us of having performed the marriage altar in the course of the play, a journey of ten or twenty, rather than of a I can perceive no unity in the design of the thousand miles ; and if the spectator had nei- | piece, and take refuge in the supposition of ther that nor any other circumstance to make Shakspeare's genius triumphing and trampling him ask how so much could be performed in over art. Yet Mr. Schlegel, as far as I have so short a time.
observed, makes no exception to this breach In an abstract view of dramatic art, its of temporal unity ; nor, in proving Shakspeare principles must appear to lie nearer to unity a regular artist on a mighty scale, does he deign than to the opposite extreme of disunion, in to notice this circumstance, even as the ultima our conceptions of time and place. Giving Thule of his licence I. If a man contends that up the law of unity in its literal rigour, there dramatic laws are all idle restrictions, I can is still a latitude of its application which understand him ; or if he says that Perdita's may preserve proportion and harmony in the growth on the stage is a trespass on art, but drama t.
that Shakspeare's fascination over and over The brilliant and able Schlegel has traced again redeems it, I can both understand and the principles of what he denominates the ro agree with him. But when I am left to infer
that all this is right on romantic principles, I An eye like Mars to threaten and command; A station like the herald Mercury,
confess that those principles become too roNew lighted on a heaven-kissing hill
mantic for my conception. If Perdita may be Who can read these lines without perceiving that Shak born and married on the stage, why may not speare had imbibed a deeper feeling of the beauty of Pagan mythology than a thousand pedants could have imbibed (Mitis. How comes it that in some one play we see in their whole lives?"- Life of Shakspeare, p. xvi.] so many scas, countries, and kingdoms, passed over with
* Dr. Johnson has said, with regard to local unity in such admirable dexterity? the drama, that we can as easily imagine ourselves in one Cordatus. 0, that but shows how well the authors can place as another. So we can, at the beginning of a play; travel in their vocation, and outrun the apprehension of but having taken our imaginary station with the poet in their auditory.-Every Man out of his llumour. one country, I do not believe with Dr. Johnson, that we This was said in 1599, and at The Globe when Shak change into a different one with perfect facility to the
speare, that very year, perhaps the performance before, imagination. Lay the first act in Europe, and we surely do had crossed the seas in his chorus from England to France not naturally expect to find the second in America.
and from France to England, with admirable dexterity. (t For some admirable remarks on dramatic unities, Jonson wrote to recommend his own unities, and to see Scott's Essay on the Drama (Misc. Pr. Works, vol. vi. instruct his audience; not,as the Shakspeare commentators p. 298–321). Dr. Johnson has numerous obligations to an would have us believe, to abuse Shakspeare, if not in his excellent paper of Farquhar's; a fact not generally enough own house, in the very theatre in which he was a large known.]
sharer, and unquestionably the main-stay.]
Webster's Duchess of Malfi lie-in between the against the too abstract concepti acts, and produce a fine family of tragic chil racters, pronouncing them rathe dren? Her Grace actually does so in Web humours than natural beings, die ster's drama, and he is a poet of some genius, theless, the justice to quote o though it is not quite so sufficient as Shak lovely passage from one of his speare's, to give a “sweet oblivious antidote" the beauty of that passage probal to such “perilous stuff.” It is not, however, attention of many readers to his ti either in favour of Shakspeare's or of Web compositions t. It is indeed bu ster's genius that we shall be called on to make many beauties which justify allt allowance, if we justify in the drama the lapse said of Jonson's lyrical powers. of such a number of years as may change the ciful region of the drama (the apparent identity of an individual. If roman stands as pre-eminent as in come tic unity is to be so largely interpreted, the can be said to be rivalled, it is on old Spanish dramas, where youths grow grey And our surprise at the wildnes beards upon the stage, the mysteries and ness of his fancy in one walk of c moralities, and productions teeming with the increased by the stern and rigi wildest anachronism, might all come in with rugged) air of truth which he their grave or laughable claims to romantic the other. In the regular drama legitimacy.
holds up no romantic mirror to
object was to exhibit humano Et Laberi mimos ut pulchra poemata mirer.-HOR.
once strongly comic and severely On a general view, I conceive it may be said, tively true; to nourish the un that Shakspeare nobly and legitimately en while he feasted the sense of ridi larged the boundaries of time and place in the more anxious for verisimilitude t drama ; but in extreme cases, I would rather comic effect. He understood the agree with Cumberland, to waive all mention peculiarities of his species scien of his name in speaking of dramatic laws, than brought them forward in their acceptof those licences for art which are not art, trasts and subtlest modifications and designate irregularity by the name of order. speare carelessly scattered illus
There were other poets who started nearly skilfully prepared it. This is spea coeval with Ben Jonson in the attempt to give son in his happiest manner. The a classical form to our drama. Daniel, for deal of harsh and sour fruit in instance, brought out his tragedy of Cleopatra neous poetry. It is acknowledged in 1594 ; but his elegant genius wanted the drama he frequently overlabours strength requisite for great dramatic efforts. tion of character, and wastes it te Still more unequal to the task was the Earl uninteresting humours and peculi of Sterline, who published his cold “monarchic
their own, Jonson would not have a rag to ctragedies,” in 1604. The triumph of founding ness: " a remark that called a taunting rep English classical comedy belonged exclusively in one of his most bitter moods. Dryden
said of Jonson that you may track him eve to Jonson. In his tragedies it is remarkable
snow of the ancients.] that he freely dispenses with the unities, though † Namely, the song of Night, in the ma in those tragedies he brings classical antiquity Vision of Delight.“ in the most distinct and learnedly authenti
“Break, Phant'sie, from thy cave of clous cated traits before our eyes. The vindication
[His lyrical poetry forms, perhaps, the r. of his great poetic memory forms an agreeable and interludes, his fancy has a wildness an
part of his poetical character. contrast in modern criticism with the bold bad
that we should not expect from the severity things which used to be said of him in a former tic taste. It cannot be said, indeed, that he
from metaphysical conceit, but his langua period ; as when Young compared him to a
with thought, and polished with eleganci blind Samson, who pulled down the ruins of whole, his merits, after every fair deductie antiquity on his head and buried his genius in possession of a high niche in our literatu beneath them *. Hurd, though he inveighed
him to be ranked (next to Shakspeare) as th
tant benefactor of our early drama.-Cam [* " If the ancients," says Headley,
" were to reclaim
is a moral painter, who delights over much to rich eloquence which poetry imparts to the show his knowledge of moral anatomy. Be two others. But “ The Epicene,” in my humyond the pale of his three great dramas, “The ble apprehension, exhibits Jonson's humour in Fox,” « The Epicene, or Silent Woman,” and the most exhilarating perfection*. With due “The Alchemist,” it would not be difficult to admiration for “The Alchemist,” I cannot help find many striking exceptions to that love of thinking the jargon of the chemical jugglers, truth and probability, which, in a general view, though it displays the learning of the author, may be regarded as one of his best charac to be tediously profuse. “The Fox” rises to teristics. Even within that pale, namely, in something higher than comic effect. It is his masterly character of Volpone, one is morally impressive. It detains us at particustruck with what, if it be not an absolute lar points in serious terror and suspense. But breach, is at least a very bold stretch, of pro “The Epicene” is purely facetious. I know bability. It is true that Volpone is altogether not, indeed, why we should laugh more at the a being daringly conceived ; and those who sufferings of Morose than at those of the senthink that art spoiled the originality of Jon- sualist Sir Epicure Mammon, who deserves his son, may well rectify their opinion by consi- miseries much better than the rueful and pitidering the force of imagination which it re able Morose. Yet so it is, that, though the quired to concentrate the traits of such a cha- feelings of pathos and ridicule seem so widely racter as “The Fox;” not to speak of his different, a certain tincture of the pitiable makes Mosca, who is the phenix of all parasites. comic distress more irresistible. Poor Morose Volpone himself is not like the common misers suffers what the fancy of Dante could not have of comedy, a mere money-loving dotard—a surpassed in description, if he had sketched hard shrivelled old mummy, with no other out a ludicrous Purgatory. A lover of quietspice than his avarice to preserve him ; he is a man exquisitely impatient of rude sounds a happy villain, a jolly misanthrope—a little and loquacity, who lived in a retired street, god in his own selfishness, and Mosca is his who barricadoed his doors with mattresses to priest and prophet. Vigorous and healthy, prevent disturbance to his ears, and who marthough past the prime of life, he hugs himself ried a wife because he could with difficulty in his arch humour, his successful knavery and prevail upon her to speak to him—has hardly imposture, his sensuality and his wealth, with tied the fatal knot when his house is tempested an unhallowed relish of selfish existence. His by female eloquence, and the marriage of him passion for wealth seems not to be so great as who had pensioned the city-wakes to keep away his delight in gulling the human “vultures and from his neighbourhood, is celebrated by a gorecrows » who flock round him at the ima concert of trumpets. He repairs to a court of gined approach of his dissolution ; the specu- justice to get his marriage if possible dissolved, lators who put their gold, as they conceive, but is driven back in despair by the intolerable into his dying gripe, to be returned to them a noise of the court. For this marriage how thousand-fold in his will. Yet still, after this exquisitely we are prepared by the scene of exquisite rogue has stood his trial in a sweat courtship! When Morose questions his inof agony at the scrutineum, and blest his stars at tended bride about her likings and habits of having narrowly escaped being put to the tor- life, she plays her part so hypocritically, that ture, there is something (one would think) a he seems for a moment impatient of her relittle too strong for probability, in that mis serve, and with the most ludicrous cross feelchievous mirth and love of tormenting his (* The plot of The Fox is admirably conceived; and own dupes, which bring him, by his own folly,
that of The Alchemist, though faulty in the conclusion, a second time within the fangs of justice.
is nearly equal to it. In the two comedies of Every Man
in his Humour, and Every Man out of his Humour, the “ The Fox” and “The Alchemist" seem to have plot deserves much less praise, and is deficient at once in divided Jonson's admirers as to which of them interest and unity of action; but in that of The Silent
Woman, nothing can exceed the art with which the cir. may be considered his masterpiece. In con
cumstance upon which the conclusion turns is, until the fessing my partiality to the prose comedy of
very last scene, concealed from the knowledge of the “ The Silent Woman,” considered merely as a
reader, while he is tempted to suppose it constantly within
his reach.-SIR WALTER SCOTT, Misc. Prose Works, vol. vi. comedy, I am by no means forgetful of the
ings wishes her to speak more loudly, that he The flowers my smell, the flood my tas
And the much softness lulled me asleep may have a proof of her taciturnity from her
When, in a vision, as it seem'd to me, own lips; but, recollecting himself, he gives
Triumphal music from the flood arose.' way to the rapturous satisfaction of having found a silent woman, and exclaims to Cut
Of the grand beauties of pe beard, “Go thy ways and get me a clergyman none; but of the sparkling lig presently, with a soft low voice, to marry us, best manner an example may be and pray him he will not be impertinent, but following stanzas, from his sketch brief as he can."
Elysium. The art of Jonson was not confined to the
A Paradise on earth is found, cold observation of the unities of place and
Though far from vulgar sight, time, but appears in the whole adaptation of Which with those pleasures doth :
That it Elysium hight. his incidents and characters to the support of each other. Beneath his learning and art he
The winter here a summer is, moves with an activity which may be compared
No waste is made by time; to the strength of a man who can leap and
Nor doth the autumn ever miss bound under the heaviest armour*.
The blossoms of the prime. The works of Jonson bring us into the
Those cliffs whose craggy sides are seventeenth century; and early in that cen
With trees of sundry suits, tury, our language, besides the great names
Which make continual summer gl already mentioned, contains many other poets
E'en bending with their fruits whose works may be read with a pleasure in
Some ripening, ready some to fall, dependent of the interest which we take in
Some blossom'd, some to bloom, their antiquity.
Like gorgeous hangings on the wal Drayton and Daniel, though the most oppo
Of some rich princely room. site in the cast of their genius, are pre-eminent in the second poetical class of their age, for
There, in perpetual summer shade
Apollo's prophets sit, their common merit of clear and harmonious
Among the flowers that never fade diction. Drayton is prone to Ovidian con
But flourish like their wit; ceits, but he plays with them so gaily, that
To whom the nymphs, upon their they almost seem to become him as if natural.
many a curious lay, His feeling is neither deep, nor is the happi And, with their most melodious qe
Make short the longest day. ness of his fancy of long continuance, but its short April gleams are very beautiful. His Daniel is “ somewhat a-flat,” as on Legend of the Duke of Buckingham opens temporaries said of him t, but I with a fine description. Unfortunately, his sensibility than Drayton, and his descriptions in long poems are, like many fine tion rises to higher dignity. The mornings, succeeded by a cloudy day.
of Elizabeth's age runs often i “ The lark, that holds observance to the sun,
insipidity and fantastic careless Quaver'd her clear notes in the quiet air,
there may be found in some of t And on the river's murmuring base did run,
Sir Philip Sydney, Lodge, Marlowe Whilst the pleased heavens her fairest livery wear ; The place such pleasure gently did prepire,
not only a sweet wild spirit but
finish of exp sion. Of these coi (* He (Jonson) was deeply conversant in the ancients,
ties Marlowe's song,
“ Come live both Greek and Latin, and he borrowed boldly from them; there is scarce a poet or historian among the Roman au be my love,” is an example. thors of those times whom be has not translated in Sejanus Errand,” by whomsoever it was and Catiline. But he has done his robberies so openly,
burst of genuine poetryf. I kn that one may see he fears not to be taxed by any law. He invades authors like a monarch, and what would be theft
that short production has ever at in other poets is only victory in him. With the spoils of readers, but it carries to my im these writers be so represented old Rome to us in its rites, appeal which I cannot easily acco ceremonies, and customs, that if one of their poets had written either of his tragedies we had seen less of it than
(t Bolton in his Hypercritica, i in him.-DRYDEN.)
# Vide these Selections, p. 57
a few simple rhymes. It places the last and thought which at intervals rises from hischaotic inexpressibly awful hour of existence before imagination, like the form of Venus smiling my view, and sounds like a sentence of vanity on the waters. Giles and Phineas Fletcher on the things of this world, pronounced by a possessed harmony and fancy. The simple dying man, whose eye glares on eternity, and Warner has left, in his “Argentile and Curan,” whose voice is raised by strength from another perhaps the finest pastoral episode in our lanworld. Raleigh, also (according to Putten- guage. Browne was an elegant describer of ham), had a “ lofty and passionate” vein. It rural scenes, though incompetent to fill them is difficult, however, to authenticate his poeti- with life and manners. Chalkhill & is a writer cal relics. Of the numerous sonnetteers of of pastoral romance, from whose work of Thethat time (keeping Shakspeare and Spenser alma and Clearchus a specimen should have apart), Drummond and Daniel are certainly the been given in the body of these Selections, but best. Hall was the master satirist of the age; was omitted by an accidental oversight. Chalkobscure and quaint at times, but full of nerve hill's numbers are as musical as those of any and picturesque illustration. No contempo- of his contemporaries, who employ the same rary satirist has given equal grace and dignity form of versification. It was common with to moral censure. Very unequal to him in the writers of the heroic couplet of that age
to style, though often as original in thought, and bring the sense to a full and frequent pause as graphic in exhibiting manners, is Donne, in the middle of the line. This break, by some of whose satires have been modernized relieving the uniformity of the couplet meaby Popet. Corbet has left some humorous
sure, sometimes produces a graceful effect and pieces of raillery on the Puritans. Wither, all a varied harmony which we miss in the exact fierce and fanatic on the opposite side, has and unbroken tune of our later rhyme; a
ing more to recommend him in invective, beauty of which the reader will probably be than the sincerity of that zeal for God's house, sensible, in perusing such lines of Chalkhill's which ate him up. Marston, better known in as these :the drama than in satire, was characterised by “And ever and anon he might well hear his contemporaries for his ruffian style. He A sound of music steal in at his ear, has more will than skill in invective.
As the wind gave it being. So sweet an air
Would strike a siren mute —" puts in his blous with loce," as the pugilists say of a hard but artless fighter; a degrading image. This relief, however, is used rather too liberbut on that account not the less applicable to ally by the elder rhymists, and is perhaps as a coarse satirist.
often the result of their carelessness as of their Donne was the “best good-natured man, good taste. Nor is it at all times obtained by with the worst-natured Muse.” A romantic them without the sacrifice of one of the most and uxorious lover, he addresses the object of important uses of rhyme ; namely, the dishis real tenderness with ideas that outrage tinctness of its effect in marking the measure. decorum. He begins his own epithalamium The chief source of the gratification which the with a most indelicate invocation to his bride. ear finds in rhyme is our perceiving the emHis ruggedness and whim are almost prover-phasis of sound coincide with that of sense. bially known 1. Yet there is a beauty of In other words, the rhyme is best placed on * Is not the Soul's Errand the same poem with the
the most emphatic word in the sentence. But Soul's Knell, which is alw
it is nothing unusual with the ancient couplet Edwards ?–If so, why has it been inserted in Raleigh's writers, by laying the rhyme on unimportant poems by Sir Egerton Brydges ? They are distinct
words, to disappoint the ear of this pleasure, poems.] [t Would not Donne's satires, which abound with so
and to exhibit the restraint of rhyme without much wit, appear more charming if he had taken care of its emphasis.
* * I may safely say of this present age, that if we are not so great wits as § Chalkhill was a gentleman and a scholar, the friend Donne, yet certainly we are better poets.-DRYDEN.) of Spenser. He died before he could finish the fable of his
(Nothing could have made Donne a poet, unless as “ Thealma and Clearchus," which was published, long great a change had been worked in the internal structure after his death, by Isaak Walton. [And has been since of his ears, as was wrought in elongating those of Midas. reprinted ; one of Mr. Singer's numerous contributions to SOUTHEY, Specimens, p. xxiv.)
ascribed to Richard
his words and his numbers ? *