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inquirer of Hamlet, on which however the sense of the whole is made to rest. On that account he mentions his education at a university, though in the age
of the historical Hamlet there was not yet any university. He makes him study at Wittenberg, and no selection could be more suitable. The name was very popular: from the story of Dr. Faustus of Wittenberg, it was wonderfully well known; it was of particular celebrity in protestant England, as Luther had taught and written there shortly before ; and the very name must have immediately suggested the idea of freedom in thinking. I cannot even consider it an anachronism. that Richard the Third should speak of Machiavel. The word is here used altogether proverbially: the contents of the book of the prince have been in existence ever since the existence of tyrants ; Machiavel was merely the first to commit them to writing.
AUGUSTUS WILLIAM SCHLEGEL.*
» Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature. Translated from the original German by John Black. In two Volumes. Vol. 1. pp. 102, 103, 117, 118, 119, 120.
ON THE NATURAL STYLE OF SHAKSPEARE AS CONTRASTED WITH THE ROMANTIC AND BURLESQUE.
THERE are three principal schools in the poetry of modern European nations, the romantic, the burlesque, and the natural. On the first revival of poetry, the minds of men perhaps universally took a bent towards the former: we had nothing but Rowlands and Arthurs, Sir Guys, and Sir Tristram, and Paynim and Christian knights. There was danger that nature would be altogether shut out from the courts of Apollo. The senses of barbarians are rude, and require a strong and forcible impulse to put them in motion. The first authors of the humorous and burlesque tales of modern times were perhaps sensible of this error in the romance writers, and desirous to remedy it. But they frequently fell into an opposite extreme, and that from the same cause. They deliver us, indeed, from the monotony produced by the perpetual rattling of armour, the formality of processions, and tapestry, and cloth of gold, and the eternal straining after supernatural adventures. But they lead us into squalid scenes, the coarse buffoonery of the ale-house, and the offensive manners engendered by dishonesty and intempe
Between the one and the other of these classes of poetry, we may find things analogous to the wild and desperate toys of Salvator Rosa, and to the boors of Teniers, but nothing that should remind us of the grace of Guido, or of the soft and simple repose of Claude Lorraine.
The Decamerone of Boccaccio seems to be the first work of modern times which was written entirely on the principle of a style, simple, unaffected, and pure. Chaucer, who wrote precisely at the same period, was the fellow-labourer of Boccaccio. He has declared open war against the romance manner in his Rime of Sire Thopas. His Canterbury Tales are written with an almost perpetual homage to nature. The Troilus and Creseide, though a tale of ancient times, treats almost solely of the simple and genuine emotions of the human heart.
Boccaccio and Chaucer, it might be supposed, would have succeeded in banishing the swelling and romantic style from the realms of poetry. We might have imagined that, as knowledge and civilisation grew, the empire of nature would have continually become more firmly established. But this was not the case. These eminent writers rose too high beyond their contemporaries, and reached to refinements that their successors could not understand. Pulci and Boiardo took the romantic style under their protection in the following century; and, by the splendour of their talents, and the treasures of their fancy, bestowed upon it
extensive and lasting empire.-Ariosto and Tasso adopted and carried to perfection the style of Pulci and Boiardo. Taste and literature had made no advances in England in the fifteenth century; and, in the sixteenth and early part of the seventeenth, our countrymen resorted for models principally to Italy. The Earl of Surry and his contemporaries were the introducers of the Italian school in this island. Spenser in his Faerie Queen combined at once all the imperfections of the allegorical and the romantic. Even the transcendent genius of Milton formed itself upon these originals; and, however we may adore the wonders of his invention, impartial criticism must acknowledge that he studied much in the school of the artificial, the colossal, and the wild, and little in that of nature.
It is incumbent upon us, however, not to treat the romantic style with too undiscriminating a severity. The fault was in thinking this the only style worthy of an elevated genius, or in thinking it the best. It has its appropriate and genuine recommendations. It is lofty, enthusiastic, and genial and cherishing to the powers of imagination. Perhaps every man of a truly poetical mind will be the better for having passed a short period in this school. And it may further safely be affirmed that every man of a truly poetical mind, who was reduced to make his choice between the school of coarse, burlesque, and extravagant humour, such as that of Hudibras for example, and the school of extravagant heroism and chivalry, such as that
of Tasso, would decide for the latter. The first chills and contracts, as it were, the vessels and alleys of the heart, and leaves us with a painful feeling of self-degradation. The second expands and elevates the soul, and fills the mind of the reader with generous pride, complacence in the powers he feels, and a warm and virtuous ardour to employ them for the advantage of others.
It is time that we should quit the consideration of these two less glorious spheres of human genius, and turn back to the temple of Nature, where Shakspeare for ever stands forth the high priest and the sovereign. The portraits drawn by those who have studied with success in her school, are dishonoured by being called portraits ; they are themselves originals above all exception or challenge. The representations drawn in the romantic or the burlesque style may be to a great degree faithful exhibitions of what has actually existed ; but, if they are, at least they exhibit a nature, vitiated, distorted, and, so to express the idea, denaturalised. The artificial and preconcerted is only shown, and those fainter and evanescent touches, by which every man betrays the kind to which he belongs, are lost. The portraits of Shakspeare, on the other hand, abound in, and may almost be said to be made up of these touches. In his characters we see the habits and prejudices of the man, and see, as through a transparent medium, how every accident that befals him acts upon his habits, his prejudices, and upon those