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method by which he was directed in the choice of those words and idioms, which are as fresh now as in their first bloom ; nay, which are at the present moment at once more energetic, more expressive, more natural, and more elegant, than those of the happiest and most admired living speakers or writers.
But Shakspeare was “not methodical in the structure of his fable.” Oh gentle critic! be advised. Do not trust too much to your professional dexterity in the use of the scalping-knife and tomahawk. Weapons of diviner mould are wielded by your adversary; and you are meeting him here on his own peculiar ground, the ground of idea, of thought, and of inspiration. The very point of this dispute is ideal. The question is one of unity; and unity, as we have shown, is wholly the subject of ideal law. There are said to be three great unities which Shakspeare has violated; those of time, place, and action. Now the unities of time and place we will not dispute about. Be ours the poet,
qui pectus inaniter angit, Irritat, mulcet, falsis terroribus implet
Ut magus, et modo me Thebis, modo ponit Athenis. The dramatist who circumscribes himself within that unity of time which is regulated by a stopwatch, may be exact, but is not methodical ; or his method is of the least and lowest class. But
Where is he living clipt in with the sea,
who can transpose the scenes of Macbeth, and make the seated heart knock at the ribs with the same force as now it does, when the mysterious tale is conducted from the open heath, on which the weird sisters are ushered in with thunder and lightning, to the fated fight of Dunsinane, in which their victim expiates with life his credulity and his ambition ? To the disgrace of the English stage, such attempts have indeed been made on almost all the dramas of Shakspeare. Scarcely a season passes which does not produce some usteron proteron of this kind in which the mangled limbs of our great poet are thrown together “ in most admired disorder.”—There was once a noble author, who, by a refined species of murder, cut up the play of Julius Cæsar into two good set tragedies. M. Voltaire, we believe, had the grace to make but one of it; but whether his Brutus be an improvement on the model from which it was taken, we trust, after what we have already said, we shall hardly be expected to discuss.
Thus we have seen that Shakspeare's mind, rich in stores of acquired knowledge, commanded all these stores, and rendered them disposable, by means of his intimate acquaintance with the great laws of thought which form and regulate method. We have seen him exemplifying the opposite faults of method in two different characters; we have seen that he was himself methodical in the delineation of character, in the display of passion, in the conceptions of moral being, in the adaptations of language, in the connexion and admirable intertexture of his ever-interesting fable. Let it not, after this, be said that poetry—and under the word poetry we will now take leave to include all the works of the higher imagination, whether operating by measured sound, or by the harmonies of form and colour, or by words, the more immediate and universal representatives of thought -is not strictly methodical; nay, does not owe its whole charm, and all its beauty, and all its power, to the philosophical principles of method.
ENCYCLOPÆDIA METROPOLITANA, Part 1st."
• This number and the preceding one will be considered, I think, as containing unanswerable refutations of the once very prevalent idea, that Shakspeare's plays were the mere offspring of wild and irregular genius, uncontrolled by, and even ignorant of, the laws of method and composition. It must be confessed, indeed, that both Schlegel and the writer in the Encyclopædia have expressed themselves, in one or two instances, in language not sufficiently qualified; but that they have obtained the purpose which they had in view, that they have proved Shakspeare in his noblest pieces to have been not only philosophically profound, but, in the best sense, strictly methodical, can admit of little doubt.-I must here also remark that the present paper cannot fail of imparting a highly favourable impression of the critical department of the Encyclopædia Metropolitana ; and it is but justice to add that the scientific is conducted with equal if not superior ability.
ON SHAKSPEARE'S DELINEATION OF CHARACTER.
SHAKSPEARE's knowledge of mankind has become proverbial : in this his superiority is so great, that he has justly been called the master of the human heart. A readiness in remarking even the nicer involuntary demonstrations of the mind, and the expressing with certainty the meaning of these signs acquired from experience and reflection, constitutes the observer of men; acuteness in drawing still farther conclusions from them, and in arranging the separate observations according to grounds of probability in a connected manner, may be said to be knowing men. The distinguishing property of the dramatic poet who is great in characterization is something altogether different from this, which either, take it which way we will, includes in it this readiness and this acuteness, or dispenses with both. It is the capability of transporting himself so completely into every situation, even the most unusual, that he is enabled, as plenipotentiary of the whole human race, without particular instructions for each separate case, to act and speak in the name of every individual. It is the power of endowing the creatures of his imagination with such self-existent energy, that they
afterwards act in each conjuncture according to general laws of nature: the poet, in his dreams, institutes, as it were, experiments which are received with as much authority as if they had been made on real objects. The inconceivable in this, and what never can be learned, is, that the characters appear neither to do nor to say anything on account of the spectator; and yet that the poet, by means of the exhibition itself without sidiary explanation, communicates the gift of looking into the inmost recesses of their minds. Hence Goëthe has ingeniously compared Shakspeare's characters to watches with chrystalline plates and cases, which, while they point out the hours as correctly as other watches, enable us at the same time to perceive the inward springs whereby all this is accomplished.
Nothing, however, is more foreign to Shakspeare than a certain dissecting mode of composition, which laboriously enumerates to us all the motives by which a man is determined to act in this or that particular manner.
This way of accounting for motives, the rage of many of the modern historians, might be carried at length to an extent which would abolish every thing like individuality, and résolve all character into nothing but the effect of foreign or external influences, while we know that it frequently announces itself in the most decided manner in the earliest infancy. After all, a man acts so because he is so.. And how each man is constituted, Shakspeare reveals to us