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Observe, too, that this and the other poetical speeches of this incarnate demon are not mere ornaments of the poet's fancy, but explain his character, and describe his situation more briefly and effectually than any other words could have done. In this play, and in the Midsummer Night's Dream, all Eden is unlocked before us, and the whole treasury of natural and supernatural beauty poured out profusely, to the delight of all our faculties. We dare not trust ourselves with quotations; but we refer to those plays generally-to the forest scenes in 'As You Like it—the rustic parts of the Winter's Tale-several entire scenes in Cymbeline and in Romeo and Juliet-and many passages in all the other plays—as illustrating this love of nature and natural beauty of which we have been speaking—the
power it had over the poet, and the power it imparted to him. Who else would have thought, on the very threshold of treason and midnight murder, of bringing in so sweet and rural an image at the portal of that blood-stained castle?
This guest of summer,
Has made his pendent bed, and procreant cradle. Nor is this brought in for the sake of an elaborate contrast between the peaceful innocence of this exterior, and the guilt and horrors that are to be enacted within. There is no hint of any such
suggestion, but it is set down from the pure love of nature and reality-because the kindled mind of the poet brought the whole scene before his eyes, and he painted all that he saw in his vision. The same taste predominates in that emphatic exhortation to evil, where Lady Macbeth says,
Look like the innocent flower,
And in that proud boast of the bloody Richard
But I was born so high :
buildeth in the cedar's top,
The same splendour of natural imagery, brought simply and directly to bear upon stern and repulsive passions, is to be found in the cynic rebukes of Apemantus to Timon.
Will these moist trees That have outlived the eagle, page thy heels, And skip when thou point'st out? will the cold brook, Candied with ice, caudle thy morning taste To cure thine o'er-night's surfeit? No one but Shakspeare would have thought of putting this noble picture into the taunting address of a snappish misanthrope—any more than the following into the mouth of a mercenary murderer:
Their lips were four red roses on a stalk,
Or this delicious description of concealed love into that of a regretful and moralizing parent.
But he, his own affection's counsellor,
Or dedicate his beauty to the sun. And yet all these are so far from being unnatural, that they are no sooner put where they are than we feel their beauty and effect, and acknowledge our obligations to that exuberant genius which alone could thus throw out graces and attractions where there seemed to be neither room nor call for them. In the same spirit of prodigality, he puts this rapturous and passionate exaltation of the beauty of Imogen into the mouth of one who is not even a lover :
- It is her breathing that
ON SHAKSPEARE'S DELINEATION OF PASSION.
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 familiar 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 inimítable 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 subservient to it, till it becomes the sole tyrant of our desires and our aversions.” Of all poets, perhaps, he alone has pourtrayed 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 his 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 every thing appears unnatural that does not suit its 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 energetical passions electrify the whole of the mental powers, and will consequently, in highly favoured natures, express themselves in an ingenious and figurative manner. It has been often remarked
Never was lunacy, as the effect of severe grief and disappointment, painted in stronger or more correct colours than in the person of Lear; and where shall we find the first stage of melancholia expressed in terms more admirably true to nature than in the following description from the lips of Hamlet ? “I have of late,” he says, “but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth, foregone all custom of exercise; and, indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition, that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me but a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestic roof fretted with golden fire, why it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours."