Page images
PDF
EPUB

But the poet rises still higher in his management of this character of Ariel, by making a moral use of it, that is, I think, incomparable, and the greatest effort of his art. Ariel informs Prospero that he has fulfilled his orders, and punished his brother and companions so severely, that if he himself was now to behold their sufferings, he would greatly compassionate them. To which Prospero answers,

Dost thou think so, Spirit?
ARIEL. Mine would, sir, were I human.
PROSPERO. And mine shall.

He then takes occasion, with wonderful dexterity and humanity, to draw an argument from the incorporeality of Ariel, for the justice and necessity of pity and forgiveness:

Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling
Of their afflictions; and shall not myself,
One of their kind, that relish all as sharply,
Passion'd as they, be kindlier mov'd than thou art ?

The poet is a more powerful magician than his own Prospero : we are transported into fairy land; we are wrapped in a delicious dream, from which it is misery to be disturbed; all around is enchantment!

The isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twanging instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices;
That, if I then had wak'd after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again : and then in dreaming,

U

The clouds, methought, would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me: when I wak'a,
I cry'd to dream again!

JOSEPH WARTON.S

• Adventurer, No. 93, September 25th, 1753. These observations on the Tempest, written about seventy-five years ago, and in a work of great popular acceptation, contributed not a little to refix the attention of all classes on our admirable poet ; nor, though occasionally insisting somewhat too much on a strict adherence to the rules of the classical drama, have they been on the whole superseded or surpassed by any subsequent critique on the same play.

No. II.

OBSERVATIONS ON THE TEMPEST CONCLUDED.

• WHOEVER ventures,' says Horace, 'to form a character totally original, let him endeavour to preserve it with uniformity and consistency; but the formation of an original character is a work of great difficulty and hazard. In this arduous and uncommon task, however, Shakspeare has wonderfully succeeded in his Tempest: the monster Caliban is the creature of his own imagination, in the formation of which he could derive no assistance from observation or experience.

Caliban is the son of a witch, begotten by a demon: the sorceries of his mother were so terrible, that her countrymen banished her into this desert island as unfit for human society ; in conformity, therefore, to this diabolical propagation, he is represented as a prodigy of cruelty, malice, pride, ignorance, idleness, gluttony, and lust. He is introduced with great propriety cursing Prospero and Miranda, whom he had endeavoured to defile ; and his execrations are artfully contrived to have reference to the occupation of his mother :

As wicked dew, as e'er my mother brush'd
With raven's feather from unwholesome fen,
Drop on you both!

-All the charms
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!

His kindness is, afterwards, expressed as much in character as his hatred, by an enumeration of offices that could be of value only in a desolate island, and in the estimation of a savage.

I pr’ythee, let me bring thee where crabs grow;
And I with my long nails will dig thee pig-nuts ;
Show thee a jay's nest; and instruct thee how
To snare the nimble marmozet. I'll bring thee
To clust'ring filberds; and sometimes I'll get thee
Young sea-malls from the rock--
I'll show thee the best springs; I'll pluck thee berries ;
I'd fish for thee, and get thee wood enough.

Which last is, indeed, a circumstance of great use in a place where to be defended from the cold was neither easy nor usual; and it has a farther peculiar beauty, because the gathering wood was the occupation to which Caliban was subjected by Prospero, who, therefore, deemed it a service of high importance.

The gross ignorance of this monster is represented with delicate judgment: he knew not the names of the sun and moon, which he calls the bigger light and the less; and he believes that Stephano was the man in the moon, whom his mistress had often shown him; and when Prospero reminds him that he first taught him to pronounce articulately, his answer is full of malevolence and rage :

You taught me language; and my profit on't
Is, I know how to curse :

the properest return for such a fiend to make for such a favour. The spirits whom he supposes to be employed by Prospero perpetually to torment him, and the many forms and different methods they take for this purpose, are described with the utmost liveliness and force of fancy:

Sometimes like apes, that moe and chatter at me,
And after bite me; then like hedgehogs, which
Lie tumbling in my bare-foot way, and mount
Their pricks at my foot-fall: sometimes am I
All wound with adders, who with cloven tongues
Do hiss me into madness.

It is scarcely possible for any speech to be more expressive of the manners and sentiments, than that in which our poet has painted the brutal barbarity and unfeeling savageness of this son of Sycorax, by making him enumerate, with a kind of horrible delight, the various ways in which it was possible for the drunken sailors to surprise and kill his master:

There thou may'st brain him,
Having first seiz'd his books; or with a log
Batter his skull; or paunch him with a stake;
Or cut his wezand with thy knife.

He adds, in allusion to his own abominable attempt, above all be sure to secure the daughter; whose beauty,' he tells them, “is incomparable.' The charms of Miranda could not be more exalted

« PreviousContinue »